One of the top questions I receive is what to do when visiting Seattle. Here are some suggestions to help you plan your trip:
Seattle Center - The site of the 1962 Worlds Fair.
Space Needle A must see if you have not already been. The Space Needle was built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. It stands at a height of 605 feet and provides a 360-degree view of Seattle from the Observation Deck. The Needle also features a revolving restaurant five hundred feet above ground called SkyCity, but is currently closed for renovation.
Chihuly Glass Museum One of our favorite things in Seattle. Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum provides a look at the inspiration and influences of artist Dale Chihuly. It is especially beautiful at night. Located at the base of the Space Needle. If you aren’t going to eat at the Space Needle, you can buy a combined ticket that provides access to the Needle and the Chihuly Museum. Try not to look at too many pictures online before you go, so you can experience the art with fresh eyes.
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop) With on-going Hendrix exhibits and other popular musicians featured, this is a favorite of music lovers. In addition to the exhibits, visit the Sky Church - state-of-the-art sound and lighting with a mammoth indoor HD LED screen. A portion of the museum is dedicated to Pop Culture, Science Fiction and Fantasy as well. Located at the bottom of the Space Needle (on the opposite side from the Chihuly Museum), the building was created by Frank O. Gehry and was modeled after cut up guitars. Insider tip – buy tickets online ahead of time at a discounted price. There’s also a café with a bar.
Fountain and Grounds are worth the short walk. There are several fountains, but our favorite is the International Fountain.
It’s approximately a 15 minute walk North on 5th Avenue from downtown. You can also ride the Seattle Monorail from the 2nd floor of Westlake Center at 5th Ave & Pine St (across from Nordstrom), which will drop you off behind the Space Needle. The Monorail costs $2.25 each way for adults, $1.00 each way for children ages 5 – 12 and it’s free for children 4 and under. It runs approximately every 10 minutes.
Food & Snacks
If you get hungry or thirsty while on the grounds, visit the Armory located behind the Chihuly Museum. Skip the Starbucks and try the coffee shop at the stand toward the middle of the room. For food, the Skillet Counter, MOD Pizza and Plum Pantry (vegan and organic) are some of my favorites.
Visit the Seattle Art Museum’s Sculpture Park for stunning views of Elliott Bay, West Seattle, the Olympic Mountain Range and Mt. Rainier in good weather. Walking distance from Seattle Center and downtown, there are restrooms in the main building near Western Avenue open a few days a week. Uptown Espresso is located near the water on Alaskan Way. Occasionally, you can see seals around sunset.
Pike Place Market
Self guided tour – Easily walk through the market to find your own tasty treats and check out the famous fish throwing stand. Make sure to go downstairs to visit the novelty shops on the floors below. Across from the main part of the market is the first Starbucks location. The line will be long, so be prepared to wait or go in the evening after the rest of the market is closed. If you like cheese, check out Beecher’s. If you have a sweet tooth, check out the Ellenos Greek yogurt stand on the corner, the mini cheesecake stand and the donut stand. An old fashioned ice cream parlor, Shug's, recently opened on the 1st Avenue side of the market. My all time favorite knitting shop, So Much Yarn, is located on the 1st and Pike side of the Market (behind the ice cream shop).
Guided Walking Tours – Seattle Food Tours is a great way to go, but book in advance as it is a popular tour and frequently sells out, especially in the summer, which is Seattle's busy season.
Seattle’s Great Wheel is the largest observation wheel on the west coast, standing 175 feet tall and extending 40 feet beyond the end of the pier over Elliott Bay. Each of the fully enclosed gondolas holds between 4 and 8 people. The ride can last 15 – 30 minutes. Don’t worry if heights aren't your thing, at night you will be able to see the light show on the sides of the wheel from other places in Seattle.
There's a small museum area at the bottom of the building where you can learn a bit of Seattle's history before taking the elevator to the observation deck to walk around outside and also get drinks at the bar. You can buy tickets online in advance.
Featuring computers from the 1960s to present day, this museum demonstrates "the history of computing with the world's largest collection of fully restored and useable supercomputers, mainframes, minicomputers and microcomputers." Located about four blocks south of Safeco Field. Perfect for a rainy day or return trip to Seattle.
Situated on South Lake Union close to downtown, this museum is a nod to the many industries that are influenced by Seattle inventions and businesses: computers, airplanes, coffee, medical research and more.
The tallest building on the West Coast is in downtown Seattle. There is an observation deck on the 73rd Floor. You can't beat the 360 degree panoramic views of Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and more. If you are a ClubCorp Signature Gold level member, you can eat or have drinks at the Columbia Tower Club on the 74th and 75th floors.
Located minutes from downtown Seattle, you can check the schedule here. If you go, get a cup of clam chowder at Ivar's or delicious food from Din Tai Fung.
If you are looking for a little adventure, book a seaplane tour and see Seattle from the sky. These tours take off from Lake Union and vary in length, cost and tour destination, so read each of the websites carefully to find what is right for you: Kenmore Air, Seattle Seaplane Tours, and Northwest Flight Tours.
The Ballard Locks are one of my most favorite things to do in Seattle.
Rent a kayak or paddle board on Lake Union during good weather. Paddle through the Arboretum (there is also a great walking trail) and watch the sea planes land over your head. Check out Moss Bay or Northwest Outdoor Center for more information on hourly rentals.
Hikes – Discovery Park is a 534 acre park in the Magnolia section of Seattle. The loop trail is 2.8 miles and you can access views of the water as well as connect to paths down to the water and the light house. If you want to access the beach, check the tide schedule before you go and also be aware that it is a long climb back up once you go down. For more information on hikes, we suggest looking at the Washington Trails Association or this article from the Seattle Times. Please note that some of the hikes need a permit. If you are looking for an easy stroll, go to the Olympic Sculpture Park or the Arboretum.
An air and space museum located next to Boeing Air Field. It's 12-acres of fun and includes more than 85 historic air and spacecraft, interactive exhibits, flight simulators and more. This is a great place to go with kids. You can call a cab to get there if you don't have a car or take the bus, which takes approximately 1 hour from downtown Seattle.
A gorgeous and easily accessible waterfall. You may recognize it as the waterfall in then 1980s television series Twin Peaks. It’s approximately 40 minutes from Seattle. There are restrooms, a coffee shop and gift shop there. There’s also a popular hour long hike that starts there. To get there from Seattle, take I-90 East and leave the highway at exit 25 (State Route 18, Snoqualmie Parkway) and go left, across Snoqualmie Ridge. Continue down the long hill to the railroad tracks and stoplight. Turn left at the signed intersection, go over the bridge, and drive 0.3 mile to the parking area at Snoqualmie Falls Visitor Center.
Approximately 30 minutes by Ferry, Bainbridge Island is a somewhat rural community. Winslow Way, its main street, is lined with adorable shops. The entire shopping district is .8 of a mile in each direction and is very walkable. Two favorites are the Mora Iced Creamery and Churchmouse Yarns. If you aren't planning any other boat trips while you are in Seattle, take the Ferry to Bainbridge Island. The Ferry conveniently leaves from the waterfront near the Great Wheel, the views can't be beat and you only have to pay one way.
Clipper Whale Watching Tours offers different tours based on the time of year and whether you want a day trip, over night trip, trip to the San Juan Islands off Washington or Canada.
From approximately mid-March to mid-April, the Skagit Valley is in bloom! The daffodil festival comes first and is less crowded than the tulip festival that follows shortly thereafter. Check out the bloom map to see where to go. It's about an hour drive north of Seattle and close to the lovely town of LaConner where you will find cute shops and plenty of places to eat.