The U-District, as everyone calls it, is the neighborhood surrounding the University of Washington (UW or "U-Dub" to locals). The campus is extraordinarily beautiful (especially in springtime, when the cherry blossoms are flowering), and the Henry Art Gallery, on its western edge, is one of the city's best small museums. Beyond that, the appeal of the neighborhood lies in its variety of cheap, delicious ethnic eateries, its proximity to the waters of Portage and Union Bays and Lake Washington, and its youthful energy.
The U-District isn't everyone's cup of chai. Almost all businesses are geared toward students, and the area has its own transient population. The U-District often feels like it's separate from the city—and that's no accident. The university was founded in 1861 and was constructed on newly clear-cut land long before there were any convenient ways to get to the city that was growing Downtown. More so than any other northern neighborhood, the U-District had to be self-sufficient, even though the light-rail now links the neighborhood with Capitol Hill and Downtown. Residents don't even have to travel to Downtown to get their shopping done: they have their own upscale megamall, University Village ("U Village"), an elegant outdoor shopping center with an Apple store, chain stores (including H&M, Gap, Eddie Bauer, Crate & Barrel, Room & Board, and Banana Republic), as well as restaurants, boutiques, and two large grocery stores. The Burke-Gilman Trail, Magnuson Park, and the UW Botanic Gardens Center for Urban Horticulture offer scenic detours.