28 Cool Things to See & Do in Seattle On Your Washington State Vacation

Planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest? Start by exploring all the fun things to do in Seattle, WA! This vibrant Washington State metropolis is the region’s biggest city and caters to travelers of all styles. Whether you want to fill your vacation with coffee shops, arts & culture, beautiful parks, or pristine beaches, take a journey through one of the West Coast’s finest cities with this complete Seattle attractions guide!

Must-see places to visit

Browse the stalls of Pike Place Market

Need a first idea for where to go in Seattle? Start off your trip at Pike Place Market. Opened in 1907, Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market is rich in history. Today, the market is one of the city’s top destinations for tourists, housing over 500 shops, bars, vendors, and restaurants.

Pike Place Market

If you delight in antiques, browse through its antique shops, brimming with treasures. At Pike Place Market, you’ll also stroll past craft stalls where you can pick up a variety of gifts for friends and family.

When you’re done soaking up the atmosphere, seek out the world-famous Gum Wall. Located in Post Alley, this brick wall, covered in thousands of pieces of already-chewed gum in a variety of colors, is one of the city’s quirkiest destinations.

Outside, say hi to the market’s “mascot,” Rachel the Piggy Bank. The cute bronze sculpture has graced the sidewalks in front of the market since 1986, helping to raise funds for local charities.

Worked up some hunger or thirst on your trip to Pike Place Market? Cool down with a craft beer or cocktails, sample some fresh seafood at one of its many seaside restaurants, or embark on one of the many food tours through the market. Even if you only have one day in Seattle, a visit to Pike Place should be atop your bucket list.

Enjoy a cup of coffee at the original Starbucks

Got a passion for coffee? Carve out time on your vacation to visit the original Starbucks. Although the “real” original location was up the street, it moved next to Pike Place in 1977. After more than four decades, the branch is still operating. For coffee lovers, it’s a must-visit Seattle attraction.

Coffee at Original Starbucks

At the original Starbucks branch, you’ll see its original logo, fixtures, floors, and counters. You may need to be patient at this popular destination: There’s often a queue of coffee buffs rounding the corner, waiting to savor a cup of gourmet coffee at its North American “birthplace.”

You can continue your “coffee tour” with a visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, about 20 minutes walking distance away in the hip Pike/Pine Corridor. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a museum, store, and café all in one. At the roastery, you’ll learn all about the process of making coffee. Slide over to the main bar of one of Seattle’s favorite coffee shops to sample delights such as barrel-aged coffee and coffee & ice cream treats.

See the city from above at the Space Needle

None of the city’s top points of interest is more iconic than the Space Needle. Opened in 1962 for the World’s Fair, the Space Needle is the most definitive point in the Seattle skyline. The tower is located in the Seattle Center complex to the northwest of Belltown and Downtown.

The observation deck at the Space Needle hangs at a height of 520 feet. From the deck, you’ll marvel at spectacular 360-degree views of the cityscape, Puget Sound, and the surrounding areas. It’s the perfect opportunity to snap memorable photos. If you got lucky with the weather and are visiting on a clear day, you’ll even see as far as Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountains!

Space Needle Observation Deck

After visiting the Space Needle, save time to explore the many other activities at the Seattle Center. If you’re traveling with kids, pop into the Pacific Science Center. The whole family will be intrigued by the Pacific Science Center’s hands-on exhibits. Kids will love its interactive dinosaur display and planetarium. The center is also home to theatres showcasing 3-D films. It all adds up to an unforgettable experience.

Families visiting with kids will also have a ball at the Seattle Children’s Museum, one of Seattle’s most popular museums. Let their imaginations run wild as they mull over the next space to explore.

Explore Seattle’s music history at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)

Whether you’re into popular culture or rock & roll, you’ll find plenty to keep you amused at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). The museum hosts interactive exhibits dedicated to Seattle’s music icons and various movie & film themes.

The Museum of Pop Culture stuns with its remarkable modern architecture. It’s housed in a futuristic building designed by famed architect Frank Gehry. Its gnarled steel panels almost resemble a smashed electric guitar. (An homage to local music legends Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, perhaps?)

Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop)

MoPOP’s exhibitions revolve around renowned personalities in television, music, and other creative fields. Keep on the lookout for unique memorabilia for Seattle music icons like Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam, along with other famed artists. Besides the exhibit, the highlight of the visit is the chance to perform like a rock star in front of a virtual audience. You’ll also enjoy visiting the Sound Lab and interactive galleries.

Not into music? Movie lovers will find plenty here, too. Sci-fi fans should check out the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, including a cool Star Trek exhibit. Horror film buffs will also find several memorable horror cinema exhibits.

MoPOP is next to the Space Needle in the Seattle Center complex. After you’re done digging into the city’s pop culture heritage, explore other landmarks in the area, including the International Fountain, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the Seattle Children’s Theatre.

Ride the Seattle Center Monorail

Finished exploring some of the top tourist attractions at the Seattle Center? Hop onto the Seattle Center Monorail to downtown. Opened in 1962 for the Century 21 Exhibition, the Monorail moves between the Seattle Center and Westlake Center in Downtown.

Monorail

With no intermediate stops, the ride downtown from the Space Needle takes just two minutes. Along the way, you’ll enjoy a bird’s-eye view of downtown’s modern buildings and busy streets. The monorail departs every 10 minutes.

From the Westlake terminus, you can also hop on the Seattle Streetcar for a quick ride up to South Lake Union, one of the city’s most beautiful central neighborhoods.

Enjoy the cityscape at Kerry Park

Looking for more photographic opportunities for your holiday adventure? The unique vantage point at Kerry Park won’t disappoint. Located on the slopes of Queen Anne Hill in the Queen Anne neighborhood, Kerry Park is one of the city’s most popular places to go for locals and travelers alike.

At Kerry Park, you’ll delight in fantastic views of the Space Needle, the downtown skyline, and Puget Sound. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of Mount Rainier in the distance.

View from Kerry Park in Queen Anne

The view from Kerry Park is even more magical at night. Everyone in your travel group will enjoy marveling at the sight of lit ferries on the water with the city lights shining in the distance.

In the middle of the public park, you’ll spot a hollow steel sculpture named “Changing Form.” The sculpture is a favorite spot for children to play as you take in the views from a bench.

Peruse modern art at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Art lovers need to spend time at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). The museum has three facilities around town, with the main building located in Downtown Seattle. The SAM offers a rich cultural experience for travelers visiting the Pacific Northwest city.

Seattle Art Museum

If you’re into arts & culture, you’ll enjoy viewing the diverse art forms at the Seattle Art Museum. The collections and displays span the entire world and several different eras, with everything from artwork to photographs. Immerse yourself in the modern art hanging in bright galleries. Or take in performances representing its art in moving pictures. You’ll also spot several contemporary photographic exhibitions.

If there are specific exhibits you would like to view, visit the official SAM website. The site offers information on all its permanent & temporary exhibits, special events, and experiences.

Have a picnic at Gas Works Park

Like Kerry Park, Gas Works Park on the shores of Lake Union is a favorite escape for Seattlites. If you’ve got time in your itinerary, pull up a blanket and enjoy a picnic at this unique park. As you relax, you’ll dazzle at unmatched views over the city skyline.

Gas Works Park

Formerly the site of a coal gasification plant, Gas Works Park found new life as a 20-acre recreational area. If you’d rather not lounge around, go sailing on the lake or take a bike ride. There’s also a playground to keep the kids busy as you people-watch.

If you can hang around Gas Works Park until nighttime, you’ll enjoy the unforgettable sight of seeing the city lights reflected on the water.

Get up close to rare animals at the Woodland Park Zoo

Looking for family-friendly activities in Seattle? Kids and adults alike will love visiting the Woodland Park Zoo. The award-winning zoo in Green Lake opened its doors in 1899. Woodland Park Zoo is home to 300 species featured in their natural habitats.

Zebra at Woodland Park Zoo

Habitats at Woodland Park Zoo include the Trail of Vines, the Tropical Rainforest, and the African Savanna. You’ll also be able to view some endangered species. Conservation is a top priority at the Woodland Park Zoo, with many of its experiences adding to the preservation efforts.

Planning to visit Seattle in winter? Don’t miss out on the zoo’s WildLanterns celebration. Running from early November to mid-January, this festival dazzles guests with a stunning display of holiday lights and lanterns representing wilderness from around the world.

Chill out at Green Lake Park

Done checking out the animals at the zoo? About two and a half miles away is Green Lake Park. This beautiful recreation area is a great place to escape the city’s bustle & tourist crowds and marvel at some of the West Coast’s spectacular scenery.

Green Lake

Hit up Green Lake Park’s trails for a relaxing walk or invigorating run. To cool down in the hot summer sun, hit up the shoreline and go for a swim in Green Lake. There’s also a wading pool for the kids at the park.

Admire bay views and art at Olympic Sculpture Park

A brainchild of the Seattle Art Museum, Olympic Sculpture Park is a vibrant waterfront public park on Elliott Bay. The 9-acre park offers a two-fold feast for the eyes. You’ll relish the sight of large-scale contemporary sculptures while enjoying beautiful views over Puget Sound.

Olympic Sculpture Park

Undoubtedly, the highlight here is the opportunity to walk through its remarkable outdoor gallery. Olympic Sculpture Park features about 20 quirky sculptures and art installations from popular local artists.

There’s no fee to enter Olympic Sculpture Park. In the evening, the park is the perfect spot to watch a sunset over Puget Sound and savor a quiet moment on a bench overlooking the water.

Soak up the sun at Alki Beach in West Seattle

Although outside the city center, one of the city’s most famous places to see is Alki Beach. Located in West Seattle, the sandy beach on Puget Sound appeared in the 1990s movie Sleepless in Seattle and offers an excellent escape from the buzz of the city.

Two and a half miles long, Alki Beach is the perfect place to spend a lazy day soaking up the sun, playing volleyball, and going swimming. Alki Beach has a rich history behind it, too. This stretch of shoreline was the landing spot for Seattle’s first European settlers in 1851.

Alki Beach

Soak up the sea views with a walk along the seawall at Alki Beach Park. When the hunger pangs set in, sample fish & chips at the renowned Alki Spud. Located across the road from Alki Beach Park, the eatery started operations in 1935 and is one of Washington State’s most famous seafood chains.

For a more upmarket alternative, devour some tasty local snacks at Salty’s on Alki Beach. Enjoy a meal and drinks to amazing views of the Seattle skyline and Puget Sound at this popular seafood eatery.

History buffs won’t want to miss out on a visit to the Alki Point Lighthouse. The historic attraction is one of Seattle’s hidden gems and has lit the sea channel into King County since 1913. In the summer, everyone in the family will love hopping onto one of the free weekend tours of the lighthouse.

Scope out colorful marine life at Seattle Aquarium

Need ideas for after your visit to Pike Place Market? Just half a mile away lies the Seattle Aquarium. Located in Waterfront Park, the Seattle Aquarium is one of the city’s most entertaining family-friendly attractions.

Aquarium

For a glimpse of life under the sea, the colorful marine life at the Seattle Aquarium makes for tranquil viewing. The “Window on Washington Waters” feature is a stunning display of sea creatures from the surrounding area.

Wander around Waterfront Park

Exiting the aquarium, you’ll find yourself in Waterfront Park. Located on Elliot Bay, Waterfront Park is a popular hotspot for Seattlites to catch a breather on the water. Waterfront Park offers visitors enchanting sea views, cafes, and food trucks.

Waterfront & Skyline at Sunset

Take a walk along the boardwalk, soaking in views of Elliot Bay and Puget Sound. If you’ve built up an appetite on your journey, see what’s on the menu and grab a snack at one of the park’s food vendors.

Take a spin on the Seattle Great Wheel

While visiting Waterfront Park, save time for a spin on the Seattle Great Wheel. Perched on Pier 57, the 175-foot-tall Ferris wheel is one of the city’s coolest things to see, offering spectacular views of the surrounding scenery.

Waterfront Park Pier 57

If you’re in search of an adrenaline rush, take a ride in one of the wheel’s gondolas with a glass floor. On the Seattle Great Wheel, you’ll marvel at unbeatable views over the city.

Hit the waters of Lake Union

If kayaking and sailing are your jam, head for the shores of Lake Union. Located a few blocks north of downtown, Lake Union is a great place for watersports. With its calm waters, paddleboarding is particularly popular here. You can also rent a rowboat, pedal boat, or sailboat to explore the pretty lake, or embark on a sightseeing cruise or seaplane tour from the docks.

Center for Wooden Boats in South Lake Union

Another gem to savor in the neighborhood is Lake Union Park. Take a leisurely stroll through the park and stop for a cup of coffee to take in the peaceful surroundings.

For a historical interlude, step into the Museum of History & Industry, located in Lake Union Park. At the Museum of History & Industry, you’ll learn the impacts of different time periods on the history of the region.

Step back into Seattle’s early history at Pioneer Square

Want to uncover Seattle’s historical roots? Explore the city’s past at Pioneer Square. Dating back to the late 18th century, the neighborhood is the oldest in the city. One of the coolest tourist attractions in Seattle, it hints at the city’s history as a pioneering Pacific Northwest outpost.

Pioneer Square

Walk the route around Pioneer Square to spot some of the city’s most stunning historic architecture. The 1880s-era Romanesque Revival buildings around the neighborhood are bound to catch your eye. Culture lovers can explore its art galleries and boutique stores, while foodies can find a mix of restaurants and food trucks to tickle their taste buds.

To experience the area at its most interesting, book yourself onto an Underground Walking Tour. Originally launched by legendary local preservationist Bill Spiedel, the underground tour traverses the city’s hidden subterranean structures, dating back to before the Great Fire of 1889, telling gripping stories along the way. Exploring the nearby Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is a similarly intriguing activity for history buffs.

Chow down in the Chinatown-International District

Located south of Pioneer Square is the historic Chinatown-International District. As one of the city’s oldest areas, the neighborhood is rich in history. But, for many visitors, the main draw is the district’s tantalizing culinary delights.

The Chinatown-International District comprises three historic Asian communities: Chinatown, Japantown, and Little Saigon. On its streets, you’ll drool over Asian favorites like dim sum, sushi, and banh mi.

Chinatown International-District

To learn about the life of the city’s early immigrants, pay a visit to the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American. The museum is a rich source of information about the art, history, and culture of the Pacific Northwest’s Asian settlers.

Looking for a little excitement in the area? Pop into the Seattle Pinball Museum. Steps away from Hing Hay Park, the museum gives gamers unlimited plays on its wide selection of classic & modern pinball machines.

Take a Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island

Need to escape the city? Hop onto a Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island. Just 35 minutes away, the island is one of the most popular Seattle day trips and is the perfect place to experience Washington State’s small-town seaside charms.

Bainbridge Island

The town itself is a pleasant spot to stroll around. Not far from the ferry terminal, you can peruse the Bainbridge Island Art Museum and Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.

To enjoy the island’s natural beauty to its fullest, venture to its northern peninsula to visit the Bloedel Reserve. The 150-acre nature reserve is one of the area’s finest parks, delighting visitors with its landscaped gardens and lush forests. Slide over to its historic manor house to enjoy spectacular views over Puget Sound.

Peer at downtown from above at the Columbia Center

Didn’t get enough of Seattle from above? See the city from a different angle at the Columbia Center. Soaring up 933 feet in the air, the massive Columbia Center is the highest building in Washington State. And it’s got the views to match!

View from Columbia Center

Zip up to the tower’s 73rd-floor Sky View Observatory. Located 902 feet above the ground, Sky View Observatory is 382 feet higher than the deck at the Space Needle. Not only are the views higher, but admission to this less-popular observation deck is also cheaper.

Marvel at the architecture of the Seattle Central Library

After checking out the Columbia Center, find a few minutes to explore the nearby Seattle Central Library. Designed by famed architect Rem Koolhaas, the unique glass & steel structure is the city’s sleekest modern building.

Central Public Library

Even if you’re not entranced by the Seattle Central Library’s 1.5 million books, its aesthetics are bound to impress.

Catch a Mariners game at T-Mobile Park

Sports fans visiting the Emerald City should spend an evening watching a baseball game at T-Mobile Park. Home to the MLB’s Seattle Mariners, T-Mobile Park teems with energy when its team is cranking home runs out of the park.

T-Mobile Park

If football or soccer is more your jam, head across the street to Lumin Field. The massive 67,000-seat stadium is home to NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders soccer team.

Marvel at the Washington Park Arboretum UW Botanic Gardens

Located on the shores of Lake Washington, Washington Park Arboretum UW Botanic Gardens is one of Seattle’s finest green spaces. At a massive 230 acres, there’s plenty to see as you wander around Washington Park Arboretum. Along with the University of Washington campus across Union Bay, the botanical garden is a favorite spot for viewing cherry blossoms in spring.

Washington Park Arboretum UW Botanic Gardens offers travelers a ton of fun outdoor activities. Stroll along the park’s walking trails, bringing along your camera to capture photos of its rare Pacific Coast trees. Hiking along its lakefront boardwalk, you’ll enjoy a gentle breeze over beautiful Lake Washington. At 33.8 square miles, Lake Washington is the second-largest natural lake in Washington State.

Japanese Garden at Washington Park Arboretum

While visiting Washington Park Arboretum, carve out time to visit the Seattle Japanese Garden. Although small, the beautiful 3.5-acre garden brings the beautiful flora of Japan to the Pacific Northwest. It’s considered one of the most authentic Japanese-style gardens in the United States.

The Washington Park Arboretum is a 15- to 20-minute drive from downtown.

Wander around Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill

Located on the north end of the hip Capitol Hill neighborhood, Volunteer Park is one of the city’s top chill-out spots. At 48 acres, Volunteer Park is much smaller than nearby Washington Park. Still, the park charms with a wide array of cool attractions suited to all types of travelers.

Start your visit at the Volunteer Park Conservatory. Dating back to 1912, the Victorian greenhouse was modeled after London’s Crystal Palace. The Volunteer Park Conservatory divides into five habitats: bromeliads, ferns, palms, seasonal, and succulents. Between the houses lie tens of thousands of different plant species.

Volunteer Park

Also worth a gander on your Volunteer Park visit is the Asian Art Museum. Set in a 1933 landmark Art Deco building, the museum holds a large collection of Asian art & artifacts. The works span several historical periods and all ends of the continent.

If you’re into action movies and martial arts, set aside time to visit Lake View Cemetery. Connected to the park’s north end, the cemetery is the final resting place of Bruce Lee. Although raised in Hong Kong, the famed film star spent several years studying and teaching martial arts in the city.

Roam around Discovery Park

Need proof that Seattle lives up to its Emerald City nickname? Look no further than Discovery Park in the Magnolia neighborhood. Perched upon Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, the 534-acre park is the largest public green space within the city limits.

Discovery Park

Discovery Park is coveted for its beaches, meadows, sand dunes, bluffs, and forests. To sneak the most out of your visit, traipse along the Discovery Park Loop Trail. The 2.8-mile hiking trail whisks past the park’s main sights, connecting to other paths along the way.

Catch a Puget Sound breeze at Golden Gardens Park

Although not as expansive as Discovery Park, Golden Gardens Park is loaded with plenty of its own charms. Located in Ballard, the 87-acre park offers one of the city’s most beautiful shorelines. On a clear day, the views across Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains are spectacular.

Golden Gardens Park

The main draw at Golden Gardens Park is its beautiful sandy beaches. In summer, it’s a great place to enjoy a picnic and watersports outside the city center. Time your visit with the sunset to see the park at its most magical.

After exploring the grounds, venture south to explore the rest of the Ballard neighborhood. The area is a juggernaut in the Seattle craft brewing scene, with dozens of craft breweries like Stoup Brewing and Ballard Brewing Company lining the streets.

If you’re both an architecture buff and a nature lover, don’t miss out on the Ballard Locks. Built in 1917 and now a National Historic Site, the Ballard Locks are the busiest in the country, with over 50,000 boats passing through every year. Even more magical is to visit the locks in the summer spawning season to see hundreds of salmon passing through the fish ladder. It’s something to behold!

Marvel at the glass art at Chihuly Garden and Glass

Art lovers need to pencil in a visit to Chihuly Garden and Glass. Located in the Seattle Center complex, this top attraction features eight art galleries and a garden hosting the work of famed American glass artist Dale Chihuly.

Chihuly Garden & Glass

At the heart of Chihuly Garden and Glass is its 40-foot-high Glasshouse. Within its 4,500 square feet of space, visitors will marvel at a 100-foot-long masterwork art installation, reflecting a palette of reds, yellows, oranges, and ambers.

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After admiring Chihuly’s work in the Glasshouse and galleries, meander through the museum’s lush garden. Here, you’ll dazzle at the artist’s glass sculptures, interspersed with colorful plants, flowers, and trees. Each season’s blooms change the scene, giving visitors a unique look upon every visit.

Enjoy a wine-tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery

The oldest winery in Washington State, Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery is one of Seattle’s must-see attractions for wine lovers. Located in Woodinville, the winery sits on 105 acres of woodland and offers a relaxing escape from the buzz of the central city.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery

Pop into Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery to enjoy a guided tour of the historic vineyards and wine-tasting. If you want to enjoy more of its award-winning wines, stick around to sample its daily Feature Flight or pick up a bottle for your hotel room at the Visitor Center Wine Shop.

Where to stay for sightseeing

For sightseeing, the most popular areas to stay in Seattle lie in & around Downtown. Besides the central business district, Belltown and Pioneer Square are home to some of the city’s finest hotels. If you’re looking for a more local experience, expand your lodgings search to areas outside the city center like the University District, Fremont, or Ballard. 

Paramount Hotel

The Paramount Hotel

Located in the CBD, The Paramount Hotel is a great choice that won’t drain your travel budget. Rooms are spacious & stylish. It’s a short 10-minute walk from Pike Place.

Hyatt Regency

Hyatt Regency Seattle

Among the city’s top mid-range hotels, Hyatt Regency is located between Belltown and Downtown. Staying here, you’ll be minutes from great shopping and many of the city’s top points of interest. You’ll love the hotel’s modern room design and city views.

W Seattle

W Seattle

Located in the heart of downtown, W Seattle is one of the top Seattle luxury hotels. The 4.5-star hotel’s contemporary style is striking. Enjoy a nightcap at the on-site restaurant & bar in the shadow of the hotel’s eye-catching 3-story fireplace.

Treksplorer

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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