The Best Things to Do in Seattle, Washington: Complete Guide
Located at the epicenter of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle may have gained a number of reputations over the years but truthfully, it really can’t be put into a box. The city blends a bit of grunge with an ever-evolving art and music scene. It is progressive, green, and outspoken, and has some of the best culinary and nature experiences in the country. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Seattle, the Emerald City has something for everyone.
I’ve been lucky to call Seattle my home on-and-off throughout my life, watching as the city has evolved and falling in love with it just as much during the gray, drizzly months as I have during the long, sun-soaked days of summer.
I love exploring the innovating and constantly growing food and drink scene, tapping into the creative side of the city, and spending as much time outdoors as the weather allows.
Want to explore Seattle? We’ve got plenty of detailed Seattle travel guides to help you explore Seattle and beyond.
- How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Seattle, Washington
- How to Spend One Day in Seattle (2 Different Ways)
- The Best Things to Do in Seattle: A Complete Seattle City Guide
- The Best Time to Visit Seattle: A Guide to Seattle by Season
- Where to Stay in Seattle: A Complete Neighborhood Guide
- The Best Day Trips from Seattle, WA
- 15 Great Weekend Getaways from Seattle to Plan Now
- 17 Amazing Hikes Near Seattle
- The Best Museums in Seattle: A Helpful Guide to Seattle’s Coolest Museums
- A Complete Guide to Washington’s Amazing National Parks
- The Best Hikes in Washington State: Complete Hiking Guide
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel and vacation rental links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would absolutely never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.
What to Do in Seattle: A Complete Guide to the Best Things to Do in Seattle
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a culture and history buff, a music fanatic, or a foodie, there are countless fun things to do in Seattle.
The following is a comprehensive guide to Seattle that will take you through the best parks, museums, food and beverage experiences, and neighborhoods, while also giving you tips on how to get around, where to stay, and where to go on a day trip if you’re seeking a break from the city.
Explore Seattle’s Green Spaces and Parks
A city as green as Seattle is plentiful with outdoor spaces. The diverse green spaces are among the best free things to do in Seattle. From sprawling, grassy parks to rock and sand beaches that stretch to the Puget Sound, Lake Union, and Lake Washington, each park offers a unique landscape and experience.
Sprawling Discovery Park is one of the most intriguing and majestic green spaces in Seattle. Situated in the Magnolia neighborhood, Discovery provides the feeling of a secluded slice of nature away from the city.
Walk or bike along winding paths through open meadows and beneath the shade of trees and forest. Explore the coast via cliffs overlooking the water or on protected tidal beaches. Spend an hour or an entire day exploring different pockets of Discovery, stopping for lunch or a reading break on the sandy beach.
More information here.
Situated part way between Fremont and the University District in Wallingford is the iconic Gasworks Park.
The green hills overlook Lake Union and the Seattle skyline and are perfect for a picnic, sunbathing, or flying a kite. The park is distinguished by the rust-colored metal structures that belonged to the Seattle Gas Light Company.
Bring a picnic or a book and pick a patch of grass to sprawl out on and enjoy a sunny afternoon. Stay until sunset to catch the sun sinking into Lake Union.
More information here.
Located in Ballard, Golden Gardens is the only sandy beach in Seattle and it takes on a different life during the fleeting summer months. Parking can be extremely difficult to find on summer evenings and weekends, despite the multiple parking lots, so be prepared to hunt for parking or walk a bit.
Golden Gardens has both grassy areas as well as a sand beach with volleyball games, slackline, and barbecues taking place. Take a dip in the chilly Puget Sound, which lights up with bioluminescent algae during summer nights.
The sunsets are often spectacular, as shades of tangerine and gold spill across the sky and fade into the water. After dark, bonfires are ablaze, the perfect antidote to cool summer evenings. More information here.
Seward Park is located in southeast Seattle and has a blend of trails, forest, and expansive beach on the edge of Lake Washington. Explore the park before finding the perfect place to unfold your picnic blanket and relax. Go for a swim or bring your paddleboard and join the other boarders in the water.
More information here.
A peaceful green sprawl in north Capitol Hill, Volunteer Park isn’t waterfront, but it is one of the most serene corners in Seattle with impeccable landscaping.
Walk through blossoming gardens and find shade beneath billowing trees. Inside the park, you’ll find the Volunteer Park Conservatory, a greenhouse supporting education and plant diversity in the region, as well as the Asian Art Museum.
More information here.
Washington Park Arboretum
One of the most carefully curated parks in Seattle, the Arboretum sits on the shores of Lake Washington and is abundant in colorful gardens and walking trails. Take a stroll through the forested area, rent a canoe or kayak and go for a paddle on the lake, or pay a visit to the Botanical Gardens.
More information here.
Explore Seattle’s Food (and Drink) Scene
Seattle is heaven for foodies, as well as wine, beer, coffee, and cocktail enthusiasts. Whether you’re craving freshly caught seafood or a steaming bowl of ramen, Seattle has you covered.
Take a Self-Guided Tour of Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is packed with eateries, old and new. The food in the market captures the spirit of the Pacific Northwest, boasting a number of seafood spots, as well as small, hole-in-the-wall ethnic food stands.
Take yourself on a self-guided food tour through Pike Place and devour the best bites within the market. Make sure to come hungry.
Skip the “first Starbucks” and go to Storyville instead: If it’s your first time in town, you might be tempted to stop by the first Starbucks right next to Pike Place. A word of advice: skip it. First of all, it’s not actually the first Starbucks. Secondly, it’s a tourist trap and you won’t find any true Seattleite frequenting this Starbucks unless there is no other choice for a caffeine boost. Check out Storyville instead, which serves fresh, high-end roasted beans and is a perfect alternative if you’re looking for a cup of Seattle’s best.
Piroshky Piroshky: This small bakery on the exterior of Pike Place is an ode to Russia. Piroshky Piroshky freshly bakes and sells sweet and savory hand-held pies stuffed with ingredients like cheese and potato, smoked salmon pate, and Korean beef and rice. Grab a couple piroshkies for take away and enjoy while sitting overlooking Elliott Bay.
Rachel’s Ginger Beer: Located just across the way from Pike Place in Post Alley, Rachel’s Ginger Beer sells a tasty and eclectic range of ginger beers, including guava, blood orange, and passion fruit. You can get a cup or growler to go or sit and enjoy one of Rachel’s famous ginger beer cocktails.
Ellenos Yogurt: Ellenos is a Greek yogurt bar in Pike Place with family roots. The creamy yogurt is delightful by itself or choose to spice it up with toppings like lemon curd, pumpkin pie, passion fruit, and marionberry. Enjoy your yogurt in the shop or take some to go for a breakfast or snack.
Market Grill: If you’re a fan of seafood, you’ll have no shortage of options in the market and should probably come back multiple days to taste all the fresh catches on offer. For a low-key seafood option in Pike Place, swing by Market Grill, a small lunch stand serving grilled prawns, salmon, and seafood stew, among other mouthwatering dishes from the sea.
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese: Located on the same street as Pike Place, stop by Beecher’s Cheese if you’re a cheese fanatic. Inside, you can sample and buy a variety of Beecher’s cheeses, including their famous flagship cheddar. Come hungry and fill up on one of their grilled cheese or mac and cheese options. One of my favorites is the decadent Dungeness crab mac and cheese. If you walk to the oil shop next door, they’ll put a drizzle of truffle oil on top of your mac and cheese. Just when you thought it couldn’t get better, it did.
Pike Place Chowder: Pike Place Market is stuffed full of small, international food stands and unassuming restaurants. There is nothing fancy about any of them, but the food is reliably tasty. If you’re looking for a classic and unpretentious taste of the PNW, stop by Pike Place Chowder for a bowl of chowder. You can choose from a number of different seafood chowders, the salmon chowder being my personal favorite.
Another option would be to opt for a guided tour of Pike Place Market with a local chef, who will help you seek out those spots that you wouldn’t otherwise find on your own (and is just a fun way to experience the market).
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth
From freshly baked goods at neighborhood farmer’s markets and decadent truffles at chocolate shops, to creative cupcake corners and indulgent ice cream shops with innovative flavors, don’t forget to leave room for dessert when you’re in town.
Theo Chocolate: Theo Chocolate is rooted in ethical chocolate, from the cocoa extraction on the ground, to the production and sales. While they don’t compromise in their mission, Theo also doesn’t compromise in their quality and flavor of the product. You can take a tour to learn more about Theo’s process, which is complimented with a chocolate tasting at the end. You can also take a class exclusively about chocolate tasting. Sounds almost too good to be true.
Molly Moon’s: Molly Moon’s is an ode to Seattle’s food scene, serving up some of the most infamous scoops in town. Offering spins on typical ice cream flavors along with seasonal features like pumpkin clove and milky moon bar, Molly Moon’s offers reliably delicious homemade ice cream made from local ingredients and rooted in sustainable practices. They have expanded from their original Wallingford shop to locations across the city including University Village, Capitol Hill, and Madrona.
Trophy Cupcakes: Their location in University Village made it a favorite of mine while I was a student at the University of Washington. Trophy’s specialty cupcakes are bursting with flavor, with rotating flavors on offer each day alongside seasonal specialties. Choose from decadent options like salted caramel, chocolate chip cookie dough, and cherries jubilee.
Hello Robin: Situated in north Capitol Hill, Hello Robin is one of the spots that I can’t get enough of. Combine the famous local ice cream flavors of Molly Moon’s with sinfully delicious freshly baked cookies to make ice cream sandwiches, and you’ll keep coming back for more.
Frankie and Jo’s: A vegan, plant-based ice cream shop with locations in Capitol Hill, Ballard, and University Village, Frankie and Jo’s offer frozen creations that are as delicious as they are eclectic. Indulge in flavors like Salty Caramel Ash, Freckled Tahini Fudge, and Golden Milk. While they may stray from your typical favorites, you’ll struggle to choose which flavor not to try.
Hot Cakes: With two locations, one in Ballard and the other in Capitol Hill, Hot Cakes’ signature dessert is molten chocolate cake. Hot Cakes now serves a variety of flavors of molten cakes with ice cream, along with boozy milkshakes and other desserts that are surely tasty, though I’ve never made it past the cake and milkshake combo.
Breweries in Seattle
Seattle has made a name for itself in the craft beer scene and for good reason. In the city and the surrounding towns, there are countless independent breweries that specialize in high-quality craft beers delivering flavor and character.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll have countless types of IPAs to choose from in this hop-heavy city, though don’t be afraid to explore the other ales and sours on the menus as well.
Optimism Brewing Company: The high ceilings and minimalistic wood/metal design of the taproom ring true to the hipster vibe of Capitol Hill, where Optimism Brewing rests. While you can find typical IPAs and Pale Ales in Optimism, their specialties lie in their more unique flavors, such as their selection of wheat beers, sour beers, and New England style juicy IPAs.
Fremont Brewing Company: A neighborhood brewery where young professionals gather after work, Fremont Brewing serves a couple dozen locally brewed beers on tap with plenty to go as well. Grab a pint of your favorite beer or cider, take a seat at the long, wooden tables, or stand and socialize in the beer garden. Beyond their reliably delicious brews, Fremont Brewing Company also sources their ingredients locally and is committed to environmental and social sustainability as much as possible.
Reuben’s Brews: Pick a spot on the expansive, sunny deck at Reuben’s Brews located in Ballard. A Seattle favorite, Reuben’s has an impressive list of IPAs and seasonal beers all crafted onsite. If you’re a craft beer lover, this is a must try.
Cloudburst Brewing: Cloudburst is an industrial-style brewery in a restored brick building in downtown that offers an extensive list of locally brewed beers on tap and to-go. Naturally, there is an emphasis on the IPAs and hops, as this is Seattle after all. Taste your way through some of their classic and seasonal specialties to become more acquainted with Seattle’s infamous beer scene.
Holy Mountain Brewing: Tucked away from the hustle in Queen Anne, Holy Mountain Brewing has both a taproom and a beer garden where you can enjoy a pint a bit different from your typical Seattle pour. Instead, try out their Belgian-inspired beers and fruity sours.
Georgetown Brewing Company: Originally started by two friends who shared a love for beer, Georgetown Brewing Co. is now the largest independent brewery in Washington State. Until recently, Georgetown was a tap-only beer (in other words, they didn’t offer it in cans) and served up some of the best IPAs and Pale Ales in the region. Stop by the establishment in the south Seattle neighborhood of Georgetown and grab a pint. My favorites are the brewery staples, Bodhizafa IPA and Lucille IPA.
Eat Some World-Class Food
Seattle has the ability to have restaurants that serve high end food in spaces that are approachable and stylish without being stuffy.
Many eateries draw upon the abundant ingredients from the sea and the land to create innovative, seasonal, and undeniably delicious dishes.
- Reckless Noodles: Visit Reckless Noodles in the Central District for an offbeat Asian restaurant that specializes in craft cocktails and Vietnamese-inspired dishes. Lobster fried rice, curry vermicelli bowls, turmeric rockfish, and lemongrass larb with squid are among some of the delicious plates on offer in this relaxed and stylish eatery.
- The Whale Wins: Located on Stone Way, one of my favorite streets in Fremont, The Whale Wins is a fantastic spot that has mastered both aesthetic and food. Its aqua-colored décor brightens an indoor European-style grocer and a sunny patio. Their rotating menu of European and PNW-inspired dishes, complemented by a standout wine list, is best experienced with a group so you can order as many of the dishes on the menu as possible.
- San Fermo: San Fermo is a traditional Italian restaurant open for dinner with a carefully curated menu sourced from local ingredients. The restaurant is set in a charming Ballard house with a wine list as intriguing as its food menu.
- Rupee Bar: Part hipster, part Sri Lankan-Indian, this South Asian fusion restaurant is one of my favorite spots in Ballard. You can choose to sit street side or slide into a table in the hopelessly chic indoors and eat and drink your way through the menu featuring small plates and cocktails inspired by the flavors of South Asia. You really can’t go wrong with anything you order. Come hungry and bring friends to help you eat your way through the entire menu, which changes regularly.
- Kamonegi: Kamonegi is a tiny soba bar in Fremont that specializes in handmade soba, as well as seasonal tempura. A perfect spot if you’re looking for something different than the typical ramen or sushi experience in Seattle (which there are many delicious options of as well). Compliment your bowl of soba with a choice of sake.
- Café Presse: A French-inspired café that is as perfect for a sunny sidewalk brunch as it is for a dimly lit dinner and cocktails, Café Presse has been one of my go-to spots in Seattle for as long as I can remember. Their seasonal vegetarian (and egg-free) Croque Madame paired with frites and fresh orange juice is one of my favorite breakfasts in the city.
- Rockcreek: One of my absolute favorite brunch spots in the city, this seafood-oriented restaurant offers ethically sourced fish, oysters, and crab, among other seafood, in unique spins on classic dishes. The woodsy chic interior of Rockcreek is made from repurposed materials and local woods. Ethical with mouthwatering food and drinks? Difficult to go wrong.
- L’Oursin: A beautifully rustic French eatery on Capitol Hill, L’Oursin perfectly captures the spirit of PNW cuisine with its seafood-centric menu. Think dishes like halibut sourced from the Salish Sea, local clams, and Dungeness crab served alongside an inspired menu of natural wines.
Where to Find Great Wine in Seattle
Considering its place as the biggest city in a state renowned for producing wine, Seattle oozes fantastic wine bars and tasting rooms.
Washington state’s wine regions are situated east of the mountains in Yakima, Walla Walla, and Lake Chelan area, where grapes thrive in the warmer, more arid climate. Expect to find the wineries predominately producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah.
Oregon is another contender in the wine scene of the PNW, where grapes and wine production thrive in the Willamette Valley.
- Bottlehouse: Both an artisanal wine shop as well as a wine bar, Bottlehouse is tucked into the quiet streets of Madrona. Sit outside on the tree-lined patio or find a seat inside the cozy interior of the house, sampling from a rotating selection of wines. Compliment your selection with a charcuterie board or other small plates.
- Footprint Wine Tap: A relatively new establishment in Capitol Hill, Footprint is one of my favorite finds. The intimate space was founded with the intention to consume wine more sustainably and with less waste. The wines come from organic and biodynamic wineries in the Pacific Northwest and are served from kegs, which eliminates bottle waste. If you’re a local in the area, you can fill up a growler of wine and bring it back for refills. The wines are as enticing as this newly conceptualized idea of a wine bar.
- Left Bank: Left Bank is an unassuming wine bar tucked into a house in South Park along a residential street. Seattle’s first and smallest natural wine bar and shop, Left Bank offers rotating pours of natural wines, a wine trend that intrigues me both with its novelty and its commitment to sustainable, sulfate-free wines.
- Vif: As both a fan of wine and anything sustainable and organic, Vif quickly became my favorite spot in Fremont for wine. As both a wine bar/café, as well as a wine shop, Vif offers organic and natural wines by the glass and for takeaway in a small, French café-style setting.
- Aluel Cellars: The only winery located in Capitol Hill, Aluel Cellars crafts limited production wines with grapes sourced from Washington’s best vineyards. The intimate tasting room is the perfect spot to taste their elegant wines and learn more about the production process—a favorite pastime for a wine nerd like myself.
- Marseille: Situated in Melrose Market in Capitol Hill, Marseille is a natural wine shop and wine bar that hand picks biodynamic and organic wines that reflect the terroir. I love stopping by here and having a conversation about their latest selections and finding wines that are a rarity in the rest of the city.
- SODO Urban Works: Located in the heart of South Seattle, SODO Urban Works is an industrial-feeling space that offers the biggest concentration of tasting rooms for Washington wineries in the city. If you’re looking to become more familiar with Washington wineries without leaving the city, head to SODO and taste your way through wineries like Latta Wines and Structure Cellars.
Eat Your Way Through The International District
A guide to Seattle’s food scene would be incomplete without mentioning the International District. Seattle’s version of Chinatown, the International District is the hub for Seattle’s Asian-American communities, blending flavors from China, Japan, and Vietnam.
Try out family-run dim sum and seafood restaurants, from Harbor City to Honey Court Restaurant. Dig into steaming bowls of ramen—the perfect cure to a chilly, drizzly Seattle day— choose your favorite banh mi filling at Vietnamese delis, or taste innovative cocktails and Vietnamese street food at Tamarind Tree.
Seek Out the Best Views in Seattle
Let’s be honest, in a city as aesthetically pleasing as Seattle there is no shortage of spectacular views. Are you after uninterrupted water views, marinas dotted with sailboats, yachts, and a lakeview, or a view of the Seattle skyline with a snow capped mountain in the background? Seattle has them all if you know where to look.
Columbia Center Observation Deck: The Columbia Center is the tallest building in the Seattle skyline, making it a pretty spectacular spot for city views. You can book individual or group tickets for the Sky View Observatory to catch 360-degree views of Seattle and the surrounding Sound. The observatory also has a café and bar where you can grab a snack or drink and enjoy the view.
Kerry Park: Kerry Park is a small public park on the southern slope of Queen Anne Hill with arguably one of the best views over Seattle. From Kerry, enjoy views over Elliott Bay, downtown, and Mount Rainier. At sunset, the park becomes a favorite spot for photographers to capture the sun sinking into the city, the view which only becomes more magical as the Space Needle sparkles in the night and brightly lit ferries glow as they glide across the water.
Mbar: The rooftop of this Mediterranean-inspired restaurant has a menu as tasty as the view is spectacular. Drink in views of Lake Union while enjoying tasty tapas and cocktails. The views are as impressive during the day as they are as sunset melts into night, with the lights reflecting in the water.
Smith Tower Observatory and Bar: On the 25th floor of this historic skyscraper, you’ll find a speakeasy-esque lounge serving cocktails, wine, charcuterie, and small plates. Take in 360-degree views of Seattle from the bar or an open-air viewing deck in the observatory. You can buy tickets just for the observatory or take advantage of the views while enjoying the offerings of the bar.
Space Needle: Although it is a major tourist attraction in the city, I typically avoid the Space Needle because it is just that- a tourist trap. The $35 ticket is a significant deterrent, particularly because you can find superior views elsewhere in the city, free of cost. If you insist on crossing the Space Needle off your bucket list, consider buying tickets in combination with tickets to the Chihuly Garden. Alternatively, you can book a table for the restaurant at the top of the Needle and save the cost of the ticket by purchasing food or drink comparable to the ticket cost.
Explore Seattle’s Coolest Neighborhoods
Each of Seattle’s neighborhoods offers unique vibes, tastes, and attractions. With adequate time, make sure to take some tips from this Seattle city guide and explore the best of Seattle’s eclectic areas beyond just the major sites downtown.
Fremont is a blend of everything that makes Seattle so uniquely itself. The bohemian neighborhood is north of Capitol Hill and south of Ballard, sprawling the canal.
Many of my favorite eateries, cafes, breweries, and wine bars are tucked into this eclectic neighborhood, which is also known for its vintage street market that takes over on Sundays and the colorful summer solstice festival.
The heart of Fremont opens up to green parks, marinas, and leafy residential streets.
- Hannyatou: Looking for a change in your typical evening drink? Head to Hannyatou, a petite sake bar serving a wide range of sakes, as well as sake flights. Choose from a selection of Japanese-inspired bar snacks like yuzu edamame and octopus in wasabi root marinade to accompany your drink.
- Fremont Canal: A long and linear park that extends along Lake Washington Ship Canal, the Fremont Canal is a great place to catch green and water views in the heart of Fremont. Go for a stroll along the canal or bring your snack or drink to a bench and watch as boats, paddleboarders, and kayaks pass by.
- Milstead and Co.: Situated under the Fremont Bridge with views to Lake Union, the spacious and elegant space of Milstead makes for a great spot to grab a coffee and catch your breath. The café offers a beautiful, light-flooded space with spectacular views and even better lattes. Or, choose to take your brew to go and enjoy it on a walk through the neighborhood or to the lakefront.
- Fremont Vintage Mall: Nestled right in the heart of Fremont, the Fremont Vintage Mall sells vintage furniture, clothing, jewelry, collectibles, records, furnishings, and more in this unassuming space. Even if you’re not looking to buy, the vintage mall is fun to browse through and comes even more to life on Sundays during the Fremont Sunday Market.
- Miir: Coffee shop, co-working space, and craft beer bar, Miir is one of my favorite spots in the city. In addition to being a fantastic place to work, grab a coffee, or sample one of their many beers and kombucha on tap, Miir produces outdoor bottles and cups perfect for hiking and supports humanitarian projects. It’s difficult to compete with a place that tackles so much.
Ballard is one of the furthest north Seattle neighborhoods and exudes the air of a charming maritime town tucked into an urban center. Waterfront envelopes the outskirts of Ballard, while downtown has a main street decorated with brick buildings that house vintage and record shops, cocktail bars, and creative restaurants.
- Ballard Farmers Market: Ballard is home to Seattle’s first year-round farmers market, where farmers and artisans sell seasonal produce, flowers, hand-made cheese, baked goods, crafts, and other culinary delights. If you’re in town on a Sunday, the market is worth a stop.
- Walrus and the Carpenter: An unmissable spot for seafood lovers, Walrus and the Carpenter captures the essence of Seattle culture. This casual seafood joint serves some of the best oysters in town, alongside other Pacific Northwest shellfish delights, local cheeses, and a creative wine, beer, and cocktail menu. Arrive early to get a seat, as a wait is almost always guaranteed.
- Stoup Brewing: With a love for both science and art, Stoup was created with a unique foundation in mind to elevate craft brewing. Enjoy tasty ales in tents, around fire pits, and even in a greenhouse, while satiating with bites from rotating food trucks.
- Cafe Besalu: If you’re looking for a quick and delicious snack, stop by Café Besalu for a pastry and cup of coffee. Indulge in various French pastries, from croissants to quiche, to seasonal baked specialties.
- Ballard Locks: The Ballard Locks link the Puget Sound with Lake Union and Lake Washington. Enjoy the sparkling water on a sunny day where yachts and kayaks pass or walk through the picturesque botanical gardens. The Locks are the perfect spot to stop and admire the maritime culture of Seattle or take a stroll with a view.
Capitol Hill is centrally located in the heart of Seattle, south of Fremont and just north of downtown.
This lively neighborhood is at the heart of some of the city’s best dining as well as it’s nightlife, with a number of live music venues. Capitol Hill is at the center of Seattle’s LGBTQ community and once was a haven for artists and musicians. In recent years, it has been taken over by the tech industry, making it the ultimate hipster hub.
Coffee shops, bars, culinary innovation, and concept shops all are scattered across the streets of Capitol Hill that blend graffitied buildings with grand, turn-of-the century homes.
- Cal Anderson Park: Cal Anderson Park is front and center in the Pike/Pine area of Capitol Hill. This neighborhood favorite has a soccer turf, which hosts everything from actual soccer games to quidditch skirmishes before it gets taken over by residents and bar-hoppers who sprawl out on the artificial grass late into the night. The park also expands into a grassy area with a fountain and community garden, drawing the likes of street musicians and performers.
- Neumos: If live music is what you’re after, check out the lineup of Neumos, which is situated right in the heart of Capitol Hill’s nightlife. Neumos is a beloved neighborhood establishment that hosts musicians big and small of various genres, drawing in crowds most nights of the week. Swing by the attached dimly lit, brick bar, The Runaway, for a drink before the show.
- The Doctor’s Office: Seattle has too many vibey bars and food establishments to keep track of, and Capitol Hill is home to many of them. If you’re after an intimate and memorable experience, head to the tiny Doctor’s Office, which serves classic cocktails with top global range spirits, as well as grilled skewers and charcuterie boards.
- Life on Mars: This relatively new establishment mixes hearty vegan bar snacks like jackfruit tacos, cauliflower wings, and beyond burgers, with playful cocktails and a vinyl shop. Life on Mars is fun, soulful, and embodies the spirit of Seattle.
- Chophouse Row: Explore Chophouse Row, one of the coolest spaces in Capitol Hill that combines tasty eateries, secret bars, coworking spaces, and concept shops selling artsy homeware, skincare, and food. On summer nights, the outdoor space enveloping the row of restaurants and shops comes to life with live music and passersby.
- Victrola Coffee Roasters: Victrola is situated just on the base of Capitol Hill on your way up the hill from downtown. Beyond serving a fantastic cup of coffee with specialty home roasted blends and espressos, Victrola embraces a fun atmosphere, drawing inspiration from the 1920’s, jazz, and prohibition era.
Learn at Thing or Two at the Museums in Seattle
Seattle’s museum scene strays from your typical art and history museum experience. The museums are eclectic, creative, and experiential, and top the list of some of the more unique things to do in Seattle.
MoPop: A testament to the art and music culture that thrive in Seattle, MoPop is an experiential museum that is as engaging for kids as it is for adults. There are rotating exhibits surrounding topics in pop culture and music history, as well as permanent exhibitions dedicated to Seattle music icons like Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix. Beyond the creative, colorful exhibits, you can also experiment with making music yourself in the recording studios.
Seattle Art Museum: Located just one block up from Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, or SAM, hosts a wide range of exhibits. Find classic paintings, Pacific Northwest indigenous art, and experimental, thought-provoking displays. Check their website for current exhibits and opening hours.
Chihuly Garden and Glass: The brilliant glass garden is located in Seattle Center, surrounding the vicinity of the Space Needle. Wander through gardens of psychedelic glass flowers and explore the works of renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, while learning more about the art behind glass blowing.
Pacific Science Center: The Pacific Science Center is located within Seattle Center and has an IMAX theater, laser dome, and experimental exhibits and events for kids. The Science Center also lights up at night, when laser shows are synced with popular music such as Pink Floyd and the Beatles.
Seattle Aquarium: Situated on Elliott Bay, the Seattle Aquarium is primarily dedicated to marine life of the Pacific Northwest. Explore exhibits on animals in Washington’s waters, aquatic birds, and the pacific coral reef. Learn more about marine conservation in the region as well.
Seattle Art Walk: The first Thursday Art Walk in Pioneer Square is the oldest running art walk in the United States. On the first Thursday of every month, the art galleries in Pioneer Square keep their doors open late. Many of the galleries serve drinks and appetizers and play music, making it an unmissable event if you’re in town at the right time. First Thursdays became so popular that other Seattle neighborhoods began holding their own art walks on other Thursdays throughout the month.
Get Out of the City on a Day Trip
As fantastic as Seattle is, sometimes a break from city life is welcome. Surrounded by islands, harbor towns, mountains, and wineries, you’ll be spoilt for choice when deciding where to go on your day trip from Seattle.
A short ferry ride away from Seattle, Bainbridge Island is reachable in about 40 minutes from the city, making it a quick and easy escape for the day. Bainbridge is accessible year-round, though most enjoyable from late spring through early fall when the days are longer, the temperatures are warmer, and there is less chance of rain.
Explore beaches and small island wineries on your day out of town. Here are a few highlights to check out.
- Bloedel Reserve: A northwest forest transformed into colorful curated gardens and landscapes, Bloedel is a natural wonder that spans 150 acres on Bainbridge Island. Set aside a significant portion of time to wander the sprawling gardens that transform throughout the seasons. It is required to book tickets in advance.
- Rockaway Beach Park: If you’re looking for a quiet place to take in some views and the sounds of the ocean, head to Rockaway Beach Park. Here, you’ll find wetlands and a quiet shoreline perfect for a walk or a picnic.
- Bainbridge Brewing: The PNW has no shortage of craft breweries, and Bainbridge Brewing, an independent brewery on Bainbridge Island, is no exception. Making craft beers (with an emphasis on IPAs, naturally) from primarily locally sourced ingredients, Bainbridge Brewing is a great place to grab a pint or a tasting beer flight in an unpretentious taproom.
- Eagle Harbor Wine Co.: A community-oriented winery that is focused on producing quality wine made from hand-picked grapes that are barrel-aged, Eagle Harbor will be a welcome stop on your day trip to Bainbridge Island. Enjoy small-batch wines in a laid-back, friendly setting.
- Via Rosa 11: For a delicious meal while on Bainbridge, stop by Via Rosa, which is an Italian kitchen and marketplace. Choose between woodfired pizzas, homemade pastas, and seafood dishes that blend the fruits of the PNW with the flavors of Italy.
Snoqualmie Pass and Falls
If you’re hoping to get active and embrace the best of PNW nature, head to Snoqualmie Pass for the day. You can start at the Pass, going on a hike (psst – we have an entire guide to the best hikes in Snoqualmie Pass) or snowshoeing adventure depending on the season, and then stop by Snoqualmie Falls on your way back into Seattle.
- Hike Snow (and Gem) Lake: Distance: 7.2 miles or 10.0 miles roundtrip // Elevation Gain: 1,800 ft. The trailhead for Snow Lake is accessible from the Alpental Ski area. After an initial ascent, the trail levels off. Eventually you’ll reach a hill that leads down to the lakeshore. Pick a boulder to take a rest on, overlooking the serene lake with evergreens reflecting in the still waters. You can turn around at Snow Lake or continue on about another 1.5 miles to reach Gem Lake. If you continue all the way around Snow Lake, the trail will take you over a rock field and mountain meadows to reach the petite Gem Lake.
- Winter Sports at the Summit at Snoqualmie: Even though most hikes won’t be available in Snoqualmie Pass during the winter due to trail closures after snowfall, you can still try out different winter sports. From the Summit at Snoqualmie, you can ski, snowboard, tube, or snowshoe. Lessons are available for first timers.
- Lunch at Dru Bru: After finishing your hike, head to Dru Bru for lunch. Dru Bru is a taproom on the Pass that serves locally crafted brews and filling pub-style food.
- Snoqualmie Falls: Located about a thirty-minute drive east of Seattle (or about a 45-minute drive from the Pass on your way back to the city), Snoqualmie Falls is a 268-foot waterfall surrounded by evergreen trees. There are short walking paths to reach the falls, as well as an information center, gift shop, and restaurant. The Falls can be visited any time of the year and are especially powerful during heavy rains or snow fall, particularly from November through March.
About a half an hour drive from Seattle, Woodinville is an accessible day trip that gives a glimpse into Washington wine country without having to make the trip across the mountains. Stop by a few wineries and distilleries and grab lunch or dinner at one of Woodinville’s tasty establishments.
- JM Cellars: A family-owned, small-scale winery that strives to produce exceptional, hand-crafted wines, JM Cellars is an unmissable winery on your trip to Woodinville. The wines are produced drawing inspiration from old world techniques with environmental sustainability in mind.
- Chateau Ste Michelle: The oldest and likely the most recognized winery in Washington State, Chateau Ste Michelle is a must-visit during your trip to Woodinville. Although I typically gravitate towards small, family-run wineries, the elegant tasting rooms at Chateau alongside their sprawling gardens are an experience themselves. Start out with a tasting, with the option to choose from a number of selections. Then, if you wish to linger longer, you can buy a selection of artisanal cheese, charcuterie, and other snacks to take with your favorite bottle of wine and have a picnic on their beautiful grounds where peacocks are often seen wandering.
- Woodinville Whiskey Company: If you’re wanting to have a change from wine, stop by Woodinville Whiskey Co., which produces some of my favorite whiskeys in Washington. Partake in a whiskey tasting or simply get a glass of your chosen whiskey. My top pick is the bourbon aged in port barrels, which offers an exceptional depth and smoothness to the liquor.
- Hollywood Tavern: The Hollywood Tavern is more than just a place to grab a bite to eat. The historic country wine tavern offers tasty pub fare prepared from local ingredients in an atmospheric setting complete with lawn games, a fire pit, and a music series.
Getting around Seattle
Do You Need a Car?
Transportation in Seattle can be a bit tricky and honestly depends on what you plan on doing and where you plan on exploring. Having a car will make getting to some of Seattle’s further out neighborhoods like Fremont and Ballard easier and quicker.
Although it isn’t impossible to reach them without a car, the further you stray from neighborhoods like downtown, University District, and Capitol Hill, public transit becomes less frequent. A car will also help you reach spots off the bus line, like parks, not to mention day trips out of the city.
Keep in mind that parking is timed and can be expensive and difficult to find in central areas like Capitol Hill and downtown, though residential parking can be found in Fremont, Ballard, Wallingford, and north Capitol Hill.
Public Transportation in Seattle
Public transportation isn’t Seattle’s strong suit, although it is gradually improving. The main form of public transport is the bus, which offers a number of lines across the city. In recent years, Seattle has also added in the light rail, which is exponentially faster than the bus, though has limited stops.
At present, the light rail starts at the airport and goes as far as Northgate, with stops in major neighborhoods such as Sodo, the International District, Downtown, Capitol Hill, and the University of Washington.
Uber and Lyft
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of renting a car, then car services like Uber and Lyft will be your best friend. You can take public transit during the day and use Uber and/or Lyft at night. Both services run in the city, so I typically like to compare wait times and fares and then decide which one to use.
Where to Stay in Seattle
We have an entire guide dedicated to helping you choose where to stay in Seattle. You should read that for more detail on each specific area recommended below – pros and cons, neighborhood highlights, and hotel recommendations – for more information.
Staying in Downtown Seattle
Staying in downtown Seattle is nothing short of convenient. You’ll wake up amidst the energy of the fast-paced neighborhood within walking distance of some of the city’s most famous sites, including Pike Place Market.
Although many places are within walking distance, public transportation is also readily available.
The downsides include traffic, which can be extremely congested during much of the day, and the fact that there is a relatively sizable unhoused community that lives downtown (particularly in the area around Pioneer Square – we’d opt to stay closer to Pike Place Market, if you can).
State Hotel: The State Hotel is modern, sophisticated, and right on the doorstep to some of Seattle’s best attractions, including Pike Place Market. The custom details draw inspiration from local artistry and design and reflect the eclectic aesthetic of Seattle, complemented with plush beds and modern bathrooms. In the hotel, you’ll find Ben Paris, a chic restaurant and bar with an adventurous, globally inspired menu.
The Edgewater: An iconic hotel with a colorful musical history, The Edgewater is located waterfront on Pier 67 and once hosted the Beatles, Pearl Jam, and the Foo Fighters. Enjoy views over the glimmering Elliott Bay and Olympic Mountains, world-class dining, easy access to the city, and a plush interior designed with the spirit of the Pacific Northwest in mind.
Staying in Belltown
Belltown is adjacent to downtown but is slightly outside the super touristy part of the city. The neighborhood mixes high-rises with buzzy dining and drinking options, as well as live music venues. Belltown is situated on the water with proximity to the Olympic Sculpture Park.
You won’t be short on accommodation options in Belltown and will have the convenience of exploring on foot and having countless tasty food and drink options on your doorstep.
Hotel Five: Stay Pineapple: If you’re looking for a modern, fun, and comfortable stay in Belltown that is affordable and still has convenient access to downtown, Hotel Five is the perfect option for you. Sink into comfy bedding, rent bikes to explore the city with, fuel your energy with afternoon snacks, and even bring your furry friend along for the trip if you like.
Hotel Andra: A stylish boutique hotel, Hotel Andra is located within walking distance of both Pike Place and the Seattle Center. Enjoy luxurious, minimalistic rooms as well as a cozy lounge with a wood burning fireplace. Two fantastic Belltown restaurants also happen to be located in Hotel Andra: Lola and Assaggio.
Staying in Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill is more residential than Downtown and Belltown in terms of accommodation options but is still very urban in the feel of the neighborhood.
In Capitol Hill, you’ll experience more of a local Seattle vibe and are surrounded by countless choices for casual and upscale dining, breweries, wine, coffee shops, craft cocktail bars, live music, and shopping.
The neighborhood has a vibrant nightlife, which could be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on what you’re looking for.
Sophisticated Studio with Breathtaking Views of Seattle: This studio apartment is the perfect stay for a solo or couples trip, blending comfort, charm, and style in the heart of Capitol Hill. The studio boasts a fully equipped kitchen, a pillow-top queen bed, hardwood floors, colorful details brightening the living room, and rooftop access with views over Seattle.
Amazing Capitol Hill Apartment Close to Everything: This one bedroom apartment is chic, modern, and cool with easy access to the light rail and walking distance to Cal Anderson Park and numerous coffee shops, bars, and restaurants. Enjoy modern conveniences like stainless steel appliances, as well as a rooftop with a fire pit and grill, and a parking pass available for use.
MORE TO EXPLORE IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
If you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, we’ve got you covered with all sorts of super detailed travel guides to our favorite places in Washington and Oregon.
- Seattle: Find the perfect place to stay in Seattle, use our itinerary and complete Seattle city guide to plan your weekend in Seattle (we also have a guide to one day in Seattle for shorter trips), find a new hike near Seattle to tackle, and plan your next day trip or weekend getaway.
- Portland: Get a local’s take on what to do in Portland and where to stay in Portland, plan your weekend itinerary (we also have a guide to one day in Portland for shorter trips), find the best hikes in and around Portland, and discover the best day trip and weekend getaway destinations.
- Road Trips: Explore the best of the Pacific Northwest on a 14 day Pacific Northwest road trip. Plan an amazing Washington road trip or Oregon road trip with our detailed guides, including a couple of itineraries that you can copy/paste.
- The Oregon Coast: Explore the best of the Oregon Coast on a 7 day Oregon Coast road trip. Discover the best hikes on the Oregon Coast, and figure out what to do in Cannon Beach and Astoria.
- Hiking in Oregon: Get a local’s take on the best hikes in Oregon, the most spectacular Oregon waterfalls, and dive deeper into each region with our guides to the best hikes at Mt. Hood, in the Columbia River Gorge, and more.
- Hiking in Washington: Add to your Washington hiking bucket list with our guide to the best hikes in Washington. Then dive into our regional hiking guides to discover the best hikes near Seattle, hiking at Mount Rainier, in Olympic National Park, in the North Cascades, and at Mount Baker.
- Mount Rainier National Park: Plan the perfect trip to Mount Rainier with our guides to the best things to do, the best hikes, and how to plan a perfect day trip to Rainier.
- Olympic National Park: Explore the best that Olympic National Park has to offer – the best hikes, a complete itinerary, and exactly where to stay in Olympic National Park.
- North Cascades National Park: The least visited of the National Parks in Washington, learn how to plan a perfect itinerary, and figure out the best hikes to add to your list.
- Crater Lake National Park: Discover the best that Oregon’s only national park (isn’t that crazy?) has to offer with our guide to planning your Crater Lake itinerary, and our guide to the best hikes in Crater Lake. Plus, a guide to planning an amazing Seattle to Crater Lake road trip.