Any time of year -- and especially during the drier months of May through October -- you can look to Seattle Center, whose events calendar always seems to be full, or to the city's diverse neighborhoods for celebrations and festivals.
The city's biggest party is Seafair, first held in July 1950 and featuring boat races and a Blue Angels air show, but there's much more. Seattle Center, for instance, hosts the Northwest Folklife Festival in May, Bite of Seattle in July, and Bumbershoot -- one of the country's biggest popular music festivals -- over Labor Day weekend.
If you've got the vacation time, though, you'll want to get out of Seattle entirely for a few days. Take a cruise through the San Juan Islands, venture through the tide pools and rainforests of Olympic National Park, or drive a loop tour through the Cascades, perhaps circling majestic Mount Rainier.
Insider Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Seattle
Seattle is a waterfront city, but you'll never find the locals on a formal harbor tour. Instead of a tour boat, board a ferry to nearby Bainbridge Island. Wander around the village known for its Victorian architecture and abundant shops and galleries. The island's densely wooded areas and lush greenery attracts outdoor enthusiasts for kayaking, golfing, fishing, and hiking.
Join an underground tour of Pioneer Square (608 First Ave). Modern Seattle was built upon the ruins of the original wood-frame town, burnt to the ground by an 1889 fire. This fascinating 90-minute walk takes you into the dark underbelly of the city, where speakeasies once thrived during the Prohibition era.
A local favorite is the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (3015 NW 54th St), through which all boats heading east or west in the ship canal must pass. Locals join out-of-towners to watch the parade of vessels -- private yachts and veritable dinghies -- rise or fall with the controlled water level. A fish ladder, with viewing windows, enables salmon and other marine life to travel between salt water and inland lakes.
Green Lake Park (7201 E Green Lake Dr N) is a good place to rent a bicycle or roller blades to tour this urban gem, completely surrounded by parkland. It's three miles around the lake, and the park totals 320 acres. Walkers and joggers are welcome. A private company provides boat rentals, too.
Of course, you won't want to miss the view from Seattle's iconic Space Needle (400 Broad St). From the observation deck, 520 feet above the city (and 41 seconds by elevator), the "wow!" factor is in full gear.
You'll look across the rolling residential hills of Seattle and the sprawling reaches of Puget Sound to dense evergreen forests and mountain after snowcapped mountain, highlighted to the south by the 14,000-foot sentinel of Mount Rainier. The best views are on a sunny day, but remember that the lines will be long, too. And you'll have to go through a security checkpoint.
Straight down, below your feet, you'll see the metallic, multicolored glitter of the museumlike Experience Music Project (325 Fifth Ave N). You'll want to spend several hours exploring.
Conceived by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen as a tribute to Seattle-born rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, the EMP is an interactive rock and roll history exhibition like no other, as it traces 100 years of Pacific Northwest music history. There's even a sound lab where wannabe rock stars can play instruments, learn about studio and recording technology, or perform for thousands of other EMP visitors.
The new, affiliated Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (325 Fifth Ave N) is the world's first to honor a very 20th- (and 21st-) century genre of literature and film.
Another local favorite, often overlooked by city visitors, is the Center for Wooden Boats (1010 Valley St), where dozens of vintage and replica vessels recall the maritime days of yore. Not only can you see what has been, but you can also join volunteers and other craftspeople in learning to build and sail your own wooden boat.
Lake View Cemetery (1554 15th Ave E) houses the graves of Seattle natives Bruce Lee (1940-1973), the martial-arts great, and his son, actor Brandon Lee (1965-1993), who died while filming the movie The Crow.
If you're a sports fan, Seattle has major professional teams in football -- the 2006 Super Bowl runner-up Seahawks, who play at Seahawks Stadium, formerly Qwest Field (800 Occidental Ave S); the Mariners, who play baseball at Safeco Field (First Ave S and Edgar Martinez Dr); and the NBA SuperSonics, who play in Key Arena (305 Harrison St) at Seattle Center. Also playing at Key Arena is the Storm, consistently one of the best teams in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA).
But you'll often find more locals attending games at the University of Washington -- "U-Dub" to Seattleites. The Husky football and basketball teams, affectionately known as the "Dawgs," are more often than not title contenders in the high-powered Pacific-10 (Pac 10) conference. Football games are played at Husky Stadium (3800 Montlake Blvd), and basketball can be found at the Bank of America Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion (3870 Montlake Blvd).
Seattle's arts scene focuses on glass master Dale Chihuly, but there are plenty of other cultural attractions to explore. Learn about them on the next page.