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Neighborhood Guide: International District, Seattle

By: Andrew Mortier
June 14, 2019

While "international" is technically correct, Seattle's ID is not necessarily global cultural experience. The International District mainly takes influences from Asian culture. Maybe you're into diversity, style (with plenty of substance), and that overwhelming beauty and charm offered up by distinctly Asian settings.

If you find yourself nodding deeply, then take note of the International District. It’s Seattle's own miniature pan-Asia, giving America’s other Chinatowns a run for their money since the Nineteenth Century.

A Seattleite’s Gotta Eat

So how committed are you to food? I mean, really. Do you get upset when you haven't eaten soul food in at least twenty minutes?

If you hadn't guessed, food is a big deal in the International District. In particular, it's famous for its authentic and sinfully low-price Chinese-style dumplings. Jade Garden has your Dim Sum covered. Japanese seafood plates are a specialty of Maneki. Spring rolls and steaming custom pho are two excellent reasons to visit Tamarind Tree. And if you can't decide, Uwajimaya offers its own food court alongside a grocery store dedicated to fresh Asian cuisine ingredients.

So, yeah. Fans of Asian cuisine unite. Seattle’s International District has you covered no matter what your craving may be.

The Big Three

The International District’s main three subsections are Japantown, Chinatown, and Little Saigon. These obtain their titles mainly from the common ethnicities found in each. That is, Japantown is full of Japanese-owned businesses, etc.

In Japantown you’ll find Momo, a trendy boutique adored by locals. Chinatown is home to Hing Hay Park, the focal point of numerous ceremonies and events all year round. Little Saigon is most noticeable for its collection of Vietnamese eateries. If you’ve ever had Vietnamese food, you know that’s not a strike against it. You won’t run out of options any time soon.

Pan-Asian Pursuits

Other attractions in the ID include the Wing Luke Museum, a cultural hub of exhibits delving into the heart of various Asian perspectives. Exciting cultural events like Dragon Fest liven the streets with colorful homages to Asian heritage.

Oh, and if you’re a Seattle sports fan, both CenturyLink Field and T-Mobile park reside just west of the International District. These stadiums are the homes of the Seahawks (NFL) and the Mariners (MLB), respectively.

All these cool attractions will, of course, draw visitors and tourists like none other. If you have trouble with that level of year-round activity, the ID may be better for occasional visiting. If the hustle and bustle paired with endless things to do sound great to you, you’ll love it.

Travel and Living

If you live in the International District, you’re in the general action zone of Seattle. The light rail runs through it, and you’re pretty close to iconic areas like Occidental Square and Pike Place Market. The majority of residents in ID are renter, and you can expect a more urban feel to the neighborhood.

A thick nest of I5 pathways punch right through the International District. It may be busy, but it’s also a good way to reach Harborview Medical Center, the nearest major hospital.

Is this the ideal location for family living? Eh, maybe not. Young professionals looking to be next to the action? Definitely. And of course, if you’re more comfortable among Asian cultures, this itself could be a huge selling point.

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