Seattle: A Whittie’s Guide to the City
Are you new to the Emerald City or soon-to-be resident? Or maybe you're just here for a few sleeps and looking for a great place to get a bite to eat. Moving to or visiting a new area can be a tough transition so we've asked your fellow Whitties for the best places to eat, play, find housing and more to give you a leg-up in your new domain.
"North Downtown (Belltown/South Lake Union/Lower Queen Anne area) — Pros: Right in the heart of the city, close to public transit and close to the water. Cons: Very expensive, louder and less safe than more residential neighborhoods.
South Downtown (Pioneer Square/International District) — Pros: All the benefits of North Downtown with lower costs, up and coming neighborhood, great food. Cons: Little less safe than North Downtown, less gentrified than other neighborhoods (although could be a good thing).
Madison Valley/Madrona/Leschi — Pros: Residential and quiet, more affordable than Capitol Hill while being very close to the Capitol Hill scene, great restaurants and beautiful running trails. Cons: Kinda far from everything except the Capitol Hill scene, not great public transit.
Fremont — Pros: All the same perks as Capitol Hill (trendy, cool, interesting) but a little less young (more slightly older professional kind of crowd). Cons: Expensive (and getting more so), North of water makes commuting South of Lake Union a bit of a pain. Wallingford — Basically a more residential Fremont. Similar vibes otherwise.
Ballard — Pros: Great neighborhood feel, also hip and trendy without being prohibitively expensive. Cons: Kind of far from most other things in Seattle (except Golden Gardens and Northern Beach areas) and not that close to transit. Living here without a car is kind of tough to get anywhere else.
U Village — Pros: Cheap good food, close to rec sports areas, lots of UW students, semi-affordable housing and close to transit going south. Cons: Many UW students, more of a college-town vibe than a post-collegiate professional vibe.
Green lake — Pros: Right on a beautiful lake, cheaper housing than Wallingford or Fremont, close to transit line, many of Whitties live around here. Cons: Neighborhood is generally lower-key than other neighborhoods (most things to do are around Greenlake but not in it).
Capitol Hill — Pros: Trendy, hip, young, close to downtown and UW, great food. Cons: Expensive, not that close to public transit, street parking isn't great."
"Wallingford, Beacon Hill, Ravenna." George Felton '15
"Fremont, Ballard, Capitol Hill." Gretchen Swanson '11
"Central District and North. Be cognizant that you aren't gentrifying folks in the South end of Seattle." Kaitie Dong '18
"Craigslist has lots of listings. Can be a little tricky to navigate but I know plenty of folks who've found housing that way." Jeffrey Gustaveson '18
"Ask on Facebook (personal timeline or Seattle Alumni timeline). Otherwise Zillow works well in this town." Matt Dittrich '12
"Find friends or friends of friends or coworkers, Whitman connections, etc. who have a room in a house to rent. I've had the best luck with personal connections and recommendations that can find you the best roomies and prices. Seattle housing is expensive and moves fast!"
"In terms of resources, I definitely recommend Craigslist. Zillow can also be a good tool. In terms of neighborhoods, it depends a lot on where you are working or going to school. Neighborhoods that are close to the light rail line (such as Capitol Hill, The University District, Beacon Hill) are convenient for public transportation."
"Craigslist — old but still completely relevant!"
"If you can get in contact with other Whitman grads and try and rent a house or apartment together. You'll be able to get a lot larger and nicer of a place than you would on your own. As far as neighborhoods, it totally depends on where in Seattle you are working. But you can find cheaper housing in the Greenwood or Maple Leaf areas."
"Public transit is amazing, but for everyday living you can't beat having a car." Dylan Plung '11
"The bus is alright. Download the app ‘OneBusAway' for accurate timetables." George Felton '15
"Link Light Rail, if travelling North/South. Very reliable, regular service from Downtown." Jeffery Gustaveson '18
"Take the Light Rail when you can. It is great. Buses are fine, but can take a long time. Driving a car to most neighborhoods is just fine and you'll be able to get parking. If you're going into true Downtown though, might be best to take an Uber."
"The Link Light Rail is the best if you live on or near the Link Line. Otherwise, the busses are pretty solid but mostly for getting around North of Lake Union or around the downtown area."
"Bus! Bike! Walk!" Gretchen Swanson '11
"The best thing about having a car in the city is that you can really get around. Public transit is great but if you don't have a car you will inevitably end up relying with some frequency on services like Uber or Lyft. Traffic also isn't so bad, generally, but monthly parking prices (and parking prices in general) can be atrocious." Dylan Plung '11
"I'm really glad I have a car. I take public transit much more often than I drive, but sometimes driving is much more convenient. Parking and traffic are both a hassle in this city, but there are definitely times when it's worth it." Natalie Berg '16
"Pros: Easier access to the area's natural beauty (hiking, skiing, boating). Cons: Expensive parking and many apartment rentals charge an additional fee for parking spaces." George Felton '15
"Pros: Faster to get around, can make weekend trips to many outdoor sites nearby. Cons: Terrible rush hour traffic; contributing to the terrible rush hour traffic; parking is hard to find and expensive." Jeffrey Gustaveson '18
"If you live in an apartment in Downtown/Capitol Hill, you may have to pay for your parking spot. Parking is also mad expensive in Seattle. However, if you plan to commute in greater King County, cars are extremely helpful. If you're commuting within Seattle, the light rail is great." Kaitie Dong '18
"Pros: It is highly helpful for things like groceries, visiting friends who are far away and exploring the outdoors (even going to some park within the city helps to have a car), which is necessary over here! Cons: You usually have to pay for parking or find street parking, which is difficult and runs you the risk of someone breaking into it. You end up spending a lot more money than you probably do driving it but is necessary for reasons I listed above. Plus, who knows where you will get a job that may require you to drive it." Maggie Allen '12
"Pro: The many awesome parks, attractions and eclectic neighborhoods across King County. Con: Parking is very expensive near Downtown/Capitol Hill ($200-350 per month)." Matt Dittrich '12
"The main good thing about having a car is being able to drive to all of the wonderful places outside of Seattle itself. Part of the beauty of living there is that you are so close to skiing, hiking and the water. It's really great to have a car to be able to appreciate the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and not stay cooped up in the city. The major con of having a car is that at any apartment building, you will likely having to pay $50 to $100 a month for parking, unless you are in a neighborhood where street parking is easy to find."
"So many cool bookstores, museums, record shops, ferry rides and long walks around Richmond or Edmond beach are relaxing and nice. I like to explore all the amazing things the Seattle area has to offer. So it's always fun to plan a low-key day-trip out." Dylan Plung '11
"I like to get out of the city and go skiing at Crystal Mountain." Gretchen Swanson '11
"Burke-Gilman trail, Magnuson Park, Carkeek Park, parks generally; go out to eat on The Ave. (University Way in the U-District); see live music." Jeffrey Gustaveson '18
"There are three events I go to on a regular basis that I highly recommend to everyone I meet:
1) The disco train car dance party at the Orient Express.
2) Storytelling: Fresh Ground Stories, on the third Thursday of each month, at Roy Street Coffee & Tea. True, personal stories, like The Moth. Amazing people.
3) A wrestling show called 321 Battle at Evolv Fitness in South Lake Union. This ‘indie semi-pro underground' wrestling event is an all-night thrill ride. The characters are complex, the punches are fake, and the aerodynamics are real. If you are the kind of person, like me, who has no interest in wrestling whatsoever, you will like this production. I hope #weirdwrestling speaks for itself." Miriam Kolker '13
"Go running around Green Lake or Discovery Park which has amazing water views."
"Kayak or boating on the lakes, running Green Lake."
"Walk Green Lake; explore Discovery Park."
"Hiking off of I-90 just a short drive from the city, biking at Myrtle Edwards Park on the waterfront, exploring new food and drink."
"Run around Green Lake, free events at the Patagonia store, hiking, biking and trying new food places/bars."
"Spring/Summer: Climb outside, go to the lakes or ocean, drink outside, spike ball, HIKE, go out to food festivals and love life because summer in Seattle is heaven. Fall/Winter: Climb inside, play music, drink whiskey in cozy indoor bars, go to concerts and write bad software."
"Usually, I like to get out of the city to hike or snowshoe, and luckily there are plenty of areas nearby! It's also fun to take the ferry to Bainbridge Island where you can get lunch, go to some breweries or wineries and take in the scenery. There's no shortage of fun things to do in the Seattle area, whether you're in the mood for some mini golf, a show at the theater, a rooftop bar, antique shop hunting, an art gallery tour and more."
"Go out to great restaurants/bars/breweries, explore parks and urban trails, go hiking outside of the city, visit art museums, see live music, see sporting events (Mariners, Seahawks), explore the city by bike (good cycling infrastructure)."
"Pike Brewing in Pike Place has great beer and a wonderful atmosphere. Check out Crystal Mountain, Mt. Baker, or Stevens Pass for alpine winter sports. (Snoqualmie is too small and too crowded)." George Felton '15
"Green Lake, Olympic Sculpture Park, MOHAI, Seattle Art Museum (SAM)" Liam Mundy '10
"Local parks: Green Lake, Carkeek, Lincoln Park, the Olympic Peninsula (Port Angeles for Hurricane Ridge and a decent town, the coast, the Hood Canal), the Cascades (Leavenworth, any hike off Highway 2, kayaking the Skykomish), the San Juan Islands, Whidbey Island." Maggie Allen '12
"Any nearby parks for hiking. Gas Works Park for a good view." Noah Porter '16
"Cafe Mox is a board game store and cafe where you can play board games for free."
"Hard to pick -- there are so many! Head north on I-5 or east on I-90 and you can access all sorts of hiking trails!"
"I-90 and Highway 2 all have great outdoor activities (about 1.5 hours away); I also love Bellingham, it is a sweet small town getaway for a weekend."
"You can get a climbing membership at Stone Garden, Seattle Bouldering Project or Vertical World. I also love getting breakfast and going for a walk around Green Lake."
"The UW has affordable rentals right on Lake Washington for fun water sports. Check out Green Lake to walk around and throw a Frisbee. I love Cinebarre in Montlake Terrace. You can get drinks and food delivered to you while you watch a movie on the big screen! Watching the Seattle Thunderbirds hockey team is very exciting as well and is generally much cheaper than a trip into downtown Seattle for a Mariners or Seahawks game."
"For hiking/snowshoeing and camping, I would go anywhere up and down the Cascades or to the Washington/Oregon coast. There are so many beautiful places to see in our own backyard!"
"Capitol Hill definitely has the best food ... The food I go to most frequently is up in Shoreline. I also love going downtown and getting all the goodies for a picnic at Pike Place. I love Suika on Capitol Hill because it's kind of a good crash-course to the city. But honestly, if somebody was new to the city I would just recommend going down to Pike Place and snacking your way through as a low-key, fun meal with amazing vibes and views." Dylan Plung '11
"Capitol Hill is really great for restaurants and nightlife. It is getting more expensive than it used to be, but the food really is fantastic. Sizzle & Crunch in the U-District is fast-casual Vietnamese food, tastes amazing, and great value. Perfect for a new grad." George Felton '15
"Gordito's: affordable, delicious Mexican food in the Greenwood neighborhood. Take-out or sit down, but not too fancy!" Jeffrey Gustaveson '18
"Any Ethan Stowell restaurant. My favorite is How to Cook a Wolf." Liam Mundy '10
"Insanely hard question. I'll go with Poquitos. It's in the heart of Capitol Hill (Pike and 10th) i.e. the heart of the city; top-shelf Mexican food for the W2-sick Whittie. Plus the atmosphere is the perfect combination of sexy elegance and laid-back fun." Matt Dittrich '12
"Capitol Hill is the obvious answer being so dense; Pike Place has many restaurants and snacky stands, with a wide variety of cuisine; Ballard Ave. is quite trendy; Wallingford and the U District are chock full of great Asian restaurants ... Musashi's on 45th is a great place for sushi. It's tiny, the line is always long, but it's worth it because the price is so affordable. The ‘Chirashi bowl' has a cult following."
"Rosita's by Green Lake is top notch Mexican food."
"Un Bien-the original Paseo's owners started this sandwich shop and it's the tastiest sandwich we have."
"Mamnoon in Capitol Hill. Great Lebanese food that's been hard to find in Seattle."
"Tacos Chukis. Super cheap and not weird to sit by yourself if you don't know anyone, yet."
"Toulouse Petit-Great brunch and happy hour menu."
"It depends on your budget and cuisine preferences. I'd recommend cooking for yourself to save money, but for eating out, my personal favorites are: Gourmet Noodle Bowl, Jade Garden Dim Sum, Maneki, Mr. Gyros, Paseo, Aloha Ramen."
"Kedai Makan-great affordable Malaysian food, very unique."
"Din Tai Fung in the U-District; fun atmosphere and AMAZING food."
"Uneeda Burger in Freemont. Great burgers, great beer, great atmosphere!"
"Portage Bay Cafe: Classic favorite in Seattle for the best brunch (with an unlimited toppings bar)."
"Agua Verde-good, cheap Mexican food with a great view."
"Super Six. Hawaiian fusion food is always fun and delicious, plus it's in Columbia City which I think is often overlooked by people who get lured into the ‘cool' neighborhoods up north."
"This is a really hard question for me to answer-I love giving restaurant recommendations! I think any of Ethan Stowell's restaurants are worth a trip, especially Tavolata (Belltown and Capitol Hill) or How to Cook a Wolf (Queen Anne). Most of his restaurants incorporate some Pacific Northwest staples in their menus no matter the cuisine and everything is always very fresh. I am also a sushi addict, so Umi Sake House and Shiro's (both Belltown) are two other favorites."
"Witness because of the amazing cocktails and chicken and waffles."
"Check out Add-a-Ball in Ballard. It's a 21+ old-school arcade and the space itself is made up of multiple additions over the year, resulting in a really quirky (while somewhat dive-y) vibe. If you're into live music, check out the Crocodile in Belltown or Tractor Tavern in Ballard. The Stranger (our fiercely local independent newspaper) runs an events calendar that is a great resource. (https://www.thestranger.com/events/)." George Felton '15
"Showbox in downtown Seattle to see music." Gretchen Swanson '11
"I like Sea Monster Lounge in Wallingford (live music, lots of local funk and alt rock groups.)" Jeffery Gustaveson '18
"Start with Capitol Hill for the classic Seattle ‘nightlife' scene. Also great trendy bars in the North end." Kaitie Dong '18
"Again, Capitol Hill is the classic answer because it has a lot of bars and clubs and is great for staying out late and dancing. The Octopus Bar in Wallingford is my go-to place because of its nautical theme, awesome vibe and good drinks. I'd also recommend Ballard for a good night out, a bit older crowd than Capitol Hill, but still enough bars to explore." Maggie Allen '12
"Capitol Hill! Hands down." Matt Dittrich '12
"Dancing: My favorite place to go out on a Saturday night is ‘Stayin' Alive' at the Orient Express. It's a disco party in a Chinese restaurant on a train.
Bars: For a very Seattle-esque hipster bar, Linda's Tavern or Montana.
Shows: Neumos and Chop Suey for music." Miriam Kolker '13
"Mox Boarding House is a lovely bar where you can play board games."
"The U District Farmers' Market goes year-round. It's big and fun and alive and I always come away with something good! Try the strudel!" Dylan Plung '11
"Each of the neighborhoods has their own Farmers' Market, but the only year-round ones are in Ballard, U-district and West Seattle. Go to https://seattlefarmersmarkets.org/ to see more." George Felton '15
"University District Farmers' Market happens every Saturday near the University Height Center in the mornings/early afternoon." Jeffery Gustaveson '18
"Pike Place Market (best to go in the early morning to avoid tourist traffic); the Ballard Sunday Market is also great." Liam Mundy '10"The Ballard Farmers' Market runs year round and has a great selection of produce and other foods. It takes place on Sundays in the main part of Ballard."
"Queen Anne Farmers' Market, Tuesday through Thursday in the Summer"
"I like the one in Issaquah the best. It's a little bit more open and is easier to find parking at. It's only about 20 minutes away from some places in Seattle."
"I like the Ballard farmers market on Sundays! It's best during the spring and summer-I always buy flowers there because they're so fresh and so cheap compared to the grocery stores. They close down several blocks of Old Ballard Ave. for the market each week, and there are also lots of food trucks if you get hungry for lunch."
"Moving to Seattle from relatively small towns is intimidating at first. My best advice is to avoid the inclination to stick to a boring routine, early on. I wish I had done less sticking around my apartment and more exploring from the start. Don't be afraid to get lost in the city a bit (be safe, of course!). This is a magical, beautiful, amazing place. Don't forget how big and full of opportunity it is." Dylan Plung '11
"I grew up in Seattle, but it is true that it's hard to make new friends here. Reach out to other Whitties when you first arrive!" George Felton '15
"Where to begin ... General advice would be: Get a good rain jacket, reach out to your network and offer to take people to coffee even if you don't know them, don't be afraid to have a ‘commute' shoe." Gretchen Swanson '11
"S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a real thing out here. Buy a sun lamp for the dark winter months ... or otherwise pay attention to how the weather can alter your mood and ask area natives how they cope!" Jeffery Gustaveson '18
"It's a very expensive place to live, so a cheaper apartment may mean a crappy place. We pay way less than our friends but have inattentive landlords, thin walls, poor heating, a bad kitchen, a community washing machine that breaks down, etc. So choose wisely ... a cheap apartment is probably worth it for a bit-especially if you're in grad school-but be prepared for these setbacks!" Maggie Allen '12
"‘Seattle freeze' can seem real; all you have to do to warm people up is reach out." Matt Dittrich '12
"The search for housing can be very arduous. Follow through with any opportunity, as it could lead to your new home. Don't be afraid to say no thank you. Seattle is improving its roadway signage, but it is not great. Downtown roads and stoplights are not intuitive. Lots of restaurants are closed on Monday." Miriam Kolker '13
"Summer is the most difficult time to find a lease." Noah Porter '16
"I moved to Renton when I first lived here. It was so far away from everything. I would recommend living in the city or Eastside with friends (living alone can be very expensive given rent prices). Stay close to where your community might be."
"Cost of living is high! Map out your priorities before getting into the hunt for a place to live-are you open to living with roommates, how long of a commute are you up for, what amenities do you really want, do you want updated appliances, etc. That will help you ensure that you're paying for the things you really want and need for a happy city life."
"You have to be very strategic about your commute-I use google maps a lot to figure out when to go places and the best ways to get there. I learned the hard way that car break-ins are somewhat common (depending on where you live), if you can go without a car and use public transit/ride sharing, I'd recommend it."
"Housing is really hard to find-it moves so quickly! Use your personal connections, don't settle for something just because it's a short commute to work, and be patient."
"Do not drive on I-5 from 4:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. unless you want to be sitting in a parking lot."
"Learn how to navigate around South Lake Union. From there the city is easy to navigate."
"One thing I've learned the hard way is to pay for street parking! Even if you think you'll only be gone a few minutes or that the chances that parking enforcement will come by are slim, pay. Too many times I've found myself wishing that I had just paid the $2 or $5 or whatever it is instead of having to pay $47."
"There is a lot of residential flux in certain areas, that can make it difficult to meet new people and make lasting relationships outside of work and existing connections. Don't believe in the ‘Seattle freeze.' People genuinely want to connect and wish that the community was warmer and easier to navigate. You have to put yourself out there a bit."
"I love that in just a few minutes or with a short drive I can be at a beach, by a lake, up a mountain, downtown. I love that parts of Seattle still feel like a much smaller city and that, though it's expensive, you can really live here." Dylan Plung '11
"Seattle's Summer is the best in the nation. Fight me." George Felton '15
"Lots of art, music, cultural events and a vibrant, politically engaged subculture (if you seek it out!)." Jeffrey Gustaveson '18
"Because I love the South End/social justice community and the fun events. Seattle is definitely a ‘city' in the sense that there is a lot going on." Kaitie Dong '18
"It is growing so rapidly. What used to be a small, unknown city has become known worldwide for the technology industry giants that make their home here." Liam Mundy '10
"The progressive culture (that old Seattle that still lingers, the grunge and art), the Salish Sea and the mountains on both side, the good food, cool neighborhoods, and general walkability and bike-ability, the accessibility to beautiful places. There is so much to do here that it is often overwhelming!" Maggie Allen '12
"It's ridiculously gorgeous, full of opportunity and most of us want to make the world a better place." Matt Dittrich '12
"I love Seattle for so many reasons. The scenery is extraordinary, twinkling homes atop evergreen hills, sandwiched between mountains and water. People are considerate and friendly (even through the existent Seattle Freeze). I love having a Whittie network and unintentional reunions. If I find myself too stuck in a bubble, there is always a park or restaurant I can find newness in." Miriam Kolker '13
"Seattle is beautiful. I love being so close to the water and mountains. There are great parks all through the city, so you don't feel overwhelmed by urban life. People are pretty friendly, there's lots of new and high paying jobs, etc."
"Seattle provides a lot of opportunities for someone just starting a career. It's nice to be in a place where you can find a job in your field, and have so much outdoor recreation around for your time off work."
"I love all the water and outdoor activities available. It is also full of Whitties!"
"The city just has a particular energy that I find invigorating. I've lived here for three years now, and I still get excited driving into Downtown Seattle, walking through Pike Place Market, or visiting an area I haven't been to yet. It's been a tough transition at times because I grew up in a small town, but the energy makes the traffic and congestion worth it."