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Emerald City: Seattle City Guide

Updated on October 25, 2013

City of Flowers, City of Goodwill

Seattle sits at the edge of Puget Sound, with Lake Washington nestled on the other side.  It's a city of bridges and islands, where the high-tech sector regularly has a morning latte with environmental engineers and Burner artists.

The joke is, if it's not raining, wait five minutes.  The constant moisture makes for a verdant landscape, and Seattle thus carries the nickname The Emerald City. While visiting the city may be a tad grey if you do so in the winter, a summertime visit will reward you with a stunning green landscape and some of the best outdoor weather you could ever want for land-based or water-oriented adventures and activities.

Also, here's the story of how Seattle came to have two official city slogans.

Fall Happenings

With the arrival of the fall rains, the Seattle mushroom season gets underway. The Puget Sound Mycological Society stages an annual Wild Mushroom Exhibit in October.

Catch the Seattle Gay & Lesbian Film Festival which also happens in October.

If you've got kids, you might like the special events hosted at the Woodland Park Zoo. There's a Pumpkin Bash in October, and the Turkey Toss in November, where you get to see the animals get their own special holiday treats! Check their calendar for dates and times.

Guides for Seattle Travel

The biggest thing you really need when you come here is a map of the city. Having so many bridges, it can be very tricky getting the hang of driving around. You might want to check out the County Bus Website if you're looking for transit info, or try the independant Seattle Bus Monster for real-time info.

If you'd like directions, plus travel and activity suggestions, the guides below are informative, helpful and fun.

Black (Hole) Sun - it's a real thing, not just a song

black sun, photo by Relache
black sun, photo by Relache

When Soundgarden sang about a "black hole sun" what they were singing about is a sculpture that can be found in Volunteer Park, called "Black Sun." If you get up there on a nice day and line up just right, you can look through the hole and see the Space Needle in Seattle Center. While you are up there, you can also explore the Arboretum or wander over the Lakeview Cemetary and visit the grave site of Bruce Lee.

Seattle Arts and Events - tickets for local sports, arts and entertainment

Here are some of eBay's hottest ticket deals for Seattle arts, entertainment and sporting events! If you need tickets to that great game or sold-out event, take a look here!

10 Non-Rainy Day Activities - what to do in Seattle when it's not raining

Here are some suggestions for things to do in Seattle when the weather is nice outside. Yes, you can do them when it's wet, just be sure to bring along your raincoat, rain pants and some waterproof shoes.

So, what's with all that rain?

A visitor becomes a resident and finds out for herself

Having moved here in the midst of what locals called the rainiest winter in memory, I'll honestly say, it's not that bad.

No, really. I'm not crazy, and I'm not some kind of fish. I might be part-dwarf which is why I can spend the winter in my cave doing art, but really, the rain in Seattle isn't bad.

Yes, it's really year-round. A few years back I took the Underground Seattle tour along with my dad. The guy leading our tour made the joke that the Seattle rainy season starts at the beginning of August and runs through the end of July. And in the many years I've visited before finally moving here, I'd have to say, I've gotten rained on at all times of the year, no matter when I visit.

This picture is from our visit to Snoqualmie. The Salish Lodge there was the hotel in the tv show Twin Peaks.

However....

- the rain isn't the humid summer rain that filled my New Jersey childhood.

- it's not the pelting rains that reduced driving visibility on the Parkway to zero

- it's never the freezing winter rain that bent all our birch trees in half and knocked out the power

You do have to make a few adjustments. Waterproof shoes are #1. Those are good year round. A good jacket is also a requirement. After that, you adjust if your comfort level demands more. Maybe it's a good rain hat, or gloves, or rain pants. As a pedestrian, I went with the rain pants. The drenching cross-city walks of my Bay Area years are gone, as my new ensemble leaves only my eyes out to face the elements. And I don't feel as encumbered as the little brother in the Christmas Story movie either.

Puget Sound's Island Communities

Seattle sits on the edge of Puget Sound. Nearby are a variety of island communities, some of are connected by bridges and some by ferry service.

Catch the Colorful Fremont Fair in June

A celebration of art, community and creativity

The Fremont Fair is more often referred to as the "Solstice Parade" by long-time locals. Established over thirty years ago, this community event is based out of the Seattle neighborhood of Fremont. No corporate logos or slogans allowed, there's can't be any motor vehicles and they ask that no animals be part of the parade. The result is a mix of celebration and activism with a strong dose of people power!

The event features a colorful parade, and a large two day arts & crafts festival. Lots of the event is about raising money for community needs, with proceeds going to groups that work to provide housing and organizations that work towards relieving poverty.

One of the features that the parade is known for is the opening brigade of naked, body-painted bicycle riders. It's one of those things that everyone should see at least once in their lifetimes.

For more info, you can visit The Fremont Fair website for full details.

Mapping the Emerald City - here is an overview of the city of Seattle

The center of this map is the downtown area of Seattle, near where highway 5 runs north to south through the city. Bridges and ferries run east to west making connections to surrounding areas.

show route and directions
A markerPike Place Market -
1501 Pike Place, Seattle
get directions

B markerSpace Needle -
219 4th Ave N
get directions

C markerBallard Locks -
3015 NW 54th St
get directions

the Fremont Troll, photo by Relache
the Fremont Troll, photo by Relache

Celebrate Summer With Seafair

Given the amount of dark that Seattle residents get in winter it's not surprising that their summer celebration festival lasts six weeks instead of the usual weekend!

Fast approaching it's 60th year of production now, Seafair now includes boating events, sporting events, a milk carton derby, a pirate landing, an air show, the local Buddhist Obon festival, concerts and more.

The first week of August, Seafair welcomes the many ships of Fleet Week.

The Seafair Pirates were originally members of the Washington State Press Club's Ale & Quail Society. In 1949 they transformed into pirates to promote Seattle and Seafair. The Pirates make dozens of appearances annually to hospitals and nursing homes. During the height of Seattle's SEAFAIR Celebration, they appear at several events and parades each day.

Hit The Slopes - Skiiing outside the Seattle Area

The Pacific Northwest location and proximity to mountains gives Seattle a semi-local ski season that can run from October to April, depending on where you are and how far you are willing to drive to snow.

10 Rainy Day Activites - what to do in Seattle when it's raining

A lot of what passes for rain in Seattle is endurable. Locals favor raincoats, rainpants and hats over umbrellas for getting around when it's wet and windy. Here are some fun places to stay dry whether it's winter or summer.

Space Needle and Fountain, photo by Relache
Space Needle and Fountain, photo by Relache

Bumbershoot: Musical Mecca and So Much More

How to Stay Busy Over Labor Day Weekend

For those of you who will be in Seattle over Labor Day weekend, Bumbershoot is the event to catch!

It's three days of music, comedy, spoken word, food, and crafts. The event bills itself as the largest contemporary arts and music festival in North America, and my experiences there left me no reason to doubt that claim. If your goal is to hear as many bands as is humanly possible in a day or two, this would be the place to attempt it.

Pick a musical genre and stake out a spot at the corresponding theme stage, or follow your musical faves all over the venue. You'll hear both unknown bands and major headliners, all on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to give the schedule a once-over before you get to the event itself.

The site for the event is the City Center, left over from teh World's Fair. You'll be adjacent both the Space Needle and the Experience Music Project. (shown here, the Needle reflected on the EMP building)

The word "bumbershoot" has a varied and debated history which you can read about here.

Bumbershoot is put on by One Reel, a not-for-profit arts organization, which also stages a summer concert series and is the group behind the West Coast performance shows by Theatro ZinZanni.

Please share your own tips for things to do in Seatlte, or tell us about something fun you did while you were there!

What do you like to do in Seattle

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      jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

      There's so much to do in Seattle. Each neighborhood is unique and it's fairly walkable. To me, the rain is more like a light shower, never anything pouring.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I would have to say the rain is crazy! I visited there in the summer to see about opening a janitorial supply company. I own a janitorial supplies phoenix az, and I think we would do well in Seattle due to all of the rain. Plumbing probably gets messed up all the time! thanks for the article!

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      gghill0 5 years ago

      Thanks for the info about Seattle. You know, I've heard that Seattle has some killer retro and antique furniture stores. Is that true? If so, where do I find these and which ones do you consider to be the best?

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