13 Best Things To Do in Seattle
Seattle is a city that urbanites and nature-lovers can both appreciate. And with the ocean on one side and majestic mountains on the other, there is no shortage of things to do in Seattle.
Aside from it’s undeniable natural beauty, the food, the art and the music scene are reason enough to get yo’ booty over to this PNW metropolis. NOW.
Whether it’s your first time in Seattle and you have a week to soak it up or you only have a few measly hours to spare during a layover at SEA, we’ve got some can’t-miss spots and quirky additions to any Seattle itinerary.
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1. Try the Best Coffee in Seattle
If there was an award for the city with the best coffee in the United States, Seattle would win gold.
The Original Starbucks
This hyped-up coffee shop is one of the tourist stops that could be skipped (in our opinion). Unless you are a huge fan of the mega chain, you may be a bit annoyed to find the line wrapping around the block. We made it there on a Monday, gift card in hand, and waited about 15 minutes in total from the time we ordered until the time we were handed our specialty coffees. (Not too shabby!)
During a weekend, though, I don’t think we would have braved the wait. It was kind of cool to see the vintage mermaid logo and say that you’ve sipped the original Joe. Was it anything super special? Nah. Would I wait in line again? Nope.
Tip: If you’ve got the urge that nothing but Starbucks can satisfy, there is another, more modern and spacious location just a block down the street. Our recommendation would be to glance inside the original and if the line is too long for your liking, venture to one of Seattle’s (hundreds) of other amazing coffee shops.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room
If you're a fan of Starbucks and looking for a fancy coffee experience, put a visit to their tasting room on your Seattle itinerary. With gorgeous copper roasting basins and some of the best baristas in the city, this facility not only serves up specialty, small-batch coffee, but a stop here is an experience in itself.
Best Local Coffee Shops:
Stroll down just about any block in Seattle and you're bound to find a handful of wonderful coffee shops. If you don't know where to start, here are 2 well-known local favorites.
Milstead & Co
Just because it's not as well-known nationally as Starbucks doesn't mean this coffee shop won't be packed. Widely known in Seattle for having some of the best coffee, this is a great place to try a quality cuppa.
This local chain is well-loved for a reason: They serve great coffee. Plus, they have six locations in Seattle, so it's easy to find a location that's convenient.
Related Reading: 25 Best Things to Do in Washington State
2. Explore the Top Markets in Seattle
Seattle has a handful of markets, from super popular to local secrets.
Pike Place Farmers Market
Super touristy? Yes. Worth a visit? Yes! Arguably the most famous farmers market in America, Pike Place is a Seattle staple and worth seeing, if only once. The most famous attraction here are the “fish flingers”, but walk down the rows of fresh produce, locally-made cheese and artisan goods and you're sure to find something that piques your interest.
While you're at Pike Place, don't miss these tasty stops:
Be sure to make it to the Beecher's Cheese shop, where you can sample this famously delicious cheese or anything your dairy-loving heart desires. (Oprah loves the mac 'n cheese here, so you probably want to give it a whirl!)
Pike Place Chowder serves up a tasty bowl of creamy seafood goodness.
For a pick-me-up, stop at Rachel's Ginger Beer for a famously fun drink!
Fremont Sunday Flea Market
If you happen to be in Seattle on a Sunday, try to make it to the Fremont Sunday Flea Market and we don't think you'll be disappointed! With up to 200 vendors selling antiques, collectibles and other goods, this is the coolest market in you'll have fun scoping out the quirkiest treasures you can find (as well as sniffing out the best-smelling food!). Open rain or shine, all year long, Seattle’s coolest market (in our opinion!) has been in operation since 1990.
University District Farmer's Market
If you are looking for a farmers market without the tourists, head to the University District Neighborhood which holds a market every Saturday year-round, from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. At this local favorite, you'll find more than 70 farmers and other vendors selling fresh produce and local goods.
3. Take in Some of Seattle's Best Views
Get some killer views of the Seattle skyline and Mount Rainier looming in the distance (if you're lucky enough to have a clear day!). We're sharing the most famous view as well as some less typical spots to view the city.
For sweeping views of the skyline famously punctuated with the Space Needle, Kerry Park is the place to be. Don’t let the big views fool you – this park is perched on a tiny little slice of land, so you don’t need to allot much more time here than it takes your camera shutter to click.
But on the other hand, if you’re looking for time to kill with a killer view, Kerry Park makes a great setting for a picnic!
Located on the north shore of Lake Union, this park is the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company plant. It's cooler than it sounds, trust us. The old plant structures are still intact, though a little graffiti "decoration" has been added for... color?
On a nice day, you'll see people in Gasworks Park flying kites, enjoying picnics on the lawn and taking in the unique view of Seattle that many tourists miss.
Tip: This park isn't far from the Fremont Troll statue or Fremont Brewing Company. We think a combination of all three stops would make the perfect afternoon in Seattle!
Crossing over to the laid-back residential neighborhood of West Seattle will give you a different perspective of the urban metropolis. Stroll along the walking path path adjacent to the bay to take in the city landscape from a far. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can rent a bicycle, or even a 6-person surrey bike, to explore more of the area.
If Seattle is enjoying a beautiful day, head to Alki Beach to soak up the sun, see the city from a unique perspective and experience a different feel than the rest of the city. We found the vibe to be hipster meets Jersey Shore and the crowd to be more locals than tourists.
Relax on the sand, use one of the public grills and picnic tables or sip on an iced coconut Americano from Ampersand coffee shop. If you’re in the mood for a beer, head over to West Seattle Brewing Company to enjoy the laid-back patio atmosphere and a cold brew.
And in the evening, you can enjoy a bonfire on the beach and watch the sunset from your sandy seat.
The Bainbridge Ferry
Taking the ferry across Puget Sound between Seattle and Bainbridge Island is a great way to view the city and feel the high energy of the port. Don’t forget to look to the southeast on a clear day to get a glimpse of Mt. Rainier in the distance!
Tip: If you take the ferry back into the city at night, you’ll have a front row seat to view Seattle all lit up and reflecting off the water!
4. Quirky Sights in Seattle
Seattle is full of all sorts of quirky sights and photo ops. Here are some of the top things to add to your list for your first visit to this PNW city.
Post Alley Gum Wall
While it’s definitely no secret, the Post Alley Gum Wall is a quirky stop to make during your short visit to Seattle. Plus, it's right around the corner from Pike Place, so you really can't miss it.
Bring with you a pack of bubble gum for a cute photo op and try to guess how many pieces are actually on the wall: Hundreds? Thousands? (I’m kinda bad at estimations.)
Don’t get too close to the wall though… I don’t think I need to explain why. Opt to add your chewed gummy mess to the wall with all the rest, or (like us) find a trash can just up the alleyway to dispose of it in a more sanitary way.
I’m a sucker for quirky art installations, and the Fremont Troll is one of those things you just have to see if you’re in the area. In true troll fashion, this grumpy beast lives beneath a bridge in the Fremont neighborhood. You can find him hiding under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge.
Insider tip: After a photo op next to this Seattle staple, don’t forget to explore the rest of the Fremont district! Walk along the water and daydream about living in one of the houseboats docked near shore, and pop into some of the many cute shops in this neighborhood that endearingly refers to itself as the “center of the universe”!
5. Must See Sights in Seattle
This iconic building is an integral piece of the Seattle skyline, and you can either opt to see it from the ground (like we did), or get up in there and take in the view of Mount Rainier (on a clear day) from 520 feet in the air on the observation deck.
Tickets cost for the Space Needle is $36 for adults and $28 for kids.
If you want to see a few more iconic things in Seattle, like the Chihuly Gardens and Glass, Seattle Aquarium and take a harbor tour, you might want to look into getting the Seattle CityPASS. The CityPASS saves you $84 for adults and $44 for kids on 5 of the most popular attractions in Seattle. Buy your CityPASS online today.
Related Reading: Check out this article if you’re traveling solo to Seattle!
6. Museums in Seattle
Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour
Ben's nerdy side totally came out when we drove north to the Everett and tour the Boeing Factory. I'll have to be honest, it was pretty cool to see these massive machines being built section by section. The tour was pretty informative and at the end there are plenty of hands on displays, like a walk through section of the International Space Station that Boeing built. This a great museum for families in the Seattle area. The price for the tour is $25 for adults and $15 for kids.
MUSEUM of Pop Culture (MPOP)
This over the top museum is right next to the Space Needle and you can't miss the purple and silver wavy building. Inside the museum takes you through the history of music and movies that have shaped our culture. Step into a rock 'n' roll sound lab, view the original manuscripts from Game of Thrones and peek at hundreds of props from famous movies.
Entrance Fee for MPOP is $28 for adults and $19 for kids. However, if you pair it with other Seattle CityPASS sights you can save up to $84 on activities in Seattle.
Seattle Pinball Museum
Best interactive museum in Seattle! It is full of pinball machines after all. The founders simply wanted people to know about and play vintage pinball games, and you can play any one of over 50 pinball games. Entry is $15 for adults and $12 for kids (7-12 years old) for unlimited play!
7. Off-the-Beaten-Path Parks in Seattle
Seattle is a city with a really good amount of green space, so you'll have no problem finding parks for picnicking and people watching. But if you're looking for a park that's out of the ordinary, here are some parks that have a little more character than most.
Waterfall Garden Park
This little hidden oasis is a nice escape from the concrete jungle that surrounds it. The main draw to this secluded little park is the 22-foot artificial waterfall, which is totally unexpected in the middle of Pioneer Square. With a handful of chairs, this is a nice place to enjoy lunch or rest your weary feet after a morning of walking.
Fun fact: This park is on the site of the original United Parcel Service headquarters, which was built in 1907.
Golden Gardens Park Tide Pools
Exploring tide pools is a fun PNW experience, but you probably wouldn't expect to be able to do this within the Seattle city limit! Located in the Ballard neighborhood, Golden Gardens Park has tide pools to explore and a nice beach for relaxing or for sitting around a bonfire at night.
More info: This website has current tide information.
Volunteer Park Conservatory
Volunteer Park Conservatory is a lovely escape for one of Seattle’s notoriously rainy days. With all sorts of plants from around the world, this is a perfect place to wander indoors for a couple hours.
Hours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., closed Mondays
Tip: When you're done exploring the park, head to nearby Victory Park Café -- a lovely place to relax in a window seat and enjoy coffee and a breakfast sandwich or pastry.
Beacon Food Forest
As the name suggests, this park is located in Beacon Hill, but this is no ordinary park. Beacon Food Forest is run by volunteers and supported by the community. The mission of this "Food Forest" is to encourage members of the community to learn to grow and share food. Everyone is welcome here.
Green Lake Park
Green Lake is a neighborhood in Seattle just north of Fremont and Wallingford, and is centered around the lake after which it was named. The 2.8-mile trail around the body of water is popular with the locals –runners, bikers and dogs – and makes the perfect way to enjoy a nice day.
8. Outdoor Adventures Near Seattle
Whether you're looking to push yourself our of your comfort zone or simply get your heart pumping, there are many adventures to be had in and around Seattle!
Paragliding in Seattle
If jumping off a mountain and gliding all the way down sounds like your kind of adventure, why not try paragliding?! It’s the perfect adrenaline rush! There are a couple of companies that will bring you to the top of Poo Poo Point on Tiger Mountain and fly you all the way down!
Kayak or SUP on Lake Union
On a clear day, you'll have a stunning view of Mount Rainier from Lake Union. Why not make the view even more spectacular by getting in the water!? Rent a kayak or a stand-up paddle board and enjoy being outside in such a beautiful city.
Hiking Near Seattle: Rattlesnake Ledge
If you want to escape the city and get your heart pumping, Rattlesnake Ledge hike might be right up your alley. This 4-mile roundtrip trek has an 1,160 foot elevation gain and offers spectacular views of the lake below. Just a 40-minute drive from downtown Seattle to the parking lot, this hike could easily be done in half a day. Find the current trail conditions on the Washington Trails Association website.
Bike Around Seattle with Seattle Cycling Tours
The traffic in Seattle is already horrendous, so why not be like a local and hop on a two wheel. With tours ranging from 2 hours to 5 hours (even multi-day tours), you can get your blood flowing while seeing the major sites. Check out Seattle Cycling tours for more information.
9. Skiing Near Seattle
There are 3 resorts near Seattle that offer fantastic skiing.
90 minutes away – This is our favorite ski resort near Seattle, because it really feels like you're a world away from the city. (Oh, and we worked there for a winter season, so we’re biased!)
60 minutes away – This resort is just off the highway and is the closest skiing to Seattle.
2 hours away – Slightly more upscale than the other two resorts, Crystal is the largest ski resort in Washington state.
10. Art in Seattle
From world-famous museums to the lesser-known art scene, Seattle is a great city to explore if you love art.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Celebrated worldwide for his glasswork, Dave Chihuly was born in Tacoma, Washington and this long-term exhibit is a great place to see much of his colorful, awe-inspiring art in the center of Seattle. Adults and children can both appreciate his whimsical style. For ticket prices, hours and events, check out the official website.
Money-Saving Tip: The Seattle CityPASS includes admission to the Chihuly Garden and Glass as one of the options.
First Thursday Pioneer Square Art Walk
If you happen to be in Seattle on the first Thursday of the month, don't miss the Pioneer Square Art Walk, which will introduce you to this city's art community. Explore small exhibitions and working artist studios while you mingle with others who also have a heart for art. Check out the official website for more details and information about free parking!
11. Live Music in Seattle
Seattle is known as the birthplace of grunge music, but the music scene has evolved over the last few decades to encompass a much wider range of genres.
This is one of the better venues in town, and many big name performers coming through town. There are two locations, one on 1st Ave and another in SoDo so make sure you know where your show is (we made that mistake). Find out which artists are coming to town soon on the Showbox Schedule.
Stone Way Café
This laidback cafe serves food, coffee and beer, and hosts live music weekly as well as open mic sessions. Everyday they have someone new come to play, so make sure to check out their schedule on their website.
The Pink Door
If you like your nightlife a little more... shall we say, interesting, The Pink Door will tickle your fancy. This intimate venue has a spectacular view of Seattle, is known for excellent Italian-American food and has an eclectic mix of nightly entertainment. From live music to their famous cabaret & burlesque shows on Saturdays that feature aerial artists, be sure to make reservations in advance!
12. Try Vietnamese Food in Seattle
When we heard that pho is to Seattle what hot dogs are to Chicago and what pizza is to New York, we started having vivid daydreams of slurping broth and noodles. And the Vietnamese food scene in Seattle goes far beyond pho.
After spending 6 weeks in Vietnam, we are undeniably obsessed with cuisine from this Southeast Asian country, and were super pleased with the flavors we found in Seattle.
Upscale: Ba Bar Restaurant
If your budget isn’t super tight and plastic chairs just ain’t your thing, Ba Bar is sure to wow you. The food we ordered was spectacular and everything my tastebuds were craving. The ambiance, however chic and cool it was, didn’t scream Vietnamese but rather “upscale urban bar”. There are a few locations around the city, but we dined at their flagship Capitol Hill location.
What to order:
Pho: if you’re new to Vietnamese cuisine, this bowl of brothy deliciousness is a good stepping stone. Thinly sliced pieces of rare beef cook in the delicate, yet complex broth. Fresh herbs will delight your senses as the meat melts – yes, melts! – in your mouth.
Bun Cha: If pho doesn’t get you all that excited – been there, done that – try this northern Vietnamese dish that we fell head over flip flops for in Hanoi. The version we ordered at this Seattle restaurant was described as “deconstructed” and was served so that you could put all the ingredients together in the bowl, or eat it like lettuce wraps. The flavors were spot on: tangy, vinegary, spicy, and a bit sweet.
Tip: Try to make it to Happy Hour for the best deals! Check out the deals and hours of each location on Ba Bar's website.
Budget: Rise & Shine Bakery
For a killer Banh Mi (delicious Vietnamese baguette sandwich), head straight to Rise & Shine Bakery. The rave reviews speak for themselves.
Chain Worth Mentioning: Cyclo Pho
With 5 locations around Seattle, this local chain is known for serving up tasty Vietnamese food at affordable prices.
13. Grab a Drink
If you’re searching for where to have drinks in Seattle and you love craft beer as much as we do, you’ll be one happy lad or lassie in Seattle! With an abundance of taprooms, distilleries and cider rooms in this city, you won’t need to walk far for a high-quality pint. And if beer isn't your thing, don't worry: Seattle also has a great selection of wines and cocktails.
With a cozy fireplace, a nice outdoor area, and free pretzels and local apples to munch on, Fremont Brewing happens to be one of our favorites. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that that have a huge selection of tasty brews that made us never want to leave. Try the nitro porter and the double IPA, or order a flight for a real party!
Go Brewery Hopping in Seattle
Woodinville Wine Country
You don't have to go to Napa Valley to go winery hopping! In fact, just 30 minutes northeast of Seattle is Woodinville Wine Country, which boasts 118 wineries and tasting rooms, as well as 14 breweries, cideries and distilleries, and 30 restaurants. You'll feel like you're a world away from the big city but can return to Seattle in time for dinner reservations!
For a not so typical night on the town, try out one of Seattle's secret bars -- from prohibition-inspired speakeasies that require a password for entry to hidden bars that serve cocktails handcrafted especially for your tastes and mood, check out this list of Seattle's coolest secret bars.
Rhein Haus Beer Hall
This beer hall seems like it belongs in Germany instead of the PNW, but hey, we're not complaining. With bocce ball court, a fire pit, house made sausages and pretzels, as well as a long list of beers to choose from, Rhein Haus is a great place to spend a night in Seattle.
Where to Stay in Seattle
High-End/Luxury Hotel: Fairmont Olympic Hotel - The best Seattle has to offer. Perfect for the business traveler or a weekend splurge.
Mid-Range/Couple Stay: 11th Avenue Inn Bed and Breakfast - Lovely B&B in a great location on Capitol Hill.
Budget/Social Hotel: Green Tortoise Hostel Seattle - Steps away from Pike Place Market, this hostel has a social atmosphere and a good breakfast.
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What would you choose to do in Seattle? How would you spend a weekend there? It's your choice, now start planning. Let us know your perfect weekend in Seattle in the comments below!