Top Things To Do In Seattle

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Sure, a rain jacket is useful. But know this: Seattle’s total annual rainfall is actually less than a number of other U.S. cities (including Jacksonville in sunny Florida). When you’re in the Emerald City, you’ll be thankful for those regular mists and the accompanying mild climate; they make Seattle one of the greenest cities around, with lush parks and vistas on all sides.

But visitors to Seattle don’t just flock here for the great outdoors. They come for the music, culture, lifestyle, coffee and attractions. If you’re planning a trip to the Emerald City, here’s a list of the most popular things to do in Seattle.

Space Needle

Since its construction for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle has become both an internationally recognized icon and Seattle’s most popular attraction. Whether you're going for the views or to grab a meal at SkyCity, the Space Needle needs to be on your itinerary.

What to Do
Visitors should leave time for a meal in the SkyCity restaurant: In only 47 minutes, the revolving eatery makes a complete 360-degree rotation. The Observation Deck not only has great views, but also interactive and informative displays inside that give you more information on what you're seeing around you.

What to See
From its hilltop perch, the Space Needle actually seems taller than its 605 feet (184 meters) and – thanks to free telescopes – gives visitors the chance to zoom into downtown or catapult themselves toward the Cascade and Olympic mountains. On a clear day you can get great views of Mt. Rainier, the tallest mountain in the state of Washington.

>> Learn more about the Space Needle.

Pacific Science Center

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012 (the Space Needle also turned 50 in 2012), the Pacific Science Center continues to engage visitors – especially young ones – through a variety of personal experiences.

What to Do
Children gravitate to the Insect Village and Body Works (where Calorie Bikes calculate energy generated). In Dinosaurs: A Journey Through Time you can take control of an animatronic Pneumoferrosaurus to learn how animatronics work, all while exploring the Mesozoic world around you.

What to See
The biggest draw may be the Tropical Butterfly Village, where those wearing yellow and red easily attract fluttering friends. The village is home to around 500 different butterfly species imported weekly from South and Central America, Africa, and Asia. Can you spot them all?

>> Learn more about the Pacific Science Center.

Museum of Pop Culture

Formerly called Experience Music Project | Science Fiction Museum, the dramatic, fluid lines of the Frank O. Gehry-designed building that houses both museums is a must-see in and of itself. Inside you'll find leading-edge and award-winning exhibitions that celebrate the creative process and popular culture.

What to Do
Climb aboard a space station simulation and then have a ball with sci-fi memorabilia, movie costumes, photos and hands-on exhibits. Head over to the Guitar Gallery and learn about the evolution of rock 'n' roll's signature instrument. EMP has 236 guitars in it's permanent collection, over 50 of which are on display in Guitar Gallery.

What to See
Watch performances and videos shown on the world’s largest indoor video screen and then channel your inner Jimi Hendrix (a Seattle native) as you rock out to your own composition in Sound Lab. Towering in the middle of EMP you'll see the sound sculpture "IF VI WAS IX", made of more than 500 musical instruments and 30 computers.

>> Learn more about the Museum of Pop Culture.

Seattle Aquarium

Conveniently located on Pier 59, the Seattle Aquarium is the 7th most-visited aquarium in the United States and features more than 380 species of birds, fish, invertebrates and marine mammals.

What to Do
Visitors can gently touch certain marine animals in the Life on the Edge tide pool or talk with aquarium divers. Step outside into the open-air Birds and Shores exhibit where you can see various shorebirds native to the Puget Sound area.

What to See
Step inside the Underwater Dome and see a spherical undersea room surrounded by 400,000 gallons (1,514 cubic meters) of water. As you enter the Aquarium have a seat and enjoy looking at Window on Washington Waters, a 120,000-gallon exhibit that has live divers inside daily. Seeing the sea otters and harbor seals is another visitor favorite. You can watch them play from comfortable outdoor seating areas or get an underwater view from the many viewing windows.

>> Learn more about the Seattle Aquarium.

Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour

The Spirit of Seattle’s one-hour narrated tour offers a unique vantage point from which to view many of the city’s sights with ease. It's no wonder that Argosy Cruises is a favorite tourist attraction in Seattle.

What to Do
Relax and enjoy the skyline while someone else does the navigating. Either take a seat inside or on the deck, or walk around and change your view as the ship moves around Elliot Bay. The ship also has refreshments to make your time even more enjoyable.

What to See
Pike Place Market, Olympic Sculpture Park, the Space Needle, Safeco Field and Qwest Field, to name a few. On an Argosy Cruises tour you'll get the best views of the city. Bring your camera for some of the best shots of the Seattle skyline, Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, and selfies from the ship.

>> Learn more about Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Enter a world of wonder and color at Chihuly Garden and Glass, located just a short walk away from the Space Needle. With eight galleries that offer a comprehensive collection of the artwork of Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Garden and Glass will immerse you in the work of this amazingly talented artist.

What to Do
Stroll outside in the Garden and see how the glass art mixes perfectly with the surrounding trees and flowers. Some of the installations in the Garden include the Sun, Crystal and Icicle Towers, and Reeds on Logs. Take a step inside the Glass House — home to a 100-ft long suspended sculpture, one of Dale Chihuly's largest—then take a break at the gallery's quiry Collections Cafe.

What to See
Watch short videos in the Theater and learn more about Chihuly's process and his many installations around the world. The Theater is also a gathering place for occasional lectures, education and community events.

>> Learn more about the Chihuly Garden and Glass.

Woodland Park Zoo

Hosting nearly 1,100 animals, the Woodland Park Zoo is nationally recognized for its commitment to creating environments that are true to the animals’ natural habitats. All in all, close to 300 species from across the globe are represented at the Zoo.

What to Do
Bring kids to their own special place: the Zoomazium, an indoor, nature-themed play space. Zoomazium incorporates multimedia features and nature-themed play areas that are designed for imaginative play for kids 8 years old and younger.

What to See
Hippos and giraffes roam on an African savannah, and birds swoop freely in the Tropical Rainforest dome. A must-see is the new complex for tigers and sloth bears, the Banyan Wilds. Since the habitats are designed to be like the animals' natural habitats you'll feel like you're visiting locations from Alaska to Australia, South America, and Africa.

>> Learn more about the Woodland Park Zoo.

Pike Place Market

This historic market, now more than 100 years old, was designed to bring regional farmers and consumers together. Today, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers' markets in the United States and has also grown into one of the most popular places to visit in Seattle.

What to Do
Snap a photo with Rachel, the bronze pig that serves as the market’s mascot, or at the famous "Gum Wall" in Post Alley. Pike Place is also home to a wide variety of restaurants, so have a seat and grab a bite to eat while you enjoy the Market's atmosphere.

What to See
The Market is a feast for the senses, with salmon flying, flowers in a riot of color, and the heady aroma of freshly baked goods. In the lower levels of the market you can window shop a wide variety of stores including antique dealers, comic book shops, collectibles, and more. There's something for everyone at Pike Place Market.

>> Learn more about Pike Place Market.

Ballard Locks (Hiram H. Chittenden Locks)

Thanks to Army Corps of Engineers district chief Hiram Chittenden, boats have had an easy route from Lake Union and Lake Washington to the Puget Sound for nearly 100 years. The Ballard Locks carry more boat traffic than any other lock in the United States.

What to Do
Stand atop swinging walkways to watch the vessels’ progress. All sorts of boats make their way through the Locks including yachts, tugs, barges, motorboats, sailboats, and more. Stop by the visitor's center to learn more about the Locks and how they work.

What to See
Visitors have a special viewing window for the fish ladder – a 21-step structure that helps fish safely move to and from saltwater to freshwater. If you're lucky you might see a variety of different kinds of salmon. King, Silver, and Red salmon all use the ladder.

>> Learn more about the Ballard Locks.

Washington Park Arboretum

Covering 23 acres (93 hectares), the arboretum showcases more than 5,500 different plants from around the world. The park is a joint project between the University of Washington and the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation.

What to Do
Visit the Japanese garden that features a copper-shingled tea house and 11-tier pagoda. During Spring take a stroll through Azalea Way, a stretch of the park that is home to a unique tapestry of azaleas in a variety of colors, making it a popular photo spot.

What to See
Walk along the Shoreline Trail and see Lake Washington from Marsh and Foster Islands. In addition to plants you're likely to see some blue herons, Canadian geese, and pied-bill grebes along the shore.

>> Learn more about the Washington Park Arboretum.

Safeco Field

Bursting at the seams with crowds at full capacity, Safeco Field opened its doors on July 15th, 1999. Years later, Safeco Field is still home to the Mariners, Seattle’s beloved Major League Baseball team. With great views and exciting games, it’s easy to see why Safeco Field is highly praised as one of the most terrific fields in modern MLB.

What to Do
Make your way to the Bullpen Market behind left field for heaps of family-friendly fun. Exciting, interactive games and the Fan Walk will make pre-game time fly by faster than you think. Try the famed garlic fries, a popular snack for game-goers sure to satisfy your taste buds.

What to See
The Outside Corner Picnic Patio provides stunning views of Puget Sound. Lookout Landing puts fans above the baseball field and showcases the city’s grand skyline. It’s also the perfect place to catch birds-eye action of the Mariners at play.

>> Learn more about Safeco Field.

CenturyLink Field

CenturyLink Field is the humble abode for both the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders. The stadium is conveniently located within the SoDo (South of Downtown) district and has earned a reputation as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL thanks to rowdy and dedicated Seahawks fans.

What to Do
Kettle corn is the perfect treat to pop in your mouth when you’re not busy cheering on the Sounders or the Seahawks. The wide range of concessions available, from classic dogs to salmon flatbread, will give you the energy you need to keep up with the devoted fans.

What to See
The wide, open concourse of the CenturyLink Stadium provides fans with great views of the game and shots of Seattle’s beauty from almost every seat. The breathtaking Olympic mountain range, waterfront and modern cityscape provide the perfect backdrop to Seattle’s roaring football and soccer games.

>> Learn more about CenturyLink Field.

Olympic Sculpture Park

Olympic Sculpture Park is a nine-acre outdoor sculpture museum free to the public and full of awe-inspiring sights. Olympic Sculpture Park fuses urban culture with an outdoor setting and nature with art, making it the perfect pit stop on your Seattle itinerary.

What to Do
Take a break from the daily grind by strolling along the Z-shaped path that winds around the modern sculptures throughout the park. Or, sit on one of the many park benches, also designed with art in mind, and enjoy a casual read or the views of the water beneath a breathtaking sunset.

What to See
The Neukom Vivarium is a unique installation of a fallen, decayed hemlock and the new life that arises from it. Visitors are provided with magnifying glasses to get a closer look at the log and it’s varying forms of life and death.

>> Learn more about Olympic Sculpture Park.

Myrtle Edwards Park

Myrtle Edwards Park is a scenic outdoor escape located along the Seattle waterfront. Right next to the Olympic Sculpture Park, Myrtle Edwards is a colorful place to take in the natural beauty of Seattle.

What to Do
The gorgeous view of Puget Sound is the perfect excuse to plan a delicious picnic in this park. Or, if you’re feeling active, go for an easy jog or bike ride along the scenic trails that stretch a little over a mile long.

What to See
On a clear day, you can see the Olympic Mountain range, which can serve as the perfect backdrop for family photo ops or selfies. Watch the Ferries coast the waters or look out for the marine life that hangs out on the beach. From seals to seagulls, Myrtle Edwards Park is full of life.

>> Learn more about Myrtle Edwards Park.

Kerry Park

While many of the parks in Seattle provide impressive views of the city, Kerry Park gives you one of the best vantage points to take it all in. After all, Kerry Park was specifically given to the City in 1927 so that every guest could enjoy the view.

What to Do
Kerry Park has become a popular photo op for the unbeatable views. With direct views of the city skyline, including the well-known Space Needle, a photo from Kerry Park will be the perfect addition to your scrapbook. Make a day of it in the late afternoon so you can take a picture of the fantastic sunset.

What to See
In the middle of the park sits a beautiful steel sculpture, called Changing Form, and was designed by artist Doris Totten Chase in 1971. The sculpture has been a centerpiece in the park since its installation and serves as a creative way for photographers to frame their photos of the Seattle skyline.

>> Learn more about Kerry Park.

Lake Union

Sandwiched between two big bodies of water, Seattle is a hub of maritime culture. At Lake Union, located close to downtown Seattle, you can see the city as you sail the fresh water. In a city where water is the backbone, there’s plenty to do and see in this watery wonderland.

What to Do
At Lake Union, you can take a jog, kayak, or go for a swim. If you’re looking for something a little more low-key, visit the Center for Wooden Boats to see the history of Seattle’s maritime society. There are also plenty of places to sit and watch the boats float by if you’re looking for some much-needed quiet time.

What to See
Houseboats, similar to the ones that Tom Hanks’ character occupied in Sleepless in Seattle, line the eastern and western sides of the lake. Keep an eye out for seaplanes as they splash-land on the Union water. Bring your own toy boat and launch it into the park pond, a small-scale version of the real Lake Union.

>> Learn more about Lake Union.

Pioneer Square

The rich art of Seattle thrives on the energetic pulse that flows through Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Delicious food, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and an exciting nightlife make Pioneer Square a happening spot for locals and visitors alike.

What to Do
Sip on a warm latte at one of Pioneer Square’s aromatic cafes and, after, head to one of the many art galleries in the area. Next, visit all the little shops full of handcrafted goods to take home a uniquely Seattle souvenir (one that doesn’t have an image of the Space Needle on it).

What to See
See the streets of the past frozen in time with an Underground Tour. This humorous walking tour delves into the city that once was—before the Great Fire of 1889. Venture into Waterfall Garden Park, a secluded area that houses a 22-foot waterfall in the middle of Pioneer Square, to forget the fact that you are actually in the middle of a busy city.

>> Learn more about Pioneer Square.

Paramount Theatre

This historic theatre has been entertaining the people of Seattle since it was established in the late 1920’s. From silent films to the rocking performances by acclaimed bands such as Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead, Paramount Theatre is, well, paramount to any other.

What to Do
With a full schedule, there is never a dull day at the Paramount Theatre. Famous comedians, musicians, and many other notable figures have graced the stage of the Paramount Theatre every year. There’s always a show, and it’s always a good one. The Paramount wouldn’t have it any other way.

What to See
The opulent interior design of the Paramount Theatre is jaw-dropping. A beautiful staircase in the main lobby, decadent furnishings, and an exquisite stage tell a story of the theatre’s history that no book could put into words. The venue is a prime spot for talent, and continues to thrive as one of Seattle’s premiere attractions.

>> Learn more about Paramount Theatre.

Seattle Public Library

In 1869, Seattle's first library association was founded. But the high hopes of expanding opportunity for learning were shattered in a flurry of natural disaster, budget restrictions, and relocations. Now, Seattle boasts 22 branches, "Libraries for All," and a dazzling 11-story Central Library: an award-winning architectural masterpiece that has garnered international attention for its unique contemporary design.

What to Do
With multiple events crowding the Seattle Central Library calendar, you're bound to find an event that tempts your curiosity: live scary story readings, free workshops that teach you how to write a memoir or use Photoshop, and kid-friendly puppet shows. Combine the powers of imagination and information, and enjoy most of the events free of charge! —Just be sure to register early.

What to See
The bold design is all the reason you need to make a visit to the Seattle Central Library. From Fifth Avenue, the glass exteriors of the library's multi-angled walls shine like a billion diamonds. Inside, check out the Seattle Collection, one of the library's many special collections that showcase Seattle's colorful history with documents, old yearbooks, paintings, sculptures, and nostalgic photographs.

>> Learn more about the Seattle Public Library

Elliot Bay Book Company

Great books and good vibes are aplenty in Seattle's very own Elliot Bay Book Company. Located in the Capital Hill neighborhood, The Elliot Bay Book Company is boasts over 150,000 titles in a space that will make you want to curl up and read for hours on end.

What to Do
Whatever book you seek, you'll find it at the Elliot Bay Book Company. Multiple levels of the store supply readers of all varieties with the material they desire—fiction, non-fiction, magazines, poetry, and more. You name it, they've got it. High ceilings, beautiful staircases, and the tantalizing Little Oddfellows café will make your reading experience all the more enjoyable. After an exhausting Seattle adventure, you can spend hours browsing for books, but you will feel as if only minutes have passed. Enjoy a house scratch soda or a warm cappuccino while you peruse the pages of a classic tale or an unexplored novel.

What to See
Literature lovers can see various author readings on average of ten times per week at the Elliot Bay Book Company. Lined with books from corner to corner, the cozy reading room is home to many literary events, most of which are free of charge and well worth your time. Stay after the reading for an exciting Q&A, and get to know the author behind the book.

>>Learn more about the Elliot Bay Book Company

Seattle Great Wheel

Not just any Ferris wheel can add "great" to its name—unless said Ferris wheel climbs 175 feet high in the sky. Not only is the Seattle Great Wheel a colossal attraction, the magnificent views of the Puget Sound and the cityscape make it a perfect, one-of-a-kind ride.

What to Do
As astonishing as it is to see, the Seattle Great Wheel is best enjoyed while circling up, around, and off the ground in one of the roomy, climate-controlled gondolas. The ride time varies depending on the crowd, but summer hours offer around 12-20 minutes of breathtaking views (each ride is 3 full wheel rotations). Take the whole family with you: each gondola fits up to eight guests. For the star treatment, take the VIP gondola and enjoy leather seats, a stereo system for a stellar soundtrack, and a champagne toast at Fisherman's Restaurant.

What to See
The largest observation wheel on the west coast is bound to offer a sight worth seeing. Depending on where you sit, you can see the stunning Seattle cityscape or Mount Olympia. The Elliot Bay view during sunset makes for a romantic date, and during special events and holidays, the wheel offers stunning LED light shows to enhance the night ride experience. You'll want to have a camera handy—the photos you take will be show-off material for a long, long time.

>> Learn more about the Seattle Great Wheel

To visit the best attractions in Seattle, use a Seattle CityPASS and save nearly half off combined admission. Plus, CityPASS holders avoid some ticket and entry lines, which means less time waiting and more time doing. Seattle CityPASS includes prepaid admission to the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, and your choice between Museum of Pop Culture or Woodland Park Zoo, and Pacific Science Center or Chihuly Garden and Glass. Some special exhibits are not included with the CityPASS and may require an extra fee.

CityPASS can be purchased online or at any of our participating Seattle attractions. Use Seattle CityPASS and discover these top places to visit and things to do in Seattle.

Safeco Field Photo Credit
CenturyLink Field Photo Credit
Olympic Sculpture Park Photo Credit
Myrtle Edwards Park Photo Credit
Kerry Park Photo Credit
Pioneer Square Photo Credit
Paramount Theatre Photo Credit
Seattle Public Library Photo Credit
Elliot Bay Book Company Photo Credit
Seattle Great Wheel Photo Credit

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