See Green in the Emerald City
Seattle is so scenically blessed it's almost laughable. Just try to picture it: The snowcapped Olympic Mountains frame the western sky, while 14,411-foot Mount Rainier, although some 90 miles from the city, is a majestic presence on the southern horizon. Puget Sound is sculpted with an intricate network of bays and inlets and speckled with islands large and small, resembling nothing so much as polished emeralds flung onto the surface of an intense blue soup. The shore of long, skinny Lake Washington is beautified by an almost continuous series of parks and greenbelts. And Seattle sits right in the middle of it all. The vistas are, in a word, awesome.
If you don't spend all day gawking at nature's splendor, plenty of fun activities await. This is a city chock full of distinctive neighborhoods—from hip, socially diverse Capitol Hill to the elegant homes of Queen Anne to salty, Scandinavian-flavored Ballard, a reminder of Seattle's maritime heritage. So come on. Explore the Pioneer Square Historic District. Visit the attractions at Seattle Center. Watch fish being flung at Pike Place Market. Zip to the top of the Space Needle. Above all, drink plenty of coffee—you're going to be busy as you explore this travel destination.
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. 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.
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.
In-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. All hotels must meet the same basic requirements for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality to be AAA Approved. A rating of one to five AAA Diamonds tells members what type of experience to expect, from no-frills to highly personalized.
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.
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.
701 Pike St. Seattle, WA 98101. Phone:(206)461-5800 or (866)732-2695
Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) International Airport
Hertz offers discounts to AAA members; phone (206) 903-6260 or (800) 654-3080.
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.
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.