With the kids home from school and visiting relatives eager to see Seattle's sights, where do you take them this summer? Start with the obvious tourist junkets like the Underground Seattle tour, Tillicum Village, guided walks through the Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square, and air-conditioned tour buses to our national parks.
But after exhausting these traditional summer excursions, you may want to try some newer and more adventuresome theme tours. So grab your camera and walking shoes and listen while your tour guide explains these lesser-known Seattle area attractions:
Gold Coast Trophy Homes. A Lake Washington boat tour, featuring close-up views of the Eastside's newest, grandest, and most thoroughly wired mansions. Stops include Hunts Point, Medina, and Mercer Island, where the techno-palaces of telecom magnates, software barons, and booksellers await your scrutiny. Guided by construction cranes towering above the fir trees, your tour boat will navigate past the defensive perimeter of mines, submarine netting, and armed ex-Navy SEAL frogmen to gawk at these exclusive mansions. Pay no attention to the resentful glares and hurriedly drawn blinds, as nannies hustle frightened toddlers off lakefront lawns. Disregard the periodic shelling from on-shore batteries—computer-guided, of course—which is meant only to deter, not destroy, sightseers and Canada geese. (Liability waiver and helmets required.)
Half-Built Stadium Tour. With Safeco Field intractably stalled in cost overrun litigation and the Mariners now moved to Tulsa, here's your chance to visit the lavishly furnished but still unfinished baseball stadium. Visit the luxury boxes and enjoy their panoramic views, but take care not to touch the live electrical wires or rebar poking out of the concrete. Marvel at the retractable roof now derailed into a permanently half-open position. Pretend you're running the base paths through the infield grass now grown waist-high. And don't mind Safeco Field's new "home team"—squatters and homeless persons now living in the stadium's tunnels and bleachers as part of Mayor Schell's plan to find a place for those evicted from prior tent encampments. And what location could be more appropriate than this historic site of the city's former Hooverville?
Paul Allen's Invest-o-Rama. Actually a digital and fully interactive theme park, where visitors can track and help choose wacky new business opportunities for the Northwest's favorite eccentric investor. Sports franchises, movie theaters, and former waterfront toxic landfills are just some of the costly schemes you can experience with virtual-reality goggles. Help Paul plan new multimillion dollar museums for local music legends like the Kingsmen, the Sonics, and Ivar Haglund. Aid in the selection of famous architects to design his many new homes (after first choosing which desirable summer camp property to buy and raze). Schmooze with A-list celebrities and Hollywood studio bosses he's flown into town, as they desperately beg their new "friend" to fund various movie projects. Or maybe it's time for America's first professional cricket franchise—with its own new taxpayer-supported stadium!
Seattle Sonics Retirement Home. Convalescing after their marathon 50-game season, these creaky old-timers welcome visitors—except during Matlock, nap time, and Bingo Night. Share their vivid recollections of a bygone era, when the team regularly made the playoffs and horse-drawn carriages filled the city streets. Thirty-eight-year-old Dale Ellis will regale you with tales of the pre-three-point-shot era. Thirty-six-year-old Detlef Schrempf recalls his childhood growing up in the Weimar Republic. Thirty-two-year-old Hersey Hawkins remembers epic contests against Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, while 34-year-old Olden Polynice can tell you how basketballs used to be made from dried buffalo skins wrapped around a core of feathers. These lovable old codgers will also tell you how they're eagerly awaiting the arrival of already-middle-aged Gary Payton. Shuffleboard, anyone?
Seattle's Last Affordable Homes. One of the very shortest tours, requiring only a half-hour to complete and covering all three known properties. Walk through a West Seattle fixer-upper and burnt-out former meth lab, resting on a cracked foundation and mudslide-prone slope. One bed, one bath, no views or parking, but a steal at only $300,000. Then it's off to a well-located Belltown corner condo with four exposures and pre-installed phone. Plus modern construction, fluorescent lighting, and your very own complimentary Yellow Pages! A space-efficient 5-square-foot floor plan eliminates the need for a kitchen, bathroom, or sitting down—all for only $200,000! (Mortgage installments may be enclosed with your monthly U S West payment.) Last up is an adorable little Madison Park beachfront cottage featuring his and her bathrooms—with multiple stalls and urinals for frequent visitors! (Bring your own toilet paper.) Running water and shatter-proof stainless steel mirrors add to the homey ambiance—for only $500,000!
The Museum of History & Industry & Grunge. A new addition to an old museum, changing to fit the times! Lifelike wax dioramas of Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam now complement the other historical exhibits on Chief Sealth, Arthur Denny, and the Great Seattle Fire. You can practically hear Kim Thayil manipulate his tremolo bar and Dave Grohl demolish his drum set—just like in antiquity! Re-experience those long-lost days of yore when our tiny Elliott Bay settlement was exporting timber, salmon, and feedback to the outside world!
McCaw/Makah Land. Thanks to a deal struck between the publicity-hungry tribe and the whale-loving cell-phone tycoon, the Makahs have traded in their "traditional" .50 caliber rifles to cater to the every need of their former prey. Paddling their cedar canoes through specially designed sea pens, they now ferry visitors on bloodless whale-watching tours—without roaming charges! Plus interactive videoconference kiosks, so you can get live, up-to-the-minute reports on Keiko's progress in Iceland. (Today's count of stunned, immobilized salmon successfully caught: six!) Then visit Craig McCaw's nearby satellite-launching facility, now the tribe's principal employer, which promises to finally bring the Olympic Peninsula into the 19th century.
Dale Chihuly's Glass World. At last—a comprehensive tribute to the Northwest's underappreciated, publicity-shy genius of glass! This tour begins at his sulphurous Lake Union studio, where hunky, bandanna-wearing assistants jump to execute his mumbled one-dimensional instructions. Then visit his vast Ballard marketing/manufacturing facility, where new exhibits, museums, and fawning biographical TV specials are being planned around the world. Take an advance peek at the new Franklin Mint line of Dale Chihuly collectibles—soon to be available on late-night infomercials! After a short bus ride to his Tacoma shipping warehouse, you can learn about Chihuly's planned new glass museum and pose for photographs with one of several friendly, roving, eyepatch-wearing Dale costume figures. Wander through his showroom; browse through his vast press clipping archive; marvel as this multimedia artist confidently swaggers into fields as diverse as painting, sculpture, music, dance, movies, and cookbooks. Don't forget to stop at the gift shop on your way out; baubles and trinkets start at only $999.99!
Gov. Locke's House o' Bats. Learn about the operation of your state government—and the nesting habits of the common bat! Armed with a beekeeper's helmet, broom, and oven mitts, Mona Lee Locke will personally escort you through the many bat-infested rooms of the drafty executive mansion. But mind your step—that guano can be slippery!
Kalakala Benefit Tour. It's not just this rusting deco hulk that's been dragged back to town from the scrapyard. Several other local transportation icons have also recently been reclaimed from salvage and brought to the Kalakala's Lake Union mooring site. For a modest admission fee, benefiting the Kalakala Foundation, you can also view a 1972 Ford Pinto retrieved from the bottom of Lake Washington (near the old I-90 bulge) and a mid-'60s Winnebago that's simply been parked here for months (please knock before entering). Also on display are a snowmobile of uncertain vintage found in somebody's backyard, several unclaimed boat trailers, and a few old bikes that some kids heaved over the fence. Remember—it's not junk, it's history!
Paul Schell's Bridge to the Future. A complete 1/64-scale walk-through exhibit depicting his bold new transportation vision for the 21st century. Venetian-style gondolas glide across Lake Washington, as morning commuters enjoy bel canto singing with their espresso. Suspended by environmentally friendly hydrogen balloons, the expanded monorail system reaches from Kent to Shoreline. (Parachutes supplied for non-express stops.) Non-polluting electric mag-lev personal transportation pods (or PTPs) can be stacked one on top of the other along the I-5 and I-405 corridors—raising freeway capacity tenfold! Cable cars are suspended between Queen Anne Hill and Capitol Hill, while an above-ground network of glass pneumatic tubes whooshes officeworkers between downtown buildings—well within federal G-force limits! Says the proud mayor of his plan, "We need a truly world-class transportation system to be a world-class city. And our schoolteachers can earn a little extra money moonlighting as gondoliers." (Budget estimates unavailable at this time.)
Slade Gorton's Emergency Kosovo Relief Act Rider Tour. Appropriated as last-minute add-ons to the $15 billion defense spending bill, here's a must-visit itinerary of our senior senator's pet projects. First, of course, you'll be bused to Okanogan County, where the Battle Mountain Gold Co. of Houston, Texas, is generating majestic slag heaps of cynanide-treated ore. "This is just immoral," Gorton has said of the prior federal mining waste prohibition that he sidestepped. Then it's back to the Cascades, where the senator has overturned all logging restrictions in our national parks and forests. "This is just indecent the way clear-cutting has been obstructed," he adds. Then you'll proceed by boat to the new San Juan Island supertanker docking facility, specifically exempted from all environmental and liquor laws. "This is just obscene the way supertanker skippers have been prevented from drinking at the helm," Gorton explains. "You need a few extra cocktails to relax—especially when you're commanding such a big boat." Last is the Hoquiam spotted owl shooting range, where hunters can blast away at the endangered species. "This is just shameful that hunters weren't allowed to eradicate these pests," says Gorton, "which is why I've also legalized fully automatic assault rifles."
Microsoft World. An entire circuit of exhibits and displays linked by a Redmond campus shuttle bus, providing an advance glimpse of how technology will integrate us into the future. At the Office Pavilion, watch as demonstrators—temps, for beta testing purposes—simply connect their PC cables to convenient forehead-mounted UBS ports to upload data and debug incompatible thoughts! At the Play Pavilion, kids eagerly try out the latest games on TVs equipped with Microsoft set-top boxes. (Caution, do not attempt to distract children from daily required six-hour game-playing quota with food or homework, per Windows license agreement.) Finally, at the Home Pavilion, the new Windows Home NT software optimizes your household routine. After monitoring and learning your habits, passwords, and bank account numbers, the intelligent agent software will free you from bothersome domestic chores! Just sit back and enjoy, as it automatically controls your lighting, thermostat, sprinkler system, bill paying, diet, sleeping hours, and conjugal schedule for maximum efficiency.