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Discover the PNW Road Trip: Visiting Seattle

View from the water of Seattle's busy waterfront.
Downtown Seattle’s waterfront. Photo © Iriana Shiyan/123rf.

Built on a bumpy series of hills between a lake and a bay, Seattle has grown into a mature metropolis.

The vibe is more about achievement than status; it’s not cool to work so hard that you can’t, say, kayak a little before dinner or jam with your folk rock quartet on the weekend. A healthy arts and music scene has grown beyond Seattle’s rush of ’90s grunge. But never fear—the city hasn’t completely moved beyond its youthful exuberance. It’s still the home of the bustling coffee shop and the ambitious start-up. Creative energy explodes from tech minds, performers, and chefs who, like the Space Needle, reach for the stars.

Evidence of past success is around every corner in Seattle. Starbucks, once a tiny coffee shop near Pike Place Market, occupies downtown with the same ubiquity it’s achieved around the world. The online bookstore turned tech monolith, Amazon, has colonized the South Lake Union neighborhood and helped turn its forgotten blocks into a bustling culture center. There are signs everywhere not only of Microsoft—it began here and is headquartered just outside town—but of the entities it helped build, like the campus of the philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Paul Allen’s football stadium and music museum.

Which isn’t to say that Seattle doesn’t have its failings. The aging viaduct, a raised highway on the edge of downtown, both blocks views of Elliott Bay and worries anyone who anticipates a big earthquake. The tunnel being bored underneath the city will replace it—eventually. Traffic snarls choke the city at rush hour, and homeless people still find themselves sleeping on cold, wet streets.

Pike Place market sign reading Public Market Center with a clock.
The famous Pike Place market sign. Photo © Andriy Kravchenko/123rf.

Most of the country lies to the east of Seattle, but the city faces west toward Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. With just enough history to build considerable civic pride, there’s enough optimism to look to the horizon—or perhaps just to the sunsets that illuminate the Olympic Mountains on clear nights. Sure, it rains sometimes, but it makes the beautiful days all the sweeter.

So how long does it take to road trip to Seattle from various cities and locations around the Pacific Northwest?

  • Driving to Seattle from Vancouver: 141 miles/3 hours
  • Driving to Seattle from Portland: 174 miles/2.75 hours
  • Driving to Seattle from the Olympic Peninsula: 82-140 miles/2-3.5 hours
  • Driving to Seattle from Mount Rainier National Park: 85 miles/2 hours

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