Seattle Facts (32 Interesting Things to Know, By a Local)
I’m a Seattle local and in this guide, I share several entertaining and educational Seattle facts!
This Pacific Northwest city may only be about 200 years old, though it’s anything but ordinary.
Learn about Seattle’s underground city, earthquake-causing sports fans, and other interesting tidbits about the region’s rich past.
Table of Contents
- 32 Seattle Facts
- 1. The Original City of Seattle is Underground
- 2. Pike Place Market Was Nearly Demolished
- 3. Seattle Had Real-Life Superheroes
- 4. The Gum Wall Was Named One of the World’s Germiest Attractions
- 5. Seattle Seahawks Fans Caused An Earthquake
- 6. Seattle is the Birthplace of Grunge
- 7. Much of Seattle’s Natural Environment Was Altered To Make it Livable
- 8. Many of Seattle’s Parks Were Designed by the Olmsted Brothers
- 9. Seattle Had a Good Bootlegger
- 10. Seattle Gets Less Annual Rainfall than Miami, New York City, and Houston
- 11. Seattle Has the World’s Longest Floating Bridge
- 12. The Klondike Gold Rush Contributed to Seattle’s Largest Population Boom
- 13. Harbor Island is a Completely Man-made Island
- 14. Seattle Is the Perfect Place for Nature Lovers
- 15. Two of Seattle’s Lesser Known Nicknames are Jet City and Queen City
- 16. Seattle is Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Hometown
- 17. Seattle Is Built on Seven Hills
- 18. The City is Named After Chief Seattle of the Duwamish and Suquamish Tribes
- 19. Seattle was the First Major City in the USA to Elect a Female Mayor
- 20. Seattle Is the Coffee Capital of America
- 21. Seattle Was Originally Called New York
- 22. Seattle’s Official Hot Dog has Cream Cheese and Onions
- 23. Seattle Workers Led the First General Strike in the Country
- 24. One of the City’s Biggest Festivals Involves a Naked Bike Ride
- 25. There are More Dogs in Seattle than Kids
- 26. The Fremont Troll Was in the Movie 10 Things I Hate About You
- 27. Seattle Had the First “Skid Row”
- 28. SoDo Originally Stood for “South of the Kingdome”
- 29. The Pike Place Market Starbucks Isn’t The First Starbucks
- 30. Colman Dock is The Busiest Ferry Terminal in Washington
- 31. The Space Needle was Originally Sketched on a Napkin
- 32. There’s a Good Chance Seattle Would Survive a Mount Rainier Eruption
- FAQs About Seattle
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32 Seattle Facts
1. The Original City of Seattle is Underground
Seattle was built on top of… Seattle! The original city of Seattle in the Pioneer Square area was destroyed by the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Early Seattle dwellers were undeterred by this and worked to rebuild their city, starting from scratch atop the old city.
The streets were regraded several stories higher, leaving the past beneath everyone’s feet. One of the best things to do in Seattle is to book an Underground Tour to see this underground city and what was once Seattle. [Source]
2. Pike Place Market Was Nearly Demolished
Pike Place Market is Seattle’s top attraction today, but it was in danger of being destroyed in 1963. The mayor, city council and even the owners of the market wanted to demolish it to build hotels, office buildings, and a hockey arena in its place.
Luckily, the community was strongly opposed to this. Seattlelites voted overwhelmingly to keep the market when it came time to decide its fate. Eventually, it was designated a historic district. Because of this, it has retained its status as one of the longest continually operating farmers’ markets in the USA. [Source]
3. Seattle Had Real-Life Superheroes
The Rain City Superhero Movement was an organization of Seattle citizens and activists. They took to the streets between 2011 and 2014. These citizens attempted to improve Seattle’s safety — while outfitted in superhero costumes.
The superheroes reportedly stopped a blind man from being robbed. They stopped carjackings, confronted vandals, kept people from driving drunk, and more. Phoenix Jones, one of the group’s prominent members, eventually ended the movement.
4. The Gum Wall Was Named One of the World’s Germiest Attractions
The gum wall is Seattle’s grossest landmark and deserves a spot on this list of fun facts about Seattle. This regularly photographed attraction is in Pike Place Market’s post alley.
It was once voted the second-germiest attraction in the world. It’s been scrubbed clean several times, but that never lasts long. It’s estimated that it was covered in over 2,000 pounds of chewed gum at its peak stickiness and was a few inches thick in some spots. [Source]
5. Seattle Seahawks Fans Caused An Earthquake
In 2011, the Seahawks went up against the Saints in the NFC Wildcard game. During it, Marshawn Lynch broke through multiple tackles and ran an astonishing 67 yards to put the game out of reach for the Saints. The crowds in Lumen Field went wild. They went so wild that the sound registered on a nearby seismograph which recorded the tremor at M=2.
This mini earthquake was termed the Beast Quake because Lynch’s nickname was “Beast Mode.” Seahawks fans have since caused other earthquakes, and are known for having one of the loudest fan bases. [Source]
6. Seattle is the Birthplace of Grunge
Grunge was the sound of Seattle in the ‘90s. This mix of punk and metal sounds dominated venues like Central Saloon, El Corazon, Re-Bar, and The Crocodile. Talents like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains all performed throughout the city. The sound became synonymous with Seattle and helped catapult it to a live music destination.
7. Much of Seattle’s Natural Environment Was Altered To Make it Livable
Seattle’s natural environment posed a lot of problems for settlers when they began expanding the city, so they altered it. Hills and tide flats were leveled and filled. The Lake Washington Ship Canal was constructed. Rivers were straightened, and more.
The Museum of History and Industry has exhibits to show just how all of these changes were made and how Seattle’s natural environment once was. [Source]
8. Many of Seattle’s Parks Were Designed by the Olmsted Brothers
There are some incredible parks in Seattle, and one of the reasons they’re so wonderful is that they were designed by the Olmsted Brothers. These are the people who designed other world-renowned parks.
Both Central Park in New York City and the grounds of the United States Capitol in D.C. were designed by the Olmsted Brothers. In total, they designed 37 parks in Seattle including Volunteer Park, Seward Park, and the Washington Park Arboretum. [Source]
9. Seattle Had a Good Bootlegger
Roy Olmstead was Seattle’s famous cop-turned-bootlegger and became known as “The Good Bootlegger” during Prohibition. Unlike other bootleggers, he insisted the people working for him didn’t carry guns or kill anyone if they were caught. This was because he said he would rather “lose a shipment of liquor than a life.” [Source]
10. Seattle Gets Less Annual Rainfall than Miami, New York City, and Houston
The one thing most people know about Seattle is that it’s rainy. However, Seattle’s annual rainfall is less than that of Miami, New York City, and even Houston according to the National Climatic Data Center.
Seattle gets its rainy reputation because it has more days throughout the year when it does get some rain. However, the dramatic, flood-causing downpours of many other cities are actually quite rare in Seattle. Regardless, it’s still really wet here, so make sure your Seattle packing list includes a rain jacket! [Source]
11. Seattle Has the World’s Longest Floating Bridge
One source of engineering pride for Seattle is that it holds the record for the longest floating bridge in the world. The SR 520 or Evergreen Point Floating Bridge is 7,710 feet long, spanning about a third of the width of Lake Washington. It connects Seattle to Mercer Island, Bellevue, and other cities on the Eastside and beyond. [Source]
12. The Klondike Gold Rush Contributed to Seattle’s Largest Population Boom
In 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondike River in Canada’s Yukon Territory. This began a mad rush, as people all over the West Coast headed north.
Seattle happened to be a major stopping point on the journey, where people could restock on supplies. All of the people coming through helped transform Seattle’s economy, and its population swelled from 40,000 in 1890 to 80,000 in 1900 and 230,000 by 1910. [Source]
13. Harbor Island is a Completely Man-made Island
Harbor Island is a man-made island between downtown and West Seattle. It was the largest artificial island in the world at the time it was built. It was made from the earth removed during regrades of Dearborn and Jackson Street.
Harbor Island is primarily for shipping and maritime industry use. However, there are plenty of other Washington islands that are well worth visiting. [Source]
14. Seattle Is the Perfect Place for Nature Lovers
You’ll have plenty of ways to enjoy Seattle if you’re into the outdoors. This city is one of the best places in the USA for outdoor adventures. It’s between two mountain ranges, on Puget Sound, and close to forests.
Seattle boasts fantastic parks, gardens, and easy lake and beach access. It’s a stellar place to go hiking, rock climbing, bird watching, or just take a leisurely nature stroll.
15. Two of Seattle’s Lesser Known Nicknames are Jet City and Queen City
Seattle is known for its aerospace industry, and the Boeing company had a large influence on Seattle’s growth. Because of this, Seattle gained the nickname “Jet City.” Its other nickname came from a real estate company in 1869 that distributed a pamphlet calling it “The Future Queen City of the Pacific.”
16. Seattle is Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Hometown
Sir Mix-a-Lot is a rapper best known for his ‘90s hit “Baby Got Back.” He was born in Auburn, Washington, but called Seattle’s Central District home for years. His song, “Posse on Broadway” is about hanging out on Broadway in Capitol Hill, one of the most popular Seattle neighborhoods to this day.
17. Seattle Is Built on Seven Hills
Seattle is built on seven hills, just like Rome and San Francisco. Some of the most well-known of these are Queen Anne Hill, Capitol Hill (which has the steepest), First Hill, and Beacon Hill. Be prepared for a climb at some point if you’re walking or driving around the city!
18. The City is Named After Chief Seattle of the Duwamish and Suquamish Tribes
Chief Seattle is known for having welcomed and helped early white settlers when they arrived in the city. He formed a friendly relationship with Doc Maynard, who led the way in transforming Seattle. The city was named after Chief Seattle because of his help.
19. Seattle was the First Major City in the USA to Elect a Female Mayor
In 1926, Bertha Knight Landes became the city’s first female mayor. Seattle was the first major city in the USA to elect a woman as mayor.
Knight ran a platform on cleaning up corruption in the political offices. She fought illegal activities and improved parks and public transportation in her two years as mayor. She also broke ground for what eventually became the Seattle Opera House. [Source]
20. Seattle Is the Coffee Capital of America
It’s safe to say Seattle is a coffee-loving city, known for being the birthplace of the worldwide coffee chain, Starbucks. There are hundreds of coffee shops throughout every neighborhood and a plethora of local roasters.
Several Seattle coffee shops like Cafe Allegro and Espresso Vivace led the way toward the modern coffee movement. Needless to say, locals are big on their coffee. All of this points to exactly why Seattle is the Coffee Capital of America.
21. Seattle Was Originally Called New York
The region’s first white settlers called what would someday be Seattle, “New York.” This name was established when they first landed on Alki Point, or what’s now West Seattle. Over time, they added Chinook jargon to the end of this, calling it New York Alki, which meant “New York, by and by.”
The settlers’ prediction of Seattle eventually becoming like New York wasn’t quite right. However, present-day Alki Beach does have a mini Statue of Liberty as a little nod to this past prediction. [Source]
22. Seattle’s Official Hot Dog has Cream Cheese and Onions
Many cities have their version of the hot dog, an American food classic, and Seattle is no different. Seattle’s official hotdog has cream cheese, grilled onions, and sometimes peppers and sriracha. It’s a quirky Seattle food and it’s absolutely delicious.
23. Seattle Workers Led the First General Strike in the Country
The 1919 Seattle General Strike was the first of its kind in the country. Over 60,000 workers in Seattle ceased work for six days in support of Seattle shipyard workers.
The shipyard workers had gone on strike a couple of weeks earlier in a bid for higher wages. This was the first time other workers joined them in solidarity. This was also one of the first strikes of this size that ended without violence. [Source]
24. One of the City’s Biggest Festivals Involves a Naked Bike Ride
Seattle’s Fremont Solstice Festival in June is one of the most popular Seattle events. It’s known for its live entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, food trucks, beer gardens, and one unusual feature.
The Solstice Cyclists take to the streets boldly. The painted cyclists go on a flashy ride to celebrate the return of the sun, completely or mostly nude and covered in body paint.
25. There are More Dogs in Seattle than Kids
It’s no surprise that Seattle is a dog-loving city with its number of dog parks, pup-friendly breweries, and markets. Seattleites love dogs so much that it’s reported there are more dogs in Seattle than children. The city really is a pup paradise. [Source]
26. The Fremont Troll Was in the Movie 10 Things I Hate About You
Movie aficionados will recognize the Fremont neighborhood’s beloved troll beneath the bridge. The Fremont Troll is a Seattle landmark that was featured in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You.
It was originally designed as part of an art competition and the car in its hand is a real Volkswagen beetle. Stop to snap a photo next to (or on) this iconic concrete troll if you visit Fremont.
27. Seattle Had the First “Skid Row”
The term Skid Row is associated with poverty. It’s known as a place where people down on their luck gather and homelessness is prevalent. Most people think about Los Angeles’s Skid Row when they hear the name, but the term came from Seattle.
It was originally called “Skid Road” and referred to the hill on Yesler Way where loggers would “skid” their logs down the hill to sawmills. The name began to morph into its present-day meaning during The Great Depression. [Source]
28. SoDo Originally Stood for “South of the Kingdome”
SoDo is an industrial neighborhood south of downtown. It’s home to sports stadiums, warehouses, and various businesses. Because it’s south of downtown, most people believe SoDo stands for south of downtown.
However, it originally stood for “south of the Kingdome,” which was the beloved stadium that preceded T-Mobile Park. Its meaning has morphed now that the Kingdome is gone.
29. The Pike Place Market Starbucks Isn’t The First Starbucks
Starbucks was founded in Seattle, and many people visit the Starbucks in Pike Place Market to see the first Starbucks. What isn’t common knowledge is that this market location is not actually the first Starbucks.
The first one was located a block away on Western Avenue, and the one in Pike Place Market was technically the second cafe opened. However, it is the oldest Starbucks and the sign at the Pike Place location features the original logo.
30. Colman Dock is The Busiest Ferry Terminal in Washington
The Washington State Ferry System is large and plays a key role in how people travel throughout the state. Multiple ferries depart from Seattle, carrying people to islands and cities across Puget Sound.
The Colman Dock is the busiest ferry terminal in the state. Passengers headed to and from Bainbridge Island and Bremerton travel through here, and well over 10 million people use it yearly. [Source]
31. The Space Needle was Originally Sketched on a Napkin
The Space Needle plays an important role in Seattle’s skyline but had a small start. It was originally sketched on a napkin. This simple Space Needle doodle was turned into the 600-foot-tall icon that visitors have flocked to since the 1962 World’s Fair and on to today.
32. There’s a Good Chance Seattle Would Survive a Mount Rainier Eruption
Mount Rainier is a beloved Washington mountain that’s visible from Seattle on clear days. It’s also an active volcano. It’s being monitored, and the chance of eruption anytime soon is low… but not impossible.
Luckily for Seattlelites, there’s a good chance that when it does erupt, Seattle will be spared. Closer cities like Enumclaw and Kent won’t be so lucky. [Source]
FAQs About Seattle
What is Seattle famous for?
Seattle is famous for its rainy climate, coffee culture, and its seafood and port industry. It is also famous for being home to tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon. Finally, it’s famous for being the place where grunge music was invented.
What is Seattle known for historically?
Seattle is historically known as a restock point during the Klondike Gold Rush. It is also historically known for being the birthplace of Starbucks and Boeing.
And there are your fun facts about Seattle! If you’re visiting the Seattle area soon, you’ll quickly learn that this Pacific Northwest city is more than meets the eye. The Emerald City will surprise and charm you, especially with these facts under your belt.
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