20 Best Things to do in Seattle (Washington) in 2023

Bradley Williams
Written By:
Bradley Williams
Last Updated:
December 31, 2022
Whether you're looking to take a river cruise, explore the underground, or admire Mount Rainier, there are endless things to do in Seattle, Washington!
things to do in seattle

We were big fans of Seattle!

With a whole host of attractions, from museums to markets, to gorgeous parks and lakes.

It’s a great city with a real mix of city life and nature. It’s easy to see why Tom Hanks was so sleepless here!

But with so many great places to visit in Seattle, it can be hard to know where to start.

So we’ve gone ahead and compiled the ultimate guide on the best things Seattle has to offer.

Along with other useful tips, tricks and hints for you to get the most from your visit.

Speaking of which, first up …

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How to get to Seattle

Flying

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, branded as SEA Airport, is the primary airport serving the Seattle metropolitan area.

This area is the largest in the Pacific Northwest, and is ideally situated between Portland and Vancouver.

SEA airport has direct flights to cities all over the world, in Europe, Asia and Central America. No matter where you're flying in from, Skyscanner should be your starting point for a search.

The airport is around 15 miles from downtown Seattle, and you can make this 40 minute journey on the Light Link Rail, getting off at Westlake Station.

Driving in

If, like us, you're driving into Seattle then it’s very straightforward. We came from the north in our campervan and didn’t struggle with traffic. Though if you hit rush hour then it’s going to get very busy!

There are some more details below on hiring a car, but if you do fancy combining your trip to Seattle with some other cities, I would highly recommend getting an RV.

Not only can you save on accommodation, it’s just cool! For more info, check out our guide on the best campervan & RV rentals in Seattle.

Hiring a motorhome is one of our top travel tips if you're traveling on a budget, and there are so many fantastic road trip options! 

Getting around Seattle, Washington

getting around seattle
Limes were a quick and easy way to get around!

Seattle city is very well connected, and easy to navigate, as the city has great public transport links.

There are a few different options when it comes to getting around Seattle.

Sound Transit Link Light Rail

The light rail runs between Angle Lake Station and Northgate, and it's the best way to get from the airport to the city center.

It operates through downtown Seattle, with trains arriving every 8 to 15 minutes.

The trains run from 5am-1:45am Monday to Saturday, and 6am to 12:35am on Sundays.

King County Metro Transit

The King County Metro Transit bus service operates in downtown Seattle, and also around other neighborhoods in King County.

They have an app which gives you up to date travel information, as well as route maps and timetables.

Seattle Street Cars

There are two lines of Seattle street cars - South Lake Union and First Hill.

Seattle Center Monorail

The Seattle monorail connects Westlake Center downtown to Seattle Center at the base of Queen Anne Hill.

It operates 7 days a week, Monday-Friday 7:30am-9pm and Saturday and Sunday 8:30am-9pm.

The journey only takes 2 minutes each way, and services usually depart around every 10 minutes.

You can find more information about fares and schedules on the Seattle Center Monorail website.

Orca Cards

Orca cards can be used on streetcars, light rail, and buses throughout Seattle.

They cost $3, and you can load a full day travel pass onto the card for $8.

Orca cards cannot be used on the monorail or on ferries.

Taxis

In downtown Seattle there are metered taxis, as well as Lyft and Uber.

All journeys can be scheduled, booked and paid for using apps.

Rental Cars and Car Sharing

Car rentals from SEA Airport are found at the off-site car rental facility.

There are 24 hour shuttle buses which take passengers from baggage claim in the main terminal, to the airport car rental.

There are also car rentals available at multiple locations in downtown Seattle.

Shorter term car rentals can be done through Zipcar or GIG car share, who allow rentals by the hour, or by the minute, respectively. 

Bikes and Scooters

A quick, easy and eco-friendly way to explore Seattle is by bike or scooter.

Seattle is a bike and scooter friendly city, so both forms of transport are very easy to access.

You can select the ‘two-wheels’ option on Uber and book a Lime bike close to you for $1, although subsequent rental rates per minute will vary.

All Lime rentals have an electric assist boost of up to 15 mph, or there's a great bike rental company called VEO.

Electric scooters are all the range in Seattle, and there are various options including companies such as Link, Wheels and Spin, all of which use apps.

Train

King Street Stations is just south of downtown Seattle.

It's served by five major train routes, some of which connect Seattle (Washington) with British Columbia (Canada).

Sound Transit’s Sounder connects Everett, north of Seattle, with Lakewood, south of Tacoma.

Amtrak has three routes:

  1. Coast Starlight travels between Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles.
  2. Amtrak Cascades connects Vancouver BC, Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Salem, and Eugene.
  3. Empire Builder travels between Chicago; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Spokane, Portland, and Seattle.

Rocky Mountaineer offers high-end travel between Seattle; Vancouver, BC; and the Canadian Rockies.

Where to Stay in Seattle

Staying in Seattle is notoriously expensive, however there are a variety of different accommodation options, catering to different budgets.

Whilst staying in the suburbs is ultimately cheaper, it can be easier to stay in the city center, so you're close to all of the main Seattle attractions.

You can also end up spending a lot of precious time traveling from the outskirts, into Seattle's center.

Budget Accommodation in Seattle

There are some really well rated hostels in Seattle city center, offering budget accommodation.

Green Tortoise Seattle offers dorm rooms with free breakfast from around $40 a night, and it’s less than 1 km from the city center!

You've also got Hi Hostel which has dorms from $38 per person.

However, if you’re looking for a private room, this guest house in Northgate is around 9.5 miles outside of central Seattle.

Guests have access to a kitchen, microwave and coffee machine!

Mid Range Accommodation in Seattle

The Marqueen Hotel offers deluxe double rooms, with ensuite and private kitchenettes for around $140 a night.

The hotel is within walking distance of a lot of the main things to do in Seattle.

Luxury Accommodation in Seattle

There are plenty of luxury hotel experiences you can splash out on in Seattle.

Truly make your trip to Seattle one to remember with a stay at The Four Seasons, The Grand Hyatt, or The Fairmont Olympic Hotel.

20 Best Things to do in Seattle, Washington

1. Check out the Museum of Pop Culture

museum of pop culture

Perhaps our favorite stop in Seattle was The Museum of Pop Culture (or MoPOP).

It’s a non profit museum dedicated to all things contemporary popular culture.

Their higher mission is to offer inspiring experiences that bring communities together through creativity.

They do this by having the world’s largest collection of hand-written lyrics, instruments, photographs and artifacts celebrating the life of Seattle artists Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana.

As well as a whole host of other cool exhibits! 

My favorite? One of the Ringwraith swords from the Lord of The Rings movies … but that’s just me!

There are 12 exhibitions in total which are included in the entry ticket.

You can pre book timed tickets online, but the prices vary depending on which day and time slot you book.

Culture Kitchen is MoPOP’s urban cafe and bar. There’s lots of global and local food options, with some fresh and vibrant for everyone.

A real nod to pop culture!

You can visit the Culture Kitchen without an entry ticket to the museum, and it opens at 11 am.

The museum is open daily 10am-5pm.

2. Seattle Harbor Cruise

View of Seattle Skyline from a Seattle Harbor Cruise

As a seaport city no Seattle guide would be complete without a harbor cruise.

You get to see one of the world's largest shipping terminals first hand!

A harbor cruise gives you a great insight into life at Seattle Harbor - and it’s always good to know what you’re actually looking at!

The tours include an hour-long narrated tour of Elliot Bay. 

From the harbor there’s great panoramas of the Olympic and Cascade Mountain Ranges.

For an even more picturesque experience you can join a sunset sailboat cruise tour of Seattle Harbor.

Or for something more intimate, splash the cash on a private sailing adventure from Bainbridge Island.

3. Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square is said to be the ‘first neighborhood in Seattle’, established in 1852.

It's now recognised as indigenous land, and the history of Pioneer Square, of course, spans back to much earlier than 1852.

The inhabitants of Duwamish and Suquamish people in Seattle, and on the site of Pioneer Square, dates back over 10,000 years.

Because of this a wide mix of cultures and ethnicities shaped and built this area!

It's rich in history, best known for Renaissance Revival architecture, night life, great food sports, quirky indie shops, lively businesses, and vibrant art walks.

Pioneer Square really does showcase the old coexisting with the new, so it's a must-visit.

On the first Thursday of every month there's an art walk, which exhibits the largest concentration of art galleries in the city.

This is the longest running art walk in the whole of America! And it doesn’t cost anything, so it’s a great free thing to do in Seattle!

With so much to see, do and experience at Pioneer Square, it really has something for everyone!

It's definitely one of the best places to go in Seattle.

4. Space Needle

space needle seattle

No list of things to do in Seattle would be complete without the visiting the iconic Space Needle.

It was constructed in 1961 and opened in 1962, and has been a historic landmark since 1999.

You can reach the Space Needle observation deck in just 41 seconds, which is impressive considering it sits at 160m (520ft) above ground.

From here there are amazing panoramic views of downtown Seattle, stretching across to Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Elliot Bay, and the islands in Puget Sound. You'll also get to see Mount Baker and Mount Rainier.

Now, you probably didn’t know that it’s also home to The Loupe - the world’s first and only revolving glass floor.

The Space Needle is open 7 days a week from 9am to 11pm. You can pre-book tickets online so you don’t miss out on this world famous attraction, as it's one of the top things to do in Seattle.

5. Explore Seattle…..Underground

Seattle Underground Streets
source

The city is home to a network of underground passageways and basements, making this one of the most unique things to do in Seattle.

Found underneath Pioneer Square, they used to be at ground level when they were built in the mid 1800s.

When the streets were elevated they fell into disuse, but now they are a popular tourist attraction. 

You can take part in an underground tour of Seattle to see the city from a totally different and unique perspective.

Although only part of the underground network is open to tourists, you'll still get a good idea of what this area used to look like.

6. Chihuly Garden and Glass

Chihuly Garden and Glass is an exhibit found in the Seattle Center. This is right next to the Space Needle!

The museum showcases the work of Dale Chihuly, a glass artist from Tacoma who studied at the University of Washington.

There’s a garden, glass house and interior exhibits, as well as a cafe, outdoor dining, a theater and lecture spaces.

One of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures can be found in the glass house - an installation stretching to 100ft!

The Garden and Glass center in Seattle opened in 2012, but Chihuly’s work can be found at over 200 museums worldwide.

Local glass artists present live flameworking demonstrations at Chihuly Garden and Glass, and these take place daily between 11am and 5pm.

The artists will also be available to answer any questions about glass work!

Opening times for Chihuly Garden and Glass vary throughout the year so check their website before visiting.

You can pre book your tickets in advance, and they offer a combined ticket with the Space Needle.

7. Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is the most popular tourist destination in Seattle.

Not only that, but it’s the 33rd most visited tourist attraction in the world!

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty impressive.

It's also where Starbucks was founded in 1971!

The market opened in 1907 and is now one of the oldest continuously operated farmers markets in the USA.

It's home to many small farmers, sellers and craftspeople, as well as 60+ permitted buskers.

There’s anything from antique dealers and family-owned restaurants, to comic book and collectibles shops.

Over 500 people live in buildings attached to the market too, so it's got quite the bustling atmosphere.

Oh, and it's home to one of the world's weirdest attractions....the gum wall, and yes, it's as disgusting as it sounds ;)

gum wall seattle

You’ll want to plan ahead before visiting the market, as there is so much to see and do!

They even have a market map you can use on your phone to navigate between merchants.

To really take all of Pike Place Market’s vast cuisine in, and embark on an adventure through the flavors of the north west, you can hop on a guided food tour with a chef.

This encompasses 9 different vendors, and teaches you all about local production. And of course, you get to try all of the food!

8. Sample coffee in the coffee capital

startbucks in seattle

Seattle is widely recognised as the coffee capital of America.

The city is regarded as a world center for coffee roasting and coffee supply chain management.

For this reason, a lot of Seattle residents are avid coffee enthusiasts.

A lot of coffee roasting companies have their headquarters in Seattle including Conduit Coffee Roasters, Fremont Coffee Company, Torrefazione Italia and Top Pot Coffee Roasters.

And, of course, Starbucks was founded in Seattle back in 1971.

As well as chains there are a tonne of independent coffee shops to sample in the city.

Sound and Fog, Caffe Ladro, Fulcrum, Espresso Vivace, Zoka and Monorail Espresso, are some spots worth checking out if you’re a coffee lover.

You can even take part in coffee management and barista training whilst you’re in the coffee capital!

9. Kerry Park

kerry park seattle

If you’re stuck on what to do in Seattle, just go and enjoy some of the city's many parks!

Kerry Park is only a small one at just 1.2 acres, but it offers an amazing panoramic view over downtown Seattle.

Sometimes you can see all the way over to Mount Rainier, if it's a clear day! 

In fact, this view is said to be one of the most iconic of this skyline, so it’s well worth checking out.

Better still, it’s a public park so it’s totally free!

This Park tends to get the busiest during sunset and you'll find crowds of tourists just waiting to admire the view.

Here's some more information about visiting Kerry Park...

10. Seattle Great Wheel

 Seattle Great Wheel

The Seattle Great wheel is on Pier 57 on Elliot Bay. It stands at 53.3m tall and was the tallest of its kind on the West Coast of the USA when it opened back in 2012.

A ride on the wheel takes 12 minutes, encompasses three revolutions and extends 12m out over Elliott Bay.

The Seattle Great Wheel operates from Sunday to Thursday, and you can book tickets in advance. It’s $16 for adults!

The wheel is covered in over half a million LED lights, so it can certainly put on an amazing light show.

There’s usually a light show on every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the evenings, finishing around 10pm.

The Seattle Great wheel is even bookable for custom light shows, so you can make a wedding, birthday or any special day, extra special!

If you're looking for fun things to do in Seattle then why not grab a seat on this iconic wheel?

11. Take a day trip to Rattlesnake Ridge

A trail in Rattlesnake Ridge in Washington

The Ridge of Rattlesnake Mountain is found south of North Bend, Washington.

It's the highest of the Issaquah Alps and is a popular spot for hiking and rock climbing.

Rattlesnake Ridge is around 40 miles east of Seattle, and the easiest way to get there from Seattle is by car. It's best accessed by the I-90 highway.

There is free parking available at the start of the trail to the ridge, and once you're parked up be prepared for an adventure.

The Rattlesnake Ledge trail is well maintained and climbs to a highest point of over 2000ft so expect some amazing views!

12. Head for wine tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle

Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Washington

Chateau Ste. Michelle is Washington state's oldest and most acclaimed winery, and wine has been produced here for over 50 years.

Their ‘Woodinville’ wine tasting room is open from 11-5 daily, and until 7pm on Friday and Saturday.

They accept walk-ins on a first come first serve basis, or you can book a reservation in advance.

It’s an 18 mile drive from Seattle to Chateau Ste. Michelle, which you can make by car or taxi.

It's possible to use public transport to get to Chateau Ste. Michelle, however it's considerably longer and more complicated than taking a car or taxi.

If you can’t make it to the winery itself you can book onto a virtual tasting.

13. Check out the Indie Corner of Fremont

Fremont is perhaps the coolest neighborhood in Seattle.

Found on the north bank of the canal, this bohemian area is packed with an array of indie shops and bars.

Of course no indie neighborhood in Seattle would be complete without some cool independent coffee shops.

Some great coffee shops in Fremont are: Fremont Coffee, Milstead & Co. and Stone Way Cafe.

Or combine two of the best drinks, wine and coffee, at Vif who offer natural wines and locally roasted coffee.

Try your hand at a treasure hunt of quirky sculptures, and see if you can find the huge Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge, and the Fremont Rocket.

If you’re in the area on a Sunday make sure you checkout the Fremont Sunday Market with antiques, arts and independent food trucks.

If you’re into something more outdoorsy, the Burke-Gilman Trail passes through Fremont, following the canal. It’s well loved by cyclists, runners and walkers alike.

14. Relax at Commodore Park

This small city park sits on the north edge of Magnolia Hill. 

Commodore Park has great views of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, so it’s a great place for watching boats, as well as birds, and trains.

The park is home to a waterfront promenade which you can walk along. There’s some benches along here so you can sit down with a book and relax the day away.

The Fish Ladder and Salmon Bay Bridge are also good spots to visit at Commodore Park.

Commodore Park is around 6 miles from Downtown Seattle, so it's an easy 15 minute drive. Or there are public transport options that drop you off close to the park.

15. Grab a flight of coffee at Starbucks Reserve Roastery

The vibrant Capitol Hill neighborhood is home to the first Starbucks Reserve Roastery, which opened in 2014.

The original Starbucks at Pike Place is just 9 blocks away from here.

The Reserve Roastery is an immersive and dramatic expression of Seattle’s passion for coffee.

Here they showcase some of the rarest and most extraordinary coffees in the world.

These vibrant arrays of unique and top quality coffees are available for you to try when you visit.

The roastery is open 7 days a week, offering a variety of top quality coffees for you to try.

With some of the most exceptional coffee in the world on display, it really is a must see in Seattle for any coffee lover!

16. Discover Gas Works Park

gas works park

Gas Works Park is found on the former site of the Seattle Gas Light Company.

The park has remnants of the only remaining coal gas plant in the USA, and has been open to the public since 1975.

Kids can enjoy the large play area and play barn at Gas Works Park.

There’s also a big hill which is a popular kite flying spot, as well as a sundial and great views over Seattle.

The park is found at the north shore of Lake Union, however you can’t swim, fish or launch boats from here. Entering the water is also strictly prohibited due to the hazardous substances in the lake.

The Burke-Gilman Trail passes the Gas Works car park, and follows the Burlington-Northern railway to Log Boom Park, 12.5 miles away in Kenmore.

17. Seattle Aquarium

A starfish in Seattle Aquarium

The Seattle Aquarium is on Pier 59 on the Elliott Bay waterfront, and attracts around 800,000 visitors a year.

Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, it has been open since 1977.

It gets busy!

There are 10 different exhibits at the Seattle Aquarium including Puget Sound Fish, the Underwater Dome, and Pacific Coral Reef.

Whether you're looking to learn about the local marine life, admire the cute otters, or bird-watch, there's something for everyone here.

The aquarium opens at 9:30am and the last entry is 5pm. If you want to secure a spot, then you can book tickets in advance.

Visiting this place is one of the top things to do in Seattle, WA.

If you decide to head to Canada after spending some time in this city, then Toronto and Vancouver have fantastic aquariums too! 

18. Discovery Park

West Point Lighthouse at Discovery Park in Washington

At 534 acres, Discovery Park is the largest park in Seattle.

It sits on Magnolia Bluff and overlooks Puget Sound, offering fanatics views of the Cascade and Olympic mountains.

Discovery Park is also home to 2 miles of tidal beaches, sea cliffs, forests, meadow lands, sand dunes, streams, and West Point Lighthouse.

The play equipment at the park was upgraded 5 years ago to include tree houses, zip lines, swings and climbing walls. This makes it a great spot for the little ones! 

The park also has a total of 11.81 miles of walking trails, including the Discovery Park Loop Trail which was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1975.

The Discovery Park Visitor Center hosts environmental education programs which aim to give people positive experiences in the outdoors, create a sense of community and encouraging people to connect and protect green spaces.

If you're a fan of the views from here, then you should also add the city of Denver to your bucket list, where you'll be treated to stunning views of the local mountain ranges! 

19. Relax at Seattle Japanese Garden

Seattle Japanese Garden

The Seattle Japanese Garden opened in 1960 and now attracts over 100,000 visitors annually from over 30 countries worldwide.

Covering an area of 3.5 acres, this garden is one of the most highly regarded of its kind in North America.

Boasting a variety of lanterns, bridges, and buildings, there's plenty of things to see here. You'll often find Japanese gardening workshops and seasonal Japanese traditions going on at these gardens too.

The garden is open Tuesday to Sunday, with hours changing seasonally. The last entry to the gardens is 45 minutes before closing time, so just keep that in mind! 

Entry is $8 for adults, and it's totally worth it.

20. Head for Lunch in Downtown Seattle

The Waterfront at Downtown Seattle

No trip to a new city is complete without checking out some of the local cuisine.

Downtown Seattle is home to some of the best lunch spots in the city, and you can read more about them in this foodie article!

Whatever your dish of choice, there’s something for you with food from all corners of the globe.

A great budget, southeast Asian spot is Oriental Mart, which offers some of the best Filipino food in the city!

For some classic American goodness check out Matt’s in the Market.

Or if you’re simply looking for a little solo light bite Mr West Cafe Bar is the place for you!

There are lots of ways to enjoy food in Seattle, so get ready to taste a wide variety of delicious cuisine.

If you're looking for something totally unique to do in Seattle then check out this Underground Donut Tour!

Seattle Travel Tips & FAQ

seattle travel tips

When is a good time to visit Seattle?

September and October generally offer the best experiences for tourists visiting Seattle.

Although the better weather inevitably comes in the Summer, high season means prices are higher and Seattle city center is much busier.

The winter months are cold and can put off even the keenest of travelers.

So for a quieter, cheaper but still equally pleasant experience, Seattle is best visited in September and October.

What is a good budget for Seattle?

Seattle is by no means a cheap place to travel.

Travelers are said to have spent an average of $156 a day!

This accounts for an average of $38 on meals and $18 on public transport per day.

The average hotel price for a couple per night is around $189.

These figures equate to $2,182 a week for a couple traveling to Seattle.

Of course, there are great ways to budget in the city.

Public transport is cheaper than an Uber. And e-scooters, bikes, or simply walking are cheaper still.

There are budget accommodation options such as hostels, which often have kitchen facilities so you can cook for yourself.

You can also find plenty of free things to do in Seattle, or use a city pass for discounts on tickets.

How long should you spend in Seattle?

With so many things to see in Seattle, you’ll want to give yourself a good 3-4 days to really experience the city.

You could extend your stay and take a day trip from Seattle to destinations such as Mount Rainier, the San Juan Islands, Snoqualmie Falls, and Olympic Peninsula.

Can you just get a tour of Seattle?

The best way to enjoy a new city, I find, is always to take your time and really take it all in.

However, if you're short of time you could take a whistle stop tour of the city's most popular attractions on this city highlights tour.

You can also head out on a city bus tour

Where to go after Seattle

Before you explore more of Washington, you may want to consider booking some of your activities in advance like this Seattle Harbor Cruise!

Now, Washington state has so much to offer, and is definitely worth exploring.

You could rent a car to experience some of its grandeur and beauty, as you won't run out of places to visit. Some of the most popular spots in WA include Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, Tacoma, and Spokane.

Or, you could head to the Canadian border as British Columbia is just a stone's throw away.

BC is arguably one of the most beautiful states in Canada, with its incredible national parks and the bustling cities of Victoria and Vancouver.

Feeling inspired to visit Seattle? We’d love to hear about your plans!

Or if you’ve already been to Seattle, do you agree with us? Share your favorite thing to do in Seattle with us!

If you're planning to explore more of the United States then here are some guides that you may find helpful:

Disclaimer: Fully research your destination prior to travel, or any products prior to purchase. We can accept no responsibility for anything you experience as a result of the information found on this website. Some posts may contain affiliate links, which means we receive a small commission for some purchases, at no additional expense to you. Read more here
Some images courtesy of Deposit Photos.
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