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Seattle is a West Coast seaport city and the seat of King County, Washington. With an estimated 684,451 residents as of 2015, Seattle is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. In July 2013, it was the fastest-growing major city in the United States and remained in the Top 5 in May 2015 with an annual growth rate of 2.1%. The Seattle metropolitan area is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the United States with over 3.7 million inhabitants. The city is situated on an isthmus between Puget Sound (an inlet of the Pacific Ocean) and Lake Washington, about 100 miles (160 km) south of the Canada–United States border. A major gateway for trade with Asia, Seattle is the third largest port in North America in terms of container handling as of 2015.
The Seattle area was previously inhabited by Native Americans for at least 4,000 years before the first permanent European settlers. Arthur A. Denny and his group of travelers, subsequently known as the Denny Party, arrived from Illinois via Portland, Oregon, on the schooner Exact at Alki Point on November 13, 1851. The settlement was moved to the eastern shore of Elliott Bay and named it "Seattle" in 1852, after Chief Si'ahl of the local Duwamish and Suquamish tribes.
Logging was Seattle's first major industry, but by the late-19th century, the city had become a commercial and shipbuilding center as a gateway to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. By 1910, Seattle was one of the 25 largest cities in the country. However, the Great Depression severely damaged the city's economy. Growth returned during and after World War II partially due to the local Boeing company, which established Seattle as a center for aircraft manufacturing. The Seattle area developed as a technology center beginning in the 1980s, with companies like Microsoft becoming established in the region. In 1994, Internet retailer Amazon was founded in Seattle. The stream of new software, biotechnology, and Internet companies led to an economic revival, which increased the city's population by almost 50,000 between 1990 and 2000.
Seattle has a noteworthy musical history. From 1918 to 1951, nearly two dozen jazz nightclubs existed along Jackson Street, from the current Chinatown/International District, to the Central District. The jazz scene developed the early careers of Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Ernestine Anderson, and others. Seattle is also the birthplace of rock musician Jimi Hendrix and the alternative rock subgenre grunge.
|POPULATION :||• City 608,660|
• Estimate (2015) 684,451
• Urban 3,059,393 (US: 14th)
• Metro 3,733,580 (US: 15th)
• CSA 4,459,677 (US: 13th)
|FOUNDED :||December 2, 1869|
|TIME ZONE :||• Time zone PST (UTC−8)|
• Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
|AREA :||• City 142.5 sq mi (369.2 km2)|
• Land 83.87 sq mi (217.2 km2)
• Water 58.67 sq mi (152.0 km2)
• Metro 8,186 sq mi (21,202 km2)
|ELEVATION :||Highest elevation 520 ft (158 m)|
Lowest elevation 0 ft (0 m)
|COORDINATES :||47°36′35″N 122°19′59″W|
|SEX RATIO :|
|ETHNIC :||• White: 69.5% (Non-Hispanic Whites: 66.3%)|
• Asian: 13.8% (4.1% Chinese, 2.6% Filipino, 2.2% Vietnamese, 1.3% Japanese, 1.1% Korean, 0.8% Indian, 0.3% Cambodian, 0.3% Laotian, 0.2% Pakistanis, 0.2% Indonesian, 0.2% Thai)
• Black or African American: 7.9%
• Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 6.6% (4.1% Mexican, 0.3% Puerto Rican, 0.2% Guatemalan, 0.2% Salvadoran, 0.2% Cuban)
• American Indian and Alaska Native: 0.8%
• Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.4%
• Other race: 2.4%
• Two or more races: 5.1%
|AREA CODE :||206|
|POSTAL CODE :||98101–98119, 98121–98122, 98124–98127, 98129, 98131, 98133–98134, 98136, 98138–98139, 98141, 98144–98146, 98148, 98154–98155, 98158, 98160–98161, 98164–98166, 98168, 98170, 98174–98175, 98177–98178, 98181, 98185, 98188, 98190–98191, 98194–98195, 98198–98199|
|DIALING CODE :||+1 206|
Seattle, Washington sits at one of the most beautiful spots in the United States. Occupying a narrow isthmus between the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, it is the biggest city in the Pacific Northwest, with four million people calling the area home. Seen from above, carpets of evergreen trees, pristine blue waters, and snowy white mountains surround the downtown's metallic skyscrapers, earning the city its nickname The Emerald City.
On the ground, you will find a vibrant and cosmopolitan city. Next to the progressive downtown and the freewheeling feel of Capitol Hill, you can find a laid-back atmosphere in the districts to the north and ethnically diverse neighborhoods to the south. The many restaurants, coffee shops and microbreweries are worth indulging in after a day spent strolling through the city's many parks and beaches or admiring the arts and architecture. And just outside the hectic city are snow-covered mountains, evergreen forests, and stunning coastline to explore. Even for the bold and the adventurous, it's hard to get enough of Seattle.
Among Seattle's prominent annual fairs and festivals are the 24-day Seattle International Film Festival, Northwest Folklife over the Memorial Day weekend, numerous Seafair events throughout July and August (ranging from a Bon Odori celebration to the Seafair Cup hydroplane races), the Bite of Seattle, one of the largest Gay Pride festivals in the United States, and the art and music festival Bumbershoot, which programs music as well as other art and entertainment over the Labor Day weekend. All are typically attended by 100,000 people annually, as are the Seattle Hempfest and two separate Independence Day celebrations.
Other significant events include numerous Native American pow-wows, a Greek Festival hosted by St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Montlake, and numerous ethnic festivals (many associated with Festál at Seattle Center).
There are other annual events, ranging from the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair & Book Arts Show; an anime convention, Sakura-Con; Penny Arcade Expo, a gaming convention; a two-day, 9,000-rider Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic; and specialized film festivals, such as the Maelstrom International Fantastic Film Festival, the Seattle Asian American Film Festival (formerly known as the Northwest Asian American Film Festival), Children's Film Festival Seattle, Translation: the Seattle Transgender Film Festival, the Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and the Seattle Polish Film Festival.
The Henry Art Gallery opened in 1927, the first public art museum in Washington. The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) opened in 1933; SAM opened a museum downtown in 1991 (expanded and reopened 2007); since 1991, the 1933 building has been SAM's Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM). SAM also operates the Olympic Sculpture Park (opened 2007) on the waterfront north of the downtown piers. The Frye Art Museum is a free museum on First Hill.
Regional history collections are at the Loghouse Museum in Alki, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, the Museum of History and Industry, and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Industry collections are at the Center for Wooden Boats and the adjacent Northwest Seaport, the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum, and the Museum of Flight. Regional ethnic collections include the Nordic Heritage Museum, the Wing Luke Asian Museum, and the Northwest African American Museum. Seattle has artist-run galleries, including ten-year veteran Soil Art Gallery, and the newer Crawl Space Gallery.
The Seattle Great Wheel, one of the largest Ferris wheels in the US, opened in June 2012 as a new, permanent attraction on the city's waterfront, at Pier 57, next to Downtown Seattle. The city also has many community centers for recreation, including Rainier Beach, Van Asselt, Rainier, and Jefferson south of the Ship Canal and Green Lake, Laurelhurst, Loyal Heights north of the Canal, and Meadowbrook.
Woodland Park Zoo opened as a private menagerie in 1889 but was sold to the city in 1899. The Seattle Aquarium has been open on the downtown waterfront since 1977 (undergoing a renovation 2006). The Seattle Underground Tour is an exhibit of places that existed before the Great Fire.
Since the middle 1990s, Seattle has experienced significant growth in the cruise industry, especially as a departure point for Alaska cruises. In 2008, a record total of 886,039 cruise passengers passed through the city, surpassing the number for Vancouver, BC, the other major departure point for Alaska cruises.
The Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau operates two visitors centers. Both offer maps, brochures, event details, tour bookings, and restaurant reservations:
Archaeological excavations suggest that Native Americans have inhabited the Seattle area for at least 4,000 years. By the time the first European settlers arrived, the people (subsequently called the Duwamish tribe) occupied at least seventeen villages in the areas around Elliott Bay.
The first European to visit the Seattle area was George Vancouver, in May 1792 during his 1791–95 expedition to chart the Pacific Northwest. In 1851, a large party led by Luther Collins made a location on land at the mouth of the Duwamish River; they formally claimed it on September 14, 1851. Thirteen days later, members of the Collins Party on the way to their claim passed three scouts of the Denny Party. Members of the Denny Party claimed land on Alki Point on September 28, 1851. The rest of the Denny Party set sail from Portland, Oregon and landed on Alki point during a rainstorm on November 13, 1851.
After a difficult winter, most of the Denny Party relocated across Elliott Bay and claimed land a second time at the site of present-day Pioneer Square, naming this new settlement Duwamps. Charles Terry and John Low remained at the original landing location and reestablished their old land claim and called it "New York", but renamed "New York Alki" in April 1853, from a Chinook word meaning, roughly, "by and by" or "someday". For the next few years, New York Alki and Duwamps competed for dominance, but in time Alki was abandoned and its residents moved across the bay to join the rest of the settlers.
David Swinson "Doc" Maynard, one of the founders of Duwamps, was the primary advocate to name the settlement after Chief Sealth ("Seattle") of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes.
The name "Seattle" appears on official Washington Territory papers dated May 23, 1853, when the first plats for the village were filed. In 1855, nominal land settlements were established. On January 14, 1865, the Legislature of Territorial Washington incorporated the Town of Seattle with a board of trustees managing the city. The town of Seattle was disincorporated January 18, 1867 and remained a mere precinct of King County until late 1869, when a new petition was filed and the city was re-incorporated December 2, 1869 with a Mayor-council government. The corporate seal of the City of Seattle carries the date "1869" and a likeness of Chief Sealth in left profile.
Seattle has a history of boom-and-bust cycles, like many other cities near areas of extensive natural and mineral resources. Seattle has risen several times economically, then gone into precipitous decline, but it has typically used those periods to rebuild solid infrastructure.
The first such boom, covering the early years of the city, rode on the lumber industry. (During this period the road now known as Yesler Way won the nickname "Skid Road", supposedly after the timber skidding down the hill to Henry Yesler's sawmill. The later dereliction of the area may be a possible origin for the term which later entered the wider American lexicon as Skid Row.) Like much of the American West, Seattle saw numerous conflicts between labor and management, as well as ethnic tensions that culminated in the anti-Chinese riots of 1885–1886. This violence originated with unemployed whites who were determined to drive the Chinese from Seattle (anti-Chinese riots also occurred in Tacoma). In 1900, Asians were 4.2% of the population. Authorities declared martial law and federal troops arrived to put down the disorder.
Seattle achieved sufficient economic success that when the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 destroyed the central business district, a far grander city-center rapidly emerged in its place. Finance company Washington Mutual, for example, was founded in the immediate wake of the fire. However, the Panic of 1893 hit Seattle hard.
Gold Rush, World War I, and the Great Depression
The second and most dramatic boom and bust resulted from the Klondike Gold Rush, which ended the depression that had begun with the Panic of 1893; in a short time, Seattle became a major transportation center. On July 14, 1897, the S.S. Portlanddocked with its famed "ton of gold", and Seattle became the main transport and supply point for the miners in Alaska and the Yukon. Few of those working men found lasting wealth, however; it was Seattle's business of clothing the miners and feeding them salmon that panned out in the long run. Along with Seattle, other cities like Everett, Tacoma, Port Townsend, Bremerton, and Olympia, all in the Puget Sound region, became competitors for exchange, rather than mother lodes for extraction, of precious metals. The boom lasted well into the early part of the 20th century and funded many new Seattle companies and products. In 1907, 19-year-old James E. Casey borrowed $100 from a friend and founded the American Messenger Company (later UPS). Other Seattle companies founded during this period include Nordstrom and Eddie Bauer. Seattle brought in the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm to design a system of parks and boulevards.
The Gold Rush era culminated in the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909, which is largely responsible for the layout of today's University of Washington campus.
A shipbuilding boom in the early part of the 20th century became massive during World War I, making Seattle somewhat of a company town; the subsequent retrenchment led to the Seattle General Strike of 1919, the first general strike in the country. A 1912 city development plan by Virgil Bogue went largely unused. Seattle was mildly prosperous in the 1920s but was particularly hard hit in the Great Depression, experiencing some of the country's harshest labor strife in that era. Violence during the Maritime Strike of 1934 cost Seattle much of its maritime traffic, which was rerouted to the Port of Los Angeles.
Seattle was also the home base of impresario Alexander Pantages who, starting in 1902, opened a number of theaters in the city exhibiting vaudeville acts and silent movies. His activities soon expanded, and the thrifty Greek went on and became one of America's greatest theater and movie tycoons. Between Pantages and his rival John Considine, Seattle was for a while the western United States' vaudeville mecca. B. Marcus Priteca, the Scottish-born and Seattle-based architect, built several theaters for Pantages, including some in Seattle. The theaters he built for Pantages in Seattle have been either demolished or converted to other uses, but many other theaters survive in other cities of the U.S., often retaining the Pantagesname; Seattle's surviving Paramount Theatre, on which he collaborated, was not a Pantages theater.
Post-war years: aircraft and software
War work again brought local prosperity during World War II, this time centered on Boeing aircraft. The war dispersed the city's numerous Japanese-American businessmen due to the Japanese American internment. After the war, the local economy dipped. It rose again with Boeing's growing dominance in the commercial airliner market. Seattle celebrated its restored prosperity and made a bid for world recognition with the Century 21 Exposition, the 1962 World's Fair. Another major local economic downturn was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, at a time when Boeing was heavily affected by the oil crises, loss of Government contracts, and costs and delays associated with the Boeing 747. Many people left the area to look for work elsewhere, and two local real estate agents put up a billboard reading "Will the last person leaving Seattle – Turn out the lights."
Seattle remained the corporate headquarters of Boeing until 2001, when the company separated its headquarters from its major production facilities; the headquarters were moved to Chicago. The Seattle area is still home to Boeing's Renton narrow-body plant (where the 707, 720, 727, and 757 were assembled, and the 737 is assembled today) and Everett wide-body plant (assembly plant for the747, 767, 777, and 787). The company's credit union for employees, BECU, remains based in the Seattle area, though it is now open to all residents of Washington.
As prosperity began to return in the 1980s, the city was stunned by the Wah Mee massacre in 1983, when 13 people were killed in an illegal gambling club in the International District, Seattle's Chinatown. Beginning with Microsoft's 1979 move from Albuquerque, New Mexico to nearby Bellevue, Washington, Seattle and its suburbs became home to a number of technology companies including Amazon.com, RealNetworks, Nintendo of America, McCaw Cellular (now part ofAT&T Mobility), VoiceStream (now T-Mobile), and biomedical corporations such as HeartStream (later purchased by Philips), Heart Technologies (later purchased by Boston Scientific), Physio-Control (later purchased by Medtronic), ZymoGenetics, ICOS (later purchased by Eli Lilly and Company) and Immunex (later purchased by Amgen). This success brought an influx of new residents with a population increase within city limits of almost 50,000 between 1990 and 2000, and saw Seattle's real estate become some of the most expensive in the country. In 1993, the movie Sleepless in Seattle brought the city further national attention. Many of the Seattle area's tech companies remained relatively strong, but the frenzied dot-com boom years ended in early 2001.
Seattle in this period attracted widespread attention as home to these many companies, but also by hosting the 1990 Goodwill Games and the APEC leaders conference in 1993, as well as through the worldwide popularity of grunge, a sound that had developed in Seattle's independent music scene. Another bid for worldwide attention—hosting the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 1999—garnered visibility, but not in the way its sponsors desired, as related protest activity and police reactions to those protests overshadowed the conference itself. The city was further shaken by the Mardi Gras Riots in 2001, and then literally shaken the following day by the Nisqually earthquake.
Yet another boom began as the city emerged from the Great Recession. Amazon.com moved its headquarters from North Beacon Hill to South Lake Union and began a rapid expansion. For the five years beginning in 2010, Seattle gained an average of 14,511 residents per year, with the growth strongly skewed toward the center of the city, as unemployment dropped from roughly 9 percent to 3.6 percent. The city has found itself "bursting at the seams", with over 45,000 households spending more than half their income on housing and at least 2,800 people homeless, and with the country's sixth-worst rush hour traffic.
A common stereotype of Seattle is that the sky is always grey, rainy, and depressing. But it may surprise you that rain is virtually absent in late spring through early fall, making Seattle an excellent place to spend summer. It's warm and comfortable, with little to moderate humidity and temperatures averaging in the upper 70s (about 25°C), though sometimes rising to the 80s and even 90s (above 30°C). Furthermore, because of Seattle's high latitude, the sky is bright from around 4:30AM to 10PM during the summer months, giving you ample daylight for outdoor activities.
During all other seasons, the sky above Seattle is often murky, grim, rainy and breezy, with occasional days of sun. It can be dry but cold, or mild but rainy. Even in the case of dry weather, the morning typically starts with fog that usually vanishes by midday. Despite its location as the northernmost big city in the U.S., winters in Seattle are not as harsh as those east of the Cascades. Marine air from the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean moderate Seattle's climate, so that most precipitation falls as rain and little as snow. However, on occasion a snowstorm will hit, though it's a fairly rare event. The area consists of complex topographical features; thus it can be raining in the city itself but sunny five miles north or snowing in heaps fifteen miles inland to the Cascade foothills, often puzzling weather forecasters.
Despite the Rain City reputation, the main challenge of Seattle's weather is more the overcast skies than the rain, and in fact Seattle has less annual rainfall than most cities east of the Rocky Mountains. Seattle's rain usually comes in a drizzle that lingers for days, which only occasionally strengthens to a full-blown torrent that rarely lasts long.
Climate data for Seattle
|Record high °F (°C)||67|
|Mean maximum °F (°C)||56.4|
|Average high °F (°C)||47.2|
|Average low °F (°C)||36.9|
|Mean minimum °F (°C)||25.4|
|Record low °F (°C)||0|
With a land area of 83.9 square miles (217.3 km²), Seattle is the northernmost city with at least 500,000 people in the United States, farther north than Canadian cities such as Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal, at about the same latitude as Salzburg, Austria.
The topography of Seattle is hilly. The city lies on several hills, including Capitol Hill, First Hill, West Seattle, Beacon Hill, Magnolia, Denny Hill, and Queen Anne. The Kitsap and the Olympic peninsulas along with the Olympic mountains lie to the west of Puget Sound, while the Cascade Range and Lake Sammamish lie to the east of Lake Washington. The city has over 5,540 acres (2,242 ha) of parkland.
Seattle's economy is driven by a mix of older industrial companies, and "new economy" Internet and technology companies, service, design and clean technology companies. The city's gross metropolitan product was $231 billion in 2010, making it the 11th largest metropolitan economy in the United States. The Port of Seattle, which also operates Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, is a major gateway for trade with Asia and cruises to Alaska, and is the 8th largest port in the United States in terms of container capacity. Though it was affected by the Great Recession, Seattle has retained a comparatively strong economy, and remains a hotbed for start-up businesses, especially in green building and clean technologies: it was ranked as America's No. 1 "smarter city" based on its government policies and green economy. In February 2010, the city government committed Seattle to becoming North America's first "climate neutral" city, with a goal of reaching zero net per capita greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Still, very large companies dominate the business landscape. Four companies on the 2013 Fortune 500 list of the United States' largest companies, based on total revenue, are headquartered in Seattle: Internet retailer Amazon.com (#49), coffee chain Starbucks (#208), department store Nordstrom (#227), and freight forwarder Expeditors International of Washington (#428). Other Fortune 500 companies popularly associated with Seattle are based in nearby Puget Sound cities. Warehouse club chain Costco (#22), the largest retail company in Washington, is based in Issaquah.Microsoft (#35) is located in Redmond.Weyerhaeuser, the forest products company (#363), is based in Federal Way. Finally, Bellevue is home to truck manufacturer Paccar (#168). Other major companies in the area include Nintendo of America in Redmond, T-Mobile US in Bellevue, Expedia Inc. in Bellevue and Providence Health & Services — the state's largest health care system and fifth largest employer — in Renton. The city has a reputation for heavy coffee consumption; coffee companies founded or based in Seattle include Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee, and Tully's. There are also many successful independent artisanal espresso roasters and cafés.
Prior to moving its headquarters to Chicago, aerospace manufacturer Boeing (#30) was the largest company based in Seattle. Its largest division is still headquartered in nearby Renton, and the company has large aircraft manufacturing plants in Everett and Renton, so it remains the largest private employer in the Seattle metropolitan area. Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced a desire to spark a new economic boom driven by the biotechnology industry in 2006. Major redevelopment of the South Lake Union neighborhood is underway, in an effort to attract new and established biotech companies to the city, joining biotech companies Corixa (acquired by GlaxoSmithKline), Immunex (now part of Amgen),Trubion, and ZymoGenetics. Vulcan Inc., the holding company of billionaire Paul Allen, is behind most of the development projects in the region. While some see the new development as an economic boon, others have criticized Nickels and the Seattle City Council for pandering to Allen's interests at taxpayers' expense. Also in 2006, Expansion Magazine ranked Seattle among the top 10 metropolitan areas in the nation for climates favorable to business expansion. In 2005,Forbes ranked Seattle as the most expensive American city for buying a house based on the local income levels. In 2013, however, the magazine ranked Seattle No. 9 on its list of the Best Places for Business and Careers.
Alaska Airlines, operating a hub at Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, maintains its headquarters in the city of SeaTac, next to the airport.
Seattle is a hub for global health with the headquarters of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH, Infectious Disease Research Institute, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. In 2015, the Washington Global Health Alliance counted 168 global health organizations in Washington state, many are headquartered in Seattle.
Most visitors to Seattle tend not to venture beyond Downtown, the International District, and the Seattle Center; which is a shame, since neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, West Seattle, and those north of the ship canal are where much of the fun actually is! Seattleites usually describe their city in terms of neighborhoods. Although the boundaries of the neighborhoods are not always clear, there's usually a proud feature that represents each neighborhood.
While there are formally more than thirty districts, this guide has been broken down into the following more digestible list for a visitor's convenience:
Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods
Seattle's commercial and financial core, home to the waterfront, the Pike Place Market, and some of the most stunning architecture in the city. The northern area of Belltown has a collection of many of the city's best, if not most expensive, restaurants and bars.
Pioneer Square-International District
The oldest neighborhoods of Seattle, containing classic buildings, art galleries, innumerable restaurants, and the Chinatown.
Queen Anne-South Lake Union
Perched on the hills northwest of Downtown, here you will find wealthy neighborhoods peppered with panoramic parks. On the area's south is the newly developed commercial center of South Lake Union (home of the rapidly growing Amazon headquarters), and the Seattle Center with its Space Needle.
Capitol Hill-Central District
The nightlife and retail core of Pike-Pine at the west meets the quiet, diverse residences of Madison Park at the east. This area is also the gay capital of Seattle.
North of the Lake Washington Ship Canal
A mostly residential area, home to the canal locks. The area is known for its Scandinavian heritage, chic boutiques, and the thriving historic Downtown Ballard.
Fremont and Wallingford
The self-proclaimed "center of the universe", a bohemian (though rapidly gentrifying) area noted for its public art.
University District (commonly called the "U District")
Home to the sprawling University of Washington campus, numerous inexpensive eateries, and plenty of entertainment.
The city's mostly residential and gently gentrifying northernmost tier, bordering Shoreline. It contains many of the largest and prettiest parks of Seattle. Noticeable commercial activity is present in the Northgate, Aurora, and Lake City neighborhoods.
South of Downtown and I-90
Continuing south of Downtown past the sports stadiums, this industrial district contains the well-hidden but thriving Georgetown neighborhood.
A mostly residential area bordering Lake Washington, served by light rail and home to Jefferson and Seward Parks.
A scenic residential area with great parks, ample beaches and wonderful vistas over the harbor and Downtown.
The area code for the City of Seattle is 206. Surrounding areas use other area codes, including 425 which encompasses the eastern and northern suburbs including Bellevue, Redmond, Lynnwood, and Everett, 253 for all areas south of Kent such as Tacoma, Federal Way, and Fife, and 360 for everywhere else west of the Cascades. All of Washington east of the Cascades uses the 509 area code.
Pay phones can be found mostly in train stations, but these usually go unused and most of them are on the verge of being taken down. As in much of the rest of the country, you will pretty much need a cellphone to make calls while you are on the go. Cellphone reception is excellent throughout most of the city, with the exception of the Downtown transit tunnels.
Free Wi-Fi can be found at all Seattle public libraries. As part of a pilot project, the City of Seattle provides free Wi-Fi access in Columbia City, the University District area, four downtown Seattle parks (Occidental, Freeway, Westlake and Victor Steinbrueck), and the City Hall lobby area. The Seattle Center also provides free wireless internet in the Center House building . RapidRide and Sound Transit commuter buses also offer free Wi-Fi.
There are various internet cafes in the Seattle area, especially in the University District and the Downtown neighborhoods. Additionally, many coffee shops offer free and paid wireless access (all Starbucks locations offer free Wi-Fi). 4G LTE coverage is well covered by most, if not all, major telecom companies, but reception gets poorer the closer you get to the mountains.
Prices in Seattle
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.30|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$12.00|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$31.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$58.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$90.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$7.00|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$6.00|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$5.00|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$10.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$23.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$0.09|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$9.50|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$3.15|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$54.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$48.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$85.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$2.65|
82 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
262 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (IATA: SEA), universally nicknamed "Sea-Tac", is located in the city's southern suburbs 14mi/22.5 km south of downtown Seattle. It's a major domestic hub for Alaska, Northwest and West Coast destinations, and also handles many international trans-Pacific routes, as well as some flights to major European airports and Dubai, UAE. In addition, the airport is well-connected to virtually every part of the US, with multiple daily flights to many major US cities, as well as to Alaska and Hawaii. Alaska Airlines uses this airport as its primary hub and is by far the biggest carrier here, with Delta catching up with an international hub here and an increasing number of domestic destinations.
The reliable Central Link light rail connects the University of Washington, the downtown area, and South Seattle to Sea-Tac, with trains running every 10 minutes or better from 5a to 10p and every 15 minutes until midnight; the trip to Downtown Seattle costs $3 and takes about 35 minutes. The airport station is connected to the 4th floor of the parking garage (accessible via the pedestrian bridges on the departure level of the terminal); look for the signs to point you in right direction. A taxi will cost about $60-$70 to downtown and take about 30 minutes depending on traffic conditions, or you can take a shuttle bus for around $40-$60 for the same duration. More details about other means of ground transportation can be found in Sea-Tac's separate guide.
Bellingham International Airport
Located about 90 minutes (94mi/150km) north of Seattle, the much-smaller Bellingham International Airport can be used as a cheaper alternative to fly into Seattle , despite the scarcity of flights. Low-cost carrier Allegiant Air flies to its West Coast hubs year-round from Bellingham (and not from Sea-Tac), in addition to seasonal flights by Alaska Airlines. Bellair Airport offers scheduled services from Bellingham International Airport to the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle and to SeaTac.
Private aircraft and seaplane
Private aircraft can use 2 King County International Airport (IATA: BFI), universally known as Boeing Field. It's also south of the city, but much closer to town than Sea-Tac airport.
Seaplane service is available between Seattle and various island destinations throughout Washington state and British Columbia. Kenmore Air operates year-round scheduled floatplane services from their terminal on Lake Union to the San Juan Islands and Victoria, and summer flights from their base at Kenmore on Lake Washington's north end to Nanaimo,Campbell River and many other destinations in northern British Columbia. Wheeled plane service is also offered from Boeing Field to Friday Harbor and Eastsound airports. A ground shuttle service is available from the Lake Union and Boeing Field terminals to SeaTac.
Portland International Airport
Located about 3 hr (160mi/256km) south of Seattle, the smaller Portland International Airport is another alternative to fly into Seattle especially with low-cost carriers, Spirit Airlines and Volaris (flights from Mexico). There are no direct shuttle services from Portland International Airport to Seattle but there are Greyhound, Bolt Bus and Amtrak services from downtown Portland to downtown Seattle.
Amtrak provides service from the King Street Station, located south of downtown near CenturyLink Field. The Amtrak Cascades runs four trains daily between Seattle and Portland (two of which continue to Eugene, Oregon) and two a day to Vancouver, British Columbia. Additional service from Portland to Eugene and from Seattle to Vancouver is offered on the Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach. These trains are more reliable schedule-wise than the long distance trains and offer certain amenities not available on regular Amtrak trains, such as more space for bikes, more laptop outlets, a "Bistro Car" which serves local foods and wine, and the occasional movie.
Seattle is also served by two long-distance sleeper trains, the Coast Starlight which runs daily between Seattle and Los Angeles via Portland and Emeryville (San Francisco), and the Empire Builder which also runs daily between Seattle and Chicago via Spokane, Glacier National Park, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee.
Sound Transit operates a commuter rail service called Sounder from Seattle to Lakewood (via Tacoma) and to Everett, but these trains would be of little use to a visitor.
Except for Greyhound Lines, there is no designated long-distance bus terminal in Seattle, so all bus services have their own stops scattered around the city. A number of them do have stops at the Greyhound Terminal (503 S Royal Brougham Way), in front of the King Street Station at 303 S King St and/or at Door 00 (south end at lower level of the terminal) at the Sea-Tac airport. See below:
- BellAir Airporter, (bus stops) Washington State Convention Center, Convention Place (prior reservations only) (Enter tunnel under the upper floors of the Convention Center building from 9th & Pike.), . Goes up to Stanwood, Burlington/Mt Vernon, Bellingham & Blaine on one route, a separate route to Anacortes in the San Juan Islands, and from Sea-Tac to Cle Elum, Ellensburg & Yakima on another route.
- BoltBus, (bus stop) 5th Ave S and S King St next to the International District/Chinatown transit station., toll-free: .Service from Eugene, Albany, and Portland, OR, Bellingham, WA, and Vancouver, BC. $1 if lucky; up to $30.
- Cantrail, (bus stop) King Street Station. Operates Seattle to Vancouver, BC$40 for one-way, $75 round trip; discounts for students, military, seniors & children ages 4-11.
- Greyhound, (Depot) 503 S Royal Brougham Way, SoDo (Along Royal Brougham between 6th Ave & the "Stadium" Light Rail Station. A right turn at Royal Brougham from the light rail station, opposite side of the tracks.), toll-free:. Greyhound travels primarily on Interstate 5 (Seattle-Vancouver & Seattle-Portland on two separate routes. Some southbound buses continue to Los Angeles contiguously), 90/82 (Seattle-Ellensburg-Yakima-Pasco-Stanfield, OR) & 90 (Seattle-Spokane-Missoula). Passengers transfer to other buses in Portland, Missoula, Pasco, Spokane, Ellensburg, and/or Stanfield to get to other cities & towns in the U.S. and in Vancouver, BC to get to other cities in Canada. Prices are various depending on your destination.
- Northwestern Trailways (Northwestern Stage Lines), (bus stops) Greyhound bus depot & King Street Amtrak station, toll-free: . Shuttle service to Spokane (via Everett, Stevens Pass, Leavenworth, and Wenatchee) or Tacoma. $51 one way to Spokane, $97 round trip.
- Dungeness Line operated by Olympic Bus Lines, (bus stops) Greyhound bus depot (see above), King Street Station, selected hospitals (by reservation only), SeaTac Airport. Operates a route called the Dungeness Line connecting Seattle to Port Townsend, Sequim and Port Angeles. The bus goes across the Puget Sound on the Edmonds-Kingston ferry. One way: $39 from downtown, $49 from airport; Round trip: $69 from downtown, $79 from airport.
- Quick Shuttle, (bus stops) downtown: outside the Best Western at 200 Taylor Ave N; Pier 66 & 91, SeaTac Airport: At the main terminal near south end of baggage claim, outside door 00, bays 11-16. Runs between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Vancouver to Downtown Seattle: $36 one-way, $65 round-trip; Vancouver to SeaTac airport: $49 one-way, $87 round-trip. Despite the multiple stops they make, northbound buses can only pick-up in the U.S. and drop off in Canada and vice versa for southbound buses.
- Wheatland Express, (bus stops) Southcenter, NW corner; Novilhos Brazilian Steak House, 12405 SE 38th Street, Bellevue, toll-free: . Every Friday, the Weekend Express takes you from Pullman (where Washington State University is at) and Moscow to Seattle, and the other way round every Sunday. A special service is also deployed during the holiday season. Journeys take more than 6 hours. $99.00 one way (weekend express), $210.00 one way (vacation service).
Interstate 5 is the major north-south roadway entering the City Center and the most direct way to drive to or from Vancouver and Portland. This roadway is notably congested (even during non-commuting hours), see other options in the sections "by Bus" and "by Train" above. Interstate 405 runs parallel to I-5, bypassing the City Center on the opposite side of Lake Washington.
Interstate 90 is the only long-distance route to access Seattle from the east, and is the easiest way to reach Spokane and Eastern Washington. During the Winter months, drivers must be mindful of the weather conditions over Snoqualmie Pass, located 52 miles east of the city, when the roadway can close unexpectedly due to weather conditions.
Ferries are the primary mode for commuters living on the opposite sides of the Puget Sound from Tacoma/S Vashon Island (in the south) through Seattle/Kitsap Peninsula to Anacortes/San Juan Islands (in the north), since the sheer distance and the shipping traffic on the Sound make building a bridge difficult. For tourists, it's also a fantastic way to see some very picturesque views of the city and the surrounding country; be sure to bring a camera!
- King County Water Taxi. King County Water Taxi provides ferry service from Pier 50 of Seattle's waterfront weekdays only during rush hour (5:30-8AM and 4:30-7PM) to Vashon Island, and all-day service (schedule is seasonally dependent) to West Seattle. $5.50, $4.75 if using ORCA.
- Victoria Clipper, 2701 Alaskan Way Pier 69 (Alaskan Way & Clay St), , toll-free: . High speed catamaran passenger ferries which connect Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia and the San Juan Islands. If you are heading to San Juan Islands, you can also join a whale-watching tour. About $45 (one way), $65 (round trip with advance reservation) to San Juan Islands; $95 (single trip), $120 (round trip with advance reservation) to Victoria. Fares vary slightly depending on season.
- Washington State Ferries, 801 Alaskan Way Pier 52 (Colman Dock, Pier 52), . Connects Downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island and Bremerton. From the 11 Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle the ferry goes to Vashon Island and Southworth at Kitsap Peninsula. All ferries carry vehicles, bicycles, and passengers. The peak hour passenger only ferry from Downtown to Vashon Island is operated by the King County Water Taxi.
By cruise ship
Seattle is the main departure city for cruise ships heading towards Alaska or western Canada's fjords. Cruise ships to Seattle may be docked at one of two terminals in the Port of Seattle.
- Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal at Pier 66, 2225 Alaskan Way S Pier 66, near the middle of Seattle's downtown waterfront. Serves as home port for Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises. Has bus, taxi and shuttle connections for transfer of passengers and luggage. For travelers with connecting flights, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is less than 15 mi (24 km) away.
- Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91, 2001 W Garfield St, at the north end of Seattle's downtown waterfront. Serves as home port to Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises. Other cruise lines may also use this terminal if the vessel is too large to use the Pier 66 terminal.
By private boat
Seattle has a variety of large marinas offering year-round guest moorage. The two marinas located on the shores of Elliott Bay, Elliott Bay Marina, and Bell Harbor Marina, are the closest to Downtown. Shilshole Bay Marina is located in the northern suburbs and is further away from most of the visitor attractions. There are numerous freshwater marinas on Lake Union, Portage Bay, and the Lake Washington Ship Canal, but these require passage through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. Visitors may also consider moorage in the neighboring cities of Edmonds, Everett, Des Moines, Kirkland, and Kingston.
- Bell Harbor Marina, 2203 Alaskan Way, , e-mail:[email protected]. Bell Harbor Marina, located at the base of Bell Street in Downtown's Belltown neighborhood, is the closest marina to Downtown and is a comfortable walk to Pike Place Market, Westlake Center, the Seattle Aquarium, and other waterfront attractions. Reciprocal moorage is available year-round, and in the summer months, reservations are recommended.
- Elliott Bay Marina, 2601 West Marina Place, , e-mail:[email protected]. Elliott Bay Marina is a private marina located on the north shore of Elliott Bay in the Magnolia neighborhood. This marina has expansive guest moorage and many premium services. A 10-minute walk from all-day bus service to Downtown Seattle.
By public transit
- Sound Transit. Sound Transit operates all-day express bus service between Downtown and the cities of Tacoma, Lakewood, Bellevue, Everett, and many other outlying communities. $2.50 within King County, $3.50 cross-county.
Transportation - Get Around
Seattle's public transportation system is one of the best in the United States and is by far the most convenient and simple way to get around the city. While public transportation is also good in suburbs such as Bothell and Everett, if you plan on visiting those areas you may wish to use a car. Driving a car in Seattle is possible, but the frequent and awful traffic congestion can leave you frustrated. Parking in Downtown and many of the adjacent neighborhoods (such as Capitol Hill) is all but impossible. Seattle is also one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country, and in Central City Pronto cycle-share stations are plentiful. Car services such as ZipCar, Car2Go, Lyft, and Uber are also convenient and safe transportation options.
Seattle's street designations are generally easy to remember once you understand them. Most of the city is laid out in a grid, with north-south roads called Avenues and east-west roads being Streets. There are occasional irregularities: Ways are long roads that don't always conform to the grid, Drives are long, circuitous routes, and there's the occasional very short Place or Court.
Seattle has a somewhat convoluted address system that can be confusing to the uninitiated. Outside the downtown area, the city is divided into 7 compass directional sectors (N, NE, NW, W, E, S, SW; no SE section), with the name of the sector applied to every road that passes through that sector. Streets are written with the sector before the name (e.g. NE 45th Street or NE 45th) while avenues are written with the sector after the name (e.g. 45th Avenue NE or 45th NE). Roads within the downtown area (as well as some avenues east of Downtown and some streets north of Downtown) have no directional designation. Take this into consideration when looking for directions to a specific address.
When locals give you directions, they may refer to an intersection (especially in the case of a bus stop). The first road mentioned is the street it is at, followed by the crossing street adjacent to the stop, but sometimes they neglect to specify whether it's an "avenue" or a "street," so inquire to be sure and you'll avoid the risk of winding up in the wrong part of the city!
Walking is highly encouraged for short trips, especially if your destination is within Downtown or Capitol Hill. While the streets and drivers are generally friendly for pedestrians, do keep your street smarts and avoid walking alone in the southern part of Downtown, International District, or the SODO neighborhood at night. For more information about street safety, look at the "Stay Safe" section.
Seattle pedestrians are noted for their unusual refusal to jaywalk. Unlike many other large American cities (particularly those on the East Coast), in Seattle, you'll see groups of pedestrians patiently wait for the light to change before stepping off the curb, even when there isn't a car in sight. The reasons for it are unclear, though it's often suggested that the local police are particularly strict about enforcing the jaywalking law.
The block layout in the downtown area is pretty compact; a walk from Denny Way to Yesler Way should take roughly half an hour. Walking from the Waterfront towards I-5 in Downtown (particularly between Seneca St and Yesler Way) is steep and will leave you gasping for breath at every intersection! Outside the downtown area, especially Capitol Hill or the northern and western parts of the city, there are many hills (albeit less hilly and steep than San Francisco). In fact, walking is a great form of exercise in Seattle, with abundant jogging tracks in the parks and longer trails like the Burke Gilman Trail, which runs along the northern side of the ship canal and the western rim of Lake Washington.
By public transit
The ORCA card is a contactless fare card that enables you to transfer seamlessly between Seattle and the Puget Sound's various transit agencies, similar to Hong Kong's Octopus or London's Oyster. The card is free but you must put in a minimum of $5 to start using it and you can add money or monthly passes to the card. Day passes are also available for $8 and can be used for all bus and train services.
You can purchase, add value to, or add a pass to an ORCA card at vending machines in many transit centers, inside all Link Light Rail and Sounder stations, at Metro's customer service centers, over the phone, and at many QFC & Safeway supermarkets. Youth and Senior ORCA cards can only be issued by mail or at Metro's main customer service center next to King Street Station in the International District and require proof of age (click here for details). You can also acquire these cards in the mezzanine of Westlake Station- however, this customer service center is open infrequently.
To use the card on buses, streetcars, Washington State Ferries, and the Water Taxi tap it on the card reader when you enter or at the turnstile. To pay the correct fare when riding Link Light Rail or Sounder trains, tap when you enter and exit the station. For 2 hours after your first tap, you can use as many public transportation services as you like while only paying the highest fare (not applicable on Washington State Ferries).
King County Metro (commonly referred to as Metro) is the primary public transportation agency in King County and Seattle. The transportation system is easy to navigate, and most visitor attractions are served by frequent bus routes. Metro's buses are clean and comfortable and are driven by friendly and skilled operators. Most buses, especially on routes in the Center City, are brand-new and air-conditioned- perfect on one of Seattle's hot summer days. There are four types of bus service in Seattle:
- Local Service constitutes the majority of bus routes and are operated by green, blue, or purple buses. These buses are identified by route numbers between 1 and 399.
- RapidRide is an express Bus Rapid Transit service with modern, 3-door, red and yellow buses. RapidRide buses are an efficient way to get to many outlying neighborhoods and are identifies by route letters.
- Sound Transit Express buses connect Downtown with the suburbs, have limited stops, and are of little use to visitors staying within Seattle. These buses are identified by route numbers in the 500's.
- Community Transit buses are commuter routes traveling between Snohomish County (north of the city) and Downtown or the University District during peak hours only, and are of little use to visitors.
Buses within Seattle generally operate from 5AM to Midnight and run at least every 30 minutes, with frequent service and RapidRide buses arriving every 10-15 minutes between 6a and 6p. If you are planning on traveling before 6a or after 9p be sure to make use of the excellent Trip Planner to make sure you can get to your destination.
Almost all frequent service buses traveling through Downtown have stops along 3rd Ave, with virtually every Downtown bus having a stop near the intersection of 3rd & Pine/Pike. Many high-frequency suburban routes and Link Light Rail utilize the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, which travels underneath 3rd Ave & Pine St. Stations are well-lit and protected by Transportation Police and are equipped with WiFi, but no cell service.
The adult bus fare is $2.50, although the fare increases during rush hour (on weekdays 6-9AM and 3-6PM; $2.75 within the city limits and $3.25 for rides outside the city limits). The youth (ages 6-18) and senior (ages 65 or older) fare is $1.50 and $1.00, respectively. Up to four children under age 6 can ride free with a paying adult. If you pay by cash (exact change only), you'll get a paper transfer good for within a 2-hour period to ride other King County Metro buses. An ORCA card allows you to transfer to other transit agencies within the same period of time for free.
To figure out how to get to your destination use the excellent Trip Planner which gives you point-to-point directions between points within King County. For real-time arrival times, you can download the One Bus Away app to your smartphone.
When traveling to destinations outside the downtown core, make sure to ask the drivers about the green and white "EXPRESS" signs in their windows or the "VIA EXPRESS" on the road display if they are going to your destination. Some of these express routes are intended for regular commuters traveling between residential neighborhoods and Downtown and make few or no stops between, but may be useful to some visitors.
When in doubt, ask the bus driver or a security guard before boarding. Most employees are knowledgeable about the transportation system (or at least the route the route they are driving) and will be able to help you. Additionally, all buses are fully accessible
- Link Light Rail operates between the University of Washington and Sea-Tac Airport, stopping in Capitol Hill, Downtown, SODO,South Seattle, and the suburb of Tukwila along the way. Fares are $2.25—$3.25 depending on how far you travel; purchase your ticket at a machine before you board and keep it with you for the trip in order to avoid the possibility of a hefty fine. If you use an ORCA card, you must tap at both your origin and your destination station.
- The Seattle Streetcar has two lines: The South Lake Union line between Downtown and South Lake Union and the First Hill line between Pioneer Square, the International District and Capitol Hill along Broadway. The former line gained the rather unfortunate moniker "SLUT" (South Lake Union Trolley), and you might hear it referred to as such. The streetcar runs up to every 10 minutes and costs $2.25 per adult, $1.50 per child, and $1 per senior, regardless of distance. You must purchase a ticket or tap your ORCA card at one of the streetcar stops before boarding. Note that these streetcars stop only when requested by pressing the yellow stop request strip.
- The Seattle Center Monorail, a legacy of 1962 World's Fair, takes you non-stop between Westlake Center (5th Avenue & Pine Street) and the Seattle Center in just 2 minutes, and primarily serves tourists heading from Downtown to the Space Needle. One-way tickets are $2.25 per adult, $1 children ages 5-12/seniors. You can only pay by cash; ORCA card is not valid.
If you need any help ask a transit operator, security guard, fare enforcement official, or a local. Seattleites are always eager to help and may offer help, even if they see you looking confusingly at a tourist map!
- The Water Taxi travels between Pier 50 (at the foot of Yesler Way) and Seacrest Park in West Seattle. The scenic ride takes 15 minutes and costs $4.75 (one way, exact change only), or $4 with an ORCA Card. Boats depart every half-hour on weekdays and every hour on weekends during the summer months, with reduced service during the winter.
- Washington State Ferries operates ferries for pedestrians, vehicles, and bicyclists from Pier 52/Colman Dock across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island and Bremerton. The 35-minute scenic trip to Bainbridge Island's quaint village is a must-do for all visitors. Additionally, from the Fauntleroy terminal in West Seattle ferries depart to Vashon Island and Southworth.
Cars are fairly useless for transportation within the city proper, but are a great asset if travelling to Bellevue/Redmond or Everett/Tacoma. Note that many roads Downtown are one-way, which might require some extra navigation. On weekends, you can often rent cars at locations throughout the city for well under $20/day. One of the challenges in driving in Seattle includes the hilly terrain, especially in Downtown, Capitol HIll and Queen Anne, where you have to be extra careful in applying your brakes.
Be aware though that parking is scarce in Downtown due to the recent dedicated bike lane developments and even your hotel will levy exorbitant fees for overnight parking at their property! Street parking fares are $1 to $2.50 per hour, but be mindful of where you park and your duration because parking laws are enforced and the fines can be hefty! A parking ticket can be in excess of $35 for going overtime in a 2-hour zone. Outside Downtown, many establishments provide free parking.
When parking on a hill, remember to always apply the parking brake and turn your wheels so that the car will roll into the sidewalk instead of the street if the brakes give out (i.e., when facing uphill, turn toward the street; when facing downhill, turn toward the curb). Failure to park properly can run the risk of having your car roll downhill.
Drivers traveling on Interstate 5 between Downtown and Northgate as well as Interstate 90 between Downtown and Bellevue can make use of the express lanes for a generally quick and smooth ride to downtown in the morning, or to the suburbs in the afternoon and evening. Even though Seattle is only the 20th largest city in the U.S., its traffic jams are second only to Los Angeles. This is mainly due to inland waterways causing choke points around the few available bridges.
You can call or hail a taxi from any major street in Seattle or most hotels will call them for you. However, most of Seattle's taxi services are unfriendly and expensive, especially if you are only trying to get around the downtown area. Some taxi drivers will even refuse to take you if your destination is less than 15 blocks away. The fares are regulated by the city government, which consists of:
- Flagfall for $2.60
- $0.30 for each additional 1/9 mile (a total of $2.70 per mile)
- $0.30 for every 36 seconds of waiting time (a total of $0.50 per minute)
- $0.50 for each additional passenger above 18 after two.
If you are heading to SeaTac airport from the downtown area, a flat fare of $40 is applied.
The rudeness of some taxi drivers has caused people to avoid taking them and look for car-sharing alternatives (see the following section). But should you be in dire need of a taxi, call one of these companies:
If your destination is miles away and you don't have a car, yet public transportation seems inconvenient for you, you can use the ride-sharing services like those provided by Uber or Lyft. Download their app to your phone to reserve a car, register your card for payment, punch in your current location and destination, and a car will be in front of you in no time; they do not take prior reservations. If you prefer to drive yourself, Car2go or Zipcar vehicles are abundant, especially in Downtown, Capitol Hill, and University District. Seattleites often prefer this method to taking the reckless and overpriced taxis.
The rainy weather makes motorcycling difficult but not impossible. Drivers exhibit an alarming obliviousness to motorcycles, and riders should take care to stay well out of a car's blind spot and preferably ahead of, rather than behind, any car. Motorcyclists get preferred boarding on the ferries and there are many parking spots Downtown reserved for motorcycles.
Cycling is better in Seattle than in most American cities. In fact, during rush hour it's often faster to bike than to drive! Bicycle usage has increased significantly since the early 2000s and drivers are a little more accustomed to bicycles in Seattle than in other major cities. Your main drawbacks will be the wet roads, the rain, and the hilly terrain, so you might want to pack some raingear. Many major roads in Seattle have properly maintained bicycle lanes, and you are allowed to ride bicycles on all Seattle roads except the Interstates, the State Route 520 floating bridge, and the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Bikeshare kiosks called Pronto are available throughout the city. A purchase of a 24-hour ($8), a 3-day pass ($16), or an annual membership ($85) at the kiosk entitles you to a ride for 30 minutes and a small surcharge for every half hour thereafter, up to 24 hours. The bikes can be picked up and returned at any kiosks citywide, but do not forget to take the helmet before you ride and dock the bike correctly when you return it! Coverage is limited to Downtown, Pioneer Square, the International District, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, and the University District.
The city maintains a bike map with suggested biking routes for visiting major attractions.
Bicycle transportation in the greater part of Seattle is facilitated further by the Burke-Gilman Trail. This is a paved walking/jogging/cycling trail that winds its way from the north end of Lake Washington, down around the University of Washington, then west along the canal towards Ballard. The trail is on an old railroad right-of-way, so it maintains a very consistent elevation and is excellent for commuting or a casual day's touring. The Elliott Bay Trail overlooks Puget Sound and starts at the north end of Downtown in Myrtle Edwards Park, continuing north along the shore of Elliott Bay. It is much more scenic than the Burke trail, with gorgeous views of the Olympics and Mt. Rainier, and more quiet since it doesn't intersect with any roads.
If you are tired from cycling or looking for a quick ride to another biking place, King County Metro buses have bike racks on the front of the bus. Just don't forget to unload it when you get off!
Here are a few places that offer bike rentals:
- The Bicycle Repair Shop, 928 Alaskan Way (Opposite between Piers 52 & 54). Weekdays 8AM-6PM; Sa 10AM-6PM; Su noon-6PM. You can rent bicycles for an hourly rate or a daily rate (which translates to 5 hours of rent) depending on type of bicycle. The website also has a list of self-guided tours. Hybrid: $9 hourly, $45 daily, $150 weekly.
- Seattle Bicycle Rentals, Pier 58, toll-free: . W-M 8AM-6PM. You can rent bikes for the day, the week, or the month. Guided tours available to Ballard, Fremont, and Lake Union for 3 hours from 1PM (check in the hour before). Tour: $40; Hybrid bike: $10 hourly, $45 for 24 hours.
- Pedal Anywhere. You can rent a bike for up to 30 days, and the bike will be delivered to your doorstep! Reservations must be done online. 1 week $80, 2 week $120, monthly $160.
- BEST RATED -
- BEST VALUE -
If you want it, you can most likely get it in Seattle. The city has many small, locally owned business in addition to the more typical large shopping malls. A sales tax of 9.6% applies for all purchases except most groceries, newspapers, and prescription drugs.
- The Pike Place Market is an attraction in and of itself, and is well-known for its seafood and produce stands. At the main entrance to the market is Pike Place Fish, famous for its handlers who throw fish to each other, but there are plenty of other seafood stands as well. In the main market complex are several levels of restaurants and shops selling antiques, arts and crafts, and souvenirs, and as the weather gets warmer, artisans sell their wares in the upper open-air level as well. Although it is flush with tourists, especially in the summer months, area residents and Downtown workers regularly shop at the market as well, which minimizes the "tourist trap" feel.
- The Westlake retail corridors on Pike, Pine, and Union Street between 3rd and 5th Avenues are also a great place to shop. The Westlake Center and the Pacific Place malls have pricey fashion stores, with the sidewalk arcades dominated by big fashion chains.
- Belltown, a northern neighborhood of the downtown area, has a plethora of designer art galleries, fashion, and accessory workshops.
- The Pioneer Square area is the cheaper counterpart to Belltown, with more eclectic accessories.
- Ballard: Most shopping options here are on Ballard Avenue NW between 20th & 22nd Avenue NW. If big brands don't interest you, head here for stylish urban and hip fashion.
- Capitol Hill: Most shops here are in the western part of the neighborhood near Interstate 5 (E Pike & Pine Street, Broadway and Melrose Ave), where the streets are filled with mid-range fashion options and a little bit of everything, befitting the hippest district of Seattle. Here you'll also find Seattle's biggest bookstore, The Elliott Bay Book Company.
- Fremont: Mainly vintage fashion wear and not as eccentric as its neighbor, Ballard. It is also a center for antiques and accessories. The shopping district is centered around Fremont Place N and N 35th Street.
- International District: Groceries, herbal medicines, and plenty of Asian-style wares. You can also buy handy Japanese kitchenware and other items at the infamous Uwajimaya or by the back door of the dollar shop Daiso.
- North Seattle: Thrift stores scattered throughout the area, bulk grocery shopping at Aurora Avenue N, and fashion shops at Northgate Mall.
- Queen Anne Hill: Mostly houses, but there is a small commercial area at the top of the hill (Queen Anne Ave N between W Galer St & W McGraw St). Usually this is a place to indulge in a body treatment.
- South Lake Union: A long retail strip is located on Broadway which connects to Capitol Hill. On the south shore of the lake you'll find shops of every type have recently been sprouting up. Outdoor gear chain REI houses its flagship store on Broadway.
- University District: Clothing and thrift stores catering towards the local student population are located along University Way. Upscale options are available at the open-air University Village Mall at 25th Ave NE. On campus is the University Bookstore.
- West Seattle: Head to California Ave SW for more laid back and contemporary clothing options.
Typical of a big city, Seattle has a diverse range of fare representative of cuisines from around the world. Local chains and hole-in-the-wall restaurants dominate the city's dining atmosphere, and hearty, inexpensive meals can be found all over the city. Note that many Seattle restaurants, particularly the hole-in-the-wall establishments, only accept cash.
Seattle's proximity to Alaska and the waters of the Pacific Ocean make it an excellent place to enjoy seafood. Look for salmon during the late summer months as options are abundant and the prices are among the cheapest on the West Coast, especially the red (sockeye) salmon. Shellfish are a prized resource of the Puget Sound, where the cool, clean waters provide an optimal habitat. Clams, mussels and oysters can be found easily, but other specialties like geoducks (pronounced GOO-ey-ducks) are sometimes available for the more adventurous. The Dungeness Crab, named for a nearby town on the Sound, is a popular seafood prized for its sweet, tender flesh and high ratio of meat. The Dungeness is a commercially important crab in Washington's waters but other crab species are also common. The Alaskan King Crab, caught from the deep cold waters of the Pacific Ocean near Alaska, has a more frequent presence here than the rest of the lower 48.
Donut shops and bakeries are virtually everywhere, with some offering warm in-house brewed coffee, making them an excellent delight in the cold weather or as a snack.
The mild climate also supports many types of fresh produce. Farmers' markets are a normal occurrence on the weekends, especially in residential areas, and they usually have better quality produce than what you can get at supermarkets. They're an excellent opportunity to taste local delicacies and experience the local culture. Apples, which are exported from Washington and shipped all over the world, are in season around October.
Seattle also boasts a wide variety of Asian cuisine, from East Asia to the South. Family-run and hole-in-the-wall teriyaki, ramen, sushi, and Chinese restaurants are abundant and scattered throughout the area.
Eating options by district
Downtown and Pioneer Square hold many cafés and high end restaurants. Belltownto home to most options for downtown dining, with restaurants in every price range and some of the city's best-reviewed restaurants. Pike Place Market's stands offer plenty of samples, with plenty of popular options also available in Post Alley. The Waterfront, naturally, has a selection of seafood restaurants. Budget options around downtown can especially be found at Westlake Park or South Lake Union, where food carts cater to workers wanting a quick and easy lunch.
Outside of the Downtown area, Capitol Hillhas plenty of hip cafés and bars, with many among the best-reviewed in the city and visited by local celebrities, as well as many Ethiopian and Thai eateries. TheInternational District is known for its dim-sum, communal Chinese and Japanese offerings, as well as Vietnamese restaurants on the east side of the neighborhood. South Seattle also has a diversity of ethnic restaurants, while West Seattle holds more elegant mid-range to high-end choices, mostly European, seafood, and steak and many with a full bar.
North of Downtown, Queen Anne Hill seems to offer a little bit of everything near the Seattle Center. North of the canal, Ballard has mostly European fare with some Mexican, Mediterranean, and Asian options. Fremont has an increasing number of American and world cuisines in small establishments, some of which are so popular they generate long lines. The University District has a myriad of budget and international restaurants, while North Seattle has some scattered family-run Asian restaurants.
Coffe & Drink
Few, if any, American cities can challenge Seattleites' love of coffee. This is perhaps best signified by the Seattle-based international chain Starbucks, but locals aren't satisfied by recognized chains alone, as evidenced by the hundreds of good locally owned coffeehouses. The best places to look for coffee are in Capitol Hill or Queen Anne Hill, where they take matters of coffee very seriously.
Microbreweries are a Northwest specialty, and Seattle has many to offer for beer enthusiasts. The larger brewers, like Redhook and Pyramid, distribute their products regionally or nationally, while other brews can only be found in local stores or bars (some notable brewers don't bottle their product). Elysian, with three pubs in various neighborhoods, and the Pike Brewing Company, located in Pike Place Market, are other popular local brewers. Many microbreweries have set up shop in South Seattle and Washington State is one of the largest growers of hops in the world making this key beer making ingredient readily available.
In Washington, bars have a full liquor license, while taverns are restricted to beer, wine and cider. Many Seattle bars have a world-class beer selection featuring local Northwest style micros, many of them crafted in Seattle. Beer aficionados should check out Uber Tavern, Brouwer's Cafe, or the Stumbling Monk, or visit the Beer Junction in West Seattle, which is primarily a bottle shop with a staggering selection but which also has a bar and regular tastings. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though! There are also plenty of drinking options to be found in the Belltown portion of downtown (south of Denny Way), Fremont, Ballard, the University District, and Capitol Hill. The good news is Washington state is one of the last states that allows all alcoholic drinks to be sold openly at supermarkets, so liquor is readily and cheaply available even if you don't want to go to a bar.
Wine is another Northwest specialty, and there are a number of wineries just thirty miles from Seattle proper in Woodinville. Many more can be found a 2-3 hour drive away on the other side of the Cascades in Washington Wine Country. You can find local vintages in grocery stores, wine shops, restaurants, and wine bars such as Bottlehouse and Purple.
Like any other city with a large Asian population, bubble tea or boba milk tea shops has been recently popping up, and are popular among young people. Bubble tea is basically milk tea with various flavors and tapioca balls. Many of these shops also offer Asian snacks and delicacies. If you are thirsty and hungry, and budget is your main concern, this can be a good option. Most of these can be found in the University Districtas well as a few in the International District.
Sights & Landmarks
Seattle has a lot to see, be it prominent sights or attractions tucked away in quiet neighborhoods. For more information, look at each district's individual articles.
- Seattle CityPASS. A discount pass that includes admission to five attractions for half the normal fee combined. You are entitled to up to two visits (within 24 hours) to the Space Needle, a visit to the Seattle Aquarium, an Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, a choice between a visit to the Experience Music Project or the Woodland Park Zoo, and a choice between the Pacific Science Center or theMuseum of Flight. You are also entitled to $5 off admission to the Chihuly Garden & Glass adjacent to the Space Needle, reduced fares for special cruises and exhibitions at Woodland Park Zoo, the Pacific Science Center and the Museum of Flight. A CityPASS is valid for 9 consecutive days starting with the use of your first ticket. $64 for adult, $44 for children (ages 4-12).
The first thing that pops into most people's minds when they think of Seattle is theSpace Needle, located north of Downtown in the Seattle Center. Although it's not the tallest building in Seattle, it still has a wonderful 360-degree view of both the city and the surrounding landscape. It is best to visit at sunset, when the mountains and sky will be lit up in beautiful colors. For a cheaper and less crowded option, head to the observatory at the Columbia Center building, which is higher than the Space Needle! For a better view of the waterfront and the downtown area, go aboard the Seattle Great Wheel.
Downtown, the Pike Place Market is Seattle's largest tourist area. Home to the famous fish market, the original Starbucks Coffee shop, produce stands, and a dedicated lane each for florists and foods. Don't forget to visit Post Alley, just a block away from Pike Place as you walk away from the shore, as there are some excellent food and souvenir places tucked away.
Most of the architectural attractions in Seattle are located in the downtown area, easily traversed on foot. Among the highlights are theCentral Library, a unique contemporary building with an enormous glass-fronted atrium; theColumbia Center, the tallest building in the Pacific Northwest and which offers excellent views from its observation deck; and the Seattle City Hall with its roof garden. On the south side of Downtown, near Pioneer Square, is the Smith Tower, an Art Deco building which is Seattle's oldest skyscraper and has an observation deck. North of Downtown in the Seattle Center, theExperience Music Project, designed to resemble Jimi Hendrix's smashed guitar, is done in a manner only Frank Gehry could conceive; nearby is the new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, with its 12-acre garden.
Of course, the most popular view in Seattle remains the one from the revolving top of the Space Needle at the Seattle Center. And given the retro-futurism look of the Space Needle, a fitting way to get there is via the Monorail, which connects the Seattle Center to Downtown. Another excellent view is from the Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57, a ferris wheel that offers superb views of the skyline and the waterfront.
Parks and outdoors
Seattle is peppered with parks, from small urban squares to large forested areas, many with breathtaking views of Seattle and the Puget Sound. Seattle's original park system was designed by the Olmsted brothers in Seattle's early days, and park planners across the country still celebrate Seattle's park system as one of the best designed and best preserved in the United States. While many other American cities have only one or two Olmsted-designed parks, Seattle has an extensive multi-park plan linked by boulevards, and this legacy makes Seattle one of the most livable cities in the country.
The Seattle Center is actually a park itself, with attractions besides the Space Needle and the center's numerous museums. The Kobe Bell and the mural beside it and the International Fountain are often overlooked but should not be missed. Up on Queen Anne Hill isKerry Park, where you'll be spellbound by the most photographed view of Seattle. To the west is Discovery Park, the city's largest park with trails less traveled traversing hills and offering a view of the unspoiled landscape, wildlife, and a lighthouse.
Overlooking Lake Union in Fremont is Gasworks Park. Once the site of a coal gasification plant, the plant has been replaced by lush green hills surrounding one small section of rusting—yet surprisingly picturesque—machinery from the coal plant. The park is filled with spectators for the 4th of July fireworks and is also a great place for boaters to access Lake Union. For a day at the beach, head over to Golden Gardens Park or the less crowded Carkeek Park for a view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains; West Seattle's fully sandy Alki Beach offers a great view of Downtown Seattle. Joggers can spend their time at Green Lake Park or Magnuson Park for a serene view of water by the running tracks.
A place to see trees from around the world is at the Washington Park Arboretum in the Central District. The Arboretum contains a Japanese Garden (closed in winter) that plays host to a traditional Japanese festival. For a more laid back and Zen atmosphere, the Kubota Garden at Rainier Beach in south Seattle has streams and waterfalls, ponds, rock outcroppings, and an exceptionally rich and mature collection of plants. If you are into animals, head to the Woodland Park Zoo to see animals from around the world held in pleasant, naturalistic exhibits.
Museums & Galleries
Seattle has a number of top-notch museums. Downtown is home to the renowned Seattle Art Museum(SAM), which displays an good assortment of art from around the world. In the Central District is theSeattle Asian Art Museum, an off-shoot of the Seattle Art Museum which focuses on Chinese and Japanese Art, but includes works from as far away as India. Additionally, The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in theInternational District is the only Asian Pacific American museum in the nation. Nearby is the Frye Art Museum, a small private collection featuring 232 paintings by Munich-based artists. Not a museum, but open to browsing by the public, is the Seattle Metaphysical Library in Ballard, which specializes in material not found in normal libraries.
Surrounding the Space Needle on the grounds of the Seattle Center are several more big museums, including the Pacific Science Center, an interactive science museum with an IMAX theater and plenty of science displays, the Experience Music Project, a rock & roll museum celebrating Seattle's vibrant music scene, the Chihuly Garden & Glass, which takes glass art to the next level, and the Science Fiction Museum, with recreations of iconic sci-fi movies and television shows. Nearby South Lake Union is home to both the Museum of History and Industry and the Center for Wooden Boats.
On the waterfront in Downtown is the popular Seattle Aquarium. The University Districtholds the Henry Art Gallery, one of the biggest contemporary art galleries in Washington, and the Burke Museum, a combination natural history/archaeology museum. Further out in Georgetown is the Museum of Flight, with a large collection of aircraft ranging from wood and fabric crates to the sleek Concorde. Also south of the city in SoDo is the Living Computer Museum which houses a large collection of vintage computers available for public use in the museum and through the internet.
Things to do
- Ride the Ducks of Seattle, . Seattle Center: Daily 9:20AM to 7PM; Westlake Center: Weekdays 10AM to 6PM, Weekends 10AM to 7PM. A 90 minute ride on an amphibious World War II vehicle (part of the ride is on Lake Union). The style of the tour is a bit over-the-top; keep a sense of humor about you. Board at Seattle Center (5th Avenue & Broad Street) or Westlake Center. Adults $28, Children $17.
- Argosy Cruises, 1101 Alaskan Way, Pier 55. Harbor cruises vary by season.. Boat tour company with special dinner and sightseeing cruises. The most common tour visitors take is the hour-long cruise on Elliott Bay, which offers excellent views not just of the Space Needle and the Downtown skyline, but the freight harbor as well. Visit Tillicum Village on Blake Island just off the shore of Seattle, WA. Prices are various according to your itinerary ($23.75 for harbor cruise).
- Seattle Underground Tour. A tour that takes you to underground portions of the Pioneer Square district. In 1889, 25 square blocks of Seattle were destroyed in a fire. When rebuilding, the city decided to raise the streets in the city approximately one story; thus the Seattle Underground was born!
- Kenmore Air, 950 Westlake Ave N, . 20 minute plane tours over Seattle that are narrated by the pilot, with spectacular views of the city. Tours begin and end at the west side of Lake Union. Reservations required. $99.50 per person.
Seattle is surrounded by Lake Washington and Puget Sound, in addition to a number of bodies of water such as Lake Union or Green Lake in the city proper, so activities from kayaking to swimming are commonly practiced especially in the summer. Primary locations include Lake Union and Lake Washington where there are often some recreational boat traffic.
If you have no rowing experience, classes are offered at Lake Union Crew. You can also rent a sailboat or join a free Sunday cruising at Center For Wooden Boats, or a kayak at Northwest Outdoor Center.
In terms of professional sports teams, Seattle has been underrated until recently. Of the four biggest U.S. professional leagues, two have teams in Seattle, and the fast-growing Major League Soccer also has a Seattle team.
Even prior to the recent success of the local National Football League franchise, the Seattle Seahawks, CenturyLink Field has long been packed to the gills by the "12th man" (the name for loud, devout Seahawks fans) watching their home game in late summer through early winter. Soccer fans can enjoy the Seattle Sounders FC games May through September, also held in CenturyLink Field. Safeco Field next door is home to the Major League Baseball Seattle Mariners.
Meanwhile, Seattle has one of the strongest followings for women's teams in sports. TheSeattle Storm plays WNBA basketball at KeyArena in Seattle Center, while Seattle Reign FC has been recently established together with the National Women's Soccer League. In minor league men's sports, the Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team (players age 16 to 20) plays in Kent.
College teams also have a proud presence in town. The University of Washington Huskies play basketball and football at their own arena on campus. In October or November, the rivalry between U-Dub (short name for the campus) and Wazzu (Washington State University) is flaring, with the Apple Cup football match played at Husky Stadium every odd-numbered year. Seattle University has the Seattle Redhawks, another NCAA Division I team, but with a much lower profile than U-Dub. Also, the Gonzaga Bulldogs from Spokane play one men's basketball game each season at KeyArena in an event billed as the "Battle in Seattle".
- 5th Avenue Theatre, 5th Avenue (between Union and University Streets in Downtown). Seen as a "testing ground" for many musicals on their way to Broadway.
- Benaroya Hall, 3rd Avenue (at University Street). Home to the Seattle Symphony and concerts by classical orchestras. There are two auditoriums: Taper (seats 2,500) and Nordstrom (seats 500).
- The Seattle Opera, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and other performances are held at the McCaw Hall at Seattle Center.
- Other halls such as Paramount Theatre at 9th Avenue and Pine Street and Moore Theatre at 2nd Avenue house many performing arts and sometimes Broadway performances.
- Big concerts by world famous artists usually take place at KeyArena at Seattle Center.
Festivals and events
Most of Seattle's festivals take place in the summer, the only long stretch of time when Seattle has days of sunny weather.
- Festál Cultural Center, Seattle Center. Year-round except December. Celebrate the world with festivals from about 25 countries represented, one country nearly every 2 weeks.
- Seattle International Film Festival, McCaw Hall, Moore Theatre. May–June. One of the largest film festivals in North America, showing movies from around the world. Watch indie films at screens around the city and vote for your favorite; the winner of each respective category receives the Golden Space Needle trophy.
- Seafair, everywhere. July-early August.Seattle's biggest festival, signifying the arrival of summer. Neighborhood events such as parades and street fairs run throughout the festival, with the downtown Torchlight Parade in late July. Seafair culminates in early August when hydroplane races and the Blue Angels bring loud, fast boats and planes to Lake Washington.
- Bumbershoot, Seattle Center. Labor Day weekend (early September). Seattle's largest music and arts festival, featuring dozens of local and world-class musical acts.
- Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle Center. Memorial Day weekend. A more low-key and local version of Bumbershoot, mainly family-friendly. Even more important, it's free! ($10 donation per person per day encouraged)..
- Bite of Seattle, Seattle Center. mid/late July. Part of Seafair festivities. Enjoy some of the best delicacies of Seattle.
- Hempfest, Myrtle Edwards Park. mid-August for two days. The largest marijuana rally in the world and the biggest annual political event in Washington. Features political speakers, vendors, food, several stages with many bands, and lots of open pot smoking (especially at 4:20). It is also a demonstration for the political reform and the legalization of marijuana. Possession and consumption (not in public) is now legal in the state of Washington. Police tend to look the other way during Hempfest, and marijuana use in public is now a civil infraction subject to ticketing, not arrest.
- Capitol Hill Block Party, Capitol Hill. a mid-summer weekend. Yearly live music event held on Capitol Hill over a weekend in mid-summer (usually the end of July). Consists primarily of local independent bands of various styles, coupled with some bigger name independent label acts.
- Fremont Fair, Fremont. a weekend in mid or late June. Home of the Solstice Parade (including the nude bike ride), and a really fun drunken time all over Fremont. Vendors, bad live music and eclectic crowds at the bars make for an interesting time. Friends who live in Fremont become especially valuable for a place to crash during the fair.
- Seattle PrideFest, Seattle Center. A weekend in June or July. One of the biggest gay pride festivals in the country. Food carts, beer gardens, adult theme performances, and the eagerly anticipated Pride Parade.
- Chinese Festivals, International District. Lunar New Year (January/February), Dragon Fest (July), Night Market (late summer). Numerous stalls and performances, and don't forget to partake in all the cheap food!
Things to know
Seattle is historically a very diverse city and multiculturalism is seen as a virtue. Whites make up about 70% of the population, while more than a tenth of Seattlelites are of Asian descent. English is spoken virtually everywhere in the city but there are ethnic areas in South Seattle where Vietnamese and Tagalog are also commonly spoken, as well as Chinese and Japanese in the International District. The ZIP code 98118 in South Seattle is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the entire United States!
Being a very politically left-wing part of the country, Seattle has one of the most sprawling LGBT communities in the US, second only to San Francisco. The Capitol Hill area, east of downtown, is the place for LGBT-friendly business and bars, as well as a resource center. A large PrideFest takes place annually at the Seattle Center, along with preceding events such as a Pride Parade.
Locals have long talked of the Seattle Freeze, referring to the cold politeness of residents. The theory is that while they are very polite and warm on first interaction, they are actually reserved, and interactions rarely lead to real acts of friendship (an invitation to dinner, personal conversations, etc.). The origin is obscure, but it is mostly assumed to be from Scandinavian immigrants that brought their home country's customs here, including this equivalent to introversion. Expect to have to make all the "first moves" to meet people here.
Residents' shyness also extends to anger and annoyance. Locals often make fun of themselves for their passive aggressive culture, where even in the most upsetting circumstances they will retain their polite nature.
Although Seattle may be more well-known for grunge, it has had a long, diverse and tolerant music history from early on, including a politically radical American folk scene in the 1920s to a thriving post-war jazz scene that boomed in many clubs throughout the area.
Grunge was heavily influenced by the counterculture music scene that dominated Seattle from the mid-1970s through the 1980s, with such noted acts as a gay glam theater group called Ze Whiz Kids and bands like The Telepaths, The Beakers, and Red Dress. Seattle also has another musical claim to fame in native son Jimi Hendrix, although he found his success in England; nevertheless, this hasn't stopped Seattle from erecting a statue of him in Capitol Hill and devoting an entire section to Hendrix at the Experience Music Project in the Seattle Center.
Grunge didn't really emerge until the 1980s and was a combination of punk and metal promoted by such notable Seattle-based groups like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. The genre emerged and slowly grew through the mid-1980s before exploding to international fame in 1991 with the release of Nirvana's breakthrough album Nevermind, but its prominence came to a end after singer Kurt Cobain's shocking suicide in 1994.
Local favorite radio station KEXP is a great source for alternative and experimental music and has helped launch the careers of not only grunge bands like Nirvana but more recent local hip hop favorites such as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and the Blue Scholars as well as many other nationally known alternative bands such as Sunny Day Real Estate, Modest Mouse, The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie, Band of Horses, The Head and the Heart and Fleet Foxes.
Safety in Seattle
Statistically, the number of crimes in Seattle is similar to what you would expect in any major city in the United States. By and large, as long as you use some common sense, you are unlikely to be the target of any crime. Auto break-ins and theft are a problem in the city, so never your leave valuables visible in a car and always lock your car doors. Be wary of the rising trend of smartphone theft.
Downtown Seattle has a sizable population of homeless people (many neighborhoods have forced their homeless into Seattle's downtown core), and while many beg for change and some seem unstable, only a few are actually dangerous. It is worthwhile to be careful after dark in some areas around the downtown core. Some places to watch your back near major tourist areas include under the viaduct along the Waterfront, Belltown, between Pine and Pike Streets in Downtown, and around Pioneer Square, where you'll want to beware of drug dealers and beggars. Areas you'll want to avoid at night (at least without company) include along Aurora Avenue and Lake City Way in the north of the city, SoDo, and the International District.
On Friday and Saturday nights, it is wise to take caution while at Capitol Hill. The many bars in the area can also contain drunk and unruly people, which in very rare cases can lead up to assault or shooting. But as long as you are not looking for trouble, you will be safe.
Drivers in Seattle are typically nice but indecisive, but as long as you're careful as a pedestrian, you don't run a high risk of getting hit. Cyclists should be extra wary of traffic and opening doors of parked cars, especially Downtown.
Washington state has legalized the consumption of marijuana for recreational use. By law, only persons aged 21 and over can purchase marijuana, and then only from licensed retailers. Purchasers are limited to one ounce of usable marijuana (the harvested flowers or "bud"), 16 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form, or 7 grams of marijuana concentrates.
Under no circumstances should you consume marijuana in public or while driving, nor should you transport it out of the state or give it to anybody else for consumption. The DUI limit is .08, but even a smaller number can still lead to an arrest. Any other regulations not stated here should be treated the same as with alcohol. Smoking is not allowed in any public places, and must be done at least 25 feet away from doors, windows, or ventilation shafts.
During fall through early spring, when the weather is said to be sunny, the morning often starts with fog before the afternoon sunshine clears it. Be careful if you're driving, as visibility can be near zero in the early morning, depending on the location. Watch out for black ice as well if the temperature is below freezing. Occasionally, this condition will persist for days and air quality will deteriorate as emissions will get trapped over the city; in these cases, an Air Stagnation Advisory and Burn Ban will be issued, and those with breathing problems should take precautions in such an event.
In case of rain, take the normal precautions while driving to avoid skidding; drive 10-15 mph slower than the speed limit and avoid driving through large puddles. If you are heading to the mountains in the winter, take the typical winter driving precautions, like putting chains on your tires or changing to traction tires. If it does snow in Seattle, it is not recommended to drive, as the city is typically unprepared for such an event and motor vehicles become a moving hazard -- stuck, skidding, or rolling down the city's hills.
While Seattle’s LGBTQ community is well integrated throughout the entire city, Capitol Hill is the heart of Seattle’s gay cultural scene and is a historical hub of gay and gay-friendly businesses, bars, restaurants and clubs. Its eclectic nightlife and central location make Capital Hill the ideal place for an exciting night out. But more family friendly gay activities can be found in other areas as Seattle has the second-largest percentage of gay, lesbian or bisexual residents among large cities in the U.S.
As long as there are no extreme weather events, Seattle is a perfectly lovely place. Many parks have jogging tracks and fitness centers are abundant, making Seattle one of the fittest cities in the nation.
Temperatures can get extreme during the summer, and there is always at least one annual instance where temperatures hover above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, although the little humidity makes the heat less oppressive. Drink plenty of liquid to keep yourself hydrated and don't leave anybody inside a car.
When it rains, Seattleites frequently don't use umbrellas, since the drizzle is constant and is sometimes accompanied with wind. Rather, the locals are more likely to wear a hoodie jacket or a poncho, and packing one is recommended. During the long stretch of mild (40-50 degrees) and dry days in winter, smog often covers the skies of Puget Sound, as there is no way for the pollutants and moisture to clear out of the area. If an Air Stagnation Advisory or Burn Ban is issued, take precautions if you have breathing problems. On these days, you might want to consider heading to the mountains, where you're more likely to experience sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures.
During a hike in between thick lines of trees at the parks, be careful to check for ticks. If a bulls' eye rash develops at the tick bite site, immediately seek medical help and treatment with antibiotics. Despite its location close to mountains, wild animals such as bears or beavers are very unlikely to stray at the city.
Smoking is not allowed in any public places, and must be done at least 25 feet away from doors, windows, or ventilation shafts.
Tap water is safe to drink and is among the best quality in the United States, from undisturbed and uncontaminated water sources fed by snow melt in the Cascade mountains.