Nicknamed the Emerald City, Washington’s Seattle is the biggest city in the USA’s Pacific Northwest. Artsy and with great nightlife – it’s also at the heart of the region’s business and commerce, with many factories and flagship stores.
But Seattle has so much to offer it can almost be overwhelming… where do you even start?
Worry not! Our bargain guide to the best things to do in Seattle will get you sorted!
Written by our expert travel writers, this guide is filled with everything you need to have an amazing time in Seattle. From must-see attractions to hidden local gems, this guide has it all – no matter your budget!
With the help of this guide, you’ll be able to find amazing (and unique!) things to do while in the Emerald City so you can make it as memorable a trip as possible.
Here are the ultimate best things to do in Seattle. Some of them will surprise you…
Seattle offers plenty of diversity when it comes to fun … it’s time to explore!
Boeing is the biggest aerospace company in the world, making aircraft, launch systems, satellites, weapons, and more. You can enter the wondrous world of Boeing close to Seattle, visiting the enormous factory and the Future of Flight Aviation Centre.
Learn more about the work of Boeing, the company’s history, and ambitious future plans, and see a variety of planes and other equipment in various stages of the production process. Interactive exhibits appeal to people of all ages. An added bonus is that you can walk through the biggest building in the world!
If life in the city gets a bit too chaotic, escape to the countryside and immerse yourself in nature. Accessible in all seasons, Mt. Rainier National Park offers long walks in nature or snowshoeing adventures. You can admire stunning views and spot an array of interesting wildlife. Creatures that call the park home include black bears, coyotes, deer, elk, and numerous species of birds.
A still-active volcano, a ring of snow and ice surrounds the peak at all times of year, with verdant greenery and rolling fields of wildflowers providing a stunning contrast to the icy whites. Glistening lakes, waterfalls, and glaciers add even more to the picturesque scenes and the air is crisp and cool.
There are several excellent spots where you can get high—literally—in Seattle. Perhaps one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, admire the soaring Space Needle from a distance before making a rapid elevator ascent to the observation deck for soaring views that can reach as far as the Cascade Mountain Range and Mt. Rainier.
The Smith Tower, Seattle’s first skyscraper, also has a terrific observation area with awesome views. Alternatively, ride the Seattle Great Wheel in air-conditioned comfort to see the city, sea, and mountains spread out like a blanket.
Even when the rain is pouring and the skies are dull, there’s no need for the sun to set on your romance! Keep the spark ablaze at Seattle’s romantic hotspots.
A nature lover’s dream, the gorgeous Olympic National Park can be a truly romantic destination … in the right company, of course!
You and your sweetheart can admire stunning views of the coast and rainforest at one of just 20 UNESCO-listed sites in North America. Discover a range of ecosystems with diverse flora and fauna, including black bears, marmots, deer, and many bird types.
Ride the ferry through Puget Sound to reach Bainbridge Island, walk along scenic nature trails, soak up the views from Hurricane Ridge, enjoy the tranquil Lake Crescent … there’s plenty of diversity in the national park.
Another great natural attraction for couples to enjoy close to Seattle, Mt. St. Helens also has an interesting (and tragic) history. The volcano exploded in a blaze in the year 1980, changing the landscapes and shocking the world. Visit the infamous blast zone and see the crater’s edge as you learn more about the volcano’s awesome power.
Walk the Eruption Trail, keeping an eye out for local wildlife, and develop a new-found respect, awe, and healthy fear of Mother Nature and her mighty powers of devastation.
A pretty place to spend an afternoon, you and your love can stroll hand in hand through the attractive garden, with all its scents and colours and exquisite glasswork. The decorative glass pieces complement the natural beauty, seeming to almost be alive themselves, creating a visual wonder that’s unlike other gardens.
The bright and airy glasshouse can’t fail to impress, with its huge suspended glass sculpture in a variety of warm shades. The deep hues are sure to stir your passions!
You can also learn more about the creator, Dale Chihuly, and his artistic visions and processes in the galleries and theatre.
As with most major city, you’ll find plenty of ways to keep children entertained and amused in Seattle. Take them up the Space Needle and to the Boeing Factory and try these cool activities too.
Turn your sightseeing into a challenging adventure and take part in the Seattle Urban Adventure Quest Team Scavenger Hunt. You’re not tied to any time schedules and you can play whenever you like.
All you need is a smartphone, comfortable walking shoes, and bags of energy! Families with younger kids can take it easy and go slowly, whereas those with older children might relish some light-hearted competition.
Explore Seattle’s historic streets as you follow a series of clues and challenges around the city. Highlights include the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, Seattle Art Museum, and the unusual Gum Wall.
Get an overview of Seattle’s famous neighbourhoods and attractions without working up a sweat on a hop-on hop-off bus tour. Stay on the bus and enjoy the views of the ever-changing city, or get off to explore further before continuing your ride.
Sightseeing buses are an ideal way for families to cover a lot of ground without wearing the kids out. Little ones can quickly get grumpy when too much walking is involved! You can use the bus to access destinations that a little farther out of the city too; no need to try navigating public transportation with little ones in tow.
Stops on the loop include the Space Needle, the Central Waterfront, Piers 66 and 57, Occidental Square, Chinatown, Seattle Art Museum, Pike Place Market, and the Westlake Centre.
Learn more about the ocean deep at Seattle Aquarium on Pier 59. You can also get feel-good vibes by knowing that your visit helps to fund environmental and educational projects that benefit the world’s oceans. There’s a local focus on Puget Sound, with efforts that include the rehabilitation of sea turtles and protection of sea otters.
Walk through a tunnel and into a large glass underwater dome to surround yourself with an assortment of aquatic life. The living and ever-changing exhibit is really quite magical and kids are sure to be transfixed. Watch divers journey into the ocean at the Window on Washington Waters.
There are tanks filled with tropical marine life, aquatic creatures native to Puget Sound, and a living coral reef. Observe delightful seal and otters as well as a variety of water birds, come face to face with an octopus, and listen for the sounds of orca whales. The storytelling sessions are perfect for inspiring younger kids.
It’s easy to blow your budget on a city break, especially when you’re visiting somewhere so diverse as Seattle. Fret not, though, as these terrific free things to do will help keep your spending on track while the good times continue to roll.
Previously at the heart of Seattle, Pioneer Square is a charming part of the city with lots of Romanesque-style architecture and charming streets to explore. This is where the city’s founders settled in the 1850s. There are photo opportunities galore and a walk through the quaint neighbourhood won’t cost a thing.
Browse in quirky stores and boutiques and chill out in the leafy Occidental Park. Get snap happy in Pioneer Square-Skid Road Historic District, which features on the National Register of Historic Places. Pay your respects at the bronze Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial. Gaze up at the Pioneer Square Totem Pole. Spot legacies of Chinese residents from the past.
One of the most popular Seattle attractions is also completely free to enjoy. Pike Place Market has been a bustling centre of trade since the early 1900s, and it’s one of the USA’s oldest farmers’ markets. Today, you’ll find fresh produce, ready-made meals, souvenirs, handicrafts, antiques, and more across the diverse stalls and stalls.
The market attracts many street entertainers, ranging from gospel singers and guitarists to folk musicians and jazz artists. The melodies help to create a carnival-like atmosphere.
Don’t miss posing for a selfie with Rachel, a bronze pig statue that has become the unofficial symbol of the market.
There are old buildings in the locale, as well as the world’s first Starbucks coffee house and the small Market Heritage Center where you can learn more about the market’s history.
Lying on the coast, Seattle has a number of pleasant beaches where you can soak up some sun, laze on the sands, swim, relax, and enjoy a variety of activities. Indeed, Seattle’s beaches are often said to be among the best in the country … if the weather is nice!
Golden Gardens Beach is a popular hangout for locals, providing great views of the mountains and rich biodiversity in the wetlands. Alki Beach and Discovery Beach are top spots to watch the sun go down, and Discovery Beach also boasts a number of great walking trails.
Others include Idylwood Beach Park, Madison Park Beach, Green Lake Park, and Magnuson Park.
There’s no need to hit the hay when the sun sets and daylight fades; Seattle offers much excitement at nighttime!
An up-and-coming Seattle neighbourhood, Georgetown was previously a largely industrial area. Many of its old warehouses and factories have been given a new lease on life and converted into cool cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops. A hip and funky area, foodies can relish far from Mexico, Japan, China, Italy, France, and other places around the globe, not to mention the wide selection of regional delicacies and good old Americana from all around the USA.
When it comes to drinking, the bar scene offers everything from slightly dingy dive bars and pubs filled with homey vibes to fresh new cocktail joints where you’ll feel out of place if you’re not dressed to impress. Call into the breweries for some tasty craft beers.
Another Seattle neighbourhood with a great night scene, Belltown is trendy, modern, and fun. It’s only recently started to take its place in the spotlight, making everywhere still feel a little exciting and undiscovered. It’s easy to walk around, letting you cram varied establishments into a night on the tiles, and the prices are generally pretty affordable.
A hive of activity, Belltown’s restaurants dish up international favourites and local feasts. There are bars to suit most tastes, including some great spots with nightly live music, and you can throw some shapes on the dancefloor in one of the area’s pulsating nightclubs. Alternatively, enter the lavish Jewelbox Theatre at the Rendezvous for a diverse program of events covering everything from cool bands and comedy acts to plays and burlesque shows.
Discover why certain places are popular foodie havens and enter in on local secrets to find excellent secret gems. Savour a selection of local dishes and give your taste buds a treat.
Learn about the hottest dining spots in Downtown Seattle (check them off on subsequent nights in the city!) and visit Pike Place Market. Try tasty clam chowder, fresh crab, oysters, salmon burgers, and cheeses before indulging your sweet tooth with delights like doughnuts, creamy gelato, and salted caramel. If that wasn’t enough, you can also devour artisan chocolates and delectable locally made pastries. Prepare to enter foodie heaven!
Come rain or shine, you’ll always find something great to enjoy in Seattle. Sightseeing, shopping, partying, relaxing … Seattle ticks all boxes. Check off our recommendations for the best things to do in Seattle for a fabulous trip.
What are your thoughts? Are you going to book any of the tours we recommended? Let us know in the comments below!