What Are the BEST Things to Do in Seattle?
With a mix of natural and urban attractions, Seattle can fill any traveler or resident with great memories after days of exploring the city. It is not only the biggest city in the Pacific Northwest but also one of the most diverse in the United States. Seattle
And forget about worrying if it’ll rain too much or not. While it’s true that it’s one of the wettest cities in the country, the entire metro area is well-equipped for that, and there’s no need to stay indoors. Staying indoors isn’t the worst if you’re visiting a coffee shop, the headquarters of a giant in the tech industry, or an art museum. Nonetheless, some of the top-rated activities in the city are outdoors, like whale watching on the Puget Sound or a trip to the wine country.
Seattle is also a good starting point for exploring the rest of the state of Washington and other beautiful and exciting places in the Pacific Northwest.
Making a list of what to do in Seattle is never hard, thanks to an abundance of coffee shops, landmarks, markets, public parks and spaces, lovely neighborhoods, hills, and mountains.
The 10 Things You Can’t Miss In Seattle
We won’t be able to do Seattle justice with only ten things to do, but we think that’s enough to convince you to visit. There are sights, sites, and trips on this list that are a bit of something for everyone, whether you prefer experiencing the urban city, suburban environments, museums, markets, or adventure in the sea or a mountain.
1. Visit Seattle’s Space Needle
Few, if any, things scream “Seattle” like the Space Needle. This landmark is probably the first image that comes to mind for most people around the world. It was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and quickly became the most iconic sight in the city.
Why We Recommend Visiting The Space Needle
With a height of 605 feet, it’s perfect for enjoying a panoramic view of not just the city but also the Puget Sound, the Cascades, and the Olympic Mountains, and on a clear day, even Mount Rainer can be seen. In 2017, a new rotating glass floor was installed, making the Needle even more of a “must” visit.
When a market is constantly in the top 10 things to do in Seattle, you know it’s special. The market is located on the waterfront and hosts over 225 local artisans and vendors offering their goods. You can find everything from old records to excellent local produce, and you will even bump into an extremely famous coffee shop.
Why We Recommend Visiting Pike Place Market
The main reason most will want to visit is that the very first Starbucks is there, complete with retro signage and interiors. You want to get there with time on hand because it can get a bit crowded. If that doesn’t interest you, don’t worry, there are hundreds of things to do, buy, taste, and experience at the iconic market. You can even visit the quirky Post Alley Gum Wall, which will certainly make for a great post on your social media. A new, open-air plaza and expansion were added in 2017, making this place even more worthwhile. Any decent walking tour will make sure to have Pike Place Market on their stops as well.
Taking a quick detour from the city, let’s head to the sky. Take advantage of the incredible sights of nature Seattle and the Pacific Northwest has to offer and hire a hot air balloon to take you on a little trip.
Why We Recommend Flying Beside Mount Rainier
Flying at sunrise above Seattle while having Mount Rainer in front and the Puget Sound to the side can be a life-changing experience. They launch right before sunrise, so it will take some energy to make this happen on your part, but it’s well worth the lack of sleep for a day. There are several hot air balloon companies in the region to choose from.
The Great Seattle Fire on 1889 left 31 blocks of the city burnt and destroyed, and the reconstructed city ended up being built two stories higher than the original one. This left a cavernous subterranean space near the original Pioneer Square that is still accessible to this day and is the focus of an unforgettable underground tour of the city.
Why We Recommend Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
This is a must if you want a Seattle experience that isn’t the typical landmarks and shops. The fun and fascinating tour is named after the founder of the tour, Bill Speidel (1912-1988), who worked to keep this old, roguish version of Seattle alive to this day.
The largest park in the city makes you feel like you’re leaving it without actually doing that. Discovery Park is 534 acres of serenity in the west of the Magnolia neighborhood right on the waterfront and gives you a taste of the region’s incredible natural beauty.
Why We Recommend Visiting Discovery Park
Discovery Park will let you visit a forest, explore the coast, bird-watching, and even have a nice picnic. You can also enjoy the sight of sea lions while on your way to visit the West Point Lighthouse or wait until you catch a glimpse of the sunset over the Olympic Mountains to the west. It’s a Seattle experience like no other.
Looking for something more sophisticated, perhaps, on your trip to Seattle? Travel just 30 minutes northeast of downtown, and you’ll be welcomed by more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms in the town of Woodinville.
Why We Recommend Visiting Woodinville Wine Country
Woodinville is a town filled with charm —and wine! Don’t miss out on visiting Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington State’s first winery, and then just keep winery hopping until your designated driver says that that’s enough. It’s a day trip, so make sure you have enough time to enjoy wine country. For those who aren’t that much into wine, don’t worry. There are also dozens of breweries, cideries, distilleries, restaurants, and food stops.
Escape to Japan a bit with this 3.5-acre garden at the south end of the Washington Park Arboretum in the Madison Park neighborhood. Set up in the late-1950s under the supervision of landscape architect Jūki Iida, the garden is among the oldest and most authentic Japanese gardens in the United States.
Why We Recommend Visiting the Seattle Japanese Garden
The garden will astonish you with its meandering paths and benches for you to take in the garden’s stones, lanterns, plants, fauna, bridges, buildings, and even events. If you have the chance and it’s the summer in Seattle, visit on the fourth Saturday of the month to take part in a traditional tea ceremony at the teahouse. In December of 2020, the garden was awarded a commendation by the Japanese government for its contribution to promoting mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S.
No trip to the Pacific Northwest would be complete without bar hopping for some craft beers. Seattle’s no different, with an impressive brewery scene throughout the city. The best place to start is in Ballard, a neighborhood known for its food and drinks but also because of its fascinating locks to the south.
Why We Recommend Visiting Seattle’s Breweries
There’s something for everyone in the Seattle brewery scene. From hoppy IPAs to rich stouts and smooth pilsners, Ballard is full of independent breweries within a mile. We recommend Stoup, Reuben’s, Fremont Brewing, Georgetown Brewing Co., and Cloudburst Brewing, just to start and name a few!
9. Taste The Flavor of Seattle On a Walking Food Tour
Several food tour companies in Seattle can give you a fine sample of just how good the city has in terms of food. Go for the Pike Place Market Food Tour, which concentrates on the market, or Savor Seattle, which offers both walking food tours and boxes of samples for delivery. If you want something more professional, Eat Seattle Tours is for you, as it’s headed by a local chef and offers private tours. Make sure, walking tour or not, to visit Ballard and check out either Ballard Coffeeworks, AsaderoBallard, Pestle Rock, Reuben’s Brews (the same as for beer), or Hattie’s Hat Restaurant.
Why We Recommend Taking a Seattle Walking Food Tour
A city as diverse as Seattle is going to have great food all the time. You don’t want to miss out on trying at least a few favorites in Seattle. Ballard is a good place to start your culinary journey, but walking tours are worth it, if only because they will save you time and make every hour worthwhile. Experience everything from independent coffee shops to authentic Thai, Mexican, and Japanese food.
Take a 35-minute trip from the Seattle Ferry Terminal to Bainbridge Island if you want to escape the urban city for a while. The entire island is also a city under the same name and also home to the gorgeous Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre sanctuary full of curated gardens, structural features, ponds, and meadows.
Why We Recommend Visiting Bainbridge Island
Downtown Bainbridge Island (also known as Winslow) is full of bookstores, coffee shops, boutiques, and delicious treats like Mora Iced Creamery. The Island is a perfect excuse to get out of the city for a few hours, enjoy the Puget Sound, or have a great view of the Seattle skyline. Perfect for couples looking for a good stroll or a family that might enjoy the ferry ride.
As we mentioned before, limiting the list to 10 is mostly a function of saving space and time, but that does not mean that’s all Seattle has to offer. Here are just some of the honorable mentions you should take into consideration:
- Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
The Museum, known as the MoPOP, is the city’s way of honoring the history of the Pacific Northwest’s art. You bet you’ll find something about Nirvana or Jimi Hendrix here and much more. Plus, the building itself is a sight you can’t miss.
- Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
Seattle’s Art Museum is the largest museum of its era, and it still houses a wide variety of artwork. It also has a huge permanent collection of artwork from the Pacific Northwest’s Native American tribes. Entry is free on the first Thursday of the month.
- Chihuly Garden and Glass
This is a unique stop on the list but worth it for the visual treat. You’ll find a showcase of work from glass artist Dale Chihuly, who created both indoor and outdoor installations that will blow your mind. It’s also perfect for your social media.
- Seattle Aquarium
Raining? Don’t worry; there’s plenty to see and do at the Seattle Aquarium. It sits right on the Puget Sound and is a walk from the Seattle Great Wheel. There are touch tanks with sea cucumbers, hermit crabs, and local fauna like harbor seals, otters, puffings, and others.
- Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square is Seattle’s oldest and most vibrant neighborhood and a must for those who love walking through galleries, cafés, and bookstores. There are a few museums worth checking out, and it’s also where you can sign up for those fun underground tours.
- Seattle Great Wheel
Towering over 175 feet on the waterfront, the Seattle Great Wheel is a neat way to enjoy the skyline and the grand panorama. Its gondolas are fully enclosed, so it’s great for any weather.