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Seattle is a city that doesn't stand on convention. From its well-earned reputation for quirky music and art, to its laid-back population of obsessive foodies, this is a place that defies rules and easy categorization. You're as likely to see millionaires riding the bus as PhDs behind the counter at a coffee shop. Grizzled fishermen mingle at Ballard bars alongside mustachioed hipsters, techies in the latest Costco fashion, and tattooed moms. It's an international city, with a strong Asian influence and a solid history of innovation. It's also a city of neighborhoods, each with individual personalities and business cores. This is a place where possession of small amounts of marijuana was legalized (look for the dispensaries peppered throughout your stay) but where people still refuse to jaywalk, even during protests.
… is influenced by its environment. The Seattleite way of life is shaped by the mountains, water, and massive evergreen trees that hang like verdant shrouds over Craftsman homes. You can see it in Seattleite fashion—for many, waterproof gear and sensible shoes take precedence over the latest trends. You can see it in the hobbies—with the most sailors per capita, nearly everyone has a boat or knows someone who does. REI started here for a reason: this outdoorsy, active population is constantly on a hike, bike, or paddle adventure. With such a connection to nature, Seattleites are rabid recyclers and composters and the city recently enacted a plastic bag ban. The rain makes the population maudlin, introspective, and dark—which they channel into wildly imaginative writing, art, and music.
… is highly educated. This is a city of nerds. Go ahead, make that obscure reference to Hessian fighters or binary code—you'll quickly find an appreciative audience. Seattle is the most educated city in the country, and constantly vies for most literate with Minneapolis. It has always attracted educated, creative people, from the first influx of Boeing engineers and University of Washington students to today's innovators.
… is liberal, progressive, and alternative. One of the most liberal cities in the country, Seattle can be counted on to vote at least 80% Democrat in any given election. This progressive hotbed is also host to one of the largest LGBT populations, the highest mixed-race population nationwide, and a hugely influential alternative press—including The Stranger, Seattle Weekly, and the many active neighborhood blogs. Which is not to say they're always tolerant—conservatives are shunned in the city limits and people aren't quick to advertise their church attendance.
… is growing. Fast. With a near-constant influx of newcomers arriving, the population is growing ahead of the national average. Newbies now outweigh natives—a fact many old-timers lament. Hemmed by the geographical limits of mountains and water, the city has had no choice but to expand skyward. Density is growing, as is light rail and other forms of mass transit. And not a moment too soon—Seattle boasts the 12th-worst traffic in the country. Luckily, the city is walkable and bikable, and most neighborhoods are well-equipped with all the necessities within walking distance. With all this expansion, housing costs are sky high, and renters are starting to use brokers. Even with a per capita income fully a quarter above the national average, Seattle is fast becoming one of the most expensive cities. Understandably, you won't see a lot of kids—only San Francisco boasts less families with children.Updated: 02-2013
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