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Seattle Travel Guide

Seattle is nicknamed the “Emerald City” because of its beautiful natural setting surrounded by mountains, lakes, and abundant evergreen forests. But Seattle is also a trendy, fashionable metropolis, increasingly the setting for TV shows and Hollywood movies and reputed for its high-tech companies and youthful energy. This gateway to the Pacific Northwest is also the birthplace of grunge music,[1] the coffee capital of the world,[2] the supplier of half the world’s airplanes, and home to some of the richest men in the world, including the likes of Bill Gates and Paul Allen.[3]

And despite being one of the rainiest cities in all of the United States, Seattle regularly ranks among the most livable cities in the country. This comes as no surprise considering the crisp clean air, magnificent greenery, and vista views enjoyed by Seattleites. Imagine waking up to the view of Elliott Bay and its sparkling waters being merrily floated along by ferries and white sail boats. Or how about the view of the snowcapped Olympic Mountains to the north, the volcanic Cascade Range to the east, Lake Union and Lake Washington in the interior, or Mount Rainier in the south?[4] And if somehow you get bored of natural beauty, you always have the Space Needle – the symbol and pride of Seattle standing 60 stories[5] tall and illuminating the skyline at night.

Geographically, Seattle is not only dotted with lakes and surrounded by mountains, it is also blessed with dozens of rolling hills[6] – “blessed” because the higher elevations of these hills like in the Queen Anne district conveniently enable the city’s natural wonders to be admired and appreciated. Unfortunately, Seattle is quite narrowly confined to a long 90 square mile strip of area between Elliott Bay and Lake Washington.[7] This unfavorable shape contributes significantly to the traffic problems Seattle is plagued with. The long narrow strip is traversed north-south by one main highway, I-5, and all traffic seems to feed into this one route, causing heavy congestions that rival those found in Los Angeles.[8]

Downtown is Seattle’s core and center of commercial and entertainment activities, although prominent parks, nightlife, and attractions – from science museums and arboretums, to lakeside shopping and dining – can be found in the nearby neighborhoods. Northwest of downtown is the city’s wealthiest neighborhood, Queen Anne, and its hills which provide spectacular views of the city. North of downtown and south of Lake Union is the South Lake Union neighborhood, home to biotech companies and lakeside restaurants, condos, and docks. North of Lake Union is Wallingford, home of Gas Works Park. East of Wallingford is the University District where the University of Washington Campus is located.

To the southwest of downtown is the West Seattle district, which is home to Alki, North Admiral and other neighborhoods. In general, the district is hilly and offers some of the best views of Elliott Bay and the Seattle skyline.

Capitol Hill, east of downtown, is a leftist, grungy neighborhood with off-color shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. Ballard in Seattle’s northwest is a historic fishing community settled originally by Scandinavians. The Fremont neighborhood just southeast of Ballard famous for its Fremont Troll underneath the Aurora bridge. The neighborhood once had a counterculture but is now more gentrified, home to software companies and the Seattle offices of Google. In north-central Seattle, you’ll find Green Lake and Phinney Ridge, both neighborhoods near Green Lake and surrounded by parks and green spaces.


Fisherman’s Terminal
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
Nordic Heritage Museum

Austin A. Bell Building
Olympic Sculpture Park
Virginia Inn

Capitol Hill
Asian Art Museum
Egyptian Theatre
Harvard Exit Theatre
St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
Volunteer Park
Volunteer Park Conservatory

Bank of America Tower
Benaroya Hall
Four Seasons Olympic Hotel
Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center
Pike Place Market
Pike Place Starbucks
Seattle Aquarium
Seattle Art Museum

Foster Island
Foster Island Trail

Fremont Troll
Waiting for the Interurban

Green Lake
Green Lake Park

Lake Union
Lake Union

Phinney Ridge
Woodland Park
Woodland Park Zoo

Pioneer Square
International District
Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park
Qwest Field
Safeco Field
Smith Tower

Queen Anne
Kerry Park

Seattle Center
Children’s Museum
Experience Music Project
Key Arena
Pacific Science Center
Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame
Seattle Monorail
Space Needle

University District
Burke Museum
Burke-Gilman Trail
Henry Art Gallery
University of Washington
Waterfront Activity Center

Gas Works Park

Washington Park
Seattle Japanese Garden
Washington Park
Washington Park Arboretum

West Seattle
Alki Beach
High Point
Lincoln Park

Seattle was first inhabited by the Duwamish Tribe who settled in the area as early as 6th century BC. [9] In the mid-19th century, they had close to 20 villages and longhouses near and throughout Seattle’s lakes and rivers. The first Europeans to arrive and settle in Seattle was the Denny Party from Oregon. They set up a community by Alki Point in 1851, but later relocated to Elliott Bay a year later. For the next 100 years or so, Seattle experienced a series of bust-and-booms, beginning with the boom of the Klondike gold rush in the late 19th century. The rush established Seattle as an important transportation gateway to Alaska.[10]

In the early 20th century, several important Seattle companies were founded, including Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, and Boeing; the latter became Seattle’s chief employer throughout the century. During WWII, Seattle experienced another boom as a result of shipbuilding and airplane construction for the war. After WWII, the city experienced a short-lived bust before experiencing a boom in the 1950s with the rapid expansion and growth of the commercial aviation industry. The downturn in the late 1960s and 70s hit Boeing and the city pretty hard and many of the unemployed left town. In the 1980s, Seattle resurrected itself through the growth and development of Microsoft. The mid- to late-1990s ushered a major boom for the city fueled by technology companies like Amazon, McCaw Cellular, Microsoft, and RealNetworks, as well as biotech companies like ZymoGenetics. During this time, Starbucks rose to prominence seemingly out of nowhere. When the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, the city suffered another bust. Over the last five years, Seattle has reemerged with a more diversified economy, relying on biotechnology, software and information technology, aviation and aerospace manufacturing, and financial and insurance services.[11]

Lenhart, Maria, Ray Riegert, Joanna Pearlman, and Glenn Kim. Ultimate Washington, 2nd Edition. Berkeley: Ulysses Press, 1995. ISBN: 1569750327.

“History of Seattle.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Seattle>

“History of Seattle Before 1900.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Seattle_before_1900>

“How Seattle Works: Seattle City Guide.” < http://travel.howstuffworks.com/seattle-city-guide.htm>

“Introduction to Seattle.” < http://www.frommers.com/destinations/seattle/0032010001.html>

“Seattle City Guide – Overview.” < http://www.worldtravelguide.net/city/112/city_guide/North-America/Seattle.html>

“Space Needle.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_needle>

[1] Seattle
[2] Introduction
[3] Seattle
[4] How
[5] Space
[6] How
[7] Lenhart, 43
[8] Introduction
[9] History of Seattle Before 1900
[10] History of Seattle
[11] Id.

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