7 Seattle Secrets

Seattle From AboveHeaded to Seattle? Read this first.

Already live here? See if you know all seven of these Seattle secrets …

1. The Name

Legend holds that every time we use the word Seattle, we’re basically making death a living hell for its Native American namesake. According to folklore, the chief was uncomfortable when the settlers named their town after him, since his tribe believed the dead couldn’t rest in peace if their name was frequently spoken by the living.

The good news is, they say the Chief’s name was nearly impossible for English-speakers to properly pronounce (it was closer to “See-ahlsh”), so hopefully His Otherworldliness is benefiting from our blunder.

Photo by Peter Prehn, Flickr Creative Commons

2. The Rain

Does it rain here? Sure, but usually just a drizzle. Lightening and thunder are practically unheard of. Plus, don’t forget that in exchange for rain, we usually skip the snow. Most of us consider that a good trade.

Also, leave your umbrellas at home. Locals don’t use them, and you won’t melt. Speaking of which …

By Troy Morris, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Troy Morris, Flickr Creative Commons

3. The “Freeze”

Although it doesn’t usually get cold enough to snow here, there is a phenomenon called the “Seattle freeze.” It hold that locals are less than friendly to newcomers, and that thaws over time. My friend Geraldine (aka The Everywhereist) wrote a sweet and funny post about it over here.

So, do I think it’s true? Well, most of my friends here are transplants from the Midwest … so maybe? Seattle also has a strong Nordic history, a people traditionally known for their privacy and independence, so I could see how that perception came about.

4. The Underground

South of the current downtown—and literally under it—lies the old downtown. They built at sea level, so it was incredibly muddy, and when the tides came in, toilets would geyser like Old Faithful. Then a big fire destroyed much of the city in 1889, and officials decided to finally do something about the problem. They built … up.

Photo by Elan Ruskin, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Elan Ruskin, Flickr Creative Commons

There’s a tour that takes you down hidden corridors and shares many of the buried details, which are also outlined in this quirky book. I particularly like the story of how they built the new streets above first, thus requiring ladders to get to the horses and buggies.

5. The Coffee

Sure Starbucks, Tully’s, and Seattle’s Best are all based here, but that’s not what our caffeinated elite drink. Generally, the smaller the private cafe, the better. I even know several local connoisseurs who insist the best Seattle coffee is Stumptown, which isn’t even from Seattle. It’s from Portland. (Blasphemy!)

Other local favorites include Zoka, Fuel, and Café Vita.

6. The Wine

An hour drive out of Seattle, in a quaint town called Woodinville, lives a warehouse district peppered with wine-tasting placards. There are literally dozens of wineries, storefront after storefront, and on weekends, most of them are available for tastings.

Some of my favorites are Guardian, Obelisco, Darby, and Otis Kenyon.


Many are small production and excellent quality for the price. Plus, they have charming startup stories, often from the mouths of the owners themselves. For instance Guardian Cellars is the brainchild of a retired police officer, who makes wines like Chalkline, Wanted, and Rookie. Get it? Clever.

7. The Food

Seattle is a foodie town, and contrary to what you might expect, it’s not all hippie health food either. (Though there are amazing vegan options here, too.)

It’s also home to Beth’s famous 12-egg omelet, Revel‘s pork extravaganza, Beecher’s handmade cheeses, Poppy’s Indian tapas, Theo’s creative chocolates (where you can take a tour and get free samples), arguably some the country’s best farmer’s markets, sushi so fresh it could crawl off your plate, an oyster selection to die for, and El Gaucho, which rivals any steak house in Chicago.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Read this Food & Wine article for more.

Fellow Seattlites: Have anything to add? What’s your favorite Seattle secret (or least favorite)?

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