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Seattle Hotel Locations - Neighborhoods

Including pros & cons of each neighborhood, with an emphasis on safety and convenience

By Jennifer Miller

No matter where you are sailing, hiking, climbing, biking, walking in the Pacific Northwest, be sure to spend several days in fascinating Seattle with its outdoor market, great food, awesome views, and down-to-earth neighborhoods.

Whether you want a budget hotel in the Seattle area or a big discount on a deluxe one, the information found here helps you make the right choice.

  1. Downtown Seattle
  2. Lake Union
  3. University of Washington - Northgate
  4. Bellevue
  5. Bothell / Lynnwood /Edmonds
  6. Redmond / Kirkland / Renton / Kent
  7. Seattle Airport (Seatac)


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1. Downtown Seattle

Downtown Seattle is gorgeous - and includes everything from all the new downtown arts facilities, Seattle Center, the waterfront and Belltown, and the International District.
"In a town that once packed its bags at 5 p.m., it's not unusual to see late-night crowds milling around discussing abstract expressionism or film noir on the well-lit sidewalks outside the Seattle Art Museum after a musical concert, film or art lecture."

"They may be pouring out of the lushly renovated Paramount Theatre, the 5th Avenue Theatre or A Contemporary Theatre, strolling down a busy sidewalk, headed for an after-hours meal or a drink."
   -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer

You'll find a mixture of luxury and the high range of moderate-cost hotels in downtown Seattle. Downtown is where most visitors want to stay.

Great bus service allows you to take a day jaunt up into the University District (that's "U District" to us webfooters), or explore any of the many small hill-neighborhoods near downtown such as, Capital Hill, Magnolia, and Queen Anne and the extraordinary parks in and around them.

You'll want to spend a minimum of one day exploring the multitude of indoor and outdoor shops at the Farmers Market, preferably munching your way from one place to the next. There are literally dozens of small restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and ethic food sources in and around the market, not to mention a truly amazing range of art, antiques and junk. Edna Ferber wrote about it in Great Son and it has only gotten better.

And you must not fail to take the ferry across to Bremerton (goes through an exciting narrow channel) or Bainbridge (a quick walk to great ice cream). For you bike enthusiasts, the ferry is the best way to jump to the small roads west of Puget Sound for day trips.

Pioneer Square, south of downtown, still can be rowdy and rough at night - mostly because a lot of clubs and music clubs are there—attracting folks who've had too much to drink.

You'll find world class hotels in downtown Seattle, like the Seattle Sheraton Hotel & Tower (4 star luxury), the Red Lion, and the Crowne Plaza. The Fairmont Olympic Hotel is an old-timer's favorite—it has been considered the ultimate in luxury since practically the founding of Seattle. Another downtown favorite is the Edgewater, the only hotel on the waterfront, from whose windows you can fish in Puget Sound.

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2. Lake Union

The tiny Lake Union district, close to downtown Seattle has come into its own. There are now a number of good and moderate-priced hotels there, such as the Marriott Courtyard and Residence Inn. It's close to the locks in the ship canal between Lake Union and Puget Sound, and is also an easy jump to the seafood restaurants and beaches to the north and west and the small shops in the Ballard neighborhood as well as Queen Anne hill towering above with quaint neighborhoods, fine restaurants and shops.

The area north of Seattle Center and around the south slopes of Queen Anne Hill is bustling with boutique hotels, smart shops and fine restaurants.

The small neighborhood to the east of Lake Union has some good restaurants and is right on a bus line between downtown Seattle and the University District. East of the Lake Union region, on the east side of Capital Hill, is the lovely Seattle Arboretum; extraordinary in spring with rhododendrons and azaleas, but rather incredible at all times. You'll find lots of Seattle residents out walking here - that is, those who are not out walking at Lincoln Park or Green Lake or along the ship canal, or any of the many other Seattle parks.

The hotels are located on busy Aurora Avenue (Highway 99), and there are frequent buses downtown—though this street could not be described as highly walker-friendly.

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3. University of Washington - Northgate

In a city strongly divided by water, you should know that the large U District refers to the University of Washington - it lies north of the ship canal running between Lake Washington and Lake Union. Seattle University is in a different region, south of the ship canal, and is not actually on's map.

This area is, as might be expected, exciting and full of surprises. There are great bookstores, ethnic food, and unusual shops. The U.W. campus is not to be sneezed at either. The University district is my favorite place to stay. It's close to downtown and within easy reach of the northern communities. Buses run downtown every few minutes, and there are non-stop express buses during rush hour. Hotels are moderately priced here, but crowded at graduation, and during major sports events.

4. Bellevue

Bellevue once was the bedroom community for Seattle, but now has come into its own, and so has the traffic. This newer region is known as an upscale area, with many large businesses, large malls and luxury stores, expensive homes. Perhaps we should describe it as a bedroom community for Microsoft.

If your visit is centered on the east side of Lake Washington and trips to the mountains both north to Adams, and south to Rainier, then Bellevue is a good choice. If you plan a lot of time in downtown Seattle, be forewarned that there are two floating bridges across Lake Washington to Seattle—they are both jammed at rush, and crowded at all other times. Traffic on highway 405 is often bad, and any accident or untoward event pretty much brings traffic to a halt. Traffic is generally worst around Kirkland.

On the east side, I-90 is generally better than 520 for north-south traffic - mostly because it has greater capacity.

Priceline includes the la Quinta Inn, the Doubletree Hotel and the Hyatt Regency in its listings; the latter is right across from Bellevue Square, the Northwest's largest shopping mall.

5. Bothell / Lynnwood / Edmond

Like Bellevue, these communities are convenient for the north end of Seattle and points north, but not good if you plan to spend a lot of time in downtown Seattle. There are not many hotels here—they're mostly on the I-5 or other freeway corridors. You'll find prices a little less however (i.e., at the Wyndham Garden Hotel), and the express bus service to downtown Seattle is good. I-5 is particularly crowded from downtown up to Lynnwood. There's also a bike trail that runs all the way to downtown from Bothell/northern Lake Washington, mostly following the contours of Lake Washington.

Lynnwood / Edmond is more upscale than Bothell. Edmond is in close proximity to the ferries going to Whidby Island (a great day trip) and the Olympic Peninsula.

By the way, from King Street Station downtown, there's a commuter train that runs right along Puget Sound all the way up to Everett. It runs a couple times a day and is a wonderful, scenic trip.

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6. Redmond / Kirkland / Renton / Kent

These communities southeast of Seattle are an endless sprawl of suburbia, some upscale, some lower, mostly newish. They blur in one's mind. There are some nice parks, but unless you have business here or family to visit, it's not as convenient. Redmond is, of course, the heartland of Microsoft country.

It's a great place to stay for a night to recuperate after a camping trip. Or, if you've arrived late at SeaTac airport, headed toward the mountains, you could stop at the eastern outskirts in order to get an early start the next morning. However, in that case, you'll find better deals near SeaTac. Some of the hotels in this area include the La Quinta in Kirkland and Homestead Suites in Redmond. You should have a car if you stay here. There is express bus service, but it's not a "straight shot" as for the northern communities. In Kent and Renton, traffic is not quite as bad as in other areas, simply because there are more alternatives. 509/599 isn't too bad much of the time. But as always, it's bad during rush hour.

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7. Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac)

All the major chains have hotels here, including the La Quinta, the Hilton, the Holiday Inn, and the Marriott Sea-Tac Airport and the Radisson Hotel Seattle Airport (both 3 star Priceline bargains). There's plenty to choose from and you can get some great deals here at It's (in theory) only a 20 minute drive to Seattle from SeaTac, but rush hour begins about 7 am, and ends about 7 pm—so it can take a lot longer. Because the Seattle region is a long narrow corridor, there's just no place for the traffic to go up the west side of Lake Washington except through the long I-5 funnel. Aurora Blvd, (Highway 99) is an excellent alternative.

There are good plans for the future. Seattle will soon break ground on a monorail running from West Seattle (that's south of downtown) through downtown, and north between Queen Anne and Magnolia up to Ballard, which is just north of the ship canal. In addition, light rail is planned for the area east of I-5 - running from Northgate, down through the University District, down past Capital Hill and First Hill, and then probably out to the Rainier Valley. We're waiting!

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