Seattle, home of the Space Needle, Pike Place Public Market, Starbucks and lots of rain. Even if you have never been to this city, you know about these landmarks and traits, but what about the less known cultural facts about Seattle’s culture and climate? I did not know much about this city, especially about the neighborhoods, culture, people, and outdoor activities. Don’t you worry, I will get to the amazing foods, coffee and beer in later posts! Sure, I expected the obvious, but what I found was so much more than rain and coffee!
I wasn’t sure what to expect when coming here, but I was thrilled to learn about this exciting city! Rainy, foggy Seattle is one of the first things we think of when we think of Seattle. What we learned was, the weather comes from the Pacific inland. It gets trapped by the Cascade Mountains, and lingers for days. What we experienced was that it never really poured, but rather misted or rained lightly. But I’m sure there are periods of downpours too! The trend seemed that in the afternoon on most days, the rain would let up, and the sun would peek out. They call it a “sun break.” On a clear day you can see a great view of the mountains including snow-capped Mount Rainer and the Cascades. Oh, and true Seattleites refuse to use an umbrella! Craziness!
The Cultural City of Seattle
Aside from the rain, the first thing I noticed was that even though this is a big city, there are several smaller neighborhoods that have their own personality. What I really loved about the smaller neighborhoods was the street art and traffic circles! This was a great alternative to having tons of stop signs everywhere. These were great, because instead of stopping at a light or a stop sign every time you cross a street, you simply slow down, and go around the circle, keeping things moving. While we were there, the daffodils were blooming, which lined the streets, traffic circles, breaking up the grayness.
Some cities we have visited had neighborhoods that were primarily residential, but many of the neighborhoods in Seattle are a mix of residential streets, with a mix of small businesses, including breweries (omg there are so many!), coffee shops, boutiques, repair shops, weed shops (yes, those are legal here!) and more! Ballard (lots of breweries!), Greenwood (where we stayed), Crown Hill (right near us), Capitol Hill (plenty of great restaurants), and Freemont (a little of everything…and a TROLL!), were just some of the neighborhoods we went through. One thing you will not see a lot of in Seattle are chain stores. Practically no Taco Bell or McDonalds, but you will see little drive-through coffee shops and stores that sell random things like old stereo equipment and Hiking gear under one roof. Hey, why not?
We all know that the Space Needle is in Seattle, but we were looking to have a free day, so we did not go up inside, but took some great pics from below! Right near the space needle is also the MOPOP (Museum of Pop Culture), which we wish we had done, especially because there was a Nirvana exhibit! Something else we wish we had done was visit Chihuly Garden and Glass, which we have heard is wonderful! One thing we did do, on a day of spending as little money as possible, was visit the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center. There was a Teen Convention going on when we were there, so we missed a free tour, but we really learned a lot about the foundation, and the amazing work they are doing world-wide!
The Culture of the People
When we go to new places, we like to describe the people. Sure, we know that lumping everyone into one category isn’t fair, but we still try to figure out the “typical person” of an area, taking it with a grain of salt. When I first started trying to describe the people from Seattle, I couldn’t quite put it into words. “They are not unfriendly, they are just not warm,” was one thing I said. “Are they a little rough around the edges and tough?” “As I rattled off my observations in an unorganized manner, Tiago took to Google to find out for sure. This is when we found the term, “Seattle Freeze.” It’s a thing!
Some of the nicest people we met, we found, were not even from Seattle. Go figure! But then again, I would not be so warm and fuzzy if I went through a long, dark, and damp winter either! To be fair, we did meet some really great Seattleites at Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar and some of the breweries! This is also a very liberal state and city, filled with hipsters. We were told there was a deep depression after Bernie was out, and even a bigger depression after the final outcome.
People here are very eco-friendly, so public transportation is very popular, and not super sketchy! We took the bus a few times, but they also have electric trolleys and trains too. With it being a busy city, there is a lot of traffic, so public transit or bikes are a great option!
You will never have a shortage of outdoor activities in the state of Washington, but there’s a lot in the city as well! Our first adventure was at Discovery Park, in the Magnolia section of town. Discovery park has a lot going for it because they have great activities for kids, but they also have excellent trails, including some that take you right to the Puget Sound. We started on the Loop Trail from the Visitor Center and went counter-clockwise. After a pretty hike through the woods, we connected with the North beach trail. This trail was great because it took you down a large set of stairs, surrounded by large green trees down to the beach.
If you continue along the beach, or the trail, you will arrive at a lighthouse which was really beautiful. If you continue along the beach, you will be on South Beach trail, which also leads back to Loop Trail. Overall it was a 5 mile hike, mostly flat, except for the spots that bring you down (and then back up) the long set of stairs. I can see this being very popular in warmer months!
Photos from our hike at Discovery Park
We had a beautiful Sunday one weekend, and decided to head to see Snoqualmie Falls. There were plenty of places to see the falls from above, and you can also take a trail down to the riverside or a boardwalk. It is a short hike, but with a fairly steep climb back up to the lots. Be sure to go early to find parking, otherwise you will be stuck in a circus of people trying to leave and park. We saw this as we were leaving!
Photos from Snoqualmie Falls
After seeing the falls, we went to All Trails, and found Rattlesnake Ridge nearby. When we arrived, we realized that everyone in the entire city of Seattle had the same idea. As beautiful as the park was, the 2 mile hike to the top was like waiting in line in Disney for a ride. Too crowded for us, but apparently this was the first nice weekend day in a long time, and EVERYONE was dying to enjoy the great outdoors. We really enjoyed the view of the lake, both from up above and down below!
Photos from Rattlesnake Ridge and lake
Golden Garden Park was a great spot for sunset! They have a dog park up above, which was really nice (we parked there by accident at first!) There is also parking right at the beach, where you can sit in your car to watch sunset, or on the beach. They even allow camp fires on the beach! How fun!
Greenwood Lake Park was very close to us, and we frequented this spot for a run. It is 2.8 miles around, which is perfect for someone training for a 5k! In the summer, you can swim, catch a show at the theater, grab a snack, or take a bootcamp class!
On our last day in Seattle, we met up with someone I’ve known for the last 8 years. We had brunch at Terra Plata, which was delicious! We had great conversation about both of our travel adventures, and she gave us some great recommendations. On the way to Portland, we stopped at the University of Washington for the famous Japanese Cherry Blossoms. What a spectacle it was! There were TONS of people, mostly Asian, everywhere taking photos! Apparently the day we went wasn’t their peak bloom yet. I can’t imagine what it will be like this weekend coming up!
Cherry Blossoms at the University of Washington
The best way to wrap up the culture and climate of Seattle is to say that it is quite intriguing. This is a dark, damp city most of the year, but yet so much color at the same time! The neighborhoods all have their own personality, the people make leave you wanting to learn more, and so many outdoor activities! There are so many ways to warm up and lift spirits in this beautiful city.