Seattle is Washington State’s largest city.
Despite being a large city, it’s surrounded by the ocean, mountains, and deep forests.
If you’ve ever considered moving to Seattle or visiting the city, you may have heard it referred to as The Emerald City.
You may wonder why the city has that nickname.
Here’s what you need to know about Seattle and why it’s called The Emerald City.
Why Is Seattle Called The Emerald City?
Seattle is called the emerald city because of the evergreen trees that make up its forests.
You’ll see vast green forests all around it.
Although it has several other trees, too, those trees tend to lose their leaves during the winter.
That isn’t the case for evergreen trees which remain green even in winter.
As a result, no matter when you travel to Seattle, you’ll always find it green.
The green color, reminiscent of emeralds, is what gives the city its nickname.
All it takes is one trip to Seattle to understand why it’s called The Emerald City.
How Did Seattle Get The Nickname Of Emerald City?
While the reason behind the name may be obvious, you may wonder who came up with it.
Back in 1982, Seattle was looking for a way to increase its tourism.
It needed a nickname or epithet that it could use for brochures and other advertising mediums.
After all, going to a place called The Emerald City is a bit more enticing and mysterious than going to a place called Seattle.
To come up with a nickname, the Convention and Visitors Bureau put up a contest.
People could submit ideas for a nickname and then write a story about the reasoning behind it.
There were a few suggestions, but the Convention and Visitors Bureau ultimately decided on The Emerald City.
The credit for the name goes to Sarah Sterling-Franklin.
She was a photographer and writer who had a home on San Juan Island.
Since that contest, the tourism industry has called Seattle its new nickname to attract more people to the city.
Seattle became The Emerald City after a contest held by the Convention and Visitors Bureau in 1982.
What Other Nicknames Does Seattle Have?
Although it’s officially known as The Emerald City now, that isn’t the only nickname that Seattle has or has had in the past.
In the past, it had two other nicknames to attract more people to the city.
One of those was the Queen City of the Pacific Northwest.
Like many other cities that used the Queen City nickname, Seattle wanted to create a visual.
They wanted newcomers to think of Seattle as a gem in the northwest of the country.
It was a place where people cared for one another and had endless natural beauty.
The city was a beacon of civilization.
It got this name in 1869 from a real estate agent group that came from Portland.
They were trying to get people to move to Seattle to sell homes to them.
The name stuck for a few years.
When the Klondike Gold Rush started in 1897, the city received a new nickname.
In an effort to get more tourism and people to the city, it named itself The Gateway to Alaska.
It also had the nickname The Gateway to the Orient.
Both nicknames encouraged those looking to participate in the gold rush to pass through Seattle first.
Those who didn’t find luck during the gold rush may just choose to settle in Seattle instead.
Either way, the city capitalized on those looking to strike it rich in the north.
The 20th Century
In the 1950s, Seattle got another nickname for itself.
With the opening of the Boeing headquarters in the city, it became known as The Jet City.
It received the name for the number of jets that the city produced.
This was an unofficial nickname as Renton chose it as its own official nickname.
Seattle also has two other nicknames associated with it.
One of those is The Coffee City.
It received this unofficial nickname because Starbucks got its start in Seattle.
Finally, it’s often called The Rain City.
That’s because Seattle, and Washington as a whole, tend to get a lot of rain.
What Can You Do In The Emerald City?
Thanks to its location near the ocean, mountains, and forests, there’s no shortage of things to do in The Emerald City.
If you’re headed to Seattle, then be sure to try some of the following things during your visit.
1. Visit The Space Needle
The Space Needle can trace its origins back to 1959.
Edward E. Carlson had just visited Germany and saw a broadcast tower that had a restaurant in it.
He loved the idea and created his own doodle of a similar structure.
Carlson also happened to be the chief of The World’s Fair at the time.
He thought such a structure could be a permanent icon of Seattle, from whence he hailed, as well as be a great part of the World’s Fair.
He called the design he had doodled a space needle.
The saucer on the top came from the mind of architect John Graham, Jr.
Graham was responsible for designing the first shopping mall that was auto-centric.
He also was working on a rotating bar in Hawaii.
He looked at the design that Carlson had made and added a saucer on top of it.
After several different designs and construction attempts, the Space Needle finally opened to the public on April 21, 1962.
It was the opening of the World’s Fair.
Several celebrities came to see the Space Needle for themselves.
Some names included:
- Elvis Presley
- Walt Disney
- Prince Philip of Great Britain
- John Wayne
- John Glenn
- Neil Armstrong
- Lyndon B. Johnson
Today, the Space Needle is still open to the general public.
It offers a few different experiences that you can enjoy.
The first is the all-glass see-through floor at the top.
There’s also an open-air deck that offers a thrill for those who dare to step out.
The Space Needle also has a gift shop and restaurant.
If you’re headed to The Emerald City, then you need to visit Seattle’s most famous icon.
2. Chihuly Garden And Glass
If you have an eye for art or want to see something unique, then you should head to Chihuly Garden and Glass in The Emerald City.
It’s a long-term exhibition showing the art of Dale Chihuly.
He was born in Tacoma, Washington but studied glassblowing in Wisconsin and Rhode Island.
His studies and interests eventually took him to the Venini glass factory in Venice.
While he was there, he learned a new method of glassblowing that completely changed how he performed his art.
He started creating unique works of art that have been showing up in museums since.
Seattle wanted to work with Chihuly to form a long-term exhibition where people could enjoy his work year-round.
The result was the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition.
It features several of Chihuly’s works and combines them with beautiful plants.
It’s essentially like walking through a garden of plants and glass.
Chihuly even made new pieces specifically for the exhibition.
You can visit the garden on your own or schedule a guided tour.
The tour will cover details of Chihuly’s life as well as about glassblowing, in general.
If you’re visiting Seattle, then you need to make the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit one of your go-to stops.
3. Ferry Rides To Bainbridge Island
While Bainbridge Island is a visit in its own right, part of the experience is getting there.
If you plan on visiting The Emerald City, then you should head to the nearby Bainbridge Island.
To do so, you’ll need to take one of Seattle’s famous ferries.
The ferries are massive and can carry 200 cars on them as well as 2,500 passengers.
If you plan on walking or biking on the island, you only need to pay the ferry fee from Seattle to the island.
The way back is free.
However, if you plan on driving, then you’ll need to pay the fee both ways.
Reservations aren’t accepted, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re there early.
The ferry trip takes 35 minutes and allows you to see both Seattle and the island by water.
The massive ferry is a sight all its own, too.
Now and then, you can even spot some sea life on the sides of the ferry.
For example, killer whales sometimes sail around the passage.
Once you make it to the island, you’ll find that there’s plenty to do.
The island is quite large and offers everything from museums to restaurants.
There are also plenty of antique shops and novelty shops.
If you prefer to stick close to nature, there’s an abundance of nature trails and beaches for you to visit.
If you want to extend your stay, then you can also find some hotels and other lodgings.
There is limited space, however, so you’ll want to make a reservation.
If you want to visit Seattle, then you need to make sure to add a ferry ride and a trip to Bainbridge Island to your list of things to do.
4. Pike Place Market
One of the oldest farmer’s markets is in Seattle.
It got its start back in 1907 when Thomas Revelle got an ordinance to start a farmer’s market on Pike Place.
No more than 12 farmers came to participate on the opening day of the market.
They sold out of their goods by lunch.
The market would continue to be a success.
This led the city of Seattle to give $10,000 to the market to create proper stalls in 1910.
Throughout its history, many shops would open and build their own buildings within the market.
Many of those shops exist to this day.
The market would also go under a few structural changes to widen the area and allow more businesses to participate in market day.
Today, the market spans nine historic acres.
It’s featured at the center of the downtown area.
Many Seattle locals consider the market to be the soul of the city.
You can find everything from fresh seafood to handmade crafts there.
There are tons of different eateries, however, and plenty of trinkets for sale.
There’s no shortage of shops to visit either.
The market holds more than 220 independent shops.
Besides shops, you’ll also find entertainment in the form of buskers and live music.
There’s always someone performing some rare talent to the amusement of those in the market.
It also provides social services like daycare, homeless services, and affordable housing.
If you want to see what Seattle’s people are really like, then you need to visit the Pike Place Market.
5. The Gum Wall
Not too far from the Pike Place Market is the infamous Gum Wall.
It’s nothing more than a wall covered with gum.
However, it’s almost as historic as the Pike Place Market itself.
Although the city recently cleaned the wall in 2015, new gum has claimed it once more.
It seems to be almost a rite of passage for those visiting the city.
You can take the piece of gum you’re chewing and add it to the wall.
You’ll be part of Emerald City history for as long as it takes for them to clean up the wall again.
Of course, if the idea of pushing gum into a wall covered in other people’s gum is gross, then you can also always just take a photo of it.
It’s really something to behold.
The Gum Wall may not be a reason behind Seattle’s Emerald City nickname, but it’s worth a visit all the same.
6. The Original Starbucks
In 1971, coffee changed forever.
Starbucks opened its very first cafe in Pike Place Market.
The shop is still there, and you can find all your favorite drinks in it.
While the coffee may taste the same, if you’re a coffee-lover, it’s worth a visit to the first Starbucks ever opened.
The store has even kept its original appearance.
It’s like a blast from the past in the 1970s.
Whether you want to appreciate coffee history or get your usual coffee, visiting the original Starbucks in Seattle is worth the trip.
7. The Seattle Great Wheel
If you’re interested in the Space Needle, then you should consider going on the Seattle Great Wheel, too.
The Emerald City Great Wheel rests on the edge of a pier and overlooks Puget Sound.
There are several different ways to experience the Great Wheel.
While you can always just ride on the wheel, there’s also a more luxurious experience.
You can reserve a meal for the Great Wheel ride.
When you enter your booth, a server will lay out a table for you.
You’ll get food and your choice of wine to enjoy while the ride makes its cycle.
You can eat a great meal while seeing the views of Seattle and the water.
If you’re not a fan of heights, you can still enjoy the Great Wheel.
There are Great Wheel light shows that occur from Friday to Sunday.
While there are light shows that occur during the week, too, they’re limited in scale.
The Great Wheel can even do custom light shows.
If you’re planning to get married in Seattle or have another special event occurring, then you can work with the operators of the Wheel to create a special light show just for you.
Riding or seeing the Great Wheel in Seattle is a must for anyone visiting the city for the first time.
8. Boeing Future Of Flight
If you have a passion for planes, air travel, or just want to see what the future holds for aviation, then you need to head to Boeing Future of Flight center.
It’s a huge facility that acts both as a museum and as a learning center.
It even operates as a production line for future prototypes that Boeing has an interest in.
You can take a tour to learn about the history of Boeing and its impact on Seattle.
You can also take your children to the drone and robotics part of the museum.
They’ll get their hands on some robotics which might spark a future interest in the industry.
Finally, you can visit the Above and Beyond part of the museum.
This area features interactive design challenges and immersive simulations that showcase future projects Boeing has planned.
If you’re heading to Emerald City, then you need to stop off at the Boeing Future of Flight facility.
Seattle has the famous nickname of The Emerald City.
It gets this name from the evergreen forests that surround it.
Along with hiking through its forests, there are plenty of activities to do in The Emerald City.