Seattle is known as the emerald city because of its overwhelming greenery

David Sigston
(Australian Associated Press)


Seattle is startlingly immaculate. Wide, clean streets cascade down to the busy waterfront in Downtown. People are friendly. They smile and laugh, and honking cars are a noticeably rare occurrence.

The city of 3.8 million people is undergoing a face-lift, with dozens of cranes stretching into the serene skyline, but the capital of Washington state has retained its identity as a long-held bastion of progressiveness.

Nestled in the shadow of the Pacific Northwest’s mountains of forests and known as The Emerald City because of its overwhelming greenery, Seattle spearheads LGBTQI rights and was one of the first cities in America to legalise marijuana.

Home to corporate giants Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon, and the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and grunge, Seattle has become a big city without losing any small-town charm.

The city now hosts the annual Upstream Music festival – the brainchild of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Into its second year, Upstream takes over the city’s oldest neighbourhood Pioneer Square in a fashion much like the seminal South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Around 15 venues hosted more than 300 upcoming and established acts from June 1 to 3, with this year’s event headlined by Miguel, Jawbreaker and The Flaming Lips.

West coast rapper KYLE brought thousands of fans to delirium at the festival’s main stage behind the CenturyLink Field on Friday evening, while around the corner Canadian soul-singer Nuela Charles played a more intimate gig for a few dozen captivated people in a bar.

Over the weekend DJ’s and hip-hop dancers took over Occidental Square in the golden light of dusk, punk bands played in small cafes and bars in the early afternoon, and thousands of festival-goers traversed the network of venues to find whatever genre of music they desired.

But the city is much more than a home for a cool annual music festival.

Tourists and locals flock to Seattle Center in Uptown, built for the 1962 World’s Fair. Headlined by the 184m Space Needle, the precinct offers over 15 hectares of open space and other attractions, including the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), Chihuly Garden and Glass.

The Space Needle offers incredible panoramic views of the city skyline and across Elliott Bay to the mountains and forests beyond where, on a clear day, the 4026m Mt Rainier looms in the distance.

MoPOP celebrates the immense talents of locals Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana, and has a range of rotating displays such as a horror film history, and a Marvel exhibition.

Chihuly Garden and Glass is a winding maze of glass art created by Dale Chihuly, from nearby Tacoma.

Adjacent to the Space Needle, stunning glass structures and ceilings line the rooms, while the outside Glasshouse is speckled with glass flowers and suspended sculptures.

Back near Pioneer Square, the warm and engaging hosts at Bill Spiedel’s Underground Tours provide a walk through subterranean