Settled on an isthmus between the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, Seattle has a unique flavor and culture that has made it one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. It’s Millennials’ third-favorite city in the country, and has a solid job market for the fastest-growing careers, including a booming tech scene. It’s the nation’s 11th largest metro economy, and with nearly 700,000 residents, Seattle is the Pacific Northwest’s largest city.
Although Seattle’s rainy weather gets a bad rap, it’s also very temperate — the winters don’t get too cold and the summers don’t get too hot. Plus, the city still averages about 70 sunny days every year. There are many universities and colleges in town, with the most important being the University of Washington. Just north of downtown Seattle, the UW ranks among the top universities in the world and is home to six Nobel Prize winners and 15 MacArthur Fellows. In 2015, the university was named No. 1 innovative public university by Reuters.
Life in Seattle
Seattle is one of the best cities in the country for public transportation, so you can plan to live in the city vehicle-free without worry. There are several rail options, and plenty of buses. The Link Light Rail connects downtown, the University of Washington, and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.. If you’re just hoping to travel around downtown and the nearby nearby residential neighborhoods, King County Metro Transit is your ride. But those aren’t your only options: There are two streetcars that run in the South Lake Union and Capitol Hill areas, plus a monorail that traverses downtown.
Seattle was also recently named the best city in the country for bicyclists. Currently, Seattle has more than 100 miles of off-street bike trails, protected lanes, sharrows, and greenways. By the end of a 20-year project to further improve bike networks, that will grow by more than 400 miles.
Where to play
Football fans will feel right at home rooting for the Seahawks — the only NFL team located in the Pacific Northwest and 2014 Superbowl champions. Visiting the Space Needle is also on the Seattle bucket list, for a phenomenal view and cultural experience. Ocean entertainment is also ample, including day-cruises, whale watching, and fishing expeditions. Check out one of the many establishments serving locally brewed beer, as Seattle is one of the hotbeds of the microbrewing movement in the country.
Seattle’s premiere attraction is world-renowned: the iconic Space Needle. Completed in 1962 and built to be the tallest structure west of the Mississippi, the Needle is 605 feet tall, and can sustain 200-mile-per-hour winds and 9.1-magnitude earthquakes. At the top — a brief 41-second ride thanks to the Needle’s elevator speed of 10 miles per hour — enjoy a meal at the SkyCity Restaurant or soak in views of the Seattle skyline, Cascade Mountains, and Mount Rainier. After that, head deep underground and tour subterranean storefronts that have been abandoned since the Great Fire of 1889, after which Seattle literally rebuilt right on top of itself.
Nearly surrounded by water, Seattle has ready access to fresh seafood, leading to some of the best fish dishes you’re likely to find in the U.S. Winning the Zagat Guide’s top spot for Seattle seafood, The Walrus and the Carpenter is an oyster bar that aims to resurrect the fishing pub aesthetic, with post-industrial feel, close quarters, and small plates. Other spots for reliably delicious seafood are Taylor Shellfish and Chandler’s Crabhouse.
For fine dining, find Italian food and house-made pasta at cozy Altura in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, or Canlis, which offers simple, elegant New American food while overlooking Lake Union. A more relaxed environment, Delancey is another local favorite, serving seasonal fired pizzas, and Westward is a must-stop for those seeking Mediterranean cuisine with a view of downtown across the water.
Cocktail-seekers will be delighted with what Seattle has to offer, considering the area’s many distilleries, like Oola, Sound Spirits, Fremont Mischief, and Copperworks Distilling Company. Foreign National blends molecular mixology with the vibe of neighboring French-Vietnamese restaurant Stateside, and has quickly become one of Seattle’s favorite bars — but you have to wait your turn, as there are just 28 seats. For a rooftop view, try The Nest, atop the Thompson Hotel, with snacks and innovative mixers. You’ll find all the beer you need at Brouwer’s Cafe, with more than 60 brews on tap and 300 in bottles, or Pike Brewing Company, one of many craft brewers in the city. Bramling Cross splits the difference between cocktail aficionados and beer-lovers, offering concoctions like the Brewski Old Fashioned (bourbon, vanilla stout sugar, bitters, and stout) and the Ranye West (aperol, lemon, angostura bitters, and Rainier beer).
Seattle is brimming with arts and culture, and it’s not all high-brow Frasier-esque trips to the opera (though the Seattle Opera is an excellent, internationally-respected company). The city’s music scene has given birth to music legends such as Ray Charles, Eddie Vedder, and Jimi Hendrix, and the grunge movement in the ‘90s was centered on this musical mecca, thanks to the likes of Seattle natives Nirvana and Soundgarden. Head to the EMP Museum to learn more about Seattle’s famed musicians and pop culture history. The Museum of Flight spans 15 acres to showcase more than 160 air and spacecraft, simulators, as well as the first Boeing factory. But for a more complete picture, pair that visit with the Museum of History and Industry to trace more Seattle exploration and development through the years. For a break from history, give your eyes a palate-cleanser at Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Museum of Glass, and the Seattle Art Museum. One of the city’s most offbeat, unique offerings is at the Teatro ZinZanni, which features international cirque, comedy and cabaret performances.
With a handful of annual festivals and events every month, you’ll never find yourself at a loss of interesting activities in Seattle. One of the largest — Sasquatch Music Festival — takes place each May in the Gorge Amphitheatre near the Columbia River Gorge. Thousands travel from around the country to camp out for performances by indie music greats like Florence & the Machine. Pride Festival and the Seattle International Film Festival are two other enormous events that are on the city’s “must” list, along with Bumbershoot, one of the most acclaimed Seattle festivals. It’s a cultural celebration complete with music, theater, dancing, and other performances that’s nearing its 50-year mark. Several “Festals” throughout the year give individual cultures their due, such as Arab Festival, Croatiafest, TurkFest, TibetFest, Pagdiriwang Philippine Festival, and more.
Although you can find somewhere to peruse potential purchases in just about any neighborhood, some places hold more promise. The Ballard neighborhood is where the boutique shoppers flock to find fashion and home decor from indie shops. If name brands are more appealing, head downtown for Nordstrom, Tiffany & Co., J.Crew and national chains — plus Pike Place Market, which has indie shops and farm-fresh food. (If you feel like you can catch a slippery whole tuna, you can even get fresh seafood thrown to you.)
The biggest sports headlines in Seattle are, naturally, made by the only NFL team in the Pacific Northwest: the Seahawks. The recent Superbowl champs play at CenturyLink Field, which they share with the Seattle Sounders FC Major League Soccer team — another regional sports institution. The Mariners play in Safeco Field, where you’ll find the largest videoboard in the MLB. The University of Washington Huskies, in the North Division of the Pac-12, also have a huge following of football fans, with more than a dozen Pac-10 championships, plus several Rose Bowl wins.
There’s so much to see in Seattle, sometimes it helps to have a guide. The Seattle Ducks tours show you around the city — scoping the Space Needle, Pioneer Square, and the Seattle skyline from Lake Union — via amphibious vehicle, while sharing fun facts about the sights. The Duck tours can get a little splashy, however, so if you’d prefer a dignified boat tour, try an Argosy Cruise, which also offer fully-narrated picturesque views. There’s plenty to be seen on solid ground, too, and you can find that at Northwest Trek Park. In just under an hour, the Discovery Tram Tour traverses 435 miles of natural meadows and forests to give you an up-close experience with elk, moose, bison, and mountain goats. To take on the outdoors alone is simple and stunning as well, and Seattle has more than 400 city parks to choose among. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park is located in city itself, while a short drive (and/or ferry ride) away are Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades national parks.