Publication Date

October 1, 1997

For the first time, the AHA conference city is Seattle, on Puget Sound in Washington State. You are fortunate that Seattle has embraced espresso, for it can fortify you in this land of cool rain and clean, gray skies. If coffee does not appeal, you will find that tea, wine, and microbrews—all with their own fortifying powers—are also easily available. When you find yourself with an hour or two between sessions, step outside and experience some of the region's distinctive qualities; a number of them can be found only steps from the conference site. Don't let the rain dissuade you. Grab a cup of espresso, hold a copy of Seattle Weekly over your head, and just go.

Although many attractions are within easy walking distance of the AHA hotels, it's worth noting that between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., all Metro transit buses are free in the downtown area. Metro maps and schedules can be found in the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. You’ll keep even drier if you include a ride in the downtown transit tunnel, which speeds you through downtown on dual-mode, electric/diesel buses. The nearest station is Convention Place at 9th Ave. and Pine St., just two blocks from the Center.

If you walk straight west a few blocks, you'll come to Pike Place Market, at 1st Ave. and Pike St., the historic descendant of a farmer’s market established 90 years ago to “cut out the middlemen” between growers and consumers. The market is a vast and wondrous assemblage of buildings and arcades tumbling off the bluff above Elliott Bay. Saved from an Urban Renewal makeover in 1971, today the market sells fish and vegetables, crafts and art, bread and cheese, coffee and tea. Starbucks Coffee started here in 1971, and its store at 912 Pike Place still sports the original, rather earthy logo. The market permits no chain stores, and most of those renting stalls must make or grow what they sell.

You can use that free ride in the bus tunnel to make a quick trip to the historic Pioneer Square district, a densely built enclave of brick commercial buildings that mostly date from the period immediately following the city’s disastrous fire of June 6, 1889. Here you’ll find the free Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, marking Seattle’s rise to prosperity as the outfitting point for the Yukon and Alaska gold fields, beginning in 1897. A historic preservation success story, Pioneer Square is dense with bookstores, art galleries, and live music. Nearby, at 2nd Ave. and James St., is the 42-story L.C. Smith Building, completed in 1914 and for decades the tallest building in the American West. Near the top of the building is a wonderful outdoor observation deck, and when you get there, you’ll understand that the number of stories is something of an exaggeration. The ride is as exciting as the view, with a real human elevator operator, and -glass doors so you can watch the floors zip past.

For a trip to the 1960s, go to the Westlake Center and take a ride on the sleek but aging monorail, which connects downtown with Seattle Center, the site of Seattle’s 1962 World’s Fair, Century 21. The center has become something of an odd entertainment campus, with a small amusement park, several legitimate theaters, the Pacific Science Center, the Opera House (also hosting the symphony and ballet), a sports arena, and outdoor art. The site is dominated by another Century 21 relic, the Space Needle, which also has a glass-enclosed elevator and an observation deck with stunning panoramic views of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, Puget Sound, Lake Union, and the city’s hills and dales. You can also get a drink, or an espresso, to accompany the view here.

Hop onto the #66 bus on 5th Ave. Pike at St. for a ride to the Colman Dock and the Washington State Ferries. It's a 35-minute ride to Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island, where you can take a stroll through the suburban village of Winslow, or an hour to the Navy town of Bremerton through narrow Rich Passage, past beachfront homes and oyster beds. You can sit inside and sip a latte, or chill out on the deck. If you’re outside as the ferry leaves or approaches the dock, hold onto the rail: they sound the horn, and it’s loud enough to throw an unsuspecting traveler over the rail. Round trip fare is $3.30; the return to Seattle at dusk presents a magical skyline view.

Have time to leave town for a few hours and want some exercise? You can go skiing after an hour’s drive east on 1-90 at Snoqualmie Pass, where four downhill ski areas can provide up to 65 runs. A day pass is $28.00, and parking is free. Check with your hotel for information on road, pass, and skiing conditions.

You will need to eat, and you're probably not going to cook in your hotel room. Fortunately, downtown Seattle is replete with excellent restaurants. Experience the Pike Place Market after hours as you wend your way to Place Pigalle (Pike Place at Pike St.), a small and intimate dinner spot with a view of the bay and a menu that emphasizes fresh Pacific Northwest ingredients. Below the market, you will find Wild Ginger (Western Ave. at Union St.), a brash and busy place that has been described as “pan-Asian” in its approach, and is a splendid place for communal feasting. For moderately priced, well-prepared Italian comfort food, the Poor Italian (Virginia St. near 2nd Ave.) can’t be beat. You can go for urban glitz, and make a meal of the appetizers and a glass of wine while gawking at pretentious shoppers, at Palomino (City Centre, Pike St. and 5th Ave.). Since you might think of seafood when you think of Seattle, you might then try the casual Etta's Seafood (Western Ave. near Virginia St.) or the ritzier Dahlia Lounge (5th Ave. near Stewart St.), both the creations of chef Tom Douglas, who has a solid if whimsical way with fish. However, if a solid, mesquite grilled beef-steak is more what you seek, try the Metropolitan Grill (2nd Ave. at Marion St.), a very club-like place.

If you want to do some advance planning for your Seattle stay, you can check out various aspects of the city and the region electronically at a number of web sites. Some personal favorites are the Caustic Seattle Compendium (, an unflinching and very personal guide to places of food and entertainment; the City of Seattle Public Access Network (; Seattle's Hottest Spots (, another interesting site for information on microbreweries, wineries, and restaurants; the Seattle Times Datebook, a standard for entertainment and movie information (; and the Microsoft entertainment wonder-world, created in conjunction with Seattle Weekly, Seattle Sidewalk ( Another idiosyncratic site is Seattle Square, which includes some Seattle history ( guide to other local web sites can be found at The Emerald Web (

The conference is full of enticements, but we hope that even the most dedicated of scholars will want to find some time to explore the city and the region. If you want to take a look at the future rather than the past, just hop down to Gameworks (7th Ave. near Pike St.), an indoor electronic amusement park that will leave you gasping. Then calm down with another espresso.

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