Contrary to popular belief, Seattle isn’t the rain-soaked metropolis many imagine. The jewel of the Pacific Northwest, the city is a popular tourist destination.
With its stunning views, world-class museums, and proximity to nature, there is no shortage of amazing things to do in The Emerald City.
28 of the Best Things to Do in Seattle
Seattle has a rich history that folds art, food, and technology into a world-class traveling experience. So, whether you are obsessed with Starbucks and Nirvana or a newbie to the culture of this tech-savvy city on the water, you will love exploring Seattle.
With its proximity to nature and artistic culture, there is something for everyone to do here. We have narrowed down the options of this incredible city to bring you 28 of the best things to do in Seattle.
1. Space Needle
The most unique and iconic shape in all of Seattle’s skyline, the Space Needle is a must-see for anyone visiting the city for the first time. Built for the 1962’s World Fair, the 605-foot flying saucer-esque observation deck is a beloved landmark.
The 360-degree view from the top of the Needle offers breathtaking views of the entire city, mountains, and Puget Sound. The restaurant at the center of the observation deck is a bonus, allowing diners to take in the city with a glass of wine.
2. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
Hidden underneath Pioneer Square, the oldest neighborhood in Seattle, is a series of passageways underneath the street. These passageways once housed businesses but were eventually closed for fear of the bubonic plague in the early 20th century.
Closing the passageways opened the door for speakeasies, drug dens, and other illicit activities, creating a seedy second act for this series of subterranean storefronts. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour shines a light on this strange history of Seattle.
3. Pike Place Market
No trip to Seattle would be complete without visiting Pike Place Market. This iconic farmer’s market is one of the oldest in America, first opening in 1907. It is now an iconic symbol of the city, often seen in films and television.
It ranks among the most visited landmarks globally thanks to its unique blend of restaurants, bars, and shopping. Visitors can spend an entire day eating and drinking their way through the market while exploring scores of eclectic storefronts.
4. Seattle Great Wheel
A relatively new addition to Seattle’s waterfront, the Seattle Great Wheel is a 175-foot-tall Ferris wheel built over Elliott Bay.
Each of its 42 gondolas is fully enclosed and climate-controlled, offering a safe and comfortable ride that extends over the water and offers spectacular views of the Puget Sound.
The Seattle Great Wheel is a fun ride that punctuates any visit to the waterfront. At night, the views are limited, but with the Ferris wheel lit in beautiful lights, it is a romantic ride to end the day.
5. Seattle Pinball Museum
The Seattle Pinball Museum is great for travelers with kids that want to spend some time gaming in the old-school sense. The price of admission includes free play on all the pinball machines–over 50 that date as far back as the 1930s.
In the heart of Seattle’s International District, this arcade/museum hybrid is a slice of history and gaming that will satisfy a wide array of visitors. Stay awhile and enjoy the local craft brews, ciders, and sodas.
6. The Fremont Troll
Fremont, one of Seattle’s quirkier neighborhoods, hosts many great restaurants, shops, and venues. But the real showstopper is the Fremont Troll. The 18-foot-tall troll statue was built as part of an art competition to beautify an area under the Aurora Bridge that had become dirty and dangerous.
Over three decades, this VW Beatle-clutching monster has become a Seattle institution. The Fremont Troll is now a symbol of the city, its eclectic locals, and its Scandinavian roots.
7. Ballard Locks
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, known locally as the Ballard Locks, boast the most boat traffic of any other lock in America. Connecting Lake Washington to Puget Sound in 1917, the Ballard Locks is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
Surrounded by the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens, the Ballard Locks are a favorite in Seattle during the summer months. Whether you want to put down a blanket and sunbathe or watch the hypnotic fish ladder, the locks are a relaxing and lowkey visit.
8. Museum of Pop Culture
The Museum of Pop Culture opened its doors in 2000 as a modern interpretation of a museum dedicated to music and pop culture. The building’s design is by renowned architect Frank Gehry, with avant-garde shapes and colors catching the eye.
The Monorail, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, runs through it! MoPOP boasts exhibits that run the gamut from rock and roll to anime. Its permanent collection includes rock and roll ephemera from Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.
9. T-Mobile Park
Unfortunately for Seattleites, the Seattle Mariners currently have one of the most prolonged active playoff droughts in sports. Lucky for fans and visitors, a trip to their home field, T-Mobile Park, is still a delightful way to spend a summer day.
With local beers and food vendors, everything at the ballpark is delicious. Fans of garlic will especially love the fries covered in minced cloves. With a view of the city just over the stands, it is always a beautiful day at T-Mobile Park.
10. Seattle Central Library
You might be wondering what’s so great about a library, but downtown Seattle’s library is a sight to behold. The glass and metal structure is an oddly shaped 11 stories that gleam in the sun.
The Seattle Central Library won numerous awards for its design, and taking one peek inside will tell you why. The spiraling shelves and natural light are inviting and comforting–with enough space to feel perfectly alone amongst the library’s 1.5 million books.
11. Amazon Spheres
Amazon is a massive presence in Seattle. In 2017, the company erected three space-age-looking, sphere-shaped conservatories in the middle of downtown. The structure, known as the Amazon Spheres, houses an incredible 40,000 plants in its four stories.
In addition to being a conservatory, the spheres offer retail stores and meeting spaces for Amazon employees. While intended primarily for use by the company’s employees, tours are available for visitors. However, they often fill up, so be sure to reserve a spot before you go.
12. Gas Works Park
In 1962, Seattle bought an old coal gasification plant and started building a park around it. Finished in the 1970s, Gas Works Park is unique as it rests on Lake Union, has a view of the entire city from the top of its hill, and features sections of the old plant for design and play functions.
Whether you want to soak up the sun, let the kids run free, or see the skyline lit at night, Gas Works Park is one of the best spots in Seattle.
13. Jimi Hendrix Memorial
Classic rock fans will want to drive from Seattle to Renton, Washington, to visit the Jimi Hendrix Memorial at Greenwood Memorial Park & Funeral Home.
Hendrix is one of Seattle’s most famous sons, and this site is a mecca for guitarists the world over. The memorial features a 30-foot high dome made of granite and supported by pearl columns.
It features bits of the original tombstone initially used to mark Hendrix’s gravesite. The shrine is generally covered in lipstick marks and littered with guitar picks.
14. Gum Wall
The Seattle Gum Wall is exactly what it sounds like–a wall covered in gum. It’s hard to say what caused thousands to start leaving their ABC wads fixed to its brick surface, but the attraction became prominent as Pike Place Market bars patrons got into the spirit.
The city of Seattle didn’t take kindly to the Gum Wall initially. However, they have softened their stance over several decades, and it now stands as a bizarre and loved landmark.
15. Olympic Sculpture Park
Curated by the Seattle Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park is a beautiful series of curated sculptures that rests between the Belltown neighborhood and Seattle’s Central Waterfront.
The 9-acre park runs along the Puget Sound with trails for walking that lead visitors to different installations along the way.
The Olympic Sculpture Park is within walking distance of all of Seattle’s Waterfront attractions, making it an easy way to enjoy art and escape some of the tourist hustle and bustle.
16. Museum of History & Industry
History buffs will love Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry. The MOHAI focuses on collecting artifacts from Seattle and boasts a collection of over four million pieces.
A small portion of these, including local brewery signs, the first commercial Boeing plane, and the regionally iconic tow truck shaped like an actual toe, are displayed in an old Naval Reserve Armory.
The MOHAI’s proximity to Lake Union makes the museum a beautiful spot to soak in Seattle’s rich history.
17. Dick’s Drive-In
Seattle is one of the healthiest cities in America, but that doesn’t mean Seattleites don’t still enjoy a tasty burger. Local fast-food burger chain Dick’s Drive-In has been serving up greasy late-night burgers in The Emerald City since 1954.
Dick’s has built its reputation on fast service. That quick turnaround on the burgers means no substitutions are allowed. If you aren’t picky and want some local flavor, order a Dick’s Deluxe at the original Wallingford location. Few spots are more cherished by locals.
18. Chihuly Garden and Glass
Dale Chihuly is a famous Seattleite known best for his brilliant blown glass sculptures. The Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit is in the Seattle Center, right next to the Space Needle, and mimics the style of a greenhouse to display the colorful and twisted glass of Chihuly.
Take in the beautiful garden and then step inside to see the 100-foot-long suspended glass installation inside the Glasshouse. Afterward, visitors can enjoy a snack in the cafe or venture out into the grounds of Seattle Center.
19. Mount Rainier National Park
The fourth-ever American national park, Mount Rainier National Park, is the home of Mount Rainier, a 14,411-foot active volcano. As scary as it sounds, Mount Rainier looks even prettier.
The views from the park’s hiking trails are stunning, and those that wish to make the vertical hike up the challenging 93-mile Wonderland Trail will find immaculate views from the highest points in Washington. Bring your best shoes and appropriate clothing as the weather can be unpredictable!
20. Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
Founded in 1899, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop splits the difference between a souvenir shop and a museum. The Waterfront shop is home to indigenous artifacts, Asian weapons, and two mummified bodies.
The mummies, named Sylvester and Sylvia, are two of the best-preserved mummies in America and add to the eclectic charm of the shop. Whether you are looking for a souvenir shot glass, a link to Seattle’s frontier past, or artifacts from the region’s indigenous roots, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop is not to be missed.
21. The Paramount Theatre
Seattle’s 2,807-seat Paramount Theatre originally opened in 1928 for silent films and vaudeville acts. The venue has become an institution in the city. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s.
Many iconic acts have played the Paramount, from The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, and Nirvana. The venue continues to host the best national acts and touring Broadway shows, and visitors can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the classic venue on the first Saturday of every month.
22. Seattle Art Museum
In celebrating globally renowned and regionally important artists, the Seattle Art Museum boasts a world-class collection of over 25,000 pieces. The museum is in the heart of downtown, and stepping out from the bustling city into the calm gallery seems to slow downtime.
Be sure to check out the Hammering Man statue outside of the SAM. The 48-foot tall black silhouette of a man hammering is artist Jonathan Borofsky’s ode to the worker. The statue’s hammer rises and falls four times an hour and rests on Labor Day.
23. Discovery Park
Created in the 1970s from unused land from the Army’s Fort Lawton, Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest public park. It contains over 11 miles of intersecting trails that take visitors through wooded areas and to the furthest western point in the city, highlighted by a lighthouse.
The park is a favorite for birdwatchers, with over 250 different species spotted in the park. Harbor seals and sea lions are also prevalent, making Discovery Park a no-brainer for visitors that want to experience the Pacific Northwest’s fauna without leaving the city limits.
24. Wing Luke Museum
Located in Seattle’s Chinatown, the Wing Luke Museum is one of America’s premier Asian Pacific American museums.
The museum’s community advisory committee chooses its exhibits, which allows for unique and regionally relevant pieces that shine a light on the APA experience in the Pacific Northwest.
The Wing Luke Museum is part of the heart of Seattle’s multicultural International District. Visitors should make a point to explore this vibrant neighborhood for unique shops and delicious restaurants.
25. Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square is the oldest neighborhood in Seattle and still retains a lot of the unique charm of the late 19th century, including cobblestone streets.
Because of its proximity to T-Mobile Park and Lumen Field, Pioneer Square is a popular destination for a pre-game hangout. It is a perfect place for pints or people-watching.
If you are in Seattle to see a concert, poke your head into Emerald City Guitars. This legendary Pioneer Square guitar shop is one of the best in the region and is a veritable revolving door of famous musicians while in town.
26. The KEXP Gathering Space
Seattle public radio station 90.3 KEXP is world-renowned for its indie roots and eclectic music curation. KEXP’s long history as Seattle’s community-minded and run radio station hasn’t faltered with the advent of streaming and digital media.
Thanks to innovations like the KEXP Gathering Space, the station is more vital than ever. Built in the Seattle Center, the Gathering Space houses the radio station, a record shop, a revolving door curated coffee roasters, and a stage for live performances and discussions.
Spend an afternoon here record shopping while sipping world-class espresso and peeking into the control booth while a DJ plays local indie rock.
27. Seattle Japanese Garden
Whether you are visiting in the spring, summer, or fall, Seattle’s Japanese Garden is a beautiful and serene 3.5 acres inside the Washington Park Arboretum. Considered one of the finest Japanese gardens outside of Japan, this serenely meditative garden offers a lovely respite from the city.
Admission to the Japanese Garden is free, and they often host seasonal events, including art exhibits and Japanese tea ceremonies. Be sure to check their calendar for a list of upcoming events.
28. Seattle Aquarium
Opening its doors in 1977, the Seattle Aquarium is fittingly at the foot of Puget Sound on the waterfront’s Pier 59.
The aquarium is just steps away from The Seattle Great Wheel and Olympic Sculpture Park, making it the perfect focal point of an afternoon spent basking in the sunshine reflected off the Puget Sound.
The Seattle Aquarium features many permanent exhibits, including a 12-foot high glass tube that allows visitors to stand in the middle of jellyfish and a giant Pacific octopus. And with the aquarium’s conservation efforts and research, your price of admission is money well spent!
Things to Consider
Here are some of the things to consider when visiting Seattle:
- Seattle is full of traffic, especially around the Amazon campus. Utilizing ride shares and public transportation will save you a lot of time–and money!
- While the city’s rainfall amount is exaggerated, it does still rain. So, be sure to have a hooded jacket you can pop on if the mist starts to fall.
- Seattleites are not as outwardly friendly as people in other regions. This behavior is called The Seattle Freeze. People are just a little more insular in the Pacific Northwest!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most frequently asked questions for travelers visiting Seattle:
What is Seattle known for?
Major cultural exports from Seattle include the band Nirvana, their label Sub Pop Records, and the subsequent 1990s grunge genre. Coffee is essential to Pacific Northwest culture, and the global chain Starbucks originated down the street from Pike Place Market. Recently, Amazon and its sprawling campus have become synonymous with the city.
What food is Seattle known for?
The seafood in Seattle is a real treat, from smoked salmon at Ivar’s to Taylor Shellfish oysters. Locals will tell you to try a Seattle Dog–a hot dog topped with cream cheese and sauteed onions sold by late-night vendors in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. In addition, Seattle’s sizeable Vietnamese community makes the city a top destination for pho and banh mi.
What do you call a person from Seattle?
Citizens or natives of Seattle, such as Joel McHale or Rainn Wilson, are known as Seattleites. However, when referring to a citizen of Washington state, call them Washingtonians.
How safe is Seattle?
Like most bigger American cities, Seattle does experience its fair share of crime. However, the crime rates are moderate for a city of Seattle’s size, making it very safe for travelers.
Is Seattle expensive?
Seattle is an expensive city. The good news is that there are plenty of free outdoor activities! Just make sure to research activity prices beforehand to help you budget.
So, What’s the Best Thing to Do in Seattle?
Seattle is a uniquely beautiful and quirky city that everyone should take the time to visit. There is nothing like taking in the Puget Sound while sipping delicious coffee and listening to Nirvana.
Seattle offers so many sites and sounds it can feel a bit overwhelming. Take the guesswork out of your vacation with our list of things to do in Seattle.