Seattle, Washington sits at one of the most unique spots in the United States. A narrow isthmus sandwiched between the Puget Sound & The Olympic Mountains on its west, and Lake Washington & the Cascades to its east, who can imagine such a place is the biggest city in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States with 4 million inhabitants at its metropolitan area? The city itself, among concrete jungles in the downtown area, is a damp green gem, with carpets of evergreen trees, blue waters & colorful hills in its boundaries, earning the nickname The Emerald City.
Beneath its nature, you will find a vibrant & cosmopolitan city for all shapes & sizes. Next to the progressive downtown & the freestyle east, you can find a laid-back situation at its north, or diversity of races at its south. The many types of restaurants, coffee and microbreweries are worth indulging for after a day at the parks or the beaches, strolling the buildings, or admire the arts. When you are done with the hectic city situation, the fun doesn't end here! At one single day or two, you can play with both solid snow on the mountains, and liquid water on the Sound & the Lakes. Or see the lush tropical-like forest in the Olympics. Especially for the bold, the brave and the adventurer, you just can't get enough of Seattle.
Seattleites usually describe Seattle locations in terms of "neighborhoods." This is partly because of a potentially confusing system of street addresses (see Get around). The breakdown into neighborhoods is informal and mutates over time, and while there are often signs on major arterial roads to let you know that you are "entering" a particular neighborhood, the placement of these signs is arbitrary.
Still, knowing what neighborhood you're looking for can be a good sanity check when you're looking for an address. A Seattleite would describe 1401 45th Ave SW as being in West Seattle, and 1401 NE 45th St as being in the U-District (University District), which you'll note are diagonally opposite on the map. See Get around for an explanation.
The Seattle City clerk maintains an interactive map that starts with the high-level districts, but lets you click on those to get the detailed neighborhoods too.
Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods
Seattle's retail core, home to the waterfront, the Pike Place Market, and some of the most stunning architecture in the city
|Pioneer Square-International District
The oldest neighborhoods in Seattle, containing art galleries and innumerable restaurants
|Queen Anne-South Lake Union
Perched on the hills northwest of Downtown. Wealthy neighborhoods on its west, newly emerging companies on its east (south Lake Union), mini commercial area on its peak, and the Seattle Center on its south.
|Capitol Hill-Central District
A diverse, densely-packed cluster of neighborhoods, rich and poor, from the nightlife of Pike-Pine to the quiet residences of Madison Park. 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 and 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 as U District)
Home to the sprawling University of Washington campus, numerous inexpensive eateries, and mild entertainment for the young alike
The city's mostly residential & gently gentrifying northernmost tier, bordering Shoreline
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 that's home to Jefferson and Seward Parks
A scenic residential area with great parks, ample beaches and wonderful vistas over the harbor and downtown Seattle
- The "Eastside" refers to the region east of Lake Washington comprising the suburbs of Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond.
Like the rest of the indigenous west United States, the Seattle area used to be Indian settlements that has dated back to 4,000 years ago. The area was among the last discovered & developed in the contiguous US, when it was first mapped by George Vancouver in the 1790s. But the first party to settle was led by Luther Collins on September 14, 1851, when he landed at the mouth of the Duwamish River and the more notable Arthur A. Denny of Chicago's party at Alki Point in West Seattle, 13 days later. Confrontations against the original settlers fired out, only for them to settle together at Elliott Bay. The area was then named Seattle in honor of Chief Si'ahl of the Duwamish & Suquamish tribes by David Maynard. It was then officially established as a city with a mayor and council as the government in 1869.
By the 1880s, development of a modern city comes to life with the erection of buildings, a streetcar system, and a lumber mill at the end of a timber skid row (what is now Yesler Way), only to be destroyed by fire in 1889. The city was then alive again in 1903 with the Klondike Gold Rush, as Seattle serves as the departure city for miners bound for Alaska & Yukon, hills were flattened & the Lake Washington Ship Canal was created. Vaudeville developed at a later time and Seattle for a while has been a mecca for such forms of art.
The city's economy slowed down again during the Great Depression & World War II, but got a huge comeback with the establishment of the aircraft company, Boeing, and the 1962 World's Fair, opening the gateway for the modernization of the city & the US. Microsoft's move from Albuquerque to the metropolitan area further promoted the charm of Seattle, with Amazon.com, Nintendo of America, T-Mobile, and Starbucks opened their offices here. Biotech companies also brought an influx of population growth & money into the area. What is now Seattle comprises of high rise buildings by banking & health companies, warehouses by Costco & techno moguls, 4 million inhabitants within its metropolitan area (more than half the population of Washington State) , and a city of huge importance, at least for the northwest part of the US.
Seattle is historically a very diverse city and multiculturalism is seen as a virtue. Discrimination based on race is considered extremely offensive. Non-Hispanic whites only comprises about 60% of the population, while more than a quarter of Seattlelites are of Asian descent.
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. An equivalent to introversion, expect 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.
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A common stereotype of Seattle is that it rains frequently and makes the city seem depressing, but what might be a surprise is the rain is almost always absent in late spring & summer, and becomes perhaps the best place to spend summer in the US. It's warm, if not hot, with average temperatures in the upper 70s (about 25°C), though often having days in the 80s and even 90s (above 30°C), but the fact that it is usually not humid is good news. The sun is on from 4:30AM to 10PM, giving you ample time for outdoor activities during daylight in a single day! Other than that, the only drawback might be that when it rains it comes with thunder.
At all other seasons are when the sky above Seattle is often murky, grim, rainy and breezy, with some days of sun breaking in — it can be dry but cold, or mild but rainy. Even in the case of a dry weather, the morning typically starts with fog that should burn over by midday. A good feature in Seattle weather is that despite its location as the northernmost big city in the US, it's not as cold, thanks to the moderation effect of the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean that makes most rain and little snow to pour the land; but a lot of snow does fall on some occasions. The area consists of complex topography features, thus while the north and mountains are snowing in heaps, it can be plain cold rain 10 miles away near the waters, often puzzling weather forecasters.
Despite the Rain City reputation, the main challenge of Seattle's weather is more the overcast skies than the rain, supporting the fact that Seattle has less annual rainfall than most cities east of the Rocky Mountains. Seattle's rain usually comes in a drizzle spread within days, which only occasionally strengthens to a full-blown torrent; while its counterparts have heavy storms but shall pass within half a day.
- The global-phenomenon sequel, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, E.L. James. The seductive & erotic love story of Mr. Grey with Ana, a graduate from Washington State Univ.
- The Twilight saga sets the story in the Forks area of the Olympic Peninsula, but the third installment, Eclipse is set primarily in Seattle. As the city is plagued with murders by vampires, Bella teams up with her former lover, Jacob, and Edward to stop the head of the vampire clan, and to find who loves each other among themselves.
Movies & television
Most movies in Seattle would feature at least a shot of the Space Needle to distinguish themselves from any other city in the US, or even North America.
- Most people will still remember the sitcom Frasier that ran for 12 seasons until 2004, one of the successful TV shows set in Seattle. It's life of the Crane family: Frasier Crane, a radio psychiatrist, his brother Niles, his father Martin, and his assistant, Daphne Moon. The 1000th episode was shot for real life at the streets of Seattle, the monorail, and the Seattle Center.
- The medical drama Grey's Anatomy is actually set in Seattle to distinguish from its counterpart, the Chicago's ER. The Fisher Plaza right across the Seattle Center, where KOMO TV station is at, is the exterior of the Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital, air ambulance helicopters land on its helipad right across the street form the Space Needle.
- It Happened at the World's Fair (Elvis Presley, Joan O'Brien, Gary Lockwood (1963)) Mike, a cropduster pilot, is in debt and with his friend, Danny, they hitchhike coincidentally into Seattle. Mike must decide his love interest, Diane the nurse or Sue-Lin whose uncle offered him a ride to the city.
- Singles (Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Matt Dillon (1992)) Two couples with rocky love in an apartment, and its sole single friend finally met his significant other. It is claimed to be an inspiration of then-successful TV series Friends (1994-2004) and helps boost the fame of grunge music. The central coffee shop is at the now-closed OK Hotel, the apartment is at the northwest corner of E Thomas St & 19th Ave E.
- Sleepless In Seattle (Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan (1993)). Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) searches for comfort in Seattle after the loss of his wife. After his young child's deliberate call to a radio station, a woman has an attraction to him but he must be in New York for Valentine's day to fulfill the wish. Head to Lake Union, where his houseboat is supposed to be at, to relive this memory.
- Chronicle (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan (2012)). Three Seattle teenagers found a hidden gem & unleash the telekinesis power within them, to be put into wrong use. The Space Needle and buildings in the city were the location of the final battle between Matt (Alex Russell) and his then-destructive cousin, Andrew (Dane DeHaan).
- The upcoming global-phenomenon movie Fifty Shades of Grey (Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dorman (2015)) will have its setting in Seattle, although primarily shot in Vancouver, as seen by the trailer poster where Mr. Grey is looking down at the skyline.
The music scene in Seattle is well known for its grunge music, a combination of punk & metal promoted by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. Such genre emerged and blasted instantly in the mid 1980s, but dramatically went to a halt after Kurt Cobain's shocking death in 1994. Back in time, the well-known guitarist Jimi Hendrix, despite being famous while in the United Kingdom, was born in Seattle, and his legacy is treated with respect, such as a dedicated section at the EMP Museum. Now, when you have heard of the hip hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, it means a new trend is emerging, called underground hip-hop.
The Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau operates two visitors centers:
- Seattle Visitors Center and Concierge Services, 701 Pike Street, Suite 800 (inside the Washington State Convention and Trade Center). Daily 9AM-5PM during summer, M-F 9AM-5PM during winter.
- Market Information Center, 1st and Pike (on the southwest corner). Daily 10AM-6PM. Services are more limited than the main location at 7th and Pike.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Main article: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (IATA: SEA), universally nicknamed "Sea-Tac", is located in the city's southern suburbs. Domestically it's a major hub for Alaska, Northwest and West Coast destinations, and internationally handles primarily trans-Pacific routes, as well as some flights to major European airports and Dubai, UAE. Alaska Air uses this airport as the hub for its flight to Alaska for its namesake, Hawaii, and the rest of the US. Delta maintains a distant smaller presence as an international hub.
A reliable Central Link Light Rail connects the downtown area & the airport for $2.75 in 40 minutes, get to the 4th floor of the parking lot (accessible from the skybridges at the departure level) and go left to the platform. A taxi will cost about $60-$70 to downtown for about 30 minutes, or $30-$40 by shuttle buses for the same duration. More details about other means of ground transportation can be found in its separate article.
Floatplane & Boeing Field
Kenmore Air operates year-round scheduled float plane 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 King County international airport (BFI) to Friday Harbor, Eastsound, Port Angeles and Nanaimo airports. A ground shuttle service is available from the Lake Union and Boeing Field terminals to SeaTac.
Private aircraft can make use of Boeing Field (IATA: BFI), still south of the city, but a closer distance than Sea-Tac airport.
Vancouver International Airport
If you are coming from Canada, you are much better off to fly to Vancouver first, then take a bus to Seattle. It takes much longer time but is dramatically cheaper. You will enter the border checkpoint by the second half hour of your ride. After that, it's a smooth sail for two hours to the city.
- Quick Shuttle. Catch the bus at the International Terminal, Level 2. At Seattle, the bus will arrive across the Best Western Executive Inn at John Street near Seattle Center and/or at Pier 66 (Bell Street Ferry Terminal) of the harbor.
Amtrak provides service from 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. 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 the long-distance Coast Starlight, which runs south to Portland, the Bay Area, and eventually Los Angeles, California. The Starlight has been frequently delayed for hours coming north from California, but has more recently improved reliability. Additionally, the Empire Builder provides daily service to Chicago via Glacier National Park and Minneapolis. The Builder continues to experience longer and more frequent delays than the Starlight due to increased coal train traffic in Montana and North Dakota.
Sound Transit operates a commuter rail service called the Sounder from Seattle to Lakewood (via Tacoma and towns along the corridor) and to Everett (via Edmonds & Mukilteo). However, the Sounder is limited mostly to rush hour service on the weekdays, with some service for special events like the Seahawks games.
Interstate Highway 5 (I-5) and State Route 99 cuts through Seattle north to south. I-90 runs west to east from SoDo and crosses Lake Washington to Bellevue, along with State Route 520 floating bridge further north. I-405 runs parallel to I-5 on the east side of Lake Washington.
The downtown area of Seattle, SoDo & south Lake Union is mostly for business & commercial purposes, thus all residents from the metropolitan area packed the streets as they are getting in & out of the areas during the commute hours, especially on the infamously congested I-5, southern I-405, and the SR-520 bridge, though the recent addition of tolling has significantly eased traffic on the bridge. For downtown, exit at Seneca Street from the south, Union Street from the north, or Mercer Street (Seattle Center) from both directions.
By shuttle bus
There is no designated long-distance bus terminal in Seattle, thus all bus services have their own stop at any point in the city.
- BellAir Airporter, (bus stop) Washington State Convention Center, Convention Place (prior reservations only), ☎ . 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, toll-free: . Transfer to Downtown using the Central Link Rail at Stadium station close by. Prices are various depending on your destination.
- Northwestern Trailways, (bus stop) 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.
- Olympic Bus Lines, (bus stop) Greyhound bus depot (see above), King Street Station, selected hospitals, SeaTac Airport. Operates a route called the Dungeness Line connecting Seattle to Port Townsend, Sequim and Port Angeles.The bus crosses on the Edmonds-Kingston ferry. One way: $39 from downtown, $49 from airport; Round trip: $69 from downtown, $79 from airport..
- Quick Shuttle, (bus stop) 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..
- Wheatland Express, (bus stop) 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).
By public transit
- SoundTransit, Stops at various bus stops. The long distance public transit operator operates bus services from cities within the Seattle metropolitan area such as Issaquah, Renton, Everett, Tacoma, Redmond, Puyallup, and lots of other towns to downtown Seattle. $2.50 within 1 county, $3.50 cross-county..
- Community Transit. Operates direct express buses to various points in Snohomish County such as Lynnwood, Edmonds, Mulkiteo, Stanwood, Marysville, etc, to the city in the morning, to the suburbs at night. All day bus service to Everett. $4 from Everett and southward, $5.25 from north of Everett (one way)..
- King County Metro. Has buses out to outlying suburbs & cities such as Federal Way, Shoreline, Lake City way, North Bend, etc. Keep in mind that most of those other lines are local to those areas and do not necessarily go into downtown Seattle.
Seattle's huge water body makes ferry as the primary commuting mode for neighbors on the opposite side of the Puget Sound, as building a bridge is difficult considering its distance & its role as a main shipping line. Midway, grab a camera to photo the picturesque view of both sides of the land.
- King County Water Taxi. The county government provides ferry on weekdays only during rush hour (5:30-8AM and 4:30-7PM) to Vashon Island $5.50, $4.75 if using ORCA.
- Victoria Clipper. 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, ☎ . Connects downtown Seattle (Colman Dock, Pier 52) to Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, and Vashon Island, and connects West Seattle to Vashon Island and Southworth at Kitsap Peninsula. All ferries are for both vehicles and passenger except the ferry between downtown Seattle and Vashon Island. Be aware that delays often occur in the morning, except in the summer, because of the frequent appearance of dense fog.
By cruise ship
- Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal at Pier 66, 2225 Alaskan Way S, 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 was originally built for access from boats and there are marinas offering both public and reciprocal guest moorage located throughout the area especially around Lake Union and the ship canal, see individual district guides for further information. Elliot Bay Marina, Shilshole Bay Marina, and Bell Street Marina all have reciprocal guest moorage. On Lake Union and in Salmon Bay there are other options including Fisherman's Terminal.
Seattle's freeways cuts the city, not circling it, thus automobiles are not the norm if you are only going around the downtown area, but may be useful if you are heading north of the ship canal or south of the river. If you do not want to rent a car though, you are not alone. The use of public transit, ride-sharing, walking & cycling are among the highest in the US, despite the intimidating hills in selected areas. Do note though that it is better not to drive during rush hours to another neighborhood unless you know an alternative route away from the easily clogged interstates and state routes — even a single car incident can cause miles of backups!
Seattle's street designations make sense once you understand them but, if you don't, you can end up miles away from your destination!
On the map, vertical roads (roughly North-South) are Avenues, horizontal roads (roughly East-West) are Streets. There are irregularities though: Ways are long roads but not always parallel to streets or avenues; Places (Pl.) are short diagonals. Drives are long, circuitous routes, Courts are one block long, Boulevards have greenery at its median.
One way to remember avenues: University Way NE, the main street through the city's University District (neighborhood) is called "The Ave" by the locals, and all avenues run north-south. But, don't confuse University Way with University Ave; they're two completely different streets!
The downtown area is surrounded by Denny Way & Yesler Way, the Alaskan Way Viaduct & Broadway. Roads are relative to the shoreline. Outside the downtown area, the roads are relative to the cardinal grid, divided by 7 compass directional sectors (E, SW, W, S, N, NE, & NW), no SE section. Streets are written with the sector before the name, e.g. NE 45th Street or NE 45th; avenues are written with the sector after the name, e.g. 45th Avenue NE or 45th NE. When locals tell you about spots close to junctions (especially in the case of a bus stop), the first name they mention is what road is it on, followed by what road is it adjacent to. They will often skip the "avenue" or "street" so inquire to make yourself clear. There are exceptions: In the East between Denny Way & Yesler Way, avenues have no directional designation, but streets have; in the North between Denny Way and the ship canal, the opposite is true.
The twelve streets in the central business district are named as six first-letter pairs (south to north): Jefferson, James, Cherry, Columbia, Marion, Madison, Spring, Seneca, University, Union, Pike, Pine. One way to remember the order is the mnemonic "Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest."
Walking can be an enticing option to get from one neighborhood to another, so long as you are aware of where you are and keep your street smarts. Seattle is a city of friendly neighborhoods, but it is also a big city so be aware of your surroundings and keep in mind the dangers that commonly accompany a city of that size.
The block layout in the downtown area is pretty compact, a walk from Denny Way to Yesler Way should take 30 minutes or less; walking on Street needs some effort for its steep elevation if you are walking away from the shore. Outside the downtown area, especially Capitol Hill, the North and West, the city is comprised of hills, albeit less hilly & steep than that of San Francisco, so walking can be a somewhat good form of exercise. The downtown's famous retails are right on the sidewalk, jogging tracks on parks are abundant and the Burke Gilman Trail takes you along the northern rim of the ship canal & western rim of Lake Washington. Most streets have sidewalks, and even for those that don't, you're still unlikely to be a victim of an accident. Drivers are required by law to stop whenever a pedestrian is crossing, especially at the marked area, equipped with or without traffic lights.
By public transit
Multi trip card for public transit
If you are planning for an extended stay (a week or more), you would want to purchase an ORCA card. This IC card enables you to transfer seamlessly between agencies & other modes of transportation. A card costs $5.00 and already includes that amount of fare to ride. You can buy & top them up at vending machines on the Downtown Transit Tunnel, Sounder & light rail stations, QFC & Safeway supermarkets, and at the customer service center at King Street (next to the station). The latter location also provides reduced fare card (youth & seniors) by showing proper identification. Despite offering no discounts for single rides, you can make use of the discounted monthly pass for one calendar month or a $9 day pass only if you have the card. To use it, tap on the card reader each time you enter a ride. Your first tap entitles you to unlimited rides for the next 2 hours (with the exception of Washington State Ferries). To refund, you can visit the customer service center.
King County Metro (electric, hybrid, and diesel city buses) is the primary public transportation mode, not just for Seattle, but the whole King County as well. There are two types of bus, the ordinary (green & yellow, or blue & yellow) and RapidRide (red & yellow). The latter has 7 lines providing frequent express services on the suburb's (outside downtown) major routes. You must board & pay (or if you have a transfer paper, show it to the driver) at the front. To ask for a stop, pull the rope alongside the windows downwards or on most buses, press the red button beside the back door, a red light on the bus stop display & a sound will activate. Stops near public facilities and malls, transit centers, and downtown are read by voice; others don't so pay attention.
All buses, with the exception of rush-hour only routes, operate from 5AM to 1:30AM, and runs from every 10 minutes up to every hour, depending on route & days of the week. The adult bus fare is $2.25, but a rush hour fare is in effect on weekdays 6-9AM and 3-6PM for $2.50 within the city limits ($3.00 for rides towards & at outside the city limits). The youth (ages 5-19) & senior fare (ages 65+) is always $1.25 and $0.75, respectively. If you pay by cash (exact fare only, please!), you'll get a paper transfer good for within a 2-hour period to ride other King County Metro buses, but a few drivers are lenient enough to give you 2 1/2 or even 3! The only way to transfer for free & seamlessly between other transit agencies is with an ORCA card.
To know when your bus is coming, you can download the One Bus Away app on both Android & iTunes. It is also used on display at selected downtown & most RapidRide bus stops.
When traveling to destinations outside the downtown core, make sure to ask the drivers about 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 many may be useful for getting to destinations such as the University District, West Seattle, and Ballard. Special service is sometimes deployed for events with expected huge attendance numbers from downtown and a few transit centers, especially to the Seattle Center, to UW on the Husky football team's game day, or to CenturyLink field for a Seahawks game.
At downtown, most buses go southbound on 2nd Avenue and northbound on 4th Ave except RapidRide buses which operate on 3rd Avenue and high-capacity routes that use the Downtown Seattle Bus Tunnel . The "bus tunnel" opens from 5 AM to 1 AM every day and has five stations, from north to south, Convention Place, Westlake, University Street, Pioneer Square, and International District. The bus tunnel is useful for bus and light rail transfers but watch your belongings.
If you use an ORCA card, you can interchangeably use all the trains & bus system from different agencies. If you use a train, you pay (or tap your card) as you board.
- Link Light Rail operates between Westlake Station (underground) and Sea-Tac Airport, via South Seattle and Tukwila. Fares are $2.00—$2.75 depending on how far you travel; ticket machines are at all stations, and the tickets must be retained for the duration of your trip. If you use an ORCA card, you must tap at your origin & destination station.
- The South Lake Union Streetcar runs between Westlake & Olive Way and South Lake Union. Rides are every 15 minutes for $2.50 per adult or $1.25 per child. You must purchase the ticket at one of the 11 stops before riding the train. You can also use the bus transfer paper as proof of payment.
- The Seattle Center Monorail, a 1962 World's Fair legacy that takes you non-stop between Westlake Center (5th Ave & Pine Street) and the Seattle Center in just 2 minutes! Tickets are $2.25 per adult, $1.25 children ages 4-12 & seniors one way. You can only pay by cash; ORCA card is not valid!
If you need any help, go to the Customer Stop at Westlake Station in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, or ask a local. Seattleites are always eager to help and may offer help, even if they see you were looking confusingly at a tourist map!
The county government provides water taxi between Pier 50 (beside Pier 52/Colman Dock) at downtown and Seacrest Park at West Seattle in 15 minutes, an optimum connection for Alki. Fares are $4.75 one way, $4.00 with an ORCA card. Rides are every 30 minutes on weekdays & every hour on weekends, schedules vary from season to season.
Unlike some other American cities, visitors should not be intimidated by the thought of navigating Seattle by car. While rush-hour traffic can be quite frustrating (especially on the freeways), the city's streets and roadways, especially outside the downtown area, are otherwise quite hospitable, with the notable exception of Pike Place Market. On weekends, you can often rent cars at locations throughout the city for well under $20/day. Parking fares are $1 to $2.50 per hour, but be mindful of where you park & its 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. Most establishments outside downtown provides free parking if they have their own parking area.
Note that there are one way restrictions on roads downtown. From Denny Way to Jackson Street, 2nd and 5th Avenue (south of Olive Way) are one-way southward; 4th Avenue is one-way northward. Chery, Marion, Spring, University, Pike, Virginia, Blanchard, Battery, Vine Streets & Olive Way are one way eastward (away from the shore); Columbia, Madison, Seneca, Union, Pine, Lenora, Bell, Wall, Clay Streets are one-way westward (towards the shore). No restrictions on Broad, Cedar, Jefferson, and James Street.
You can call or hail a taxi from any street in Seattle or most hotels will call them for you. However, most of their services are unfriendly & expensive, especially if you are only hovering around the downtown area. Even taxi drivers may refuse to take you if your destination is less than 15 blocks away. The fares are:
- $2.50 for the first 1/9 mile
- $0.30 for each additional 1/9 mile (a total of $2.70/mile)
- $0.50 for every minute of waiting time
- $0.50 for each additional passenger after two.
If you are heading to SeaTac airport from the downtown area, a flat fare of $40 is applied.
The rudeness of many taxi companies have forced people to avoid taking them and look for car-sharing alternatives (see below). But should you be in dire need of a taxi, call one of these companies:
If you don't have a car and public transportation seems inconvenient for you, yet your destination is miles away, you can use the ride sharing such as those provided by Uber or Lyft. Download their app as it is the only way to reserve a car. Just register your card for payment, punch in your current location & destination, and a car will be in front of you in no time; they do not take prior reservations. Even Seattleites prefer this method rather than taking the overpriced and rude taxi.
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 than in most cities. During rush hour, cycling is actually faster than driving for the same distance! Your only drawbacks might be the wet roads, the rain and the hills, so you may wish to have some raingear. Some major roads in Seattle have properly maintained bicycle lanes. Bicycle usage has increased significantly since the early 2000s and drivers are perhaps more accustomed to bicycles than in other major cities. You are allowed to ride bicycles on all Seattle roads except the Interstate 5, Interstate 90 bridge, State Route 520 floating bridge, and the Alaskan Way Viaduct; while it is doable, but generally not recommended to ride them to the Cascade's ski passes.
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 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. Myrtle Edwards path overlooks on the sound, starting at the north end of downtown and continuing for the most part all of the way to the Ship Canal Locks. It is much more scenic than the Burke trail and more quiet as it does not intersect with any roads. It has gorgeous views of the Olympics and Mt. Rainier, as well.
If you are tired from cycling or for a quick shift to other biking places, you can get on the King County Metro buses and put your bike on its front rack before you enter. Just don't forget to unload it when you get off!
Here are a few companies that offers bike rentals:
- The Bicycle Repair Shop, 928 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98105 (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 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. You can also have a guided tour 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, from & until the front of your doorstep! You must reserve online because they deliver the bikes to you. 1 week $80, 2 week $120, monthly $160.
- Individual listings can be found in Seattle's district articles
Seattle has a lot to see, be it prominent sights, or tucked in neighborhoods. For more information, look on each district's individual articles.
- Seattle CityPASS. The only option, but it has much better value than when you go on your own. For $64 per adult, $44 per children ages 4 & 12, you can visit 5 attractions for only half the fee! You are entitled to two visits (day & night within 24 hours) up the Space Needle, a visit to the Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour that explains the history, sights, & the magnificent view of downtown Seattle, and a choice each of a visit to the EMP Museum or Woodland Park Zoo, and The Pacific Science Center or The Museum of Flight. You are also entitled to $5 off admission of the Chihuly Garden & Glass adjacent to the Space Needle, reduced fares for special cruises and special exhibitions at Woodland Park Zoo, The Pacific Science Center and The Museum of Flight. A CityPASS works for 9 consecutive days starting with the use of your first ticket (each ticket only accounts for one visit to each attraction, unless otherwise stated). $64 for adult, $44 for children (ages 4-12).
- Ride the Ducks of Seattle, ☎ . Seattle Center: Daily 9.20AM to 7 PM; Westlake Center: Weekdays 10 AM to 6 PM, Weekends 10 AM to 7 PM. The most popular agency for city tour in Seattle. A 90 minute ride on an amphibious World War II vehicle (yes, part of the ride is on Lake Union). Not for those with a limited sense of humor (the style is a bit over-the-top). Board from its Seattle Center location (5th Avenue & Broad Street) or Westlake Center. Adults $28, Children $17.
- Argosy Cruises, 1101 Alaskan Way, Pier 55 Seattle, WA 98101. Harbor cruises vary by season.. The boating company also holds special dinner & sightseeing cruise events. But the most common tour visitors take is the hour-long journey on Elliott Bay, cruising right to the downtown limits to have you a throughout view of Seattle, not just the Space Needle and skyscrapers, but the freight harbor as well. Prices are various according to your itinerary ($23.75 for harbor cruise).
- Seattle Underground Tour. Takes you underground in Pioneer Square. 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. Eventually the sidewalks were raised as well, and people traveled between the second story of the rebuilt buildings. The Seattle Underground was born!
The first & probably the only thing people know when the word "Seattle" is mentioned, is most likely the Space Needle. No longer the tallest building in Seattle, but it still has a wonderful 360 degree view of both the city and the waters & mountains surrounding it. It is better to visit during the dusk, a perfect combination of the orange western horizon of the Olympics, and the violet sky above the Cascade mountains. Down the tower at the Seattle Center, the Chihuly Garden & Glass is just next door and takes art from glasses to the next level, and the Pacific Science Center has an IMAX theater and a decent science display. On the other side of the park is the EMP Museum, a museum celebrating Seattle's vibrant music scenes, the science fiction recreated in iconic movies & TV shows, and the pop culture once trending in the US & around the world.
Downtown, the Pike Place Market is Seattle's largest tourist area. Home to the famous fish market, the original Starbucks Coffee shop, traditional produce, and a dedicated lane each for florists & small nibbles. Do not forget to visit Post Alley just a block as you walk away from the shore, as there are hidden secrets of food & souvenirs. You can go downstairs to the harbor to attend the Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour to take a photo on the bay overlooking Seattle, or get up the Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57 for an unprecedented view of the skyline & the waterfront.
Seattle is home to a number of top-notch museums. Downtown is home to the renowned Seattle Art Museum, which displays an good overview and assortment of art from around the world. In the Central District is the Seattle Asian Art Museum, an off-shoot of the Seattle Art Museum which focuses on Chinese & Japanese Art, but includes works as far away as India. Additionally, The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience is in Chinatown/International 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, the Experience Music Project, a Rock & Roll museum with a special Jimi Hendrix exhibit, and the Science Fiction Museum Home of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Both the Museum of History and Industry and the Center for Wooden Boats are located on the southern point of South Lake Union.
Downtown is home to the popular Seattle Aquarium. The University District holds the Henry Art Gallery, one of the biggest contemporary art galleries in Washington. Also on the university campus is 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.
Most of the architectural attractions in Seattle are located in a small portion of the downtown area, easily traversed on foot. Among the highlights are the Rem Koolhaas/OMA designed Central Library, a unique, contemporary building with an enormous glass-fronted atrium; the Experience Music Project designed to resemble Jimi Hendrix's smashed guitar done in a manner only Frank Gehry could conceive; the Smith Tower, an Art Deco skyscraper which has an observation deck and is Seattle's oldest skyscraper; the Columbia Center, the tallest building in the Pacific Northwest and one with its own observation deck; the Seattle City Hall, designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Bassetti Architects, with its roof garden, designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. and Swift & Company; and the new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, designed by NBBJ, with its 12 acre garden also designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd.
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.
Parks and outdoors
Seattle is peppered with parks, from small urban squares to large forested areas with views of the Puget Sound. Seattle's park system was designed by the Olmstead Brothers firm in Seattle's early days, park planners across the country 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. It is this legacy that makes Seattle one of the most livable spots in the country.
Seattle Center, where Space Needle is hoisted at, is actually a park itself and has places of interest of Seattle, such as the Pacific Science Center and the Chihuly Garden & Glass. Kobe Bell and the mural beside it, and International Fountain are small but should not be missed either. To the west is a strip of park called Myrtle Edwards Park and north of it, Centennial Park, where despite its location, you will never hear cars honking as you are sleeping on the grass, jogging on the trail, or admire the unobstructed view of the water bodies, or try Kinnear Park across the street for a slightly more louder option.
Up north on the Queen Anne Hill is Kerry Park, where professional photographers would pick a spot and take the most photographed view of Seattle. Up the hill again and you will see Mt. Pleasant Cemetery where the icon of martial arts, Bruce Lee resides to his eternal rest. Towards the ship canal, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks takes you to a salmon's journey for breeding season to the freshwater. You can even see the stream of thousands of salmons during the summer!
A place to see trees from around the world are at the Washington Park Arboretum on the east. Enter the Japanese Garden (closes in winter) for $6 to enjoy a traditional Japanese festival, if available, or look at the cool plants.
On the north side of the ship canal, overlooking Lake Union, the Gasworks Park on the north side is the typical view for the 4th of July fireworks or kite flying, and nearby offers a wide range of water activities in the more hospitable waters, such as kayaking or canoeing. For a more laid back and Zen atmosphere, the Kubota Garden at Rainier Beach in south Seattle has streams & falls, ponds, rock outcroppings, and exceptionally rich and mature collection of plants. If you are into animals, head to the Woodland Park Zoo with realistic uncaged habitats of them. To end the night with a bonfire (must book with the city government to secure a spot), head to either the Golden Gardens Park up north for a relaxing atmosphere or Alki Beach Park at the west coast of Seattle for a better view of the city. Wildlife is highly preserved at Discovery Park, west of Queen Anne Hill.
Yes, Seattle is scenic enough to be seen from the air. With the blue waters & white mountains in its immediate vicinity, it's a one of a kind experience you won't get at other cities in the US.
- Kenmore Air, 950 Westlake Ave N, ☎ . For 20 minutes, you'll be seated by the window and be narrated by the pilot as the airplane takes you above the stadiums, the hills, the waters, the buildings, and much more of Seattle. Tour begins & ends at the west side of Lake Union. You must reserve to enjoy this opportunity. $99.50 per person.
- Individual listings can be found in Seattle's district articles
Most of the festival in Seattle takes place in summer, the only long stretch of time when Seattle has bright and blue sky.
- 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. But don't expect your average box office movies to fill up the silver screen! Unlike the Oscars, you are feel free to walk in (but pay at the theatre of course) and watch what you want and vote for which movie is the best, they will get the Golden Space Needle trophy for their respective categories.
- Seafair, everywhere. July-early August. Seattle's biggest festival that signifies 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 global version of Bumbershoot. 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. Eat till you explode with the best delicacies from Seattle.
- Hempfest, Myrtle Edwards Park. mid-August for two days. It's 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 a demonstration for the political reform and the legalization of marijuana. Possession & consumption (not in public) is now legal in the state of Washington. Police look the other way during Hempfest, and use 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 of primarily 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) is a really fun drunken time all over Fremont. Vendors, bad live music and eclectic crowds at the bars makes for an interesting time. Friends who live in Fremont become especially valuable for a place to crash.
- Seattle PrideFest, Seattle Center. A weekend in June or July. It boasts itself as the biggest gay pride festival in the USA. Food carts, beer gardens, adult theme performances, and the awaited pride parade.
- Chinese Festivals, International District. Lunar New Year (January/February), Dragon Fest (July), Night Market (late summer). Roads are closed. Walk down the streets, see stalls & performances at the main stage, and don't forget to eat as much for cheap!
Most of the activity of water sports take place in Lake Union, as there are still plenty of people watching you for your safety. Most parts of the lake, especially the north & middle part is playable.
If you have no idea what rowing is like, take the class at Lake Union Crew. When you think you are good enough, you can rent a sailboat at Center For Wooden Boats or a kayak at Northwest Outdoor Center.
You can also kayak or do water sports at Lake Washington, but go there at your own risk. The lake is thrice the size of Lake Union and there will not be many people watching for your safety.
In terms of professional sports teams, Seattle is an underrated city! 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. Not much has been known about their performances or even who they are, if you ask at any other parts of the country!
Nonetheless, in the city itself, CenturyLink Field has been always packed to the gills by the 12th men (a name to the loud devout Seahawks fans that ultimately affects the gameplay) watching the National Football League team Seattle Seahawks playing in the fall & winter season, while soccer fans can witness the Seattle Sounders FC games in summer. Safeco Field next door is home to the Major League Baseball team Seattle Mariners.
Meanwhile, Seattle has one of the strongest followings for women's teams in sports traditionally played by men. The Seattle Storm plays WNBA basketball at KeyArena in Seattle Center, while Seattle Reign FC has just been recently established together with the National Women's Soccer League. In minor league (men's) sports, the Seattle Thunderbirds major junior hockey team (players age 16 to 20) plays in Kent.
College teams has also made a proud presence in the town. The Washington Huskies plays basketball & football at its own arena. 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 playing at Husky Stadium every odd-numbered year. Seattle University also has the Seattle Redhawks, a second NCAA Division I team, but it has a much lower profile than U-Dub.
- A place equivalent to New York's Broadway is the 5th Avenue Theatre on 5th Avenue, for its namesake, between Union & University Street. There is only one theater for this though.
- Concert by classical orchestras and home to the Seattle Symphony is at Benaroya Hall on 3rd Avenue and University Street. There are two auditoriums, Taper (2,500), and Nordstrom (500).
- Common performing arts, the Seattle Opera & Pacific Northwest Ballets perform at the McCaw Hall at Seattle Center.
- Other halls such as Paramount Theatre at 9th Avenue & Pine Street and Moore Theatre at 2nd Avenue houses common performing arts and sometimes Broadway performances.
- Big concerts by world famous artists usually take place at KeyArena at Seattle Center.
The University of Washington maintains its main campus in Seattle, and a smaller branch both in Bothell (north of Seattle) and Tacoma. It's the biggest source of employment to the city. Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, and the Art Institute of Seattle are the private universities you can look into.
Community colleges offer classes should what you need is just for fun. North Seattle College has the most diverse major and has focus on machinery, ventilation, and even wristwatch making! Other colleges within the same system are Seattle Central College or South Seattle College. A few that do not like the crowded city situation would also choose Green River at the south, as well as Shoreline and Edmonds at the north.
A huge influx of students, especially international students, are looking into community colleges in Seattle and the surrounding areas in order to finish their high school diploma, and to save money during the first two years of undergraduate study there before finishing their final two in a university.
Seattle is starting to be peeked by businessmen as a place to start their business, after the saturated amount of companies at the Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area makes every operational cost exorbitant compared to this city. Part of the booming growth in Seattle is driven by tech companies Amazon & Microsoft, the aircraft manufacturing company, Boeing, coffee expert Starbucks & warehouse grocer Costco. Your biggest opportunity for work here though, comes from startup companies. Recruitment is generally easy, but while you cannot expect similar wages and work environment to the giant companies (their place can be as small as your garage!), they do offer compensations, such as free haircut, lunch, apartment rent with one or more working partners, or carpool. Demand for technology jobs, especially programmers, are constantly rising, perhaps too many too soon, the job market hasn't been able to fill up all the positions!
Another sector to look into is health. Seattle is one of the fittest cities in the USA and nutritionists, doctors, and nurses are in need to take care of the growing population. Biotechnology companies are also on the growth.
The hospitality business starts to grow in midst of travelers looking for alternative destinations on the West Coast & considering to go to Seattle, albeit at a glacial pace than the technology moguls.
One good reason to work in Seattle, or the rest of Washington state, is your income is 100% tax free!
- Individual listings can be found in Seattle's district articles
Single use plastic bags are illegal, and stores are required to charge customers 5 cents for a paper bag. It's recommended to bring your own reusable tote bag.
A sales tax of 9.5% applies for all purchases but most groceries, newspaper, and prescription drugs.
- The Pike Place Market (not "Pike Market" or "Pike's Market") in Downtown is an attraction in itself, known for its seafood and produce stands. (Pike Place Fish, at the main entrance to the market by "Rachel" the bronze piggy bank, is the one where they throw the fish around, but there are several other seafood stands in the market.) 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 summer months, Pike Place Market is far from a tourist trap; area residents and downtown workers regularly shop at the market.
- The Westlake retail corridors are at Pike, Pine, and Union Street between 3rd and 5th Avenue. Wide malls with big fashion chains dominating. Make sure you have strong feet to walk.
- Belltown: This northern portion of the downtown area has a plethora of posh designer art galleries, fashion, and accessory workshops.
- The Pioneer Square area is the cheaper counterpart to Belltown. Accessories here are more eccentric.
- Ballard: Most shopping options are at Ballard Avenue NW between 20th & 22nd Avenue NW. If big brands aren't your interest, head here for stylish urban & hip fashion.
- Capitol Hill: Most options are near the Interstate 5 (E Pike & Pine Street, Broadway and Melrose Ave). Filled with mid-range fashion options and a little bit of everything — after all it's the hippest district of Seattle! Here lies 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 the center of antiquity & accessories. Shops are at Fremont Pl N and N 35th Street.
- International District: Grocery, herbal medicines, or everything else Asian style. You can also buy handy Japanese kitchenware & other items at the infamous Uwajimaya or the 1-dollar shop Daiso by its back door.
- North Seattle: Thrift stores scattered through the area, bulk grocery shopping at Aurora Ave N, fashion at Northgate (America's first designated mall).
- Queen Anne Hill: Mostly houses, but a small commercial area at the top of the hill (Queen Anne Ave N between W Galer St & W McGraw St). Usually a place to indulge for a body treatment.
- South Lake Union: A long strip of retail area at Broadway that connects to Capitol Hill. Right at the south of the Lake, retails of every genre have just started building up. REI at Broadway has outdoor gear that you can put to the test right after you buy it.
- University District: Clothing and thrift stores for the independent & young at University Way. Upscale options at the open-air University Village at 25th Ave NE. The University Bookstore is open to the public!
- West Seattle: Head to California Ave SW for a more laid back & contemporary clothing option.
- Individual listings can be found in Seattle's district articles
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
|Budget||up to $10.99|
|Splurge||more than $20.00|
There is always something for everyone in a big city, if you are willing to venture around the corner. On this corner of the US, you will be shocked to see how diverse the options are, from Chicago's deep dish pizza to Indian curry, and most of them are either self-run or local chains. If you want it cheap without the cost of taste, look for small, hole-in-the-wall establishments, especially the one that has people lining up. Or go multicultural: a hearty meal at a teriyaki stand, for example, can cost less than $8, and a few offer free drinks! With that said, many still accept cash as the only method of payment.
Seattle's harbor scene, its proximity to Alaska & the waters of the Pacific Ocean, makes it a hospitable place for any catch of the day to enter the city and the continental US as a whole. Look for salmons during the late summer months as options are abundant, especially the red (sockeye) salmon & prices are among the cheapest on the West Coast. Shellfish are the prized resources of Seattle & Puget Sound as a whole, because the cool, clean waters provide some of the most optimum habitats in the world. 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 after the town of its first commercial harvesting, is a popular seafood prized for its sweet, tender flesh and high ratio of meat. The crab 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 Alaska's portion of the Pacific Ocean, has a more frequent presence than the rest of the lower 48.
If you are in for small nibbles, there are donut shops and self-run bakeries virtually everywhere, and some offers coffee to help cope with hunger in the cold weather.
The mild climate also supports many types of fresh produce to sprout on Washington state. Farmers' markets are the norm at least one weekend in a month, especially at residential areas. They usually have guaranteed better quality & quantity to stock up rather than buying them at supermarkets. Take the chance to go there too to taste the Pacific Northwest local delicacies and experience the local culture. When apples are in season by October, take a scrumptious bite of freshness to see why Washington's apples are shipped all across the world.
Seattle also boasts a wide variety of Asian cuisine, from East Asia to the South. Family-run and off-the-wall teriyaki, ramen, sushi, and Chinese restaurants are also abundant, scattered throughout the whole area.
Eating options by district
- Downtown and Pioneer Square: Cafés, high end restaurants.
- Pike Place Market: Light bites in front of the market, heavier options at Post Alley. A lot have customers lining up long.
- Belltown: Restaurants of all levels of budget & all cuisine. Most options for downtown dining are here, and houses some of the best-reviewed restaurants.
- Waterfront: Obviously seafood.
- Ballard: Mostly European, some Mexican. Up north at Greenwood & Phinney Ridge, Mediterranean & Asian.
- Capitol Hill & Central District: Hippy cafés & bars. Many Ethiopian & Thais, and many more you can think of. Many of the restaurants visited by celebrities or best-reviewed are here.
- Fremont & Wallingford: An increasing number of American and world cuisines. Off-the-wall establishments that constantly has customers queuing outside.
- International District: Dim-sum, communal Chinese & Japanese restaurants, Vietnamese on its backside (other side of I-5).
- North Seattle: Family-run Asian dining at a scattered extent.
- Queen Anne Hill: A little bit of everything near the Seattle Center, few on the hill.
- South Seattle: Diverse ethnic restaurants near train stations.
- University District: A myriad of budget and international restaurants.
- West Seattle: Elegant mid-range to high-end choices, mostly European, seafood, and steak. Many offer full bar with them.
- Individual listings can be found in Seattle's district articles
Few, if any, American cities can challenge Seattleites' love of coffee. Seattle's love of coffee is perhaps signified best by Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee (now owned by Starbucks), and Tully's as they each have expanded all over the country and world, but locals aren't satisfied by these internationally-recognized chains alone, evidenced by hundreds of good locally owned coffeehouses. The best places to look for coffee is at Capitol Hill or Queen Anne Hill as they take this matter VERY seriously.
Microbreweries and beer in general 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 like their coffee cousins, 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, of course, at Pike Place Market, are other popular local brewers. To look for these options, head over to the south district.
In Washington, bars have a full liquor license, while taverns are restricted to beer, wine and cider. Many Seattle bars have 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! These drinking options are primarily easy to be found at the Belltown portion of downtown (south of Denny Way), West Seattle, Fremont, Ballard Avenue, and Capitol Hill. Lighter drinking options are mainly at University District. The good news is Washington state is one of the last states that allows all alcoholic drinks to be sold openly at supermarkets, so buy here if you don't like the party atmosphere, for a drink on your own, or just to buy it cheap.
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 2-3 hours away on the other side of the Cascades in Washington Wine Country. You can find local vintages in local groceries, wine shops, restaurants, and wine bars such as Bottlehouse and Purple.
Like any other city with huge Asian populations, bubble tea or boba milk tea shops has been recently popping up, a popular resort among young people. They are basically tea with milk and/or other flavors & a-must-have (but substitutable) tapioca balls. Many also offer Asian snacks & heavy but moderate in quantity delicacies. If you are thirsty and hungry, and budget is your main concern, this can be a good option. Most of them can be found at University District and a few at International District.
- Individual listings can be found in Seattle's district articles
Unfortunately, considering the size of the city, there are only a few hotels standing, thus rooms are more on the expensive side. Most sleeping options are at Downtown and comprises of mostly mid-range or high-end hotels. Other options, especially budget & hostels can be found near the Seattle Center, the University District, International District or Capitol Hill. There are little to none sleeping options at Fremont, Ballard, and Queen Anne Hill. Aurora Ave N used to be a hype area for transit travelers to the North, but it is deteriorating after Interstate 5 was built, thus while the motels are still standing, it is sketchy who stays there — stay at your own risk!
An alternative is a train ride away down south in Tukwila, or near SeaTac airport, as there are plenty more hotels to choose from for all kinds of rates. You can also find more options for hotels across the I-90 bridge to Bellevue or other towns on the other side of Lake Washington, such as Kirkland, Issaquah, or Renton.
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 too have been unused, most of them are in the verge of being taken down. You will pretty much need a cellphone to make calls here. Networks from major telecom companies are brilliant at most points in the city, with the exception of the downtown transit tunnels.
Free Wi-Fi can be found at all Seattle Public libraries, and is available to users with Wi-Fi enabled laptops and wireless devices. The City of Seattle provides free Wi-Fi access in the Columbia City and University District areas as part of a pilot project. The project also provides coverage in four downtown Seattle parks: Occidental, Freeway, Westlake and Victor Steinbrueck, as well as the City Hall lobby area. The Seattle Center also provides free wireless internet in the Center House building. Some of the Metro and Sound Transit commuter buses 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 AT&T internet access points). 4G LTE coverage is well covered by most, if not all, major telecom companies, but deteriorating the closer you are to the mountains.
If you or someone around you is in an emergency, especially life-threatening ones, call 9-1-1 from your cellphone or any pay phone at no cost.
Statistically, the number of crimes in Seattle is similar to what you would expect in any major city in the USA, but still not as much as its bigger counterparts. By & large, as long as you use some common sense, you are unlikely to be the target of any crime. Usually, you will be safe sitting (not standing) in the public bus with plenty of passengers or near the driver if there are only a number of them. Auto break-ins and theft are a problem in the city. Never leave valuables visible in a car, and always lock your car doors. Be wary of the rising trend of smart phone theft.
Places to Watch Your Back
- Waterfront When parking or walking under the viaduct or on Alaskan Way always keep your valuables close and hide anything in your car and lock it! A generally safe area but be careful.
- Aurora Ave & Lake City Way Never go here at night unless you have to & you have company. Aurora used to be the US 99 motel strip before I-5 was built; when travelers moved out to the Interstate, various sketchy characters moved in to Aurora Avenue's declining motels.
- South Seattle, Rainier Valley, Capitol Hill: be wary of gang & drug related violence. Avoid walking anywhere south of Yesler Way at night as it is prone for shooting incidents
- International Blvd Okay only if you are at the Southcenter mall or hotels near SeaTac airport
- University District: Never leave your valuables visible in your car or flash them when you are out and about.
- SODO Stay out of here at night.
- Downtown, especially between Pine & Pike Street and Pioneer Square At night, be careful of drug dealers, beggars & the homeless.
Drivers in Seattle are typically nice but indecisive, but as long as you're careful as a pedestrian, there is not a high risk of getting hit. Most drivers will stop if you're crossing the street, as such an action is required by the state law. Cyclists should be extra wary of traffic and opened doors of parked cars, especially downtown.
Downtown Seattle has sizable population of homeless men and women (suburbs on the east enacted laws which forced homeless people 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 especially careful after dark in some areas around the downtown core.
Except during late spring and summer, when the weather forecast says sunny, the morning often starts with a fog before the afternoon sunshine scours it. Be careful if you are driving as visibility is often near zero at early morning depending on location. If this condition persists for more than a week, an Air Stagnation Advisory is often issued, meaning all the gas emissions made by whatever object is in the city (and the moisture that makes the fog) will be trapped, inhaled by the population, although it is usually not severe other than an isolated smell of burning wood.
In the case if it rains, do not attempt to speed up or drive in a puddle of water, this is called hydroplaning and can cause your car to skid and rollover because the tires lose traction. Where a speed limit is posted for a designated road or section, it is recommended to go 10 to 15 mph slower.
If you are going to the mountains, apply chains on your tires or change to traction tires as snow frequently happens, but they must be taken off by mid-spring or you will face a fine. If it does snow in Seattle, it is better not to drive, the city is not ready for such an event and motor vehicles are a moving hazard as they are stuck, skidding or rolling down the hill, especially at the steep Queen Anne Hill.
LGBT travelers should have no problem traveling into Seattle. The city is mostly liberal, thus tolerant enough. There is even an unofficially dedicated capital of gay pride of Seattle: the Capitol Hill. However any public display of affection (PDA) is often frowned upon and can result in unwanted stares.
As long as there are no extreme weather events, Seattle is a hospitable place to live. The parks have a wide span of jogging tracks & fitness centers are abundant, making Seattle one of the fittest cities in the US.
Temperatures can get to the extreme during the summer, there is always at least an instance where temperatures hover above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, although the fact that it is not humid is a relief. Drink plenty of liquid to keep yourself hydrated and do not leave anybody inside a car.
When it rains, Seattleites do not use umbrellas as the drizzle is constant, sometimes accompanied with wind, and its inconvenience when they take the bus. Make sure to pack up a hoody jacket or poncho as the locals usually wear. During the long stretch of mild (40 or even 50 degrees) and dry days, smog sometimes cover the skies of Puget Sound after 3-5 days of such conditions, as there is no way for the pollutants & moisture to be scoured out of the area. If an Air Stagnation Advisory or Burn Ban is issued, wear a mask, although it is usually not severe other than an isolated smell of burning wood. And speaking of burning wood, do not make fire unless it is your only source of heat. Head to the ski resorts on the mountains for a day with 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 ventilations.
Tap water is safe to drink and is among the best quality in the United States, from undisturbed & uncontaminated water sources fed by snow melts on the Cascade mountains.
- The Seattle Times ($0.50 daily, $1.50 Sundays) is the only remaining daily newspaper in the Seattle area and covers local, national and international news.
- The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (free, online only) has ended its print edition, but still maintains local reporters and an online presence.
- The Seattle Weekly (free, published Wednesday) is one of many free weeklies that are published in the Seattle area. The Weekly has a longstanding reputation for in-depth coverage of arts and local politics.
- The Stranger (free, published Thursday) is an alternative weekly newspaper noted for its social commentary, political opinion, arts, comics, music coverage, and local news items.
- Publicola (free, online only) is an online only but well read blog covering local politics and events.
- Real Change ($2.00, published weekly) is a newspaper mostly written and produced by homeless people, sold by homeless vendors on street corners and outside grocery stores.
There are also several ethnic newspapers including Northwest Asian Weekly, and numerous neighborhood newspapers including the North Seattle Journal, and the West Seattle Blog. The University of Washington also publishes The Daily of the University of Washington.
Seattle is in the top 20 of the largest media market in the US, thus virtually every genre you can think of has its own radio station:
- KEXP-FM (90.3) = public station, alternative & indie rock
- KQMV (Movin 92.5) = Top 40
- KUBE (93.3) = Hip hop
- KJR-FM (95.7) = classic hits
- KIRO-FM (97.3) = news & talk
- KOMO-FM (97.7) = news
- KING-FM (98.1) = classical
- KKWF (Wolf 100.7) = Country
- KPLZ (Star 101.5) = Hot Adult Contemporary
- KCMS (Spirit 105.3) = Christian
- KIRO (710 AM) = Sports
- KMIA (1210 AM) = Spanish Latino
- KWYZ (1230 AM) = Korean
Seattle is one of the largest television markets in the US, with all big five English (ABC, NBC, CBS, CW, FOX), five Spanish (Univision, Telemundo, Azteca, MundoFOX), and independent networks represented. All big five except CW, and Univision have local news, weather, and sports alongside syndicated & network primetime TV shows. You can also stream on their website when they broadcast local news.
- KOMO= Channel 4 (ABC)
- KING = Channel 5 (NBC)
- KIRO = Channel 7 (CBS)
- KCTS = Channel 9 (PBS)
- KSTW = Channel 11 (The CW). Does not broadcast local news.
- KCPQ = Channel 13 (FOX). Here is where you watch the Seahawks (Sunday games) and the Sounders playing on TV.
- KTBW = Channel 20 (TBN & other Christian networks)
- KWPX = Channel 33 (ion on sub-channel 1, Telemundo on sub-channel 7)
- KFFV = Channel 44 (Azteca on sub-channel 2, AAT (local Chinese channel) on sub-channel 4, WeatherNation on sub-channel 5)
- KUNS = Channel 50 (Univision on sub-channel 1, MundoFOX on sub-channel 2). Only Univision has local news.
You can also get Canadian television, but over the air coverage is very poor, so a cable subscription may be necessary down south.
Seattle has a large number of primary- and secondary-care medical centers, including the only level 1 trauma center serving Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Montana. Additionally, Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center is the pediatric referral center for those same states.
- UW Medicine The UW Medicine system is operated by the University of Washington. It includes Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, UW Medicine Neighborhood Clinics, Eastside Specialty Center, Hall Health (Student Health Services) and Sports Medicine Clinic.
- Harborview Medical Center, 325 Ninth Ave, +1 206 744-3000. Seattle’s Level 1 trauma center, and the hospital where most critically injured patients are either airlifted or ambulanced. 24-hour Emergency Room, Centers of Emphasis for neurosciences, trauma, burns, reconstruction and rehabilitation, mentally ill and medically vulnerable, and AIDS/STD treatment.
- UW Medical Center, 1959 NE Pacific, +1 206 598-3300. The second hospital component to the UW Medicine system, this hospital is one of the biggest and best teaching hospitals in the country. 24-hour Emergency Room.
- Children's Hospital and Medical Center, 4800 Sand Point Way NE, +1 206 987-2000. Children's Hospital is a private hospital specializing in pediatrics. It is also home to UW's School of Pediatrics. 24-hour pediatric emergency room.
- Swedish Medical Center Swedish Medical Center is a large nonprofit health care provider. It has three main hospital locations and is also affiliated with many other suburban hospitals and clinics. Among the things Swedish is known for are its Cancer, Bariatrics and Heart Institutes. Swedish Hospital will treat all patients who need care, regardless of their ability to pay.
- Swedish Medical Center First Hill, 747 Broadway, +1 206 386-6000. Certified Primary Stroke Care center, 24-hour ER, 24-hour Pediatric ER. This is the Main Swedish Medical Center campus.
- Swedish Medical Center Cherry Hill, 500 17th Ave, +1 206 320-2000. Certified Primary Stroke Care center, 24-hour ER.
- Swedish Medical Center Ballard, 5300 Tallman Ave NW, +1 206 782-2700. 24-Hour ER.
In the event of a medical emergency anywhere in the U.S., dial 911 for free from any phone, including payphones at no cost.
- Belgium, The World Trade Center Seattle, 2200 Alaskan Way Ste 470, ☎ , fax: +1 206 770-7923, e-mail: Seattle@diplobel.org.
- Germany (Honorary), 7853 SE 27th St Ste 180, Mercer Island, ☎ , fax: +1 206 236-5162, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Denmark (Honorary), 6204 E Mercer Way, Mercer Island, ☎ , fax: +1 206 230-0888, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Netherlands (Honorary), Karman Executive Center, Bellevue, ☎ , fax: +1 425-637-3050, e-mail: email@example.com.
If you're staying anywhere near downtown, the state-run ferries hardly seem like "getting out" since they leave from Colman Dock, a pier at the south end of the waterfront, an easy and interesting walk from downtown. Passengers on foot pay $7.50 for the westbound trip; the return to Seattle is free.
- Take the ferry to Bainbridge Island on the Kitsap Peninsula (30 minutes one way).
- Or, take a trip to Bremerton on the Kitsap Peninsula and back, a place as scenic as the Aegean Sea.
- the Fauntleroy Ferry terminal in West Seattle offers service to Vashon Island and Southworth terminal near Port Orchard.
- The County also provides passenger-only Water Taxi service from pier 50 (right next to Colman Dock) to Vashon Island.
Just getting out and driving around the area with no destination in mind can be a great experience, as the Seattle area, like most of the Pacific Northwest, is very scenic. If you'd like more specific destinations, try some of these:
- Everett lies about 25 miles north of Seattle on I-5 and is home to the Boeing factory - a massive building where all of its wide-bodied aircraft are assembled - tours are available.
- Grove of the Patriarchs, in the Ohanapecosh River valley in the southeast part of Mount Rainier National Park, takes you on the short hiking trail through groves of thousand year-old cedars.
- Leavenworth is a Bavarian-style town surrounded by the Cascade mountains.
- The Mountains to Sound Greenway via I-90 is the quickest "escape" from the city into the nearby Cascade mountains.
- North Bend (also out I-90) is the town where parts of the 1990 David Lynch TV series Twin Peaks were filmed, and has the Northwest Railway Museum.
- The North Cascade Loop consists of a two-day minimum round trip over Stevens Pass and the North Cross-state Highway (US 2 and SR 20).
- The Olympic Peninsula features beaches on the Pacific Ocean, Cape Flattery (the extreme northwestern point of the contiguous U.S.), and the only temperate rain forests in the lower 48 states.
- Portland, Oregon is roughly 3 hours away south on I-5. Go here for a more laid back, slower situation, and to shop tax-free (what is stated is what you pay).
- Mount Rainier National Park Just 2 hours south and east from Seattle, this magnificent mountain offers a mosaic of beautiful scenery such as blooming wildflowers, glaciers, crashing waterfalls and the mountain itself.
- Roslyn is also out I-90 (not far past Snoqualmie Pass) and is where the TV series Northern Exposure was filmed and holds festivals of such theme in late July.
- The San Juan Islands is only two hours north on Interstate 5 (exit onto Westbound SR20 in Burlington and follow the signs to the San Juans Ferry).
- Mount St. Helens, 2.5 hours from Seattle, still lefts a breathtaking charm despite its 1980 eruption.
- Snoqualmie Falls, (Snoqualmie, east of Seattle on I-90). A 300 ft high scenic waterfall, easily viewable from two viewpoints.
- Spokane, a 5-hour drive eastbound on I-90 to the major city of eastern Washington.
- Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is 3 hours (plus border security) north of Seattle on I-5.
- Whidbey Island is a short drive away north on Interstate 5 (follow the signs for Mukilteo Ferry) and is a charming place with quaint towns.
An equivalent to Denver but far fewer in number, Seattle is the gateway to winter resorts on the Cascade mountains. Drive for one hour to the resorts to enjoy everything from leisure snowball fights to downhill skis, a perfect escape if you are bored with Seattle's plain rain. Winter sports season is generally October-May, depending on how much snow there is.
- Snoqualmie Pass - Summit and Alpental resorts an hour east on Interstate 90.
- Stevens Pass - A resort about two hours East of Seattle on highway 2
- Crystal Mountain at Mount Rainier
- Mount Baker North, near Bellingham.
- Mission Ridge East of Steven's Pass, near Wenatchee.
- White Pass South of Seattle on Highway 12.
- Whistler, British Columbia, Canada - North America's top rated ski resort, about a four hour drive north of Seattle past Vancouver on the Sea to Sky Highway.
|Routes through Seattle|
|Vancouver (via ) ← Shoreline ←||N S||→ Tukwila → Portland|
|END ←||W E||→ Mercer Island → Spokane|
|Everett ← Shoreline ←||N S||→ Tukwila → Tacoma|
|END ←||N S||→ White Center → Tacoma|
|END ←||W E||→ Bellevue → Redmond|
|END ←||SW NE||→ Jct W → Bothell → Monroe|