Seattle

By Rob Bruce

View of downtown Seattle

Look quickly at a map of Washington state, and it appears that Seattle is a short distance inland. The reality is that this is a coastal city on an isthmus. To the west is Puget Sound, while Lake Washington to borders the city on the east. Cross Puget Sound and you’ll reach Bainbridge Island and Bremerton. Seattle spreads out and minutes from Bellevue, so finding cheap hotel rates in Seattle is no problem.

About the City

Culture

Seattle is growing in terms of ethnic diversity. All businesses have English-speaking staff, but some of the larger establishments, particularly hotels, do have employees who speak Spanish and other languages for tourists in need of bilingual staff.  A Chinatown International District in is Seattle, so if you want to explore other cultures within the city, this is the place to go.

History

Seattle’s first settlers, the Duwamish tribe, are believed to have set up more than a dozen villages near Elliott Bay. It was in 1792 that George Vancouver, a European explorer, came to the region, but no one claimed the land until 1851. At this point, the Denny’s, a group of explorers, built a village where Pioneer Square stands today. The name Seattle was decided upon after one of the founders said they should honor a Duwamish chief who accommodated white settlers by naming the village after him. Hence, Seattle was born.

Transportation

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) is the city’s main airport. Getting to
Seattle Space Needleand from the airport is easy. There are complimentary shuttles for most area hotels and any off-site lots or car rental agencies. To get into the downtown, it’s easiest to use the Link rail system. The station is on the fourth level of the airport garage, and trains run seven days a week. If you prefer a taxi, the stand is on the third level of the airport garage.

If you’re traveling between the downtown and Seattle Center, use the Alweg Monorail. The monorail travels between Seattle Center, next to the Space Needle, and Westlake Center on 5th Avenue. The monorail runs every 10 minutes. There are reduced rates for senior citizens 65 or older and children ages 5 to 12.

King County Metro is the best choice for transportation if the monorail doesn’t meet your needs. When getting on a bus, board at the front doors and your fare is displayed for you to pay at that moment. Once you’re at your stop, you exit through the back doors. Fares are affordable, and there are discounts for senior citizens and children ages 6 to 18.

Water taxi service is available between the downtown and Vashon Island or West Seattle. Like the bus service, there are also discounts for seniors and youth.

Weather

Many associate Seattle as being rainy year-round. The city does see rain, but not any more than you’d experience in other northern cities. In fact, Seattle sees less rain per year than Boston or New York City. The temperatures are enjoyable throughout the year. In the winter, it’s normal to see highs and lows ranging from the upper-30s to the upper-40s. November, December, and January are the wettest months with an average of six inches of rain through each month. Spring and fall are also cool, about ten degrees warmer than what you experience in the winter. Summers are ideal with highs in the 70s and lows falling back into the 50s. July and August are the driest months with less than an inch of rain per month.

Things to Do

Annual Events

Bumbershoot is held during the last week of August and first week of September. It takes place in Seattle Center, and during this event, you can watch your favorite musician or band, watch a theatrical performance, listen to a comedy show, or view other forms of art. In between shows, head to the Indie Market and shop for unique handcrafted items that range from accessories and clothing to cell phone accessories and wallets.

Penny Arcade Expo is one of the biggest yearly event for gamers. Seattle is noted for having dozens of game designers and computer companies within the city. To celebrate this, there is a yearly gathering of big names and indie designers who showcase games. Computers and game systems are set up so that the attendees can try their hands at these new games. Music concerts also take place during the three-day event.

Seafair is a huge festival that takes place over two months. Instead of being one festival, it’s actually a combination of smaller festivals that include an air show, Milk Carton Derby, Parade of Ships, Pirates Landing, Rock & Roll Seattle Marathon, the Torchlight Parade, and many others.

Seattle International Film Festival is an annual event held every May/June. Full-length and short films and documentaries from around the world are premiered during this event. Hundreds of thousands come to the city for this festival, and it’s quite possible that you’ll spot celebrities or get to hear them talk at one of the many discussions held during the film festival.

Entertainment and Performing Arts

Seattle’s no slouch when it comes to offering some of the nation’s greatest museums. Popular options include the Seattle Art Museum, a museum dating back to 1933; the Asian Art Museum that also operates the Olympic Sculpture Park; the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture; the Frye Art Museum, an art museum with no admission fee; the Log House Museum, home to the Duwamish tribe that first settled the area; and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, a museum/park that pays tribute to the Gold Rush in the Seattle area.

Seattle Symphony Orchestra is one of the nation’s oldest orchestras. Catch their shows at Benaroya Hall. The Seattle Opera performs popular operas at McCaw Hall. There’s also the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and they also perform at McCaw Hall.

The historic 5th Avenue Theatre showcases Broadway shows. You can also catch productions and lectures at the Romanesque Revival Town Hall.

In the late-1980s and early-1990s, grunge music took the world by storm. The city is still home to smaller clubs and venues where local talent try to launch their careers. Video game design is also a hot commodity in Seattle. Head to the Experience Music Project at the Seattle Center to learn more about the music, games, and pop culture that have shaped Seattle. There are visiting exhibits and permanent ones within this museum.

Famous Landmarks

Alki Beach is the longest beach in Seattle. It spans 2.5 miles. The water is usually very cold, Alki Beach Seattlenot often getting above the upper-50s, so swimming may not be to your liking. The beach is a great place to sunbathe, jog, or take romantic walks. There are fire pits set up so that you can have a fire on the beach too.

No trip to Seattle is complete unless you’ve shopped at Pike Place Market. This is a long-running market, launched in 1907. Shop for seafood, flowers, produce, gifts, and much more. Eat in more than a dozen restaurants and cafes. There are also special events like cooking demonstrations or musical performances. It’s also a great place just to hang out and enjoy the smells and sounds of Seattle.

Seattle Aquarium opened in the 1970s. Since then, the huge aquarium has been a relaxing place to watch all kinds of aquatic creatures or learn something new. Special events take place throughout the year. You might get to watch an octopus or shark feeding or get to touch the creatures you find in a tidepool in the Puget Sound. There is an underwater dome that allows you to view fish as they swim over your head too.

Seattle Center is home to some of the key attractions in Seattle. Within this spacious building, you’ll find the Children’s Museum, Experience Music Project, KeyArena, Pacific Science Center, and the Space Needle.

Tucked on the waterfront, the Seattle Great Wheel is a huge Ferris wheel that overlooks Elliott Bay. It’s at the end of the pier, and a section of the wheel is over the water, so the views are breathtaking. There are close to four dozen gondolas on this wheel that stands 175 feet high. As all gondolas are enclosed and lines form in a covered waiting area, you can ride the wheel any time of the year, rain or shine.

The Space Needle stands out against Seattle’s skyline, and it’s also the best spot to view the city from up high. It was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair. Today, it’s home to a restaurant, a gift shop, and the observation deck at the top of the tower. You’ll also enjoy special events, such as the city’s Date Night.

Woodland Park Zoo holds special events throughout the year, including demonstrations on caring for roses in the Rose Garden or the introduction to animals born within the zoo. There are more than 1,000 animals in the zoo, so you’ll have plenty to see. You’re welcome to participate in daily events like the penguin  or bird feeding exhibits.

Shopping and Restaurants

Pacific Place is a spacious mall that has more stores than you can imagine. They include chains and one-of-a-kind boutiques. Find items that range from apparel to jewelry to specialty products. When you’re feeling hungry, the shopping plaza offers dozens of restaurants and brewpubs too. Don’t overlook the special events, such as the annual Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

Seattle downtown with Mt Ranier in backgroundThere’s plenty to do and see at Pioneer Square. The historic square showcases Seattle’s Renaissance Revival buildings. Every month, there’s something special happening, from art walks to the annual Dogs on Parade event. Browse or shop in the area art galleries, enjoy a meal at one of many restaurants near the square, or hunt for antiques. Pioneer Square is the location for Seattle’s oldest restaurant, one that opened in 1890. Finally, don’t overlook the Seattle Waterfall Garden that’s in the square.

Rainier Square is on 5th Avenue in the downtown. It’s a great place to shop for the latest fashions or works by some of Seattle’s artists. It’s an easy walk from many downtown hotels. It’s also close to the 5th Avenue Theater. Don’t worry about finding a place to eat, there are a number of cafes, delis, market stands, and restaurants to choose from.

University Village is away from the downtown. It’s a huge open-air shopping area with pedestrian-only roads and dozens of shops. As it is so expansive, it’s a common site for special events, including the Sounds of Summer concert series.

Westlake Center really stands out. The three-level mall has every store imaginable, so you can shop for art, clothing, jewelry, home goods, gourmet foods, and toys all under the same roof. There are also more than a dozen food stands and restaurants available.

Sports

Catch your favorite professional sport while you’re in Seattle. The city is home to the Mariners (MLB), and they play ball at Safeco Field. If you enjoy football, there are the Seahawks who play at CenturyLink Field, a stadium they share with the Sounders, a soccer team.

There are two basketball teams, one men’s and one women’s, named the SuperSonics and the Storm respectively. Both teams play at KeyArena. For hockey, there are two teams. The Thunderbirds play at ShoWare Center, and the junior league team, the Totems, play at the Olympic View Arena.

Lodging

Hunting for hotels in Seattle shouldn’t stress you out. The range of amenities, locations, and prices certainly make it easy to find your ideal accommodations. Don’t overlook Seattle’s green hotels. In an effort to help reduce the carbon footprint, many hotels and motels worked hard to reach a “green” rating by putting recycling programs into place in all areas of the hotel. They use environmentally-friendly cleaning products, use bathroom fixtures that reduce water consumption, and stick to energy-efficient lighting and appliances. Green hotels don’t mean they skimp on amenities, it simply means they are working hard to keep guests happy and help protect the environment.

The Seattle Bed and Breakfast Association work hard to make sure that every property in their listing passes their inspection. The goal is to offer you comfortable guest rooms, great prices, and exceptional service. Check to see if the B&B on your shortlist is a member. Seattle doesn’t skimp on the choices when it comes to these cozy properties, such as the Mediterranean Inn. There are contemporary homes, Craftsman cottages, and Victorian estates. Amenities usually include a free breakfast, on-site parking, and complimentary Internet service during your stay.

The birthplace of Grunge has its fair share of hostels too. These bargain establishments cost very little money without skimping on the amenities. The price difference occurs because you share a dorm room, but have a bed to yourself. If you need your privacy, there are some properties with private rooms for couples or families, though they do cost a little more. Most hostels offer standard amenities like a kitchen you can use, free Internet, a courtesy desk with travel brochures and maps, and an entertainment room with games and a television.

About the Author:

Rob Bruce Rob works out of the Dallas office for HotelsCheap. He has worked in the travel industry for 17 years, and has written articles for several travel publications. Rob is married with 5 kids. In his spare time he enjoys soccer, tennis and hiking. His favorite travel destination is Papua New Guinea. You can follow Rob on Google Plus +Rob Bruce.

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