From the ashes of the Great Seattle Fire in 1889 rose what became a prosperous, thriving city, today home to some of the biggest globally-recognized organizations like Amazon, Boeing, and Starbucks.
It is the largest city in the state of Washington and attracts visitors not only for its love for coffee, wine, and beer but also it’s beautiful setting between the Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountain range. The fact that the surrounding areas are filled with evergreen trees and lots of greenery led to it being nicknamed the Emerald City.
From the city with all its attractions, of which some are listed here to help you plan your visit, you have access to the ocean, mountains, a rainforest, desert, and islands, making it worth your while to take a drive and explore the surrounding area.
1. Seattle Center And The Space Needle
The ideal place to start your exploration of the city is Seattle Center, a huge area consisting of walkways, fountains, museums, street performers and even a skate park, featuring a variety of attractions in one place.
It was built for the World Fair in 1962, and the attractions include the Pacific Science Center, Museum of Pop Culture, Chihuly Garden & Glass, the Seattle Monorail and the Space Needle, an absolute must-visit attraction on your first visit to the city.
The Space Needle, one of Seattle’s most iconic landmarks, is an observation tower from where you have spectacular views of the city; a good way to orientate yourself as there are wall panels to help you identify more than 60 landmarks in the city.
From the Space Needle, you have views over Mount Rainier, the Cascade Mountains, the islands on Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.
After the latest renovation project, the Loupe was installed, which features the world’s first and only rotating glass floor. Feel as if you float over Seattle by leaning into the glass walls, called Skyrisers, for a unique viewing experience. From Seattle Center, you can take the Monorail which is a quick and convenient link between downtown Seattle and the Center.
2. Chihuly Garden And Glass
For a completely different visual experience and while you are right there, do not pass up on the opportunity to visit the amazing garden with a difference: it serves as a backdrop for an incredible display of glass sculptures in unique shapes and brilliant colors.
Chihuly Garden and Glass can be described as a monument to glass as art and features the work of Dale Chihuly, an American glass sculptor, and glassblower whose work can be found on permanent displays worldwide.
The exhibition sits right at the base of the Space Needle and consists of a glasshouse, an Exhibition Hall that contains eight galleries, three drawing walls and the garden itself.
3. Museum Of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
You cannot miss the impressive sheet metal construction adjacent to the Space Needle which houses the Museum Of Pop Culture, a work of art itself. It is dedicated to pop culture and is also a tribute museum to the history of Northwest music, including Jimmy Hendrix, Nirvana and more.
Do not expect a museum, in the full sense of the word, as a visit to MoPOP is an experience that takes you behind-the-scenes with famous musicians and filmmakers and lets you take part in interactive activity stations and exhibitions that bring pop culture to life. In galleries like Sound Lab and On Stage, for instance, you can live out your fantasy and play in your own virtual rock band while performing before a virtual audience.
The exhibits are housed in a massive building that was designed by Frank O. Gehry and covers pop culture, from the art of fantasy, video games and horror cinema to science fiction.
Popular exhibitions include Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, Marvel: Universe of Super-Heroes and Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film.
Fans of Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix will enjoy the collections of personal items, instruments, hand-written lyrics and artifacts that celebrate the music and history of these great Seattle musicians. Save money by buying your tickets to visit MoPOP online through the MoPOP website.
4. Pike Place Market
Ask any Seattleite what you should not miss while in the city and they will undoubtedly tell you to visit Pike Place Market, one of the oldest food markets in the United States, on the Seattle waterfront.
It is a bustling hotspot, open 363 days a year, packed with restaurants, food, and fresh produce stands, flower stalls, artisans and chefs all ready to tempt you with delicious goodies and stuff to spend your money on.
It is also the birthplace of Starbucks, where you can visit the very first Starbucks coffee shop which opened in 1971, still with its original look and ambiance.
The lower arcade, below the street-level stalls, is a shopper’s paradise and the place to go if you are interested in curios, collectibles, and handcrafted goods like fashion, jewelry, toys, and sculptures. The entrance to the market is in downtown Seattle at 1st Ave and Pike Street above the waterfront.
5. Future Of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour
One of the many things that Seattle is known for, is that it is home to the Boeing manufacturing complex, officially the largest building in the world, covering an area of 13.3 meters. This tour takes you on a journey through the Boeing assembly plant to see how airplanes are designed and built and you will actually view airplanes in different stages of assembly.
During the tour, you will learn a lot about the history of jet airplanes and the different models of Boeing aircraft through videos and illustrations. You can even get the opportunity to sit in the cockpit of a Boeing 727 and operate the switches and controls or take a virtual ride to experience what it feels like to fly like a bird.
The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Factory Tour is located in Mukilteo, Washington, about 25 miles north of Seattle, and takes about 90 minutes. It is recommended that you book in advance.
6. Seattle Great Wheel
For spectacular views over the Emerald City, Puget Sound and the mountains go for a ride in a climate-controlled gondola on the Seattle Great Wheel at the waterfront.
What makes the ride so special is that the ride takes you dangling 40 ft over the water and if you are lucky you might get a gondola with a glass-bottomed floor which will make it even more special.
A VIP option gives you a gondola with bucket seats, a glass floor, a stereo system and a few treats after your ride. The wheel is at Pier 57 at the waterfront, and tickets can be purchased online in advance.
7. Go to Fremont
For coffee or craft beer, shopping or just walking and having fun, a visit to Fremont must be on your itinerary while in Seattle.
This quirky, bohemian neighborhood is situated along the Lake Washington Ship Canal, the “Center of the Universe”, according to the signpost in the center of the neighborhood, an area definitely worth exploring.
You can take a leisurely stroll down the linear Fremont’s Canal Park and watch boats float by or go under the Aurora Bridge to meet the Fremont Troll, one of Settle’s famous landmarks. It is a huge sculpture by Steve Badanes that hides under the bridge and attracts both locals and visitors from far.
Other landmarks to look out for in the area are the Fremont Rocket which is mounted on top of a building, and the statue of Vladimir Lenin.
Plan your visit to Fremont for a Sunday, if possible, to enjoy the Sunday Market that offers a little bit of everything, visit the Fremont Vintage Mall or spend time exploring the quaint, unique shops. If you started your day in Fremont with a cup of coffee, end it with a glass of craft beer at Fremont Brewing.
8. Bainbridge Island
Take a break from the city and escape to the beautiful Bainbridge Island, a 35-minute ferry ride away from the Seattle waterfront.
Once you step off the ferry on the island take the waterfront trail that starts at the waterfront park close to the terminal and choose to take the 1.5-mile eastern route for a hike along the beach and through the woods, or the western trail through parks, historical sites and restaurants.
Art lovers will enjoy the new Bainbridge Island Museum of Arts in downtown Winslow, and outdoor fans can make use of the opportunity to rent kayaks, canoes or paddle boats to have some fun on the water.
Downtown Winslow is a delightful spot known for its cozy and cute little shops, restaurants, and the Pegasus Coffee House for your must-have cup of caffeine.
To explore the island, making use of the Bi-Ride, the island’s newest form of transportation which starts from the ferry terminal. The North Loop bus takes you through downtown Winslow to the Bloedel Reserve, a wildlife sanctuary that also features a Japanese Garden, to the popular frog rock and Fay Bainbridge Park, a camping, boating and fishing area.
The South Loop bus takes you past Coppertop, a local distillery, brewery, winery and cafe, the Bainbridge Gardens and other attractions including Battle Point Park, Pleasant Beach Village, and Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial.
9. Go Cruising
View the city’s landmarks from the water and take a harbor cruise from the docks on the downtown waterfront.
Choose to get out on the Puget Sound, a paradise consisting of islands, waterways, and attractions, a cruise through Ballard Locks or go for a cruise on Lake Union to see houseboats, Bill Gate’s waterfront home, and seaplanes.
Argosy Cruises offers an hour-long cruise, Seattle’s Original Harbor Cruise, with live narration giving visitors information and facts about Seattle’s history, and panoramic and close-up views of the Seattle skyline and port.
10. Pacific Science Center
With attractions like IMAX and laser shows, a planetarium, a tropical butterfly house, and virtual reality exhibits you will be very busy when you visit the Pacific Science Center adjacent to Seattle Center.
Explore more than 200 in- and outdoor hand-on exhibits to learn about science, technology, and math in a fun way. The Pacific Science Center was founded in 1962 during the World Fair that was held in Seattle and was the first of its kind in the United States.
Some of the interesting exhibits are Body Works where you will discover how your body produces energy, Science On a sphere that uncovers the secrets of the atmosphere and the dinosaur exhibit, a hit among kids complete with robot-like reproductions.
You can either buy you entrance tickets online or buy an exhibition package which include general admission to all the exhibits.
Few Tips To Help You Make The Best Of Your Visit To Seattle
If you are not going to rent a car, stay in Belltown as it is the most central location for out of towners, close to major attractions like the Space Needle, Pike Place market and the Waterfront Park.
Buy a Seattle City Pass if you plan to see the top tourist attractions at a discount. Take comfortable walking shoes: Seattle is a pedestrian-friendly city and you are going to do a lot of walking.
The summers are cool, you will need a light jacket in the evenings. Pack your raincoat. The city gets rain about 150 days a year and the winters are cool and wet.
Although Seattle is home to Starbucks, the city is coffee-crazy and you will find a coffee shop, with great coffee, on every corner.