Seattle is known for its stunning scenery, thriving arts community, and, of course, coffee. Yet our city is more than that; we also have a wealth of interesting stories and little-known facts that help it stand out from other popular tourist destinations. While I’ve lived in Seattle for over three decades, I still learn new fun facts about Seattle on a regular basis.
I’ve made it my mission to learn all I can about the lesser-known Seattle facts to share with you all. Talking about Underground Seattle is always fun to educate people about (and my top recommended tour as well!) There is always something new to discover about Seattle, from its storied past and groundbreaking music scene to its offbeat traditions and unexpected facts.
Whether you’ve lived in Seattle your whole life or are just visiting Seattle for a weekend, you’re in for an educational adventure. Here are 41 interesting facts about Seattle that you’ll love sharing with others!
This post was originally published in 2021 and last updated in 2023.
Fun Facts About Seattle: History
The historical facts about Seattle never cease to amaze me (you can walk under our city – how crazy is that?), and they’re always a great conversation starter when I’m showing first-time visitors around the city. Seattle’s history is woven with remarkable stories, from its pivotal role in the gold rush to the unique way the city was constructed (on top of the old one – maybe not the smartest!).
As you delve into these fascinating tidbits, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how Seattle has evolved over the years and the events that have shaped its character. Here are some of my favorite Seattle fun facts that showcase the city’s captivating history.
1. The famous Pike Place Market originally started due to overpriced onions. The price of produce was soaring in 1906, so the city suggested a public market where farmers could directly sell their produce for a lower price.
2. Opening in 1907, Pike Place Market is the oldest continuously operating farmer’s market in the country (Seattle in July is the best time to visit for tons of produce). This iconic Seattle landmark has been a bustling hub of commerce and community for over a century, attracting locals and visitors alike to shop for fresh produce, artisanal goods, and unique crafts.
3. Gold was discovered in the Canadian Klondike region in 1896, thus starting the largest boom period in Seattle, called the Klondike Gold Rush. The city was the main point where people began their journey north. You can now visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park for free in Pioneer Square (one of the best free things to do in Seattle).
4. The name Seattle comes from Chief Seattle, or Chief Si’ahl, who was a prominent Native American leader. He played an important role in working to accommodate white settlers in the area.
5. The city was first settled by the Denny Party in 1851 at what is now Alki Point in West Seattle. You can visit a statue there to see the exact location and imagine what life was like back then.
6. While Seattle is now known as the “Emerald City,” its original nickname was “Queen City.” This earlier moniker, which the city held from 1869 until 1981, reflected Seattle’s aspiration to become the premier urban center of the Pacific Northwest.
7. Seattle opened one of the first gas stations in the world in 1907, which was at Holgate Street and Western Avenue. This pioneering facility played a significant role in the early days of the automobile industry, as it provided motorists with a convenient place to refuel their vehicles.
8. Bertha Knight Landes became the first female mayor in America in 1926, breaking barriers and paving the way for future women leaders in politics. Her election to this prominent position exemplified Seattle’s progressive nature and its willingness to embrace change, challenging traditional gender roles and expectations at the time.
9. The Space Needle was first designed on a cocktail napkin by Edward E. Carlson in 1961 as an inspiration for the 1962 World’s Fair.
10. While it may not seem like the best place to be during a natural disaster, the Space Needle has a foundation that goes 30 feet underground so the structure can withstand a 9.1 magnitude earthquake and up to 200 mph winds.
11. Many tourists flock to see the “original Starbucks” in Pike Place Market, but the first true Starbucks was located at 2000 Western Avenue. This lesser-known location, which opened its doors in 1971, marks the humble beginnings of the now-global coffee giant that has become synonymous with Seattle’s vibrant cafe culture.
Fun Seattle Facts: Geography
If you’ve ever been to Seattle, you know that the downtown area is built on a steep slope (walking from the waterfront to Capitol Hill is quite the trek). Glacial activity played a significant role in shaping Seattle’s distinctive landscape. Over thousands of years, these glaciers advanced and retreated, carving out the hills, valleys, and waterways of the area and leaving behind the topography we see today.
The city’s geography is also shaped by its many waterways and bodies of water, such as Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and Lake Union. Here are a few facts about Seattle, Washington, that explain its current geography.
12. Glaciers heading south formed the current geography of Seattle by receding and leaving giant mounds of rock debris. These mounds are now popular areas such as Queen Anne Hill, Cherry Hill, First Hill, Capitol Hill, and Beacon Hill (check out some of the best areas to stay in Seattle if you’re visiting!).
13. Harbor Island is the largest man-made island in the country. It’s mainly used for industrial and commercial activities, and no one lives here. (However, there are many islands in the area you can visit, such as Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island, and Whidbey Island!)
Looking for the ultimate Seattle travel guide written by a local that tells you all the best places to go and what to see? My new ebook is now live, so click here to buy your copy!
14. The original Seattle business district was destroyed in 1889 by the Great Seattle Fire. An overturned glue pot ignited a massive fire in a city that was mainly made of wood buildings.
15. Instead of rebuilding the city from the ground up, it was decided that the new city would be built on top of the old city. That means many parts of current-day Seattle sit 22 feet above the original city.
16. You can take an Underground Tour to walk along the storefronts and sidewalks from the late 1800s. If you ever notice large purple gems on the sidewalk in the Pioneer Square area, chances are you’re walking right over the tour. These are used as skylights to bring some light underground (and this is a great activity to do if you only have one day in Seattle).
17. Seattle is surrounded by two mountain ranges, the Olympic Mountains to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east. On clear days, both are visible from the city. (For a fun vacation, check out this Olympic Peninsula road trip itinerary!)
18. Seattle has a latitude of 47.39’N and a longitude of 122.17’W. The city is 113 miles south of the Canadian border and 90 miles east of the Pacific Ocean.
19. While the San Juan Islands may be the most well-known islands (especially Orcas Island and San Juan Island), we actually have over 300 islands in the general region. I’ve lived here for most of my life and have still only explored a small handful of them, sadly!
Make sure to know how to go from SeaTac to downtown on your trip.
Seattle Fun Facts: Music
I love that Seattle is known for its music scene, and you can find live music any night of the week when you’re in the city. (If you’re visiting Seattle for 3 days, I recommend seeing a show if possible!) Here are some fun Seattle facts about the music that came from this area.
20. Many people know that grunge bands such as Nirvana and Soundgarden got their start here, but Sir Mix-A-Lot, Kenny G, Kenny Loggins, and Heart also began here.
21. Our city has the second-highest per capita rate for live music performances in the country, second to New York City (a fun fact about Seattle for music lovers).
22. The “Seattle scene” is well-known, although the city and its surrounding area have contributed significantly to a wide variety of musical subgenres. From the 1940s and ’50s jazz through alternative rock and ’90s grunge to 2000s indie rock, folk, and electronic music, Seattle has a rich musical history.
Buying a Seattle CityPASS is a great way to save money on ticket costs, as you’ll be able to see multiple Seattle attractions for one price!
23. While many people reference Seattle as the place where most of the music greats came from, a majority came from Tacoma, Bellingham, Olympia, and even Portland (some of the best Seattle weekend getaways). For example, Nirvana was from Aberdeen and mainly played in Olympia, not Seattle.
24. Pearl Jam may have been a worldwide hit, but they were initially hated by people in the Seattle area due to their view of them as being “corporate puppets” (even Nirvana’s own Kurt Cobain was a vocal hater for many years).
Other Fun Facts About Seattle
Looking to impress your friends with Seattle trivia at your next get-together? Here are some Seattle fun facts to share (I bet you don’t know all of these either!).
25. Located behind Pike Place Market in Post Alley, the Gum Wall has thousands of pieces of gum stuck to it each year by tourists. The concept originally started in 1990 when people waiting to get into shows at Unexpected Productions stuck their gum and coins on the wall to pass the time.
26. The Washington State Ferry System carries more than 25 million passengers every year. This is the most extensive system in the country and the third-largest in the world (and a scenic way to get around Seattle by foot if you don’t want to take your car).
27. While you might think the Space Needle is the most photographed landmark in Seatle, it’s actually the Pink Elephant car wash sign that can be found on Denny Way and Battery Street (although this has since closed as of the end of 2020). You can check out other popular Seattle Instagram spots if you’re looking for more places.
28. Seattle’s sister cities include Galway, Ireland; Reykjavik, Iceland; Bergen, Norway; Haiphong, Vietnam; and Be’er Sheva, Israel.
29. The giant bronze pig that stands in front of Pike Place Market is named Rachel and weighs 550 pounds. This iconic statue has become a beloved symbol of the market and a popular spot for tourists to snap photos and make a wish by tossing coins into her donation box.
30. People in Seattle buy more sunglasses than any other city in the world despite the rain. One reason to account for this may be how active many locals are no matter the weather (hiking, kayaking, biking – the list goes on). There’s always a Seattle day trip to go on!
31. Speaking of rain, Seattle gets less rainfall each year than places like Houston, New York, Atlanta, and Boston do. We tend to have more grey and slightly drizzly days than others, but unlike the popular rumor, it isn’t the rainiest city in the country. Our average accumulation of rain is only about 38 inches.
32. With over 500 houseboats on Lake Union and other bodies of water in Puget Sound, Seattle has the biggest houseboat population in the nation (you can view them by renting a hot tub boat on the lake!).
33. When it was built in 1914, the 42-story Smith Tower was the tallest building west of the Mississippi, standing as a remarkable architectural achievement and symbol of Seattle’s growth and progress at the time.
34. The top of the Smith Tower is actually a residential penthouse where various people have lived over the years, including a family with small children.
35. The 520 Floating Bridge that connects Seattle to Bellevue is the world’s longest floating bridge at 7,710 feet long, showcasing an impressive feat of engineering that provides a vital transportation link between the two cities.
36. Three of the top ten billionaires in the country in 2021 come from Seattle – Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), and Steve Balmer (Microsoft).
37. The highest temperature ever recorded in the city was 103°F on July 29, 2009, while the coldest temperature during wintertime in Seattle was 0°F on January 31, 1950.
38. The busiest ferry terminal in the country is Seattle’s Pier 52, reflecting the city’s strong maritime tradition and the important role that ferries play in connecting communities throughout the Puget Sound region.
39. Seattle has a vibrant arts scene, and the city is home to over 140 theaters and performing arts companies. Some popular venues include the Seattle Repertory Theatre, the 5th Avenue Theatre, and the Paramount Theatre.
40. The Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP, is a unique Seattle attraction that was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000. The museum is dedicated to contemporary popular culture and features exhibits on music, film, video games, and science fiction and is the perfect Seattle rainy day activity.
41. Seattle is a city with a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. It is one of the leading cities in the United States for green building, and the Bullitt Center, located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, is considered the greenest commercial building in the world. The city is also known for its numerous parks and green spaces, with over 400 parks covering more than 6,400 acres.
How many of these fun facts about Seattle were new to you? Let me know in the comments, and I’d love to hear if you have more interesting facts about Seattle to add!