The city is known as the culture capital of the Pacific Northwest, and is a regional center for performing arts. The city boasts the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Opera, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet. There are over 100 theatrical production companies and over 25 live venues. The 5th Avenue Theatre hosts Broadway-style musical shows starring local and international talent.
The city is also known for its music scene. There are summer and winter music festivals, sell-out concerts, and thousands of small gigs every year at the city's many venues and bars. Seattle is also the birthplace of grunge. During the 1990s, bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam became world famous.
For sports fans, Seattle is home to the Seattle Mariners who compete in Major League Baseball and the Seattle Seahawks compete in the National Football League.
The city’s mild, maritime climate means that many outdoor activities can be enjoyed all year around. The area is famous for its skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, cycling, kayaking, sailing, and hiking opportunities. From the city center, a popular escape is around Green Lake, which takes you through the forest and along the beaches and bluffs of Discovery Park. In the 2013 ParkScore ranking, Seattle was ranked the 20th best park system out of the 50 most populous American cities.
Seattle has an excellent public transport system, so expats who don't have a car will find the city easy to navigate with the buses, electric trolleybuses, commuter trains, and light rail. Seattle also has the US's largest ferry network, making the city and its suburbs easily accessible by water, too.
Fares on public transport vary according to the mode of transport and distance covered. For expats in Seattle that expect to use public transport regularly, there is an Orca Pass available, which provides a cost effective and useful way to travel around the city. You may find that your company offers an Orca Pass. This is something offered by many large companies to encourage commuters to choose public transport.
Like many American cities, the majority of people living in Seattle still prefer to drive. Seattle’s streets are laid out according to cardinal points in a grid pattern, with the exception of the central business district, where the plans are relative to the shoreline.
Traffic in the city center is surprisingly not bad, except for the expected rush around peak commuting times. However, this serves as a good reason to choose public transport over driving and is also something to factor in when thinking about where to live. Many Seattleites choose to cycle or walk to work to beat the traffic and enjoy a healthy and scenic commute.
If you opt for the suburbs, the commuter trains are becoming more and more efficient. In recent years, there has been investment in extending the Link Light Rail system and Sounder commuter rail service, giving the city its first rapid transit line with intermittent stops within Seattle’s metropolitan boundaries.
Seattle is a great city for expats with children, as the city has a very good education system. This is evident from the high literacy and education rates in the city. Of those living in Seattle’s who are aged 25 years or more, 53.8% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher and an impressive 91.9% have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Like the rest of the United States, the school system is typically divided into the following three levels:
The majority of public schools in Seattle are part of the Seattle School District, along with a few in the south of the city that are part of the Renton School District. In addition to the public school system, there are a number of private schools in the city, including five Catholic schools, one Lutheran, and various secular. There are both public and private schools that offer the International Baccalaureate as well. For more information on local schools, parents living in Seattle can check the local school directory online.
Seattle also has excellent higher education institutions, including the University of Washington and smaller private universities, such as Seattle University and the Seattle Pacific University.