Seattle is truly one of the most fun cities in the United States, and it has a little something for everyone. The flourishing greenery that surrounds the city gives it the nickname, “The Emerald City,” and it’s just as stunning as it sounds.
You can get a taste of quintessential seaside life in the Pacific Northwest or enjoy a remote lake on the same day that you stroll around the urban city fueled with top-notch coffee shops.
Between its (literal) underground scene, its wonderful markets, mouthwatering restaurants and lively nightlife (I could go on…) knowing about these fun things, it’s tougher to know where to begin with planning your trip.
So, I sorted through my own experiences, and asked my trusted local friends for their favorite activities or best things to do in Seattle to indulge in.
1. Follow The… Trail of Trails
If you’re like me and love getting to know a city by strolling through it, or if you just like to keep your glutes in shape when you travel, OR if you like to feel the breeze in your hair while you whiz by beautiful scenery on your bicycle, then you must spend some time on Burke Gilman Trail, Seattle.
The nearly 20-mile trail winds past Lake Washington Ship Canals, the Shammamish River Trail, Marymoor Park and many more jaw-droppers, making it the trail that keeps on… trailing.
Hop on at Golden Gardens Park, and definitely stop to smell the flowers while you’re there.
The Burke Gilman Trail is one of Seattle’s first rail-trails in the country, meaning it doubles as a commuters dream, helping people all over Seattle get to where they need to go.More Info (click to show for all)
2. Swim In A Giant Lake
Summer is the perfect time to dive in the waters of the second largest park in Seattle, Magnuson Park.
The small pebble beaches separate the grassy fields from the lake’s edge and it’s the perfect place to kick back and soak in the fresh air.
The lake is one of the more popular places for University students to get their feet wet during the summer, and a little known secret is that the locals consider it a “clothing optional” destination.More Info (click to show for all)
3. Watch Boats at Ballard Locks
Ballard Locks is one of the most frequented tourist attractions in Seattle, and for good reason.
Ballard Locks is a Historical Civil Engineering Landmark that successfully maintains Lake Washington’s water levels, keeping the freshwater lakes separate from the salt-water ocean, and transports boats from one body of water to the next.
The stunning scenery and the action on the water will put you in “chill” mode so you can lazily watch the boats go by.
You can also climb down the Fish Ladder to try and catch sight of Salmon spawning in their natural habitat during season.More Info (click to show for all)
4. Day Trip to A Stunning Tulip Festival
Only nature can decide which tulips will sprout and when exactly, but if you happen to be traveling during springtime, you simply must seek them out at the Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley.
Not only are the millions of tulips that burst into bloom enough to take your breath away, but the surrounding terrain includes mountains, lakes, islands, and more; all available to marvel at while you explore the diverse agricultural community of Skagit.
Check out their upcoming events. You won’t regret taking this trip.More Info (click to show for all)
5. Check Out Awesome Cherry Blossoms
It might be a gamble as to when the Cherry Trees at the University of Washington will be in full bloom (hey, you can’t control mother nature) but the sight is so stunning that it’s well worth taking the chance.
Take a stroll through the Quad at the 87-year-old cherry trees as they begin to bloom in the springtime.
Check out the predictions of when they will bloom for your upcoming trip, or just take a stroll through the grounds of the university because, hey, they’re pretty pretty too.More Info (click to show for all)
6. Day Trip to Olympic National Park
The air doesn’t get much fresher than at a (nearly) million-acre National Park! Once you reach your destination, there is no shortage of ways to enjoy the diverse and expansive scenery.
There are multiple ecosystems that work together to create the stunning Olympic National Park, including cliffside shorelines, snow capped mountains, and lusciously green forests, to start.
You can camp out, backpack through, paddleboard around, catch a fish… the possibilities are nearly endless!
You can cater your trip to indulge in activities that are most meaningful to you, and then have no fear, because no matter your choice, the nature that surrounds you will melt your heart, leaving you in awe of the connectedness you feel to the earth.More Info (click to show for all)
7. See Where The Settlers Settled In Seattle
Among the city streets is Pioneer Square, and yes, the adorable name matches its historical, Romanesque architecture quite nicely.
Built in the 1800’s, the neighborhood where Seattle was founded is now home to art galleries, cafes, and trendy shops, restaurants and bars.
You can start your day off with a coffee at Cherry Street Coffee House, and end your day at the Box House Saloon.
In between, check out the murals painted around the hood, get your gallery on at ’57 Biscayne or check out a waterfall park right in the center of the square.
That’s right, folks, a 22ft waterfall nestled in the city center.
Don’t forget to add on your list to visit Pioneer Square art galleries First Thursday and other days.
Many galleries are featuring all kinds of art within one square mile.
Pioneer Square has provided a sanctuary for Seattle’s artistic community since the early 1960s.
And now, Pioneer Square is the center of Seattle’s art scene.
If you have more time left in your visit why not take a self-guided walking tour of the Trail to Treasure!
Explore Seattle’s early history in the neighborhood where it all began – Pioneer Square.More Info (click to show for all)
8. Head To The Market… Pike Place Market
Since 1907 in the Seattle institution, Pike Place Market has been the city’s first and largest farmers market in Seattle Washington.
Pike Place Market is a lively center where locals and tourists head to satisfy their food scene for delicious bites, groceries, and of course, colorful flowers.
Pike Place is located on the iconic Seattle waterfront, open 363 days a year, and surrounds a nine-acre Market Historic District overlooking Elliott Bay.
On any given day, the market is buzzing with energy as people indulge in some of the yummiest restaurants in the city, like Athenian Seafood Restaurant, which overlooks the Ferris wheel on the water, or Bocco Café, which boasts modern Pacific Northwest cuisine.
Another favorite stop is Rachel’s Ginger Beer, where the drinks are even more delicious than they sound (and they sound delicious).
If you want to take the party home with you, the fish place market has a beautiful array of local findings.
In fact, even if you’re not ready to prepare your own dinner, just the sight of the bustling booths is enough to satisfy.
Speaking of stimulating visuals, Pike Place Market Flowers offers a variety of brightly colored bouquets that will leave you feeling a little sunnier.
The arrangements are so gorgeous; it’ll be hard to extricate yourself without purchasing a few bundles… even if it’s for your Airbnb or hotel room.
From the opening of the market in 1907 to the present day, Pike Place Market has been a central gathering point and one of the best things to visit for everyone from Seattle locals to worldwide travelers.
Located in a post alley right around the corner from Pike Place Market, the hidden gem dubbed as the Seattle Gum Wall is one of the city’s kookiest attractions.
It started in the ’90s, and it’s taken off in recent years thanks to the power of social media.
People visit here to get Instagramable pictures in front of the Gum Wall that is brightly-colored and to experience sticking their chewed gum to the display.More Info (click to show for all)
9. Take An Underground Tour
Let’s face it, Seattle is a beautiful city but when it rains it pours, as they say.
Luckily, you don’t have to let a rainy day keep you inside… you just have to let it take you underground!
Beneath The Streets is unlike any other tour you’ve ever been on.
The guided adventure takes you below the city, through the historical neighborhoods from an interesting POV.
The tour guides are local and raw, decidedly skipping on the cheesy scripts in favor of presenting the depth of the city more authentically, as they dive into edgier topics of conversation including prostitution, gambling, drinking and the likes.More Info (click to show for all)
10. Become An Expert Barista
If you’re visiting Seattle, you might just be a coffee geek! Or, if you’re not… you might just become one.
Seattle is said to be the coffee capital of the US and they wear the title proudly and take the responsibility seriously.
If you want to up your coffee game, in addition to checking out the local cafes head to Seattle Barista Academy for an at home barista training.
The course takes about 3 hours (don’t worry, there’s plenty of coffee to get you through) and you can become a real coffee expert.More Info (click to show for all)
11. Take A Day Trip Tasting Wine
If you’re a wino, like me, then you’re definitely not overlooking the fact that Washington State is the second largest wine producer in the country.
Only 30 minutes from downtown Seattle, Woodinville Wine Country has the wine enthusiasts covered.
They offer a selection of tours to make your trip as easy as possible, so you can focus on your very difficult task of tasting several wine varieties from one of the ninety (yes, 90) tasting rooms.
Sign up for a “Rose Pass,” or celebrate “Women Winemakers” who are standing out amongst the predominantly male-centric industry.
With a vast number of options to partake in, you can truly cater your experience exactly how you’d like it.More Info (click to show for all)
12. Have Your Theater, and Eat There Too
Triple Door is an eccentric theater and restaurant boasts a delicious menu of fresh Pacific Northwestern food… but the fun doesn’t stop there.
The former 1920’s Vaudeville theater, turned cinema, turned burlesque house, eventually closed it’s doors until 1999 when it was bought and renovated by Anne and Rick Yoder, and was made into an intimate music and theater dinner hall.
The place has a cool, urban feel and hosts world-renowned performers on a nightly basis.
The theater is a bit under the radar, so even though the scene is robust, you’ll be mingling among the locals.More Info (click to show for all)
13. See (And Hear) Art
A Sound Garden sits on the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) grounds and is part sculpture, part musical instrument built by Douglas R. Hollis.
The tall structures are topped with Organ-like devices that create a beautiful (albeit, a bit eerie) musical effect that washes over all who come to marvel.
It’s a unique way to entrench yourself in the unique Seattle art.More Info (click to show for all)
14. Cat Café, Cat Café, Cat Café
You probably already knew that Seattle is kinda big on the coffee house scene, but did you also know that in some cafes you can order your latte with a side of KITTIES?!
That’s right, folks. Seattle has, not just a single cat café, but an entire scene of cat cafes!
The most popular is Seattle Meowtropolitan, where you can drink, cuddle and pet, or indulge in some cat yoga!
All of the cats are adoptable so if you really don’t want the fun to end, you can bring the cuddles home with you.
Neko and Emerald City Café and Harbor are also not to be missed spots on your cat café trail. Why not visit them all?
I mean, really.More Info (click to show for all)
15. Have A Drink In The Most Infamous Bar In Seattle
Blue Moon Tavern is an old timey bar that has dubbed itself the “most infamous bar” in Seattle, probably due to its eccentric history of transitioning from speakeasy to biker bar to hipster bar, to now just wanting everyone to feel some love.
And the local breweries and wineries certainly feel love here, as their extensive booze selection (which now prevents it from legally being considered a “tavern”) is comprised of Seattle’s finest producers.More Info (click to show for all)
16. Go Up, Up, Up In The Space Needle
The Space Needle was constructed as part of the World Fair in 1962 to represent America’s innovative space initiative; hence it’s flying saucer shape.
One of the best things to see in Queen Anne, Seattle.
The symbolic structure remains appropriate for its location in Seattle, as it continues to represent the forward thinking and progressive ways of Washington.
It has two amazing observation deck, the world’s only revolving glass floor, and open-air glass benches.
Renovations in 2018 have greatly increased the amount of excitement around the Space Needle, as it now has multiple levels to enjoy the only 360 degree view of Seattle.
One of those levels is outside, where you can look through the glass walls while you feel the breeze on your face.
It also installed a glass floor so you can look straight down and see the Seattle skyline beneath your feet as you try not to get vertigo.More Info (click to show for all)
17. Go On A Free Boat Ride
One way to get out on the water at Lake Union is to venture to the Center for Wooden Boats.
Perhaps one of my favorite adventures in Seattle is taking a boat ride here.
If you have a tendency to be drawn towards the water at Lake Union, then I suggest you check out the free (that’s right, free) boat rides that have been a tradition there for more than 25 years.
While you wait to board your “ship” (okay, it’s more like a schooner, steamboat, electric boat or yacht) you can take a gander at their fleet, check out a current exhibit, or maybe head to one of their calendar events.
With a truly dedicated staff whose number one goal is to connect you to all things maritime, each activity at the Center For Wooden Boats comes with learning experience on the side.More Info (click to show for all)
18. Drink Local Brews
In addition to cold brews of the caffeinated kind, Seattle is home to many cold brews of the boozy kind.
There’s no shortage of breweries delivering next-level cold ones, but a few stand out among the rest.
Take, for example, Stoup Brewing, which has a variety of amazing beers, but I highly recommend a sour Berliner Weisse complete with a flavored syrup shot for a truly standout experience.
If you prefer a cozy patio to sip your bevvy, then head to Rooftop Brewery where you can try out their best sellers, like the Makeda Coffee Porter.
Not so keen on beer, beer, and more beer?
Capitol Cider has over 200 (you guessed it) ciders to choose from, and their incredibly yummy bites along with live music and livelier atmosphere makes it an experience you will not forget.More Info (click to show for all)
19. Day Trips To Whidbey and Camano Island
If you have a hankering to step out of the city life for a day or two and step into that quintessential, seaside island life, then plan a trip to Whidbey or Camano Island.
There, you’ll find a number of world’s fair art shops to peruse, scrumptious bites to eat and drinkable wines to compliment them, and an endless amount of parks and beaches to marvel at, as you unwind and truly soak in the lush surroundings of life in the Pacific Northwest.More Info (click to show for all)
20. Get Your Museum Fix
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t feel a trip is complete without soaking in some art and culture through the lens of a museum, then you’re in luck because Seattle has some great ones!
Settled right on the water and within Lake Union Park, the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) is one of Seattle’s top museums. History buffs should check out the Nordic Heritage Museum, or the Museum of History and Industry.
If you have an eye for unique art then don’t miss the Chihuly Garden and Glass; and if you’re a downright art snob then the Frye Art Museum is for you.More Info (click to show for all)
21. Explore one of Seattle’s most densely populated neighborhoods in the city – Capitol Hill
The Capitol Hill neighborhood is located east of Downtown Seattle on the other side of Interstate 5.
Capitol Hill is the 9th most walkable neighborhood in Seattle, and best for bikers because it is bikeable too!
In Capitol Hill district you’ll find charming cafés, shops, and bookstores that avid readers will surely love to browse.
During the dark, the streets become increasingly busy and lively.
Lose hours wandering among the green expanse of Volunteer Park, a 43.8-acre park in the center of Seattle.
You will surely enjoy the beautiful glass, Victorian-style conservatory divided into five display houses: bromeliads, ferns, palms, cacti, and succulents.
They also have a wading pool that is a perfect way to beat the heat, as well as several beautiful sculptures throughout the park, like Isamu Noguchi’s Black Sun near the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
During the rainy season in Seattle, why not visit The Elliott Bay Book Company.
Seattle’s largest independent bookseller. A great way to enjoy Cloudy weather: a delicious warm cup of coffee and a good book to read.More Info (click to show for all)
22. Cross-out hitting the Mount Rainier in your bucket list
No trip to Seattle Washington State is complete for those nature lovers and trail hunters without experiencing the 14,410 of fun and adventure at Mount Rainier.
Mount Rainier has five developed attraction areas:
Longmire, a home to the year-round National Park Inn, a small seattle art museum, and trails departing for meadows, views of the olympic mountains, and historic homestead.
Paradise, the park’s most visited areaon the mountain’s south side.
Sunrise, located on the northeast side of Mount Rainier, offers a different view of the peak, the perfect place to glimpse a sunrise.
Ohanapecosh and Carbon River & Mowich, attract visitors for their popular trails, serene lakes, and quieter settings.
There is no wrong season to visit Mount Rainier.
This one of the world’s oldest national parks is naturally beautiful in any season of the year.
During Spring, stroll through a temperate inland rainforest.
Summer, while Hiking you will be accompanied by wildflowers around until you reach the powerful waterfalls. Marvel at the fall colors each autumn.
And in Winter, experience epic skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.More Info (click to show for all)
23. Explore the wonders of the underwater world at Seattle Aquarium
Visit the Seattle Aquarium and Immerse yourself in our Underwater Dome’s 360° view into a 400,000-gallon tank filled with hundreds of fascinating Puget Sound fish, otter and seal exhibits, a salmon exhibit, orca whale exhibit, octopus exhibit, and coral reef exhibit, among many others.
Don’t miss the six major exhibits that Seattle Aquarium offered: Window on Washington Waters, Life on the Edge, Pacific Coral Reef, Underwater Dome, Birds & Shores, and Marine Mammals.More Info (click to show for all)
24. Experience the Giant Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57
The Seattle Great Wheel is 175 foot tall, 170,000 pound that sits on Seattle’s waterfront over the Puget Sound on pier 57.
Seattle Great Wheel carries 42 enclosed, fully heated or air-conditioned gondolas holding up to 8 people each.
The wheel has a VIP gondola that is open for reservation.
VIPs get only four people to a car that’s decked out with four bucket seats, made of a glass floor that is perfect for your ultimate viewing experience.
As passengers lifted into the air, they could see the spectacular skyline views of Seattle center.
The wheel is the only one of its kind to be built over water.More Info (click to show for all)
25. Pay a visit to the Fremont Troll
One of the best things you should add in your itinerary is to visit Fremont that is well-known for its iconic Troll.
The Fremont Troll was constructed in 1990 after winning a Fremont Arts Council competition for designs. It improves the freeway underpass, which then was a dumping ground.
It is 5.5 meters high, weighs 6,000 kg, made of steel, rebar, wire, and concrete.
Locals and tourists flock to the Fremont Troll for photo-ops and festive occasions.More Info (click to show for all)
26. Have a perfect summer day in Alki Beach
Alki Beach has a two and a half-mile long pedestrian walkway that is a great spot for a long walk any time of year.
During Summer, the beach is enjoyed by draws joggers, beachcombers, rollerbladers, volleyball players, sunbathers, bicyclists, and strollers perfect for a tourist like you.
At the north end of the Alki beach, it is a bulkhead and flanked by cottages where the locals and tourists can stay while enjoying the sun and the beach.
The whole beach offers spectacular views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and the flotilla of ferries, sailboats, steamships, and other craft that ply Puget Sound waters.More Info (click to show for all)
27. Take a Ferry to Bainbridge Island
You get to Bainbridge Island in two ways, by ferry or bridge.
But of course, riding on a ferry is exceptional.
You’ll be able to see a glimpse of the quiet harbors and homes along the rocky shoreline.
Bainbridge Island is ready for you to explore.
A vibrant Island has a friendly community, very rich in history, unique culture, and has its natural beauty. It is 35 minutes away by ferry from Seattle.
The island offers you a combination of farms, wineries, hiking trails, scenic vistas, Eclectic boutiques, and welcoming accommodations.More Info (click to show for all)
28. Explore South Lake Neighborhood
The lake is located right in the middle of downtown Seattle, close to everything.
That is one of the reasons why people can’t get enough of South Lake Union these days.
Everyone wants to either settle here, get a career in this area, or visit this beautiful neighborhood.
Lake Union offers many ways to enjoy Seattle’s unique maritime culture—from kayaking to seaplanes to hanging out by the shore at a park or restaurant.More Info (click to show for all)
29. Ignite your curiosity with Science Fiction
Pacific Science Center sits on 7.1 acres of land at the southwest corner of Seattle Center.
Their award-winning, interactive programs serve more than 1 million people each year in their communities, classrooms, and on its campus adjacent to Seattle Center.
Exhibits at the Science Center are suited from the children to adults and seniors.
Their main campus is home to hundreds of hands-on exhibits, experiences, and enthusiastic science educators.
Most of the standard exhibits are a good experience for ages 6 – 12 years old. However, first-run IMAX movies and Laser shows are great for adults.
Pacific Science Center fuels the passion for discovery, experimentation, and critical thinking not just for children but all of us.More Info (click to show for all)
30. Explore the history of Asian Pacific American Experience in Wing Luke Museum
The museum is named after Wing Luke, Seattle City Council member, the first Asian American elected to public office in the Pacific Northwest.
The Wing Luke Museum has a total collection of 18,000 exhibitions related to Asian American history, art, and cultures. Including artifacts, photographs, documents, books, and oral histories. It represents over 26 ethnic groups.
Don’t forget to explore Seattle. Experience what life was like for early Asian Pacific American immigrants.More Info (click to show for all)
What are your thoughts about Seatle? Do you have any questions or anything cool still to add on? We love to discuss travel so go ahead and fire away, there are no wrong comments!
Related read: The Coolest Things to Do in Miami in 2020
Also, please let us know how your trip went and what was the most exciting part about it.
Shira Weitz is an adventure seeker who loves writing, wine, and watching sunsets. She enjoys weaving together personal experiences with thoughtful information to create compelling stories about the places she’s been. She can’t stop, won’t stop grabbing life by the… horns, because carpe diem, after all.