They’re back! Tourists return to downtown Seattle, masks and all

SEATTLE — At bustling Pike Place, it’s not just locals packing the market.

“My parents just flew in from Las Vegas. We came in from San Diego,” said Michael Dew, who is seeing family for the first time after a private pandemic wedding last year.

He said he’s still getting used to crowds.

“A lot of people as we came in. I was surprised but not surprised. In California, we just opened up last week, so everybody’s out and about,” said Dew.

All those people are good business.

“Comparing this to two, three months ago, it’s New Year’s Eve. It’s really, really good,” said Patrick McAleese, owner of Kell’s Irish Pub in Post Alley.

McAleese has been welcoming more and more “out-of-towners.”

“A lot of people from Arizona, California, Florida. I was kind of surprised how far,” said McAleese.

But with different rules everywhere, are they complying with Washington’s restrictions?

“I’ve noticed people have, are pretty respectful. They come in with their masks on; they ask what’s the policy. And that’s quite nice,” said McAleese.

Those policies may even be a plus point for some people — like Marisol Ruiz.

“So we were able to finally get vaccinated and come on over and visit,” said Ruiz.

She and her family are visiting from Phoenix, Arizona, which has already reopened.

“Let’s be honest. Like, we know Seattle had really good restrictions and wearing masks, 6 feet apart. And everyone was really vocal about that and getting the vaccine. So we knew it was going to be a really safe place to come and visit,” said Ruiz.

Safe enough for her boyfriend — now fiancé — to pop the question at Gasworks Park.

Places like the Aquarium are seeing a surge in visitors too — at more than 2,000 people per day last week. And there’s 24% more foot traffic than expected for the year so far.

Aquarium staff said more than half of visitors are from out of state.

Fabian Martinez and his family have spent three days touring Washington’s coast — their first vacation since 2019.

“We’re from El Paso, Texas,” said Martinez. “Yeah! Having a blast.”

He said the rules in Washington are an adjustment.

“I’m confident to pull my mask down, but I guess we’re doing it for the safety of others too,” said Martinez.

But he’ll do anything for the cool ocean air.

“Even though it’s warm here now today, we left back home in El Paso — it was 105 degrees. So this is nothing,” said Martinez.