Are you planning a trip to Seattle, in Pacific Northwest coastal cruise, or stopping during a ? If you’re looking for things to do in the Seattle area, this guide has you covered.
Seattle, Washington, is a seaport city on the northwest coast of the United States. It gained the nickname, “emerald city” due to the fact that it’s surrounded by greenery. Like Vancouver to the north, it’s known for its diverse foods, active lifestyle, together with its picturesque scenery.
Many attractions are within walking distance of Seattle Center or downtown Seattle, making it easy to get around. Alternatively, the Seattle Center Monorail can cut back on your footsteps.
Here are my recommendations for attractions in Seattle.
1. Browse Pike Place Market
- Location: First Avenue and Pike Street | Open: 9 am to 5 pm
Pike Place Market is undoubtedly one of the most popular places to visit. Built on the edge of a very steep hill overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront, it’s a must-visit in Seattle.
Established in 1907, it racks up a staggering 10 million visitor’s a year. It makes a great indoor activity if it’s raining in Seattle.
Inside, the bustling market is a feast for the eyes with fresh produce, beautiful flowers, fresh from the sea seafood, and specialty foods. Additionally, visitors can purchase handcrafted jewelry, homemade preserves, vintage records, and one-of-a-kind items.
With over 500 businesses in a multi-leveled historic building, the journey through the market becomes a multisensory overload. Street musicians and entertainers perform for the crowds and add a friendly vibe to the day’s event.
Be sure to stop at Pike Place Fish Co to witness the “flying fish.” As the name suggests, customers’ orders are regularly hurled across the shopping area before wrapping up the sale.
What started as a prank by one employee has now become a store tradition. During your visit, indulge in some fresh clam chowder or experience Paris in Seattle with freshly baked macarons.
2. Have A Brew At The First Starbucks
- Location: 1912 Pike Place | Open: 6:30 am to 7 pm
If you can’t start the day without a cup of coffee, then check out Pike Place Starbucks. It’s renowned for being the very first coffee shop opened for the famous coffee chain.
While its currently in its second location, the shop itself has maintained its original appearance. In 2008, Starbucks created the Pike Place Blend commemorating its first store opening in Seattle.
The quaint coffee shop attracts a crowd every day, who are willing to line up around the block for their daily brew. They don’t come just for the coffee but for the experience of seeing the humble beginnings of a coffee giant.
On occasion, street entertainers pleasantly entertain the crowd.
3. Stick Some Gum On A Wall
- Location: 1428 Post Alley near Pike Place Market
Located close to the Pike Place Market entrance, visiting Seattle’s Gum Wall might be one of the weirdest things to do in Seattle. As the name suggests, this Seattle attraction showcases a brick wall covered in multi-colored chewing gum.
The gum sticking event started in the early 1990s. While the idea of walls coated in decaying bubble gum might be gross, it wins in the unique department.
In 2015, after 20 years of collecting gum, the city scraped the wall, stripped its gum, and steam cleaned it to prevent further erosion of the bricks. The city removed more than 2000 lbs. of chewing gum!
Shortly afterward, the crowd-pleaser began gathering its gum once again. In 2009, the Seattle Gum Wall was voted one of the top five germiest tourist attractions so if you’re germophobic, give this unique Seattle venue a pass.
4. Visit A Troll
- Location: N 36th Street, under the George Washington Memorial Bridge
Seattle’s George Washington Memorial Bridge harbors a secret. Underneath the north end lives a troll, a colossal one. This mixed media, unique statue was created by four local artists and built under the bridge to deter dumping.
In his left hand, the 18-foot (5.5 meters) high Fremont Troll holds a life-sized Volkswagen beetle. Thank goodness I drive a Mazda, lol. Tourists climb on the quirky giant, and over the years, he’s become quite the Instagram celebrity.
To honor his claim to fame, Seattle renamed a section north of the bridge, Troll Avenue.
5. Visit The Space Needle
- Location: 400 Broad Street | Open: Mon to Thurs 12 to 5 pm, Fri 12 to 6 pm, Sat 11 am to 6 pm, Sun 11 am to 5 pm
It’s hard to visit the Pacific Northwest without seeing its iconic landmark, the Seattle Space Needle. After all, it is one of the most photographed structures in the world.
Built for the 1962 Seattle’s World Fair, the flying saucer-like structure stands 605 feet tall and begs you to step up, out of your comfort zone.
The Space Needle recently underwent a much-needed renovation to bring this tired landmark into the 21st century. Now, for the first time, visitors can explore both levels with just one entry ticket.
With new floor-to-ceiling glass, views of the majestic Mount Rainier and the Pacific Ocean are unobstructed. For those that want that wow factor, step out onto The Loupe, the first glass revolving floor on the observation deck.
Also in the area, you can visit the Pacific Science Center, the Seattle Children’s Theater, and see the “Neototems of Whales” sculpture beside the International Fountain.
6. See Olympic Sculpture Park
- Location: 2901 Western Ave
An offshoot of the Seattle Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park houses contemporary and modern-day sculptures. Its most iconic artwork is a large red eagle, entitled “Eagle,” which stands out on the waterfront.
It’s free to visit the park, which is open year-round and makes an ideal stop for those not wanting to pay admission to the Chihuly Garden and Glass.
7. Admire Art At Chihuly Garden and Glass
- Location: 305 Harrison Street | Open: Daily 12 to 5 pm
Located underneath the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass is a must-visit for art lovers, seasoned photographers, or anyone interested in glass. The garden is a horticultural symphony of shrubs, trees, and hand-blown glass structures by Tacoma native Dale Chihuly.
Eight galleries, a large glasshouse, and a lush outer area provide backdrops for his awe-inspiring glassworks. On a bright sunny day, the garden shines in all its glory. However, at night, the illuminated glass sculptures come alive against the dark skies.
Having previously admired Chihuly’s chandeliers in Houston’s Hilton Hotel and Las Vegas’ Bellagio, seeing more of his works left me at a loss for words. As I admired his breathtaking work, I couldn’t help but wonder about the complexity of assembling a chandelier made from numerous delicate pieces.
In one gallery, his float boats are an explosion of color with individual works of art contained within a wooden vessel.
Around the country, Dale Chihuly’s work is found in the Bellagio, Las Vegas, The Hilton Hotel in Houston, Vinoy Renaissance, and St. Petersburgh, Florida, to name a few. If you haven’t seen Chihuly’s work, you should go.
8. Visit The Seattle Pinball Museum
- Location: 508 Maynard Ave S | Open: Friday to Monday 12 pm to 6 pm
Playing pinball is a fun activity for both kids and adults. While there’s an entry fee of USD 17 to 20, you can then play all the pinball you want. The museum has over 50 games, some dating back to the 1960s. The machines are arranged in date order, so you can take a pinball journey through time.
Sometimes they change the games with other pinball machines at home. So, if your visit often you may discover something new. The establishment sells craft beers, vintage soda, and cider, to keep you hydrated as you play your heart out.
If it’s raining outside, this is a great place to pass the time.
9. Ride Seattle’s Great Wheel
- Location: 1301 Alaskan Way at Pier 57 | Open: Daily 11 am to 9 pm except for Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 10 pm
Seattle’s Great Wheel is a giant Ferris wheel on the waterfront, almost like a baby London Eye. At 175 feet tall, it is the tallest Ferris wheel on the west coast of the United States. While it doesn’t have quite the London Eye’s impressive views, it does tend to be void of a long queue.
Its 41 regular white gondolas can hold up to 8 riders, although VIP tickets are available if you prefer a private cabin. The ride lasts approximately 12 minutes and offers excellent views of the city and the pier.
There is one unique VIP cabin with red leather bucket seats, a stereo system, and a glass-bottom floor, which can accommodate four guests. The gondolas have both heating and air conditioning, so they are perfect for riding regardless of the weather.
After the Great Wheel ride, explore the Seattle waterfront, which runs from the historic Pioneer Square to the Olympic Structure Park. In fact, the harbor is a great place to enjoy some seafood at the Crab Pot, Elliott’s Oyster House, The Salmon Cooker, or Ivar’s Pier 54 Fish bar.
10. Take A Harbor Tour
- On Seattle’s Waterfront, Pier 55 at 1101 Alaskan Way
Seattle is a spectacular city, and there’s no better way to view it than from the ocean. Argosy Cruises offer one-hour narrated waterfront cruises with panoramic views of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, and the Olympic Mountains.
While the cruise is short at just an hour, you’ll learn about Seattle’s history, and departing at the waterfront gives access to other attractions.
Should you prefer a longer tour, Argosy Cruises’ two-hour lock cruise sails through the Hiram M. Chittenden, aka Ballard Locks. This one-way tour transitions from saltwater through the Seattle locks to the freshwater of Lake Union.
11. Take An Underground Tour
- Location: Southwest of the I5 Express, and between Columbia Street and King Street
Pioneer Square is the historic birthplace of Seattle, Washington, and within its district, exhibits inform visitors of the history of the area. In the 19th century, Seattle was booming with 40,000 residents.
During the Klondike Gold Rush, prospectors passed through here on their way to Alaska in search of prosperity and fortunes. A Tlingit carved totem pole reminds visitors of its rich history with Alaska.
As I strolled the area, a handful of informational plaques tell the history of Pioneer Square. The arches at the Pioneer Building, the stone masonry of the Interurban Building, and the Pergola’s ironwork all recall Seattle’s first residential area’s rich history.
In 1889, Pioneer Square suffered a great fire that destroyed many of its handmade buildings. Since Pioneer Square was prone to flooding, Seattle regraded the streets and raised the land ten feet.
Today, through a “beneath the streets” underground tour, visitors can tour the tunnels to see original sidewalks and brickwork saved from the fire.
While it’s been over a century since that fateful day, today, Pioneer Square is filled with art galleries, coffee shops, sports bars, and nightclubs. On weekends, the bustling area frequently comes alive with street entertainment and live music.
12. Explore The Arboretum
- Location: 2300 Arboretum Drive E | Open: Daily 10 am to 4 pm
The Washington Park Arboretum provides an ideal place to stroll or walk your dog. The narrow park includes some walking trails, the Graham Visitor Center, and Seattle Japanese Garden. All areas are free except the latter.
The park offers workshops on gardening, lawn care, watercolor painting, and micro-gardening. If you have children, there are nature-inspired programs suited for every age.
If you’re not afraid of the dark, consider taking a night hike with a guide, and learning about the creatures who prefer to hunt at night.
13. Get Inspired At The Museum of Pop Culture
- Location: 325 5th Avenue N | Open: Daily 10 am to 5 pm
This strikingly unusual museum (previously called the EMP Museum) showcases contemporary popular culture. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen founded it as the Experience Music Project. Outside, the museum’s exterior is incredibly striking with its fluid shape and shiny panels.
Three-thousand panels, made from 21 thousand stainless steel pieces, cover the building. It’s by far one of the most striking buildings in Seattle, Washington, or anywhere else for that matter.
You can reach the museum by using the Seattle monorail. This Seattle museum will appeal to families with kids of all ages and older rock and rollers.
Inside, the museum takes you behind the scenes of the most significant filmmakers, musicians, and innovators of our time. Additionally, Gamers will love the video game section and the opportunity to play unreleased games too.
One of the most unique items is the tornado of guitars, a towering cylindrical cone of stringed instruments.
14. Check Out Discovery Park
- Location: 3801 Discovery Park Blvd
Overlooking Puget Sound, Discovery Park encompasses 534 acres of natural environment. The park includes streams, beaches, and the West Point Lighthouse. If you like walking or biking, you have many trails to choose from.
Before the park, the area was once the home of the US Army base, Fort Lawton. The army operated the fort from 1900 and later donated it to the city of Seattle in 1972.
Today, the park attracts wildlife such as migratory birds, and sometimes coyotes.
15. Visit The Museum Of Flight
Whether you like planes or not, the Seattle Museum of Flight is a must-visit. Located near the King County International Airport, the non-profit museum is the largest space and air museum in the world.
The hangers hold over 150 aircraft, including a Concorde, the world’s first jetliner, and the first pressurized sailplane. In a restoration building, you can see over 25 planes under rejuvenation.
In addition to the larger planes and spacecraft, the museum has smaller artifacts. These include aircraft parts, instruments, flight gear, and more.
16. Visit Alki Beach
From downtown Seattle, you can reach Alki Beach by taking a Seattle water taxi to West Seattle. Located in a residential neighborhood, the beach provides a great place to enjoy the views of Puget Sound.
If the weather is nice, take to the waters in a kayak, to savor a different perspective.
Like Vancouver to the north, Seattle is a beautiful and robust city with plenty to do and see. While it’s a popular tourist destination in summer, some of these activities serve you well in winter too.
To save money, the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass offer a combination ticket. Alternatively, a Seattle Citypass costs USD 99 and includes an Argosy Harbor tour, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle Aquarium, Space Needle, and the Museum of Pop Culture.