Part One: Introduction
While Tom Hanks' lead character in Sleepless in Seattle was dying for some shut-eye thanks to a lovelorn longing for his perfect mate, one could easily make another argument as to why Seattle's residents might not get enough rest: there's just so much to do.
Roundly viewed as the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is an intellectual's dream come true, with a bookish local culture – the city has not one, but two NPR stations, for goodness' sake – and a landscape simply dripping with emerald green-tinted majesty. Ripe with culturally-enriching spaces spanning art, music and craftsmanship of every sort (an opera, a symphony, a ballet, a stunning public library, multiple art museums and world-class glass-blowing studios, for starters), it offers something to satisfy every curious soul who calls it home.
Incidentally, for those nostalgic for the grunge scene of the 90s, that crunchy guitar-driven angst can still be felt in certain enclaves of the city. It's not a place that whimsically flits from trend to trend; it finds what it likes and sticks with it, from great literature and rock & roll to mulled wine and North Face rain jackets. Its walkability and collective dedication to sustainability make it a perfect place for the eco-conscious, and the port city's bustling food scene keeps appetites satiated year-round with fresh seafood, brilliant comfort dishes and inventive fusions of cultures from all over the world.
While Seattle summers are picturesque exercises in beauty with sunny, temperate days and calm, clear nights, the fall and winter are known for their admittedly gloomy weather. Take heart, though: it's not all rainstorms all the time. In fact, those grey days tend to be smattered with light showers instead of storms – think drizzle, not downpour. It can take a little getting used to, but as any local will tell you, the winter blues are nothing an LED lamp and an occasional weekend getaway can't fix. (Need suggestions? You're in luck: we've got some road trip recommendations in the final section of this guide).
Living in such an intellectually stimulating city can be a little overwhelming, and with charming neighborhoods and housing options aplenty, the decision-making process is awfully daunting when it comes to figuring out where to hang your hat. So, without further ado, here's an insider's guide to calling Seattle home sweet home.
Part Two: Area Guide
It's unofficial but generally accepted that Seattle was built, much like the eternal cities of Rome and Constantinople, on seven hills. Today, those hills are commonly referred to as West Seattle, First Hill, Denny Hill, Capitol Hill, Beacon Hill, Queen Anne Hill and Magnolia Hill. As you'll see in this neighborhood guide, several of them – particularly Capitol and Queen Anne – play a prominent role in the city's delineation between one neighborhood and another.
While Seattle's cost of living is about 16 percent higher than the national average, so is its median family income. For homebuyers, the average cost per square foot was $333 in 2013, according to Trulia.com. Overall, Seattle is known for its spirited micro-communities; whether you end up living atop a hill or down by the waterfront, you'll likely find yourself falling in love with your surroundings - and their inhabitants – well before you sign that lease or let the ink dry on that mortgage.
Between Virginia Street and Battery Street, Western Avenue and Fifth Avenue
Once a low-rent, semi-industrial district, Belltown has since transformed into a trendy neighborhood with expensive residential buildings, hip boutiques and art galleries, as well as great restaurants and a healthy dose of nightlife. New apartments and condos are springing up everywhere, offering plenty of possibilities for newcomers, although the monthly leases in Belltown are constantly increasing (between $1,400-$2,00 for one bedroom and around $2000 to $2500 for a two bedroom place) along with rising demand. And of course, the better the view, the more you'll pay for it. Like much of central Seattle, this is a highly walkable area with lots of public transportation options for backup.
The best of Belltown
Attractions - Many of Seattle's top attractions are within walking distance of Belltown, like Pike Place Market – Seattle's first farmer's market and the city's most powerful pedestrian magnet. Also within strolling distance are the Seattle Art Museum's Sculpture Park, a striking oasis of nature and art in the heart of the city; and the windy Elliott Bay waterfront overlooking the Puget Sound (and sometimes, on fogless days, a view of the Olympic Mountains too).
Breakfast & lunch spots - Dahlia Bakery (2001 4th Avenue).
Dinner spots - Award-winning chef and author Tom Douglas presents two restaurants, Lola and Dahlia (associated with the bakery of the same name), both located on 4th Avenue: Lola charms with a Greek spirit and modern Mediterranean and North African riffs on local ingredients, while the sophisticated Dahlia lounge is at the epicenter of Seattle's local, sustainable and organic food movement.
Belltown treats meat lovers with the best steakhouses in Seattle – Buenos Aires Grill, an authentic Argentine restaurant and tango bar (220 Virginia Street), and El Gaucho Seattle (2505 First Avenue), offering not just outstanding prime cuts, but a swanky dining experience as well.
Bars & clubs - The club zone in Belltown is located mainly on First and Second Avenue, from Virginia to Wine Street, where on Fridays and Saturdays, streams of dressed-up young people club-hop along the sidewalks. The most crowded night bar in Belltown may very well be First Avenue's Amber, and one of the most sophisticated is the wine bar Black Bottle (First Ave and Wine Street). For dancing, there's always Foundation or See Sound Lounge.
Shopping - Belltown is not the city's main shopping area, but it's close to Pike and Pine Streets, the central shopping zone in Downtown. There are several hip and stylish shops for women's and men's clothing located on First Ave – the Sell Your Sole Boutique, Kuhlman and ExOfficio, to name a few. Belltown's First Avenue is also known for modern furniture galleries like Northwest Woodworkers Gallery, Chartreuse International, and Urban Hardwoods.
Belltown is home to several small, independent deli and grocery stores, such as Ellington Grocery and Deli (2801 1st Ave), and Dan's Belltown Grocery (221 3rd Ave). For more intensive grocery shopping, you'll need to venture out to neighboring areas for Whole Foods Market on Westlake and Denny, Lower Queen Anne's QFC on Roy and Fifth Ave N or Metropolitan Market on First Ave N and Mercer Street. The most economic grocery shopping is at City Target in downtown (Second Ave and Pike Street) or Safeway in Lower Queen Anne (516 1st Ave W).
South Lake Union (SLU)
Southern tip of Lake Union to Westlake Avenue, bordered by Denny Way, I-5, and Aurora Avenue N (SR 99)
Thanks to its location and excellent public transportation, this neighborhood is one of the most convenient to get to and from. Living by the rules of perpetual change, in a few short years SLU has turned from a place nobody knew much about to "the new center of the universe," as Seattle Magazine has called it. Proud of its devotion to sustainability, this micro-community is a perfect match for environmentally-conscious residents; SLU boasts more LEED-certified buildings than any other part of the city. In SLU, with car-sharing, electric vehicle recharging stations and Seattle's first modern electric street car, (not to mention copious organic markets and eateries with locally-sourced menus), green living is the norm, not the exception.
In the past decade, SLU has developed into a hub for biotech organizations such as Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, ZymoGenetics, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, and University of Washington Medicine. SLU businesses generate $3 billion in sales revenue each year, and local economists project that by the time the neighborhood is fully built out, its businesses will be source of more than 50,000 jobs.
The Best of South Lake Union:
The best way to begin exploring SLU is through interactive displays and exhibits featuring its past, present and future at the South Lake Union Discovery Center (101 Westlake Ave N). Likewise, Lake Union Park – a calm urban getaway in the epicenter of the city – is a perfect place to ease into the area; locals kayak from one side of the lake to the other to nosh on steaks and seafood at Daniel's Broiler and Chandler's Crabhouse, respectively, or just sit on the waterfront and relax. Both Daniel's and Chandler's offer affordable happy hour sips and bites seven days a week.
Events & Attractions - Summer brings with it the SLU wooden boat festival, a perfect time to rent a sailboat at the Center for Wooden Boats. For indoor diversions during the rainy months, interesting exhibits await at the Gates Foundation visitor center and the new Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI).
Breakfast & lunch spots - La Toscanella Italian Bakery and Paninoteca (116 Westlake Ave N), Serious Biscuit (401 Westlake Ave N), Eastlake's French bakery Le Fournil (3230 Eastlake Ave N), and quick, delicious takeout from the Whole Foods on Westlake and Denny are all favorite spots for morning and midday bites.
Dinner spots - Chef John Howie's second Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar (2121 Terry Avenue) has received high praise from the media, while Blue Moon Burgers (920 Republican Street) uses natural, local ingredients and offers a full line of gluten free options. Also focused on organic, local, seasonal ingredients is the Portage Bay Café (391 Terry Ave N). Pizza lovers in particular find delight at Tom Douglas' Serious Pie (4th and Virginia).
Shopping - South Lake Union offers everything from the organic fare of Whole Foods (2210 Westlake Ave) and furniture of West Elm (2201 Westlake N) to outdoor gear from the likes of REI (222 Yale St) and Snowboard Connection (263 Yale Ave N). For music lovers, Guitar Center (530 Westlake N) carries a broad array of musical equipment and Tottini offers hip baby and toddler gear and toys (259 Yale Ave N).
From Denny Way to Lake Washington Ship Canal, and 15th Ave W to Aurora Avenue
Seattle's tallest hill with an elevation of 456 feet, carefully-preserved 19th century architecture and sweeping views, the Queen Anne neighborhood is divided into two main areas – namely, Queen Anne and Lower Queen Anne, both of which are divided into eastern and western subsections by Queen Anne Avenue.
One advantage of Lower Queen Anne for the newcomer is its walkability to Seattle Center, Belltown, Elliott Bay waterfront, and even downtown. Another is the fact that there are lots of apartments, condos and townhomes for lease, plus a more dynamic market for buyers than what's uphill (i.e., mostly houses). A bit of trivia: those beautiful shots of the Seattle skyline used on postcards and in television shows like Frasier and Grey's Anatomy are taken from Kerry Park, a public space on the southern slope of Queen Anne Hill. Given the area's safety, abundance of kid-friendly establishments abundant playgrounds, Queen Anne (and its downhill counterpart) are a popular neighborhood among families with children. To wit: the beloved Queen Anne Community Center offers a hearty year-round schedule full of sports, arts and crafts, as well as a popular indoor pool.
The Best of Queen Annse:
Coffee - Caffé Fiore (Galer Street and 3rd Ave W) offers up a friendly staff, cheerful customers, and the alluring aroma of organic coffee - the perfect way to start your day.
Breakfast spots - Two bakeries – Le Reve (Queen Anne Ave N and Blaine), especially during the summer when they open their beautiful garden, and Macrina (615 W McGraw St), particularly for those who crave a good crispy homemade bread – are the ultimate in early-morning indulgence. Alternatively, people come from all parts of the city to experience the homey goodness of the 5 Spot Cafe (Queen Anne Ave N). In Lower Queen Anne, there's a line every day in front of Pesos, and for good reason: it's worth the wait.
Lunch & dinner spots - Both Betty and How to Cook a Wolf are located on Queen Anne Avenue and delight customers with their quirky menus, and as for pizza, Via Tribunali (Galer St & 4th Ave W), and ZAW's "bake at home" pizza on Queen Anne Ave N are both famous for their pies.
Bars - Paragon Bar and Grill attracts loyal patrons with live music every night and open mics each week. The Paragon's jazz sessions are particularly popular.
Shopping - On Queen Anne Ave N at the top of the hill stand innumerable family-owned boutiques offering everything from books (Queen Anne Book Store), toys (Once Upon a Time Toy Store) and chocolates (Chocopolis) to board games, clothing and home décor. Every conceivable service can also be found along this deceptively quaint avenue: whether it's yoga/karate/dance classes, flowers and a spa you're looking for or a chiropractor, vet, dentist, dry cleaner, bank or urgent care, it's all available within a stone's throw.
As for groceries, the best grocery store in Lower Queen Anne is Metropolitan Market. Close by are QFC and Safeway as well. At the top of the hill stand Trader Joe's (W Galer) and Safeway (Queen Anne Ave N), as well as A&J Meats and Seafood, offering a variety of basic cuts and prepared meals. All big markets in the area (Metropolitan, QFC and Safeway) are open 24/7. From May to October, there's a small Farmers' Market on Thursdays afternoons, with live music and quick bites, plus an ice-cream truck that often has Queen Anne's littlest residents queuing up for a scoop.
From Madison Street to Montlake Cut, and from I-5 to 23rd Ave.; centered around Broadway from E Pine Street to E Roy Street
In Capitol Hill, it's not uncommon to see a mix of every lifestyle imaginable in the span of a quick walk up the sidewalk. Preppy parents pushing strollers and pajama-wearing college students blend right in with fully-tattooed twentysomethings, middle-aged drag queens and artists of every ilk, and all of them share the same genuine enthusiasm for their enriched, eclectic neighborhood.
Capitol Hill and its southern extension, First Hill (where the three of Seattle's greatest hospital centers are located), have the highest concentration of apartment properties in Seattle – not surprising for an area populated by so many students, although Belltown is closing in quickly thanks to its recent high-end growth. Traditional apartment and condominium buildings share the streets with modern townhomes; old brick houses stand between eye-popping examples of cutting-edge architecture. From modest cottages to ridiculously expensive Victorian mansions, prices vary but are noticeably less expensive than Queen Anne and Belltown.
The area, once the epicenter of the grunge scene, is home to Harvard Exit (one of Seattle's leading art-film theatres), the Seattle Asian Museum (in Volunteer Park on 15th Ave), and the dog-friendly Cal Anderson Park, bookended quite literally by the Richard Hugo House (a writers' retreat) on one side and Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle's preeminent independent book store at 10th Ave and Pine St) on the other. The peaceful, forested Volunteer Park, Capitol Hill's highest point, stands in the quieter and more residential part of Capitol Hill on 15th Avenue.
The Best of Capitol Hill:
Diversion & diversity - When the sun goes down, Capitol Hill transforms itself into a nightlife mecca, albeit a laid-back, casual one. Popular music venues along the Pike-Pine corridor include Neumos and the Comet Tavern, and for something a little spicier, the drag shows at Julia's on Broadway are a local staple. Capitol Hill is famously LGBTQ-friendly, and its most iconic bars include C.C. Attle's (Olive Way and Boylston) and Rplace (on Pine St). Each summer's Pride Parade takes place along Broadway, and Capitol Hill block parties (on Pike-Pine corridor) are among Seattle's hottest music events.
Aside from being a highly-concentrated area for tattoo and piercing artists, Broadway is also known for its international flair, offering a staggering range flavors within a few short blocks, from Greek (The Byzantion) to Mexican (La Cocina & Cantina), from Thai (Pinto Bistro Thai & Sushi Bar) to Indian (India Express), and last but not least, from Italian (Pane e Vino) to Vietnamese (Pho Cyclo Caffe).
Breakfast & coffee spots - Grab a warm homemade pastry bite in Crumble and Flake Patisserie on Olive Way or a delectable doughnut at Top Pot on Summit Street, or perhaps Capitol Hill's best bagel at Eltana on 12th and Pine St. The most comfortable coffee shops are Roy Street Coffee & Tea at Broadway and Roy, Starbucks on E Olive Way, Caffé Ladro on 15th Avenue, Bauhaus Books and Coffee (414 E Pine St) and Victrola Coffee Roasters (310 E Pike).
Sunday brunch - The French-inspired Odd Fellows Café on 10th Avenue is the perfect spot to spend a late Sunday morning (or early Sunday afternoon), enjoying all its Parisian delights.
Dinner spots - Osteria La Spiga (12th Ave) offers an authentic Italian menu from the Romagna region – both their lasagna and wine list are exquisite. Across the street is Barrio Mexican Kitchen & Bar where modern twists on Mexican classics and creative Latin cocktails are served beneath the glow of hundreds of candles overhead. At the very beginning of Capitol Hill, on Pike St above the I-5 are the Spanish fusion restaurant Tango, and – from the same owners – the newly opened Caribbean spot, Rumba. Alternatively, Olivar is a small and cozy Spanish Bistro located on E Roy Street, perfect for romantic date nights. From Chef Ethan Stowell, Anchovies and Olives (15th Ave) serves Capitol Hill's premier seafood dishes with an Italian twist. Another excellent seafood house is the nearby Costal Kitchen.
Bars - The old-school speakeasy, Knee High Stocking Co (E Olive Way) is not to be missed, nor is Tavern Law (12th Ave) with its secret club upstairs.
Desserts - Sweet tooths delight at the delicious cake and hot chocolate at Bar Dilettante on Broadway, while ice cream lovers are excited to sample flavors at both Molly Moon's and Blue Bird Microcreamery, both on Pine St.
Shopping - Vintage clothes are, of course, abundant in this bohemian community: local favorites include Le Frock on Pike Street and Pretty Parlor on Summit, as well as several secondhand shops on Broadway. Broadway's Red Light Vintage and Costume is a no-brainer when a costume is in order, and for the full urban boho experience from home décor to women's and children's clothing, peek into Retail Therapy on Pike and NuBe Green on Pine Street.
Capitol Hill is teeming with grocery stores – it boasts three different QFC markets, a Safeway, a Trader Joe's and the local, organic food market Coop Central on Madison St. Rite Aid, Walgreen's and Bartel Drugs can all be found on Broadway as well.
Fremont and Wallingford
North of Lake Washington Ship Canal and Lake Union, from 15th Ave W to I-5; central streets are Fremont Ave N and N/NE 45th Street
Once upon a time, Fremont was an independent city – a fact that could explain the abundance of "Fremocentrics" living there today. ("Fremocentric" = one who deeply believes everything in the universe revolves around the Seattle's Fremont neighborhood.) Fremont attracts residents with its funky charm, artistic character but shocks others with its nude body-painted bicyclists in the Summer Solstice Parade. For the open-minded, the eccentric entertainment it offers is unrelentingly seductive.
Balancing out Fremont's bold, brash attitude in sort of an Odd Couple-sque pairing is its neighbor, Wallingford, a quiet and simple area that's nothing less of a cultural gem. Wallingford was once known as a starter neighborhood for newlyweds, mainly because of its affordability and proximity to all the happenings in Fremont, Queen Anne, and the university district across the interstate. Today, Wallingford is well on its way to becoming more prestigious – and consequently more pricey.
The Best of Fremont & Wallingford:
Culture - Upon entering Fremont, the first thing most people notice is a Soviet-era rocket, followed by three controversial sculptures: "Waiting for the Interurban" (Fremont Ave N and N 34th Street) – the spooky family that Fremont residents dress and decorate for every occasion, the divisive statue of Vladimir Lenin (Fremont Pl N and N 36th Street), and the infamous Troll under the North end of Aurora Bridge. Needless to say, they set the tone for the offbeat area ahead.
On the First Friday of the month, no matter the weather, residents and visitors can enjoy Fremont's monthly art walk – a creative stroll around the numerous galleries and shops. Throughout the year, Fremont hosts Seattle's most creative festivals, including the Moisture Festival, HopScotch, Fremont Fair and the aforementioned Solstice Parade. Famous events include the Fremont Outdoor Movies with the annual Zombie Walk, Music in the Sculpture Garden, Family 4th at Gasworks Park, Northwest Lovefest, Fremont Oktoberfest, and lots of block parties.
Bars & eateries - Nectar Lounge (412 N 36th St), Fremont's popular live music venue, features everything from hip-hop, reggae, indie rock and country to electronica, funk, soul, punk and beyond. The best meet-up places in Wallingford are Seamonster Lounge (2202 N 45th St) for sushi, cocktails and jazz, and Irwin's Bakery & Café (2123 N 40th St) for a quick bite or coffee.
For all their differences, Fremont and Wallingford have one thing in common: they love their breweries. Fremont Brewing Company (3409 Woodland Park Ave N) is a young, small, family-owned microbrewery serving up house-made, small-batch artisanal beers. Outlander Brewery & Pub (N 36th St), meanwhile, specializes in foreign and unique beers, and Asgard Tavern (1300 N Northlake Way) is available for tastings and private parties.
Nature - Fremont and Wallingford are fully exposed along the Fremont cut of Burke-Gilman Trail – Seattle's best trail for cycling, running, and skating. It begins in Ballard and spreads along the Lake Washington Ship Canal, then north along Lake Washington and Gas Works Park, one of Seattle's top attractions, on the south end of Wallingford. Fremont's waterfront used to be a secluded, hippie-filled slice of Lake Union, but recent commercial development is beginning to ebb away at the spot's retro appeal.
Shopping - This area, not surprisingly, is rich with affordable antique shopping and funky secondhand stores, as well as retro-kitsch boutiques. The Daily Planet is a well-known "junk shop" at 6016 Phinney Ave N, and Portage Bay Goods on 621 N 35th St is a popular gift store.
True to form, vegans and gluten-free folks are spoiled for choice in Fremont's local and organic Puget Consumers Cooperative, or "PCC Market." And on Sundays, the street closes for Fremont's Sunday Street Market, a European-inspired event full of flavor and verve.
Wallingford Center (1815 N 45th St), a shopping area in the center of Wallingford, is the home of regional retail boutiques offering organic, sustainable products. From handmade women's clothing, hand-crafted jewelry handbags to home décor, candles and fragrances, it's au naturel here, all the way.
From Lake Washington Ship Canal to 85th Street NW, and from 15th Ave NW to Shilshole Bay
Once a Scandinavian fishing village, today Ballard is one of Seattle's most beloved neighborhoods. Across the Ballard Bridge from Downtown, historic Ballard's boutiques, restaurants and bars are surrounded by cozy residential neighborhoods and a strong public school district. Independent and self-sufficient, Ballard has everything one could ask for in a neighborhood – character, space, nature and lots of options for entertainment. In fact, if you decide to live in Ballard and your new job happens to be anywhere in the north Seattle area, you may not find many reasons to cross the Ballard Bridge again.
The Best of Ballard:
Culture - The year-round Ballard Farmers' Market opens every Sunday on Market Street, attracting all kinds of Seattleites, from weathered outdoor enthusiasts in fleece sweats and hiking shoes to style-conscious hipsters wearing tomorrow's trends today. To honor its Scandinavian heritage, the community celebrates "Syttende Mai" – Norwegian Independence Day – parading along Market Street every year on May 17.
A foodie paradise, Ballard is proud of its restaurants. Ballard Locks is not to be missed during salmon season, and BBQ is always the perfect meal at Golden Gardens beachfront and park. Ballard's shores are often packed with boats of all kinds and lined with sailing schools, and farther inland, odes to Scandinavian culture abound at the internationally-acclaimed Nordic Heritage Museum, exhibiting historic and fine art collections and hosting musical performances, children's activities and major cultural events.
Restaurants - Anthony's (6135 Seaview Ave NW) on the Hiram Chittenden Locks, along with a menu chock full of fresh local fish, offers spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. Ray's Boathouse and Café is also perfectly perched on Ballard's shoreline, boasting breathtaking vistas from its tables as it celebrates the catches of area fishermen, much to the delight of hungry customers.
Inland, in the lively and charming Historic Ballard are two standout restaurants with beautiful garden seating in the summer: Volterra (5411 Ballard Avenue NW) offers contemporary Italian food and drinks, while Bastille (5307 Ballard Ave NW) serves French-inspired fare. Or on the other hand, if you just want pizza, look no further than Delancey's (1415 NW 70th St).
Bars - In the heart of Ballard, there are plenty of bars to stop into for cold drinks and live bands, but the most famous live music venues are The Tractor Tavern and the Sunset Tavern, both on Ballard Ave NW.
The Suburbs: Ravenna and Green Lake
East of I-5, from N 45th Street to N 85th Street
Green Lake and Ravenna are quiet, largely sylvan neighborhoods north and northeast of downtown with excellent access to highways (driving south on I-5, it takes only 10 to 15 minutes to downtown) and the University of Washington.
Ravenna is the residential neighborhood northeast of Seattle's core and is mostly populated by University of Washington professors and graduates – in fact, Ravenna Boulevard is often referred to as "Professors' Row". Ravenna is also home to several businesses, many of which are located in University Village, an attractive open-air shopping mall. The verdant Ravenna-Cowen Park is a popular but serene enclave nearby.
Green Lake is quite an oasis for runners, walkers, dog-walkers and skaters. Filled with coffee shops, ice cream parlors, and retailers specializing in bicycle and rollerblading equipment, the neighborhood caters primarily to families, given its abundance of single-family homes and relative lack of apartment properties. In Green Lake, most of the commercial and apartment properties are located toward the north end of the lake. The pricing of rental units here is similar to Fremont and Wallingford, but for those desiring to rent an entire house, it's a steal: for the same price of a humble two-bedroom unit in Capitol Hill, you can find a newer three-bedroom house with a yard in Green Lake.
Things to do - Thanks to its warm residential character surrounded by beautiful tree-covered parks, Ravenna and Green Lake are prime destinations for the sports-and-recreation-minded. The area is also home to Woodland Park Zoo – a nationally award-winning 92-acre zoological garden with about 300 species from all over the world, as well as Zoomazium, an indoor, nature-themed play space for kids, Woodland Playing Fields, and the Green Lake Golf Course. There's no shortage of ways to pass the time in the manicured sanctuary of these two idyllic Seattle suburbs.
Part Three: Getting Around
Although downtown Seattle and its surrounding neighborhoods comprise a largely walkable area and a vast majority of residents who commute have cars of their own, plenty of options exist between those two extremes. Here's a primer on how to get around town without a hassle, no matter how you're traveling.
For those with their own wheels, traffic jams are highly predictable around rush hours, and on weekends, dense traffic stays concentrated predominantly near Seattle Center from noon to the early evening. For up-to-the-minute reports, check out the state transportation department's website dedicated to traffic and construction updates.
Ride the rail
The Light-Rail Connection is the new train that runs from downtown to Sea-Tec Airport every 6 to 10 minutes. The train drops travelers at the station that is a few minutes walk to the main terminal. However, a Seattleite would say that the train stop is way too far from the airport, but in fact, it is super convenient and close. Fares run between $2 and $3.
Take the metro
The King County Metro – Seattle has a network of buses and trolleys connecting all parts of the city, beware however, the buses are not as frequent (though always on schedule), and because of numerous stops, they get around pretty slowly.
Try the monorail
The Monorail is a fun and fast one-stop train connecting Seattle Center Station (adjacent to the Space Needle) with Downtown (Westlake Center at 5th and Pine). Fares are $2.25 per person, with discounts for children, seniors, military personnel, Medicare cardholders and folks with disabilities.
Hop a streetcar
The Seattle Streetcar is a convenient modern streetcar line connecting downtown Seattle with South Lake Union. It runs at 10- and 15-minute headways, depending on peak times, during its operating hours. Fares are $2.50 per person, half-price for kids ages 6-17 and free for the little ones.
Catch a cab
Taxi drivers in Seattle don't exactly have the best reputation for answering calls on their own. If you can't catch a cab on the street, calling the service isn't a guarantee that you'll be assured a ride; even if they say they're on their way to you, they may not come after all.
Luckily, services like UBER and UBER X are revolutionizing the taxi experience in Seattle. Using the app on your smart phone or the mobile app on the web, you can secure a cab in no time, and your fare + tip are deducted automatically from the account to which you tether your registration when you first sign up.
Float on a ferry
Ferries in Seattle operate on Puget Sound between downtown Seattle waterfront and the residential islands across from the city. Monthly fees range from around $60 to $100, depending on the route, and single fares run around $3 to $12.
Tips for non-drivers
Where to live - Being close to downtown – in Belltown, South Lake Union and Capitol Hill, specifically – makes it easy to get around town by bus. Other neighborhoods are more convenient to navigate by car.
Quicken your pulse - Another favorite solution is to bike around the city. Although it rains often, most locals have acclimated to the weather; there are many, many cyclists on the streets of Seattle all year round, come rain or come shine.
Need wheels fast? - If you need to drive but don't have a car of your own, no sweat: take advantage of Seattle's ZIP Car system (aka "wheels when you want them"). Specific annual plans range from $6 to $50 per month with no annual fee, and a pay-as-you-go option is also available for $60 per year.
Grocery delivery - There's a major perk to being Amazon's hometown: Amazon Fresh – the city's favorite grocery delivery service – is always one click away, eliminating the hassle of lugging heavy bags home via public transit.
Part Four: Whistle While You Work
Some of America's largest companies are headquartered in Seattle and its surrounding area, including Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, and global logistics firm Expeditors International. Costco, the largest company in Washington, is based in Issaquah. Microsoft and Nintendo of America are located in Redmond. Bellevue is home to truck manufacturer PACCAR, international mobile phone giant T-Mobile USA, and Internet-based travel website Expedia… and those are just a few of the corporate giants living in and around the city.
Prior to moving its headquarters to Chicago, aerospace manufacturer Boeing was the largest company based in Seattle. Its largest division is still headquartered in nearby Renton, and the company has large aircraft manufacturing plants in Everett and Renton, so it remains the largest private employer in the Seattle metropolitan area. Thanks to Vulcan Inc., the holding company of billionaire Paul Allen, who's behind most of the development projects in the region, South Lake Union has become a biotech hub. The largest employer within the city is the University of Washington, with 28,000+ faculty and staff and an annual revenue of $3.7 billion.
The greater Seattle area accounts for 1.93 million jobs, with an unemployment rate (7.2%) that's better than the national average. The aerospace industry employs 82,000 people statewide, produces annual revenue of $32 billion, and includes a cluster of 650 companies. Information and communications technology companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Real Networks generate an annual revenue within the State of Washington of $13.6 billion and account for a total of 186,800 jobs.
Seattle's video game companies generate more than one-third of the game industry's $10 billion national revenue, while Seattle's clean technology industry accounts for more than 60,000 jobs in the sectors of energy efficiency, renewable energy, pollution reduction and pollution cleanup. The wind, solar, biomass, wave/tidal and geothermal energy sectors employ 17,000 people through more than 2,000 companies hundreds of millions in venture capital investments each year. Healthcare accounts for 96,000 jobs in Seattle and annual revenue of $10 billion. Collaboration among professionals in healthcare, biotechnology and information technology has led to new developments in bioinformatics and health informatics. The Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a major supporter of Seattle's global health and biotechnology industries.
With plenty of other vibrant contributors to the local economy – fisheries, marine tech, the arts, outdoor recreation, wine, and even coffee (Seattle is again, after all, the birthplace of Starbucks and many small local roasters), possibilities are endless for those tenacious enough to go after their dream jobs. With a median family income of $52,048 – about 15 percent higher than the national average – and a diverse workforce with multiple sectors in which to find employment, career security and advancement is highly attainable.
For those who work remotely or are sole proprietors or entrepreneurs, there's no shortage of coworking spaces, either. Spots like Office Nomads, Agnes Underground, thinkspace and more offer hospitable working spaces for those in need of a suitable office without the confines and constrictions of a traditional workplace. For a full, up-to-date listing of coworking spaces in Seattle and its surrounding area, check out the Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance.
As in any other city, networking can play an important role in finding the perfect job and advancing one's career, as can research and preparation. For detailed information on the local employment outlook, visit the Seattle Times' jobs website or the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's business section. Of course, the usual suspects are always on hand to help – LinkedIn, GlassDoor and Indeed are three tried-and-true resources for employment seekers as well, not to mention staffing agencies.
Part Five: Eat, Drink, Shop, Play
Regardless of which neighborhood you end up calling home, a few of Seattle's finest bites, sips, shops, cultural experiences and outdoor excursions simply aren't to be missed, no matter where you hang your hat.
Bites & sips
The vibrant grandeur of Pike Place is a draw for tourists the world over, but it's one of those rare world-famous attractions that's still beloved – even frequented – by locals rather than reviled. It and its immediate neighborhood are ripe with delicious eateries to pop into before (or after) spending time inside Seattle's most famous farmers' market. Café Campagne, a sweet and busy French bistro and brasserie, is a perfect lunch spot, while the pastries at Le Panier French Bakery are a favorite local treat. Your Seattle experience isn't complete without a cup of joe from the birthplace of the largest coffeehouse company in the world – Starbucks, whose success story began in its very first location right across the street from Pike Place.
Overly caffeinated and not ready to go home once the sun goes down? Stick around the neighborhood for a delectable Italian-American dinner at The Pink Door, complete with stunning aerialists overhead and cabaret shows on stage on select nights.
A sampling of the city's best eateries offers something for everyone: meat lovers can sink their teeth into the chops at Tap House Grill Seattle (1506 6TH Ave), Morton's (1511 6th Ave), and Mexico Cantina y Cocina (Pacific Place, top floor), while Italian food enthusiasts can dine in a fancy urban setting at Palomino Restaurant Seattle (1420 5th Ave). Shiro's (2401 2nd Ave) is one of the best sushi places in town, while Purple Café and Wine Bar (1225 4th Ave) offers a rich selection of wine and casual bites in an unforgettable atmosphere. Sweet tooths are best satiated by the gelato at Gelatiamo (Third Ave and Union Street), and the chocolate concoctions of Chocolate Box (Pine Street and Second Ave).
You'll likely succumb to the call of Pike Place before anything else and indulge in a fresh slice of King salmon or a similar local catch. Sample some honeycrisp apples, too, since they're a local point of pride; the state of Washington produces more apples than any other state in the union. Take in the sights of Puget Sound from the city's waterfront, stroll down by the docks and walk along the water to the city's latest skyline addition, the Seattle Great Wheel. After your ride, stroll up to the historic streets of Pioneer Square, and browse the glass blowing studios in Seattle's historic district (because while Murano, an island near Venice, Italy, boasts the most glass blowing studios in the world, Seattle comes in a close second).
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Walk north on 1st Ave and take a map of Seattle Art Museum (you can spend a few hours in SAM on a rainy day), and then go to Westlake Center and take the Monorail to Seattle Center. You'll encounter the Space Needle the moment you get off the train. Go inside the magnificent Chihuly Garden and Glass museum for a breathtaking array of eye-popping glasswork and the EMP (Experience Music Project) museum for an up-close look at the relics from the lives of late rock legends Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain – arguably the coolest residents the city's ever had.
Tired of walking? Hop aboard a Ride the Ducks tour, starting across from the EMP museum on 5th Ave – an amphibious vehicle will take you along the city streets and then cruise across Lake Union. For a more traditional excursion onto the water, try a cruise departing from the docks near the Great Wheel – a favorite pastime for tourists, but also a great way to see the city from the water while knocking back a drink or two.
And for an adventurous agenda that's perfectly tailored to suit what you're into, check out hyperlocal discount sites and apps like Groupon for extracurricular ideas (not to mention super-sweet deals!) on everything from restaurants, gyms and spas to groceries, getaways and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Stocking up on essentials
The biggest advantage of shopping in Seattle is the fact that you can get all the essentials without leaving the heart of downtown. Along Pike and Pine Street, you can quickly check off a lengthy shopping list and head home with all the basics for setting up house.
City Target recently opened on 2nd Ave and Pike Street, while Macy's is located on Pine Street and 4th Ave, Nordstrom can be found on Pine Street and 6th Ave, and for those in need of the finer things, so to speak, Barneys New York awaits on Pine Street and 7th Avenue. The main downtown shopping malls are target="_blank"Westlake Center (4th and Pine Street) and Pacific Place (7th and Pine Street); atop Westlake Center is the Monorail station and a food court, while Pacific Place is more exclusive with valet parking, a few fine restaurants and a series of AMC theaters. Nordstrom and Pacific Place are connected by a sky bridge, and here's a pro tip: the Pacific Place garage is the most convenient and economical place to park in downtown Seattle.
Most of the downtown home furnishing stores are on Western Avenue, close to the waterfront. Macy's has a big home goods and furniture department on its 5th and 6th floor and there's a Williams Sonoma in Pacific Place as well as a West Elm at Denny and Westlake.
Farther away from town, another solid collection of furniture and home goods stores are concentrated within University Village in Ravenna: Crate & Barrel, The World of Nod, Pottery Barn, Room & Board and Restoration Hardware.
Last but not least, the couture-obsessed can find tony brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel along 4th and 5th Avenue in the downtown business district (south of Pine Street), and of course, Pike Place Market (Pike Street and 1st Ave) is the best place in town to find flowers, fish, international specialties, spices and products from all over the world.
Meeting new people
As a general rule, Seattleites always like to keep our brains busy – we take courses of all kinds (arts and crafts, foreign languages, cooking), do yoga or enroll in fitness boot camps, enroll in continuing education to advance thour careers, and lose ourselves in music, comedy and the martial arts. We hike on weekends, ski during winter and sail and kayak around lakes in summers. Truth be told, as a collective community, we're into a lot of things. The best approach to forming a social circle in the Northwest? Just be who you are and do what you like, and eventually you'll find your people.
If you're the career-minded sort who wants to make connections within your industry – or just to meet people who get where you're coming from – the city plays host to a number of professional and community-based associations. Whether you're a marketing exec, a teacher or a restaurateur or you work in tech, hospitality or accounting, there's a group for you to join and all sorts of connections for you to make. Seattle is a city filled with hard-working, ambitious intellectuals; hop in feet-first if you're new and don't be shy about meeting folks who are as dedicated to progress as you are. (For a little nudge, check out these insightful tips for meeting people when you've moved to a new city.)
Meetup's got something for everyone in Seattle, whether it's a writers' group or a bunch of fellow raw food enthusiasts you're looking for. Sports fans, dog lovers, political junkies and athletes can all get their fix with Meetup groups tailored just for them. There are dozens of active groups within the city who get together regularly to enjoy whatever they're into. So, it's statistically probable that your new crew is out there somewhere, just waiting for you to hang out with them.
Part Six: Weekend Ideas
Although it's one of the northernmost cities in America, Seattle is beautifully bounded by islands and mountains, hugged by waters and forests and very often covered in clouds. Its geography gives residents a variety of options for escapes into nature, from single-day adventures to long weekend getaways. But, first things first: if you're a newcomer, take your time and explore the Emerald City before you venture out into its surroundings.
Close to home
Once you've checked your "must see" list of cultural experiences, restaurants and the like, take some time to enjoy Seattle's wonderful parks – particularly when it's sunny, there's no better place to be.
In Belltown, down by the water, there's Olympic Sculpture Park, offering a bit of art and the calming scent of the Puget Sound waters (as well as constant gusts of wind, so dress accordingly). Bring a camera, or at least have Instagram at the ready: the sunset over the park is something to behold.
Capitol Hill offers Volunteer Park, a perfect green oasis housing botanical gardens, the Seattle Asian Art Museum and Bruce Lee's grave. Heading east on Madison Street brings you to the Arboretum, where you can get lost in the Japanese garden and find a perfect spot for meditation on the shore of Lake Washington.
For an easy excursion that won't take you too far, head across the bridge to West Seattle, where Alki Beach provides a perfect spot for picnicking.
Mount Rainier (1.5-2-hour drive) - The state of Washington has more than 9000 miles of trails, and the Pacific Northwest's most iconic place to hike is certainly our hide-and-seek Mount Rainier, the giant you can see behind Seattle only a on very clear day. If you're thinking of hiking it, August is the best month of the year to do it sans fear of freezing.
Whidbey Island by Ferry - Take a ferry ride from Seattle and visit a beautiful oasis across from the busy city. The largest of nine islands, Whidbey Island is considered an artists' haven since it's filled with artists and photographers taking advantage of the beautiful landscape, which is largely sheltered from the rain of Seattle. Whidbey Island is also a perfect place to see Deception Pass from. Spending a weekend here will boost your creativity, challenging you to try something new – take an art class, go fishing, make a campfire on the beach by the light house, go clam digging, try horseback riding, and indulge in whatever rejuvenating activities help you shake those seasonal blues.
Orca Whale Watching - One of the most popular summer attractions when you live in Seattle (or when visiting) is the Orca whale watch. Most of the tours start from Anacortes (north of Seattle) or San Juan Island. (Here's another link to all the fun.)
Olympic Peninsula National Park and Forest (2-hour drive) - One of the most beautiful scenic road trips a person can take from Seattle is a drive around the Olympic peninsula. While all its wild natural beauty can't be seen in just one weekend, a glimpse is often enough to mesemerize. The Quinault Rainforest is the one of three existing temperate rainforests in the Western hemisphere, with some truly amazing species like the largest Sitka Spruce tree in the world, as well as Hemlock, Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar tree. After spending some time enjoying the splendor of the forest, take the scenic 30-mile drive called the Quinault Rainforest Loop around Lake Quinault on the south side of Olympic National Park.
While you're there, take in the waves of the Pacific Ocean from raw and striking La Push, the home of the Quileute tribe and the northernmost point of Washington's Pacific Coast beaches, located 14 miles from the town of Forks along the Quileute River. The beach, called First Beach, is a great spot for whale-watching during migration season. Cap your travels with an overnight stay on Crescent Lake. This 10-acre natural lake is a pristine spot providing visitors with recreation and relaxation.
Conclusion + Resources
Whether your move to Seattle is for a job, a loved one or just a change of pace, there's something in it for you. It might be a business opportunity, a new set of friends, a downshift into more natural living or simply the general rush of excitement that comes from being in such a stimulating and enriching place, but in any event, home is what you make of it. And if you need help getting yourself moved, let us give you quotes on moving to Seattle. We take the headache out of the moving process so you can focus on more important things, like getting acclimated to your amazing new city.
City of Seattle,
Seattle Chamber of Commerce,
The Stranger (alt weekly),