Rainy Seattle is not the first city to come to mind when most are looking for a vacation destination, but for millennials it’s a paradise of counter culture and world-class coffee. Seattle is consistently rated as one of the most livable cities in America and easily one of my favorite cities. The colorful personalities and easy-going nature of its residents are only one of the many reasons to make Seattle your next getaway.
Although there are not many “touristy" things to do in Seattle, most of them being museums, are actually quite fun and unique, however the best attractions require a little more effort to find. So whether you are coming from Vancouver to Seattle, or traveling greater distances to the Emerald City, here are 23 things you to do in Seattle.
Seattle Travel Tips & Things To Do In Seattle Today
As much as I love the city, their public transit system is abysmal, so unless you plan to stay downtown, it may be best to rent a car.
The rainy reputation of Seattle is well deserved, so be prepared with a quality raincoat and dress in layers, no matter what time of year because the weather is temperamental.
If you would rather skip the lines at tourist spots, look into getting a city pass.
Chihuly Garden and Glass: At the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit you will be immersed in a garden of exquisite glass brought to life by the backdrop of fuchsias and handkerchief trees. Dale Chihuly, Seattle’s most famous artist, is a world-renowned glass blower whose works have garnered him numerous accolades. Although much of his work can be seen touring around the world, there is only one place to find a permanent exhibition of his creations.
Museum of Glass: If you want to see more glass creations after visiting the Chihuly Garden, then you must visit the Museum of Glass in Everett; just a short drive away from the city. This museum offers hands-on glass blowing workshops as well as a glass blowing theater where you can see the professionals in action.
Experience Music Project Museum: A considerably “touristy" spot, this is the place to be if you are a science fiction aficionado or music enthusiast. Make sure to check online for a list of upcoming exhibits.
Boeing Tour: Every time I visit this factory the sheer scale of it amazes me; just imagine a building large enough to house multiple Boeing 747s. The tour is worth the price of admission and should be on everyone’s to-do list when in Seattle. Please note, the tour has limited space so booking ahead is advised.
Seattle Underground: Remnants of a time long ago exists beneath Seattle’s streets and there are several time-traveling tours available. Much of the city today was actually built upon the ruins of old Seattle, a pioneer town gutted by a fire in 1889. Now you are able to walk through this subterranean world and experience what it was like over 100 years ago with remnants of an old saloon and stores still standing.
The Gum Wall: I know what you are thinking, gross, but actually this is one of the most famous art installations in the city. Legend has it that it was started in the 1990s by a group of people waiting to see an improv show. In 2015, the city washed and scrapped the gum off the wall, but the very next day people began to restore the wall to its previous gooey luster.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room: Seattle’s most famous export is Starbucks and you can visit the coffee-lovers’ paradise built by one of the world’s admired companies.Walk in and be blown away by the beautiful wood work throughout the refurbished warehouse and see firsthand how coffee goes from bean to one of their famous lattes.
Pike Place Market: Take stroll through one of America’s oldest farmers market and Seattle’s biggest tourist attraction. It can be difficult to pick just one thing to eat, so if you are strapped for time, check out Beecher’s for an unforgettable mac’ n cheese. If you’re still hungry, head over to Pike Place Chowder to sample one of their delicious chowders.
Fremont Sunday Market: This market happens in Fremont every Sunday all year round and it’s absolutely fantastic. Whether you’re into antiques, artisan crafts, freshly picked apples, or vintage clothing, there is sure to be something for everybody.
Gas Works Park: Offering one of the best views of the city, Gas Works Park is a great place to have a picnic. The park is unique in that it used to be a gasification plant; now all the old instruments are decommissioned and colorfully painted. Although it is a weird juxtaposition to see grass and factory silos together, the landscape is idyllic.
Try the oysters: The Pacific Northwest is famous for its seafood and locals have particular affinity for oysters. Do your research and find a place that offers happy hour specials. It is hard to go wrong when it comes to seafood anywhere in the city, but if you want the best value, your best bet is to find a place outside of the downtown area (especially near Pike Place Market). My favorite is the Walrus and Carpenter in Ballard, their happy hour runs Monday to Thursday from 4pm-6pm.
Lounge on Alki Beach: Located in West Seattle and easily accessible by ferry from Pioneer Square, is a stretch of coastline that is perfect for laying around in and soaking in the sun. There is also plenty of live performances held here from spring to fall.
Hamilton View Point Park: It has always puzzled me why this park is not a more popular attraction, because from here you will truly have the best view of Seattle’s skyline.
Canoe around the University of Washington campus: There are many spots in the city to canoe or kayak, but they all tend to be exorbitantly priced. One exception is the UW Water Front Activities Center. Here rentals start at $10/hour. While rowing on the campus you can stare out into the expanse of Union Bay while you glide by serene lilypad gardens.
Uwajimaya: A local favorite, this supermarket specializes in Japanese and other Asian groceries. With three locations throughout Seattle, this is the place to be if you want to try new food and explore endless aisles of foreign snacks. Also, if you need a quick and cheap meal, the sushi here is fresh and delicious.
Molly Moon’s: Molly Moon’s is the undisputed queen of the Seattle ice cream scene and easily the best place in the city for a cool treat. They have seven Seattle locations, so there should undoubtedly always be one nearby if you’re staying the downtown area. The parlor’s most popular choice is salted caramel, but my favorite is the maple walnut.
Visit a speakeasy: Nothing better captures what Seattle is all about than a non-descript speakeasy in a dingy back alley. Especially prevalent in the Capitol Hill area, you will find a ton of cool and hidden bars whose craft cocktails are sure to delight. Part of the fun is finding your own cool place (and getting a bit lost trying to find it), However, my favorite has to be the Knee High Stocking Co. it’s a popular spot that is usually busier than the other lesser-known speakeasies, so if you don’t want to wait, make sure to reserve a table!
Drink craft beers: The breweries across Seattle make some of the best craft beers in the world. Whether you want to stop in for a tour or just to grab a quick pint with friends, brew pubs are the best place to get a frothy beer at a great price. Two microbreweries you should consider checking out are Freemont Brewing Company and Cloudburst Brewing Company.
Volunteer Park: Located in the Capitol Hill Area, this large park features two main attractions: the conservatory and its Asian Art Museum. Whether or not you want to shell out for the price of admission to these attractions is up to you, but it is definitely worth coming to the park to see the views it offers of the city.
Paseo Sandwich: Their Cuban-style sandwich is the real deal. Heaped with delicious roast pork, caramelized onions, and tangy cilantro aioli – if there is one thing you need to eat while in town it’s this. Unfortunately, a line is inevitable, but you can streamline your order by calling ahead and make it a take-out meal.
Smith Tower: The iconic Smith Tower is a great alternative to the conformity of going up to the top of the Space Needle. Built over 100 years ago, this was Seattle’s first skyscraper and the tallest building west of the Mississippi upon its completion. The observation deck is a great place to look out at the city, and unlike most touristy places, their drinks are cheap.
Shop at the Premium Outlets: One of the best shopping destinations in the Pacific Northwest, these outlets have the perfect mix of affordable clothing and designer brands. Arrive early because the parking lot fills up fast, especially on weekends. If shopping is not your thing, head to the Tulalip Resort and Casino for a relaxing spa day, or treat yourself to their mouth-watering buffet.
Catch a Mariners game: There is something special about Safeco Field and the crisp sea breeze that makes a baseball game in this city always one to remember. As far as Seattle attractions go, baseball is one of the most exciting activities if you’re visiting the city, especially if you visit in the summertime after the long rainy spring is over.