Summer is especially precious in the Pacific Northwest. We endure so many months of mist, rain, snow and wind, that when the heavens open for three glorious months we react something like a starving man at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Consequently, there are more truly worthwhile festivals than even the unemployed would have time to enjoy. Just about every weekend has something going on, from major happenings like July 4th at Lake Union and Seafair to beer festivals to community block parties. And, truth be told, while Seafair is known for some of its larger events, it's an umbrella festival with dozens and dozens of events underneath it. Seafair alone could keep your summer schedule hopping!
There is no event more “Seattle” than Seafair. Other festivals may be squarely aimed at tourists and transplants, but this celebration of clowns, pirates, hydroplanes, and getting buzzed by Blue Angels is a huge draw for the natives (and visitors too). It's a month-long celebration of our nautical heritage and future. Events big and small fall within Seafair, but the happening is most known for its big events: the Seafair Summer Fourth at Gas Works Park, the Milk Carton Derby at Green Lake, the Seafair Triathlon, the Torchlight Parade and Run, and Seafair Weekend when the hydroplanes and Blue Angels make their appearances.
The sponsors might change, but local consensus on this fireworks display does not: it’s the best show in town on the 4th. Indeed, it's been ranked among the best fireworks shows in the nation by Business Insider and USA Today. The balconies of the condos and houses on all sides of Lake Union are packed, parking is impossible to find for miles, kids are mesmerized (or crying): what else would the Founding Fathers want us to be doing? Gas Works Park is the hub of it all and you can enjoy tons of family fun there throughout the day. When full dark hits around 10 p.m., fireworks light up the sky and most spots around Lake Union (as well as on the lake) have pretty awesome views.
Sure, the Northwest loves its wines. And the recent renaissance of cocktail culture is a lot of fun. But fundamentally this is still beer country. From classics like Rainier to new favorites like Mac & Jack’s, Washingtonians love their locally brewed beer. Each year, thousands of beer-lovers descend on the Seattle Center's Fisher Lawn and Pavilion to sample over 200 stellar ales, IPAs, saisons, sours, and beyond from near and far, local and international alike. Show up early, because taps on popular brews will run dry quickly.
While LGBT pride festivals and parades are now relatively commonplace in America’s metropolises, Seattle was a pioneer in gay cultural acceptance, leading the pack with San Francisco and New York. Seattle Pride encompasses a few events, including the Seattle Pride Parade in late June that starts at 4th and Union downtown, and the Volunteer Park Pride Festival in mid-June at Volunteer Park that brings in a beer garden, live music, food trucks, craft fair and informational booths.
As the Seattle Symphony takes much of the summer off, the Seattle Chamber Music Society rolls into Benaroya Hall and sets up shop for a month of serious classical music. All July long, catch performances of Debussy, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Ravel, Stravinsky, Schubert, and plenty more.
Centered in Chinatown - International District, Dragon Fest is a lot of fun for just about everyone. It's also one of the tastiest festivals around. The streets come alive with performances (include dragon dances, of course), delicious food, walking and food tours, kids activities, a market, arts and crafts, and more. Don't miss the $3 Food Walk where you can sample foods from all around the world!
Bite of Seattle is Seattle’s food mega-event, with over 60 restaurants, pop-up vendors, beer and cider tastings, cooking classes and just about all things food. Search out a full meal or cruise a number of vendors and enjoy “Just a Bite” portions for a lower price, so that you can save room to sample more great restaurants. Come early—the lines get big in the afternoon. Beyond food, there are also dozens and dozens of live bands on stages throughout Seattle Center, a movie night and a family fun zone.
While Georgetown, Fremont, and Ballard residents might protest, Capitol Hill remains Seattle’s capital of cool. The tie-breaker is this annual summer music festival that draws acts from the pinnacle of hipdom and have included everyone from MGMT to RL Grime and Phantogram. Whole blocks of the Hill shut down and stages are set up. Expect a raucous, sweaty time.
Edited by Kristin Kendle.