The Best Things to Do in Seattle
Collected by Amanda Castleman , AFAR Local Expert
From lush Northwestern panoramas to bustling night markets and a pop culture museum shaped like Jimi Hendrix's smashed guitar, The Emerald City offers some of the country's best attractions and here's our list of must-see attractions.
2655 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107, USA
The indigenous people welcomed the first European settlers in 1851. Soon reports reached Scandinavia, like Ostenson Stine's: "When you throw your eye upon Puget Sound, and behold the fleet of fish barges, rolling upon her briny breast, a...
400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
Far and away Seattle's most iconic structure, this U.F.O saucer on a stick is an Atomic Age baby—it only dates back to the 1962 World's Fair. A 41-second elevator still whisks guests to the observation deck, which really ladles on the...
85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Walk, cycle or people-watch along the shores of Elliott Bay, a downtown stretch known for its circusy flair and spectacular vistas. You can ride the Great Wheel or visit the beloved Seattle Aquarium, home to wolf eels, sea otters, and the world's...
1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Guarded by the Hammering Man sculpture outside, this superb museum collection romps from native tribal art to African masks to carvings from Oceania. Highlights include the 16th-century wood-paneled Italian Room and The Studio, a portrait of...
325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
This sheet-metal fever dream by architect Frank Gehry is like a rock-and-roll Guggenheim, home to interactive exhibits that span music, sci-fi, fantasy, animation, video games, and other scrambled bits of modern life. A hands-on studio lets kids...
860 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
Better known as MOHAI, this collection dives deep into local history, from the region's maritime history to its tradition of technological innovation. Highlights include Boeing's first commercial plane, the 1856 Petticoat Flag sewn by women during...
4272 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103, USA
Once a separate city, this eclectic northern neighborhood joined Seattle in 1891 and helps to keep it weird. The "Artistic Republic of Fremont" has declared itself the Center of the Universe, and asks visitors to set their watches back five...
3801 Discovery Park Blvd, Seattle, WA 98199, USA
Seattle's largest public park sits on a sea bluff that's high enough to pierce the city's infamous fog, revealing gorgeous views of the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges. Wander its 11 miles (18 km) of paths through forest groves, meadows...
801 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
Zip between downtown's Pier 50 and West Seattle—or over to Vashon Island—on these adorable catamarans. The routes crisscross Elliott Bay and reveal views of the city skyline, Space Needle, and the Olympic Mountains that can't be seen...
216 Union St, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
This elegant dinner theater occupies the historic Mann Building, once a vaudeville house and later a den for smutty movies. Today its original gilding and stage proscenium shine again, and the venue hosts everything from Neil Young tribute bands...
6861 NE South St, Suquamish, WA 98392, USA
Just across Puget Sound—via the half-hour Edmonds–Kingston ferry—stands this exceptional tribute to the area's first people. American Indian tribes have inhabited the Northwest for 10,000 years, shifting from cedar-plank houses...
1900 W Nickerson St, Seattle, WA 98119, USA
A tiny former ferry—the m/v Fremont Avenue—takes 50-minute spins around Lake Union, a glacial-gouged body of fresh water the size of Monaco. A cruise reveals gorgeous views of the Space Needle and Seattle's skyline, as well as the...
950 Westlake Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
Taxi across Lake Union in an amphibious aircraft, then soar through the air and over the city. "Flightseeing" is the best way to take in the surrounding woods, waterways, and glittering skyscrapers—all cradled by two snowcapped mountain...
San Juan Islands, Washington 98286, USA
An archipelago of more than 450 rocks, pinnacles, and islands peppers northern Puget Sound. This National Monument shelters a uniquely tranquil landscape, where mist smudges the lines between water, forest, and distant peaks. The main...
2300 S Massachusetts St, Seattle, WA 98144, USA
This historic cultural center grew from fierce roots. Activists occupied the 1909-vintage Colman School for eight years before Seattle finally greenlit the museum in 1993: The occupation was possibly the United States' longest act of civil...
2100 Westlake Avenue North, 1, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
If you want to immerse yourself in Seattle's vibrant spirit and natural beauty, nothing beats renting a boat on Lake Union, the 580-acre aquatic playground just northeast of the Space Needle and downtown core. Rent a kayak or a stand-up...
9817 55th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118, USA
Pacific Northwest plants and Asian aesthetics merge in this stunning 20-acre landscape, secreted away in the South Seattle neighborhood of Rainier Beach. Japanese immigrant Fujitaro Kubota started the garden on a brush-choked, logged-off swamp,...
2960 4th Ave S #115, Seattle, WA 98134, USA
Seattle's big, beautiful backyard includes some iconic sights, like Mount Rainier's steep, shining snow cone, the blasted slopes of Mount St. Helens, and the green, teeming rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula fringing the Pacific Ocean. All...
Burke-Gilman Trail, Washington, USA
Nineteen miles of paved path start at Golden Gardens in Ballard. Get a close look at the park's resident beavers—which dam the ponds on its north end—then head east along the saltwater shoreline, keeping an eye out for seals, sea...
2127 7th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
Three futuristic glass domes stand in South Lake Union: the crown jewels of the e-tail giant's $4 billion urban campus and a striking, sculptural tribute to Seattle's role as an innovation hub. The tallest shelters a river and waterfalls...
Ebey's Landing Rd, Coupeville, WA 98239, USA
Two hours northwest of Seattle, this National Historical Reserve celebrates the early pioneers who came to Whidbey Island for its rich soil and promising seaport. The reserve also shelters one of the area's most stunning all-season hikes: 5.6...
Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
One of Seattle's most postcard-friendly areas, Pioneer Square is a beautiful, historical neighborhood with plenty to do. The galleries come alive for First Thursday art walks, not to mention the delicious lunch spots, quirky boutiques, and vibrant...
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