Seattle

Space_Needle002Seattle is effortlessly compelling: it’s a buzzing, innovative city of characterful neighbourhoods plonked in a covetable mountain-to-ocean landscape, and is so laid-back it needs its own lounger.

When Seattle aren’t inhaling caffeine or bussing out to Microsoft HQ, they’re hiking along Lake Union, rummaging for ultra-chic fashion in Ballard or savouring artisan gin in a nano-distillery. Locals seem to be on permanent standby for their next adventure, their SUVs topped with skis, kayaks or paddleboards.

The city’s terrific attractions include a first-class art museum, a superb science centre, a waterfront aquarium, and the soaring Space Needle, with its jaw-dropping panoramic views.

Seattle has even bagged its own iconic Frank Gehry building, the shimmering EMP Museum, and opened up an extraordinary garden of organic glass sculptures at Chihuly Garden and Glass. MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry), meanwhile, ignites curiosity in Seattle’s past in its sprawling location at Lake Union Park, and the Seattle Great Wheel whirls seaside lovers round and round on a downtown waterfront pier.

Exploring Seattle’s neighborhoods is like meeting different family members. There’s Capitol Hill with its indie boutiques and hidden speakeasy bars, Ballard and its Scandinavian-infused historic streets, or funky Fremont, the self-dubbed ‘centre of the universe’. Downtown’s shiny skyscrapers rub shoulders with heritage buildings around Pioneer Square, home to the original settlers. The thriving International District is a bustling hub for Asians immigrants.

If you’re raring to go, coast along Alki Beach on a cruiser, spot orcas by kayak in the San Juan Islands, or hike through lush temperate rain forest in the Olympic Mountains.

Culture more your thing? From cutting-edge theatrical productions to folk, rock and opera performances, the city that brought the world grunge continues to set trends. Over 100,000 visitors attend Bumbershoot, North America’s largest urban arts festival, held each Labor Day weekend.

For culture of another kind, microbreweries are becoming as ubiquitous as coffee shops – a craft beer fix is as essential to Seattle living as a java jolt. Twist open a bottle and ponder why Seattle is nicknamed the Emerald City. Could it be because it leaves you green with envy?

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