Diversity and tradition fill the streets of Seattle, however short the citys history may be. This medium-sized city is booming economically, growing and evolving at a rapid rate, with much help from international corporations like Microsoft, Boeing and Starbucks. For most of us who live here, its the blue skies, abundance of water and picturesque mountain ranges that keep us firmly planted in this beautiful city.

Alki Beach
About as close as Seattle gets to California, this sandy beach in West Seattle draws swarms of walkers, joggers, bikers, skaters, scuba divers and volleyball players. Cafes like the <>Alki Bakery and restaurants like Saltys on Alki line the main street ready to nourish those who've played at the beach all day. Alki Beach, directly across Elliott Bay from downtown, is the spot where the first European settlers stayed in the winter of 1851 before they moved to the more sheltered area that is now downtown.

Ballard, Scandinavian Hub of Seattle
Affectionately known for slow drivers and the lilting accents of its many residents of Scandinavian descent, this area was first settled by immigrant Nordic fishermen and mill workers more than 100 years ago. Visit the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks to watch boats travel from salt water to freshwater, then take a trip to Golden Gardens to watch the sunset. Popular restaurants include Rays Boathouse and Bad Alberts Tap and Grill. Stop by Fishermans Terminal for a look at the boats that keep the fishing industry thriving, and then head to Chinooks for a taste of the fresh seafood caught from those very boats. Although the Scandinavian traditions are strong in Ballard, you may have do some searching to find lutefisk or lefse.

Capitol Hill
Yes, this Washington has one, too, and its mix of eclectic shops, art-house theaters, wonderful restaurants and interesting people make it one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Seattle. Some of the citys most historic houses are located here, as is the renowned Seattle Asian Art Museum and Volunteer Park. Seattle University and Cornish College of the Arts also grace this hill. Popular Capitol Hill restaurants include Cassis Bistro and 611 Supreme. For movies check out Broadway Market Cinemas in the middle of the Broadway strip or Harvard Exit a little further north.

Fremont
Sometimes hip, sometimes eclectic, Fremont is always a fun place to go. The sign saying "Welcome to the Center of the Universe" is the first clue you?ve arrived. Oddities like a car-eating troll, a smoking rocket and a bronzed Vladmir Lenin statue (purchased for $150,000) will leave you laughing. The Saturday gallery walks and the Fremont Sunday Market will have you browsing, and El Camino or Seattle Catch will fill you up. Say hello to the group waiting for a bus, but don't expect an answer: they're just life-sized statues often dressed in celebration of someones birthday or another grand event. Need a guitar string or an art-quality mandolin? Descend the stairs to Dusty Strings.

Madison Park
Quaint shops, restaurants and cafes fill this upper-crust neighborhood on the shores of Lake Washington. Everyone at restaurants like Madison Park Café and Mancas seems to know one another, and everyone always appears to be on the way to someplace important. Walk down the street to the beach, take in the beautiful view of the Eastside and dream about your new waterfront abode.

International District
Pungent aromas and delectable dishes emit from restaurants like Bush Garden in this primarily Asian neighborhood. Specialty shops filled with unusual treasures line the streets. The district is home to the inner-city oasis Hing Hay Park, complete with pagoda, Nippon Kan Theater and the Wing Luke Asian Museum.

Kirkland
Across Lake Washington from Seattle lies the "Monterey of the Northwest," so called for its posh art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and waterfront. Bistro Provencal and the waterfront Yarrow Bay Grill are popular stops for see-and-be-seen lunches and dinners. While close to the city, Kirkland manages to maintain its small-town atmosphere, which adds to its appeal.

Pike Place Market
This is the heart of Seattle and the number one tourist site in the area, attracting frenzied crowds of visitors and locals alike. The oldest continually operating farmers market in the country, Pike Place features fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, and arts and crafts as far as the eye can see. Abundant restaurants include Maximilien in the Market and Lowells. Shops offer goods from around the world. Bring some change as there are always street musicians singing for their supper.

Pioneer Square
This is where it all started. Seattles oldest neighborhood, its where the term "Skid Row" originated. Lumberjacks skidded logs down "Skid Road," now Yesler Street, to a mill at the bottom of the hill. Saloons and brothels lined the street, and the term took on its derogatory connotation locally and nationwide. The Underground Tour leaves from here and explores the now submerged storefronts of the original neighborhood from before the great fire of 1889. Today Pioneer Square is a historic neighborhood filled with art galleries, small shops, bookstores, including Elliott Bay Book Company, and restaurants like the elegant Il Terrazzo Carmine. At night the square comes to life with a variety of popular nightspots, including Central Saloon, one of Seattles oldest bars, and New Orleans. Many clubs feature live music, and one group of 11 bars and clubs allows admittance for a single cover charge. Pioneer Square also plays hosts to Seattles Fat Tuesday celebration.

Queen Anne Hill
A combination of a quiet hilltop neighborhood and a young trendy hot spot, Queen Anne has popular restaurants like the funky 5 Spot Café and Pesos Taco Lounge as well as coffee shops and nightspots like trendy Tini Bigs. The view of the city from the west slope is incredible, especially from Kerry Park, which offers the most photographed view of Seattle.

Redmond
Thriving due to corporate residents like Microsoft and Nintendo, Redmond is the unlikely yet appealing combination of countryside and technology. The software industry brings money here and with it good shopping at Redmond Town Center. Cyclists appreciate the velodrome at Marymoor Park and the Lake Sammamish Trail (for those of us too slow for the velodrome).

Seattle Center
Part amusement park, part festival grounds and always a nice place to stroll on a summer day, the center hosts The Bite of Seattle, Bumbershoot and many other popular festivals. Permanent fixtures of this 74-acre park include the Seattle Opera, Intiman Theater, Bagley-Wright Theater, Paul Allens Experience Music Project, the Pacific Science Center and the Space Needle.

University District
This area is home to the University of Washington, known to locals as "U-Dub." The park-like 700-acre campus is perfect for a midday stroll. Boats filled with die-hard Husky fans fight for space around the waterfront stadium on game days. Cheap eats and pubs like Flowers line the "Ave" (University Avenue), and stylish teens and twentysomethings fill the streets. The University Bookstore supplies students with textbooks but also maintains an excellent selection of general books, art supplies, UW apparel and souvenirs.

Waterfront
Elliott Bay, an inlet from the Pacific Ocean, laps against Seattles waterfront. On summer days visitors pack the area to enjoy the fresh air, quaint shops and many seafood restaurants, including Elliotts, Anthonys Homeport, Fishermans Restaurant and Ivars. Catch a ferry to Bremerton and beyond, or take a water tour to Blake Islands Tillicum Village for a salmon dinner and Native American dance show.

Kimberley Stidell