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Seattle

Long before the Starbucks franchise was a glimmer in its creator's eye, Seattle was known for having more coffee drinkers than just about anywhere else in the U.S. That probably comes as no surprise, but here's an eye-opening fact that you might not know: The city gets less precipitation each year than New York, Houston or Washington D.C.

Seattle isn't just another coastal city; for one thing, it isn't even located on the ocean, but rather at the inland-most end of Puget Sound, which wends its way north to the Pacific. It's the gateway to some of the most magnificent scenery the continent has to offer. Pristine mountain ranges rim the east while hundreds of islands dot the Sound to the north and west. It's consistently rated in the top 10 cycle-friendly cities in Bicycling magazine, and it has one of the country's highest percentages of people biking to work.

Known as the Emerald City because of its omnipresent evergreens, Seattle is a charming and welcoming metropolis with a small-town feel. Pike Place Market is one of the country's oldest continuously operating farmer's markets, and sees millions of visitors a year. Modern architecture (check out the downtown library, which looks like precariously balanced glass cubes tumbling down a hill) and turn-of-the-century buildings create a visual contrast that works. And of course, there's Seattle's most famous landmark, the Space Needle, created for the 1962 World's Fair, which changed the city's skyline forever.

Seattle gets a bad rap because of its weather, and while it is indeed overcast much of the time, it gets a lot less rain than Miami, for example, or Mobile, Alabama. And when the clouds clear, there is something about the sun glinting off Puget Sound and the many lakes in Seattle that turns the city golden.

--written by Jana Jones

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