When you think about vacations, chances are your imagination wanders to warm seashores, exotic locations, or classic European cities. But why not think out of the box? Why not consider a city that’s got an undeniable appeal, isn’t overtaken by tourism, but has enough things to do for both residents and visitors alike that it makes a superb vacation destination?
Seattle is an amazing vacation destination—for families, for couples looking for a romantic getaway, for active and outdoorsy adventures, or for solo travelers. Regardless of what you want to do on vacation, here are 10 reasons Seattle just might be the perfect place to go.
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Fun Things to Do Both on and off Beaten Path
Seattle is a lot of fun and has many things to do with a variety of interests. Of course, Seattle is known for its major attractions. You likely won’t visit without seeing the Space Needle or Seattle Center or Pike Place Market—and for good reason. The Space Needle offers great views of the city, Seattle Center is fun and often has festivals or other events going on, and Pike Place Market has a little bit of everything Seattle going on within its bounds.
However, Seattle has much more going on than its well-known attractions. For vacationers to the city, consider getting a Seattle CityPASS to knock out the main sights, and then branch out to some of the city’s off-the-beaten-path attractions. Go see Bruce Lee’s grave on Capitol Hill. Watch salmon swimming upstream at the Hiram M. Chittendam Locks. Or visit one of the many neighborhood farmer’s markets if you loved Pike Place, but you prefer fewer crowds. Or if you love getting out on the water, but want something less touristy than a... boat tour, rent a canoe or rowboat at the Waterfront Activities Center and paddle around Union Bay just off Lake Washington.
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From seafood to produce, Seattle is known for fresh and delicious food across the board. For anyone who likes to factor in foodie experiences, Seattle is an amazing food destination. During your time in the Emerald City, make time to dine out. Seattle is located right on the shores of the Puget Sound, which connects to the Pacific Ocean, meaning we get seafood galore. Don’t miss locally caught salmon and Dungeness crab! You’ll find no shortage of restaurants in town that take advantage of local ingredients as Northwesterners take pride in all things local. Tom Douglas is one of the city’s star chefs and his restaurants are all centrally located in or near downtown Seattle and include Northwest cuisine (Etta’s), Greek (Lola), Asian fusion and more. The Northwest in general also puts a focus on locally sourced or organic ingredients, and a number of restaurants factor that into their menus, including Tilth and Barking Frog in nearby Woodinville wine country.
Of course, Seattle isn’t all... about sit-down restaurants. In fact, Seattle is a very casual city and even at sit-down spots, you will rarely need to dress to the nines. But if you’re looking for casual or have kids in tow, you’ll find all kinds of options. Seattle has a strong Asian influence in its cuisine, and you’ll find lots of teriyaki and pho restaurants. Seattle is known for its coffee, but some coffee shops and cafes are much more kid-friendly than you’d suspect. For instance, Firehouse Coffee in Ballard has a playroom.
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Launch Pad for Outdoor Activities
The Northwest is known for its outdoorsy appeal, from rugged ocean beaches to lush evergreen forests. Seattle is no exception. Sure, it’s a city, but right within the city limits, you’ll find Discovery Park where you can hike for hours through forests and along beaches. Just outside of the city, you’ll find hiking opportunities galore, like climbing Mt. Si (a vigorous hike, but not a technical climb by any means) to climbing Mt. Rainier (which is a vigorous climb for those who have mountain climbing experience only).
The city’s maritime location also opens up all kinds of boating fun. There are whale watching tours out of Seattle during some times of the year, but far more out of cities to the north such as Everett and Anacortes. See orcas, grey whales, or minke whales, depending on the time of year. Any time of year, you can take a harbor or lake cruise with Argosy Cruises, or journey out to Blake Island to learn more about the local history (and enjoy a delicious salmon lunch).
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If you like to add some shopping to your vacation, Seattle has got that covered too. If you stay in downtown Seattle, you’ll be surrounded by shopping centers and stores lining the streets. Westlake Center and Pacific Center are both located in the heart of downtown, as is Macy’s, Nordstrom Rack, Forever 21, Columbia and other major stores. Seattle is also surrounded by several stellar shopping spots, including Bellevue just on the other side of Lake Washington where you can literally spend a day at the Bellevue Collection, as well as Seattle Premium Outlets to the north and Southcenter Mall to the south.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Great Lodging Lineup
Seattle’s lodging scene allows you to customize the atmosphere of your trip. For the quintessential Seattle experience, stay in the heart of downtown where you won’t need to worry about driving to get to most of the city’s key spots. Options include the Hyatt Regency, Four Seasons as well as a number of boutique hotels. From these downtown hotels, you can walk to Pike Place Market, the Seattle waterfront, theaters like the 5th Avenue and Paramount, and many restaurants. There are also plenty of budget hotel options, too.
However, staying downtown means dealing with parking (you’ll pay for parking just about everywhere), traffic and crowds. If you prefer something quieter and more intimate, look to Seattle’s other neighborhoods. Capitol Hill is a fun part of town for nightlife, parks and local shops. Likewise, Ballard, Fremont, and Wallingford have local shopping and fun things to do like the Ballard Locks or going to visit the Fremont Troll.
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Yes, Seattle is known for its rain, but Seattle’s summers are warm and dry (well, most years). Visit between June and August and you’ll find some of the nicest weather in the country. You’ll rarely feel too hot, or suffer from humidity. The weather is absolutely perfect for enjoying a night out on the town (it stays light longer here too because of the Northern latitude), out on the water or out on a hike.
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The winters are rainy, but if you’re looking for a winter getaway, Seattle can fit the bill there too. For fishermen, the city can serve as a base. There are salmon fishing charters that depart from Seattle all year round, including in the fall and winter. Late fall/early winter is also razor clamming season. You’ll have to drive out to the coast (and there will have to be a razor clamming tide open), but these clams are unique to the Northwest. For skiers and snowboarders, there are a few ski areas within a short drive of the city, including the Summit at Snoqualmie and Crystal Mountain. If you plan to stay within the city limits, winter is usually moderate enough that it won’t stop you from going out and about, but you’ll want to dress for the weather.
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While some vacation destinations don’t have as much to offer families, Seattle is super family friendly. In fact, many of the major attractions, like the Space Needle and Seattle Center, are designed for all ages. Seattle Center is home to an arcade as well as rides. The Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Children’s Museum, Pacific Science Center and Seattle Aquarium are designed for families as well and are fun for kids ranging in age from very young to teens. Depending when you’re in town, also keep an eye out for festivals and events that appeal to kids, like Whirligig! or the Washington State Fair. Or head south to the Family Fun Center in Tukwila. Seattle has a lot of quirk to it, too, and older kids might enjoy a visit to one of Seattle’s weirder attractions like the Fremont Troll or the Gum Wall or a visit to Archie McPhee’s gift shop.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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If you like to party, Seattle has just enough nightlife to keep things interesting so long as you don’t compare it to places like Las Vegas or LA with a stronger nightlife scene. Nightlife in Seattle does include some dance clubs, but where the city really shines is in more laidback nightlife. Chill at a brewpub with some locally crafted microbrew, or a wine bar where you can enjoy wines made in neighboring Woodinville (or something from farther afoot). Seattle also has a healthy speakeasy scene, if you prefer cocktails.
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Launch Pad for Cruises
Seattle’s position on the water also makes it a prime cruise destination. Several major cruise lines depart on Alaska and Inner Passage cruises out of Seattle, so many cruisers at least transit through Seattle. However, most of these cruises stop in Vancouver or Victoria, BC, for a day or two. Adding a night or two stay in Seattle combines with the cruise experience well and gives a great overview of the upper west part of the continent.