The Ultimate Seattle Bucket List

While Seattle has no shortage of things to do and see, these are some of the best stops in the Emerald City.

Creating the list of necessary stops while in Seattle is nearly impossible.

Seattle’s geography between two mountain ranges with plenty of salt and fresh water means outdoor adventures abound and the varied landscape makes the area home to fantastic produce, seafood and meat—giving chefs plenty of local food with which to create must-eat items. In addition to that is the city itself. Seattle is full of fantastic landmarks, museums, stores and experiences you can’t find elsewhere. It can all feel overwhelming.

This list should help you out. Whether you want to concentrate on sights, experiences, shopping or eating, it’s all covered here.

For Every Seattle Bucket List

There are a few items at the top of an Emerald City bucket list. You might have already checked these off if you've been here before. Everyone should visit the Space Needle Observation Deck at least once—the 360-degree view gives you a gorgeous overview of the city and beyond, including Mount Rainier and Puget Sound.

Visitors should also explore Pike Place Market. As the oldest continuously operating farmers market in the country, this market is 109 years old. In addition to fresh produce, seafood and meat, there are also artists and craftspeople selling their goods, plenty of fantastic restaurants and unique shops at every turn. The market encompasses multiple buildings and Post Alley, so be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.

While there, take a photo outside the first Starbucks. A tip: Don’t wait in line for coffee at this shop. Instead, get your Starbucks fix just up the hill at First Ave. and Pike St. The line is shorter and the coffee is the same; the Pike Place Market location does have exclusive merchandise, however, if you’re after a longer-lasting souvenir.

Pike Place Market

A ferry ride is also an important experience while in the Emerald City. The Washington State Ferry System is the largest in the United States, with 10 routes connecting eight counties in Washington and British Columbia, Canada. From downtown Seattle, you can visit Bainbridge Island or Bremerton, both spots with easily walkable business districts and plenty to see. From West Seattle, visit Vashon Island, a small island with an artistic vibe. If you don’t have time for a day trip, get a similar experience with the King County Water Taxi, which will take you from downtown Seattle to Alki Beach in West Seattle and back. Whatever boat you choose, seeing Puget Sound from the water is a beautiful experience.

A bucket list in this town isn’t complete without eating a few things.

Start with seafood. Seattle has fantastic seafood year-round, and while you’re here, you must have salmon, oysters and, well, anything else that looks good, including Dungeness crab, clams and mussels. Sushi is also a must-try.

This is also a beer town, with breweries dotting the city. The largest concentration is in Ballard, where you can walk from brewpub to brewpub, trying all the varieties local brewers are creating (try Peddler Brewing, Stoup Brewing and Populuxe for starters). Even if you can’t make it to Ballard, most bars and restaurants have at least a couple local beers on tap.

Populuxe Brewing

Seattle's Top Sights

Downtown Seattle Skyline from Alki Beach

Head to West Seattle for the best panoramic views of the city, day or night. Take a walk along this popular beach—there’s a well-maintained path—or have a meal at Salty’s on Alki, a seafood staple in the city. The restaurant has an incredible view of the skyline.

Mount Rainier from Kerry Park or the University of Washington

Looming in the background of Seattle, Mount Rainier is a must-see while in town. You can see it from many spots in the city, especially on a clear day, but Kerry Park is beautiful and accessible. The small park in Queen Anne overlooks Seattle Center—see the Space Needle, Key Arena and Mount Rainier all in one spot.

At the University of Washington, Rainier Vista at Red Square is named for the spectacular view. Face the Drumheller Fountain, and Mount Rainier is on display, perfectly framed in the background. Find it by exiting Red Square to the southeast, between the Suzzallo Library and Gerberding Hall.

Gas Works Park in Fremont

As the name implies, this park was, at one time, a gas works plant. The remnants remain, creating an interesting focal point in the park. There is also a play area for children and a fantastic view of Lake Union, the Space Needle and downtown neighborhoods. Gas Works is a popular place to fly a kite, picnic or just hang out when the sun is shining.

Gas Works Park

Chihuly Garden and Glass at Seattle Center

See a massive collection at Dale Chihuly’s Seattle exhibition showcase. There are eight galleries, a garden and the Glasshouse, the centerpiece of it all with a 100-foot long sculpture suspended from the ceiling. If you also want to visit the Space Needle Observation Deck, consider buying a package ticket to save on admission to both spots. 

The Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge

At Troll Ave. (really!) in Fremont, tucked under the Aurora Bridge, find the Fremont Troll, a massive work of art that has been guarding the bridge for 26 years. The troll, made from two tons of concrete, is clutching a real VW Beetle and sports a hubcap eye.

Seattle's Best Experiences

The Underground Tour in Pioneer Square

This fantastic tour takes visitors beneath Seattle’s streets, to the streets of the 1800s, before Seattle built atop itself after the Great Fire of 1889. Humorous and historical, it’s a fun way to learn about the start of the city. Buy tickets online, as tours can sell out.

Teatro ZinZanni

Head to Teatro ZinZanni’s vintage tent for an evening of entertainment and a multi-course meal. You’ll eat during the performance, which includes a mix of cabaret, comedy and circus arts.

Teatro ZinZanni

A Mariners game at Safeco Field

If you're in town during baseball season, be sure to catch a game! The Seattle Mariners play at Safeco Field—take a lap around the outside of the stadium while at a game. There are some fantastic views, especially on sunny days.

Wine tasting in Woodinville

Nearby Woodinville has more than 100 tasting rooms where you can try Washington’s fantastic wines. Be sure to stop at Chateau Ste. Michelle and tour the impressive building and grounds. If you want someone else to do the driving, check out Butler Wine Tours, which will customize a tour for you.

Seattle's Top Food and Drink

Canlis

Arguably Seattle’s top fine-dining restaurant (cocktail attire is strongly suggested, and window tables require a suit or sport coat), Canlis is a spot to eat at least once. Have the three- or four-course dinner or really go all out with the seven-course tasting menu paired with the sommelier-chosen wine pairings.

Sushi at Sushi Kashiba, Mashiko or Sushi Kappo Tamura

There are lots of great sushi options in Seattle, but these three currently top the list. Sushi Kashiba is Chef Shiro Kashiba’s new restaurant at Pike Place Market. Go early to try and snag a table at the sushi bar. Mashiko in West Seattle is a fully sustainable sushi bar with something new every day—be sure to check out the chef recommendations when you go in. Sushi Kappo Tamura has multiple accolades as one of the best sushi restaurants around. Try the omakase, a seven-course chef’s choice experience.

Sushi Kappo Tamura

Oysters at Taylor Oyster Bars

Savor fresh Pacific Northwest Oysters at one of the three locations of these oyster bars. Oysters are delivered fresh from Taylor Shellfish Farms, which has been growing oysters for more than 100 years.

Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream

Molly Moon’s homemade ice cream and her cute shops have quickly become the city’s favorite. Stop in for a fresh waffle cone filled with ice cream made from Pacific Northwest ingredients.

Dick’s Drive-In

This institution has been serving burgers and fries to Seattle since 1954. Stop in to one of their six locations (they’re open 10:30 am to 2 am) for a burger, hand-cut fries and old-fashioned milkshakes.

Seattle's Best Shopping

Flagship Nordstrom

Seattle’s hometown department store started as a shoe store in 1901. The downtown location is the flagship, so stop in for clothing and shoes for the entire family, plus visit the bar, eat at the restaurant or café and more.

Moorea Seal

Moorea Seal turned her massive Pinterest following into a popular store in Belltown. Stop in for gifts and accessories, including her own line of jewelry. Seven percent of proceeds benefit five nonprofit categories.

Totokaelo

Find one of Seattle’s premier fashion boutiques in Capitol Hill. Totokaelo’s carefully selected fashion for men and women has a beautiful, often minimal aesthetic shoppers love so much. The store recently opened a boutique in New York City.

Totokaelo

Ebbets Field Flannels

At this Pioneer Square store find hand-crafted baseball jerseys created from the same wool-blend flannel that baseball teams used in the late 1960s, plus vintage-style baseball hats, hockey jerseys and more from non major-league teams.

Fran’s Chocolates

Fran’s Chocolates' caramels, truffles and chocolate bars have been handmade in Seattle for 32 years. The treats make great gifts, but be sure to buy some for yourself. Head to the Georgetown store and see the chocolates being made.

glassybaby

These hand-blown tea light vessels make beautiful gifts—and 10 percent of every glassybaby is donated to the glassybaby White Light Fund, which gives financial and emotional assistance to those in need. To date, glassybaby has donated more than four million dollars. There are multiple locations, but visit the Madrona shop to see the hot shop, where glassybabys are created. 

The Ultimate Seattle Bucket List

Stacy Booth
About the author