Seattle, Washington is known as the Emerald City for good reason… it’s very green, in more ways than one. Surrounded by mountains, forests and multiple bodies of water, it is a nature lovers’ paradise, offering easy access to hiking, biking, climbing, skiing and a slew of other outdoor activities. However, it is also a modern, hip, free-thinking, liberal city full of avid readers, musicians, foodies and coffee and craft beer drinkers.
Put all of this together and you have a city of incredible variety and balance, offering literally something for everyone. We could easily create a list of 100 things, but we’ve narrowed it down to 10 of the best things to do in Seattle.
Insider Tip: If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing while in Seattle, make sure to get the Seattle CityPass. The pass gives you free admission to some of Seattle’s premier attractions such as the Space Needle and Seattle Aquarium.
Pike Place Market & Waterfront Piers
Pike Place Market is one of the oldest farmer’s markets in the USA, but it is far from showing its age. This lively spot is a great place to eat local, shop for artisans’ wares and be entertained by the talented street performers and famous fish throwers. Just down the hill is the waterfront and colorful piers full of restaurants, bars and touristic sights. Don’t miss a visit to Ye Olde Curiosity Shop!
Insider Tip: We highly recommend you book a walking tour of Pike Place Market to experience some of the city’s favorite market spots.
Explore the Neighborhoods
Seattle is made up of distinct neighborhoods, many of which are worth exploring as a local or visitor. Fremont (aka: Center of the Universe) is an artsy, bohemian neighborhood with a great weekend market and a giant troll living under the bridge. Green and leafy, hip and trendy, Capitol Hill is the LGBT-friendly center, full of cutting-edge fashion and funky dining spots. Pioneer Square was the original downtown, and still has cobblestone streets and lovely brick buildings. Queen Anne is a mix of historic homes, lively bars, restaurants and shops and quiet parks on the hill. These are just a few of the beautiful neighborhoods in Seattle.
Being surrounded by all types of waterways, Seattle is a perfect place to go boating. You can take a scenic ferry ride to Bainbridge Island and back, rent a kayak and traverse the canals of the Washington Park Arboretum, take a dinner cruise on a steam boat and on Sundays, you can go for a free sail on Lake Union on one of several boats leaving from the Wooden Boat Center.
Go to the Park
Although surrounded by evergreen woods perfect for hiking, you don’t need to leave Seattle to find some peaceful green space. There are over 400 parks in the city, but here are a few favorites. For great views, Kerry, Volunteer and Gasworks Parks are top picks. If you want to be on the waterfront, go to Washington Park Arboretum, Lincoln or Myrtle Edwards Parks. And for great walking trails, you can’t beat Green Lake, Warren G. Magnuson and Discovery Parks.
The U District and the University of Washington
Stroll the streets of the U District to see an eclectic mix of funky bars and eateries, historic architecture, theaters and vintage clothing boutiques. The urban University of Washington was founded in 1861, and has a beautiful 703-acre campus with tree-lined walkways, fountains, open squares, historic buildings and a gorgeous library. If you’re there in the spring you’ll be treated to the sight of dozens of flowering cherry blossom trees.
Alki Beach Park
Alki Beach Park boasts a clean and pretty beach, a great beach-side pathway for strolling, jogging, cycling and skating and stunning views of downtown Seattle. It’s one of the best things to do in Seattle during the summer, but also a lovely place for a walk any time of year. There are also some good restaurants along the beach serving fresh seafood, gourmet pizza and of course, ice cream.
Seattle Center was originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair and remains a top destination for arts, entertainment, events and sights for locals and visitors alike. The Center is home to the iconic Space Needle, the International Fountain, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, The Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the EMP), the Seattle Center Monorail terminus, Pacific Science Center and many music and arts festivals throughout the year.
Eat and Drink
It’s really hard to beat Seattle for the variety and availability of great food and drink, therefore, eating and drinking tops the list of the best things to do in Seattle. Known for their love of coffee, Seattle is the birthplace of the world famous Starbucks, but the hundreds of locations are still not enough. You can’t go more than a few feet without passing a coffee shop full of Seattleites sipping and chatting or reading. They also love their craft beer, cocktails and international eateries, so libation lovers and foodies will be in absolute heaven. The only downside is that the overwhelming number of choices make it hard to decide.
Attend a Sporting Event
Aside from being avid coffee drinkers, readers and nature lovers, Seattleites also love their sports teams, so attending a sporting event is a very Seattle thing to do. Depending on the time of year, you can watch the Super Bowl Champions, the Seattle Seahawks, at the open-air CenturyLink Field in fall/winter, the Seattle Mariners baseball team at Safeco Field in spring/summer or the Seattle Sounders soccer team. Of course, this is the USA so there are also an abundance of college teams to watch as well.
Go to a Festival
Seattle is an awesome place for festivals of all kinds. Whatever time of year you visit, there is bound to be a festival of some sort. Some of our favorites are the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Taste Washington, Fremont Fair, Washington Brewers Festival, SEAFAIR, Hempfest, and Woodland Park Zoo Christmas Lights. These are just a tiny taste of the hundreds of festivals in the area.
Seattle is one of our favorite cities in the USA and the above mentioned are just a few of the best things to do in Seattle. It is a city you can come back to again and again, and still do something different each time! So take your time and enjoy your visit to this beautiful city!
Insider Tip: Take the stress out of sightseeing and join the Seattle in One Day sightseeing tour, and see all that Seattle has to offer in just one day.
Sarah is the co-owner and writer for several travel and lifestyle sites including Discover the Pacific Northwest, a resource for all things fun and delicious in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Although she now travels the world in search of great international stories and images, she always returns to her beloved Pacific Northwest because, as she tells everyone she meets: “There really is no more beautiful region on the planet!”