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Ever since 1851, when a boatload of settlers landed on a windswept beach on Puget Sound, Seattle has had grand aspirations. The pioneers who rowed ashore that day named their settlement New York Alki, appending the local Native American word for "by and by" to that of the East Coast's largest city, in hopes that this new community would one day be a bustling metropolis to rival New York. It took more than 150 years, but their dreams have come true -- just not quite the way they had first imagined.

First, those early settlers discovered that the spot where they had set up camp was more than just windswept; it was downright blustery in winter. So they moved across Elliott Bay and changed the name of their community to Seattle, in honor of a local Native American chief who had befriended them. For nearly 50 years, Seattle remained a rough-and-tumble place surrounded by wilderness, but when gold was discovered in the Yukon and miners began emptying their pockets before and after they'd gone north to Alaska, Seattle turned from town to city.

However, even as Seattle has turned into a sprawling metropolis, it has remained tightly connected to its natural surroundings. With the waters of Puget Sound and lakes Union and Washington shaping the city's topography, Seattle is a city of splendid vistas, and many of those views are tinted a deep green, which has given the city its nickname -- the Emerald City. Take a little time to read through this guide, and you'll get a feel for this jewel of the Pacific Northwest.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.