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Seattle, Washington sits at one of the most beautiful spots in the United States. Occupying a narrow isthmus between the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, it is the biggest city in the Pacific Northwest, with four million people calling the area home. Seen from above, carpets of evergreen trees, pristine blue waters, and snowy white mountains surround the downtown's metallic skyscrapers, earning the city its nickname The Emerald City.

On the ground, you will find a vibrant and cosmopolitan city. Next to the progressive downtown and the freewheeling feel of Capitol Hill, you can find a laid-back atmosphere in the districts to the north and ethnically diverse neighborhoods to the south. The many restaurants, coffee shops and microbreweries are worth indulging in after a day spent strolling through the city's many parks and beaches or admiring the arts and architecture. And just outside the hectic city are snow-covered mountains, evergreen forests, and stunning coastline to explore. Even for the bold and the adventurous, it's hard to get enough of Seattle.


Most visitors to Seattle tend not to venture beyond Downtown, the International District, and the Seattle Center; which is a shame, since neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, West Seattle, and those north of the ship canal are where much of the fun actually is! Seattleites usually describe their city in terms of neighborhoods. Although the boundaries of the neighborhoods are not always clear, there's usually a proud feature that represents each neighborhood.

While there are formally more than thirty districts, this guide has been broken down into the following more digestible list for a visitor's convenience:

Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods[edit]

Overview of Seattle districts
Seattle's commercial and financial core, home to the waterfront, the Pike Place Market, and some of the most stunning architecture in the city. The northern area of Belltown has a collection of many of the city's best, if not most expensive, restaurants and bars.
Pioneer Square-International District
The oldest neighborhoods of Seattle, containing classic buildings, art galleries, innumerable restaurants, and the Chinatown.
Queen Anne-South Lake Union
Perched on the hills northwest of Downtown, here you will find wealthy neighborhoods peppered with panoramic parks. On the area's south is the newly developed commercial center of South Lake Union (home of the rapidly growing Amazon headquarters), and the Seattle Center with its Space Needle.
Capitol Hill-Central District
The nightlife and retail core of Pike-Pine at the west meets the quiet, diverse residences of Madison Park at the east. This area is also the gay capital of Seattle.

North of the Lake Washington Ship Canal[edit]

A mostly residential area, home to the canal locks. The area is known for its Scandinavian heritage, chic boutiques, and the thriving historic Downtown Ballard.
Fremont and Wallingford
The self-proclaimed "center of the universe", a bohemian (though rapidly gentrifying) area noted for its public art.
University District (commonly called the "U District")
Home to the sprawling University of Washington campus, numerous inexpensive eateries, and plenty of entertainment.
North Seattle
The city's mostly residential and gently gentrifying northernmost tier, bordering Shoreline. It contains many of the largest and prettiest parks of Seattle. Noticeable commercial activity is present in the Northgate, Aurora, and Lake City neighborhoods.

South of Downtown and I-90[edit]

Continuing south of Downtown past the sports stadiums, this industrial district contains the well-hidden but thriving Georgetown neighborhood.
South Seattle
A mostly residential area bordering Lake Washington, served by light rail and home to Jefferson and Seward Parks.
West Seattle
A scenic residential area with great parks, ample beaches and wonderful vistas over the harbor and Downtown.

While in Seattle you will likely hear reference to the "Eastside", which refers to the region east of Lake Washington comprising the suburbs of Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond.



Like the rest of the United States, the Seattle area used to be home to Indian settlements. The first humans are believed to have entered the region nearly 4,000 years ago. Englishman George Vancouver mapped the area in the 1790s, but the first white settlers didn't arrive until 1851. Luther Collins led a party of settlers to the mouth of the Duwamish River (in what is today southern Seattle), followed shortly by a party led by the more notable Arthur A. Denny of Chicago, who settled at Alki Point in West Seattle. Confrontations between the original settlers initially flared, only to die out as the groups settled together on the Elliott Bay. The area was then named Seattle by David Maynard, in honor of Chief Si'ahl of the Duwamish & Suquamish tribes, and later officially established as a city in 1869.

By the 1880s, development of a modern city came 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 came alive again in 1903 with the Klondike Gold Rush, when Seattle served as the departure city for miners bound for Alaska and the Yukon. During this boom time, hills were flattened for development and the Lake Washington Ship Canal was created.

The city's economy slowed down again during the Great Depression and World War II, but experienced a renewed fervor with the establishment of the aircraft company Boeing and the occurrence of the 1962 World's Fair, which opened the gates for modernization of the city. Heavy dependence on Boeing took an economic toll on the city during the 1970s oil crisis, but Microsoft's move from Albuquerque to the Seattle area further promoted the economic vitality of Seattle. Soon,, Nintendo of America, T-Mobile, Starbucks, and numerous biotech companies also established their headquarters here, bringing an influx of population growth and money into the area. Today, the Seattle metropolitan area's wealth and its four million inhabitants (more than half of the population of Washington State) make it the economic powerhouse of the Pacific Northwest and a city of huge importance for the entire United States.


Seattle is historically a very diverse city and multiculturalism is seen as a virtue. Whites make up about 70% of the population, while more than a tenth of Seattlelites are of Asian descent. English is spoken virtually everywhere in the city but there are ethnic areas in South Seattle where Vietnamese and Tagalog are also commonly spoken, as well as Chinese and Japanese in the International District. The ZIP code 98118 in South Seattle is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the entire United States!

Being a very politically left-wing part of the country, Seattle has one of the most sprawling LGBT communities in the US, second only to San Francisco. The Capitol Hill area, east of downtown, is the place for LGBT-friendly business and bars, as well as a resource center. A large PrideFest takes place annually at the Seattle Center, along with preceding events such as a Pride Parade.

Locals have long talked of the Seattle Freeze, referring to the cold politeness of residents. The theory is that while they are very polite and warm on first interaction, they are actually reserved, and interactions rarely lead to real acts of friendship (an invitation to dinner, personal conversations, etc.). The origin is obscure, but it is mostly assumed to be from Scandinavian immigrants that brought their home country's customs here, including this equivalent to introversion. Expect to have to make all the "first moves" to meet people here.

Residents' shyness also extends to anger and annoyance. Locals often make fun of themselves for their passive aggressive culture, where even in the most upsetting circumstances they will retain their polite nature.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°F) 47 49 53 58 64 69 74 76 68 60 51 45
Nightly lows (°F) 36 38 40 43 48 53 56 56 53 48 42 38
Precipitation (in) 5.1 3.7 3.3 2.2 1.7 1.4 0.7 0.9 1.6 3.0 5.1 5.4

See Seattle's 7 day forecast

A common stereotype of Seattle is that the sky is always grey, rainy, and depressing. But it may surprise you that rain is virtually absent in late spring through early fall, making Seattle an excellent place to spend summer. It's warm and comfortable, with little to moderate humidity and temperatures averaging in the upper 70s (about 25°C), though sometimes rising to the 80s and even 90s (above 30°C). Furthermore, because of Seattle's high latitude, the sky is bright from around 4:30AM to 10PM during the summer months, giving you ample daylight for outdoor activities.

During all other seasons, the sky above Seattle is often murky, grim, rainy and breezy, with occasional days of sun. It can be dry but cold, or mild but rainy. Even in the case of dry weather, the morning typically starts with fog that usually vanishes by midday. Despite its location as the northernmost big city in the U.S., winters in Seattle are not as harsh as those east of the Cascades. Marine air from the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean moderate Seattle's climate, so that most precipitation falls as rain and little as snow. However, on occasion a snowstorm will hit, though it's a fairly rare event. The area consists of complex topographical features; thus it can be raining in the city itself but sunny five miles north or snowing in heaps fifteen miles inland to the Cascade foothills, often puzzling weather forecasters.

Despite the Rain City reputation, the main challenge of Seattle's weather is more the overcast skies than the rain, and in fact Seattle has less annual rainfall than most cities east of the Rocky Mountains. Seattle's rain usually comes in a drizzle that lingers for days, which only occasionally strengthens to a full-blown torrent that rarely lasts long.


  • E.L. James' phenomenally popular erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, as well as its sequels (Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed), are set in the Seattle area.
  • The Twilight saga is set in the Forks area of the Olympic Peninsula, but the third installment, Eclipse, is set primarily in a Seattle plagued by murderous vampires.
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, is a New York Times bestseller about a race car driver told from the perspective of his dog, Enzo.

Film and television[edit]

As might be expected, nearly all movies and TV shows set in Seattle feature at least an establishing shot of the Space Needle.

  • Many people will still remember the sitcom Frasier, which ran for 11 seasons until 2004. The show followed the life of the Crane family: Frasier Crane, a radio psychiatrist, his brother Niles, his father Martin, and his assistant, Daphne Moon. Although most of the show was actually filmed in studios in Los Angeles, the 1000th episode was shot for real on the streets of Seattle, the monorail, and the Seattle Center.
  • The medical drama Grey's Anatomy is set in Seattle to distinguish it from its counterpart, Chicago's ER. Fisher Plaza, home to the ABC-affiliated KOMO radio and television station and right across the street from the Space Needle, serves as the exterior of the fictional Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital.
  • It Happened at the World's Fair (Norman Taurog, 1963). Elvis Presley stars as Mike, a cropduster pilot who hitchhikes with his friend Danny (Gary Lockwood) into Seattle during the 1962 World's Fair, where he meets his love interest, played by Joan O'Brien.
  • The Parallax View (Alan J. Pakula, 1974). Released at the height of the political paranoia of the 70s, this film follows an investigative reporter (played by Warren Beatty) who discovers a secretive corporation that recruits political assassins. There's a lot of excellent Seattle imagery in this film, and the movie is well-remembered for its opening assassination scene that takes place atop the Space Needle.
  • Singles (Cameron Crowe, 1992). A romantic comedy about two young couples experiencing rocky love while living in a Seattle apartment block. The film was particularly noted for its grunge soundtrack, coming on the heels of Seattle's grunge music boom. The central coffee shop in the film is at the now-closed OK Hotel in Pioneer Square, and the apartment used in the movie is at the northwest corner of E. Thomas St & 19th Ave E.
  • Sleepless In Seattle (Nora Ephron, 1993). Tom Hanks plays Sam Baldwin, a widower father searching for comfort in Seattle after the loss of his wife. After his young child calls a radio station for help, a woman (Meg Ryan) develops an attraction to Sam. Sam Baldwin's houseboat is set on Lake Union, which is worth a visit for fans of the movie.


Although Seattle may be more well-known for grunge, it has had a long, diverse and tolerant music history from early on, including a politically radical American folk scene in the 1920s to a thriving post-war jazz scene that boomed in many clubs throughout the area.

Grunge was heavily influenced by the counterculture music scene that dominated Seattle from the mid-1970s through the 1980s, with such noted acts as a gay glam theater group called Ze Whiz Kids and bands like The Telepaths, The Beakers, and Red Dress. Seattle also has another musical claim to fame in native son Jimi Hendrix, although he found his success in England; nevertheless, this hasn't stopped Seattle from erecting a statue of him in Capitol Hill and devoting an entire section to Hendrix at the Experience Music Project in the Seattle Center.

Grunge didn't really emerge until the 1980s and was a combination of punk and metal promoted by such notable Seattle-based groups like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. The genre emerged and slowly grew through the mid-1980s before exploding to international fame in 1991 with the release of Nirvana's breakthrough album Nevermind, but its prominence came to a end after singer Kurt Cobain's shocking suicide in 1994.

Local favorite radio station KEXP is a great source for alternative and experimental music and has helped launch the careers of not only grunge bands like Nirvana but more recent local hip hop favorites such as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and the Blue Scholars as well as many other nationally known alternative bands such as Sunny Day Real Estate, Modest Mouse, The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie, Band of Horses, The Head and the Heart and Fleet Foxes.

A view of the Seattle waterfront

Tourist information[edit]

The Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau operates two visitors centers. Both offer maps, brochures, event details, tour bookings, and restaurant reservations:

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

See also: Air travel in the USA

A longer, yet cheaper way to cross Canada

Travelers who are traveling between Eastern Canada and western Canada (especially Vancouver) can make use of the cheaper fares when flying to or from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport before transferring by bus, due to favoritism and high taxes that makes Canadian domestic air travel expensive (see Vancouver: Get In). Allow at least an additional 3 hours for transfer between transportation modes and travel across the border. Remember to have a passport (and visa if necessary) with you because you will be traveling between international borders.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport[edit]

  Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (IATA: SEA), universally nicknamed "Sea-Tac", is located in the city's southern suburbs 14mi/22.5 km south of downtown Seattle. It's a major domestic hub for Alaska, Northwest and West Coast destinations, and also handles many international trans-Pacific routes, as well as some flights to major European airports and Dubai, UAE. In addition, the airport is well-connected to virtually every part of the US, with multiple daily flights to many major US cities, as well as to Alaska and Hawaii. Alaska Airlines uses this airport as its primary hub and is by far the biggest carrier here, with Delta catching up with an international hub here and an increasing number of domestic destinations.

The reliable Central Link light rail connects the University of Washington, the downtown area, and South Seattle to Sea-Tac, with trains running every 10 minutes; the trip to Downtown Seattle costs $3 and takes about 40 minutes. The airport station is connected to the 4th floor of the parking garage (accessible via the pedestrian bridges on the departure level of the terminal); look for the signs to point you in right direction. A taxi will cost about $60-$70 to downtown and take about 30 minutes depending on traffic conditions, or you can take a shuttle bus for around $40-$60 for the same duration. More details about other means of ground transportation can be found in Sea-Tac's separate guide.

Bellingham International Airport[edit]

Located about 90 minutes (94mi/150km) north of Seattle, the much-smaller Bellingham International Airport can be used as a cheaper alternative to fly into Seattle , despite the scarcity of flights. Low-cost carrier Allegiant Air flies to its West Coast hubs year-round from Bellingham (and not from Sea-Tac), in addition to seasonal flights by Alaska Airlines. Bellair Airport offers scheduled services from Bellingham International Airport to the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle and to SeaTac.

Private aircraft and seaplane[edit]

Kenmore Air floatplane arriving at a terminal on Lake Union

Private aircraft can use   King County International Airport (IATA: BFI), universally known as Boeing Field. It's also south of the city, but much closer to town than Sea-Tac airport.

Seaplane service is available between Seattle and various island destinations throughout Washington state and British Columbia. Kenmore Air operates year-round scheduled floatplane services from their terminal on Lake Union to the San Juan Islands and Victoria, and summer flights from their base at Kenmore on Lake Washington's north end to Nanaimo, Campbell River and many other destinations in northern British Columbia. Wheeled plane service is also offered from Boeing Field to Friday Harbor and Eastsound airports. A ground shuttle service is available from the Lake Union and Boeing Field terminals to SeaTac.

Portland International Airport[edit]

Located about 3 hr (160mi/256km) south of Seattle, the smaller Portland International Airport is another alternative to fly into Seattle especially with low-cost carriers, Spirit Airlines and Volaris (flights from Mexico). There are no direct shuttle services from Portland International Airport to Seattle but there are Greyhound, Bolt Bus and Amtrak services from downtown Portland to downtown Seattle.

By train[edit]

Historic King Street Station

Amtrak provides service from the   King Street Station, located south of downtown near CenturyLink Field. The Amtrak Cascades runs four trains daily between Seattle and Portland (two of which continue to Eugene, Oregon) and two a day to Vancouver, British Columbia. Additional service from Portland to Eugene and from Seattle to Vancouver is offered on the Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach. These trains are more reliable schedule-wise than the long distance trains and offer certain amenities not available on regular Amtrak trains, such as more space for bikes, more laptop outlets, a "Bistro Car" which serves local foods and wine, and the occasional movie.

Seattle is also served by the long-distance Coast Starlight, which runs a once daily train along the same route with the same stops (except Tukwila & Oregon City) between Seattle and Eugene. The train continues south from Eugene to Sacramento, 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 north to Everett and then east to Spokane where it is joined (or split if going westbound) with another branch of the line coming from Portland. From Spokane the train continues east 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 and Mariner games.

By car[edit]

The two main interstate highways into Seattle are Interstate 5 going north-south along the Puget Sound and Interstate 90 from the east, crossing Lake Washington. Alternatively, you can take State Route 99 from the north or south - the road from the north begins as Aurora Ave N and splits at the south as State Routes 509 and 99 - or State Route 520 from the east, crossing a floating bridge across Lake Washington. Interstate 405 runs parallel to I-5 on the east side of Lake Washington from Everett to the airport.

The downtown area of Seattle, SoDo and South Lake Union is mostly a commercial and business area, so it is packed during commuting hours. I-5 is infamously congested, and traffic is also heavy on the southern portion of I-405 and the SR-520 bridge, though the recent addition of tolling has significantly eased traffic on the bridge.

By bus[edit]

Except for Greyhound Lines, there is no designated long-distance bus terminal in Seattle, so all bus services have their own stops scattered around the city. A number of them do have stops at the Greyhound Terminal (503 S Royal Brougham Way), in front of the King Street Station at 303 S King St and/or at Door 00 (south end at lower level of the terminal) at the Sea-Tac airport. See below:

  •   BellAir Airporter(bus stops) Washington State Convention Center, Convention Place (prior reservations only) (Enter tunnel under the upper floors of the Convention Center building from 9th & Pike.),  +1 866 235-5247. 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: +1-877-BOLTBUS (2658287). Service from Eugene, Albany, and Portland, OR, Bellingham, WA, and Vancouver, BC. $1 if lucky; up to $30.
  • Cantrail(bus stop) King Street Station. Operates Seattle to Vancouver, BC $40 for one-way, $75 round trip; discounts for students, military, seniors & children ages 4-11..
  •   Greyhound(Depot) 503 S Royal Brougham Way, SoDo (Along Royal Brougham between 6th Ave & the "Stadium" Light Rail Station. A right turn at Royal Brougham from the light rail station, opposite side of the tracks.), toll-free: +1-800-231-2222. Greyhound travels primarily on Interstate 5 (Seattle-Vancouver & Seattle-Portland on two separate routes. Some southbound buses continue to Los Angeles contiguously), 90/82 (Seattle-Ellensburg-Yakima-Pasco-Stanfield, OR) & 90 (Seattle-Spokane-Missoula). Passengers transfer to other buses in Portland, Missoula, Pasco, Spokane, Ellensburg, and/or Stanfield to get to other cities & towns in the U.S. and in Vancouver, BC to get to other cities in Canada. Prices are various depending on your destination.
  • Northwestern Trailways (Northwestern Stage Lines), (bus stops) Greyhound bus depot & King Street Amtrak station, toll-free: +1-800-366-3830. Shuttle service to Spokane (via Everett, Stevens Pass, Leavenworth, and Wenatchee) or Tacoma. $51 one way to Spokane, $97 round trip.
  • Dungeness Line operated by Olympic Bus Lines(bus stops) Greyhound bus depot (see above), King Street Station, selected hospitals (by reservation only), SeaTac Airport. Operates a route called the Dungeness Line connecting Seattle to Port Townsend, Sequim and Port Angeles. The bus goes across the Puget Sound on the Edmonds-Kingston ferry. One way: $39 from downtown, $49 from airport; Round trip: $69 from downtown, $79 from airport..
  •   Quick Shuttle(bus stops) downtown: outside the Best Western at 200 Taylor Ave N; Pier 66 & 91, SeaTac Airport: At the main terminal near south end of baggage claim, outside door 00, bays 11-16. Runs between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Vancouver to Downtown Seattle: $36 one-way, $65 round-trip; Vancouver to SeaTac airport: $49 one-way, $87 round-trip..
  • Wheatland Express(bus stops) Southcenter, NW corner; Novilhos Brazilian Steak House, 12405 SE 38th Street, Bellevue, toll-free: +1-800-334-2207. 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[edit]

  • Sound Transit. The long distance public transit operator operates express bus services from and between cities in the four county Seattle metropolitan area such as Tacoma, Olympia, Bellevue, Everett, Bothell, and lots of other cities surrounding Seattle. $2.50 within King County, $3.50 cross-county..
  • Community Transit. Operates direct express buses from various points in Snohomish County such as Lynnwood, Edmonds (and the ferry terminal), Mukilteo (and the ferry terminal) and Marysville to downtown Seattle, Bellevue and the University of Washington campus. Route numbers to and from downtown Seattle are numbered in the 400s and 500s (except Rts #532 & 535 which go to Bellevue from Everett and Lynnwood respectively) and 800s to the University of Washington, which goes city-bound only in the mornings and back to Snohomish County in the evenings. They also operate local buses, daily, within Snohomish County and to north King County (Shoreline, Bothell, Woodinville and Aurora Village), just over the county line up north. $4.25 from Everett and southward, $5.50 from north of Everett (one way)..
  • King County Metro. Operates buses within Seattle and out to outlying suburbs & cities within King County such as Federal Way, Shoreline, North Bend, Renton, Bellevue, Kirkland, etc. The rule of thumb is that three digit line numbers are for service to/from or within outside the Seattle city limits. $3.00 peak hours, $2.50 off peak.
  • Kitsap Transit. Operates buses in Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo, Kingston, Suquamish, Silverdale,and Port Orchard in Kitsap County, in the opposite side of the Sound from Seattle. They have bus transfer centers for multiple bus lines at every major ferry terminal in the other side of the Sound from Seattle in downtown Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, Southwarth and Kingston with buses timed to meet the ferry arrivals from the greater Seattle metropolitan area. They also operate the foot ferry between Bremerton and Port Orchard. $2.00 or $1.00 reduced fare for Medicare card holders and qualified seniors, disabled, youth and low income riders paying with an ORCA card..

By ferry[edit]

King County Metro Water Taxi

Ferries are the primary mode for commuters living on the opposite sides of the Puget Sound from Tacoma/S Vashon Island (in the south) through Seattle/Kitsap Peninsula to Anacortes/San Juan Islands (in the north), since the sheer distance and the shipping traffic on the Sound make building a bridge difficult. For tourists, it's also a fantastic way to see some very picturesque views of the city and the surrounding country; be sure to bring a camera!

  •   King County Water Taxi. The county government provides ferry service from Pier 50 of Seattle's waterfront on weekdays only during rush hour (5:30-8AM and 4:30-7PM) to Vashon Island, as well as to West Seattle. $5.50, $4.75 if using ORCA.
  •   Victoria Clipper2701 Alaskan Way Pier 69 (Alaskan Way & Clay St),  +1 206 448-5000, toll-free: +1-800-888-2535. 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 Ferries801 Alaskan Way Pier 52 (Colman Dock, Pier 52),  +1 206 464-6400. Connects Downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island and Bremerton. From the   Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle the ferry goes to Vashon Island and Southworth at Kitsap Peninsula. All ferries are for both vehicles and passengers. Be aware that delays sometimes occur in the morning, except in the summer, because of the frequent appearance of dense fog. Passenger only ferry from downtown Seattle to Vashon Island is operated by the King County Water Taxi. See above link.

By cruise ship[edit]

Seattle is the main departure city for cruise ships heading towards Alaska or western Canada's fjords. Cruise ships to Seattle may be docked at one of two terminals in the Port of Seattle.

  •   Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal at Pier 662225 Alaskan Way S Pier 66, near the middle of Seattle's downtown waterfront. Serves as home port for Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises. Has bus, taxi and shuttle connections for transfer of passengers and luggage. For travelers with connecting flights, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is less than 15 mi (24 km) away.
  •   Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 912001 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[edit]

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.

Get around[edit]

Seattle's freeways cut through the city rather than circling it, and while driving isn't the norm if you're only getting around the downtown area, it may be useful to get to anywhere else. With that said, the use of alternative transportation modes such as public transit, ride-sharing, walking and cycling are among the highest in the U.S., despite the hilly nature of many neighborhoods. If you do drive, note that you'll want to avoid driving during rush hours unless you know an alternate route away from the easily clogged interstates and state routes — a car accident at a bridge to West Seattle, for example, can back traffic up all the way to the northern city limits!


Helpful mnemonics to navigate Seattle

  • STreets run eaST and weST
  • aveNueS run North and South
  • EveN numbered addresses are on the East and North side of the road (which is likely called a street or avenue)
  • Use the mnemonic "Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest" for downtown street names, from Yesler Way to Westlake Park. The streets are named as six first-letter pairs of these words (Jefferson & James, Cherry & Columbia, Marion & Madison, Spring & Seneca, University & Union, Pike & Pine))

Seattle's street designations are generally easy to remember once you understand them. Most of the city is laid out in a grid, with north-south roads called Avenues and east-west roads being Streets. There are occasional irregularities: Ways are long roads that don't always conform to the grid, Drives are long, circuitous routes, and there's the occasional very short Place or Court.

Seattle has a somewhat convoluted address system that can be confusing to the uninitiated. Outside the downtown area, the city is divided into 7 compass directional sectors (N, NE, NW, W, E, S, SW; no SE section), with the name of the sector applied to every road that passes through that sector. Streets are written with the sector before the name (e.g. NE 45th Street or NE 45th) while avenues are written with the sector after the name (e.g. 45th Avenue NE or 45th NE). Roads within the downtown area (as well as some avenues east of Downtown and some streets north of Downtown) have no directional designation. Take this into consideration when looking for directions to a specific address.

When locals give you directions, they may refer to an intersection (especially in the case of a bus stop). The first road mentioned is the street it is at, followed by the crossing street adjacent to the stop, but sometimes they neglect to specify whether it's an "avenue" or a "street," so inquire to be sure and you'll avoid the risk of winding up in the wrong part of the city!

On foot[edit]

Walking is highly encouraged for short trips, especially if your destination is within Downtown or Capitol Hill. While the streets and drivers are generally friendly for pedestrians, do keep your street smarts. Avoid walking alone in Downtown at night due to the frantic beggars. For more information about street safety, look at the "Stay Safe" section.

Seattle pedestrians are noted for their unusual refusal to jaywalk. Unlike many other large American cities (particularly those on the East Coast), in Seattle you'll see groups of pedestrians patiently wait for the light to change before stepping off the curb, even when there isn't a car in sight. The reasons for it are unclear, though it's often suggested that the local police are particularly strict about enforcing the jaywalking law.

The block layout in the downtown area is pretty compact; a walk from Denny Way to Yesler Way should take roughly half an hour. Walking away from the shore in the downtown area requires some effort, given the steep elevation of the streets. Outside the downtown area, especially Capitol Hill or the northern and western parts of the city, there are many hills (albeit less hilly and steep than San Francisco). In fact, walking is a great form of exercise in Seattle, with abundant jogging tracks in the parks and longer trails like the Burke Gilman Trail, which runs along the northern side of the ship canal and the western rim of Lake Washington.

By public transit[edit]

Public transit fare cards[edit]

The ORCA card is a contactless fare card that enables you to transfer seamlessly between Seattle and the Puget Sound's various transit agencies, similar to Hong Kong's Octopus or London's Oyster. The card is free but you must put in a minimum of $5 to start using it and you can add money or monthly passes to the card. Day passes are also available for $8 and can be used for all bus and train services.

You can purchase cards and add value or passes to the card at vending machines in transit centers and light rail or Sounder rail stations, QFC & Safeway supermarkets, and Metro's customer service center at King Street Station (next to the Amtrak station) & Westlake Station (every end or beginning of the month) where reduced fare ORCA cards for the youth and people ages 65 or above can be issued. To use the card, tap it on the card reader (the device with the ORCA logo) each time you enter a bus (or, in the case of streetcars, trains or ferries, at the card reader on the platform or at the turnstile). Your first tap for each trip entitles you to free rides (technically called 'transfers') for the next 2 hours, with the exception of Washington State Ferries.

By bus[edit]

King County Metro Bus

King County Metro is the primary public transportation agency not just for Seattle but throughout King County as well. The bus service is generally easy to navigate, especially from downtown, with multiple lines to most tourist attractions. There are two types of bus service offered: the ordinary local service (green/yellow or blue/yellow buses) and the frequent express RapidRide service (red/yellow buses). You must pay upon boarding (or if you have a transfer, show it to the driver) at the front. To request a stop, pull the cord alongside the windows or, on most buses, you can press a red button next to the back door. All upcoming stops are announced by display on the board at the front of the bus and by voice.

Buses generally operate from 5AM to 1:30AM, and run from every 5 minutes up to every hour, depending on route, time of day, and day of the week; a few selected routes are peak-only or night-only service and RapidRide routes are 24 hours. The adult bus fare is $2.50, although the fare increases during rush hour (on weekdays 6-9AM and 3-6PM; $2.75 within the city limits and $3.25 for rides outside the city limits). The youth (ages 6-18) and senior (ages 65 or older) fare is $1.50 and $1.00, respectively. Up to four children under age 6 can ride free with a paying adult. If you pay by cash (exact change only), you'll get a paper transfer good for within a 2-hour period to ride other King County Metro buses. An ORCA card allows you to transfer to other transit agencies within the same period of time for free. Special service is sometimes deployed from Downtown and certain transit centers for major events, primarily to the Seattle Center, the University of Washington for Husky football games, or to CenturyLink Field for Seahawks and Sounders games.

To figure out your nearest bus stop and real-time arrival times, you can download the One Bus Away app to your smartphone. Arrival times are also displayed at certain Downtown bus stops as well as most RapidRide stops. Paper schedule and maps of the bus route can usually be found at transit centers.

When traveling to destinations outside the downtown core, make sure to ask the drivers about the green and white "EXPRESS" signs in their windows or the "VIA EXPRESS" on the road display if they are going to your destination. Some of these express routes are intended for regular commuters traveling between residential neighborhoods and Downtown and make few or no stops between, but may be useful for getting to destinations such as the University District, West Seattle, and Ballard. A rule of thumb is that three digit route numbers are for service to/from and within outside the Seattle city limits, but a few of them should still pass through major attractions within the city area.

In Downtown, most buses and RapidRide buses go along 3rd Avenue and high-capacity routes use the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel alongside the Link light rail. The tunnel has five stations, from north to south: Convention Place, Westlake, University Street, Pioneer Square, and International District/Chinatown (the last of which is convenient to King Street Station). The bus tunnel is useful for bus and light rail transfers, but watch your belongings.

By rail[edit]

Seattle rail system map
  • Link Light Rail operates between the University of Washington and Sea-Tac Airport, stopping in Capitol Hill, Downtown, SoDo, South Seattle, and the suburb of Tukwila along the way. Fares are $2.25—$3.25 depending on how far you travel; ticket machines are available at all stations, and the tickets must be retained for the duration of your trip (ticket agents will occasionally board the train to check if you have paid your fare). If you use an ORCA card, you must tap at both your origin and your destination station.
  • The Seattle Streetcar has two lines: The South Lake Union line between Downtown and South Lake Union and the First Hill line between Pioneer Square, the International District and Capitol Hill along Broadway. The former line gained the rather unfortunate moniker "SLUT" (South Lake Union Trolley), and you might hear it referred to as such. The streetcar runs up to every 10 minutes and costs $2.25 per adult, $1.50 per child, and $1 per senior, regardless of distance. You must purchase the ticket at one of the streetcar stops before boarding. Note that these streetcars stop only when requested by pressing the yellow stop request strip.
  • The Seattle Center Monorail, a legacy of 1962 World's Fair, takes you non-stop between Westlake Center (5th Avenue & Pine Street) and the Seattle Center in just 2 minutes, and primarily serves tourists heading from Downtown to the Space Needle. One-way tickets are $2.25 per adult, $1 children ages 5-12/seniors. You can only pay by cash; ORCA card is not valid.

If you need any help, go to the Customer Stop at Westlake Station in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, security officers in the tunnel, or ask a local. Seattleites are always eager to help and may offer help, even if they see you looking confusingly at a tourist map!

By ferry[edit]

King County Metro provides a Water Taxi service between Pier 50 (beside Pier 52/Colman Dock) in Downtown and Seacrest Park in West Seattle, a ride which takes 15 minutes and is an optimal connection to Alki Point. Fares are $4.75 one way, $4 with an ORCA card. Boats depart every half-hour on weekdays and every hour on weekends during the summer months, with reduced service during the winter.

By car[edit]

Cars are fairly useless for transportation within the city proper, but are a great asset if travelling to Bellevue/Redmond or Everett/Tacoma. Note that many roads Downtown are one-way, which might require some extra navigation. On weekends, you can often rent cars at locations throughout the city for well under $20/day. One of the challenges in driving in Seattle includes the hilly terrain, especially in Downtown, Capitol HIll and Queen Anne, where you have to be extra careful in applying your brakes.

Be aware though that parking is scarce in Downtown due to the recent dedicated bike lane developments and even your hotel will levy exorbitant fees for overnight parking at their property! Street parking fares are $1 to $2.50 per hour, but be mindful of where you park and your duration because parking laws are enforced and the fines can be hefty! A parking ticket can be in excess of $35 for going overtime in a 2-hour zone. Outside Downtown, many establishments provide free parking.

When parking on a hill, remember to always apply the parking brake and turn your wheels so that the car will roll into the sidewalk instead of the street if the brakes give out (i.e., when facing uphill, turn toward the street; when facing downhill, turn toward the curb). Failure to park properly can run the risk of having your car roll downhill.

Drivers traveling on Interstate 5 between Downtown and Northgate as well as Interstate 90 between Downtown and Bellevue can make use of the express lanes for a generally quick and smooth ride to downtown in the morning, or to the suburbs in the afternoon and evening. Even though Seattle is only the 20th largest city in the U.S., its traffic jams are second only to Los Angeles. This is mainly due to inland waterways causing choke points around the few available bridges.

By taxi[edit]

You can call or hail a taxi from any major street in Seattle or most hotels will call them for you. However, most of Seattle's taxi services are unfriendly and expensive, especially if you are only trying to get around the downtown area. Some taxi drivers will even refuse to take you if your destination is less than 15 blocks away. The fares are regulated by the city government, which consists of:

  • Flagfall for $2.60
  • $0.30 for each additional 1/9 mile (a total of $2.70 per mile)
  • $0.30 for every 36 seconds of waiting time (a total of $0.50 per minute)
  • $0.50 for each additional passenger above 18 after two.

If you are heading to SeaTac airport from the downtown area, a flat fare of $40 is applied.

The rudeness of some taxi drivers has caused people to avoid taking them and look for car-sharing alternatives (see the following section). But should you be in dire need of a taxi, call one of these companies:

By car-sharing[edit]

If your destination is miles away and you don't have a car, yet public transportation seems inconvenient for you, you can use the ride-sharing services like those provided by Uber or Lyft. Download their app to your phone to reserve a car, register your card for payment, punch in your current location and destination, and a car will be in front of you in no time; they do not take prior reservations. If you prefer to drive yourself, Car2go or Zipcar vehicles are abundant, especially in Downtown, Capitol Hill, and University District. Seattleites often prefer this method to taking the reckless and overpriced taxis.

By motorcycle[edit]

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.

By bicycle[edit]

Cycling is better in Seattle than in most American cities. In fact, during rush hour it's often faster to bike than to drive! Bicycle usage has increased significantly since the early 2000s and drivers are a little more accustomed to bicycles in Seattle than in other major cities. Your main drawbacks will be the wet roads, the rain, and the hilly terrain, so you might want to pack some raingear. Many major roads in Seattle have properly maintained bicycle lanes, and you are allowed to ride bicycles on all Seattle roads except the Interstates, the State Route 520 floating bridge, and the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Bikeshare kiosks called Pronto are available throughout the city. A purchase of a 24-hour ($8), a 3-day pass ($16), or an annual membership ($85) at the kiosk entitles you to a ride for 30 minutes and a small surcharge for every half hour thereafter, up to 24 hours. The bikes can be picked up and returned at any kiosks citywide, but do not forget to take the helmet before you ride and dock the bike correctly when you return it! Coverage is limited to Downtown, Pioneer Square, the International District, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, and the University District.

The city maintains a bike map with suggested biking routes for visiting major attractions.

Bicycle transportation in the greater part of Seattle is facilitated further by the Burke-Gilman Trail. This is a paved walking/jogging/cycling trail that winds its way from the north end of Lake Washington, down around the University of Washington, then west along the canal towards Ballard. The trail is on an old railroad right-of-way, so it maintains a very consistent elevation and is excellent for commuting or a casual day's touring. The Elliott Bay Trail overlooks Puget Sound and starts at the north end of Downtown in Myrtle Edwards Park, continuing north along the shore of Elliott Bay. It is much more scenic than the Burke trail, with gorgeous views of the Olympics and Mt. Rainier, and more quiet since it doesn't intersect with any roads.

If you are tired from cycling or looking for a quick ride to another biking place, King County Metro buses have bike racks on the front of the bus. Just don't forget to unload it when you get off!

Here are a few places that offer bike rentals:

  • The Bicycle Repair Shop928 Alaskan Way (Opposite between Piers 52 & 54). Weekdays 8AM-6PM; Sa 10AM-6PM; Su noon-6PM. You can rent bicycles for an hourly rate or a daily rate (which translates to 5 hours of rent) depending on type of bicycle. The website also has a list of self-guided tours. Hybrid: $9 hourly, $45 daily, $150 weekly.
  • Seattle Bicycle RentalsPier 58, toll-free: +1-800-349-0343. W-M 8AM-6PM. You can rent bikes for the day, the week, or the month. Guided tours available to Ballard, Fremont, and Lake Union for 3 hours from 1PM (check in the hour before). Tour: $40; Hybrid bike: $10 hourly, $45 for 24 hours..
  • Pedal Anywhere. You can rent a bike for up to 30 days, and the bike will be delivered to your doorstep! Reservations must be done online. 1 week $80, 2 week $120, monthly $160.


Pike Place Market
Individual listings can be found in Seattle's district articles

Seattle has a lot to see, be it prominent sights or attractions tucked away in quiet neighborhoods. For more information, look at each district's individual articles.

  • Seattle CityPASS. A discount pass that includes admission to five attractions for half the normal fee combined. You are entitled to up to two visits (within 24 hours) to the Space Needle, a visit to the Seattle Aquarium, an Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, a choice between a visit to the Experience Music Project or the Woodland Park Zoo, and a choice between the Pacific Science Center or the Museum of Flight. You are also entitled to $5 off admission to the Chihuly Garden & Glass adjacent to the Space Needle, reduced fares for special cruises and exhibitions at Woodland Park Zoo, the Pacific Science Center and the Museum of Flight. A CityPASS is valid for 9 consecutive days starting with the use of your first ticket. $64 for adult, $44 for children (ages 4-12).


The first thing that pops into most people's minds when they think of Seattle is the Space Needle, located north of Downtown in the Seattle Center. Although it's not the tallest building in Seattle, it still has a wonderful 360-degree view of both the city and the surrounding landscape. It is best to visit at sunset, when the mountains and sky will be lit up in beautiful colors. For a cheaper and less crowded option, head to the observatory at the Columbia Center building, which is higher than the Space Needle! For a better view of the waterfront and the downtown area, go aboard the Seattle Great Wheel.

Downtown, the Pike Place Market is Seattle's largest tourist area. Home to the famous fish market, the original Starbucks Coffee shop, produce stands, and a dedicated lane each for florists and foods. Don't forget to visit Post Alley, just a block away from Pike Place as you walk away from the shore, as there are some excellent food and souvenir places tucked away.


The Experience Music Project beneath the Space Needle

Seattle has a number of top-notch museums. Downtown is home to the renowned Seattle Art Museum (SAM), which displays an good assortment of art from around the world. In the Central District is the Seattle Asian Art Museum, an off-shoot of the Seattle Art Museum which focuses on Chinese and Japanese Art, but includes works from as far away as India. Additionally, The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in the 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 with an IMAX theater and plenty of science displays, the Experience Music Project, a rock & roll museum celebrating Seattle's vibrant music scene, the Chihuly Garden & Glass, which takes glass art to the next level, and the Science Fiction Museum, with recreations of iconic sci-fi movies and television shows. Nearby South Lake Union is home to both the Museum of History and Industry and the Center for Wooden Boats.

On the waterfront in Downtown is the popular Seattle Aquarium. The University District holds the Henry Art Gallery, one of the biggest contemporary art galleries in Washington, and the Burke Museum, a combination natural history/archaeology museum. Further out in Georgetown is the Museum of Flight, with a large collection of aircraft ranging from wood and fabric crates to the sleek Concorde.


Seattle's Downtown from the Space Needle

Most of the architectural attractions in Seattle are located in the downtown area, easily traversed on foot. Among the highlights are the Central Library, a unique contemporary building with an enormous glass-fronted atrium; the Columbia Center, the tallest building in the Pacific Northwest and which offers excellent views from its observation deck; and the Seattle City Hall with its roof garden. On the south side of Downtown, near Pioneer Square, is the Smith Tower, an Art Deco building which is Seattle's oldest skyscraper and has an observation deck. North of Downtown in the Seattle Center, the Experience Music Project, designed to resemble Jimi Hendrix's smashed guitar, is done in a manner only Frank Gehry could conceive; nearby is the new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, with its 12-acre garden.

Of course, the most popular view in Seattle remains the one from the revolving top of the Space Needle at the Seattle Center. And given the retro-futurism look of the Space Needle, a fitting way to get there is via the Monorail, which connects the Seattle Center to Downtown. Another excellent view is from the Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57, a ferris wheel that offers superb views of the skyline and the waterfront.

Parks and outdoors[edit]

Seattle is peppered with parks, from small urban squares to large forested areas, many with breathtaking views of Seattle and the Puget Sound. Seattle's original park system was designed by the Olmsted brothers in Seattle's early days, and park planners across the country still celebrate Seattle's park system as one of the best designed and best preserved in the United States. While many other American cities have only one or two Olmsted-designed parks, Seattle has an extensive multi-park plan linked by boulevards, and this legacy makes Seattle one of the most livable cities in the country.

South Lake Union and downtown Seattle as seen from South Lake Union park

The Seattle Center is actually a park itself, with attractions besides the Space Needle and the center's numerous museums. The Kobe Bell and the mural beside it and the International Fountain are often overlooked but should not be missed. Up on Queen Anne Hill is Kerry Park, where you'll be spellbound by the most photographed view of Seattle. To the west is Discovery Park, the city's largest park with trails less traveled traversing hills and offering a view of the unspoiled landscape, wildlife, and a lighthouse.

Overlooking Lake Union in Fremont is Gasworks Park. Once the site of a coal gasification plant, the plant has been replaced by lush green hills surrounding one small section of rusting—yet surprisingly picturesque—machinery from the coal plant. The park is filled with spectators for the 4th of July fireworks and is also a great place for boaters to access Lake Union. For a day at the beach, head over to Golden Gardens Park or the less crowded Carkeek Park for a view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains; West Seattle's fully sandy Alki Beach offers a great view of Downtown Seattle. Joggers can spend their time at Green Lake Park or Magnuson Park for a serene view of water by the running tracks.

A place to see trees from around the world is at the Washington Park Arboretum in the Central District. The Arboretum contains a Japanese Garden (closed in winter) that plays host to a traditional Japanese festival. For a more laid back and Zen atmosphere, the Kubota Garden at Rainier Beach in south Seattle has streams and waterfalls, ponds, rock outcroppings, and an exceptionally rich and mature collection of plants. If you are into animals, head to the Woodland Park Zoo to see animals from around the world held in pleasant, naturalistic exhibits.


Individual listings can be found in Seattle's district articles


  • Ride the Ducks of Seattle +1 206 441-3825. Seattle Center: Daily 9:20AM to 7PM; Westlake Center: Weekdays 10AM to 6PM, Weekends 10AM to 7PM. A 90 minute ride on an amphibious World War II vehicle (part of the ride is on Lake Union). The style of the tour is a bit over-the-top; keep a sense of humor about you. Board at Seattle Center (5th Avenue & Broad Street) or Westlake Center. Adults $28, Children $17.
  • Argosy Cruises1101 Alaskan Way, Pier 55. Harbor cruises vary by season.. Boat tour company with special dinner and sightseeing cruises. The most common tour visitors take is the hour-long cruise on Elliott Bay, which offers excellent views not just of the Space Needle and the Downtown skyline, but the freight harbor as well. Visit Tillicum Village on Blake Island just off the shore of Seattle, WA. Prices are various according to your itinerary ($23.75 for harbor cruise).
  • Seattle Underground Tour. A tour that takes you to underground portions of the Pioneer Square district. In 1889, 25 square blocks of Seattle were destroyed in a fire. When rebuilding, the city decided to raise the streets in the city approximately one story; thus the Seattle Underground was born!
  • Kenmore Air950 Westlake Ave N +1 866 435-9524. 20 minute plane tours over Seattle that are narrated by the pilot, with spectacular views of the city. Tours begin and end at the west side of Lake Union. Reservations required. $99.50 per person.

Water sports[edit]

Sailboat moored at the Center for Wooden Boats

Seattle is surrounded by Lake Washington and Puget Sound, in addition to a number of bodies of water such as Lake Union or Green Lake in the city proper, so activities from kayaking to swimming are commonly practiced especially in the summer. Primary locations include Lake Union and Lake Washington where there are often some recreational boat traffic.

If you have no rowing experience, classes are offered at Lake Union Crew. You can also rent a sailboat or join a free Sunday cruising at Center For Wooden Boats, or a kayak at Northwest Outdoor Center.


Most of Seattle's festivals take place in the summer, the only long stretch of time when Seattle has days of sunny weather.

  • Festál Cultural CenterSeattle Center. Year-round except December. Celebrate the world with festivals from about 25 countries represented, one country nearly every 2 weeks.
  • Seattle International Film FestivalMcCaw Hall, Moore Theatre. May–June. One of the largest film festivals in North America, showing movies from around the world. Watch indie films at screens around the city and vote for your favorite; the winner of each respective category receives the Golden Space Needle trophy.
Seafair Indian Days Pow Wow at Daybreak Star Cultural Center
  • Seafaireverywhere. July-early August. Seattle's biggest festival, signifying the arrival of summer. Neighborhood events such as parades and street fairs run throughout the festival, with the downtown Torchlight Parade in late July. Seafair culminates in early August when hydroplane races and the Blue Angels bring loud, fast boats and planes to Lake Washington.
  • BumbershootSeattle Center. Labor Day weekend (early September). Seattle's largest music and arts festival, featuring dozens of local and world-class musical acts.
  • Northwest Folklife FestivalSeattle Center. Memorial Day weekend. A more low-key and local version of Bumbershoot, mainly family-friendly. Even more important, it's free! ($10 donation per person per day encouraged)..
  • Bite of SeattleSeattle Center. mid/late July. Part of Seafair festivities. Enjoy some of the best delicacies of Seattle.
  • HempfestMyrtle Edwards Park. mid-August for two days. The largest marijuana rally in the world and the biggest annual political event in Washington. Features political speakers, vendors, food, several stages with many bands, and lots of open pot smoking (especially at 4:20). It is also a demonstration for the political reform and the legalization of marijuana. Possession and consumption (not in public) is now legal in the state of Washington. Police tend to look the other way during Hempfest, and marijuana use in public is now a civil infraction subject to ticketing, not arrest.
  • Capitol Hill Block PartyCapitol Hill. a mid-summer weekend. Yearly live music event held on Capitol Hill over a weekend in mid-summer (usually the end of July). Consists primarily of local independent bands of various styles, coupled with some bigger name independent label acts.
In costume for the Fremont Fair
  • Fremont FairFremont. a weekend in mid or late June. Home of the Solstice Parade (including the nude bike ride), and a really fun drunken time all over Fremont. Vendors, bad live music and eclectic crowds at the bars make for an interesting time. Friends who live in Fremont become especially valuable for a place to crash during the fair.
  • Seattle PrideFestSeattle Center. A weekend in June or July. One of the biggest gay pride festivals in the country. Food carts, beer gardens, adult theme performances, and the eagerly anticipated Pride Parade.
  • Chinese FestivalsInternational District. Lunar New Year (January/February), Dragon Fest (July), Night Market (late summer). Numerous stalls and performances, and don't forget to partake in all the cheap food!


It's always crowded and loud at CenturyLink Field!

In terms of professional sports teams, Seattle has been underrated until recently. Of the four biggest U.S. professional leagues, two have teams in Seattle, and the fast-growing Major League Soccer also has a Seattle team.

Even prior to the recent success of the local National Football League franchise, the Seattle Seahawks, CenturyLink Field has long been packed to the gills by the "12th men" (the name for loud, devout Seahawks fans) watching their home game in late summer through early winter. Soccer fans can enjoy the Seattle Sounders FC games May through September, also held in CenturyLink Field. Safeco Field next door is home to the Major League Baseball Seattle Mariners.

Meanwhile, Seattle has one of the strongest followings for women's teams in sports. The Seattle Storm plays WNBA basketball at KeyArena in Seattle Center, while Seattle Reign FC has been recently established together with the National Women's Soccer League. In minor league men's sports, the Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team (players age 16 to 20) plays in Kent.

College teams also have a proud presence in town. The University of Washington Huskies play basketball and football at their own arena on campus. In October or November, the rivalry between U-Dub (short name for the campus) and Wazzu (Washington State University) is flaring, with the Apple Cup football match played at Husky Stadium every odd-numbered year. Seattle University has the Seattle Redhawks, another NCAA Division I team, but with a much lower profile than U-Dub. Also, the Gonzaga Bulldogs from Spokane play one men's basketball game each season at KeyArena in an event billed as the "Battle in Seattle".


  • 5th Avenue Theatre5th Avenue (between Union and University Streets in Downtown). Seen as a "testing ground" for many musicals on their way to Broadway.
  • Benaroya Hall3rd Avenue (at University Street). Home to the Seattle Symphony and concerts by classical orchestras. There are two auditoriums: Taper (seats 2,500) and Nordstrom (seats 500).
  • The Seattle Opera, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and other performances are held at the McCaw Hall at Seattle Center.
  • Other halls such as Paramount Theatre at 9th Avenue and Pine Street and Moore Theatre at 2nd Avenue house many performing arts and sometimes Broadway performances.
  • Big concerts by world famous artists usually take place at KeyArena at Seattle Center.


The Quad at University of Washington

Given the huge influx of people to Seattle, educational institutions have been constantly adding programs to the point that they now cover virtually every occupation. These are some of the institutions:

  • University of Washington maintains its main campus in the city's University District. It's the biggest employer in Seattle proper, and is famous for its competitive computer science, business, and engineering programs. Even if you're not studying here, the campus is worth a visit to admire its neo-Gothic architecture or the pink cherry blossom trees at the Quad in early spring.
  • Seattle University is a private Jesuit (Catholic) university at Capitol Hill and the second-largest university in the area. SU is famous for its community service and non-profit sponsored projects.
  • Seattle Pacific University on Queen Anne Hill is Free Methodist affiliated and offers liberal arts programs, as well as science and professional certifications.
  • The Art Institute of Seattle in Downtown offers fashion and media design, arts, and culinary programs.
  • City University of Seattle has a notable presence for its management and graduate programs.
  • Bastyr University in Kenmore, just outside Seattle, is well known for its healthcare & natural therapy programs. It is found by Dr. John Bastyr, a longtime local expert in naturopathic, homeopathic, and chiropractic.

Community colleges often offer some fun short-term courses. North Seattle College has the most diverse selection, with a focus on machinery, ventilation, and even wristwatch making. Other colleges within the same system are Seattle Central College and South Seattle College. If you want to get out of the crowded city, you can also choose Green River to the south, as well as Shoreline and Edmonds to the north.


Seattle is a well-known center for business, being the home of the headquarters of tech companies and Microsoft, aircraft manufacturer Boeing, coffee chain Starbucks, retail and grocery stores such as Nordstrom, REI and Costco are also based here. As well as many startup companies, many of which are tech-based startups pushed out of Silicon Valley due to the exorbitant costs of operating there. Recruitment to startups is generally easy, and while you can't expect similar wages or work environment to the large companies, many do offer compensations such as free haircut, lunch, apartment rent with one or more working partners, or carpool service. Demand for tech jobs, especially programmers, is constantly rising.

Health is another growing sector of the economy. Seattle is one of the fittest cities in the nation and nutritionists, doctors, and nurses are in need to take care of the growing population. Biotech companies are also on the rise. Comparatively, the hospitality business has been growing at a glacial pace compared to the tech moguls.

One good reason to work in Seattle, or the rest of Washington state for that matter, is that there is no state income tax.


Individual listings can be found in Seattle's district articles

If you want it, you can most likely get it in Seattle. The city has many small, locally owned business in addition to the more typical large shopping malls. A sales tax of 9.6% applies for all purchases except most groceries, newspapers, and prescription drugs.


Abundant seafood at Pike Place Market
  • The Pike Place Market is an attraction in and of itself, and is well-known for its seafood and produce stands. At the main entrance to the market is Pike Place Fish, famous for its handlers who throw fish to each other, but there are plenty of other seafood stands as well. In the main market complex are several levels of restaurants and shops selling antiques, arts and crafts, and souvenirs, and as the weather gets warmer, artisans sell their wares in the upper open-air level as well. Although it is flush with tourists, especially in the summer months, area residents and Downtown workers regularly shop at the market as well, which minimizes the "tourist trap" feel.
  • The Westlake retail corridors on Pike, Pine, and Union Street between 3rd and 5th Avenues are also a great place to shop. The Westlake Center and the Pacific Place malls have pricey fashion stores, with the sidewalk arcades dominated by big fashion chains.
  • Belltown, a northern neighborhood of the downtown area, has a plethora of designer art galleries, fashion, and accessory workshops.
  • The Pioneer Square area is the cheaper counterpart to Belltown, with more eclectic accessories.

Other districts[edit]

Fresh produce at a farmers' market in Ballard. In the summer, Seattle has over a dozen weekly farmers' markets; Sunday in Ballard and Saturday in the University District are among the few year-round markets.
  • Ballard: Most shopping options here are on Ballard Avenue NW between 20th & 22nd Avenue NW. If big brands don't interest you, head here for stylish urban and hip fashion.
  • Capitol Hill: Most shops here are in the western part of the neighborhood near Interstate 5 (E Pike & Pine Street, Broadway and Melrose Ave), where the streets are filled with mid-range fashion options and a little bit of everything, befitting the hippest district of Seattle. Here you'll also find Seattle's biggest bookstore, The Elliott Bay Book Company.
  • Fremont: Mainly vintage fashion wear and not as eccentric as its neighbor, Ballard. It is also a center for antiques and accessories. The shopping district is centered around Fremont Place N and N 35th Street.
  • International District: Groceries, herbal medicines, and plenty of Asian-style wares. You can also buy handy Japanese kitchenware and other items at the infamous Uwajimaya or by the back door of the dollar shop Daiso.
  • North Seattle: Thrift stores scattered throughout the area, bulk grocery shopping at Aurora Avenue N, and fashion shops at Northgate Mall.
  • Queen Anne Hill: Mostly houses, but there is a small commercial area at the top of the hill (Queen Anne Ave N between W Galer St & W McGraw St). Usually this is a place to indulge in a body treatment.
  • South Lake Union: A long retail strip is located on Broadway which connects to Capitol Hill. On the south shore of the lake you'll find shops of every type have recently been sprouting up. Outdoor gear chain REI houses its flagship store on Broadway.
  • University District: Clothing and thrift stores catering towards the local student population are located along University Way. Upscale options are available at the open-air University Village Mall at 25th Ave NE. On campus is the University Bookstore.
  • West Seattle: Head to California Ave SW for more laid back and contemporary clothing options.


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
Mid-range $10-$20
Splurge more than $20

Typical of a big city, Seattle has a diverse range of fare representative of cuisines from around the world. Local chains and hole-in-the-wall restaurants dominate the city's dining atmosphere, and hearty, inexpensive meals can be found all over the city. Note that many Seattle restaurants, particularly the hole-in-the-wall establishments, only accept cash.

Local specialties[edit]

Seattle's proximity to Alaska and the waters of the Pacific Ocean make it an excellent place to enjoy seafood. Look for salmon during the late summer months as options are abundant and the prices are among the cheapest on the West Coast, especially the red (sockeye) salmon. Shellfish are a prized resource of the Puget Sound, where the cool, clean waters provide an optimal habitat. Clams, mussels and oysters can be found easily, but other specialties like geoducks (pronounced GOO-ey-ducks) are sometimes available for the more adventurous. The Dungeness Crab, named for a nearby town on the Sound, is a popular seafood prized for its sweet, tender flesh and high ratio of meat. The Dungeness is a commercially important crab in Washington's waters but other crab species are also common. The Alaskan King Crab, caught from the deep cold waters of the Pacific Ocean near Alaska, has a more frequent presence here than the rest of the lower 48.

Donut shops and bakeries are virtually everywhere, with some offering warm in-house brewed coffee, making them an excellent delight in the cold weather or as a snack.

The mild climate also supports many types of fresh produce. Farmers' markets are a normal occurrence on the weekends, especially in residential areas, and they usually have better quality produce than what you can get at supermarkets. They're an excellent opportunity to taste local delicacies and experience the local culture. Apples, which are exported from Washington and shipped all over the world, are in season around October.

Seattle also boasts a wide variety of Asian cuisine, from East Asia to the South. Family-run and hole-in-the-wall teriyaki, ramen, sushi, and Chinese restaurants are abundant and scattered throughout the area.

Eating options by district[edit]

Downtown and Pioneer Square hold many cafés and high end restaurants. Belltown to home to most options for downtown dining, with restaurants in every price range and some of the city's best-reviewed restaurants. Pike Place Market's stands offer plenty of samples, with plenty of popular options also available in Post Alley. The Waterfront, naturally, has a selection of seafood restaurants. Budget options around downtown can especially be found at Westlake Park or South Lake Union, where food carts cater to workers wanting a quick and easy lunch.

The Chinatown Gate, entrance to the International District at S King Street

Outside of the Downtown area, Capitol Hill has plenty of hip cafés and bars, with many among the best-reviewed in the city and visited by local celebrities, as well as many Ethiopian and Thai eateries. The International District is known for its dim-sum, communal Chinese and Japanese offerings, as well as Vietnamese restaurants on the east side of the neighborhood. South Seattle also has a diversity of ethnic restaurants, while West Seattle holds more elegant mid-range to high-end choices, mostly European, seafood, and steak and many with a full bar.

North of Downtown, Queen Anne Hill seems to offer a little bit of everything near the Seattle Center. North of the canal, Ballard has mostly European fare with some Mexican, Mediterranean, and Asian options. Fremont has an increasing number of American and world cuisines in small establishments, some of which are so popular they generate long lines. The University District has a myriad of budget and international restaurants, while North Seattle has some scattered family-run Asian restaurants.


Individual listings can be found in Seattle's district articles

Few, if any, American cities can challenge Seattleites' love of coffee. This is perhaps best signified by the Seattle-based international chain Starbucks, but locals aren't satisfied by recognized chains alone, as evidenced by the hundreds of good locally owned coffeehouses. The best places to look for coffee are in Capitol Hill or Queen Anne Hill, where they take matters of coffee very seriously.

Microbreweries are a Northwest specialty, and Seattle has many to offer for beer enthusiasts. The larger brewers, like Redhook and Pyramid, distribute their products regionally or nationally, while other brews can only be found in local stores or bars (some notable brewers don't bottle their product). Elysian, with three pubs in various neighborhoods, and the Pike Brewing Company, located in Pike Place Market, are other popular local brewers. Many microbreweries have set up shop in South Seattle and Washington State is one of the largest growers of hops in the world making this key beer making ingredient readily available.

In Washington, bars have a full liquor license, while taverns are restricted to beer, wine and cider. Many Seattle bars have a world-class beer selection featuring local Northwest style micros, many of them crafted in Seattle. Beer aficionados should check out Uber Tavern, Brouwer's Cafe, or the Stumbling Monk, or visit the Beer Junction in West Seattle, which is primarily a bottle shop with a staggering selection but which also has a bar and regular tastings. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though! There are also plenty of drinking options to be found in the Belltown portion of downtown (south of Denny Way), Fremont, Ballard, the University District, and Capitol Hill. The good news is Washington state is one of the last states that allows all alcoholic drinks to be sold openly at supermarkets, so liquor is readily and cheaply available even if you don't want to go to a bar.

Wine is another Northwest specialty, and there are a number of wineries just thirty miles from Seattle proper in Woodinville. Many more can be found a 2-3 hour drive away on the other side of the Cascades in Washington Wine Country. You can find local vintages in grocery stores, wine shops, restaurants, and wine bars such as Bottlehouse and Purple.

Like any other city with a large Asian population, bubble tea or boba milk tea shops has been recently popping up, and are popular among young people. Bubble tea is basically milk tea with various flavors and tapioca balls. Many of these shops also offer Asian snacks and delicacies. If you are thirsty and hungry, and budget is your main concern, this can be a good option. Most of these can be found in the University District as well as a few in the International District.


Individual listings can be found in Seattle's district articles
This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Less than $150
Mid-range $150-$250
Splurge More than $250

For such a large city, there is a surprising lack of accommodation options available, thus rooms in Seattle are more on the expensive side. Most sleeping options are in Downtown and consist mostly of mid-range or high-end hotels. Other options, especially budget hotels and hostels can be found near the Seattle Center, the University District, the International District, and in North Seattle. There are also bed and breakfast options in Fremont, Ballard, and Capitol Hill. Steer clear of the motels along Aurora Avenue N, as there are many sketchy places where you stay at your own risk.

Alternatives to Seattle accommodations are a train ride away south in Tukwila & SeaTac, especially the areas surrounding the airport but also down in an area by SouthCenter Mall in Tukwila, as there are plenty more hotels to choose from with a wide range 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 usually go unused and most of them are on the verge of being taken down. As in much of the rest of the country, you will pretty much need a cellphone to make calls while you are on the go. Cellphone reception is excellent throughout most of the city, with the exception of the Downtown transit tunnels.


Free Wi-Fi can be found at all Seattle public libraries. As part of a pilot project, the City of Seattle provides free Wi-Fi access in Columbia City, the University District area, four downtown Seattle parks (Occidental, Freeway, Westlake and Victor Steinbrueck), and the City Hall lobby area. The Seattle Center also provides free wireless internet in the Center House building [dead link]. RapidRide and Sound Transit commuter buses also offer free Wi-Fi.

There are various internet cafes in the Seattle area, especially in the University District and the Downtown neighborhoods. Additionally, many coffee shops offer free and paid wireless access (all Starbucks locations offer free Wi-Fi). 4G LTE coverage is well covered by most, if not all, major telecom companies, but reception gets poorer the closer you get to the mountains.

Stay safe[edit]

Statistically, the number of crimes in Seattle is similar to what you would expect in any major city in the United States. By and large, as long as you use some common sense, you are unlikely to be the target of any crime. Auto break-ins and theft are a problem in the city, so never your leave valuables visible in a car and always lock your car doors. Be wary of the rising trend of smartphone theft.

Downtown Seattle has a sizable population of homeless people (many neighborhoods have forced their homeless into Seattle's downtown core), and while many beg for change and some seem unstable, only a few are actually dangerous. It is worthwhile to be careful after dark in some areas around the downtown core. Some places to watch your back near major tourist areas include under the viaduct along the Waterfront, Belltown, between Pine and Pike Streets in Downtown, and around Pioneer Square, where you'll want to beware of drug dealers and beggars. Areas you'll want to avoid at night (at least without company) include along Aurora Avenue and Lake City Way in the north of the city, SoDo, and the International District.

On Friday and Saturday nights, it is wise to take caution while at Capitol Hill. The many bars in the area can also contain drunk and unruly people, which in very rare cases can lead up to assault or shooting. But as long as you are not looking for trouble, you will be safe.

Drivers in Seattle are typically nice but indecisive, but as long as you're careful as a pedestrian, you don't run a high risk of getting hit. Cyclists should be extra wary of traffic and opening doors of parked cars, especially Downtown.


Washington state has legalized the consumption of marijuana for recreational use. By law, only persons aged 21 and over can purchase marijuana, and then only from licensed retailers. Purchasers are limited to one ounce of usable marijuana (the harvested flowers or "bud"), 16 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form, or 7 grams of marijuana concentrates.

Under no circumstances should you consume marijuana in public or while driving, nor should you transport it out of the state or give it to anybody else for consumption. The DUI limit is .08, but even a smaller number can still lead to an arrest. Any other regulations not stated here should be treated the same as with alcohol. Smoking is not allowed in any public places, and must be done at least 25 feet away from doors, windows, or ventilation shafts.


During fall through early spring, when the weather is said to be sunny, the morning often starts with fog before the afternoon sunshine clears it. Be careful if you're driving, as visibility can be near zero in the early morning, depending on the location. Watch out for black ice as well if the temperature is below freezing. Occasionally, this condition will persist for days and air quality will deteriorate as emissions will get trapped over the city; in these cases, an Air Stagnation Advisory and Burn Ban will be issued, and those with breathing problems should take precautions in such an event.

In case of rain, take the normal precautions while driving to avoid skidding; drive 10-15 mph slower than the speed limit and avoid driving through large puddles. If you are heading to the mountains in the winter, take the typical winter driving precautions, like putting chains on your tires or changing to traction tires. If it does snow in Seattle, it is not recommended to drive, as the city is typically unprepared for such an event and motor vehicles become a moving hazard -- stuck, skidding, or rolling down the city's hills.


While Seattle’s LGBTQ community is well integrated throughout the entire city, Capitol Hill is the heart of Seattle’s gay cultural scene and is a historical hub of gay and gay-friendly businesses, bars, restaurants and clubs. Its eclectic nightlife and central location make Capital Hill the ideal place for an exciting night out. But more family friendly gay activities can be found in other areas as Seattle has the second-largest percentage of gay, lesbian or bisexual residents among large cities in the U.S.

Stay healthy[edit]

As long as there are no extreme weather events, Seattle is a perfectly lovely place. Many parks have jogging tracks and fitness centers are abundant, making Seattle one of the fittest cities in the nation.

Temperatures can get extreme during the summer, and there is always at least one annual instance where temperatures hover above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, although the little humidity makes the heat less oppressive. Drink plenty of liquid to keep yourself hydrated and don't leave anybody inside a car.

When it rains, Seattleites frequently don't use umbrellas, since the drizzle is constant and is sometimes accompanied with wind. Rather, the locals are more likely to wear a hoodie jacket or a poncho, and packing one is recommended. During the long stretch of mild (40-50 degrees) and dry days in winter, smog often covers the skies of Puget Sound, as there is no way for the pollutants and moisture to clear out of the area. If an Air Stagnation Advisory or Burn Ban is issued, take precautions if you have breathing problems. On these days, you might want to consider heading to the mountains, where you're more likely to experience sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures.

During a hike in between thick lines of trees at the parks, be careful to check for ticks. If a bulls' eye rash develops at the tick bite site, immediately seek medical help and treatment with antibiotics. Despite its location close to mountains, wild animals such as bears or beavers are very unlikely to stray at the city.

Smoking is not allowed in any public places, and must be done at least 25 feet away from doors, windows, or ventilation shafts.

Tap water is safe to drink and is among the best quality in the United States, from undisturbed and uncontaminated water sources fed by snow melt in the Cascade mountains.



  • 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:


Seattle is the 13th largest television market in the US, with all big five English (ABC, NBC, CBS, CW, FOX), four 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 [dead link] = 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.


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. An area roughly located between Interstate 5 and Broadway is dubbed as Pill Hill for having three of Seattle's largest medical centers within the small complex: Harborview, Virginia Mason, and Swedish.

  • 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 Center325 Ninth Ave +1 206 744-3000. Managed by the University of Washington Medicine system, it is 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. Also has a center for sexual assault rehabilitation.
    • UW Medical Center1959 NE Pacific St +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.
    • Seattle Children's Hospital4800 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.
  • Virginia Mason Medical Center1100 Ninth Avenue, toll-free: +1 888 862-2737. One of the best hospitals in the state and the nation for cancer, heart diseases, gastro, and orthopedic surgery. It is also known for having a high satisfactory in patient care.

In the event of a medical emergency anywhere in the U.S., dial 9-1-1 for free from any phone, including payphones at no cost.


Most consulates are in downtown Seattle, but some are elsewhere:

Go next[edit]


If you're staying anywhere near downtown, the state-run ferries leave from Colman Dock, a pier at the south end of the Waterfront, an easy walk from downtown. Passengers on foot pay $7.50 for the westbound trip; the return to Seattle is free.


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:

Within the metropolitan area[edit]

  • 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.
  • Tacoma is an hour drive south using Interstate 5, where you can find one of the largest zoos in the country, Point Defiance, as well as innumerable history and art museums.
  • Mount Vernon and Bellingham are two cute small towns just one hour north of Seattle pass Everett. Every start of spring, the tulip fields near Mount Vernon pop up with vibrant colors and is a major tourist attraction.
  • Bellevue is across Lake Washington and features posh shops and restaurants. The city itself is cleaner than Seattle.
  • Redmond is just a few minutes' drive pass Bellevue and is home to the world-renowned technology company, Microsoft. You can visit its visitor center where most of their products are showcased.

Day trips[edit]

  • Leavenworth is a Bavarian-style town situated on the other side of the Cascade mountains.
  • 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 at the Olympic National Park.
  • Portland, Oregon is roughly 3 hours away south on I-5 while Vancouver, Canada is 2 hours (plus border security) north of Seattle on I-5.
  • 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).
  • Spokane, a 5-hour drive eastbound on I-90 to the major city of eastern Washington.
  • 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.

Cascade Mountains[edit]

  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.


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 rain. Winter sports season is generally November–May, depending on how much snow there is. Generally, the highest ski resorts will open for the winter season longer.

  • Snoqualmie Pass - Summit and Alpental resorts an hour east on Interstate 90. Elevation 3000 feet (more than 900m)
  • Stevens Pass (elevation 4500 feet)- A resort about two hours East of Seattle on Highway 2. Elevation 4000 feet (about 1300m)
  • Crystal Mountain at Mount Rainier. Opens in winter for skiing, in summer for hiking. Gondola to the Summit House restaurant operates year round as well. Elevation 4500 up to 6800 feet (1400 to 2100 meters above sea level)
  • 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
VancouverEdmonds  N Amtrak Cascades icon.png S  TukwilaPortland
END  W Amtrak Empire Builder icon.png E  EdmondsSpokane
Vancouver (via BC-99.svg)Shoreline  N I-5.svg S  TukwilaPortland
END  W I-90.svg E  Mercer IslandSpokane
EverettShoreline  N WA-99.svg S  TukwilaTacoma
END  N WA-509.svg S  White CenterTacoma
END  W WA-520.svg E  BellevueRedmond
END  SW WA-522.svg NE  → Jct W WA-104.svgBothellMonroe

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