Here are the most important things to do for new Seattle visitors listed in priority order. Then, after you finish this list of tourist hot spots, go discover the mountains with the locals or hop on the ferries to the nearby islands which is detailed here: Best Things to Do OUTSIDE of Seattle. Seattle neighborhood in parentheses.
Above is a photo I took of Olympic Sculpture Park near the Downtown/Belltown neighborhood.
1. Pike Place Market & Seattle Waterfront
(Free, Downtown): Seattle’s famous farmers market where they throw fish around. Founded in 1907, it’s the longest continuously run farmers market in the US. Visit the first Starbucks, watch Beecher’s Handmade Cheese make cheese (then sample it), and say hi to Rachel the pig. I enjoy sampling the fruit samples, buying a frozen and fully cooked Dungeness crab, and eating some pastries at 3 Girls Bakery. There are also a lot of cool curiosity shops in the market.
If you have time, check out the Seattle Waterfront too. It’s walkable from the market and is comprised of 20 piers for food, fun, and tourist attractions (ferris wheel, aquarium, and ferries).
2a. Space Needle
($$$, Lower Queen Anne): Built in 1961 for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle has an observation deck, gift shop, and rotating restaurant. Admission to the observation deck is extremely expensive. If you really want to go up, I suggest going to the restaurant for a drink and/or meal because it gets you complimentary admission to the observation deck afterwards. That way, you’ll get more bang for your buck.
2b. Columbia Center Sky View Observatory
($$, Downtown): Instead of spending tons of money on the Space Needle, head to downtown for the Sky View Observatory on the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center, the tallest high-rise in Seattle. Try to pick a sunny time and day. Bring your student ID for a discount. Open 9am-10pm daily.
3. Seattle Public Library – Central Library
(Free, Downtown): This library is famous for having award winning architecture and an amazing view on the 10th floor. It’s a very uniquely structured and photogenic library.
4. Gas Works Park
(Free, Wallingford): Used to be for a factory that turned coal into gas (to be further refined into crude oil), the historical landmark park has been converted into a public play place of spacious lush green lawns and picnic tables. Go fly a kite and take pictures. It’s rolling hills are gorgeous.
5. Fremont Troll
(Free, Fremont): Take a picture with the Fremont Troll (or climb on top of him). The troll has a real VW car underneath its hand.
6. Kerry Park
(Free, Queen Anne): One of the best views of Seattle is on top of Queen Anne hill. It’s a photo opportunity that shouldn’t be missed; plus, it’s a quick stop-and-go attraction. If you’re headed to Kerry Park, you’re already close to Marshall Park, which down the same street and happens to be my favorite Seattle park. The lights and sidewalk next to Marshall Park is picturesque and looks like a movie scene.
7a. Chihuly Garden and Glass
($$, Queen Anne): Expensive (unless you’re a King County resident or child) but it’s an amazing showcase of glass artwork by local artist Dale Chihuly who also owns a houseboat on Lake Union.
7b. Seattle Art Museum
(Suggested donation, Downtown): Go see the nice artwork, special exhibit, and the permanent porcelain exhibit.
7c. Frye Art Museum
(Free, Capitol Hill): Free admission, ample parking, and go see the ornate gold frame art wall. Plus, hanging around Capitol Hill means fine coffee and delicious food establishments.
8a. Washington Park Arboretum
(Free): A huge park with lots of gardens, trees, flowers, and trails. The Seattle Japanese Garden in it isn’t free but the rest of the park is beautiful and worth a trip. Great date place and good during Cherry Blossom season.
8b. Discovery Park
(Free): This gigantic park has a beautiful lighthouse and beach scenery after going through a forest and lots of rolling hill grassland. It’s a beautiful, multi-faceted park to be admired.
8c. Green Lake Park
(Free, Greenlake): This neighborhood gem is a large, beautiful lake that has a wide path around it for biking, running, walking, and other fun activities. Very popular with dogs, for picnics, and for a variety of water sports.
8d. Volunteer Park & Conservatory
(Free, Capitol Hill): Take a picture in front of the Black Sun and then cross the short street to the Asian Art Museum to take a picture on the camel. Volunteer Park has a beautiful botanical conservatory, but check the hours on that.
8e. Olympic Sculpture Park
(Free, Belltown): An outdoor sculpture museum that gives beautiful scenic views of the Puget Sound. It is great for walking, running, biking, and socializing as it paves the way toward Centennial Park, fishing piers, and rocky beaches.
9a. See a Mariners Baseball Game at T-mobile Park
Check out the baseball stadium and see our Seattle Mariners run around the diamond. The food courts are phenomenal. Tickets are affordable. Buy some cheap tickets and then hang in the beer garden; that’s the best any way. If you’re not into baseball, you can check out a Sounders (soccer) or Seahawks (football) or Storm (basketball) game.
10. Theo Chocolate
(Free, Fremont): Unlimited free chocolate in the gift shop that you can just walk into. You can also sign up ahead of time, pay admission, and do a chocolate factory tour.
a. Paddle Boarding or Kayaking in South Lake Union
Feeling active and the weather is good? Go paddle boarding or kayaking on Lake Union! Access and rentals are available in South Lake Union – just look it up on Yelp.
b. Alki Beach in West Seattle
Is the weather is good? You must visit West Seattle if you’ve got a car to drive across the short bridge. Otherwise, public transportation can get you there as well. 🙂 Take the ferry from Downtown to West Seattle for Marination Ma Kai – a delicious street food joint.
All listings available on the JoYo Seattle Map.
BEEN THERE – DONE THAT?
Try Part Deux! Best Things to Do OUTSIDE Seattle
Did I miss something? Comment below!
JoYo Seattle Guide