Seattle, a leafy city surrounded by water and evergreen forests and flanked by two snow-capped mountain ranges, beckons with its natural beauty. But the birthplace of the ‘90s grunge movement really enchants with its quirky creativity. Throughout the explosion of its tech scene, Seattle has kept its chill Pacific Northwest roots -- with a mellow friendliness and a passion for outdoor pursuits, among them hiking, skiing, and sailing. The city has long been on the forefront of the sustainable, locavore food scene, with craft beers and wines now added to the mix. Throw in Seattle’s energetic nightlife, legalized weed, and funky bohemian neighborhoods, and you’ve got an incredible place to spend a weekend or a whole week.
Summer days in late July and August are a glorious time of year in Seattle. Hopping on a ferry to cross Puget Sound to a nearby island, biking along the water's edge in Myrtle Edwards Park, stopping into shops and restaurants while strolling the Waterfront are all part of Seattle's appeal for visitors. In the Pacific Northwest, the summer season is pushed back by a month as rainy “spring” weather can stick around into early July, but warm cloudless days extend through most of September.
In the summer, the sun doesn't set until about 9:00 PM and the light lingers until 10:00 PM. With these long hours, keep in mind that the hottest time of day is around 5:00 PM, so plan for a break around then, you'll need it. But with the warmth of the sun, the top spots in the city can become overrun with locals and tourists.
Spring and fall are nice alternatives to the hectic summer crowds. Hotels are cheaper and attractions aren't as flooded with people. Spring can be hit or miss with the weather — and extend through June. If you're lucky, you might catch some good, dry weather and even some sun. September is one of the best months for sun and no rain, but perhaps because of that, the crowds do tend to linger even after school has started up.
In November and December, the days are short, with eight hours of daylight and sunset around 4:30 PM. But that leaves more time for the city to shine with holiday lights around the Seattle Center, Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, and the Retail Core District where the Macy's Holiday Star has shone brightly since 1957.
If you're arriving at Sea-Tac Airport (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport), you now have the option of coasting into Seattle on Link light rail and it's only $3 one-way. If you're driving, Sea-Tac is about 20 minutes to downtown without traffic, but can take much longer than that with traffic.
Other ways to arrive in Seattle are via Amtrak at King Street Station, BoltBus in the International District, Greyhound arriving in SoDo (South of downtown Seattle near the stadiums), cruise ship at the Port of Seattle or its port slightly north, Washington State Ferries from one of the nearby islands or the Olympic Peninsula, and by car on Interstate 5.
Many of Seattle's top sights are within two miles of each other. For most travelers, that makes having a car unnecessary and more hassle than it's worth. If you stay downtown, you can either walk or take public transit to its top attractions. However, if you want to take advantage of the stunning nature in Seattle’s outer areas, or outside city limits, a car will be helpful.
Created for the World's Fair in 1962, the Seattle Center Monorail is the most fun way to get from central downtown to the Space Needle in a pinch. Alongside Westlake Center at Fifth and Pine, you'll find a station for one end of the monorail. The other end is near the base of the Space Needle. For $2.50 one-way, you'll get an elevated ride with views found nowhere else in Seattle.
There are many options for public transportation in Seattle. Link light rail runs through Seattle and is expanding to North Seattle. You'll see many buses run by King County Metro. The Seattle Streetcar runs near Amazon's headquarters in South Lake Union to Westlake Center. Another line connects Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square. To get to West Seattle, grab a water taxi at the waterfront.
If you plan on using public transit regularly, you might want to get a King County Metro Regional Day Pass for $8. It's good for rides costing up to $3.50 (additional fare required beyond that) on King County Metro Transit, the King County Water Taxi (downtown to West Seattle), the Seattle Streetcar, and Sound Transit (bus, Link light rail, and Sounder). By comparison, individual bus rides are $2.75 per ride.
Some of the main tourist areas — like Pike Place Market, the Waterfront, Pioneer Square, the International District, and the SoDo stadiums — are in or near the bustling downtown area and are generally safe during the day. If you're visiting in the summer, you have the added advantage of very long days with the sun setting around 9:00 PM and twilight until about 10:00 PM.
As day turns into evening, you'll want to be more cautious in these areas. The heart of downtown generally closes up in the evening and can feel deserted. Shops in Pike Place Market close up by 6:00 PM with the exception of a few bars and restaurants. Belltown, next door to the heart of downtown, has a lot of bars and restaurants frequented by locals who live in the area. But still be sure to take care, as it’s a downtown area.
Avoid walking around the Pioneer Square neighborhood at night by yourself. An exception to this is the First Thursday Art Walk which brings out a lot more people, so it generally feels safer. If you’re going out to some of the bars and restaurants, it's best to be in a group and stick to the main streets.
In 2014, the first two states to legalize the recreational use of cannabis were Washington and Colorado. That same year, both the Seattle Seahawks (Washington) and the Denver Broncos (Colorado) played in Super Bowl XLVIII. Coincidence? We think not.
Since legalization, you can now routinely smell wafts of that sticky sweet stuff as you're walking down the street in Seattle. Unfortunately, Seattle isn't as together as, say, Amsterdam. Seattle has dispensaries where you can purchase the green, but you can't smell it before you buy. It's all pre-packaged. And sadly there are no smoking cafes or lounges due to current laws.
That said, you can take a tour and get the full scoop on the cannabis industry in Seattle. Kush Tourism offers the Kush Tour which visits a grow operation, has glass blowing demonstrations, and visits an edibles specialists or an extraction lab.
If you're a cannabis fan and thinking of visiting Seattle, you don't want to miss Hempfest. Hosted annually since 1991, Hempfest is a free massive political protest rally, concert, and arts and crafts fair celebrating cannabis. You’ll be able to listen to music, discussions, and speakers. Browse hemp products and arts and crafts. Mark your calendar for the third weekend in August (Friday to Sunday) for this free three-day event.
A few notes on the legalities:
A few centrally located dispensaries:
Have a Heart — 115 Blanchard St. Seattle, WA 98121
Herban Legends — 55 Bell St, Seattle WA 98121
Uncle Ike's — 501 15th Ave E | Seattle, WA 98112
Fremont (near Hotel Hotel Hostel)
Hashtag Cannabis — 3540 Stone Way N, Seattle, WA 98103
If you’re looking for the best food, coffee, and cocktails that Seattle has to offer, then you need to check out what Seattleites have to say when Phil the Culture investigates. From the Hey Auntie cocktail at Communion to breve cappuccinos at Espresso Vivace and eclectic cocktails at Inside Passage, Seattle’s got the goods