Planning a trip to Seattle? Here’s a guide of everything there is to see and do in Seattle!
Seattle. Home to Microsoft, Starbucks, REI, Kurt Cobain (of Nirvana), Boeing (the airplanes), Costco, Eddie Bauer, Red Robin, QFC, and many more… It is the epicenter of people who are coffee-obsessed, nature-loving, outdoorsy, cyclists, hipsters, and geeky technology nuts. And if you look at the companies that were founded here, you can see why.
I lived in Seattle for 1.5 years – by accident. Yes. I accidentally ended up living here. I traveled to Seattle, just like I do anywhere else, loved it so much, that my “2 or 3 month snowboarding trip” turned into me living in Seattle for over a year and a half – totally unexpectedly… I then left Seattle to teach in Europe, but when I left Europe, guess where I went… Yup – Seattle is awesome!
I mean, a city where it’s hip to be super geeky, green, and outdoorsy?! Dancing downtown, markets every week, and fantastic snowboarding is only an hour away?! And in between each activity, awesome coffee and micro-brewed beer awaits? Yup, I’m sold!
What To Do and See
The Space Needle. Besides the Statue of Liberty in New York City, I think Seattle’s Space Needle might be the most recognizable building in any U.S. skyline. If you’d like to go to the top, it’ll cost you between $18-$24 (for adults). The cheaper $18 price is if you choose a specific time ahead of time (basically a reservation to go to the top). The $24 price is if you want the freedom to go any time (perhaps it’s overcast and you’d like to go later in the day, but you’re not 100% sure exactly which time)…
If you eat at the restaurant, the ticket price will be taken off your bill. However, the restaurant is very expensive – I’m talkin’ $30-$70 per plate (and every person must buy a meal, no sharing)… Yeah, just a tad ridiculous…
Brunch: $48.95 per person (flat rate)
Lunch: about $27-$35, with a minimum charge of $25 per person
Dinner: about $39-$64, minimum charge of $35 per person
Note: The “minimum charge” means you can just get an appetizer for $17…
Espresso. Get a cup of coffee. It’s difficult to find weak, pathetic drip coffee in Seattle. Seattle is known for the amazing espresso – everywhere, and all day… morning, afternoon, at 10pm? Sure.
The Troll. He lives in Fremont, under the Aurora (route 99) bridge. Just ask to see the troll and people will point you in the right direction (everyone knows where he lives).
Sunday Markets. Some of the most entertaining markets in America. The top three are Fremont, Pike Place, and Ballard (see below for details).
Duck Tours. Take a tour of a Seattle in an amphibious vehicle. You’ll drive around the streets of Seattle (downtown and around the city), and then (hold on, because) the big truck drives right into the water! No, the driver isn’t drunk (well, maybe a little), this is the duck tour – where part of the tour is on the water, and the truck is now a boat! I wish I were allowed to drive one of these things!
Underground Tours. ($18-$25, depending on the type of tour) The city of Seattle used to be a few feet lower in elevation, but then the city burned down and had all sorts of plumbing issues, so Seattle (as we know it today) was completely rebuild on TOP of the old city. The Underground Tours take you around the old city of Seattle and tell you stories about what used to go on there… There are two types of tours. The kid-friendly tour, and the X-rated tour that is only for adults who are 21 and over (and includes cocktails).
Pike Place Market. The iconic waterfront market of Seattle. There’s SO much to see here, that I actually decided to make a separate section (so that you know it’s all in one location, see below).
Around Pike Place Market
Famous Flying Fish. Pike Place is known for its world-famous fish market – where the fish are literally right off the boat. The fishmongers (someone who sells raw fish) wear bright orange jumpsuits and are there to help customers. Once a customer orders some fish, the fun begins! One fishmonger yells out the order, the others repeat, and they throw the raw fish across the store to each other. It’s an assembly line of fun. This store is right at the corner of the market – you’ll see a crowd forming and you’ll hear the yelling (I really don’t think you can miss it).
Shopping. The market has a lot more than just fish. Walk around and enjoy crafts, clothing, food, fresh produce, homemade (and interesting) pastas (such as chocolate linguine), etc.
My favorite thing at the market is Micks Peppourri Pepper Jelly – which are spicy/hot jellies. Sound weird? It’s not. Unless by “weird” you mean “the most amazing thing you’ll ever put in your mouth”, then yes! The Raspberry Pepper Jelly is in my top 5 because it’s got a real kick, but it’s sweet at the same time – your taste buds will just go crazy. EVERY time I’m in the market, I stop and try new flavors – and they are all amazing!! Put the jelly on some crackers for an awesome snack or horderves for a party.
The First Starbucks (ever). If you haven’t had your espresso yet this morning, perhaps you’d like to get it at the very first Starbucks EVER! It’s directly across the street from the market (literally about 10 feet away). Some people walk right past it not recognizing that it’s a Starbucks because this store still rocks the original Starbucks logo (of a brown mermaid, from head to tail-tip instead of the the green modern mermaid head-shot).
Piroshky Piroshky Bakery. Near Starbucks, there’s this Russian bakery that has the BEST pastries in Seattle! Just follow your nose towards that delicious smell (really). Piroshky Piroshky Bakery has probably the best review I’ve ever seen on yelp – over 2,000 reviews and a near perfect score! Unbelievable.
The line is always out the door, around the corner, into the hallway, and around the block – Sometimes the line is so long, that I have to pass it up for the day (but it’s ok, because I live here)… but I would recommend that you stand in line, hang out with the person in front of your, and order a few pastries of the rest of the day (they make awesome snacks). They have salmon and cream cheese, ham and cheese, beef, etc. that are good for mini-meals. They also have sweeter ones like cinnamon swirl, berries and cream, etc. The pastries are about $4 each (not that bad for a mini-meal).
Tom Hanks’ Diner Seat. Sit in the exact seat that Tom Hanks sat in at the Athenian Inn (it’s in the market). Just ask a vendor where the “Tom Hanks seat” is, and they’ll point you in the right direction. When you walk in, you’ll see a tiny little plaque on the edge of the counter (the first seat as you walk in, on the corner). I never eat here because it’s pretty expensive… I simply show visitors the seat and walk out (don’t worry, they’re really ok with that).
The Gum Wall. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a wall with a bunch of chewed gum stuck to it. Yeah, it sounds a bit strange – and maybe it is, but it’s definitely famous for Seattle and a “must-see.” Some tourists find it weird, and even gross, but it’s kind of like a big communal art project… and you can participate! Chew some gum and add it to the wall! There. Now you’re part of Seattle history.
The Seattle City Pass costs $64 for adults ($44 for kids), and includes entry to all of the places listed below. If you’re only going to see a few things (instead of the whole list), it might be cheaper to buy each individually. Click the links to see prices:
1> Space Needle ($18-$24) – Go to the top of the Space Needle TWICE in a 24-hour period – get the day-time view with Mt. Rainier in the background, and then go up again at night to see the city lit-up.
2> Seattle Aquarium ($21.95)
3> Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour
4> EMP Museum OR Woodland Park Zoo
5> Pacific Science Center OR Museum of Flight
Gas Works – My favorite! Great views of Seattle, right on the lake, relaxing.
Kerry Park – The best views of the Seattle skyline!
Ravenna – A fun forested walk.
Alki Beach – Seattle’s sandy beach
Golden Gardens – Beach, docks, hikes, etc.
Best Neighborhoods & Must-Sees
The Troll (see above)
The Fremont Sunday Market – Every Sunday, from 10am-4pm (5pm in the summer). This market is probably the best around, with fresh produce, crafts, homemade goods (like fresh juice, and homemade soap), food, musicians, etc. The whole family will love it!
Fun area to hang out in – lots to see and do around Ballard. Also, Ballard has fun festivals and a small Sunday market…
Musashi Sushi (cash only) is my favorite Sushi place in the entire Seattle area. It’s a tiny little restaurant that ALWAYS has a line of 25 people deep (it’s that awesome). I’ll admit, the food is good, but the reason I like it as much as I do (as well as everyone else, I’m sure), is because of the prices. A roll of sushi is only $3.75. The most expensive roll is $5.75. And they make substitutions at no extra charge (unlike most places that charge me 50 cents or a $1 to swap something).
Also, you don’t have to stand in line the entire time. If you give them your cell phone number, you can walk around the cute little area of Wallingford for about 20-30 minutes while you wait for your table and they’ll call you when your table is ready.
Oh! And here’s a local tip: there’s a dish that is not listed on the menu called “Chirashi” – if you just ask for “the bowl of rice and fish that isn’t on the menu,” they’ll giggle and know asking what you’re talking about. It’s $14.50 per bowl, but has a TON of fish (salmon, scallops, tuna, whitetail, etc.). There’s probably a pound and a half of fish – way more than I can eat, that’s for sure!
Good food, specialty bars (such as bars just for wine or bars devoted to just good whiskey), dancing, street food on every corner, etc. If it’s a Friday night and you have a group of people with different tastes, there’s something for everyone in Belltown.
Very hipster and laidback. Easy going bars with relaxing atmospheres…
The University District
Consignment shops, other types of good shopping, bars, cafes, and (of course) the University of Washington.
Dates vary depending on the year, but are always around the same time…
Beer Week (May 8 – May 18, usually around 10 days)
Summer Solstice Parade (June 21)
Olympic National Park
Triple X Root Beer – a retro diner that will make you feel like you just time traveled straight to the 1950s! Very nestalgic atmosphere and the BEST root beer floats I have ever tried (and they’re HUGE)!!! Also, when I was there, there were classic cars in the parking lot for all to enjoy. The cars aren’t part of XXX Root Beer, but the owners of the cars I guess just decide to gather there because it’s a good atmosphere for people that enjoy retro things…
TreeHouse Point – Ever watch the show “Treehouse Masters”? Well if you’re a fan, then you should go check out the real deal at Tree House Point! You must schedule your visit a head of time in order to reserve a spot for a tour (no walk-ins).
Stevens Pass – If it’s winter time and you ski or snowboard, then Stevens Pass is the place you want to be. Hell, even if it’s summer time, I think they do fun things in then too! Hiking, biking, site seeing, etc. Check it out!
Where Should I Go Next?
On the road? Where are you headed?
North > Vancouver, Canada
South > Portland, Orgon