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Pike Place Public Market Sign
Pike Place Public Market Sign | © Ian D. Keating / Flickr
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8 Things to Know Before Visiting Seattle

Picture of Samantha Ladwig
Updated: 28 March 2018
Rain, Starbucks, and Grey’s Anatomy may come to mind when thinking about Seattle. But there’s more to the Emerald City than its clichés. From its walkability and its relaxing cool summers to its growing brewery business, here are eight essential things to know about Seattle before visiting it.

Ditch the car and pack walking shoes instead

It’s no secret that Seattle endures some of the worst traffic in the United States. Its congestion ranks alongside other sprawling urban metropolises like Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Miami. But while its drivability is less than pleasant, its walkability is not. Due to the Emerald City’s density, Seattle is one of the most walkable urban areas in the U.S., with bike lanes and public transportation to accompany it. Though hilly, the distance between neighborhoods is minimal. For example, the distance between the Madison Park neighborhood and downtown is less than four miles (6.4 kilometers).

Don’t forget a raincoat

Nothing screams tourist quite like an umbrella. And while Seattle doesn’t experience nearly as much rain as movies and television shows would have viewers believe—New Orleans, New York, Miami, and Houston all exceed Seattle’s rainfall—it’s worth bringing a raincoat. The city gets about 150 days of rain a year, with an average rainfall of 37 inches, and its oceanic, marine climate makes for cool, wet winters. Expect to experience some sort of drizzle, but no need to pack the galoshes.

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Space Needle and Ferry | © Anupam_ts / Flickr

Visit anytime, but maybe avoid winter

The Pacific Northwest is notorious for its low-hanging gray skies and accompanying drizzle. Unfortunately, Seattle’s marked as having one of the most depressing winters in the U.S. Its gloomy atmosphere, dark days and constant drizzle make for less-than-friendly conditions. Seattleites put up with these winters because the remaining seasons—the blooming cherry blossom trees of spring, the clear mountain views of summer, and vibrant leaves of fall—make up for the often intolerable winters.

Summers are relatively cool

In that, the Pacific Ocean has created somewhat of a natural air conditioner for the city, though climate change continues to alter that sweet summer relief. The ocean’s cool breeze makes for relatively low temperatures compared to other summers experienced across the country, resulting in mild, reasonably dry weather. That said, always bring a light jacket for when the sun goes down.

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Lake Union, Queen Ann Hill, Seattle, Washington, USA | © Wonderlane / Flickr

Ditch the Space Needle, but not Pike Place Market

A product of the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle is a Seattle landmark. It’s also an unnecessary, pricey tourist attraction. People visit the Space Needle to catch sprawling views of the Emerald City, Puget Sound, and Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges, but there are a number of other areas to capture Seattle, ones that include the iconic structure. As for another cliché tourist activity, a visit to Pike Place Market is worth it. In the heart of downtown, the fish-throwing market boasts a number of delicious food stands, the infamous gum wall, views of Elliott Bay, and, of course, the original Starbucks.

There’s plenty of coffee

When walking through Seattle’s neighborhoods, expect to spot a coffee shop on every corner. Seattleites rely on their local coffee shops not just for their morning cup of joe but also for a sense of community. People use them as places for study sessions, hangouts, and reading getaways. While Starbucks deemed Seattle as the coffee capital, the city has expanded to include independently owned hot spots such as Caffé Vita and Little Oddfellows on Capitol Hill, Cafe Allegro in Wallingford, and Caffe Ladro on Queen Anne.

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Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting Tour | © Michael Allen Smith@INeedCoffee / Flickr

And also plenty of beer

On a warm, sunny day or after a bike ride along the Burke-Gilman Trail, it’s common for Seattleites to take a load off at one of the many local breweries like the Fremont Brewing Company, Stoup Brewing, or the Pike Brewing Company. Craft breweries have been increasingly cropping up all over the Emerald City—which currently boasts over 60 beer makers—and it looks like it’s not stopping anytime soon.

The Seattle Freeze is very real

When people talk about the Seattle Freeze, they’re talking about Seattle’s less-than-friendly atmosphere. It’s common for many Seattleites to say they’ll make plans and not follow through with them or ghost a neighbor who tries to take their cordial relationship to the next level. Seattleites are a passive-aggressive people who refuse to honk when driving, make lengthy eye contact, or engage in a conversation beyond a courteous, “How are you?” But what a number of Seattleites lack in social norms, they make up for in their cultural and scenic offerings.