The city of Seattle, on Puget Sound in the far northwestern corner of the continental United States, got its start in the 1850s when a handful of forty-niners from the California Gold Rush landed at Alki Beach and settled down. Although the region is rich in natural resources, particularly salmon and lumber, it didn't really take off until the railroad arrived in 1884. Today, the city is a vibrant commercial and cultural center.
It is true what they say: The weather in Seattle can be a bit gloomy. It's not that it rains more in Seattle than it does anyplace else; it's just that the clouds hang around after a rain. In general, Seattle enjoys a mild, if gray, climate. Summertime in Seattle can be splendid, with warmer, drier days that last for hours; because it is so far north, the summer sky remains light into the night. Fall is nice; winter and spring are wet.
Seattleites are sun worshippers, perhaps because they don't see it every day. So on any sunny day in Seattle, people head to the public parks, the zoo, the bike paths and the lakes to take advantage of the rays. The Woodland Park Zoo is especially nice for a sunny stroll, although plenty of people enjoy it on damp days, as well. And the Washington Park Arboretum is gorgeous in autumn.
Seattle has a rich and diverse cultural life. Residents have access to the fine arts, the ballet, the symphony and theater. These resources are available to a broad spectrum of Seattle society. For example, the Pacific Northwest Ballet offers some very affordable mini-season tickets. And families can take a toddler to special theatrical presentations created specifically for audiences in their age group.
Seattle has a great public transportation system. You can get virtually anyplace in the city on a bus; it runs regularly and lots of folks ride. Parking, especially in downtown Seattle, is limited and extremely expensive, which makes the bus that much more appealing. The city has a number of designated bike routes and cyclists use them in large numbers; apparently, the hilly terrain doesn't deter the hardy ones.
The Seattle Center is a highly recognizable and visible landmark for the city. Seattle was host to the 1962 World's Fair. When the event was over, the Space Needle and the Monorail stayed behind to the delight of Seattle residents and visitors alike. From the top of the Space Needle, a visitor can see Mount Rainier in the distance, Puget Sound not so far away and the city of Seattle. On warm summer days, children splash in the Seattle Center fountains; cultural festivals happen throughout the year at the Seattle Center; and the ballet, the opera and the children's theater perform in venues at the center.