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Things to Do While Visiting Seattle: It is Not Just About Aviation

Downtown Seattle Skyline  Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

Downtown Seattle Skyline Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

As a newly transplanted Australian to the Pacific Northwest, I sometimes feel that I am a tourist in my own city.  David has lived here quite a while, so to him, this is his backyard.  But to me, this is all new, though I have visited a few times; I am still constantly exploring this city.  With Aviation Geek Fest approaching, I am sure there are other people who are visiting and wondering what other non AvGeek things can be seen in Seattle.

Seattle has so many different things to see & do that the possibility is endless, but if you are in town for just a few days, well these sights should be on your “must do” list. If you live in the area or have visited and have other ideas, be sure to share them in the comments.

  1. Pike Place Market– The quintessential experience in Seattle.  The longest operating Farmers Market in the USA, home to fresh fruit & veggies, fresh seafood and anything your heart could desire.  The Market contains the “Pike Place Seafood Market” home of the flying fish and make sure to take a walk downstairs to the Market Theater Gum Wall, shove on a piece of gum — just don’t touch. If you are looking for souvenirs to bring home, you will have no problem finding something.

    Pikes Place Market in Downtown Seattle is one of the most iconic places to visit  Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

    Pikes Place Market in Downtown Seattle is one of the most iconic places to visit Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

  2. Coffee, need more Coffee – Seattle is home to a number of coffee companies but I am sure you have all heard of this small company with just a number of shops around the country.  They call themselves Starbucks.  Their first ever store (well not really the first but that is a whole other story) is located down in the Pikes Place Market area.  Not only can you line up to buy a cup of their coffee (and sometimes that line is looooong) they also sell merchandise that is not available anywhere else.
  3. Seattle Center– This is easy to find since it is the home to that weird looking pointy thing, the Seattle Space Needle.  Built for the world’s fair in 1962, the Space Needle and the surrounding area is a big draw card for tourists.  The Space Needle will set you back around $20 to get up to the observation deck, but remember what Seattle’s weather is known for — not seeing very far.  One way to cut back on the fee is to have a meal in the restaurant (Sky City Restaurant) at the top (or check out tip #5).  Also in the area are the Pacific Science Center and the Experience Music Project & Sci Fi Museum (EMP). The EMP building alone is worth a visit just to see this spectacle from the outside (see photo below).

    Experience Music Project/Sci Fi Museum is an eclectic looking building  Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

    Experience Music Project/Sci Fi Museum is an eclectic looking building Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

  4. Ride the Seattle Monorail- The nation’s first commercial monorail, at $2 a ride, is a pretty good way of going from Seattle Center to the downtown area.  Still running the very retro styled monorail cars, this is a good flash back.  The ride takes barely 2 minutes and is a great way to skirt above the streets.

    The Nations oldest Commercial Monorail, marked 50 years of service in 2012!  Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

    The Nations oldest Commercial Monorail, marked 50 years of service in 2012! Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

  5. Columbia Center Tower – Located on the Corner of Columbia Street & 5th Ave, the Columbia Center is the Pacific Northwest’s tallest building.  It towers over the Space Needle and dominates the skyline on a clear day.  There is an observation deck on the 73rd floor that has views over the city that will astound you.  They don’t go 360 degrees like the space needle, but the entry is only $9 per person!  What is even better, if you are there mid-week (Monday to Friday), there is a Starbucks on the 40thfloor with views almost as good for free.

    View of Seattle from the Columbia Center Tower Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

    View of Seattle from the Columbia Center Tower Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

  6. Take a flight seeing tour around SeattleKenmore Air and Rainier Flight offer aircraft tours of the city and with Seattle HeliTours you can go in a helicopter.   What better way to see Seattle than from the sky? As an AvGeek it should come as no surprise that these might be some of the best touristic options in Seattle.  But to make it even better, why not do it on-board a Seaplane taking off from South Lake Union, right next to downtown, with Kenmore.
  7. Ride a Ferry – If you like planes, you might also like boats. For a few bucks, you can walk on to a ferry in downtown Seattle and enjoy the ride. If you want to be a bit more adventurous, head north to Anacortes, WA to catch the ferry up to the San Juan Islands.

No matter what you want to see, or what you enjoy doing, you are sure to be able to find it in Seattle. There are so many more things to do, please share some of your favorites in the comments.

This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos

SEATTLE PEEPS: Helicopter Fly-In Tomorrow June 19th

Coast Guard and Sheriff helicopters from a previous show

Coast Guard and Sheriff helicopters from a previous show

I am currently in Florida, so I won’t be able to enjoy this! But if you are in the Seattle are, be sure to check the American Heroes Air Show at the Museum of Flight, at Boeing Field in Seattle. The event is being held by the Flight of the Museum and Whirly-Girls. Not only are you able to see helicopters, but also get a helicopter ride with Seattle HeliTours (who rock by the way).

Here are the basics:
What: American Heroes Air Show
Where: Museum of Flight 9404 E Marginal Way South, Seattle, WA 98108
When: Saturday June 19th 10am to 3pm
Cost: $0 FREE ADMISSION
Check this flyer for more information

The American Heroes Air Show is the nation’s premier, helicopter–only, admission-free air show event designed
to profile aviation’s dynamic role in law enforcement, public safety, media, communications, search and rescue, homeland security, national defense and local services. The event features static displays, flight demonstrations and information from flight crews.

Check the photos from 2008. Argh I am jealous I won’t be able to be there. If you can, send me photos!

Image: American Hero’s Twitter

Aviation in Seattle: Flying Around With Seattle HeliTours

Robinson R44 helicopter that I flew in.

Robinson R44 helicopter that I flew in.

A lot of people fly only to get from point A to point B. They see it as a hassle and not an adventure. From writing this blog, I think you can guess I am a huge fan of aviation — in any form. To me, flying is still an adventure and is exciting.

As a kid I grew up watching Airwolf (yes, it is on Hulu now) and even looked into flying Dolphins for the US Coast Guard after college (changed my mind). I have grown up flying in small planes, but always have had a fascination with helicopters. I have come very close to flying on a few, but none of them panned out. Flying in a plane is awesome, but you have to keep moving forward to create lift. You can fly by and over things, but you cannot hover. Aircraft also have to follow  stricter rules on where they can and cannot fly.

Flying up to Snoqualmie Falls

Flying up to Snoqualmie Falls

This is where the helicopter comes in very handy, especially for sight seeing. On Tuesday I was given the opportunity to hitch a ride with Seattle HeliTours and see the greater Seattle area from a very different perspective.

I felt like a kid, having the opportunity to fly in a helicopter for the first time. I wasn’t only getting to fly in a helicopter, but in the front seat, leaving from Boeing Field (BFI), where three Boeing 787′s live.  As I pulled up to BFI one Boeing 787 Dreamliner took off, and as I was leaving a second one took off. Even though I still love seeing those wings flex,  what happened on the helicopter ride was even more awesome!

I was being piloted by Greg Baker who is also one of the owners of Classic Helicopter Corp, who runs the Seattle HeliTours. My flight would be on one of their Robinson R44 helicopters. They own three R44′s and three R22′s which are mostly used for flight training. I have to say that the Robinson R44 is one neat machine.

Greg and I were able to get very close to the Space Needle and hover around it.

Greg and I were able to get very close to the Space Needle and hover around it.

First flown on March 31, 1990, the R44 has provided helicopters to people who never could have financial access to them previously. It being a bit smaller than other helicopters was of no concern, she was very stable and the smaller size let me feel more connected to the flight.

The first thing I noticed was the large windscreen making it easy to see forward. During the summer months, the side doors can be removed (picture from their website, not my flight), really connecting a passenger to the flight. Since it was about 40 degress, Baker decided to keep the doors on — which was a good call.

After taking off, we swooped east, then north and got a great view of Mount Rainier. As stated before, I grew up flying in small planes with my father around the Seattle area, but never this close; it was pretty amazing. After buzzing by Seattle we headed east towards Snoqualmie Falls. It surprised me how much open farmland and woods are still to the east of Seattle. We also got to see a lot of crazy-big homes. How do so many people have outdoor pools in Seattle? Anyhow, once we reached the falls, it was breath-taking!

How to describe seeing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from a helicopter. "Awesome" just doesn't do it!

How to describe seeing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from a helicopter. "Awesome" just doesn't do it!

I have driven to them a few times before and have seen them from the viewing platform. Nothing can compare to seeing the falls, hovering from a helicopter. This is not something you can do in an airplane. We hovered for a while, turning around, waving to the poor people who were land bound (they waved back).

Then it was time to head back west, over even bigger homes, the University of Washington Seattle campus, the Ballard Locks, downtown Seattle, and our two stadiums. Being in a helicopter, we were able to get quite close to the Space Needle and the stadiums, which were very impressive.

The flight time was about 45 incredible minutes and of course I could stay up in the air all day. Baker has only been doing this for about two years and loves flying  around Seattle and the northwest. One of his best experiences was flying the helicopter from California, up the coast to Seattle (I volunteer to go next time :) ).

The R44 sits at BFI after a great flight.

The R44 sits at BFI after a great flight.

This flight is great for visitors from out of town, but also really amazing for those of you who live in the Seattle area. Seeing the area from a helicopter is much different than in an airliner flying over or even a small plane. I think it is very much worth the money to take a unique airborne tour of your own city.

Classic Helicopter Corp, does much more than run the SeattleHelitours. They have a flight school where you can learn how to fly the Robinson R44 or R22, help with aerial photography, can charter flights to wherever you want to go, and if you love it so much, they can help you purchase your own Robinson Helicopter (I inquired, but I guess I don’t have enough for the down payment quite yet).

This might have been my first helicopter flight, but I can guarantee it won’t be my last. Hearing that “THWOP, THWOP” noise when we were at the right speed, coming down in elevation, while over looking Snoqualmie Falls will stay with me for a long time , and I very much want to experience something like that again in the future.

Have any of you had experiences with helicopter rides or tours that you would like to share?

More good stuff:
* All my photos from the flight
* Video of the Space Needle
* Video of the stadiums
* Link to Seattle Helitour Options

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