Local Life and Lore in Seattle

Seattle's locals share best-kept secrets, lingo and some hidden treasures.
By: Lauren Vane
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Buy a good raincoat, and keep it handy. You never know when it’s going to rain in Seattle and you’ve just got to be ready. Gortex is the buzz word here; it’s a waterproof fabric that serves Seattlites well in all seasons.

Know thy bodies of water. Downtown Seattle sits on Elliot Bay, a saltwater bay in the Puget Sound. To the east of downtown is Lake Union, a freshwater lake separated from the ocean by a locks system. Lake Union connects to Lake Washington, the city’s largest lake, by a man-made channel called the Montlake Ship Canal.

The buses are free to ride throughout the downtown corridor between 6 am and 7 pm Catch the bus in the underground bus tunnel, which also makes for a great cut-through to stay out of the rain or cold.

In Seattle’s Pioneer Square, the street-level windows and doors to most buildings are actually the second story. There’s an underground level beneath the street. When a fire destroyed much of downtown in the late 1880s, the city was rebuilt. The underground was used as a hideout during Prohibition and has been featured in many movies. You can tour the underground and even get married there if you want.



Seattle has two floating bridges across Lake Washington: I-90, which connects south Seattle to Mercer Island, and I-520, which connects central Seattle to Bellevue. Both bridges shoulder a lot of traffic during rush hour.

The roof on the Seattle Mariners’ Safeco field can open and shut in a few minutes, so don’t be worried if you have tickets and it’s raining. But when the roof is shut, it can get really cold inside the stadium, so bring your jacket.



SEATTLE - MAY 3: General view of Safeco Field from home plate upper deck level during a game between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Seattle Mariners on May 3, 2005 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. The Angels defeated the Mariners 5-2. (Photo by Jerry Driendl/Getty Images)

From: Yard Crashers

Photo by: Jerry Driendl

Jerry Driendl


The Fremont Sunday Market: Every Sunday throughout the year, in all weather, you can find just about anything at the Fremont market. It’s a treasure chest for antique collectors. If you come hungry, there’s plenty of food vendors.

Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley: Seattle’s premier jazz and dinner club in actually located in an alley. This hidden spot boasts some of the top jazz acts. The night of the show, ticketholders line up in the parking garage across from the entrance.

The St. Demetrios Greek Festival: Buried in the Montlake neighborhood near the University of Washington, St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church is a neighborhood treasure. Each September, the church kicks off the start of fall with their annual festival. It’s three days of traditional Greek dancing and food.

Flowers at Pike Place Market: At a fraction of the cost of supermarket or floral shops, you can buy spectacular bouquets at the flower stalls inside Pike Place Market. The selection is seasonal, but you can’t beat the deal. Bouquets start around $8 and up.

Fresh Flowers at Pike Place Market

Fresh Flowers at Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market Flower Stall

Breakfast at Burgermaster: Hardly fancy and easy to overlook, this University District staple is a favorite breakfast spot for Seattle’s movers and shakers. The food is good and you never have to wait for a table. The Swedish pancakes are famous.


In the land of coffee, Starbucks is a common noun: The local coffee superstar stands to serve as a common noun, meaning any cup of coffee. (example: Let’s go get a Starbucks.)

The boat: To regular travelers on the Washington state ferry system, the ferry is known as “the boat.” (example: When does the boat leave, when does the boat get in, don’t miss the boat, etc.)

SoDo: The area south of downtown, near to Safeco Field and Qwest Field. The area has been semi-since both stadiums were built.

The cut: The Montlake Cut, more formally known as the Montlake Ship Canal, is a man-made channel that flows between Lake Union and Lake Washington. Each year, the Windermere Cup, a crew race, is held in the Cut and onlookers gather on the Montlake Bridge to watch the University of Washington crew teams battle visiting teams.

U-Dub: This is how locals refer to the University of Washington. It’s the U-Dub, not the “U-double you.” Anything else associated with the university is prefaced by “U.” U-Village (University Village) is a popular outdoor mall adjacent to the university, and the U-district is the commercial area surrounding the university.

The Eastside: This designation stands for the collective communities and cities across Lake Washington, to the east of Seattle. This includes: Kirkland, Bellevue, Medina, Mercer Island and Issaquah.

Bill and Howard: They are two of the city’s most famous residents and don’t need last names. That’s Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, and Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks. Although Bill is more difficult to spot, Howard is often seen jogging in Madison Park or popping into Starbucks stores all over the city.

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