University District, Seattle: What to See & Do + Where to Eat, Drink & Stay

If you’re heading to the Evergreen State and want a laid-back place to check out, head to Seattle’s University District. This relaxed area of Seattle dishes out a youthful vibe thanks to the many students that call it home.

You’ll find excellent restaurants and bars, all-hours amenities, and a load to do in the University District, Seattle. As it’s explored on foot, you can wander through the leafy campus of the University of Washington to visit the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Take in some art at the contemporary Henry Art Gallery and browse the quirky shops lining University Way.

Foodies will enjoy alfresco dining at one of the eateries in the bustling open-air promenades of University Village. If your timing is right, you can even catch a football game at the Waterside Husky Stadium.

Easy-going and mellow, the University District is a great way to explore Seattle beyond its most famous attractions. With plenty of places to visit, great restaurants to dine out, and fantastic outdoor activities, plan your trip to University District, Seattle, with this complete guide!

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What to see & do in University District, Seattle

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

This is one museum worth exploring! The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is packed with over 16 million natural history artifacts. You’ll find everything from dinosaur bones to totem poles, not to mention an incredible collection of spread bird wings. Take a few hours to wander around this gem to learn about the culture and history of the region.

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Located on the campus of the University of Washington, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is the oldest public museum in the state. This top Seattle attraction began its origins as a school naturalist club in 1879 and became the Washington State Museum in 1899. Today, it boasts vast collections of all things natural, including 10,000 pieces of Native American art.

Trace the history of evolution, watch hummingbirds on high-speed cameras, and admire the skull of a T-Rex dinosaur. Grab a Burke’s Education Fun Pack for the kids to take home and continue learning through fun activities.

Henry Art Gallery

After all that science, cross over to your right brain for some creative thinking at the Henry Art Gallery. Also based on the University of Washington campus, the Henry Art Gallery has an outstanding collection of contemporary art and photography. Founded in 1927 as the first public art museum in the state, it now boasts over 25,000 works of art.

The galleries here display both permanent and temporary exhibitions of works by emerging and established artists. Stroll around and admire the thought-provoking works that were selected for pushing boundaries. Admire a range of mediums, from classic oil paintings to new media and installation art.

Don’t miss the stunning examples of Japanese folk pottery or the rugs and textiles collection from Central Asia. Also, keep an eye out for special events hosted by the museum, like film screenings, performances, and art talks; it’s always a fantastic way to meet like-minded people!

Neptune Theatre

Classic theaters are the best, especially when they still retain their historic character like the Neptune Theatre. Opened in 1921 as the U-Neptune Theatre, the single-screen movie house delighted movies goers for 90 years.

Neptune Theatre

After being converted into a performing arts facility in 2011, the grand old lady is still putting on a show. Today, you can enjoy a variety of events at the Neptune Theatre, from film screenings to dance and music performances—and more.

The building still retains its nautical theme, replete with portholes, tridents, masks, and statues of Neptune, the God of the sea. With just 800 seats in the cozy interior, the theater has an intimate ambiance that’ll make you feel like you’re at home.

University District Farmers Market

Want to get a feel for the neighborhood, meet some locals, and buy delicious delicacies at the same time? There’s no better place to do this than at the University District Farmers Market. And trust us: This fun local farmer’s market won’t disappoint!

University District Farmers Market

Located between 50th and 52nd Streets on University Way, the University District Farmers Market is Seattle’s largest food-only market, with over 80 vendors. You’ll find everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to delicious goodies to eat while you’re shopping.

The University District Farmers Market is only open on Saturdays; be sure to get there early for your fresh produce. Grab freshly brewed coffee at one of the artisan coffee stalls and take a stroll around the market, listening to the vendors tout their wares.

Union Bay Natural Area

When it’s time to enjoy some fun outdoor activities, there’s no better place to start than the Union Bay Natural Area. Also known as Union Bay Marsh, the area was once a busy landfill used for dumping. When the dumps closed in 1966, the land was transformed into a nature reserve. Today, the Union Bay Natural Area is home to a wealth of fauna and flora.

Head to the east end of the University of Washington campus to find this lovely green space. There are several walking trails for exploring the park and plenty of park benches for relaxing. The tranquil ponds at the Union Bay Natural Area teem with beavers, turtles, and many species of waterfowl.

Discover the newly built Yesler Swamp Trail. If you’re a birder, be sure to take your binoculars to spot a few of the 200 species in the area. Pack a picnic lunch and spend an hour or two in the peaceful surroundings of this lovely area.

Ravenna Park

Another great spot to relax in beautiful surroundings is Ravenna Park. Located just north of the University District, Ravenna Park features a half-mile wooded ravine through which Ravenna Creek flows.

Ravenna Park is a perfect place to picnic, so pack a basket full of goodies and find a shady spot next to the creek. Picnic areas are reservable; be sure to book early if you’re in Seattle over the summer, as it gets busy.

You can also enjoy a range of activities in Ravenna Park, from hiking and jogging to tennis. The kids can burn excess energy at the play area and splash around in a wading pool in the summer. Have a game of baseball or soccer on the ballfield in the park to expense a little more energy.

Where to eat & drink

With so many students calling the neighborhood home, the University District is packed with affordable, casual spots to eat. From gyro windows and pho shops to dive bars, boba tea shops and popular cafes, there are some amazing spots to grab some globally inspired grub here.

Hailed for serving the world’s best dumplings, the esteemed Din Tai Fung is the neighborhood’s go-to destination for superb Chinese food. Be sure to order the xiao long bao, the dishes this global Taiwanese chain is most famous for. The signature chicken soup isn’t half bad, either!

If you’re in the mood for South American food, then Arepa Venezuelan Kitchen is the place to go. Named after a delicious Venezuelan corn cake, Arepa serves a variety of the so-named cake with delicious toppings like pork and shredded beef. You can also tuck into traditional Latin American dishes such as empanadas, sweet plantains, and tostones.


Handmade, chewy biang biang noodles are the order of the day at Xi’an Noodles – Udistrict. The famous cuisine of China’s Shaanxi Province draws crowds to the tiny eatery on University Way. Order the traditional hand-ripped noodles with spicy cumin lamb, and vegetables. The pork dumplings are pretty good, too.

The historic College Inn Pub is a bustling gathering spot for the students and staff of the university. Tucked away in the basement of the College Inn building, you’ll find cozy booths, great pub grub, and plenty of drinks. Enjoy a game of darts or pinball, or venture into the Snug Room to meet Howard the Ghost.

Another great spot for hanging out over a few beers is Big Time Brewery & Alehouse. Sip hoppy ales and snack on chicken tenders at an outside table and watch the world go by.

Cold beer, pub grub, pinball, and punk rock: You’ll find them all at the Kraken Bar & Lounge. This gritty pirate-themed dive bar promises a Seattle grunge experience like no other. You may have to queue for drinks at the tiny bar, but the atmosphere is electric. Lace up those Doc Martins, and rock on!

Where to stay

Staypineapple, University Inn, University District Seattle

Staypineapple, University Inn, University District Seattle

If you’re visiting the University of Washington, the University Inn – A Staypineapple Hotel is a comfortable place to stay. Well-appointed guest rooms have modern décor and en-suite bathrooms, and you can tuck into a delicious continental breakfast every morning at the on-site café. Grab a loaner bike and explore the neighborhood. Take a dip in the swimming pool and enjoy free coffee and sweet treats in the afternoon.

Staypineapple, Watertown, University District Seattle

Staypineapple, Watertown, University District Seattle

The Watertown Hotel – A Staypineapple Hotel is a bright and cheerful retreat within a short walk from the University of Washington. Unwind in a whirlpool tub in your comfortable studio room, or enjoy the hotel facilities like the swimming pool, gym, and loaner bikes. The Pineapple Café offers free afternoon coffee and signature pineapple treats.

Residence Inn by Marriott Seattle University District

Residence Inn by Marriott Seattle University District

The Residence Inn by Marriott Seattle University District is a good choice if you prefer self-catering. This down-to-earth hotel has comfortable studios with fully equipped kitchens and spacious living areas. Enjoy a complimentary breakfast every morning and relax over a drink in the bar. Take advantage of the great facilities like the indoor swimming pool, a 24-hour gym, and a hot tub.


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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