Confirmed during the Klondike gold rush days, Seattle’s vocation as a harbor has made Emerald City’s commercial fortune and strengthened its links with the Pacific and the Middle East; the calm waters of the Puget Sound, the surrounding mountains, the bodies of water and land which combine to make up one of the most striking urban sceneries within the United States… The times when the name of this North-Western city was less known are long gone!
Since 1990, Seattle flourished in every way. Attracting the young, Seattle exports its trends – economic dynamism with Boeing and Microsoft, express coffee, grunge music, fitness, outdoor sports – all reflecting the city’s beautiful vitality.
When to visit Seattle?
Most people choose the summer and the spring, but September and October are often wonderful: during the Indian summer, the days are sweet and the nights are cool. If you’re in Seattle in winter, on the other hand, you can enjoy skiing and attend many cultural events (symphony orchestra, opera, theater,etc.).
The Chinese New Year, held in the District international in January or February is an important event in Seattle Pioneer Square is home to Fat Tuesday, to which Seattle adds every year a special note with the Spam-Carving Contest. The Freedom Day Celebration, usually held the last Saturday in June is a great homosexual celebration, while the Northwest Folklife Festival invades Seattle Center during the last weekend of May (that of the Memorial Day) ; on this occasion, 5,000 performers present music, dance, crafts and food from more than 100 countries of the planet.
Life in Seattle is enriched in the summer with two spectacular festivals: the Seafair – an extravagant celebration involving scene of seaplanes races on Lake Washington, a parade in the light of torches, a carnival, the arrival of the fleet … ; the second one is Bumbershoot, held at the Seattle Center during the first weekend of September. The autumn, for its part, invites you to attend the Western Washington Fair in Puyallup (south of Seattle).
Holidays: New Year’s Day (January 1st), Memorial Day (last Monday of May), Independence Day (July 4th), Labor Day (1st Monday of September), Christopher Columbus Day (2nd Monday of October), Veterans Day (November 11th), Thanksgiving (end of November), Christmas Day (December 25th).
Visiting Seattle: How to Get There
The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac), located 20 km south of the city, is the largest of the Pacific Northwest. It is serviced daily by 41 airlines operating flights from the rest of the U.S. , Canada, Asia and Europe.
The Grayhound bus takes you from Seattle to Portland, California, Vancouver (Canada), Chicago …
The railway station of King Street Station is the terminus of two Amtrak lines: the EmpireBuilder goes to Chicago, while the Coast Starlight is going up to Los Angeles via Tacoma, San Francisco …
Visiting Seattle: How Get Around
The Airport Express bus of the Gray Line and Shuttle Express will take you from the airport to the major hotels at very low cost.
The metropolitan area of Seattle is served entirely by the Metro Transit. In the city center, buses are free of charge between 6 AM and 7 PM in two sections (from the 6th Ave to the Waterfront, and from Jackson St to Battery St).
The trolley is a great way to get around Seattle: the ticket of Trolley Tours (a trolley every 30 minutes) allows you to make all the stops you want during the day. However, driving a car is a nightmare: the traffic is horrendous and finding a parking spot is a real challenge.
During a ride on one of the Washington State Ferry ships, you will admire the city from the sea.
Visiting Seattle: Visa Matters
The citizens of the 27 countries members of the Visa Waiver Program do not need a visa for a stay of less than 3 months. However, the 2002 Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Act conditions the visa exemption to the detention of a specific type of passport.
Since the January 12th, 2009, those traveling to the US have to fill the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a plane, in order to obtain a travel authorization to the United States. This form replaces the one previously fulfilled in the airplane. It is valid for a duration of 2 years or until the expiry of the passport. It may be filled not later than 72 hours before departure, but it is wiser to do so as soon as the trip planned. Regardless of the passport, the visa is required for any stay exceeding 90 days.
As of June 1st 2009, the Canadian nationals must also be equipped with a valid passport to enter the United States, by land or by sea.
Visiting Seattle: Money Matters
The hotel rates are variable according to the seasons: naturally, they are higher in summer, between late May and early September. On average, a budget accommodation will cost you up to $80. You can save by staying in a youth hostel or by camping, but then you will have to make long journeys to you get into town.
In an average range restaurant, a good meal costs at least $25, but you can have lunch for less than $8 US, especially if you go to the markets.
Visiting Seattle: Cultural Matters
The English language is, naturally, predominant; in some neighborhoods, you’ll hear also Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese.
Catholicism and Protestantism (including Mormon) are the two main cults of Seattle. Judaism, Islam and Buddhism are also represented. The presence of “natural religions” was also noted (possibly due to the Celtic melancholy who reign in Seattle a good part of the year) including the wicca (a form of pagan religion) and other spiritual movements.
Seattle is the cultural center of the Pacific Northwest: its theater scene is thriving, as well as its orchestra and its opera scenes. The visual arts are particularly dynamic: all cultural trends (Asian, Indian, contemporary American … ) combine, transposing their different influences on glass, canvas or stone.
Seattle is also known to be a city of avid readers – accounting for more bookstores per capita than any other US city and being home to many writers.
The local musical scene is also animated, being responsible for Seattle’s international renown as the cradle of groups such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden … to the point that one now speaks of a “Seattle sound”.