Seattle may be best known for rain and coffee, but it has so much more to offer and can make a terrific vacation destination. Popular things to do in Seattle include riding to the top of the Space Needle, visiting the Museum of Pop Culture, and strolling through the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. Seattle also has a few fun and unique things that you can’t find in most other cities, like the Gum Wall at Pike Place Market.
If you’re thinking you might like to head west to visit this city, check out this advice on the top things to do in the city, plus advice for making your visit a smooth, exciting, and memorable one.
Best Times to Go to Seattle
Spring, summer, and early fall are the best times to go to Seattle, with summer travel being the most popular. Temperatures during these times are pleasant, in the high 60s and low 70s, and there’s little rain.
There are plenty of festivals happening in the summer, too, which might be fun to check out while in Seattle, including:
• Beyond Wonderland electronic music festival (June)
• Northwest Tune-Up bike, beer, and music festival (July)
• Capitol Hill Block Party music and arts festival (July)
• Watershed country music festival (August)
Bad Times to Go to Seattle
Seattle is known as the “rainy city,” and fall and winter can be chilly and wet. November and December are the rainiest months of the year in Seattle.
However, if you’re on a budget, hotel prices may be lower during the winter. If you’re looking for how to save money on hotels in Seattle and you are focusing on indoor activities, then going during the off-season can be an affordable option.
Average Cost of a Seattle Vacation
Seattle can be an affordable city to visit, depending on how you travel. Typically, a one-week stay will cost around $1,364 for one person and $2,728 for two. Plan on daily costs of around $195. Some specifics to note:
• A hotel in a central location like Downtown Seattle, near Pike Place Market, can be over $400 a night during peak season.
• If you’re looking for cheaper hotels, then try neighborhoods outside of central Seattle, but you may need to rent a car for these.
• If you’re saving up money ahead of time for a Seattle vacation trip, you may be wondering where to keep your travel fund. High-yield savings accounts and regular savings accounts are two popular places to keep your funds.
• Although “book now pay later” travel options may be tempting, it can be more financially responsible to save money ahead of time so that you don’t pay extra in interest.
If you’re thinking about booking a trip to Seattle but are worried that you may have unforeseen circumstances and have to cancel your trip, you can look into travel insurance. If you pay for your trip with certain credit cards, they may provide travel insurance for certain situations. You should understand how credit card travel insurance works when deciding whether to purchase private travel insurance or use your credit card protections.
10 Fun Must-Dos in Seattle
There is a lot to do in Seattle, and fortunately, it’s a fairly walkable city. There are buses, streetcars, a light rail system, a monorail, ferries and water taxis to help you get around.
The following recommendations for the top 10 fun things to do while visiting Seattle are culled from frequent visitors to the city, residents, and the top-rated attractions based on online reviews. Ready? Here are some must-see destinations in the city.
1. Scale the Space Needle
Perhaps Seattle’s most visible iconic structure, the Space Needle was originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair. From the top, you can see incredible views of the city through the glass walls of the structure.
The Space Needle is located in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood. It’s open year-round, and hours vary by day and time of year; depending on the time and ticket type, costs vary between $22.50 and $42.50. Discount bundle packages are available for tickets for the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum and the Space Needle. spaceneedle.com/
2. Stroll Through Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is Seattle’s most famous market and is the most visited landmark in the city. The market is famous for fish, which has been sold there open-air since 1930, and you may know of the tradition of the catch of the day being thrown around by fishmongers. But the market also hosts many other vendors selling things like jewelry, artwork and clothing, plus all kinds of food, from candied salmon jerky to freshly fried donuts.
Pike Place Market stretches across nine acres within Seattle’s central business district. It’s one of the best free things to do in the city. Hours vary but most of Pike Place Market is active from 10 am to 5 pm, with some restaurants staying open later for dinner and some opening earlier for breakfast. Pike Place Market is open 7 days a week except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Pike Place Market is also home to the famous Gum Wall, which is a wall within an alleyway that is completely covered in chewing gum. The Gum Wall started in the 1990s when local patrons and performers would stick their used gum on the wall. It’s now a popular photo location.
Pike Place Market can get quite crowded, especially on weekends, so plan accordingly. pikeplacemarket.org/about-pike-place-market/plan-your-visit/
3. Gaze at Gorgeous Glass
The Chihuly Garden and Glass museum is a unique museum that showcases the work of renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, who lives in Seattle. Both indoors and out, the museum shows off Chihuly’s brilliantly colored, fancifully shaped works which have been exhibited around the globe. The outdoor garden blends plants and flowers with glass pieces intertwined.
The museum is located next to the Space Needle at Seattle Center in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood. It’s generally open from around 10 am to around 6 pm year-round. Depending on the date and ticket type, costs range from $22.50 to $37.50. Discount bundle packages are available for tickets for the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum and the Space Needle; you may want to put these costs on your favorite kind of plastic and earn credit card rewards. chihulygardenandglass.com/
4. Find the Fremont Troll
This famous troll statue, which is 18 feet tall, is under the Aurora Bridge in Seattle’s cool, indie Fremont neighborhood. It’s a fun photo-op, for sure, but you can also have fun popping into the neighborhood’s vintage stores and boutiques.
5. Take a Beneath the Streets Tour
Here’s one of the best things to do in Seattle for adults: Take a Beneath the Streets Tour. You’ll go underground and learn about the Red Light District. Basically, you’ll be immersed in the city’s early history of prostitution, drinking, gambling, and crime, which provides a fascinating glimpse at forbidden aspects of Seattle’s past, if you’re game for that.
The tour is available 7 days a week, except for Christmas day, with ticket prices running in the $25 to $27 range. beneath-the-streets.com/
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6. Visit the Ballard Locks
Take a visit to the busiest lock system in the nation: The Ballard Locks (ballardlocks.org/) link the Puget Sound with Lake Washington and the Ship Canal. You can picnic nearby or just hang out and watch boats rise and fall with the waters of the lock system as they navigate to their next destination. It’s a cool, free thing to do while in Seattle. If you’re there in the summer, you can see the famous Salmon Ladder (ballardlocks.org/fish-salmon-ladder.html) in action, as three species of the fish rush through the network of water “ladders” to spawn upriver. Visitor Center hours vary by date.
7. Plug into Pop Culture
Here’s a fun thing to do in Seattle: Pop into the Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP, where you can learn more about culture today and in the recent past. Exhibits cover such tops as rock music (hello, Nirvana and Pearl Jam!) and science fiction and fantasy worlds.
The museum is open daily except for Wednesdays, between 10 am and 5 pm. Ticket prices vary by date, typically between $26.25 and $30.25. mopop.org/
8. Ride the Great Wheel
Want a stunning view of the city, plus a fun ride? The Seattle Great Wheel, located on Pier 57 in Seattle, ought to do the trick. It’s one of the largest Ferris wheels in North America, standing 175 feet tall and extending 40 feet out over Elliot Bay, so it’s quite literally a top thing to do in Seattle.
Bonus: It features fully enclosed, air-conditioned gondolas so you can climb aboard, no matter what the weather. As you go around, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the city, the Pacific Ocean, and the Olympic Mountains, gaining an appreciation for the city’s unique location and its beauty.
The Seattle Great Wheel is open daily from 11 am to 9 pm. It costs around $12 for youth to $17 for adults. seattlegreatwheel.com/
9. Wander Through the Washington Park Arboretum
Here’s a great free thing to do in Seattle: Act like a local, and spend a few hours in the Washington Park Arboretum’s 230 acres. It’s home to a stunning array of trees, plants, and flowers, including some that are found nowhere else in the Northwest. Located on the shores of Lake Washington, the arboretum is open during daylight hours year-round for free. Leashed dogs are allowed in most areas, so if you’re traveling with pets, the Arboretum may be a fun thing to do on your Seattle vacation trip with your pet. botanicgardens.uw.edu/washington-park-arboretum/visit/
While you’re there, don’t miss the Japanese Garden, which is considered one of the best examples of its kind outside of Japan. It’s a beautiful place to stroll among plants, moss, a koi pond, winding paths, stone lanterns, and a meadow area. Admission is $6 for kids and $10 for adults. seattlejapanesegarden.org/
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10. Sip Some Local Wine
California isn’t the only West Coast state known for its wine: Washington is, too, and Woodinville, about 30 minutes from downtown Seattle, is a great place to see and taste for yourself. (You may want to rent a car or explore car services and/or public transportation to get there.)
You’ll find more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms in Woodinville to explore. Winery hours and prices vary, but you can have fun sampling the different varieties produced so close to the city.
Seattle is a great city with so much to do. Whether you want to explore its natural beauty, eat amazing food, check out museums, shop, or get schooled in its history, you’ll have plenty of options.
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What are things to do in Seattle at night?
Seattle has many things to do at night. There are numerous restaurants, bars and clubs throughout the city. The Beneath the Streets Tour would also be a fun and unique activity to do at night. The tour covers underground Seattle and the Red Light District, and may be best suited for adults, as topics include prostitution, drinking, gambling and crime.
What are some things to do in Seattle for kids?
Seattle has a lot to offer for kids and families who are visiting. The Seattle Great Wheel is a popular attraction among children. Finding free activities can be how families afford to travel. Seattle also offers plenty of free or cheap attractions, like visiting the Fremont Troll or watching boats at the Ballard Locks.
What are unique things to do in Seattle?
Seattle has a few fun and unique things that you can’t find in most other cities. Some uniquely Seattle activities include visiting the Gum Wall at Pike Place Market or taking a tour of underground Seattle with the Beneath the Streets Tour.
Photo credit: iStock/Sean Pavone
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