Newcomer's Handbook Seattle


Seattle Introduction

Welcome to Seattle, one of the most livable urban areas in the world! No doubt you’ve heard about the rain, but there’s a lot more to the “Emerald City” than that. Part of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is one of the most beautiful and lush regions in the United States. On a clear day, from atop every one of Seattle’s many hills, you can view snow-capped mountains—including majestic Mount Rainier to the southeast—crystal-clear lakes, or the magnificent Puget Sound.

Don’t be daunted by the rumors you’ve heard about Seattle and rain. While it’s certainly true that the city has its share of rainy days, much of Seattle’s rain is really a fine mist or drizzle. Often a day that starts off cloudy becomes bright and sunny by afternoon. Winters are wet but mild, averaging about five inches of rain per month from November to January, with temperatures seldom falling below the low- to mid-30s. Summers are comfortably warm, typically in the mid-70s. Spring and fall are cool but often sunny, and you’ll enjoy some of the most spectacular views during these seasons, with snowy mountains set against a backdrop of radiantly clear, sunlit blue sky. Surprisingly, some residents prefer the cooler days, and as summer ends will tell you that they’re relieved to be done with the weeks of “hot” temperatures. Most appreciate the rain, understanding that it is an indispensable factor in creating some of the wonderful characteristics of this area, such as the abundant green expanses, colorful rhododendrons, and plentiful lakes and waterways.

Situated between two bodies of water and two mountain ranges, Seattle has stunning vistas that can be enjoyed throughout the city. To the west is Puget Sound, an inland saltwater sea that connects to the Pacific Ocean. The Sound is what makes Washington immediately recognizable on every map of the United States, creating the Olympic Peninsula. Running along the middle of the peninsula are the Olympic Mountains (the “Olympics”), which are surrounded by forests and small logging towns. From Seattle, one can see the Olympics clearly, and recognize The Brothers, a twin-peaked mountain in the center of the range.

East of the city lies Lake Washington, 22 miles long and part of a system of lakes in the Seattle area that were formed by glaciers. Other lakes within the city include Lake Union, just north of downtown and connected by man-made channels to Lake Washington and Puget Sound, as well as Green Lake, Haller Lake, and Bitter Lake, all located in the north end of the city. All of these lakes are fed by mountain streams created by melting snow in the Cascades, a volcanic mountain range that runs the length of the state and separates Western and Eastern Washington. Mount Rainier is part of the Cascade Range, as are many smaller mountains that can be seen from vantage points throughout the city.

All of these natural wonders contribute to the abundant recreational opportunities that make Seattle a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts. From early spring to late summer, residents hike and camp in both the Cascades and the Olympics. There is water-skiing in nearby lakes, kayaking on the Sound, and fishing along the many rivers and streams. More intrepid adventurers travel to the eastern side of the Cascades for rock-climbing and bouldering, or head into the mountains for challenging mountain-climbing on Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Mount Adams, or The Brothers. In the winter several popular ski resorts in the Cascades offer downhill skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing. Those resorts on Snoqualmie Pass are just an hour drive from Seattle on I-90; others are slightly farther away on Mount Baker, Stevens Pass, and Mount Rainier.

Beneath the natural beauty, however, are problems. Puget Sound may sparkle on a clear day, but pollution is damaging the health of the waterway and its inhabitants. A large fish kill occurred during the summer of 2010 in Hood Canal, an offshoot of Puget Sound, caused in part by sewage runoff that helped to drastically drop oxygen levels. Red tide is common, which prompts shellfish harvesting bans. Puget Sound orcas (killer whales) were classified as an endangered species in 2005. Cleanup programs exist, but it remains to be seen if they will be enough to reverse the damage. If you take advantage of the many water-based recreational activities, remember to minimize your “footprint” just as you would do on land. Don’t toss litter in the water or dump human waste overboard. Think about kayaking instead of power boating, and support organizations that are working to minimize pollution, such as the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance.

In addition to the mild weather and the natural beauty of the area, Seattle and its swiftly growing surrounding communities also share a dynamic economy. Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest individuals, lives ten minutes east of Seattle in Medina. Fifteen miles north and east of Seattle lies the town of Redmond, home to Gates’ company, Microsoft. National giants with large offices in nearby Bellevue include Eddie Bauer, T-Mobile, and Expedia. In the five years between 2003 and 2008, Seattle’s economy showed impressive growth, especially in the areas of technology and health care.

The effects of the financial crisis and recession of 2008–2009 were certainly felt in the Seattle area, though many believe the city escaped the worst of the crash as a result of its diverse economy and the health of local corporate giants like Microsoft, Starbucks, and Amazon. Nonetheless, between 2008 and 2011 many residents watched their homes steadily lose value and their IRAs shrink. A majority of the city’s cherished arts organizations lost funding, social services programs had to be cut or scaled back, and libraries and community centers had to close. Despite these setbacks, the Puget Sound Region remains one of the swiftest growing areas of the country, and per-capita income in Seattle is 25% above the U.S. average.

Since the beginning of the new millennium, the local economy and beautiful surroundings have brought thousands of newcomers to Seattle. From 2000 to 2010, King, Snohomish, Kitsap, and Pierce counties, which make up the Seattle metropolitan area, added over 400,000 new residents. According to the 2010 Census, Seattle’s population is currently at 612,000, a nearly 9% increase since the previous count, and growth in nearby cities such as Renton, Issaquah, and Auburn has been far more dramatic. By 2014 the population of the metropolitan area is expected to top 5 million people.

To accommodate the influx, and to decrease urban sprawl and its negative environmental impacts, city townhouses and condominiums have slowly replaced single-family houses with large yards in neighborhoods such as Ballard and Fremont. The demand for condos in downtown Seattle areas like Belltown and South Lake Union is high, with properties snapped up before construction is finished. Seattle is one of the country’s most educated cities, according to a study by the Brookings Institution. A high percentage of college graduates are attracted to a hip, urban lifestyle in Seattle and are helping to drive the demand for downtown living. While some Seattle homes are still affordable for middle-income and first-time homebuyers, housing prices have continued their relentless upward march. With the increased demand for housing, some formerly overlooked Seattle neighborhoods, like South Park, Beacon Hill, and the Central District, are now being revitalized, with old homes remodeled and new houses built in these areas. Other newcomers, especially those with families, are opting for homes outside the city limits.

Seattle entered the national spotlight in the 1990s, making espresso (Starbucks), “grunge” music (Nirvana, Pearl Jam), microbrews (Red Hook), and software (Microsoft) a daily part of U.S. culture. In recent years, the city’s residents have added fine dining and Major League Soccer to their list of favorite leisure pursuits. Growth, prosperity, and the innovative culinary talents of chefs such as Ethan Stowall, Matt Dillon, and Tom Douglas and have given rise to a thriving restaurant scene. The Seattle Sounders soccer team, first established in 2007, played its inaugural match in 2009, and went on to win the U.S. Open Cup an unprecedented three years in a row between 2009 and 2011. On game days, passersby are treated to intermittent and thunderous roars from the fans crowding CenturyLink Field in SoDo, where the team plays its sold-out home matches. In addition, Seattle has a nationally recognized performing arts community, including the Seattle Symphony, the Seattle Opera, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet, as well as several theatrical companies including the Seattle Repertory Theatre, and A Contemporary Theater (ACT).

As newcomers soon learn, conversations here, which used to revolve primarily around microbrews, coffee, computers, and the weather, now lament the traffic. The Texas Transportation Institute’s annual study of 75 urban areas listed Seattle as having the 10th worst commute time in 2009. The institute also estimated that travelers in the region experience 44 hours of delay each year. Your daily commute is an extremely important factor to consider when choosing a place to live here, especially if your route includes either of the two bridges. Highway 520 and Interstate 90 run along bridges that span Lake Washington, connecting Seattle with the Eastside communities, which include Bellevue, Kirkland, Issaquah, Renton, Redmond, and Woodinville. Both bridges create traffic bottlenecks during rush hour, and these transit headaches will be exacerbated when the 520 bridge replacement project gets under way in 2012. On the bright side, the views of Lake Washington and Mount Rainier from the bridge decks are amazing!

As Seattle continues to grow, another point of concern for new and old residents alike is personal safety. Happily, in the past several years, Seattle’s crime rates have declined in most neighborhoods, due in part to strong community involvement. Auto thefts and car prowls—car break-ins and burglary—continue to plague residents of certain areas despite efforts by local police agencies. No matter which neighborhood you choose, take precautions to avoid becoming a target: lock your car and remove valuables, and park in well-lighted areas. As in any major city, be sure to take reasonable precautions when in unfamiliar surroundings. Keep money and other possessions out of sight, and avoid exploring new neighborhoods after dark. Consider getting a steering wheel locking device or a security system. (For more tips on keeping safe in Seattle, see the Safety section in Getting Settled.)

Local Lingo

While you won’t hear a distinctive accent when people talk here, the Northwest is loaded with Native American place names, which can be difficult to pronounce correctly. In addition, many places have nicknames or shortened names. As with most slang, there are no general rules, but if you remember that the main freeway is “I-5” and not “the I-5” and that when people say “the mountain is out,” it’s a general statement about how nice the weather is (since Mt. Rainier is in view), you’ll be talking like a native in no time. The following list is not comprehensive, but it will give you a head start.

pronounced “AL-keye”; a popular beach and recreation area where the founders of the city first landed. The word means “eventually,” or “by and by” in Chinook jargon.
The Ave
short for University Way NE, the main business street in the University District. Queen Anne locals also refer to Queen Anne Avenue as the Ave.
The Eastside
encompasses all the cities east of Lake Washington, including Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland, and Redmond.
this large clam with a long neck is pronounced “gooey-duck.” Watch for it on menus around the city.
city on the Eastside pronounced “ISS-a-kwah”
The Locks
boats pass through the Ballard Locks to and from Puget Sound and Lake Union, officially known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, which generally no one remembers.
The Market
the Pike Place Market. Note that it is not correct to say “Pike’s” or “Pike Street” when using the full name.
slang term for someone who has lived in the Northwest for many years, long enough to have grown moss on their back.
affectionate shortening of Nordstrom, the department store that originated in Seattle. Note that while “Nordy’s” works as a nickname, it is not correct to say “Nordstrom’s.”
The Pass
there are several passes over the Cascade Mountains, but in Seattle and the surrounding areas, if you say “the Pass,” everyone will assume you’re talking about Snoqualmie Pass, an hour east of the city.
Pill Hill
the nickname for First Hill, home to hospitals and medical clinics.
pronounced “pyew-AL-up” (as in gallop), this city south of Seattle is home to the popular, annual Puyallup Fair.
the Seattle Art Museum, say it like the name “Sam.”
pronounced “suh-MAM-ish,” a lake and town on the Eastside.
pronounced “Skwim,” a town on the Olympic Peninsula, known for the lavender grown there and as the driest city in western Washington.
pronounced “snow-KWAL-me.”
The Sound
Puget Sound is never “Puget’s Sound” and saying “the Puget Sound” will rarely work in conversation. Just go with “the Sound” and people will know what you’re talking about.
feature of local weather reporting, used to describe those brief moments when the sun manages to elbow its way through the clouds. “Expect showers in the afternoon, followed by possible sunbreaks later in the day.”
The 12th Man
term coined by the Seattle Seahawks organization to collectively describe the team’s most loyal fans. The number 12 has been retired from Seahawks team uniforms.
Inspired mutation of the kilt and the cargo pant, sold in the Utilikilt store in Pioneer Square. Sported by a select group of local men secure enough in their masculinity to wear this garment with pride. Great for showing off your leg tattoos.
Shortened, and pronounced “U-Dub,” as a nickname for the University of Washington.
pronounced “Wa-zoo” as a nickname for Washington State University in eastern Washington, especially good to know during the Apple Cup, the annual football battle between the rivals UW and WSU.

What to Bring

  • A detailed map; although most of Seattle proper is on a straightforward grid, many of the major streets don’t follow the rules. You can purchase a handy laminated Rand McNally fold-out map or the comprehensive Thomas Brothers Road Atlas of the Pacific Northwest. If you have a smart phone or PDA, there are apps, such as King County iMAP (, that put all kinds of geographic information at your fingertips.
  • A car; public transportation (buses, light rail, ferries) is available, but it can be time consuming to explore the city without a car. Buses stop at nearly every block, and transferring buses can cause long delays. If a car is not possible, expect to spend some time getting used to the bus routes and schedules; and don’t try to travel around at night by bus without checking the schedule beforehand—many buses stop running or change routes early in the evening.
  • An umbrella or rain hat; most likely it will be raining when you arrive. Also bring a lightweight but warm jacket. Temperatures and weather conditions can vary sharply during the day, going from sunny and warm to cold and rainy within a few minutes. However, after you’ve been here a while, you may find yourself adopting the local disdain for umbrellas and a relaxed attitude about getting wet (it’s a fact of life).
  • A cell phone, which is convenient for contacting potential landlords from the road. If you plan to search the classifieds for your new abode, get a jump on the competition by picking up the Sunday edition of The Seattle Times on Friday night. The paper is available at most grocery and convenience stores.
  • A good attitude and a smile; while most people in Seattle are helpful and outgoing, you’ll notice a layer of reticence when meeting strangers. Some have dubbed the phenomenon the “Seattle Freeze,” noting that people are very polite but not particularly friendly. A little effort can thaw the freeze, so consider joining activity or social groups as a way to meet people when you get here. With a little patience and a calm demeanor you’ll be able to get help from just about anybody in Seattle. So stop in, have a latte, and stay for a while or forever. Welcome to Seattle, a wonderful place to live!


Seattle was founded on its present site in February 1852, four months after the first party of white settlers landed the schooner Exact on Alki Point, in what is now known as West Seattle. This group, known as the Denny Party, included Arthur Denny and his family, his brother David, as well as the Lows, the Bells, the Borens, and the Terrys. Many of the city streets are named after these founders of Seattle. In early 1852 Denny, Low, and Boren set out in a canoe to find a more sheltered area for their settlement. They crossed Elliott Bay and, measuring the depth of the bay using a piece of rope and a horseshoe, chose a harbor for their new city (Seattle) just west of what is now Pioneer Square.

Seattle is named for Chief Sealth, a Salish Indian. Dr. David “Doc” Maynard, who arrived in 1852 and started Seattle’s first store and hospital, was instrumental in naming the city. Maynard was a friend of Chief Sealth’s and suggested Seattle as a more easily pronounced version of the Chief’s name. Maynard thought the original name for the settlement, Duwamps, a derivative of the name for one of the Indian tribes that lived around Elliott Bay, the Duwampish or Duwamish, might not attract visitors or new settlers to the area. The other nearby tribe, the Salish or Suquamish, lived between the Bay and what is now Lake Washington. There may have been additional tribes in the Seattle area, but because Native Americans around the Puget Sound were a loose-knit group, it is not clear how many separate tribes were here originally. What is clear, however, is that all of the area tribes were jointly represented by Chief Sealth. These tribes remained in the area until 1855 when, after some minor skirmishes between the settlers and the Indians, they were relocated to the Suquamish Indian Reservation across Puget Sound. Chief Sealth’s farewell speech is an oft-quoted piece of Seattle history, and an inspiring reminder of the great Native American leader.

Henry Yesler, another of Seattle’s most prominent and influential citizens, arrived in the fall of 1852, soon after Doc Maynard. Yesler was a tight-fisted businessman who, in 1853, built a sawmill, cookhouse, and a meeting hall, all firsts for the new city. The sawmill initially received its supply of lumber from the heavily wooded hills east of the settlement, areas that are now a part of the city. The trees were pushed to the mill down a slick wooden slipway, built into the side of a hill in downtown Seattle. The term “skid road” or “skid row,” coined for this innovative contrivance, quickly became synonymous with the run-down streets and rowdy behavior of the mill workers who lived in that area.

On June 6, 1889, near what is now 1st Avenue and Madison Street, a glue pot caught fire in a carpenter’s workshop, starting the Great Seattle Fire. Coming after an unusual late spring drought, the fire quickly burned down every building within a 60-acre area. Soon after the fire, city officials passed an ordinance requiring that new buildings be constructed of bricks or stone. The buildings destroyed in the fire were swiftly rebuilt under these new regulations. Surprisingly, the result of the fire was a strengthened city economy, as the rebuilding projects provided much needed business to local bricklayers and builders. The sawmill was not adversely affected because demand for lumber was still great in California, and most of what was produced at Yesler’s mill was shipped to San Francisco. However, the fire and subsequent renovations did have one strange consequence. The city, taking advantage of the opportunity to correct some of the drainage problems that had plagued downtown, constructed streets at a level 12 feet higher than they had been before the fire. However, some merchants rebuilt businesses at their original level, leading to sharp inclines between the city-owned streets and the privately owned sidewalks. Eventually the city put in new sidewalks at the higher street level, and the first floors of these downtown buildings became basements and open spaces. For many years these spaces were used as an underground mall, housing legitimate businesses; they later became infamous as opium dens, brothels, and moonshine establishments. Today, the Seattle Underground Tour is a popular tourist attraction that takes visitors through some of the original labyrinthine tunnels under downtown.

During the late 1800s, gold was discovered in several nearby locations, including the Fraser River in British Columbia, Boise and Coeur d’Alene in Idaho, and the Sultan and Skagit rivers in Washington. Though gold was never present in Seattle itself, the city served many of these locations as a supplier of prospecting goods. In 1877, the Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad was constructed to transport coal (which had replaced lumber as the city’s major export) from Renton to Seattle. Then in 1893, the Great Northern Railroad placed its western terminus in Seattle, and the Northern Pacific Railroad Co. bought land in Seattle, extending its western route from Tacoma to Seattle. These events nicely positioned the manufacturers and merchants of Seattle, who were able to reap immense profits during Canada’s Klondike gold rush. The rush, which officially began in the summer of 1897 when the steamer Portland docked in Seattle carrying “a ton of gold,” brought prospectors through Seattle, many of whom geared up here for their expeditions. Seattle also benefited from the gold rush by opening its first assay office, establishing the city as a regional financial center as well as a port and manufacturing city.

By the 20th century, Seattle was a prosperous city with both an expanding population and business community. The need for more space inspired the Denny Regrade project, which began in 1907. Originally, in addition to First Hill, Capitol Hill, and Queen Anne Hill, there was another hill located at the north end of the city center, known as Denny Hill. The hill (actually a bluff overlooking Elliott Bay) prevented easy expansion of the downtown, standing, as it did, 190 feet above the level of nearby Pioneer Square. In 1898 some of the western side of the hill had been carted away to fill in around Western Avenue and Alaskan Way. In 1907, the project of regrading the entire hill began in earnest, primarily funded by private property owners. The dirt was hauled away and dumped into Elliott Bay, creating much of the current Seattle waterfront as well as the land that connects Downtown with the Duwamish River neighborhoods. Completed in 1931, the Denny Regrade is now the site of much of downtown, including the Belltown neighborhood.

The Seattle population has increased steadily since the early 1900s and the city has spread out, enveloping many communities that were originally suburbs. When Seattle hosted the World’s Fair in 1962, it built a 74-acre campus that featured the Space Needle and the International Fountain. Today this site, known as Seattle Center, is home to dozens of arts, science, and sports organizations, including Key Arena, the Seattle Opera, and the Pacific Science Center, as well as the Monorail to downtown, a relic of the Fair.

Since the 1980s the area has been regularly ranked as one of America’s most livable cities, and the resulting influx of newcomers has added to an already growing population. Washington’s natural resources have so far provided for such basic needs as water and electricity, and, until recently, the size of the city has provided for plenty of open space and housing, as well as a pleasant small town culture. Today, much of that is changing as Seattle braces for additional population growth and expansion issues such as adequate public transportation and affordable in-city housing.

Seattle Address Locator

Before going into the neighborhood profiles, we have provided tips for getting around Seattle and the Eastside, and then metro-wide county information, which should prove helpful as you begin your search for a home.

While most Seattle streets stick to a grid pattern, running east-west or north-south, others seem to meander aimlessly through several neighborhoods. The information here will give you a good starting point for finding your way around the city, but a map or street atlas is highly recommended. The guidelines below apply only to streets within Seattle proper, or immediately north or south of the city limits. Other suburbs and communities use different methods for assigning addresses. The Thomas Guide for Metropolitan Puget Sound covers the Seattle metropolitan area, as well as cities in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. You can get one at a bookstore or office supply outlet, or order online at

The center of the Seattle grid is at 1st and Yesler. Street names outside downtown are provided with a North, East, South, West, NE, NW, SE, SW location tag. The tag indicates location relative to the center. Downtown streets have no location tag, and run northwest-southeast (parallel to the shore of Elliott Bay) or northeast-southwest. Outside the downtown area, most Seattle streets run north-south or east-west. Street and house numbers increase as you move away from downtown.

North-south streets are called “avenues” with the location tag at the end; for instance, 24th Avenue NW or 32nd Avenue South. Roads that run east-west are “streets” with the location tag at the beginning; for instance, NE 49th Street or SW Spokane Street. Most avenues in the city are numbered. South of the Lake Washington Ship Canal (which bisects the city north of downtown, and connects Lake Washington and Lake Union to the Puget Sound), most streets have names rather than numbers, such as Union Street or East Aloha Street. North of the ship canal, streets are numbered. Location tags are assigned as follows:

North of Denny Way, as far as the Lake Washington Ship Canal, streets are labeled:

  • West if they are located west of 1st Avenue North, in Magnolia and parts of Queen Anne;
  • North if they are located directly north of downtown, on Queen Anne and around Lake Union or between 1st Avenue North and Eastlake Avenue East;
  • East if they are located east of Lake Union, in Eastlake and Montlake.

North of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, streets are labeled:

  • NW if they are located north of the ship canal and west of 1st Avenue NW, in Ballard and Broadview;
  • North if they are directly north of downtown between 1st Avenue NW and 1st Avenue NE, in Phinney Ridge, Green Lake, Wallingford, and Northgate;
  • NE if they are north of the ship canal and east of 1st Avenue NE, in Lake City, the University District and Sand Point.

South of Yesler Way, all streets are labeled:

  • South if they are located south of downtown and east of 1st Avenue South, in Rainier Valley, Mount Baker and Beacon Hill;
  • SW if they are located southwest of downtown and west of 1st Avenue South, in West Seattle.

Between the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Yesler Way, and east of Lake Union, all east-west–running streets are labeled East, including those in Madrona, Leschi, the Central District, Capitol Hill, and Madison Park. However, north-south streets in this area have no location tags.

Several main thoroughfares don’t follow all of the above rules. For example:

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Way: “MLK” begins at Madison Street at the north end of the Central Area, and runs south through the Central Area, Madrona, Leschi, Beacon Hill, Mount Baker, and Rainier Valley.
  • Boren Avenue/Rainier Avenue South: Boren Avenue runs northwest-south east over First Hill. South of Jackson Street, Boren Avenue becomes Rainier Avenue South, and continues southeast through the south end of the Central Area and into the Rainier Valley.
  • Madison Street: One of the city’s most convenient streets, Madison Street runs east from downtown, through First Hill and Capitol Hill, and along the north end of the Central Area to Madison Park on Lake Washington.

Useful highways within Seattle are listed below. Be careful of these “thoroughfares” at rush hour:

  • Interstate 5: I-5 runs north-south through the city and is the most commonly used thoroughfare in Seattle.
  • Interstate 90: I-90 begins at Safeco Field in downtown Seattle and runs east. The I-90 bridge is the only roadway to Mercer Island, and has more lanes in either direction than the Highway 520 bridge to the north.
  • Highway 520: a state highway connecting I-5 (at the north end of Capitol Hill) with the Eastside communities of Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond; the 520 bridge is always packed during rush hour.
  • Highway 99: running parallel to, but west of, I-5 through Seattle, Highway 99 begins as Aurora Avenue in the north end, where it is a major thoroughfare lined with strip malls, inexpensive hotels, and other businesses. Crossing the Lake Washington Ship Canal into the city, Highway 99 runs through the Battery Street Tunnel and becomes the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a large stacked highway along the waterfront subject to frequent closures. (The aging Viaduct will eventually be replaced by a deep-bore tunnel.) South of the waterfront, Highway 99 becomes East Marginal Way South and eventually Pacific Highway.
  • Highway 522: commonly known as Lake City Way NE, Highway 522 begins at NE 75th Street, runs northeast through the Lake City neighborhood to Lake Washington, and eventually turns into Bothell Way NE at the north end of the lake.
  • West Seattle Freeway: the West Seattle Freeway connects both I-5 (at Beacon Hill) and Highway 99 with the West Seattle peninsula.

Getting Around the Eastside

There are two highways that transport travelers from Seattle to the Eastside via a pair of floating bridges: Interstate 90, via the I-90 bridge, and Highway 520, via the Evergreen Floating Bridge. This bridge is scheduled for replacement between 2012 and 2014, which will impact commuters who rely on this arterial. Interstate 90 brushes up against the Mount Baker neighborhood, crosses Lake Washington to Mercer Island, and passes through Bellevue, Issaquah, and Snoqualmie before crossing the Cascade Mountains into Eastern Washington. Highway 520 begins in Montlake north of downtown Seattle, crosses Lake Washington and passes through Bellevue and Kirkland before its end in Redmond.

Interstate 405 runs north-south from Renton in the south to Lynnwood in the north, and is commonly used as a connector to either I-90 or Highway 520, as well as other less traveled roads on the Eastside. Other primary thoroughfares include the Redmond–Fall City Road (Highway 202), which connects Kirkland, Redmond, Fall City, Snoqualmie and North Bend; Highway 522 runs from Bothell to Monroe and passes through Woodinville.

It’s no secret that traffic in the Seattle area is a challenge. The Eastside may be worse. Dramatic growth over the last decade has flooded the community’s streets and highways with commuters. There are ways to avoid the rush hour headache, however. If your employer offers flexible hours, consider working outside the standard 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You may want to carpool with your co-workers. The diamond (carpool) lanes offer quicker commutes and relief from stop-and-go traffic. See the Transportation chapter for information on Metro Transit carpool programs. King County, which encompasses the Eastside, offers a comprehensive online commuting resource called “My Commute,” complete with traffic cams and flow maps, at If you must drive to the city during rush hour, there isn’t much you can do but grin and bear it.

Seattle Regional Map

Seattle Regional Map
Next Chapter 2. Neighborhoods