The Best Things to do in Seattle, WA

The 15 Best Things to do in Seattle, Washington

When most people first think of Seattle, they immediately think of grunge music, coffee, and probably rain. But, it’s also a visitor favorite in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to its many attractions. Here, you can wander through the city’s best parks, see incredible views from the Space Needle, and explore its vibrant neighborhoods, like Chinatown. 

Eat your way through the city thanks to its thriving culinary scene, or visit one of the live music venues or even see a live concert at one of the city’s indie rock radio stations. When the rain forces you inside, we recommend a visit to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Museum of Pop Culture, or one of the city’s art museums. 

Seattle, Washington, offers so many things to see and do you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Seattle for you. Make note of these fun and unique Seattle bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this exciting city in the Northwest!

The 15 Best Things to do in Seattle 

1. Explore the Iconic Pike Place Market

Cool Things to do in Seattle, Washington: Pike Place Market

For more than a century, Pike Place Market has been the quintessential Seattle landmark. It’s one of the oldest public markets in the country, but it’s much more than a gathering of farmers hawking their goods. Now, it’s a rightful and well-deserved Seattle institution where you can buy local produce, browse artisanal goods, and shop or dine at one of the 220 independently owned shops and restaurants. 

It also has a bar, entertainment venue, a dinner cabaret and burlesque theater, and even a giant shoe museum located on the lower level. The market holds five signature and seasonal events each year, like the Fall Festival and the holiday-themed Magic in the Market.

And don’t forget to watch one of the most iconic sights in Seattle – the throwing of the fish by the fisherman and fishmongers! It’s pretty much a must on your Seattle bucket list if this is your first visit to the city.

Pike Place is especially great because they have a Market’s Farm Program that offers downtown Seattle residents and low-income neighbors access to fresh fruits and vegetables through various Market currencies, a CSA, and Express Farmers Markets around the city.

Plus, if you aren’t too queasy, head down an unassuming alleyway to see the Gum Wall, a brick wall completely covered in other people’s chewed gum.

2. Check Out the Views from the Space Needle

Must do things in Seattle, Washington: Space Needle

Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, this 605-foot futuristic observation tower is the most famous building to spot in the Seattle skyline. Located at the Seattle Center, the Space Needle offers a few observation decks providing 360-degree panoramic views of Seattle.

There are a few main viewing areas, including an outdoor observation deck on the top level with open-air glass walls and glass benches. From here, on a clear day, you can see past downtown all the way to Mount Rainier and the Olympic mountain ranges. Plus, you can get a free digital photo of you and your loved ones as a memento to keep when you visit.

Also located on the upper observation level, if you work up an appetite, you can visit the Atmos Cafe. It has an espresso bar, locally-made snacks, and a wine bar with beer and wine. For one of the coolest things to do in Seattle, visit the world’s first and only revolving glass floor lounge called the Loupe. Every 30 minutes, you’ll orbit around with views of the structure and city below while sipping on world-class cocktails paired with Northwestern-style appetizers. 

3. Geek Out at the Museum of Pop Culture

Best Things to do in Seattle, Washington: Museum of Pop Culture

Next to the Space Needle, the Museum of Pop Culture explores popular music, science fiction, and other forms of entertainment. This interactive museum has hands-on exhibits where you can test your DJ skills in the Sound Lab or play in a virtual rock band. Since Seattle is known for its live music, you can learn about the area’s grunge history for an in-depth look into local bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana. 

For movie buffs, there are also tons of movie-related memorabilia, like costumes from The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and other films. There are also exhibits dedicated to genres like horror and science fiction. The lower level features a sci-fi exhibit with more than 150 pieces from films and television, like Star Trek uniforms and much more.

Plus, if you’re a gamer, you’ll love the section about independent video games. You’ll have plenty of games to try out, with exhibits from the game developers and creators in the Indie Game Revolution displays. 

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4. Appreciate the Masterpieces at the Seattle Art Museum

Cool Things to do in Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum

Made of three attractions, the Seattle Art Museum also has locations at the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the nearby Olympic Sculpture Park. Visit the main location located downtown to view the impressive collection of art. Some of their best exhibits showcase Native American and Pacific Northwest artwork. 

With over 25,000 works of art from around the world in their permanent collections and ever-evolving traveling exhibitions, there is always something new to see.  If you are lucky enough to visit on the first Thursday of the month, admission is free to visit the Seattle Art Museum. 

Best Things to do in Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum

On the last Friday of every month, the Seattle Asian Art Museum is also free for visitors. If you are on a budget, consider going to the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is always free of charge. 

Located about a mile north of the main art museum, this 9-acre waterfront park has tons of beautiful sculptures and installations to see along the trails. So it’s well worth visiting these Seattle attractions if you’re looking for budget-friendly things to do in Seattle.

5. Get a Taste of the Seattle Coffee Culture

Fun Things to do in Seattle, Washington: Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Seattle is famous and well-known for its love of coffee. If you want to learn how to make your own cup of Joe, you can learn everything at the Seattle Barista Academy, from latte foam art to how to steam milk and how to brew the perfect espresso. The Home Barista class is a 3-hour course that will introduce you to coffee brewing using popular home machines, grinders, and gadgets. 

If you are a fan of Starbucks, visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery for an elevated coffee experience. Just a short distance from the original Starbucks Store where the coffee shop was originally founded, here you can take a tour of one of the largest Starbucks in the world. 

Unique Things to do in Seattle, Washington: Starbucks Reserve Roastery

The 15,000-square-foot shop is covered in copper kettles and tubes where the coffee is specially roasted on-site and where you can see the coffee roasting process unfold right before your eyes.

It also includes private tours and experiences, a cozy library with coffee-related books, tasting flights, an extended menu with cocktails, and unreleased and rare coffees you won’t find in other stores.

6. Test Your Skills at the Seattle Pinball Museum

Seattle, Washington Bucket List: Seattle Pinball Museum

The Seattle Pinball Museum boasts a collection of over 50 pinball machines with unlimited play for one entry price. In the heart of Chinatown, the entertainment center features classic and modern pinball games, some dating back to as early as the 1930s. 

Once a couple’s personal collection of games, it is now one of the largest public pinball arcades in the Pacific Northwest. It includes present-day pinball games, as well as one-of-a-kind machines created by artists that can also be played. 

The games are arranged in chronological order, giving you the opportunity to browse through the games to see how this American pop culture phenomenon evolved over the decades. Old-school sodas, ciders, local craft beers, and a variety of snacks are available to purchase, and each of the games comes with a cup holder so you can easily drink as you play. 

Spend a few hours here, but make note that only children over the age of 7 are allowed in if you come with your family. 

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7. Find Zen at the Japanese Garden

Seattle, Washington Things to do: Seattle Japanese Garden

Unwind and find some nature in the city at the Seattle Japanese Garden. This 3.5-acre sanctuary is an oasis in the city and one of the most unique Seattle attractions. It’s easy to spend a few hours here, strolling along the stone paths that wind around serene ponds to take in and notice all the fine details. It has all the elements of a traditional garden in Japan, like ornate bridges, lanterns, pagodas, and water features.

Created in 1960 by expert Japanese horticulturists and inspired by actual gardens in Japan, it is often regarded as one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in the country. It’s located on the southern end of the Washington Park Arboretum, and it’s easily one of the best places to spot wildlife in the city, like koi fish, different varieties of birds, turtles, and the occasional heron. 

Plus, it’s wonderful to visit year-round – from the bright foliage of the trees in fall to the cherry trees blossoming in the spring. Enrich your time here by attending one of the seasonal Japanese festivals and educational events that take place throughout the year, or enjoy Japanese traditions like tea ceremonies. 

8. Rock Out at the KEXP Gathering Space

For an inside look at the city’s music scene, head to the KEXP Gathering Space, one of the best things to do in Seattle for the music-minded. Located in the Uptown Arts District, the Gathering Space is on the set of an actual radio station and video broadcast station called 90.3 KEXP. The indie music station is best known for first playing Nirvana and is now home to this community hub for music lovers.

This is the perfect place to catch a live show since the space holds over 400 concerts a year. Watch live shows of famous or upcoming artists on the stage in the lobby or in the studio’s Live Room and Viewing Gallery. This means you’ll get behind-the-scenes where you can watch live DJ interviews, see how they set up the video production process, and more. 

To attend, you just have to register in person an hour and a half prior to the show. And, to make it even better, it’s entirely free of charge to go to one of these concerts. Plus, not only can you attend special events or listen to the live radio broadcast, but the space is also home to an on-site art gallery, a record shop, and an independent coffee shop. 

9. Throw a Picnic at Discovery Park

Seattle, Washington Bucket List: Discovery Park

On the shores of Puget Sound, within city limits, you’ll find Seattle’s largest park. At 534 acres, there’s plenty to do at Discovery Park, including 12 miles of trails that lead through forests, through bluffs, and end at beaches with a lighthouse.

Located just about 5 miles north of the downtown area, you’ll forget you are still in the city. From this tranquil green oasis, you’ll be fully immersed in nature, surrounded by wildlife and stunning views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountain range. 

We recommend downloading a map beforehand. There are not a ton of signs pointing you in the right direction, so it’s easy to get turned around on the trails. 

For kids, there’s also a great playground past the basketball court, as well as an Environmental Learning & Visitor Center. To learn about Native Americans in the Seattle area, visit the on-site community center called Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center. 

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10. Discover the City’s History at Pioneer Square

What to do in Seattle, Washington: Pioneer Square

Known as Seattle’s oldest neighborhood, here you can easily spend an entire afternoon visiting a national historic park, exploring the subterranean history of Seattle on an underground tour, or checking out some of the city’s best art. 

Start with an elevator ride up the Smith Tower which was the city’s first skyscraper. During the daytime, you can visit the 35th-floor observatory and open-air deck for some sweet views of the city. At night, you can visit the prohibition-era speakeasy bar for some craft cocktails and a locally-sourced menu of shareable plates. 

Hidden behind a gate on 2nd Avenue, stop by the often-overlooked Waterfall Garden Park. This tranquil spot is a great spot to have a picnic or unwind from the city for a moment and is free to visit. The super small but serene space features a 22-foot manmade waterfall surrounded by trees and seating. 

Next, visit the nearby Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. This National Historical Park is one of the best things to do in Seattle, where you can learn about the city’s history during the 1890s Gold Rush. Plus, it’s free!

For another take on history, a somewhat more unusual and unique one, take one of the area’s underground tours where you’ll get a tour of the city from underneath. After the Great Fire of 1899, this part of the city had to rebuild on top of the ruins of buildings, leaving dark tunnels and subterranean passageways to explore today.

Lastly, check out the neighborhood’s many vibrant art galleries and studios. If you are lucky enough to visit on the first Thursday of every month, you can wander around the country’s first and longest-running Art Walk, which is easily one of the coolest Seattle activities! 

11. Admire the Colorful Artwork at Chihuly Garden and Glass

Best Things to do in Seattle, Washington: Chihuly Garden and Glass

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Seattle, the Chihuly Garden and Glass showcases the multichromatic glass artwork of Dale Chihuly. Just steps away from the Space Needle, this garden and gallery space boasts a kaleidoscope of indoor and outdoor glass sculptures. You’ll see everything from giant freestanding designs made up of hundreds of glass pieces in various shapes and sizes to surreal installations suspended from the ceiling. 

Start in the Glasshouse, which is the centerpiece of the gallery featuring a hanging 100-foot-long sculpture of flower-like glass in warm shades of reds, oranges, and yellows. At night, the eye-popping art looks different when illuminated with light.

Cool Things to do in Seattle, Washington: Chihuly Garden and Glass

At the theater, you can watch videos to learn about the process behind his glassmaking and listen to interviews from the sculptures. At various times throughout the day, you can catch live demonstrations of glass blowing and shaping followed by a question and answer session with the artists. 

Next, head to the other eight galleries found on the property that displays his most extravagant collections before heading to the lush garden. The impressive outdoor space highlights his outdoor sculptures, which were meticulously placed next to various plants that complement his artwork. 

12. Visit Chinatown & the Wing Luke Museum

Unique Things to do in Seattle, Washington: Chinatown

Situated in Chinatown, the Wing Luke Museum is one of the top Seattle attractions for learning about the history and culture of Asian Pacific Americans. With over three floors, you’ll find contemporary galleries showcasing both temporary and permanent exhibitions highlighting the experiences of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. 

Plus, they offer guided tours of the museum, as well as tours of the district. The Chinatown Discovery Tour guides you through the neighborhood’s history. You’ll visit local spots like a beer and sake garden, relax to music in Chiyo’s Garden, and visit the street art that often goes unnoticed. For the foodies, we highly recommend the museum’s food tours that take place during the evenings. 

Fun Things to do in Seattle, Washington: Chinatown

You’ll get a firsthand look at the neighborhood’s most mouthwatering restaurants and food stands that represent a diverse range of flavors, as well as a glimpse into different countries’ cooking styles and cuisines. Sample dumplings on the Dumpling Crawl or try out the best noodles on the Twilight Noodle Slurp Tour.

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13. Take in the Views at Kerry Park

Must do things in Seattle, Washington: Kerry Park

In the upper Queen Anne neighborhood, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, you can find an ideal place for views of Seattle and beyond. Climb the hill a few blocks north to reach Kerry Park, a small park that only the locals seem to know about. The steep walk up to the park is worth it – on a good day, you can see downtown, Elliott Bay, the Space Needle, and on a clear day Mount Rainier in the background. 

The park is just a mile north of the Lower Queen Anne, which is home to many of the city’s top attractions. It’s near the Museum of Pop Culture, Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Seattle Center, and other museums, so it’s well worth a stop when visiting these venues.

Seattle, Washington Bucket List: Kerry Park

After snapping a few photos during the day, stay until after sunset when the city lights up before walking to a few nearby restaurants and shops. Walk northeast on Queen Anne Avenue to find a handful of charming boutique shops and local eateries like Eden Hill and El Mezcalito, which serve authentic Oaxacan cuisine.

14. Watch the Boats Pass at the Ballard Locks

Best Things to do in Seattle, Washington: Ballard Locks

Officially named the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, or simply called the Ballard Locks by locals, the seaside attraction and botanical gardens are one of the city’s highlights that shouldn’t be missed. The locks are similar to the Panama Canal, just on a way smaller scale. Simply put, they help boats pass between the different water levels of Lake Washington and Puget Sound. 

While it may sound a bit mundane, it’s actually one of the coolest things to see in Seattle. Plus, you might catch sight of a sea lion on two. Downstairs, you can also visit the fish ladder. Look through the glass viewing windows to see salmon swimming upstream. They also recently added the Salmon Education Center, with videos and interactive screens to learn about the fish life cycle. 

It also boasts the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens, a small but pleasant English-style estate garden with picnic areas and over a thousand plants. If the boats and gardens don’t interest you, there are also more than a dozen breweries located within a mile radius!

15. Learn about Seattle at the Museum of History & Industry

Best Things to do in Seattle, Washington: Museum of History and Industry

On the shores of Lake Union, you can learn everything and then some about Seattle at the Museum of History and Industry. Housed in an old naval building, this museum totally encapsulates the city’s development since it was first founded over 150 years ago. The interactive parts of the museum make the city’s past really come to life.

Upon entering, you’ll see an authentic Boeing airplane hanging from the rafters, among other iconic Seattle attractions. The display includes neon signs and artifacts that light up or move when touched. Other permanent collections include a maritime exhibit, which celebrates the city’s past with the water. Use the World War II-era periscope for some great 360-degree views of downtown and the lake. 

Plus, if you have kids, ask the reception desk for an Exploration and Innovation pack. It’s a backpack full of toys, games like scavenger hunts, puzzles, and dress-up costumes that are related to the museum. It’s a free and fun way to keep them entertained while exploring the museum. 

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There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Seattle. Leave a comment telling us your favorite thing to do in Seattle!


About the Author:

  • Carrie Back

    Carrie Ann Back is part-time travel writer and full-time globetrotter based in Southeast Asia. Recent bylines include Travel + Leisure, Parents Magazine, Postcards Magazine, Culture Trip, Matador Network, & more!

    Leaving her home in 2015, she has embarked on an around-the-world journey and has been traveling continuously ever since. Her most recent adventures include working in the Bolivian Amazon jungle, surfing in Sri Lanka, and exploring Laos via a slow boat up the Mekong River.

    She’s a proud member of the Cherokee Nation and is passionate about sustainable travel. She now lives in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with her cat Lil’ Mama. Most nights, you can find her munching down at the street food vendors.

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