Between its environmentally friendly culture and lush, green landscapes, it's no wonder Seattle is often referred to as the Emerald City. With Lake Washington to the east and the Puget Sound to the west, this city is surrounded by water as well as soaring mountains in nearly every direction, making it ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. Seafood lovers and foodies will also be in heaven, with all the fresh fish and gourmet eateries, often serving up meals made with locally-sourced ingredients.
Must see in Seattle
Start your visit at Seattle's most famous landmark, the Space Needle, an iconic structure with 360-degree views of the city skyline, mountains, the waterfront and across Elliot Bay. Pike Place Market offers the quintessential Seattle experience, with the opportunity to watch the fishmongers toss around the fresh catch of the day, enjoy great people watching and purchase an array of items from flowers and fresh seafood to local produce and handmade goods. To get a different perspective of the city, take the short ferry ride across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island, watching for marine life, including whales and dolphins, along the way.
Where to stay in Seattle
If you want to enjoy some of the city's best nightlife, stay in Pioneer Square, the city's oldest neighborhood and one of the busiest after dark. You'll find an abundance of bars and nightclubs for dancing and enjoying live music on any given night of the week, including the Box House Saloon featuring live bands and DJs along with three levels of bars and dance floors. The upper Queen Anne district is a fairly quiet, residential area with convenient access to Seattle Center, downtown and the monorail, making it a great choice for families with children. Those who are on a tight budget might want to stay in the University district. While it's about a 15-minute drive north of downtown, it offers less expensive accommodation options while still being convenient to a number of major attractions, with the Woodland Park Zoo, University of Washington and Henry Art Gallery all nearby.
Best and worst time to go to Seattle
The summer months, particularly July and August, bring the best chance for sunshine, though this time of year also brings out the crowds. September offers the best of both worlds, with fewer tourists to bump elbows with and more frequent sunny skies and idyllic temperatures, typically hovering in the mid- to upper-70s. The worst time to go is January, when the dazzling Christmas decor has vanished, and grey skies, along with a heavy mist, are almost always present.
Where to get lost in Seattle
While it may be touristy, wandering the waterfront offers some of Seattle's best views, and is also home to several attractions well worth visiting. Make the descent down the stairs from Pike's Place Market and you'll find a number of unique shops like the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, open in one form or another since 1899, featuring items like a 350-year-old African voodoo monkey, a ship scale model created entirely out of matchsticks and a two-headed calf. The Seattle Great Wheel is great for a spin while enjoying more of those breathtaking water and mountain views. Afterward, take the less than half-mile stroll underneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct and into a little alley way where few other tourists tend to venture. Here you'll discover the Owl 'N Thistle Irish Pub, a fabulous hidden gem that offers an ideal place for a break with a great happy hour, amazing fish 'n chips and a perfectly poured pint of Guinness.
The best deal in Seattle
Few tourists, and even many locals, realize that the Center for Wooden Boats, located in South Lake Union, offers a free public sail every Sunday, all year round. Visitors can enjoy a 45-minute ride on classic boats in Lake Union for an especially unforgettable experience that doesn't cost a thing.
Transportation in Seattle
Seattle offers an excellent and affordable public transportation system. There is really no reason to rent a vehicle if you plan on staying in the city. The Metro's bus and electric trolley system covers all of greater Seattle, is reliable, and costs quite a bit less than a latte. The system also includes light rail, water taxi, the monorail, streetcars and Washington State Ferries.
Local tips for visitors to Seattle
Taking a ride up to the top of the Space Needle really is a must, but it's also rather pricey. To avoid paying an arm and a leg for an elevator ride, enjoy a meal in the rotating restaurant, SkyCity at the Needle. It not only includes a free elevator ride, but you can take in the ever-changing, magnificent views while dining on delicious cuisine.
Author's bio: K.C. Dermody is a travel writer living in the Seattle area with hundreds of travel articles both online and in print. She has traveled the world and is the author of 'Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland,' but especially loves showing off the beautiful region she resides in.