World Facts Index > United States > Seattle

Diversity and tradition fill the streets of Seattle, however short the city's history may be. This medium-sized city is booming economically, growing and evolving at a rapid rate, with much help from international corporations like Microsoft, Boeing and Starbucks. For most of us who live here, it's the blue skies, abundance of water and picturesque mountain ranges that keep us firmly planted in this beautiful city.

Alki Beach
About as close as Seattle gets to California, this sandy beach in West Seattle draws swarms of walkers, joggers, bikers, skaters, scuba divers and volleyball players. Cafes like the Alki Bakery and restaurants like Salty's on Alki line the main street ready to nourish those who've played at the beach all day. Alki Beach, directly across Elliott Bay from downtown, is the spot where the first European settlers stayed in the winter of 1851 before they moved to the more sheltered area that is now downtown.

Ballard, Scandinavian Hub of Seattle
Affectionately known for slow drivers and the lilting accents of its many residents of Scandinavian descent, this area was first settled by immigrant Nordic fishermen and mill workers more than 100 years ago. Visit the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks to watch boats travel from salt water to freshwater, then take a trip to Golden Gardens to watch the sunset. Popular restaurants include Ray's Boathouse and Bad Albert's Tap and Grill. Stop by Fisherman's Terminal for a look at the boats that keep the fishing industry thriving, and then head to Chinook's for a taste of the fresh seafood caught from those very boats. Although the Scandinavian traditions are strong in Ballard, you may have do some searching to find lutefisk or lefse.

Capitol Hill
Yes, this Washington has one, too, and its mix of eclectic shops, art-house theaters, wonderful restaurants and interesting people make it one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Seattle. Some of the city's most historic houses are located here, as is the renowned Seattle Asian Art Museum and Volunteer Park. Seattle University and Cornish College of the Arts also grace this hill. Popular Capitol Hill restaurants include Cassis Bistro and 611 Supreme. For movies check out Broadway Market Cinemas in the middle of the Broadway strip or Harvard Exit a little further north.

Sometimes hip, sometimes eclectic, Fremont is always a fun place to go. The sign saying "Welcome to the Center of the Universe" is the first clue you've arrived. Oddities like a car-eating troll, a smoking rocket and a bronzed Vladmir Lenin statue (purchased for $150,000) will leave you laughing. The Saturday gallery walks and the Fremont Sunday Market will have you browsing, and El Camino or Seattle Catch will fill you up. Say hello to the group waiting for a bus, but don't expect an answer: they're just life-sized statues often dressed in celebration of someone's birthday or another grand event. Need a guitar string or an art-quality mandolin? Descend the stairs to Dusty Strings.

Madison Park
Quaint shops, restaurants and cafes fill this upper-crust neighborhood on the shores of Lake Washington. Everyone at restaurants like Madison Park Café and Manca's seems to know one another, and everyone always appears to be on the way to someplace important. Walk down the street to the beach, take in the beautiful view of the Eastside and dream about your new waterfront abode.

International District
Pungent aromas and delectable dishes emit from restaurants like Bush Garden in this primarily Asian neighborhood. Specialty shops filled with unusual treasures line the streets. The district is home to the inner-city oasis Hing Hay Park, complete with pagoda, Nippon Kan Theater and the Wing Luke Asian Museum.

Across Lake Washington from Seattle lies the "Monterey of the Northwest," so called for its posh art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and waterfront. Bistro Provencal and the waterfront Yarrow Bay Grill are popular stops for see-and-be-seen lunches and dinners. While close to the city, Kirkland manages to maintain its small-town atmosphere, which adds to its appeal.

Pike Place Market
This is the heart of Seattle and the number one tourist site in the area, attracting frenzied crowds of visitors and locals alike. The oldest continually operating farmer's market in the country, Pike Place features fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, and arts and crafts as far as the eye can see. Abundant restaurants include Maximilien in the Market and Lowell's. Shops offer goods from around the world. Bring some change as there are always street musicians singing for their supper.

Pioneer Square
This is where it all started. Seattle's oldest neighborhood, it's where the term "Skid Row" originated. Lumberjacks skidded logs down "Skid Road," now Yesler Street, to a mill at the bottom of the hill. Saloons and brothels lined the street, and the term took on its derogatory connotation locally and nationwide. The Underground Tour leaves from here and explores the now submerged storefronts of the original neighborhood from before the great fire of 1889. Today Pioneer Square is a historic neighborhood filled with art galleries, small shops, bookstores, including Elliott Bay Book Company, and restaurants like the elegant Il Terrazzo Carmine. At night the square comes to life with a variety of popular nightspots, including Central Saloon, one of Seattle's oldest bars, and New Orleans. Many clubs feature live music, and one group of 11 bars and clubs allows admittance for a single cover charge. Pioneer Square also plays hosts to Seattle's Fat Tuesday celebration.

Queen Anne Hill
A combination of a quiet hilltop neighborhood and a young trendy hot spot, Queen Anne has popular restaurants like the funky 5 Spot Café and Peso's Taco Lounge as well as coffee shops and nightspots like trendy Tini Bigs. The view of the city from the west slope is incredible, especially from Kerry Park, which offers the most photographed view of Seattle.

Thriving due to corporate residents like Microsoft and Nintendo, Redmond is the unlikely yet appealing combination of countryside and technology. The software industry brings money here and with it good shopping at Redmond Town Center. Cyclists appreciate the velodrome at Marymoor Park and the Lake Sammamish Trail (for those of us too slow for the velodrome).

Seattle Center
Part amusement park, part festival grounds and always a nice place to stroll on a summer day, the center hosts The Bite of Seattle, Bumbershoot and many other popular festivals. Permanent fixtures of this 74-acre park include the Seattle Opera, Intiman Theater, Bagley-Wright Theater, Paul Allen's Experience Music Project, the Pacific Science Center and the Space Needle.

University District
This area is home to the University of Washington, known to locals as "U-Dub." The park-like 700-acre campus is perfect for a midday stroll. Boats filled with die-hard Husky fans fight for space around the waterfront stadium on game days. Cheap eats and pubs like Flowers line the "Ave" (University Avenue), and stylish teens and twentysomethings fill the streets. The University Bookstore supplies students with textbooks but also maintains an excellent selection of general books, art supplies, UW apparel and souvenirs.

Elliott Bay, an inlet from the Pacific Ocean, laps against Seattle's waterfront. On summer days visitors pack the area to enjoy the fresh air, quaint shops and many seafood restaurants, including Elliott's, Anthony's Homeport, Fisherman's Restaurant and Ivar's. Catch a ferry to Bremerton and beyond, or take a water tour to Blake Island's Tillicum Village for a salmon dinner and Native American dance show.

History of Seattle

The Snohomish, Suquamish and other Native Americans were the original founders of this Pacific Northwest area, later named Seattle after Native American headsman Chief Sealth. In the fall of 1851, the Denny Party landed on what is now Alki Point (now home to Alki Point Lighthouse) in West Seattle. After surviving one cold, harrowing winter, these first white settlers moved east across Elliott Bay to settle in the sheltered area that is now downtown Seattle.

Timber became the economic mainstay of this new community. The lush Pacific Northwest offered an abundance of big evergreen trees that settlers cut and sold for lumber. With the community's newly created wealth came an interest in higher education. The University of Washington was established in 1861 and then moved to its present location in 1895. It remains the state's largest educational institution.

Once the railroad reached nearby Tacoma in 1883, the city's population exploded. Six years later almost everything Seattleites had built was lost in the Great Fire of June 1889. Seattle proclaimed itself a phoenix that would rise from the ashes, and by the end of that year, the city constructed 130 new brick buildings atop the burned-out shell of the old city. Today, you can view the ruins of the original buildings on the Underground Tour.

The 1890s were a period of rebirth, and the Yukon and Alaskan gold rushes helped move the city forward economically. As gateway to virtually uninhabited Alaska, Seattle was a major supplier of food and provisions to prospectors departing to brave the wilds in search of gold. Those who struck it rich spent freely on their way back through Seattle.

In 1907 the Pike Place Public Farmer's Market opened and remains a top tourist attraction today. By 1910 the population had grown to nearly 230,000, and steamers were used to ferry people and products across the bay. Electric trolleys arrived in 1919, improving transportation between sprawling urban areas. Bits and pieces of highway followed. The economic boom took a new turn in 1916 when Bill Boeing tested his company's first plane. Since World War II, the region's economy has relied on the aerospace industry. Boeing developed the 707 commercial jet that changed commercial air travel.

The 1960s brought the 1962 World's Fair, the Space Needle, the Monorail and Elvis. Seattle became a destination spot for tourists, and the population continued to swell. Construction of Interstate 5 continued through downtown, and the ferryboat Kalakala was considered the ultimate in high-tech water transportation.

The 1980s and 90s brought a fledgling company called Microsoft, a seller of gourmet coffee called Starbucks, Safeco Field, a state-of-the-art baseball stadium with retractable roof, and top-rate biotech companies. Today, this cosmopolitan city nestled between mountains and lakes remains home to Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, Nintendo, Nordstrom, Immunex and many other internationally competitive companies.

The Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 45 48 52 57 64 68 75 75 68 58 50 45
Avg. Low 35 37 38 41 46 51 55 55 51 45 40 35
Mean 40 44 46 48 55 61 65 66 61 54 45 41
Avg. Precip. 5.4 in 4.0 in 3.5 in 2.3 in 1.7 in 1.5 in 0.8 in 1.1 in 1.9 in 3.2 in 5.8 in 5.9 in


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