Seattle is America's Cinderella city. Founded 75 years after US independence and overlooked until the 1960s, it's been making up for lost time ever since.
Seattle is the largest metro area in the Pacific Northwest, with a population of about 3.3 million (580,000 in the city proper). It’s a bookish, well-educated place, but also a dynamic and inventive urban center - most of the city’s recent economic growth has been fueled by technology: both high-tech and the old-school, engine-parts variety. The Port of Seattle is the second-largest handler of container cargo in the United States.
Two of its most successful citizens also happen to be Seattle’s two largest public figures, Bill Gates and Paul Allen. And they symbolize a certain aspect of the city’s contradictory attitude toward its own success. Both undeniably ambitious and indisputably successful, Gates and Allen are seen simultaneously as points of civic pride and shameless capitalists who are totally alien to the prevailing Seattle culture.
And speaking of culture, you’ll be forgiven for thinking Seattle’s is mostly white - at least if you hang out in hipster coffee shops or go to many indie-rock shows - but Seattle has a rich multicultural history and is home to Native American, African American, Asian American and growing Ethiopian American populations. The city ranks 23rd of the 30 largest US cities in African-American population, at 8.4% - higher than every West Coast city except Los Angeles. It also has the largest concentration of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. The largest group in urban Seattle is the Duwamish people, the Native Americans who originally lived on the shores of Elliott Bay.
It’s been a neighborhood-centric city for most of its history, but Seattle now sits on the verge of major structural and demographic change. The area expects 40% population growth in the next two decades, and the regional transportation board has already begun reshaping the city’s landscape with new mass-transit plans. It’s an exciting time to visit an always exciting place.
Why I Love Seattle
By Brendan Sainsbury, Author
Since I grew up in England, Seattle lured me from afar. For a brief period in the early 1990s it was – to me at least – the center of the musical universe. When I had the chance to visit for the first time in the early 2000s, I discovered a city of diverse neighborhoods and shifting moods that inspired me with its arty subcultures and appetite for innovation. The atmosphere was infectious; and, as a Nirvana-loving, craft beer–appreciating, outdoors-embracing, art-admiring, bus-utilizing coffee addict, I've never had a problem fitting in.
A Confederation of Neighborhoods
Since it's less a city and more a loose alliance of jostling neighborhoods, getting to know Seattle is like hanging out with a family of affectionate but sometimes errant siblings. There’s the aloof, elegant one (Queen Anne), the cool, edgy one (Capitol Hill), the weird, bearded one (Fremont), the independently minded Scandinavian one (Ballard), the bruised, weather-beaten one (Pioneer Square) and the precocious adolescent still carving out its identity (South Lake Union). You’ll never fully understand Seattle until you’ve had a microbrew in all of them.
Music and Art
Imagine: a rocket sticking out of a shoe shop and a museum built to resemble a smashed-up electric guitar; wooden boats stacked with glass orbs and a statue of Lenin caught in a vengeful Bolshevik-era grimace; a waterside sculpture park and a Saturday-evening art walk through a blue-collar warehouse district; indie bands playing in grungy pubs and hip-hop artists eschewing bling for thrift shops. No, you haven't just over-indulged in some powerful (legal) marijuana. The city that inspired Dale Chihuly, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and Macklemore has a lot to offer in the way of music and art – and it’s never remotely dull.
Make a beeline for Seattle’s proverbial pantry: Pike Place Market. Founded in 1907 to ply lucky locals with fresh Northwest produce, the market’s long-held mantra of ‘meet the producer’ is still echoed enthusiastically around a city where every restaurateur worth their salt knows the first name of their fishmonger and the biography of the cow that made yesterday’s burgers. Welcome to a city of well-educated palates and wildly experimental chefs who are willing to fuse American cuisine with just about anything – as long as the ingredients are local.
Coffee and Beer
The city that invented Starbucks coffee and Rainier beer has gone back to the drawing board in recent years and come up with an interesting alternative – a new wave of small, independent micro-businesses that are determined to put taste over global reach. Imbibe the nuances of a home-roasted Guatemalan coffee and check out the latest in nano-breweries in the city that has put a coffee shop on every street corner and created a different craft beer for every night of the year.
Best places to stay in Seattle
Seattle city guide
Long overlooked, Seattle is America's Cinderella city: a precocious mix of charismatic pubs, voguish cafes, provocative art and cutting-edge music that is helping to define modern US culture.
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