Washington: Always fully caffeinated and briming with fine vintage antique finds

Located in the northwestern part of the state, Washington’s largest city has spectacular mountain and ocean views. It has been the consistent economic leader of the Pacific Northwest from its beginnings during the Klondike Gold Rush to the 21st century, serving as headquarters to Microsoft and Boeing. Washington’s largest city, Seattle, consistently rates as one of America’s most livable cities, for its abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation and thriving arts community.

The Pacific Northwest’s best-known landmark is the Space Needle, which was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. This 9,550-ton modernistic tower is about 60 stories high. Take a 41-second ride in a glass elevator to the newly remodeled Observation Deck. Indoor and outdoor viewing areas allow visitors to see the downtown skyline, Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier and surrounding islands.

The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame is located at the base of the Space Needle in the Frank Gehry-designed Experience Music Project building. Exhibits of movie props, first-edition books and costumes include the command chair Captain Kirk used in Star Trek and the B9 Robot from Lost in Space. Another must-see for sci-fi fans is the Seattle Museum of the Mysteries. Billed as the largest public source of UFO information in the northwest, it includes exhibits relating to crop circles and UFOs, plus an extensive library.

The state’s official museum of natural and cultural history, the Burke Museum, is best known for its renowned collections in anthropology, geology and zoology. Its holdings include more than 10,000 Northwest Indian artifacts. Spirit of the Ancestors, a comprehensive exhibit of contemporary Northwest Coast Native art, will be on display March 3 until September 3.

Special museums include Seattle Asian Art Museum, Henry Art Gallery, Frye Art Museum, Northwest Railway Museum, Nordic Heritage Museum, Museum of Flight, and Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum. The Seattle Art Museum is currently closed for major renovations and is scheduled to reopen in May.

Founded in 1874, this city was once known as the lumber capital of the world. It is now one of the Northwest’s leading industrial cities, with major seaport and railroad commerce.

The Museum of Glass is an international center for contemporary art. The Chihuly Bridge of Glass is a 500-foot pedestrian bridge across Interstate 705 that links the museum to the rest of the downtown area. This dazzling creation was the idea of Tacoma native Dale Chihuly, who was assisted by local architect Arthur Andersson. Commissioned by the Museum of Glass, it opened to the public in 2002. The bridge’s Seafoam Pavilion has a ceiling made up of 2,364 objects with delicate flowing forms and colors. The Crystal Towers, which mark the center of the bridge, rise 40 feet above the bridge deck and serve as beacons of light for the bridge and the city. At the Venetian Wall, visitors see an 80-foot display of 109 Chihuly sculptures.

In 2003, Tacoma Art Museum moved to a stainless-steel facility twice the size of its former building. The museum features views of Mt. Rainier and a series of elegant galleries that wrap around an open-air stone garden. The galleries showcase traveling national and international exhibitions, as well as selections from the museum’s collection of American, European and Asian art. Of special interest is a collection of works by Chihuly. This collection dates from 1977 to the present and is the premier collection of Chihuly’s work on long-term public display.

The Harold LeMay America’s Car Museum is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest privately owned automobile collection in the world. It is currently located in about 50 buildings near the suburban home of LeMay, who died in 2000, but plans are in the works to relocate it to the downtown area. Other Tacoma attractions include Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, Washington State History Museum and Working Waterfront Maritime Museum.

Located at the foot of the Cascade Mountains, this town resembles a Bavarian Alps village more than a city in central Washington. In fact, one of its biggest events is the classic Bavarian carnival held every February. The largest attraction in the area is the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum. Owner Arlene Wagner, a former ballet teacher, became interested in these wooden figures with big teeth when she produced the Nutcracker ballet for many years. She and her husband, George, traveled the world collecting 5,000 nutcrackers and opened this museum in 1995 so the public could view their collection. Today visitors can see a bronze Roman nutcracker dated between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D. that was unearthed in 1960. Other exhibits include iron nutcrackers from the 13th century, brass nutcrackers dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries, and delicately carved wood nutcrackers made by European carvers from the 14th century on. There are also a few rare examples of nutcrackers made of ivory, bone and porcelain. While the emphasis is on antique nutcrackers, the Wagners also display nutcrackers of current makers. The largest producer of wooden nutcrackers is Christian Steinbach of Germany. Some visitors come here specifically to see the world’s most complete collection of Steinbach crackers. The Wagners are also authors of several reference books on nutcrackers, available at bookstores nationwide and in their gift shop.