52 Best Things to Do in Seattle (A Local’s 2023 List)
👉 Jump to: Things to Do | Sites and Attractions | Outdoors | Free and Cheap | Cool and Unusual Attractions | Rainy Day | Food and Drink
Whether it’s your first time in the Pacific Northwest or you’re a Washington state local, prepare to be enchanted by the many fun things to do in Seattle.
In Seattle, you can wander through the famous Pike Place Market, ride to the top of the Space Needle, immerse yourself in vibrant neighborhoods, enjoy a thriving culinary scene, attend incredible live shows, and soak in everything the best city on the Puget Sound has to offer.
I’ve called the Emerald City home for over ten years, so I know exactly what you should focus on during your visit. Read on to see what made my list of the best things to do in Seattle so you can plan the perfect trip to the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest!
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51 Best Things to Do in Seattle
Experience Capitol Hill
Eat, bar hop, and shop in a historic neighborhood
Seattle is a city of neighborhoods and Capitol Hill is among the best neighborhoods in Seattle. This historical core of the LGBTQ community has gone through a multitude of transformations over the years but remains a worthy destination for visitors and locals alike.
On the north end of the hill is Volunteer Park, and dozens of cute shops and cafes among gorgeous and historic mansions. Further south along the Pike/Pine Corridor is where you’ll find more of the nightlife – bars, clubs, and venues for live shows. Some of Seattle’s best restaurants are throughout the neighborhood, with options for everything from Thai to Ethiopian to vegan fare and juicy burgers.
Whether you want to spend your time in nature, bask in a foodie’s paradise, grab some unique souvenirs or drink and party with the locals, you’ll get your fill of it on Capitol Hill.
Pike Place Market
Explore the famous hundred-year-old market
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 682-7453 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: free | 👉 Take A Food Tour of Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is Seattle’s iconic market in the heart of the city center. It’s one of the best things to do in Seattle and it made my list of the best things to do and see in Washington state.
Take your time wandering through the top level of this expansive market with hundreds of vendors selling produce, handmade goods, art, flowers, and more. Don’t neglect the underground specialty shops (including a magic shop!).
To taste your way through the best of Pike Place Market, check out this fun Pike Place Market food tour I recently went on! It’s guide by a chef and is such a fun time that I added it to this list in it’s own entry below.
If you’re not too squeamish, snap a picture in front of Seattle’s grossest local landmark: the gum wall. Afterward, continue wandering through Post Alley and sample all the delicious treats from shops across the street from the market entrance (you won’t regret a bottle of Rachel’s ginger beer!).
🚌 How to Get There: Avoid driving down to the market! Parking in the area is expensive, and if you’re unlucky your GPS will direct you down the historic cobblestone road in front of the market where you’ll be stuck moving at a snail’s pace waiting for crowds to disperse. Don’t be one of the unlucky visitors this happens to. The best way to get here is to walk from your hotel if you’re staying downtown or take a bus along 3rd Ave that will drop you a couple of blocks away.
Hike through the largest park in the city
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 386-4236 | Website | Hours: 4 am -11:30 pm daily
A trip to Discovery Park is a good way to feel like you’re leaving the bustling city behind without actually exiting city limits. At 534 acres, Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest park and takes up the western end of the Magnolia neighborhood.
Come here if you want to wander through a forest, go bird watching, explore along the bluffs and find a good place to picnic. Wander down to the beach to see West Point Lighthouse and search for sea lions, and stay to watch a magnificent sunset over the Olympic Mountains.
👉 Bookmark to Read Next: 27 Best Places to Visit in Washington State
Seattle Art Museum
Check out a diverse and beautiful museum
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 654-3100 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Wednesday – Sunday, Closed Monday and Tuesday | Entrance: $32.99, adults, $22.99, teens (15-19), $27.99, senior (65+), free for children 14 and under
The Seattle Art Museum in downtown Seattle is hard to miss with the 48-foot tall Hammering Man Sculpture outside its entrance.
The inside is just as striking. The museum boasts thoughtfully curated temporary exhibits and a large permanent art collection that includes a range of contemporary pieces, African, European, and Native American art, and more.
The entirety of the SAM exists beyond the downtown building, though. The Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park and the Olympic Sculpture Park along the waterfront are further extensions of it. With breathtaking sculptures alongside historic and modern art, this is arguably the best Seattle museum to visit on your trip to Seattle.
Sip Seattle’s favorite beverage
Seattle knows a thing or two about coffee – especially since it’s considered the coffee capital of the United States. There are so many coffee shops in Seattle that you’ll have an easy time doing some coffee tourism here to find your favorite brew.
Whether your drink of choice is a simple drip, a classic americano, or a latte with a dairy-free milk alternative, you’ll quickly learn what makes a quality drink and why Seattleites are obsessed with it.
☕ Where Should You Grab a Cup of Joe? – Yes, there are a ton of coffee shops here which can make choosing one overwhelming! To get you started, a few of my current favorites are Uptown Espresso, Herkimer Coffee, and Hello Em. At all of these, you can grab a great drink and spend some time lounging in their indoor seating area. But, try out whatever shop is closest to you – it just might become your new fav.
Catch an epic live show
Seattle is the birthplace of grunge, and while the sounds may have changed since the 90s, the energy that turned Seattle into a city of phenomenal live shows remains.
Whether or not you consider yourself a music aficionado, you should try to catch a show at one of Seattle’s many live music venues. A few popular ones are Neumos in Cap Hill along with the famous Crocodile in Belltown (the original headquarters of the grunge scene). For a more refined venue, check out performances at The Triple Door.
If your tastes lean more toward the performing arts, check out plays and more at places like the Paramount and Moore Theater.
Explore the cultural center of the city
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 684-7200 | Website
The Seattle Center is home to many of Seattle’s great attractions that are all within walking distance of one another.
Start by taking a ride to the top of the Space Needle and admiring the views while you stand on the revolving glass floor. Afterward, check out the Museum of Pop Culture, a contemporary museum featuring pop culture icons, science fiction, and fantasy exhibits, and an immersive music experience.
There’s a lot more you can do here – enjoy the Artists at Play playground with kids, check out the Pacific Science Center, or catch a Kraken game at the Climate Pledge Arena. Whatever you choose, the Seattle Center is a must-do experience, especially for first-time visitors.
🚝 How to Get There: If you’re staying downtown, one of the best ways to get to the Seattle Center is by using the Seattle Monorail. It picks up from the Westlake Center Mall station and drops visitors adjacent to the Museum of Pop Culture and the Space Needle.
Lounge away the day on a beach
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 684-4075 | Website | Hours: 4 am – 11:30 pm daily
While Seattle isn’t anyone’s top beach destination, visiting in warmer months necessitates a trip to Alki Beach in West Seattle. This beach has it all – a sandy area for playing in the water and beach bumming, spots for volleyball, a boardwalk for running, biking, and rollerblading, and lots of dining spots and places to grab a snack across the street from the beach.
You can launch a kayak here and in certain months you may even see seals and their pups resting on the shore. Because it’s such a pleasant spot, Alki Beach is a great destination for anyone on a family vacation, but even solo travelers will find it a wonderful place to spend a day.
Seattle Sites and Attractions
Check out Seattle’s lively waterfront
On a typical day by the waterfront, you’ll see people wandering down the pathway to and from Olympic Sculpture Park, jogging, fishing, or stopping to get some seafood from Ivars. This is a great place for people watching, and an easy walk from the downtown Seattle city center.
Go to Miner’s Landing to grab a bite to eat, buy some souvenirs, take pictures with the quirky statues and, of course, take a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel. Head north to visit the Seattle Aquarium or south to pop into Ye Olde Curiosity Shop to see some seriously strange gifts and other eclectic finds.
Take a tour of Seattle from a boat
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 623-1445 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: $37+, adults, $20, youth (4-12), free, kid (3 and under) | 👉 Book A Harbor Cruise on Viator
If you’ve never been on a boat tour before, this is your chance to partake in one that’s both informative and beautiful. Argosy Cruises is a tour company that operates from the Seattle waterfront. All tours have live narration, and there’s a bar on board that serves cocktails and other beverages and snacks.
You’ll have views of the Seattle skyline from right on the Puget Sound and may even catch a glimpse of Mount Rainier on clear days.
Book their Harbor Cruise and learn about the city’s past and present or choose their Locks Cruise which will take you up through north Seattle where you’ll get to experience the Ballard Locks, see Gasworks Park, and some of Seattle’s floating home communities.
💰Want to Save Some Cash?: You can enjoy Argosy Cruises, the Space Needle (twice!), Chihuly Garden and Glass, and more at a discounted rate when you purchase a Seattle City Pass! This is a really good deal for families and anyone on a budget, and I highly recommend buying one to save 44% on tickets if any of these are on your itinerary for Seattle.
Museum of Flight
Get up close and personal with aircraft
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 764-5700 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: $26, adults, $18, youth (5-17), free ages 4 and under
The Museum of Flight is a must for flight enthusiasts. It’s one of the largest air and space museums in the world and is packed full of aircraft, artifacts, exhibits, and more for visitors to see and learn about the history of flight. It’s located in the very south of Seattle and on the border of Tukwila. A trip here will help visitors understand one of Seattle’s lesser-known nicknames: Jet City.
Get familiar with marine life in the Pacific Northwest
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 386-4300 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am – 6 pm daily | Entrance: $23.95+, adults (13 and over), $16.95+, youth (4-12), free ages 3 and under
If it’s a rainy day or you’re visiting with kids, the Seattle Aquarium is the place to spend a lowkey morning or afternoon. The aquarium is right on the Puget Sound, just a short walk from the Seattle Great Wheel.
Inside you’ll find a touch tank full of sea cucumbers, hermit crabs, sea anemones, and more. There is plenty of knowledgeable staff on-site to answer questions and ample opportunities to learn about the Aquarium’s conservation efforts. Come to see the fish, harbor seals, river otters, puffins, and you’ll leave with a better understanding of the marine life and the sea creatures of the Pacific Northwest.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery
Learn about the latest brewing methods from the worldwide coffee giant
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 624-0173 | Website | Hours: 7 am – 8 pm daily
Starbucks is the coffee giant most people think of when they come to Seattle, and a visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a great stop for the biggest fans.
Prepare to have an elevated Starbucks experience here. They offer tours, tasting flights, an extended menu with cocktails, artisanal pastries and sandwiches, and even unreleased coffees you won’t find in other stores. It’s an easy walk up the hill from downtown Seattle, and a good spot to spend an hour or two.
👉 Local Tip: You may have heard that you can visit the original Starbucks down in Pike Place Market too. While it may be worth it for serious fans, know that it’s not all that different than a regular Starbucks with long lines and drinks only. If you only have time for one, I highly recommend choosing the Reserve Roastery over the original.
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
Take a tour of the original city beneath Pioneer Square
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 682-4646 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am – 7 pm daily | Entrance: $22, adults, $20 student (13-17), $10, youth (7-12), free ages 6 and under
A popular tourist attraction that even locals love, the Underground Tour takes visitors on a journey through the original city before the great Seattle fire of 1889 decimated it.
You’ll walk below the streets of Pioneer Square and see the original storefronts and sidewalks as you learn the history of the underground city the current one was rebuilt upon. The humorous guides make this underground Seattle tour extra enjoyable and worth your time.
Woodland Park Zoo
Watch and learn about fascinating animals and Seattle’s conservations efforts
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 548-2500 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am – 4 pm Monday – Wednesday, 9:30 am – 3 pm Thursday – Sunday | Entrance: $19, adults, $13, children (3-12)
If the chance to see penguins, wolves, rhinos, and komodo dragons excites you, you’ll want to visit the Woodland Park Zoo. This conservation-focused zoo is the perfect place to see and learn about a wide variety of animals and their habitats.
There are several fun community events the zoo hosts throughout the year too, including the WildLanterns light show during the holidays, and various adults-only beer, whiskey, and wine events in the evenings.
This is one of the best things to do in Seattle with kids year-round, but it’s also a great place for animal lovers of all ages.
👉 Want More Seattle Tips? Check out all our free Seattle travel guides here (we also have guides to the State of Washington too!).
What to Do Outdoors
Picnic, jog, or stroll through the city parks
Phone: (206) 684-4075 | Website
You’ll find a wealth of green spaces and city parks in Seattle, so getting outdoors for some fresh air is a must. One of the most popular is Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill. Not only does it have a botanical garden and museum, but there’s also plenty of space to picnic, play frisbee, and ample play areas for kids.
Gas Works Park is a must-visit if you want incredible views of the city across Lake Union. Check out Seward Park for its jogging trails, or to barbecue with friends down by the water.
If you make the trip over to West Seattle, you can visit Lincoln Park. Here you’ll have stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and Vashon Island to the west, and you can take a dip in the heated outdoor saltwater pool if you visit during the summertime.
Golden Gardens Park
Spend time on Seattle’s prettiest beach
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 684-4075 | Website | Hours: 4 am – 11:30 pm daily
Golden Gardens may be the most beautiful beach in Seattle. Up north in Ballard, this is the place to go if you want to spend a nice, warm day along the Puget Sound. There’s room to play volleyball as well as picnic tables and outdoor grills for barbecuing.
In cooler seasons you can explore the park’s trails, listen and watch for seals, enjoy a bonfire, or go during low tide to search for sea creatures in the tide pools. Whatever season you’re there, be sure to stay for the sunset on a clear day. They’re spectacular.
Washington Park Arboretum
Stroll through a peaceful arboretum
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 543-8800 | Website | Hours: dawn – 8 pm daily
Venture out to the Washington Park Arboretum to see one of the most beautiful and peaceful spots in Seattle. Nature lovers will want to visit the Arboretum in the Madison Park neighborhood no matter what season you come.
You’ll wander through hundreds of varieties of trees and plants in different themed gardens. Enjoy the vibrant colors in the fall, pretty blooms in the spring and summer, and delightful scents and unexpected pops of color in the wintertime.
Explore on your own or take one of the arboretum’s walking or tram tours where you can ask questions and learn about the plants that make up this oasis in the middle of the city.
Lake Union Park
Get out on the water
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 684-4075 | Website | Hours: 4 am – 11:30 pm daily
If you’re visiting Lake Union Park in the South Lake Union neighborhood, you should get out on the water. There are several ways to do this.
The easiest and most budget-friendly is to visit the Center of Wooden Boats. You can rent a peaboat for free and take it out on the water for a few hours. You can also rent kayaks, canoes, or other boats from there for a reasonable fee.
For a unique experience, I recommend renting a donut boat (be sure to bring your own donuts to compliment the experience), or try a hot tub boat rental (best in the cooler months!). Both are super fun and unique ways to experience this lake smack dab in the middle of the city.
Hang out by the lake in north Seattle
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 684-4075 | Website | Hours: Open 24 hours
On a sunny day, you’ll find Seattleites flocking to Green Lake up in north Seattle. Jog, walk your dog, or take a nice stroll along the 2.8-mile loop surrounding the lake. There’s a baseball field, room for soccer and volleyball, shady trees for a picnic or mid-afternoon nap, and a wading pool and play area for kids.
If you want to get out on the lake you can rent stand-up paddle boats, kayaks, and water bikes from the Greenlake Boathouse. And you’re never too far from food. The restaurants and cafes surrounding the lake make it easy to grab a lunch or snack as needed.
Cherry Blossoms in the University District
See a gorgeous display of cherry blossoms
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 543-9198 | Website
Time your visit well and you’ll catch the cherry blossoms blooming in the University District. On the University of Washington campus in the Quad is where you’ll find this magical display, typically from mid-March to early April.
Surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms and the gorgeous gothic architecture of the UW campus buildings, the whole scene feels straight out of a movie. If you’re into flower peeping and want to see one of the prettiest spring displays Seattle has to offer, plan a trip here.
Hike a nearby mountain
Website | 👉 Book a Mount Rainier Day trip Tour on Viator
With close proximity to mountains and National Parks, it makes sense that hiking is one of the best things to do in Seattle. City park hiking is an option, but if you want to venture out further, there are several great hikes within an hour drive or less from Seattle. I highly recommend trying one out to experience some of the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
For new hikers wanting to tackle a mountain, I highly recommend checking out Rattlesnake Ridge, a popular hike not too far away from Seattle but with a great payoff at the end. If you’re more advanced and want a bit of a workout, try Mount Si. For other options, check out my article on the best hikes near Seattle to find others that might fit your taste and experience level.
⛰️ Want to hike Mount Rainier?: If you want to get up close and personal with Washington’s iconic mountain, I highly recommend booking this Mount Rainier tour that will take you on an amazing day trip to one of the most beautiful places in Washington. They operate year-round (with a snowshoe and sled option during winter), so you’re sure to have a great time in any season!
Free and Cheap Stuff to Do in Seattle
In addition to the below activities in this section, you can also read my full list of 33 free things to do in Seattle for more budget-friendly Seattle activity ideas.
Find the best views in the city
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 684-4075 | Website | Hours: 6 am – 10 pm daily
In a city this pretty, you might wonder where you can find some of the best views of the Seattle skyline, Puget Sound, Space Needle, and Mount Rainier. Lucky for you, Kerry Park park exists! It’s from here that you can see all of this and more.
There is a massive hill leading up to this park in Queen Anne, so I highly recommend either driving or taking a bus up the hill to save your legs and lungs the effort. And though the small park can get crowded, especially during summer, you’ll be able to capture some beautiful photos here.
Enjoy the park’s views of everything from Elliott Bay to downtown Seattle. It’s one of the best places for some photos of the city.
Catch a Mariner’s game
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 346-4000 | Website
You don’t have to pay a ton of money to see the Mariners play! One of the best ways to watch is to get cheap tickets and then go down to The Pen to watch the game from center field.
T-Mobile Park is a large, impressive stadium in SoDo, and there are plenty of surrounding bars and places to grab a drink or bite to eat afterward to save a couple of bucks (you’ll pay a premium if you have food and drinks inside the stadium).
For a really cheap and delicious option, be sure to order a Seattle dog from one of the hot dog vendors outside the stadium before or after the game. Your taste buds will thank you.
Check out the ships, seals, and salmon at the locks
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 780-2500 | Website | Hours: 7 am – 9 pm daily
The Ballard Locks are where the saltwater Puget Sound connects to freshwater Lake Washington and you don’t have to pay a thing to see them.
Located on the south end of Ballard, the locks are open year-round. In addition to watching the boats pass through the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the seals hanging out there, you can check out the salmon fish ladder and learn about salmon spawning and how the locks benefit them.
After viewing the locks, wander the paths of the Charles S. English Jr Botanical Gardens or make a stop at the National Nordic Museum (admission is free on the first Thursday of the month!) to learn about the history and cultural heritage of the Scandinavian settlers in the Ballard neighborhood.
👉 Pro Tip: Peak viewing time for the salmon on the fish ladder is from mid-June to September, so you’ll have the best chance of seeing the salmon run if your visit falls in the summer months.
Take a photo with a troll beneath a bridge
Pay a visit to the eclectic Fremont neighborhood where you can see Seattle’s famous troll beneath the bridge. The sculpture was originally built for an art contest the city had to reform the area under the bridge in 1990.
While seeing the troll and climbing it to get some photos takes only a few minutes, I highly recommend going back along 36th to explore some of the shops around Fremont or seek out some of the other art installations around the neighborhood.
If you visit on a Sunday, be sure to check out the Fremont Sunday Farmer’s Market to find all manner of interesting goods and yummy food truck bites.
Take a day trip to an island
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (888) 808-7977 | Website
You should make an effort to ride the ferries when visiting Seattle. It’s cheap to walk or bike on (under $11 roundtrip) and you have a few options for places to go.
While on the ferry, be sure to go out on the deck where you’ll have fantastic views of mountains on one side and the Seattle skyline on the other (though bring a coat, it gets very chilly while the ferry’s in motion!).
Take the ferry to Vashon or Bainbridge Island, two places that make a fun and easy day trip from Seattle. Both places will give you a bit of a break from the city and let you see and experience some small towns in Washington state.
Check out my guide to what to do on Vashon Island and what to do on Bainbridge Island for more info.
Frye Art Museum
Admire art at a completely free museum
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 622-9250 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Wednesday – Sunday, Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
You don’t have to pay to view some of the beautiful art in the city. The Frye Art Museum in the First Hill neighborhood is completely free to visit, and well worth it too. Here you can see the private art collection of the Frye family, a mixture of 19th-century paintings and sculptures.
In addition to the permanent collection, the Frye Art Museum also has rotating temporary exhibits of contemporary local and global artists that change every few months so there’s always something interesting to see.
Check out an architectural beauty
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 386-4636 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 6 pm Monday-Tuesday, 10 am – 8 pm, Wednesday-Thursday, 10 am – 6 pm Friday-Saturday, 12 pm – 6 pm Sunday
Seattle’s downtown public library is a notable building. It’s 11 stories high and made up of glass and steel. The building is a starkly beautiful structure smack dab in the middle of Seattle’s city center. Whether you’re an architecture or book lover, you should pay a visit, and explore it. It’s one of the coolest libraries in the United States.
👉 Read Next: Check out my complete guide on how to do Seattle on a budget to find out even more ways to explore the Emerald City cheaply!
Cool and Unusual Attractions
Explore Seattle’s gritty, cool and eclectic neighborhood
Georgetown is by far one of the coolest neighborhoods in Seattle. Its gritty and edgy vibe makes it feel somewhat like Seattle’s neighbor to the south, Tacoma.
You’ll find restaurants, cafes, dispensaries, breweries, and bars throughout, but most of the action is along Airport Way S. Peruse the vintage shops in the area or check out graphic novels at Fantagraphics. Grab some sweet treats from Matcha Man Ice Cream and Tayaki or pop over to Deep Sea Sugar and Salt for the most delectable cakes and cupcakes.
Visit on a Saturday or Sunday to see the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall. There, you’ll find a little market where vendors set up shop in transformed trailers. Poke around and you’re sure to find something you can’t leave without.
Ride a Seaplane
Book a ride on a seaplane
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (866) 435-9524 | Website | Hours: 6:30 am – 3 pm daily | Entrance: $119.50/person | 👉 Book a Seaplane Tour
The Emerald City is known for its beauty and what better way to take it all in than from the air? Kenmore Air offers seaplane rides from Lake Union in Seattle where you’ll get to see several Seattle landmarks – the Space Needle, Elliott Bay, the University of Washington Campus, and more.
This is the perfect excursion for the person who adores the window seat. During the ride, you’ll have a narrated tour of what you’re seeing to help cement this unforgettable experience.
While their main flights are from Lake Union, you can also take off from their Kenmore hub along Lake Washington. And if you’re really in love with this idea, you can even book a San Juan Island tour or a volcano tour over Mount Rainier and Mount St Helens.
Check out one of the most unusual museums in Seattle
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 767-3012 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 3 pm Sunday, Closed Monday – Saturday | Entrance: free ($5 donation suggested)
Located in Georgetown, this little-known niche museum is perfect for those interested in technology, telecommunications, and how the two have evolved over the years.
The museum has multiple exhibits that are both interactive and informative and show the extent of the work that went into developing, maintaining, and operating the equipment.
Visitors will have a tour guide available to walk them through and explain exactly what they’re looking at so you’ll leave with a deeper appreciation and understanding of communication equipment from the past to the present.
Savor cocktails in Seattle’s first skyscraper
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 624-0414 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 9 pm Wednesday-Thursday, Sunday; 11 am – 10 pm Friday-Saturday; Closed Monday and Tuesday
The Smith Tower was the city’s very first skyscraper and the tallest building until the Space Needle was built. Take a self-guided tour of this beautiful building in Pioneer Square and you’ll be transported back to the 1920s. After the tour, go up to the rooftop bar on the top floor. If an impeccable ambiance, delicious food, well-made cocktails, and incredible views are what you’re searching for, you’ll find all of them here.
Seattle Pinball Museum
Play pinball at a non-traditional museum
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 623-0759 | Website | Hours: 12 pm – 6 pm Fridays – Mondays, Closed Tuesday – Thursday | Entrance: $20, adults, $17, kids (7-12)
Not much of a traditional museum fan? Not to worry. The Seattle Pinball Museum is anything but traditional. Part museum and part arcade, visit here and you’ll pay an entrance fee and then be able to see the museum’s collection of pinball machines from as early as the 1930s and up to the present day.
The best part is you’re free to play them all as long and as much as you like (they even have snacks and drinks to keep you going). If you’re someone who really likes interactive museums, it doesn’t get much more interesting and interactive than the Pinball Museum.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Admire intricate glass sculptures
📍 Gogole Maps | Phone: (206) 753-4940 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: $27, adults, $16, youth (5-12)
This may be considered one of the most popular tourist attractions, but the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibits are unique to Seattle and equipped with sculptures so stunning they’ll stop you in your tracks.
This museum is a bit on the pricey side, but if you want to see one of the most colorful and pretty places in Seattle, you won’t regret a visit here. Wander through the greenhouse, chat with knowledgeable staff and even catch a live glassblowing demonstration at Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Grab a drink in a secret bar
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 728-6069 | Website | Hours: 5 pm – 2 am daily
Seattle has always had a thing for speakeasies, so you’ll find quite a few around the city. Of these, one of the best is Bathtub Gin & Co. Tucked away in an unassuming alley in Belltown, you’ll have to knock on the door to be let in.
Once inside, take in the cozy multi-level bar and find a couch to lounge on and decide on just the right cocktail to try. The cocktails on their menu are great, but I highly recommend telling the bartender what kind of liquor and flavor profile you like and letting them come up with a custom drink just for you.
What to Do on a Rainy Day
Watch a moving opera performance
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 733-9725 | Website
If you want to catch a show in a beautiful venue, look no further than McCaw Hall. This is the center for the opera, ballet, and other live performances in the city, located right near the Space Needle.
Go for a more casual Sunday morning viewing or dress up for an evening show. They have an on-site restaurant and a well-stocked gift shop. Check their website before you go to see what’s playing!
Explore Seattle’s museum scene
A rainy day in Seattle means it’s time to go museum hopping. The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) is one of the more popular ones. Here, you’ll learn about Seattle’s transformation into the hub it is today through several eye-opening exhibits. This one is a must for major history fans.
To learn more about Seattle’s communities, visit the Wing Luke Museum where you’ll learn about the history Asian American community in the city. The Northwest African American Museum (temporarily closed for renovations) will educate you on the history of the Black community in the Pacific Northwest. Here you’ll find African art and contemporary pieces by local artists.
👉 Pro Tip: Select Seattle museums are available to visit for free on the first Thursday of the month! This includes museums like the MOHAI, Seattle Art Museum, the Museum of Flight, and more. Hours for free entry vary depending on the museum, so check the web before you go.
Board Game Cafes
Play games board games over brews
Seattle is home to several board game cafes where you can shop for new games or rent some from the store’s collection and play them in-store.
Of these, Mox Boarding House is the largest and most well-known. They have a great selection of games, a varied and tasty food and drink menu, and host tournaments and other game nights for new and experienced gamers. Their location in Ballard is where you’ll want to go, though they also have one in the neighboring city of Bellevue.
Another option is Meeples Games in West Seattle. This board game cafe is smaller, but perfect for families with younger kids. It’s a bright and welcoming space with a good selection of food, drinks, and snacks where you’ll be among friendly and laid-back locals who also love to game.
Elliott Bay Bookstore
Find a great read from Seattle’s favorite bookstore
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 624-6600 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 10 pm daily
Elliott Bay Bookstore is a must-visit for book lovers. This large store in Capitol Hill is part bookstore, part reading and event space, and part cafe. With a wide selection of books, notebooks, and other reading-related gifts, it’s a great place to spend a few hours. Make sure you plan accordingly – it’s very easy to get lost among the stacks of mysteries, memoirs, science fiction novels, and more.
Note: The Little Oddfellows Cafe located in the store is temporarily closed, and the majority of events are being hosted virtually.
Do dinner and a movie in an indie theater
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 328-3230 | Website | Hours: Vary | Entrance: $12 general admission
If you’re looking for the best place to do dinner and a movie, then look no further than Central Cinema. This indie theater plays classic, nostalgic, and crowd-pleasing movies and serves beer, wine, dinner, and dessert right to your seat.
They also have other non-traditional movie events such as their Hecklevision screenings (talking and jokes welcome and encouraged during the show!), and themed sing-a-long nights. Located in the Central District, this gem of a spot is worth a visit for a cozy night indoors.
Take a tour of a chocolate factory
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 632-5100 | Website | Hours: 10:30 am – 6 pm daily | Entrance: $12 factory tour | 👉 Browse a Factory Tour
One of the sweeter things to do in Seattle is to go on a chocolate tasting tour. Theo Chocolate is a local brand that has a huge variety of organic and fair-trade chocolate and confections. Visit their flagship store to find a variety of exclusive bars and treats unavailable outside of the Seattle area.
They also offer reasonably priced tours of their factory where you can learn about their history, the chocolate-making process, and sample some of the goods as you go. If you’re someone with a sweet tooth, you’ll want to take a trip to their store up in Fremont.
Food and Drink
Pike Place Market Food Tour
Taste your way through Seattle’s number one attraction
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 682-7453 | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily (tour times vary depending on availability) | 👉 Book a Chef-Guided Food Tour
One of the best ways to get familiar with Pike Place Market is through its culinary scene! The historic district boasts tons of bakeries, cafes, restaurants, and food stands. Booking a chef-guided food tour is a great way to try a lot of them all at once.
You’ll get to skip the lines and taste generously portioned samples on this visitor and resident-friendly tour. Come hungry! Creamy, flavorful clam chowder, light and fluffy biscuits, chewy, salty cheese curds, and so much more await you.
Between snagging your samples and leading you through the maze-like market, your guide will also share stories of the market’s history. After the tour, they’ll suggest nearby attractions and let you in on other great places to eat in Seattle.
Molly Moon’s Ice Cream
Eat delectable locally made ice cream
📍 Google Maps (multiple locations) | Phone: (206) 294-4389 | Website | Hours: 12 pm – 10 pm Sunday – Thursday, 12 pm – 11 pm Friday – Saturday
If you want ice cream in Seattle, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Molly Moon’s. This local, woman-owned Seattle institution has standout permanent flavors (their salted caramel is always a win!), and rotating seasonal flavors.
Ingredients are sourced locally, and the mouthwatering scent of their fresh, in-house baked waffle cones will greet you when you approach the shop (you can smell it from a block away!). There’s a reason you’ll find Seattleites lined up for Molly Moon’s even in the depth of winter – it’s really that good.
Chinatown International District
Take a food tour through the Chinatown International District
Go to the International District if you’re craving a sampling of some of the yummiest food in Seattle. There you’ll find hole-in-the-walls, cafes, delis, restaurants, and more that make it possible for you to take yourself on a self-guided food tour.
A few places you should stop at are King’s Barbecue for delectable roasted duck and BBQ pork, Harbor City Restaurant for dim sum, Fuji Bakery for Japanese-French baked goods (try the beef curry balls and ube malasada), Hello Em for some Vietnamese Coffee with egg foam, and Saigon Deli for one of the most delicious and affordable Banh mi’s in the city.
Grab a Beer
Check out some of the best breweries in the area
Seattle’s brewery scene is impressive and there are numerous places to grab a beer and have a good time in nearly every neighborhood. Whether you’re into hoppy IPAs, rich stouts and or something in between, you’ll be happy with your selections.
If you want to go brewery hopping, Ballard is a good place to start. There you’ll find a bunch of independent Seattle breweries all within about a mile of each other. Check out Stroup, Reuben’s, and Lucky Envelope to get started, though you’ll quickly find that you really can’t go wrong with any choice.
Indulge in some delicious Ethiopian eats
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (206) 328-0404 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 9 pm daily
There are a lot of Ethiopian restaurants to choose from in Seattle, all serving up some mouthwatering meals. Many of these are in the Central District and Capitol Hil and I recommend starting with Cafe Salem for a tasty meal in a cozy location. Order your injera with delicious spiced meats or vegetarian options, and don’t forget to order some Ethiopian coffee too.
Grab burgers and milkshakes at a no-frills Seattle landmark
📍 Google Maps (multiple locations) | Phone: (206) 632-5125 | Website | Hours: 10:30 am – 2 am daily
Burgers, milkshakes, and fries are what you’ll get at Dicks. This popular local joint has cheap and quick eats, is open late, and it’s a Seattle classic (Sir Mix-a-Lot even rapped about it). Try it at least once after a night of drinking and dancing.
Dine on Seattle’s comfort food
Bring an appetite for teriyaki to Seattle: you won’t be disappointed. Seattle is considered one of the places in the US to get the best of it. Start with Toshio’s Teriyaki or Nikko Teriyaki, but don’t limit yourself. Whether you get it from a little hole-in-the-wall closest to where you’re staying or seek it out from further afield, you’ll find out that you really can’t go wrong with teriyaki in Seattle.
Find cheap eats throughout the U-District
The Ave is the area along University Way NE between NE Pacific and NE Ravenna in the University District. This strip features shops, bars, and best of all, some of the yummiest, reasonably priced eats in the area. Sample cuisine of all types from Thai to Chinese to Mediterranean and more. This is one spot foodies don’t want to miss out on, especially during the University District Arts Fair in May when the area comes alight with festivities.
Taste some of the best seafood you’ll ever have
One of the things Seattle is most known for is its abundance of seafood. You can’t go wrong with Seattle’s favorite fish: salmon. Whether you get it smoked, grilled, or prepared another way, you’re guaranteed the good stuff.
Try some clam chowder (served in a bread bowl for a real decadent experience), and get your hands on some Dungeness crab at all costs. A final Seattle and Pacific Northwest delicacy to try at least once? Geoduck. It may look weird, but that’s just even more reason to try it along with all the other gourmet food from the sea that Seattle is so good at preparing.
Warm up with a tasty bowl of pho
One of the best meals to enjoy on a rainy day? Pho. Seattleites know this and it’s pretty obvious by the abundance of great pho places in the city. You can find a good dish in many different neighborhoods, but two of the best places to get started are Pho Bac Sup Shop and Mekong Village.
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Seattle is one of the best cities on the west coast, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time trying the myriad of events here. What are you most looking forward to? Let me know in a comment!
Ready to start planning your trip? Read about my tips for visiting Seattle to make sure you’re all set and then book your stay after reading where to stay in Seattle.
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This was so helpful, thank you so much!
This was spot on, on behalf of a fellow Seattle local!
thank you , from a Chicagoan who absolutely loves Seattle .
I’m planning a trip to Seattle this month. By any chance do you know of a good book to read on the train?
Thank you Chelsea. Very informative and a pleasure to read. Now I’m really excited about my visit to Seattle.
Loved this. Thank you so much! The best Seattle “to-do” list I’ve found anywhere.
Best list from a born and raised Seattleite!
thanks for all of the great advice. we’re doing an Alaskan cruise in June, with two days in Seattle at the end. your post will help us enjoy the best of Seattle