Seattle, Washington, is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. The city is a damp green gem, with an abundance of evergreen trees throughout, and spectacular views of the Cascade mountains to the east and the Olympic mountains to the west. Known for being the home of the Space Needle, Microsoft, Amazon.com, Nintendo of America, Starbucks, and the University of Washington, Seattle is also the home of a vibrant arts scene and an excellent park system.
The Space Needle with Downtown in the Background
Seattleites nearly always describe a location in terms of its "neighborhood." This is partly because of a potentially confusing system of street addresses (see Get Around). The breakdown into neighborhoods is informal and mutates over time, and while there are often signs on major arterial roads to let you know that you are "entering" a particular neighborhood, the placement of these signs is arbitrary.
Still, knowing what neighborhood you're looking for can be a good sanity check when you're looking for an address. A Seattleite would describe 1401 45th SW as being in West Seattle, and 1401 45th NE as being in the U District (University District), which you'll note are diagonally opposite on the map. See Get Around for an explanation.
The Seattle City clerk maintains an interactive map that starts with the high-level districts, but lets you click on those to get the detailed neighborhoods too.
Overview of Seattle districts
- East of downtown (or I-5)
- Along Lake Washington
- Madison Park
- Madrona. Upper Madrona has a nice little shopping district.
- Leschi. Mainly of interest for its waterfront parks.
- South of downtown (or I-90)
- Beacon Hill
- West Seattle
- Columbia City
- Georgetown (including Boeing Field/King County Airport)
- South Park
- North of Greenlake (or NE 85th Street)
Some others that may crop up are:
- Sodo - Originally "South of the Dome", referring to the now-demolished Kingdome. To keep some sense in the name, it is sometimes explained now as "South of Downtown".
- Maple Leaf, Lake City, Ravenna, and Wedgewood have similarly fuzzy boundaries as you move from Northgate towards Laurelhurst.
- The "East Side" means the region east of Lake Washington comprising the suburbs of Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond.
A view of the Seattle waterfront
Seattle was founded on the rough, physical industries of fishing, logging and coal mining, with San Francisco as her primary customer. Boeing was founded in 1916 and, as natural resources were depleted, grew to be Greater Seattle's primary industry. The region's strong economic dependence on Boeing gave the oil recession and cancellation of the SST (Supersonic Transport) in the early '70s a grim effect. Over the last twenty-five years, the area has become less seedy and more developed with the massive influx of Microsoft money (and other software and biotech proceeds), but Pioneer Square is still the original Skid Row. (Yesler Way was a "Skid Road" for logs skidded downhill using dogfish oil to Henry Yesler's lumber mill).
Seattle is also substantially influenced by the presence of the University of Washington (the largest single campus on the west coast and one of the top two recipients of grant money), as well as multiple smaller colleges and universities. Seattle is also the center for financial, public health, and justice systems in the northwestern part of the USA.
The weather can be rainy (but is usually just drizzly) on any given day. It can also be sunny and pleasant in January. Mid-June through early September is often sunny. The record high is only 100 degrees fahrenheit (38°C). The record low is at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18°C). The warmest months are July and August, with average highs in the high 70s (about 25°C), though often having days in the 80s and even 90s (32°C). The coldest month is January, with average lows in the mid-upper 30s (about 3°C), although occasionally can get cold, especially when it is not cloudy. The dark, short, and overcast winter days can be unpleasant and depressing to some, although the bright side is that they are not as cold as the latitude (47.6 degrees North) might lead you to think. If the Seattle winter begins to depress you, taking regular vitamins - especially extra vitamin B and getting some ultraviolet light - such as the light used at tanning salons, can go a long way towards improving your mood.] The summer, however, is very pleasant. Temperatures are very mild, and most locals do not have air-conditioning in their homes, though all hotels will, and it is advisable to have it for a car if you are there in the summer. The days are also very long, and sunset (let alone twilight) is after 9pm for weeks. Also, the vast majority of days in the summer have no rain, and despite its reputation, many people's lawns go brown in the summer if they do not water. One interesting fact is that Seattle has less annual rainfall than New York City; however, the rain is spread out over a larger number of days, so while NYC gets heavier downpours, Seattle's rain usually comes in a drizzle, which only occasionally strengthens to a full-blown torrent. Despite this, if you come in the summer, you should see plenty of sunny weather. The month of December tends to be extremely wet, although due to the fact that Seattle weather is unpredictable, it can still be sunny and mild.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport or just "SeaTac airport", (IATA: SEA), located in the city of SeaTac, connects Seattle to all regions of the world, with especially frequent transpacific routes. Alaska Airlines uses Seattle as a hub and therefore has nonstop flights to Seattle from many locations, and provides something approximating discount air fare to and from the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.
There are several choices for getting from the airport to the city center:
- Metro(city bus) - Routes 194 (express, 30 minutes) and 174 (45-60 minutes) will get you downtown for $2. Get exact change by buying a latte at the little Chinook coffee stand by the baggage claim downstairs, then exit the terminal, turn right and walk all the way to the south end of the building where you will find a couple of Metro bus stops with schedules posted. Be aware that the 174/194 at the first bus stop head downtown; the 174/194 at the second (adjacent) bus stop head out to Federal Way.
- Taxi - The trip is about 20 minutes by taxi (set price of $28 as of April 30, 2007); catch one on the third floor of the parking garage.
- Rental car - On a weekend, you might want to shop the internet for rental cars, since they can be less than $12/day (plus roughly 18% tax; also consider hotel parking fees, if any). Beware of the fact that taking a rental from the airport will incur an 11% "airport tax" surcharge. If you are able to rent a car from a downtown location you will not have to pay this and will save a considerable amount of money.
- Commercial shuttle buses are about $5-$12.75 and probably not faster than the bus if you are going downtown.
- Also a special note. In the fall of 2009 Sound Transit will begin operating a light-rail line between downtown Seattle and the Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) International Airport. (http://www.soundtransit.org/x1171.xml)
Amtrak provides service from all along the west coast. The Amtrak Cascades runs four trains a day between Seattle and Portland (two run between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon, via Portland) and one a day to Vancouver, British Columbia. The Cascades corridor service is quicker and much more reliable than the long-distance Coast Starlight, which can be delayed for hours on the long (over a day) trip from Los Angeles, California.
Additionally, the Empire Builder provides daily service to Chicago via Minneapolis and Glacier National Park. Unlike the other three Amtrak transcontinental trains further south, the Builder tends to stick fairly closely to schedule.
Seattle's King Street Station is located south of downtown, near Safeco Field.
Interstate Highway 5 (I-5) cuts through the middle of Seattle north to south. Interstate 90 (I-90) runs from the I-5 interchange in Seattle all the way to Boston. Be aware however, that Seattle is a city known for terrible traffic, especially around rush hour, so be ready for crawling along slowly as you enter the city.
- Greyhound, . Seattle's Greyhound bus station is located on Stewart St. at the northeast edge of the downtown core.
- Shared Route, . Biodiesel bus runs between Seattle and Portland, with a stop in Olympia. One way fare between Seattle and Portland is $30, round-trip is $50. One-way from Olympia just $10. Operates Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only.
- Quick Shuttle, . Runs between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Stops in Downtown Seattle (outside the Best Western at 200 Taylor Ave N) and SeaTac Airport (at the main terminal near south end of baggage claim, outside door 00, bays 11-16). Fares from Vancouver to Downtown Seattle are $36 one-way, $65 round-trip; from Vancouver to SeaTac, fares are $49 one-way, $87 round-trip.
- Washington State Ferries, 801 Alaskan Way Pier 52, +1 206 464-6400  - Connect downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island, to Bremerton, and to Vashon Island, and connect West Seattle to Vashon Island and to Southworth (Kitsap Peninsula). All ferries are for both vehicles and passenger except the ferry between downtown Seattle and Vashon Island.
- High Speed Catamaran Passenger ferries,  connect Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia (Canada)
Seattle's street designations make sense once you understand them, but unless you do understand them, you can end up many miles away from your destination.
North-South streets are labeled "Avenues" (or occasionally "Boulevards" and "Ways") while East-West streets are labeled "Streets". The city is roughly divided into a 3 by 3 grid with 7 directional sectors (E, SW, W, S N, NE, & NW) Street addresses are written with the sector before the name, e.g. NE 45th Street or NE 45th. Avenue addresses are written with the sector after the name, e.g. 45th Avenue NE or 45th NE.
There are four major exceptions:
- Downtown streets and avenues have no directional designation.
- There is no SE section. Instead, the S section is extra wide.
- East of downtown, avenues have no directional designation (streets are preceded by 'E').
- North of downtown (between Denny Way and the ship canal), streets have no directional designation, but avenues are followed by 'N'.
All in all, it's probably worth a few dollars to buy and carry a map when you're trying to find an address. Seattle's street designations are fully explained in a Wikipedia article at
Metro Transit  (electric, hybrid and diesel city buses) actually works pretty well. The web trip planner is straightforward and accurate, as long as your bus is on time. During rush hours (Monday-Friday 6-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m.) bus fares are US$1.50. All other times of day and weekends bus fare is US$1.25. Pay exact fare as drivers don't carry change so don't ask (they get pretty annoyed if you do.)
Pay your fare when you board if your headed downtown. When leaving downtown you pay your fare as you leave the bus (if your confused the fare box has a sign posted on when to pay).
On Saturdays and Sundays, you can buy an All-Day Pass for $2.50 from the bus driver. On weekdays, a $5 Visitor Pass can be purchased at various retail locations.
Buses in downtown Seattle are free between 6AM and 7PM in the downtown core of Seattle. Just get on and get off. To read the details refer to Metro Free Bus info.
When traveling to destinations outside of the downtown core it's best to avoid Metro buses with green and white "EXPRESS" signs in their windows and/or those whose route signs say "VIA EXPRESS". These special express route variations are intended for regular commuters traveling between residential neighborhoods and downtown, and make limited or no stops between..
Sound Transit  (diesel and hybrid buses, trains) is more expensive, but has many convenient express routes that travel South (to Tacoma), East (Redmond, Bellevue), and North (Bothell, Lynnwood). But traveler beware many of these buses are intended for commuters and have limited service during non-rush hour times of day.
In addition to buses Sound Transit operates a commuter train service between Seattle-Tacoma and Seattle-Everett. (http://www.soundtransit.org/x71.xml)
Also a special note. In the fall of 2009 Sound Transit will begin operating a light-rail line between downtown Seattle and the Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) International Airport. (http://www.soundtransit.org/x1171.xml)
If presented with multiple routes to get to the same destination, try and ascertain which routes use Hybrid Flyer buses, recognizable by the yellow rather than green route indicators. They have air conditioning unlike every other model Metro uses, which during Seattle's warm season will be quite useful. Generally the Hybrids are used on routes which go downtown, through the underground bus tunnel (currently out of service, but re-opening before September 2007).
On weekends, you can often rent cars at locations throughout the city for well under $20/day.
Flexcar has cars in many parts of the city, waiting for someone to pick them up, drive them around, and drop them back off. It's a cool idea, but it won't do you much good as a tourist, and rental cars are cheaper.
Be mindful of where you park because parking laws are enforced and the fines can be hefty! A parking ticket can be in excess of $35 for going overtime in a 2-hour zone.
- Car rentals are the most convenient for of transportation for visitors, with local companies offering better prices but national chains offering more convenience vis-a-vis return policies and times.
Car Rental Companies include:
- Alamo Rent A Car, +1 800-462-5266 .
- Avis Rent A Car, +1 800-331-1212 .
- Budget Rent A Car, +1 800-527-0700 .
- Dollar Rent A Car, +1 800-800-3665 .
- E-Z Rent-A-Car, +1 800-277-5171 .
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car, +1 800-261-7331 .
- Hertz Car Rental, +1 800-654-3131 ].
- Thrifty, +1 800-847-4389 .
Bicycling is better than in most cities, except for the damp roads, frequent rain and hills. Buy yourself some Gore-Tex raingear at REI's Flagship Store (222 Yale Ave). Or, you could just buy a wool sweater from a thrift store (Value Village anyone?). Some major roads in Seattle have properly maintained bicycle lanes. Bicycle usage is increasing significantly since the early 2000s and the car drivers are perhaps a bit more accustomed to bicycles than in some other major cities.
You can pick up a free Seattle Bike Map (as well as other local city and county bike maps) at the Seattle BikeStation, 311 3rd Ave S between Main St & S Jackson St almost next door to the train station. They also give suggestions on how to bicycle where you are going and how to do it safely.
Bicycle transportation in the greater part of Seattle is facilitated further by the Burke-Gilman Trail. This is a paved walking/jogging/cycling trail that winds its way from the north end of Lake Washington, down around the University of Washington, then west towards Ballard. The trail is on an old railroad right-of-way, so it maintains a very consistent elevation and is excellent for commuting or a casual day's touring. Myrtle Edwards path is located on the sound starting at the north end of downtown and continuing for the most part all of the way to the Ship Canal Locks. It is much more scenic than the Burke and more peaceful as it does not intersect with any roads. As well it has gorgeous views of the Olympics and Mt. Rainier.
All Metro buses are equipped to carry two bicycles on racks on the front, at no extra charge. Metro doesn't allow riders to load or remove a bicycle in the downtown Ride Free Area between 6am-7pm, although it doesn't hurt to ask if you've goofed.
- Seattle Tours  is a three hour, 50 mile tour of Seattle. Door to door service from SeaTac, Tukwila, Bellevue and downtown Seattle. Seattle Tours also runs a daily tour to the Boeing Assembly Plant (see below) which also includes a stop at the Columbia Winery for a tour and tasting.
- Ride the Ducks Seattle  is an hour or so ride on an amphibious World War II vehicle (yes, part of the ride is on Lake Union), not cheap ($23 adult) and not for those with a limited sense of humor (the style is a bit over-the-top). Definitely unique.
- Gray Line  offers the standard big-city set of tours, including $21 for two and a quarter hours on a double-decker; $29 for a three-hour bus tour, and $49 for seven hours of combined bus and boat touring.
- Beeline Tours  offers a $38, three-hour tour similar to Gray Line, but in a smaller vehicle (that is, with fewer people).
- For a more intimate and quirky tour try Show Me Seattle Tours. Their mini-bus holds a maximum of 14 people. Highlights of their tour are the Troll in Fremont, salmon ladder at the Locks, and the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat.
- Argosy Cruises  offers a harbor cruise, two lake cruises, a locks cruise, and dinner cruises.
- Seattle Underground Tour  will take you underground in Pioneer Square. In early Seattle days there was no proper sewage system, so the city built up the roads and buried the first floor, now the basement level, of much of the original Pioneer Sq. area. One can also get married underground.
- It's a bit outside Seattle, but the Boeing Everett airplane factory tour  is a fascinating look at the world's largest building, as measured in cubic volume.
- Anacortes Kayak Tours- Not in Seattle, but an easy driving distance (90 minutes), and folks can be sea kayaking in the San Juan Islands with Anacortes Kayak Tours. Unlike other kayak tours in the San Juans, this company does not require an expensive ferry ride.
- Seattle Art Museum, 100 University St., +1 206 654-3100,  (Downtown) - was closed for remodeling from January 5, 2006 to May 5, 2007. The expanded building offers 70 percent more gallery space, an expanded museum store, and a new restaurant. In anticipation of the expansion, over a thousand new pieces, with a total value over a billion dollars, were donated to the collection. SAM also runs the Olympic Sculpture Park on the Seattle waterfront, which opened on January 20, 2007.
- Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 East Prospect Street, +1 206 654-3100,  (Capitol Hill)
- The Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington campus,  - One of the biggest contemporary art galleries in Washington, The Henry shows well-known contemporary and modern artists of all visual media, as well as an annual exhibition of the UW's Master of Fine Arts students. Free with student or UW staff/faculty ID, or free to everyone on Thursdays.
- Museum of Flight, 9404 East Marginal Way South, +1 206 764-5720. , (near Boeing Field) - The name tells you right away whether you personally will find this interesting; at minimum, it will get you inside on a rainy day. The collection includes 131 aircraft and spacecraft ranging from wood and fabric crates to the SR-71 and, parked right in the front (car) parking lot, sleek Concorde. Don't bonk the landing gear with your car door!
- Pacific Science Center, 200 Second Ave. N., +1 206 443-2001  - An interactive science museum featuring permanent and temporary exhibits, a butterfly atrium, IMAX theater, planetarium, and laser shows.
- Experience Music Project (EMP), 325 5th Av North, +1 206 367-5483,  - A rock 'n' roll museum, designed by Frank Gehry, and which has the Jimi Hendrix special exhibit. Admission is free on the first Thursday of every month courtesy of Boeing, but do not expect get your turn with the many interactive exhibits.
- Science Fiction Museum (SFM), 325 5th Ave. North,  - Denny Regrade & Seattle Center is home of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame as well as numerous exhibits. This museum is tied to the EMP, the admission fee includes both.
- Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Av., +1 206 622-9250, . A small private collection, free admission, on First Hill, always has parking and worth a visit.
- Pike Place Market (Downtown) Pike Place Market is not entirely indoors, but nearly. It is comprised of a dozens of little shops tucked into a few square blocks downtown, on multiple levels. If you hate shopping you still might like this place, with its quirky atmosphere (including and the famous seafood shop where the staff throw your fish from one end to the other). Hours are shortest on Sunday...only 11-5.
- The Seattle Public Library's Central Library (Downtown) An impressive and uniquely designed building.
- Smith Tower (Downtown)
- Space Needle  - The most expensive elevator ride in America. However, the view is spectacular on a clear day when the sun sets. Downtown Seattle contrasts beautifully with the ocean to the west and the snow-capped mountains in every other direction. You can get a comparably good view for free from Bhy Kracke Park (pronounced "By Crackie") atop Queen Anne Hill. If you are going to eat at the (also expensive) revolving restaurant near the top, called Sky City, the elevator ride is free. The restaurant completes one revolution per hour as you eat.
- Monorail  - Not as expensive ($2.00 one-way $4.00 round trip) as the trip to the top of the Space Needle. If you need to get between downtown and Seattle Center, the 1962 vintage Alweg monorail is perfectly good transportation and kind of cool, but it doesn't go anywhere else.
- Columbia (now Bank of America) Tower Second tallest building on the West Coast and the tallest in Seattle. Great views from the top. Arguably a better view than offered by the Space Needle. Plus the price is much better. To reach the observation deck of the Columbia tower, it's only US$5.00. In addition this building isn't well known to be a tourist attraction so there is little to no line to get to the top.
- Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (a.k.a. Ballard Locks) in Ballard. Check out the fish ladders and if you're lucky you'll see huge Pacific Northwest salmon coming and going.
- Woodland Park Zoo (South Gate at N 50th St and Fremont Ave N, on Phinney Ridge), . $10 for adults, is open 9:30AM to 4PM in the winter, 5PM in the spring/fall, and 6PM in the summer. It has mostly realistic and spacious habitats for the animals, unlike the animal jails in some zoos. The Raptor Show at 3PM on non-rainy weekends is particularly entertaining if you get the bird handler with the Bronx accent: "If dis boid's head were da same size as youses, its eyes would be da size of sawftbawls."
- Check out the troll under the Aurora Bridge, near Fremont!
- Carkeek Park is a sweet little beach park in North Seattle. Good hikes, and may have salmon migrating upstream in fall.
- Cowen Park has a play structure for children and a backstop for baseball/softball. Cowen is connected to Ravenna Park via a wooded ravine that makes for good jogging and walking. It is a particularly nice walk in the (rare) snow.
- Discovery Park  in Magnolia is great for kite-flying as well as a trail to the beach with great cliffs and boat watching.
- Gasworks Park  in Wallingford is built on the former site of the city gas facility, and a few hulking tanks and pipes are preserved, giving it a slightly eerie feel. The hill at the center has a sundial on top, and offers a spectacular view of downtown across Union Bay, as well as gusts of wind great for kite-flying. Don't eat the carcinogenic dirt!
- Golden Gardens Park in Ballard is one of two places in Seattle that still allows bonfires on the beach. Set on the Puget Sound, it offers spectacular views of the sun setting over the Olympic mountain range on clear days.
- Greenlake , north of the University District, has side-by-side 4km (2.75 mile) asphalt and gravel trails for walking, jogging and rollerblading around the circumfrence of the algae-infested "lake" (really a big pond), plus several sports fields. On the East side there are areas of grass where you can often find pick-up soccer, volleyball as well as basketball on outdoor courts. There's also an indoor swimming pool, which is much cleaner than the lake. If the signs warn that the lake is closed, don't ignore them or risk getting "swimmer's itch" from the plentiful parasites spread through duck feces. The surrounding neighborhood is vibrant and fun in good weather, with rental rollerskates, bikes, restaurants, etc.
- Kerry Park  on Highland Drive on Queen Anne Hill is the single most photographed view of Seattle, with a spectacular cityscape with the Space Needle in front and Mt. Rainier visible behind the skyline. For the best view, go on a clear summer day around 9pm... the sun will have just dropped behind the Olympic range, the city lights will just be coming on, but there will be enough sunlight left that Rainier glows purple behind the city.
- Kubota Garden, a spectacular 20-acre park space in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of South Seattle. To quote the linked website, the Garden contains "streams, waterfalls, ponds, rock outcroppings, and an exceptionally rich and mature collection of plant material." Established by Fujitaro Kubota in 1927, he wanted to "display the beauty of the Northwest in a Japanese manner."
- Magnuson Park / Sand Point, the second largest park in Seattle used to be a US Naval base. The remaining naval buildings are now used for recreational purposes and to host shows. Magnuson boasts multiple sports fields, a boat launch, an off-leash dog park, and lots of walking trails. The Sound Garden (after which the local Seattle band was named), is located on NOAA property. It is public art work that moans eerily in the wind.
- Myrtle Edwards Park  on Elliott Bay has a nice view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Also a great place to take a walk, jog or bike ride. It is separated from the rest of the city by several train tracks, so you won't have to listen to any vehicle traffic.
- Ravenna Park in the Ravenna area is a good park for baseball, soccer, tennis, or have a barbecue. Connected to Cowen Park via a trail through a wooded ravine, along a creek. This will provide a basic feel for the nature that can be found outside of the city.
- The University of Washington Arboretum  is 230 acres of urban greenery with collections of oaks, conifers, camellias, Japanese maples and hollies. Often filled with people going for walks on sunny summer days, especially weekends.
- Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill, home of the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM).
- Waterfront provides one of the best views while walking in Seattle (if you don't mind the crowds).
- Seafair  is in July and early August. Neighborhood events such as parades and street fairs run throughout the festival, with the downtown Torchlight Parade in late July. Seafair cullminates in early August when hydroplane races and the Blue Angels bring loud, fast boats and planes to Lake Washington.
- Bumbershoot . A music and arts festival, held on Labor Day weekend (beginning of September) in the Seattle Center, featuring dozens of local and world-class musical acts.
- Northwest Folklife Festival . A more low-key and global version of Bumbershoot, held in the Seattle Center on Memorial Day weekend (end of May). Even more important - it's free ($5 donation requested at the entries - but not required).
- Bite of Seattle . Part of Seafair festivities. Held in mid/late-July in the Seattle Center. Eat till you explode.
- Hempfest A two-day cannabis festival in mid-August. Held at Myrtle Edwards park on the Seattle waterfront, its the largest marijuana rally in the world and the biggest annual political event in Washington. Features political speakers, vendors, food, several stages with many bands, and lots of open pot smoking (especially at 4:20)! It is a demonstration for the political reform and the legalization of marijuana. 
- Capitol Hill Block Party , Yearly live music event held on Capitol Hill over a weekend in mid-summer (usually the end of July). Consists of primarily local independent bands of various styles, coupled with some bigger name independent label acts.
- Mountain biking. Try riding "The Tapeworm" in Philip Arnold Park in Renton, southeast of Seattle. Other trails are in this park, as well.
- Burke Gilman Trail. 26-mile paved path dedicated to non-motorized travel. Goes from Golden Gardens park, on Puget Sound near the Locks, to Bothel Landing where it connects to Sammamish River Trail, which goes to Marymoor Park (in Redmond).
- Center For Wooden Boats, 1010 Valley St., (at the south end of Lake Union), +1 206 382-2628, . Visit and poke around boats in various stages of restoration, from big broken hulks to gorgeous polished speedsters. Rent an antique boat and go for a row or a sail. They as well offer free sailboat rides on Lake Union. Call ahead to check the schedule.
- Northwest Outdoor Center, (on west side of Lake Union), . Kayak rentals.
- Agua Verde, on Portage Bay between Lake Union and Lake Washington, . Kayak rentals.
- Waterfront Activities Center, +1 206 543-9433, (at the University of Washington, a quarter mile south of Husky Stadium), . Canoe rentals. Parking sucks except after noon on Saturdays. Open to the public ($7.50/hr) and students ($4/hr). Paddle across the Lake Washington Ship Canal into the Arboretum and watch ducks, geese, swans, random migratory birds, and lots of other boats. If you're an experienced sailor, you can also rent a sailboat after a checkout with their staff.
- Lake Union Crew, on Lake Union, +1 206 860-4199, . Learn to row! Classes are held year round and occur over a 4 week period with 3 classes per week. There are evening and morning sessions to fit any schedule. The classes teach you the basics of sweep rowing (one oar per rower) and sculling (two oars). The facilities are beautiful and located right on Lake Union just south of the University Bridge.
- Elliott Bay Cruises, on Lake Elliott, +1 206 623-4252, . Cruises as short as one hour around Elliott Bay are available from Argosy Cruises, departing from Pier 55.
- Seattle Sounders, Seattle's professional soccer team, plays at the QWest Field during spring and summer. Check  for details.
- Seattle Seahawks, the professional American football team plays at QWest Field through the winter. See .
- Seattle Thunderbirds, professional hockey team plays at the Key Arena through the winter hockey season .
- Seattle Mariners, professional baseball team, plays at Safeco Field through the summer. See .
- Seattle Supersonics, professional basketball team, plays at Key Arena from October to April.
- Seattle Premium Outlets  in Tulalip, near Marysville. An upscale outlet center featuring designer brands.
- Factory Stores at North Bend  - featuring popular brands at impressive savings.
Seattle is the home of Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee (now owned by Starbucks), and Tully's, but there are hundreds of good locally owned coffeehouses. (Besides the places below, see the district articles.)
- Caffé Vita, on Capitol Hill - blocks away from downtown, (in Queen Anne - north of downtown),+1 206 709-4440, . Great lattes (and just about any other drink) complete with latte art, always friendly (and cute) baristas, and a hip yet understated ambiance. The Capitol Hill location also hosts their coffee roaster and HQ, where patrons can see clearly how the coffee beans are roasted.
- Zoka, in what is variously known as the Meridian District or Tangletown, between Wallingford and Green Lake . Hip students, professionals, and soccer moms meet here. Great desserts and whole grain scones. Zoka roasts their own coffee, supplying to cafes across the U.S. and at Zoka's two cafes in Japan. There is also a Zoka located north of the U-Village shopping complex on Blakely.
- C & P Coffee Company,in West Seattle, +1 206 933-3125 . Offers awesome coffee from Lighthouse Roasters, free wireless access and live music.
- Caffè Bella, in Belltown, +1 206 441-4351 . Organic coffee from Caffé Vita coffee roasters. Pastries, tea, wine and beer at night. Live music. Free wireless access. Near the Space Needle on 5th Ave.
- Local Color, in Pike Place Market, +1 206 728-1717 . Serves Caffé Vita coffee in Pike Place's largest independent coffeehouse. Also an art gallery, with new art on the walls at the beginning of each month. The first Saturday of every month, holds an art opening from 6 to 9.
- Alki Bakery, 2738 Alki Ave SW, +1 206 935-1352 . Offers free WiFi Internet access.
Bars and Taverns
In Washington, "bars" have a full liquor license, while "taverns" are restricted to beer, wine and cider. Seattle bars have world-class beer selection, featuring local Northwest style micros.
- The Wildrose, , one of the country's oldest lesbian bars, is located on 11th and Pike. A full bar, the 'Rose' also serves light meals and snacks. The requisite pool table is always waiting for the next challenger.
Seattle is home to a number of microbreweries.
- Mac & Jacks, Brews can only be found on tap in local bars, and is not bottled. Most popular variety is the African Amber. Additional varieties can occasionally be found at local pubs.
- Pyramid Alehouse, Brewery, & Restaraunt , 1201 First Avenue South. One of the more prominent breweries in Seattle. This beer can be found on tap at numerous bars across the city, as well as in most local grocery stores.
- Elysian Brewers, , Three locations across Seattle, brews can be found in local bars and sold in individual bars at local grocery stores.
- Redhook Alehouse, , 14300 NE 145th St. Woodinville, WA. Located in an eastern suburb of Seattle (Woodinville). Boasts a substantial menu and a well established line of beers, including seasonal varieties. Can be found at bars and restaruants throughout the city, and readily available at most grocery stores.
- Pike Brewery, On 1st Ave near the Pike Place Market. Great variety of beers (try the Kiltlifter) and good food too. Can be found in grocery stores and on tap at some bars.
- Hales Brewery & Pub, , 4301 Leary Way. Located between Freemont and Ballard, Hales Ales, established in 1983, is one of the pioneer microbreweries in the nation. The brewery operations are in open view of the comfortable pub. Hales Ales is available throughout the Northwest.
See the district articles for listings.
See the district articles for more listings.
Steak & Seafood
- Ivar's Salmon House, on the north Lake Union waterfront, in the shadow of the I-5 bridge. . Various seafood entrees served in a neo-longhouse replete with totem poles and various other carved cedar adornments. Meals can be expensive (~$25), however, Ivar's has an excellent and affordable happy hour menu (7 days a week 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. to close) that many locals and University of Washington staff and faculty enjoy regularly.
- Ivar's Acres of Clams, , Downtown Seattle waterfront. Smoked salmon plate-lunch and fish-n-chips served outdoors at a scenic downtown waterfront location --please do not feed ducks and seagulls as human food is harmful for birds! Good food, but pretty touristy. Ordering at the walk-up counter outside is inexpensive (~$7).
- Jack's Fish Spot, found in Pike's Place Market, only open for lunch . One of the best place to get dungeness crabs in Seattle. If you have a kitchen buy them live and cook them yourself!
- Crab Pot Restaurant & Bar, on the Waterfront, . Their specialty - The Seafeast - is what makes it unique! They take a variety of crab, clams, mussels, shrimp in the shell, salmon, halibut, oysters, potatoes, corn on the cob and andouille sausage steamed with mouth watering spices and pour it right on your table!
- McCormick and Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, downtown,  Specialty is their whole menu! They pride themselves in serving the best seafood and steak in town. They receive their seafood fresh from the waterfront pier every day. You can come here on a business dinner or with the whole family! So if you want to enjoy a upscale, relaxing exceptional seafood restaurant, this is your place! If you feel like the price is a bit too expensive for your budget, they also have one of the best happy hour deals during off hours.
- Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, 727 Pine Street, +1 206 624-8524, . This magnificent setup of a restaurant excels in creating the most lavishingly delicious steak nationwide. The unique thing about this restaurant is that you order whatever meat or seafood you desire and then as a table, order what side dishes you wish to eat along with your meat. So come to this restaurant with people who can agree on what to eat with!
- Ray's Boathouse, , located in Ballard next to Shilshole Bay Marina. Great food and great views.
- Crush, , 2319 E Madison St, 206-302-7874, Crush has been rated among the best 10 new restaurants in the US after it opened and continues to be one of the more well respected haute cuisine houses in the US receive countless awards, the food is good, an adventurous twist on a normal American menu, prices are high $20-$30 for entrees and reservations are necessary.
- Upmarket Asian fusion food at Wild Ginger (just north of the Symphony Hall at 3rd and Union) and
- Monsoon (obscurely located on 19th E, on the far side of Capitol Hill from downtown).
- Thai Tom, on University Ave and 47th. Authentic Bangkok-style Thai food. Show up early or be prepared to wait up to an hour for a tiny table at this tiny eatery.
- Araya's Exceptional food, one of many Thai restaurants in the University District, but the first and only completely vegan Thai restaurant in Seattle. Some dishes substitute imitation meat-ish products for meat, some just use veggies, grains, etc. Used to be located on the 47th block of the Ave, has since relocated to a bigger, nicer location on 45th Street.
For the best variety, head to the International District.
- Maneki ( 304 6th Ave S Seattle, WA 98104-2714 Phone: (206) 622-2631) Maneki is Seattle's oldest sushi bar. Located in the International District, is one of the best sushi restaurants in Seattle at an affordable price. Call ahead to reserve your own tatami room.
Seattle is not known for Mexican food, but...
- Agua Verde, Boat St., , On Portage Bay between Lake Washington and Lake Union, just south and west of the University of Washington is a standout, attractive but informal, with creative, contemporary Mexican cooking, including a lot of great vegetarian and seafood options. Show up early, be prepared to wait half an hour, or get your food to go and sit at the picnic tables by the lake outside.
- Mama's Mexican Kitchen, 213 N 85th St., +1 206 706-9352 in Belltown
- Gordito's Healthy Mexican Food has huge servings, a fast, but sometimes long line, way-cheap prices, amazingly tasty burritos that most folks can't finish in one sitting, lots of homemade salsas (on the salsa bar), an outdoor patio, and always nice service. If you ask most people in Seattle where the good Mexican food is, they'll say Gordito's or the Taco Bus that drives around town (good luck finding it).
- Tacos Guaymas at several locations - closest to downtown is on Broadway near Pine - offers authentic Mexican meals (like you find in the Oaxaca market). Try the Sopa de Tortilla or the Wet Green Burrito.
- La Carta De Oaxaca, , in Ballard is well-known for amazing small plates (tapas-style) of Oaxacan food. Usually crowded, but there are excellent margaritas to pass the time.
- Cactus, in Madison Park, , A local favorite. A creative mix of Mexican, Southwestern and Spanish cuisine complemented by great coctails. Always full, outdoor seating in the summer.
- Cafe Flora, 2901 E. Madison, . In the Madison Valley neighborhood offers upscale, all-vegetarian cuisine in a casual atmosphere. Menus change weekly. Closed on Mondays.
- Carmelita, . Where you go to celebrate a special event or impress a date: exquisite vegetarian fare with excellent service in an elegant yet unpretentious atmosphere. The chef, Dan Braun, is back in charge of the kitchen after a few years away, with a menu that changes more often than the seasonal menu they had been following. It's enough of a top-notch eating experience that you can even take meat eaters there to have a wonderful meal.
- Teapot Vegetarian House,  is an all-vegan restaurant serving delicious, exotic Pan-Asian vegetarian dishes.
- Bamboo Garden,  serves up delicious food from the rich tradition of Chinese vegetarian cooking. With a menu that boasts over 120 items, there's a lot to choose from, and the servings are generous. Located on 364 Roy Street.
- Moonlight Cafe, 1919 S. Jackson St. (on the north edge of the International District), +1 206 322-3378. Serves excellent vegan mock-meat versions of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes such as noodle bowls and sesame beef. In fact they boast a full vegan menu with as many dishes as their seperate carnivorous menu offers. $7-$10.
- Cyber Dogs, 800 Convention Place (in the convention center @ the corner of Pike and (9th?) across from the Express Lanes Onramp), +1 206 405-DOGS . Serves superb and delicious vegetarian and vegan dogs, coffee, juice and beer. Internet access available.
- The Globe, 14th and Pine. Some of the best vegan breakfast (and lunch, but especially breakfast) you'll ever have. The biscuits and gravy are what they're known for, but everything is just as good, if not better. Good service too. Sometimes quite busy on Saturday mornings, but not too busy. Cash only! Open 9am - 3pm.
- Vegetarian Bistro 668 S. King Street. (206) 624-8899. Vegetarian Chinese in the International District. Their veggie dim sum is great ($3 per dish).
- Hillside Quickies, 4106 Brooklyn Ave NE, (206) 632-3037. Vegan Sandwich Shop using Tempeh and Tofu. The Jerk influenced sandwiches are excellent.
- Chaco Canyon Cafe, , 4761 Brooklyn Ave NE, Vegan Bakery and cafe that features a raw foods menu. Coffee and Tea Available.
- Lots of good Ethiopian food with entertaining names ("Yemisser Wat," "Atakilt Aleecha," and "Niter Kibeh") in the Central District. Panafrican on Pike's Place Market is also pretty good. Try Mesob on 14th and Jefferson.
- Grand Central Bakery offers hearty sandwiches (on their signature artisan breads!), soups, salads, modest breakfasts, fabulous pastries, and of course coffee -- at two locations: / Pioneer Square and Eastlake (near Lake Union).
- The Red Mill Burgers, Two locations: Phinney Ridge 312 N 67th St and Interbay 1613 W Dravus St, . has really tasty beef and veggie burgers.
- Truly Mediterranean, 4741 12th Ave NE. Makes wonderful falafel, shawerma, and other delights. In a surprisingly quiet corner of the University District.
- Nordstrom Cafe on the 4th floor of the downtown Seattle Nordstrom store. Best surprising value for lunch or dinner (e.g, salmon dinner for less than $10).
- Dick's Drive-in has 5 locations around Seattle and the best fast-food in the city. Any local can tell you were the nearest one is.
- Seattle Green Tortoise Hostel, 105b Pike St, +1 206 340-1222 or +1 888 424-6783. Our new location is conveniently located at First Ave. and Pike Street, right across the street from the famous Pike Place Market, and around the corner from our old Hostel. The new hostel, with a view of the Puget Sound and the Market, boasts 30 newly-remodeled bunk rooms in the elegantly restored Elliot Hotel Building. We have free internet stations and WiFi, free dinner 3 nights a week, and free breakfast everymoring. The Green Tortoise is a Seattle backpacker institution which also runs festive low-budget bus tours to Mexico and Central America.
- The Seattle Hostel , 84 Union Street, was much loved, but sadly is due to close on March 17, 2007 . Hostel officials are hoping to open in a new location in or close to downtown, but at the time of writing (February 26, 2007) no new location had been announced.
- Panama Hotel If you want a private old-fashioned room, modest but clean, with bathroom down the hall -- consider the historic Panama Hotel, in the International District . Very relaxing tea / coffee house, with free wireless internet connections, on the street level.
- Best Western University Tower Hotel, 4507 Brooklyn Ave NE, +1 206 634-2000 or +1 800 899-0251  - Formerly called the (Edmund) Meany Tower Hotel, a nicer but mid-priced hotel in the University District with a long history. Because the hotel is round, the rooms are shaped roughly like pie wedges and all have a view of something.
- Renaissance Seattle, 515 Madison Street  - A full service hotel in the heart of downtown.
- Summerfield Suites Hotel by Wyndham, 1011 Pike Street, +1 206 682-8282 or fax +1 206 682-5315 (located downtown on Pike Street next to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center) .
- University Inn, 4140 Roosevelt Way NE, +1 800 733-3855 . Ideally located in the heart of Seattle’s University business district, only minutes from downtown and a few blocks from the University of Washington. This Seattle boutique hotel is pet-friendly, has a 100% smoke-free environment and includes a hearty breakfast bar.
- The Watertown Hotel, 4242 Roosevelt Way NE, +1-866-944-4242  is also in the University District. Modern design, good location, moderately priced.
- Alexis 1st Avenue (nearby the Coleman ferry docks and at the edge of the financial district) - This art-themed hotel has original works throughout the lobby and in the rooms. Furthermore, it sports a big old Chihuly (a Northwest "artist" with whom most locals are fed up) glass piece in the lobby.
- The Sorrento Hotel, 900 Madison St., +1 800-426-1265  - This historic hotel has crowned the First Hill since 1908. It is a posh, Italinate, 7-story hotel with fine dining in the AAA - 4 diamond Hunt Club - For a classy night out before the "hopera".
- W Seattle, 1112 Fourth Ave., +1 877-W-HOTELS or +1 206 264-6000  - For the terminally hip traveler. Decorated in a stunning palette of black, black, silver, cream, and black.
- Hotel Monaco Seattle, 1101 4th Avenue, +1 800-945-2240  - Funky Kimpton boutique hotel directly across the street from the W in the heart of the city.
- The Edgewater, Pier 67, 2411 Alaskan Way, +1 800 624-0670 or +1 206 728-7000  - Near the Pike Place Market, and famous for three things: you could at one time literally fish right out of your window, it was the site of a notorious Led Zeppelin incident, and the Beatles stayed here during their 1964 tour.
- Hotel Max, 620 Stewart Street, +1 866 833-6299  - In the heart of downtown Seattle, the Hotel Max offers an artistic setting for both business and leisure travelers.
Seattle is a fairly safe city. You should have no problems walking out and about at night, although staying in bright areas at this time is never a bad idea, and walking in the Central District, Rainier Valley, Upper University District, and Seattle Center at all after hours is not advisable. The downtown area is a lot safer than most other U.S. cities. The only problem that may arise when downtown, is the countless number of homeless. Their presence is especially noticeable at the waterfront area. Auto theft is a problem in the city. Never leave valuables in a visible place, and always lock your car doors. Another possible problem is that drivers in Seattle are typically nice, but can be impatient, due to the amount of traffic, although as long as you're careful as a pedestrian, there is not a high risk of getting hit. Cyclists should be extra wary of traffic and parked car doors, especially downtown.
If you're staying anywhere near downtown, the ferries hardly seem like "getting out" since they leave from a pier at the south end of the waterfront, an easy and interesting walk from downtown.
- Take a Washington State Ferry, +1 206 464-6400  to Bremerton and back. Almost 2 hours on the water, in a place as scenic as the Aegean Sea, with walk-on passengers costing a little under $6 round trip.
- Or, take the ferry to Bainbridge Island (30 minutes one way). Get off on the other side, walk about 1/2 mile into town for lunch or dinner, and walk back to ferry to come home.
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:
- The Mountains to Sound Greenway, Mountains to Sound Greenway via I-90 is the quickest "escape" from the city into the nearby Cascade mountains. Snoqualmie Pass is just an hour away, offering great views, summer hiking and winter skiing.
- Two mountain passes, Snoqualmie Pass (follow I-90 east) and Stevens Pass (take I-405 to Highway 522 east, then take Highway 2 east) provide fantastic views. Of the two, Stevens is arguably the more scenic.
- Snoqualmie Falls,  (east of Seattle on I-90). The falls are scenic, and if you want to stay longer than it takes to just gawk, the Salish Lodge is pricey but incredibly romantic, with in-room Sanijet spa baths and fireplaces. Trivia tidbit: Snoqualmie Falls is nearly 300 feet in height, compared to Niagara's 180 feet.
- Grove of the Patriarchs, in Ohanapecosh, the short hiking trail here takes you through groves of thousand year-old cedars.
- North Bend (also out I-90) is the town where parts of the 1990 David Lynch TV series Twin Peaks were filmed. West of North Bend on SR 202 near the town of Snoqualmie there are hundreds of old railroad cars and engines quietly rusting away, with a cute railroad depot/museum closer to town. Rides are offered April - October, as well as a "Santa Train" in late November and early December.
- Roslyn is also out I-90 (not far past Snoqualmie Pass) and is where the TV series Northern Exposure was filmed. It holds many festivals including The Manly Man Festival, Pioneer Days, and Moose Days -- the latter is an annual Northern Exposure gathering held in late July. Might be worth a stop if you're out that way, or if you're a fan of the show, but it's a very small, quiet town without much to do most days. However, there is a great small museum in the downtown core right next to the Oasis Cafe. It is worth a browse as it profiles the city's coal mining past. Roslyn is worth the stop if you have the time!!!
- The Cascade Loop consists of a two-day minimum round trip over Stevens Pass and the North Cross-state Highway (US 2 and SR 20). It's a long drive, and SR20 is closed every winter, but you'll see the most spectacular scenery in the state, visit towns made to look like the old west and a Bavarian Village, see the Columbia River and apple orchards on the east and deep rain-forest on the west side. 
- The Olympic Peninsula features beaches on the Pacific Ocean, Cape Flattery (the extreme northwestern point of the contiguous U.S.), and the only rain forest in America, the Hoh Rainforest. Other notable scenic areas on the Olympic Peninsula are Crescent Lake and Hurricane Ridge. You can take the Kingston ferry over from Edmonds and follow Highway 104 west until it meets up with Highway 101 (head north), or head south on I-5 to Olympia and catch Highway 101 West there. Doing the complete loop is a nearly day-long drive, and you could easily spend several days there, but you'll see a lot of fantastic scenery even if you never stop the car.
- Mount Rainier 2.5 hours south and east from seattle
- Mt St. Helens 2.5 hours south from seattle
- Just a 2.5 hour drive north from Seattle, Vancouver, British Columbia is home of the 2010 Winter Olympics, .
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