Seattle’s closest airport is Sea-Tac International Airport, located about 30 minutes south of downtown. If you’re coming here by train, you’ll arrive at the King Street Station downtown. If you’re coming from Portland or Vancouver, B.C., the Bolt Bus is a very affordable option, with fares as low as $1 (stopping in the International District at Fifth Avenue S. & South King Street). There’s also a downtown Greyhound bus terminal.
Each of Seattle’s neighborhoods has a distinct local flavor. You’ll find lots of nightlife in Belltown, just north of downtown, where young professionals go to eat, drink, and dance. Capitol Hill is the gay-friendly hipster scene; take a look at our Capitol Hill recommendations. Fremont has a funky, hippie attitude, with eclectic shops and landmarks like the Fremont Troll. Ballard has a strong Scandinavian history, but today it’s mainly cute boutiques and restaurants. Public transit is extensive and mostly reliable, with options including the bus, light rail, and streetcars. Parking can be difficult downtown or in the smaller neighborhoods with narrow streets, and many areas have metered street parking until 8 p.m. Seattle is a fairly geographically compact city, so taxis are an affordable option, as are pay-as-you-go car rental services such as Zipcar or Car2Go.
Although Seattle may be best known musically for the 1990s grunge scene, its arts and culture scene is diverse. The Seattle Symphony plays at Benaroya Hall downtown, and the Seattle Center hosts the Seattle Opera and the Pacific Northwest Ballet (both at the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall). Theater lovers will enjoy the 5th Avenue Theatre, the Paramount, and the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Popular live music venues include the Crocodile, Neumos, the Showbox, and the Neptune.
In January, the Lunar New Year festival becomes a street party in the International District. February offers the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and the Seattle Boat Show. In March, there’s Emerald City ComiCon and Moisture Festival (a burlesque comedy festival). In May, you can check out Folklife, the folk music festival; Sasquatch Music Festival over Memorial Day Weekend; and the Seattle International Film Festival. June brings PrideFest and the Seattle Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon. In July, there’s the food frenzy Bite of Seattle, the Japanese festival Bon Odori honoring the dead, the Seattle Beerfest, the Capitol Hill Block Party music festival, and the Seafair Torchlight Parade, featuring the Seafair Pirates. August has Hempfest, plus PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) for geeks. In September, there’s the huge Bumbershoot music festival at Seattle Center, and the Washington State Fair. October offers the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. And in December, the two-day crafts fair Urban Craft Uprising caters to the Etsy crowd.
Stephanie Perry is a writer, editor, and avid reader. She loves Seattle but is always planning her next international adventure. You can find her wherever the museums and food are.