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Seattle may be most readily identified as the birthplace of Starbucks and the Space Needle. But its eclectic atmosphere offers much more than opportunities to sip superb coffee and drink in the panoramic view from atop the most familiar symbol of the 1962 World's Fair.
Named for an American Indian chief and nicknamed the Emerald City for the rain that keeps its hundreds of parks lush and green, Seattle established itself as a major Pacific port within decades of its mid-19th-century founding. Now home to more than half a million people, 10 colleges and universities, and such prestigious medical institutions as the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, this cosmopolitan metropolis is a vibrant mix of open-air celebrations, outdoor recreation opportunities, eye-catching art and architecture, theatrical and musical performances, and a veritable smorgasbord of shops, museums, and restaurants.
Seattle was built atop seven hills on Washington State's Puget Sound, with Mount Rainier hovering in the background. Only 113 miles south of the Canadian border, Seattle has its share of water, which covers 41% of the 84 square miles within the city limits.
Despite occasional thunderstorms, summers are more dry than humid. Temperatures generally remain in the mid-70s between June and September and rarely fall below freezing in winter. Locals tend to dress in layers to cope with sudden chills or unexpected showers.
Commuting by bicycle is more popular here than in any other urban area in America. Visitors and residents enjoy 30 miles of bike-pedestrian trails and 16 miles of lanes designated for two-wheeled transport. You're bound to find at least one irresistible walking tour in this pedestrian-friendly city.
Start at Pioneer Square, the heart of Seattle and the city's first permanent settlement. Within some 20 blocks of its historic buildings, you'll find totem poles, the country's largest concentration of Victorian-Romanesque architecture, more than 30 galleries, dozens of unique and delightful shops, a secluded park whose centerpiece is a majestic waterfall, affordable cafes, vibrant nightclubs, and elegant restaurants. Its central location makes Pioneer Square easy to reach on foot or via public transportation, and its charming vintage streetcars ferry passengers to various nearby destinations.
The oldest continuously operating farmers' market in the United States-and considered by some the finest public market in the world-Pike Place Market is one of Seattle's most popular tourist destinations. Founded in 1907, this 9-acre exuberance of produce, performers, artisans, and eateries is open every day except December 25 and January 1. Whether you opt for a guided tour or choose to wander the cobblestone streets on your own, check out Pike Place Fish. Employees there have elevated salmon slinging to an art form.
Seattle's International District encompasses Chinatown. This historic area is a center of Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander culture and commerce.
Bill Speidel's Underground Tour guides visitors along passages that once connected downtown Seattle and now lie beneath the bustle of the city's streets.
Don't overlook the striking 11-story glass-and-steel Central Library; the Convention Center, whose gardens and galleria span a freeway; or the Smith Tower, one of the world's first skyscrapers. Museum enthusiasts will want to meander through the Center for Wooden Boats, a hands-on maritime heritage museum, and the Museum of Flight, which houses an authentic reproduction of history's first successful powered airplane. The Nordic Heritage Museum is the country's only museum honoring the heritage of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland.
The Science Fiction Museum was the first of its kind, and the Pacific Science Center includes a planetarium, interactive dinosaur exhibits, and a Tropical Butterfly House, where jewel-toned insects flutter through the air and drink the nectar of tropical blooms. The Wing Luke Museum, which focuses on Asian-American history, includes displays on immigration, the arts, and traditional medicine. The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture showcases various facets of the Pacific Northwest.
Obviously, Seattle boasts art museums and galleries galore, but you needn't go indoors to feast your eyes on murals, sculpture, and other forms of creative expression. Visit http://seattle.gov/arts/publications/publicart/walkingtours/default.asp to learn about a series of Public Art Walking Tours you can print out and follow. These selectively curated rambles highlight pieces from city, county, and state collections; corporate artwork; community gardens; and incomparable architecture. Call the Seattle Arts Commission at 206-684-7171 to find out more.
Public art is an integral part of this dynamic cityscape. In addition to the Fremont Troll (see Only in the Emerald City: An elusive exclusive), you're apt to encounter replicas of Rachel, the brass pig that's a fixture at Pike Place Market and the inspiration for a citywide charity drive; the mermaid that adorns the original Starbucks; a statue of Lenin imported from Russia; and Waiting for the Interurban. This collection of six cast aluminum figures who've been waiting for a bus since 1979 is one of the city's most beloved icons. Seattleites regularly festoon the statues with clothing, signs, and other decorations to commemorate public or personal milestones. You can't miss the Hammering Man, a 48-foot sculpture whose mechanized arm hammers silently every 15 seconds between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., resting only on Labor Day.
With the highest percentage of arts-related businesses and organizations of any U.S. city, Seattle nurtures a world-famous opera company, 15 symphony orchestras, 80 clubs where live music is performed, 29 professional theatres, and 56 fringe theatre companies. Its International Film Festival, which runs in early summer, is the largest in the United States. The Experience Music Project, which features a three-story guitar sculpture, celebrates popular music through unique interactive exhibits, artifacts, and live performances. Bumbershoot, held every Labor Day weekend, is one of the largest urban arts festivals in the United States.
While in Seattle, make time to hike, fish, canoe, ski, snowboard, or play a round of golf. Or go rafting, clamming, or kayaking.
Check out the professional sports too-alone among Northwest cities, Seattle fields major league teams in all three primary sports-baseball, basketball, and football. In fact, the city has become quite a baseball town, but baseball isn't the only game in town. Seahawks Stadium is a state-of-the-art facility for both football and soccer. KeyArena is sports central at Seattle Center-and home to the Seattle SuperSonics (men's basketball), the Seattle Storm (women's basketball), and the Seattle Thunderbirds (hockey).
All that activity is bound to stimulate your appetite, and Seattle can satisfy cravings for everything from lutefisk or geoduck to latte or burgers and fries. Enjoy Greek cuisine at Bacchus, Indian food at Banjara, or Argentinean entrees at Buenos Aires Grill. Ray's Boathouse and Earth and Ocean serve seafood and other American favorites. Gourmet Indian delights are prepared tableside at upscale Nara Grill, and Kangaroo and Kiwi dishes up favorites from Australia and New Zealand in sports-bar ambience.
Indulge your taste buds at Take a Bite of Seattle, when hundreds of vendors offer samples of their specialties. This culinary extravaganza is held each July at the Seattle Center, a venue for concerts, exhibits, festivals, and sports events.
Washington shares the same latitude as the great French vineyards, and touring the Snoqualmie Valley wineries may be just your cup of tea. Spend some time whale watching, take a seaplane excursion, or search for antiques in Kirkland, Langley, and Coupeville.
Check out life on the waterfront too. You can catch a glimpse of the houseboats on Lake Union, the largest floating residential community in the United States, or treat yourself to a trip on one of Seattle's romantic ferries. Even if you don't encounter Tom Hanks or Meg Ryan, you're sure to enjoy the ride.
If you'd like general tourist information, visit the City of Seattle's official Web site at http://www.seattle.gov or the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau at http://www.seeseattle.org. (Their TDD-accessible phone number is 206-461-5840.) For tickets or reservations, call Citywide Concierge Center at 206-461-5888.
Equidistant from Tokyo and London, contemporary Seattle is an ethnic amalgam. But the city's Scandinavian heritage is proudly reflected in institutions such as the Swedish Medical Center, the Norwegian Constitution Day Parade, the popularity of Scandinavian-language courses, and in residents' unswerving allegiance to the embodiment of a mythical creature known as the Fremont Troll.
Living in caves, alongside the ocean, in the forest, or under bridges, dwarf or giant trolls are mainstays of Scandinavian folklore. The Fremont Troll was first sighted shortly after Seattle's Aurora Avenue Bridge was erected in 1932; its 18-foot-tall, 2-ton shaggy-haired likeness was sculpted in 1990 and immediately took up residence under that span. Arguably less hideous looking than his imaginary counterparts, the Fremont Troll is decidedly gentler than those ferocious and greedy brutes. He raises no objection when visitors climb over his limbs, patiently poses for photographs for strangers' scrapbooks, and enjoys being credited with saving the neighborhood from mud slides. Rumor has it that fellow trolls flock to the area during the summer solstice and on Halloween.
* Get a CityPass for access to Seattle's most popular attractions at http://www.seeseattle.org/cvs/citypass.asp
* Tap into the Citywide Concierge Center at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center at http://www.seeseattle.org/ccc.
* Investigate the Seattle Super Saver Value Guide at http://www.seeseattle.org/media/sss/SSSPKValueGuide.asp.
Last accessed April 28, 2006.
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