From the iconic structures and sculptures to mountains and great hikes, Seattle, Washington is filled with history, nature, art, and culture. Whether you’re on vacation, or only in Seattle for the weekend, there’s definitely something for everyone to enjoy! Check out our favorite places to visit and things to do in Seattle!
Seattle Space Needle
A 605-ft tall icon, the Space Needle is rated one of the top things to do while visiting Seattle. This magnificent structure can be seen from many areas around the city and is visited by millions of people each year.
Fun fact! It takes approximately 43 seconds for the elevator to reach the top of the Space Needle!
When you first walk into the Space Needle, you are entering the gift shop. The circular store has hundreds of souvenirs for visitors to choose from. Next take the elevator up to approximately 500 feet and enjoy a cocktail at The Loupe– the world’s first revolving glass floor!
Finally, continue up to the top where you’ll experience breathtaking views of the city skyline and the Puget Sound through large, slanted ceiling to floor glass windows.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
The Chihuly Garden and Glass is a Seattle must-visit. Dale Chihuly, a Tacoma, Washington native, discovered his love of working with glass while studying at the University of Washington. Dale Chihuly lost sight in his left eye in a car accident in the 70’s, but that did not stop him from pursing his glassblowing career.
Today Dale Chihuly is a world-renowned artist and his glasswork can be found in museums across the globe!
Indoor and Outdoor Galleries
The Chihuly Garden and Glass features eight indoor galleries filled with stunning handblown glass art. Be sure to look up, as some of the glasswork is featured in the ceiling. Make your way to the glass house which consists of handblown glass flowers hanging all along the ceiling.
A bonus? If you’re standing in just the right spot, you can get a spectacular picture of the Space Needle through the glass and flowers. Then head to the outdoor garden exhibit where you’ll find Chihuly artwork intertwined with beautiful greenery. Finally, head back inside to the theatre for one of the gallery’s glassblowing demonstrations!
Visit Chihuly Garden and Glass
If you’re looking for things to do in Seattle, visiting the one-of-a-kind art featured at the Chihuly Garden and Glass is a must.
Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is the Country’s oldest continuously ran public farmer’s market, opening its doors in 1907. The Pike Place neighborhood in downtown Seattle consists of farmers, crafters, creators, and local businesses that make up the market. The market is quite large and is a fun place to spend the afternoon dining and shopping.
Things to do
For all you coffee lovers, your first stop should be to the very first Starbucks! It’s not uncommon to find a line outside of the store’s door with eager latte lovers waiting to explore. Next, head over to the gum wall that has been around since 1999 for a photo op. It sounds disgusting, but it is very cool to see!
Restaurants and Shopping
As you walk through the inside of Pike Place Market, you’ll see all sorts of fresh seafood stands, restaurants, and other food installations. Many of the stalls offer free samples for you to try! Next, head outside for a little retail therapy and support Seattle’s local businesses. You’ll be amazed at the number of craft booths selling unique goods and souvenirs!
The Great Wheel
Recommended by Cynthia of Sharing the Wander
The Great Wheel, rising above the water, has become a new icon of Seattle. This Ferris Wheel is 175 feet tall, so as you rotate around, you have amazing views of not only the city, but also of the Sound, where you can watch cargo ships, sailboats, and ferry boats moving about.
Great Wheel Tickets
Tickets can be purchased online, or at the ticket booth when you arrive. Tickets are not time specific and can be used for up to a year from purchase. We recommend purchasing on site, as the paper tickets are beautiful, and make great souvenirs!
The line moves pretty quickly, then your group will enter a gondola to ride the wheel. Each gondola has a table in the middle, bench seating, and glass all around. The wheel moves slowly and smoothly, with gentle music playing during your ride.
Know Before You Go
The Great Wheel opens at 11 am each day, so don’t rush there in the morning! The wheel is covered in over 500,000 LED lights. It usually lights up on weekends around 9 pm, check for special light shows around holidays. Each ride lasts three rotations of the wheel, or about 15 minutes.
This is a great family activity, as it is not scary in any way despite its height. We visited as part of our American Northwest Road Trip with Kids.
Seattle Underground Tours
If you’re looking for something unique to do in Seattle, check out an underground tour! The underground tours, essentially a walking history tour, is a fun way to learn a bit about Seattle’s history.
These tours will take you all throughout the underground where you’ll see old storefronts and artifacts. Some spots even have glass windows in the “ceiling” where you’ll be able to see people walking along the streets above ground.
The Beneath the Streets Underground History Tour comes highly recommended, as the storytellers are highly knowledgeable and funny ! You’ll walk through Old Seattle and Pioneer Square while learning all about things like the Great Fire and toilets.
Yes toilets—Thomas Crapper, an Englishman, invented one of the first flushing toilets and brought his creation over to help Seattle’s catastrophic plumbing issues.
That’s all the spoiler’s for now. Go on an underground walking tour of Seattle and experience it for yourself!
Seattle Japanese Garden
If you’re looking for something peaceful to do, you should visit the Seattle Japanese Garden! Walk through winding paths and marvel at the landscape and architecture methodically placed.
Inspired by 16th and 17th century designs, admire beautiful bridges, waterfalls, stone paths, and maple trees. Then stop to look at the koi fishpond and let the little ones feed the fish! The Seattle Japanese Garden is especially gorgeous in the fall during the changing of the leaves. The autumn colors are gorgeous! This is a great stop if you’re only in Seattle for the weekend.
Parking is free and the admission is $8 per adult and $4 per child. Due to COVID-19 guided tours of the grounds are on hold. As well, groups larger than 5 are not permitted at the same time.
Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler
The Fremont Troll has resided under the Aurora Bridge since 1990, in the artsy, bustling Seattle neighborhood of Fremont. The sculpture came to be in 1990, when the Fremont Arts Council solicited a sculpture for the area under the bridge, which had become a seedy spot for drug deals and other nefarious deeds. The proposed sculpture won the competition and was built later that year.
About the Fremont Troll Sculpture
The sculpture consists of an 18-foot troll creature, reminiscent of those found in Norwegian folklore, clutching an actual Volkswagen Beetle, as if the troll plucked the car from the bridge above.
The troll is absolutely massive, weighing 13,000 pounds, constructed from concrete, wire, and steel rebar, supporting visitors that want to climb on top of its rugged shoulders or lean against its Volkswagen. Upon its initial construction, the Fremont Troll included a time capsule, including a bust of Elvis, which was unfortunately stolen by vandals.
Visit the Fremont Troll
Now, the Fremont Troll has become a fixture of Seattle and even pop culture, being featured in the beloved 1999 classic “10 Things I Hate About You” and as its very own Chia pet. Come climb on the sculpture, take a photo, and marvel at one of the pieces of Seattle history that makes this city so unique.
Olympic Sculpture Park
Recommended by Nikki of She Saves She Travels
One of the most interesting things to see in downtown Seattle is the Olympic Sculpture Park. It’s just up the street from the Pike Place Market and has a great view of downtown and the bay. The sculpture park is actually owned by the Seattle Art Museum, so it’s definitely a cool spot to check out. It’s a must-see even if you only have a day in Seattle.
With plenty of green space to stretch out and relax, it’s a great spot to soak in the views without all the hustle and bustle of the surrounding area. The sculpture park features over a dozen sculptures of all kinds. An iconic favorite is “Eagle” which is a red abstract sculpture by Alexander Calder.
The Olympic Sculpture Park is free to visit, although the visitor center does take donations.
Mt. Rainier Day Trip
Recommended by Tawnya of Money Saved is Money Earned
Mt. Rainier dominates the skyline of Seattle, and it’s a great day trip destination at a little over 2 hours drive. At over 14,000 feet high, Mt. Rainier is the largest of the Cascade volcanos, has the most glaciers of any mountain in the continental U.S., and is one of three National Parks in Washington.
There’s a little something to do for everyone at Mt. Rainier National Park. Whether it’s hiking through alpine meadows, camping, or attempting to scale the mountain itself, Mt. Rainier offers 368 square miles of wilderness paradise.
Day-trippers should start their tour at the south Nisqually Entrance, then stop by the Longmire Museum to learn about the history of the area. Further on is the Henry Jackson Visitor Center, where you can get up close and personal with the mountain.
Olympic National Park Day Trip
Recommended by Megan of Lets Jet Kids
There is plenty to do in Olympic National Park. For a great day trip from Seattle (about a 2-1/2 hour drive), here are some highlights.
First, stop by Hurricane Ridge, one of the most popular stops in the park. You’ll wind up a long road, until you reach the top where you’ll be nearly eye-to-eye with the gorgeous mountain tops, stretching for miles.
Sol Duc Road
Another hour-and-a-half away, but not to be missed, is Sol Duc Road off of Highway 101. Along this road are many incredible attractions.
In fall, the Salmon Cascades feature salmon attempting to jump upstream. Spring will bring trout attempting the same challenge. The Ancient Groves are gorgeous, mossy, large trees on a beautiful fairyland type of trail. Open seasonally, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort houses different temperatures of natural hot spring pools that are open to the public ($).
And finally, at the end of the road you’ll find the trailhead to Sol Duc Falls, a popular trail leading to the powerful waterfalls. The trail is less than a mile (one-way) but is home to beautiful scenery and backdrops the entire way.
Alexandrea Sumuel is the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel better.