Heading to the Emerald City and want to soak up some culture? Make your way to the cultural epicenter of the city: the Seattle Center. Located in the heart of Seattle, this cultural and entertainment complex is a vibrant hub for arts, entertainment, education, and recreation.
The Seattle Center is home to some of Seattle’s most iconic landmarks, including the Space Needle, the symbol of the city. Ride to the top for breathtaking panoramic city views and surrounding landscapes.
Explore cultural institutions like the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), the Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the Pacific Science Center. Enjoy interactive exhibits, spectacular art displays, and educational experiences. The Marion Oliver McCaw Hall hosts live performances by the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Seattle Opera; if you love theater, catching a show here is a must!
Enjoy the beautiful outdoor spaces within the Seattle Center, including the International Fountain, which offers a mesmerizing water and music show. The surrounding gardens and pathways are perfect for a stroll or a picnic.
Keen to delve into the cultural side of the Emerald City? Start planning your adventure with this in-depth guide about what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay in and around the Seattle Center!
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What to see & do at the Seattle Center
You can’t miss this iconic fixture of the city’s skyline! Perched proudly at 400 Broad Street, the Seattle Space Needle is more than just an observation tower; it embodies Seattle’s inventive spirit.
This architectural marvel debuted during the 1962 World’s Fair, the Century 21 Exposition. Designed by John Graham, the Space Needle quickly became a symbol of Seattle and a testament to the city’s innovative spirit.
The pièce de resistance of the Seattle Space Needle is its Observation Deck, which offers spellbinding 360-degree panoramas of Seattle and its surroundings. You can even spot the majestic Mount Rainier gracing the horizon on clear days.
Ascend to the top and dine in style at the SkyCity Restaurant. One of the most popular restaurants in Seattle, it’s renowned for its Pacific Northwest cuisine. The SkyCity’s rotating floor provides a continually changing view as you savor your meal.
For daring souls, the Loupe is a must-try! It’s the world’s first revolving glass floor, offering an exhilarating (and slightly nerve-wracking) look at the Space Needle’s base.
Before you leave, make sure to visit the SpaceBase store. It’s an ideal spot for collecting souvenirs and Space Needle memorabilia to commemorate your visit.
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
Dive into the diverse world of pop culture at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). If you’re a music lover, a sci-fi enthusiast, or simply curious about pop culture, MoPOP promises an exhilarating adventure.
Previously known as the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum, MoPOP embraces all things pop culture. Its unique, spaceship-like design, courtesy of famed architect Frank Gehry, is an eye-catching landmark, resembling a stylized smashed electric guitar.
The Museum of Pop Culture boasts an impressive collection of artifacts and exhibits that celebrate the vibrant world of pop culture. Immerse yourself in the rich history of sci-fi and fantasy at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. Wander around captivating displays featuring iconic characters, creators, costumes, and memorabilia.
As the birthplace of grunge music, Seattle pays tribute to the legendary band Nirvana in its music exhibits. Explore rare instruments, handwritten lyrics, and personal items. Unleash your inner rock star with hands-on musical instruments like guitars, keyboards, and drums in the Jam Studio. It’s a playful experience suitable for all ages.
EDITOR'S RECOMMENDATION: The MoPOP is home to the world’s largest collection of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia. One of my personal favorite items at the museum is the 1968 Olympic White Fender Stratocaster that Hendrix played at Woodstock.
A paradise for sci-fi enthusiasts, the Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction exhibit displays props, costumes, and concept art from beloved sci-fi movies and TV shows.
Keep an eye on the events schedule for film screenings in the Museum of Pop Culture’s theater, featuring classic and contemporary movies with ties to pop culture themes.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Nestled in the heart of Seattle’s iconic Seattle Center, the Chihuly Garden and Glass is a dazzling testament to the world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. With his passion and creativity, Chihuly has redefined contemporary glass art. His vibrant, organic creations are known for their breathtaking beauty and innovation.
Step into a glass wonderland as you enter the Glasshouse, which houses one of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures inspired by nature and its forms. Explore a series of galleries filled with Chihuly’s stunning glass creations, from the graceful Macchia to the intricate Venetians.
Wander through an enchanting garden adorned with Chihuly’s vibrant glass sculptures. The interplay of glass and nature is awe-inspiring, especially in the changing light throughout the day. Catch a short film detailing Chihuly’s life and artistic journey in the state-of-the-art theater.
Join a guided tour to gain deeper insights into Chihuly’s work, techniques, and the inspiration behind his creations. Witness the art of glassblowing at the Hot Shop, located adjacent to the garden, where skilled artisans create beautiful glass pieces. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop for unique glass art pieces and souvenirs to remember your visit.
EDITOR'S RECOMMENDATION: If you’re visiting Seattle during the holidays, be sure to check out the brand-new Winter Brilliance exhibit at Chihuly Garden and Glass. The innovative display uses video projection and sound to take the icicle-like glass sculptures to a new level!
Pacific Science Center
Science comes alive at the Pacific Science Center, a treasure trove of interactive science exhibits and experiences. Established for the 1962 World’s Fair, the center has evolved into a dynamic science museum, sparking curiosity and exploration in visitors of all ages.
Step back in time at the Pacific Science Center and encounter life-sized dinosaur models, fossils, and interactive displays that bring these prehistoric creatures to life. Enter a lush tropical rainforest habitat where hundreds of colorful butterflies flutter freely around you.
Immerse yourself in the wonders of the universe with captivating planetarium shows that explore space, stars, and celestial phenomena. Experience mesmerizing laser light shows set to the beats of your favorite music in this iconic geodesic dome.
Dive into interactive exhibits that allow you to explore scientific principles through play and experimentation. Catch a larger-than-life film in the IMAX theater, where you’ll be transported to amazing landscapes and experiences. Don’t miss live demonstrations and experiments showcasing science’s fun and fascinating side.
There’s a café on-site, but you can bring your own food and enjoy a picnic in the nearby Seattle Center grounds.
Seattle Children’s Museum
Let your children’s curiosity flourish through hands-on exploration and play at the Seattle Children’s Museum. This delightful haven for young minds promises a day filled with laughter, learning, and unforgettable family moments.
Established in 1979, the Seattle Children’s Museum has a rich history of nurturing young minds through interactive play. One of Seattle’s most popular museums, it’s a place where kids can have fun while learning. Your little explorers will love the interactive exhibit areas featuring a kid-sized grocery store, a construction zone, and more, where learning and play go hand in hand.
Unleash your child’s creativity in the Imagination Studio, where they can dive into art projects, experiments, and hands-on activities that spark their imagination. Take a global journey in the Global Village, an immersive space that allows kids to experience different cultures through play.
The Seattle Children’s Museum offers a range of engaging activities to make your visit even more memorable. Don’t miss storytelling sessions and live performances that captivate young minds with captivating tales and music.
Climate Pledge Arena
Catch a game at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena in the vibrant Seattle Center. This state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue is the home of the Seattle Kraken, the city’s National Hockey League (NHL) team.
Originally known as the KeyArena, the venue opened its doors in 1962 during the World’s Fair and has since hosted numerous iconic events, including concerts, sports games, and more. In 2020, the Climate Pledge Arena was renamed as part of a sustainability initiative.
If you’re a dedicated hockey fan, attending a Seattle Kraken game at the Climate Pledge Arena should be at the top of your list—the atmosphere is absolutely electric!
Beyond sports, the Climate Pledge Arena is a hub for entertainment in Seattle. It hosts diverse events, including concerts featuring top musical acts, comedy shows, family-friendly performances, and more. Experience live music from your favorite artists and bands in the arena’s exceptional acoustics.
Savor delicious food and drinks from the arena’s diverse concessions and dining options. Explore the merchandise shops for souvenirs and memorabilia to commemorate your visit.
Seattle Repertory Theatre
If you’re an avid theatergoer and want a night filled with storytelling, emotion, and artistic excellence, be sure to catch a performance at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. This cultural cornerstone in the Seattle Center is a haven for theater enthusiasts and those looking for a memorable cultural experience.
Founded in 1963, the Seattle Repertory Theatre has a storied history of bringing captivating and thought-provoking theatrical productions to Seattle. It’s a renowned institution dedicated to the art of live performance.
The Seattle Repertory Theatre is renowned for its top-quality productions, from classic plays to contemporary dramas and innovative works by emerging playwrights. Experience the magic of live theater in a comfortable and modern setting, perfect for an enjoyable evening out.
In addition to its mainstage productions, the Seattle Repertory Theatre houses the Leo K. Theatre. This intimate venue is known for hosting groundbreaking and experimental works, providing a platform for emerging artists, and fostering creativity in the local theater scene.
Arrive early to soak in the theater’s ambiance and find your seat comfortably before the curtain rises. Stay after select performances to engage with actors, directors, and creative teams to gain deeper insights into the production.
Marion Oliver McCaw Hall
In the heart of Seattle’s vibrant arts and entertainment district, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall is a cultural gem home to the renowned Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) and the Seattle Opera.
Originally opened in 1928 as the Civic Auditorium, the hall underwent extensive renovations and was renamed the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in 2003. It has a rich history of hosting various performances, from opera and ballet to concerts and Broadway shows.
The world-famous Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) hosts mesmerizing ballet performances featuring world-class dancers and choreography. You can also experience the magic of opera with Seattle Opera’s captivating productions, featuring both classic and contemporary works.
McCaw Hall’s elegant grand lobby is a sight to behold, with its majestic chandeliers and artistic details that set the stage for an enchanting evening. Delve deeper into the world of performing arts with guided backstage tours that reveal the inner workings of the hall and provide insights into the productions.
Savor a delicious meal at nearby restaurants within the Seattle Center before your performance. It’s the perfect way to make your visit a complete experience.
Where to eat & drink
Located just north of Belltown in the Uptown neighborhood, the Seattle Center is surrounded by a delightful blend of local flavors, global cuisines, and dining experiences to suit every palate and budget. Whether you’re a foodie on a culinary adventure or simply seeking a cozy spot for a meal, this area has something tasty waiting for you around every corner.
For a laid-back, dive bar ambiance, complete with neon signs and rock ‘n’ roll, head to the 5 Point Café in the heart of Belltown. This is your go-to spot for good old American comfort food. Think juicy burgers, mouthwatering omelets, and a fine selection of local craft beers. The 5 Point Café is open 24/7, making it a perfect stop for late-night cravings. If you’re feeling the effects of a fun night out, their ‘Hangover Breakfast’ is legendary – a local favorite!
Nestled in the charming Queen Anne neighborhood, Tilikum Place Cafe offers a warm, cozy atmosphere that feels like a culinary hug. The menu is a delightful mix of European-inspired dishes with a Pacific Northwest twist. Order the duck confit and fresh seafood and pair with carefully selected wines and craft cocktails. This place is known for its top-notch service and culinary finesse!
If you want an upscale Japanese dining experience, wa’z Seattle in Belltown is your go-to. Indulge in a traditional kaiseki tasting menu featuring multi-course Japanese dishes paired with exquisite sake and wine. Opt for the tasting menu to fully appreciate the chef’s culinary craftsmanship.
Take your taste buds to Mexico at Plaza Garibaldi. Radiating a warm and lively atmosphere in the heart of Queen Anne, this Mexican gem serves authentic Mexican delights – from street tacos to flavorful enchiladas. The margaritas are a must, along with classic cocktails and craft beers. Don’t miss their happy hour specials for some wallet-friendly bites and drinks!
Catch the game over a few beers with friends at Uptown Hophouse. This cozy neighborhood pub near Seattle Center has a relaxed vibe and friendly service. Expect comfort food galore – burgers, sandwiches, and a variety of craft beers on tap. Explore their rotating selection of local brews to taste Seattle’s thriving craft beer scene.
Craft beer fan? You’ll love TeKu Tavern + Café in South Lake Union. A modern and trendy beer haven with a chill atmosphere, they’re all about craft beer. Enjoy an impressive selection of local and international brews and pub-style fare like sandwiches and pretzels. Not sure what to order? The staff knows their brews inside out!
Looking for some random bar for a spontaneous night out with friends? A hidden gem in Belltown, Some Random Bar is all about casual comfort, delicious pub grub, and signature drinks. Classic American comfort food reigns supreme here, along with a great lineup of cocktails and beers.
For drinks with the best views in town, head up to the Loupe Lounge at the top of the Space Needle. Sip on cocktails in the stylish lounge while soaking up the breathtaking 360-degree views of Seattle. Make a reservation and arrive early to snag a window seat. It’s the best way to experience the Space Needle in style!
Where to stay
Located in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, the MarQueen Hotel is just a stone’s throw away from the iconic Space Needle. Charming and spacious suites are perfect for both leisure and business travelers. Enjoy complimentary continental breakfast and American cuisine with a vintage ambiance at the Tin Lizzie Lounge. The hotel has free Wi-Fi and a fitness center for your workouts.
The Mediterranean Inn is in the vibrant Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, close to attractions like the Seattle Center. The hotel offers well-appointed rooms and suites with fully equipped kitchenettes, making it a fantastic choice for extended stays. Enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast each morning and enjoy the rooftop deck with gorgeous city views. There’s also free Wi-Fi and a fitness center.
This contemporary hotel is in the heart of Downtown Seattle, making it ideal for exploring the city’s attractions, dining, and shopping. The Hyatt House Seattle Downtown offers spacious suites with separate living areas and fully equipped kitchens. It’s perfect for families or those seeking an extended stay. Relax in the cozy lounge area with a fireplace and comfortable seating. Plus, the rooftop terrace provides fantastic views of the city.
Four Points by Sheraton Downtown Seattle Center offers comfortable rooms and suites with modern amenities. The hotel’s on-site restaurant, Fireside Café, serves Pacific Northwest cuisine. Guests can also enjoy free Wi-Fi and access to the 24-hour fitness center. The lobby provides a welcoming atmosphere, and you can relax in the courtyard with a fire pit and comfortable seating.
Steps away from the Space Needle and Seattle Center in the heart of Queen Anne, Staypineapple, The Maxwell Hotel, Seattle Center Seattle is a vibrant and quirky gem with colorful and comfortable rooms. Enjoy complimentary pineapple cupcakes upon arrival and coffee in the lobby. The Maxwell also has a heated indoor pool, free Wi-Fi, and a 24-hour fitness center. The lobby’s modern and playful design sets the tone for a fun and relaxed stay.