Newcomers to Seattle are inevitably impressed by this big but still friendly home to 560,000 people, where the various monikers that have been applied—America’s Most Livable City, Emerald City, Latte Land, and City of Niceness—all seem to fit. The obvious charms of Seattle and the Puget Sound region draw more tourists each year, many of whom come back to stay.
Seattle’s appeal comes from its beautiful setting, its friendly and creative people, and the way the city has grown up along the shores of Puget Sound and Lake Washington. Oddly shaped towers and preserved historical districts stand alongside modern skyscrapers and the busy waterfront in jaunty disharmony. Every major event in the city’s short life span, from Yesler’s 1850s sawmill to the 1962 World’s Fair to the 1990s high-tech boom (and subsequent bust) has left its legacy; the resulting mishmash of periods gives the city a flavor absent in showpieces of urban renewal.
History doesn't make a city livable, though, and no one event or attraction can ever take that credit. Rather, it’s a thousand incidents, enjoyed daily: dining at the waterfront, watching the sun set behind the Olympics as sailboats head home; reading the paper on your early-morning ferry commute, accompanied by a lively porpoise escort service; listening to a free outdoor lunchtime concert in the heart of downtown; stopping for fresh vegetables or fish at Pike Place Market; cleansing your lungs with fresh, rain-rinsed air as you dodge slugs and puddles on your morning run; attending a summertime party on a harbor tour boat; and being surprised by a clear view of bashful Mt. Rainier from the highway or the University of Washington campus.
Seattle maintains a justified reputation for kindness and open-mindedness. It’s the little things that immediately impress visitors: drivers waiting for other cars to pull out ahead of them, the almost total lack of horn-honking, the easy acceptance of long lines at an espresso bar, the friendly bus drivers who don't charge for a short ride, and the pedestrians waiting for the Walk sign before crossing a deserted street.
Sometimes this laid-back nature approaches the annoying stage—such as the times clerks stop to chat with a customer about her kids while a long queue waits patiently—but Seattleites take it all in stride. Maybe it’s the Northwest heritage of acceptance and community; maybe it’s the on-again off-again rain that teaches patience…or maybe it’s something they put in the coffee.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition