A list of the best things to do in Seattle. Tourist information, unusual attractions and sightseeing suggestions from a local.
“What to do in Seattle. . . the best things?” “What are the must see places when I visit Seattle?” As a local I am often asked for my Seattle trip ideas. . . the best restaurants, attractions, sightseeing and free things to do. Here are the places I share with my friends (and now my online friends!) Note that some of these are a little unusual. . . the stuff better known by locals than Seattle tourists. Also note that this is not a complete list. It’s just stuff I know people enjoy seeing when they come to town.
BEST FREE THINGS TO DO IN SEATTLE
The Ballard Locks (Free – Ballard Neighborhood): Unique place where boats are raised from the saltwater of Puget Sound to the fresh water of Lake Washington. Check out the beautiful gardens and visitor center. Don’t miss the fish ladder viewing room where you can see salmon migrate. For great water views of the Sound, check out Ray’s Boathouse restaurant nearby. More information on the Hiram Chittenden Locks in Ballard.
Archie McPhee (Free – Wallingford Neighborhood): One-of-a-kind novelty shop. This collection of weird stuff will keep you entertained. More information on Archie McPhee Seattle.
Easy Street Records (Free – West Seattle): A classic vinyl store located in the heart of Seattle’s famous grunge music scene. More information on Easy Street Records Seattle.
Alki Beach (Free – West Seattle): Alki is the original location of Seattle (now considered West Seattle). It now has a long wide walking trail, a lighthouse and one of the best views of Seattle. Drive over or take the water taxi from downtown Seattle. It’s a great place for a stroll. Try fish and chips at Salty’s Alki. More information on Alki Beach Seattle.
Pike Place Market Gum Wall (Free – Downtown Seattle): Pike Place Market is where you go to see fish being thrown. After you have had your fill of flying salmon, visit the nearby Post Alley. The gum wall is quite gross. You can even add to the collection if you like. More information on the Pike Place Market Gum Wall Seattle.
Gas Works Park (Free – U District): Visit this rusting refinery on the north end of Lake Union. It has wonderful views of the city, the famous Lake Union houseboats and of the incoming float planes. More information on Gas Works Park Seattle.
Fremont Troll (Free – Fremont): The Troll Under the Bridge is a large public sculpture located under the Aurora Bridge. Look closely and you will see that the Aurora Avenue Troll is holding a Volkswagen Beetle in its left hand. A wonderfully weird attraction from the wonderfully offbeat folks in Fremont. The Troll is a great find. . . most Seattle tourists have no idea he is there! Address: 900 N. 36th Street, Seattle, WA 98103. More information on the Fremont Troll Seattle.
Waiting For The Interurban (Free – Fremont): The Troll has some other sculpted friends nearby. They are six people and a dog waiting for a train (The Interurban) that quit running years ago. After the statue was placed in Fremont, locals thought it would be fun to decorate by giving the people clothes, signs, etc. The gag has run for years. Clothing changes frequently. You never know just how the people will be dressed until you get there. It’s also fun to window shop in the nearby stores. Address: 3400 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103. More information on Waiting For The Interurban Seattle.
Seattle’s Best View and Photo Op – Kerry Park (Free – Queen Anne Neighborhood): Nearly every Seattle skyline picture you see was taken from a small park (Kerry Park) atop Queen Anne hill, just north of downtown. Be sure to take a picture of yourself for the ultimate Seattle tourist souvenir. Address: 211 W Highland Dr. Seattle, WA 98119. More information on the best view in Seattle from Kerry Park.
Burke-Gilman Trail (Free): This incredible paved trail winds from Ballard east to Lake Washington. You can walk, jog or bike it. I highly recommend it for bicycles from Ballard east through the U District (University of Washington campus). More information on the Burke-Gilman Trail Seattle.
Washington Park Arboretum (Free): A great stroll through beautiful gardens. To see even more, rent a canoe from the nearby University of Washington and paddle the Arboretum (one of Seattle’s best paddles). More information on Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum.
Snoqualamie Falls (Free – 30 minutes east of Downtown Seattle): Beautiful waterfall made famous in the TV series Twin Peaks. Easy to access. Nearby check out the old trains on display (free), hike/bike a railroad trestle (free) or grab a meal at Twede’s Twin Peaks Diner (from the TV Show). More information on Snoqualamie Falls Seattle.
Exotic Cars At Redmond Town Center (Most Saturdays – Free – 15 minutes east of Seattle): Want to see some of the rarest cars in the world for free? Ferraris and Lamborghinis are just the start. Exotics@RTC is the largest weekly car gathering north of Los Angeles. 9am-11am most Saturdays April-October, depending on weather. Updated information and schedule for Exotics@RTC.
BEST SEATTLE TOURIST ATTRACTIONS AND SIGHTSEEING
Seattle Ferry (Downtown Seattle Waterfront): This is the best low-cost tourist attraction in Seattle (though some never think of it that way because its public transportation). Nearly every movie featuring Seattle contains this ferry scene. Park in downtown Seattle and walk-on the ferry to Bainbridge Island (walk-on ferry tickets are inexpensive). The 35 minute cruise will give you great views of the skyline and Alki Beach. Once at Bainbridge, take the waterfront trail through Eagle Harbor to the shops on Winslow Way. Enjoy window shopping and grab a snack/meal. Then walk back to the ferry and return to Seattle. More on the Seattle Ferry and walk on Bainbridge.
Seattle CityPASS: The best Seattle discount pass is the Seattle City Pass. CityPASS allows you to visit several major attractions at a deep discount. More information on CityPASS, the Seattle visitor pass.
The First Starbucks (Pike Place Market – Downtown Seattle): The very first Starbucks store is located across from Pike Place Market. It’s worth stopping by to say that you did it. TIP: Starbucks sells a coffee mug in this store that is not available anywhere else in the world (not even online). It’s a great Seattle souvenir for you or a coffee lover you know. More information about the 1st Starbucks in Seattle.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room (Capitol Hill – Downtown Seattle): Coffee fans… your Seattle Starbucks pilgrimage wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the */R Roastery. It’s located in the Capitol Hill area, just 9 blocks from the first Starbucks (above). Starbucks likes to call this one-of-a-kind location the “Willy Wonka of Coffee.” It’s a working roastery attached to a cafe. More information the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle.
Space Needle (Queen Anne): Seattle’s most famous structure is worth a visit. Ride an elevator to the top for great views on a sunny day. If you are only in town for a short time, consider a meal atop the Space Needle’s revolving restaurant. It’s a memorable experience. Prices for the observation level may seem a little high. Prices for the restaurant may be more affordable than you think. More information on visiting Space Needle Seattle.
Chihuly Garden and Glass (at the Space Needle, Queen Anne): Right under the Space Needle is the Chihuly Museum. It has stunning displays of blown glass. It may not sound that cool, but it is. More information on Dale Chihuly Glass Seattle.
Ride The Ducks (at the Space Needle, Queen Anne): Ride the Ducks offers a great overview tour of Seattle from both the streets and waterways. They use World War 2-era amphibious vehicles that are unusually fun. The tour guides are wacky. This tour is worth the somewhat steep price. More information on Seattle Ride the Ducks.
REI Flagship Store and Climbing Wall: Seattle-based outdoor equipment company REI has its flagship store in downtown Seattle. It is like Disneyland for outdoor people. The most remarkable part of the store is a 6-story-tall climbing wall. Brave adults and children can climb it. It’s a great place to create a memory. Call ahead for a reservation. You have to see it to believe it. A couple blocks from REI is a great informal restaurant called Lunchbox Laboratory. USA Today says it is amongst the top 5 places for milkshakes in the country. More information on the REI Climbing Wall Seattle.
Underground Seattle Tour (Downtown Seattle – Pioneer Square): Seattle’s colorful history is revealed in this walking tour. It takes you to the “secret” underground passageways created when Seattle was reconstructed. While in Pioneer Square at lunchtime, Salumni is a great place to get a sandwich. More information on Bill Speidle’s Underground Tour Seattle.
Seattle Pinball Museum (International District): If you love pinball, this place has machines from a variety of decades. One price for unlimited play. Good fun! More information on the Seattle Pinball Museum.
Rent Kayaks On Lake Union (Downtown Seattle): Lake Union is a freshwater lake on Seattle’s north end. It has calm water, float planes and wonderful views of downtown. Rent kayaks or standup paddle boards from Northwest Outdoor Center. More information on kayaking Lake Union in Seattle.
Cruise To Tillicum Village And Salmon Buffet (Seattle Waterfront Pier 55): Four-hour tour features narrated cruise to Blake Island, salmon buffet, Coast Salish Tribe-inspired program of storytelling and dances, exploration of island. More information on Tillicum Village.
Washington Wineries (20 Minutes Northeast of Seattle): Most people are surprised to learn that only California produces more wine than Washington. Washington grapes are grown in the wonderful climate east of the Cascades, but most of the actual wineries are located in Woodinville, an easy 20 minute highway drive from Seattle. Chateau Ste Michelle, Columbia Winery and Januik Winery are among local favorites. More information on Seattle Wineries in Woodinville. A great place to eat while wine tasting is the Barking Frog at the centrally located Willows Lodge.
The Museum of Flight (Boeing Field, 15 minutes south of Downtown Seattle): A world-class museum featuring a Concorde, the first 737 and first 747. More on Seattle’s airplane museum, The Museum of Flight.
The Future of Flight (Paine Field in Everett, 30 minutes north of Seattle): Tours of Boeing’s massive Everett plant where its largest passenger jets are built. More on The Future of Flight museum and Seattle Boeing Plant Tour.
The Museum of Flight Restoration Center (Paine Field in Everett, 30 minutes north of Seattle): Hanger where all of the restoration work is done for the Museum of Flight. The public can watch. It’s more of a “locals only” kind of place, but very interesting for airplane nuts. More on the Museum of Flight Restoration Center Seattle.
BEST SEATTLE RESTAURANTS
Many of these are long time casual Seattle favorites.
RESTAURANTS WITH LOCATIONS ALL OVER THE SEATTLE AREA
Dick’s (Various locations around Seattle): Authentic greasy burgers and fries. A Seattle favorite for decades. Similar to California’s In-N-Out Burger, but less “chain.” More information about Seattle Dick’s Drive In restaurants.
Ivar’s (Various locations around Seattle): Seafood. Another longtime Seattle favorite. The clam chowder is must have, as are the fish and chips. More information on Ivar’s Seattle.
Top Pot Doughnuts (Various locations around Seattle): High quality Seattle-grown donuts. More information on Top Pot Donuts locations Seattle.
BEST RESTAURANTS IN THE SEATTLE CITY AREA
Great Seattle View – Salty’s on Alki Beach: If you’re just looking for a sit down place with a memorable view of Seattle, you can’t beat Salty’s. More on Salty’s Alki.
Salumni (Pioneer Square): One of the best Seattle sandwich places. Go early, they sell out. More on Salumni Seattle in Pioneer Square.
Paseo (Fremont neighborhood, just north of Downtown Seattle): Outstanding sandwiches with few places to sit. The #2 Caribbean, Cuban Roast and Midnight Cuban sandwiches are what many people choose. More on Paseo Seattle.
Northlake Pizza (University District, Seattle): Perhaps the best pizza I had in my life. This is a tavern, so kids aren’t allowed. What’s missing in polish it makes up for in delicious food. More information on Seattle’s Northlake Tavern and Pizza House.
Sound Coffee and Morsel (University District): Wonderful breakfast biscuits. More information of Morsel, one of the best Seattle breakfast places.
Quinn’s Pub (Capitol Hill): Known for burgers and their Wild Boar Sloppy Joe. More on Quinns Pub Seattle.
The Walrus and the Carpenter (Ballard): Go for oysters. More on The Walrus and the Carpenter Seattle.
Shorty’s (Belltown): Pinball and pub grub. More on Shorty’s Seattle.
Tillicum Place (Belltown): A favorite for breakfast. More on Tillicum Place Seattle.
Seatown Seabar & Rotisserie (Downtown): Famous breakfast biscuits. More on Seatown Seattle
Canlis: Dress up and get your ‘foodie’ on! More on Canlis Seattle.
Palisade (Magnolia): Great views, seafood and steak. Ask about early dinner specials. More on Palisade Seattle.
Roux (Fremont): New Orleans cajun food. Restaurant Roux started as a popular food truck. More information about Roux restaurant in Fremont – Seattle.
Din Tai Fung (U District): Great dim sum and dumplings. Many times there is a wait. There is another Din Tai Fung location in Bellevue at Lincoln Square. More information on Din Tai Fung Seattle.
BEST RESTAURANTS NORTH OF SEATTLE
Maltby Cafe (Maltby, 25 minutes from Downtown Seattle): A local favorite for breakfast with a country attitude. More on The Maltby Cafe, one of the best Seattle breakfast places.
Patty’s Egg Nest (various locations north of Seattle): Another local favorite for breakfast. More on Patty’s Egg Nest, one of the best Seattle breakfast places.
Barking Frog (Woodinville): An elegant, informal bistro located in the wonderful Willows Lodge. Perfect place to eat while wine tasting at the Woodinville wineries. More information about the Barking Frog restaurant in Woodinville – Seattle Washington.
Saw Mill Cafe (Mill Creek): Best known for a great breakfast. More on Saw Mill Cafe Mill Creek.
Brown Bag Cafe (Kirkland): Wins local awards for its breakfast: More on The Original Brown Bag Cafes.
Terracotta Red (Everett): Located 30 minutes north of Seattle, this Asian Fusion restaurant has some wonderfully seasoned and prepared meals. I highly recommend the Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup and the Crispy Drunken Chicken. The Terra Salad is also quite good as a house salad. More information on Terracotta Red restaurant in Everett.
Pasteur Noodle Soup (South Everett): Incredible Pho (Vietnamese soup), amongst the best anywhere: More on Pasteur Noodle Soup.
Raliberto’s Taco Shop (South Everett): Best “hole in the wall” Mexican food I know outside of San Diego. More on Raliberto’s Taco Shop.
Memo’s Mexican Food Restaurant (South Everett and Seattle U-District): Another decent “hole in the wall” type Mexican restaurant. Great breakfast burritos. More on Memos Mexican Food Restaurant.
BEST ATTRACTIONS NEAR SEATTLE
North Cascades Highway: Unforgettable drive. More information on the Cascade Loop – North Cascades Highway Seattle. Don’t miss the Gorge Power Station in Newhalem. It has wonderful waterfalls and gardens.
Iron Horse Trail and Tunnel: Want to walk/bike for 2+ miles underground? More information on the Iron Horse Trail and Snoqualmie Tunnel.
Skagit Valley Tulips: The daffodils and tulips are a memorable experience if you are here in March or April. It’s beautiful drive through the Skagit Valley farmlands at all other times of the year. Check out Roozengaarde and Tulip Town. Be sure to stop by Snow Goose Produce for one of their “immodest” ice cream cones. It’s a destination in itself! More information on Skagit Valley Tulips.
Mount Rainer: The trip can be done in one long day from Seattle. Rainer is open during the summer months only. Stop at the Paradise Visitor’s Center and take the steep hike to the alpine meadows. It is one of the most beautiful and memorable places on earth.
Mount St. Helens: Another long day trip from Seatle. The visitors center is a great place to experience this infamous volcano.
BEST SEATTLE CAR ATTRACTIONS
Exotics At Redmond Town Center (Most Saturdays – 15 minutes east of Seattle): Do you want to see some of the rarest cars in the world? Ferraris and Lamborghinis are just the start. Exotics@RTC is the largest weekly car gathering north of Los Angeles. 9am-11am most Saturdays April-October, depending on weather. The better the weather, the better the cars. Free. Updated information and schedule for Exotics@RTC.
XXX Rootbeer Drive In (Issaquah – 20 minutes east of Seattle): Historic drive-in that has a different car show every Sunday April-September. Free. More information on Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-In Car Shows Seattle.
Park Place (Bellevue – 15 minutes east of Seattle): This unique dealership is like a constantly changing car show featuring classic and exotic vehicles. What’s more is that there are other, high end dealerships next door and across the street. If you like cars, this a great area to spend an hour or two. Free. More information on Park Place in Bellevue.
LeMay – America’s Car Museum (Tacoma, 30 minutes south of Seattle): Largest car collection in the US. More information on LeMay – America’s Car Museum.
LeMay Family Collection At Marymount (Tacoma area, 45 minutes south of Seattle): Hundreds more cars from the LeMay collection, displayed in various buildings around a former school campus. More information on The LaMay Family Collection at Marymount.
Griot’s Garage Flagship Store (Tacoma area, 30 minutes south of Seattle): Headquarters for nationally recognized car care specialist. More information on Griot’s Garage headquarters in Tacoma.
SEATTLE TRAVEL VIDEOS
Seattle Travel Guide Video from Expedia
Seattle Must See Attractions – Emerald City Travel Guide Video
100 Things To Do In Seattle Before You Die – KING-TV Video
Seattle, Washington Video Travel Guide
SEATTLE HUMOR: ALMOST LIVE’S GUIDE TO SEATTLE (A little fun!)
Guide to Living in Seattle Part 2
Guide to Living in Seattle Part 3
Guide to Living in Seattle Part 4
SEATTLE TOURIST ATTRACTIONS – MORE INFORMATION
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