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Seattle is the State of Washington's largest city, with an estimated population of 582,000 and a greater metro population of about 3 million. The city is located at approximately the north-south midway point on the eastern shore of Puget Sound. It is often called The Emerald City
Although it has a reputation for being very wet (an image often propagated by its residents), Seattle typically has warm, dry summers and is in fact beautiful when the sun is out. May and June can be variable: warm and dry one day, cold and wet the next. The summer starts in July. Although it frequently rains on the 4th of July, it is usually warm. The warm dry weather usually lasts through the middle of October. By Halloween, it is cold and wet, and the city will stay that way until April or May, when it turns warm, although still dark and rainy. There is usually a week of glorious weather in February, although that week has been known to occur in early March. It is a false spring, as the crocuses and sun come out, and people are tempted to plant in their garden. But be warned, there are still four months of dark, wet, and cold weather ahead.
From various places within the city, one stumbles upon unexpected views of the Olympic Mountains to the west or the Cascade Range to the east, or both, as well as Mount Rainier to the south.
Seattle is lucky to have an extremely active CS community. There are two weekly meetups, as well as a variety of events and impromptu meetups, and annual functions.
Every Thursday, there is a regular happy hour meetup at a revolving bar or establishment. They are usually very well attended, and frequently last well into the night. In addition, there is a Sunday coffee meetup that used to be at a stationary location, but now also meets at new and revolving locations in and around the Seattle area. For information about events and activities, check the Seattle Group Seattle Group and the Events page. Filter to Washington State, Seattle.
Transportation to and from Seattle
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) is about 15 miles from downtown Seattle and is served by about 30 airlines. The airport has a local transportation web page, Sea-Tac Ground Transportation. If you are staying in downtown Seattle, the local downtown Shuttle which stops at five or six different hotels usually offers the best value. It's comfortable and fast. Prices are high for all options, and change frequently, so it's best to look them up on the website, rather than cite them here, where they will quickly go out of date, and probably not get updated.
The train is a good hike from the departure area, not bad if you are backpacking, but a hassle if you have much luggage. It takes you through the industrial and low-rent areas of town, and ends in downtown Seattle. Be warned - there are frequent stops, and it is a slow way to travel, important if you are coming in late at night, or have to catch an early-morning departure.
Taxis cost about $40 + tip downtown, closer to $50 or $60 if you are going to a north Seattle residence. There may also be a surcharge. The fares are regulated, and the current regulations will be on the Taxicab section of the airport's public transportation page. There is an Airporter Shuttle to north end residences is $38 each way, and takes quite a while, because they will be picking up or dropping off four or five other people, each stop takes another fifteen or twenty minutes.
Bus service has been significantly reduced, and is mainly used now to get workers to and from their job, rather than passengers to and from their destination. Details are best viewed on-line, as service and prices are changing dramatically
There is also the Sounder train, for travel to cities beyond Seattle. Again, details are best viewed on the webpage.
Amtrak operates trains and buses to and from Portland, Oregon; San Francisco and Los Angeles, California; Vancouver, British Columbia; Chicago, Illinois; and many cities along these lines. Amtrak operates out of King Street Station near Seattle's International District, about a mile from downtown. Be forewarned, however, that these trains frequently run behind schedule.
Greyhound operates bus service to and from downtown Seattle, and these buses are often more convenient (but less comfortable) than the trains.
The Quick Shuttle runs buses between downtown Vancouver, BC and SeaTac airport, with stops in between at the Vancouver airport, Bellingham airport, and downtown Seattle. Typical fare is slightly more than on Greyhound, but they do offer student discounts.
Transportation Around Town
King County Metro provides bus service in and around the Seattle Metropolitan area. With good planning, you can ride public transit all the way to Tacoma. The regular fare is $2.25 (or $2.50 during "peak" hours). Drivers won't give change, so better to pay with exact cash. Ask the driver for a transfer ticket -- it is valid for unlimited rides in a 3 hour period. Keep your transfer if you plan to travel all the way through downtown.
There are parts of town where you might want to walk a few blocks out of your way to take a better bus. #358 to north Aurora, can have sketchy or combative riders when the off-peak fares are in effect. Peak commuter hours are very crowded. To assure a seat, go to the south end of downtown, before the bulk of riders get on. It might be better to take a bus route that runs a few blocks to the east or west, like the #5 or the #16. The ride will be much more comfortable, and north Seattle neighborhoods are fun to walk in.
If you are heading to a neighborhood in the south end of town, be sure to ask your host what the best transit option is, as some are best avoided if possible, and others can be perfectly safe and comfortable.
Before you leave home, you might want to download a system map of Seattle's bus routes - it's easier than trying to work with their Trip Planner. You can use the website to get bus times (not all buses run every day), but they don't do a very good job of present all your options, a map is better for that.
According to the Seattle City Clerk's Office, Seattle is made up of about 16 distinct neighborhoods. Seattle is a new city, with distinct waves of movement in and out of the city, creating patterns of development and redevelopment. The local papers have a strong influence on public perception, and they divide the city according to what businesses advertise in their papers. Areas of the city without a lot of advertisers are generally ignored. These are usually the residential neighborhoods that many of the couch surfers will be staying at.
Neighborhoods with lots of bars and restaurants (the mainstay of Seattle papers) include Downtown, Pioneer Square, SoDo (the stadium district) Belltown, the International District (“The I-D”), Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, the University District, the Admiral District in West Seattle and Alki Beach in West Seattle. These neighborhoods tend to have apartment houses, rather than single-family detached houses, and have better transit service, and are quite interesting to walk.
Another area of Seattle that visitors might find interesting is the waterfront. Seattle has a long waterfront, with many parks, restaurants, a marina, and it's very accessible.
The north end has nice walkable neighborhoods of mostly single-family homes. These neighborhoods are well-landscaped, and it is like walking through a well-maintained park. The older neighborhoods closer in, like Wallingford, Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Mt Baker, Madrona (along the shores of Lake Washington), View Ridge, Roosevelt, Ballard, etc have older homes, built in the early part of the 20th century, in a style called Craftsman. There are mansions and mini-mansions, many of which fell into disrepair during the Seattle depression of the 70s. They have since become renovated, and are quite beautiful. Since they are on hills, there are dramatic views of the city. There are a number of streets that end in stairs, hidden away in these neighborhoods. There are usually neighborhood cafes and coffee shops every five or ten blocks, and the traffic is usually quiet.
The valleys were built for the lower-paid peons - Rainier Valley, Cascade neighborhood, Ballard, Interbay, and the east side of West Seattle hills. There has been a lot of renovation in these areas in the past ten years, mostly apartments and condos, with mixed effects. But most of the new businesses that are going in are corporate chains, nail salons, gyms, etc. The Cascade neighborhood, especially has changed. I call it the Cascade neighborhood, for those who looked up the city map referenced at the beginning of this article. But it is now commonly referred to as "South Lake Union". It has been purchased by Paul Allen, a local billionaire, and is the location of many new high-rise, expensive condos, and high-tech employers like Amazon, Microsoft, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research, etc. The businesses cater to high-end customers. It is undergoing dramatic changes, and under heavy construction at the time this article was written (autumn, 2012). There is a street-car that runs from South Lake Union through downtown, to the waterfront. This would be an interesting ride for visitors to the city.
There are a number of quiet residential neighborhoods that were built up in the 40s, 50s and 60s, to support the technical workers at Boeing and their contractors. These are residential neighborhoods further out - Northgate, Shoreline, Renton, Tukwila, the south end of West Seattle. Generally speaking, these neighborhoods are not suitable for walking - few businesses within walking distance, the roads are arterials, with lots of loud traffic, and few businesses for the neighborhood, mediocre landscaping, architecturally tedious housing, no views, etc. This also describes Mercer Island, although it is for rich people, which means that the lots are large, with big trees and the big houses are mostly hidden away. The tract homes are boring, as is the lanscaping, but it's not unpleasant.
Even further out, Federal Way, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Lynnwood, Sammamish, you get the neighborhoods that may have been settled decades ago, but that has been torn down or completely overshadowed by development in the past twenty or thirty years, where miles of condos and apartments have gone up, with shopping malls and few if any local businesses - all corporate chain. Bus service here is difficult to get to, they assume you will drive to a park-and-ride lot, which are spaced many miles apart.
Events & Activites
Map for CouchSurfers
This Google map was created by Seattle area CouchSurfers for travelers coming through the area.
Music and Culture
Eating & Drinking
There are great bars and restaurants in Seattle. Again, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly are good resources.
Coffee and Beer
If you are planning on coming here, you are probably already aware that Seattle is a well-known haven for coffee and beer lovers. Starbucks Store #1 is located right in one of the biggest tourist attractions, the Pike Place Market. In addition, the city boasts quite a few “micro-roasters,” such as Caffe Vita, Victrola, Vivace, Caffe D'arte, Umbria, and Stumptown (recently arrived from Portland).
As far as brewpubs go, Pike Pub & Brewery less than a block from Pike Place Market. Elysian Brewing has three locations: Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square, and Greenlake. In Ballard you can find Maritime Pacific Brewery and Hale's Ales, and in the University District is Big Time Brewery, all crafters and purveyors of delicious beers. And there are more besides!
If you are really unlucky and manage to land yourself into trouble, a list of the local police stations can be found here. If you have an emergency that requires urgent attention, dial 911. (This should be a free call from all cellphones and public pay phones.) For other inquiries and non-emergencies, you can reach the police at their non-emergency number: 206-625-5011.
Harborview Medical Center Harborview is the only Trauma I care facility in a 4 state region and is located in Downtown Seattle.
Medical Advice Helpline
Many local medical centers have complimentary 24-hour medical helplines. A consulting nurse will listen to your medical concerns and direct you to an appropriate facility to receive care.
Children's Hospital: 206-987-2500 or 1-866-987-2500 (7:00 AM to 11:00 PM)
Evergreen Medical Center: 425-899-3000
Group Health Cooperative: 206-901-2244 or 1-800-297-6877
Harborview Medical Center: 206-731-2500
Providence Medical Center: 1-800-793-3474
Swedish Medical Center: 206-215-2100
Virginia Mason: 206-583-6433
The Crisis Clinic opperates a 24 hour crisis line. If you are having a personal crisis, emotional distress, or need advice or direction for a critical issue, the support staff at the Crisis Clinic can help by offering a caring ear or connecting you to appropriate support services. In Seattle, call 206-461-3222 or toll-free 1-866-427-4747.
Walk-In Health Clinics
Puget Sound Neighborhood Health Clinics provides a list of local non-profit community health clinics offering affordable out-patient medical and dental services. Most clinics accept walk-in patients, but call in advance to be sure.
45th Street Clinic
1629 N 45th St
Seattle, WA 98103
Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center
2101 E Yesler Way
Seattle, WA 98122
Country Doctor Community Clinic
500 19th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98112
Pike Market Medical Clinic
1930 Post Alley
Seattle, WA 98101
You can find an expanded list of consulates and honorary consulates in the region here.
Consulate-General of Canada
1501 4th Ave, #600
Seattle, WA 98101
Consulate-General of Japan
601 Union St, #500
Seattle, WA 98101
Consulate-General of Korea
2033 6th Ave, #1125
Seattle, WA 98121
Consulate of Mexico
2132 3rd Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
Consulate-General of Russia
2001 6th Ave, #2323
Seattle, WA 98121
Always make sure you are aware of ways to get to your host's home, but also out of it as well, should you need to. The following hostels offer some beds for under $30/night. Be mindful that because of their limited number of beds, the hostels may not be able to accommodate you on short notice or during peak seasons:
City Hostel Seattle
2317 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 706-3255, or toll-free (877) 846-7853
The Green Tortoise Hostel
105 1/2 Pike St
Seattle, WA 98101
HI - Seattle at the American Hotel
520 S King St
Seattle WA 98104
HI - Vashon Ranch Hostel
12119 SW Cove Rd
Vashon Island, WA 98070
Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence
Sexual Assault Resource Center opperates a 24-hour crisis line, offering crisis intervention, medical support, legal advocacy, and support services for sexual assault victims. The number is 1-888-998-6423.
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services runs a confidential 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline for adults & children, offering referrals for medical and legal support, counseling, and local shelter information. 1-800-562-6025.
Catherine Booth House, run by the Salvation Army, is a confidential emergency shelter for women and children escaping domestic abuse. The shelter takes in survivors 24 hours/day. More information about the shelter (including its private unlisted address) can be found by calling 206-324-4943.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office has a website with information on protecting yourself from fraud and identity theft. If you suspect you may be a victim of identity theft, connect with one of the services listed here.
Immigration Advisory Service
The American Bar Association provides a list of resources for legal help in the area, including free (pro-bono) and reduced-rate legal support for low-income clients.
There is a dedicated group for fielding last-minute or emergency couch requests in Seattle. While you are not guaranteed a couch, members of that group are often on-call and sympathetic to last-minute requests.
Your Local CS Ambassadors
If you find yourself in a bad or unsafe situation, for example if you have a conflict with your host or guest, you can contact one of the local Couchsurfing Ambassadors in the area and they will do their best to help you resolve your issue.