Seattle – tours of all types

Jay and I are all about the unconventional.

Well, that’s not quite true. I’m a pretty by-the-book girl for the most part. While traveling, though, there’s nothing I enjoy more than discovering unexpected, hidden facets of a city.

(I say this, having basically sprinted towards Pike Place Market upon arrival in Seattle!)

Um. Anyway. There were a few neat, not-so-typical tours I wanted to check out while in the city. First up? The Underground Tour, a highly-recommended, off-kilter attraction.

We met in a saloon parlor and walked through underground tunnels underneath Pioneer Square. It was fun, it was educational, it was nitty, it was gritty. Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and really painted an entertaining, historically accurate picture of Seattle for us. For example: the city had major problems concerning tides, low elevation, and… the products of bowel movements. Yes.

Less educational, but slightly more hygienic, was a visit to a chocolate factory. Yes — chocolate! — and not just chocolate, but organic, locally produced, and sustainably-minded chocolate. I was beside myself with excitement. Others get similarly worked up about chocolate, so be sure to book reservations if you’re planning on heading here.

I knew I was in for a treat the minute we entered the lobby of Theo Chocolate Factory. They made us wear baby blue hairnets. I felt like Lucille Ball. I couldn’t wait.

We sat through a brief lecture, tasted a few chocolates, and then got to enter the factory. Our guide walked us through the whole process, which was really quite awe-inspiring. Have you ever thought about where chocolate comes from? It’s an incredibly labor-intensive, elaborate process that involves manpower on a global scale. No longer shall I take this wondrous food product (food group?) for granted.

I also sampled roughly a pound of chocolate within the hour I was at the factory. I’m not joking. That gift shop should’ve locked its free samples away before I passed through its doors. We were also allowed into the confection kitchen, where we got to taste the types of tres gourmet chocolate truffles that are only sold behind glass cases.

While Theo Chocolate offered me everything I could ever want in a tour, however, Jay and I were not convinced that all local experiences require payment and/or guidance. We decided to do some independent sightseeing at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard — an aquatic park where you can find a fish ladder and viewing room. (Please note that they do have free tours daily, if you’re interested.)

A fish ladder is a water structure that recreates a river environment, through which salmon swim upstream to their original spawning grounds. We caught the tail end of migration season, so it was sadly quiet on the water when we were there. Nonetheless, we waited around a bit in the underground viewing room and were richly rewarded when two courageous salmon passed by en route to the ladder (bless ’em!).

It’s clear why the fish want to return to the waters of Puget Sound — the place is stunning.

Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
608 1st Ave  Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 682-4646
www.undergroundtour.com/

Theo Chocolate Factory
3400 Phinney Ave N  Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 632-5100
www.theochocolate.com/factory-tour

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
3015 NW 54th St
Seattle, WA  98107
www.seattle.gov/tour/locks.htm

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