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America by Amtrak, Coast-to-Coast and Border-to-Border

Seattle (SEA)


Photo taken on Shutter Tours City and Snoqualmie Falls Tour

Served by these Amtrak Trains:  No. 11 and 14 COAST STARLIGHT, No. 7 and 8 EMPIRE BUILDER.

July 6, 2016

Photography and text by Carl Morrison

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Amtrak Destination City, Seattle, Washington.

Arrival in Seattle on the COAST STARLIGHT from Los Angeles, California about 8:12 pm.

We made our first Uber call and were picked up quickly.  The Uber app even showed where the driver was located on a real time map.  Our destination was Courtyard Seattle Downtown/Pioneer Square, 612 2nd Avenue, Seattle, 206-625-1111. ($20 Uber coupon under LINKS at the end of this report.)


Model of the Courtyard Seattle Downtown in lobby which is easier to photograph than the entire building.


Daylight view of the Courtyard Seattle Downtown at the corner of Cherry and 2nd.


Remodeled only 6 years earlier, the lobby still looked modern to me.


Since we arrived after dark in Seattle, we were welcomed by Jordan, the Night Guy, and given the keys to our room.  We found it had excellent amenities.





Quite a refreshment center in the room.


Advertised as a Bay View room, and it was.


We were to leave about 4 p.m. the next day, so we arose and had a great breakfast in Bistro on site.


View south from our window in the
Courtyard Seattle Downtown/Pioneer Square hotel.  Note the proximity of the Amtrak Station (clock tower on upper left above) and the football and baseball stadiums to this hotel.


Beyond the stadiums is Starbucks world headquarters (clock tower).


North of our hotel we could see the iconic Space Needle.


Continuing to notice the quality of this hotel, heading down to breakfast we noticed the artistic carpet pattern.


The original "Alaska Building" mailbox in the lobby allowed for mail drops from upper floors to quickly reach the lobby.


Breakfast at the Courtyard Seattle Downtown hotel was far better than expected - anything on the menu at the Bistro on 1st floor.  The Bistro even had a full Starbucks bar available as well.



Included breakfast at the Courtyard Seattle Downtown.

In speaking with Chris, the Bistro Manager, I learned how they were able to produce such a great breakfast and he pointed out the full kitchen.  They also have meeting rooms available, so they can serve banquets as well.  The hotel was remodeled just 6 years ago, but it is ready for a remodel now in "Millennial Style".  Just shows the quality of accommodations in the Courtyard chain.

With our departure from Seattle at 4 p.m. I wondered what kind of tour Matt and I could take to best use those few hours in Seattle.  After some Internet searching, I found the perfect solution:  Shutter Tours:  Snoqualmie Falls and City Tour - 2 Tours in One!

With two tours in one, you'll visit beautiful Snoqualmie Falls and then experience the city of Seattle. Our tours are more than a simple tour pointing out locations through the windows with one or two quick stops. With Shutter Tours, we offer you a richer tour experience and take the time to stop and explore must see locations. As an added bonus we also help you with simple photos tips to make the most of your vacation in Seattle. We also offer complimentary downtown Seattle hotel pickups.

Pioneer Square Seattle
Seattle History

Our tour begins at the Pike Place Market at 10 AM. As we make our way through the city you'll learn the history of the city, how the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 became an important event to turn Seattle into a major city and explain the "Underground" of Seattle. Your guide will share more Seattle history as you travel through Pioneer Square, where the early settlers decided to build the city. This rich historic area is also known for its Renaissance Revival architecture, galleries and the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush activity in the late 1800's.

Throughout the tour that is jammed packed with stories about Seattle history, your guide will share some fun facts and history from the Klondike Gold Rush to how Seattle got its name to what the real story is about how much it rains. You'll also learn how Starbucks became the company it is today, who the "People of the Moon" were and many other fun and engaging stories.

Snoqualmie Falls

Your first experience in the Cascade foothills will be a drive through the town of Snoqualmie, the real "Twin Peaks" of the Pacific Northwest. Then you'll enjoy the majesty of Snoqualmie Falls, which is sure to be a favorite memory on your tour with us. Time spent at falls is approximately one half hour.

The Fremont Troll

Next stopping point is the Fremont Troll where you can take some time to get some photos of this one of a kind piece of public art. As we drive through Fremont you'll see a 16' tall statue of Bolshevik Russian Communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. Your guide will share with you how this statue arrived in Seattle and the story behind its history.

The Ballard Locks

We then stop at the Ballard Locks also driving through Fisherman' Terminal where you'll see the Pacific Fishing fleet. At the Ballard Locks, you may see migrating salmon going through the locks system, Sea Lions, Eagles and maritime traffic as they navigate this engineering marvel. Approximate time at the locks is a half hour, giving you time to explore the locks and fish ladder.
Kerry Park
Best Seattle View

Next we take in the #1 rated location in Seattle for taking a photo of the skyline, the picturesque viewpoint at Kerry Park.

Arrival back at Pike Place Market for you to continue your sightseeing of the city with a newfound love of Seattle.

Free Seattle Tour Ebook
Receive our free eBook

As a thank you for booking our tour, you will also receive a link where you can download our free 30-page e-Book "Self-Guided Walking Tour". This guide was created by the professional staff at Shutter Tours and will take you around the Pike Place Market and give you photography hints and composition ideas and much more. (Link will be in your tour confirmation email)

Our itinerary ensures adequate time spent at each location allowing individual feedback and suggestions from our guides. We've done all the work and planning, so you can spend your time having a positive experience.


Courtyard Seattle assistant carries our bags to Terry Divyak, owner of Shutter Tours, who loaded them into the back of the tour bus.  He even took us to the train station after the tour so we need not store our luggage nor take a cab to the station!

Meet Your Guide
Terry Divyak Shutter Tours

Your tour guide Terry is a Seattle native and loves all things Seattle and travel. Traveling to such far off places as Africa, Turkey, Cambodia, Thailand, Morocco and Europe, he understands the needs of travelers and what you expect on a quality tour. Terry will weave local stories and history into your sightseeing experience throughout the tour.

There were six key features that caused me to select this excellent Seattle tour: 

1.  Hotel pickup at the Courtyard Seattle Downtown/Pioneer Square at 10 a.m. (a good reason to stay at such a nice hotel)
2.  Tour duration of 4 hours, ending 2 hours before our Empire Builder departure time.

3.  Terry would keep our luggage
on the tour bus during the tour, after we checked out of the hotel at his pickup time.

4.  Terry would drop Matt off at Pike's Market for photos and take me on, with the luggage, to the train station after the tour.  He said to tell you he would do that for anyone taking his tour.

5.  Terry also gave photo tips, thus the name Shutter Tours, and before we departed the tour bus at each stop, he would tell us where the restrooms were and where the best location for taking photos, and the time to return to the bus.  He even showed examples of the Rule of Thirds and other tips for taking good photos.  additionally, he would use our camera to take a photo of us with the attraction in the background.  To accommodate the special interests of his clients, when he learned that I was happy to learn that at Ballard Locks there was a rookery of Great Blue Herons with their young about to fledge, he pointed out the exact location of the rookery plus pointed out later some herons down by the water's edge that I would not have seen on my own.

6.  With the owner of Shutter Tours, Terry Divyak, leading the tour, I was able to ask him questions about the business and learn additional points for this report.  And while making arrangements for this tour, all my e-mail questions were answered directly by him.

Terry also leads Africa Tours and had a nice book of photos on the bus for us to peruse.


Pioneer Square from our 12-passenger Shutter Tours van.

We passed "Skid Row" which got its name from skidding logs down the street to the harbor.


My buddy Don Roe will remember this place, near Pioneer Square, where he won a sports trivia contest.


The tallest building in the U.S. city of Seattle, Washington is the 76-story Columbia Center, which rises 943 feet and was completed in 1985.


We pulled onto I-90 which starts in Seattle and runs to Boston. 

Terry gave out a lot of information about Seattle and Washington state as he drove the 12-passenger bus to the falls.  We crossed a floating bridge and he pointed out that Bill Gates lived on the shore of this Lake Washington.  Seattle gets 151 days of rain per year, for an average total of 38 inches from October to April, their rainy season.  The Olympic Mountains are to the west and the Cascades are to the east.  There are only 58 cloudless days a year.  The San Juan Islands, to the west, are in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains and thus less rain. started here in Seattle in 1994.  Jeff heard about the Internet and started selling books over the Internet.  The first name was, but when people heard that name, they thought it was, so he changed to Amazon.  He is one of 9 billionnaires who live in Seattle.  The University of Washington here has the first brick and mortar stores on campus.

In addition to Amazon starting here, others were Starbucks, Costco, Microsoft, Boeing, Eddit Bauer, Expedia, and others.

54% of the residents of Seattle over the age of 25 have their Bachelor's Degree.

Near Snoqualmie Falls, we passed a nice railroad museum


They have a nice rotary snow blower





Terry explaining the Rule of Thirds in photography.

He also said that if you set Portrait Mode on your camera, it turns on the flash, and the Landscape Mode will give the whole scene in focus.  He suggested taking photos of signs along the way, such as the sign for theSnoqualmie Falls so you can remember how to spell it.  Take vertical panorama to get the bottom of the falls in your photo.


The spectacular Snoqualmie Falls.


It is so far to the bottom that logs look like toothpicks and one barely realizes the red at the bottom center of the photo is a person.



Following Terry's Rule of Thirds, I took a photo of Matt.

Snoqualmie Falls is a 268 ft (82 m) waterfall on the Snoqualmie River between Snoqualmie and Fall City, Washington, USA. It is one of Washington's most popular scenic attractions, but is perhaps best known internationally for its appearance in the cult television series Twin Peaks.  [Niagara Falls is 167 ft.]

Most of the river is diverted into the power plants, but at times the river is high enough to flow across the entire precipice, which creates an almost blinding spray.

The Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Plant is at Snoqualmie Falls, currently operated by Puget Sound Energy. It is made of two power houses, Plant 1 and Plant 2. Plant 1 was built in 1899 and operates at the base of the falls embedded in the rock 270 feet (82 m) below the surface. It was the world's first completely underground power plant.[3] Plant 2 was built in 1910 and further expanded in 1957, and is located a short distance downstream of the falls.[4] Approximately 1% of Puget Sound Energy sales comes from the plant. These two power plants provide 44,000 kilowatts of electricity, which is enough to service 16,000 average homes.

Terry told this legend:  For the Snoqualmie People, who have lived for centuries in the Snoqualmie Valley in western Washington, Snoqualmie Falls is central to their culture, beliefs, and spirituality. A traditional burial site, to the Snoqualmie, the falls are "the place where First Woman and First Man were created by Moon the Transformer" and "where prayers were carried up to the Creator by great mists that rise from the powerful flow."[1] The mists rising from the base of the waterfall are said to serve to connect Heaven and Earth.


Spiritual Mist rising past the lodge, setting for
"Twin Peaks".  Water on the right is from the power plant overflow.


Tour owner,
Terry Divyak, takes a family portrait of tour members.


Didn't see any, but evidently this area has peregrine falcons.



I like my iWatch for the location, temperature, date, time, and sunset time.


Shirt in the gift shop.


Vegetation around the falls.


Tour owner, Terry Divyak, ready to head for the next stop.


The van we traveled in.


Google home office in Seattle


Statue of
long time radio personalities in Seattle.


This Troll was selected from applicant drawings for an art piece under this bridge.


Terry pointed out that a real VW was under the troll's left hand.

Ballard Locks

Before stepping off the bus, Terry reminded us of some photographic concepts:  Photograph boats and people in the locks from a high angle.  Shoot salmon in the ladder under water and through glass at an angle so if flash goes off, it is not reflected in the glass.

He mentioned that he learns a lot of facts about Seattle from reading many books which he purchases from Half Price Books (

He has two 12-passenger buses and 3 drivers.  As you will see from his website, he takes Tulip Festival trips as well.



Nearby heron rookery.



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A railroad draw bridge near the locks.


Dam next to the locks.


Terry pointed out a Great Blue Heron for me to photograph.



Salmon going up the fish ladder to lay their eggs, never to return.





During our time at the Ballard Locks, the bridge was lowered for a BNSF freight.  As it turned out, we crossed this very bridge later that afternoon on the Empire Builder.


There is an agreement with the local Indians that they can take a certain number of salmon.

Kerry Park
Best Seattle View




Terry showed us where to take this unique photo of the Space Needle.


Terry passed this photo book around the bus as a promotion of his African Photo Tour.


North Entrance to Pike's Market


South entrance to Pike's Market


Terry took me, and our luggage, back to King Street Station in time for our 4:40 pm departure on the Empire Builder.


The interior has been refurbished and looks perfect.



Across the street is the restored Union Station.


Union Station has an equally impressive restored interior.


Across the street from Union Station is Chinatown at Weller St. and 5th Avenue.


The Sounder commuter train stops at the Amtrak Station as well as Amtrak's Empire Builder and Coast Starlight.


Century Link Field just south of the Amtrak Station.  While watching the Seattle Mariners playing baseball here on TV, you often hear train horns.


For a slide show of all Seattle photos, click:

Courtyard Seattle Downtown/Pioneer Square, 612 2nd Avenue, Seattle:

Shutter tours, Seattle, Washington

Terry Divyak, Shutter Tours owner's Music and Travel website:

We used Uber in all 5 cities. Here's a free Uber ride (worth up to $20) on the Uber app
 To accept, use code 'carlm3106ue' to sign up. Enjoy!
Details: (The code will already be entered)

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