Seattle is one of the more striking metropolitan areas in the US, sitting perched on the side of a hill and running straight down into the Puget Sound (an inlet from the Pacific Ocean). On the other side of the hill lies Lake Washington, and beyond that the Cascade Mountains are only 30 miles distant.
On clear days the 14,000 foot Mt. Rainier, an active volcano, dominates the skyline to the South. Seattle itself is full of lakes, hills, ocean inlets, and patches of forest, making it a paradise for those who like to explore. The reputation for rain is grossly exaggerated (New York and Texas both get more rain than Seattle for instance), but few locals really care what the rest of the country believes.
The best time to visit Seattle is in July and August, when the sun shines reliably for two straight months. The city is indescribably gorgeous during this time of year and there is so much to see and do that one could easily spend that whole time in constant motion.
Where to Stay
There are several hostels down town, most notably the famous Green Tortoise which is in a fantastic location only one block from Pike Place Market. Other parts of the city that are within easy reach of downtown via public transportation include The U district (around University of Washington), Ballard, Fremont, Capital Hill, and West Seattle (the most isolated of the neighborhoods listed but it has some great beaches and neighborhoods). Other than hostels there are numerous cheap hotels, especially along Aurora Ave, although some of these fall in the down right “seedy” category, so be careful.
What to see
In the summer, check out the beaches: Alki Beach in West Seattle and Golden Gardens in Ballard. Also hop on the ferry to Bainbridge island to get one of the most incredible views of Seattle available from the middle of the Sound. And of course you have to visit Pike Place Market, just be sure to explore the lower levels of the market as well. Then head down to the water front and stroll up and down Alaskan Way, visiting the numerous shops and restaurants.
If the Mariners are in town, catch a game at Safeco. Tickets can be had for $7 but don’t bother looking for your seats: there is so much to see around the stadium (and feel free to watch the game from behind the expensive seats) that you wont want to sit for very long.
Also visit Pioneer Square (for clubs/dancing at night, and history/shops during day), and take in the Underground Tour. This tour is a little pricey, but it is fascinating and does not disappoint.
Farther north visit the Seattle Center and take a ride up the Space Needle for breathtaking views. Also take a ride on the infamous Monorail to Nowhere and check out the “Weirdest building in the world,” otherwise known as the Experience Music Project (you really can’t miss it…really).
Wander up to the funky Fremont neighborhood and check out the Troll under the bridge (don’t worry, it only eats Volkswagen Beatles). Then head over to the historic neighborhood of Ballard and the fisherman’s terminal for more history and great seafood.
There is so much more to see in Seattle that this is really just a starting place. If you are able to spend more than a few days and are able to get out of the city, there are numerous small towns and natural sights to see as well all around the Puget Sound as well as in the Cascades. You could easily spend your whole life exploring the region, and would likely be amazed and enthralled the entire time.