Photograph by Ty Milford
As my kids and I step inside Pike Place Market, color bursts from every corner. Hundreds of bouquets bloom amid the rows of farmers' stalls. We were expecting to see an abundance of seafood, produce, and crafts at this downtown Seattle landmark, but the flowers are a wonderful surprise. As we've discovered over the years, this town is full of them.
My family lives an hour and a half north of the Emerald City, so named for its lush greenery, and we've been visiting since Leah and Ty, now ages 16 and 14, were small. Yes, it's famous for coffee, software, and airplanes -- Starbucks, Microsoft, and Boeing were founded in the area -- but Seattle's outdoorsy vibe also makes it welcoming to families.
With Elliott Bay and Puget Sound to the west and snowcapped Mount Rainier to the south, Seattle is set among natural wonders that offer truly stunning views on sunny days. And sunny days are not as rare as you might think.
Despite its reputation for dreariness, the city receives just 36 inches of rain a year (less than New York City!). Summer and early fall are sunniest, but even in winter it doesn't rain so much as mist, and the city's many indoor attractions make it easy to foil the weather. The off-season crowds are smaller, too.
On this visit, we're blessed with sunshine. After exploring the market, we head to the waterfront, thrumming with trolleys and tourists, to ride the Great Wheel and stop in at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop for a peek at novelty trinkets and museum oddities, such as shrunken heads. After a narrated tour on the new Emerald City Trolley, we end the day strolling Lake Union Park as floatplanes buzz in for lake landings.