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Seattle, Washington is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. Located between Puget Sound and Lake Washington in King County, of which it is the county seat, and overlooking Elliott Bay, Seattle is nicknamed The Emerald City. The city is a damp green gem, with an abundance of evergreen trees throughout, and spectacular views of the Cascade mountains to the east and the Olympic mountains to the west. The cultural and business center of the Pacific Northwest, the city and its surrounding areas are the home of the Space Needle, Boeing's aircraft assembly plants, Microsoft, Amazon.com, Costco, Nintendo of America, Starbucks, T-Mobile, and the University of Washington, as well as a vibrant arts and music
Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods
Seattle's retail core, home to the waterfront, the Pike Place Market, and some of the most stunning architecture in the city
Pioneer Square-International District
The oldest neighborhoods in Seattle, containing art galleries and innumerable restaurants
Queen Anne-South Lake unnion
Perched on the hills northwest of Downtown and home to the Seattle Center and the Space Needle
Capitol Hill-Central District
A diverse, densely-packed cluster of neighborhoods, rich and poor, from the nightlife of Pike-Pine to the quiet residences of Madison Park. This area is also said to be the gay capital of Seattle.
North of the Lake Washington Ship Canal
A mostly residential area, home to the canal locks. The area is known for its Scandinavian heritage and thriving Historic Downtown Ballard.
Fremont and Wallingford
The self-proclaimed "center of the universe", a bohemian (though rapidly gentrifying) area noted for its public art
Home to the sprawling University of Washington campus and its adjacent neighborhoods
The city's mostly residential northernmost tier, bordering Shoreline
South of Downtown and I-90
Continuing south of downtown past the sports stadiums, this industrial district contains the well-hidden but thriving Georgetown neighborhood.
Beacon Hill-South Seattle-Columbia City-Rainier Beach
Beacon Hill is the newest neighborhood to explode with easy access via Beacon Hill Lite Rail Station. Columbia City also hosts many restaurants, theaters and clubs. One amostly residential area that's home to the lovely Seward Park. Rainier Beach is still an affordable residential area to live.
A scenic residential area with numerous parks and good vistas over the harbor
The "Eastside" refers to the region east of Lake Washington comprising the suburbs of Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond.
Seattle is historically a very diverse city and multiculturalism is seen as a virtue. Discrimination based on race is considered extremely offensive.
Locals have long talked of the "Seattle Freeze," referring to the cold politeness of residents. The theory is that while locals are very polite and warm on first interaction, most residents are also very reserved and interactions rarely lead to real acts of friendship.
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.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), universally nicknamed "Sea-Tac", is located in the city's southern suburbs. Domestically it's a major hub for Northwest and West Coast destinations, and internationally handles especially frequent trans-Pacific routes, as well as direct flights to the major European airports and to Dubai, UAE. The airport is about a 25 minute drive from downtown Seattle when there isn't heavy traffic, much longer during rush hour.
All international flights arrive at the south satellite terminal, but after immigration and customs, passengers are then funneled onto a train back to the main terminal, outside the security checkpoint. There are several choices for getting from the airport to the city center:
By airport public transportation
Sound Transit's Link Light Rail connects the Airport directly to downtown Seattle, taking 37 minutes to reach the terminal at Westlake Station in the central business downtown.
Amtrak provides service from all along the west coast from King Street Station, located S King St between 2nd & 4th Ave, south of downtown near Safeco Field.
Interstate Highway 5 (I-5) cuts through the middle of Seattle north to south. I-90 runs from the I-5 interchange in Seattle all the way to Boston, and crosses one of the two Lake Washington bridges to Bellevue, along with SR-520 further north. I-405 runs parallel to I-5 on the east side of Lake Washington. Be aware however, that Seattle is a city known for terrible traffic (third worst in the nation behind Los Angeles and New York), especially around rush hour, so be ready for crawling along slowly as you enter the city, especially on infamously congested I-5, southern I-405, and the SR-520 bridge.
For an American city of its size, Seattle is rather easy to get around.
Seattle's road designations make sense once you understand them but, if you don't understand them, you can end up many miles away from your destination.
North-South roads are labeled "Avenues" while East-West roads are labeled "Streets". The city is roughly divided into a semi 3 by 3 grid with 7 directional sectors (NW, N, NE, E, W, SW, and S). Street addresses are written with the sector before the name, e.g. NE 45th Street or just NE 45th. Avenue addresses are written with the sector after the name, e.g. 45th Avenue NE or 45th NE. "Avenue" and "after" both start with "a".
What to see
Pike Place Market, 1501 Pike Place. In downtown, the market is Seattle's largest tourist area, and it's the oldest continually operating farmers' market in the United States. It is home to the famous fish market, original Starbucks Coffee shop, and a large indoor and outdoor market. Many other attractions in downtown are within walking distance of Seattle's biggest tourist area making it the perfect place to start any sightseeing trip of the city.
Argosy Cruises. Offers sightseeing cruises of the harbor, the locks, and the surrounding lakes. They also offer day trips to Tillicum Village on Blake Island with a salmon bake from 1201 Alaskan Way, Piers 55 & 56.
Public Market Tours. A one-hour historical tour of Pike Place Market filled with intriguing tales, including the original Starbucks and Sur La Table stores, as well as the world famous fish throwing Pike Place Fish boys.
Hot Air Balloon Tours. Hot air ballooning has been a staple in Seattle for the last 30 years. Seeing Mount Rainier from the a few thousand feet is a photographers paradise. Flights typically take place at sunrise and sunset.
Savor Seattle Food Tours is ranked #1 for the best things to do in Seattle! Offer award-winning food tours that explore the exciting history, culture, and food that makes Seattle a top culinary destination.
SubSeattle Tour is a rollicking, scenic bus ride through out-of-sight city neighborhoods, with lots of irreverent humor, sightings and stories of Seattle's subcultures.
Seattle is home to a number of top-notch museums. Downtown is home to the renowned Seattle Art Museum, which displays a good overview and assortment of art from around the world. In the Central District is the Seattle Asian Art Museum, an off-shoot of the Seattle Art Museum which focuses on Chinese & Japanese Art.
Surrounding the Space Needle on the grounds of the Seattle Center are several more big museums, including the Pacific Science Center, an interactive science museum, the Experience Music Project, a Rock & Roll museum with a special Jimi Hendrix exhibit, and the Science Fiction Museum Home of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.
On the north end of South Lake unnion is the newly reopened Museum of History and Industry, called Mohai for short.
Downtown is home to the popular Seattle Aquarium. The University District holds the The Henry Art Gallery, one of the biggest contemporary art galleries in Washington.
Most of the architectural attractions in Seattle are located in a small portion of the downtown area, easily traversed on foot. Among the highlights are the Rem Koolhaas/OMA designed Central Library, a unique, contemporary building with an enormous glass-fronted atrium; the Experience Music Project designed to resemble Jimi Hendrix's smashed guitar done in a manner only Frank Gehry could conceive; the Smith Tower.
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.
Seafair is in July and early August. Neighborhood events such as parades and street fairs run throughout the festival, with the downtown Torchlight Parade in late July. Seafair culminates in early August when hydroplane races and the Blue Angels bring loud, fast boats and planes to Lake Washington.
Bumbershoot. A music and arts festival, held on Labor Day weekend (beginning of September) in the Seattle Center, featuring dozens of local and world-class musical acts.
Northwest Folklife Festival. A more low-key and global version of Bumbershoot, held in the Seattle Center on Memorial Day weekend (end of May). Even more important - it's free ($10 donation per person per day requested at the entries - but not required).
Bite of Seattle. Part of Seafair festivities. Held in mid/late-July in the Seattle Center. Eat till you explode.
Hempfest A two-day cannabis festival in mid-August. Held at Myrtle Edwards park on the Seattle waterfront, it's the largest marijuana rally in the world and the biggest annual political event in Washington. Features political speakers, vendors, food, several stages with many bands, and lots of open pot smoking! It is a demonstration for the political reform and the legalization of marijuana.