Few other cities in America are so dramatically surrounded by light, water and nature — especially when the weather's nice. Seattle is synonymous with the relentless churn and innovation of the technology industry, and every year brings the unveiling of a sweeping new piece of civic architecture. But the great outdoors is never far away; the San Juan Islands, accessible from the Anacortes ferry terminal 90 minutes north of the city, are home to orca whales and bald eagles. Entire neighborhoods, notably Belltown and Capitol Hill, have been revitalized in recent years. The city abounds in terrific places to eat. And its cultural life is vigorous and growing: An architecturally dazzling library; the Frank Gehry designed Experience Music Project; and the superb Seattle Art Museum. With Mount Rainier and the Cascades looming to the east and the Olympics to the west, along with Puget Sound and dozens of lakes at its doorstep, Seattle offers endless opportunities to enjoy life outdoors. Even a simple commuter ferry ride across Elliott Bay can be a delightful and invigorating experience.
Most of Washington’s vineyards are planted in what is essentially a desert, the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains. And despite the cool northerly latitude, long summer days ensure that even Rhône reds such as Syrah can reach full ripeness. Chardonnay and Merlot also grow well here, but these varieties don’t necessarily make Washington’s most interesting wines.
I particularly enjoy the lively Sauvignon Blanc-Sémillon blends, such as the DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate, and big Bordeaux-style blends, like the Camaraderie Grâce. Certain Rieslings are also world-class, notably Eroica, a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Mosel Valley’s Dr. Loosen.
Many consider Portland to be America’s craft beer capital, but nowadays Seattle has its own collection of noteworthy breweries. The city now has numerous taprooms at which to try world-class local beers. Three of my favorites are within walking distance of the Hotel Ballard: chic Obec (1144 NW 52nd Street, Tel.  659-0082), lively Stoup just down the block (1108 NW 52nd Street, Tel.  457-5524) and California-based Lagunitas (1550 NW 49th Street, Tel.  784-2230).
Near Pike Place Market, I liked touristy but fun Old Stove Brewing Company (1901 Western Avenue, Tel.  602-6120), and I loved Cloudburst Brewing (2116 Western Avenue), a no-frills taproom serving mostly IPAs to a crowd of devoted connoisseurs.
Art Collections & Gardens
I always like to stop at the Seattle Art Museum (1300 First Avenue, Tel.  654-3100) which contains a small but well-curated collection ranging from ancient Egypt to present-day Washington. On the opposite side of downtown, in the shadow of the Space Needle, is Chihuly Garden and Glass (305 Harrison Street, Tel.  753-4940), which opened in 2012 as a showcase for Dale Chihuly’s joyously colorful glass sculptures.
The Future of Flight
Those driving from Seattle to Lummi Island should consider making a short detour to the Boeing factory (8415 Paine Field Boulevard, Mukilteo; Tel.  464-1476), about 40 minutes north of downtown. This immense facility — the largest building by volume in the world, capable of containing 75 football fields — employs more than 30,000 people. Seeing the airplanes in various states of assembly is utterly fascinating.