- Download our Moving to Seattle Guide (PDF)
Seattle is a vibrant metropolitan city set against a stunning natural backdrop. While those living in Seattle do have to work hard for their money, they also have a host of great leisure opportunities at their fingertips.
Whether they're keen to try the latest culinary creations, shop up a storm, enjoy a good night out or take part in various outdoor adventures, the lifestyle in Seattle offers no shortage of things to do in the Emerald City.
Shopping in Seattle
Seattle's diverse neighbourhoods offer pretty much every type of shopping imaginable. From the latest outdoor gear and gadgets to must-have designer shoes, every shopper can find what they're looking for in Seattle.
Fashionistas can head downtown, where there's an abundance of high-end retail outlets, including the Nordstrom flagship store, Macy's and Tiffany & Co. Those looking for a chic vintage piece should check out the indie boutiques along Ballard Avenue, while bargain hunters should visit outlet malls surrounding the city for brand-name items at reduced prices. Pike Place Market and the Seattle Waterfront are good bets for unique locally made crafts.
Nightlife in Seattle
There's no shortage of evening entertainment in Seattle. For those who enjoy socialising over a drink, there are plenty of bars and clubs to choose from. Pike Place Market is a Seattle landmark, and throngs of tourists flock to enjoy the nightlife each night. Most Seattle locals prefer to head to Belltown, Pioneer Square or Capitol Hill. Ballard in North Seattle is popular with a more grown-up crowd looking for a quieter evening out.
Arts and entertainment in Seattle
Seattle has an active and diverse music scene with a plethora of classical, jazz and rock music events. Expats who enjoy a night out at the theatre will be pleased to learn that Seattle has a thriving fringe theatre scene that exists alongside larger-scale productions. The city also plays host to several touring Broadway productions each year.
Eating out in Seattle
Food lovers are spoilt for choice owing to Seattle's eclectic restaurant scene. The city offers residents everything from Italian, Middle Eastern and Nepalese cuisine to traditional American fare, showcasing the best of local ingredients. Thanks to the city's world-class chefs and top local produce, Seattle has become a culinary hotspot in the US.
Beyond Seattle's restaurant scene, one cannot forget that Seattle is the home of Starbucks, which means locals are serious about getting their caffeine fix. Seattle has one of the highest concentrations of coffee houses in the country, and they can be found in all sorts of interesting locations. Expats who enjoy coffee will find plenty of quaint spots where they can lose themselves in a good book or simply people-watch over a cup of java.
Outdoor activities in Seattle
During the summer months, locals love to get outdoors, and the city has plenty of natural splendours to enjoy. From lush forests and crystal clear lakes to beautiful city parks and rich wildlife reserves, there is much for newcomers to discover in this city.
Seattle is bordered by lots of water, and it provides a unique way to enjoy the city. From sea kayaking to spending a weekend on a houseboat or having sundowners on a luxury yacht, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the surrounding ocean. Residents often enjoy taking a drive out to Lake Washington to enjoy a picnic by the water.
For landlubbers, there are several cycling trails, especially in the South Lake Union area, where one can take in some stunning views of the lake. Another great way to experience the outdoors is to take to one of Seattle's many hiking trails. Seattle has hundreds of parks that provide green spaces for recreational sports or simply relaxing and taking some time out from the hustle and bustle of city life.
See and do in Seattle
Seattle is a culturally rich city with many museums and art galleries in addition to some iconic attractions. Newcomers to the city will discover that there's plenty to see and do in Seattle.
This is the quintessential feature of the Seattle skyline. At 184m (605 feet), it's the place to be for spectacular views of the city. Dining at SkyCity, the tower's rotating restaurant, is an experience in itself.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Located at Seattle Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass displays the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly. The exhibition has eight galleries indoors in addition to a beautiful outdoor garden and magnificent glasshouse. Apart from offering guided tours, the centre also hosts several fitness classes in the glasshouse itself, including yoga and tai chi.
The Museum of Pop Culture
Unique to Seattle, this museum houses some of the world's most legendary pop culture artefacts. From horror films to music icons to comic books, there's an exhibition for everyone. Sci-fi lovers particularly will find a treasure trove of attractions here, from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame to the dedicated science-fiction museum.
National Nordic Museum
One of the few museums in the United States to honour the legacy of immigrants from the Nordic countries, the National Nordic Museum explores the cultures of Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Sweden. There's more to the museum than its fascinating exhibits, though – it also offers classes such as Nordic wood-crafting, cooking and language lessons.
Pacific Science Center
The centre attracts more than a million visitors a year and offers exciting exhibits, events, movies and games related to science and technology. From its impressive dinosaur display to its beautiful butterfly house, the museum aims to inspire curiosity.
Woodland Park Zoo
Spanning an impressive 92 acres, the Woodland Park Zoo is a reputable sanctuary home to more than 1,000 animals representing 300 species. This is a great attraction for families and includes an indoor play and education area known as the Zoomazium.
Seattle Children's Museum
The Seattle Children's Museum was custom-built for kids to peep into the adult world. From grocery shopping and theatre to kitchens and DIY stations, a visit to this museum is sure to be a fun stop for families. The exhibits are designed for children from the ages of six months to eight years.
What's on in Seattle
Seattle has a brimming events calendar. There are plenty of festivals and celebrations taking place across the city throughout the year, great opportunities for expats to immerse themselves in the city's culture and meet people.
Here of some recommended annual events in Seattle.
Northwest Flower and Garden Show (February)
This is a lovely indoor festival where expats with a green thumb – or those who simply want to enjoy the view – can visit several breathtaking show gardens and shop for plants and gardening items at more than 300 stalls. There's also an artisanal food market known as the 'Tasting Corner' if attendees get peckish. The event is held at the Washington State Convention Center.
St Patrick's Day Parade (March)
This colourful parade celebrating all things Irish takes place yearly, beginning with a flag-raising ceremony before the parade marches along 4th Avenue. Spectators are entertained with Irish music, singing and dancing.
Seattle Restaurant Week (April and October)
A must for all foodies living in Seattle, this twice-yearly event sees more than 150 of Seattle's top restaurants offering their fare at a fraction of regular prices in the form of two-course lunches and three-course dinners. As the specials last only a week, diners will need to book early to secure a table at the most popular restaurants.
Seattle International Film Festival (May)
This event is billed as one of the largest film festivals in the country, with more than 150,000 attendees a year. A unique feature of this festival is its Secret Festival. Only accessible with a special pass, the Secret Festival consists of four screenings of unreleased films. The audience in attendance at the Secret Festival is sworn to secrecy.
Amazon Seafair Summer Fourth (July)
This Fourth of July festival is held in two different locations: Gas Works Park and South Lake Union Park. Highlights include a range of family-friendly activities such as sack races, pie-eating contests and more. Adding to the festivities are live music performances, beer gardens and plenty of food vendors. The evening brings a spectacular fireworks display which is not to be missed.
Seattle Street Food Festival (August)
At this delicious festival, visitors can enjoy a day in the sun while sampling yummy street food from local vendors. With dozens of food trucks and booths spanning five blocks, guests are spoilt for choice. Festivities continue into the evening with the 'Moonlight Night Market'.
New Year's Eve at the Needle (December)
Wrap up warm and head to the Seattle Center to see the city's legendary New Year's Eve fireworks display, which kicks off at midnight. The party upstairs sells out fast, but should visitors miss their chance to get in, they can still view the show from the ground at no cost.
►Getting Around in Seattle provides an overview of the transport options available in the city.
"I like all the greenery around and the rich options my daughter and I get to pursue our interests." Read our interview with Indian expat Padmaja to learn more about the lifestyle in Seattle.
Are you an expat living in Seattle?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Seattle. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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