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Seattle: Insider tips

  • Story Highlights
  • Many museums have free admission on the first Thursday of the month
  • True Seattleites don't use an umbrella -- but you may find you need one
  • Take a ferry to Bainbridge Island and you'll get a unique view of Seattle
  • Seattle is surrounded by spectacular scenery, such as colossal Mt. Rainier
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(CNN) -- First time in Seattle? Here are some hints to help you get the most from the city.

Free Thursday
Seattle's many museums and galleries regularly offer visitors free admission. On the first Thursday of every month there's no admission charge at Seattle Art Museum, the Experience Music Project or the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which is also free for families on the first Saturday of the month. Entry to the Museum of Flight is free between 5pm and 9pm on the first Thursday of the month and The Henry Art Gallery offers free entry every Thursday.

Mount Ranier

Mount Ranier looms over Seattle.

Rainy days
While New York and more Miami have a higher annual rainfall than Seattle, the Emerald City seems to attract a particularly persistent perma-drizzle. If you want to make like a true Seattleite, you'll eschew the umbrella, braving the elements in nothing more than an anorak. If, however, you're more interested in staying dry than in blending in, carry an umbrella at all times.

Out on "The Sound"
For memorable views of the Seattle shoreline and Mount Rainier beyond, take a Washington State Ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge Island won't detain you for too long, but the 35-minute journey will give you a unique perspective on Seattle and its surroundings. Board from the main terminal at Pier 52 on Alaskan Way. Ferries are frequent but there can be long queues to board at the weekend and on weekdays during rush hour (www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/).

The great outdoors
Seattle is surrounded by majestic mountains and spectacular scenery. That colossal mountain you can see to the south-east of Seattle is actually a volcano -- Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Cascade Range at over 14,000 ft. Mount Rainier National Park lies some 100 miles from the city and boasts numerous glaciers and fantastic hiking trails. Entry is $15 for a private vehicle (www.nps.gov/mora/).

Mount St Helens, about 100 miles further south, last exploded in 1980, destroying hundreds of square miles of forest. Signs of the devastation can still be seen if you visit Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument (www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/mshnvm/).

The Olympic National Park lies across Puget Sound and includes the Hoh rainforest and Pacific wilderness beaches, where you may be lucky enough to glimpse gray whales in the spring and autumn. For killer-whale watching, take a ferry to the San Juan Islands, where you're virtually guaranteed a sighting.

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What are your tips for a great stay in Seattle? Where have you found the "real" Seattle? Send us your suggestions in the "Sound Off" box below and we'll print the best.

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