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Why Is Seattle Called the "Emerald City"?

Seattle is known as the "Emerald City" due to its lush evergreen forests that remain vibrant year-round, mirroring the precious gemstone's hue. This nickname reflects the city's deep connection with nature and its commitment to preserving the verdant landscapes that define its beauty. What other secrets does Seattle's verdant canopy hide? Join us as we explore its green mysteries.
Misty Amber Brighton
Misty Amber Brighton

Seattle is located in Washington State, which is in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is often referred to as the Emerald City, a name that first became popular in the mid 1980s. This nickname was given in part because of the vast forests full of dark evergreen trees which surround this metropolis. The lush landscapes and wide diversity of plants in the city parks also make this town known for being green. Other nicknames for Seattle include Jet City, Queen City, Seatown, Gateway to the Pacific, and Gateway to Alaska.

The nickname Emerald City first came into being during the mid 1980s, when a local organization decided to hold a contest. This contest was to give Seattle a nickname that would boost tourism while reflecting the climate within the city parks and surrounding mountains. Emerald City was chosen from a number of entries, largely in part because of Seattle's evergreen trees, which are typically an emerald green color. It has become a widely recognized nickname by local citizens and tourists alike.

Many varieties of moss grow in Seattle, helping give the city its green color.
Many varieties of moss grow in Seattle, helping give the city its green color.

Although it is a rather large city, Seattle is known for lush landscapes both inside the city limits and out. There are more than 6,000 acres of land devoted to city parks, many of which have a wide diversity of plants. These urban areas contain many varieties of moss, flowers, and shrubs in addition to deciduous and evergreen trees. Many specimens are also a deep green color because there is a great deal of moisture in the soil due to the frequent rain.

Seattle is known for grunge music.
Seattle is known for grunge music.

Seattle is located on seven hills, which may be one reason why it often appears to be very green. The view from these hills affords visitors a view of the nearby mountains as well as Puget Sound. Although the Emerald City is very developed, much of its natural habitat has been preserved for her citizens and visitors to enjoy.

This city receives a great deal of rainfall each year, but there is still plenty of opportunity for outdoor recreation in both the city parks and the local waterways. Some of the things people can enjoy doing in Seattle include hiking, boating, bicycling, and fishing. The Emerald City is also known for coffee, grunge music, and the Space Needle and other landmarks. Taking a trip to Seattle can provide visitors with an urban vacation that is also tranquil and relaxing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Seattle known as the "Emerald City"?

Seattle is full of evergreen trees.
Seattle is full of evergreen trees.

Seattle earned the nickname "Emerald City" due to its lush evergreen forests in the surrounding area. The name was the result of a contest held in 1981 to promote the city's natural beauty and abundance of greenery, which is especially vibrant year-round, thanks to the rainy climate. This moniker reflects Seattle's commitment to preserving nature and its reputation for environmental consciousness.

When did Seattle first get the nickname "Emerald City"?

Seattle is not called "The Emerald City" for its downtown, but for its many parks and forests.
Seattle is not called "The Emerald City" for its downtown, but for its many parks and forests.

Seattle was first dubbed the "Emerald City" in 1981 following a contest to find a new slogan for the city that would encapsulate its verdant landscape and appeal as a tourist destination. The winning name has since been used in promotional materials and has become synonymous with Seattle's identity.

What role does Seattle's climate play in its nickname?

Seattle's climate is a significant factor in its nickname as the "Emerald City." The region's mild, wet winters and relatively dry summers create ideal conditions for the growth of evergreen trees and lush vegetation. This year-round greenery is a defining characteristic of the city's landscape, reinforcing the emerald connection.

How does Seattle's "Emerald City" nickname reflect its environmental policies?

Seattle's nickname as the "Emerald City" is emblematic of its progressive environmental policies and dedication to sustainability. The city is known for its extensive parks, green spaces, and initiatives aimed at reducing carbon emissions and promoting clean energy. Seattle's commitment to maintaining its natural green landscape is reflected in its urban planning and community efforts.

Are there any events or festivals in Seattle that celebrate its "Emerald City" nickname?

Yes, Seattle celebrates its "Emerald City" nickname through various events and festivals that emphasize its greenery and environmental ethos. One such event is the annual Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, which showcases elaborate garden displays and offers seminars on horticulture, reflecting the city's love for its natural environment. Additionally, Seattle observes Earth Day with enthusiasm, hosting activities that promote sustainability and environmental stewardship.

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Discussion Comments


Seattle, tranquil? You've got to be kidding me. Seattle used to be amazing, but has declined into an ugly, scary place. We finally moved away. Very sad. I will always cherish the memories of a once fun, vibrant city. Perhaps you should watch the Komo News documentary on YouTube - "The Fight For the Soul of Seattle." I am very sad and concerned for all our friends and family that still live in that hot mess.


@bluedolphin-- You're not the only one who thinks that. In 2014, several Seattle columnists said that Seattle needs a new nickname. And many pieces have been written on the topic since. I've read quite a few satirical articles with funny recommendations for nicknames.

I don't know if Seattle needs a new nickname or not but if it's going to get a new one, it should probably be something that sort of comes about on its own. Perhaps the reason why some people have never really liked "Emerald City" is because they never had a say in nicknaming Seattle. A nickname doesn't need to be fancy or even serious. It can be unique and funny, as long as it reflects what the city is known for and successfully attracts visitors.


ddljohn-- I'm from Seattle and to be honest, I've never cared much for the "Emerald City" nickname. Yes, we have a lot of parks and greenery but emerald isn't quite the color isn't exactly the color that comes to mind first. It's cloud and rainy a lot, so the city takes on a bluish-grayish tone if anything.

Of course, all cities need nice nicknames to attract customers. But I think something better than "Emerald City" could be found.


I've never been to Seattle and I can't say that I know much about it. The most I've seen of Seattle and it's climate is from the film "Sleepless in Seattle" which showed Seattle as a cosmopolitan area with a lot of rainfall. I had no idea that it's also a very green city. But I guess I should have guessed that considering the amount of rainfall it gets.

I hope I will get a chance to see the Emerald City in person one day.

Is anyone here from Seattle? Of the ones mentioned in this article, which is your favorite name for the city?

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    • Many varieties of moss grow in Seattle, helping give the city its green color.
      By: k_kron
      Many varieties of moss grow in Seattle, helping give the city its green color.
    • Seattle is known for grunge music.
      By: Gustavo Paques
      Seattle is known for grunge music.
    • Seattle is full of evergreen trees.
      By: Kanusommer
      Seattle is full of evergreen trees.
    • Seattle is not called "The Emerald City" for its downtown, but for its many parks and forests.
      By: Harry HU
      Seattle is not called "The Emerald City" for its downtown, but for its many parks and forests.