This post is part of a series on travel close to home. You can find more posts from this series on my page Getaways Near Me (or You)
I love Seattle! The food, the culture, the green hills surrounded by water. What could be better? In my previous “property management life,” I had seven (7) properties located in the Greater Seattle Area. This gave me a fantastic excuse to make the trek from the S.F. Bay Area to Seattle about every three weeks!
From Lynwood and Bothell in the North all the way down to Kent and Federal Way in the South, I got to know the area pretty well. If you’re planning a trip to this Pacific Northwest City, here are my top reasons to visit Seattle!
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1. Seattle Center & the Space Needle
The Space Needle is the most iconic and recognizable feature of the Seattle skyline. For this reason alone, most first-time Seattle visitors have this site on their list of must-see places. But do you know about the Seattle Center? Designed, along with the Space Needle, initially for the 1962 World Fair, it has remained a relevant and prominent Seattle spot.
The Seattle Center is home to the popular Bumbershoot Music and Art Festival and the Seattle International Film Festival. You will also find the Pacific Science Center, Seattle Monorail, Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Museum of Pop Culture, and the Space Needle.
The Space Needle is a Seattle icon. This 604-foot high tower provides a unique way to see the panorama of the city. While definitely a touristy thing to do, no trip to Seattle is complete without taking in the views from the observation deck at the Space Needle.
Once you get to the top, if you are 21 and over, you can have “Drinks on the Deck.” The Loupe, a cocktail lounge located on the 500-Foot level of the tower, makes a complete 360° revolution every 30 minutes, giving you unparalleled views of the Seattle skyline.
Chihuly Garden and Glass was established at the Seattle Center in 2012. This dazzling museum is dedicated to Tacoma-born glass artist Dale Chihuly’s works comprises eight galleries, a lush garden, and the Glasshouse, the attraction’s astounding mainstay.
The Glasshouse is a glass and steel structure that was inspired by Chihuly’s fascination for conservatories. A 98-foot work in yellow, red, orange, and amber suspended from the ceiling is a focal point of the exhibits. This fantastic work seems to change with the light throughout the day. Chihuly has earned worldwide acclaim for his colorful and logic-defying glass sculptures.
2. You Want To Visit The Home Of Starbucks
Seattle is known for its coffee scene. Cozy coffee shops lining the streets, each boasting their own roasts and unique drinks, are all over town. So don’t stop with just Starbucks; check out other local roasters like Victrola Coffee, Stumptown, or Lighthouse Roasters.
Did you know there are over 32,000 Starbucks locations worldwide? But this mega-coffee house got its start right here in Seattle. Starbucks opened its first coffee shop in Seattle in 1971 in the Pike Place Market and is still going strong today. If you want to get your favorite caffeine boost from this shop, plan ahead, as the lines will likely be out the door.
Suppose you like Starbucks but think you should aim a little higher in the home of coffee that is Seattle. In that case, you can visit the first Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Here you have a first-row seat to watch the art of coffee making, from the bean to roasting to an ever-evolving menu of coffee.
3. Pike Place Market
In 1907, eight farmers got together and started Pike Place Market. Today the Market is one of the oldest continuously operating farmer’s markets in the United States. The home of the famous “Flying Fish” and over 500 shops, restaurants, and vendor stalls, Pike Place Market spans nine acres running vertically and horizontally.
At the corner of Pike Street and 1st Avenue, the Market sits atop a hill overlooking Elliott Bay. In addition to the infamous fish throwing, merchants gather daily to sell fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers. On the lower floors of the Market, you will find boutiques, bakeries, and shops of all kinds. Start your morning at the top and work your way down to the Waterfront. By the time you get down to the water, you’ll be ready for some lunch!
4. Seattle’s Waterfront
Anywhere you are in Seattle, you are never too far from a breathtaking waterfront. If you want to catch sight of some whales, dine over the water, or relax in an idyllic spot, head to the Waterfront.
Alaskan Way runs north-south along Elliott Bay, and while it bends towards touristy shops, you will find some don’t miss places as well. For example, what to do when the inevitable Seattle Rain comes? Go to the Seattle Aquarium! You can watch the marine life frolic in the water, and you stay dry!
When the sun comes back out, head a bit further North and visit the Olympic Sculpture Park. At Clipper Vacations, you can jump on a whale-watching tour and spend some time out on the water instead of just looking at it.
5. Ferries – A Great Reason to Visit Seattle!
Did someone say Ferries? The Washington State Ferry System has 21 vessels covering ten routes between 20 terminals, making it the most extensive ferry system in the country. The fleet carries more than 24 million passengers to and fro each year. Two ferry routes leave right out of Seattle proper: Seattle/Bainbridge Island and Seattle/Bremerton. These are car-carrying ferries, so you can drive on to the ferry, head over to Bainbridge Island for the day, and then take the ferry back to Seattle.
In addition to the Washington State Ferries, there are other publicly and privately owned Ferry Systems. Including the Victoria Clipper and the M/V Coho, which sail from Seattle, WA to Victoria, British Columbia. And if you drive north up to Bellingham (about an hour and a half), you can catch the Alaska Marine Highway System Ferry all the way up to Juneau, Alaska.
I’m a huge fan of any transit; if It moves, I want to be on it. Once on a visit to Seattle, the hubby and I took the high-speed Victoria Clipper from Seattle to Victoria, Canada. While there, we took a Zodiac whale-watching tour of the resident Orca (killer whale) pods in the San Juans. And then, to get back to Seattle, took a floatplane that landed on Lake Union. So much fun.
6. Nature – Outdoor Activities
As I mentioned above, the San Juan Islands are the best place to spot whales, especially orcas. Keep your eyes open on a ferry across Puget Sound, and you are likely to see a whale or two. But for the best show, book a good whale-watching tour!
It rains or is overcast in Seattle for about 2/3’s of the year. But that means there around 150 days of glorious sunshine. The rains are the reason Seattle has its nickname, “the Emerald City.” The rain and temperate weather keep the hills and mountains lush and green.
The iffy weather makes your average Seattleite so much more eager to take advantage of outside activities when the sun is shining. Pair good weather, great open spaces, and there’s outdoor fun for everyone. Seattle has a sport for everyone, from hiking and fishing, to cross-country skiing, sailing, or canoeing.
Speaking of hiking, the Cascade Mountain Range runs for over 700 miles from Lassen Peak in Northern California to the Fraser River in British Columbia and contains 18 active volcanoes. Mt. Ranier, a little over 50 miles south of Seattle, is one of these volcanoes.
On clear days you can see Mt. Rainier from many viewing points in Seattle, including the Space Needle. This behemoth of a mountain reaches a height of 14,410 feet. If you are an avid hiker, Mt. Ranier is even more breathtaking up close.
7. Seattle Neighborhoods Are Epic
All great cities comprise numerous smaller neighborhoods; Seattle is no different, and each district has its own personality.
Ballard, known for its Scandinavian and maritime roots, you find the Brewery District. This is the go-to place for artisan beers, from pilsners to IPAs. At the Ballard Locks, you can watch the vessels make their way from the Puget Sound to Lake Union and back. There is even a fish ladder at the locks so the salmon can make their way home each year to spawn.
Initially, on a hill, Belltown was flattened as part of the “Denny Regrade Project” in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This is where you will find the Crocodile Bar, which hosted Nirvana, Cheap Trick, and R.E.M., among others. Opening in a new location in 2021, The Crocodile will still be in Belltown with all its music history.
As its name suggests, you’ll get a fantastic cardio workout powering up and down the hills, steps, and stairways in Capitol Hill. But the rewards are vast. Visit Volunteer Park and see the Seattle Asian Art Museum, Bruce Lee’s grave. And don’t miss the Jimi Hendrix statue at the corner of Broadway and Pine.
Downtown is the heart of Seattle. You feel the town’s energy here with famous spots such as Pike Place Market and Nordstrom’s flagship store. Don’t miss out on the performing arts venues, including the 5th Avenue Theatre, Paramount Theatre. And f you’re interested in visual or literary arts, you can stop in at the Seattle Art Museum or the Seattle Central Public Library.
The neighborhoods above are just a sampling of the fun and unique areas in Seattle. Don’t stop; you have a lot more to see. Fremont – is the self-proclaimed Center of the Universe and the home of the Fremont Troll! Pioneer Square – Seattle’s first neighborhood, settled by the pioneers back in 1852. Queen Anne – Incredible, stately homes and the Seattle Center, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the Seattle Opera.
8. Lake Union – Floating Homes and Gas Works Park
Made even more famous by the 1993 file “Sleepless in Seattle,” floating homes and houseboats can be found all around the shores of Lake Union. These homes have been a mainstay in Seattle since the late 1800s. Floating homes first became popular as an affordable housing option. Today they are a bit more pricey, and their numbers have decreased to only about 500. Still, Seattle claims more floating homes and houseboats than any other city in the United States.
As you tool around Lake Union admiring the Floating Homes, Yachts, and other maritime seagoing vessels, you may want to stop for a bit and stretch your legs. The perfect stop for this is Gas Works Park, Part of Seattle’s Parks and Recreation Department at the north end of Lake Union. Built on a former coal gasification plant site, the park was designed for strolling the waterfront or flying a kite. As you look across Lake Union from the park, you have an incredible, unobstructed view of Seattle’s skyline.
9. Seattle’s Skyline
If one of your reasons to visit Seattle is photography, you will likely spend a great deal of time looking for the best angles of the skyline. The City seems to rise up in every direction, so you won’t be at a loss for a good shot. Clearly, the iconic Space Needle makes for an instantly recognizable image against the crowd of skyscrapers.
But If you’re in Seattle on a clear day, you’ll also catch Mount Rainier, providing a stunning backdrop. And, of course, the skyline at night is a dazzling array of light heading up the steep hills from Elliott Bay.
10. Music – Is On The List Of Reasons To Visit Seattle
Seattle is well known for turning out musical geniuses. Kenny G, Heart, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Chris Cornell, and Death Cab for Cutie all got their start as Seattle musicians. If you love music, this is one of the best reasons to visit Seattle.
And did you know that the music genre “Grunge” hails from Seattle? Yep, Kurt Cobain was a local. You will find terrific music venues like The Showbox, Neumos, and the Neptune Theatre all over town. Make sure to take in a show; you never know you could be watching the next pearl Jam get its start!
11. Wine, Craft Beer & Cider Scene
Not at all surprising is that coffee isn’t the only drink Seattle does well. Wine, beer, and cider are all well represented here. Hire a car and head over to Woodinville, just to the east of Seattle, for a day of wine tasting. With over 130 wineries from all around Washington State represented here, you’re sure to find a great wine to drink and take home.
Wine, not your thing? No worries, Woodinville is also packed full of cideries and breweries. Take a break from all the touring and tasting in downtown Woodinville for a tasty lunch and shopping. The local makers and artisans are well displayed here.
12. One of the Best Reasons to Visit Seattle: Food – Especially Seafood
The food scene in Seattle is fantastic; it is easily a contender for having the best seafood in America. Being right on the Pacific coast, Seattle restaurants serve some of the best seafood money can buy. Do you love to dine on oysters, tuna, salmon, or halibut? The seafood is all fresh and tastes a whole lot better when you are in Seattle.
For casual seafood, you must go to Ivar’s. This local fish house (with 19 cafés all around Seattle) has been serving up some of the best Clam Chowder on the west coast since 1938. If you want to make a fancy evening of it, try the upscale AQUA by El Gaucho on Alaska Way at Pier 70 and ask for a table with a view of Elliott Bay.
But seafood is just the beginning of the feast for a food lover in Seattle. Get some Fried Chicken at the Wandering Goose. Or maybe try A Seattle Dog (they like their hot dogs with cream cheese here) a local hot dog cart like Monster Dogs. Looking for sweets? Fran’s Chocolates offers up a Presidential (Obama’s) favorite with their Smoke Salt Caramels. Of course, Dick’s is the go-to hamburger joint in Seattle and is every bit as iconic as In-N-Out is to California.
Really, the food in is definitely high on my list of reasons to visit Seattle !
13. History Is Always A Good Reason To Visit Seattle
Last but certainly not least, one of the best reasons to visit Seattle is its history. Chief Seattle was the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes leader in the region when the Denny Party arrived in September of 1851. The Chief worked to forge a peaceful and robust relationship with the settlers. As a result of his influence, the city of Seattle was named for the Chief.
Seattle is probably the only city in the US that can claim to be built on top of another city. In 1889 “The Great Fire” consumed all of what was then Seattle. When the fire was gone, the Citizens raised the street level and started building the new City right on top. The original town, including alleyways and facades, still exists beneath Seattle today. Take the Underground Tour to explore the old city and learn more about Seattle’s first days.
14. Need More Reasons to Visit Seattle?
Hollywood loves Seattle. This town has been featured in many notable films such as: “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and “10 Things I Hate About You”. And of course, on the small screen, you have “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Fraiser,” and “Twilight.” If you don’t have enough reasons to visit Seattle yet, watch a few of the shows list here and get the bug!
Now that you’ve traveled through the cities highlights, you can see why everyone who’s been to Seattle, myself included, will say you have to go. A visit to Seattle gives you a one-of-a-kind holiday.