A new direct flight from London makes buzzy Seattle an appealing city break option. From the top of the Space Needle to downtown drinking spots, Katie Wright discovers what the rapidly-growing metropolis has to offer
"It's scientifically proven that calories don't count on vacation," I'm told, as I bite into a hot, chewy, sugar-covered doughnut from Daily Dozen - the first of seven stops on my tour of Pike Place Market. The scent of cinnamon mingles with freshly brewed coffee and the yells of sellers flogging their wares ring out from every direction.
I'm reassured by my jovial guide Judson's claim (however dubious it might be) because a visit to Seattle's famous epicurean emporium is highly calorific.
Don't even think about having breakfast before you arrive - and you definitely won't need lunch either - because there's a dish to satisfy every taste bud among the 500-odd shops and stalls in the sprawling 21 acre site.
Over the next two hours, I gobble up deliciously creamy Beecher's mac and cheese (you can watch the curds being separated from the whey in the shop window), chow down on award-winning Pike Place clam chowder (so good they were barred from entering the national cook-off, because no one else stood a chance), and fall head over heels in love with the gooey, cheesy, meaty melange that is a Piroshky Piroshky pastry (piroshky means 'little pie' in Estonian).
Got a sweet tooth? Grab a tub of gorgeously gloopy Ellenos Greek yoghurt smothered with mashed marionberry (a blackberry-like fruit that was engineered in the 1950s in neighbouring Oregon state), some nutty Chocolate Honey Pecan praline candies at Chukar Cherries, or Piroshky Piroshky's heavenly apple and cinnamon-stuffed pastry.
In fact, the whole of Seattle is a culinary paradise, and with a new Virgin Atlantic flight zipping over the Arctic in approximately ten hours (bag a window seat for awe-inspiring views of those craggy snow-covered peaks) it's ripe for foodie city break status.
Rivalling Silicon Valley in the tech start-up stakes, Washington state's largest metropolis has seen hip young professionals arriving in droves in recent years and there's a real sense that this is a city on the up - quite literally, as cranes and skyscrapers-in-the-making punctuate that iconic skyline.
From cuisine to culture, Seattle has a whole lot to offer. Get ready to tuck in...
WHERE TO STAY
:: Thompson hotel (www.thompsonhotels.com) in downtown Seattle is just a few minutes' walk from Pike Place and the waterfront. Rooms at the trendy, modern property are peppered with pop art and the rooftop lounge offers stunning vistas over the harbour and (when it's sunny) Puget Sound.
Rooms at Thompson Seattle start from 239 dollars (around £190) per person.
WHAT TO DO
:: When it's clear and sunny, the peak of 4,000-metre high Mount Rainier is visible from the top of Pacific Northwest's most well-known building, the Space Needle, but even on dreary days it's worth zipping up 182 metres in the elevator to gaze upon the urban sprawl (entry from 22 dollars - about £18 - for adults; (www.spaceneedle.com).
:: Directly below the tower, you'll see a building that looks a bit like a smashed electric guitar (it's meant to, FYI). That's the Museum of Pop Culture. The MoPOP houses a permanent collection of more than 200 six-stringed axes, plus it has rotating exhibits dedicated to sci-fi, movies, sports and more (tickets from 25 dollars - about £20; www.mopop.org).
:: Next door you'll find Chihuly Garden and Glass, a gallery dedicated to Washington native Dale Chihuly. You might recognise the sculptor's work from the giant seaweed-like chandelier that hangs in London's V&A museum. Here, you'll find more of his beautiful, technicoloured glass-blown pieces (tickets from 22 dollars - about £18 - for adults; www.chihulygardenandglass.com).
WHERE TO BRUNCH
Like the rest of the Western world, Seattle has gone barmy for brunch of late, and securing a table at one of the no-bookings-allowed mid-morning hotspots can require patience on the weekend.
:: A pair of French eateries in close proximity in Capitol Hill are currently in high demand. Marmite (www.marmiteseattle.com) - named after the cooking pot, not the yeasty spread - offers rustic eats in Scandi-chic environs (the creamy sherried mushrooms on brioche, is delicieuse and about £10), while Bar Melusine (www.barmelusine.com) specialises in oysters (but the buckwheat crepes, from 8 dollars - about £6, are also magnifique).
:: Not keen on queuing? You may have more luck at the spacious downtown Portage Bay Cafe (www.portagebaycafe.com), which does a mean Migas tortilla stuffed with chipotle pulled pork and scrambled eggs for 17 dollars (about £14). The portions are exceedingly generous too.
WHERE TO DINE
:: You won't find any steak and kidney at Serious Pie (seriouspieseattle.com). This, locals say, is home to the best pizza in town, namely the roasted seasonal mushroom and truffle cheese variety (£15).
:: Other Seattlites argue that Pagliacci (www.pagliacci.com) - a family-run institution approaching its 40th birthday - takes the numero uno spot thanks to its award-winning hand-tossed dough discs. My advice? Try both and decide for yourself.
:: Perched on the Pacific, Seattle is also famous for its seafood, and all along the downtown waterfront you'll find eateries serving up fresh-off-the-boat crab, calamari and Alaskan salmon. At the bustling Crab Pot (thecrabpotseattle.com), diners are furnished with a bib and a mallet, alongside their mounds of steaming crustaceans ('seafeasts' for two or more start at 22 dollars - about £18 - per person).
WHERE TO DRINK
If it's boozy beverages you're after, do not leave your hotel without your passport (NOT your driving licence, that doesn't count apparently) because they are real sticklers when it comes to ID in the US, no matter how old you look.
:: Passport firmly in hand, take a cab to Capitol Hill, the buzzy hipster neighbourhood that's crammed with cool drinking holes. For an unparalleled alcoholic array, head to Canon (www.canonseattle.com), where they stock no less than 3,500 types of liquor (cocktails start from 14 dollars - about £11), or Liberty (www.libertybars.com), where a 'scratch' cocktail (as in 'made from' costs 10 dollars - about £8) might include the table-side torching of a rosemary sprig, adding a smoking aroma to your libation. Both are open until 2am every night.
Craft beer aficionados should make a beeline for Ballard on the city's northwest coast and map out a route that takes in the ten microbreweries that are spread across five square miles. Hale's Ales (around 5 dollars/£4 a pint, halesbrewery.com) are particularly popular with the local pub-crawl crowd.
Katie Wright was a guest of Virgin Atlantic (www.virginatlantic.com; 0844 2092 770) who flies daily from London Heathrow to Seattle. Return economy fares from £674 per person.
For more information on the destination, visit www.Seattle-WashingtonState.co.uk