This month, this young and dynamic Pacific Northwest city goes into artistic overdrive. The month-long Arts Crush festival (artscrush.org) promises "31 days of creative adventures" including theatre, dance and puppetry. The annual Earshot Jazz Festival (earshot.org) begins on the same day and continues until 17 November.
Get your bearings
Seattle perches above Elliott Bay, part of Puget Sound. The original settlement lies between Pioneer Square and King Street, location for the city's main rail station. This four-square block bookends the southern extent of downtown. Parallel avenues aim north-west towards the Seattle Centre complex, at the northern extreme of downtown.
Two key neighbourhoods beyond downtown are Capitol Hill and Queen Anne. The Market Information Centre at First Avenue and Pike Street (visitseattle.org; 10am-6pm daily) offers advice on the whole city.
Take a hike
Start where the city began, with the Pioneer Square Walking Tour around "Seattle's First Neighbourhood". Pick up a map at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park at 319 Second Avenue South (10am-5pm daily, free), which tells the often-tragic story of how Seattle became base camp for prospectors during the 1896-1899 Gold Rush. This is the starting point for the 21-block "Trail to Treasure".
At Pioneer Square, view the sculpture of an impassive Chief Seattle, whose name was taken for the city. Divert at the end of the trail to explore the elegant King St Station. Walk north along Second Avenue as Seattle gets into its mighty stride with fine early 20th-century buildings crowding over steep hills. The Seattle Art Museum occupies an entire block; the entrance is at 1300 First Avenue (seattleartmuseum.org; 10am-5pm from Wednesday to Sunday, open late until 9pm on Thursday and Friday).
Lunch on the run
You are one block away from Pike Place Market, a historic complex that manages to be Seattle's tourism hub, a working fruit-to-fish market and excellent lunch venue. Ask for a table by the window at Lowell's – motto, "Almost Classy" – which opens 7am-6pm daily. Order Seattle Joe's Scramble, which contains sausage, spinach and mushrooms. To wash it down, see how long the queue is outside the world's first Starbucks; the global chain began here in 1971. Local planning rules mean it retains the original branding.
The star of Seattle's shopping celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. REI began life in 1938 when Lloyd Anderson, a mountaineer, was seeking an ice axe. He could not find what he needed so, along with 22 other outdoor enthusiasts, he set up what has become America's largest consumer cooperative. Its flagship store occupies a block at 222 Yale Avenue North (rei.com; 9am-9pm daily, Sunday 10am-7pm). You can stock up on anything from energy bars to high-altitude sleeping bags, and explore the outdoor park.
Dining with the locals
The Lost Lounge is ideal for a low-cost but tasty dinner, with "build-your-own-burger" the speciality. An alternative is next door at 1525 Tenth Avenue: Oddfellows (oddfellowscafe.com) is a fascinating venue with 90 per cent of its furnishings salvaged. The short but succulent menu includes tuna with cous cous and olives. Afterwards, nip around the corner to Broadway and Pine to see a statue of Jimi Hendrix, Seattle's joint-favourite dead musical genius (the other being Kurt Cobain of Nirvana).
Go to church
The Sky Church is a shrine to rock music inside the Experience Music Project at 325 Fifth Avenue North (empmuseum.org; daily 10am to 5pm). Frank Gehry's creation, commissioned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, celebrates musical heroes local and global – with Hendrix topping both lists.
Take a view
Take the elevator to the observation deck of the Space Needle (spaceneedle.com; from 9.30am at weekends, 10am other days, closing varies). The $19 (£13) fee is worthwhile on a sunny day, when the mighty city and its beautiful surroundings sparkle.
If the weather is dull, aim for the Queen Anne district instead, where the viewpoint at the western end of Highland Avenue offers a fine panorama over the bay for free.
Out to brunch
Up the hill from the viewpoint, 5 Spot at 1502 Queen Anne (chowfoods.com/5-spot) is a fragment of San Francisco that has floated north, showing how much DNA Seattle has in common with its more celebrated sister city. The French toast is mountainous.
Walk in the park
The Olympic Sculpture Park, at Broad and Bay Streets (seattleartmuseum.org; free), fills a meadow overlooking the water. It is scattered with dramatic, larger-than-life statues such as Alexander Calder's giant red-steel "Eagle".
The former Naval Reserve Armoury on the southern shore of Lake Union has been spectacularly transformed into the Museum of History and Industry – MOHAI (mohai.org; 10am to 5pm daily, Thursdays to 8pm). The museum was bankrolled partly by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. It celebrates the city's many achievements over a mere 16 decades. The Bezos Centre for Innovation opens on October 12, allowing you to "discover the innovator within yourself."
Take a ride
The chances are that you arrived on a Boeing. William Boeing began his career in a workshop on the north-eastern shore of Lake Union, and in 1916 his biplane, named Bluebill, flew over the water. At Northwest Outdoor Centre, a mile clockwise around the lake at 2100 Westlake Avenue (nwoc.com; 10am-6pm daily except Monday and Tuesday), you can rent a kayak for two for an hour and espy the waterside home featured in Sleepless in Seattle from a polite distance.