Get to Know The Emerald City - The Best Tours of Seattle

Taking a tour is a great way to learn something new about a place, whether to see the top landmarks, taste interesting local foods or to see a city from an entirely new vantage point. Most people associate taking a tour with something tourists do, but the fact is—going on one of Seattle’s many unique tours is great not only for visitors but also for residents wanting to see their city in a new way (or entertain some out-of-town visitors). There’s variety in the local tour scene, with tours ranging from air and boat tours to going beneath the city into Seattle’s famous Underground, to delving into Seattle’s delicious Northwest cuisine.

  • 01 of 07

    Boat Tours

    Royal Argosy
    Argosy Cruises' largest boat - the Royal Argosy. Kristin Kendle

    With Seattle positioned right between Lake Washington and the Puget Sound (and with Lake Union in the middle), the city has no shortage of opportunities to get out on the water, and seeing the city from one of the surrounding bodies of water offers a cool vantage point. Take a cruise out to a nearby island or around the harbor with views of the skyline on Argosy Cruises. Travel over both land and sea on a Ride the Ducks amphibious tour, as well as see major sights like Seattle’s houseboats, Gas Works Park and Seattle Center. Other cruise companies like Waterways Cruises also offer opportunities to see Lake Washington or the Ballard Locks. Alternately (and much more affordable), you can board one of Seattle’s ferries or the West Seattle Water Taxi from Pier 52.

  • 02 of 07

    Air Tours

    Lake Washington from the Air
    Lake Washington from up in the Air. Kristin Kendle

    Seattle and its surrounding cities are beautiful from the ground, but stunning from the air. Flying in and out of Sea-Tac, you’ll get a sneak peak of the Puget Sound dotted with landmasses, patches of evergreen forest and the cityscape. But if you take an air tour of the city, you’ll get to enjoy Seattle from the sky for longer. There are a few charter flight companies as well as air tour companies, but Kenmore Air is the most prominent with its seaplanes taking off from and landing on Lake Union.

  • 03 of 07
    Underground Seattle
    Karen Neoh/Flickr/CC by 2.0 SA

    Beyond touring the entire city, plenty of Seattle tours delve into specific areas of the city. Tours of Seattle’s Underground are some of the city’s most famous tours. The tour takes a look at Seattle’s original footprint, which sank over time. After a massive fire in 1889, Seattle built right on top of the original city, leaving the Seattle Underground intact below. Tours start in Pioneer Square and explore several blocks of old Seattle storefronts, brothels and businesses.

  • 04 of 07

    Food Tours

    Salmon at Etta's
    Salmon at Etta's near Pike Place Market. Kristin Kendle

    Northwest cuisine revolves around fresh, local produce, seafood from the Pacific and Puget Sound, and creative flavor combinations. It’s not usually as ritzy as other major city’s cuisine scenes, but the flavors are tough to top. You can go on your own food tour of Pike Place Market, but if you prefer a guided experience, you have options. For an overview tour that takes a couple of hours, look to SavorSeattle, which offers tours of Pike Place Market, or specific aspects of Seattle’s foodie side from chocolate tasting to touring Seattle’s best restaurants. Other companies like Seattle Food Tours offer similar experiences of tours you can do in a day. Alternately, especially if you’re from out of town, go all out with a boutique tour company like WanderTours, which leads an annual, week-long tour that explores both Seattle’s major sights as well as tastes it’s most delicious foods.

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  • 05 of 07
    Spooked in Seattle Ghost Tour
    Spooked in Seattle Ghost Tour. Spooked in Seattle

    Ghost tours are a lot of fun around Halloween, but many operate all year round. While they’re especially fun for those interested in the paranormal, some tours also take a look at Seattle’s history. Explore Pike Place Market with a new perspective with Market Tours, or really dig into the city’s history with a shuttle tour with Private Eye on Seattle.

  • 06 of 07

    Theater Tours

    Paramount Theater Seattle
    Paramount Theater Seattle. Kristin Kendle

    Most of Seattle’s theaters offer free tours each month that allow visitors to learn about the history of the theaters as well as get a behind-the-scenes look at how these theaters operate. Theaters that offer free tours include all of the STG Presents family—the Paramount, Moore Theater and Neptune Theater. The 5th Avenue Theater and Benaroya Hall also offer free tours.

  • 07 of 07

    While many tours will cost you, many others are totally free. Theater tours are just some of Seattle’s many free tour options. You can also join up with a free walking tour with Seattle Free Walking Tours, take a self-guided audio tour of Seattle’s quirky Central Library, or sign up for a guided tour of the University of Washington campus. The Center for Wooden Boats offers free public sails around Lake Union. Or venture just outside of town to Woodinville and you can tour Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery or Redhook Brewery for free (or for very cheap, in the case of Redhook).