If you thought Seattle was all grey skies and never-ending rain, you’re missing out. While it does have its fair share of weather woes, Seattle also has one of the best summers in the country (in our humble opinion) plus a wealth to do all year-round.
What to do in Seattle
Where to go
- Pike Place Market. Both tourists and locals alike love the market (they just might visit it at different times). Head down early to beat the crowds. While you’re there, get some of the creamiest greek yogurt you’ve ever had at Ellenos (the pumpkin pie flavor has actual pumpkin pie chunks on top), grab the biggest $5 bouquet of flowers you’ve ever seen, and check out the shops at the new Pike Place expansion.
- In an alley beneath Pike Place lies the Gum Wall (which is literally what it sounds like). While all of the gum was recently cleaned off by the city (it was eroding the building), it’s come back in full force.
- The Space Needle. While this is likely the most touristy location in the city, we’d say it’s worth the hype.
- Chihuly Garden & Glass at Seattle Center. When you’re done with the Space Needle, duck into the nearby Chihuly Glass Museum. Dale Chihuly is something of a local legend (he was born in nearby Tacoma). His outstanding works of glass brought new life into the art of glassblowing and are installed all over the world. Hot tip: if you want more, drive down to the Tacoma Museum of Glass for a museum dedicated to the art.
- Seattle Art Museum. The SAM is one of the best museums in Seattle. The main collection alone is worth seeing but be sure to check the current exhibit. Right now, it’s Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors (which you’ve likely seen on Instagram by now). The SAM also has two satellite campuses:
- The Olympic Sculpture Park along the water. A free-to-enter outdoor park with huge sculptures and beautiful views of the Sound.
- The Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park.
- The University of Washington campus. With some of the oldest buildings in Seattle, the UW campus is a sight to be seen. Wander into Suzzallo Library’s Reading Room to feel like you’ve walked into a Harry Potter set (don’t forget to see the world’s biggest book outside the entrance) and if it’s spring, go to the Quad to see the cherry blossoms in bloom.
- Seattle Public Library. Both the interior and exterior of the Central Library can make you stop in your steps. The 11-story glass and steel building can hold over 1.5 million books and was designed to let the building’s functions dictate what it should look like rather than to impose a structure upon it (for example, the library’s “Book Spiral” winds through 4 stories without breaking up the Dewey Decimal system by floor.
- The Great Wheel. This ferris wheel is a relatively new edition to Seattle’s skyline. Jump on board for a 12-minute ride that takes you high over downtown Seattle.
- The Fremont Troll. The neighborhood of Fremont is known for being artsy. So back in 1990, the neighborhood held a competition for a public work of art that could rehabilitate the underside of the Aurora Bridge. Thus, this colossal troll came into existence. Look closely and you’ll see he has an entire VW Bug in his hand.
What to do
- Take the ferry to Bainbridge. Jump on a ferry at the downtown terminal and wave goodbye to Seattle from the deck as you head over to nearby Bainbridge Island. Once on the island, you can walk to its charming downtown. Grab breakfast, rent a bike, and explore the island’s beaches and parks before heading back.
- Ride a seaplane. Practically in the middle of Seattle likes Lake Union. On nice days, among the sailboats and motorboats, you’ll see seaplanes taking off and landing. Reserve a spot on one for a super unique view of the city.
- Hang at Gasworks Park. You’ll notice some strange-looking structures at the lakefront park—they are what’s left of what was once the only coal gasification plant in the country. Now, the 19-acre park is a place you can have a picnic, hang with friends, or attend one of its many events.
- Kayak or paddle board on Lake Union. People in Seattle like being on the water. So every nice day you’ll see them crowd the lake with paddle boards, boats, and kayaks. Rent one to join in on the fun.
- The Underground Tour. Fun fact: Seattle burned down in 1889. And instead of leveling the remnants, they rebuilt over the top. In this tour, you’ll get to go underground to get a guided look at the “original” Seattle.
- Watch some sports. Seattle fans are notoriously passionate (12th man anyone?) so seeing any of the city’s teams play is sure to be a good time.
- Throw on some “rave green” and catch a Seattle Sounders game at CenturyLink Field. Be prepared to chant.
- Catch a summer Mariner’s baseball game at Safeco Field. Don’t forget to buy a Seattle Dog (hot dog with cream cheese—it’s a Seattle specialty).
- Be a 12th man along with 60,000 other avid Seahawks fans also at CenturyLink.
- Bike the Burke-Gilman trail. Take this 18-mile urban bike trail all the way from the beach in Golden Gardens to Woodinville wine country. Along the way are plenty of fun stops like Gasworks, Solsticio, and Redhook Brewery.
- Hike. There are way too many hikes in the greater Seattle area to list out but here are a few of our faves that are great for day trips:
- Poo Poo Point. This hike is close to the city and while it is not super long (~3 miles one way), it can get steep so you’ll still get a bit of a workout. Reach the top for a great view of the surrounding area.
- Mount Si. Another hike that is just a 40-minute drive outside Seattle is Mount Si. Be wary, the Big Si trail is a fairly steep 4 mile climb but the views from the top are definitely worth it.
- Snow Lake. If it’s alpine lakes you’re looking for, try Snow Lake. The ~7 mile trail (roundtrip) never gets super steep but leads you to a gorgeous lake tucked away in the mountains. Bring a change of clothes because if it’s hot, you’re going to want to jump in.
- See a concert at the Gorge. 3-hours east of Seattle, you’ll find the Gorge Amphitheater (with a stage backed by the Columbia River). This venue hosts everything from the 3-day-long Sasquatch Festival during Memorial Day weekend to an annual Dave Matthews concert. Check to see what’s happening during your visit.
Where to find a city view
- Kerry Park. Kerry Park boasts the most photographed shot of the city: a panoramic view of downtown Seattle (including the Space Needle, Key Arena & the Great Wheel) backed by the snowcapped Mount Rainier. You’ll usually have to fight your way through tourists for a shot but it’s worth it.
- West Seattle. Just a little east of Alki Beach in West Seattle, you’ll be able to snag a shot of the true Seattle skyline over the Puget Sound.
- Smith Tower. Smith Tower was once the tallest building in Seattle and now boasts a newly revamped speakeasy with a 360 degree outdoor skydeck on the 35th floor. Hope you’re not afraid of heights.
- Volunteer Park water tower. In the middle of Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park lies an old water tower. Climb the 108 steps to the top to get peeks of everything from the Space Needle in the west to the Cascade Mountains in the east.
- Columbia Center. At 76 floors, Columbia Center is the tallest building in Seattle. On the 73rd is the Skyview Observatory where you can take in the city from a literal bird’s eye view. Hot tip: if you’re lucky enough to get into a Columbia Tower Club event, check out the view from the women’s restroom—it’s been named one of the best in the nation.
Where to eat
- Little Water Cantina. One of our faves (we’ve even written about it before). Little Water Cantina serves bomb Mexican food and has a back patio that overlooks Lake Union and Gasworks Park. What more could you want?
- Momiji. Come to Momiji (or its sister restaurant Umi) for some of the best (and most creative) sushi rolls in the city. Plus, you can get some great deals on the happy hour menu (4-6pm or 10pm-close). Late night sushi anyone?
- Revel. Revel is an Korean-fusion restaurant in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. The open-kitchen restaurant is uber modern and the flavorful food will leave you wanting more (we suggest sharing plates with friends so you can try more of it). If you’re lucky, they’ll be serving their ramen during your visit—get it, it’s to die for.
- Tacos Chukis. Hands down the best street-style tacos in Seattle. Cheap, fast, and incredibly tasty. We consider this a must-visit.
- Daniel’s Broiler. If you’re looking to treat your date, come to Daniel’s. The Seattle location sits on Lake Union so you can view the water while you dine. Go all out and get the tender filet mignon. Pretty sure you won’t regret it.
- Pho Bac. You can’t come to Seattle without getting some pho. Pho Bac specializes in pho and pho only (the no-frills restaurant doesn’t serve anything else besides drinks and Chinese donuts) which you know means it’s going to be good.
- Un Bien. If you like sandwiches (or honestly, even if you don’t), make your way over to Un Bien. When another beloved Seattle Cuban sandwich shop, Paseo, went bankrupt and closed (it has since reopened under new ownership), its owners started Un Bien. Grab a bunch of napkins (you’ll need them) and get the Caribbean Roast.
- Biscuit Bitch. If you’re downtown and looking for a quick but filling breakfast, head to Biscuit Bitch. This sassy restaurant serves up fluffy biscuits of all kinds, whether you like them sweet or savory.
- Ceders Restaurant. Amazing Indian food in Seattle’s University District. Some of our faves: garlic naan served with mint cilantro and sweet tamarind chutney, the creamy butter masala, and of course, samosas.
- Tavolata. Ethan Stowe has a number of great restaurants in Seattle but Tavolata is one of our faves. Go for fresh takes on Italian classics, paired with flavorful wine and cocktails.
- Dick’s. Dick’s is a Seattle classic. Order a cheap burger and fries at any of its 1950’s era locations and let the nostalgia set in.
- Portage Bay Café. While this is one of the busiest brunch spots in the city, it’s worth the wait for the toppings bar alone. Certain orders (like the overnight french toast) come with all-you-can-heap access to the toppings bar (full of fresh berries, fruits, whipped cream, and more).
- Marination Ma Kai. You can spot the Marination food truck all over town but head to its permanent location in West Seattle for a gorgeous waterfront view of the Seattle skyline. Everything at this Hawaiian-Korean fusion spot is great but you should get the kimchi fried rice (as explained by the restaurant: kalbi beef, miso ginger chicken, spicy pork, sexy tofu, served with a sunny-side up egg and a garnish of green onions and furikake).
- The Fat Hen. This tiny brunch spot does not take reservations so you have to show up early if you don’t want to wait for hours. Get one of their famous baked egg dishes with a side of avocado toast.
- Fremont Brewing. Fremont Brewing not only has great craft beers but an outdoor patio you’ll want to hang at all afternoon. Plus, free pretzels and apples.
- The Nest. This new rooftop bar is worth coming to for the view alone. Head up at sunset to get the perfect shot.
- Mbar. Another new rooftop bar in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, Mbar overlooks the lake. With fun seating and plenty of frosé, it’s the perfect way to spend a summer evening.
- Tin Lizzie. A classy cocktail lounge in Lower Queen Anne, Tin Lizzie is great for all of the prohibition-era favorites.
- RGB. Rachel’s Ginger Beer makes a mean ginger beer (in a ton of different flavors) but will spike it if you want an extra kick. And for summer, nothing beats their frozen cocktails.
- Espresso Vivace. The OG. Vivace knows how to do espresso right and they don’t kid around. Expect high-quality coffee in a relaxed atmosphere.
- La Marzocco Cafe. La Marzocco is an Italian company that makes some of the finest espresso machines in the world, and this cafe is their only cafe in the US. Each month, they feature beans by a different top roaster from around the world so the menu is ever-changing. Plus, it’s located inside local indie radio station KEXP so you can either watch the DJs from their booth or sometimes catch a live concert.
- Slate. Slate takes coffee drinking to another level with their tasting flights and courses. Get the deconstructed espresso; it comes with 3 drinks: an espresso shot, steamed milk, and a fully formed latte.
- Starbuck’s Roastery Reserve. Skip the “original” Starbucks location in Pike Place Market, and head to the new Roastery Reserve in Capitol Hill. Not only can you watch the beans being roasted in giant vats, but the quality of the coffee is way better.
- Molly Moon. People line up all year long for Molly Moon’s handcrafted ice cream. Have one of their simple but unusual permanent flavors (like honey lavender or salted caramel) or try one of the seasonal rotations.
- Frankie & Jo’s. We love Frankie & Jo’s for its plant-based ice cream creations.
Where to stay
When visiting, it’s best to stay in the Pike Place or Convention Center areas of Downtown Seattle. You’ll be within walking distance to many of the city’s main attractions and close to Light Rail (which can take you to places like the airport, Capitol Hill, and the University District).