Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media

Planning

Entry Requirements: International travelers from 27 countries may enter the U.S without a visa through the Visa Waiver Program; however, you must have a machine-readable passport. Visitors from other countries must obtain a visa from an American embassy or consulate abroad. For more information, visit travel.state.gov.

Security: Seattle is generally safe, but, like all big cities, it’s still best to be cautious. Keep your wallet and shopping bags close, and don’t leave valuables in the car. Avoid late-night strolls in the Central District or through the parking lots underneath the Alaskan Way crossover. Pioneer Square, loaded with nightclubs, can also be dangerous late at night.

Time: Seattle is three hours behind U.S. eastern standard time.

Money: The currency of Seattle is the U.S. dollar. For current conversion rates go to OANDA Currency Converter: www.oanda.com/convert/classic.

Phone Calls:The area code for Seattle is 206. For phone calls to Seattle from within the U.S., dial 1 206 seven-digit phone number. For phone calls from outside the U.S., dial your country’s international access code 1 206 seven-digit phone number. In Seattle, local calls from a pay phone cost 50 cents.

When to Go: Seattle earns its rainy reputation October through May with regular drizzle or occasional downpours. Winter temperatures average in the mid 40s F (7-10°C). Summer months bring drier conditions and mild temperatures (75-85°F or 24-29°C).

Getting There: Twenty-six airlines offer service through the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), located about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of Seattle, off Interstate 5.

Getting Around: Traffic plagues Seattle, and parking can be difficult to find. But the city is walker friendly, and the Metro Transit bus system is efficient and easy to use. Buses are free throughout the downtown corridor—from Battery Street on the north end to South Jackson Street on the south, and from the waterfront east to Sixth Avenue—6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The Seattle Monorail operates on an elevated one-mile (1.6-kilometer) track between downtown’s Westlake Center Mall (at Fifth Avenue and Pine Street) and Seattle Center. The Washington State ferry system provides walk- or drive-on daily service across Puget Sound from piers 50 and 52.

Checklist

Tips: “Expect that it will rain, and don’t let that mess up your plans. We don’t.”—Seattle native Sally Farhat Kassab, editor, Northwest Best Places. Bring layers—thanks to Seattle’s location in a convergence zone, weather can change quickly.

Raincoat: Pack a waterproof jacket with a hood, and plan to wear it often.

Hat, Gloves, and Scarf: While it rarely snows or gets below freezing in the winter, you’ll still want a warm coat, hat, and gloves as winds can be strong and chilling. Take note: It can be much colder on Puget Sound, so if you plan to take a ferry ride, bundle up.

Walking Shoes: Seattle is a very walkable city. Bring comfortable shoes and be prepared to climb steep hills and lots of stairs.

Athletic Wear: Seattleites are outdoor lovers, and to truly experience the city you’ll want to hike, bike, or kayak in some of the city’s many parks. Bring quick-dry, comfortable athletic clothes, and tennis shoes. Skiers and snowboarders will also want to bring appropriate gear—it’s an easy day trip from Seattle to the slopes.

Casual Attire: “Be prepared: almost everything in Seattle is super-casual,” says Sally Farhat Kassab. “But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your style.” Few events or restaurants require more than business casual attire.

Shorts and T-shirts: In the summer, shorts and T-shirts are the city’s uniform. But throw in a pair of jeans and a light jacket for cool nights.

Boat Shoes: A visit to Seattle isn’t complete without a boat ride, whether it’s a cruise on Puget Sound or a kayak excursion on Lake Union. Bring shoes with non-scuffing soles, or water shoes.

Web Links

Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau

Lodging guides, themed itineraries, event calendars, and tour info. www.visitseattle.org/visitors/

Seattlest

Daily blog with entries on local events, arts, music, dining, and city life. www.seattlest.com

City of Seattle

Event listings, a visitors guide and downloadable walking tours of public art, music, and film locations. www.seattle.gov/html/visitor/

Take Part in Art

Arts and cultural event listings maintained by the Arts Coalition, a group of more than 100 local organizations. www.takepartinart.org

Vintage Seattle

Blog about historic buildings and events, with vintage photographs, postcards, and news clippings. www.vintageseattle.org

Seattle Bon Vivant

Popular restaurant, food, shopping, and entertainment blog. www.seattlebonvivant.typepad.com

Virtual Reality Seattle

360-degree views of the city’s main attractions and neighborhoods. www.vrseattle.com

Local Media

Seattle Times

Family-owned daily newspaper founded by Colonel Alden J. Blethen in 1896; local, national, and international news; sports, food and wine, arts and entertainment, travel; “Northwest Weekend” dedicated to outdoor recreation; Pacific Northwest magazine in Sunday edition. www.seattletimes.com

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Known as the “P.I.” and published since 1863; owned by Hearst Corporation with a joint agreement for some shared production services with the Seattle Times Company; local, national, and international news; sports, arts and entertainment, gardening, food, travel, health and fitness. www.seattlepi.com

Seattle Weekly

Free alternative weekly with local news; dining, theater, music, and arts reviews; entertainment calendar. www.seattleweekly.com

The Stranger

Irreverent free weekly led by editor Dan Savage, a national sex advice columnist (often R-rated); arts and culture reviews. www.thestranger.com/seattle

Seattle Magazine

Monthly upscale magazine published since 1966 with features on shopping, dining, and regional travel; event listings; online visitors guide. http://www.seattlemag.com/

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