Seattle may be known for its beauty, but there are many fun facts about Seattle that you may not know. Many people know Seattle for being the start of some of the biggest companies around, including Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, to name a few. However, there is much more Seattle trivia that makes up the city.
I’ve lived in Seattle for almost 30 years and am still learning interesting facts about Seattle. From history facts about Seattle to Seattle music facts, you’ll love learning more about what I consider my favorite city.
Whether you’re a local who thinks you know everything there is to know about Seattle or a first-time visitor, here are 38 facts about Seattle you may not have known.
Seattle History Facts
I think the history facts about Seattle are fascinating, and I love sharing these with first-time visitors to the city. From the area’s role in the gold rush to how the city was built, here are some of my favorite Seattle fun facts.
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.
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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.
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.
6. While Seattle is now known as the “Emerald City,” its original nickname was “Queen City.”
7. Seattle opened one of the first gas stations in the world in 1907 that was at Holgate Street and Western Avenue.
8. Bertha Knight Landes became the first female mayor in America in 1926.
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.
Seattle Geography Facts
If you’ve ever visited the city, you’ll know that the main area sits on a large hill. 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.
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 the 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.
Seattle Music Facts
I love that Seattle is known for our music scene, and you can find live music any night of the week when you’re in the city. Here are some fun facts about Seattle and the music that came from the 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).
22. The city has a reputation for the “Seattle scene,” but many influential sub-genres came out of the region.
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 (all great 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 winter in Seattle was 0°F on January 31, 1950.
38. The busiest ferry terminal in the country is Seattle’s Pier 52.
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!