Seattle, WA

Destination Location

  • 47.6097, -122.3331:primary
  • 47.4498889, -122.3117778:secondary

Overview

If you picture the magical world of Oz when you hear the words Emerald City, you're not too far off. Officially nicknamed the Emerald City since 1982 in honour of the evergreen forests of the area, Seattle is an enchanted city that combines a world-class metropolis within beautiful natural surroundings. Ranked the most educated city in the U.S., this Pacific Northwest destination attracts outdoor enthusiasts, music lovers and the business-minded alike.

Situated between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, Seattle sits approximately 160 kilometres south of the Canada-USA border. Its geographic position has made it the ideal location for numerous major industries since the city's foundation – logging, commercial shipbuilding, a major gateway for trade into Asia, aircraft manufacturing and most recently, technology and biotechnology companies. The Seattle area is home to a number of Fortune 500 companies including Costco Wholesale, Microsoft, Amazon.com, Starbucks and Nordstrom.

The natural beauty of the area doesn't only inspire corporations; it has been a hub for musical talent. A city with a notable jazz history, the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and the rock styling of grunge, Seattle's music scene is one of the many draws for the area. The annual Bumbershoot festival draws the best in music, visual arts and performance and takes over Seattle every Labor Day weekend. Not to be missed is the Experience Music Project (EMP) – a museum with its roots in rock' n' roll, dedicated to pop culture and designed by famous architect Frank O. Gehry.

One of the top-ten most walkable cities in the U.S., an abundance of attractions can be found within Seattle's 12 downtown neighbourhoods. View Mount Rainier and Elliot Bay from the Seattle Space Needle observation deck, sample the local delights at the world-famous Pike Place Market or take in a sporting event at Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field.

Whether it's a stroll down Seattle's waterfront or through the passage ways and basements that make up the underground tour of Seattle, this city won't disappoint. Pair the sights with some fresh pacific seafood and a beverage from a local microbrewery or Washington winery and one thing is true – with so much to experience, you won't find yourself sleepless in Seattle.

Destination basics

A coastal seaport city, Seattle has cool, wet winters and warm, mostly dry summers. The city's reputation for frequent rain is actually misleading - Seattle receives less total annual precipitation than Boston, New York, Washington D.C and most of the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. The best way to dress for Seattle is layers and most Seattleites don't carry around umbrellas.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Seattle, WA

Seattle is a city growing up. Neighborhoods like the University District, Ballard, Fremont and Capitol Hill attract younger crowds of students and artists with diverse tastes and small budgets. Downtown Seattle and Belltown have become hot spots for new entrepreneurs, high-tech employees and anyone else with extra spending money.

Belltown
Belltown is a popular hangout for yuppies. Many hip restaurants, like Shiro's, are located here.

Capitol Hill
This neighborhood is known for the numerous shops and theaters along Broadway Avenue and for the variety of alternative lifestyles it welcomes. Tasty bites include Pagliacci Pizza which serves a delicious range of pizzas. If you're in the mood for a casual night out or a hangover breakfast, head to Linda's Tavern. Relax at a booth with friends, shoot a game of pool with the regulars or get some fresh air on the patio out back. The Mediterranean menu and romantic vibe make it a great date spot. Capitol Hill, known for its close-knit gay community, also has some of the best dance clubs in Seattle. For an all-out, get-down-and-boogie experience go to Neighbours, a primarily gay bar, for dancing into the night. Or try The Baltic Room for top-notch live shows and a stylish crowd. Nearby sits the Comet Tavern where an entertaining mix of people go for beer and pool.

Fremont/Ballard
Continuing westward, the nightlife seeker enters the quaint districts of Fremont and Ballard. If you're in the mood for a mellow evening, sip coffee in the Still Life Coffeehouse, a Seattle classic. West of Fremont in Ballard, Irish pubs and seafood abound. Enjoy Irish brews at Conor Byrne's Pub or Bad Albert's Tap & Grill. For more elegant dining make your way to Shilsole Bay, where good restaurants like Ray's Boathouse line the shores of Puget Sound, offering great views and delicious seafood.

Midtown and Waterfront
Don't miss downtown dining, but do bring your credit cards because prices are higher here than elsewhere in the city. The Brooklyn offers a happy hour oyster and beer selection. Fine dining establishments on the piers of Elliott Bay include Anthony's Pier 66 & Bell Street Diner and Elliott's Oyster House. Other noteworthy downtown restaurants include Wild Ginger and Dragonfish Asian Café. Pacific Place, an upscale shopping mall, features several famous chain restaurants.

Pioneer Square
Most of the nightlife in downtown Seattle clusters around the famous Pioneer Square. On weekends, this four-block radius fills up with college students, beer enthusiasts, local band fans, jazz devotees, sports fans and others. By paying a single joint cover charge during the weekend, one can enter any of nine affiliated Pioneer Square bars and clubs including the Central Saloon, one of Seattle's oldest taverns. Showbox, northeast of Pioneer Square, is a large nightclub featuring highly regarded DJs on weekends and nationally-known bands on other nights.

University District
This is a favorite area for diners and drinkers on smaller budgets. Check out "The Ave" (University Way) for vegetarian restaurants like Flowers, which serves a lovely vegetarian buffet during the day and great mixed drinks at night. The Ave has cuisines for all tastes: Mexican, Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese among others. Barhopping on the Ave is popular as well. Join student crowds for beer at the Big Time Brewery then shoot some pool at the College Inn Pub.

Despite the city's relatively brief history, diversity and tradition fill the streets of Seattle. This medium-sized urban hub is booming economically, growing and evolving at a rapid rate, with help from multinational corporations like Microsoft and Starbucks. For many who live here, however, the blue skies, abundant water and picturesque mountain ranges are what make this beautiful city so appealing.

Alki Beach
About as close as Seattle gets to California, this sandy beach in west Seattle draws swarms of walkers, joggers, bikers, skaters, scuba divers and volleyball players. Cafes and restaurants such as Salty's on Alki line the main street, ready to nourish those who've played at the beach all day. Alki Beach, directly across Elliott Bay from downtown, is the spot where the first European settlers camped in the winter of 1851 before they moved to the more sheltered area that is now downtown.

Ballard
Affectionately known for slow drivers and the lilting accents of its many residents of Scandinavian descent, this area was first settled by immigrant Nordic fishermen and mill workers. Visit the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks to watch boats travel from salt water to freshwater, then take a trip to Golden Gardens Park to watch the sunset. Popular restaurants in the area include Ray's Boathouse and Bad Albert's Tap & Grill. Stop by Fisherman's Terminal for a look at the boats that keep the fishing industry thriving.

Capitol Hill
Yes, this Washington has one too and its mix of eclectic shops, art-house theaters, wonderful restaurants and interesting people make it one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Seattle. Some of the city's most historic houses are located here, as is the renowned Seattle Asian Art Museum and Volunteer Park. Seattle University and Cornish College of the Arts also grace this hill. To catch a movie, check out Harvard Exit Theatre.

Fremont
Hip and eclectic, Fremont is always a fun place to go. The sign that says "Welcome to the Center of the Universe" is the first clue that you've arrived. Oddities like the Freemont Troll, a smoking rocket and a bronzed Vladimir Lenin statue will leave you laughing while the Saturday gallery walks and the Fremont Sunday Flea Market will have you browsing. Say hello to the group waiting for a bus, but don't expect an answer—they're life-sized statues, often dressed in celebration of someone's birthday or another grand event. The Fremont Oktoberfest is also held here each year.

Madison Park
Quaint shops, restaurants and cafes fill this upper-crust neighborhood on the shores of Lake Washington. Everyone seems to know each other at restaurants like Madison Park Café, and everyone appears to be going someplace important. Walk down the street to the Madison Park & Beach, take in the beautiful view of the Eastside, and dream about owning a waterfront villa. The Museum of History and Industry can also be found in Madison Park.

International District
Pungent aromas and delectable dishes emit from restaurants like Bush Garden in this primarily Asian neighborhood. Specialty shops filled with unusual treasures line the streets. The district is home to the inner-city oasis Hing Hay Park, complete with a pagoda and the Wing Luke Asian Museum.

Kirkland
Across Lake Washington from Seattle lies the "Monterey of the Northwest," so called for its posh art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and waterfront. The Kirkland Performance Center and the Kirkland Parkplace Cinema 6 can both be found here. While close to the city, Kirkland manages to maintain its small-town atmosphere, which adds to its appeal.

Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is the heart of Seattle and the number one tourist site in the area, attracting frenzied crowds of visitors and locals. The oldest continually operating farmer's market in the country, Pike Place features fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, and arts and crafts as far as the eye can see. Abundant restaurants include Maximilien in the Market. Shops offer goods from around the world. Bring some change as there are always street musicians singing for their supper.

Pioneer Square
This is Seattle's oldest neighborhood and the place where the term "Skid Row" originated. Lumberjacks skidded logs down "Skid Road," now Yesler Street, to a mill at the bottom of the hill. Saloons and brothels lined the street, and the term soon took on its derogatory connotation locally and nationwide. The Underground Tour explores the now subterranean storefronts of the original neighborhood. Today the neighborhood is filled with art galleries, small shops, bookstores, including Elliott Bay Book Co., and restaurants like the elegant Il Terrazzo Carmine. At night the square comes to life. Popular nightspots include Central Saloon, one of Seattle's oldest bars. Many clubs feature live music, and a group of bars and clubs in the area offers admittance to each for a single cover charge.

Queen Anne Hill
A combination of a quiet hilltop neighborhood and a young trendy hot spot, Queen Anne has popular restaurants like Peso's Taco Lounge as well as coffee shops and nightspots like the trendy Tini Bigs. The view of the city from the west slope is incredible, especially from Kerry Park, which offers Seattle's most photographed view.

Redmond
Thriving due to corporate residents like Microsoft and Nintendo, Redmond has an unlikely yet appealing combination of countryside and technology. The software industry brings money here and with it good shopping at Redmond Town Center. Cyclists appreciate the velodrome at Marymoor Park and the Lake Sammamish State Park Trail (for those of us too slow for the velodrome).

Seattle Center
Part amusement park, part festival grounds, the center hosts The Bite of Seattle, Bumbershoot and many other popular festivals. Permanent fixtures of this 74-acre park include the Seattle Opera, Intiman Theater, Paul Allen's Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame, the Pacific Science Center and the Space Needle.

University District
This area is home to the University of Washington, known to locals as "U-Dub." The park-like 700-acre campus is perfect for a midday stroll. Boats filled with die-hard Husky fans fight for space around the waterfront stadium on game days. Low-priced restaurants and pubs like Flowers line the "Ave" (University Avenue), and stylish young people fill the streets. The University Bookstore anchors a thriving shopping scene.

Waterfront
Elliott Bay, part of Puget Sound, laps against Seattle's Waterfront. On summer days, visitors pack the area to enjoy the fresh air, quaint shops and many seafood restaurants, which include Elliott's Oyster House, Anthony's Pier 66, Fisherman's Restaurant and Ivar's. Catch a ferry to Bremerton or Bainbridge Island, or take a water tour to Blake Island's Tillicum Village for a salmon dinner and Native American dance show.

The entertainment options in a city the size of Seattle are numerous. There are plenty of art museums, theaters and music venues for visitors to explore.

Art
The patriarchs of the local art scene, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and its brother the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM), have been pushing steadily away from exclusively showing antiquities to showcasing more contemporary art. At SAM, look for rotating modern art shows, and be sure to check out the Native American and African galleries. At SAAM, the vibe is quieter, but spectacular nonetheless.

The contemporary art shows at the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington always have an academic background and a flair for challenging conceptions. The Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA) and a host of edgy galleries like James Harris and Greg Kucera, showcase young, impoverished, enthusiastic local talent. Check it all out during the monthly neighborhood Artwalks, during which galleries stay open late and serve wine and cheese. The Pioneer Square area hold its Artwalk on the first Thursday of every month, Capitol Hill follows suit on the first Saturday, Kirkland opens its doors on the second Thursday and Ballard rounds out the cycle on the second Saturday.

Cinema
Hollywood glitz rules the downtown scene at Pacific Place and the Meridian. Art-house funkiness rules Capitol Hill at the Egyptian Theatre and the Harvard Exit, and over the University District at the Neptune, the Varsity Theatre, the Seven Gables Theatre and the Grand Illusion. Those with various tastes can have fun at the various annual film festivals, where sneak previews of blockbusters play alongside obscure Yugoslavian flicks. The biggest festival is the Seattle International Film Festival, which takes the town over for three weeks in May and June. Also keep a lookout for the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Comedy
Admittedly, there are those who think watching nerdy Seattleites try to negotiate downtown with flapping rain ponchos and lattes in recycled, unbleached cups is comedy enough. But if you want something a bit more organized, try Giggles in the University District, where professionals take over the stage on the weekends.

Dance
Apart from the deservedly renowned Balanchine-school Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the beloved contemporary dance house On The Boards, good dance in Seattle is hard to come by on a regular basis. The best pickings include the University of Washington excellent World Music & Dance Series, which brings top-notch groups such as the Paul Taylor Dance Company into town every year.

Museums
The Frye Art Museum has a pleasant collection of 19th and 20th Century paintings, while the Museum of History and Industry covers the same time period but with its focus on Seattle's history. The Burke Museum and the Museum of Flight offer glimpses of natural history and Boeing science respectively, with towering artifacts (dinosaurs and airplanes, naturally) at both.

The history of Seattle's ethnic minorities gets a thoughtful, detailed look at the Wing Luke Asian Museum. The Seattle Children's Museum and the Pacific Science Center, both at the Seattle Center, are paradises of activities for kids. Further afield, the Bellevue Art Museum has a good collection of 20th Century art, while the Washington State History Museum is Tacoma's look at the state's history.

Classical Music
The Seattle Symphony performs in the acoustically crisp Benaroya Hall, which also provides much-needed concert space for the excellent Seattle Men's Chorus and other classical groups. Recent years have also seen the rise of an early-music movement, with several period ensembles garnering acclaim and audiences under the aegis of the Early Music Guild. Churches around town and the Seattle Art Museum often stage lovely chamber music concerts as well.

Okay, so grunge is dead. But that doesn't mean that the local rock scene is dead with it. The scene is just a bit more upbeat, with international groups finding a warmer welcome. Experimental rock groups and other combinations of world, funk and pop music play frequently at the Showbox and the Crocodile Cafe. Jazzmen and blues masters hold down regular gigs at the Tractor Tavern and the Baltic Room. There's also a lively Irish scene in town, with live traditional and modern music at Conor Byrne's, the Owl 'n' Thistle and Kells Irish Pub.

Opera
The Seattle Opera is internationally famous today for its Wagner productions, most notably its four-day Ring cycle. The opera has broadened its range considerably, from sparkling Mozart to serious Prokofiev.

Theater
Mainstream houses include the Seattle Repertory Theater, the Intiman and A Contemporary Theater. These companies put on strong seasons every year, usually comprised of modern classics and premieres. Fringe theater groups, such as the Annex Theater, the Book-It Repertory Theatre and Theater Schmeater provide well-produced, eclectic alternatives. There's also a manic fringe festival in early spring, when dozens of groups materialize out of nowhere to put on shows. In the niche bracket, Seattle Children's Theatre presents extremely professional, creative productions for kids ages 4-14, while the 5th Avenue Theatre brings Broadway musicals to town.

Seattle

State: Washington

Country: United States

Seattle by the Numbers
Population: 684,451 (city); 3,733,580 (metropolitan area)
Elevation: 177 feet / 54 meters
Average Annual Precipitation: 34 inches / 86.4 centimeters
Average Annual Snowfall: 6.8 inches / 17.3 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 40.5°F / 4.7°C
Average July Temperature: 63°F / 17.2°C

Quick Facts
Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: Pacific Standard Time, GMT-8

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 206

Did You Know?
Seattle is the home of the first Starbucks Coffee, which is still there and located in Pike Place Market.

Seattle’s Harbor Island is the biggest man-made island in the United States.

Orientation
Seattle is located on Washington’s west coast, situated right on Elliott Bay in Puget Sound. Seattle is located about 145 miles (233 kilometers) north of Portland, Oregon and about 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) north of Washington’s capital of Olympia.

The Snohomish, Suquamish and other Native Americans were the first settlers of this Pacific Northwest area, later named Seattle after Native American headsman Chief Sealth. In the fall of 1851, the Denny Party landed on what is now Alki Beach (home to Alki Point Lighthouse) in West Seattle. After surviving one cold, harrowing winter, these first white settlers moved east across Elliott Bay to settle in the sheltered area that is now downtown Seattle and Pioneer Square.

Timber quickly became the economic mainstay of this new community. The lush Pacific Northwest offered an abundance of big evergreen trees that settlers cut and sold for lumber. With the community's newly created wealth came an interest in higher education. The University of Washington was established in 1861 and moved to its present location in 1895. It remains the state's largest educational institution.

Once the railroad reached nearby Tacoma in 1883, Seattle's population exploded. Six years later, almost everything Seattleites had built was lost in the Great Fire of June 1889. Seattle proclaimed itself a phoenix that would rise from the ashes, and by the end of that year, the city constructed 130 new brick buildings atop the burned-out shell of the old city. Today, you can view the ruins of the original buildings on the Underground Tour. The 1890s was a period of rebirth, and the Yukon and Alaskan gold rushes helped move the city forward economically. As the gateway to a virtually uninhabited Alaska, Seattle was a major supplier of food and provisions to prospectors departing to brave the wilds in search of gold. Those who struck it rich spent freely on their way back through Seattle.

In 1907 the Pike Place Public Farmer's Market opened. It remains a top tourist attraction today. By 1910 the city's population had grown to nearly 230,000, and steamers were used to ferry people and products across the bay. Electric trolleys started running in 1919, improving transportation between sprawling urban areas. Bits and pieces of highway followed. The economic boom took a new turn in 1916 when Bill Boeing tested his company's first plane. Since World War II, the region's economy has depended on the aerospace industry. Boeing developed the 707 commercial jet that changed commercial air travel.

The 1960s brought the 1962 World's Fair, the Space Needle and the Monorail to Seattle. The city became a destination spot for tourists and the population continued to swell. Construction of Interstate 5 continued through downtown, and the ferryboat Kalakala was considered the ultimate in high-tech water transportation.

During the 1980s and 90s, Seattle became home to a fledgling company called Microsoft, a seller of gourmet coffee by the name of Starbucks, and Safeco Field, a state-of-the-art baseball stadium with a retractable roof. Top biotech companies also flocked to the area. Today, this cosmopolitan city nestled between the Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound remains home to corporations like Microsoft, Starbucks, Nintendo, Nordstrom, Immunex and many other internationally competitive companies.

Points of interest in Seattle, WA

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