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Seattle, Washington, has a left-coast vibe with a high tech spin. The birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain has an appealing laid-back vibe and is accepting of alternative lifestyles, but hosting companies like Microsoft and Boeing means you're as likely to run into a systems engineer as a grunge rocker. Well known for its rain, Seattle, Washington is a city of approximately 600,000 people sandwiched between the salt water of Puget Sound and the fresh water of Lake Washington. To the north is the Canadian province of British Columbia. To the west are the Olympic Mountains, to the east the Cascade Range including just off to the southeast is Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Cascades, and easily visible on a clear day from Seattle.
The city of Seattle contains 13 districts that in turn contain several roughly defined neighborhoods. In addition to districts and informal neighborhoods, the city also uses the designation "urban village" for some areas with increased density, a transit orientation and mixed land use patterns. Before incorporation into the city, some of these neighborhoods, such as Lake City and Ballard, were burgeoning cities in their own right. 
Former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels is among those who have called Seattle "a city of neighborhoods,"although the boundaries (and even names) of those neighborhoods are often open to dispute. While neighborhood boundaries are not well defined with different neighborhood groups often claiming the same territories, the major neighborhoods include :
Broadview - Ballard - Beacon Hill - Bitter Lake - Capitol Hill - Columbia City - Downtown - Duwamish/SoDo Eastlake - First Hill - Fremont - Georgetown - Greenlake - Greenwood/Phinney Ridge - Haller Lake - International District - Lake City - Magnolia - Pioneer Square - Queen Anne / Uptown - Rainier Beach - Seward Park - South Lake Union - South Park - University District - Wallingford - Wedgewood/Ravenna - West Seattle
Downtown Seattle is a hub for commercial and retail activities. Other neighborhoods with more active vibes include Ballard, Capitol Hill, Columbia City, Fremont, Greenlake, Lake City, Pioneer Square, Uptown, the University District and Wallingford. South lake Union, a former light industrial district is also growing into it's own with a number of biotech, residential, retail and the new Amazon.com campus. The remaining neighborhoods are primarily residential.
A good source for information on Seattle area neighborhoods is the city's Department of Neighborhoods.
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In 1962 Seattle hosted the world fair, and decided on a theme of Century 21, and wanted something futurist to be the visual anchor point for the fair grounds. Inspired by the Stuttgart TV tower in Germany, the architects decided on a tower, eventually topping the tower with a flying saucer to represent the Jetson-esque world that would await us in the year 2000. The needle includes the Sky City restaurant, the world's "first" revolving restaurant.
Seattle has a number of piers jutting out into Elliot Bay, originally built to handle Pacific sea traffic, most of the piers now house tourist attractions or cruise ships. Seattle still is the 9th busiest port in the USA, though the majority of the cargo traffic is handled away from the downtown core nowadays. There is a sculpture garden near the north end of the waterfront.
Sure, this corporate behemoth can be found all over the world, but, as is fitting for a city with so much rain, the original Starbucks is still open, and serves as both a tourist attraction and a coffee stand. The original logo of a bare-breasted mermaid on a brown background is proudly displayed in the original store. With over 200 coffee shops in the center city neighborhoods alone, there are also many other local coffee houses to try.
Place Market, a 9 acre public market in operation since 1907, selling everything from produce to tourist kitsch. The most popular attraction in Pike Place Market, however, is the Pike Place Fish Market. The fishmongers at the Pike Place Fish Market don’t hand each other fish, they toss them full force at each other. The Pike Place Fish Market has been featured on many TV shows, and you are bound to see them on any TV show featuring Seattle tossing fish out into the crowds. There is also a walking Ghost Tour.
Hundreds of concerts and dozens of festivals take place throughout Seattle. While there are festivals all year long, the bulk of these are concentrated between the months of May and September. The NW Folklife Festival at the Seattle Center at is considered the kickoff event for the festival season and the Bumbershoot music festival over Labor Day weekend hearkens the end of the season.
Many festivals take place in centre city neighborhoods including:
Traditionally there have been two Fourth of July fireworks displays near downtown as well, one over Elliott Bay and the other over Lake Union. These may return in the future, but as of 2009, there are no companies sponsoring a Fourth of July Fireworks in Seattle.
Seattle also has strong holiday traditions which include a downtown and area malls bustling with shoppers, carolers and the like. There are also many traditional activities such as the lighting of the Westlake holiday tree, Westlake Carousel, Santa at Nordstrom's and an ice skating rink at the Seattle Center. The Macy's parade on the day after Thanksgiving is also a long standing tradition in Seattle, but there are rumors that it may not continue.
Seattle generally has a wet climate. Look outside at any given moment in Seattle and you are likely to see overcast clouds. While it rains often, it doesn't rain very much and the city gets an annual rainfall of about 37 inches (940 mm) – less than New York, Honolulu or Miami. On average, it rains in Seattle at least half of the time, and the wettest months are between January and May and between October and December.
Summer is the driest and warmest time in the city, but there are occasional summer thunderstorms. Temperatures in June to August usually hover around a pleasant 24 °C, but the city also has been known to suffer through week-long heat spells with temperatures averaging around 30 °C. 
The weather also varies quite a bit over short geographies in the region and even within short periods of time within a given day. During the autumn and early winter there are often heavy winds. Other than heavy wind and occasional flooding there has historically been little in the way of natural disasters in the region. Seattle weather is quite mild compared to other areas of the United States with very little in the ways of extreme temperature or precipitation.
|Avg Max||7.2 °C||9.7 °C||11.5 °C||14 °C||17.7 °C||21.1 °C||24 °C||24 °C||20.7 °C||15.4 °C||10.3 °C||7.3 °C|
|Avg Min||1.8 °C||3 °C||3.6 °C||5.1 °C||7.9 °C||11.1 °C||12.9 °C||13.2 °C||11.1 °C||7.7 °C||4.5 °C||2.1 °C|
|Rainfall||136.7 mm||101.3 mm||89.9 mm||59.2 mm||43.2 mm||38.1 mm||19.3 mm||29 mm||47.8 mm||82 mm||148.1 mm||150.1 mm|
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (IATA: SEA, ICAO: KSEA) serves the cities of Seattle and Tacoma. Also known as Seattle-Tacoma Airport, it is located south of Seattle, about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometres) from Interstate 5. The major airlines using this airport are Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Northwest Airlines. In total, there are about 25 airlines serving the airport, with main destinations being Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Paris, Atlanta, Anchorage, Boston, Chicago, Cancun, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Honolulu, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., San Diego, New York City, Seoul, London, Beijing, Tokyo, Memphis, Detroit, Osaka, Salt Lake City, Taipei, Reykjavik, Frankfurt, Seoul, Albuquerque, Baltimore, Nashville, St. Louis, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Charlotte.
To/from the airport
A number of Amtrak train travel between Seattle and other cities in the USA and Canada. These include:
The main road feeding traffic into and out of Seattle is Interstate 5. I-5 runs north-south. There are also two major freeways between Seattle and cities in eastern King County. These are Interstate 90 and Interstate 405. I-90 runs east-west and 405 forms a loop, connecting with I-5 north and south of Seattle.
Seattle is a notoriously congested city with rush hours sometimes blending into each other. If you must drive, be prepared for sudden changes in weather as there can be rain, sun, ice and fog all in a short period of time. Sudden rains can often create slick roadways as oil pools up on the asphalt.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
Public transport is easy and plentiful. By and large, Seattle relies on buses to get around. Be aware that there are multiple systems so you may need to ask around to get the right bus schedule. There is, however, one regional transit pass (called ORCA) that can now be loaded with funds to cover all local systems, including the ferries and commuter trains. Without the pass, you no longer get paper transfers so it is a good investment if you use public transit.
Seattle is a surprisingly walkable city despite it's many tall hills. Once away from the core, however, there are many neighborhoods without sidewalks, so one must be careful when walking in the immediate suburbs.
In recent years, there has been increased campaigning for bike-friendly infrastructure and numerous lanes and "sharrows" (shared bike/car lanes) have been marked throughout the city. There is also the 27-mile Burke-Gilman which is popular both for recreational and commuter biking. According to the Seattle Department of Transportation: "Seattle has about 28 miles (45 kilometres) of shared use paths, 22 miles (35 kilometres) of on-street, striped bike lanes, and about 90 miles (145 kilometres) of signed bike routes."
Seattle has an enviable variety of foods and is especially well known for it's diverse selection of Asian based culinary venues including Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, Korean BBQ, among others. Other "ethnic" food outlets also abound such as Ethiopian and Middle Eastern restaurants. Urban Spoon maintains an excellent guide to Seattle restaurants.
If you are interested in dining in, there has traditionally been a dearth of supermarkets, especially in the southern neighborhoods and downtown areas. This has been changing in recent years, however. Farmers markets are also an option (some are seasonal so check ahead for hours and locations). This includes the famous year-round Pike Place Market.
The nightlife scene in Seattle used to be about going out to see grunge or industrial bands in local bars and taverns. Back in the 1990s there were dozens of these places throughout the city. Many are now defunct including the famous OK Hotel (made famous by the movie Singles). However, there are still a ton of great places to choose from for a drink.
Happy Hour in Seattle maintains a list of happy hour times and locales throughout the city including prices.
Some popular bars are:
The Seattle visitors site offers links to hotel and hostels in the area, and can be found by following this link.
|AAE Hostels Seattle 6th Avenue||2000 6th Ave Amtrack Greyhound Location||Hotel||-|
|AAE Hostel Seattle||2301 8th Avenue||HOTEL||75|
|AWA Seattle City Center||200 6th avenue north Seattle city center||Hotel||80|
|AWA Seattle Hostel||4000 University Way Northeast||Hostel||81|
|City Hostel Seattle||2327 2nd ave. Seattle||HOSTEL||88|
|Green Tortoise Seattle Hostel||105 1/2 Pike Street||Hostel||88|
|Vashon Island AYH Ranch Hostel||12119 SW Cove Rd. Vashon Island||Hostel||-|
|Hostelling International at the American Hotel||520 S. King St.||Hostel||80|
|Hotel Nexus Seattle||2140 N. Northgate Way||Hotel||-|
|Kings Inn||2106 5th Ave.||Hotel||79|
|La Hacienda Motel||5414 1st Ave South||Hotel||-|
|Red Roof Inn Seattle||16838 International Blvd Seattle, WA 98188||Hotel||-|
|Seattle Pacific Hotel||325 Aurora Ave. N||Hotel||77|
|South Seattle Days Inn||13050 48th Ave S||Hotel||-|
|HotelHotel Hostel||3515 Fremont Ave. N.||Hostel||85|
|Inn at Queen Anne||505 First Ave North||Hotel||-|
|Motel 6 Seattle North - Kirkland||12010 120th Place I-405 North at 124th Street I-405 South Exit # 20 Kirkland||HOTEL||-|
|Motel 6 Seattle Airport||16500 Pacific Highway South SR 99 Pacific Highway South Seattle||HOTEL||-|
|Motel 6||18900 47th Ave S||Hotel||-|
|Second Home Hostels||19201 33rd Ave. South||HOSTEL||-|
|The Baroness Hotel||1005 Spring Street||HOTEL||-|
Due to lack of economic diversity Seattle historically went through many boom and bust cycles in the past. These were caused by fallouts in the timber, shipbuilding and aerospace industries. By the time the "dot com" bubble burst however, the economy had sufficiently diversified so that the city came out stronger than its history would suggest. Despite record unemployment in 2009, the region also fared better than most major cities in the United States during the 2008-2009 recession.
While Seattle is probably best known for aerospace and software related companies, the largest employment sector is health care and social services. Biotechnology and global health are also growing sectors in the local economy. Some of the largest employers in Seattle include the University of Washington, Amazon.com, Safeco, Starbuck's Coffee Company, the King County government, The City of Seattle, the US Federal Government, Nordstrom's, and the Seattle Community College District. There are also a number of large hospital campuses supporting a number of health care and support positions, especially near Downtown (First Hill) and near the University of Washington at the University of Washington Medical Center and Seattle Children's Hospital. Microsoft and Boeing also continue to be among the top employers regionally.
For more information on employment sectors, see the Greater Seattle Datasheet from the City of Seattle.
For information on employment in Seattle, you might check out the State of Washington's Department of Employment Security. They have a job search tool online as well.
There are several private schools as well as the Seattle Public School District.
Often cited as America's most "literate city" , Seattle and the surrounding region have a number of 2-year and 4-year institutions including the University of Washington, the flagship school for the State of Washington's university system. Others include:
There are a number of options for Internet service in Seattle. The most common solution is broadband service from a cable company or phone company. Comcast is the sole provider for cable based Internet in Seattle. Qwest is the main provider of DSL service within the city, though this may vary in surrounding cities and towns. Less popular, but still utilized are satellite dish services such as those with Direct TV or Dish Network. Clearwire, which is being re-branded under the name "Clear" is also a very popular option. Their wireless technology is marketed heavily in the region. While they are still growing their network using cellular towers to deliver service, reviews of this product by current and former customers have been mixed. 
For reviews on broadband service in Seattle, visit DSL Reports.
See also International Telephone Calls
The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.
The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.
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I have lived in (or within an hour) of this beautiful city for most of my life! Now that I am travelling abroad, I would love to help others discover all the hidden treasures that I will be missing while away!
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