"Seattle has more cranes than any other city in America" wasn't one of the most interesting facts delivered during my tour of the Emerald City. It being the home of Nirvana, Starbucks, the Pike Place Market and our favourite human Cranes (Frasier and Niles) seemed far more interesting to me.

But these construction cranes – all 60 of them, rocking in the North Pacific bluster – do symbolise the way things are going for Seattle: namely, upwards.

Resident tech behemoth Amazon is quite literally stretching the Seattle cityscape to the sky, with its enormous new campus development in Downtown expanding the company's footprint in the city to 12 million square feet. That's about double the presence of any other company in any other US city, and its 40,000-strong workforce is helping to spur on a creative, cosmopolitan buzz.

On the topic of reaching for the sky, in September 2017 low-cost airline Norwegian launched a new direct flight route from London Gatwick, opening the city's doors to European visitors on a budget.

From the revamped Space Needle to booming craft brewery and coffee scenes, here are five reasons to visit Seattle in 2018.

seattle, washingtonPixabay/CC0

1. You'll be one of the first to ascend the renovated Space Needle

Built in 1962 for the World's Fair, the Space Needle has become a symbol of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.

Now, over half a century after it was unveiled, this retro vision of the future is about to be brought into the 21st century, with a $100 million makeover set for completion in the summer of 2018.

The upgrade will include a new rotation motor, see-through glass floors in the restaurant and floor-to-ceiling glass panels replacing the wire on the observation deck – enhancing the 360-degree views.

To top it all off, Simpsons fans will enjoy riding the monorail that connects the Space Needle to the city centre (oh it's not for you; it's more of a Shelbyville kind of idea).

space needle, seattlePixabay/CC0

2. You can experience other "highs", too

In 2012, Washington State made history when it legalized the sale of cannabis to anyone aged 21 or older. Five years on, Seattle has positioned itself as the Amsterdam of the States.

So popular is marijuana among visitors to Seattle that some entrepreneurial folk have set up weed tours – including Kush Tourism and the Weedbus Club – who lead educational trips around stores and growers in the city.

As it stands, other states in the US are set to follow suit by legalizing the sale of cannabis in 2018, including California, Massachusetts and Maine. There are strict laws on where and how you can consume the green stuff, so be sure to check Visit Seattle's guidelines before you light up.

3. You'll want to lap up the craft brewery scene

These days you can pretty safely insert any American city name before the statement "has a burgeoning craft brewery scene". Seattle is no exception.

There are around 60 breweries in the city (the same number of cranes, in case you'd forgotten) offering everything from aggressively hoppy ales to more yeasty and malty Belgian/British-style offerings.

In recent years, to add to old favourites such as The Pike Brewing Co., the city has seen a number of new taprooms opening up. These include the Redhook Brewlab, Obec Brewing (Czech for "community") and Floating Bridge Brewing (with shuffleboard and all).

For a low-key experience, head to the super chilled Outlander in Fremont, where you can try experimental brews such as Peanut-Butter Stout or Tiramisu Brown, if that's your thing.

4. Third-wave coffee culture is in full swing here

Back in 1971, three guys who had met at the University of San Francisco decided to open up a shop selling high-quality coffee beans and equipment, with a two-tailed mermaid for its logo.

Some 46 years later, Starbucks has over 27,000 stores around the world, embodying what is referred to as the "second wave" of coffee.

Today, third-wave coffee is de rigeur in Seattle, with a growing demand for carefully sourced, earthy, smoky, nutty beans served up in smaller portions in vibey independent stores. Elm Coffee Roasters, Kuma Coffee and Slate are at the forefront of this movement in Seattle.

Even Starbucks has jumped on the bandwagon. In 2014 they opened the enormous, Wonka-esque Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, with a focus on rare beans and the craft of coffee-making.

5. There's subterranean news, too

First-time visitors to Seattle might feel underwhelmed when they catch first sight of the city's famous Waterfront, dominated as it is by the roaring Alaskan Way Viaduct that carries 110,000 vehicles through the heart of Downtown Seattle every day.

But change is afoot. A 1.7-mile-long tunnel through the city centre is due to open in 2019, meaning the viaduct can be dismantled and the waterfront area can be opened up with green spaces and clearer air quality. Watch this space.

Top image © Cascade Creatives/Shutterstock 

rough guide usa coverDiscover more of Seattle with The Rough Guide to the USACompare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go. Norwegian fly four times a week direct from London Gatwick to Seattle.


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