Seattle is so much more than precipitation, a nineties blockbuster and a distinctive city skyline. It has also been the spawning ground for Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, Nordstrom and Amazon and is the fastest-growing major US city. Multinationals aside, many new restaurants and bars in reinvigorated spaces and repurposed buildings share a down-home sourcing ethos of fresh, regional, sustainable and delectable. Locals love their laidback cosmopolitan coastal lifestyle and prefer to accept the weather, as perhaps themselves, as "ambiguous".
Ballard is a north-west neighbourhood of Seattle originally settled by Scandinavian seamen and now populated by beardless hipsters munching brunch and having heart palpitations from caffeine and vintage store overload. While you're in the area, seek out its Nordic Heritage Museum (nordicmuseum.org) and the library (spl.org). In a city serious about its public reading establishments, both Ballard and Central are worth a visit for their striking architecture, art and photography exhibitions, author readings, story-time for children and free Wi-Fi. Not far from the Central Library is Wing Luke Museum (wingluke.org), which focuses on Seattle's Asian history and offers walking tours.
Open for brunch and dinner, Jason Stoneburner sources as much as possible from his restaurant's extensive rooftop garden to create "timeless" food with Italian influences (stoneburnerseattle.com). Casual waterfront Marination Ma Kai (marinationmobile.com) serves up Hawaiian-Korean fusion for consumption with fingers, forks or chopsticks. And make time to sit down and really savour the local seafood – crudo and cooked – at new kid in Belltown, Shaker + Spear (shakerandspear.com).
Flash your Seattle CityPass (citypass.com) and, from the top of the Great Wheel (seattlegreatwheel.com) or the Space Needle (spaceneedle.com), get an overview of the city's many green spaces before taking a drive to some of the best: Gasworks Park, Interlaken Park, Washington Park Arboretum and Discovery Park. For a completely different type of garden experience, Washington glass sculptor Dale Chihuly's ongoing exhibition at the Seattle Centre is most beguiling by night (chihulygardenandglass.com).
Following the umbrella has never been so fun or delicious than on a walking tour of Pike Place Market (savourseattletours.com). Skip the queues for fresh doughnuts, smoked salmon, gourmet mac and cheese, award-winning clam chowder and crab cakes as you belly laugh your way around this vibrant old market where fish fly and a pig statue named Rachel is the mascot. In May through October, zip out to the San Juan Islands at 60 clicks an hour on the only half-day whale watching tour that leaves from Seattle's metro area (pugetsoundexpress.com).
Palladian Hotel (palladianhotel.com), in historic Belltown, is only a few minutes' walk from Pike Place Market and offers quirky vintage room styling and great views from a 1910 building. To the north, Hotel Ballard (hotelballardseattle.com) is a 29-room luxurious little boutiquey joint with room service provided by Stoneburner.
Although Seattle's food has never been better, driving this thriving city has never been quite so bad so consider walking or using public transport when you can.