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Culture, cuisine and a dash of football

Seattle has all the ingredients for a fun-filled weekend getaway

What do football and seafood chowder have in common?  Both are very good reasons for an early winter trip south of the border. Since my favourite NFL team was slated to play the Seahawks in Seattle, it was the perfect excuse for a weekend getaway to the Emerald City.

With my husband in the driver’s seat, we set out on the easy drive from Vancouver. In under three hours, we rolled into Seattle’s downtown core and our hotel destination, The Arctic Club. Situated in the heart of downtown Seattle at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Cherry Street, this historic hotel is an easy walk to Lumen Field, the famous Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square.

Photography courtesy Visit Seattle

The best part about staying in downtown Seattle is you can park your vehicle and forget about it. Most of what you come to see is within walking distance—but be warned, there are some serious inclines. (More about that later!)

We were excited to explore the city but the moment we climbed the marble steps of The Arctic Club we were entranced. The history is palpable the moment you step through the doors.

Before it was a hotel, The Arctic Club was a social club. It was established in 1907 for successful veterans of the gold rush to gather and share tales of “striking it rich!” At the time, Seattle billed itself as the Gateway to Alaska (despite Canada being situated between the city and America’s northernmost state). Many a business was set up to “mine the miners,” as they say. The Arctic Club was the most successful of this lot and for those with a thirst for adventure.

The walls of the grand lobby are adorned with portraits of each founding member. The photos were taken by renowned photographer of the time Edward Curtis.  He is said to have rung up quite the bar tab at the club and used his camera skills to pay it back. Curtis was best known for his striking photographs of Native Americans, of which there are many throughout the hotel.

Beyond the welcome desk, we were drawn to the oversized fireplace flanked by two large sofas. The wood-panelled room is warm and inviting, dotted by tables for gathering and situated adjacent to the stunning Polar Bar. Keep an eye out for the glowing polar bear statue, just one animal theme in the hotel. The walrus is also a mascot, appearing in The Arctic Club logo as well as in the plaster on the A. Warren Gould-designed facade and in plush versions at the gift shop.

Our room is on the 10th floor, top of the heap with some incredible views of Seattle. We are delighted to see Lumen Field lit up from our private balcony.

The guest rooms, once offices of the club’s founding members, have been renovated with history in mind, including classic wallpapers, charming tile, dark wood and fun details like double doors with mottled glass leading to the bathroom. All the modern amenities are at your fingertips.

Arctic Club. Photography courtesy Visit Seattle and The Arctic Club

Like The Arctic Club, Seattle is a city rich in history, much of which lies underground. With our walking shoes on we take a short (downhill) walk on Cherry Street to Beneath the Streets, a guided walking tour of Seattle’s sub-city. This is an amazing opportunity to learn about life here before the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Fire destroyed the entire central business district but ultimately the rebuilding provided the city an opportunity to correct some major engineering and building flaws. Seattle was essentially “lifted” to protect it from high water (hence the urban hills). Much of the lower city remains under the sidewalks. Our tour guide was engaging, offering many tidbits about early life in Seattle.

With a road trip and subterranean tour under our belts it was time for lunch. Many friends recommended The Crab Pot in Miners Landing Pier 57. We took the waterfront route and about 15 minutes later we were seated in this fun, high-energy eatery, and tempted by the Seafeast, where diners put on a bib and get their hands dirty with an incredible-looking seafood feast dumped right on the table. There’s a bucket on the floor for shells and a roll of paper towel at your disposal.

We opted for the hearty clam chowder in a bread bowl—I’d been dreaming about it since we left BC! The Crab Pot did not disappoint and chased away the chill of the drizzly day.

With full bellies, we walked a bit further down Alaskan Way and up to 1st Avenue and the iconic Pike Place Market. You must linger a moment to catch the singing fishmongers, then line up (yes, there is always a line) at the very first Starbucks in the world. This is an Instagram moment, so don’t be surprised if you’re asked to snap a photo or two for excited tourists.

If you have an eye for architecture, you will appreciate the Romanesque Revival buildings in Seattle, many of which are found in Pioneer Square. This oasis within the city is filled with galleries, coffee shops and bars.

There are also food trucks, bocce courts, ping-pong tables and the Waterfall Garden Park. It’s an escape from the concrete jungle and I imagine many office workers would choose to lunch or unwind here when they need a break.

Polar Bar at The Arctic Hotel. Photography courtesy The Arctic Club

We begin the walk back to The Arctic Club (uphill this time) and arrive just in time for happy hour at the Polar Bar. It also offers a delicious dinner menu that’s served until late. We decide to turn in early with more exploring and football on tap for tomorrow.

Game day starts with a complimentary hot breakfast in the hotel’s Juno Cafe and then we head back out into the city to partake in fun and fandom.

Seattle is a football-loving city and fans from both the home and visiting team are everywhere. Pioneer Square bars and pubs are packed, and it’s a festival atmosphere around Lumen Field in the hours leading up to game time.

The game itself does not disappoint (even though my team did not win) and the walk back from the stadium is filled with hoots and hollers from excited Seahawks fans. We take some ribbing in our team colours but it’s all in good fun—Seahawks fans are friendly!

After another solid night’s sleep in our quiet and comfortable room, we hit the I-5 for our return trip north. Of course, we make a stop at the Seattle Premium Outlets in Tulalip and grab a few essentials from Trader Joe’s. A short wait at the Peace Arch border crossing and we are back in Canada.

A west coast seaport like Vancouver, Seattle manages to offer up something both familiar and decidedly different. Whether you come by car or airplane, Seattle is the perfect weekend escape when you don’t want to venture too far from home.