It happens to everyone who lives in Seattle at some point—you plan a day outside only to wake up to rain. Fortunately, there are many things to do in the Emerald City when it’s cloudy and grey. Seattle is home to award-winning art museums (The Seattle Art Museum is a favorite), conservatories, and animal exhibits at the zoo and aquarium.
Tour the Museums
Seattle’s museums are spread out all over the city, but there are many to choose from that suit just about all interests—even if you have small children. Seattle Children’s Museum and KidsQuest Children’s Museum in Bellevue are perfect for families with younger children who need to get out and be active. Both museums have lots of hands-on exhibits and play spaces.
Read at Seattle Central Library
Yes, it’s a library, but it’s the biggest library in town and there’s lots to do within its geometric walls. With hundreds of free-to-use computers, WiFi, books, and movies galore, and even a coffee shop right on the premises, this library is more like a gigantic café than your average library. Plus, the structure itself is interesting to walk around with neon-yellow escalators, artwork on exhibit, and views from the tenth floor.
See the Fish at the Seattle Aquarium
The Seattle Aquarium is almost entirely indoors, but still has lots of natural light in some exhibits. Spending a day watching jellyfish, otters, and sea lions enjoy the water while you stay dry is not a bad way to while away a rainy day.
Watch the Indoor Animals at Woodland Park Zoo
Woodland Park Zoo has both indoor and outdoor areas, so it’s not a bad rainy day destination. As a bonus, the zoo often offers discounts on rainy days, which might just help make wearing that raincoat a little more appealing. Check the website to see if the rainy day discount is on. Discounts will get you 50 percent off zoo admission for up to four people.
Visit the Pacific Science Center
Pacific Science Center is an all-indoor science wonderland. Check out the latest exhibit and maybe learn a little something along the way. Exhibits include permanent as well as traveling ones that have brought in some pretty high-profile items, such as King Tut and Titanic artifacts. There’s also a massive IMAX theater that shows nature and science films, as well as broad release movies.
Stroll Through the Volunteer Park Conservatory
At the heart of Volunteer Park, Volunteer Park Conservatory is a glasshouse filled with botanical life from around the world. Explore cactus, fern, seasonal plants, and ponds, and do it all with outdoor light streaming in. This may be the closest to being outside while being inside you can get in Seattle.
Go Rock Climbing
If a gym doesn’t float your boat, Seattle has a few rock climbing gyms where you can buy a day pass instead of signing up for a membership. Stone Gardens, Seattle Bouldering Project, and Vertical World all offer day rates as well as regular memberships.
Take a Chocolate Tour
Theo Chocolate is a Seattle staple with fair trade and organic chocolate that comes in all kinds of unique flavors. You can visit the onsite shop for free and try a bit of just about anything Theo sells, but taking a tour of the factory is fun for chocolate fans of all ages. Plus, there’s chocolate tasting!
Sip Coffee at Starbucks Reserve Roastery
Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room is a beautiful facility just up the street from downtown Seattle. The first Starbucks Reserve Roastery opened in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in December 2014 and is only nine blocks from the original Starbucks Pike Place store. The Reserve Roastery is also one of the biggest Starbucks stores in the world, with 15,000 square feet of space. Take a seat at one of the bars and try a cup of joe, kick back in the lending library (which has more than 200 books about coffee), or watch the coffee pros at work as they make eight special brews in front of you.
See a Show
There’s no shortage of venues and theaters in Seattle. For families, the Seattle Children’s Theater has shows year-round geared toward younger audiences. For teens and adults, any number of plays, musicals, comedians, and headlining tours come through every place from the 5th Avenue to the Paramount to ACT Theatre to KeyArena. If you’re stuck inside, it never hurts to check the events schedules to see who’s on that day.
For families, indoor play centers are a great option. Aside from children’s museums, there are always pizza arcades like Chuck E. Cheese, as well as more local options like the Family Fun Center in Tukwila. At Family Fun Center, you can bowl, drive bumper cars, ride some rides, and climb on giant playgrounds. There are even more outdoors activities if the weather is decent, too.
After years of renovations, the Seattle Space Needle has been completely redone and opened for visitors. Purchase one ticket to see both observation decks of the needle—both of which has floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Mount Rainier, Elliott Bay, and the Puget Sound. There's also a new section with the world's first revolving glass floors, so you can look down to the city skyline below your feet. When hunger strikes, tuck into local craft beer, wine, and bites at the Atmost Wine Bar, which also has a glass floor more than 500 feet in the air.