Sure, Seattle may be a bit…soggy. The locals may wear polar fleece ten months of the year and carry extra rain jackets in their eco-friendly tote bags made from recycled plastic soda bottles. Memorizing the weatherman’s “cloudy with a chance of showers” may practically be a rite of passage. Yet Seattleites are nothing if not optimistic—the city sells more sunglasses per capita than any other large city in the country. How’s that for a sunny outlook?
It’s hard to use inclement weather as an excuse to avoid the city that brought you the world’s first rotating restaurant atop the Space Needle in 1961, or the first espresso cart in 1980. (It’s clear Seattle has its priorities in order.) Even harder to resist is the allure of Pike Place Market, which was established in 1907, and remains the longest continuously operating farmers market in the country with nearly 200 craftsmen and 100 farmers selling their wares and produce.
Even with a population of approximately 609,000, Seattle manages to feel intimate. It is the perfect coastal metropolis—a small town trapped in the body of a city. You’d be hard-pressed to find a destination less landlocked, as the city is surrounded by Puget Sound on the west, Lake Washington on the east, and Lake Union on the north. On a clear day, the ragged outlines of the snowcapped Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges spread across the horizon like flames of a hazy blue wildfire. And all that drizzle isn’t always a nuisance; it’s lifeblood. Over 11% of the Evergreen State’s Emerald City is dedicated to parks and recreational areas, kept lush year-round by reliable rainfall and the city’s marine environment. Healthy and abundant vegetation along the hillsides and grassy flats are enough to make out-of-towners green with envy.
Seattle is a young city (settled in 1851) in a young state (incorporated in 1889, the 42nd in the union), but modern life in the Puget Sound region is firmly rooted in Native American culture. The city’s name itself is a tribute to Chief Sealth, leader of the Duwamish tribe that has inhabited the area since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. When the Europeans arrived, they brought with them diseases and weapons that killed and crippled native populations. To this day, however, native influence is visible everywhere: from the 60-foot Tlingit totem pole in historic Pioneer Square to the traditional dances and stories performed at Tillicum Village on Blake Island. Looking at a map of Washington State is a lesson in Native American culture; towns, cities, and rivers bear tribal names like Chehalis, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, and Spokane.
Just as it was before the arrival of the settlers, the region is teeming with salmon. Chinook, chum, coho, steelhead, pink, sockeye, and cutthroat are among the reasons why Seattle’s coastal location is so appetizingly ideal. The seafood is guaranteed fresh: the Dungeness crab skittering along the bottom of a restaurant aquarium may, in fact, be your dinner.
If you’re a Pacific Northwesterner, whether you’re a dog, an infant, or a nine-to-five businessperson, odds are you were born with a near-insatiable appetite for the outdoors. The region’s two most popular hiking and backpacking destinations, Olympic National Park and the North Cascades National Park, are each within a two-and-a-half-hour drive of Seattle. Take a scenic hike through the Olympic Peninsula’s dense forests of 200-year-old western hemlocks, or camp at the base of one of more than 300 glaciers in the North Cascades, including Washington State’s beloved Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker. If you’re looking to avoid the car, you can get active without even leaving the city. Hop on a bike and pedal the length of the Burke Gilman Trail, stopping for a picnic at Gas Works Park on the northern tip of Lake Union. Rent a kayak and paddle past Lake Union’s vast string of bobbing houseboats—the largest population of semi-moored floating homes in the world outside of Asia. Comb the plentiful beaches for cockle shells or take a polar bear swim in icy Puget Sound. However you choose to engage in the Pacific Northwest’s natural environment, you’ll be in good company.
If you don’t have the outdoors pulsing through your veins, don’t worry: Seattle’s got an app for that. The downtown area is a veritable smorgasbord of museums, theaters, and performance halls. The Seattle Center on Queen Anne Hill was the site of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, and is home to such major city attractions as the iconic Space Needle, the monorail, the Pacific Science Center, McCaw Hall (where the Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet perform), and the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Hall of Fame.
Though this is the city that brought you Starbucks, independent cafes have sprouted on nearly every block like springtime flowers. In other words, you’ll never be far from an excellent cup of joe. Wine and beer are the city’s alternate elixirs, and those are bountiful as well. A large portion of the state’s 616 wineries are located in the Puget Sound region, as are the majority of its 150 breweries.
Seattle’s offerings don’t stop once you cross beyond the city limits. Head north to Anacortes and climb aboard a ferry bound for the San Juan Islands, the region’s secret weapons and the perfect weekend getaway. You’ll never want for activities, with plenty of whale watching, eagle spotting, lavender farms, national parks, pottery shops, hand-blown glass, and country roads winding through acre after pristine acre of sparsely developed hills and pasturelands.
There’s no place in the world quite like the Pacific Northwest. Whether you’re drawn to the spectacle of fishermen hurling freshly caught salmon in Pike Place Fish Market, or compelled to pose for a photo in front of the 48-foot steel and aluminum Hammering Man outside the Seattle Art Museum, you won’t have an idle moment in the Emerald City. Unless, of course, you need one.