Home / Travel Guides - Seattle

Getty Images/Hisham F Ibrahim

Why Is Seattle Called 'The Emerald City'?

Seattle is so scenically blessed it's almost laughable. Look to the west and the snowcapped Olympic Mountains frame your view. To the south lies 14,411-foot Mount Rainier, a majestic presence on the horizon despite it being 90 miles from the city. The sparkling waters of Puget Sound reflect the Seattle skyline and feature an intricate network of bays, inlets and islands large and small. Long, skinny Lake Washington is beautified by an almost continuous series of parks and greenbelts along its shore. And Seattle sits right in the middle of it all. The vistas are, in a word, awesome, and the city’s greenery is at the root of its nickname “The Emerald City.”

If you don't spend all day gawking at nature's splendor, plenty of fun things to do in Seattle await. Besides just the downtown Seattle area, this is a city full of distinctive neighborhoods—from hip, socially diverse Capitol Hill to the salty, Scandinavian-flavored Ballard, a reminder of Seattle's maritime heritage. So what are you waiting for? Ride to the top of the Seattle Space Needle for an incredible 360-degree view of the city. Shop for locally made crafts and souvenirs at Pike Place Market. Hop aboard a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Above all, drink plenty of coffee—you're going to be busy as you explore the Emerald City.

Getting There

By CarThe major north-south route is I-5 from the Canadian border through Seattle to Portland and California. East-west traffic generally follows I-90, which crosses the Cascade Mountains and approaches Seattle over Lake Washington from Spokane and the East. Additional freeway lanes on sections of I-5 and I-90 operate as reversible roadways, inbound during morning hours and outbound afternoons and evenings.

SR 520, which becomes the Governor Albert D. Rosellini–Evergreen Point Bridge, runs east-west from I-5 in Seattle to I-405 in Bellevue. I-405 also runs north-south around Lake Washington and connects to I-5, which runs through the city.

By BoatSeattle is a popular departure point for cruise ships. The ocean-going vessels dock at Pier 66 at Bell Street Pier, downtown on the waterfront and at Smith Cove Terminal (Pier 91) at the north end of the waterfront.

Washington State Ferries, Colman Dock (Pier 52) at the foot of Marion Street, link Seattle with the Olympic Peninsula via Bremerton and Bainbridge Island. Note: The Marion Street vehicle exit is scheduled to be closed through late summer 2021 which will cause offloading delays during peak times. State ferries also leave Fauntleroy Pier in West Seattle for Vashon Island and Southworth. Service also is available from Edmonds to Kingston and from Point Defiance (Tacoma) to Tahlequah (Vashon Island). Phone (206) 464-6400, or (888) 808-7977 in Washington.

Passenger-only ferry service is offered by King County Water Taxi for travel between Pier 50 and either Vashon Island (weekdays only) or West Seattle. Passengers board on a first-come, first-served basis. Phone (206) 4777-3979.

Clipper Navigation provides daily round-trip passenger catamaran service between Seattle's Pier 69 and Victoria, British Columbia, and seasonal service to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands. For schedule information phone (206) 448-5000 or (800) 888-2535.

Getting Around

Street SystemSeattle's avenues run north and south; they are designated by both numbers and names. Streets, also both numbered and named, run east and west. Most addresses also have area designations—N., S., E., W., N.E., N.W., S.E. or S.W.—that are important in determining correct locations. The portion of downtown south of Denny Way, north of Yesler Way, and west of Melrose Avenue and Broadway has avenues running parallel to Elliott Bay and streets running perpendicular to it.

Many downtown streets are one way. Synchronized traffic lights on northbound 4th Avenue and southbound 2nd Avenue make crossing the city easier. The speed limit is 30 mph or as posted. Right turns are permitted at red lights after a complete stop, unless signs indicate otherwise. Rush hours, 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m., should be avoided if possible.

Portions of I-5 and I-90 have express lanes that change traffic flow during certain times; be aware of highway signs indicating times and directions.

ParkingOn-street parking in downtown Seattle costs $2-$5 for 1 hour Mon.-Sat. 8-8; the fare is deposited at one of the curbside pay stations. Parking is prohibited on certain streets during rush hours. There are off-street parking lots throughout the downtown area. Parking garages can be found at Pacific Place (on 6th Avenue between Pine and Olive streets), on Stewart Street between 2nd and 3rd avenues, on 6th Avenue between Union and Pike streets, on Pike Street between 5th and 6th avenues and on 5th Avenue between Seneca and Spring streets. Garage rates range $4-$12 for an hour to $20-$36 for a full day.

Public TransportationGetting around Seattle and its suburbs without a car is fairly easy thanks to an extensive network of buses, trolleys, streetcars, light rail and even a short monorail line.

King County Metro Transit operates a full schedule of bus and trolley service within the Seattle metropolitan area. Metro service is offered daily, with most schedules beginning in the early morning and ending around midnight; some buses run on a more limited schedule. Passengers pay upon boarding and must have exact fare (cash only) or use a reloadable ORCA Card, available online or at the King Street Center (201 S. Jackson St.). Bus fare is $2.75 per ride; $1.50 (ages 6-18); children under 6 with a fare-paying adult ride free. For information phone (206) 553-3000.

Sound Transit provides Central Link Light Rail service connecting Angle Lake and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and the University of Washington. The trip from Sea-Tac Airport to the University of Washington station is 44 minutes and includes 13 stops in between. Trains arrive every 6 to 15 minutes Mon.-Sat. 5 a.m.-1 a.m. and Sun. and holidays 6 a.m.-midnight. One-way fares depend on distance traveled, but the maximum fares are $3.25, $1.50 (ages 6-18) and $1 (ages 65+ and people with disabilities). Tickets are available at station vending machines which accept cash or credit cards. ORCA cards also are accepted. For information phone (206) 398-5000 or (888) 889-6368.

The Seattle Center Monorail, built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, whisks passengers from the Westlake Center station (5th Avenue and Pine Street) to Seattle Center in Lower Queen Anne in just 2 minutes. Service is offered Mon.-Fri. 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m. and Sat.-Sun. 8:30 a.m.-11 p.m. The one-way fare is $3; $1.50 (ages 6-18, ages 65+, people with disabilities and military with ID). For information phone (206) 905-2620.

The South Lake Union Streetcar runs between Westlake Center downtown and South Lake Union (Fairview Avenue N. and Campus Drive) with seven stops along the way. It operates on 15-minute intervals Mon.-Thurs. 6 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 6 a.m.-11 p.m. and Sun. and holidays 10-7. The First Hill Streetcar offers service from Capitol Hill (E. Howell Street and Broadway E.) to Pioneer Square (S. Jackson Street and Occidental Avenue S.) with eight stops along its route through First Hill, Central District, Yesler Terrace and Chinatown. It operates on 10-minute intervals Mon.-Sat. 5 a.m.-1 a.m., Sun. and holidays 10-8. Streetcar fare is $2.25; $1.50 (ages 6-18); $1.00 (ages 65+ and people with disabilities). For information phone King County Metro at (206) 553-3000.

Read More

Seattle, WA

Top AAA Diamond Hotels

AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.

Sponsored Listing

Members save up to 10% and earn Honors points when booking AAA/CAA rates!

The Sound Hotel Seattle Belltown, A Tapestry Collection by Hilton

2120 4th Ave. Seattle, WA 98121

Book Now

Sponsored Listing

Members save 5% or more and earn Marriott Bonvoy™ points when booking AAA/CAA rates!

Astra Hotel Seattle

300 Terry Ave N. Seattle, WA 98109

Book Now

Members save up to 10% and earn Honors points when booking AAA/CAA rates!

Hilton Garden Inn Seattle/Renton

1801 E Valley Rd. Renton, WA 98057

Book Now

Members save 5% or more and earn Marriott Bonvoy™ points when booking AAA/CAA rates!

Sheraton Grand Seattle

1400 6th Ave. Seattle, WA 98101

Book Now

Travel Information

City Population



350 ft.

Sales Tax

State and county sales taxes total 10.1 percent in Seattle. A lodging tax of 10.1 to 15.6 percent is levied along with a 17.8 percent rental car tax.



Police (non-emergency)

(206) 625-5011


Harborview Medical Center, (206) 744-3000; Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, (206) 364-0500; Swedish Medical Center-First Hill, (206) 386-6000; University of Washington Medical Center, (206) 598-3300; Virginia Mason Medical Center, (206) 223-6600.

Visitor Information

701 Pike St. Seattle, WA 98101. Phone:(206)461-5800 or (866)732-2695

Air Travel

Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) International Airport

Rental Cars

Hertz offers discounts to AAA members; phone (206) 903-6260 or (800) 654-3080.

Rail Service

Amtrak passenger trains, (800) 872-7245, arrive and depart the King Street Station at 303 S. Jackson St. Amtrak also serves Edmonds, Everett, Tacoma and Tukwila.


The Greyhound Lines Inc. station is at 503 S. Royal Brougham Way; phone (206) 624-0618 or (800) 231-2222.


Taxis must be contacted by phone or hired while stopped at cab stands. Major companies are Farwest Taxi, (206) 622-1717; Orange Cab, (206) 522-8800; and Yellow Cab, (206) 622-6500.

Public Transportation

Transportation by bus, trolley, street car, light-rail, monorail and trains is available in Seattle.


Two companies provide water transportation within the greater Seattle area and to British Columbia.

call or visit a AAA Travel Agent Today!

Find a AAA Office

As a AAA member, you'll save even more. Your AAA Travel Agent will check to see if AAA Vacations is combinable with other AAA member benefits, plus cruise and tour past passenger discounts and benefits.

Not a Member?

Join Now