Seattle’s most popular tourist attractions are pretty well known—and indeed if you’re visiting the city (or even if you’ve lived here for a long time and haven’t gotten to know the sights that make the Emerald City famous), you should see the main sights. However, Seattle is more than Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. Seattle is a city with an amazing park system, strong maritime heritage, a bustling food and drink scene and a place to find some really innovative things to do.
All in all, Seattle is a fun city to explore! Start with this list of 50 fun things to do in Seattle.
Seattle Center is the end all, be all of Seattle attractions for a reason – it’s not just one thing, but a hub of activity with everything from the iconic Space Needle to the beautiful Chihuly Gardens and Glass to festivals all year round. You’ll also find museums such as MoPop and the Pacific Science Center, and plenty of free things to see like the International Fountain. If you haven’t done it before, catch the Monorail from downtown and back again for the full experience.
Along with the Space Needle, this is perhaps Seattle’s best-known attraction, but it’s also a draw for locals for its fresh fish, produce, flowers and restaurants. Pike Place Market is located close to the water so it’s a natural pairing. Grab lunch at the market and stroll among the vendors and then venture down to the water where you can stop by the Seattle Aquarium or take a ride on the Great Wheel.
Seattle’s waterfront is filled with attractions, including the Seattle Aquarium, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, Wings over Washington and the Great Wheel, and plenty of places to eat. You can also catch a ferry from Pier 52, or hop onto an Argosy Cruise from pier 55. And don't miss the Seattle Aquarium if you have kids.
Downtown Seattle is walkable (so long as you don’t mind a hill or two), fairly compact and filled with shops, restaurants, theaters and more. Highlights include stopping by the Westgate Center for coffee or to peep in the shops, taking in a show at the 5th Avenue Theatre or hoofing it down to Pike Place Market.
Just to the right and down a small hill from Pike Place Market’s main entrance, the Gum Wall is a quirky attraction where you can leave your mark (or at least your gum) on Seattle. It’s just what it sounds like. A big wall with tons of gum stuck to it.
Woodland Park Zoo
Seattle’s zoo has both local animals and animals from around the world. It’s the perfect place for families or a low-key date any time of year, but also a special treat during the holidays when the zoo gets decked out in Christmas lights.
The Seattle Underground is Seattle’s original footprint. Venture on this tour and you can still see old storefronts and streets that remain underneath the modern city. The tour leaves out of Pioneer Square and you can expect a lot of quirky humor and Seattle history along the way.
Go to a Museum
Seattle’s museums are spread out throughout the city, but just about all are worth a visit. If you can’t decide, start with the Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Flight, MoPOP, MOHAI or Seattle Asian Art Museum. Most of Seattle’s museums have an admission fee, but visit on the first Thursday of each month during specified hours for free.
Find a Festival
Parks may be downgraded as tourist hotspots in the face of flashier destinations, but the Northwest is known for its nature and parks allow you to enjoy a snapshot of that. Seattle has several large parks especially suited to this purpose. Discovery Park is filled with trails winding through woodlands and along natural shorelines, as does Washington Park Arboretum. Volunteer Park is more groomed, but has the added bonus of being the location of the Seattle Asian Art Museum and a water tower you can climb and see out over Seattle for free.
Get Out on The Water
There are tons of ways to get out on the Puget Sound or one of Seattle’s lakes. Go on an Argosy Cruise around the harbor, through the Ballard Locks or on one of the lakes. Go sailing with the Center for Wooden Boats, which offers free public sails. Rent a rowboat or canoe at the Waterfront Activities Center (or the WAC) on the UW campus or rent a kayak at Lake Union. Ride a ferry or even play tourist and ride the Ducks!
See a Game
Head to Safeco Field for a Mariners game. Go see a Seahawks game at CenturyLink field for one of the loudest football games in the country. Seattle’s resident soccer team, the Sounders, also play at CenturyLink. While the Sonics left town long ago, the Seattle Storm still bring basketball to the city, and Seattle has a women’s soccer team too – the Seattle Reign. There’s also roller derby with the Rat City Rollergirls and a junior hockey team based in Kent.
Go to a Show
Seattle is filled with venues large and small. KeyArena, Paramount Theater and 5th Avenue Theater take the lead for larger shows and headliners. Benaroya Hall and McCaw Hall make sure to serve up some culture. But don’t discount the smaller venues. The Crocodile, Neumos, Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley and others are nothing but enjoyable.
Get Out on a Trail
Seattle has many trails, but the Burke Gilman Trail is one of the best for cutting through town on a nice, level and paved path. Other trails worth a hike or bike ride include those at Discovery Park and the Washington Park Arboretum. If you really want to go all out, head to Issaquah’s Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park, which has 120 acres filled with miles of mountain bike trails.
The streets of Capitol Hill are filled with things to do, and are also a fun place to hang out at night as Capitol Hill is a top-notch nightlife spot. Stores of note include Elliott Bay Book Company, the city’s biggest book store. Aside from browsing, there’s also a cafe and many events and book signings. Dick Blick Art Materials is a must for artists to check out, with high quality and unique art supplies beyond what you’ll find in craft stores.
Exploring any neighborhood in Seattle will yield something interesting, but Fremont is especially fun. The Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge is a giant sculpture that you can climb on, admire or turn into an awesome photo op. Fremont is also home to the Fremont Rocket, a tail boom that looks like a missile, and an old Communist-era colossus of Stalin. Both are within a block of each other and not far from the Theo Chocolate tour.
Seattle has about a bajillion ways to enjoy the local food scene and there’s no wrong way to go. If you have no idea where to start, look to a Tom Douglas restaurant. This local star chef has several, all located in or near downtown. Or dine at Sky City, the restaurant at the very top of the Space Needle. For something more casual, highlights include everything from Dick’s Drive In if you want a burger, to Molly Moon’s for ice cream, to nibbling your way through Pike Place Market.
Go for a Drink
After you’re done eating your way through Seattle, you’ll need a drink. Seattle loves beverages across the board. If you’re a cocktail fan, some of the best places to explore the local cocktail scene are at Seattle’s speakeasies. Drink some local microbrew to try out something Seattle does really well. Beer! From Pyramid next to the stadiums, to Pike Brewing near Pike Place, to Hilliard’s, to hyper-local microbrews, there's a beer for all tastes in this city.
If you prefer the mall experience, Westlake Center and Pacific Place are in downtown Seattle, and they’re surrounded by streets filled with stores like Macy’s, Old Navy, Columbia and others big and small. Across the 520 bridge, you could easily spend a day at Bellevue Square as it’s one of the largest malls in the area. A bit to the south in Tukwila, Southcenter Mall is another of the area’s largest malls. It’s got a range of mid-level stores, but also a wing filled with Asian eateries and Seafood City, an Asian grocery store.
There’s no shortage of spas in Seattle, but Olympus Spa in Lynnwood is unique. The women-only day spa has a number of pools, infrared, steam and dry saunas, as well as treatments such as Korean body scrubs, facials and more. Be warned, most people who go to this spa do most activities in the buff as is tradition with Korean spas. Another unique way to relax is to spend some time in a sensory deprivation tank. Float Seattle and Urban Float are both options.
Seattle loves its festivals. Major festivals to keep an eye out for include Bumbershoot in September (one of the biggest concerts in town); Fremont Solstice Parade (if you have issue with naked bike riders, maybe pass on this one); Northwest Folklife (music, food, dance and crafts); Bite of Seattle (food!); and Seattle’s ultimate summer festival is Seafair, which is actually an umbrella term for dozens of different neighborhood and city-wide festivals. Among the biggest events are Seafair Weekend and the Torchlight Parade.
Get the Kids out of the House
If you’ve got kids with lots of energy or celebrating a birthday, Wiggleworks is the perfect indoor space. For younger children, there’s no finer festival than Whirligig at Seattle Center, a celebration of all things inflatable and bouncy. To get outside and enjoy a free activity, playgrounds are perfect. Some of Seattle’s best playgrounds are at Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island, Cal Anderson Park and Jefferson Park.
Take a Tour of UW
The University of Washington is more than a college campus. It’s a beautiful place to visit. Go on your own or check with the visitor’s center for tour times. If you want a special treat, keep tabs on when the cherry blossoms are out and visit at their peak.
Seattle in the summer is lovely, with warm, dry weather and usually plenty of sun. You can find some great free entertainment and free public concerts. Also in the summer, look for movies or game nights in local parks.
21+ Movie Theaters
For adults, spend an evening at one of Seattle’s 21+ movie theaters—kick back with a drink in your hand while you watch your new favorite flick. Cinerama is a movie experience rather than just your average theater. Movie props, chocolate popcorn and other yummy concessions, and laser projection in a historic theater all make this place unique.
Go on a tour of a theater. Paramount, Moore Theater and Neptune Theater all open their doors to a free tour once a month. These theaters are all historic with beautiful architecture and plenty of stories to share.
Visit a Garden
Seattle’s public gardens are peaceful places to spend an hour or two. They include the Seattle Japanese Garden, Bellevue Botanical Garden, Kubota Garden and the teeny tiny Waterfall Garden right at the center of Pioneer Square.
The Ballard Locks offer one of the most uniquely Seattle things to do. Watching boats load into the locks can be oddly mesmerizing. Cross over the Ballard Locks to see a salmon ladder up close. You might see a fish or two any time of year, but visit in July and August to see the most salmon swimming upstream.
Go to the Beach
Seattle has several beaches within its city limits, including Alki Beach Park and Golden Gardens. No, the water isn’t especially warm, but you can stretch out on the sand or enjoy some beach volleyball on a sunny day. Or look to small beaches on Lake Washington if you want to go for a swim.
Yes, you can actually find skydiving outfits outside of Seattle, but within the metro area is iFLY Seattle. Located in Tukwila, iFly lets you try your hand at skydiving in a wind tunnel…without having to jump out of a plane.
Take in the View
Seattle has a few stellar viewpoints. Of course, the Space Needle is the most famous, but it comes complete with long lines. Pair a great viewpoint with some local history at the Smith Tower, which is one of the oldest and tallest buildings in town. It’s also got a bar and cafe at the top. Yet another viewpoint in Seattle is the Sky View Observatory at the Columbia Tower—the tallest building in Seattle.
If you’ve got energy to burn (or older kids or teens with energy to burn), visit a trampoline center. There are a few in Seattle, including SkyMania and Elevated Sportz. Another indoor way to spend a day with the family is to visit the Family Fun Center in Tukwila – filled with games, food, go karts and other fun.
Emerald City Trapeze Arts is a place where you can learn some trapeze arts for yourself or enjoy an event. Special events take place off and on throughout the year, including holidays like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day where performers put on a show paired with some snacks or appetizers.
If you want an urban workout without heading out to a trail, try climbing the Wilcox Wall on Queen Anne Hill. Its 464 steps navigate uphill and provide views of Elliott Bay along the way. By the time you reach the top, you’ll have buns of steel for sure!
West Seattle is Seattle’s largest neighborhood and it has a little something different to offer than many of the city’s other areas. It’s most fun to get there via water taxi from downtown Seattle. From there, be prepared to walk (if you don’t want to walk, then drive over instead of taking the water taxi). Visit Alki Beach Park, take some photos of the Seattle skyline across the water, duck into cute stores and restaurants, and stroll along the waterfront walkway.
Seattle Central Library
The name might throw you (who wants to explore a library, you might ask?), but this is one of the most interesting buildings in Seattle. As soon as you see it, you’ll know it’s something special. It’s angular and pretty weird to behold. Inside, you’ll find bright yellow escalators, deep red hallways and other colorful interiors. There are some nice views from the top floor and artwork located throughout the building. And, of course, you’ll find plenty of books.
Want to feel good about something going on in the world? Go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center to learn more about programs striving to make the world a better place.
Do Something Seasonal
In the autumn, wait for a nice day and head out to enjoy pumpkin patches and/or a corn mazes. In late October, the area’s haunted houses range from scary to family-friendly or go on a ghost tour. For the holidays, get out to view some Christmas lights at one of the area’s lights displays, located at Woodland Park Zoo, Bellevue Botanical Garden and more. The Christmas Ship Festival is a unique way to get into the holiday spirit. Board the Christmas Ship or one of the parade boats that follows for a night of lights, live music and fun. Spring and summer festivals round out the year.
St. James Cathedral
Visit the St. James Cathedral, which was built in 1907. Enjoy a little old-world charm right in the city. The structure might make you feel like you’re in Europe with its stained glass collection. Or if you want to experience the more spiritual side of the cathedral, you can attend a mass or watch a choir performance.
The Seattle area is a hub of the glassblowing world, in large part due to glass artist Dale Chihuly’s presence in the area (he’s from Tacoma and lives in Seattle). Want to try your hand at learning the trade? Seattle Glassblowing Studio offers classes, perfect for a date night or more serious learners.
Seattle isn’t the most formal of cities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some high tea here. Because you can! The Georgian at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle serves an elegant high tea daily. Children are invited as well and there’s even a special children’s menu.
If you’ve got a taste for gag gifts or general silliness, Archie McPhee’s is the place for you. This store in Wallingford is filled from top to bottom with gag gifts galore. Bacon Band-aids? Clip on man buns? Librarian action figures? Why not! You’ll find all these and hundreds of other items you never knew you needed.
One of the many things that makes Seattle unique is the fact that seaplanes take off from Lake Union right in the heart of town. Kenmore Air operates seaplanes that go to other regional destinations, but also do air tours of the city. It’s a pretty cool way to see the city, and a perfectly jaunty way to get around the region too.
The Northwest is all about fresh, local produce for a reason. Our fresh, local produce is really delicious and varied! During the spring and summer, visit a farmers market. Many neighborhoods have one of their own and beyond produce, you’ll find seafood, hot food vendors, craft vendors and often some entertainment too.
Seattle’s very own morning TV show airs every day on King 5. You can attend a taping on Monday through Thursday mornings and join host Margaret Larson as she chats with authors, sports stars, chefs, gardening experts and musical guests galore.
Fremont Sunday Market
In the spirit of European street markets, Fremont Sunday Market sets up every Sunday all year round. Vendors sell street food, crafts, art and more. Grab some brunch at a food truck or shop for antiques, vintage items, imports – you never know what you’ll find.
The Duwamish Longhouse is a traditional cedar longhouse located at the mouth of the Duwamish River near an ancient Duwamish village that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. The longhouse is a place of official business for the tribe, but also has workshops, demonstrations and other events for the public to join in.
If you want to pay homage to one of Seattle’s most recognizable companies, visit the Starbucks Roastery to delve into the world of coffee. It’s more than a coffee shop and functions almost as a mini coffee museum. Try special roasts or spend some time watching the roasting process up close or reading in the library. This is also a great spot to buy cooler merchandise than you’ll find in stores.
Thrifting is a big deal in Seattle. Thrift shops are located in most parts of town, but the shops in the U-District are often the best as you’ll find plenty of trendy clothes catering to and resulting from the students who live nearby.
Just north of Seattle is Boeing’s Paine Field in Everett. On the tour, you can see planes being assembled on giant assembly lines. Even if you think you don't have any interest in aviation, this tour will likely impress you. The factory is in the largest building by volume in the world...and watching planes get built is just pretty cool.