If you make it to Seattle you can’t miss this!
Seattle. If you have a plan to visit the city made famous by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the 90s and the romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle, then I must tell you about something you cannot miss! Of course the movie was set in both New York and Seattle and being a young teenage boy I was not really interested in the mushy story. The strange looking space needle building in Seattle’s skyline did stand out for me and since then, it has been a place I wanted to see.
But, the space needle is not the coolest thing about Seattle, nor is the funky cafes or public market. It isn’t even the breathtaking harbour views or the way the city has adopted a green thumb integrating parks, trees and vines all over the cities freeways and highways. It isn’t even the laid back hippie types or friendly sophisticates of the city.
There is one thing above all these you MUST see if you get to Seattle: The Underground Tour!
The Underground Tour was something my wife and I were lucky to find out about before we made it to Seattle and with only 7 hours in the city this was a good thing as we had not a minute to spare.
Starting in downtown Seattle the tour runs daily from 10am-7pm May-September and 11am-6pm October-April and tickets cost $16 for adults. Be sure to take another 15 bucks with you so you can buy ‘Sons of the Profits’ a hilarious best selling look into the history of Seattle by Bill Speidel- founder of the underground tour.
So what is this Underground Tour? I hear you say. Well what if I told you underneath the new city of Seattle, there was an old city. Crazy right and true in a way.
The tour provides a look at the remains of the old town which is now buried under the city streets.
This came after the 1888 fires which devastated the city as everything was made of wood. This was a blessing in disguise as the entire city was built on tidal mudflats and was subject to flooding daily- Flood times were even posted in the local paper to warn residents to avoid using their toilets which frequently suffered a case of back flow. With the town destroyed and fresh beginnings in order, the city decided to take care of this problem once and for all by building a solid foundation.
This process was set to take 8 to 10 years and local businesses needed to be rebuilt much sooner than this so compromise was met, whereby shops were built at the original ground level and streets were constructed at their new level of up to 30ft higher, surrounding entire shops. Picture yourself heading down the road to your local supermarket and finding it sunken in a hole next to the road! This posed significant challenges as ladders had to be used to get from street level to shop level. Many of the gentlemen of the town were quick to offer assistance to the women as they made their assent back to the street level.
Once construction was completed shops were then built up, sidewalks put in place and what was left was a network of tunnels running between the street’s retaining walls and the old shops. The tour takes you right through this rabbit warren of tunnels where a few toilets and sections of shop fronts can still be found. Given the ridiculous circumstances of how this town was created it makes for a very humorous tour and you will learn about the many colourful and sometimes corrupt characters that helped build this place.
So there it is, Seattle has more to offer us than a cheesy romantic comedy from the 90s and a bizarre looking tower.
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