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The Emerald City
From the vantage point of other parts of America, Seattle Washington, sitting on the edge of the Puget Sound and Pacific coast, appears to be a city with a shitload of problems.
Regardless of whether you’re a Mariners or Seahawks fan, through the lens of the mainstream media, Seattle, with a population of around 750,000, is seemingly plagued by crime, homelessness and drug problems.
To be sure, there is some truth to the reports of problems in The Emerald City that cannot just be brushed aside.
Though even with these issues, Seattle still remains an incredible city to visit for many reasons, but specifically its location.
Being located on the Pacific coast and near several National Parks makes Western Washington a fairly unique region in America. It could be argued that The naturescape surrounding Seattle-Tacoma might be second to none in the lower 48 states, with beautiful beaches, rain-forests, stratovolcanos and mountain ranges surrounding a densely populated metro area.
Quite simply, with ocean air, great coffee and mountains in the horizon, there are bound to be some adventures in this region.
But before the good can be acknowledged, the glaring problems that shroud Seattle’s reputation need to be honestly examined.
According to Axios, outside of New York, California and Florida, Washington has the largest homeless population in the United States, with most of them concentrated in Seattle.
From 2020-2022, King County (Where Seattle resides) saw a 13.8% increase in it’s homeless population. In downtown Seattle, car break-ins and theft are fairly common and side walks covered in filth are not uncommon sights.
Perhaps more than just it’s homeless problem, Seattle has paid the price for the “CHAZ” episode which occurred in the Summer of 2020.
On June 8, 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Seattle Major Jenny Durkan, ordered police to surrender an entire neighborhood of downtown to protesters. The far left activists had declared the area, “Capital Hill Autonomous Zone.”
One doesnt need to speculate that hard, to imagine what happened next in this area full of residential homes and businesses but now devoid of a Police presence.
Crime skyrocketed, a plethora of sexual assaults, a special needs teenager was shot in cold blood along with immense looting and property damage.
Mayor Durkan, in her supreme wisdom, originally called the situation a “Summer of Love.” Its hard to think of a more asinine response.
After 24 days of anarchy, the government finally allowed the police to step in and clear up CHAZ and disperse it’s gangs of imbeciles.
It was one of the most embarrassing episodes in the City’s history and even more alarming was Seattle official’s response to lawsuits filed by residents who were unable to have access to their properties during the entire ordeal.
The city fought to have the citizen’s cases thrown out in court and instead, insisted that CHAZ was merely the result of uncontrollable protests, and thus refusing to take responsibility for ordering law enforcement to stand down.
Moving on from this episode has not been easy for the city but despite this, Seattle remains a place worth being explored.
|Population:||740,000 (2021 est)|
|Political Leanings:||75% Democrat 2022|
|Avg. Gas Price:||$4.721 (April 2023)|
The area surrounding the Puget Sound has been inhabited by humans for more than 12000 years. Native tribes who called this area home include, Suquamish, Duwamish, Coast Salish, Makah, Quinault, and Chinook peoples.
The British, led by Capt James Cook, were the first Europeans to really thoroughly explore the area but were eventually supplanted by American traders and settlers.
In 1853, American settlers established a township at the southern end of modern downtown area. The city was named in honor of a local Chieftain who had shown considerable hospitality to the Americans.
While the Washington Territory Government would concede Olympia, a city 60 miles southwest of Seattle, to be the State’s capital, the establishment of The University of Washington in 1861, accelerated Seattle’s growth exponentially.
By the 1920’s the city’s population grew to a quarter million and by 1960 it was over 500,000.
Prior to the 20th century, Seattle was a logging community and natural resource mining and export center.
Today however, Seattle is a dynamic economic hub with manufacturing, along with software and computer technology characterizing the bulk of it’s industries.
Boeing, the worlds largest commercial aircraft manufacturer was founded in Seattle before eventually moving it’s headquarters to Chicago in 2001.
Of course Seattle is most well known in business, as the birthplace for both Starbucks and Amazon. The coffee shop chain and internet retailer have both effectively, changed the world as we know it.
Pikes Place Market
Many call Pikes Place Market in downtown, The Soul of Seattle. Founded in 1907, Pikes Place is one of the oldest public markets in The United States and spans over nine acres of Downtown with over 100 shops.
Quite simply, it is the granddaddy of all Farmer’s Markets. It doesnt matter what other Public market you have visited in the United States, most likely it doesnt have shit on Pikes Place.
In spite of the crowds, it is undoubtedly worth a visit, as some of the best seafood, coffee, flowers, pastries and other fresh food in the entire Pacific Northwest can be found here.
The original Starbucks can be found here, though in the summer, the lines almost always extend outside.
The neighborhood of Ballard is one of the more alluring parts of the city due to its history, ocean town vibe and some of the best bars and restaurants in all of the Puget Sound.
Originally settled and populated by Scandinavian immigrants, the National Nordic Museum on NW Market street has exhibits that celebrates this history and charges an entrance fee of $15.
You can then grab a beer at the Skal Beer Hall which also celebrates the neighborhoods Nordic roots with its signature Viking Mead Ale and Nordic styled feast hall.
Hiking the trail at Discovery park just southwest of Ballard, along the Puget Sound offers incredible views of the Olympic mountains and is about 4.5 miles in length.
If seafood is your thing, The Walrus and The Carpenter is the place to go and opens at 4pm.
While a distinct city of its own, Tacoma is 30 miles south of downtown Seattle and very much apart of the vibrant Puget Sound community.
With a much smaller population of 212,000, Tacoma is quieter, closer to nature and without the homelessness problem that plagues King County.
Downtown Tacoma on the waterfront is full of museums, cafes and bars that rival just about anything that Seattle has.
The Washington State Historical Museum on Pacific Avenue is certainly worth a visit and is full of relics and exhibits telling the story of Washington State all the way back from pre-european settlement, through the present period.
Point Ruston at the northern tip of Tacoma is by far, my personal favorite part of the entire Puget Sound. With a nature park called Point Defiance, ferry crossing, incredible views of the Olympic Mountains, along with top notch bars and cafes, Point Ruston is simply the place to be.
Hiking and cycling along the waterway is my favorite activity here, along with capturing stunning photographs of Mt. Rainier looming over downtown Tacoma.
Mt. Rainier is to Seattle, as what Mt. Fuji is to Tokyo. Though to be clear, Mt. Rainier is much larger than Mt. Fuji and is covered in crackling and shifting white-blue glaciers.
Rainier standing at 14,411, could be called the symbol of Washington State. Standing tall in the horizon and visible from just about any area of the Puget Sound, Rainier is also surrounded by rain-forests and miles of hiking trails.
About an hour and half drive south of Seattle, visiting this National Park is a must for first time travelers to the Puget Sound. The best months to visit are May and June, while July sees the park crammed with motor traffic and tourists.
Occasionally, visitors will have to cope with a couple hours wait time at the Nisqually Park entrance near the town of Ashford.
Walking the trails around Paradise, at 5400ft is the go to activity for most at Mt. Rainier but depending on the season, requires different kinds of gear and clothing. Paradise, the south slope of Rainier, receives more snowfall annually, than anywhere else in the lower 48 states.
Climbing to the top of the mountain is an entirely different animal and is only for experienced mountaineers or those who are physically fit and elect to go with a Guide Service.
RMI (Rainier Mountaineering Inc) is the oldest guide service in the area and charges about $1500 for a basic four day program on the mountain. Spots fill up fast however and need to be reserved up to a year in advance.
About 10,000 climbers a year, attempt to reach the top of the Pacific Northwest
Olympic National Park
Olympia National Park is the 9th most visited park in the country and is about a two and half hours drive from downtown Seattle.
Encompassing almost a million acres of rainforest, mountains and stunning Washington coastline, Olympic National Park is one of the most badass parks in America.
With numerous opportunities for car camping, beach strolling, hiking and mountaineering, there are just very few other places that match mother nature on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
The nearby Beach town of Port Angeles is also worth a visit and a place many local Washingtonian’s learn to surf.
North Cascades National Park
A three hour drive north of Seattle lies one of the lesser known National Parks in the States but absolutely one of the greatest. The North Cascades Mountain range, known as The American Alps, is the Pacific Northwest at its finest and a wilderness where most imagine Bigfoot is probably lurking.
This range comprises over 300 glaciers, more than any other US park outside of Alaska and peaks that rise above 8000ft.
In summertime, the hundreds of lakes within the park are a potently turquoise blue color, originating from the nutrient rich melting glaciers.
Be on the lookout for the Park’s populations of Mountain goats, Marmots, Lynx, Bobcats, Black bears, Moose, Elk, Coyote and the occasional, Grizzly Bear.
The Green Tortoise Hostel– For backpackers and frugal travelers, the Green Tortoise is simply the best place to stay in Seattle. Offering bunks for as low as $35 a night, The Green Tortoise is located only a few yards away from Pikes Place Market.
Each bunk has a privacy curtain, the communal kitchen is well stocked and bathrooms are private.