Seattle is a city where residents really live life. Transplants have arrived here from across the country and around the globe, meaning there is an array of cultures to be enjoyed right here in the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the year, annual events come to parks, venues, stadiums, convention centers and other wide-open spaces, giving residents and visitors alike a taste of other countries' cuisine, drinks, music, dance, art, customs and more. Many of these events—particularly those that take place at downtown's Seattle Center—are free of charge to attend; some merely request a small donation or require that participants pay for goods purchased on-site.
Some festivals give a true taste of a neighborhood's flavor; for example, consider the Solstice Parade that whizzes through Fremont each June. Quirky characters on stilts mingle with body-painted bikers (yes, some wear paint as their only form of "cover"). Fremont's Oktoberfest brings a burst of German revelry to this lively zone, and thousands of fest goers raise their glasses in a packed parking lot and its surrounding streets that have been shut down for the festivities. Other events celebrate everything from bungalow homes to Mexican holidays deeply steeped in culture tradition. Whatever you pick, you're guaranteed to leave with unique memories and a smile on your face.
10 Bite of Seattle
Who doesn't like a day that revolves around good eats? Some of Seattle's best restaurants come together during the annual Bite of Seattle event. The range of cuisines available is truly amazing, and for a minimal charge, you can sample any of them. From catfish nuggets to sushi, from potstickers to cheesecake, from piroshky to dolmathes, the Bite will satisfy any of your cravings. The festival also features live music and entertainment, plus plenty of activities for the kids, too! With nearly 100 acts in all, there is always something for everyone's listening pleasure. Four music stages feature all genres of music performed by local and national talents. (425-283-5050)
9 Annual Bungalow Fair
Calling all lovers of architecture and design! All around Seattle you'll find neighborhoods full of charming Craftsman-style homes from the early part of the 1900s. Celebrating the unique character of these homes, the Bungalow Fair gathers about 50 antique dealers, designers, craftspeople and architects; while there, you can browse their offerings, get ideas for your home (or the one you dream of owning someday) and learn about the importance of historic preservation. The weekend also includes a historic home and neighborhood tour, plus three or four lectures. Since the event's website says they're currently on hiatus, keep your eye on the site for updated information. (206-622-6952)
8 Día de Muertos
A colorful celebration honoring a traditional Latin American holiday, Day of the Dead is a time to joyfully remember the lives of the deceased, while also rejoicing in the beauty of life. Arts, crafts, food, music,and dance make up the two-day festival that takes place at downtown's Seattle Center. Altars adorned with candles and personal mementoes -- a traditional symbol of this day -- also grace the space. In 2014, the event takes place from November 1 through 2.Visitors explore and experience the cultural roots of Mexico through live performances, spectacular community altar and cemetery, special hands-on activities, face painting and exquisite rituals. Guests can create sugar skulls and paper skeletons, explore community altars and march in a musical procession to remember the dead. (206-356-6673, 206-684-7200)
7 Earshot Jazz Festival
There are many reasons why this excellent festival has been around for decades, but its consistently interesting (and long) list of performers has a lot to do with Earshot's longevity. From classic styles to fresher, cutting-edge sounds, the festival showcases a wide range of jazz and its myriad offshoots. In addition to all the ear candy, attendees can catch films, art, poetry, readings and other tantalizing events over the two-and-a-half week festival. According to its website: "Known for 'adventurous, spot-on programming' (JazzTimes) and praised as "one of the best festivals in America" (Seattle Times), the Earshot Jazz Festival brings jazz greats from around the world into creative collaboration with area musicians and audiences. Earshot also celebrates Seattle's place in the world of jazz, with concerts by our award-winning high-school jazz programs and our own renowned resident artists." (206-547-6763, 206-547-9787)
6 Festa Italiana
Abbondanza! It's an apt description of Italy's rich culture and the amazing array of sense-indulging things found at this celebration of all things Italiana. Celebrity chefs make mouthwatering selections, and there's plenty of pizza, pasta, prosciutto, salumi, focaccia, gelato,espresso and other tasty treats. Throughout the month there are various events: the Festa Italiana Mass, the Festa Downtown Luncheon, and the Festa \\"Taste of Italy\\" and the annual Italian Festival at the Seattle Center. You'll also find art, craft, dance, opera, grape stomping and bocce tournaments, among other high-energy activities that appeal to most any age. Special kids activities draw the younger celebrants. Salute! (206-282-0627)
5 Fremont Oktoberfest
Just as eclectic as the neighborhood that hosts it, Fremont's Oktoberfest is about more than beer. If you aren't able to purchase a plane ticket to Munich this fall, this might just be the Pacific Northwest's next best thing. Witness a chainsaw pumpkin carving contest, hear live entertainment, eat great food, check out the crafts and more. It is easy to see why USA Today called this one of the best in the world. Dog day is Sunday - bring your four-legged pooch for a fun run, cover dog model search, or just for companionship! It's important to note that only those 21 and older are permitted in the beer gardens. We'll "prost" to that!
4 Moisture Festival
Come share a thrill at Seattle's annual Moisture Festival, located on Leary Way in the zone some call "Freelard" (since it's between the popular neighborhoods of Fremont and Ballard). During the day, enjoy various comedy and varieté shows involving aerialists, dancers, jugglers, tap dancers, can-can girls, and more. Then at night, put the kids to bed and enjoy saucy burlesque shows performed by some of the nation's most famous and talented burlesque dancers. Some performances take place at Hale's Palladium, at the back of Hale's Brewery (4301 Leary Way NW).There's something for just about every age at this multifaceted annual gathering. (206-297-1405, 206-292-7660)
Meatless eaters of Washington unite at this celebration of all things vegetarian. Whether you are currently on a vegetarian diet or just curious about the health benefits and how to get started, you'll find everything at this annual feast for the eyes, ears,and palate. Sample more than 500 vegetarian foods that burst with flavor, or watch as vegetarian chefs whip up fantastic dishes that you can taste. Doctors and dietitians offer lectures and workshops, vendors feature a huge variety of books on nutrition and vegetarian cooking, and there's plenty of entertainment, even an area for kids to learn and have fun. (206-706-2635, 206-684-7200)
2 Seattle Pride Parade
The Seattle Pride Parade is the city's second largest with attendance surpassing 200,000. The parade begins at the corner of Union Street and 4th Avenue, and proceeds down 4th Avenue to Denny Way. About 150 groups participate, with prizes for the best float. A highlight of the weekend's PrideFest, which takes place at the Seattle Center. This year, the event happens on Sunday, June 29, (the 40th Annual Pride Parade) at 11 a.m. parade fun lasts approximately two and a half hours, and the festivities carry on rain or shine. The organizers--Seattle Out & Proud-- put on other events throughout the year. (206-322-9561)
1 Fremont Street Fair and Solstice Parade
You'll be amazed and amused at what Seattle locals have dubbed the city's best annual street fair, held each year in Fremont (AKA "The Center of the Universe" where a super-size troll and a hovering rocket are daily eye ceandy). Along with the wackiness of the Solstice Parade (think body-painted bicyclists, outlandish floats and a continegent of funky entertainers), you'll find an abundance of arts and crafts vendors, live music on three stages, creative activities for kids and adults, lots of food, and the unique Art Car Blowout. Parking is extremely limited, so public transportation is encouraged. All proceeds go to anti-poverty programs. (206-297-6801)
About Corinne Whiting
Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's backpacked around Australia, taught English in Argentina and explored (so far!) countries from Cambodia and Egypt to Turkey and China.
Corinne served as associate editor at Where magazine for five years; as a freelancer, she now writes for publications like National Geographic Traveler and Amtrak's Arrive. Here in the lovely Northwest, she's attempting to debunk the rain myths, up her coffee and live music quotient and find her Zen near/on the water.
Read more about Corinne Whiting here.
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