Best Things To Do In Seattle, WA
Updated: Mar 2
Seattle is located in the northwest of Washington and is the State’s largest city. It’s nicknamed the “Emerald City” because the center and surrounding areas are filled with greenery year-round. Despite its reputation for rainy days, Seattle is not an indoorsy place. The city is packed with everything from beautiful parks to iconic landmarks and waterfront tourist attractions. But it’s also a great hub for exploring the nearby mountains, islands, and volcanoes. Seattle has had a makeover in the past 10 years. The city expanded from a small hipster art scene to a tech giant central hub in America. With all these changes, there are a few things that have withstood the test of time in this hip and growing city... This article highlights the best things to do in Seattle, perfect to combine in a 3-5 day visit to the city.
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Why Visit Seattle?
Seattle is one of the most beautiful cities in America, being surrounded by vast snow-capped mountains and also a dramatic coastline hugging the city walls.
Seattle has a vibrant and bustling downtown full of fresh faces and energy that will lift your spirits even on rainy days.
Seattle is home to a rich history of art and music which are both easily accessible and also hidden in secret underground spots across the city if you look for them.
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Where to stay in Seattle
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Best things to do in Seattle
In this article, we will highlight the best things to do in and around Seattle and also share a few of our favorite lesser-known places so you can enjoy your time in this wonderful city. Here are the things you must do in and around Seattle for the best experience:
Table of content:
You can find a map with all the places we talk about below.
11. Join a sports or music event
With professional sports teams and a famous grunge music scene, you can catch a game or enjoy a concert in the downtown area of Seattle. Watch the Mariners play baseball at T-Mobile Park or head to nearby Lumen Field to watch the Seahawks Football Team or Sounders FC soccer team. And if you’re more into music than sports, then join a concert at the Showbox or visit the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP).
10. Explore West Seattle
Exploring West Seattle is one of the best things to do in Seattle as it is away from the hustle and bustle but also has a unique charm and character to it. Make sure to check out the popular California Avenue. This avenue has many cute shops and restaurants along with a ton of history and character. Easy Street Records is located at the main crosswalk on the avenue and is the hot spot for emerging artists, local shows, as well as vinyl classic records, and newly released albums. Seattle is known for its music and Easy Street Records is the best music store in the city in our opinion. The vibe is classic Seattle.
Another great place to visit in West Seattle is Alki Beach Park. Alki is the "California" of Seattle. This hidden gem lies across the water from downtown Seattle and looks out towards the city. It is full of unique restaurants, character homes, and a long sandy beach that sits next to a rollerblade and walking path for miles. The atmosphere is relaxed and things move at a slower pace in Alki. I recommend going to Marination Ma Kai (Hawaiian) or Salty's (seafood) for dinner so you can see the city and Ferris wheel lit up from across the water for the best views! La Rustica, a small but extremely tasty Italian restaurant, is also a local favorite.
Local tip: Go to Easy Street Records on a day when there is live music in the store. There is generally a large crowd and great music for the event along with quality coffee from their cafe.
9. Walk the Waterfront Piers
The ninth best thing to do in Seattle is to walk the bustling waterfront piers. There are tons of seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, and tourist attractions here. Watch the Seattle sea life at the Aquarium, go on a whale watching tour, taste some local seafood at the famous Ivar’s restaurant, or take in the views from the Seattle Great Wheel. Personally, we would disadvise you to go on the Ferris Wheel because it is a bit of a tourist trap and doesn’t offer any better views than you would have from the Space Needle, Smith Tower, the Columbia Tower, or Kerry Park.
At Pier 57 you can check out the 4D movie experience called “Wings over Washington”. The movie will take you on a flight over all of Washington State in an immersive experience with wind, rain, and more. You will fly over the Seattle skyline, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, the surrounding forests, and even learn some local history before the show. The show itself is only about 20 minutes and is a perfect introduction to Seattle’s history and surrounding scenery. We really enjoyed this experience and would definitely recommend it!
8. Skiing or hiking at Snoqualmie
At number 8 we have skiing or hiking at Snoqualmie Pass. Located about 50 miles or 80 kilometers to the east of Seattle, Snoqualmie is an easy and quick getaway from the city. Snoqualmie Pass has beautiful mountain scenery, making it the perfect place to go skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. Our favorite hiking trail in the area is the Snow Lake Trail, which is roughly a six miles roundtrip and takes you to a beautiful, crystal-clear alpine lake. Your visit to the Snoqualmie pass can also be combined with a quick stop at the Snoqualmie Falls.
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7. Day Trip to Vashon Island
Vashon Island is located in the heart of the Puget Sound, between Seattle, Tacoma, and the Olympic Mountains. The Puget Sound is dotted with tranquil islands, away from the hustle and bustle of Seattle. Vashon Island is the perfect distance from Seattle to do a day trip and explore the best spots. Vashon is known for its Strawberry Festival in the summer and its overall laid-back vibes, art galleries, great food, pristine beaches, hiking trails, and shops.
The island is only accessible by ferry boat, which makes it a spot that many tourists visiting Seattle haven’t been to. A passenger-only ferry runs from Pier 50 to the North End of Vashon on weekdays. However, it’s actually better to explore the island by car since there’s not a great public transportation infrastructure there. If you take your own car, you can board the ferry from the Fauntleroy ferry dock in West Seattle, which generally leaves every 30 to 60 minutes every day of the week.
Local tip: Visit Snapdragon for breakfast or lunch in downtown Vashon. Their pastries are to die for and they also have great coffee. The atmosphere there is cozy with a lot of locals!
6. Take a walk through Seattle’s Discovery Park
A visit to Seattle isn’t complete without visiting one of its lush parks, which offer a taste of the Northwest landscape. The largest and most beautiful park in the city is Discovery Park, located about 5 miles north of the downtown area. The park is home to varied landscapes, such as tidal beaches, open meadows, dramatic sea cliffs, and thick forests. With panoramic views of the Puget Sound and both the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges, the hiking trails are truly rewarding.
Other beautiful parks include Green Lake Park, Carkeek Park, Washington Park Arboretum, and Seward Park.
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5. View of the Seattle skyline
The fifth best thing to do in Seattle is to admire the skyline. The Seattle skyline is one of the most iconic ones in all of the US. These are the best places to watch it from:
The Space Needle is the most iconic landmark in all of Seattle. Construction finished in the 1962, just in time for the World’s Fair. The Space Needle has been a modern marvel of architecture ever since. The view from the top, which is 605 feet high, offers 360 degrees of the entire city where you can see the whole cityscape along with amazing views of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains. Going here as your first stop will give you a good sense of where you are in the city and the beauty that is all around you.
Local tip: Combine your visit to the Space Needle with lunch at the top. The Sky City restaurant spins 360 degrees during your sit-down and the food is to die for.
Overlooking Pioneer Square, Smith Tower is Seattle’s original skyscraper. The tower itself opened in 1914 and was the tallest building in the city for some time. It is no longer the tallest building today, but still boasts 35 stories and is one of the best sunset views over the city in our opinion as it looks out towards the Olympic mountains in full view. What many people don’t know is that the elevator from 1914 is still used today and you can choose to be dropped off at the “history floor” to learn all about the Smith Tower stories before heading up to the top floor for dinner and drinks. More information about the Smith Tower is available here.
Local tip: Go to Smith Tower for dinner to cap off an evening in the city. The vibe on the 35th story bar is that of a swanky 1960’s whisky bar with retro furniture and an upscale feel. However, the drinks and food are relatively fairly priced and it is more of a local spot than other dinner areas in Pioneer Square.
The Columbia Tower has the best view over the city (yes, even better than the Space Needle)! The entrance is relatively close to Pioneer Square and easily walkable. From the base, you can purchase your tickets and make your way up the elevator to the Sky View Observatory, the largest observatory in the Pacific Northwest. The elevator ride is quick, going up 73 flights in only 70 seconds. At the top, you will see 360-degree views of the city, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and the Olympic mountains. A stellar way to spend an hour or two above the city! This is a top attraction in Seattle that you absolutely can't miss!
Local tip: Reserve your tickets in advance just in case the tickets sell out the day you plan to go. It is always a shame when you want to go to the top, but tickets are sold out for the one time you can go. And this is a view you just can’t miss. Get your tickets here.
If you’re looking for a free viewing platform that is at least as impressive, then head to Kerry Park. It is the perfect spot for that as you will be able to see the Space Needle in the foreground with the city skyline and Mount Rainier in the background. The park is located halfway up the hill in the Queen Anne neighborhood and in our opinion, is best visited during the day. This is because you will be able to see Mount Rainier in the background, as long as it’s a clear day, which truly sets Seattle apart compared to most other cities in the world.
Local tip: If you are coming from the city, take the D Line, which will drop you off at Mercer St. & Queen Anne Avenue North. This is very close to the park and you only have to walk 4 minutes from there to see this stunning view.
4. Discover the Seattle Center
Besides the Space Neelde, the Seattle Center is also home to a wide variety of other attractions and museums, such as the Chihuly Garden and Glass, a permanent art exhibition that showcases glass artworks of the famous artist Dale Chihuly. You can book your ticket for the Chihuly Garden and Space needle here.
The Pacific Science Center is also a must-visit when at the Seattle Center. The Pacific Science Center staff are masters at bringing in new exhibits and interactive pieces that allow kids and adults to really understand and have fun with science. There is a dinosaur museum, IMAX theatre, virtual reality space, and even butterfly gardens. If you’re looking for something to do on a rainy day in Seattle, look no further than the Science Center! You won’t be disappointed.
Local tip: There is a planetarium in the Science Center that will immerse you into the galaxy like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The seats nearly fully recline as you look up at the stars and see constellations come to life during the show. Check it out and get your mind blown!
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3. Pioneer Square and the Underground City Tour
The third best thing to do in Seattle is to go on an Underground Tour at the historic Pioneer Square. Pioneer Square is known as Seattle's “first neighborhood". The underground city tour takes you literally through subterranean storefronts and sidewalks which were buried when the city rebuilt itself after the Great Fire in 1889. You will learn about the history of Seattle in a live setting. The guided tour lasts about 75-minutes. It’s a humorous and fun way to learn about Seattle’s history.
2. Day trip to Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier is the most scenic day trip you can do from Seattle. Located about 2 to 3 hours from Seattle, this volcanic peak is the centerpiece of the national park, which covers more than 240,000 acres of forest. There are multiple entrances to the park, but the Nisqually entrance to the southwest of the park is the most popular one thanks to its year-round access and the closest proximity to Seattle. It’s a great place for hiking as well as snowshoeing in the winter. Our favorite day-hike in the park is the Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail which can be accessed via the Mowich Lake gravel Road. Getting to Mt. Rainier can be hard without your own vehicle, so we would recommend booking a day tour.
1. Pike Place Market
The Pike Place Market is the best thing to do in Seattle, and this is for a good reason: It has one of the best atmospheres in all of downtown! Every minute there are thousands of people walking through the market and taking in the scene. From local crafts to produce and music, the Pike Place Market has something for everyone. Grad a bite to eat for lunch here and make sure to stop at the first Starbucks ever and the Pike Place Fish Market near the entrance of the market. You can see fish being thrown across the galley as people order them and live street performers keep the atmosphere vibrant in the background. It’s a scene that you won’t want to miss.
After the market, you can also visit the Gum Wall at Post Alley. This unique but kind of gross spot has literally millions of pieces of gum that tourists have stuck on the wall when visiting Seattle. The gum began sticking to the wall when people were lining up for shows outside of the Unexpected Productions theatre. Now, it is a popular attraction in Seattle for a travel pic with a unique multi-colored background.
Fact: There are many great places to eat at the market, some of our favorite ones include Pike Place Chowder, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, and Le Panier.
We were mentioned as a local Seattle, WA expert on the Redfin blog! Check out the article we were featured in: Uncover the Best of Seattle: The Ultimate Seattle Bucket List
Which top attraction in Seattle would you want to visit? Comment below!
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