Seattle was the very first city that I visited in the US and as such, it’s a one spot that I still have the fondest memories of. Not just because of all the amazing and best things to do in Seattle, but also because of how excited I was to explore it!
Plus, after spending a good bit of time travelling across the USA, I’ve come to realise how special Seattle really is. That’s not to say that the other cities are bad (far from) but Seattle has a whole charm and character of its own that’s so great.
For me, Seattle is an absolute gem of a city and one of the most friendly, most laid-back and most fun cities in the US.
Seattle is, of course, famous for its coffee, hipster scene and even spotting whales close by. That being said, the city is so much more than coffee and whales. There’s the whole natural side that’s just a stone’s throw from Seattle itself, with the city surrounded by the epic beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
It’s the kind of landscapes where ‘epic’ is a totally appropriate word to use, especially with all the vast forests and huge mountains close by. Better still, you can head out on a whole load of hiking trails in Washington that can break up your holiday to include a little bit of nature, too.
With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the best things to do in Seattle on your next trip to the city. Oh, and remember, give yourself an extra few days to explore a few places outside of the city too.
1.) Pike Place Market
Located right along the edge of Elliot Bay near downtown Seattle, Pike Place Market is one of those places that everyone has heard of when thinking of Seattle. Even if they aren’t entirely sure where it is, people seem to know the spot.
For me, visiting Pike Place Market might be one of the best things to do in Seattle if you want to experience a little history in the city. Basically, Pike Place Market is a permanent fresh produce market that has been in use since way back in 1907.
Yeah, it can get totally crowded and busy but well worth a little gander once you’re in Seattle.
Open year-round, visitors will find plenty of fresh produce, seafood, cheese, flower stalls, and other ‘crafty things’ to buy. Beware of the fish that get thrown from vendor-to-vendor! (Actually, you should totally try to catch this sight – it’s so much fun!)
Beneath the market area is a section of small shops, including a really kitsch magic shop (which I loved). Oh yeah, and opposite it is what many consider to be the ‘original’ Starbucks.
Also, whilst you’re here, be sure to try the clam chowder here from Pike Place Chowder. It’s served up in a massive bread bowl and is totally delicious.
2.) Space Needle
Although the Space Needle appears to be a giant stationary UFO, is actually one of the most iconic structures in the Pacific Northwest. Plus, being such an iconic part of the Seattle Skyline means that it has to be up there on your list of the best things to do in Seattle.
Once inside, the Space Needle has some stunning views to enjoy over the whole city and even a little of Washington State.
Now, without going into a huge history lesson, the Space Needle stands at 605 feet (184 m) tall and was built back in 1962. Open on most days, you can head to the observation deck for incredible views and even grab a bite to eat at the SkyCity Restaurant.
To get here from the city centre, you can also take Seattle monorail, which was also built for the World Fair and gives you a totally unique ride across the city.
3.) Chihuly Garden and Glass
Dale Chihuly is an incredible artist of fine glass, creating stunning sculptures and designs out of blown glass. The exhibit is held at the Seattle Center, where visitors can see Chihuly’s works in both the Glasshouse and the Garden.
With such bright colours and interesting shapes, all made out of glass, it would be hard not to fall in love with the artwork on display. It really is one of the best things to do in Seattle.
*Sidebar: Once you’ve seen Dale Chihuly’s work, you’ll recognise it every you go across the world – so far, I’ve seen one in Hong Kong (in some fancy pants restaurant which we were soooooooooo underdressed for), London and during our stay at The Bellagio in Las Vegas.
4.) Pacific Science Center
Another little perk of being right next to the Space Needle is that the Pacific Science Center is close by.
Now, the science museum has plenty of interactive displays that keep science fun for everyone and it’s a great little spot to get out of that unpredictable rain that sometimes happens in Seattle.
Oh yeah, and In 2010 it was officially declared a City of Seattle Landmark, making it another one of the best things to do in Seattle on your trip.
Where To Stay: Best places to stay in Seattle
5.) Olympic Sculpture Park
Associated with the Seattle Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park is an outdoor, waterfront park filled with world-class sculptures.
Take in the sights and sounds of the city and harbour areas, as well as the nearby mountains, all while appreciating the best sculptures in the city.
It is completely free and opens every day of the year. Oh, and if you work up an appetite, hop over to The Pink Door for some of the best meatballs in the city. Just make sure to book a table before you rock up, it can get busy.
6.) Seattle Art Museum
Arguably the best-known art museum in the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Art Museum is the city’s major hub for all things art.
The museum consists of three major sections: the main art museum, the Asian Art Museum, and the Olympic Sculpture Park (above).
Now, the collections are vast, ranging from modern art, Oceanic and Native American art, and even pieces from Europe. With that in mind, it can take a whole heap of time to see everything – so plan before you visit. Plus, no one likes museum fatigue! 😉
7.) Downtown Waterfront
Now, if you love a little stroll when exploring a new city, then heading to the waterfront is one of the best things to do.
The downtown area’s waterfront is the perfect place for a casual stroll, with pretty little shops, yummy restaurants, and even a few attractions, too.
Once you’re here, you can take a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel, the Ferris, head to the Aquarium or visit at dusk to watch the sunset.
You can even head out on a kayaking tour of the harbourfront itself. Though be warned, it can get cancelled if the winds pick up.
8.) Grab a coffee
Okay, so Seattle is well-known for its coffee scene and truth be told, it’s something you should definitely lean into whilst you’re here.
Now, everyone and their dog knows about Starbucks but there’s so much more to the coffee scene in Seattle than just one brand. There’s a whole heap of indie coffee shops, co-ops and even cool little coffee bars that are scattered all across the city…
… and they’re too good to miss!
Once you’re here, make sure to visit Ghost Alley Espresso for the best brew. Yes, it might be small and cosy but it’s well worth waiting to get a seat. Alternatively, pop into Tougo Coffee where you can chill out and grab a cold brew whilst chilling out. Finally, head to Milsted & Co for a great range of brews that change constantly.
It really is one of the best things to do in Seattle, even if you’re not a huge coffee fanatic!
9.) Chinatown International District
Founded in the 1880’s, Seattle’s Chinatown is nearly as old as the city itself. The area is now just called the International District, as it’s expanded to include the Japanese, Vietnamese and Filipinos.
It really is one of the best things to do in Seattle if you’re feeling a bit peckish too. Bubble-tea shops, tasty restaurants, and the city’s best dim sum can all be found here.
If you have even the slightest interest in Asian culture, Chinatown is not to be missed. Also, if you are interested in Korean food, pop over to ‘Chan’ (near Pike Place Market), they serve up some of the best food in the city.
10.) Discovery Park
In the rare case that you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Seattle, head across to Discovery Park.
Despite being so close to the downtown area, this massive, 534 acre (216 hectares) park will make you feel like you’ve left the city completely.
Beautiful beach walks, a lighthouse, and stunning views of the surrounding waters make this a perfect place for some fresh sea air. It really is a gorgeous spot and one of the best things to do in Seattle after a long day plodding along the streets.
11.) Ferry Rides
Not so much a ‘sight to see’ as it is a ‘thing to do’ these ferry rides, which you can take from the harbour, offer some of the best views of the entire Seattle area.
The first time I did this, I headed over to Bainbridge Island, a picturesque place I highly recommend visiting if you find yourself with a free afternoon in the city.
Since the ferries are a main form of transportation in the city, you don’t have to worry about booking this in advance and can be sure that there will be plenty of opportunities to catch a ride on one as a walk-on passenger.
Now, the second time we took the ferry, we headed to Bremerton which is nice enough I guess but doesn’t have the same charm that Bainbridge Island has.
12.) Mount Rainier
After having spent so much time in Seattle merely gazing out towards Mt. Rainier (which you can see prominently from the city), you should definitely take a few days to get a closer look.
Olympic National Park (different from the Sculpture park, of course) is so close to Seattle, that it would be insane not to check it out at least once. Especially if you’re not short on time.
Mt. Rainier is surrounded by some of the most stunning natural scenery in the world, including old-growth forests and wildflower meadows. No one is saying you have to hike the mountain or anything; just go to the national park and knock around in its absolutely stunning natural splendour.