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Spotlight: Greater Seattle

Explore every facet of the Pacific Northwest’s crown jewel

Despite the Northwest’s notorious precipitation, the “Emerald City” of Seattle forms the glittering epicenter of a region that passionately embraces outdoor adventure regardless of the season. Yes, it’s the birthplace of Starbucks and REI, it’s the cradle of grunge music and it’s home to tech giants Microsoft and Amazon, as well as the beloved Pike Place Market, but the Greater Seattle area loves to defy cliché with its irreverence, authenticity and powers of reinvention.

From world-class arts to iconic music venues, not to mention its breathtaking setting, this magical tranche of the Pacific Northwest passionately embraces individualism and revels in its distinct cultural heritage.

The Beat Goes On

Orbiting a shimmering skyline defined by the iconic Space Needle, Seattle’s eclectic constellation of diverse neighborhoods reveals the thrusting spirit and quest for inventiveness that defines the region. The best place to launch an urban tour is at Pioneer Square, where Seattle’s gold-rush origins can be traced along the 21-block “Trail to Treasure.” The oldest covered market in the country, Pike Place is a cornucopia of stands that purvey everything from fresh seafood to artfully arranged fruit and vegetables, curios and artisan products. Spend time in the Crafts Market, which sells handmade goods by local artisans. Here, you’ll find a wide range of fashion accessories and apparel along with pottery goods and glass and metal sculpture.

The bustling Pike Place Market.

Few neighborhoods can lay claim to a 1950s Cold War relic (the Fremont Rocket) as their community symbol. The “People’s Republic of Fremont,” with its off-beat stores, iconoclastic galleries and edgy cafés (and even a quirky troll and a statue of Lenin) still clings to its subculture status despite being the headquarters of choice for tech behemoths like Adobe and Getty Images. These days, it’s all happening at South Lake Union, a former industrial wasteland that has been transformed into a dynamic urban village that boasts some of the city’s most acclaimed art galleries, as well as innovative dining spots, funky stores and the shiny, happy Amazon campus.

River Deep, Mountain High

Draped with lush coniferous forests, the Seattle area combines excitement and unpredictability (and that’s not just the weather) with stunning natural beauty. Rising to the west, the Olympic Mountains, a breathtaking vision of sawtooth peaks and colossal glaciers, are some of the most magnificent mountains in the world (in relation to their height). To the west, Mount Rainier, an active volcano, soars to 14,410 feet, the poster child for Washington’s foreboding landscape. Within easy reach of Seattle’s downtown, recreational opportunities abound.

The entire Seattle area is laced with terrific cycling paths; the Burke-Gilman Trail unfurls for 14 miles from Ballard to the northern fringes of Lake Washington. For urban kayaking, Lake Union affords great views of the Seattle skyline, and you can paddle alongside some restaurants and bars that line the waterfront. Park your kayak and grab a beer, or other cold refreshment.

Generally speaking, it’s only athletes at the top of their game that challenge themselves to a vertiginous day hike to the top of Mount Si (less than an hour from Seattle). Rising sheer from the Snoqualmie River valley, the views from the top of Si are sublime.

Despite being on the fringes of a major metropolis, Discovery Park, on the Puget Sound waterfront, is a haven for wildlife with an inventory of around 300 bird species in addition to large mammals including coyotes, black bears and cougars. The Discovery Park Loop Trail, which was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1975, comprises a 3-mile path that links to 10 miles of gentle hiking trails.

Musical Nirvana

It’s no wonder that the deeply introspective city that inspired Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix beats to a different drum. Seattle’s legacy may be grunge, but the city’s venues run the gamut of every musical genre.

Across from Pike Place Market, the Showbox at the Market is a city institution, having played host to everyone from Nat King Cole to Blondie since it first opened its doors in 1939.

A veteran of the vaudeville scene, the Colombia City Theater was renovated in 2010. In the 1940s, the sumptuous theater played host to legends such Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald before finding its new vocation in the 1990s as a hippy art commune.

Tim Thompson

Tim Thompson

The Art of Life

The newly redesigned Seattle Art Museum triumphs contemporary art with masterworks by Mark Tobey, Kenneth Callahan, Guy Anderson and Morris Graves. There’s also a fine collection of furniture, sculptures and decorative arts from the Pacific Northwest, along with a worthy cache of Northwest Coast Native American art. Curators have expertly arranged art objects from a wide range of cultures.

An offshoot of the Seattle Art Museum, the waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park is the latest jewel in the crown of a city bestowed with unique cultural riches. A former industrial park framed by the glistening waters of the Puget Sound has been recast as a nine-acre showcase for world-class contemporary art works, including sculptures by Richard Serra, Alexander Calder and Mark di Suvero.

For an insight into Native American culture, Discovery Park’s Daybreak Star Cultural Center hosts cultural events and workshops in addition to powwows and art exhibitions.

Invigorating the Frye Art Museum’s collection of 19th-century portraits and landscape paintings, a series of modern and abstract artworks by Pacific Northwest artists, forms a great introduction—or the last stop of your visit—to learn about the region’s fascinating cultural heritage.

For More Information

Visit Seattle

Washington State Tourism