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Seattle Monorail
Tim Thompson
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The Space Needle towering over Seattle, Washington
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Elliott Bay, perfect for water sports off the coast of Seattle
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Pike Place Market on the Elliott Bay waterfront in Seattle
Visit Seattle/Alan Alabastro
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The Emerald City is built on green hills, surrounded by water, and sandwiched between two mountain ranges.

So, it’s no surprise that Seattle is renowned for its natural beauty and outdoor recreation, as well as for its hearty coffee (Seattle is home to the very first Starbucks coffeehouse) and quirky culture.

The Space Needle

Seattle’s most iconic attraction—the Space Needle—sits on the grounds of the Seattle Center, originally the site of the 1962 World’s Fair. From the Space Needle’s saucer-shaped observation deck, visitors enjoy views of Puget Sound and the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges. For those who make the trip to the top after dark, the city’s expanse of shimmering lights is the big draw.

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Experience Music Project

Just next door, learn about Seattle’s contributions to modern music at the Experience Music Project (EMP), billionaire Paul Allen’s shrine to hometown hero Jimi Hendrix. EMP also has the world's most extensive exhibition of memorabilia celebrating the band Nirvana. For those who prefer more soothing sounds, EMP has a wealth of exhibits related to classic rock, jazz, soul, gospel, country and the blues.

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Pacific Science Center

Also just steps from the Space Needle is one of Seattle’s newest attractions: Chihuly Garden and Glass, showcasing the work of artist Dale Chihuly, whose nature-inspired artworks and stunning chandeliers have been installed all over the globe.

At the nearby Pacific Science Center, wander among fluttering butterflies in the Tropical Butterfly House, explore distant galaxies, enjoy hundreds of interactive exhibits and live science demonstrations, or immerse yourself in a giant-screen IMAX movie.

Pike Place Market

Another of Seattle’s must-see sights is Pike Place Market, which overlooks the Elliott Bay waterfront. More than a century old, the market is a place to meet farmers selling produce, artisans hawking specialty cheese and other food products, flower vendors, and fishmongers. In fact, the “flying fish” at the Pike Place Fish Market, where the mongers toss salmon, halibut and other fish back to those wrapping the product for buyers, is one of the most popular shows in town.

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Seattle Aquarium

Take the pedestrian steps down from the market to the waterfront and pop into the Seattle Aquarium, whose lobby greets visitors with a 20x40-foot (6x12 meters) viewing window filled with fish and invertebrates indigenous to local waters, as well as the occasional scuba diver. The aquarium’s Underwater Dome has a 360-degree view of schools of salmon and circling sharks. And most visitors can’t resist a stop at the Marine Mammal exhibit, full of entertaining sea otters, harbor seals and fur seals.

When it’s time to rise to the surface again, enjoy a spin around the harbor on Argosy Cruises. The one-hour cruise provides gorgeous views of the Seattle skyline, Elliott Bay waterfront, mountains, shipping terminals, and historic neighborhoods.

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Family Fun

Further afield are two additional sights ideal for families: Woodland Park Zoo, with 92 acres (37 hectares) of lions, elephants, great apes, birds, reptiles and even waddling, tuxedoed penguins; and The Museum of Flight, whose exhibits include a Concorde, the original Air Force One, a Blackbird spy plane and a flight simulator.

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Money-saving Tip:

Seattle is one of 11 American destinations offering the CityPASS program. Each Seattle CityPASS ticket booklet saves travelers 45 percent or more off combined admission to five attractions: the Space Needle (two visits to the top within 24 hours), Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, a choice between Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) or Woodland Park Zoo, and a choice between Pacific Science Center or Chihuly Garden and Glass.

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