Space Needle and Mount Rainier at sunset

A growing city meets natural beauty, making Seattle a fun trip for every traveler. (©Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Top Things to Do in Seattle

By Stacy Booth on 05/27/15, updated 04/07/17
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With a thriving metropolis plunked down in the middle of natural beauty, Seattle has something to offer for every type of traveler. There are some things, however, that qualify as classic experiences—icons of the city, historical adventures, insights into the arts and places that you just won’t find in another city.

Wear comfortable shoes here: The best way to experience most Seattle neighborhoods is to walk. With so many old buildings, storefronts and restaurants are often tucked into hard-to-spot corners you’ll miss in a car. Layers are also smart. Even during the beautiful summer months—usually July to September—the nights can be chilly. A raincoat is also a good idea October through June, as the rain is light but frequent. The good news is the temperate climate means there’s almost never a day where you can’t be outside—though there are plenty of fantastic museums if needed!

Whether it’s your first time in the city or you tenth, these are the Seattle experiences you should check off your list.

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Space Needle

(Courtesy Space Needle LLC)

Attractions

Space Needle

An icon of the city, the Space Needle is a must for anyone coming to Seattle. You’ll get an overview of the city, but recently added technology also lets you take virtual tours of other local landmarks and see the Needle’s history in photos. Make sure to stop at the store at the base—you’ll find the best selection of souvenirs in town.

Pike Place Market

(©LWYang/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Attractions

Pike Place Market

At more than 100 years old, this is one of the oldest continuously running farmers markets in the country. The buildings are a maze, but getting lost is part of the fun. While it's hard to remember where favorite spots are, there is always a new favorite to be found while in search of the old.

Sky View Observatory

(©Mike Reid)

Attractions

Sky View Observatory

Head up to the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center for a birds-eye view of the city. It’s an office tower, so you might feel hesitant to walk in, but don’t worry: Take the elevators to the 40th floor lobby—where there is a Starbucks with a great view—and then follow signs to the elevators that go to the 73rd floor.

Underground Tour

(©Robert De Giulio)

Activities

Underground Tour

If you love history, this is one of the best tours in town. Go underneath Seattle’s streets and learn some of the city’s stories. Seattle rebuilt on top of itself after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, and many of those below-street-level sidewalks remain. This company has a variety of tours, see the website for additional options.

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

(©Tony Kent/Flickr)

Attractions

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

Often called the Ballard Locks, these are part of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. The locks allow boats to move between the sea water of Puget Sound and the fresh water of Lake Washington and Lake Union. They also help maintain the level of fresh water and prevent fresh and salt water from mixing.

Fremont Troll

(©Sue Elias/Flickr)

Attractions

Fremont Troll

Only in Fremont, Seattle’s quirky, arty neighborhood, would there be a giant troll with a real VW Beetle living under the bridge. Stop here for some fun photos and make sure to walk down Troll Avenue a bit—one fun-loving neighbor has the three billy goats gruff in their front yard.

Seattle Center

(©David McSpadden/Flickr)

Attractions

Seattle Center

It’s inevitable to end up here—the Seattle Center is home to the Space Needle, the EMP Museum and the Pacific Science Center. It’s also worth exploring on its own: There are multiple art installations—check out Sonic Bloom, near Chihuly Garden and Glass—and the Armory has some great local food—try Skillet or Plum Pantry.

EMP Museum

The EMP Museum is now MoPOP Museum of Pop Culture. (©joyfuldesigns/Shutterstock)

Attractions

EMP Museum

This is the spot for anyone who loves pop culture. The exhibits cover music, video games, movies and television. It’s a great spot to take kids, too. There is a great Nirvana exhibit and the movie memorabilia on display is amazing. Everything from “Labyrinth” to “Alien.”

Seattle Art Museum

(©Ben Benschneider)

Attractions

Seattle Art Museum

This museum has everything from ancient pieces to modern art, and the special exhibitions are always great. It’s hard to pick a favorite piece in the collection: there's “Sea Change” by Jackson Pollock but there's also a Porcelain Room that is floor-to-ceiling dishes.

Seattle Great Wheel

(©cdrin/Shutterstock)

Attractions

Seattle Great Wheel

Take a spin on Seattle’s waterfront. Buy tickets online and print them out ahead of time and you can skip the ticketing line—especially during summer months when lines can get long. Tickets are good whenever the wheel is open except for New Years Eve and don’t expire.

Seattle Aquarium

(Courtesy Seattle Aquarium)

Attractions

Seattle Aquarium

Located on the waterfront, this is an amazing aquarium. From the touch pools to the “Window on Washington Waters,” kids and adults alike will have fun. Check the online calendar—there are tons of special events happening all the time.

Ride the Ducks

(Courtesy Ride the Ducks)

Activities

Ride the Ducks

You can’t miss these amphibious vehicles driving around town—on some roads, they are wider than the lane. This is a fun tour, and although it looks silly, you should go at least once. The drivers don’t follow a script, so you often get funny and interesting insights about the city.

Map of Top Things to Do in Seattle