Exploring Emerald City: Best things to do in Seattle

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Seattle is brimming with activities, culture and coffee shops that make even the most seasoned caffeine connoisseur’s heart skip a beat. These are the best things to do in Seattle, curated with a blend of the iconic, the quirky and the downright delicious.

Things to do in Seattle: enjoy the breathtaking sunset over the city's skyline.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Kerry Park

For postcard-perfect views of the city, head to Kerry Park. Perched on Queen Anne Hill, this small park offers breathtaking vistas of the Space Needle, downtown Seattle, and Mount Rainier on a clear day. It’s a favorite spot for photographers and romantics alike, capturing the essence of Seattle in one sweeping glance.

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Gas Works Park

On the former grounds of the Seattle Gas Light Company’s gasification plant, Gas Works Park offers stunning views of Lake Union and the Seattle skyline. It’s industrial meets natural, with plenty of space for picnics, kite flying or simply enjoying the view.

Seattle Japanese Garden

The crown jewel of the Washington Park Arboretum, the Seattle Japanese Garden offers a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle. And if you time your visit right, you can see cherry blossoms in full bloom, painting the landscape with shades of pink and white.

The iconic Space Needle is a must-visit attraction in Seattle, Washington.
Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Space Needle

Standing tall in Seattle’s vibrant Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, the Space Needle is the city’s most recognizable landmark. For some of the best views in town, ride one of its glass elevators to the observation deck, where panoramic city views unfold.

Smith Tower

For a different perspective of the Seattle skyline, head to the Smith Tower. As the city’s original skyscraper, one of the best things to do in Seattle is to admire the views of the Space Needle from its open-air observation deck.

Seattle Great Wheel

While wandering the Seattle Waterfront, you can’t miss the Seattle Great Wheel looming over Pier 57. Extending 40 feet over Elliott Bay, it’s the West Coast’s largest observation wheel, offering breathtaking vistas of the city, Puget Sound and nearby mountains. With 42 fully-enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas, the ride is a spectacular experience, even on the greyest Seattle day.

A popular things to do in Seattle spot, this public market center is a must-visit.
Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is more than a bustling market — it’s a Seattle institution. It’s a feast for the senses with fresh produce, artisanal crafts and lively street performances. Don’t miss the original Starbucks store or the famous Gum Wall, and watch out for flying fish at Pike Place Fish Market as fishmongers toss salmon and other fresh catches before wrapping it up for customers.

“We love to go to Pike Place Market when we visit Seattle. It’s so iconic and fun. We love watching the fish being thrown and visiting the hidden shops in the basement. It’s also across the street from the first Starbucks and our favorite French bakery, so we always stop by both while there.”

— Heidi Bruaw, Real Life of Lulu

Seattle Aquarium

Dive into the underwater world without getting wet at the Seattle Aquarium. Explore marine life from the Pacific Northwest and beyond, including playful sea otters, colorful coral reefs and mysterious giant Pacific octopuses. With interactive exhibits and daily diver shows, it’s an ocean of fun for all ages.

Chihuly garden, things to do in Seattle.
Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Chihuly Garden and Glass showcases the extraordinary work of artist Dale Chihuly. Wander through the Glasshouse, a stunning 40-foot-tall structure filled with vibrant glass sculptures, or explore the outdoor garden where art and nature intertwine. It’s a mesmerizing blend of color, light and creativity.

Seattle Art Museum

For art lovers, the Seattle Art Museum is a canvas filled with creativity. With the Hammering Man sculpture towering over the entrance, the museum has an extensive permanent collection that includes contemporary pieces of African, European and Native American art. And if you’re in the mood for more, the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Olympic Sculpture Park are extensions of this artistic haven.

Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP

Rock on with Jimi Hendrix or geek out with some sci-fi memorabilia at MoPOP. This museum is a playground for pop culture enthusiasts, featuring exhibits on music, video games, fantasy, horror and more. From the iconic guitar sculpture to the interactive Sound Lab, it celebrates creativity and innovation.

Underground tour

Exploring Seattle’s underbelly is less creepy than it sounds. An underground tour will take you on a journey through the passageways beneath the streets of Pioneer Square, Seattle’s original downtown, and past the storefronts that were once the city’s street level. It’s one of the most unique things to do in Seattle, filled with tales of the city’s colorful past.

“When my sons and I traveled to Seattle, we loved the underground tour! It was fun to hear how the city was built and then see and explore it. Our tour guide was fun and engaging, and it was the perfect non-touristy thing to do with tweens.”

— Laura Sampson, Little House, Big Alaska

Woodland Park Zoo

The Woodland Park Zoo spans nearly 100 acres in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood. The zoo’s regional habitats offer a world tour of wildlife from the African savanna to the tropical rainforest. Whether it’s a sunny day or a typical Seattle drizzle, the Woodland Park Zoo offers a delightful escape for animal lovers of all ages.

Seattle food tours

Eat your way through the city on a Seattle food tour. These delicious culinary adventures treat you to the city’s best bites. From the famous Pike Place Market to hidden gems, your taste buds are in for a treat.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Although Seattle is home to many coffee experiences, Starbucks is the best-known coffee brand in Emerald City. But Starbucks Reserve Roastery isn’t just another place to grab a cup of joe — it’s an immersive experience that celebrates the art and science of coffee. Just a few blocks from the original Starbucks Pike Place store, the Reserve Roastery provides opportunities to explore the art of coffee-making and taste unique brews.

Ballard Locks

The Ballard Locks are a marvel of engineering and a testament to Seattle’s maritime heritage. Watch boats rise and fall, and don’t miss the fish ladder, where you can watch salmon making their way upstream from mid-June through September. It’s a dance of water and steel, and you have a front-row seat.

A colossal bridge sculpture featuring a monstrous creature, a must-see in Seattle.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Fremont Troll

The troll under the Fremont Bridge is friendlier than most. This quirky piece of public art has become a symbol of Seattle’s creative spirit. Because this troll won’t bite, snap a selfie and caption it with the perfect Seattle quote.

Enjoy live music

Seattle’s music scene is legendary, so catch a live show at one of the many iconic live music venues. From the birthplace of grunge to contemporary beats, Seattle’s soundtrack is always playing.

From sipping on artisanal coffee to exploring the city’s hidden corners, Seattle offers a blend of urban excitement and natural beauty. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie or just love to wander, the Emerald City has something for you. So, grab your raincoat and start exploring.

Sage Scott was bitten by the travel bug as a preschooler when her family moved abroad for the first time. Now settled in America’s Heartland, Sage is a travel writer, world wanderer and photographer whose favorite color is golden hour. Follow her adventures at Everyday Wanderer.

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