West-ward ho?
January 14, 2014 10:48 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are considering a move to Seattle from NYC and taking a brief trip there (arriving Saturday and leaving Tuesday) to discern how we'd like it. I've only been to Seattle once, years ago for just a few days. I'm rather attached to New York living, but want to keep an open mind. Any advice on how to most efficiently ascertain how we'd like living there? Sights to see? Factors to consider?

A few notes: What I love about New York is the ease of getting around by subway, the liveliness of the city, the broad job market for my field (public health research) and the diversity of cultural offerings. We want to get a feel for the place, but we would like to focus on enjoyable activities, not trudging around looking at grocery stores and back alleys. We may have access to a car for our trip. I've taken a look at rentals on Craigslist and the housing stock looks affordable relative to New York, so we could probably afford to live in most neighborhoods, assuming we both found work, though not in the very poshest accommodations.

I've seen previous posts about trips to Seattle and the prospect of moving there but I'd appreciate any additional suggestions, particularly those specific to this coming weekend and our situation.
posted by reren to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (34 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Lived in Seattle for several years, now in NYC for almost 20. Seattle is where I hope to retire. I love both cities dearly.

This time of year is a good test of your tolerance for the dark and damp. Some of us like it. Some run screaming or take up heroin use.

But the secret is that Seattle has glorious summers. Much of the appeal of the place is that you are a couple of hours drive from some of the best hiking you can imagine, and only a bit further from true wilderness.

These are not comparable amenities to NYC. It's a different mindset.

Seattle also has far better food at every level than NYC, but again this isn't the best season to discover the local abundance of seafood, mushrooms, fruit, and much more.

Eat Vietnamese food (Green Leaf is my favorite). NYC utterly lacks the depth of Asian cuisine you can explore in Seattle, quite cheaply.

It's also a car town. You can't really live well there without driving unless you are very serious about biking. Public transport is good but the metro area is very spread out.

Also, they all drive like elderly people compared to NYC. Don't be in a hurry or you'll miss it.
posted by spitbull at 11:28 AM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

One big reason that I decided not to move to Seattle from SF is that, although SF's downtown/walkable area is small, Seattle's is smaller, and to me it would seem very claustrophobic. Coming from NY, I would expect your response to be similar. The downtown area is great and totally livable and fun! for a weekend. But I'm not sure that it could maintain a full life unless you're okay with suburbs. I would really recommend taking drives around the areas outside Seattle to see if that looks inviting to you.

For the downtown area, there are some terrific bookstores, music venues, and restaurants, including the world's best mini donuts, all within a relatively small area.
posted by janey47 at 11:29 AM on January 14, 2014

Well, this weekend you are bound to run into a lot of Seattle love as there is the big Seahawks/49ers game happening on Sunday. Note this could make traversing around the downtown area kind of a nightmare.

Also please don't judge the entirety of Seattle living based on the current weather. This is about as crummy as it gets (cloudy, coolish, maybe some drizzles but nothing nearly as extreme as you get in the mid-atlantic region) but the weather turns for the WAY better in a couple of months. The spring/summer is gorgeous here, trust me.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:30 AM on January 14, 2014

The thing about Seattle is it's an entire regional lifestyle rather than a discrete series of places and events. Seattle transit kind of sucks, it's not a "lively" city in the same way that NYC is, and it's not exactly overflowing with diversity in the way that you're used to in NYC. (There are exceptions, yes, but it's not the same!)

Does that make a bad place to live? Not at all. Seattle can be a great place to live.

But it takes awhile to settle in. It's like doing on Pilates class on a reformer and hoping to get a great workout the first time you try it. It doesn't work that way. You have to learn all these steps and ropes and learn how to move your body in a very particular way. You can't really do a "drop in" on a Pilates class to see how it will transform your body. Or to give another analogy, it's like doing one language class and hoping it will allow you to see if you'd like to write a book in that language.

Seattle is kind of like that. There are a bunch of "fun" things to do there, but it's really not indicative of how it is like to live there, especially as a transition from NYC.

I'd probably say go to the Public Library downtown, get some pastries and your Goretex jacket, and wander around a park or waterfront. Go to Ballard and a few of the other neighborhoods and see if you'd like that kind of feeling.

Keep in mind this is when the weather is the worst.

What do you like to do outdoors?
posted by barnone at 11:32 AM on January 14, 2014

Seattle has far more walkable areas than just downtown - Capitol Hill, Wallingford, Ballard, The U-District, The International District all have main shopping areas that have grocery stores, restaurants, cafes, bars and other amenities. You can check out walkscore for that.

Washington is a pretty white state. South King County (the cities just south of Seattle) will soon be a minority majority area. The only other minority majority county is Yakima which is in the central part of the state.

Check out The Stranger to see what activities are going on while you're in town.

Go eat at Tamarind Tree in the International District (it's tucked in the back of a parking lot, but you'll be glad you went). Just amazing Vietnamese food.

The Gates Foundation is here and there are probably lots of public health related jobs available. Path is also headquartered here. So if you haven't secured a job yet, check them out.

Our current public transportation system is not great and always struggling for funds. We're years away from comprehensive light rail. But I have lived here car free and used zip car and car-to-go and done just fine.
posted by brookeb at 11:58 AM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

A few notes: What I love about New York is the ease of getting around by subway, the liveliness of the city, the broad job market for my field (public health research) and the diversity of cultural offerings.

I don't think you're going to like Seattle-I don't know about public health research, but it doesn't do any of those other things well. Don't get me wrong, I love it here. But it's not for everyone.
posted by Kwine at 12:14 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

You're coming at the right time of year: It is rainy, dark, cold, wet and dreary for six months of the year here, and you'll be right in the middle of it. Some love it. Some hate it. The rest persevere. Bring some vitamin D.

Note that Seattle has no subway. Due to geography, public transit consists mostly of buses that run north and south, with a smattering of east-west buses. There is some light rail, but it goes out to suburbs.

There is, in fact, a coming budget shortfall that will mean either higher taxes for Seattle residents or reduced public transit services, but more likely both.

To get around outside of public transit, you will almost certainly need a car. Short of bike paths that the new mayor will probably dismantle, there's no way around that.

If you go to the Seattle Public Library, make your way up to the very top for a more interesting view of the city. It's free!

If you go to Pike Place Market, Michou has good, cheap panini sandwiches and salads.

Do you like good coffee? Stumptown and Victrola are 15-minute walk from downtown, or a five-minute bus ride.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:22 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check out Queen Anne, which is where I would live. Seattle is tough to break into, a phenomenon known as "the Seattle Freeze." But that also depends on you guys.
posted by jgirl at 12:33 PM on January 14, 2014

My super-introvered brother has lived in Seattle since 1997, when he moved from Virginia. He loves it, has a great group of friends.

Here are his thoughts on dining from an email I saved:

"If you are thinking fancy, look at Canlis, and Rovers in that order. Canlis is a Seattle icon, and the wine list is better than that of Veritas in NYC. If you go to Canlis, start with the Canlis salad...view there is awesome too...

A step down from fancy would be the Waterfront Grill. Food is great and view is perfect. Or look at Crush...amazing food, no view.

Next would be someplace like Dalhia Lounge.

There is plenty of amazing Asian food in the International District, but I'm a bit stale on what is what. There is good gringo Asian at Wild Ginger, but I wouldn't hit that over any of the above.

Now...if you *really* want a Seattle icon - grab a Dick's Deluxe at Dick's Hamburgers. If you ask a Seattle native where they would go given all other options, I bet 90% would say Dick's."

I myself like Cutter's, especially for the view.
posted by jgirl at 12:37 PM on January 14, 2014

Oops, sorry. Canlis changed hands, and they don't go anymore.
posted by jgirl at 12:39 PM on January 14, 2014

Someone else has mentioned it already, but i will second the fact that this particular weekend, any impression that you will get of the city will be skewed by the enormity of the football game that will be occurring on sunday afternoon.
In general the region is no more or less passionate about sports than many other markets, but the Seahawks are a BFD this year and the town is cray-zee. Everyone will be wearing jerseys and the rivalry with San Fran will be palpable.
The upside of this is that if you embrace that sort of thing there will be an unusual amount of camaraderie everywhere all the time (the opposite of the so-called seattle freeze). the downside is that you will not be able to escape it this weekend.

Come on out, enjoy your visit. the weather is supposed to be decent; bring layered clothing and do some exploring. have fun and good luck.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:58 PM on January 14, 2014

Best meal I've had in Seattle in recent years (I am there several times a year) was at Ma'ono Fried Chicken and Whiskey in West Seattle, which despite the name is a bit upscale. And fabulous. Call to reserve the fried chicken, which sells out. But there's a lot else good on the menu.

I'm rather fond of West Seattle in general. If you're considering moving there if give it a look over some of the pricier neighborhoods around.

Washington is indeed a very Anglo state, but Seattle boasts a greater diversity of Asian immigrant cultures than NYC by a long shot, and lately quite a lot of Mexican cultural resources.
posted by spitbull at 1:04 PM on January 14, 2014

Be prepared for a very different sort of interaction with the locals. Northwesterners are very, very friendly. Almost aggressively so. For those of us accustomed to a very cut-and-dried approach with, say, a grocery store checkout clerk, this may be a shock to the system. When the BF and I were visiting Seattle, we were chuckling to each other about getting to hear the life story of the woman selling us flowers. I spent my teen years in the NW, but have been in NJ/NY for over 25 years, and it is a pretty striking difference. People are also super relaxed about driving, too.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:21 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

> We may have access to a car for our trip

I recommend using it, if possible. I moved to Seattle from NYC and bought a car on the way in from the airport. The public transportation here really is bad, compared to New York's, and chances are you're going to end up having a car if you live here. So try driving around, parking, etc, and see how you like it.

> We want to get a feel for the place, but we would like to focus on enjoyable activities, not trudging around looking at grocery stores and back alleys

But surely most of your life is spent trudging around grocery stores and running errands? Any city can be great if you spend time doing enjoyable activities. If you want to know what it's like to live here, going to grocery stores should be part of it. (Cheat sheet: grocery stores here are so much more pleasant to shop in than they were for me in NYC. Shopping carts! You can use a shopping cart! One shaped like a race car, even, if that's your thing!)
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:21 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Lived there for 18 months. Didn't work out for me for a lot of reasons which at the time I blamed on the weather, the so called Seattle Freeze and some other factors. But the real reasons were entirely me and had very little to do with Seattle.

The rain isn't as bad as everyone says. It's frequent, but it's rarely a huge downpour. It's dark early in the winter, but so is every place at those latitudes and the opposite is a summer that you couldn't custom-order better from mother nature.

But it is different. I've found NYC to be more gregarious and engaging. Seattle is…harder to get to know and be known. The Pilates simile is a really good one, and it's one I wish I'd known when I moved there.

I'd live there again.
posted by Thistledown at 1:24 PM on January 14, 2014

A friendly word of warning: if you move here and complain incessantly about how much better everything in New York was, you will experience the Seattle Freeze way harder than you otherwise might. Not that I think this is something you'd do, but I do feel like I hear it more from New Yorkers than folks from other places.

To echo what others have said, you will need access to a car. You don't necessarily need to own one, but if you don't, you'll want to have zipcar and car2go memberships.
posted by hades at 1:54 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Re: public health research (my field), the South Lake Union area is turning into a pretty good hotbed. Gates Foundation, PATH, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, Fred Hutch, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, etc. Not sure what your specialty is, but feel free to MeMail me with any questions.
posted by sapere aude at 2:26 PM on January 14, 2014

Thanks for all the thoughtful replies!

Some clarifications: As far as interest in outdoor activities, we both like to hike and I enjoy bike riding. In terms of food interests, I should have mentioned we need moderately priced vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly restaurants. We are particularly looking for fun things to do (rather than experiences representative of day-to-day living) because 1) fun is fun and 2) I'd like to become acquainted with the more attractive features of the city to balance against the hassle and upheaval of moving across the country, but if there's anything really distinctive about daily living we should know about or experience ourselves, do tell.

Any other recommendations or impressions of the city are appreciated. Thanks for tipping us off to the football game. Is there anything in particular we can/should do to steer clear of traffic and other game-related inconveniences?

Looking forward to the trip! Thanks again.
posted by reren at 2:43 PM on January 14, 2014

Well, the game is sunday at 330 local. The Pioneer Square area will be hoppin', bars will be crowded throughout the city. this may or may not be an inconvenience. Traffic probably wont be awful, as the late start will likely mean that folks will dribble into town all day leading up to it. the seattle center area (space needle, EMP) will probably be less crowded than normal. game will be over around 7, so again, expect restaurants to be full up.
If the weather is clear take any opportunity to see the mountains, they are freshly powdered in snow. take a ferry ride, go to greenlake or one of the many many parks to get a sense for just how many folks will jog, bike, walk-the-dog in any sort of weather. enjoy.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:56 PM on January 14, 2014

Good vegetarian restaurants: Bamboo Garden, Plum Bistro, Araya's Place, Pizza Pi, Cafe Flora, Wayward Cafe. Those are all vegan places, I believe, but it's hard to make vegetarian-friendly recommendations because just about every restaurant in town which isn't a steakhouse is vegetarian-friendly. (It may be confirmation bias on my part, but it seems like the more upscale the restaurant is, the less able you are to rely on there being a decent vegetarian offering.)
posted by hades at 3:03 PM on January 14, 2014

I'm a big fan of Queen Anne (SPU grad!) and the Ballard area, although Greenlake is a great place to find amazing coffee (Zoka's is my favourite in the world. And I love coffee), and lots of people walk around the lake when the weather permits.

Elliot Bay Pizza Company looks totally run down, but will blow your mind with sandwiches. Seriously, I can't eat gluten anymore, and I went there last time I was in town. Orrapin (Thai) is also great. Both are at the top of Queen Anne. While you're there, try out Kerry Park - it's a bit of a walk, especially if it's raining, but well worth the effort.

Also, go to Scarecrow Video if you can. If you are at all into video/tv/film, Scarecrow will make you want to move to Seattle TOMORROW. It's in the U-District. Oh, and walking around Gasworks Park is always amazing

I would move to Seattle in a heartbeat if I could find a job there. Sadly, the education field is completely locked down, and has been for years. But Seattle is an amazing city, with great food, lots of amazing people, and some amazing natural wonders. Plus, if you love live music you are a short drive away from the best venue on the west coast, and maybe in the US.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:03 PM on January 14, 2014

I guess I'll mention what I love about living here, since I do love it. I grew up in Ohio and have been here for almost 4 years.

-City services. Waste/recycling/compost pickup and pricing is intelligently designed and progressive. I buy solar power from community panels on the aquarium. There are a lot of little civic minded organizations and the city is small enough that they can have a real impact.
-Economic diversity. Natural resources. Important seaport. Boeing. Technology. The local economy is as shock-resistant as anywhere.
-Mountains and water. Not so much in terms of 'going to them for activities', but that around every corner is another beautiful view. I work downtown and I love walking up and down the hills, I love looking out my window over the sound to the Olympic mountains. I like looking at and riding the ferries. Little things that improve every step I take. Other places feel flat and featureless.
-Climate. I hate it when it's too hot or too cold to go outside, and it never is here. I can play soccer and golf all 52 weeks of the year. I don't mind the rain or the dark-especially since it pays you back in the summer.
-related to climate, easy to live more sustainably. No big heating and cooling costs. Electricity is hydro, not coal. Though I have a car, I only drive it on the weekends-if you live or work downtown, full time transit is totally doable.
-Local food. Seafood, fruit, wine. For my particular tastes, it can't be beaten.
-Not too big, not too small. Vancouver B.C. seems expensive and crowded, Portland seems tiny and like it barely has an economy, Seattle is just right.
-Architecture. Love the north side houses built from the 20s through the 40s especially.

Be prepared for a very different sort of interaction with the locals. Northwesterners are very, very friendly. Almost aggressively so. For those of us accustomed to a very cut-and-dried approach with, say, a grocery store checkout clerk, this may be a shock to the system. When the BF and I were visiting Seattle, we were chuckling to each other about getting to hear the life story of the woman selling us flowers.

I have never felt this way ever, I don't find the natives to be terribly friendly…I was nice to a lady at bus stop the other day and she was like, "You're not from here, are you?" I think that's not an uncommon feeling among transplants, especially Midwesterners. (In big East Coast cities, people are less friendly because there are eight million people so get-the-fuck-out-of the-way, and I totally get that and adapt to it just fine when I'm visiting, but there isn't the same crush of people out here, it's just…a little cool for no particular reason). I'm more solitary than most, though, so this doesn't bother me.
posted by Kwine at 3:46 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

And driving too! Everyone drives the speed limit, reasonably courteously, and it is the best. The Best.
posted by Kwine at 3:51 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I've found the locals to be unfriendly, especially compared to New Yorkers. It took me a long time and a lot of work to make friends (which I did, everything is good now).

But I found Bostonians to be really friendly and nice when I lived there, so I might be unusual when it comes to human interaction.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:54 PM on January 14, 2014

I lived in Seattle for some time. I also lived in Bellevue and on Mercer Island.

I would like to say that if you plan to live in the Seattle area - make sure you LIVE WHERE YOU WORK. Do not think you can just skip and jump over to Bellevue, or Renton, or anywhere. The traffic is unbelievable. The buses are not great. I have commuted both by car and by bus.

I was much happier working from home.

We don't live in Seattle anymore and I miss it. There was stuff to do (there isn't where we live now). I do NOT miss the traffic.

We have beautiful weather here. Really. The rain thing is a myth. Mostly. :)

If you like Italian, I recommend Ristorante Machiavelli on Capitol Hill (go early, no reservations accepted). I also recommend Madam K's pizza (you have to turn off your cell phone, and I think they don't allow kids there, what with the brothel theme and all) in Ballard.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 4:03 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, do not jaywalk or you risk a ticket.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 4:05 PM on January 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

As for the unfriendly thing, I think that is all in the eye of beholder. To me, an extreme introvert, I considered everyone in Seattle to be extremely polite, staying out of my way, no direct eye contact, no barging up to say hello or start some random conversation... In my own experience, people in Seattle are very friendly - it's just a different kind of friendly. Take a class, go to the dog park, do something where you have a common interest with others and PRESTO! The friendliness appears.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 4:08 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

No one is mentioned it yet so I'm going to throw in an idea of Fun Thing to Do: wine tasting in Woodinville. There's lots of WA wineries there to try, and these are wines you will NEVER find in NYC (well, except for the ones at Chateau St Michelle's tasting room but, seriously, don't go there). WA is a big wine-making and wine-drinking state so I think this is a great thing to experience.

I think all of the fear-mongering about not having a car is kind of hilarious. For my first 5 years in town I did not own a car and I was fine with taxis, buses, walking, and rides from friends (and now there's Uber if that's your thing). I did have a Zipcar membership but I stopped using it pretty quickly for various reasons. I have a car now and it is purely out of luxury, not necessity.

I guess one thing to note that is different here than in NYC: people don't really hail taxis from anywhere here. You can do this downtown to some extent, but mostly people call the local cab company, tell them where they are, and a cab is there in a few minutes. That said, taxis are pretty expensive compared to bigger cities I've commuted in.

The bus is fine. The light rail is great (albeit limited in route). Traffic sucks during Monday-Friday on the main roads and highways but it's not LA-style awful. It's generally a very walkable city.

Yes, there is the Seattle Freeze but I don't find people here hostile or unfriendly - you can go into any bar and chat up with some regulars. You may even exchange numbers and promise to hang out again. But most likely you'll never hear from them, though if you see them again in the bar they'll chat with you again. Sometimes the Freeze is nice, though, because it means you can go to a coffee shop and get some damn work done without some random weirdo bugging you.
posted by joan_holloway at 4:21 PM on January 14, 2014

We loved Carmelita when we lived in Seattle. It is a vegetarian restaurant with an emphasis on local food in the Greenwood neighborhood. That's out of the way if you're staying downtown, but easy to find if you're checking out neighborhoods north of the downtown area.

Main courses at Carmelita run a bit under twenty bucks, which was a big splurge for two grad students, but very reasonable for the level of artistry provided.
posted by yarntheory at 4:26 PM on January 14, 2014

Also the brunch at Senor Moose is amazing and worth waiting for. Get a horchata latte.
posted by brookeb at 4:45 PM on January 14, 2014

I think all of the fear-mongering about not having a car is kind of hilarious.

Fair enough; you don't absolutely need access to a car. It just means that you need to plan things more carefully and decide for every spontaneous thing whether it's worth an hour on the bus each way or $40 in taxi fare. I was car-free for a few years here, and it very much affected where I could realistically go. West Seattle was right out -- it's about $45 by cab one way (plus 15 minutes of waiting for a cab, because they are never just idling in my neighborhood), or an hour and a half each way by bus. So, that awesome Salvadorean bakery in West Seattle? I'd love to go, but unless I can mooch a ride with a friend who happens to be going that way, it's not worth $90 or 3 hours of my day to go there.

I live north of the University District, so getting to most places requires at least one bus transfer. If you live downtown, that's less likely to be the case. But Metro's "We'll get you there!" slogan really requires an "... eventually" tacked to the end. Our bus system has been dying a slow death by a thousand paper cuts over the last decade, and it's about to get worse. If not driving is an issue for you, make sure you pick someplace to live that's close to everywhere you might want to go.
posted by hades at 6:03 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

My limited experience is that the public transit is not good; and that waiting for a bus in the rain absolutely sucks, in comparison to going down into the subway in a place like NYC; and that buses are caught in city traffic like the cars.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:14 PM on January 14, 2014

I grew up in Seattle - moved away to SF and elsewhere - but ultimately returned. I love it here. That being said, it's a city that takes a while to get to know. That doesn't make it cold, it's just a slightly introverted city. And really, genuinely a lovely place to live.

Here are some tips broken down into categories.

-Pike Place Market - Touristy but worth doing. Check out DeLaurenti, Beecher's Cheese, The Spanish Table and Rachel's Ginger Beer.
-Ferry ride to Bainbridge Island* - This is one of my favorite things to do with visitors. Seattle is a city that's all about water, and this is one of the loveliest ways to experience it. If you walk on to the ferry you can wander around the downtown section of Bainbridge; if you drive on you can check out the beautiful Blodel Reserve property.
-Sculpture Park* - Bring some coffee, wander through the park and down along the water.
-Hikes* - Head east or west for amazing hiking options within a stone's throw of the city. If you want to get ambitious/spend the night, you could head over to the Olympic Peninsula for some really incredible rainforest hiking. And skiing/snowboarding are an option right now, too.
-Seward Park* - Walk through the park and then along the water heading north.
-Brewery Tours - Seattle has an incredible, ever-expanding brewery scene. If you're into that kind of thing, I'd highly recommend taking a day to wander around the breweries in SoDo (especially Epic Brewery, which has a very of-the-moment restaurant inside) or Ballard.
-Arboretum* - Really beautiful park (though more so in the spring).
-Kayak on Lake Union* - You can paddle around and see the houseboats, Gasworks Park, and even pull up to Ivars or one of the South Lake Union restaurants for happy hour.
*Ideal for a day that's not raining. Cloudy is fine, you'll have to get used to that if you live here.

Neighborhoods to visit:
-Ballard (young families & lots of restaurants) - Wander along Ballard Ave, enjoy the boutiques, stop in one of the millions of restaurants/bars, check out the Ballard Locks if you like seeing salmon jumping, head down to Golden Gardens if you like windswept beaches.
-Capitol Hill (the hipstery, gay, nightlife neighborhood) - Check out Elliott Bay Bookstore and Oddfellows Cafe next door. If you want to hit up some bars, avoid the Pike/Pine corridor. There are some good hipster bars along Olive (Montana, etc.), some good yuppie bars along 12th (Canon, etc.), and some good chill-30-something bars along 15th (Hopvine, etc.).
-Fremont (20-somethings and bars) - Nice boutiques and a Lenin statue; you can wander along the ship canal and eat incredible food at Revel or Whale Wins.
-Queen Anne (yuppies with money) - Check out the top of the hill if you like areas with lots of cute stores, polished restaurants and yoga studios. Bonus points for the incredible views and gorgeous old houses.
-Other neighborhoods worth visiting or driving through if you have time: Phinney Ridge, Wallingford, Mount Baker, Columbia City.

Basically every single restaurant in Seattle has good vegetarian options and you should consider checking out menus online of places that aren't veggie-focused, because you may find some great things (at non-NYC prices). That said, here are some places that you'd almost certainly like:
-Cafe Flora - Excellent vegetarian food and a great brunch
-Green Leaf - Vietnamese, lots of veggie options
-Eva - Northwest/vegetarian
-Delancey - Lovely pizza
-Plum - Very hip (no, really) vegan place
-Sutra - Another great vegetarian place
[Note: Carmelita, mentioned above, was amazing but just closed. :( ]

Living Here:
-If you live here it's ideal to have at least one car - as others have mentioned, our public transportation isn't great. That said, if you both work downtown and live in, say, Capitol Hill, you could get by with just zipcar.
-I think the pace of life is probably much slower here than in NYC. When I moved to SF, I liked that it felt more exciting - but I moved back because I didn't like that things felt frenetic there all the time. So it can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on where you are in your life.
-If I were to generalize, I'd say that Seattle is not a great place to be in your 20s, but it's a great place to settle down and/or have kids. There's tons of outdoor stuff, things are laid-back but there's still plenty to do, there are great amenities, it's incredibly safe, etc.

Let me know if you have any other questions!
posted by leitmotif at 6:49 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Late update: Thanks for the advice, everyone. Hearing these perspectives informed our trip and decision making. Seattle definitely has some real appeal (Pike Place Market, Plum Bistro and the Sculpture park were particularly awesome) but it's not the place for us right now. We're headed for another sort of adventure -- San Francisco! -- instead. More questions on our next home are soon to come, I'm sure. Thanks again.
posted by reren at 11:03 AM on March 25, 2014

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