The problem with reputations - even good ones - is that they're hard to shake. Take Seattle. When the world woke up and smelled the coffee in the 1990s, it discovered the best stuff was coming from the Emerald City. Then grunge conquered the universe, word got around that there actually is a summer in the Pacific Northwest, and a guy named Frasier moved in to shore up the city's cosmopolitan character. All of which helped boost Seattle tourism by an impressive 20 percent - from 7.2 million to 8.64 million visitors between 1996 and 2001 alone. Trouble is, Seattle's more famous sights now cast a Space Needle-sized shadow over up-and-coming attractions. No one should visit Seattle without watching the guys throwing fish at Pike Place Market or ordering a triple foamy latte just about anywhere, but it would be an even bigger to mistake to assume that the city of 2.7 million wrapped itself in some sort of flannel time capsule after Nirvana broke up. Seattle probably isn't the city you think it is - it's newer and definitely more diverse. But is it better? Here's a head-to-head comparison of the best of Seattle, new and established.
HIP NEW SLEEPOVER
Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, 411 University St., (206) 621-1700 - The downtown building may have a spot on the National Registry of Historic Places, but from the oversize bath towels to complimentary high-speed Internet access in every room, the newly renovated Four Seasons may have a stranglehold on the Seattle hotel scene for quite some time. The man on the street probably couldn't tell you what the "coveted Acorn Award" is given out for (best British chef under the age of 30), but with executive chef Gavin Stephenson at the helm, the hotel's Georgian restaurant has ascended to the top of the heap of Seattle's luxury Northwest-cuisine dining rooms. It's also the best place in town for breakfast with clients.