Travel, Local Guide to Seattle
LOCAL GUIDE: Seattle
By Christa Romano
With a towering futuristic Space needle as its emblem, Seattle pulsates with energy. A city born of brawny industries–logging, fishing and major maritime pursuits — even its terrain speaks of strength. The steep hills have spawned generations of sturdy residents unafraid of challenges, from gold seekers and Alaskan explorers to fishermen.
Today, Seattle attracts high-techies to companies like Microsoft; it lures the keen international traders looking to the Pacific Rim; it entices the innovative engineer to the aircraft industry; and invites the active type of resident who loses no opportunity to hike, jog, ski, bicycle or paddle through the trails and waterways
Today’s Seattle is fueled by espresso and microbrews and nurtured by the sheer beauty of 14,410-foot Mount Rainier, the towering, snowcapped Cascades mountains and an inland ocean, Puget Sound.
Evergreen forests frame the outer suburbs and accent parks and streets. The major highways I-5 and I-90 intersect in midtown to connect Seattle with the rest of the U.S., but Seattle has a feel of belonging more to the Pacific Rim and Asia than it does to East Coast America.
Yet with roots from the Midwest loggers and Scandinavian and Slavic fishermen who first came here, the life of Seattle has order and substance. There’s a joy of living, an appreciation of space that permeates the place, with little of the decadence that comes from too little to do.
Entirely aware of its outdoor charms, Seattle has trail systems throughout the city for hiking and biking. Downtown’s Lake Union and its much larger cousin, Lake Washington to the east, have rowboats and sailboats for rent, as well as private boats moored after negotiating the locks from salt water to lakes. Puget Sound and the islands provide hours and days of beachcombing and watersports, while day and night skiing in winter is only an hour away at Crystal Mountain, Snoqualmie summit and elsewhere.
Always a cultural center, the Seattle scene was expanded by the 1962 World’s Fair. The Space Needle, Science Center and auditoriums are a legacy of the special construction completed for the event.
And in the land of Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, and sax player Kenny G., music, alternative theater, art and music thrive. Each September, the Seattle Center teems with one of the largest and most eclectic arts festivals in the world, Bumbershoot.
Still more a small town than a major metropolis, Seattle has neighborhoods, not ghettos, that overlap and interact. The diverse ethnic population–British, Japanese, South Pacific immigrants such as Fijians and Malaysians, Chinese, Scandinavian, mid-European, Italian–has recently grown to include significant immigration from Central and South America and Russia. Unlike some eastern cities, the neighborhoods are not sacrosanct–anyone lives anywhere–but the International District, popular for its ethnic restaurants and shops, tends to attract Pacific Rim newcomers.
The Jackson Street neighborhood has a higher percentage of African Americans, a lingering factor from the early 1900s. Even then, however, clubs like the Black and Tan were hangouts for both blacks and whites.
Young professionals often shack up in the Queen Anne and Green Lake/Fremont areas with their lively, sometimes offbeat nightlife. Another popular area for both residents and visitors is Belltown, an older, eclectic neighborhood along Elliott Bay. Farther north, Ballard was settled by Scandinavian and Slavic fishermen and still reflects those cultures. Capitol Hill is a mixture of old, stately homes and citizens, a gay community, students and business people, while The University District teems with students from the University of Washington.
Those who have “made it” can afford the high prices of lakefront properties on Lake Washington and in the eastern suburbs of Bellevue and Kirkland, Issaquah or more rural Woodinville and Bothell. But free spirits-of which Seattle has many–have set up housekeeping in a small neighborhood of houseboats around Lake Union.
In recent years, downtown has also begun to thrive. Older buildings fronting on Elliott Bay and around Pike Place Market are now renovated into apartments with splendid views that sweep clear to the Olympic Mountains across the Sound. The downtown stores and taverns spawned during the Yukon gold rush days have been cleaned up to attract the visitor or after-work crowd, instead of flannel-shirt prospectors.
Major music groups play the taverns, and history screams its story from every restored building above or below ground, for Pioneer Square, the heart of Seattle, is built literally on top of old, original Seattle. In underground tours you can see old storefronts and cobbled streets.
Somehow, Seattle manages to juggle its history, dynamics and diverse population in an easy-going manner, with relatively little friction. It’s a city with a bit of an attitude: “We are here, we are happy, but outsiders…leave us alone and let us run this city in our own way.”
If a Seattle-ite were to express private feelings, they might sound something like this: “I get tired of the sneers about Seattle rain, when other areas get paralyzing snow or suffocating heat that are worse, and I say little about the usually dry and excruciatingly beautiful two or three months of summer, the autumn leaves and exuberant blooms of spring (lest too many others move here). I exult in the wild mountains at the back door available for mountain biking and hiking, skiing and snowboarding, and the limitless expanses of salt water and lakes available for maritime sports. I appreciate our vibrant arts, clean streets and clean air, and I seldom swelter, seldom freeze and am seldom bored. So what if it rains in winter while YOU are shoveling snow!”
Seattle has more major attractions than almost any US city other than New York. From the World’s Fair Space Needle to the famous Pike Place Market, where fishmongers throw salmon like Frisbees, these attractions really are must-sees.
The most affordable way to do the main attractions is to purchase a CityPass that includes admission to the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, Woodland Park Zoo, Museum of Flight, Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Art Museum. $28.25 adults, seniors 55+ $24.25, ages 6-13 $16.50.
Purchase a CityPass at any of those six sites or by phone or Internet.
305 Harrison Street
(206) 684-7200, (206) 684-8582
The fourth largest destination site in America, the Seattle Center offers 74 acres of activities. Home of the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, Key Arena, Seattle Opera, Pacific NW Ballet, Seattle Repertory Theatre, the new Experience Music Project, exhibition spaces, restaurants, the colorful Flag Pavilion and much more.
Pacific Science Center, Seattle Center (see above).
Hands-on science exhibits for adults and children. Magnificent architecture.
Seattle Art Museum
100 University Avenue
The immense outdoor sculpture Hammering Man looms outside the handsome museum on First Avenue. Traveling and permanent exhibits, store and coffee shop.
Nose-to-nose displays through glass. Vast underwater dome from which you can watch divers feed the fish at 1:30 PM daily. Cute river and sea otters lie on their backs nurturing their young. Life cycle of the salmon. Giant octopus in 3,500-gallon tank. Fish, starfish, reef sharks, and much more.
Woodland Park Zoo
5500 Phinney Ave. N.
Komodo dragons, Malayan sun bears, tapirs, giraffes are among the exhibits. This is also the place to see bears native to many Northwest forests. Special events and a rose garden.
Museum of Flight
9404 E. Marginal Way S.
Trace the history of aircraft, especially the beginnings of Boeing aircraft from 1916 to today.
Experience Music Project
325 5th Ave. N.
The ultimate Seattle attraction, the EMP is a blend of high-tech and rock music. Housed in a truly far-out building designed by Frank Gehry, the EMP includes lots of interactive exhibits, a virtual reality type ride, historical music artifacts and handheld computers that explain the exhibits. Some say the building looks like a smashed guitar with its strings drooping, in honor of native son, Jimi Hendrix (a permanent Hendrix exhibit is worth the expensive admission). Concerts and performances in the evenings.
The heart of old Seattle dating back to the days of the Yukon gold rush. Many office buildings are rented now to dot-coms. Ancient, bawdy taverns, now respectable, often feature good food and music groups in an atmosphere close to the original.
A long waterfront street parallels the water with views of pleasure boats, ferries, cruise ships, and the Olympic Mountains across the Sound. Shops, restaurants, the Seattle Aquarium and places to lounge and sun yourself.
Pike Place Market
Farmers and small vendors bring their wares to sell in this rambling downtown marketplace. A foodie’s dream, the market offers a wide array of tantalizing produce, gorgeous fresh flowers, fish from the docks and crafts. Eat at a restaurant or buy a loaf of hot French bread and a chunk of fresh smoked salmon at a market stall, and go sit in the sun on benches. Great view over the Sound to the Olympics and the islands. Grab a double tall latte at the original Starbuck’s located across from the flower market.
From rock star graves to virtual reality playgrounds, Seattle’s unusual attractions pulse with the real spirit of the city.
Daybreak Star Arts Center
Native American arts and gallery.
Seattle Arts Commission
312 First Avenue N.
From the totem poles of Pioneer Square to the SoundGarden on Lake Washington, Seattle’s public parks are artistic creations in their own rights.
Free maps and guides from the Seattle Arts Commission.
A vintage ferry towed back to Seattle from Alaska in 1999 serves as a theatre. Streamlining makes it look like a blimp on water.
Boeing Plant Tour
Everett Tour Center, Interstate 5 to Exit 189, then go about 3.5 miles to State Highway 526 West. Follow signs to Tour Center. Or take Metro.
(800) 464-1476, (206) 544-1264
See airplanes in various stages of construction in huge building. May see 747s, 767s, 777s.
Gravesites of Bruce and Brandon Lee
Lake View Cemetery
1554 15th East.
Gravesites of the famous Hollywood father-and-son Kung-fu masters.
Jimi Hendrix’s Grave
Greenwood Memorial Cemetery
350 Monroe NE
Fans leave mountains of flowers and memorials.
Flag Pavillion Fountain
Fans light candles in honor of Kurt Cobain at the fountain by the Flag Pavilion, Seattle Center.
6501 Railroad Avenue S.E., Snoqualmie
15 miles east of Seattle off I-90, follow signs. 285′ waterfall where the TV drama, “Twin Peaks,” was filmed.
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
3015 NW 54th St., Ballard area
Watch large and small boats lock-through from Puget Sound’s salt water to Lake Union’s fresh water. Fish ladders for steelhead and salmon.
Washington Park Arboretum
2300 Arboretum Drive East
The 200 acres of gardens are worth a walk. Spring features rhododendrons and azaleas, fall is great for visiting the Japanese garden and tea house.
Wing Luke Asian Museum
407 7th Avenue S.
The country’s only museum dedicated to Asian-American history.
Seattle Asian Art Museum
1400 E. Prospect St. in Volunteer Park
One of the finest collections of Asian art in the country. Over 7,000 pieces.
Nordic Heritage Museum
3014 N.W. 67th St.
The cultures of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland are portrayed in this Ballard (predominantly Scandinavian neighborhood) museum.
Gas Works Park On Lake Union
A renovated industrial site that is prime real estate for kite flying and city views.
Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum
317 3rd Ave. S.
How to catch a crook. 140 years of equipment and interactive exhibits.
Sit and Spin
2219 4th Avenue
(206) 441-9484 Where else could you enjoy great music, do your laundry or access the Internet in the same place? Check out performances by groups like Back to the Lab, The White Stripes and Nevada Bachelors.
1511 7th Ave.
Experience virtual reality with real personal involvement. One of fifteen places in the world where you can indulge in this gripping experience in a variety of games. Gameworks has food and drink, too.
WhirlyBall of Washington
23402 Highway 99, Edmonds suburb
Great new game, with five players each side, any age. Played indoors with a jai-alai type of scoop and a plastic ball. Players each ride a gizmo like a cross between a bumper car and a paddle boat.The object is to throw the ball into a 15-inch net.
The Frisbee Museum
Over 5,000 discs-the world’s second largest collection-collected and curated by an ex-Boeing engineer. By appointment only.
The Fremont area is an especially popular gathering ground for young adults, some say a state of mind. A sign at N. 35th and Fremont N. says the district is the “Center of the Universe” and gives mileages to places like London and Moscow. The Fremont bridge over the ship canal is orange and blue-that tells you something, too.
A huge cement sculpture of a troll under a bridge eating a real, life-sized Volkswagon is located under the Aurora bridge from downtown.
N. 36th St., and Fremont Place Square
This statue disturbs some people. A Russian acquired the statue from an unknown Russian city where it was toppled after the Cold War, and brought it to Seattle as a symbol of undesirable oppression. Fitting in the land of anti-WTO demonstrations.
The Interurban Statue
34th and Fremont Ave. N.
Citizens may decorate this statue as they wish to celebrate any event-as long as they clear it up afterwards.
Of course, the major Seattle activity is drinking coffee at Starbuck’s or Seattle’s Best. Locations everywhere in the city-as ubiquitous as stop signs. Know the language. Latte is with steamed milk and a head of foam. Americano is a weak sister. Mocha is with cocoa powder. Sound like a local and say “double tall non-fat one squirt of vanilla latte.”
Once you’re pumped on caffeine, there’s lots more to do in Seattle. From culture to nature, the city provides enough activities to tire out even the most ambitious and over-caffeinated traveler.
Seattle people are outdoor lovers. And Seattle offers outdoor activities for all types of travelers: skiing and snow sports in the mountains during winter; water sports all year. On the lakes and on quieter portions of Puget Sound, kayaking, water skiing, jetskiing, parasailing, fishing, sailing, sightseeing by boat are all popular.
With the mountains close by, there are buses to the following ski areas for both day and night skiing and boarding.
(888) 804-6404, (425) 434-7669
Equipment may be rented at ski areas or at the following rental shops:
4720 University Village Pl. N.E.
830 106th Ave. N.E., Bellevue
For cross-country, alpine touring, snowshoes, backpacking, rock climbing gear, try:
14340 N.E. 20th, Bellevue
Hiking and mountain biking
The Burke-Gilman Trail goes for 15 miles along the waterways, including halfway around Lake Washington, and most other trails intersect with it somewhere.
Snoqualmie Summit Ski Area
Exit 54, I-90
Take a ski lift to mountain bike at the top of the lift.
A trail around Green Lake, not far from downtown, is popular with joggers and power walkers.
For trail maps, contact:
King County Regional Trails Map
Luther Burbank Park, 2040 84th S.E., Mercer Island
Stop by or call and they will send one for free, but they also welcome contributions.
State Dept. of Transportation-Bicycling Guide Map
They will send you one free.
Bicycle Center, on Burke-Gilman Trail
4529 Sandpoint Way N.E.
Blazing Saddles Bicycle Rental & Touring Center
1230 Western Avenue
Rentals and computer-assisted, self-guided bike tours.
3810 E. Galer St.
Customized biking, hiking, skiing tours, one day or several. Also offers door-to-door valet equipment and bike rentals perfect for the traveler who wants to bike the town for a day.
Woodinville Riding Club
17828 N.E. 185th, Woodinville (suburb, northeast side of Lake Washington).
Center for Wooden Boats
1010 Valle, Lake Union
Rents rowboats to get around the lake. Displays of vintage wooden boats, too.
Washington has become a mecca for kayaking, both on sea and inland waters. There are several places to rent the sleek boats for the day or longer:
Agua Verde Café & Paddle Club
1303 N.E. Boat Street on Portage Bay between Union and Washington Lakes
Rents kayaks only but has great food and drink, too.
Cascade Canoe & Kayak Centers, Inc.
3519 108th Ave. S.E. Bellevue, (425) 637-8838
5811 Lake Washington Blvd. N.E., Kirkland, (425) 822-6111
Rents canoes and kayaks on different parts of the east side of Lake Washington.
Alki is a favorite local sandy beach in West Seattle. Warm air, cold water, great mountain and maritime views and a matchless place to admire Seattle skyline. Stop in at Salty’s on Alki, a favorite local watering hole and restaurant with a great deck and killer views over the sound.
Seattle takes its culture seriously. More than fifty theatres and performance spaces thrive around town, from the high-brow Seattle Opera House to downtown fringe theatres.
All year, major and small theater productions, some straight from New York stage, are playing in Seattle at various venues.
ACT (A Contemporary Theatre)
700 Union St.
Original productions from one of the top regional theatre companies in the country
Seattle Repertory Theatre
155 Mercer St.
Significant plays from another nationally respected company.
5th Avenue Theatre
1308 5th Ave.
Major traveling productions.
201 Mercer Street
New plays and classics in a this well-known theatre.
The Empty Space Theatre
3509 Fremont Avenue
Avante-garde and new plays.
1932 2nd Ave.
An historic theater that still hosts major traveling productions.
Nippon Kan Theatre
628 S. Washington Ave. in International District
Historic theater, originally showing Japanese productions, now offers a wide variety.
911 Pine St.
Major traveling productions.
Seattle Children’s Theatre
Ticket office, 2nd Ave. N. and Thomas
Great children’s productions.
University of Washington Theaters
A wide range of productions at the Meany Theater, The Playhouse and Penthouse Theater.
Dance, alternative and fringe performances are found in a number of smaller venues.
1500 Summit, Capitol Hill
Classics like Oedipus Rex to Twilight Zone Live
1916 4th Ave.
Features local playwrights.
Market Theatre, lower level of Pike Place Market in Post Alley
Improv theatre games and hilarity.
On the Boards
100 West Roy, Queen Anne
Avant-garde dance, visual arts, theatre and music combined.
222 S. Main St., Pioneer Square
Literally underground. Features local stand-up comedians seven nights a week, plus touring comedians on their way up. Hosts Northwest Foolproof Comedy Festival every year, too. Food and drink is available from upstairs at Swannie’s Bar & Grill.
But if you came to Seattle for the music (and who doesn’t want to at least check out what the latest Seattle sound is?), there is an array of live music venues to choose from. World music to Rockabilly, ska to swing, face it–Seattle rocks.
The Experience Music Project
325 5th Ave. N.
Nightly concerts and special music events in the Lounge.
5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., Ballard
Groups like Sweet Juice, Equation and Plimsouls (power pop band).
The Crocodile Café
2200 2nd Avenue, Belltown
An original major grunge spot that still has some of that sound, but is more into rock.
7th and Lenora
Known nationwide for jazz.
At the Nitelite Restaurant
2nd Avenue and Virginia
Smooth Jazz and old country in this very trendy downtown 24-hour restaurant and club.
Polly Esther’s and the Culture Club
332 5th Ave., N. at Harrison St.
Take a step back…and forth. Two decades of retro Seattle, 70s disco and Î80s retro. Three dance floors.
111 Yesler Way
Known for reggae and Caribbean menu.
Nine clubs around Pioneer Square have banded together to offer a joint cover-charge ticket for about $10 that admits you to any of the nine, and can be purchased at the door of any participating club.
The Old Timers
For more information on who’s playing where in music or performance, check the following newspapers and weeklies: Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Rocket, The Stranger, Seattle Weekly.
Seattleites spend plenty of indoor time during the rainy season, and dance is big. Learn everything from ballet, salsa and swing to Wing Chun Kung Fu, T’ai Chi Chuan and belly dancing at local dance studios.
Belltown Ballet and Conditioning Studio
2211 1st Avenue
Dance and martial arts instruction. Other dance groups, some with instruction, include popular Irish dancing, salsa, clogging, swing, tango and everything in between.
925 E. Pike Street
Weekly Friday salsa dance classes at 8 p.m. precede salsa and meringue night.
Art and Architecture walks are also popular alternatives. Many organizations offer guided or self-guided art and architectural walks around the city.
First Fridays: Columbia City Beat Walk
Wellington Tea Room
Music and art mixture along hip Ranier Avenue.
First Saturday: Capitol Hill Arts Orbit
Galleries and openings in the Pike/Pine area.
Seattle Architectural Foundation
Museum of History and Industry
Seattle is easy to explore independently, but if you want to catch some of the more unusual attractions of the city, these local tour operators can show you the sights.
Argosy Tours, Pier 55
Sightseeing cruises and speedboat rides in Puget Sound.
Small group city tours and an all-day tour to Mt. Ranier.
Chinatown Discovery Tours
Escorted tour that includes history, culture and food (optional).
Bill Spiedel’s Underground Tour
Old Seattle’s shops covered up by Pioneer Square progress, excavated for you to see.
Show Me Seattle Tours
Narrated city tour.
Sightseeing of Seattle
Tailored to your wishes.
PMB 258, Lake Union Mall
117 E. Louisa St.
Cruise around Lake Union while your guide points out Sleepless in Seattle home, former brothels, etc.
Inner City Entrepreneur Tours
Walking/jogging tours, historic or scenic, in inner city.
Windsor & Hatten Investigators “Private Eye on Seattle” Murder and Mystery Tours
Retired gumshoe transports visitors in blood-red van to crime scenes. Insider view.
Island Commuter Service
Bellingham (88 miles north)
The Boat Paraclete
Anacortes (80 miles north)
Whale watching on Puget Sound. Resident Orcas, gray whales in season.
Ride the Ducks of Seattle
(800) 817-1116, (206) 441-DUCK
Land and water tour in WWII amphibians
Over the Rainbow Balloon Flights, Woodinville suburb, (206) 364-0995.
From June 1-October 1, fly silently over the Îburbs and Seattle. Dependent on weather and wind.
Alpine Adventures Wild & Scenic River Tours
The name says it all.
3810 E. Galer St.
Customized biking, hiking, skiing tours, one day or several. Also offers door-to-door valet equipment and bike rentals perfect for the traveler who wants to bike the town for a day.
4218 S.W. Alaska St., Ste. 206
(800) 328-5925, (206) 937-8389
Climbing school and guides.
Like any major American city, Seattle has a full complement of chain hotels from dirt cheap to downright expensive. But why not check out some of the unique, independent local inns, hostels and B&B’s that make Seattle even more appealing?
Inn at the Harbor Steps
1221 1st Ave.
Across from Seattle Art Museum, first class, views, $160 up.
1926 2nd Ave.
Part of Moore Theater. Basic. $57-$77.
Green Tortoise Backpackers Hostel
1525 2nd Ave.
Dorm $18-19, private $50.
Entrance off 35th Ave. SW
1930’s era log cabins in a West Seattle city park surrounded by 68 acres of trails and woods. Reservations required.
84 Union St. downstairs from 1st Avenue
Dorm $16-20 in a prime Pike Place Market location.
2nd floor, 1923 1st near Pike Place Market
Attractive, clean, great view and breakfast. $75-$95.
1001 Fairview Ave. N.
On Lake Union, aboard an old tug, romantic and well-done, gourmet breakfast. $55-170.
1101 4th Ave.
Gives you a pet goldfish for your stay. $230 up.
Just like it says, at the edge of the water at Pier 67. $104-325.
Seattle-ites can’t live on coffee alone. From seafood to sushi, Seattle has great eats. You can check out any of the following local favorite restaurants, or buy a fresh fish, some veggies and bread at Pike Market and cook them up yourself!
Buca di Beppo’s
701 9th Ave. N.
Fantastic Italian. Reasonable.
The Painted Table
92 Madison Street
Chef leads tour as he buys his veggies and fruits at the Pike Place Market, then provides a cooking demonstration. Variety. Moderate to Expensive.
Bay Pavilion, Pier 57
Crab and seafood served family style. Meet new friends. Reasonable.
Paramount Hotel, 722 Pine Street
Ever had Dragon’s Breath, a martini made with pepper-infused vodka? Moderate to Expensive.
Larry’s Markets Cafés
Seattle Center, 100 Mercer St.
Tukwila, 3725 S. 144th St.
Salmon, salads, pick Îem out, eat there or take them home to cook. Reasonable.
Very trendy new waterfront restaurant. Great seafood. Moderate to Expensive.
Delcambre’s Ragin Cajun
1523 1st Ave.
Owner has rare personal story. Reasonable.
A well-loved Seattle chain famous for chowder and salmon. Reasonable to Moderate.
Acres of Clams
401 N.E. Northlake Way (Lake Union)
Ivar’s on Denny Way
3101 1st Ave.
Of course what would be a good meal in Seattle without a good brew? Local microbrewieries serve up the best Northwest ales and food.
Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse, near Safeco Field
1201 1st Ave. S.
Redhook Ale Brewery
3400 Phinney Ave. N.
14300 N.E. 145th St., Woodinville
Seattle is a great place to pick up outdoor gear: Eddie Bauer and REI are headquartered here. And if you’re looking for a good read, there are probably more bookstores per square mile than in any other city. But Seattle’s also a great place to pick up locally made items particular to the Northwest, including smoked fish, Native American Art, Asian products and maritime crafts.
Made in Washington
Gifts, food products, books, items all made in Washington State.
Portage Bay Goods
Whimsical art, gifts, environmentally friendly items.
Ragazzi’s Flying Shuttle
607 1st Ave.
Contemporary jewelry, hand-woven items.
21616 87th Ave. SE, Woodinville
Smoked salmon packets.
519 6th Ave. S.
Asian items, foodstuffs, books, items from the Orient, especially Japan. Major store.
There’s never a lack of happenings in Seattle: the hard part is deciding among the many offerings on any given day. The diverse cultures of Seattle lead to celebrations of every ethnic shading and hobby interest. Fringe Theatre festivals and film festivals-underground, local, Irish, Arab, Gay and Lesbian and the Short Attention Span Festival-share the scene with oyster and salmon festivals and Japanese, Latin American, Filipino and Norwegian celebrations. Seattle Center, Pacific Science Center, Seattle Aquarium, the EMP, Woodland Park Zoo and others offer continuous programs of special events. Parks, sports groups, wineries, waterfront organizations and county fairs schedule events all year, especially from May to September.
Of course, the major Happenings worth traveling for include Bumbershoot –The Seattle Arts Festival. With over 2,500 artists in all genres-including the outrageous and wacky–converging on the Seattle Center over Labor Day Weekend, Bumbershoot is “the mother of all arts festivals” (Rolling Stone).
Another Seattle-specific event worth getting here for is Seafair. Top class hydroplane events on Lake Washington and a not-to-be-missed torchlight parade through downtown. Locals moor their boats to logs on Lake Washington for entire days of watching the hydro races while lounging in the sun-for it rarely rains in July.
And world music fans should plan to visit for the WOMAD (World of Music, Art and Dance) Festival. Produced by One Reel and the World Entertainment Network, Seattle’s WOMAD Festival is the only one in the States-the rest happen around the world-and features top performers from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the US. For three days at the end of July, this is World Music Woodstock.
It’s hard to convince people, but it really doesn’t rain that much in Seattle. The wet impression is because the rain (36 inches a year) comes in drips during the rainy season, seldom in hard showers. But Seattle’s weather is unpredictable. Generally, the rainy season is from November to March, while it rains very little between July 1 and around October 1. Restrictions on washing cars and watering lawns in summer are not unknown. Snow is uncommon, but it might occur for a day or two. Most Northwest cities do not even own snowplows. Temperatures in winter average 45 degrees to 55 degrees during the day, 35 to 45 degrees at night, with occasional dips below freezing in the hilly parts of the city. Summers range from 70 to 90 degrees during the day, 45 to 65 degrees at night.
Visitors should dress in layers, winter or summer, because of the variable conditions. In winter, windproof parkas or raincoats are popular. Umbrellas and raincoats will keep you from chilling in winter. Sensible walking shoes for strolling hilly Seattle are recommended. Sweatshirts are great all year, usually with some kind of printing on them…makes for interesting reading.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
No known health hazards exist; in fact, Seattle’s air is very clean. Crime is low, but use the same precautions you would employ in any large city.
In case of medical emergency:
Elliott Bay Physicians (24-hour physician hotel calls):
24-hour drugstore (Bartell’s)
Virtually every major airline serves Seattle at Seattle-Tacoma (SeaTac) International Airport (40+ airlines, 11 of them international). Commuter aircraft to small cities and airports within large radius of Seattle, too.
Amtrak runs from California to Vancouver, and east and west from King Street Railroad Station downtown, once cracked (and repaired) by an earthquake…yes, Seattle has them. (800) USA-RAIL, www.amtrak.com
Most ferries to the islands are Washington State Ferries, part of the state’s highway system. Ferries leave from Colman Dock, Pier 52, and also from Edmonds and Mukilteo farther north toward Everett. Route information is divided into five zones. (800) 843-3779
Victoria Express, to Victoria, British Columbia
(206) 448-5000, (800) 888-2535
Victoria Clipper from Pier 69 to Victoria’s inner harbor, passengers only. Year-round sailings, R/T from $69.
Alaska Marine Highway System now leaves from Bellingham, 88 miles north of Seattle.
Greyhound buses to and from everywhere.
811 Stewart St.
National fares and schedules: (800) 231-2222
The best way to get around the downtown area and major attractions is to walk, take the waterfront trolley or the monorail that runs from downtown to Seattle Center. But there are also plenty of other options for transporting yourself around town. If you plan to travel beyond Seattle, all the major rental car agencies are represented at the airport and at downtown locations.
(877) 772-2746, (425) 485-5063
Groups or individuals tour around town, restaurants, nightclubs, airport, fun stuff like “Sleepless in Seattle” tour or whatever else you dream up.
Metro, the city bus line
Ride free on Metro buses within downtown area. Small fee if you go farther. Accessible bus stops are marked with the international handicapped symbol.
Puget Sound Coach Lines
(800) 460-6905, (253) 872-9080
Offers bilingual service.
(206) 343-4370, (206) 622-6500
From airport hotels to downtown.
Downtown to SeaTac and vice versa.
Airport Shuttle/Express Towncar
(888) 622-3400, (206) 622-3400
(800) 274-3339, (206) 762-3339
Checker Transportation & Limo Service
(800) 883-8314, (206) 817-3600
Limos include Jags and Rolls, towncars, vans and buses.
Wheelchair Getaways of the Pacific Northwest
(888) 376-1500, (425) 788-3718
Access Mobility Systems
(800) 854-4176, (425) 771-4659
In Microsoft-land, cybercafés are plentiful as coffee bars.
Pike Place Bagels
1525 1st Ave.
Capitol Hill Internet Café
219 Broadway E., Suite 22
4214 University Way N.E.
Dutch Ned’s Saloon & Eatery
206 1st Ave., Pioneer Square
Hip hangout, sports bar, too.
As in most large cities, banks and ATMs are plentiful and convenient to the major downtown areas.
U.S. Bank, 1425 1st Ave. (Pike Place Market)
9:30-5 M-F, 9:30-1 Sat.
U.S. Bank, 3rd and Pine
10-5 M-Th, 10-6 Fri.
Keybank, 1900 1st Ave. S.
9-5 M-Th, 9-6 Fri.
Keybank, 666 S. Dearborn (international district)
9:30-5 M-Th, 9-6 Fri.
ATMs are also frequently located in Seattle businesses.
City of Seattle Information
Seattle-King County Visitors & Convention Bureau
Read more GoNOMAD stories about Washington State
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