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May 31, 2014 at 7:01 PM

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In defense of the Ducks: Seattle tourist attractions


BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

The entrance to Pike Place Market bears the iconic red "Public Market Center" sign as visitors stroll in Wednesday May 14, 2014.

While photographing our summer feature on tourist attractions around the city, I became one with the tourists photographing the flying fish at Pike Place Market and the Olympics Mountains at sunset from the Space Needle. Initially, I was told the story was an overview of five big attractions: Ride the Ducks, The Waterfront, Pike Place Market, Seattle Underground Tour and the Space Needle, and five smaller: Argosy Cruises, Sky View Observatory at Columbia Tower, Ballard Farmers Market, The Seattle Architecture Foundation's Tour and the Olympic Sculpture Park. I set out to do most of them -- the only one I have yet to experience was the Underground Tour - but in the interest of time and low-light photography, knew I couldn't do them all in three days.

Amazingly, I had a blast. Even on the duck boat. And, after reading the story that Assistant Features Editor Brian Thomas Gallagher ended up writing, I feel the need to offer a rebuttal.

I disagree with much of Gallagher's article, which spurns the tacky, wacky and actually fun parts about being a tourist. As our duck-boat Captain, Willie Webster, 25, of Seattle, said at the beginning of the tour, "What happens on the duck, stays on the duck." Amen. Quack quack. The beauty of being a tourist is getting out of character and doing something a little insane.

A note about the style of the images: I rented tilt-shift lenses from Glazers Camera to shoot this project to give it a novel, fun feel. The lenses were originally developed for architectural photography, but can also make things look miniature and toy-like.



BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Sheila Nunez, visiting from California, shrieks as fishmonger Ryan Yokoyama catches a fish over her head by request at the (world famous) Pike Place Fish Market.

Pike Place Market and the Ballard Farmers Market
One of the issues I take with Gallagher's story is the reference of the fishmongers to carnival barkers. Turning the experience of coming to the Market into entertainment is one of the reasons why the Market has stayed alive. "We get sensitive when people talk bad about the Market," said Jaison Scott, 41, who was raised in the Market while his mother earned a living there. He has worked at Pike Place Fish Market full-time for 20 years and wishes more locals would take advantage of it. "The best part about the Market is the community. You don't get that in a grocery store," said Scott, as he greeted almost everyone who passed. "We survive because tourists come back to us."

Pike Place Market is my favorite place to take visitors from out of town. The mix of characters and color, the produce and products, the views - well, the photographs speak for themselves. And, if the Ballard Farmers Market is a more low-key alternative according to the story - then Brian's never tried to find parking in Old Ballard on a Sunday.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Yeng Cha of Kirkland makes bouquets at her flower stall in Pike Place Market.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Visitors wander through the neon signs and craft stalls at Pike Place.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Mama Angelina's produce stand in the Market is known for having the most organic produce selection. The stall, owned by the Genzale family, who also operates Frank's Quality Produce, also in the Market, has been in the family for four generations.



BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Dave DeLeon, a busker outside the original Starbucks in Pike Place Market, has lived in Seattle almost 20 years, and just started busking last year. "I almost feel like I'm an ambassador of the city. It's great to be down here and mixing with the people, especially the kids. It's just nice when people share a smile. A smile is at least as good as a dollar for me," he said.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Mia Soleil Romero, 4, and her brother Rex, 3, squeal with excitement to get a prize from Farrel "Twister" Thomas, a balloon artist at Pike Place Market Wednesday May 14, 2014. Their father, Carlos Romero, works at the nearby Maximilien restaurant and often brings them to see Twister, who has been making balloons for kids for the last 10 years at the Market.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Sam Amazyan on the guitar (facing) and Brendon Smith on the cello perform at the Ballard Farmers Market Sunday May 18, 2014. They both live in Port Townsend. "We share music from the heart," said Amazyan.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Old Ballard bustles at the Ballard Farmers Market Sunday May 18, 2014.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

People take pictures of the sunset over the sound on the observation deck of the Space Needle Tuesday May 13, 2014.

The Space Needle and Columbia Center's Sky View Observatory
Yeah, it's a bit of a pricey elevator ride. But, the observatory at the Space Needle is a beautiful place, and a photographer's dream - especially as the Olympic mountains glow during a gorgeous sunset and Mount Rainier lines up with the skyline. It's a special experience with great people watching to boot.

The Columbia Center's Sky View Observatory is also a sweet view but a total 180-degree different experience. Take away the kitschy gift shop and elevator narration, and replace it with a quiet reverence for the ferries going to-and-fro in the Sound, the buglike cars scooting along on Interstate 5. It was so quiet I felt I was in a church or a library on my visit. No whipping wind to paw at coiffed hair. Cheaper, yes, but also miles different, depending on what tourists you're looking to please.



BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Michael Vinokurov of Redmond puts his arm around his girlfriend Heather Shimabukuro as a breeze whips up on the observation deck of the Space Needle Tuesday May 13, 2014. The two were celebrating Vinokurov's birthday.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Visitors take in the sunset over Puget Sound on the observation deck of the Space Needle Tuesday May 13, 2014.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

A sailboat and Seattle's Great Wheel seem tiny when seen from the Columbia Center's Sky View Observatory.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Mount Rainier and Beacon Hill are one of the sights for miles seen from the Columbia Center's Sky View Observatory.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

The Bremerton ferry sails into Puget Sound, seen from the Columbia Center's Sky View Observatory.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Duck memorabilia for sale in the "Ride the Ducks" gift shop Tuesday May 13, 2014.

Ride the Ducks and Argosy Cruises
OK, I admit, I have rolled my eyes at many a duck boat, especially crowding my lanes on the Aurora bridge. But, I'll be the first to admit, I had a damn good time as a passenger on the Ride the Ducks tour. Hearing the middle-aged couples around me belt out their best renditions of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" at the behest of a driver in his mid-20s wearing a funny hat is a high point of the year for me. People all around me, from all walks of life, were having a genuinely good time. Captain of the duck, Willie Webster, 25, was engaging and knowledgeable and even taught me a thing or two.

As for the Argosy Cruise, it's just lovely. A simple boat tour. No quackers or crazy music. Cocktails and different routes available. No convincing needed.



BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Jeremy Cage of Pocotello, Idaho, takes a picture with Erika Kudo and Akiko Murakami, visiting from Vancouver but from Japan, before embarking on the "Ride the Ducks" tour of Seattle Tuesday May 13, 2014. Amy Orenchuk takes their photograph.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Willie Webster, 25, of Seattle, works his personality "Han Soslo" during a "Ride the Ducks" tour Tuesday May 13, 2014. Webster, who grew up on Mercer Island, had to get a Merchant Mariners license and Commercial Drivers License to drive the duck, but worked through last summer to travel in the off-season. "It's a weird job, but a really fun job," he said.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Babu Patel and his wife Jyodi, visiting from Toronto, dance and sing with the captain while doing a "Ride the Ducks" tour of Seattle Tuesday May 13, 2014.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Kristen Woodward of Seattle relaxes on the Argosy cruise ship "Champagne Lady" on a Seattle Lakes Cruise around Lakes Union and Washington Sunday May 18, 2014. Woodward lives near the lake and is a Captain's Club member with Argosy. "It's easy to take for granted," she said about the beautiful sights around the city. "It's nice to be a tourist in your own town."

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Leighton Paschal, 5, of Mill Creek, steers the Argosy cruise ship "Champagne Lady" with Captain Nicholas Zylstra's assistance on a Seattle Lakes Cruise around Lakes Union and Washington Sunday May 18, 2014.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Oliver Moxcey, 4, of Bothell, takes a ride on the vintage carousel with his grandmother Shelly Domann of Colorado at Miner's Landing on Pier 57 at the Seattle Waterfront.

The Historic Seattle Waterfront and the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park
Lowbrow on the water, highbrow on the hill - both are nice little walks. Depending if you're in the market for some pirate gags and Ivar's clams or a contemplative stroll with great artworks while cyclists whiz by, both are great reasons to be on the water. Walk on the ferry to Bainbridge while you're down there for the cheapest boat tour in the city. People watching is wonderful and the sunsets are divine.



BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Joseph Evans takes a picture of his wife Robin Evans in front of the Great Wheel on Seattle's Waterfront. The two are visiting from Phoenix.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Little Joe advertises the wares for sale at Pirates Plunder on the historic Seattle Waterfront.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Contrails trace around "Eagle," by Alexander Calder, the 39-foot red-steel centerpiece of the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park Tuesday May 13, 2014.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Postcards on display at Pirates Plunder show Seattle's picturesque skyline.

Now, we want to hear from you, including the 20 people who already told me we missed the Ballard Locks on this list. Not my call. I'd say the Fremont Troll.

What are your favorite tourist destinations in Seattle? Your standbys when Grandma comes to town? Best places to revel in the summer crowds?

Get on Instagram to share with us your selfies, your sunsets, your silhouettes, your Space Needles - tag it with #seattletourist and we'll share it here.



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