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Getting to know Seattle below the surface (literally)
There is a whole subterranean world underneath Seattle. It used to be a hot bed of prostitution, gambling, and rum-running – all of this before the underground world was overrun by diseased rats and sealed like a forgotten tomb. Today you can explore this part of Seattle like a modern day catacombs. The tour is quirky but worth the time.
The history of this underground Seattle is an interesting one. In the early days, the Emerald City was prone to heavy flooding. As a remedy, the city began to build elevated streets. These streets were so tall that in the 1800s they actually sat at the second floor of all the buildings in downtown Seattle. At some point the city began building sidewalks, which sealed the first floor of the Seattle downtown area underground. Thus, the Underground was born.
After growing up in Seattle for most of my life, I finally took the tour of this subterranean city earlier this year. We spent most of the experience walking through the subterranean halls of old Seattle, listening to our guide give us the low-down on the city’s history with a deceptively dry sense of humor (especially for such a wet place). I was so entertained the whole time that I didn’t even notice how much I learned. What struck me most was how the underground virtually has remained untouched for almost 100 years. Being down there is like exploring a pyramid or going back through time.
Viewfinder Tip: If you are claustrophobic, opt for an open-air tour and read about this one in books.
There are a number of different tours available of this part of the city. For those of you (like us) who believe in ghosts, go for the haunted tour. If you’d rather drink and learn, consider the “underworld tour,” which includes a cocktail and gives you a much more in-depth look of the seedy world of sex and sin that went on beneath the streets. It’s a little more raunchy but even more fun, and just as educational. You’ll of course need to be 21 or older for this one.
Whichever tour you take, my personal recommendation would be to make a day of it. Pioneer Square has some of the best food in all of Seattle and is located between Chinatown and the waterfront. You could show up in the morning, take in the sights, hit up a tour, and then toast to your intrepid sense of adventure with a frosty pint at my favorite Southeast Seattle bar, the Owl and Thistle. It’s what the residents of Underground Seattle would have wanted you to do.
What is the wackiest city tour you’ve ever taken on your travels?
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Chris and Tawny have had articles and videos published on USA TODAY TRAVEL, BBC Travel, Matador Network, as well as appeared as guest stars on TLC Asia's Fun Taiwan television series. When not on the road, you can find Chris and Tawny nestled in their home in Tacoma, Washington fueling up on coffee and cat cuddles while planning their future adventures. You can follow their travels on their blog, Instagram, and YouTube