Newcomer's Handbook Seattle

A Seattle Year

Spend a year in Seattle and the delightful mix of events that take place here will amaze you. Residents embrace the few months of sunshine and the long, wet winter months with a variety of music, food, and arts festivals, and sporting events. Below is a list of annual highlights you won’t want to miss. Unless otherwise noted, al events are held in Seattle. To find smaller events, and happenings in communities outside of Seattle, check your local newspaper or visit nwsource.com.

January

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration—206-296-1002, mlkseattle.org; this annual celebration features a rally, a march, workshops, music, and entertainment.
  • Seattle Boat Show—CenturyLink Field Event Center, 206-634-0911, seattleboatshow.com; the Northwest Marine Trade Association sponsors this annual event for boat enthusiasts and prospective buyers.
  • Seattle Wedding Show—Washington State Convention & Trade Center, 425-744-6509, weddingshow.com; prospective brides flock to this event showcasing everything from gowns to honeymoons.

February

  • Lunar New Year Celebration—Chinatown/International District, 206-382-1197, cidbiast.org; this traditional Chinese festival includes a colorful parade.
  • Festival Sundiata—Seattle Center, 206-329-8086, www.festivalsundiata.org; this annual celebration commemorates African and African-American culture, history, and art, with exhibits and live performances.
  • Mardi Gras—Pioneer Square, 206-622-2563 (New Orleans Creole Restaurant); Seattle’s very own Fat Tuesday celebration takes place in bars throughout the city’s historic district.
  • Northwest Flower and Garden Show—Washington State Convention Center, 253-756-2121, gardenshow.com; a gardener’s paradise, featuring seminars, displays, workshops, and vendors.
  • Seattle Home Show—CenturyLink Field Event Center, 425-467-0960, seattlehomeshow.com; homeowners find thousands of ideas for improving their homes inside and out.
  • Seattle RV & Outdoor Recreation Show—CenturyLink Field Event Center, 425-277-8132, mhrvshows.com; discover the biggest, newest, and best in recreational vehicles and outdoor recreation.
  • Vietnamese Lunar New Year Celebration—Seattle Center, 206-706-2658, tetinseattle.org; the Vietnamese community celebrates Tet, its most important festival of the year.

March

  • Daffodils in Bloom Celebration—La Conner, 888-642-9284, laconnerchamber.com; fields ablaze with yellow blossoms are found just a short drive from Seattle.
  • Irish Week Festival—Seattle Center, 206-223-3608, irishclub.org; sponsored by the Irish Heritage Club, this family festival celebrates St. Patrick’s Day by presenting Irish films, history, dancing, language workshops, and a festive parade through downtown Seattle.
  • Moisture Festival—Hale’s Brewery in Fremont and other venues, 206-297-1405, www.moisturefestival.com; in celebration of the region’s damp spring, performers at this annual neovaudeville show include aerialists, jugglers, magicians, torch singers, classically trained clowns, and the indescribable Godfrey Daniels. Early shows are for the whole family; later shows feature burlesque performances.
  • Seattle Bicycle Expo—Warren G. Magnuson Park, 206-522-3222, cascade.org/expo; cycling enthusiasts enjoy exhibits, demonstrations, and presentations on all aspects of the sport.
  • VegFest—Seattle Center, 206-706-2635, www.vegofwa.org ; the largest event of its kind in the Northwest, where you can sample vegetarian food, watch cooking demos, and learn about the many benefits of a meat-free diet.
  • Whirligig—Seattle Center, 206-684-7200, seattlecenter.com; the Seattle Center presents a fun-filled family event, with carnival activities for children.
  • Women’s Show—CenturyLink Field Event Center, 425-605-4131, nwwomenshow.com; fashion, fitness, and food combine to make this event a local favorite.

April

  • Daffodil Festival—253-840-4194, daffodilfestival.net; the highlight of this festival is the large parade that winds through the cities of Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner and Orting.
  • Earth Day Puget Sound—dozens of groups hold a variety of events throughout the region in recognition of Earth Day, including exhibits, activities, and music along Seattle’s waterfront. Check your local newspaper for information.
  • Friends of the Seattle Public Library Book Sale—Magnuson Park, 206-386-4098, splfriends.org; twice a year an enormous warehouse is converted into the biggest book sale in the city. Proceeds from the sale of books, art, music, and movies benefit the Seattle Public Library. While you’ll find a separate section for appropriately priced rare and antique books, most items are a dollar or less.
  • MS Walk—206-284-4254, walkwas.nationalmssociety.org; the MS Walk supports national research and local programs for people living with Multiple Sclerosis in western and central Washington.
  • Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival—Seattle Center, 206-723-2003, seattlecenter.org; this annual festival celebrates both contemporary and traditional aspects of Japanese culture with artists, stage performances, children’s entertainment, and exhibits.
  • Skagit Valley Tulip Festival—Mount Vernon, 360-428-5959, tulipfestival.org; during the month of April, the Skagit Valley hosts the annual Tulip Festival, featuring tours of brilliantly colored fields of silky tulips, set against a backdrop of Mount Baker and the Cascade Mountains. Enjoy local art exhibits and special events, dine in local restaurants, visit nearby antique malls in La Conner or Mount Vernon, or send bulbs in your favorite colors to loved ones.
  • Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day—800-676-7780, daughtersandsonstowork.org; organizations all over Puget Sound participate in this educational and fun day held on the fourth Thursday of every April.
  • World Rhythm Festival—Seattle Center, www.swps.org , 206-684-7200; sponsored by the Seattle World Percussion Society, this three-day festival of drumming and dance celebrates percussive music from African, North and South American, Middle Eastern, and Indian traditions.

May

  • Bike to Work Month—206-522-3222, cbcef.org; sponsored by the Cascade Bicycle Club, challenges, events, and lots of bike commuting are featured all month, with many area employers participating.
  • Chinese Culture and Arts Festival—Seattle Center, 206-684-7200, seattlecenter.com; annually in May or early June, the Seattle Center hosts two days of Chinese opera, dance, visual arts, ancient crafts, and children’s activities.
  • Northwest Folklife Festival—Seattle Center, 206-684-7300, nwfolklife.org; held every Memorial Day weekend, the Folklife Festival celebrates the folk arts communities of the Northwest. This popular and free event offers a blend of world music and dance performance, arts and crafts exhibits, musical and artistic workshops, and films and demonstrations focusing on multicultural and folk heritage in the Northwest.
  • Opening Day—206-325-1000, seattleyachtclub.org; on the first Saturday of May, the Seattle Yacht Club sponsors the Opening Day celebration, which marks the first official day of the summer boating season, a Seattle tradition since 1909. Hundreds of gaudily decorated pleasure boats parade through the Montlake Cut and then tie up to one another in Lake Washington to watch the Windermere Cup rowing race. Even if you don’t own a boat, you can enjoy the spectacle from the Montlake Bridge or from the sloping sides of the cut.
  • Pike Place Market Festival—Pike Place Market, 206-682-7453, pikeplacemarket.org; held each Memorial Day weekend to celebrate the arrival of summer, this event features music stages, Northwest food and craft vendors, and beer and coffee gardens.
  • Seattle Cheese Festival—Pike Place Market, seattlecheesefestival.com; artisanal cheeses, such as the varieties produced at Beecher’s in the Market, take center stage at this festival where the public and the food service industry gather to sample hundreds of local and international cheeses. Other festival offerings include cheese-making demos, informative seminars and panels, and a wine garden.
  • Seattle Green Festival—CenturyLink Field Event Center, 800-58-GREEN, www.greenfestivals.org/seattle; at this event devoted to sustainable practices and social justice you can learn about green building, green business, fair trade, and renewable energy, and find out how to repurpose your old computer. In 2010, the festival diverted 88% of its waste from winding up in a landfill.
  • Seattle Maritime Festival—Seattle Waterfront, 206-787-3163, seattlepropellerclub.org; this annual event, held mostly on Pier 66, features the largest tugboat race in the world.
  • Syttende Mai—Ballard, 206-930-3690, 17thofmay.org; this annual Scandinavian festival is held in the Ballard neighborhood to commemorate Norwegian Constitution Day.
  • University District Street Fair—University District, 206-547-4417, udistrictchamber.org; several blocks of University Way are closed to traffic for the longest running street fair in the nation, which features arts and crafts kiosks, music and dance performances, and lots of great food.

June

  • Edmonds Arts Festival—Frances Anderson Cultural Center, Edmonds, 425-771-6412, edmondsartsfestival.com; this free festival 20 miles north of Seattle attracts more than 75,000 spectators over Father’s Day weekend.
  • Fremont Fair—Fremont, 206-694-6706, fremontfair.com; located in “The Center of the Universe,” as Fremont is fondly called, this festival features nude bicyclists and unusually costumed participants celebrating the summer solstice with a rowdy Solstice Parade, art booths, food, and music.
  • Georgetown Carnival—Georgetown, georgetowncarnival.com; start the summer off right in one of the city’s quirkier neighborhoods, with live music, a freak show, bicycle jousting, a trailer park mall, and other curiosities.
  • Komen Race for the Cure—CenturyLink Field Event Center, 206-633-0303, komenpugetsound.org; proceeds from this popular 5K run fund research efforts and local breast health and breast cancer outreach efforts.
  • Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival—the Center for Wooden Boats, 206-382-2628, cwb.org; in June or early July, maritime experts and wooden boats gather at the south end of Lake Union.
  • Olympic Music Festival—360-732-4800, olympicmusicfestival.org ; every Saturday and Sunday from June until September, thousands flock to rural Quilcene to hear “concerts in the Barn.” Music performed in this pastoral setting is broadcast on Seattle’s local classical station KING 98.1 FM and on NPR.
  • Out to Lunch Concert Series—206-623-0340, downtownseattleevents.com; held at venues in downtown Seattle from noon to 1:30, beginning in June through July, this intimate concert series produced by the Downtown Seattle Association attracts many popular musicians and is free to the public.
  • Pagdiriwang—Seattle Center, 206-684-7200, seattlecenter.com; a celebration of Philippine culture, this festival includes music, dance, and dramatic performances.
  • Seattle Pride—Seattle Center, 206-322-9561, seattlepride.org; the Seattle Pride march, parade, and celebration are boisterous events that take place on the last weekend in June. The downtown parade ends at the Seattle Center where the celebration continues. Parade participants range from politicians to “dykes on bikes.”
  • Zoo Tunes—Woodland Park Zoo, 206-548-2688, www.zoo.org/zootunes; kid-friendly outdoor concerts on the Woodland Park Lawn, featuring acts like Taj Mahal and the Go-Gos, are held beginning in June through August, with each ticket good for one adult’s and one child’s admission.

July

  • Ballard Seafood Fest—Ballard, 206-784-9705, www.seafoodfest.org ; you’ll find Viking helmets, salmon burgers, and a lutefisk-eating contest at this annual weekend celebration of Ballard’s Scandinavian heritage and maritime history.
  • Bellevue Arts Fair—Bellevue, 425-519-0770, bellevuearts.org; artists from across the country exhibit their work at the most successful arts and crafts festival in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Bite of Seattle—Seattle Center, 425-295-3262, comcastbiteofseattle.com; “The Bite” showcases local restaurants, microbreweries, wineries, and coffeehouses. Local merchants and artisans open small booths to display and sell their wares, and musicians, jugglers, and other performers provide outdoor entertainment.
  • Capitol Hill Block Party—South Capitol Hill, capitolhillblockparty.com ; this three-day street party showcases over 70 of the best young Northwest bands and deejays on three stages, along with food and craft booths.
  • Chinatown International District Summer Festival—Hing Hay Park, 206-382-1197, cidbiast.org; The ID, also known as the International District, celebrates summer with cultural entertainment, internationalth foods, arts and crafts, and community booths.
  • Family 4th—Gasworks Park, Lake Union, 206-281-7788, familyfourth.org; the annual fireworks spectacular that Time magazine called one of the nation’s “Top Five Fireworks Displays” takes place above Lake Union near downtown. Music blasting from large speakers in Gasworks Park accompanies the brilliant display. People fill the park to capacity, and other viewpoints along the lake are usually full of onlookers as well.
  • King County Fair—King County Fairgrounds, Enumclaw, thekingcountyfair.com; Washington’s oldest county fair includes nationally known entertainers, a professional rodeo, and all the usual fair fixin’s.
  • Seafair—206-728-0123, seafair.com; the Seafair festival begins in mid-July but lasts well into August, and offers something for everyone. The Milk Carton Derby at Green Lake, which usually kicks off Seafair, is a race of homemade boats kept afloat (or not) by milk cartons. A true community celebration, Seafair consists of numerous neighborhood festivals, kids’ parades, and sidewalk sales. Athletic events include a triathlon and the Torchlight Run. Other events include the Annual Torchlight Parade, a performance by the Blue Angels, and the arrival of the Seafair Fleet—Naval and Coast Guard ships that can be toured on the Seattle Waterfront. The grand finale of this event is the Seafair hydroplane race (and qualifying races), which takes place on Lake Washington. During the races, Seward Park is packed, and everyone with access to a boat takes to the water to watch the excitement.
  • Seattle International Beerfest—Seattle Center, 206-684-7200, www.seattlebeerfest.com; billed as “the ultimate world beer experience,” connoisseurs of the suds can sample over 150 beers from over 15 different countries. One ticket allows re-entry on all three days of the festival, which includes live music. No kids allowed, but dogs are welcome.
  • Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic—206-522-3222, seattletoportland.com; the Cascade Bicycle Club annual ride is one of the best cycling events in the country, and covers more than 200 miles between Seattle and Portland, with up to 10,000 participants from all over the country and world.
  • Vashon Island Strawberry Festival—Vashon Island, 206-463-6217, www.vashonchamber.com; though no longer carpeted with strawberry farms, Vashon still hosts a nostalgic three-day party in honor of the big red berry, complete with strawberry funnel cakes, carnival rides, classic cars, and a Grand Parade.

August

  • BrasilFest—Seattle Center, 206-684-7200, brasilfest.com; this sultry celebration of South American soul and Brazilian style features performances, children’s activities, workshops, and food.
  • Cambodian Cultural Heritage Celebration—Seattle Center, 206-684-7200, seattlecenter.com; through storytelling, traditional music, dance, and crafts, learn about the customs and traditions of Cambodia.
  • Commencement Bay Maritime Fest—Tacoma, 253-318-2210, maritimefest.org; dragon-boat races, a salmon bake, art show, harbor tours, and a two-day boat-building contest highlight this celebration of Tacoma’s working waterfront. Sometimes held in September.
  • Danskin Triathlon—www.danskintriathlon.net; thousands of women compete each August in the largest and longest-running triathlon series in multi-sport history. The annual event consists of a half-mile swim, 12-mile bike, and 3.1-mile run in and along Lake Washington.
  • Evergreen State Fair—Monroe, 360-805-6700, evergreenfair.org; concerts and exhibits plus carnival and rodeo events pack twelve days in late August and early September.
  • Hempfest—Myrtle Edwards Park, 206-781-5734, hempfest.com; attendees rally in support of legalized marijuana at the north end of the Seattle Waterfront.
  • Night Out—206-684-2489; Seattle joins the rest of the country in promoting crime/drug prevention awareness. Residents turn on their porch lights and gather outdoors at block parties to strengthen neighborhood spirit and safety.
  • South Lake Union Block Party—South Lake Union Discovery Center, 206-342-5900, www.slublockparty.com; scarf down a burger, get your face painted, build your own boat, and watch a movie on the lawn at this fun-for-all party.
  • TibetFest—Seattle Center, 206-684-7200, seattlecenter.com; this festival showcases Tibetan and Himalayan cultural arts, folk music, and dance.
  • Umoja Fest—Central District, 877-505-6306, umojafamilyfest.com; Named after the Swahili word for “unity,” this annual African heritage festival and parade features three days of live R&B, soul, jazz, blues, poetry and spoken word, fashion, dance, and more.

September

  • Blackberry Festival—Bremerton, 360-377-3041, blackberryfestival.org; Bremerton’s waterfront is transformed every year during this three-day festival that includes a fun run, arts and crafts, music, and tons of blackberries.
  • Bumbershoot—Seattle Center, 206-281-7788, bumbershoot.org; named after a slang term for umbrella, Bumbershoot is a Labor Day weekend event that has been a Seattle tradition since 1971. The festival that Rolling Stone magazine called “The Mother of All Arts Festivals” showcases more than 2,500 artists from all over the world, and draws more than 100,000 visitors each year. In addition to arts and crafts booths and dance performances, you’ll find fortunetellers, street musicians, delicacies from local restaurants, and non-stop music concerts in multiple venues. The ticket price covers admittance to all of the exhibits and performances, but you’ll need to stand in line to get seats for the headlining acts.
  • Fiestas Patrias—Seattle Center, 206-903-0486, seattlefiestaspatrias.org; this Latin American cultural festival features traditional food, music, and dance performances.
  • Festa Italiana—Seattle Center, 206-282-0627, festaseattle.com; this celebration showcases Italian food, music, art, and dance, including a bocce tournament, film festival, and a grape stomp competition.
  • Friends of the Seattle Public Library Book Sale—Magnuson Park, 206-386-4098, splfriends.org; this is the fall installment of the popular biannual book sale, with over 200,000 items on sale.
  • Fremont Oktoberfest—Fremont, 206-633-0422, fremontoktoberfest.com; as well as the mandatory beer garden, enjoy a fun run, live music, a carnival, and the highly popular chainsaw pumpkin carving contest.
  • Northwest AIDS Walk—Volunteer Park, 206-328-8979, seattleaidswalk.org; this large and popular event supports the Lifelong AIDS Alliance.
  • PAWS Walk—Magnuson Park, 425-412-4027, pawswalk.net; this festival for dogs and the people who love them includes a fundraising walk for the PAWS animal shelter, off-leash areas, contests, and canine-inspired artwork. You can also adopt a dog or get your dog microchipped.
  • The Puyallup Fair—Puyallup Fairgrounds, 253-841-5045, thefair.com; also known as the Western Washington Fair, this event has been held in Puyallup (pyew-AL-lup) since 1900. If you decide to “do the Puyallup,” give yourself a whole day. You’ll want to sample a famous onion burger, tour a cattle barn, ride the roller coaster, watch a concert, and savor fresh corn on the cob. Or perhaps you’ll decide to try your hand at bungee jumping, marvel at the hypnotist’s skill, visit the prize-winning vegetable exhibit, and have several hot buttery scones. Don’t assume this is a little country affair or you’ll miss out on one of the best events of the year, and the biggest in the state. Puyallup is near Tacoma, less than an hour’s drive from Seattle. The fair lasts for 2–3 weeks in September.
  • Salmon Homecoming Celebration—Magnuson Park, 206-999-0532, salmonhomecoming.org; The Salmon Homecoming Alliance hosts this celebration that aims to build bridges between tribal and non-tribal communities while supporting a healthy salmon population.

October

  • Arab Festival—Seattle Center, 206-684-7200; held every other year in odd-numbered years, the Arab Festival features folk dancing, a traditional bazaar, food, cultural and educational booths, and children’s activities.
  • Earshot Jazz Festival—Seattle, 206-547-6763, earshot.org; the city’s best jazz festival features over 50 concerts and events over a 2-week period in venues all over the city. Internationally famous acts abound.
  • Issaquah Salmon Days Festival—Issaquah, 425-392-0661, salmondays.org; Issaquah celebrates the return of salmon to its lakes, streams, and downtown hatchery with a parade, salmon bake, art, and music.
  • Pumpkin Prowl—Woodland Park Zoo, 206-548-2500, www.zoo.org; costumed trick-or-treaters can stroll along paths decorated with carved pumpkins and spooky decorations and watch live entertainment.
  • Seattle Home Show 2—CenturyLink Field Event Center, 425-467-0960, seattlehomeshow.com; the popular spring event is duplicated in the fall, with tips on winterizing your home.
  • Space City Mixer Halloween Bash— www.spacecitymixer.com ; locations and themes vary for this annual Halloween bash thrown by the city’s largest social club, Space City Mixer, but you can expect to see some mind-blowing costumes, with a $1,000 prize at stake.

November

  • Apple Cup—206-543-2200, gohuskies.com; the state football rivalry of the season pits the University of Washington Huskies against the Washington State University Cougars. The venue alternates between Husky Stadium in Seattle and Martin Stadium in Pullman, east of the Cascades.
  • Green Lake Frostbite Regatta—206-684-4074, seattle.gov/Parks/boats/Grnlake.htm; just as the weather gets a little too cold and the wind picks up the bite of winter, two annual rowing events are held in Seattle. The Frostbite Regatta is a series of fairly short races, easily watched from the side of the lake with a hot cup of coffee in hand.
  • Head of the Lake Regatta—206-547-1583, headofthelake.org; the Head of the Lake Race, which is held on a course that includes parts of both Lake Union and Lake Washington, is a three-mile race that tests the endurance of both rowers and spectators.
  • Heather Tartan Ball—206-522-2541, www.sshga.org ; break out your kilt and toast the haggis at this semiformal dance featuring pipe bands, Scottish country dancing, and a silent auction.
  • Hmong New Year Celebration—Seattle Center, 206-684-7200, seattlecenter.com; this Laotian Hmong festival celebrates the lunar new year with art exhibits and dance performances.
  • Seattle International Auto Show—CenturyLink Field Event Center, seattleautoshow.com; State Farm Insurance presents new and classic cars, trucks, motorcycles, SUVs and minivans, plus rare “supercars” and concept vehicles.
  • Seattle Marathon—206-729-3660, seattlemarathon.org; this annual athletic event features a rolling course with scenic views, and a reputation for cold and rainy weather. The event also offers a marathon walk, half-marathon run and walk, and kids’ marathon.
  • Winterfest—Seattle Center, 206-684-7200, seattlecenter.com; an annual holiday event, this festival features school choirs, a public ice rink, a model train display, and all sorts of performances and shows. The five-week festival is a family favorite.
  • Yulefest—Nordic Heritage Museum, Ballard, 206-789-5707, nordicmuseum.com; Ballard celebrates the holidays and its Scandinavian heritage the weekend before Thanksgiving.

December

  • Christmas Ship Festival—206-622-8687, argosycruises.com; boaters in Seattle celebrate the holiday season with a festive parade of lighted boats that tour Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and Lake Union during the weeks before Christmas. Shoreside revelers gather around bonfires and are treated to Christmas carols sung by choirs on the boats as they stop at area parks and beaches.
  • Community Hanukkah Celebration—Stroum Jewish Community Center, Mercer Island, 206-232-7115, sjcc.org; listen to music, and enjoy arts and crafts and a candle lighting ceremony at this community Festival of Lights.
  • New Year’s Eve at the Space Needle—Space Needle, 206-905-2100, spaceneedle.com; for many years, the Space Needle has been the site of the liveliest New Year’s celebration in Seattle. From the formal dinner dance at the revolving restaurant level to the casual party at the base of the needle, it has become a destination for New Year’s revelers. Even if you decide to spend a quiet New Year’s Eve at home, consider driving (or walking) to one of the many parks overlooking the Space Needle just before midnight. The fireworks display, which is set off from the top and sides of the structure, is spectacular. If you can’t see it in person, local news stations broadcast the extravaganza.
  • The Nutcracker—Seattle Center Opera House, 206-441-2424, pnb.org; no Christmas in Seattle would be complete without the annual production of The Nutcracker by Pacific Northwest Ballet. With marvelous sets by Maurice Sendak, this unique production is popular with all age groups.
  • Zoolights—Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Tacoma, 253-591-5337, pdza.org; more than half a million lights shimmer in the shapes of animals, nursery rhymes, and local landmarks.
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