The Drive’s Guide to Seattle
A look at five jewels within the Emerald City.
Can one city give birth to Amazon, Jimi Hendrix, Boeing, grunge rock, Microsoft and Ray Charles? Only Seattle, a city with a sheen of polished technological prowess that almost hides the wild pioneering spirit that churns beneath. It is, quite simply, like no other city in the world. Beautiful, fascinating, and changing every day as fast as a city can. This is a town for explorers. It’s also, in every possible way, the continental opposite of Key West—making it the perfect place to end the last of our Volvo record runs.
Nordic Heritage Museum
Our first stop after we arrive in the S90 is Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum. On a hill over the old town of Ballard, where generations of hearty Swedes brought their formidable boat building and logging skills to the Puget Sound, the museum is a historical trove of nordic influence—viking ships to Legos, and everything in between. It’s an industrious tribute to an industrious people, and a fitting stop for the Volvo that spirited us across the country.
Blow Outta Town
Seattle is a modern city. That means busy streets, and slim pickings for anyone wanting to enjoy a brisk drive across the Washington coast. The solution, sitting just down the hill from Pikes Market, is the Washington State Ferry system. The massive car carriers departing from Seattle are an adventure in themselves, providing a spectacular view of the city skyline before dropping you and your wheels off at Bainbridge Island or Bremerton. Go with the former and make your way north, skirting the Olympic National Park, through pine forests and up the coast to Port Townsend. From there another ferry will start you heading back toward Seattle, via Whidbey Island and Mukilteo, home of Paine Field Airport.
At Paine Field you can tour Boeing’s Everett factory, and get a close look at emerging technologies at the Future of Flight Museum. But the real treasure of Paine Field is tucked away in private hangars. The Flying Heritage Collection houses an example of just about every fighter from the Second World War. On the other side of the runway, the extraordinary Historic Flight Foundation regularly flies sorties with some of the most appealing aircraft of the 20th century. We visited the hangar, packed with racers and warbirds. The collection’s B-25D was still bug-spattered and warm from a recent flight when a tour guide showed us the way to the cockpit.
Seattle has long tied itself to the sky. Aviation has supplanted logging and fishing as the local industry of record, and the city is surrounded by massive airports—Paine Field is just the first of three capable of handling the largest aircraft in the world, and each has made its mark on the modern era of flight. Just a few minutes south of downtown, at Boeing Field, the Museum of Flight hosts a staggering collection of aircraft. As the largest privately held air and space museum in the world, the museum wraps its arms around all of aviation, displaying everything from the drone-carrying SR-71 relative Lockheed M-21, to an early jet-powered Air Force One, to human powered experimental craft.
America’s Car Museum
Just a little further south, past Sea-Tac airport, is a wonder of a car museum. Housed in a long, graceful timber arc with floor after floor of exhibition space tucked in below, America’s Car Museum is the culmination of Harold LeMay’s lifelong love for the automobile. Unlike the average car enthusiast, LeMay’s success at his day job led to the means to acquire any car he pleased. And he did. The museum bearing his name is an eclectic trove of brilliant cars collected with no clear rhyme or reason. From 1970s NASCAR to British sports cars to pre-war classics. If they were interesting, they were in. And the result? The LeMay is a place worth going out of your way for, no matter where you’re coming from.
Sure, it’s a humming hive of tourists, but a freezing cold Washington apple cider icee after a long day on the road? Worth any crowd. You’ve almost certainly seen the traditional fish throwing at Pike Place, but other fresh local produce, such as cherries, pears and apples, are worth wandering in for, and the view out of any of the restaurants are world class. Leave the tourists to their selfies in front of the Market Theater Gum Wall. The best way to cap off an adventure in Seattle is with a visit to Radiator Whiskey. The bar serves a broad selection of American whiskies and ryes, and appetizers like tater tots and cornflake crusted chicken livers. What better way to celebrate a record run across America?
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