Best vantage point: The photographers behind Seattle Daily Photo Blog know the city well; every day the site presents a new Seattle scene. One of their top selections for a postcard-worthy view is from Kerry Park lookout on Queen Anne Hill's southern slope. "This vantage point includes the downtown skyline, the Space Needle, and Mt. Rainier all in one shot," says one of the photographers. "Keep walking west along Highland and you'll pass gorgeous homes from several architectural periods, quaint private gardens, and a serenely small public park. In addition, the sunset is magical on this little jaunt."
Best scenic stroll: The informative, in-depth See Seattle Walking Tours (425-226-7641) make the most of Seattle's noted walkability. These tours draw nearly as many locals as visitors, thanks to their emphasis on the city's history and oft-overlooked architectural details in its signature art deco buildings. You'll begin at Westlake Plaza in the downtown business district and end at Pioneer Square near the waterfront. It's a full day of walking, with stops for lunch and rest breaks. Tours leave daily Monday through Saturday at 10 A.M., as long as at least six walkers have made reservations, which are strongly recommended.
Best day trip: Ferry boats are one of Seattleites' favorite modes of transportation. Visit www.wsdot.wa.gov for schedules and terminal locations. Catch a ferry to Bainbridge Island (206-842-3700) to enjoy the beauty of Puget Sound. Find a spot on the upper deck, where views are best. From downtown, the ride takes about 35 minutes to reach quaint Bainbridge, where you can rent a bicycle and easily explore the island's winding roads and hills. Pedal to the Bainbridge Island Vineyards and Winery (shown at right; 206-842-9463) for weekend tastings of the winery's many island-grown varietals, such as the limited edition strawberry dessert wine. Art lovers are inundated with gallery options. There's one for nearly every medium-from stained glass to Indonesian textiles.
Best musical experience: The exterior of the Experience Music Project (877-367-7361) was designed by architect Frank Gehry to resemble a smashed guitar. Inside, you'll find a museum that pays homage to popular music with memorabilia, exhibits on the evolution of the Seattle music scene, and video interviews with hundreds of influential musicians, from Randy Newman to native daughters Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. Musicians or those who aspire to be are equally at home here: The museum's 12 soundproof studios can be reserved for everything from jam sessions for experienced players to step-by-step instruction for beginners. An added bonus: Visit on the first Thursday evening of the month, and admission is free.
Best architecture: While many visitors head to the iconic Space Needle for a view of the city, Smith Tower (206-622-4004) provides a less crowded vista and a glimpse of Seattle architectural history. Completed in 1914, the 42-story Smith Tower was the city's first skyscraper and, for almost 50 years, the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Reaching the top is half the fun: Elaborately decorated brass and copper elevators (the last manually operated elevators on the West Coast) whisk you from the marble and onyx lobby to the 35th floor observation deck.
Best place to see wildlife: The fish ladder-a man-made series of underwater steps that help migrating fish safely transit from salt to fresh water at a gradual rate-at Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (206-783-7059, www.seattle.gov/tour/locks.htm) provides a fascinating look at salmon and the occasional steelhead trout making their way from the open sea back to Lake Washington to spawn. Located five miles northwest of downtown in the neighborhood of Ballard, a viewing gallery lets visitors watch from underwater. Adult salmon navigate the ladder from June to October; steelhead from January through April.
Where to stay
Best room with a view: Perched over the water in Elliott Bay, the Edgewater (shown above, from $299 a night; 800-624-0670) has a storied past as a refuge for touring rock bands, including the Beatles, who famously fished out the window; you can stay in their suite. The hotel's theme is pure Pacific Northwest, with stone fireplaces and rough-hewn pine furniture. Half of the 223 rooms have water views; the rest overlook the Seattle skyline.
Best boutique hotel: Just a quick stroll from Pike Place Market, Hotel Max (from $179 a night; 866-833-6299) is arty and open-minded. Rooms are small but packed with style-each displays original artwork that contribute to a total of more than 350 photographs and paintings featured throughout the hotel.
Best B&B: The Bacon Mansion (from $89 a night; 800-240-1864) is located on a quiet residential street just past the lively action on Capitol Hill, home to the city's best nightlife. There are 11 rooms, including a carriage house that's wheelchair-accessible. One large suite has a winter view of the Space Needle; two have fireplaces; and another opens onto a private garden.