I spent the first twenty-one years of my life in Seattle, so it’s only natural that I would write about the city from time to time.
For example, four years ago I posted the following video, “Seattle in Motion,” Edward Aites’ “moving portrait” full of familiar-to-me scenes of my old hometown.
And a little over two years ago in “Home (to Seattle) for the Holidays” I wrote about the city of my youth and the city of today.
Finally, in September of 2015, after a visit a month earlier, I gave tips for “Being a One-Day Tourist in Seattle.”
In recent years, I’ve always assumed that what has sometimes been called the “Emerald City” is a tourist mecca, especially since the streets have always been teeming with visitors when I’ve been in my old hometown. But just like in the movie The Wizard of Oz, not everything that seems to be necessarily proves to be real.
Much to my surprise, and presumably to the chagrin of the local tourism industry leaders, The Seattle Times recently reported that the city ranked a lowly 37th out of 50 “on a large-scale new survey of visitor satisfaction at the top U.S. tourist destinations, which was conducted by market research giant J.D. Power.”
The study used a 1,000 point scale with Seattle earning 785 points and providing a less satisfying visitor experience than first-in-the-West destination, Las Vegas (827) which was considered “Among the best), as well as the island of Oahu, Hawaii (813) and San Diego (812) deemed “Better than most,” Denver (803), Anaheim (801), Los Angeles (800), Salt Lake City (797), San Francisco (793) and even better-known-for-its-crime-rate Oakland (790), all of which were rated “About average.”
Seattle, San Jose (784), Portland, Oregon (779), Sacramento (767) and Riverside/San Bernardino (762) were simply labeled “The rest” in the J.D. Power study.
Tourists didn’t like the high cost of their visit, traffic congestion, poor signage, snooty restaurant staff, or dirty streets. The Seattle Times said even “locals” agreed with many of the complaints about their city that were highlighted in the study.
I’m afraid that even as a born-and-bred Seattleite, I must admit that at times I’ve found hotel rooms pricey and traffic unbearable.
When planning a visit for August of 2015, booking a hotel room was a real challenge, and the few that were available ran from about $300/night and up. The reason: Bernie Sanders and Taylor Swift were going to be in town, along with scads of video gamers. (Five months later, in January of 2016, I snagged a bigger room in a better hotel for about $150/night.)
Seattle has suffered traffic woes for many years, but it now seems insufferable. Like the San Francisco Bay Area where (until January) I resided for over 45 years, farms and ranches to the north, east, and south of Seattle gradually faded into oblivion as they were subdivided into home sites and office parks.
Meanwhile, the freeway system, which came into being about 50 years ago when I was in college, hasn’t changed much. Off and on ramps connecting downtown Seattle to I-5 don’t seem different to me than they were “back in the day,” as they say.
As a result, if you are trying to navigate your vehicle through downtown, especially at rush hour, you will probably find cars headed to or from the freeway “blocking the box” at nearly every intersection.
Commuters, who have no other choice, learn to live with this situation. Tourists, on the other hand, can steal one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lines from The Terminator movie when they head home and say “Hasta la vista, baby!” and never, ever come back to Seattle.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t come to Seattle on vacation. It simply means that you should plan on forking over a lot of dough-re-mi for lodging, meals, and activities, and try as best you can to rely on public transportation (alas, no longer free in the downtown area), taxis or ride-sharing services, or your own two feet (Seattle’s downtown is “walkable”) rather than driving your own car or one from a rental car company.
And despite all the naysayers, The Seattle Times reported that “there was no shortage of folks sticking up for their hometown as a fantastic tourist destination.”
(Tales Told From The Road publisher, Dick Jordan, now lives in Eugene, Oregon, about mid-way between Seattle, where he was born and grew up, and the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent nearly all his adult life.)