Downtown Seattle, Seattle
The road signs in Seattle are very tricky-especially downtown. The distances between ramps are very close to each other and as a driver, you have to be alert at all times! A new road was created to accommodate the fans that goes to the new stadium - Seahawks stadium and it created a huge traffic mess in downtown Seattle. The road is up and working now. However, the ramps that were created were close to each other and if you are not paying attention to the signs, you will end up getting to a different exit!
Pike street between 3rd Avenue and the Pike Place market can be an intimidating walk.
A number of homeless and/or alcoholics tend to congregate in that area.
Although they look menacing, most are harmless. Do be aware as you walk this stretch, though, just as you would in any large American city.
It's more annoying than dangerous.
If you would prefer to avoid them altogether, take a parallel street (Pine, Stewart) to the market. You'll need to backtrack only a block or so when you finally get to the market area.
While I realized that Seattle is a big city but I was surprized that it fit my expectations of New York City. Perhaps coming from a small town I really had no idea. The city was very busy. There is the feel that everyone is trying to work, and make the american dream while other areas feel like you have been at the fair 6 hours past your ready to go time. LOL There are also alot of homeless people. Every corner seemed to have one or many people. We walked everywhere on our day visit. I could have probably spent more time in the Pike Market. It was really cool when the guy threw a huge whole fish at a customer. My son in law was approached by a homeless man at the ATM but it wasn't dangerous. The people playing music for money were cool. The only time I felt uneasy was after we crossed the ferry back to Bremerton, and walked to the parking garage. The walk was fine, but as we approached the parking garage there were three very large men that standing just outside the door. Nothing happened but I really felt like it could have been real trouble....but maybe not?
Seattle is an awesome place, I've never lived there but visited multiple multiple times while my sister lived there, I've never had a problem walking alone or being out after dark.
Now, that being said; When my husband was attending college there a few years back he went walking on Capitol Hill by the comunity college and maybe it was wrong place/wrong time, but he was mugged by a samoan gang, completely smashed his jaw and bruised/fractured a few other parts. All the gang got was 40.00 and a good time I guess. Luckily my husband only got a metal plate in his jaw and lost a few credits at college but, it's just good to keep a good watch don't act sketchy, stand your ground and it's never a bad idea to keep pepper spray on hand.
I've lived in Downtown Seattle for almost two years now and in the Capitol Hill area for two years before that. I have never ever been in danger. Let me stress this. Seattle is a city but an abnormally safe one. I regularlly work until 11:30 at night and walk home as do most of my co-workers and none of us have had any problems. I also tend to go out drinking at friends houses and walk home drunk(cabs are a rip-off in this city...if they even stop for you) at the wee-hours of the morning and have had fantastic conversations with other drunks.
What you will encounter are casual drug deals. Just ignore them. It is pot nothing more. They wont bother you as long as you don't stare, mouth agape, at them. Very aggressive panhandlers. The beggars have a very entitled attitude. They will stand in your way and occasionally yell at you if you don't give them money. Tell them no and then ignore them if they start yelling.
All in all as long as you don't act like a jackass tourist or a scaredy cat...you'll be fine.
I lived in Seattle for 2 yrs right downtown at Harbor Steps Apartments by Pike Place Market and close to Pioneer Sq. I worked in Belltown so I pretty well covered the whole downtown. For an American City it is fairly safe. I never felt threatened and I walked home from work through Belltown at 11 at night sometimes. There always seems to be safe stretches of roads to walk through no matter where you are. And I saw several women at night who also walked alone home. They stick to the main drags like 4th Ave and Pike etc but keep the pace up and cell phone handy.
I am in San Francisco now and I only wish I felt as safe as Seattle or Vancouver, B.C. And here comes my bias. I am from Vancouver, Canada and lived in Toronto and Montreal. In North America you just can't beat a Canadian city for safety. When my fiance and I move places in the US we measure every city by how safe it is comparison to Canadian cities or Seattle. I had a lot of convincing to do to get her to San Fran but she loves Seattle and would have stayed in Seattle easily. I also lived in Honolulu and it is one of the few cities that is safer than most Canadian cities. I have also lived in East Coast cities but that isn't the topic here. Same idea though.
And since I am an engineer I am a number guy and have looked up the statistics to back that up. Seattle is twice as safe as San Fran in terms of violent crimes. Almost closer to 3 times as safe.
On the other hand a lady at my office had a homeless person pull a knife on her when she was going to work in the morning in Belltown but he quickly took off without anything. So, it is possible! And years before I got there there apparently were some Belltown murders. I even used to walk home past the methadone clinic on 4th which is a focal point of the homeless people. That apparently shifted the shady element from Pioneer Square to Belltown even though Belltown is looking more upscale and yuppieish all the time. Still I saw no problems and don't worry too much.
Watch out for flying fish at Pike Place market. You just might get a grouper to the side of the head. Worse yet, you might get assaulted like they did to me!
Visit the Travel Archive of my website: Spud's Travels for the tale
Warning if you plan to cram as many people as you can into a hotel room, the city of Seattle prohibits roll-away beds in rooms with already two beds, this presented a problem because there were four of us and only a king bed and a fold out couch bed. So, lets say someone had fun sleeping on the floor.
I wandered around Seattle at the wee hours of the night and nothing happened to me, but, some parts of downtown are a little dodgy, just be careful out there.