Top Five Reasons to Visit Seattle

5. Independent spirit

One of the most charming things about Seattle is the emphasis on independently owned shops. Many can be found in tourist favorite Pike Place Market, including crammed-full Golden Age Collectibles and the four fish stands. Easy Street Records has a knowledgeable staff and a calendar full of in-store appearances and performances that are perfect for those who prefer to see their artists in a more intimate setting. Movie buffs can enjoy concessions from local shops and a full-service bar at certain local theaters and the city also hosts an annual independent film festival.

4. Heaven on earth

Mt. Ranier National Park is about a 2.5-hour drive south of the city, and it would be a sin to miss. The 93-mile Wonderland Trail encircling Mt. Rainier is strenuous, but it’s possible to turn back if it’s too much. That trail or one that branches off all offer incredible vistas of meadows, glaciers and the snow-capped peaks of Mts. Hood, St. Helens and Adams. Another option is just a slice of the 2,650-mile long Pacific Crest Trail. Try the 11-mile long Kendall Katwalk, which is not for those with vertigo, as it trails along the cliff face between Kendall Peak and Red Mountain.

The Mt Rainier National Park does not disappoint. Photo by i8seattle/Flickr.

Equally gorgeous is the Olympic Peninsula, a three-hour drive west of the city. One entrance is Hurricane Ridge outside Port Angeles, where there are even more glacial views. The other entrance is the Hoh Rainforest outside Forks (as in Twilight). Take the Hall of Mosses trail to fully experience the ethereal, temperate rainforest. Bring raincoats no matter the time of year. Finish the trip with a hike to Third Beach and a glimpse of sea lions playing past the rocks jutting out into the water.

Hurricane Ridge and its hiking trail on the Olympic Peninsula. Photo by javi.velazquez/Flickr.

Inside the city limits, visitors can bike along the 14-mile long Gilman-Burke Trail, which travels north from Ballard to Kenmore. Biking through the Arboretum or to Golden Gardens is also beautiful and highly recommended. Golden Gardens is also notable as this beach is one of the few places where it’s legal to have a bonfire.

3. The land of music gods

Grunge gods Nirvana and Pearl Jam put Seattle on the map, and they’re just a few of the legends and under-the-radar awesome acts from here, including Jimi Hendrix, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Heart, Blue Scholars and Soundgarden. The city’s renowned radio station KEXP and record label Sub Pop Records can consistently be counted on to deliver quality new music. For live shows, check out historic Paramount Theatre for stunning architecture to complement the music. And to walk through music and pop culture history, head to the Experience Music Project, an eyesore or futuristic perfection depending whom you ask, which was designed by Frank Gehry and sits right next to the Space Needle.

A look at the cool exterior of the Experience Music Project. Photo by mat79/Flickr.

Festivals define summer in Seattle. Memorial Day weekend kicks off with chill — and free! — Folklife, which promotes the respect and sustainment of the Northwest’s diverse cultures and their respective traditions. The family friendly fest, held at Seattle Center, also boasts international food stalls, participatory dance venues and professional and amateur regional musicians. The same weekend is Sasquatch, a three-day long festival held at Gorge Amphitheater, which is carved into the cliffs above the Columbia River Gorge about three hours outside Seattle. Sasquatch also features a completely different lineup over 4th of July weekend.

Folklife is always a laid-back and fun time. Photo by morgan.davis/Flickr.

Back in the city, bask in the sun and rock out at the Capitol Hill Block Party, which reliably brings in big-name regional and national acts. The three-day long festival also promotes progressive politics and local non-profits and food trucks. End summer with a bang at three-day long Bumbershoot, which is also held at Seattle Center over Labor Day weekend. Bumbershoot features comedy acts, writing panels, a family-friendly area called Youngershoot and of course, tons of huge and up-and-coming bands and artists.

At the Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle. Photo by Zena C/Flickr.

2. Ahead of its time

In regards to sex, LGBTQ equality and conservation, Seattle remains ahead of the curve. Seattle’s alt-newspaperThe Stranger is edited by sex columnist Dan Savage, and the city is home to The Center of Sex Positivity, the annual Kinky Carnival and Erotic Art Festival, all of which retain a welcoming attitude for all types. In addition, the state legalized gay marriage in 2012, and the annual Pride Parade is much more than just a parade. There’s Pride Idol, a Pride Brunch, and much more. Adding the green in the rainbow, Seattle has been crowned the greenest in the nation. The city banned disposable plastic bags in 2012 and is a leader in recycling and hydropower.

Marching in the Seattle Pride Parade. Photo by Brettonium/Flickr.

1. Speaking of green…

Held every August in Seattle’s waterfront Myrtle Edwards Park, free of charge Hempfest promotes a “protestival” vibe as thousands advocate for the further repealment and relaxation of marijuana laws and promote the benefits of cannabis (tie-dye not required). Although Washington, along with Colorado, legalized simple possession of marijuana in 2012, the founders and participants of Hempfest continue to spread their message, especially as the fest has grown exponentially. Since 1991, Hempfest has expanded from just 500 pot aficionados to thousands dropping in over a three-day period to check out panels with local politicians, groove to local and national acts, and become more aware of the political, health and social benefits of Mary Jane.

Hempfest doesn't take itself too seriously. Photo by philosophygeek/Flickr.

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