Belltown Neighborhood - Seattle, Washington - Transformed District on the City's Downtown Waterfront

Belltownis aneighborhood inSeattle,Washington, located along the city's downtown waterfront, on land that was artificially flattened as part of are-grading project. Formerly a low-rent, semi-industrial arts district, in recent decades it has transformed into a neighborhood of trendy restaurants, boutiques, nightclubs, and residential towers as well as warehouses and art galleries. Although many new businesses have shadowed older ones, some venerated establishments still draw crowds of loyal patrons.

Some of the classic, old Seattle nightspots in Belltown include The Rendezvous, Mama's Mexican Kitchen, The Lava Lounge, Ohana, The Crocodile Cafe, and Shorty's. Belltown also has an extraordinary array of restaurants, over one hundred in the zip code alone. Every kind of cuisine can be found here, and ranges from fine cuisine to hot dogs. Most restaurants offer an excellent happy hour for early evening patrons and on weekend evenings, the nightlife can be very vibrant. Belltown also happens to be a terrific place to stay put. In the last decade, the enclave has become a magnet for boutiques, sleek hotels, nightclubs, and, above all, restaurants.

The area is named afterWilliam Nathaniel Bell, on whose land claim the neighborhood was built. The neighborhood is bounded on the north by Denny Way, beyond which lies Seattle Center,Uptown, andQueen Anne Hill, on the southwest byElliott Bay, on the southeast by Virginia Street, beyond which lies thePike Place Marketand the rest ofDowntown, and on the northeast by 5th Avenue, beyond which lies the Denny Triangle. All of its northwest and southeast bound streets are major thoroughfares and theBattery Street Tunnelruns under Battery Street from Western Avenue to Denny Way and connects theAlaskan Way Viaductto Aurora Avenue N. Belltown is also home toThe Art Institute of Seattle, Antioch University,Mars Hill Graduate SchoolandRealNetworksHeadquarters.

Belltown has a vital late-night scene. The now legendary Crocodile Cafe opened on Second Avenue in 1991 and has presented live rock and roll virtually every night since. Though the Croc looks like an undersized greasy diner, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and REM have been known to have performed there. Nearby Tula's books jazz acts seven nights a week, while Club Medusa's DJs spin on weekends till 4 a.m.

For a tamer night out, catch a movie at the Cinerama, which opened in1963 to showcase Cinerama-format spectacles likeHow the West Was Wonon a curved wall-to-wall screen. Today, the magnificent theater only occasionally features a Cinerama film, but you can enjoy the engulfing space and red mohair seats almost as much while watchingStar Wars: Episode III.

Although a few high-end chain stores such as the luxury bath shop Waterworks have opened here, the neighborhood is best known for its idiosyncratic boutiques. From a minuscule storefront, Darbury Stenderu sells groovy hand-painted gowns, each velvet-and-silk frock a vibrant workof art. A store called Fancy carries iPod holders crafted by local artists and one door down, sister shop Schmancy specializes in unusual toys, including stuffed felt doughnuts.

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