8 Best Things to Do on the Downtown Seattle, Washington Waterfront

Seattle Downtown Waterfront lit up at night

Edmund Lowe Photography / Getty Images

The downtown Seattle waterfront offers stunning views of West Seattle and the Puget Sound, and is a fun place to spend the day exploring, with plenty of places to sit and enjoy the view, grab a quick snack, or treat yourself to a fine dining experience. Watch the ferries and container ships travel across Elliott Bay, shop for unique souvenirs at novelty shops, visit art galleries, and indulge your inner child at a family-friendly arcade. You can expect to see sea mammals and creatures of all kinds, either at the Seattle Aquarium or along the shoreline. Best of all, much of the area's best activities along the downtown Seattle waterfront are free, making it a great spot no matter what your budget may be.

01 of 08

Visit Pike Place Market and its Legendary Gum Wall

Pike Place Market Seattle Gum Wall

Sujata Jana / EyeEm / Getty Images

Address
Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA, USA

Located near the downtown Seattle waterfront, Pike Place Market is one of the most popular attractions in the city, with nine acres worth of independently owned shops and restaurants, as well as a number of buskers, farmers, and craftspeople selling their wares. Opened in 1907, the market also serves as affordable housing for more than 450 residents, making it a city within a city, of sorts.

Shop for locally sourced goods, crafts, and souvenirs among the many shops, then check out the legendary gum wall, where people have been sticking their used gum since the 90s, forming a large, layered work of sticky art that makes an interesting and colorful background for your next Insta-photoshoot.

02 of 08

Take the Washington State Ferries for a Joyride

City view from a ferry in Seattle, Washington

TripSavvy / Noah Kreyenhagen

Address
2901 3rd Ave #500, Seattle, WA 98121-1080, USA

Washington State Ferries are part of the state's official highway transportation system, carrying people to and from points on and around the Puget Sound. Taking a ride on the ferry is a great way to relax and enjoy the scenery, though for some people, it's really the only way to get around. Travel with or without your car or bike, or just watch them come and go. The ferry terminal in downtown Seattle is located at Pier 52 with routes to ​Bainbridge Island and Bremerton.

03 of 08

See Sea Creatures at the Seattle Aquarium

Seattle Aquarium interior.
John Elk / Getty Images
Address
1483 Alaskan Way Pier 59, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Phone +1 206-386-4300

Located at Pier 59, the Seattle Aquarium offers visitors the opportunity to view all kinds of creatures from different points of view. While species that live in the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean are the main focus, there are a number of cool exhibits, from the furry, funny otters to the silvery school of salmon. Tide pools provide the chance to touch sea stars and anemones. In addition to sea flora and fauna, you can also spend time at interactive displays highlighting orcas and ocean science, or check out the café and gift shop. Major exhibits at the Seattle Aquarium include Window on Washington Waters, the Pacific Coral Reef, and Marine Mammals.

04 of 08

Dine on Fresh Seafood with a Waterfront View

Cityscape from Pier 66 in downtown Seattle, Washington State, USA
Danita Delimont / Getty Images
Address
2201 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
Phone +1 206-448-6688

Seattle is known for its fresh seafood, and you can't get much closer to the source than enjoying a meal while seated on a Seattle pier. You'll find plenty of casual eateries like Anthony's Bell Street Diner, where you can order such goodies as clam chowder in a sourdough bowl or fried fish and chips. There are also a number of fine dining establishments providing elegant settings and incomparable Puget Sound views, such as Six Seven, consistently ranked one of Seattle's best restaurants. 

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Take a Scenic Cruise or Boat Tour

A sail boat cruising around Seattle

TripSavvy / Chris VR

Address
1101 Alaskan Way Pier 55, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Phone +1 206-623-1445

Along with the sailboats and ferries crossing the waters of Elliott Bay, you'll see various vessels used for scenic cruises, whale watching tours, and scenic sailings on the Puget Sound. Scheduled day tours, dinner cruises, and private charters are among your many choices. 

Argosy Cruises offers a variety of short scenery tours from Pier 56 in downtown Seattle, some of which tour the immediate harbor area, while others pass through locks to Lake Union. Argosy also provides the transportation for the Tillicum Village on Blake Island experience, which includes a scenic cruise to the island, where you'll enjoy a traditional dinner and entertainment. Dinner and brunch cruises are also available, as are holiday and other themed cruises throughout the year.

While the Victoria Clipper vessels are best known for ferry service to Victoria and Vancouver, B.C., and the San Juan Islands, they also offer whale watching tours and other day trips around the Puget Sound, operating from Pier 69 near the Edgewater Hotel.

06 of 08

Walk Among Giant Sculptures at Olympic Sculpture Park

A large public sculpture by the water

 TripSavvy / Noah Kreyenhagen 

Address
2901 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
Phone +1 206-654-3100

Olympic Sculpture Park, part of the Seattle Art Museum, is filled with large sculptures and art installations of all kinds. Many are quite fun and funky, making this free park a wonderful way to introduce children to fine art. As you wander the zigzagging paths through the park, you'll take in fabulous views, east to the Space Needle and west to the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.

If you're still looking to spend some time outdoors, head to Myrtle Edwards Park, located 10 minutes away at the northern edge of the downtown waterfront district. It's a good old-fashioned city park that happens to enjoy fabulous water and mountain views, sporting bike and walking trail, picnic tables, verdant lawns, and sandy beaches.

07 of 08

Go Shopping for Souvenirs

Glass objects for sale.
John & Lisa Merrill / Getty Images
Address
Pier 54, 1001 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98104-1028, USA
Phone +1 206-682-5844

Seattle's waterfront shops, most of which are located at the southern end of the waterfront on Piers 56 and 57, carry everything from high-quality, locally made gift items to the tackiest of tourist trinkets, including Northwest Coast Art, fine art photographs, sports team merchandise, and glass art. Food and drink items like Washington wines, smoked salmon, huckleberry jam, and locally-roasted coffee always make thoughtful souvenirs or gifts, so don't be afraid to stock up.

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, part museum, part novelty shop, and all a fascinating part of Seattle history, is a must-visit. First opened on the waterfront in 1899, its walls and ceiling are covered by "curiosities" of all kinds, including a mummy, taxidermy Siamese-twin calves, and a grain of rice engraved with the Lord's Prayer. The shop sells items from the Northwest and around the world.

08 of 08

Ride the Seattle Great Wheel

Seattle Great Wheel, Seattle, Washington, USA
Pete Saloutos / Getty Images
Address
1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101-2013, USA
Phone +1 206-623-8607

One of Seattle's biggest waterfront attraction is the Seattle Great Wheel, a grand Ferris wheel on Pier 57 that features closed, climate-controlled cars that can each seat up to six adults. During your 15-minute ride, you'll enjoy wonderful views of downtown Seattle, Elliott Bay, West Seattle, and the surrounding scenery. At night, the wheel dazzles with colored lighting.

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Best Things to Do on the Seattle, Washington Waterfront