Seattle, often known as the “Emerald City” due to its lush, evergreen surroundings, is a vibrant urban center between Puget Sound and Lake Washington. For those considering things to do in Seattle, ascending the Space Needle for panoramic views of the city’s skyline, mountains, and waters, and exploring Pike Place Market, a bustling historic marketplace offering fresh produce, artisan goods, and the original Starbucks, are top activities.
The city’s Chihuly Garden and Glass showcases the mesmerizing glass artworks of Dale Chihuly. At the same time, the Museum of Pop Culture delves into the world of music, science fiction, and popular culture. Nearby, the Fremont Troll, an iconic public sculpture, adds a touch of whimsy to the city’s vibrant arts scene.
Beyond its urban attractions, Seattle is a gateway to the stunning Pacific Northwest, with its mountains, forests, and islands. Seattle’s blend of innovative spirit, cultural landmarks, and natural beauty makes it a standout destination for those seeking the best places to visit in the USA.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Seattle, USA
1. Space Needle
One of the most iconic structures in the United States, the Space Needle stands tall at 605 feet and offers panoramic views of the Seattle skyline, Puget Sound, and distant mountain ranges. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, it has since become a symbol of the city and a must-visit for travelers.
Travel Tip: For a more serene experience and to catch a stunning sunset or sunrise, consider visiting during the early morning or late evening hours.
2. Pike Place Market
Overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront in Seattle, Pike Place Market is a bustling historic district known for its fresh produce, artisanal products, and famous fish-tossing vendors. Since 1907, the market has been a central place for locals and tourists to shop, dine, and explore.
Travel Tip: Weekdays, especially in the morning, are less crowded, providing a more leisurely shopping experience.
3. Chihuly Garden and Glass
Dedicated to the art of Dale Chihuly, this museum showcases a mesmerizing array of glass sculptures, from vibrant chandeliers to intricate garden installations. The exhibits here are colorful and imaginative and offer a one-of-a-kind visual treat.
Travel Tip: To see the sculptures in a different light, visit in the evening when the garden is illuminated, creating a magical ambiance.
4. Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
Formerly known as the EMP Museum, the Museum of Pop Culture is an homage to contemporary popular culture, from music and film to science fiction and video games. The architectural marvel, designed by Frank O. Gehry, is as much a spectacle as the exhibits inside.
Travel Tip: If visiting with family, check out their rotating exhibits, as they often feature fun interactive sections for all ages.
5. Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
SAM boasts an impressive collection of art pieces ranging from ancient to modern. It’s home to diverse artworks from around the globe, including African, Mesoamerican, Native American, European, and Asian art.
Travel Tip: The museum offers free entry on the first Thursday of every month, so plan accordingly if you want to save on admission.
6. Seattle Aquarium
Located on Pier 59, the Seattle Aquarium offers visitors a glimpse into the marine life of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. From playful sea otters to vibrant coral displays, there’s something for everyone here.
Travel Tip: The daily diver shows, where divers feed and interact with marine life in the Window on Washington Waters exhibit, are particularly captivating.
7. Fremont Troll
Hidden beneath the Aurora Bridge in the quirky Fremont neighborhood, the Fremont Troll is a massive public sculpture clutching an actual Volkswagen Beetle. This whimsical artwork has become a favorite quirky landmark among locals and visitors.
Travel Tip: Visiting during the daytime ensures a better photo opportunity, but it can also be exciting and eerie at night.
8. The Underground Tour
Delve deep into Seattle’s past with this tour that explores the underground pathways of Pioneer Square, remnants of the city’s original streets before the Great Fire of 1889. Learn about the history, legends, and reconstruction efforts of the area.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes, as there’s quite a bit of walking and uneven terrain.
9. Gas Works Park
Once a gasification plant, this area has become a unique public park overlooking Lake Union. It offers a great blend of industrial architecture and green spaces, perfect for picnics and kite flying.
Travel Tip: The park is an excellent vantage point for the 4th of July fireworks if you happen to be in Seattle during the summer.
10. Olympic Sculpture Park
Sprawled over nine acres, the Olympic Sculpture Park is an outdoor extension of the Seattle Art Museum. It showcases large-scale sculptures against the backdrop of the Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and the city skyline.
Travel Tip: The park is free to enter and is open year-round. Take the zigzag path down to the waterfront from the city to experience all the artwork.
11. Ballard Locks (Hiram M. Chittenden Locks)
The Ballard Locks serve as a waterway gateway between the freshwater lakes and the saltwater of Puget Sound. They’re vital for maritime traffic and feature a fish ladder where visitors can watch salmon migrate.
Travel Tip: Spring and summer are the best times to observe the salmon migration. Also, don’t miss the beautiful Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden adjacent to the locks.
12. Pacific Science Center
The Pacific Science Center is a hub for scientific exploration and discovery located at the Seattle Center. It caters to both kids and adults with interactive exhibits, a butterfly house, a planetarium, and IMAX theaters.
Travel Tip: Consider purchasing a CityPASS if you plan to visit multiple attractions in Seattle, as it can provide discounted entry to the Pacific Science Center and other significant sites.
13. Discovery Park
The city’s largest public park, Discovery Park, offers 534 acres of diverse environment, from tidal beaches to forested areas. It’s a haven for nature lovers, providing breathtaking views of the Cascade and the Olympic Mountain ranges.
Travel Tip: The park has a free shuttle that runs on weekends, making it easier to explore its vast expanse.
14. Seattle Central Library
An architectural marvel in the heart of downtown Seattle, the Seattle Central Library is known for its distinctive glass and steel design. It’s a modern and spacious facility with vast collections and incredible views from its higher floors.
Travel Tip: Join one of the free public tours to learn more about the building’s unique architecture and design.
15. The Museum of Flight
Housing one of the most extensive air and space collections in the U.S., the Museum of Flight offers an in-depth look into aviation. The exhibits span over a century of flight history, from vintage aircraft to modern space vehicles.
Travel Tip: Check out the personal courage wing, highlighting stories of heroism in both World Wars.
16. Washington Park Arboretum
A beautiful and tranquil space, the Washington Park Arboretum spans 230 acres and showcases various plants worldwide. It’s adorable when the cherry blossoms and azaleas bloom in the spring.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the Japanese Garden at the nursery’s southern end; it’s a serene setting perfect for reflection.
17. Smith Tower
One of Seattle’s oldest skyscrapers, Smith Tower, offers panoramic city views from its observation deck. Built in 1914, the tower retains its original charm, with a historic elevator and Prohibition-era themed bar.
Travel Tip: After taking in the views, enjoy a cocktail at the Temperance cafe and bar on the 35th floor, relishing the tower’s rich history.
FAQ About Things to Do in Seattle, USA
What is the most iconic landmark in Seattle?
The Space Needle is Seattle’s most iconic landmark. Its observation deck offers panoramic views of the city, Puget Sound, and surrounding mountains.
Are there any historical sites to visit in Seattle?
Yes, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the U.S. The Underground Tour offers a unique perspective on Seattle’s history, taking visitors beneath the streets to explore the city’s original storefronts.
I’m a fan of music. What can I explore in Seattle related to music history?
Seattle is the birthplace of grunge music. You can visit the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) to explore exhibits of famous Seattle musicians like Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix.
Are there any natural attractions or parks in Seattle?
Absolutely! Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest city park, offering trails, beaches, and beautiful views. The Washington Park Arboretum is another serene spot, especially during cherry blossom season.
I’ve heard about Seattle’s coffee culture. Where can I experience it?
Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks, and you can visit its original store at Pike Place Market. Additionally, the city is home to numerous independent coffee shops and roasters that offer unique blends and brewing methods.
Is there a place to learn about Seattle’s maritime history?
Yes, the Center for Wooden Boats and the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) offer insights into Seattle’s rich maritime history.
I’m interested in art. Are there any art museums or galleries in Seattle?
The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is a must-visit, showcasing a diverse art collection worldwide. The Olympic Sculpture Park, managed by SAM, is an outdoor museum featuring large-scale sculptures along the waterfront.
What unique neighborhoods can I explore in Seattle?
Seattle has several vibrant neighborhoods, each with its character. Ballard is known for its Scandinavian heritage and historic Ballard Locks. Fremont is quirky and artsy, often called the “Center of the Universe.” Capitol Hill is the city’s LGBTQ+ hub and is filled with trendy bars, eateries, and boutiques.