FIPS 55-3 Code
US National Archive Codes
Coordinates Latitude: 47.6062095 Longitude: -122.3320708
Demographics & Economic Data
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Archaeological excavations suggest that Native Americans have inhabited the Seattle area for at least 4,000 years. By the time the first European settlers arrived, the people (subsequently called the Duwamish tribe) occupied at least seventeen villages in the areas around Elliott Bay.The first European to visit the Seattle area was George Vancouver, in May 1792 during his 1791–95 expedition to chart the Pacific Northwest.
In 1851, a large party led by Luther Collins made a location on land at the mouth of the Duwamish River; they formally claimed it on September 14, 1851. Thirteen days later, members of the Collins Party on the way to their claim passed three scouts of the Denny Party. Members of the Denny Party claimed land on Alki Point on September 28, 1851. The rest of the Denny Party set sail from Portland, Oregon, and landed on Alki point during a rainstorm on November 13, 1851.
After a difficult winter, most of the Denny Party relocated across Elliott Bay and claimed land a second time at the site of present-day Pioneer Square, naming this new settlement Duwamps.
Charles Terry and John Low remained at the original landing location and reestablished their old land claim and called it "New York", but renamed "New York Alki" in April 1853, from a Chinook word meaning, roughly, "by and by" or "someday".For the next few years, New York Alki and Duwamps competed for dominance, but in time Alki was abandoned and its residents moved across the bay to join the rest of the settlers.David Swinson "Doc" Maynard, one of the founders of Duwamps, was the primary advocate to name the settlement after Chief Seattle ("Seattle") of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes.
The name "Seattle" appears on official Washington Territory papers dated May 23, 1853, when the first plats for the village were filed. In 1855, nominal land settlements were established. On January 14, 1865, the Legislature of Territorial Washington incorporated the Town of Seattle with a board of trustees managing the city. The Town of Seattle was disincorporated on January 18, 1867, and remained a mere precinct of King County until late 1869, when a new petition was filed and the city was re-incorporated December 2, 1869, with a mayor–council government. The corporate seal of the City of Seattle carries the date "1869" and a likeness of Chief Sealth in left profile.
Seattle has a history of boom-and-bust cycles, like many other cities near areas of extensive natural and mineral resources. Seattle has risen several times economically, then gone into precipitous decline, but it has typically used those periods to rebuild solid infrastructure.
The first such boom, covering the early years of the city, rode on the lumber industry. (During this period the road now known as Yesler Way won the nickname "Skid Road," supposedly after the timber skidding down the hill to Henry Yesler's sawmill. The later dereliction of the area may be a possible origin for the term which later entered the wider American lexicon as Skid Row.) Like much of the American West, Seattle saw numerous conflicts between labor and management, as well as ethnic tensions that culminated in the anti-Chinese riots of 1885–1886. This violence originated with unemployed whites who were determined to drive the Chinese from Seattle (anti-Chinese riots also occurred in Tacoma). In 1900, Asians were 4.2% of the population. Authorities declared martial law and federal troops arrived to put down the disorder.
Seattle had achieved sufficient economic success that when the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 destroyed the central business district, a far grander city-center rapidly emerged in its place. Finance company Washington Mutual, for example, was founded in the immediate wake of the fire. However, the Panic of 1893 hit Seattle hard.
Gold Rush, World War I, and the Great Depression
The second and most dramatic boom resulted from the Klondike Gold Rush, which ended the depression that had begun with the Panic of 1893. In a short time, Seattle became a major transportation center. On July 14, 1897, the S.S. Portland docked with its famed "ton of gold," and Seattle became the main transport and supply point for the miners in Alaska and the Yukon. Few of those working men found lasting wealth. However, it was Seattle's business of clothing the miners and feeding them salmon that panned out in the long run. Along with Seattle, other cities like Everett, Tacoma, Port Townsend, Bremerton, and Olympia, all in the Puget Sound region, became competitors for exchange, rather than mother lodes for extraction, of precious metals. The boom lasted well into the early part of the 20th century, and funded many new Seattle companies and products. In 1907, 19-year-old James E. Casey borrowed $100 from a friend and founded the American Messenger Company (later UPS). Other Seattle companies founded during this period include Nordstrom and Eddie Bauer. Seattle brought in the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm to design a system of parks and boulevards.
The Gold Rush era culminated in the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909, which is largely responsible for the layout of today's University of Washington campus.A shipbuilding boom in the early part of the 20th century became massive during World War I, making Seattle somewhat of a company town. The subsequent retrenchment led to the Seattle General Strike of 1919, the first general strike in the country. A 1912 city development plan by Virgil Bogue went largely unused. Seattle was mildly prosperous in the 1920s but was particularly hard hit in the Great Depression, experiencing some of the country's harshest labor strife in that era. Violence during the Maritime Strike of 1934 cost Seattle much of its maritime traffic, which was rerouted to the Port of Los Angeles.The Great Depression in Seattle affected many minority groups, one being the Asian Pacific Americans; they were subject to racism, loss of property, and failed claims of unemployment due to citizenship status.Seattle was one of the major cities that benefited from programs such as the WPA, CCC, UCL, and PWA. The workers, mostly men, built roads, parks, dams, schools, railroads, bridges, docks, and even historical and archival record sites and buildings. However, Seattle faced massive unemployment, loss of lumber and construction industries as Los Angeles prevailed as the bigger West Coast city. Seattle had building contracts that rivaled New York City and Chicago, but lost to LA as well. Seattle's eastern farm land faded due to Oregon’s and the Midwest’s, forcing people into town.The famous Hooverville arose during the Depression, leading to Seattle's growing homeless population. Stationed outside Seattle, the Hooverville housed thousands of men but very very few children and no women. With work projects close to the city, Hooverville grew and the WPA settled into the city.A movement by women arose from Seattle during the Depression. Fueled by Eleanor Roosevelt’s book It’s Up to the Women, women pushed for recognition, not just as housewives, but as the backbone to family. Using newspapers and journals Working Woman and The Woman Today, women pushed to be seen as equal and receive some recognition.Seattle's University of Washington was greatly affected during the Depression era. As schools across Washington lost funding and attendance, the UW actually prospered during the time period. While Seattle public schools were influenced by Washington's superintendent Worth McClure, they still struggled to pay teachers and maintain attendance. The UW, despite academic challenges that plagued the college due to differing views on teaching and learning, focused on growth in student enrollment rather than improving the existing school.Seattle was also the home base of impresario Alexander Pantages who, starting in 1902, opened a number of theaters in the city exhibiting vaudeville acts and silent movies. His activities soon expanded, and the thrifty Greek went on and became one of America's greatest theater and movie tycoons. Between Pantages and his rival John Considine, Seattle was for a while the western United States' vaudeville mecca. B. Marcus Priteca, the Scottish-born and Seattle-based architect, built several theaters for Pantages, including some in Seattle. The theaters he built for Pantages in Seattle have been either demolished or converted to other uses, but many other theaters survive in other cities of the U.S., often retaining the Pantages name; Seattle's surviving Paramount Theatre, on which he collaborated, was not a Pantages theater.
Post-war years: aircraft and software
War work again brought local prosperity during World War II, this time centered on Boeing aircraft. The war dispersed the city's numerous Japanese-American businessmen due to the Japanese American internment. After the war, the local economy dipped. It rose again with Boeing's growing dominance in the commercial airliner market. Seattle celebrated its restored prosperity and made a bid for world recognition with the Century 21 Exposition, the 1962 World's Fair. Another major local economic downturn was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, at a time when Boeing was heavily affected by the oil crises, loss of Government contracts, and costs and delays associated with the Boeing 747. Many people left the area to look for work elsewhere, and two local real estate agents put up a billboard reading "Will the last person leaving Seattle – Turn out the lights."Seattle remained the corporate headquarters of Boeing until 2001, when the company separated its headquarters from its major production facilities; the headquarters were moved to Chicago. The Seattle area is still home to Boeing's Renton narrow-body plant (where the 707, 720, 727, and 757 were assembled, and the 737 is assembled today) and Everett wide-body plant (assembly plant for the 747, 767, 777, and 787). The company's credit union for employees, BECU, remains based in the Seattle area, though it is now open to all residents of Washington.
As prosperity began to return in the 1980s, the city was stunned by the Wah Mee massacre in 1983, when 13 people were killed in an illegal gambling club in the Seattle Chinatown-International District. Beginning with Microsoft's 1979 move from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to nearby Bellevue, Washington, Seattle and its suburbs became home to a number of technology companies including Amazon.com, F5 Networks, RealNetworks, Nintendo of America, McCaw Cellular (now part of AT&T Mobility), VoiceStream (now T-Mobile), and biomedical corporations such as HeartStream (later purchased by Philips), Heart Technologies (later purchased by Boston Scientific), Physio-Control (later purchased by Medtronic), ZymoGenetics, ICOS (later purchased by Eli Lilly and Company) and Immunex (later purchased by Amgen). This success brought an influx of new residents with a population increase within city limits of almost 50,000 between 1990 and 2000, and saw Seattle's real estate become some of the most expensive in the country. In 1993, the movie Sleepless in Seattle brought the city further national attention.The dot-com boom caused a great frenzy among the technology companies in Seattle but the bubble ended in early 2001.Seattle in this period attracted widespread attention as home to these many companies, but also by hosting the 1990 Goodwill Games and the APEC leaders conference in 1993, as well as through the worldwide popularity of grunge, a sound that had developed in Seattle's independent music scene. Another bid for worldwide attention—hosting the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 1999—garnered visibility, but not in the way its sponsors desired, as related protest activity and police reactions to those protests overshadowed the conference itself. The city was further shaken by the Mardi Gras Riots in 2001, and then literally shaken the following day by the Nisqually earthquake.
Another boom began as the city emerged from the Great Recession which commenced when Amazon.com moved its headquarters from North Beacon Hill to South Lake Union. This initiated a historic construction boom which resulted in the completion of almost 10,000 apartments in Seattle in 2017, which is more than any previous year and nearly twice as many as were built in 2016. Beginning in 2010, and for the next five years, Seattle gained an average of 14,511 residents per year, with the growth strongly skewed toward the center of the city, as unemployment dropped from roughly 9 percent to 3.6 percent. The city has found itself "bursting at the seams", with over 45,000 households spending more than half their income on housing and at least 2,800 people homeless, and with the country's sixth-worst rush hour traffic.
With a land area of 83.9 square miles (217.3 km²), Seattle is the northernmost city with at least 500,000 people in the United States, farther north than Canadian cities such as Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal, and at about the same latitude as Salzburg, Austria.
The topography of Seattle is hilly. The city lies on several hills, including Capitol Hill, First Hill, West Seattle, Beacon Hill, Magnolia, Denny Hill, and Queen Anne. The Kitsap and the Olympic peninsulas along with the Olympic mountains lie to the west of Puget Sound, while the Cascade Range and Lake Sammamish lie to the east of Lake Washington. The city has over 5,540 acres (2,242 ha) of parkland.
Seattle is located between the saltwater Puget Sound (an arm of the Pacific Ocean) to the west and Lake Washington to the east. The city's chief harbor, Elliott Bay, is part of Puget Sound, which makes the city an oceanic port. To the west, beyond Puget Sound, are the Kitsap Peninsula and Olympic Mountains on the Olympic Peninsula; to the east, beyond Lake Washington and the Eastside suburbs, are Lake Sammamish and the Cascade Range. Lake Washington's waters flow to Puget Sound through the Lake Washington Ship Canal (consisting of two man-made canals, Lake Union, and the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks at Salmon Bay, ending in Shilshole Bay on Puget Sound).
The sea, rivers, forests, lakes, and fields surrounding Seattle were once rich enough to support one of the world's few sedentary hunter-gatherer societies. The surrounding area lends itself well to sailing, skiing, bicycling, camping, and hiking year-round.The city itself is hilly, though not uniformly so. Like Rome, the city is said to lie on seven hills; the lists vary but typically include Capitol Hill, First Hill, West Seattle, Beacon Hill, Queen Anne, Magnolia, and the former Denny Hill. The Wallingford, Delridge, Mount Baker, Seward Park, Washington Park, Broadmoor, Madrona, Phinney Ridge, Sunset Hill, Blue Ridge, Broadview, Laurelhurst, Hawthorne Hills, Maple Leaf, and Crown Hill neighborhoods are all located on hills as well. Many of the hilliest areas are near the city center, with Capitol Hill, First Hill, and Beacon Hill collectively constituting something of a ridge along an isthmus between Elliott Bay and Lake Washington. The break in the ridge between First Hill and Beacon Hill is man-made, the result of two of the many regrading projects that reshaped the topography of the city center. The topography of the city center was also changed by the construction of a seawall and the artificial Harbor Island (completed 1909) at the mouth of the city's industrial Duwamish Waterway, the terminus of the Green River. The highest point within city limits is at High Point in West Seattle, which is roughly located near 35th Ave SW and SW Myrtle St. Other notable hills include Crown Hill, View Ridge/Wedgwood/Bryant, Maple Leaf, Phinney Ridge, Mt. Baker Ridge, and Highlands/Carkeek/Bitterlake.
North of the city center, Lake Washington Ship Canal connects Puget Sound to Lake Washington. It incorporates four natural bodies of water: Lake Union, Salmon Bay, Portage Bay, and Union Bay.
Due to its location in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Seattle is in a major earthquake zone. On February 28, 2001, the magnitude 6.8 Nisqually earthquake did significant architectural damage, especially in the Pioneer Square area (built on reclaimed land, as are the Industrial District and part of the city center), but caused only one fatality.
Other strong quakes occurred on January 26, 1700 (estimated at 9 magnitude), December 14, 1872 (7.3 or 7.4), April 13, 1949 (7.1), and April 29, 1965 (6.5). The 1965 quake caused three deaths in Seattle directly and one more by heart failure. Although the Seattle Fault passes just south of the city center, neither it nor the Cascadia subduction zone has caused an earthquake since the city's founding. The Cascadia subduction zone poses the threat of an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 or greater, capable of seriously damaging the city and collapsing many buildings, especially in zones built on fill.According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 142.5 square miles (369 km2), 83.9 square miles (217 km2) of which is land and 58.7 square miles (152 km2), water (41.16% of the total area).
Seattle has a warm-temperate climate, officially in the mediterranean zone by the main climatic classification (Köppen: Csb). but other sources due to winter temperatures consider a oceanic climate (Cfb), without meeting Köppen-Geiger criteria. It has cool, wet winters and mild, relatively dry summers, covering characteristics of both. The climate is sometimes characterized as a "modified Mediterranean" climate because it is cooler and wetter than a "true" Mediterranean climate, but shares the characteristic dry summer (which has a strong influence on the region's vegetation). The city and environs are part of USDA hardiness zone 8b, with isolated coastal pockets falling under 9a.Temperature extremes are moderated by the adjacent Puget Sound, greater Pacific Ocean, and Lake Washington. Thus extreme heat waves are rare in the Seattle area, as are very cold temperatures (below about 15 °F (−9 °C)). The Seattle area is the most cloudy region of the United States, due in part to frequent storms and lows moving in from the adjacent Pacific Ocean. Despite having a reputation for frequent rain, Seattle receives less precipitation than many other U.S. cities like Chicago or New York City. However, unlike many other U.S. cities, Seattle has many more "rain days", when a very light drizzle falls from the sky for many days.
In an average year, at least 0.01 inches (0.25 mm) of precipitation falls on 150 days, more than nearly all U.S. cities east of the Rocky Mountains. It is cloudy 201 days out of the year and partly cloudy 93 days. Official weather and climatic data is collected at Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, located about 19 km (12 mi) south of downtown in the city of SeaTac, which is at a higher elevation, and records more cloudy days and fewer partly cloudy days per year.Hot temperature extremes are enhanced by dry, compressed wind from the west slopes of the Cascades, while cold temperatures are generated mainly from the Fraser Valley in British Columbia.From 1981 to 2010, the average annual precipitation measured at Seattle–Tacoma International Airport was 37.49 inches (952 mm). Annual precipitation has ranged from 23.78 in (604 mm) in 1952 to 55.14 in (1,401 mm) in 1950; for water year (October 1 – September 30) precipitation, the range is 23.16 in (588 mm) in 1976–77 to 51.82 in (1,316 mm) in 1996–97. Due to local variations in microclimate, Seattle also receives significantly lower precipitation than some other locations west of the Cascades. Around 80 mi (129 km) to the west, the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park on the western flank of the Olympic Mountains receives an annual average precipitation of 142 in (3.61 m). Sixty miles (95 km) to the south of Seattle, the state capital Olympia, which is out of the Olympic Mountains' rain shadow, receives an annual average precipitation of 50 in (1,270 mm). The city of Bremerton, about 15 mi (24 km) west of downtown Seattle on the other side of the Puget Sound, receives 56.4 in (1,430 mm) of precipitation annually.Conversely, the northeastern portion of the Olympic Peninsula, which lies east of the Olympic Mountains is located within the Olympic rain shadow and receives significantly less precipitation than its surrounding areas. Prevailing airflow from the west is forced to cool and compress when colliding with the mountain range, resulting in high levels of precipitation within the mountains and its western slopes. Once the airflow reaches the leeward side of the mountains, it then lowers and expands resulting in warmer, and significantly dryer air. Sequim, Washington, nicknamed "Sunny Sequim," is located approximately 40 mi (64 km) northwest of downtown Seattle and receives just 16.51 inches (419 mm) of annual precipitation, more comparable to that of Los Angeles. Often an area devoid of cloud cover can be seen extending out over the Puget Sound to the north and east of Sequim. On average Sequim observes 127 sunny days per year in addition to 127 days with partial cloud cover. Other areas influenced by the Olympic rain shadow include Port Angeles, Port Townsend, extending as far north as Victoria, British Columbia.In November, Seattle averages more rainfall than any other U.S. city of more than 250,000 people; it also ranks highly in winter precipitation. Conversely, the city receives some of the lowest precipitation amounts of any large city from June to September. Seattle is one of the five rainiest major U.S. cities as measured by the number of days with precipitation, and it receives some of the lowest amounts of annual sunshine among major cities in the lower 48 states, along with some cities in the Northeast, Ohio, and Michigan. Thunderstorms are rare, as the city reports thunder on just seven days per year. By comparison, Fort Myers, Florida, reports thunder on 93 days per year, Kansas City on 52, and New York City on 25.
Seattle experiences its heaviest rainfall during November, December, and January, receiving roughly half of its annual rainfall (by volume) during this period. In late fall and early winter, atmospheric rivers (also known as "Pineapple Express" systems), strong frontal systems, and Pacific low-pressure systems are common. Light rain & drizzle are the predominant forms of precipitation during the remainder of the year; for instance, on average, less than 1.6 in (41 mm) of rain falls in July and August combined when rain is less common. On occasion, Seattle experiences somewhat more significant weather events. One such event occurred on December 2–4, 2007, when sustained hurricane-force winds and widespread heavy rainfall associated with a strong Pineapple Express event occurred in the greater Puget Sound area and the western parts of Washington and Oregon. Precipitation totals exceeded 13.8 in (350 mm) in some areas with winds topping out at 209 km/h (130 mph) along coastal Oregon. It became the second wettest event in Seattle history when a little over 130 mm (5.1 in) of rain fell on Seattle in a 24-hour period. Lack of adaptation to the heavy rain contributed to five deaths and widespread flooding and damage.Autumn, winter, and early spring are frequently characterized by rain. Winters are cool and wet with December, the coolest month, averaging 40.6 °F (4.8 °C), with 28 annual days with lows that reach the freezing mark, and 2.0 days where the temperature stays at or below freezing all day; the temperature rarely lowers to 20 °F (−7 °C). Summers are sunny, dry and warm, with August, the warmest month, with high temperatures averaging 76.1 °F (24.5 °C), and reaching 90 °F (32 °C) on 3.1 days per year. In 2015 the city recorded 13 days over 90 °F. The hottest officially recorded temperature was 103 °F (39 °C) on July 29, 2009; the coldest recorded temperature was 0 °F (−18 °C) on January 31, 1950; the record cold daily maximum is 16 °F (−9 °C) on January 14, 1950, while, conversely, the record warm daily minimum is 71 °F (22 °C) the day the official record high was set. The average window for freezing temperatures is November 16 through March 10, allowing a growing season of 250 days.
Seattle typically receives some snowfall on an annual basis but heavy snow is rare. Average annual snowfall, as measured at Sea-Tac Airport, is 6.8 inches (17.3 cm). Single calendar-day snowfall of six inches (15 cm) or greater has occurred on only 15 days since 1948, and only once since February 17, 1990, when 6.8 in (17.3 cm) of snow officially fell at Sea-Tac airport on January 18, 2012. This moderate snow event was officially the 12th snowiest calendar day at the airport since 1948 and snowiest since November 1985. Much of the city of Seattle proper received somewhat lesser snowfall accumulations. Locations to the south of Seattle received more, with Olympia and Chehalis receiving 14 to 18 in (36 to 46 cm). Another moderate snow event occurred from December 12–25, 2008, when over one foot (30 cm) of snow fell and stuck on much of the roads over those two weeks, when temperatures remained below 32 °F (0 °C), causing widespread difficulties in a city not equipped for clearing snow. The largest documented snowstorm occurred from January 5–9, 1880, with snow drifting to 6 feet (1.8 m) in places at the end of the snow event. From January 31 to February 2, 1916, another heavy snow event occurred with 29 in (74 cm) of snow on the ground by the time the event was over. With official records dating to 1948, the largest single-day snowfall is 20.0 in (51 cm) on January 13, 1950. Seasonal snowfall has ranged from zero in 1991–92 to 67.5 in (171 cm) in 1968–69, with trace amounts having occurred as recently as 2009–10. The month of January 1950 was particularly severe, bringing 57.2 in (145 cm) of snow, the most of any month along with the aforementioned record cold.The Puget Sound Convergence Zone is an important feature of Seattle's weather. In the convergence zone, air arriving from the north meets air flowing in from the south. Both streams of air originate over the Pacific Ocean; airflow is split by the Olympic Mountains to Seattle's west, then reunited to the east. When the air currents meet, they are forced upward, resulting in convection. Thunderstorms caused by this activity are usually weak and can occur north and south of town, but Seattle itself rarely receives more than occasional thunder and small hail showers. The Hanukkah Eve Wind Storm in December 2006 is an exception that brought heavy rain and winds gusting up to 69 mph (111 km/h), an event that was not caused by the Puget Sound Convergence Zone and was widespread across the Pacific Northwest.
One of many exceptions to Seattle's reputation as a damp location occurs in El Niño years, when marine weather systems track as far south as California and little precipitation falls in the Puget Sound area. Since the region's water comes from mountain snow packs during the dry summer months, El Niño winters can not only produce substandard skiing but can result in water rationing and a shortage of hydroelectric power the following summer.
According to the 2012-2016 American Community Survey (ACS), the racial makeup of the city was 65.7% Caucasian, 14.1% Asian, 7.0% of African origin,
6.6% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 0.4% Native American, 0.9% Pacific Islander, 0.2% other races, and 5.6% two or more races.
According to the 2010 United States Census, Seattle had a population of 608,660 with a racial and ethnic composition as follows:
White: 69.5% (Non-Hispanic Whites: 66.3%)
Asian: 13.8% (4.1% Chinese, 2.6% Filipino, 2.2% Vietnamese, 1.3% Japanese, 1.1% Korean, 0.8% Indian, 0.3% Cambodian, 0.3% Laotian, 0.2% Pakistanis, 0.2% Indonesian, 0.2% Thai)
Black or African American: 7.9%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 6.6% (4.1% Mexican, 0.3% Puerto Rican, 0.2% Guatemalan, 0.2% Salvadoran, 0.2% Cuban)
American Indian and Alaska Native: 0.8%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.4%
Other race: 2.4%
Two or more races: 5.1%Seattle's population historically has been predominantly white. The 2010 census showed that Seattle was one of the whitest big cities in the country, although its proportion of white residents has been gradually declining. In 1960, whites comprised 91.6% of the city's population, while in 2010 they comprised 69.5%. According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, approximately 78.9% of residents over the age of five spoke only English at home. Those who spoke Asian languages other than Indo-European languages made up 10.2% of the population, Spanish was spoken by 4.5% of the population, speakers of other Indo-European languages made up 3.9%, and speakers of other languages made up 2.5%.
Seattle's foreign-born population grew 40% between the 1990 and 2000 censuses. The Chinese population in the Seattle area has origins in mainland China, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, and Taiwan. The earliest Chinese-Americans that came in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were almost entirely from Guangdong Province. The Seattle area is also home to a large Vietnamese population of more than 55,000 residents, as well as over 30,000 Somali immigrants. The Seattle-Tacoma area is also home to one of the largest Cambodian communities in the United States, numbering about 19,000 Cambodian Americans, and one of the largest Samoan communities in the mainland U.S., with over 15,000 people having Samoan ancestry. Additionally, the Seattle area had the highest percentage of self-identified mixed-race people of any large metropolitan area in the United States, according to the 2000 United States Census Bureau. According to a 2012 HistoryLink study, Seattle's 98118 ZIP code (in the Columbia City neighborhood) was one of the most diverse ZIP Code Tabulation Areas in the United States.According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, the largest religious groupings are Christians (52%), followed by those of no religion (37%), Hindus (2%), Buddhists (2%), Jews (1%), Muslims (1%) and a variety of other religions have smaller followings. According to the same study by the Pew Research Center, about 34% of Seattleites are Protestant, and 15% professing Roman Catholic beliefs. Meanwhile, 6% of the residents in Seattle call themselves agnostics, while 10% call themselves atheists.In 1999, the median income of a city household was $45,736, and the median income for a family was $62,195. Males had a median income of $40,929 versus $35,134 for females. The per capita income for the city was $30,306. 11.8% of the population and 6.9% of families are below the poverty line. Of people living in poverty, 13.8% are under the age of 18 and 10.2% are 65 or older.It is estimated that King County has 8,000 homeless people on any given night, and many of those live in Seattle. In September 2005, King County adopted a "Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness", one of the near-term results of which is a shift of funding from homeless shelter beds to permanent housing.In recent years, the city has experienced steady population growth, and has been faced with the issue of accommodating more residents. In 2006, after growing by 4,000 citizens per year for the previous 16 years, regional planners expected the population of Seattle to grow by 200,000 people by 2040. However, former mayor Greg Nickels supported plans that would increase the population by 60%, or 350,000 people, by 2040 and worked on ways to accommodate this growth while keeping Seattle's single-family housing zoning laws. The Seattle City Council later voted to relax height limits on buildings in the greater part of Downtown, partly with the aim to increase residential density in the city center. As a sign of increasing inner-city growth, the downtown population crested to over 60,000 in 2009, up 77% since 1990.Seattle also has large lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations. According to a 2006 study by UCLA, 12.9% of city residents polled identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This was the second-highest proportion of any major U.S. city, behind San Francisco. Greater Seattle also ranked second among major U.S. metropolitan areas, with 6.5% of the population identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. According to 2012 estimates from the United States Census Bureau, Seattle has the highest percentage of same-sex households in the United States, at 2.6 per cent, surpassing San Francisco.In addition, Seattle has a relatively high number of people living alone. According to the 2000 U.S. Census interim measurements of 2004, Seattle has the fifth highest proportion of single-person households nationwide among cities of 100,000 or more residents, at 40.8%.
Seattle's economy is driven by a mix of older industrial companies, and "new economy" Internet and technology companies, service, design, and clean technology companies. The city's gross metropolitan product (GMP) was $231 billion in 2010, making it the 11th largest metropolitan economy in the United States. The Port of Seattle, which also operates Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, is a major gateway for trade with Asia and cruises to Alaska. It also is the 8th largest port in the United States when measured by container capacity. Its maritime cargo operations merged with the Port of Tacoma in 2015 to form the Northwest Seaport Alliance. Although it was affected by the Great Recession, Seattle has retained a comparatively strong economy. It even remains as a hotbed for start-up businesses, especially in green building and clean technologies. It was ranked as America's No. 1 "smarter city" based on its government policies and green economy. In February 2010, the city government committed Seattle to become North America's first "climate neutral" city, with a goal of reaching zero net per capita greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Large companies continue to dominate the business landscape. Five companies on Fortune 500's 2017 list of the United States' largest companies (based on total revenue) are headquartered in Seattle: Internet retailer Amazon.com (#12), coffee chain Starbucks (#131), department store Nordstrom (#188), freight forwarder Expeditors International of Washington (#429) and forest products company Weyerhaeuser (#341). Other Fortune 500 companies commonly associated with Seattle are based in nearby Puget Sound cities. Warehouse club chain Costco (#16), the largest retail company in Washington, is based in Issaquah. Microsoft (#28) is located in Redmond. Furthermore, Bellevue is home to truck manufacturer Paccar (#164). Other major companies headquartered in the area include Nintendo of America in Redmond, T-Mobile US in Bellevue, Expedia Inc. in Bellevue, and Providence Health & Services (the state's largest health care system and fifth largest employer) in Renton. The city has a reputation for heavy coffee consumption; coffee companies founded or based in Seattle include Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee, and Tully's. There are also many successful independent artisanal espresso roasters and cafés.Before moving its headquarters to Chicago, aerospace manufacturer Boeing (#24) was the largest company based in Seattle. Its largest division, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, is still headquartered in nearby Renton. The company also has large aircraft manufacturing plants in Everett and Renton; it remains the largest private employer in the Seattle metropolitan area. In 2006 former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced a desire to spark a new economic boom driven by the biotechnology industry. Major redevelopment of the South Lake Union neighborhood is underway in an effort to attract new and established biotech companies to the city, joining biotech companies Corixa (acquired by GlaxoSmithKline), Immunex (now part of Amgen), Trubion, and ZymoGenetics. Vulcan Inc., the holding company of billionaire Paul Allen, is behind most of the development projects in the region. While some see the new development as an economic boon, others have criticized Nickels and the Seattle City Council for pandering to Allen's interests at taxpayers' expense. Also in 2006, Expansion Magazine ranked Seattle as one of the top 10 metropolitan areas in the nation based on climates favorable to business expansion. In 2005, Forbes ranked Seattle as the most expensive American city for buying a house based on the local income levels. In 2013, however, the magazine ranked Seattle No. 9 on its list of the Best Places for Business and Careers.Operating a hub at Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, Alaska Airlines maintains its headquarters in the city of SeaTac, next to the airport.Seattle is a hub for global health with the headquarters of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH, Infectious Disease Research Institute, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. In 2015, the Washington Global Health Alliance counted 168 global health organizations in Washington state. Many are headquartered in Seattle.
Twenty of Seattle's neighborhoods host one or more street fairs or parades.
From 1869 until 1982, Seattle was known as the "Queen City". Seattle's official nickname is the "Emerald City", the result of a contest held in 1981; the reference is to the lush evergreen forests of the area. Seattle is also referred to informally as the "Gateway to Alaska" for being the nearest major city in the contiguous U.S. to Alaska, "Rain City" for its frequent cloudy and rainy weather, and "Jet City" from the local influence of Boeing. The city has two official slogans or mottos: "The City of Flowers", meant to encourage the planting of flowers to beautify the city, and "The City of Goodwill", adopted prior to the 1990 Goodwill Games. Seattle residents are known as Seattleites.
Seattle has been a regional center for the performing arts for many years. The century-old Seattle Symphony Orchestra has won many awards and performs primarily at Benaroya Hall. The Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet, which perform at McCaw Hall (opened 2003 on the site of the former Seattle Opera House at Seattle Center), are comparably distinguished, with the Opera being particularly known for its performances of the works of Richard Wagner and the PNB School (founded in 1974) ranking as one of the top three ballet training institutions in the United States. The Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras (SYSO) is the largest symphonic youth organization in the United States. The city also boasts lauded summer and winter chamber music festivals organized by the Seattle Chamber Music Society.The 5th Avenue Theatre, built in 1926, stages Broadway-style musical shows featuring both local talent and international stars. Seattle has "around 100" theatrical production companies and over two dozen live theatre venues, many of them associated with fringe theatre; Seattle is probably second only to New York for number of equity theaters (28 Seattle theater companies have some sort of Actors' Equity contract).
In addition, the 900-seat Romanesque Revival Town Hall on First Hill hosts numerous cultural events, especially lectures and recitals.
Between 1918 and 1951, there were nearly two dozen jazz nightclubs along Jackson Street, running from the current Chinatown/International District to the Central District. The jazz scene developed the early careers of Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Bumps Blackwell, Ernestine Anderson, and others.Early popular musical acts from the Seattle/Puget Sound area include the collegiate folk group The Brothers Four, vocal group The Fleetwoods, 1960s garage rockers The Wailers and The Sonics, and instrumental surf group The Ventures, some of whom are still active.Seattle is considered the home of grunge music, having produced artists such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Mudhoney, all of whom reached international audiences in the early 1990s. The city is also home to such varied artists as avant-garde jazz musicians Bill Frisell and Wayne Horvitz, hot jazz musician Glenn Crytzer, hip hop artists Sir Mix-a-Lot, Macklemore, Blue Scholars, and Shabazz Palaces, smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G, classic rock staples Heart and Queensrÿche, and alternative rock bands such as Foo Fighters, Harvey Danger, The Presidents of the United States of America, The Posies, Modest Mouse, Band of Horses, Death Cab for Cutie, and Fleet Foxes. Rock musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Duff McKagan, and Nikki Sixx spent their formative years in Seattle.
The Seattle-based Sub Pop record company continues to be one of the world's best-known independent/alternative music labels.Over the years, a number of songs have been written about Seattle.
Seattle annually sends a team of spoken word slammers to the National Poetry Slam and considers itself home to such performance poets as Buddy Wakefield, two-time Individual World Poetry Slam Champ; Anis Mojgani, two-time National Poetry Slam Champ; and Danny Sherrard, 2007 National Poetry Slam Champ and 2008 Individual World Poetry Slam Champ. Seattle also hosted the 2001 national Poetry Slam Tournament. The Seattle Poetry Festival is a biennial poetry festival that (launched first as the Poetry Circus in 1997) has featured local, regional, national, and international names in poetry.The city also has movie houses showing both Hollywood productions and works by independent filmmakers. Among these, the Seattle Cinerama stands out as one of only three movie theaters in the world still capable of showing three-panel Cinerama films.
Among Seattle's prominent annual fairs and festivals are the 24-day Seattle International Film Festival, Northwest Folklife over the Memorial Day weekend, numerous Seafair events throughout July and August (ranging from a Bon Odori celebration to the Seafair Cup hydroplane races), the Bite of Seattle, one of the largest Gay Pride festivals in the United States, and the art and music festival Bumbershoot, which programs music as well as other art and entertainment over the Labor Day weekend. All are typically attended by 100,000 people annually, as are the Seattle Hempfest and two separate Independence Day celebrations.Other significant events include numerous Native American pow-wows, a Greek Festival hosted by St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Montlake, and numerous ethnic festivals (many associated with Festál at Seattle Center).There are other annual events, ranging from the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair & Book Arts Show; an anime convention, Sakura-Con; Penny Arcade Expo, a gaming convention; a two-day, 9,000-rider Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic; and specialized film festivals, such as the Maelstrom International Fantastic Film Festival, the Seattle Asian American Film Festival (formerly known as the Northwest Asian American Film Festival), Children's Film Festival Seattle, Translation: the Seattle Transgender Film Festival, the Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Seattle Latino Film Festival, and the Seattle Polish Film Festival.
The Henry Art Gallery opened in 1927, the first public art museum in Washington. The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) opened in 1933; SAM opened a museum downtown in 1991 (expanded and reopened 2007); since 1991, the 1933 building has been SAM's Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM). SAM also operates the Olympic Sculpture Park (opened 2007) on the waterfront north of the downtown piers. The Frye Art Museum is a free museum on First Hill.
Regional history collections are at the Log House Museum in Alki, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, the Museum of History and Industry, and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Industry collections are at the Center for Wooden Boats and the adjacent Northwest Seaport, the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum, and the Museum of Flight. Regional ethnic collections include the Nordic Heritage Museum, the Wing Luke Asian Museum, and the Northwest African American Museum. Seattle has artist-run galleries, including ten-year veteran Soil Art Gallery, and the newer Crawl Space Gallery.
The Seattle Great Wheel, one of the largest Ferris wheels in the US, opened in June 2012 as a new, permanent attraction on the city's waterfront, at Pier 57, next to Downtown Seattle. The city also has many community centers for recreation, including Rainier Beach, Van Asselt, Rainier, and Jefferson south of the Ship Canal and Green Lake, Laurelhurst, Loyal Heights north of the Canal, and Meadowbrook.Woodland Park Zoo opened as a private menagerie in 1889 but was sold to the city in 1899. The Seattle Aquarium has been open on the downtown waterfront since 1977 (undergoing a renovation in 2006). The Seattle Underground Tour is an exhibit of places that existed before the Great Fire.Since the middle 1990s, Seattle has experienced significant growth in the cruise industry, especially as a departure point for Alaska cruises. In 2008, a record total of 886,039 cruise passengers passed through the city, surpassing the number for Vancouver, BC, the other major departure point for Alaska cruises.
Seattle has three major men's professional sports teams: the National Football League (NFL)'s Seattle Seahawks, Major League Baseball (MLB)'s Seattle Mariners, and Major League Soccer (MLS)'s Seattle Sounders FC. Other professional sports teams include the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA)'s Seattle Storm, who won the WNBA championship on three occasions in 2004 and 2010, and 2018; and the Seattle Reign of the National Women's Soccer League.The Seattle Seahawks entered the National Football League in 1976 as an expansion team and have advanced to the Super Bowl three times: 2005, 2013 and 2014. The team played in the Kingdome until it was imploded in 2000 and moved into Qwest Field (now CenturyLink Field) at the same site in 2003. The Seahawks lost Super Bowl XL in 2005 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Detroit, but won Super Bowl XLVIII in 2013 by defeating the Denver Broncos 43–8 at MetLife Stadium. The team advanced to the Super Bowl the following year, but lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX on a last-minute play. Seahawks fans have set stadium noise records on several occasions and are collectively known as the "12th Man".Seattle Sounders FC has played in Major League Soccer since 2009, sharing CenturyLink Field with the Seahawks, as a continuation of earlier teams in the lower divisions of American soccer. The team set various attendance records in its first few seasons, averaging over 43,000 per match and placing themselves among the top 30 teams internationally. The Sounders have won the MLS Supporters' Shield in 2014 and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on four occasions: 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2014. The Sounders won their first MLS Cup after defeating Toronto FC 5–4 in a penalty shootout, in MLS Cup 2016; the team would go on to finish as runners-up to Toronto FC in the following cup. CenturyLink Field hosted the 2009 MLS Cup, played between Real Salt Lake and the Los Angeles Galaxy in front of 46,011 spectators.Seattle also has a Major League Rugby team, the Seattle Seawolves, who play at Starfire Sports in Tukwila, a small stadium that is also used by the Sounders for their U.S. Open Cup matches. The team began play in 2018 and won the league's inaugural championship. Seattle will also host a new XFL franchise that will begin play in 2020 at CenturyLink Field.Seattle's professional sports history began at the start of the 20th century with the PCHA's Seattle Metropolitans, which in 1917 became the first American hockey team to win the Stanley Cup.
Seattle was awarded a Major League Baseball franchise, the Seattle Pilots, in 1969. The team played at Sick's Stadium in Mount Baker for one season before relocating to Milwaukee and becoming the Milwaukee Brewers. The city, county, and state governments sued the league and was offered a second expansion team, the Seattle Mariners, who began play at the Kingdome in 1977. The Mariners struggled in the stadium and moved to a purpose-built baseball stadium, T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field), in 1999. The Mariners have never reached a World Series and only appeared in the MLB playoffs four times, all between 1995 and 2001, despite having Hall of Fame players and candidates like Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Ichiro, and Alex Rodriguez. The team tied the all-time single regular season wins record in 2001 with 116 wins. Since 2001, the Mariners have failed to qualify for the playoffs—the longest active postseason drought in North American sports, at 17 seasons.
From 1967 to 2008 Seattle was also home to a National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise: the Seattle SuperSonics, who were the 1978–79 NBA champions. The SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City and became the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2008–09 season.The Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held in Seattle twice, first at the Kingdome in 1979 and again at Safeco Field in 2001. The NBA All-Star Game was also held in Seattle twice: the first in 1974 at the Seattle Center Coliseum and the second in 1987 at the Kingdome.Seattle also boasts two collegiate sports teams based at the University of Washington and Seattle University, both competing in NCAA Division I for various sports. The University of Washington's athletic program, nicknamed the Huskies, competes in the Pac-12 Conference, and Seattle University's athletic program, nicknamed the Redhawks, mostly competes in the Western Athletic Conference. The Huskies teams use several facilities, including the 70,000-seat Husky Stadium for football and the Hec Edmundson Pavilion for basketball and volleyball. The two schools have basketball and soccer teams that compete against each other in non-conference games and have formed a local rivalry due to their sporting success.The Seattle Thunderbirds hockey team plays in the Canadian major-junior Western Hockey League and are based in the Seattle suburb of Kent. Seattle successfully applied for a new expansion team with the National Hockey League, which will make its first appearance in 2021. Seattle plans to renovate KeyArena to use for the possible NHL team. On March 1, 2018, a ticket drive began to gauge interests in season ticket deposits. Oak View reported that their initial goal of 10,000 deposits was surpassed in 12 minutes, and that they received 25,000 deposits in 75 minutes.
Parks and recreation
Seattle's mild, temperate, marine climate allows year-round outdoor recreation, including walking, cycling, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, rock climbing, motor boating, sailing, team sports, and swimming.In town, many people walk around Green Lake, through the forests and along the bluffs and beaches of 535-acre (2.2 km2) Discovery Park (the largest park in the city) in Magnolia, along the shores of Myrtle Edwards Park on the Downtown waterfront, along the shoreline of Lake Washington at Seward Park, along Alki Beach in West Seattle, or along the Burke-Gilman Trail.
Gas Works Park features the preserved superstructure of a coal gasification plant closed in 1956. Located across Lake Union from downtown, the park provides panoramic views of the Seattle skyline.
Also popular are hikes and skiing in the nearby Cascade or Olympic Mountains and kayaking and sailing in the waters of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Strait of Georgia. In 2005, Men's Fitness magazine named Seattle the fittest city in the United States.In its 2013 ParkScore ranking, the Trust for Public Land reported that Seattle had the tenth best park system among the 50 most populous US cities. ParkScore ranks city park systems by a formula that analyzes acreage, access, and service and investment.
Government and politics
Seattle is a charter city, with a mayor–council form of government. From 1911 to 2013, Seattle's nine city councillors were elected at large, rather than by geographic subdivisions. For the 2015 election, this changed to a hybrid system of seven district members and two at-large members as a result of a ballot measure passed on November 5, 2013. The only other elected offices are the city attorney and Municipal Court judges. All city offices are officially non-partisan.Like some other parts of the United States, government and laws are also run by a series of ballot initiatives (allowing citizens to pass or reject laws), referenda (allowing citizens to approve or reject legislation already passed), and propositions (allowing specific government agencies to propose new laws or tax increases directly to the people).
Jenny Durkan was elected as mayor in the 2017 mayoral election and took office on November 28, 2017. The mayor's office also includes two deputy mayors, appointed to advise the mayor on policies; As of 2017, the city's deputy mayors are Michael Fong and Shefali Ranganathan.Seattle's political culture is very liberal and progressive for the United States, with over 80% of the population voting for the Democratic Party. All precincts in Seattle voted for Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. In partisan elections for the Washington State Legislature and United States Congress, nearly all elections are won by Democrats. Although local elections are nonpartisan, most of the city's elected officials are known to be Democrats.
In 1926, Seattle became the first major American city to elect a female mayor, Bertha Knight Landes. It has also elected an openly gay mayor, Ed Murray, and a third-party socialist councillor, Kshama Sawant. For the first time in United States history, an openly gay black woman was elected to public office when Sherry Harris was elected as a Seattle city councillor in 1991. The majority of the city council is female.Federally, Seattle is split between two congressional districts. Most of the city is in Washington's 7th congressional district, represented by Democrat Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman elected to Congress. She succeeded 28-year incumbent and fellow Democrat Jim McDermott. Part of southwestern Seattle is in the 9th District, represented by Democrat Adam Smith.
Seattle is widely considered one of the most socially liberal cities in the United States, even surpassing Portland. In the 2012 U.S. general election, a majority of Seattleites voted to approve Referendum 74 and legalize gay marriage in Washington state. In the same election, an overwhelming majority of Seattleites also voted to approve the legalization of the recreational use of cannabis in the state. Like much of the Pacific Northwest (which has the lowest rate of church attendance in the United States and consistently reports the highest percentage of atheism), church attendance, religious belief, and political influence of religious leaders are much lower than in other parts of America.Seattle also has a thriving alternative press, with the Web-based daily Seattle Post-Intelligencer, several other online dailies (including Publicola and Crosscut), The Stranger (an alternative, left-leaning weekly), Seattle Weekly, and a number of issue-focused publications, including the nation's two largest online environmental magazines, Worldchanging and Grist.org.
In July 2012, Seattle banned plastic shopping bags. In June 2014 the city passed a local ordinance to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour on a staged basis from 2015 to 2021. When fully implemented the $15 hourly rate will be the highest minimum wage in the nation.On October 6, 2014, Seattle officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day, honoring Seattle's Native American community and acknowledging the controversies surrounding the legacy of Christopher Columbus.On May 9, 2017, Mayor Murray announced he would not seek re-election following a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of several teenaged boys in the 1980s. Murray resigned as mayor on September 12, 2017, effective at 5 p.m. on September 13, 2017, hours after The Seattle Times reported a fifth allegation of child sexual abuse.In July 2017, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved an income tax on Seattle residents, making the city the only one in the state with an income tax. The new income tax was ruled unconstitutional in a ruling by King County Superior Court and thus was not allowed to proceed. The city is expected to appeal this ruling.
Of the city's population over the age of 25, 53.8% (vs. a national average of 27.4%) hold a bachelor's degree or higher, and 91.9% (vs. 84.5% nationally) have a high school diploma or equivalent. A 2008 United States Census Bureau survey showed that Seattle had the highest percentage of college and university graduates of any major U.S. city. The city was listed as the most literate of the country's 69 largest cities in 2005 and 2006, the second most literate in 2007 and the most literate in 2008 in studies conducted by Central Connecticut State University.
Seattle Public Schools desegregated without a court order but continue to struggle to achieve racial balance in a somewhat ethnically divided city (the south part of town having more ethnic minorities than the north). In 2007, Seattle's racial tie-breaking system was struck down by the United States Supreme Court, but the ruling left the door open for desegregation formulae based on other indicators (e.g., income or socioeconomic class).The public school system is supplemented by a moderate number of private schools: Five of the private high schools are Catholic, one is Lutheran, and six are secular.Seattle is home to the University of Washington, as well as the institution's professional and continuing education unit, the University of Washington Educational Outreach. The 2017 U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Washington at #11 in the world, tied with Johns Hopkins University. The UW receives more federal research and development funding than any public institution. Over the last 10 years, it has also produced more Peace Corps volunteers than any other U.S. university. Seattle also has a number of smaller private universities including Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University, the former a Jesuit Catholic institution, the latter Free Methodist; universities aimed at the working adult, like City University and Antioch University; colleges within the Seattle Colleges District system, comprising North, Central, and South; seminaries, including Western Seminary and a number of arts colleges, such as Cornish College of the Arts, Pratt Fine Arts Center, and The Art Institute of Seattle. In 2001, Time magazine selected Seattle Central Community College as community college of the year, stating the school "pushes diverse students to work together in small teams".
As of 2019, Seattle has one major daily newspaper, The Seattle Times. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, known as the P-I, published a daily newspaper from 1863 to March 17, 2009, before switching to a strictly on-line publication. There is also the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, and the University of Washington publishes The Daily, a student-run publication, when school is in session. The most prominent weeklies are the Seattle Weekly and The Stranger; both consider themselves "alternative" papers. The weekly LGBT newspaper is the Seattle Gay News. Real Change is a weekly street newspaper that is sold mainly by homeless persons as an alternative to panhandling. There are also several ethnic newspapers, including The Facts, Northwest Asian Weekly and the International Examiner, and numerous neighborhood newspapers.
Seattle is also well served by television and radio, with all major U.S. networks represented, along with at least five other English-language stations and two Spanish-language stations. Seattle cable viewers also receive CBUT 2 (CBC) from Vancouver, British Columbia.
Non-commercial radio stations include NPR affiliates KUOW-FM 94.9 and KNKX 88.5 (Tacoma), as well as classical music station KING-FM 98.1. Other non-commercial stations include KEXP-FM 90.3 (affiliated with the UW), community radio KBCS-FM 91.3 (affiliated with Bellevue College), and high school radio KNHC-FM 89.5, which broadcasts an electronic dance music radio format and is owned by the public school system and operated by students of Nathan Hale High School. Many Seattle radio stations are also available through Internet radio, with KEXP in particular being a pioneer of Internet radio. Seattle also has numerous commercial radio stations. In a March 2012 report by the consumer research firm Arbitron, the top FM stations were KRWM (adult contemporary format), KIRO-FM (news/talk), and KISW (active rock) while the top AM stations were KOMO (AM) (all news), KJR (AM) (all sports), KIRO (AM) (all sports).Seattle-based online magazines Worldchanging and Grist.org were two of the "Top Green Websites" in 2007 according to TIME.Seattle also has many online news media websites. The two largest are The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The University of Washington is consistently ranked among the country's top leading institutions in medical research, earning special merits for programs in neurology and neurosurgery. Seattle has seen local developments of modern paramedic services with the establishment of Medic One in 1970. In 1974, a 60 Minutes story on the success of the then four-year-old Medic One paramedic system called Seattle "the best place in the world to have a heart attack".Three of Seattle's largest medical centers are located on First Hill. Harborview Medical Center, the public county hospital, is the only Level I trauma hospital in a region that includes Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. Virginia Mason Medical Center and Swedish Medical Center's two largest campuses are also located in this part of Seattle, including the Virginia Mason Hospital. This concentration of hospitals resulted in the neighborhood's nickname "Pill Hill".Located in the Laurelhurst neighborhood, Seattle Children's, formerly Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, is the pediatric referral center for Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has a campus in the Eastlake neighborhood. The University District is home to the University of Washington Medical Center which, along with Harborview, is operated by the University of Washington. Seattle is also served by a Veterans Affairs hospital on Beacon Hill, a third campus of Swedish in Ballard, and Northwest Hospital and Medical Center near Northgate Mall.
The first streetcars appeared in 1889 and were instrumental in the creation of a relatively well-defined downtown and strong neighborhoods at the end of their lines. The advent of the automobile sounded the death knell for rail in Seattle. Tacoma–Seattle railway service ended in 1929 and the Everett–Seattle service came to an end in 1939, replaced by automobiles running on the recently developed highway system. Rails on city streets were paved over or removed, and the opening of the Seattle trolleybus system brought the end of streetcars in Seattle in 1941. This left an extensive network of privately owned buses (later public) as the only mass transit within the city and throughout the region.
King County Metro provides frequent stop bus service within the city and surrounding county, as well as the South Lake Union Streetcar line and the First Hill Streetcar line. Seattle is one of the few cities in North America whose bus fleet includes electric trolleybuses. Sound Transit provides an express bus service within the metropolitan area, two Sounder commuter rail lines between the suburbs and downtown, and its Central Link light rail line between the University of Washington and Angle Lake. Washington State Ferries, which manages the largest network of ferries in the United States and third largest in the world, connects Seattle to Bainbridge and Vashon Islands in Puget Sound and to Bremerton and Southworth on the Kitsap Peninsula.
According to the 2007 American Community Survey, 18.6% of Seattle residents used one of the three public transit systems that serve the city, giving it the highest transit ridership of all major cities without heavy or light rail prior to the completion of Sound Transit's Central Link line. The city has also been described by Bert Sperling as the fourth most walkable U.S. city and by Walk Score as the sixth most walkable of the fifty largest U.S. cities.Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, locally known as Sea-Tac Airport and located just south in the neighboring city of SeaTac, is operated by the Port of Seattle and provides commercial air service to destinations throughout the world. Closer to downtown, Boeing Field is used for general aviation, cargo flights, and testing/delivery of Boeing airliners. A secondary passenger airport, Paine Field, opened in 2019 and is located in Everett, 25 miles (40 km) north of Seattle. It is predominently used for Boeing, which has a large assembly plant nearby.
The main mode of transportation, however, relies on Seattle's streets, which are laid out in a cardinal directions grid pattern, except in the central business district where early city leaders Arthur Denny and Carson Boren insisted on orienting their plats relative to the shoreline rather than to true North. Only two roads, Interstate 5 and State Route 99 (both limited-access highways), run uninterrupted through the city from north to south. State Route 99 runs through downtown Seattle on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which was built in 1953. However, due to damage sustained during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake the viaduct will be replaced by a tunnel. The 2-mile (3.2 km) Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel was originally scheduled to be completed in December 2015 at a cost of US$4.25 billion. Unfortunately, due to issues with the worlds largest tunnel boring machine (TBM), which is nicknamed "Bertha" and is 57 feet (17 m) in diameter, the projected date of completion has been pushed back to fall 2018 (with tolling set to begin in 2019). Seattle has the 8th worst traffic congestion of all American cities, and is 10th among all North American cities.The city has started moving away from the automobile and towards mass transit. From 2004 to 2009, the annual number of unlinked public transportation trips increased by approximately 21%. In 2006, voters in King County passed proposition 2 (Transit Now) which increased bus service hours on high ridership routes and paid for five bus rapid transit lines called RapidRide. After rejecting a roads and transit measure in 2007, Seattle-area voters passed a transit only measure in 2008 to increase ST Express bus service, extend the Link light rail system, and expand and improve Sounder commuter rail service. A light rail line from downtown heading south to Sea-Tac Airport began service on December 19, 2009, giving the city its first rapid transit line with intermediate stations within the city limits. An extension north to the University of Washington opened on March 19, 2016; and further extensions are planned to reach Northgate and Lynnwood to the north, Federal Way to the south, and Bellevue and Redmond to the east by 2024. Voters in the Puget Sound region approved an additional tax increase in November 2016 to expand light rail to West Seattle and Ballard as well as Tacoma, Everett, and Issaquah.
Water and electric power are municipal services, provided by Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light respectively. Other utility companies serving Seattle include Puget Sound Energy (natural gas, electricity); Seattle Steam Company (steam); Waste Management, Inc and CleanScapes, Inc. (curbside recycling and solid waste removal); CenturyLink, Frontier Communications, Wave Broadband, and Comcast (telecommunications and television).
About 90% of Seattle's electricity is produced using hydropower. Less than 2% of electricity is produced using fossil fuels.
Seattle is partnered with:
Most visitors to Seattle tend not to venture beyond Downtown, the International District, and the Seattle Center. That's 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 divide the town by districts roughly divided as listed below. Although there are formally 30 neighborhoods and their boundaries are not always clear, there's usually a proud feature that represents each neighborhood.:
Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods
North of the Lake Washington Ship Canal
South of Downtown and I-90
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, Amazon, 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 designates 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.
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
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 100th 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 Museum of Pop Culture 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 an 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 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.
The Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau operates two visitors centers. Both offer maps, brochures, event details, tour bookings, and restaurant reservations:
Seattle Visitors Center and Concierge Services, 701 Pike Street, Suite 800 (inside the Washington State Convention and Trade Center). Daily 9AM-5PM during summer, M-F 9AM-5PM during winter.
Market Information Center, 1st and Pike (on the southwest corner). Daily 10AM-6PM.
Main article: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport1 Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA IATA), 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. 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 (see § Get around) connects the University of Washington, Capitol Hill, the downtown area, and South Seattle to Sea-Tac. Bus route 560 provides direct service from Sea-Tac to West Seattle.
2 Paine Field (PAE IATA), also known as Snohomish County Airport, about 30 miles north of Seattle in Everett, will serve limited commercial flights from February 2019 from Alaska Airlines and United Airlines. A new terminal is being built with a rather cozy design and nice looking chairs and sofas, but with plans for only two gates and operation to start at full capacity, don't expect much in the way of relaxation or amenities here. Everett Transit provides service to a transit hub at Everett Mall, where buses to the region can be found.
The much-smaller Bellingham International Airport (BLI IATA), located about 90 minutes (94mi/150km) north of Seattle in Bellingham, 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. The Bellair Airporter shuttle offers scheduled services from Bellingham International Airport to the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle and to Sea-Tac.
Portland International Airport (PDX IATA), about 3 hr (160mi/256km) south of Seattle in Portland, is a major airport, but smaller than Sea-Tac, and 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.
Private aircraft and seaplane
Private aircraft can use 3 King County International Airport (BFI IATA), 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 Sea-Tac.
Air charter companies such as Monarch Air Group and Mercury Jets fly a variety of private charter aircraft and jets, from charter luxury Gulfstreams down to economical piston twins for small groups and individuals.
Amtrak provides service from the 4 King Street Station, located south of downtown near CenturyLink Field. The Amtrak Cascades runs four trains daily between Seattle and Portland (two of which continue to Eugene, Oregon) and two a day to Vancouver, British Columbia. Additional service from Portland to Eugene and from Seattle to Vancouver is offered on the Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach. These trains are more reliable schedule-wise than the long distance trains and offer certain amenities not available on regular Amtrak trains, such as more space for bikes, more laptop outlets, a "Bistro Car" which serves local foods and wine, and the occasional movie.
Seattle is also served by two long-distance sleeper trains, the Coast Starlight which runs daily between Seattle and Los Angeles via Portland and Emeryville (San Francisco), and the Empire Builder which also runs daily between Seattle and Chicago via Spokane, Glacier National Park, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee.
From the Puget Sound area, Sounder commuter trains might be an option, if you can work with their commuter-oriented schedules. They also run special services such as for sports events. Sounder trains run to Seattle on weekday mornings, and from Seattle back to the suburbs in the evenings, although there are a limited number of reverse-commute runs. Trains connect north to Everett, Mukilteo, and Edmonds, and south to Lakewood, Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, and Tukwila.
Interstate 5 (I-5) is the major north-south roadway entering the City Center and the most direct way to drive to or from Vancouver and Portland. This roadway is notably congested (even during non-commuting hours), see other options in the sections "by Bus" and "by Train" above. Interstate 405 (I-405) runs parallel to I-5, bypassing the City Center on the opposite side of Lake Washington.
Interstate 90 (I-90) is the only long-distance route to access Seattle from the east, and is the easiest way to reach Spokane and Eastern Washington. During the Winter months, drivers must be mindful of the weather conditions over Snoqualmie Pass, located 52 miles east of the city, when the roadway can close unexpectedly due to weather conditions.
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:
5 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.
6 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/Amtrak Cascades Thruway, (bus stop) King Street Station, ☎ +1 604 294-5541, toll-free: +1-877-940-5561. Operates Seattle to Vancouver, BC $40 for one-way, $75 round trip; discounts for students, military, seniors & children ages 4-11.
7 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 I-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). Passengers transfer to other buses in Portland, 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.
Travel Washington Dungeness Line (Operated by Olympic Bus Lines), (bus stops) Greyhound bus depot (see above), King Street Station, selected hospitals (by reservation only), SeaTac Airport. Connects Seattle to Port Townsend, Sequim and Port Angeles. The bus goes across the Puget Sound on the Edmonds-Kingston ferry. They also pick-up and drop off at the major hospitals, west of downtown with an advance 24 Hr reservation (Arnold Medical Pavilion, Harborview, Poly-Clinic, VA, Swedish and/or Virginia Mason). One way: $39 from downtown, $49 from airport; Round trip: $69 from downtown, $79 from airport..
8 Quick Shuttle, (bus stops) downtown: outside the Best Western at 200 Taylor Ave N; Pier 66 & 91, SeaTac Airport: At the main terminal near south end of baggage claim, outside door 00, bays 11-16. Runs between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Vancouver to Downtown Seattle: $36 one-way, $65 round-trip; Vancouver to SeaTac airport: $49 one-way, $87 round-trip. Despite the multiple stops they make, northbound buses can only pick-up in the U.S. and drop off in Canada and vice versa for southbound buses..
Wheatland Express, (bus stops) Southcenter, NW corner; Novilhos Brazilian Steak House, 12405 SE 38th Street, Bellevue, toll-free: +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
Sound Transit. Sound Transit operates all-day express bus service between Downtown and the cities of Tacoma, Lakewood, Bellevue, Everett, and many other outlying communities. $2.75 within King County, $3.75 cross-county..
Community Transit buses are commuter routes traveling between Snohomish County (north of the city) and Downtown or the University District during peak hours only.
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!
9 King County Water Taxi. King County Water Taxi provides ferry service from Pier 50 of Seattle's waterfront weekdays only during rush hour (5:30-8AM and 4:30-7PM) to Vashon Island, and all-day service (schedule is seasonally dependent) to West Seattle. $5.50, $4.75 if using ORCA.
10 Victoria Clipper, 2701 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 Ferries, ☎ +1 206 464-6400. All ferries carry vehicles, bicycles, and passengers.11 Colman Dock, 801 Alaskan Way (Pier 52). Connects Downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island and Bremerton on the Kitsap Peninsula.
12 Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal, 4829 SW Barton St. Connects West Seattle to Vashon Island and Southworth on the Kitsap Peninsula.
By cruise ship
Seattle is the main departure city for cruise ships heading towards Alaska or western Canada's fjords. Cruise ships to Seattle may be docked at one of two terminals in the Port of Seattle.
13 Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal at Pier 66, 2225 Alaskan Way S Pier 66, near the middle of Seattle's downtown waterfront. Serves as home port for Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises. Has bus, taxi and shuttle connections for transfer of passengers and luggage. For travelers with connecting flights, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is less than 15 mi (24 km) away.
14 Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91, 2001 W Garfield St, at the north end of Seattle's downtown waterfront. Serves as home port to Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises. Other cruise lines may also use this terminal if the vessel is too large to use the Pier 66 terminal.
By private boat
Seattle has a variety of large marinas offering year-round guest moorage. The two marinas located on the shores of Elliott Bay, Elliott Bay Marina, and Bell Harbor Marina, are the closest to Downtown. Shilshole Bay Marina is located in the northern suburbs and is further away from most of the visitor attractions. There are numerous freshwater marinas on Lake Union, Portage Bay, and the Lake Washington Ship Canal, but these require passage through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. Visitors may also consider moorage in the neighboring cities of Edmonds, Everett, Des Moines, Kirkland, and Kingston.
Bell Harbor Marina, 2203 Alaskan Way, ☎ +1 800 426-7817, e-mail: [email protected] Bell Harbor Marina, located at the base of Bell Street in Downtown's Belltown neighborhood, is the closest marina to Downtown and is a comfortable walk to Pike Place Market, Westlake Center, the Seattle Aquarium, and other waterfront attractions. Reciprocal moorage is available year-round, and in the summer months, reservations are recommended.
Elliott Bay Marina, 2601 West Marina Place, ☎ +1 206 285-4817, e-mail: [email protected] Elliott Bay Marina is a private marina located on the north shore of Elliott Bay in the Magnolia neighborhood. This marina has expansive guest moorage and many premium services. A 10-minute walk from all-day bus service to Downtown Seattle.
Shilshole Bay Marina, 7001 Seaview Ave. N.W., ☎ +1 800 426-7817, e-mail: [email protected] Shilshole Bay Marina is a gigantic marina located in the Ballard neighborhood. It is a 20-30 minute drive to Downtown and is not served directly by public transportation.
Seattle's public transportation system, while no rival for Chicago or New York City, is one of the top 10 in the United States and is by far the most convenient and simple way to get around the city. While public transportation is also good in suburbs such as Bothell and Everett, if you plan on visiting those areas you may wish to use a car. Driving a car in Seattle is possible, but the frequent and awful traffic congestion can leave you frustrated. Parking in Downtown and many of the adjacent neighborhoods (such as Capitol Hill) is all but impossible. Seattle is also one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country. Car services such as ZipCar, Car2Go, Lyft, and Uber are also convenient and safe transportation options.
Seattle's street designations are generally easy to remember once you understand them. Most of the city is laid out in a grid, with north-south roads called Avenues and east-west roads being Streets. There are occasional irregularities: Ways are long roads that don't always conform to the grid, Drives are long, circuitous routes, and there's the occasional very short Place or Court.
Seattle has a somewhat convoluted address system that can be confusing to the uninitiated. Outside the downtown area, the city is divided into 7 compass directional sectors (N, NE, NW, W, E, S, SW; no SE section), with the name of the sector applied to every road that passes through that sector. Streets are written with the sector before the name (e.g. NE 45th Street or NE 45th) while avenues are written with the sector after the name (e.g. 45th Avenue NE or 45th NE). Roads within the downtown area (as well as some avenues east of Downtown and some streets north of Downtown) have no directional designation. Take this into consideration when looking for directions to a specific address.
When locals give you directions, they may refer to an intersection (especially in the case of a bus stop). The first road mentioned is the street it is at, followed by the crossing street adjacent to the stop, but sometimes they neglect to specify whether it's an "avenue" or a "street," so inquire to be sure and you'll avoid the risk of winding up in the wrong part of the city!
Walking is highly encouraged for short trips, especially if your destination is within Downtown or Capitol Hill. While the streets and drivers are generally friendly for pedestrians, do keep your street smarts and avoid walking alone in the southern part of Downtown, International District, or the SoDo neighborhood at night. For more information about street safety, look at the "Stay Safe" section.
Seattle pedestrians are noted for their unusual refusal to jaywalk. Unlike many other large American cities (particularly those on the East Coast), in Seattle, you'll see groups of pedestrians patiently wait for the light to change before stepping off the curb, even when there isn't a car in sight. The reasons for it are unclear, though it's often suggested that the local police are particularly strict about enforcing the jaywalking law.
The block layout in the downtown area is pretty compact; a walk from Denny Way to Yesler Way should take roughly half an hour. Walking from the Waterfront towards I-5 in Downtown (particularly between Seneca St and Yesler Way) is steep and will leave you gasping for breath at every intersection! Outside the downtown area, especially Capitol Hill or the northern and western parts of the city, there are many hills (albeit less hilly and steep than San Francisco). In fact, walking is a great form of exercise in Seattle, with abundant jogging tracks in the parks and longer trails like the Burke Gilman Trail, which runs along the northern side of the ship canal and the western rim of Lake Washington.
By public transit
The ORCA card is a contactless fare card that enables you to transfer seamlessly between Seattle and the Puget Sound's various transit agencies, similar to Hong Kong's Octopus or London's Oyster. The card is $5, and you must put in a minimum of $5 to start using it. You can add money or monthly passes to the card. Day passes are also available for $8 and can be used for all bus and train services.
You can purchase, add value to, or add a pass to an ORCA card at vending machines in many transit centers, inside all Link Light Rail and Sounder stations, at Metro's customer service centers, over the phone, and at many QFC & Safeway supermarkets. Youth and Senior ORCA cards can only be issued by mail or at Metro's main customer service center next to King Street Station in the International District and require proof of age (click here for details). You can also acquire these cards in the mezzanine of Westlake Station — however, this customer service center is open only on the first and last 4 business days of the month.
To pay the correct fare when riding Link Light Rail or Sounder trains, tap when you enter and exit the station. On all other public transit — buses, streetcars, Washington State Ferries, and the Water Taxi — just tap when you enter. For 2 hours after your first tap, you can use as many public transportation services as you like while only paying once for the highest fare (not applicable on Washington State Ferries).
Another alternative to buying transportation tickets is through the Transit GO app. You may buy them using a debit or credit card at anytime and activate it only when you are about to use any public transportation system within the city, except for the Washington State Ferries. The catch however is that you cannot transfer your fare between transportation agencies; a separate ticket must be purchased.
King County Metro (commonly referred to as Metro) is the primary public transportation agency in King County and Seattle. The transportation system is easy to navigate, and most visitor attractions are served by frequent bus routes. Metro's buses are clean and comfortable and are driven by friendly and skilled operators. Most buses, especially on routes in the Center City, are brand-new and air-conditioned — perfect on one of Seattle's hot summer days. The agency provides two types of bus services:
Local Service constitutes the majority of bus routes and are operated by green, blue, or purple buses. These buses are identified by route numbers between 1 and 399.
RapidRide is an express Bus Rapid Transit service with modern, 3-door, red and yellow buses. RapidRide buses are an efficient way to get to many outlying neighborhoods and are identified by route letters.Buses within Seattle generally operate from 5AM to Midnight and run at least every 30 minutes, with frequent service and RapidRide buses arriving every 5-15 minutes at rush hour. If you are planning on traveling before 6AM or after 9PM be sure to make use of the excellent Trip Planner to make sure you can get to your destination.
Almost all frequent service buses traveling through Downtown have stops along 3rd Ave, with virtually every Downtown bus having a stop near the intersection of 3rd & Pine/Pike. Many high-frequency suburban routes and Link Light Rail utilize the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, which travels underneath 3rd Ave & Pine St. Stations are well-lit and protected by Transportation Police and are equipped with WiFi and cell service.
The adult bus fare is $2.75 at all times and on all routes. 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. Note that you'll only need to tap in when you enter the bus, although in RapidRide, you can tap on the reader before getting on the bus and may board from the center and rear doors.
To figure out how to get to your destination use the excellent Trip Planner which gives you point-to-point directions between points within King County. For real-time arrival times, you can download the One Bus Away app to your smartphone.
When traveling to destinations outside the downtown core, make sure to ask the drivers about the green and white "EXPRESS" signs in their windows or the "VIA EXPRESS" on the road display if they are going to your destination. Some of these express routes are intended for regular commuters traveling between residential neighborhoods and Downtown and make few or no stops between, but may be useful to some visitors.
When in doubt, ask the bus driver or a security guard before boarding. Most employees are knowledgeable about the transportation system (or at least the route the route they are driving) and will be able to help you. Additionally, all buses are fully accessible for wheelchairs and walkers.
Link Light Rail operates between the University of Washington and Angle Lake Station, stopping in Capitol Hill, Downtown, SoDo, South Seattle, the suburb of Tukwila, and Sea-Tac Airport along the way. Fares are $2.25—$3.25 depending on how far you travel; purchase your ticket at a machine before you board and keep it with you for the whole trip as it may be randomly checked by personnel inside the train. If you use an ORCA card, you must tap at both your origin and your destination station.
The Seattle Streetcar has two lines: The South Lake Union line between Downtown and South Lake Union and the First Hill line between Pioneer Square, the International District and Capitol Hill along Broadway. The former line gained the rather unfortunate moniker "SLUT" (South Lake Union Trolley), and you might hear it referred to as such. The streetcar runs up to every 10 minutes and costs $2.25 per adult, $1.50 per child, and $1 per senior, regardless of distance. You must purchase a ticket or tap your ORCA card at one of the streetcar stops before boarding. Note that these streetcars stop only when requested by pressing the yellow stop request strip.
The Seattle Center Monorail, a legacy of the 1962 World's Fair, takes you non-stop between Westlake Center (5th Avenue & Pine Street) and the Seattle Center in just 2 minutes, and primarily serves tourists heading from Downtown to the Space Needle. One-way tickets are $2.25 per adult, $1 children ages 5-12/seniors. You can only pay by cash; ORCA card is not valid.If you need any help ask a transit operator, security guard, fare enforcement official, or a local. Seattleites are always eager to help and may offer help, even if they see you looking confusingly at a tourist map!
By water taxi
The Water Taxi travels between Pier 50 (at the foot of Yesler Way) and Seacrest Park in West Seattle. The scenic ride takes 15 minutes and costs $4.75 (one way, exact change only), or $4 with an ORCA Card. Boats depart every half-hour on weekdays and every hour on weekends during the summer months, with reduced service during the winter.
Washington State Ferries connect to destinations outside of Seattle, and they take ORCA Cards. See § Go next.
Cars are fairly useless for transportation within the city proper, but are a great asset if travelling to the suburbs such as 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.
Outside Downtown, many establishments provide free parking, but in Downtown parking is scarce due to dedicated bike lane developments, and hotels levy exorbitant fees for overnight parking. Street parking is $1 to $3.00 per hour (debit cards and credit cards other than Discover accepted), while a parking ticket can be in excess of $35 for going overtime in a 2-hour zone. Parking meters dispense paper receipts that come with a sticker, which you use instead of putting the receipt on your dashboard. The receipt must be displayed on the curb-side window on the inside of your car (or else someone could steal it to use on their car!). If that sounds confusing, just look at other nearby cars to see how they did it.
When parking on a hill, 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).
Drivers traveling on I-5 between Downtown and Northgate as well as I-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. Seattle traffic congestion consistently ranks among the worst in the U.S., even though Seattle is only the 20th largest city. This is mainly due to inland waterways causing choke points around the few available bridges.
You can call or hail a taxi from any major street in Seattle or most hotels will call them for you. However, most of Seattle's taxi services are unfriendly and expensive, especially if you are only trying to get around the downtown area. Some taxi drivers will even refuse to take you if your destination is less than 15 blocks away. The fares are regulated by the city government, which consists of:
Flagfall for $2.60
$0.30 for each additional 1/9 mile (a total of $2.70 per mile)
$0.30 for every 36 seconds of waiting time (a total of $0.50 per minute)
$0.50 for each additional passenger above 18 after two.If you are heading to SeaTac airport from the downtown area, a flat fare of $40 is applied.
The rudeness of some taxi drivers has caused people to avoid taking them and look for ride-hailing alternatives (see the following section). But should you be in dire need of a taxi, call one of these companies:
Yellow Cab, ☎ +1 206 622-6500.
Orange Cab, ☎ +1 206 522-8800, +1 206-957-0866.
Stita Taxi Services, ☎ +1 206 246-9999.
Seattle Airport Limo & Town Car, ☎ +1 206 420-3400, toll-free: +1-877-340-3434.
Seattle Towncar, ☎ +1 206 495-9544.
By ride-hailing service
If your destination is miles away and you don't have a car, yet public transportation seems inconvenient for you, you can use ride-hailing 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 location and destination, and a car will be in front of you in no time; only Uber lets you reserve a ride at your choice of time. If you prefer to drive yourself, Car2go, Zipcar or Reachnow (limited to luxurious BMW & Mini) vehicles are abundant, especially in Downtown, Capitol Hill, and University District. Seattleites often prefer this method to taking the reckless and overpriced taxis.
The rainy weather makes motorcycling difficult but not impossible. Drivers exhibit an alarming obliviousness to motorcycles, and riders should take care to stay well out of a car's blind spot and preferably ahead of, rather than behind, any car. Motorcyclists get preferred boarding on the ferries and there are many parking spots Downtown reserved for motorcycles.
Cycling is better in Seattle than in most American cities. In fact, during rush hour it's often faster to bike than to drive! Bicycle usage has increased significantly since the early 2000s and drivers are a little more accustomed to bicycles in Seattle than in other major cities. Your main drawbacks will be the wet roads, the rain, and the hilly terrain, so you might want to pack some raingear. Many major roads in Seattle have properly maintained bicycle lanes, and you are allowed to ride bicycles on all Seattle roads except the Interstates (but including the I-90 and WA-520 bridges over Lake Washington, which do have bike paths). King County, including Seattle, requires helmets by law, although it is unevenly enforced. (Police have shifted to focus on education, only issuing the $81 ticket to fewer than 50 people a year since 2015.)
Public transit is very friendly towards bikes. King County Metro buses have bike racks on the front of the bus; tell the driver you want to mount or dismount your bike. Light rail and streetcars have bike racks towards the center of every car, or you can hold your bike upright if those are full. Ferries welcome bicycles with priority loading and unloading; there is a $1 bicycle surcharge above the passenger fare, but it's waived if you pay with an ORCA card.
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.
Seattle is leading the nation in developing dockless bike share programs. Instead of designated stations, bicycles are left wherever the last user stopped, parked at bike racks or large street corners. You use the companies' apps on your smartphone to locate and unlock bikes; when you're done, lock the parking brake and park the bike nearby wherever you happen to be. Unfortunately, none of them rent helmets, which makes them better suited to residents than visitors. They're also not ideal if you're traveling with several people, since you'd have to find a bike for each person.
Jump. Red bikes, run by parent company Uber. $1 to unlock, $0.10/minute. $25 fee for ending your ride outside the "bike zone" covering downtown, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, Fremont, Wallingford, and parts of U District and Ballard.
LimeBike. Lime green bikes. Electric pedal-assist bikes available, good for going up hills. 30 minutes $1; students and reduced fare $0.50.
Ofo. Yellow bikes. 1 hour $1.
Spin. Orange bikes. 30 minutes $1.Traditional shops that offer bike rentals, which do include helmets with every rental:
The Bicycle Repair Shop, 928 Alaskan Way (Opposite between Piers 52 & 54). M-F 8AM-6PM; Sa 10AM-6PM; Su noon-6PM. You can rent bicycles for an hourly rate or a daily rate (which translates to 5 hours of rent) depending on type of bicycle. The website also has a list of self-guided tours. Hybrid: $9 hourly, $45 daily, $150 weekly.
Seattle Bicycle Rentals, Pier 58, toll-free: +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.
Individual listings can be found in Seattle's district articlesSeattle 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 Museum of Pop Culture 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. $99 for adult, $79 for children (ages 5-12).
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.
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 Museum of Pop Culture, a museum celebrating popular film, television, music, and other media, with exhibits on Seattle's vibrant music scene, and the Chihuly Garden & Glass, which takes glass art to the next level. 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. Also south of the city in SoDo is the Living Computers: Museum + Labs which houses a large collection of functioning vintage computers available for public use in the museum and through the internet.
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 Museum of Pop Culture, designed to resemble Jimi Hendrix's smashed guitar, is done in a manner only Frank Gehry could conceive; nearby is the new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, with its 12-acre garden.
Of course, the most popular view in Seattle remains the one from the revolving top of the Space Needle at the Seattle Center. And given the retro-futurism look of the Space Needle, a fitting way to get there is via the Monorail, which connects the Seattle Center to Downtown. Another excellent view is from the Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57, a ferris wheel that offers superb views of the skyline and the waterfront.
Parks and outdoors
Seattle is peppered with parks, from small urban squares to large forested areas, many with breathtaking views of Seattle and the Puget Sound. Seattle's original park system was designed by the Olmsted brothers in Seattle's early days, and park planners across the country still celebrate Seattle's park system as one of the best designed and best preserved in the United States. While many other American cities have only one or two Olmsted-designed parks, Seattle has an extensive multi-park plan linked by boulevards, and this legacy makes Seattle one of the most livable cities in the country.
The Seattle Center is actually a park itself, with attractions besides the Space Needle and the center's numerous museums. The Kobe Bell and the mural beside it and the International Fountain are often overlooked but should not be missed. Up on Queen Anne Hill 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.
Kenmore Air, 950 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.
KEXP, 472 1st Ave N, ☎ +1 206 520-5800. 2PM. Seattle's most popular alternative and indie rock radio station invites you to tour its facility (at 2PM daily) or be an audience in one of its shows, to witness the music genres that put the city on the world map.
Pioneer Square has a variety of tours of the Seattle Underground, the below-street-level corridors that were created when the district was raised by one floor during rebuilding after a massive fire in 1889. These informative tours are a great way to learn about Seattle's early history.
Water tours and cruises
Argosy Cruises, 1101 Alaskan Way, Pier 55. Cruise schedule varies by season. Ticket booth: Daily 10AM-4:05PM. Boat tour company with special dinner and sightseeing cruises. The most common tour is the hour-long Harbor Cruise on Elliott Bay, which offers excellent views of the Space Needle, Downtown skyline, freight harbor, and usually some sea lions, with a barrage of informative commentary about local history or interesting ships or cargo passing through that day. The Locks Cruise is a 2-hour one-way trip (in alternating directions) through the locks separating Elliot Bay and Lake Union, with an optional bus ride if you prefer a round trip. Seasonal cruises include Tillicum Village on Blake Island, and Lake Washington sightseeing. Most cruises offer a decent full-service bar with large drinks and some snacks. Harbor cruise $30.50. Locks cruise $42.50, bus connection $5 additional. Discounts for kids 4-12 and seniors.
Waterways Cruises, 2441 N Northlake Way, ☎ +1 206 223 2060. Cruises on Sa-Su and sometimes F; see schedule online. Office: M-F 9AM-5PM. Luxury dining cruises touring Lake Union and Lake Washington. Regular cruises include 2-hour weekend brunch and Sunday supper buffets, and a 2½-hour four-course dinner (business casual attire). Brunch $65, Sunday supper $60, dinner $85.There are a number of smaller operations offering private charter cruises, for more niche interests like old steamer ships, sailboats, or just a more personal experience with a friendly captain-and-bartender. These are best searched for online.
To just experience a scenic boat ride, the ferries are a cheaper alternative. The 35-minute scenic trip to Bainbridge Island's quaint village is a must-do for all visitors. If you bring a local with you, they can probably provide some commentary, too. See § Ferries under Go next.
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.
Chinese Lunar New Year, International District. Jan/Feb. Numerous stalls and performances, and don't forget to partake in all the cheap food!
Seattle International Film Festival, McCaw Hall, Moore Theatre. May–June. One of the largest film festivals in North America, showing movies from around the world. Watch indie films at screens around the city and vote for your favorite; the winner of each respective category receives the Golden Space Needle trophy.
Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle Center. Memorial Day weekend. A more low-key and local version of Bumbershoot, mainly family-friendly. Even more important, it's free! ($10 donation per person per day encouraged)..
Fremont Fair, Fremont. a weekend in mid or late June. Home of the Solstice Parade (including the nude bike ride), and a really fun drunken time all over Fremont. Vendors, bad live music and eclectic crowds at the bars make for an interesting time. Friends who live in Fremont become especially valuable for a place to crash during the fair.
Seattle PrideFest, Seattle Center. A weekend in June or July. One of the biggest gay pride festivals in the country. Food carts, beer gardens, adult theme performances, and the eagerly anticipated Pride Parade.
Dragon Fest, International District. early/mid-July. Chinese cultural festival
Bite of Seattle, Seattle Center. mid/late July. Part of Seafair festivities. Enjoy some of the best delicacies of Seattle.
Capitol Hill Block Party, Capitol Hill. a mid-summer weekend. Yearly live music event held on Capitol Hill over a weekend in mid-summer (usually the end of July). Consists primarily of local independent bands of various styles, coupled with some bigger name independent label acts.
Seafair, everywhere. July-early August. Seattle's biggest festival, signifying the arrival of summer. Neighborhood events such as parades and street fairs run throughout the festival, with the downtown Torchlight Parade in late July. Seafair culminates in early August when hydroplane races and the Blue Angels bring loud, fast boats and planes to Lake Washington.
Hempfest, Myrtle Edwards Park. mid-August for two days. The largest marijuana rally in the world and the biggest annual political event in Washington. Features political speakers, vendors, food, several stages with many bands, and lots of open pot smoking (especially at 4:20). It is also a demonstration for the political reform and the legalization of marijuana. Possession and consumption (not in public) is now legal in the state of Washington. Police tend to look the other way during Hempfest, and marijuana use in public is now a civil infraction subject to ticketing, not arrest.
Bumbershoot, Seattle Center. Labor Day weekend (early September). Seattle's largest music and arts festival, featuring dozens of local and world-class musical acts.
Night Market & Autumn Moon Festival, International District. Early September. Chinese festival of food and outdoor marketAlso check out the calendar of the Festál Cultural Center, Seattle Center. Year-round except December. Celebrate the world with festivals from about 25 countries represented, one country nearly every 2 weeks.
In terms of professional sports teams, 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. The NHL will add a Seattle team in 2021.
Even prior to success of the local National Football League franchise, the Seattle Seahawks, CenturyLink Field has long been packed to the gills by the "12th man" (the name for loud, devout Seahawks fans) watching their home game in late summer through early winter. Soccer fans can enjoy the Seattle Sounders FC games May through September, also held in CenturyLink Field. T-Mobile Park next door (recently renamed from Safeco Field) 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 play basketball in the WNBA. While their normal home has been KeyArena at Seattle Center, that venue will be closed for all of 2019 and part of 2020 while it's being renovated for the new NHL team. Accordingly, the Storm will play the 2019 season (and possibly 2020, depending on the completion date for the "new" KeyArena) at Alaska Airlines Arena (Hec Edmundson Pavilion behind the corporate naming rights), the main indoor sports facility for the Washington Huskies (University of Washington). The city was home to a team in the current top level of US women's soccer, the National Women's Soccer League, from the league's start in 2013 through 2018, but that team, now known as Reign FC, has moved to Tacoma. 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 aforementioned Washington Huskies play basketball and football at their own venues on campus. In October or November, the rivalry between U-Dub (short name for the campus) and Wazzu (Washington State University, nicknamed "Cougars") 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 (especially since the Redhawks don't have a football team).
5th Avenue Theatre, 5th Avenue (between Union and University Streets in Downtown). Seen as a "testing ground" for many musicals on their way to Broadway.
Benaroya Hall, 3rd Avenue (at University Street). Home to the Seattle Symphony and concerts by classical orchestras. There are two auditoriums: Taper (seats 2,500) and Nordstrom (seats 500).
The Seattle Opera, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and other performances are held at the McCaw Hall at Seattle Center.
Other halls such as Paramount Theatre at 9th Avenue and Pine Street and Moore Theatre at 2nd Avenue house many performing arts and sometimes Broadway performances.
Big concerts by world famous artists usually take place at KeyArena at Seattle Center, though as noted previously that venue will be closed for all of 2019 and into 2020 to prepare it for the city's new NHL team.
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, with the headquarters of tech companies Amazon and Microsoft, coffee chain Starbucks, retail and grocery stores such as Nordstrom, REI and Costco in the city and its surrounding area. While aircraft manufacturer Boeing now has its overall headquarters in Chicago, it maintains its divisional headquarters for its commercial aircraft and financing operations in the Seattle area, also home to two of its largest factories. 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 articlesIf 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 10.1% applies for all purchases except most groceries, newspapers, and prescription drugs.
The Pike Place Market is an attraction in and of itself, and is well-known for its seafood and produce stands. At the main entrance to the market is Pike Place Fish, famous for its handlers who throw fish to each other, but there are plenty of other seafood stands as well. In the main market complex are several levels of restaurants and shops selling antiques, arts and crafts, and souvenirs, and as the weather gets warmer, artisans sell their wares in the upper open-air level as well. Although it is flush with tourists, especially in the summer months, area residents and Downtown workers regularly shop at the market as well, which minimizes the "tourist trap" feel.
The Westlake retail corridors on Pike, Pine, and Union Street between 3rd and 5th Avenues are also a great place to shop. The Westlake Center and the Pacific Place malls have pricey fashion stores, with the sidewalk arcades dominated by big fashion chains.
Belltown, a northern neighborhood of the downtown area, has a plethora of designer art galleries, fashion, and accessory workshops.
The Pioneer Square area is the cheaper counterpart to Belltown, with more eclectic accessories.
Ballard: Most shopping options here are on Ballard Avenue NW between 20th & 22nd Avenue NW. If big brands don't interest you, head here for stylish urban and hip fashion.
Capitol Hill: Most shops here are in the western part of the neighborhood near I-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 widely-known 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 a wide selection. 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 articlesTypical of a big city, Seattle has a diverse range of fare representative of cuisines from around the world. Local chains and hole-in-the-wall restaurants dominate the city's dining atmosphere, and hearty, inexpensive meals can be found all over the city. Note that many Seattle restaurants, particularly the hole-in-the-wall establishments, only accept cash.
Seattle's proximity to Alaska and the waters of the Pacific Ocean make it an excellent place to enjoy seafood. Look for salmon during the late summer months as options are abundant and the prices are among the cheapest on the West Coast, especially the red (sockeye) salmon. Shellfish are a prized resource of the Puget Sound, where the cool, clean waters provide an optimal habitat. Clams, mussels and oysters can be found easily, but other specialties like geoducks (pronounced GOO-ey-ducks) are sometimes available for the more adventurous. The Dungeness crab, named for a nearby town on the Sound, is a popular seafood prized for its sweet, tender flesh and high ratio of meat. The Dungeness is a commercially important crab in Washington's waters but other crab species are also common. The Alaskan king crab, caught from the deep cold waters of the Pacific Ocean near Alaska, has a more frequent presence here than the rest of the lower 48.
Donut shops and bakeries are virtually everywhere, with some offering warm in-house brewed coffee, making them an excellent delight in the cold weather or as a snack.
The mild climate also supports many types of fresh produce. Farmers' markets are a normal occurrence on the weekends, especially in residential areas, and they usually have better quality produce than what you can get at supermarkets. They're an excellent opportunity to taste local delicacies and experience the local culture. Apples, which are exported from Washington and shipped all over the world, are in season around September or October. Rainier cherries are in season June through early August.
Seattle also boasts a wide variety of Asian cuisine, from East Asia to the South. The city has an underrated trend of its omnipresent teriyaki restaurants; most are family-run and hole-in-the-wall, which contributes to its cheap price but filling portion. Ramen, sushi, and Chinese restaurants are also abundant and scattered throughout the area.
Eating options by district
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.
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 articlesFew, 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 exist, 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 articlesFor 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. 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.
Statistically, the number of crimes in Seattle is similar to what you would expect in any major city in the United States. By and large, as long as you use some common sense, you are unlikely to be the target of any crime. Auto break-ins and theft are a problem in the city, so never your leave valuables visible in a car and always lock your car doors. Be wary of the rising trend of smartphone theft.
Downtown Seattle has a sizable population of homeless people (many neighborhoods have forced their homeless into Seattle's downtown core), and while many beg for change and some seem unstable, only a few are actually dangerous. It is worthwhile to be careful after dark in some areas around the downtown core. Some places to watch your back near major tourist areas include under the viaduct along the Waterfront, Belltown, between Pine and Pike Streets in Downtown, and around Pioneer Square, where you'll want to beware of drug dealers and beggars. Areas you'll want to avoid at night (at least without company) include along Aurora Avenue and Lake City Way in the north of the city, SoDo, and the International District.
On Friday and Saturday nights, it is wise to take caution while at Capitol Hill. The many bars in the area can also contain drunk and unruly people, which in very rare cases can lead up to assault or shooting. But as long as you are not looking for trouble, you will be safe.
Drivers in Seattle are typically nice but indecisive, but as long as you're careful as a pedestrian, you don't run a high risk of getting hit. Cyclists should be extra wary of traffic and opening doors of parked cars, especially Downtown.
Washington state has legalized the consumption of marijuana for recreational use. By law, only persons aged 21 and over can purchase marijuana, and then only from licensed retailers. Purchasers are limited to one ounce of usable marijuana (the harvested flowers or "bud"), 16 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form, or 7 grams of marijuana concentrates.
Under no circumstances should you consume marijuana in public or while driving, nor should you transport it out of the state or give it to anybody else for consumption. The DUI limit is .08, but even a smaller number can still lead to an arrest. Any other regulations not stated here should be treated the same as with alcohol. Smoking is not allowed in any public places, and must be done at least 25 feet away from doors, windows, or ventilation shafts.
During fall through early spring, when the weather is said to be sunny, the morning often starts with fog before the afternoon sunshine clears it. Be careful if you're driving, as visibility can be near zero in the early morning, depending on the location. Watch out for black ice as well if the temperature is below freezing. Occasionally, this condition will persist for days and air quality will deteriorate as emissions will get trapped over the city; in these cases, an Air Stagnation Advisory and Burn Ban will be issued, and those with breathing problems should take precautions in such an event.
In case of rain, take the normal precautions while driving to avoid skidding; drive 10-15 mph slower than the speed limit and avoid driving through large puddles. If you are heading to the mountains in the winter, take the typical winter driving precautions, like putting chains on your tires or changing to traction tires. If it does snow in Seattle, it is not recommended to drive, as the city is typically unprepared for such an event and motor vehicles become a moving hazard -- stuck, skidding, or rolling down the city's hills.
While Seattle’s LGBTQ community is well-integrated throughout the entire city, Capitol Hill is the heart of Seattle’s gay cultural scene and is a historical hub of gay and gay-friendly businesses, bars, restaurants and clubs. Its eclectic nightlife and central location make Capital Hill the ideal place for an exciting night out. But more family-friendly gay activities can be found in other areas as Seattle has the second-largest percentage of gay, lesbian or bisexual residents among large cities in the U.S.
As long as there are no extreme weather events, Seattle is a perfectly lovely place. Many parks have jogging tracks and fitness centers are abundant, making Seattle one of the fittest cities in the nation.
Temperatures can get extreme during the summer, and there is always at least one annual instance where temperatures hover above 90 °F (32 °C), although the low humidity makes the heat less oppressive. Drink plenty of liquid to keep yourself hydrated and don't leave anybody inside a car.
During the long stretch of mild (40–50 °F or 4–10 °C) 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.
Fashion in Seattle covers a wide range, from chic and stylish to flannel, grunge, and anti-fashion. In fact, it's hard to think of a style that wouldn't be acceptable somewhere in the city. Overall, though, dress is decidedly casual. In 2013, Seattle was ranked the most "dressed-down" city in the nation, preferring comfort over fashion. It's almost impossible to be underdressed in Seattle; even the Seattle Opera and Seattle Symphony encourage you to wear shorts and sandals if you're so inclined.
Dressing in layers is a good idea, due to unpredictable weather and differences in temperature from indoors to outdoors. Practical accessories like boots and scarves are also common, depending on the season.
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 hooded jacket or a lightweight rain jacket, and packing one is recommended.
When the sun is out, many locals will eagerly break out shorts and sandals, even if the temperature is only in the 60s (16–21 °C).
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 (known as the "Seattle P-I" or simply the "P-I") (free, online only) has ended its print edition, but still maintains local reporters and an online presence.
The Seattle Weekly (free, published Wednesday) is one of many free weeklies that are published in the Seattle area. The Weekly has a longstanding reputation for in-depth coverage of arts and local politics.
The Stranger (free, published Thursday) is an alternative weekly newspaper noted for its social commentary, political opinion, arts, comics, music coverage, and local news items.
Publicola (free, online only) is an online only but well read blog covering local politics and events.
Real Change ($2.00, published weekly) is a newspaper mostly written and produced by homeless people, sold by homeless vendors on street corners and outside grocery stores.There are also several ethnic newspapers including Northwest Asian Weekly, and numerous neighborhood newspapers including the North Seattle Journal and the West Seattle Blog. The University of Washington also publishes The Daily of the University of Washington.
Seattle is in the top 20 of the largest media market in the US, thus virtually every genre you can think of has its own radio station:
KEXP-FM (90.3) # news & talk, NPR (National Public Radio), classical music, alternative & indie rock
KQMV (Movin 92.5) # Top 40
KUBE (93.3) # Hip hop, rap
KMPS (94.1)# Country
KUOW (94.9) # news & talk, NPR (National Public Radio), PRI (Public Radio International), BBC World Service
KJR-FM (95.7) # classic hits
KIRO-FM (97.3) # news & talk. Also broadcasts a comprehensive traffic report.
KOMO-FM (97.7 & 1000 AM) # news
KING-FM (98.1) # classical
KKWF (Wolf 100.7) # Country
KPLZ (Star 101.5) # Hot Adult Contemporary
KCMS (Spirit 105.3) # Christian
KIRO (710 AM) # Sports
KMIA (1210 AM) # Spanish Latino
KWYZ (1230 AM) # Korean
Seattle is 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 # 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 I-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 Center, 325 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 Center, 1959 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 Hospital, 4800 Sand Point Way NE, ☎ +1 206 987-2000. Children's Hospital is a private hospital specializing in pediatrics. It is also home to UW's School of Pediatrics. 24-hour pediatric emergency room.
Swedish Medical Center Swedish Medical Center is a large nonprofit health care provider. It has three main hospital locations and is also affiliated with many other suburban hospitals and clinics. Among the things Swedish is known for are its Cancer, Bariatrics and Heart Institutes. Swedish Hospital will treat all patients who need care, regardless of their ability to pay.
Swedish Medical Center First Hill, 747 Broadway, ☎ +1 206 386-6000. Certified Primary Stroke Care center, 24-hour ER, 24-hour Pediatric ER. This is the Main Swedish Medical Center campus and is the largest hospital in Seattle.
Swedish Medical Center Cherry Hill, 500 17th Ave., ☎ +1 206 320-2000. Certified Primary Stroke Care center, 24-hour ER.
Swedish Medical Center Ballard, 5300 Tallman Ave NW, ☎ +1 206 782-2700. 24-Hour ER.
Virginia Mason Medical Center, 1100 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 honorary which means they offer limited services to travelers and their nationals living in the area and usually available by appointment only. They are typically located in downtown but can be elsewhere too. The nearest cities for additional foreign consulates for the west coast, are in Los Angeles and San Francisco:
Austria (Honorary), World Trade Center Seattle, 2200 Alaskan Way, Suite #410, ☎ +1 425 395-4382.
Belgium (Honorary), The World Trade Center Seattle, 2200 Alaskan Way, Suite 450, ☎ +1 206 771-9114, e-mail: [email protected]
Cambodia (Honorary), 1818 Westlake Avenue N., Suite 315, ☎ +1 206 217-0830, fax: +1 206 361-7888, e-mail: [email protected]
Canada, Century Square @ 1501 4th Ave, Suite 600 (4th Ave & Pike), ☎ +1 206 443-1777, toll-free: +1 844 880-6519, fax: +1 206 443-9662, e-mail: [email protected] M-F 08:00-12:00 and 13:00-14:30 by appointment only. Visa applications and related inquiries (such as Canadian permanent residency documents and criminal inadmissibility to Canada, if required) must be submitted and approved through their Visa Offices in either Los Angeles, New York or in your home country before proceeding to the Canadian border. Passport issuance, renewals and applications are made by mail (to Canada) only.
El Salvador, Broderick Building, 615 2nd Ave, Suite 50 (2nd Ave & Cherry), ☎ +1 206 971-7950, fax: +1 206 236-5162, e-mail: [email protected] Mon-Fri 7:30AM to 3:30PM; First Sat per month 9:30AM-1:30PM.
France, World Trade Center Seattle, 2200 Alaskan Way, Suite #490, ☎ +1 206 256-6184.
Denmark (Honorary), 6204 E Mercer Way, Mercer Island, ☎ +1 206 230-0888, fax: +1 206 230-0888, e-mail: [email protected] Mon-Fri 9:00AM - 5:00PM by appointment only.
Ireland (Honorary), 5819 St. Andrews Dr., Mukilteo, WA, e-mail: [email protected]
Germany (Honorary), 7853 SE 27th St, Suite 180, Mercer Island, ☎ +1 206 230-5138, fax: +1 206 236-5162, e-mail: [email protected]
Guatemala, 18000 International Blvd Suite #1005, SeaTac 98188- (10th floor of the South Tower. Across International Blvd from the airport.), ☎ +1 206 693-3600, toll-free: +1 844 805-1011, fax: +1 206-588-0828, e-mail: [email protected] Mon -Sat 9:00AM - 1:00PM. They also visit their nationals living in Oregon and other parts of Washington state in their "consulado movil" (mobile consulate) program to provide consular services and answer questions.
Honduras, 1107 SW Grady Way Suite #100, Renton 98057, ☎ +1 206 420-0947. Mon-Fri 9:00AM - 4:00PM.
Japan, Two Union Square @ 601 Union St, Suite 500, ☎ +1 206 682-9107, fax: +1 206 624-9097, e-mail: [email protected] Their services also extend to other parts of Washington state, northern Idaho and Montana.
Luxembourg (Honorary), 812 Warren Ave N (3 blocks north of Seattle Center between Valley & Aloha St), ☎ +1 206 956-9137.
Mexico, 807 E Roy St (one block west of Broadway at E Roy & Harvard Ave E), ☎ +1 206 448-3526, toll-free: +1 877 639-4835, fax: +1 206 448-4771, e-mail: [email protected] They visit the Mexican communities in Alaska, northern Idaho and other parts of Washington state in their "consulados sobre de ruidas" (consulate on wheels) program to provide consular services and answer questions.
Netherlands (Honorary), ☎ +1 206 321-8085, e-mail: [email protected] By Appointment only. Honorary consuls promote economic and trade relations between the Netherlands and the US, especially within their geographical region. Honorary consuls do not handle, or answer questions relating to, visa or passport applications
New Zealand (Honorary), PO Box 51059, Seattle WA 98115, ☎ +1 206 527-1896, fax: +1 206 525-8104, e-mail: [email protected]
Norway (Honorary), 2200 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98121 (World Trade Center, Suite 450), ☎ +1 206 284-2323, e-mail: [email protected]
Peru (Honorary), 3717 NE 157th St (Off of NE Bothell Way (SR522)), ☎ +1 206 714-9037, e-mail: [email protected] Mon,Wed,Fri 10:30AM to 5:00PM (By appointment only).
Russia, One Union Square @ 600 University St., Suite 2510, ☎ +1 202 939-8907, fax: +1 202 298-5735, e-mail: [email protected] Due to tensions between U.S. and Russian relations they have also closed the consulates in Seattle and San Francisco.
South Korea, Sixth & Lenora Building @ 2033 6th Ave # 1125, ☎ +1 206 441-1011, fax: +1 206 441-7912, e-mail: [email protected]
Sweden (Honorary), 5350 Carillon Point, Kirkland, WA 98033, ☎ +1 425 952-6299, fax: +1 425 576-5400, e-mail: [email protected]
Switzerland (Honorary), 6920 94th Ave SE, Mercer Island 98040-5442, ☎ +1 206 228-8110, e-mail: [email protected] This representation supports Swiss citizens who find themselves in need because of illness, an accident or theft while travelling. It also informs the responsible Swiss representation. This representation does not issue visas or (Swiss) passports.
Taiwan (Taipei Economic & Cultural Office (TECO)), One Union Square @ 600 University St., Suite 2020, ☎ +1 206 441-4586, e-mail: [email protected] Mon-Fri 9:00AM-6:00PM, consular services close at 4:30PM.
Washington State Ferries connect to the other side of the Puget Sound, crossing waters that are too deep, too wide, and too busy for bridges. The Bainbridge and Bremerton ferries depart from Colman Dock on Pier 52, an easy walk from downtown. Fares vary; on the Bainbridge Island ferry, passengers pay $8.35 for the westbound trip; the return to Seattle is free. Vehicle & driver $11.80-18.70, motorcycle & driver $6.45-8.00.
Bainbridge Island (35 minutes one way; departures every 40-65 minutes) is a bedroom community with a lovely little commercial district and lots of preserved green space. If you plan to see any parks, then it probably makes sense to take your car; plan for your trip to take at least 4 hours, and likely longer. Otherwise, it's easier to go on foot; the main commercial district (where most of the museums, shops, and restaurants are) adjacent to the ferry terminal is less than half a mile across, and the few inland bars and shops can be reached by rideshare. In that case, you can comfortably window shop, have a small meal, and board the return ferry in 1-2 hours (for a round trip of as little as 3-4 hours).
Bremerton (60 minutes one way; departures every 60-90 minutes) on the Kitsap Peninsula is a suburban community with a large naval base. The ferry ride itself is as scenic as the Aegean Sea.
The Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle offers service to Vashon Island (20 minutes one way; departures every 20-60) and Southworth terminal near Port Orchard (30-40 minutes one way; departures every 30-90 minutes).
The Water Taxi also provides weekday commuter passenger-only service from Pier 50 (right next to Colman Dock) to Vashon Island.
Just getting out and driving around the area with no destination in mind can be a great experience, as the Seattle area, like most of the Pacific Northwest, is very scenic. If you'd like more specific destinations, try some of these:
Within the metropolitan area
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 I-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.
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 some of 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 I-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 I-5 (follow the signs for Mukilteo Ferry) and is a charming place with quaint towns.
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 I-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.