Summer shines


June center fountainWhales 002

What a strange season it’s been! I had tours in May with the threat of sunburn, and drizzle instead of sizzle on the 4th of July!

The fountain at the Seattle Center is always a great spot to step away from the crowds at the Needle and Chihuly. Originally a 1962 World’s Fair feature, (International Fountain) music plays over the shooting chlorine-scented water. Kids, big and small, attempt to dodge the blasting spray to touch the silver dome, and then run away to safety.

It’s Seattle’s charming nature to be a bit unpredictable.

I’ve been missing my visits to the Smith Tower in Pioneer Square this summer. The observation level is closed, and the “Chinese Room” is being remodeled with a re-opening scheduled for August. I’ve taken a few trips to the Columbia Center viewing area, but the walk from Pioneer Place is very steep, and the building is not as visitor-friendly. It’s a great view to be sure, but currently not on my walking tour.

If you like to see more photos, follow bestguideseattle on Instagram.

Thank you for reading, from Margaret at Best Guide Seattle


Seattle’s Japanese neighborhood

Jackson Street, S. Main St., and the Kobe Terrace


In the Higo Variety Store near 6th Ave.S. and S. Jackson Street, the Kobo Gallery holds modern decor in Japanese crafts and textiles and unique gifts of art. I’ve wanted to include Kobo on my walking tour but it is a few blocks way from my usual swing through Uwajimaya, (Asian grocery/gifts) and Kinokuniya bookstore on Lane St. If you visit Kobo at Higo, be sure to take-in the display about the Murakami family who owned the original 10 cent store.

From Higo, uphill on 6th Ave. S., Maneki, the oldest Japanese restaurant in Seattle is in the NP hotel building. It’s opens in the evening, and is very popular for sashimi and sushi.

At the corner of 6th Ave S. and S. Main street, turn right to find the Panama Hotel at 605 1/2. The tea and coffee house has counter service numerous tables for a relaxed visit. Interesting historical photos and displays remind visitors of the busy Japantown that was here in the mid 19o0s. A plexi-glass view through the floor shows some of the belongings left behind by Japanese-Americans who were sent to internment camps under Executive order 9066. (issued Feb. 19 1942, a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor 1941).The novel, “The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” tells a story about a young Chinese boy and a Japanese girl during this time of racism, and the unfounded fear of spies and  sabotage by the Japanese on the west coast. 

Among real lives, the Murakami family who owned Higo, and Mr. Takashi Hori who owned the Panama Hotel were sent to  the Minidoka camp in Idaho. The Moriguchi family, who started Uwajimaya,  were sent to Tule Lake in northern California. Although some of the businesses resumed after the WWII,  Japantown didn’t recover in population. 

 In April 2015, the Panama Hotel was given “national treasure” status by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Its story helps us remember what happened here. 

Across S. Main Street from the hotel, the terraced walkways of Danny Woo’s Community garden are bordered by many small fenced plots, and fruit trees, and chickens . And at the top of the stairway,  Kobe Terrace Park awaits on S. Washington Street.

Seattle’s first “sister-city” relationship began in 1957, and the tiny park has Cherry trees, and Japanese pine that were gifts from the city of Kobe. A stone lantern was placed with a 1976 dedication “to shed light on the friendship” of our sister-city.  In present-day Seattle, Nihonmachi, our Japantown, is a place to remember, and rediscover.

Thank you for reading, from Margaret at Best Guide Seattle



2016, Is it still raining?

Yes! and there’s snow in the mountains– where it belongs.

With each New Year, I find it more difficult to put the old year away.  It’s a sad day pushing the dried-out Christmas tree, and crispy cedar boughs into the yard. We age our old tree and later cut it up so it’ll sizzle and pop in a summer fire pit. And inside, we’ll have the company of sharp fir needles under cushy chairs and carpet edges throughout the spring, no doubt.

It’s a melancholy time for many reasons. Holiday treats and special foods are recent memories, as is our happy football season. But enough! We have to look forward.

Need some cheering? Go to Georgetown! I love the vibe of this neighborhood, and anybody who has played rec. soccer likely has been distracted by planes flying closely overhead. While on the astroturf, I can’t NOT look up, they are just above your head! Then, a re-positioning BN train comes creeping along with its whistle blasting, only to stop and reverse itself silently.

Before it was annexed to Seattle in 1910, Georgetown was its own little town on the Duwamish river among the native Duwamish people. White settlers here pre-date the more famous Denny party. provides a summary that includes the local Duwamish being pushed out by private land claims as the settler population grew. Farmers grew hops in the river valley, and brought the success of the Seattle Brewing and Malting Co.  (later becoming Rainier Beer). Railroads expanded, and landfills completely re-engineered the bending river at the turn of the century. Boeing field began its service for King Co. in the 1920s with the Boeing factory nearby booming into a huge industry. Then, in 1962,  I-5 cut into Georgetown further chopping the little town in segments between the various ramps, and industrial arterials.

The current Georgetown has restaurants, shops, great beer and coffee, live music venues, and the Art Attack (2nd Sat each month) within a few blocks.  When you go there, bring your real friends– not everybody you know, but just a few who can slow down, and know how to enjoy a rainy January day in Seattle.

Thank you for reading, Margaret at Best Guide Seattle

Place of Light, Place of Welcome

St James Cathedral, Seattle
St. James Cathedral, Seattle, 2015

These orange-garbed workmen are adding lights to the exterior of the towers at St James Cathedral on First Hill. The project began at the end of the summer, and should be completed by early December. The theme of this renovation is ‘Place of Light, Place of Welcome,’ and it’s right on time with a needed hopefulness to get us through the long, gray days ahead.

In the early 1900s, St. James was a landmark on First Hill, but now it’s somewhat hidden in the increasing skyline of towers. From the waterfront, the dark heights of the Columbia Center often block the view. The new lighting system will illuminate the beautiful cathedral structure as well as add to the safety of those walking along on 9th Ave.

The Cathedral is making these improvements with the help of the community. If you’d like to make a contribution to this project, or would like to find out more about it, please visit and thank you for reading, Margaret

New Festival Park for Chinatown

Future park expansion
Future park expansion west of Hing Hay Park

Earlier this year, the Chinatown post office closed, and moved to a tiny corner on Jackson St. so that a Seattle Parks and Rec. project could begin. While I miss the room of the old USPS clerk’s counter, I like how the new park design expands Hing Hay Park into two city blocks. The artistic landscaping includes terraces and performance areas. It’s sure to welcome more people who enjoy open walk-able places year-round, and it’ll be a great setting for festival times.

Of course being Seattle, it’s a bit behind schedule due to required permits, and ground breaking likely will be in November. Add a year of construction, and it should be ready for all the multi-cultural music, dance and martial arts displays celebrating Lunar New Year, 2017, the year of the Rooster! (Don’t worry, 2016 is the Year of Monkey and it can’t help but be a fun, and happy event too.)

Chinatown/ID also hosts The Dragon Festival in July, and the occasional food frenzy at the Night Markets during the summer. Drawing crowds to Chinatown for great food and festivities is a Seattle tradition that is not to be missed.  Visit the city’s Park and Rec. page to see the new park plan, and thank you for reading, Margaret

Oh and look what else I saw today:

New streetcar on Jackson
New streetcar on Jackson St., Seatttle

Scattered showers & Central Library

Seattle Central Library, 4th and Madison St
Seattle Central Library, 4th and Madison St

We’re easing into the cooler season, and our weather predictions include “scattered showers.” This is one of my favorite types of days in Seattle. Scattered showers mean it will be warm, and then it will rain lightly, and then it will be warm again. This is different from ‘”partly sunny with precipitation” (cloudy), or the more straightforward prediction of “showers likely,” (cloudy). Scattered showers give a whimsical randomness about where rain will fall. It allows a precise question as to where the clouds were during your day. With “scattered showers” you can take it personally.

“Did you get rained on this afternoon?”

“Yeah, but just the last part of my bike ride.” or “No, I just made it home just before it started ”

This September condition, rain clouds followed by sunshine, is quite brief, and full overcast is on the way.  A favorite destination when I’m among scattered showers is the downtown Seattle Central library. Autumn lighting makes its own show upon, and inside this ultra-modern building.

The Central Library is a wonderfully strange-looking aluminum mesh and glass building designed by Rem Koolhaas. It opened in 2004, and the reflections on the exterior, and patterned shadows on the interior make for a futuristic, flexible environment. It has few traditional walls or ceilings, and the natural light fills the massive structure with an open, comfortable feeling. But the neon shaded escalators, and a curving blood-red 4th floor hallway offer a challenge–don’t get too comfortable, things are happening here.

I love that the library has room for activities as well as traditional book and media resources. Citizenship and ESL classes, afternoon story-time, computer classes, author readings, music, and film, and a variety of lectures are hosted in library meeting rooms, performance arts areas, and the auditorium year-round.

In contrast, I also love the library’s 10th floor because it is a very quiet place. When were you last in a quiet public place to read, or write? It sounds as if it should be an easy thing to find, but I go to this floor because it is silent. I tip-toe to the desks in the study area.  My reading attention stays focused so my imagination can take-off. It’s a wonderful space especially during an afternoon with scattered showers.

Library entrances are on 4th and 5th Ave (between Spring and Madison Streets) It’s a hike uphill from 3rd Ave. transit. Sometimes I start a few blocks north at University St. Station to avoid the steep incline. I’m not alone in trying to avoid hills–perhaps it’s a Seattle thing? At 2 p.m. Sat., Oct. 10th, the Seattle Central library is hosting an interview with David Williams, author of “Too high, Too Steep; Reshaping Seattle’s Topography” I read it’s about the different re-grade projects that allowed for certain types of Seattle development. The interview is in Microsoft Auditorium. Check the website Seattle Central Library  to learn more.

Thank you for reading, Margaret

September 22nd


This is the last day of summer and with the Autumnal Equinox comes the celebration of our wedding anniversary!

Today, I walked to the Pike Place Market and it is a joy to be there on a Tuesday afternoon. I had lots of room to see the produce, enjoy a sample of a perfectly ripe mango, and also a large purple grape? I saw plenty of people downtown, but not many crowded walkways or strollers at my heels today.

Also, The President of China is visiting Seattle, and traffic is supposed to be terrible. But if you’re walking, just stay away from the Westin Hotel, and soak-up the sunshine. And, if you get a chance to get to the market this week, enjoy the dahlias–a beautiful flower for a celebration.

(photo note: I couldn’t get our dog Nemo out of the picture–I think he knows autumn is my favorite season.)

Thank you for reading, Margaret

“Doc Maynard”


There’s a new addition to the water taxi fleet, and some much-deserved recognition of our own Doc Maynard, an early resident of Duwamps — which he renamed Seattle to honor his friend Chief Seattle.

Arriving in 1852, Doc Maynard hosted the first post office in his store. He was friends with the Duwamish, and convinced tradesmen, and settlers to reside here including a ship captain’s wife, Mary Anne Conklin, (a.k.a. Mother Damnable), who ran a hotel and brothel. Doc Maynard knew the town would grow. Most famously he convinced Henry Yesler to place the first steam-powered saw mill on Elliott Bay. Maynard and Carson Boren made room for Yesler’s Mill on the waterfront.

Walking around Pioneer Place twenty-something years ago, one would remember Doc Maynard’s as a live music venue. It was one of several affordable clubs to enjoy on a bar-hopping night– very much in the spirit, and personality of Doc Maynard. Now, the “saloon,” owned by the Underground tour, is a private venue used for arranging the tour groups–it serves no alcohol.

The city of Seattle remembered Doc Maynard with a couple of street names. Six blocks in Chinatown between 6th and 7th Ave, are Maynard Ave S., and there’re a few blocks in Georgetown too, but it seems fitting that Doc should be back on the waterfront of Elliott Bay.

Because the float at Seacrest Park in West Seattle is too small for new water taxi to land, the Doc Maynard is going to have its first route from Seattle’s waterfront to Vashon Island. Whether a daily commuter, or an afternoon adventurer you’re going to have an easy crossing with great views. When you venture down Yesler Way to the King County Water taxi pier, say “Welcome back Doc Maynard!”

Thank you for reading, Margaret

9/11 Fourteen years ago

In Seattle on 9/11/2001 we had a blue sky morning just like they had New York. I remember the public radio announcer being unclear as to whether the commercial plane crashing into one of towers was an air traffic control error, or a terrorist attack. For most of us, the story unfolded with terrible news updates all morning and afternoon.

Our usual jet traffic over Capitol Hill and the Central District was halted. I remember seeing other parents as we brought our kids to school. One father asked me anxiously, ‘Did you tell your daughters what’s happened?” and I said that I had. Others decided not to tell their kids that morning. Perhaps they wanted to protect them, but I remember telling the news to my daughters because I thought even though we didn’t understand it, they did need to know.

Seattle isn’t regarded as a big church-going area, but because I had volunteered to tutor ESL that day, and I went to St. James Cathedral on First Hill. I wanted to explain in person that I wouldn’t be leading a session. My student was the mother of a toddler, and we usually brought our little ones to play together while we worked on a lesson. In fact, she only was stopping by to tell me she had another appointment and couldn’t meet. New York was far away for us. My little daughter and I walked outside, and then went in a side door of the Cathedral. They were getting ready for mass.  It was perhaps an instinctive response– this is a place to go when one doesn’t know what to do.

When we left the Cathedral, we walked a block toward Madison Street, and my heart was touched with amazement at what we saw. There were more than a hundred people standing in absolute silence. They formed a long line from the front door of the Puget Sound Blood Center, down the walkway and around the corner continuing a long way down the sidewalk. They solemnly were waiting to donate blood. In Seattle, sometimes our holy communion looks different from other traditions, but it is all part of our love.

Thanks for reading, Margaret

Welcome to Autumn, and New City Adventures

As the season changes, I’m reminded of conversations with those beginning new jobs, starting classes, and adding new activities. September feels like the right time to let oneself be more open to change. Seattle is changing and growing quickly, and we have to find new ways to move, explore, and enjoy our places and experiences.

I’m a tour guide, and I love to meet visitors. Often comparisons and interesting observations emerge while strolling among Seattle’s favorite places. Beyond the summer tourist season, I walk for exercise, and I find that it helps me think more clearly. Sometimes I have a destination, and other times I wander.  My writing is meant to share local history and familiar places along with new influences, and discoveries . Welcome to autumn, and Thank you for reading, Margaret