Seattle's original downtown area, Pioneer Square is one of the city's most interesting neighborhoods. In 1889, nearly four decades after it was first settled, a fired destroyed much of the area, including the waterfront, leaving the city to regrow on top of the ruins. Today, one can not only explore the labyrinth of streets, alley ways and buildings that still lie underneath, but marvel at cutting-edge works of art, shop for antiques and other unique wares as well as dine at any one of many outstanding eateries.
Parking and public transportation at Pioneer Square
Public transportation is the best option for exploring Pioneer Square. It's one of the city's most walkable neighborhoods, and Sound Transit, King County Metro and Amtrak all come through daily. The ferry terminal and water taxi are less than a 5-minute walk away. If you have to drive, the least expensive parking garages can be found just north at the First & Columbia Garage or to the south at Stadium Place Garage for less than $5 an hour to park.
Best and worst time to go to Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square is busiest after dark, with the chance to dance the night away, listen to live music and dine on great eats, as this is the nightlife mecca of the city, with nightclubs bustling every night of the week, all year long. After the sun sets, visitors also have the chance to become a ghost hunter via Bill Speidel's Underground Paranormal Experience or the adults-only Underworld Tour. If you want to beat the crowds, avoid going on the weekend, especially during the summer months. Families with children may want to limit their visit to daytime hours as the district is near the county jail and is also popular with the homeless -– though most are harmless, extra-caution after dark is imperative.
Admission to Pioneer Square
There is no admission to Pioneer Square, though there is a fee for one of the neighborhood's most popular attractions, the underground tours. Tickets for adults range from less than $20 for the standard tour to $30 for the Underground Paranormal Experience. Discounts are available for students, seniors and children.
Must see and do at Pioneer Square
Bill Speidel's Underground Tour is a must as an attraction that even the locals love. The walks, given by knowledgeable, entertaining guides, reveal a glimpse into Seattle's past below the streets of the city, through passages that were once the surface streets. You'll see storefronts of the old downtown and hear fascinating tales about the city's pioneers and their exploits. Those who are interested in the paranormal, shouldn't miss the ghost tour for a chance to view this reportedly haunted underbelly of Seattle after dark, which includes a lesson on the basics of ghost hunting before setting off on your own to seek paranormal events.
Other places to see near Pioneer Square
If you didn't arrive via ferry, consider taking a ride over to Bainbridge Island to get a great view of the Seattle skyline, including the Space Needle and the Seattle Great Wheel. The adventure is almost like a mini-cruise, with the chance to see all types of marine life, like dolphins and porpoises, otters, seals and whales along the way. Located between the ferry terminal and Pioneer Square in an alley on Post Avenue, the Owl 'N Thistle Irish Pub & Restaurant is a great place to pop in for a pint, including a perfectly poured Guinness, as well as some of the best fish and chips in the city.
Insider tips for visitors to Pioneer Square
Local art lovers head to Pioneer Square on the first Thursday every month to take part in the First Thursday Gallery Walk. This year-round event offers the chance enjoy wine, cheese and other refreshments at art galleries which stay open late and kick off new shows.
Author's bio: K.C. Dermody is a travel writer living in the Seattle area with hundreds of travel articles both online and in print. She has traveled the world and is the author of 'Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland,' but especially loves showing off the beautiful region she resides in.