It’s raining again, but you don’t mind. This is your cue to duck inside for another latte. Maybe you’ll chase it with a local microbrew, then tackle the Space Needle before rocking the Crocodile Café.
Welcome to Seattle, whose perpetually cloudy skies mean that if the sun peeks out for a second, everyone drops whatever they’re doing and gears up to take their kayaks or bicycles out. They can do this because they’re part-time baristas, freelance IT consultants, club bookers or chefs at all-organic small-plates restaurants. They’re as likely to drink PBR as IPA, but they’d rather die than sip truck-stop coffee or down a quarter pounder with cheese. They always recycle. They’ve been on skid road, and they know Alki has nothing to do with the drinking habits of barflies in Pioneer Square. If you ask them, they’ll tell you it really doesn’t rain that much around here.
They might also tell you to watch the ‘flying fish’ at Pike Place Market early in the morning, visit the Olympic Sculpture Garden around sunset and take an evening ferry ride to Bainbridge Island. Most likely they’ll say not to bother with the Space Needle unless the weather is brilliant. If you’re game for a bar crawl, they might take you to Georgetown, the neighborhood for drinkers in the know. If you’re arty, it might be an opening at an edgy Belltown gallery instead. Or you could just get hopped up on caffeine and go thrifting all day. Despite what you hear, you may be surprised at how little anyone minds the fickle weather.
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.