The largest city in Washington, with a unique combination of monuments, natural scenery, and other attractions, Seattle is a great vacation destination. A city that combines modern seaside metropolis with impressive mountain vistas, Seattle is an adventure for everyone, from families to lone travelers.
With so many options, visitors may feel overwhelmed when they first arrive. Here’s our list of the best activities to try when you visit this wonderful city.
1. Visit the Seattle Center
A nucleus for the arts and entertainment scene of Seattle, the center hosts various exhibitions, galleries, festivals, and performances throughout the year. Notably, the annual Seattle Pride Festival, held at the end of June each year, is attended by more than 350,000 people.
As the most striking feature of the city skyline, the Space Needle is a must-visit landmark for any tourist. At 518 feet (158 meters) tall, the observation deck will give you outstanding views of the city, the surrounding islands, and the Olympic Mountains.
Recently completed renovations “heightened the observation deck experience” (Space Needle LLC, 2019). New installations include floor-to-ceiling glass windows that will test even the most intrepid travelers as they peer down to the ground below.
2. Roam through the Museum of Pop Culture
Originally known as the Experience Music Project, the Museum of Pop Culture houses exhibits on the history of Northwest music. The various exhibitions cover every aspect of pop culture, from literature and music to movies and video games.
Props from hit movies like Blade Runner and Star Trek are on display at the museum. In other exhibits, visitors can learn more about their favorite famous artists, take part in interactive installations, and watch live costume performances.
3. Get on Seattle Great Wheel
The tallest wheel on the West Coast, the Seattle Great Wheel offers visitors unique views of the city from a height of 175 feet (53 meters). Its popularity may mean there’s a wait before getting on, but the attraction is well-deserving of the attention it receives.
The pods are fully enclosed, so you don’t have to worry about bad weather. However, if you wish to have a more deluxe experience on the wheel, you can purchase a VIP pass. The VIPs board a special pod complete with a glass floor, leather seats, and other luxurious additions to complement the ride.
4. Explore the Washington Park Arboretum
230 acres of natural beauty await visitors at the famous Lake Washington. Dozens of local plants and trees, including camellias, maples, and oaks are there to admire.
The Azalea Way, a path lined with azaleas, dogwoods, magnolias and cherry trees, is also worth paying a visit. If you visit Seattle during the late spring months (May to early June), you can see beautiful blooming rhododendron bushes alongside lush green ferns and firs. Other species, such as colorful birds and butterflies, inhabit the natural habitats preserved in this slice of nature within the city.
5. Browse Rare Collections of Books at the Seattle Central Library
At 185 feet (57 meters) tall and 11-stories, the imposing Seattle Central Library has endless collections of books, magazines, games, and puzzles; you won’t notice the hours fly by. From Monday to Saturday, you can go on a guided tour or you can choose to roam through the building on your own.
Do not forget to visit Level 3, where you’ll find an indoor garden and a lounge café.
6. Visit the Observation Floor of the Smith Tower
Seattle’s first skyscraper, Smith Tower, is a must-see architectural wonder for newcomers to the city. With 38-stories it stands 484 feet (148 meters) tall. From the observation floor you can watch the city from above and admire its impressive monuments.
The inside of the tower is captivating in its traditional beauty; the intricate carved ceilings, oak banisters, and latticed doors make Smith Tower worth a visit.
7. Cross the Puget Sound
You can’t leave Seattle without a journey across the world-famous Puget Sound. The easiest trip is by one of the many ferries that depart from Pier 52 on the hour. The trip lasts roughly 45 minutes, giving you ample opportunity to take in the view.
The trip from Seattle to the nearest island, Bainbridge, is also worth your time. Bainbridge has many lush gardens replete with colorful flowers, meadows, and ponds. Before you leave, don’t forget to try the island’s traditional ice cream. For the the adventurous unique flavors like cheesecake or mojito are available.
8. Spend a Day at the Woodland Park Zoo
In northern Seattle the award-winning Woodland Park Zoo houses Washington State’s most impressive collection of rare species. The African Savanna section recreates the natural environment for giraffes, lions, ostriches, tigers, and zebras. The Asian section is interesting, too. Indian rhinos, orangutans, tapirs, and tigers live in this part of the zoo.
There are also exhibits for less exotic, indigenous animals such as gray wolves, brown bears, elks, and river otters. When you visit the zoo, don’t forget to view the various demonstrations held each day. Penguin feeding and hawk shows are among the most crowded.
9. Visit the Chaotic Pike Place Market
Sometimes overcrowded and a bit chaotic, but always charming and fun, the Pike Place Market is another must-see attraction when you visit Seattle. At the entrance of the market there are impressive murals depicting the contributions of farmers to World War 2. As you walk along the market stalls, you can purchase a variety of local goods, from food and drink to crafts and traditional items. There are daily performances by street musicians at the market, too.
And if all that isn’t enough to convince you to visit the market on your next trip to Seattle, there are annual festivals organized in the market, including cooking exhibitions, food fairs, music shows, and theater events.
10. Admire the Giant Seattle Octopus
Seattle is home to the largest octopus in the United States. Weighing in at 35 pounds, the cephalopod has the amazing ability to change colors to camouflage with its surrounding environment.
You can also find many other species of fish in the aquarium. Starfish, urchins, and plankton are also on exhibit.
If you have small kids they will enjoy the small, colorful fish that resemble Nemo, the moon jellyfish, and the marine mammals of the aquarium, including river otters and harbor seals.
11. Learn About the History of Planes
If you like planes, then you shouldn’t leave Seattle without a visit to The Museum of Flight, the largest private air and space museum in the world. The collection includes antique aviation equipment, miniature planes, and space suits. There are multiple interactive installations, including flight simulators (notably one for the F/A Hornet Fighter). If you are visiting with family there is also a kid’s zone, where children can fly toy planes.
12. Go on an Underground Tour
Taking a tour of underground Seattle is an alternative experience to more typical tourist sites. During the tour, visitors can explore the basements of some of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods. The floors are uneven and the stairs can be slippery so be mindful as you traverse this subterranean portion of the city.
During the tour, the expert guides tell you the history of the city, and relay interesting facts that usually only locals know.
13. Drink Some Quality Alcohol
Known for the quality of its drinks, Seattle has some of the world’s best breweries in the world. If you enjoy a frosty brew, join Cycle Saloons and go for a tour around several local breweries. Otherwise, you can get a taste of the local drinks, including fine wines and locally distilled spirits, at many of the restaurants in the city.
Try to pair your drinks correctly with your meal to enjoy it best. For example, you can try the city’s most popular white wine with a serving of locally sourced seafood.
14. Taste Some Local Food
When you visit a new region an important part of the experience is tasting the local cuisine. Particularly in Seattle, where visitors can choose from a wide variety of local dishes, it is a good idea to go on a food tour. Usually designed as walking tours, they include multiple stops en route to allow tasting of different dishes.
Another well-known Seattle food attraction is the famous chocolate maker Theo, who teaches about the chocolate-making process (and offers taste-testing of different flavors!).
15. Visit the Famous Seattle Barista Academy
If you’re a coffee lover, then consider enrolling in a lesson at the Barista Academy. Instruction includes important tips and tricks that can take your coffee from good to great. The classes last three hours each and are usually crowded, so be sure to book before you arrive in Seattle.
16. Go to the Well-Known Crocodile
One of the best places in Seattle to watch quality live music, Crocodile was founded in 1991 and has since grown wildly popular. Bands including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Mudhoney played onstage at Crocodile before garnering widespread fame.
The stage hosts local bands and touring singers looking to perform live in front of a warm audience. For those hoping for a quieter night, there’s a nearby balcony where you can drink a cocktail while listening to the music from a distance.
17. Take a Photo Near the Fremont Troll
An iconic monument of Seattle, the Fremont Troll is a 6 ton, 18 foot (5.5 meters) tall concrete sculpture just below the far end of the Washington Memorial Bridge. It was designed to be easily climbable. Although it is the only attraction at its location, the spot is always full of tourists who want to get their picture taken with it.
18. Take a Picture of the Unconventional Gum Wall
The name says it all: it really is a wall coated in chewed-up gum. From the early 1990s, people who attended a performance at the Unexpected Productions Theatre would stick a piece of used gum on the wall. After a while, the audience became more creative, and every new piece of gum became part of the wider portrait.
In 2015, the wall was cleaned because chemicals in the gum was destroying the brickwork. However, as you can imagine, the wall has since become full of gum again.
19. Visit the Seattle Art Museum
If you want to see impressive collections of Native American artwork, then you should pay a visit to the Seattle Art Museum. There are also works from famous Italian artists, including furniture, paintings and other pieces. Annual exhibitions are held in the museum, so spend some time looking at them, too.
20. Go to the One and Only Kerry Park
Everyone would like a panoramic view of Seattle, right? Well, luckily, there is a spot where visitors can get the full view, with the cityscape in the foreground and Mt. Rainier behind. Visit this beautiful lookout, Kerry Park, during the evening to have a look at the dazzling city when the lights are on.
21. View the Impressive Ballard Locks
The impressive Ballard Locks links Lake Washington with the Puget Sound. They are the only route for passing boats between the two waters. Visitors can safely walk across the lock chambers after they have parked their car in the nearby neighborhood.
22. Visit the Safeco Field
Currently known as T-Mobile Park, the largest stadium in Seattle and home of the Seattle Mariners, the Safeco Field is worth a visit. Do not forget to grab some nachos, tacos, or a club sandwich from the vendor (along with a chilled margarita!). At the match be ready for screaming, shouting, and other fanfare, the locals in Seattle are extremely proud of their team.
23. Have a Look at the Japanese Garden
One of the oldest gardens in Seattle, the Japanese Garden hosts traditional Japanese celebrations throughout the year. If you walk through the 3.5-acre garden, then you’ll encounter unique species of plants, along with Japanese benches, bridges, fauna, and lanterns.
24. Take a Walk Along the Alki Beach
For those who want to look at the endless blue surrounding Seattle, a visit to any of the many beaches is a good option. The Alki Beach is particularly stunning; situated at the tip of West Seattle you can spend a wonderful day there, swimming or sunbathing. If you walk down the beach during the day, you’ll see a smaller version of the Statue of Liberty.
For the more romantic, you could stay until the sunset at the beach with some music. Or go to a seaside restaurant and enjoy the romantic atmosphere.
Seattle has it all: a bustling, modern city blended with tradition, stunning natural landscapes, and many tourist attractions.
Depending on what type of traveler you are, you can choose from the aforementioned activities those that best match your needs and tastes. Whether you choose to visit the city on your own, with family, or with friends, consider organizing your schedule before arrival so you can see more of what you like. After all, having a pleasant vacation is more important than seeing as many attractions as you can.
Last Updated on January 21, 2021