The city is rich in culture and easy-going lifestyles, and it's no accident that Seattle is the "Coffee Capital" of the United States, with an espresso bar on almost every corner. One of the city's most active sightseeing areas is the waterfront and piers, home to recreational spaces, boat tours, and ferry docks, as well as fun attractions like the Great Ferris Wheel.
ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT IN Seattle
1. Seattle Center & the Space Needle
Seattle Center, along with its iconic Space Needle and the Monorail, was originally built for the 1962 World's Fair. They have since been turned into an entertainment complex and park area with theaters, sports facilities, and restaurants.
Modern tourist attractions now proliferate the area, including musical adventures at the Experience Music Project and impressive glass artworks at Chihuly Garden and Glass. And though it's a locals' haunt, the futuristic steel and glass structure of the Seattle Central Library is worth seeking out.
2. Pike Place Market
On the two floors of picturesque Pike Place Market, vendors offer a wide range of wares for sale. This busy area near the waterfront is a popular tourist spot throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Market tours are an ideal way to cut through the bustle of Pike Place and hear some unusual stories.
Fish, fruit, vegetables, and all sorts of odds and ends tantalize the taste buds and camera lenses. If you don't have the hotel facilities for cooking up some seafood, head to one of the 80 local restaurants and bakeries, or pick up goodies to bring home from one of the specialty food stores.
3. Chihuly Garden and Glass
One of Seattle's greatest treasures, the collections and exhibits here display and explore the work of innovative glassblower Dale Chihuly - a Tacoma native. Chihuly's work is known for using glass as a purely artistic medium and creating sculptures that captivate onlookers.
In addition to eight galleries, visitors can admire one of his largest works in the Glasshouse, where the installation's colors and appearance change with the moving sunlight above.
4. Museum of Flight
Seattle's Museum of Flight is home to a wide array of airplanes, educational exhibits, and flight-related historical objects. The museum is open Thursday through Monday, and many visits take the entire day. Alongside general admission, the museum offers premium experiences that lend access to behind-the-scenes exhibits.
An outdoor gallery displays the largest aircraft in the collection, including a Concorde, the first jet Air Force One, and military planes like the B-17F Flying Fortress. The indoor Great Gallery at the museum gives onlookers the thrill of seeing many of the planes suspended in flight. The Lear and Space galleries focus on space travel, both its history and future.
5. Olympic Sculpture Park
The Olympic Sculpture Park is free and open to the public year-round, positioned at the edge of Elliott Bay. Some of its more remarkable sculptures are the Eye Benches and a glass bridge titled Seattle Cloud Cover. Many Seattle residents and tourists come to the park to wander the day away and photograph or admire the installations.
The park's setting is as significant as its artwork. The space underwent an environmental transformation from a post-industrial brownfield site to an ecologically balanced green space that includes a salmon habitat and employs sustainable practices like rainwater collection.
6. Woodland Park Zoo
Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo is a 92-acre facility with many threatened and endangered species from around the globe. Immensely popular with families, the zoo was the first to create naturalistic exhibits, and its 300 different species range from Asian and African elephants to snow leopards, jaguars, lemurs, and grizzly bears.
Check a current schedule for daily programs, animal feedings, and educational lectures or find hours for the solar-operated carousel. For a real treat, visitors can book an animal experience tour, allowing animal lovers to get up close to some of the zoo's most fascinating wildlife, often with the chance to feed or touch the animals. Experiences include the opportunity to meet giraffes, penguins, lemurs, and other residents.
7. MOHAI: The Museum of History & Industry
Also often referred to as MOHAI, The Museum of History and Industry celebrates Seattle's position as a leader in innovation and industry. This education facility also catalogs the events that led to Seattle's rise as an important port city.
The True Northwest exhibit takes tourists on a journey through the region's history, from Native American cultures through the present, exploring how geography and cultural events like the Gold Rush helped shape the Emerald City. Visitors also enjoy the 360-degree views of the city using an authentic WWII-era Tang periscope in the Maritime exhibit.
8. Hiram M Chittenden Locks
These busy locks northwest of Seattle Center are also known as the Ballard Locks. Besides watching the boat traffic move between Puget Sound and the lakes, visitors can seek out the fish ladder, where salmon struggle upstream. Nearby, the Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Garden is a quieter spot to rest and appreciate well-tended gardens.
Tourists can take a narrated sightseeing cruise along the canal, which offers various views of some of the city's most iconic features, like the Space Needle, the Great Ferris Wheel, and even the houseboat community featured in Sleepless in Seattle. The tour lasts 2.5 hours and includes transportation back to the starting point.
9. Benaroya Hall
Seattle's premier arts venue, Benaroya Hall seats 2,500 for Seattle Symphony concerts. Look for the large glass art sculpture by Dale Chihuly, featured prominently in the lobby. It's similar to the works at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle Center and at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. The performance hall is downtown, across the street from the Seattle Art Museum.
Benaroya Hall presents a variety of shows and performances. The Seattle Symphony is a staple exhibition, but this beautiful concert hall also features folk performances, family concerts, and lively speaker series. Whatever show brings you to Benaroya Hall, the decadent 2,500-seat auditorium itself adds to the experience of visiting.
10. International District
To the east of Pioneer Square is the colorful International District, where Japanese and Chinese shops and restaurants dominate the street scene. There are many things to do here, but the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience is a must. This museum charts the history of Asian immigration, named for Wing Luke, a Chinese American who was the first Asian American elected official in Washington.
Another fun place to visit within the International District is the Seattle Pinball Museum. This hands-on museum doesn't just relate the colorful history of these popular arcade accessories, it encourages visitors to flick the flippers of countless pinball games. The surrounding district is also filled with several international restaurants and cultural centers.