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- There are nineteen main car hire companies operating out of Seattle airport.
- There are plenty of parking spaces in Downtown Seattle. On-street parking is free from 8pm onwards, and all day on Sundays.
- There are a lot of one-way systems in Seattle, it’s advisable to get a sat nav in your rental car or use the maps service on your phone for all your journeys.
- The minimum age to rent a car is 19 however there are large surcharges of up to $35 a day for anyone under 25.
- Seattle's rush hour starts around 6:30 a.m. and often extends until 9 a.m. Evening rush hour is worst from 5–6 p.m.
- Washington law makes it illegal to hold your phone while driving, though talking with a hands-free device is allowed. The law also prohibits doing things like eating, applying make-up, or shaving while driving.
- Children under the age of 13 must ride in the back seat. Children who are under 8 years old and/or have not reached 4’9” tall must be secured in a child seat or booster seat.
- By law, your vehicle’s headlights must be turned on from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise.
- High occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes are reserved for vehicles with multiple occupants – generally 2 or more people. They’re marked by white diamonds and signs that indicate how many occupants your vehicle must have to qualify for the lane
- All occupants of the car must always wear a seatbelt.
- You can legally make U-turns in Washington state, but only when you can see at least 500 feet in each direction
Guide to Seattle
Seattle really does offer the best of both worlds, nestled between the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges there’s plenty of natural beauty to discover, great shops and restaurants, rich history, and even richer coffee. Seattle’s current reputation is the city that gave Amazon and Starbucks to the world, but this doesn’t even come close to giving you the full story behind this oddball of a city.
Things to do in Seattle
Perhaps the most iconic landmark on the Seattle skyline is the Space Needle. Built for the World Fair back in 1962 the needle now houses the Seattle Centre and draws more than one million annual visitors to its flying saucer–like observation deck and rather expensive rotating restaurant. Open seven days a week your best bet is to buy the combined ticket with the Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Chihuly Garden and Glass is just a few short steps away from the Space Needle but it will feel like you’ve been transported to another world. Opened back in 2012 and securing Seattle’s position as a leading city of the arts, this exquisite display of the life and work of dynamic local sculptor Dale Chihuly is possibly the finest collection of curated glass art in the world. It shows off Chihuly's work in a series of connected dark and light rooms before leaving you in an airy glass atrium. Outside there are beautiful landscaped gardens and the glassblowing demonstrations here are not to be missed.
Pike Place Market is all about the love of local community and produce. It’s been in operation since 1907. This is more than just a market, Pike Place is a vibrant neighbourhood comprised of hundreds of farmers, craftspeople, small businesses and residents. The Pike Place Community provides affordable and low-income housing for those in the community who are the most vulnerable—low-income seniors, the disabled and the homeless. It really is everything that is good about Seattle.
Things to discover
If you can hear the great outdoors calling your name there are endless options in Seattle. Discovery Park is a sprawling 534 hectare natural park area and is the largest park in Seattle. Found on Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, Discovery Park offers spectacular views of both the Cascade and the Olympic Mountain ranges. The park includes two miles of protected tidal beaches as well as open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves, active sand dunes, thickets and streams. Discovery Park is a haven for those looking for a little peace and tranquillity.
The Museum of Pop Culture might seem like an unusual marriage of sleek modern architecture and rock and roll history but it’s a match made in heaven. Inside you can tune into the famous sounds of Seattle (or attempt to imitate the masters in the Interactive Sound Lab. The Museum of Pop Culture’s mission is to make creative expression a life-changing force by offering experiences that inspire and connect communities.
When you think Seattle, you wouldn’t necessarily make the link to its Nordic heritage but this surprise of a museum will show you there really is more to Seattle than meets the eye. The Nordic Museum is dedicated to Nordic history and culture. Its collections and temporary exhibits represent a hugely comprehensive collection of stories, artefacts and other treasures from the recent and distant past. The museum also acts as a heritage centre and has regular readings, events and temporary exhibitions from Nordic Americans in the Ballard/Seattle community.
Like a lot of Northern America Seattle was caught up in the gold rush of the late 1890’s. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park has exhibits, photos and news clippings from the 1897 Klondike gold rush, when a Seattle acted as a fuelling depot for prospectors bound for the Yukon in Canada. One of the best parts of this museum is the storytelling, at the start of the tour you are introduced to five local characters, you're then invited to follow their varying fortunes and experiences periodically throughout the rest of the museum. There are several interactive exhibits here that really add to the experience. The best part of all, it’s free!
If the weather is getting you down and your little ones are getting a little bored of cultural experiences then the Seattle Aquarium is worth a visit. Alongside all your usual fishy favourites you’ll find the real stars of the show the delightfully playful sea otters. Since it opened in 1977 they’ve over 27 million visitors and provided marine conservation education to over two million school children.
Eating out in Seattle
Seattle might be more well known for its coffee culture than restaurants but that certainly doesn’t mean that there is a shortage of great places to eat. From some of the freshest seafood around to Asian inspired haute cuisine, taste bud temptations are on every corner.
Staple and Fancy is a simple, Italian-inspired restaurant and offers innovative à la carte staple choices in addition to a popular chef’s choice fancy menu. The latter is a multi-course feast of seasonal dishes crafted by the chef each night. It’s dark, rustic interior with exposed brick and beams creates a comfortable ambiance and the food is always exceptional.
Nothing quite says Seattle (barring the coffee) like freshly shucked oysters and you won’t find any better than at Elliott’s Oyster House. Set on the downtown waterfront, Elliott’s is a classy restaurant with a fantastic view of Elliott Bay and an extensive menu of local favourites. This Seattle restaurant serves the freshest oysters on the half shell, as well as Dungeness crab which is another Seattle delicacy.
Café Munir is a vegetarian’s dream come true, with Lebanese influences small plates of lentils ground with caramelized onions, house labneh, and sweet pears in savoury tahini are consistently perfect. For a special treat head there on a Sunday to sample the unbelievable sumac-roasted half chicken in house pita.
Wataru is one of the many Asian offerings in Seattle and the sushi chef here is one of the best having trained under the sushi master Shiro Kashiba. Reservations here are taken three months in advance which will give you insight into how popular the sushi here is. Edomae-style omakase experience, which means the fish is often cured, marinated, or pre-seasoned in other ways, delivering subtle but wonderful flavours on exquisitely presented plates.
Admittedly nightlife isn’t a massive part of the culture in Seattle, perhaps it’s something to do with the almost perpetual rain. Maybe its the thriving restaurant scene which pulls people out earlier in the evening and sends them home full and content rather than looking or a party. Whilst it’s most definitely not the city that never sleeps there are still a few options out there if you are craving that night-time buzz.
Gin joints have seen a huge resurgence across the Western World recently and Seattle hasn’t missed out on this trend. Bathtub Gin & Co is Nestled in the basement of an old brick hotel and is a Prohibition style cocktail bar perfect for those rainy Seattle nights. Sip on local gin and tonics, choose a classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned, or be daring and have one of the bartenders concoct one of their favourites.
With Woodinville Wine County just a short half hour drive from Seattle it’s no wonder that wine bars are popular. Purple Café and Wine Bar is Seattle’s flagship wine bar and certainly makes a visual impression veritable tower of wine at its centre. Find your favourite wine with the help of expert staff and dine on tasty appetizers, entrees or desserts.
Whilst it’s easier to find a chilled spot to enjoy a cocktail or to there are a couple of nightclubs in Seattle that are worth a visit. Trinity is a great place to dance the night away, set over two floors with three dancefloors and VIP areas each with its own distinctive theme and décor. Remember the drinking age in the USA is 21 but they will allow over 18’s into the club.
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