Top 25 Things To Do in Seattle

From towering evergreens to futuristic architecture, discover a city where innovative spirit meets laid-back charm in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.

West Parker
By
West Parker
July 18, 2024

As the morning mist lifts over Puget Sound, Seattle's iconic skyline emerges, a testament to the city's perfect balance of urban sophistication and natural beauty. This is a place where you can sip artisanal coffee while gazing at snow-capped mountains, or code the next big app just steps away from rugged hiking trails. Welcome to the Emerald City, where innovation and nature coexist in harmony.

Seattle is a city of contrasts, where tech giants rub shoulders with quirky neighborhood markets, and where you're never far from either a craft brewery or a serene forest. It's a place that has given birth to both grunge music and world-changing companies, where food culture ranges from fresh-off-the-boat seafood to cutting-edge fusion cuisines.

Whether you're here to explore the great outdoors, dive into the vibrant arts scene, or simply soak in the laid-back Pacific Northwest vibe, Seattle offers a smorgasbord of experiences. From the stratospheric heights of the Space Needle to the underground passageways of Pioneer Square, from the bustling stalls of Pike Place Market to the serene shores of Puget Sound, this guide will take you on a journey through the best that Seattle has to offer. So grab your rain jacket (though you'll likely need it less than you think) and get ready to explore the many facets of this captivating city.

Ascend the Space Needle for Panoramic City Views

Tourists enjoying panoramic views from the Space Needle observation deck in Seattle, showcasing the city's most iconic landmark
Finally made it to the top of the Space Needle! The 360-degree views of Seattle are absolutely worth the wait. Did you know it was built in just 400 days for the 1962 World's Fair?

No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to its most iconic landmark. The Space Needle, built for the 1962 World's Fair, stands 605 feet tall and offers unparalleled 360-degree views of the city, Puget Sound, and the Cascade Mountains. The recent $100 million renovation has added the world's first and only rotating glass floor, known as The Loupe. As you step onto this thrilling platform, you'll feel like you're floating above the city. The open-air observation deck features floor-to-ceiling glass panels that tilt outwards, providing a gravity-defying lean into the Seattle skyline. For the best experience, time your visit for sunset when the city lights begin to twinkle and the mountains glow with alpenglow.

  • Location: 400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109
  • Hours: Daily, 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM (hours may vary seasonally)
  • Admission: Adults $35-$38, Children (5-12) $26-$29

Why Visit: The Space Needle offers the most spectacular views of Seattle and its surroundings, providing a perfect orientation to the city's layout.

Insider Tip: Book your tickets online in advance and opt for the CityPASS if you plan to visit multiple Seattle attractions – it can save you up to 46% on combined admission prices.

Wander Through the Vibrant Stalls of Pike Place Market

Fish vendor tossing a large salmon at Pike Place Market in Seattle, capturing the market's famous fish-throwing tradition
Caught the famous fish-throwing action at Pike Place Market! It's amazing how they turn selling fish into such a fun spectacle. The market's been around since 1907!

Pike Place Market is the beating heart of Seattle, a sprawling public market overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront. Since 1907, it has been a haven for local farmers, artisans, and small businesses. As you enter, you're greeted by the famous fish-throwing tradition at Pike Place Fish Market – don't be surprised if you hear shouts of "Fish!" followed by a flying salmon. Wander through the labyrinthine corridors, sampling artisanal cheeses, fresh-baked bread, and locally-made chocolates. Stop by the original Starbucks store, watch street performers, and don't forget to visit the Gum Wall in Post Alley for a quirky photo op. The market is also home to a plethora of unique shops selling everything from antique maps to handcrafted jewelry.

  • Location: 85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101
  • Hours: Main Arcade open daily 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM (individual vendor hours may vary)
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: Pike Place Market offers a sensory feast and a true taste of Seattle's local culture and cuisine.

Insider Tip: Visit early in the morning to watch vendors set up and enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere before the crowds arrive.

Explore the Futuristic World of MoPOP

Colorful guitar sculpture outside the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, showcasing the museum's unique architecture and pop culture focus
The MoPOP building is a work of art itself! Designed to look like a smashed guitar, it's the perfect intro to Seattle's music scene. Can't wait to see the Nirvana exhibit inside!

The Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP, is a nonprofit museum dedicated to contemporary popular culture. Housed in a striking Frank Gehry-designed building that resembles a smashed electric guitar, MoPOP offers a deep dive into music, science fiction, and pop culture. You'll find exhibits dedicated to Seattle's grunge scene, featuring memorabilia from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, alongside interactive installations that let you create your own music. Science fiction fans will love the extensive collection of props and costumes from iconic films and TV shows. The museum also hosts a Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, celebrating the genre's greatest creators and creations.

  • Location: 325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
  • Hours: Daily, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $30-$32, Youth (5-12) $21-$23

Why Visit: MoPOP offers an immersive journey through the worlds of music, sci-fi, and pop culture, with plenty of hands-on exhibits.

Insider Tip: Don't miss the Sound Lab, where you can play various instruments and record your own song in a mock studio session.

Stroll Through the Olympic Sculpture Park

Visitors exploring outdoor sculptures at Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, with Puget Sound and mountains visible in the background
Spent the afternoon at Olympic Sculpture Park. It's amazing how they've blended art with the natural beauty of Puget Sound. The perfect spot for a picnic with a view!

The Olympic Sculpture Park is a nine-acre outdoor sculpture museum and beach, offering a unique blend of art, landscape, and shoreline. As you wander the Z-shaped path, you'll encounter massive sculptures by renowned artists like Alexander Calder and Richard Serra, all set against the backdrop of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. The park transforms a former industrial site into a vibrant green space, perfect for a leisurely walk or a sunny afternoon picnic. Keep an eye out for the iconic red "Eagle" sculpture by Alexander Calder, which has become a symbol of the park.

  • Location: 2901 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
  • Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: The Olympic Sculpture Park offers a perfect blend of art and nature, with stunning views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

Insider Tip: Visit at sunset for breathtaking views and magical lighting conditions that transform the sculptures.

Immerse Yourself in the Chihuly Garden and Glass

Vibrant glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly displayed in a greenhouse setting at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle
Mesmerized by the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit. The way the light plays off these colorful sculptures is pure magic. It's like stepping into a fairytale!

Chihuly Garden and Glass is a mesmerizing exhibition showcasing the studio glass of Dale Chihuly. The centerpiece is the stunning Glasshouse, a 40-foot tall, glass and steel structure housing a 100-foot long suspended sculpture in a vibrant array of reds, oranges, yellows, and amber. As you move through the eight galleries and three Drawing Walls, you'll be captivated by Chihuly's otherworldly creations. The outdoor garden is a particular highlight, where glass sculptures are integrated with carefully curated plantings, creating a magical fusion of art and nature. At night, the sculptures are illuminated, creating an enchanting, almost surreal atmosphere.

  • Location: 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM, Friday-Sunday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $32, Youth (5-12) $19

Why Visit: Chihuly Garden and Glass offers a unique, immersive art experience that showcases the beauty of glass in extraordinary ways.

Insider Tip: Buy a combo ticket with the Space Needle for a discount, and visit the garden at dusk to see the sculptures transition from day to night illumination.

Take a Ride on the Seattle Great Wheel

Seattle Great Wheel illuminated at night on the waterfront, offering a colorful addition to the city's skyline
Evening ride on the Seattle Great Wheel was the perfect end to the day. The views of the city lights reflecting on the water are unforgettable!

For a different perspective of the city, hop aboard the Seattle Great Wheel. Standing 175 feet tall, this giant Ferris wheel on Pier 57 offers stunning views of the Seattle skyline, Elliott Bay, and on a clear day, the Olympic Mountains. Each gondola is fully enclosed and climate-controlled, making this a year-round attraction. As you slowly rotate above the waterfront, you'll get a bird's eye view of the bustling port, nearby islands, and the city's distinct neighborhoods. At night, the wheel comes alive with a dazzling light show, adding to the magical atmosphere of the waterfront.

  • Location: 1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM, Friday-Sunday 10:00 AM - 11:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $16, Children (3-11) $11

Why Visit: The Seattle Great Wheel offers unique views of the city and Puget Sound in a fun, family-friendly setting.

Insider Tip: Time your ride for sunset to experience daylight, dusk, and evening views all in one 15-20 minute rotation.

Discover Seattle's History in Pioneer Square

Tourists on an underground tour in Pioneer Square, Seattle, exploring the city's hidden history beneath the streets
Took the Underground Tour in Pioneer Square today. Fascinating to see the 'original' ground level of Seattle from the 1800s. This city has such a quirky history!

Pioneer Square is Seattle's oldest neighborhood, filled with beautiful Romanesque Revival architecture, hidden alleyways, and a rich history. Take the famous Underground Tour to explore subterranean passageways that were once the ground level of the city before the Great Fire of 1889. The neighborhood is also home to numerous art galleries, which come alive during the First Thursday Art Walk each month. Grab a coffee at the Grand Central Bakery, housed in a building from 1889, or enjoy a drink at the historic Central Saloon, Seattle's oldest bar. As you wander, look out for the Tlingit totem pole in Occidental Square and the ornate pergola in Pioneer Square Park.

  • Location: Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA 98104
  • Hours: Individual businesses and attractions have varying hours
  • Admission: Free to explore, Underground Tour tickets start at $22 for adults

Why Visit: Pioneer Square offers a glimpse into Seattle's past, with beautiful architecture and fascinating historical sites.

Insider Tip: Join a guided walking tour to fully appreciate the neighborhood's rich history and hidden gems.

Get Hands-On at the Pacific Science Center

Children engaging with interactive dinosaur exhibit at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, showcasing the museum's hands-on approach to science
The Pacific Science Center is a hit with kids and adults alike! The dinosaur exhibit is incredibly lifelike. Who knew learning about science could be this fun?

The Pacific Science Center is a wonderland of interactive exhibits that make science fun and accessible for all ages. From the Tropical Butterfly House, where you can walk among hundreds of free-flying butterflies, to the Planetarium showcasing the wonders of the universe, there's something here to spark everyone's curiosity. Try your hand at various physics experiments, explore the wonders of the human body, or step back in time in the Dinosaur exhibit. The IMAX theater offers immersive documentary experiences, while the Laser Dome puts on dazzling music and light shows.

  • Location: 200 2nd Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
  • Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Closed Mondays
  • Admission: Adults $24.95, Youth (3-15) $16.95

Why Visit: The Pacific Science Center offers engaging, hands-on learning experiences that make science fun for visitors of all ages.

Insider Tip: Check the schedule for special after-hours events for adults, which often include cocktails and themed activities.

Kayak or Paddleboard on Lake Union

Kayakers on Lake Union with Seattle skyline visible in the background, highlighting the city's water-based activities
Kayaking on Lake Union gives you a whole new perspective of Seattle. Paddled past houseboats and watched seaplanes take off - what a unique urban adventure!

For a unique perspective of Seattle, take to the waters of Lake Union. This freshwater lake in the heart of the city offers fantastic views of the skyline, including the Space Needle and the iconic "Sleepless in Seattle" houseboat community. Rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore at your own pace, or join a guided tour to learn about the area's history and ecology. You might spot seaplanes taking off and landing, or catch a glimpse of the Fremont Bridge, the most frequently opened drawbridge in the United States. After your water adventure, relax at one of the waterfront parks or grab a bite at a lakeside restaurant.

  • Location: Lake Union, Seattle, WA 98109
  • Hours: Daylight hours are best for water activities
  • Admission: Kayak rentals start around $20/hour, paddleboard rentals around $25/hour

Why Visit: Kayaking or paddleboarding on Lake Union offers a unique, active way to experience Seattle's urban landscape.

Insider Tip: For a magical experience, book a night kayak tour when the lake is calm and the city lights reflect off the water.

Visit the Iconic Seattle Public Library - Central Library

Striking interior architecture of Seattle's Central Library, featuring spiraling bookshelves and modern design elements
The Seattle Central Library is an architectural marvel! The spiraling 'Books Spiral' houses the non-fiction collection. It's a book lover's dream and a photographer's paradise.

The Seattle Public Library's Central Library is an architectural marvel that's worth a visit even if you're not looking to check out a book. Designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus, this 11-story glass and steel structure is a defining piece of Seattle's skyline. Inside, you'll find a unique "Books Spiral," displaying the library's nonfiction collection in a continuous run. The bright yellow escalators and vivid red hallways add splashes of color to the predominantly glass interior. Head to the 10th-floor reading room for panoramic views of the city, or join one of the free architectural tours to learn more about the building's innovative design.

  • Location: 1000 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM, Friday-Saturday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM, Sunday 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: The Central Library is an architectural wonder that offers a unique perspective on modern library design and stunning city views.

Insider Tip: Take the elevator to the 10th floor for the best views, then walk down the spiral to experience the full beauty of the building's interior.

Explore the Vibrant Capitol Hill Neighborhood

Vibrant street art and lively sidewalk cafe in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, showcasing the area's eclectic and artistic vibe
Loving the energy of Capitol Hill! From funky street art to buzzing cafes, this neighborhood is the epitome of Seattle's creative spirit. Great spot for people-watching!

Capitol Hill is Seattle's hippest neighborhood, known for its diverse community, thriving nightlife, and eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, and shops. Start your exploration on Broadway, the main thoroughfare, where you'll find an array of vintage clothing stores, independent bookshops, and quirky cafes. Don't miss the Elliott Bay Book Company, a Seattle institution with over 150,000 titles. For a dose of nature, visit Volunteer Park, home to the beautiful Volunteer Park Conservatory and the Seattle Asian Art Museum. As night falls, the neighborhood comes alive with music venues, theaters, and LGBTQ+-friendly bars. Be sure to stop by the Jimi Hendrix Statue on Broadway, a tribute to one of Seattle's most famous sons.

  • Location: Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA 98102
  • Hours: Individual businesses have varying hours
  • Admission: Free to explore, costs vary for individual attractions

Why Visit: Capitol Hill offers a vibrant slice of Seattle life, with great food, shopping, nightlife, and cultural attractions.

Insider Tip: Visit on the second Thursday of the month for the Capitol Hill Art Walk, when galleries and businesses stay open late and offer special events.

Take a Day Trip to Mount Rainier National Park

Hikers on a trail in Mount Rainier National Park with the snow-capped peak of Mount Rainier prominently visible in the background
Hiked the Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier today. The wildflowers are in full bloom and the views of 'The Mountain' are absolutely breathtaking. A must-visit when in Seattle!

While not in Seattle proper, Mount Rainier National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Just a two-hour drive from the city, "The Mountain," as locals call it, offers breathtaking views, diverse ecosystems, and activities for all skill levels. In summer, hike through meadows bursting with wildflowers, or take the Skyline Trail for stunning views of the Cascade Range. Winter transforms the park into a snowy wonderland perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The Paradise area, with its historic lodge and visitor center, is a great starting point for exploring the park. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like marmots, black bears, and elk.

  • Location: Mount Rainier National Park, WA 98304
  • Hours: Open 24/7, but some roads and facilities have seasonal closures
  • Admission: $30 per vehicle, valid for 7 days

Why Visit: Mount Rainier offers unparalleled natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities just a short drive from Seattle.

Insider Tip: Visit in late July or early August for peak wildflower blooms in the subalpine meadows.

Uncover Seattle's Music History at the Museum of Pop Culture

The Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP, is a nonprofit museum dedicated to contemporary popular culture. Housed in a striking Frank Gehry-designed building that resembles a smashed electric guitar, MoPOP offers a deep dive into music, science fiction, and pop culture. You'll find exhibits dedicated to Seattle's grunge scene, featuring memorabilia from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, alongside interactive installations that let you create your own music. Science fiction fans will love the extensive collection of props and costumes from iconic films and TV shows. The museum also hosts a Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, celebrating the genre's greatest creators and creations.

  • Location: 325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
  • Hours: Daily, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $30-$32, Youth (5-12) $21-$23

Why Visit: MoPOP offers an immersive journey through the worlds of music, sci-fi, and pop culture, with plenty of hands-on exhibits.

Insider Tip: Don't miss the Sound Lab, where you can play various instruments and record your own song in a mock studio session.

Savor Seattle's Coffee Culture

Barista creating intricate latte art at a local Seattle coffee shop, highlighting the city's renowned coffee culture
Seattle's coffee scene lives up to the hype! This barista's latte art is practically a masterpiece. Did you know Seattle has the most coffee shops per capita in the US?

Seattle's reputation as a coffee mecca is well-deserved, and exploring the city's cafe scene is an experience in itself. Start with a visit to the original Starbucks store at Pike Place Market, then venture out to discover local favorites. Victrola Coffee Roasters offers expertly crafted pour-overs in a cozy setting, while Espresso Vivace is known for its perfect Northern Italian-style espresso. For a unique experience, visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, a sprawling coffee wonderland where you can watch the roasting process and try exclusive drinks. Don't forget to pick up a bag of beans as a tasty souvenir.

  • Location: Various locations throughout Seattle
  • Hours: Vary by cafe, but many open early and close late
  • Admission: Free to explore, coffee prices vary

Why Visit: Exploring Seattle's coffee scene offers a taste of local culture and some of the best brews in the world.

Insider Tip: Join a coffee tour to learn about roasting techniques and taste a variety of local blends.

Walk Across the Fremont Troll Bridge

Tourists interacting with the famous Fremont Troll sculpture under the bridge in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood
Met the Fremont Troll today! This quirky sculpture under the bridge is pure Seattle charm. Fun fact: the troll is clutching an actual Volkswagen Beetle!

In the quirky Fremont neighborhood, you'll find one of Seattle's most beloved public art installations: the Fremont Troll. This massive sculpture, lurking under the north end of the Aurora Bridge, depicts a troll clutching an actual Volkswagen Beetle (supposedly crushing a Californian). Created in 1990, the troll has become a symbol of Fremont's eccentric character. Climb on the troll for a fun photo op, then explore the surrounding neighborhood, known as the "Center of the Universe." Don't miss other Fremont oddities like the statue of Lenin, the Rocket, and the Fremont Sunday Market for vintage finds and local crafts.

  • Location: N 36th St & Troll Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
  • Hours: Always accessible
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: The Fremont Troll is a whimsical piece of public art that captures Seattle's quirky side.

Insider Tip: Visit at night when the troll is dramatically lit, creating an even more magical atmosphere.

Cruise on the Washington State Ferries

Passengers enjoying views from the deck of a Washington State Ferry, with Seattle's skyline visible in the distance
Took a ferry to Bainbridge Island today. The views of the Seattle skyline from the water are incredible. It's like a mini-cruise in the middle of your day!

For a quintessential Seattle experience, hop aboard one of the Washington State Ferries. These ferries are part of the largest ferry system in the United States and offer a unique way to explore Puget Sound. The Seattle-Bainbridge Island route is particularly scenic, offering stunning views of the Seattle skyline, Mount Rainier, and the Olympic Mountains. The 35-minute trip is a perfect mini-cruise, allowing you to feel the salty breeze and spot marine life like seals and porpoises. Once on Bainbridge Island, explore the charming downtown area with its boutiques, restaurants, and the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.

  • Location: Seattle Ferry Terminal, 801 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98104
  • Hours: Ferries run daily, schedules vary by route
  • Admission: Fares vary by route, Seattle-Bainbridge is about $9 for walk-on passengers

Why Visit: A ferry ride offers breathtaking views of Seattle and the surrounding natural beauty.

Insider Tip: Head to the outdoor deck for the best views, but bring a jacket - it can get windy!

Discover Aviation History at The Museum of Flight

Visitors touring a retired Air Force One aircraft at The Museum of Flight in Seattle, showcasing the museum's impressive collection
Explored a retired Air Force One at the Museum of Flight! It's surreal to walk through the same plane that carried presidents. This museum is a must for aviation geeks!

The Museum of Flight is one of the largest air and space museums in the world, offering a comprehensive look at the history of flight. From the Wright brothers' first attempts to modern space exploration, the museum's collection spans the entire history of human flight. Walk through a retired Concorde and Air Force One, or step into the cockpit of an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. The Space Gallery features full-scale space shuttle trainer and artifacts from NASA's Apollo program. For a hands-on experience, try the flight simulators or take a virtual trip to Mars in the 3D movie theater.

  • Location: 9404 E Marginal Way S, Seattle, WA 98108
  • Hours: Daily, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $25, Youth (5-17) $17

Why Visit: The Museum of Flight offers a fascinating journey through aviation history with an impressive collection of aircraft and space artifacts.

Insider Tip: Visit on the first Thursday of the month for free admission from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM.

Relax in the Washington Park Arboretum

Visitors strolling on a wooden boardwalk through the lush greenery of Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle
The Washington Park Arboretum is a green oasis in the heart of Seattle. The boardwalk through the wetlands feels like you're a million miles from the city. Perfect for a peaceful walk!

The Washington Park Arboretum is a 230-acre public park and botanical garden, offering a serene escape from the urban hustle. Managed by the University of Washington Botanic Gardens and the City of Seattle, the arboretum features a diverse collection of plants from around the world. Stroll through the Rhododendron Glen, explore the Japanese Garden, or paddle through the wetlands of the Arboretum Waterfront Trail. In spring, the azalea way bursts into vibrant colors, while fall brings a stunning display of autumn foliage. The Graham Visitors Center offers maps and information to help you make the most of your visit.

  • Location: 2300 Arboretum Dr E, Seattle, WA 98112
  • Hours: Dawn to dusk daily
  • Admission: Free (separate fee for Japanese Garden)

Why Visit: The Arboretum offers a peaceful retreat with beautiful landscapes and diverse plant collections.

Insider Tip: Rent a canoe or kayak from the UW Waterfront Activities Center to explore the Arboretum from the water.

Experience the Thrill of the Seattle Aquarium

Child interacting with starfish in a touch pool exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium, highlighting the facility's hands-on marine life experiences
The Seattle Aquarium is a hit with kids! The touch pools let you get up close with sea stars and anemones. It's a great way to learn about Puget Sound's marine life.

Located on the waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium offers a window into the underwater world of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Get up close with colorful fish, playful sea otters, and graceful octopuses in well-designed exhibits that mimic their natural habitats. The Window on Washington Waters, a 120,000-gallon tank filled with native Washington marine life, is particularly impressive. Don't miss the daily octopus feeding and the sea otter training sessions. The touch pools allow hands-on interaction with sea creatures, making this a great stop for families.

  • Location: 1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101
  • Hours: Daily, 9:30 AM - 6:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $34.95, Youth (4-12) $24.95

Why Visit: The Seattle Aquarium offers an engaging look at marine life, with a focus on local ecosystems.

Insider Tip: Visit during feeding times for the best chance to see animals active and engaged.

Shop and Dine in Ballard

Shoppers exploring vibrant stalls at the Ballard Farmers Market in Seattle, showcasing the neighborhood's local flavors and community spirit
Sunday at the Ballard Farmers Market is a local tradition. From fresh produce to artisanal crafts, it's the perfect way to experience Seattle's local flavors and community vibe.

Once a separate city, Ballard has transformed from a Scandinavian seafaring community into one of Seattle's trendiest neighborhoods. Start your exploration on Ballard Avenue, lined with boutique shops, hip restaurants, and craft breweries housed in historic buildings. On Sundays, the street comes alive with the Ballard Farmers Market, one of the only year-round outdoor markets in Seattle. For a dose of history, visit the Nordic Museum to learn about the area's Scandinavian heritage. End your day with a sunset at Golden Gardens Park, a beautiful beach offering views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

  • Location: Ballard, Seattle, WA 98107
  • Hours: Individual businesses have varying hours
  • Admission: Free to explore, costs vary for individual attractions

Why Visit: Ballard offers a perfect blend of history, shopping, dining, and outdoor activities.

Insider Tip: Visit the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks to watch boats navigate between fresh and salt water, and see salmon using the fish ladder.

Hike Through Discovery Park

West Point Lighthouse at Discovery Park in Seattle with Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains visible in the background
Hiked to the lighthouse in Discovery Park today. It's hard to believe this wilderness is within city limits! The views of Puget Sound and the Olympics are spectacular.

Discovery Park is Seattle's largest city park, offering 534 acres of natural beauty and outdoor recreation. Located on Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, the park features miles of hiking trails through diverse landscapes including forests, meadows, and beaches. The Loop Trail, a 2.8-mile path, offers an excellent overview of the park's varied ecosystems. Don't miss the West Point Lighthouse, perched on a beach with stunning views of the Olympic Mountains. The park is also a haven for wildlife, including over 270 species of birds.

  • Location: 3801 Discovery Park Blvd, Seattle, WA 98199
  • Hours: Daily, 4:00 AM - 11:30 PM
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: Discovery Park offers a wilderness experience within the city limits, with beautiful landscapes and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Insider Tip: For the best beach access, obtain a free parking permit from the Environmental Learning Center to use the lighthouse parking lot.

Visit the Seattle Art Museum

Visitors appreciating Native American art exhibit at Seattle Art Museum, highlighting the museum's diverse cultural collections
Spent the afternoon at the Seattle Art Museum. Their collection of Northwest Coast Native American art is impressive. It's a great way to understand the region's rich cultural heritage.

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is the city's premier destination for art lovers. The museum's collection spans ancient times to the present day, with a particular focus on Asian, African, Northwest Coast Native American, and modern and contemporary art. The striking building, with its hammering man sculpture out front, is a work of art itself. Don't miss the Olympic Sculpture Park, an outdoor extension of the museum along the waterfront. Special exhibitions bring world-class art to Seattle throughout the year, so check the schedule to see what's on during your visit.

  • Location: 1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
  • Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Closed Monday and Tuesday
  • Admission: Adults $19.99, Teens (15-18) $12.99, Children 14 and under free

Why Visit: SAM offers a diverse collection of art from around the world in a beautiful downtown setting.

Insider Tip: Visit on the first Thursday of the month for free admission and extended hours until 9:00 PM.

Enjoy the View from Kerry Park

Visitors photographing Seattle's skyline from Kerry Park at sunset, capturing the iconic view of the Space Needle and downtown
The view from Kerry Park is postcard-perfect! Watching the sunset paint the city and Mount Rainier in golden hues is an unforgettable Seattle experience.

For the most iconic view of Seattle, head to Kerry Park in the Queen Anne neighborhood. This small, 1.26-acre park offers a postcard-perfect vista of the Seattle skyline, with the Space Needle in the foreground and Mount Rainier looming in the background on clear days. The view is spectacular at any time, but it's particularly magical at sunset when the city lights start to twinkle. Bring a picnic and join the photographers and locals who gather here to enjoy one of the best free attractions in the city.

  • Location: 211 W Highland Dr, Seattle, WA 98119
  • Hours: Open daily, 6:00 AM - 10:00 PM
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: Kerry Park offers the most iconic view of Seattle's skyline, perfect for photos and picnics.

Insider Tip: Visit on a clear day after rainfall for the best chance of seeing Mount Rainier in the distance.

Explore the International District

Colorful lanterns decorating a street in Seattle's Chinatown-International District, showcasing the neighborhood's vibrant Asian-American culture
Wandering through the International District is like taking a trip around Asia. The smell of dim sum, the colorful lanterns - it's a feast for the senses!

Seattle's International District, also known as Chinatown, is a vibrant neighborhood showcasing the city's Asian American heritage. Start your visit at Hing Hay Park, a gathering place for community events and tai chi practitioners. Explore the many restaurants offering authentic Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Filipino cuisine - don't miss the dim sum at Jade Garden or the Vietnamese coffee at Hello Em. Visit the Wing Luke Museum to learn about the Asian Pacific American experience, or browse the shelves at Kinokuniya Bookstore for Asian literature and stationery. End your visit with a relaxing soak at the historic Bathhouse Seattle, a traditional Chinese bathhouse.

  • Location: Chinatown-International District, Seattle, WA 98104
  • Hours: Individual businesses have varying hours
  • Admission: Free to explore, costs vary for individual attractions

Why Visit: The International District offers a rich cultural experience with fantastic food, unique shops, and important historical sites.

Insider Tip: Join a food tour to sample a variety of cuisines and learn about the neighborhood's history.

Catch a Show at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Ornate Chinese-inspired interior decor of the historic 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, highlighting its unique architectural elements
The 5th Avenue Theatre's interior is stunning! The Chinese-inspired decor is so unexpected for a Broadway-style theater. Saw an amazing show here last night!

The 5th Avenue Theatre is a historic performance venue known for its stunning Chinese-inspired interior and Broadway-caliber productions. Built in 1926, the theater features ornate décor including dragons, phoenixes, and guardian lions. Today, it's a leading venue for musical theater, producing both classic shows and new works. Many productions that debut here have gone on to success on Broadway. The theater also offers educational programs and backstage tours, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at how productions come to life.

  • Location: 1308 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
  • Hours: Box office open Tuesday-Friday 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM, show times vary
  • Admission: Ticket prices vary by show, typically ranging from $29 to $120

Why Visit: The 5th Avenue Theatre offers world-class musical theater productions in a stunning historic setting.

Insider Tip: Check for rush tickets or day-of-show discounts for the best deals.

Structuring Your Seattle Adventure: A 7-Day Itinerary

Introduction

Seattle offers a wealth of experiences, from iconic landmarks to hidden local gems. This 7-day itinerary will help you make the most of your visit, but feel free to adjust based on your interests and energy levels. Remember, Seattle's weather can be unpredictable, so always have a backup plan for outdoor activities.

Days 1-2: Downtown and Central Attractions

  • Start at Pike Place Market, arriving early to watch vendors set up
  • Visit the original Starbucks and enjoy breakfast at Beecher's Handmade Cheese
  • Explore the Seattle Art Museum
  • Take an Underground Tour in Pioneer Square
  • Ride to the top of the Space

Structuring Your Seattle Adventure: A 7-Day Itinerary (Continued)

Days 1-2: Downtown and Central Attractions

  • Start at Pike Place Market, arriving early to watch vendors set up
  • Visit the original Starbucks and enjoy breakfast at Beecher's Handmade Cheese
  • Explore the Seattle Art Museum
  • Take an Underground Tour in Pioneer Square
  • Ride to the top of the Space Needle for sunset views
  • Dinner at the revolving restaurant SkyCity at the Needle

Day 2:

  • Begin with a coffee at Starbucks Reserve Roastery
  • Visit Chihuly Garden and Glass
  • Explore MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture)
  • Afternoon at the Olympic Sculpture Park
  • Evening food tour in Pike Place Market

Days 3-4: Nature and Neighborhoods

Day 3:

  • Morning hike in Discovery Park
  • Visit the Ballard Locks to see salmon and boats
  • Explore the Fremont neighborhood, including the Troll
  • Afternoon at Woodland Park Zoo
  • Sunset at Golden Gardens Park

Day 4:

  • Day trip to Mount Rainier National Park
  • Hike the Skyline Trail for stunning mountain views
  • Return to Seattle for dinner in Capitol Hill

Days 5-6: Museums and Water Adventures

Day 5:

  • Start at the Museum of Flight
  • Afternoon kayaking on Lake Union
  • Visit Gas Works Park
  • Evening at the Pacific Science Center's Laser Dome

Day 6:

  • Morning at the Seattle Aquarium
  • Lunch at Ivar's Acres of Clams on the waterfront
  • Ride the Seattle Great Wheel
  • Ferry ride to Bainbridge Island
  • Explore Bainbridge's downtown and return for Seattle's night views

Day 7: Last-Day Options

Option 1: Culture and History

  • Visit the Wing Luke Museum in the International District
  • Explore the Seattle Public Library Central Branch
  • Afternoon at the Nordic Museum in Ballard
  • Farewell dinner at the Space Needle

Option 2: Outdoor Adventure

  • Morning hike in Washington Park Arboretum
  • Visit the Japanese Garden
  • Afternoon at Alki Beach
  • Sunset and dinner at Kerry Park

Option 3: Sports and Entertainment

  • Tour T-Mobile Park or Lumen Field (depending on season)
  • Visit the Living Computers Museum + Labs
  • Catch a show at the 5th Avenue Theatre
  • Late-night drinks at a speakeasy in Capitol Hill

Additional Tips:

  • Use the Link Light Rail for easy transport between downtown and the airport
  • Consider getting a Seattle CityPASS for discounts on major attractions
  • Always carry a light rain jacket, even in summer
  • Don't let a little rain deter you - many locals don't even use umbrellas!

This itinerary covers many of Seattle's highlights, but there's always more to explore. Each neighborhood has its own unique character, and you'll find plenty of surprises as you wander. Don't be afraid to chat with locals - Seattleites are known for their friendliness and can often point you to hidden gems not found in any guidebook. Whether you're captivated by the city's innovative spirit, its stunning natural surroundings, or its rich cultural scene, Seattle is a city that invites exploration and rewards curiosity. Enjoy your adventure in the Emerald City!

Why Visit Seattle?

As your journey through Seattle comes to an end, you'll likely find yourself already planning a return trip. This is a city that reveals itself slowly, layer by layer, rewarding those who take the time to look beyond the obvious attractions.

From the misty mornings at Pike Place Market to the technicolor sunsets viewed from Kerry Park, Seattle offers a feast for the senses. It's a place where nature and urban life exist in harmony, where innovation and tradition walk hand in hand, and where a good cup of coffee is never more than a stone's throw away.

Whether you've spent your days exploring world-class museums, hiking through evergreen forests, or simply people-watching from a cozy café, you've experienced just a slice of what makes Seattle special. The city's laid-back attitude belies a passionate community of artists, entrepreneurs, and dreamers who are constantly pushing boundaries and redefining what it means to live in the Pacific Northwest.

As you leave, take a piece of Seattle's spirit with you - the pioneering attitude, the appreciation for both natural beauty and human creativity, and perhaps a newfound love for rainy days. And remember, in Seattle, the best adventures often happen when you venture off the beaten path, embrace the unexpected, and always keep your curiosity alive.

Until next time, Seattle awaits your return, ready to reveal even more of its charms. Safe travels, and don't forget your raincoat!

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:15 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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