Despite the city's relatively brief history, diversity and tradition fill the streets of Seattle. This medium-sized urban hub is booming economically, growing and evolving at a rapid rate, with help from multinational corporations like Microsoft and Starbucks. For many who live here, however, the blue skies, abundant water and picturesque mountain ranges are what make this beautiful city so appealing.
About as close as Seattle gets to California, this sandy beach in west Seattle draws swarms of walkers, joggers, bikers, skaters, scuba divers and volleyball players. Cafes and restaurants such as
Affectionately known for slow drivers and the lilting accents of its many residents of Scandinavian descent, this area was first settled by immigrant Nordic fishermen and mill workers. Visit the
Yes, this Washington has one too and its mix of eclectic shops, art-house theaters, wonderful restaurants and interesting people make it one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Seattle. Some of the city's most historic houses are located here, as is the renowned
Hip and eclectic, Fremont is always a fun place to go. The sign that says "Welcome to the Center of the Universe" is the first clue that you've arrived. Oddities like the
Quaint shops, restaurants and cafes fill this upper-crust neighborhood on the shores of Lake Washington. Everyone seems to know each other at restaurants like
Pungent aromas and delectable dishes emit from restaurants like
Across Lake Washington from Seattle lies the "Monterey of the Northwest," so called for its posh art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and waterfront. The
Pike Place Market
This is Seattle's oldest neighborhood and the place where the term "Skid Row" originated. Lumberjacks skidded logs down "Skid Road," now Yesler Street, to a mill at the bottom of the hill. Saloons and brothels lined the street, and the term soon took on its derogatory connotation locally and nationwide. The
Queen Anne Hill
A combination of a quiet hilltop neighborhood and a young trendy hot spot, Queen Anne has popular restaurants like
Thriving due to corporate residents like Microsoft and Nintendo, Redmond has an unlikely yet appealing combination of countryside and technology. The software industry brings money here and with it good shopping at
Part amusement park, part festival grounds, the center hosts
This area is home to the
Elliott Bay, part of Puget Sound, laps against Seattle's
The Snohomish, Suquamish and other Native Americans were the first settlers of this Pacific Northwest area, later named Seattle after Native American headsman Chief Sealth. In the fall of 1851, the Denny Party landed on what is now Alki Beach (home to Alki Point Lighthouse) in West Seattle. After surviving one cold, harrowing winter, these first white settlers moved east across Elliott Bay to settle in the sheltered area that is now downtown Seattle and Pioneer Square.
Timber quickly became the economic mainstay of this new community. The lush Pacific Northwest offered an abundance of big evergreen trees that settlers cut and sold for lumber. With the community's newly created wealth came an interest in higher education. The University of Washington was established in 1861 and moved to its present location in 1895. It remains the state's largest educational institution.
Once the railroad reached nearby Tacoma in 1883, Seattle's population exploded. Six years later, almost everything Seattleites had built was lost in the Great Fire of June 1889. Seattle proclaimed itself a phoenix that would rise from the ashes, and by the end of that year, the city constructed 130 new brick buildings atop the burned-out shell of the old city. Today, you can view the ruins of the original buildings on the Underground Tour. The 1890s was a period of rebirth, and the Yukon and Alaskan gold rushes helped move the city forward economically. As the gateway to a virtually uninhabited Alaska, Seattle was a major supplier of food and provisions to prospectors departing to brave the wilds in search of gold. Those who struck it rich spent freely on their way back through Seattle.
In 1907 the Pike Place Public Farmer's Market opened. It remains a top tourist attraction today. By 1910 the city's population had grown to nearly 230,000, and steamers were used to ferry people and products across the bay. Electric trolleys started running in 1919, improving transportation between sprawling urban areas. Bits and pieces of highway followed. The economic boom took a new turn in 1916 when Bill Boeing tested his company's first plane. Since World War II, the region's economy has depended on the aerospace industry. Boeing developed the 707 commercial jet that changed commercial air travel.
The 1960s brought the 1962 World's Fair, the Space Needle and the Monorail to Seattle. The city became a destination spot for tourists and the population continued to swell. Construction of Interstate 5 continued through downtown, and the ferryboat Kalakala was considered the ultimate in high-tech water transportation.
During the 1980s and 90s, Seattle became home to a fledgling company called Microsoft, a seller of gourmet coffee by the name of Starbucks, and Safeco Field, a state-of-the-art baseball stadium with a retractable roof. Top biotech companies also flocked to the area. Today, this cosmopolitan city nestled between the Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound remains home to corporations like Microsoft, Starbucks, Nintendo, Nordstrom, Immunex and many other internationally competitive companies.
The entertainment options in a city the size of Seattle are numerous. There are plenty of art museums, theaters and music venues for visitors to explore.
The patriarchs of the local art scene, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and its brother the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM), have been pushing steadily away from exclusively showing antiquities to showcasing more contemporary art. At SAM, look for rotating modern art shows, and be sure to check out the Native American and African galleries. At SAAM, the vibe is quieter, but spectacular nonetheless.
The contemporary art shows at the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington always have an academic background and a flair for challenging conceptions. The Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA) and a host of edgy galleries like James Harris and Greg Kucera, showcase young, impoverished, enthusiastic local talent. Check it all out during the monthly neighborhood Artwalks, during which galleries stay open late and serve wine and cheese. The Pioneer Square area hold its Artwalk on the first Thursday of every month, Capitol Hill follows suit on the first Saturday, Kirkland opens its doors on the second Thursday and Ballard rounds out the cycle on the second Saturday.
Hollywood glitz rules the downtown scene at Pacific Place and the Meridian. Art-house funkiness rules Capitol Hill at the Egyptian Theatre and the Harvard Exit, and over the University District at the Neptune, the Varsity Theatre, the Seven Gables Theatre and the Grand Illusion. Those with various tastes can have fun at the various annual film festivals, where sneak previews of blockbusters play alongside obscure Yugoslavian flicks. The biggest festival is the Seattle International Film Festival, which takes the town over for three weeks in May and June. Also keep a lookout for the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
Admittedly, there are those who think watching nerdy Seattleites try to negotiate downtown with flapping rain ponchos and lattes in recycled, unbleached cups is comedy enough. But if you want something a bit more organized, try Giggles in the University District, where professionals take over the stage on the weekends.
Apart from the deservedly renowned Balanchine-school Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the beloved contemporary dance house On The Boards, good dance in Seattle is hard to come by on a regular basis. The best pickings include the University of Washington excellent World Music & Dance Series, which brings top-notch groups such as the Paul Taylor Dance Company into town every year.
The Frye Art Museum has a pleasant collection of 19th and 20th Century paintings, while the Museum of History and Industry covers the same time period but with its focus on Seattle's history. The Burke Museum and the Museum of Flight offer glimpses of natural history and Boeing science respectively, with towering artifacts (dinosaurs and airplanes, naturally) at both.
The history of Seattle's ethnic minorities gets a thoughtful, detailed look at the Wing Luke Asian Museum. The Seattle Children's Museum and the Pacific Science Center, both at the Seattle Center, are paradises of activities for kids. Further afield, the Bellevue Art Museum has a good collection of 20th Century art, while the Washington State History Museum is Tacoma's look at the state's history.
The Seattle Symphony performs in the acoustically crisp Benaroya Hall, which also provides much-needed concert space for the excellent Seattle Men's Chorus and other classical groups. Recent years have also seen the rise of an early-music movement, with several period ensembles garnering acclaim and audiences under the aegis of the Early Music Guild. Churches around town and the Seattle Art Museum often stage lovely chamber music concerts as well.
Okay, so grunge is dead. But that doesn't mean that the local rock scene is dead with it. The scene is just a bit more upbeat, with international groups finding a warmer welcome. Experimental rock groups and other combinations of world, funk and pop music play frequently at the Showbox and the Crocodile Cafe. Jazzmen and blues masters hold down regular gigs at the Tractor Tavern and the Baltic Room. There's also a lively Irish scene in town, with live traditional and modern music at Conor Byrne's, the Owl 'n' Thistle and Kells Irish Pub.
The Seattle Opera is internationally famous today for its Wagner productions, most notably its four-day Ring cycle. The opera has broadened its range considerably, from sparkling Mozart to serious Prokofiev.
Mainstream houses include the Seattle Repertory Theater, the Intiman, A Contemporary Theater and the Empty Space Theater. These companies put on strong seasons every year, usually comprised of modern classics and premieres. Fringe theater groups, such as the Annex Theater, the Book-It Repertory Theatre and Theater Schmeater provide well-produced, eclectic alternatives. There's also a manic fringe festival in early spring, when dozens of groups materialize out of nowhere to put on shows. In the niche bracket, Seattle Children's Theatre presents extremely professional, creative productions for kids ages 4-14, while the 5th Avenue Theatre brings Broadway musicals to town.
Over the past several years, Seattle has become quite a popular tourist destination, especially in the summer when the threat of rain diminishes. Most hotels are located in the downtown area, but visitors can certainly find excellent lodging options in the outlying areas as well.
Bellevue and the Eastside
Seattle's sister city across Lake Washington, Bellevue has boomed with the growth of high-tech companies. It's an ideal spot for visitors who don't mind a short commute, although at rush hour crossing the bridge can take up to an hour. Hotels here include the posh Bellevue Club Hotel and the beautifully appointed Hyatt Regency. More moderately priced hotels include Red Lion Bellevue Inn and the Sheraton Bellevue. If you're looking for an even more casual place to stay, try the Bellevue Silver Cloud Inn or the Bellevue Lodge. These centrally located hotels, convenient to business and shopping, are ideal for business travelers visiting Microsoft, US West, Nintendo or any of the other companies filling the ever-expanding business parks in Bellevue, and in Redmond just five minutes to the east.
A few minutes east on the shore of Lake Washington, Kirkland is filled with condominiums, restaurants, art galleries and yachts. Kirkland's impeccable Woodmark Hotel sits right on the water and offers beautiful sunrises.
Downtown Business/Shopping Area
Most of the larger hotels are located here in the heart of the action. These are also the city's most expensive hotels. Accommodations for the shopping set include the Westin, Mayflower Park Hotel and the Fairmont Olympic, all high-quality hotels within easy walking distance of Pacific Place Shopping Center, Westlake Center, Nordstrom and Pike Place Market. Near the Washington State Convention Center, you'll find the Sheraton and the Seattle Hilton. The Hotel Monaco is also nearby.
If you don't want to stray far from Seatac Airport, which is about half an hour from downtown, there are plenty of options, as long as you don't mind the sound of airplanes taking off and landing. The Red Lion Hotel Seattle Airport the and Seattle Marriott Sea-Tac Airport are a few among many along the Pacific Highway (US 99) corridor.
This part of town is always bustling. College students form the core population of the area, so inexpensive stores and restaurants abound. The hotels here are less expensive than those downtown, and considering the proximity to the city, it's not a bad place to stay. The University Tower Hotel and the University Inn provide comfort at reasonable prices.
While the Waterfront is a tourist Mecca, it is not the easiest place to find a hotel, so book early. The Edgewater is perched over the water on a pier, and every window has a view. As a matter of fact, Edgewater is the only waterfront hotel downtown. Located at the south end of downtown in historic Pioneer Square, the Pioneer Square Hotel is also close to the waterfront. And between those two sits The Inn at the Market, a nice hotel located at the frenzied Pike Place Market and only steps from the bustling waterfront.