Seattle is the first city many think of when thinking of Western Washington, and for good reason. It appears on many of the “Ten best places to live” lists compiled by such publications as Forbes, CBSNews.com, Sunset, and even AARP.
Interestingly, Seattle made the list for “best places” to live and launch a career if you’re under 35, and it made the AARP list as one of the best choices for retirement. But jobs and money aren’t the only draw.
Proximity to nature and outdoor recreation, a vast array of cultural and musical offerings, sports stadiums, the presence of more than 154 public schools and 87 private schools, more than 30 post-secondary schools, and excellent health care, all combine to make Seattle one of the most attractive cities in the U.S.
And then there’s the food. The personal finance site, NerdWallet, lists Seattle as #3 in the nation for foodies. Their ranking is based on criteria such as the number of restaurants per 100,000 residents, the ratio of full-service to fast-food restaurants, and even the number of breweries.
Seattle is also a “best place” to invest in real estate, at least partially due to the influx of millennials moving to Seattle for high-paying positions in the technology and health industries.
The median price of a home is approximately double that of the national average, but far less than prices in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, making Seattle a more favorable choice for those entering the technology fields.
Home prices increased by about 10% from June 2014 to June 2015, and the number of homes sold increased by nearly 5%.
While Seattle residents do pay more than average to own a home, the overall cost of living is only 38% greater than the national average, while earnings are 50% more than national averages.
The first white settlers in the Seattle area arrived in 1851, establishing a town site they called New York, and later New York-Alki, from a Chinook word meaning “by and by.” Before long, they moved across Elliott Bay, where a protected deep-water harbor was available. They named the new town site Seattle, in honor of a Duwamish Indian leader named Sealth.
The abundance of trees in the surrounding countryside, together with Henry Yesler’s lumber mill, provided jobs and the city grew rapidly. By the time the Territorial legislature incorporated the city in 1869, there were more than 2,000 residents.
Growth was slow but steady throughout the 1870’s, then the railroads came to town, and Seattle became a hub for shipping, both along the coast, and across the seas. This, combined with the growth of
fishing, wholesale trade, and shipbuilding, led to rapid economic expansion and population growth. Historians estimate that Seattle gained 1,000 new residents per month during the first half of 1889, and they were an ethnically diverse group, representing nationalities from around the world.
The influx of people led to an explosion of building, with 500 new structures in progress during the month of March alone. Then, on June 6, 1889, a devastating fire leveled the buildings on 116 acres in the heart of the business district.
Seattle residents saw this not as a sign to give up, but as a sign to improve. They took the opportunity to widen streets and build a municipal water works. New regulations required buildings to be constructed of brick or steel, and they were built on a much grander scale.
Seattle has gone through periods of both boom and bust, with boom times heralded by shipbuilding during both World Wars I and II, and the founding of Boeing in 1916.
For more on Seattle’s history, visit seattle.gov (http://www.seattle.gov/cityarchives/seattle-facts/brief-history-of-seattle)
Today’s economy is much more stable, no doubt due to the diversity in occupational opportunities. Microsoft and other technologically-oriented companies have led the way to a new prosperity, but shipping and transportation are still important, and medicine, medical research, hospitality, and education contribute to a vibrant, thriving economy.
Things to do and see in Seattle:
The Space Needle, built for the World’s Fair in 1962, is probably the most well-known and widely publicized attraction. From the observation deck at 520 feet, as from the Sky City restaurant revolving 500 feet above the ground, you can view the entire city. Named an official City Landmark in 1999, the Space Needle hosts more than 1 million visitors per year, making it the #1 tourist attraction in the Northwest. For fun facts about the Space Needle, visit: SpaceNeedle.com http://www.spaceneedle.com/fun-facts/
Pike’s Place Market is another of Seattle’s Historic Landmarks. Founded in the early 1900’s when housewives protested the increasing price of onions, Pike’s Place Market now offers fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meats, and the freshest in seafood choices.
The lower floors are filled with boutiques offering everything from fresh-cut flowers to modern and vintage clothing, to unusual hand-crafted items, to books, magazines, and collectibles.
Fortunately, Pike’s Place offers snacks and full meals in the restaurant, because taking it all in requires at least a full day.
For true foodies, Savor Seattle Food Tours is an attraction not to be missed. These 2 and 3 hour walking tours take guests on a “tasting tour” through selections of Pacific Northwest seafood, fine wine, gourmet chocolate, and much more.
History buffs will enjoy the Museum of Flight, and Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour (link to: http://www.undergroundtour.com/about/history.html)
Century Link Field, home of the Seahawks and the Sounders, offers seating for 72,000, plus 112 suites where owners and their guests can enjoy the games in comfort and style. Suites are sometimes available for rent on a per game basis.
Safeco Field, with the country’s only retractable roof, is considered one of the world’s finest baseball stadiums.
Key Arena, located near the Space Needle, hosts figure skating, ice hockey, basketball, and music concerts.
The University of Washington’s Husky Stadium, built in 1920, received a $280 million renovation which was completed in 2013. It stands out as the only college stadium in a major metropolitan city where you can arrive to the game via boat.
Culture and the Arts
At the other end of the entertainment spectrum, Seattle reigns as the cultural hub of the Pacific Northwest. One of the nation’s leading cities for theater and opera, it is rivaled only by New York in the number of equity theaters.
Leaders in the performing arts are The Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and The Seattle Repertory Theatre Company, which is one of more than 80 theatre arts companies based in Seattle. On the contemporary side, Seattle is known as the place of origin of many popular rock and pop groups.
Art galleries and museums abound, with such diverse offerings as the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Experience Music Project, and the Museum of Flight, which traces the history of flight from Leonardo da Vinci to the present. Commercial art galleries offer regularly scheduled shows, while the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington stands as one of the oldest art museums in the state.
A multitude of museums offer insight into the history of Seattle, Pacific Northwest Geology, dinosaurs, and the culture and history of Northwest and Puget Sound Coast tribes. The Museum of History and Industry chronicles Pacific Northwest Heritage, while the Pacific Science Center fascinates with a wide variety of exhibits, and science comes to life through presentations at Eames/IMAX Theater and the Boeing 3D IMAX Theatre.
Among the many offerings for children is the Seattle Children’s Museum, with both exhibits and hands-on activities.
Whatever your preference in entertainment, you’re sure to find it in Seattle.
First opened in April 1950 with just 18 stores, Northgate Mall is touted as having been the first regional shopping mall in the United States. Now home to over 130 stores and eating establishments, it encompasses more than 984,000 square feet of retail area.
While the city is dotted with several other malls, shopping downtown is an experience not to be missed by the serious shopper. With more than 1,000 stores to choose from, you’ll find everything from flagship stores for nationally known retailers to small one-of-a-kind boutiques offering clothing, gifts, and trinkets not found anywhere else.
According to Fodor’s Travel, “Seattle has become one of the culinary capitals of the nation.”
As might be expected in a city on the water, many restaurants feature fresh, wild seafood, but gifts from the ocean aren’t the only local ingredients that “rising star” chefs use to create their distinctive cuisine. Chefs are fond of using nettles and wild mushrooms foraged from local forests, as well as berries, apples, and cherries grown by local farmers.
Innovation reigns supreme, and local chefs are making names for themselves not only from their menus, but from their methods of delivery. Even high-end chefs are engaging in casual ventures such as pop-up eateries and gourmet food trucks.
While Northwest food and “old fashioned comfort food” are popular, the city also offers ethnic cuisine of almost every variety.
If you love fresh-baked breads and desserts, you’ll love Seattle’s offerings. Not only do local bakeries furnish the finest to area restaurants, residents heading home after a day of work or play can stop by any of the numerous cupcake, donut, or ice cream shops in neighborhoods across the city.
When it comes to dining out, Seattle offers something for every taste, and for every budget. At last count, Seattle was home to 45 budget eateries, 36 mid-range restaurants, 22 upscale dining establishments, and 16 that are labeled “expensive.” And of course, this doesn’t count the food trucks, food courts in malls, and snack bars that serve Seattle’s tourist attractions.
Travel and Commuting
According tozipatlas.com, the average commute time to work for Seattle residents is up to 35 minutes, depending upon their zip code. However, residents report that this time has greatly increased in recent years as more and more people flock to Seattle.
However, Seattle is working to alleviate the problem. Seattle’s public transit options are strong due to the recent opening of a light rail system, and a huge fleet of buses and trolleys, and additional highway construction is underway.
Does life in Seattle call to you?
If so, call me. I’ll help you find the perfect home in a neighborhood that’s “just right” for your tastes and your lifestyle (Click here for Seattle search results)