Doing our Tourist Thing With the Seattle Underground Tour

Three days on the mountain, three days of hiking, driving and horseback riding our way all over the National Park, and three days of relaxing evenings in the hot tub. Aaaah.

That was awesome.

Then it was time to hit the city.

My dad lives in Tacoma, and I had visited twice before but my kids were small and we stayed close to the house, or played in the local parks. This was my first time actually going in to Seattle. This was also Brian’s first time ever on the west coast and he didn’t know anything at all about the city so we weren’t sure where to start. I had heard of the Seattle Underground tour before and knew it would be a good start for learning about some of the local history while getting into the down and dirty (literally) parts of the old town.

We learned from previous travels that when we don’t know anything about where we’re going, a public tour is sometimes a good idea to get the lay of the land, and to find out what’s actually available to explore further during our visit. As much as we like to wing it and explore on our own, sometimes we it’s just nice to have some good information first.

So I booked the tour online, we found a parking spot for the car my dad lent us (a dang mile away) and off we went to see the underground.

We were not disappointed! We wandered up to Pioneer Square, the oldest part of the city, and grabbed a cup of coffee while we waited four our scheduled tour.

I loved the square. If it was a bit warmer it might have been a great place to sit and enjoy our coffee while we waited, but it was freezing! Well, freezing for two people who have spent the last four years in Brazil and Houston anyway.

I had my warm jacket, and my gloves on, and I was still a bit chilly.

Soon enough we were gathered up by our most hilarious tour guide, Ally. She’s a born comedian and kept the crowd smiling and moving while she told us all about the history of a young and muddy Seattle.

During the tour we were all over the various nearby streets, going into and out of several old buildings, and up and down quite a few sets of stairs. Some more rickety than others.

We saw whole rooms that were left empty, corridors that used to be sidewalks before they were covered up and later condemned, and quite a bit of old machinery and bits of furniture left behind.

My favorite?

The bathrooms. There’s a whole hilarious story about the history of Seattle’s public sewer system and how it came to be. I won’t ruin it for you because learning about it while we were down there actually looking at the Crapper toilets was the best part.

Or was that the part about the prostitutes and their sewing circles?

I can’t decide.

I can tell you though that those Crapper toilets were pretty.

Why don’t we have pretty toilets like this anymore? I would totally buy one. It must be a lost art.

And I can’t really think of anyone I know who would want to put “Porcelain commode artist” on their resume. Oh, well.

Before the tour I knew there was an underground city. I didn’t realize that even after it was covered up it was still fully used for several years before it was finally condemned to control the plague.

What do you need to keep an underground city functioning? Light!

They built skylights right into the sidewalks on street level, and they’re still here. How great is that?

If Ally hadn’t shown them to us as we walked over the top of them, I would have had no idea that these were skylights under our feet. They just look like decorative bits. Interesting and kind of pretty, but that’s all.

But they’re so much more than that! It was amazing how bright the gallery below was. Those little purple bits of glass really let a lot of sunshine in.

More of that sunshine that we were lucky to get.

The tour was well worth the money, and a great way to get a taste of the city’s history. Go see it if you have a chance. I bet even if you’re a local you’ll learn something you didn’t know before.

Even if it’s about exploding toilets.

On the map: Click here to see this location on our Google map.

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About akil3655

A Scotsman and his American photographer wife traveling the world and writing about it. Tales, reviews, photos, interviews and crazy goings on. Because you never know what's going to happen.

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4 Responses to Doing our Tourist Thing With the Seattle Underground Tour

  1. Nicole June 7, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    I live in Portland, Oregon and must admit that I’ve always sort of despised Seattle…truthfully, probably for no other reason than that people recognize it as the metropolis of the Northwest instead of my great city! But, I must admit, this tour has me tempted to plan a trip up there one weekend. You though, should hop on down to Portland and do our underground tour with all the tales of the people kinapped (or “Shanghai’d as it was called) via trap doors in the floors of bars by the Chinese to be slaves on ships. It’s pretty cool stuff!

    • akil3655
      Twitter: kiltandacamera
      June 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

      I wish we had time to go down to Portland while we were there (already back in Texas now). I didn’t realize you also had an underground tour, but it sounds like we’d love it! Is that where the term “Shanghai’d” came from? Way cool. Added that tour to the list of things to see when we finally make it there. Thanks!

      • Nicole June 7, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

        I believe (not positive) that IS where the term Shanghai’d came from! Wait…found this:

        • akil3655
          Twitter: kiltandacamera
          June 8, 2012 at 12:15 am #

          Cool, thanks!

          I just took a look at your site. Good luck with your new travel planning!