Seattle is made up of a unique combination of neighborhoods brimming with counter-culture, culture and breweries. The people are friendly and welcoming. The influence of the maritime and Native American history is evident in the architecture, attitudes and culture of the city and its neighborhoods. Each district retains its identity through small, family-run businesses and numerous parks for outdoor activities. Art, music and a sense of community define the districts individually and the city as a whole.
University District

The University District in Seattle surrounds the University of Washington campus. It stretches from the Ship Canal to Ravenna, I-5 to Sandpoint and N.E. 45th Street runs through the middle from east to west. This area carries a university feeling and is filled with cultural events. The district annually hosts the U District Street Fair in May, and throughout the summer is home to the U District Farmers Market. The architecture is a mix of modern and old. Many university students live in the area, either on campus, in sororities/fraternities, apartments or shared houses. Two historical theaters are in the area: the Landmark Varsity Theatre and the Landmark Seven Gables. It is also home to the historic Blue Moon Tavern on N.E. 45th St.

Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill offers incredible views of downtown Seattle. (Credit, Karen Ulvestad)

Queen Anne Hill

Queen Anne Hill is to the north of downtown Seattle and sports magnificent views of the downtown buildings with Mount Rainier in the background. The area got its name from the architecture of the early houses built on the hill. The wealthy purchased land and built large Queen Anne-style homes. The Counterbalance is a local name for Queen Anne Avenue North as it goes up the hill on the south side. Historically, trolley cars transported people up and down the hill. It was built in 1902, and continued to run until 1940. Queen Anne is the highest hill in the city, and is now populated with private homes, condos, apartments and small businesses. The neighborhood runs to the ship canal to the north, Lake Union to the east, Belltown to the south and Magnolia to the west.

The North Point Lighthouse is accessible through Discovery Park. (Credit, Karen Ulvestad)


Magnolia sits on the Puget Sound between Ballard and the Seattle waterfront. The district is split by West Emerson Street, which runs east-west through the area. The neighborhood hosts an annual Art Festival (Magnolia Summerfest) the first weekend in August. The oldest lighthouse in the area is West Point Lighthouse, and it is located by Discovery Park (formerly U.S. Army Fort Lawton). Discovery Park is a great place to meet, hike, enjoy views of Puget Sound or walk on the beach. The Seattle area’s Native American center Daybreak Star Center is on the northwest side of the Magnolia area, which hosts an annual Pow Wow in mid-summer (which was unfortunately canceled this year). This is the second oldest neighborhood in the city of Seattle, and became part of the city in 1891.

Related: Best Local Trivia About Seattle

Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill is home to the Seattle Asian Art Museum. (Credit, Karen Ulvestad)

Capital Hill

Capital Hill sits overlooking Seattle on the east side of I-5. The neighborhood is filled with small boutiques, wonderful cafes and Volunteer Park. It is the nightlife and entertainment center in Seattle. Counter-culture is popular in this district, and it is the center of Seattle’s gay community. The area was originally called the Broadway Hill, after the main street through the district. The district is home to the annual Pride Parade and associated festivities. Historically, the wealthiest of Seattle built their homes in the Volunteer Park area, and it became known as Millionaire’s Row. The Seattle music scene is based in this district. During the early 1990s, it was home to the grunge scene.


The Fremont district is just north of Queen Anne (across the Ship Canal), Wallingford (east), Phinney Ridge (north) and Ballard (west). This community is the “Center of the Universe” and was originally its own city before becoming part of Seattle. The district is known for its counter-culture, statue of Vladimir Lenin, the Troll (under the Aurora Bridge) on Troll Avenue, the Summer Solstice Parade and Pageant and the bicyclists riding nude (but body painted) at the Summer Solstice celebrations. Many small businesses thrive in the business district, and display beautiful local art. The restaurants are great and reflect the creativity of the community.

Related: Best Year Round Art Walks In Seattle

Karen Ulvestad is a mother and professional writer/photographer, who lives in the greater Seattle area. She graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in English Composition. Her background is in fitness, travel, photography and writing. She continually researches locations to visit, and/or entertainment opportunities for family outings and/or photo shoots. Her work can be found at