Snowy peaks poke up behind Seattle’s skyline, calling locals and visitors to the hundreds of acres of parks in town and the Cascade foothills, just 45 minutes from Downtown. Seattle’s natural beauty has long drawn the world’s best and brightest, and the mark of innovative entrepreneurs shows in many ways – like how hometown company Starbucks cemented Seattle as coffee country. My version of a quintessential Seattle day, to introduce a newcomer to the city, starts with a traipse through old-growth evergreen trees, followed by a morning cappuccino and taking a boat through one of the city’s major waterways. It finishes with a seafood dinner and a live show in one of the clubs that once nurtured the famous grunge scene of the 1990s, and still books cutting-edge local acts. It doesn’t necessarily cover the tourist hotspots, but Seattle’s laid back appeal shines best through these types of everyday activities that show off what it’s like in a city where people obsess over whether “the mountain is out” – if clouds are obscuring Mt. Rainier. After decades of living here, we all still gasp at the majesty of Mt. Rainier peeking out from the southern horizon and laugh at ourselves for wearing identical REI coats. The best way to understand Seattle is to don your own fleece jacket, practice reciting your coffee order (double tall oat-milk latté, anyone?), and read on to learn about Seattle’s unique brand of Pacific Northwest culture.Learn more
The crystalline waters and spiky peaks that crown the city with impressive views also squish the navigable geography, rendering getting anywhere dependent on a pretty, though imperfect, collection of bridges. While not robust, the hub-and-spoke public transportation system works well for visitors, who tend to mostly be based in the hub – Downtown.
It’s possible to make it out to the alluring mountains and famous wineries just outside Seattle without your own car, but not easy. Renting a car in Seattle unlocks the freedom to operate on your own schedule, see the unspoiled forests just outside the city, and visit small neighborhoods within it.
To fully understand the city, visitors must leave Seattle and get out into the small towns, big mountains, and beautiful islands that pepper the rest of the Pacific Northwest. Drive into the wild nature of Washington’s three national parks, taste the pristine seafood on the beach, and buy from the local shops, and then come back to the buzz of the city for the night.