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Flannel shirts, long hair, and distorted guitars. That’s what pops into my head whenever I think of Seattle. And perhaps a bit of rain, too. And maybe some coffee. But there’s much more to this bustling city than grunge music, wet weather, and Starbucks. These are the best things to do in Seattle.
Of all the US cities I’ve visited, Seattle ranks high for unique and fun things to do. The city has cool attractions, stunning parks and green spaces, iconic architecture, world-class bars, restaurants, and cafes. All nicely polished off with a young, carefree, hip vibe. This seaport metropolis attracts over 30 million visitors a year, and there’s a reason why several tech giants have chosen it as their home base.
Sitting on Puget Sound, Seattle is surrounded by water, mountains, and lush forests. Known as the Emerald City, it’s a top tourist destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
And even if you get tired of the “coffee capital of the world,” you can hop on a ferry from Seattle’s lively seafront and explore further afield. Many of the best things to do in Washington State are right here, close to Seattle.
Let’s look at the best things to do in Seattle, and I hope you’ll love this city as much as I do, even after a short visit. I’ve also included some top places to stay close to the key attractions, so you don’t have to be “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Sorry, not sorry.
- Things to Do in Seattle, Washington
- 1. Space Needle
- 2. Pike Place Market
- 3. Museum of Pop Culture
- 4. Chihuly Garden and Glass
- 5. Kerry Park
- 6. Museum of Flight
- 7. Pioneer Square
- 8. Seattle Aquarium
- 9. Smith Tower
- 10. The Pacific Science Center
- 11. Capitol Hill
- 12. Discovery Park
- 13. Seattle Art Museum
- 14. Starbucks Reserve Roastery
- 15. Alki Beach
- 16. Embark on a Harbor Cruise
- 17. Woodland Park Zoo
- 18. Hike Around Mount Rainier
- 19. Biscuit Bitch
- 20. Watch a Mariners Game at T-Mobile Park
- 21. The Fremont Troll
- 22. Gum Wall
- 23. Seattle Public Library
- 24. Seattle Seaplane Tour
- 25. Seattle Pinball Museum
- 26. Theo Chocolate
- 27. Molly Moon’s Ice Cream
- 28. Mox Boarding House
- 29. Lake Union
- 30. Seattle Japanese Garden andWashington Park Arboretum
- 31. Whale Watching Tours
- 32. Frye Art Museum
- 33. Seattle Ferris Wheel
- 34. National Nordic Museum
- 35. Seattle Ghost Tour
- 36. Hot Air Balloon Ride
- 37. Bainbridge Island
- 38. Golden Gardens Park
- 39. Museum of History and Industry
- 40. Visit Alternative Seattle Attractions
- 41. Vancouver Island
- 42. Snoqualmie Falls
- 43. Live Music
- 44. Lakeview Cemetary
- 45. Explore Washington State
- Tours in Seattle
- What are the top tourist attractions in Seattle?
- What are the best museums to visit in Seattle?
- What are the best day trips from Seattle?
- What are the best things to do in Seattle on a budget?
- Most significant landmark – The Space Needle
- Best park – Discovery Park
- Free activity – Pike Place Market
- The Best activity for kids – Seattle Aquarium
- The Best activity for adults – MoPop
- Best food – Pike Place Chowder
- Best nightlife – Capitol Hill
- Best place to stay – Mayflower Park Hotel
Things to Do in Seattle, Washington
1. Space Needle
Address: 400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109
One of the most recognizable structures in the Pacific Northwest (and possibly the entire United States), the Space Needle is a highly recommended destination for anyone visiting Seattle.
Located in the Seattle Center, it was initially built for the 1962 World’s Fair. Today, the Space Needle is an internationally recognized symbol of the city. It is 520 feet tall and offers remarkable views of Seattle and beyond from its viewing deck on the top floor.
The views from the Space Needle are best enjoyed at sunset when the city is lit up in all its glory. You can even walk across the glass observation deck and feel like floating in the sky. If you don’t have a head for heights, try not to get dizzy while walking across the revolving glass floor.
One of the most essential things to do in Seattle, the Space Needle is a must-visit attraction. But remember – if you’re standing on it, it won’t be in your photograph of the Seattle skyline! Try the Seattle Great Wheel, Kerry Park, or the Gasworks Park Marina for that quintessential snap.
2. Pike Place Market
Address: 85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101
Of all the places one can visit in Seattle, I look forward to the Pike Place Market the most. Dating back to 1907, it’s one of the oldest continually operated farmers’ markets in the USA, and it’s been selling an eclectic mix of wares ever since. As the sign says, it’s somewhere you can genuinely “meet the producer.”
Featuring over 220 independently owned shops and restaurants, Pike Place Market is one of the best things to do in Seattle. Especially if you’re looking for the perfect memento of your trip. You’ll find food, crafts, memorabilia, gifts, and souvenirs all under one roof.
Spread out over several levels, you can get lost in Pike Place Market in the best possible way. Don’t miss the iconic fishmongers on the ground floor! The entertainment these guys provide as they sell the freshest produce is worth sticking around for.
For a place to stay, you can’t go wrong at the famous Green Tortoise Hostel. Perfect for social, budget-conscious travelers, it’s a stone’s throw from Pike Place.
3. Museum of Pop Culture
Address: 325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
In a city that’s legendary for popular culture, one of the best things to do in Seattle is to visit the aptly named Museum of Pop Culture. Located as part of the Seattle Center, the building itself is a work of art. MoPop, for short, was established by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen back in 2000.
It’s been a minute since I visited, but I remember the extensive collection of instruments you can tinkle on – which is great even if you don’t have a musical bone in your body. You can record your own “hit,” play along to famous tunes, and experience what it’s like to jam in front of thousands of adoring fans!
A fully immersive experience, it features several guest exhibitions throughout the year, as well as educational programs and workshops. And it’s not just a place to learn about Nirvana as you explore the realms of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Whether you’re into movies or music, video games or books – you’ll find something of interest here.
If you’re coming to Seattle with kids – young or old – MoPop is a must-see museum. And youngsters, in particular, will love the Artists at Play playground nearby.
See Related: Seattle CityPASS Review – Should You Buy?
4. Chihuly Garden and Glass
Address: 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109
Located within walking distance of the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass is dedicated to the glasswork of artist Dale Chihuly. Providing a look at the inspiration and influences that inform Dale’s career, the exhibition includes eight galleries, the centerpiece Glasshouse, and a lush garden.
The main installation inside is an expansive 100-foot-long sculpture in a color palette of reds, oranges, yellows, and amber. Constructed from individual parts, it is one of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures.
Visitors can also explore the Chihuly Garden, which features a variety of stunning glass sculptures. The unique plant collection has been specially chosen to complement Chihuly’s work, and the striking colors and forms of the trees, plants, and flowers create a rich backdrop for the art.
And with views of the Space Needle, just a ten-minute walk from the Glasshouse, the Mediterranean Inn is the ideal place to stay.
5. Kerry Park
Address: 211 W Highland Dr, Seattle, WA 98119
Kerry Park offers arguably the best view of Seattle. It is located on Queen Anne Hill and is home to a one-of-a-kind viewpoint that overlooks downtown, Elliott Bay, and Mount Rainier in the distance.
Queen Anne Hill is an affluent neighborhood where Seattle’s early economic elite would build their mansions. Kerry Park itself is named after two such residents who donated the land in 1927 so everyone could enjoy the view. The park also contains several benches, a famous sculpture, and a children’s play area.
Be advised, though, the park is particularly busy on clear evenings. Photographers and tourists jostle to take the best snap of the Seattle skyline at sunset. And there’s an obvious reason for this; when the city lights up as darkness falls, the scene is nothing short of magical.
6. Museum of Flight
Address: 9404 E Marginal Way S, Seattle, WA 98108
Explore the world’s largest private air and space collection at the Seattle Museum of Flight. Located close to the King County International Airport in the south of the city, it’s a great place to start or end your trip if you’re arriving or departing by air.
Over 500,000 visitors a year flock to see a jaw-dropping selection of over 150 aircraft. You can sit in a Boeing 747 cockpit, watch 3D movies, see inside a NASA space shuttle trainer, and feast your eyes on some of the most iconic planes ever assembled. There are all kinds of special exhibitions and events throughout the year, so check in to see if anything exciting is happening during your visit.
One of the highest-rated things to do in Seattle, the Museum of Flight is a must for anyone with a passion for aviation. Perfect for all the family, get yourself an entry ticket, and explore our reach for the wild blue yonder.
This comfortable studio home is available close to the airport and features views of Lake Washington.
See Related: Best Travel Products to Combat Flight Anxiety
7. Pioneer Square
Address: 100 Yesler Way, Seattle, WA 98104
Known as Seattle’s “first neighborhood,” Pioneer Square is home to a mishmash of historical landmarks and attractions. Enjoy the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, the Totem Pole & Pergola, and the nearby Smith Tower Observatory.
There’s the Waterfall Garden Park which offers an oasis in the heart of the city, and the Occidental Square Park, which gives the neighborhood a European feel.
Pioneer Square boasts an assortment of shops, restaurants, and bars, making it a great choice for things to do at night. I recommend trying Flatstick Pub, Central Saloon, and Ember Hookah Lounge for drinks and nightlife. Head to Il Terrazzo Carmine, Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar, Damn the Weather, or McCoy’s Firehouse Bar & Grill for some nectarous eats.
And you can even go below the square itself. Don’t miss the famous Seattle Underground Tour, where you can explore subterranean storefronts and sidewalks entombed when the city was rebuilt after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889.
For accommodation, you can’t go wrong with Citizen M Pioneer Square for a modern, striking place to stay.
8. Seattle Aquarium
Address: 1483 Alaskan Way Pier 59, Seattle, WA 98101
One of the best things to do in Seattle with kids, the Seattle Aquarium is a world-class experience for all the family. Located on Pier 59 of the Elliot Bay Waterfront, this breathtaking facility provides hands-on educational resources to learn all about marine life and conservation.
The waters of the Pacific Northwest contain a diverse range of sea creatures, and the Seattle Aquarium offers fun and diverse ways to bring them up close. The 360-degree Underwater Dome is a particular highlight.
The facility opened in 1977 and is the ninth-largest aquarium in the United States. Explore the Window on Washington Waters filled with Northwest sea life. Enjoy virtual tours, tide pool exhibits, and daily animal feeds.
There’s an on-site cafe for when you want to have a nibble yourself. If you’re looking for a little more of a meal, the aquarium is close to some of the best restaurants in downtown Seattle.
9. Smith Tower
Address: 506 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
Built in 1914, The Smith Tower is the city’s oldest skyscraper. Standing 484 feet tall, it offers stunning views of downtown Seattle and Elliott Bay from the viewing deck on the 35th floor.
Visitors can also ride in the historic elevators, tour the tower’s museum, and enjoy a meal or a drink at the stylish Chinese Room restaurant. A self-guided tour of the Smith Tower will teach you all about the history of this Seattle landmark and allow you to see some of the city’s most beautiful views.
While in the neighborhood, head over to check out Columbia Center – the tallest building in Seattle. This skyscraper stands over 900 feet tall and features the Sky View Observatory on the 73rd floor.
The Columbia Center was my first-ever experience of a true North American skyscraper. I nearly freaked out at the speed of the elevators alone! But it’s a wonderful way to view the Emerald City, you can even see beyond Puget Sound on a clear day.
10. The Pacific Science Center
Address: 200 2nd Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
The Pacific Science Center is a non-profit, independent educational facility dedicated to inspiring a lifelong interest in science, mathematics, and technology. The center has exhibits, a planetarium, an IMAX theater, and one of the largest laser domes in the world.
Another top Seattle attraction for children, the PACSCI offers hands-on experiences for a journey of wonder and discovery, perfect for young, developing, curious minds.
The center’s featured exhibit is its Tropical Butterfly House, where hundreds of tropical butterflies and exotic plants can be identified. Other popular exhibits include the Salt Water Tide Pool, Tinker Tank Makerspace, Dinosaurs: A Journey Through Time, Agents of Discovery, Just for Tots, and several more.
Located close to the Seattle Center, it’s a must-visit for your tour of this cultural and entertainment zone.
11. Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill is one of the most lively and thought-provoking neighborhoods in Seattle. LGBTQ+ friendly, it’s packed with awesome coffee shops, one-of-a-kind indie stores, bookshops, bars, jumping nightspots, and classy eateries.
Not too far from downtown Seattle, this welcoming region of the city is perfect for lazy afternoon wandering. Volunteer Park sits at its heart and offers visitors plenty to see and do, and you can enjoy a Capital Hill walking tour to make sure you don’t miss anything.
There’s also Volunteer Park Conservatory, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and the Water Tower Observation Deck. In the south of the neighborhood, there’s Cal Anderson Park, with a statue of the music god Jimi Hendrix just around the southwest corner.
And speaking of music, Capitol Hill is also home to some outstanding live venues. Try Cafe Racer, Chop Suey, Barboza, Neumos, and Comet Tavern. Don’t forget to check each venue’s schedule to see what’s planned before you visit.
12. Discovery Park
Address: 3801 Discovery Park Blvd, Seattle, WA 98199
Discovery Park is the largest public park in Seattle and a great spot for hiking, birdwatching, and picnicking. The park is also home to the famous West Point Lighthouse, which dates back to Victorian times.
There are over 12 miles of hiking trails across the park’s 534 acres, so you can easily spend a whole day exploring. The Loop Trail features multiple ecosystems. The South Bluff Trail offers stunning views of Puget Sound. And the Discovery Park Beach Trail takes you to a driftwood-covered beach.
The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center is also situated in the park and is well worth a visit for anyone interested in Native American culture and history in the Seattle area and beyond.
Located in the city’s Magnolia neighborhood, Discovery Park is one of the best places to visit in Seattle. Open daily from dawn to dusk, admission is free, and it’s the perfect place for nature lovers looking for things to do.
See Related: Best Lighthouses to Visit Around the World
13. Seattle Art Museum
Address: 1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
The Seattle Art Museum is one of the leading art museums in the United States and a must-see for any art lover visiting Seattle. SAM’s far-reaching collection includes art from all over the world, including African, American, Asian, Australian Aboriginal, Ancient Mediterranean, European, Islamic, and Native American.
The museum is also a cultural institution responsible for the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park and the Olympic Sculpture Park on the Seattle waterfront.
In addition to the museum’s collections and exhibitions, the facility offers a diverse range of educational programs and learning opportunities. They have public programs, school & educator programs, teen-oriented programs, family programs, and regular tours and lectures.
The Seattle Art Museum is located in downtown Seattle, near Pike Place Market, so it’s easy to combine a visit here with other things to do in the area.
14. Starbucks Reserve Roastery
Address: 1124 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101
Coffee lovers, unite! Seattle is known throughout the United States (and around the world) for its coffee culture. Coffee walking tours are popular, and a few companies offer such services. But there is one name that stands alone when it comes to the history of coffee in the Emerald City.
Starbucks began life back in 1971 at Seattle’s very own Pike Place Market. Its humble beginnings have given way to an instantly recognizable brand with branches in the far-flung corners of the globe. And on Capitol Hill, at the Starbucks Reserve Seattle Roastery, you can learn all about the history of the company and its love affair with the bean.
There’s a cafe where you can purchase coffee, pastries, and light snacks, along with special roastery-exclusive drinks. They even offer cocktails and other coffee-based alcoholic beverages, including Whiskey Barrel-Aged Cold Brew and Cold Brew Malt.
For coffee lovers, this is one of the best things to do in Seattle. And, of course, don’t forget to visit the 1912 Pike Place Starbucks – which was the branch that started it all. Located in downtown Seattle, be prepared for queues that stretch around the block come rain or shine.
See Related: The Best Travel French Presses for Coffee Lovers
15. Alki Beach
Address: 2701 Alki Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116
Along Elliott Bay, Alki Beach is one of Seattle’s most popular beaches. Movie buffs might recognize it as one of the filming locations for Sleepless in Seattle. It’s a wonderful spot for swimming, sun worshipping, picnicking, walking, biking, rollerblading, and volleyball. And maybe even falling in love…?
The wide path that lines the beach is perfect for a stroll or bike ride. Street parking along Alki Ave is plentiful, and there’s enough space here for it to be busy without ever feeling crowded.
In the West Seattle neighborhood, Alki Beach offers a great view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. And it’s fun to simply while away a few hours watching the comings and goings of the ferries and shipping along Seattle’s waterfront.
The beach is also home to several restaurants and cafes (I recommend checking out Cactuc Alki Beach for exquisite Mexican food), so you can grab a bite to eat or a drink while you’re there. This night tour of Seattle includes a visit to Alki Beach as the sun sets.
16. Embark on a Harbor Cruise
Perfectly positioned in the Pacific Northwest and surrounded by the waters of Puget Sound, Seattle is a transport hub for boating. One of the best things to do in Seattle is to take a harbor cruise and explore the city from the alternative viewpoint of its waterways.
Cruises typically last about 1.5 hours and depart from either Pier 66 or Pier 55. There’s nothing quite like viewing the Seattle skyline from on deck.
And if you want to do it in style, you can climb aboard an authentic sailboat for an unforgettable sunset cruise. You might even see some sea lions sunning themselves on one of the piers.
During the cruise, you’ll learn about the history of Seattle’s maritime industry and see some of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Weather permitting, you can take great snaps of the Space Needle, Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and the Lake Washington ship canal. You can even take a cruise through the famous Ballard Locks between Lake Union and Puget Sound.
The cruises are available year-round but are especially popular in the summertime, so make sure you book ahead.
17. Woodland Park Zoo
Address: 5500 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
The Woodland Park Zoo is one of Seattle’s top attractions and a great place to spend the day. The zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals from all over the world, including lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, and bears.
The zoo has multiple themed areas showcasing a diversity of different animals. Look for the African Savanna, Assam Rhino Reserve, Australasia, Molbak’s Butterfly Garden, Humboldt Penguin Exhibit, the Living Northwest Trail, and the Tropical Rainforest.
Located in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of the city, it’s separated from Woodland Park by Aurora Avenue North. Inside the zoo’s 92 acres, you’ll also find the Seattle Sensory Garden and the Woodland Park Rose Garden.
18. Hike Around Mount Rainier
While you’re visiting Washington State, I highly recommend getting out of the city for a while. And if you’re looking for something a bit more energetic, consider taking a guided hiking tour through Mount Rainier National Park.
Mount Rainier is an active volcano that sits imposingly in the distance and towers 14,410 feet above sea level. For Seattle visitors and residents, the National Park is a nearby bolt-hole whenever the hubbub of Seattle city life gets too much.
Situated in 369 square miles of stunning nature, you’ll discover an abundance of flora and fauna surrounding the snowcapped mount. Several impressive waterfalls are visible on the tour. And the summer, wildflower meadows and ancient forests at the foot of the volcano are not to be missed.
But I would encourage you to plan ahead, as roads to the park can get very congested in peak season. Tours typically last a full day and include a professional guide, all your gear, and transportation to and from Mount Rainier. Small group tours are available if you prefer, and you can also enjoy an ariel view of this gorgeous landscape from a seaplane.
19. Biscuit Bitch
Address: 1909 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
Before introducing this next attraction, I feel there needs to be something by way of explanation. If, like me, you’re not from the United States, it’s important to clarify what a biscuit is. This is to save you the embarrassment of walking into Biscuit Bitch and trying to order a Hobnob with a cup of tea to dunk it in.
In the US, a biscuit is a type of bread – typically eaten as a savory breakfast. Not a million miles away from a UK scone, they are often served with gravy and other toppings.
With two locations in Seattle, Biscuit Bitch is a popular breakfast spot renowned for its delicious biscuits. Their 1st Avenue location is great for folks wanting to visit Pike Place, while their 3rd Avenue location is better for folks to eat or grab breakfast on their way to Seattle Center.
The restaurant has a casual atmosphere (you can probably tell by the name), and the staff are always friendly. If you’re an early riser, this is a great place to stop and fuel up before exploring Seattle.
20. Watch a Mariners Game at T-Mobile Park
Address: 1250 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98134
Seattle is home to several professional sports teams, including the Seahawks, the newly-formed Kraken NHL team, the Sounders FC, the Storm of the WNBA, and Major League Baseball’s Mariners.
Formerly known as Safeco Field during the days of Griffey, Johnson, and Rodriguez, T-Mobile Park is a great place to watch a game in a beautiful stadium. There’s nothing like witnessing a home team home run as the sun goes down over Puget Sound.
Tickets to Mariners games are available online. There’s always an extensive selection of ballpark eats and drinks, so you can stay fully refreshed throughout the action.
The stadium has a retractable roof, so you and your friends and family will enjoy the game regardless of the weather. And the atmosphere at T-Mobile Park is always electric, with some of the league’s most passionate fans.
21. The Fremont Troll
Address: 820 N 36th St, Seattle, WA 98103
I’m a big fan of visiting unique and alternative attractions around the world. One of the more popular “lesser-known” things to see in Seattle is hiding under a bridge in the Fremont neighborhood.
The whimsical Fremont Troll sculpture stands 18 feet tall and appears to be grasping a genuine VW Beetle. It was designed by four artists in 1990 after they won a competition to improve the George Washington Memorial Bridge underpass. They have certainly managed to do that, and although the Fremont Troll is made of concrete, it certainly brightens up the area.
Folks come from miles around to climb on the famous underpass dweller and snap photos. It even has a birthday party called “Troll-o-Ween,” celebrated on October 31st every year.
If you’re visiting the Fremont Troll, be aware that parking is limited nearby. I highly recommend leaving your vehicle further afield and exploring the neighborhood on foot.
See Related: Bizarre Roadside Attractions in the United States
22. Gum Wall
Address: 1428 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101
Another popular Pike Place Market attraction is the Gum Wall, which is precisely what it sounds like – a wall covered in gum. It began in the 1990s when people started sticking their chewing gum to a wall while waiting in line for a nearby theater.
Eventually, it became a tradition, and it has blossomed (if you can call it that) into the thousands of pieces of chewed gum you see today. One of Seattle’s most unique attractions, the Gum Wall is world-famous, as people from all over the globe come to leave their half-chewed pieces of “chuddy.”
It’s gross, it’s weird, and there’s a good chance you’ll smell it before you see it. The Gum Wall alleyway reeks of that sickly-sweet bubblegum flavor – but it’s still worth checking out. Local authorities attempted to remove it, but less than a week later, it returned.
There are usually vendors nearby selling bubblegum so that you can add your piece of gum to the Gum Wall. Just be sure to take a picture before you leave – and remember to wash your hands!
23. Seattle Public Library
Address: 1000 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
This massive 360,000-square-foot public library is one of Seattle’s most popular tourist attractions. The 11-story building is home to over 1.45 million books, and it also features a cafe, auditorium, meeting rooms, and an outdoor reading garden.
Housed in a breathtaking glass and steel structure, the Seattle Public Library is a sight to be seen. Opened in 2004, it features underground parking, over 400 computers for public use, and shops for refreshments. Located right in the heart of downtown, the Central Library lives up to its name and is accessed by millions of locals and visitors each year.
If you visit, make sure you take the time to go inside. Its interior is as impressive as its exterior, and you’ll discover why it was included in the American Institute of Architects’ top 150 structures in the US. Don’t miss the “red hall,” which will make you feel like you’ve suddenly become a blood cell.
24. Seattle Seaplane Tour
You’ve seen Seattle from the streets, and you’ve seen Seattle from the water. Why not check it out from the air? See the skyscrapers and the Pacific Northwest coast from an altogether different angle with a narrated seaplane tour.
Taking off from Lake Washington, a small group of up to five people can enjoy a 20-minute ride to spot key Seattle landmarks from the sky. A running commentary is provided by the pilot over noise-canceling headphones as you learn about the sights below.
The ariel views of Seattle’s waterways are particularly fascinating, as you see its intricate collection of locks and inlets from a bird’s-eye view.
As well as seaplanes over the city, you can also take an ariel tour of Mount Rainier. This is a terrific way to see the glaciers and snowfields of this dramatic volcano. Just tell me how it was, because I’m terrified of flying.
25. Seattle Pinball Museum
Address: 508 Maynard Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104
Are you a fan of pinball? If you have ever flipped the flippers, then a visit to the Seattle Pinball Museum is an absolute must. For a flat fee (typically $20), you can rack up high scores until your heart’s content.
The museum has a collection of over 50 machines – all of which are continually rotated. Even if you’ve exhausted them all, you’re sure to find some new favorites when you return. Some of the machines date as far back as 1934.
Dedicated to preserving this legendary pastime for future generations, the Seattle Pinball Museum opened in 2010. What began as a modest collection soon became the impressive display of interactive art you see today.
Refreshments are available inside, and some machines are available to purchase. The museum has even contributed to revitalizing the Chinatown neighborhood, so I highly encourage you to support it when you’re visiting Seattle.
26. Theo Chocolate
Address: 3400 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
Although Seattle is more commonly associated with coffee, another bean holds a special place here. There are several chocolatiers in the city, but one of the most famous is Theo Chocolate.
In the Fremont neighborhood, Theo Chocolate’s flagship store is a must-visit for chocoholics everywhere. Here, you can learn about the journey of this delectable confectionary, from bean to bar – with plenty of tasting along the way.
Theo is known for their fair-trade approach to cocoa farming to ensure everyone is treated well. Chocolate brings joy to billions of people worldwide (not just those who consume it), and it should stay that way.
And when it comes to anything to do with chocolate, I don’t need to be told twice. Just try and stop me from getting on one of the delicious Seattle chocolate walking tours. Just so long as you don’t bring me anywhere near a Hershey’s bar. That stuff is like pigswill.
27. Molly Moon’s Ice Cream
Address: 917 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122
Chocolate AND ice cream?! You’re killin’ me, Smalls! Molly Moon’s Ice Cream is a must-visit for anyone visiting Seattle with a sweet tooth.
This small-batch ice cream shop has some of the best ice creams in the city. They use local and sustainable ingredients and have a huge range of flavors. And all of it is handmade.
I highly recommend the honey lavender or the salted caramel, but you can’t go wrong with any of their flavors. They also have seasonal flavors that vary throughout the year, such as pink lemonade sorbet in the summer and pumpkin spice in the fall.
Molly Moon’s has several branch locations around the city, including the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and their flagship store is in Bellvue. Why not combine a visit with a food tour of the city? You can even try an underground donut tour if you still haven’t satisfied your sweet tooth!
28. Mox Boarding House
Address: 13310 Bel-Red Rd, Bellevue, WA 98005
Mox Boarding House combines two of my greatest loves: board games and eating. And although I’d probably have a hernia if anyone were to consume food and drink near my collection, here, they don’t mind if you do.
Established in 2011, Mox Boarding House is probably the best board game cafe I’ve ever been to. In a city that likes to play, it has become something of a legendary hub in the gaming community.
Aside from a fine menu of delicious eats, they offer a huge selection of board games with a fully stocked on-site shop. A free board game library is available should you wish to try before you buy, and gaming rooms are on hand for private events.
One of the most fun things to do in Seattle, Mox Boarding House is a wonderful place to discover the delights of modern board gaming. There’s so much more to this wholesome hobby than Monopoly, Clue, and Risk!
See Related: The Best Road Trip Games for Couples
29. Lake Union
Ever visited a glacier lake in the center of a city? Lake Union sits just north of the Space Needle and is an important part of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
Aside from spending the day by the calm blue water of Lake Union, the area has plenty of worthwhile attractions. The northern section features the iconic Gas Works Park, while to the south, you can find Lake Union Park. The latter contains the Center for Wooden Boats Museum and the Museum of History and Industry.
The lake connects the freshwater Lake Washington to Puget Sound via the famous Ballard Locks. Naturally, boating, sailing, kayaking, and other water sports are extremely popular on this recreational lake.
South Lake Union is also the home of Amazon and Google campuses (among many others), and the area has turned into Seattle’s famous tech center. Try a street food tour that samples the delights that feed the minds of the boffins that work here.
30. Seattle Japanese Garden andWashington Park Arboretum
Address: 1075 Lake Washington Blvd E, Seattle, WA 98112
Seattle’s Japanese Garden is located within the southern tip of Washington Park Arboretum. This elegant green space offers 3.5 acres of beautifully manicured gardens and is one of the most relaxing things to do in Seattle.
Work on the garden began in 1937, but it didn’t officially open until June 1960. Today it is regarded as one of the finest and most authentic Japanese gardens in the United States.
The teahouse has been restored, and it offers Japanese tea ceremonies most weekends. If you’ve not visited Japan before, I highly recommend this enlightening cultural experience.
The gardens have previously been commended for promoting a mutual understanding between the US and Japan – two nations with a shared troubled history. The peaceful serenity you’ll find here is an important reminder that life is precious. Make travel, not war.
Washington Park Arboretum is also well worth a visit when you’re in the area, and combined with the Japanese Gardens makes one of the best free things to do in Seattle.
31. Whale Watching Tours
Address: 2701 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98121
The waters that surround Seattle are teeming with aquatic life. And while you’re likely to spot majestic sea creatures on a trip to the San Juan Islands, you can also embark on a dedicated whale-watching cruise.
The tour takes four to six hours, during which the captain will take you to some whale and dolphin-watching hotspots. You’ll hopefully have the best chances of seeing them up close while in the company of a knowledgeable naturalist.
The cruise departs from Pier 69 along the Seattle waterfront. I recommend also checking out the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is close by. Take a stroll before or after boarding.
A whale-watching tour is a great way to spend a day in Seattle. And when you’re done, treat yourself to a meal at the highly-rated AQUA by El Gaucho on Pier 70. One of the best seafood restaurants in the city, it also boasts some outstanding views as you dine.
32. Frye Art Museum
Address: 704 Terry Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
Just over 20 minutes walk from the Seattle Art Museum, you’ll find the Frye Art Museum. Situated in the First Hill neighborhood, this gallery of contemporary and modern art focuses on new and emerging talent.
Charles and Emma Frye were first-generation Americans born to German immigrants. Avid art collectors, Frye allocated money in his will for a museum to house their 232 paintings. This will contain several conditions for displaying the collection – including that access to it should always be free.
Today, the Frye Art Museum continues that tradition and will never charge entry to its wonderful works. The original Frye collection remains always on display (which was another stipulation of the will). But the museum showcases rotating exhibitions and events throughout the year.
One of the best free things to do in Seattle, the Frye Art Museum is well worth your time. And the gift shop features one-of-a-kind creations from local artists and designers.
See Related: Best Museums in the US to Visit
33. Seattle Ferris Wheel
Address: 1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101
If you’re looking for some of the best views of Seattle, I recommend trying the Seattle Great Wheel. At just over 53 meters high, it was the tallest wheel on the West Coast when it originally opened in 2012.
Still one of the largest Ferris wheels in the US, it’s an iconic and popular attraction in Seattle for travelers and residents alike. The wheel features 42 climate-controlled gondolas, each able to carry up to eight people.
However, for a very special experience, there is a VIP gondola. It can carry a maximum of four people and features red leather seats and a glass floor. Perfect if you’re on a romantic getaway.
It’s not a particularly long ride, with the three revolutions taking no more than 12 minutes. But it’s still a nice attraction to drop in on your tour of Seattle and is especially rewarding for couples.
See Related: Best Holiday Destinations for Couples
34. National Nordic Museum
Address: 2655 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107
Located in the Ballard neighborhood, the National Nordic Museum is a must-visit if you’re interested in all things Nordic. The museum celebrates and preserves the culture, history, traditions, art, heritage, and stories of the Nordic countries.
You don’t have to be from Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, or Denmark to enjoy a culturally rich experience that dates back over 12,000 years. Here you can discover these fascinating people’s magic, myths, legends, and way of life.
The museum has a collection of nearly 80,000 objects and artifacts. You can learn all about the history of Nordic culture in the Seattle region, as well as across the nation and the world. Some exhibits are thousands of years old, all displayed in an engaging state-of-the-art facility.
There’s an on-site cafe selling Nordic eats and treats. And an annual program of events for all the family. Pick up an entry ticket before you go and enjoy this educational collection close to Ballard Locks.
35. Seattle Ghost Tour
As well as taking in a food tour, Seattle has a sinister side that is well worth exploring. A guided ghost tour is the perfect way to learn about some of the city’s colorful characters that are said to haunt its streets to this day.
Departing from a location in the city center, your professional guide will take you on a chilling journey. Discover tragic events, seedy city dwellers, and nefarious dealings that have shaped Seattle into what it is today.
Based on verified ghost sightings and legitimate legends, these tales will send a shiver down your spine. You can also enjoy a Pike Place Scandalous History Tour and an adults-only ghost tour that departs at night.
See Related: The Most Haunted Places in the US
36. Hot Air Balloon Ride
Address: 2402 Auburn Way S, Auburn, WA 98002
I’ll be honest with you – there’s no way you would ever catch me dead in a hot air balloon. Even in Cappadocia, I was perfectly happy watching them all from the safety of the ground. But that doesn’t mean to say I won’t suggest it as one of the most fun Seattle activities!
And while you won’t be able to take a trip above the city itself (that’s asking for trouble), you can enjoy a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the lush green scenery of the Pacific Northwest.
From over 3,000 feet up (shiver*), you can experience views of Mount Rainier and even the world-famous Mount St. Helens in the distance. See the gorgeous forests, lakes, mountains, and waterways of Puget Sound from an unforgettable viewpoint.
A champagne toast awaits you when you descend, as well as return transport to your vehicle. Sunset hot air balloon rides are also available if you prefer to go up when the sun goes down.
37. Bainbridge Island
Bainbridge Island is actually a small city located a short ferry ride across Elliott Bay. Transport departs from the main ferry terminal at Pier 52 to get there. It’s a nice, easy day trip from Seattle that isn’t too taxing.
Wander downtown to the charming main street in the city center close to where the ferry docks. With its impressive selection of restaurants and shops, it’s well worth an afternoon stroll and a bite to eat. The Streamliner Diner has been operating here for over 40 years and is a solid choice.
There’s Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Fay Bainbridge Park with its sandy beach, and the Grand Forest West Park hiking trails. And there’s a small but interesting historical museum where you can learn all about this close-knit community.
If you prefer to stay on Bainbridge Island rather than just a day trip, I recommend the gorgeous Eagle Harbor Inn. Perfectly located, it will feel like a home away from home.
38. Golden Gardens Park
Address: 8498 Seaview Pl NW, Seattle, WA 98117
The waters of Shilshole Bay (try saying that after a few tequilas) wash the shores of Golden Gardens Park. Located in the Ballard neighborhood, it has one of the best beaches in Seattle, which facilities well serve, and an easy place to park.
Paddleboarding, kayaking, kitesurfing, and other watersports are popular in the area, and there’s a wetland nature preserve that’s pleasant to explore. There are dunes and grassy areas to wander, as well as some lovely forest walks if you want to get out of the sun.
Nature lovers will enjoy the abundance of birds that live or migrate here, and the beach itself allows campfires, so it’s a special place to come at the end of the day.
With stunning views over Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains beyond, as well as plenty of playparks and points of interest, Golden Gardens Park is a great choice for family activities in Seattle.
See Related: Most Beautiful Beaches in the World
39. Museum of History and Industry
Address: 860 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
If you’re interested in a bit of Seattle history, go to the Navy Reserve Armory in Lake Union Park. Inside, you’ll find the Museum of History and Industry, one of Seattle’s most fascinating attractions.
Abbreviated to MOHAI, this is an essential stop to learn how Seattle came to be. Experience how this iconic metropolis transformed from its beginnings in a wild wilderness to its position on the global stage.
Packed with engaging and entertaining keynote exhibits, this collection will thrill the whole family. There are over four million objects to be discovered here – most of which are in the museum library.
The city’s rich and storied past comes alive at MOHAI, and it’s one of the best museums in Seattle. A visit here is perfect for a rainy day (which happens often in these parts)!
40. Visit Alternative Seattle Attractions
Aside from the Fremont Troll and Gum Wall, Seattle has weird and wonderful attractions you might not ordinarily consider visiting. This city has had more oddities close than most cities have oddities!
Visit the Rubber Chicken Museum for some hilarious whimsy. The Giant Shoe Museum has a collection of freakishly large footwear.
There’s a statue of Lenin located in Fremont. The somewhat chilling “Valley of the Gnomes” allows visitors to find as many lawn figurines as possible – mysteriously hidden in a wooded corner of a Seattle neighborhood.
On a more somber note, Cal Anderson Park features a touching AIDS memorial called “the Ribbon of Light.” And Nirvana fans must pilgrimage to Kurt Cobain’s Memorial Bench, located in a small park outside his former home. I added my tribute in Sharpie many moons ago, but I imagine it’s been well covered.
Do some research, ask around, and get out there and enjoy some urban exploration. One of the most fun things in Seattle is to spend a day finding these hidden gems. And the best part is – there won’t be anyone else around.
See Related: Unique Places to Visit in the US
41. Vancouver Island
One of the most popular things to do in Seattle is to take a day trip tour to the beautiful city of Victoria. Located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, you can enter Canada for the day and be home for dinner.
A high-speed passenger ferry will whisk you away from Pier 69, across Puget Sound, and into British Columbia. When I last made this trip, I preferred Victora to Vancouver itself! And even the journey across is worth the trip alone.
Victoria is a stunning city known for its attractive architecture and well-maintained gardens. The best sights include the charming Inner Harbor, Beacon Hill Park, Craigdarroch Castle Mansion, and the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.
The only problem is you might be tempted to stay. If you do miss the boat back, Helm’s Inn is the place to stay. And when you’re looking around, tell me if you see someone dressed as Darth Vader playing the violin.
42. Snoqualmie Falls
Many sights and attractions are located outside of Seattle city limits, but Snoqualmie Falls deserves a special mention. One of the most popular scenic tourist spots in the area, the 268-foot cascade draws 1.5 million visitors every year.
The falls are a spiritual location for the Snoqualmie people, who have lived in the valley for centuries. Surrounded by two acres of wooded parkland, the waterfall is well-known for its appearance on the legendary TV show Twin Peaks. Try to time your visit just after rainfall for the most spectacular experience.
At the falls, you’ll find upper and lower observation decks, ample parking, wheelchair access, a gift shop, and the Salish Lodge & Spa. There are also several hiking trails in the region, and pets are allowed if they’re on a leash.
Day trips from Seattle are the best way to see Snoqualmie Falls. Try this one, which includes Woodinville Wine Country, where you can sample the wares of the best vineyards in the area. If you don’t have as much time, this half-day tour to the falls is also a good option.
See Related: Best Waterfalls in California to Visit
43. Live Music
Aside from globetrotting, one of my greatest passions is watching live music. I regularly travel around the world to attend festivals or to see a particular band or artist play. And as Seattle has one of the best music scenes on the planet, you can imagine how much I love to visit.
One of the most fun things to do in Seattle is to hit up any one of the hundreds of live music venues, bars, and clubs. The birthplace of grunge in the 90s is still putting out some cutting-edge acts, and you might be able to catch the next big thing during your time here.
The best live music venues include Neumos in Capitol Hill, The Crocodile, The Tractor Tavern, Cafe Racer, The Showbox Market, The Sunset Tavern, and the historic Moore Theater. And don’t miss the Central Saloon in Pioneer Square. It is one of the oldest bars in the city, and it was here that Nirvana played their first live Seattle gig.
Dedicated fans will want to stay in the Pearl Jam Suite at the Edgewater Hotel, a brilliantly designed homage to one of the city’s most beloved bands. Plan and find out what’s happening during your visit. Then again, you should be doing that no matter where you go.
See Related: Best Music Festivals to Attend This Summer
44. Lakeview Cemetary
Address: 1554 15th Ave E, Seattle, WA 98112
Visiting cemeteries might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but cities of the dead are every bit as fascinating as cities of the living. And a lot more peaceful, too!
Lakeview Cemetary is located just north of Volunteer Park. Dating back to 1872, it is the last resting place of some notable figures. Famous Seattle pioneers are buried here, and you can obtain a map from the entrance to guide you around the prominent gravesites.
Of all the interesting individuals who have finished their earthly journeys here, the graves of Bruce Lee and his son Brandon are by far the most popular. Brandon Lee is a hero of mine, and I left a solitary white rose on his grave when I first came to pay my respects.
Combining a visit to the cemetery with a stroll through Volunteer Park makes for a peaceful afternoon in Seattle. And you can also enjoy the Asian Art Museum, which is nearby.
45. Explore Washington State
You don’t have to stay in Seattle when you’re visiting Seattle! The city makes the perfect home base for exploring the extensive delights of Washington State.
There’s so much to choose from you’ll need several months of vacation time to see it all. There’s the Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Deception Pass Park, and the North Cascades National Park. All of them are areas of outstanding natural beauty on the West Coast.
Over the water, you can visit the San Juan Islands – a must for anyone looking to enjoy the great outdoors and the natural world. You’ll likely see whales and dolphins on your ferry over. Try this sweet three-day sailing and camping trip to get close to everything.
To the south, Tacoma features some excellent parks and museums – including the stunning Museum of Glass. And you can head to the state capital, Olympia, for a less-crowded Washington State experience.
And hikers should be familiar with the Pacific Crest Trail, a portion of which runs through three national parks in the area. But that’s just scratching the surface of what’s on offer in Washington State.
See Related: Best Hiking Trails in the World
Tours in Seattle
Seattle CityPASS is the best way to see Seattle’s top attractions. Save up to 50% off admission to the best attractions in Seattle, including the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, Woodland Park Zoo, and more.
Your guide will take you through three of the passageways, sharing stories and historical tidbits along the way. You'll get a glimpse of what life was like in Seattle during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and you may even spot some vestiges of the city's original street grid.
Explore the best of Seattle in just one day. With a local guide at the wheel, you'll benefit from photo opportunities and informative commentary about the Emerald City's most iconic landmarks.
What are the top tourist attractions in Seattle?
The best things to do in Seattle include the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the Seattle Great Wheel, the Museum of Pop Culture, Pioneer Square, The Museum of Flight, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the Seattle Waterfront. If you’re short on time, try a three-hour city highlights tour to avoid missing a thing.
What are the best museums to visit in Seattle?
Seattle has loads of world-class museums and shines when it comes to alternative learning centers. Especially when compared with stuffy collections of antiquities. Try the Museum of Pop Culture, the Museum of Flight, the Seattle Children’s Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, the Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Pacific Science Center, The Museum of History and Industry, and the National Nordic Museum. There are plenty more, but that’s enough to get you started for now!
What are the best day trips from Seattle?
Great question! One of the best things to do in Seattle is get out of Seattle! The Emerald City boasts an almost perfect location for visiting many sights and attractions. A full-day tour to Mount Rainier is a great option.
Explore the World Heritage Site of the Olympic National Park. Vancouver is under a three-hour drive away, so a day trip to Canada is a great way to spend some time.
What are the best things to do in Seattle on a budget?
I’m all for traveling on a budget, and thankfully, Seattle has plenty to see and do if you’re on a shoestring. You can walk along the waterfront and explore the piers without spending a dime. Seattle has an outstanding selection of public parks, all free to enter.
Take in the sights and sounds of Pike Place Market. Discover the public art and sculpture that’s scattered citywide. And the Frye Art Museum is always free.
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With over 70 countries under his belt, Stuart is a well-seasoned globetrotter hailing from the UK, now living in Madison, Wisconsin. After traveling the world for seven years (including a hitchhike from Germany to Cambodia) his current mission is to visit all 50 states before turning 50 – something he’s going to fail to do if he keeps collecting board games.