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Discover the Top Things to Do in Seattle, Any Time of Year

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Discover the wonders of Seattle, from the sparkling Puget Sound to the bustling heart of the city. Get lost in the lush greenery and majestic mountains or explore the vibrant downtown scene. Whatever your passion, Seattle offers endless opportunities for adventure and exploration.



Overview

Even Seattle’s famous rain cannot dampen the breathtaking views of Elliott Bay from the deck of a ferry, or the awe-inspiring waterfall at an Indigenous cultural center. In this city, outdoor activities are a way of life, no matter the weather. Explore gardens of vibrant glass, stumble upon giant wooden trolls, and encounter world-renowned sculptures as you wander through lush parks and tree-lined streets. Everywhere you turn, the sparkling waters of Puget Sound dazzle, from the top of the revamped Space Needle to the new Marketfront Pavilion at Pike Place Market. And for a truly unforgettable experience, dine at one of Seattle’s renowned restaurants while enjoying a picturesque ferry ride across Elliott Bay.

As you stand atop the iconic Space Needle, take in the breathtaking view of Seattle’s lush greenery and vibrant neighborhoods. Set out to explore the city’s rich cultural heritage through its many museums and galleries. And don’t forget to indulge in the diverse culinary delights that come with a city known for its adventurous spirit. From hiking through forests to savoring seafood by the waterfront, there’s never a shortage of ways to experience the natural beauty and thrill of Seattle, any time of year.

Check Out Our Complete Washington Travel Guide

Table of Contents:

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Pike Place Market

A bustling hub of activity, Seattle’s renowned Pike Place public market has stood for over a century and continues to thrive. Vendors and artisans shout their wares while the sound of waves crashing against the nearby Elliott Bay shoreline fills the air. The scene is alive with energy as locals haggle for fresh seafood and vibrant flowers, and tourists indulge in delectable delights from a myriad of gourmet food stalls. But amidst the chaos, a sense of overwhelming urgency builds. Without a plan, one risks getting lost in the crowd. Thankfully, the market’s website offers a lifeline – a fully customizable planner with expertly crafted itineraries to guide even the most overwhelmed visitor through this electrifying experience.

Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, Washington.

Discovery Park

Nestled in Seattle’s magnificent Magnolia neighborhood, Discovery Park spans over 534 acres of verdant urban heaven. Explore twelve miles of winding trails that lead to tranquil shores, rugged coastal bluffs, sandy beaches, peaceful meadows, and enchanting forests.

For those with limited time, the 2.8-mile Loop Trail showcases the park’s most breathtaking sights and is a perfect introduction to the area’s natural wonders. Embark on a journey of awe and discovery at this gem of a park.

If you have some more time, one of the best hiking trails in Seattle is the Discovery Park and Lighthouse Loop Trail. This 4.4 mile hike is considered easy and is part of a designated National Recreation Trail. The trail takes you through breathtaking forests and meadows and can be enjoyed by both runners and walkers throughout the year. As you reach the beach, you’ll come across the West Point lighthouse, adding to the beauty of the trip. This loop has minimal elevation gain, making it suitable for hikers of all levels. Keep an eye out for wildlife as this area is known for its variety of bird species, making it a favorite spot for birdwatchers.

Every inch of Discovery Park is a breathtaking marvel, waiting to be explored. As you wander through the lush trails, take a moment to discover the rich history of this land at the United Indians of All Tribes’ Daybreak Star Cultural Center. Here, you can immerse yourself in the culture and art of the indigenous Duwamish and Coast Salish peoples who have called this area home for centuries. And don’t forget to visit the iconic West Point Lighthouse, standing tall since 1885 and still leading ships to safety today.

With well-maintained paths and helpful markers, navigating this park is a breeze. But with so much beauty and adventure to discover, it’s easy to lose your bearings. Make sure to download a map from the park’s website before embarking on your journey – trust me, you won’t want to miss a thing.

Sun setting on the Discovery Park Lighthouse at West Point in Seattle.


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Chihuly Garden and Glass

A mesmerizing world of glass art awaits at the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, beckoning visitors to step into a realm of imagination and creativity. The renowned artist Dale Chihuly’s masterpieces fill the space with ethereal sculptures that seem to come alive among the natural surroundings. But it is the towering Glasshouse that steals the show, reaching 40 feet into the sky as if to touch the heavens. Inside, an awe-inspiring 100-foot-long suspended sculpture hangs in mid-air, a testament to Chihuly’s love for botanical conservatories. As sunlight pours through the glass panels, casting ever-changing hues on the artwork, one cannot help but feel transported to another world. And don’t forget to explore the Garden, where delicate handcrafted glass pieces bloom like flowers amidst lush greenery, creating a truly magical experience.

Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle. Photo by Megan Swann

Washington Park Arboretum

Nestled on the tranquil shores of Lake Washington, lies the breathtaking Seattle Washington Park Arboretum. A sprawling 230 acres of lush greenery, this public park boasts a diverse collection of plants, including rare and endangered species. As you meander through the winding trails, which pass through enchanting forests and wetlands, you’ll come across a stunning Japanese garden and a vibrant playfield. But the true highlight is Azalea Way – a burst of color in the spring time that will take your breath away. And with year-round access and free admission, anyone can embark on an adventure through this natural wonderland. Don’t miss out on the art exhibits, educational programs, and special events hosted throughout the year – each one adding to the magic of the Arboretum experience. Managed jointly by the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, the City of Seattle, and the Arboretum Foundation, this park is truly a treasure to behold.

Embark on the Lookout Trail, a picturesque one-mile loop nestled in the enchanting Japanese Maples collection. Let your senses be captivated by stunning vistas of Lake Washington and the majestic Cascade Mountains, while surrounded by a vibrant array of plants like fiery magnolias, blooming rhododendrons, and mystical witch hazels. This trail offers a mix of easy paths and challenging inclines, perfect for adventurers of all ages and abilities. Begin your journey at either the Graham Visitor Center or the Wilcox Bridge, and get ready to immerse yourself in nature’s timeless beauty all year round in the Arboretum

Japanese Garden at Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle.

Kubota Garden

A hidden oasis of tranquil beauty, the Kubota Garden beckons visitors with its vibrant red bridges spanning over shimmering ponds teeming with lively koi fish. As you wander through the 20 acres of meticulously designed Japanese gardens, created by Fujitaro Kubota in 1927 and now part of Seattle’s public park system, let yourself be enveloped by the lush native Northwest flora that interweaves along the winding paths. Just beware, what should be a simple 15 minute drive to this paradise can easily become a frustrating 30 minutes or more in heavy traffic. So choose your timing wisely and prepare to lose yourself in this exquisite natural wonderland.

A red walking bridge at Kuboata Gardens in Seattle, Washington.

Seattle Art Museum

The Seattle Art Museum’s modern and polished architecture is a masterpiece in itself, mirroring the exquisite artworks it holds within. As a cornerstone of Seattle’s vibrant art community, it is an essential destination for any discerning art enthusiast. Here, the temporary exhibitions are not overshadowed by the permanent collections; rather, they take center stage. From thought-provoking explorations on the authorship of history to breathtaking depictions of extreme landscapes, each exhibit is expertly curated and strategically placed to create a riveting journey through the museum.

Nestled in the bustling center of Seattle, galleries filled with natural light beckon you to explore their diverse collections. From temporary installations to traveling exhibits from far corners of the globe, the Seattle Art Museum offers a wide range of works to admire. Their collection boasts pieces from Asia, Africa, America, the Ancient Mediterranean, the Islamic world, Europe, Oceania, and Australia’s Aboriginal community, as well as modern and contemporary art and decorative arts.

Northwest Trolls: Way of the Bird King

During the year 2023, the enchanting forests surrounding Seattle welcomed five magnificent wooden trolls, crafted by renowned Danish artist Thomas Dambo using recycled materials. Each troll has its own unique tale to tell and offers a playful space for exploration and wonder. While some require a journey by ferry or car (such as those in Issaquah, Bainbridge Island, and Vashon Island), the charming Frankie Feetsplinters near Ballard’s National Nordic Museum and the mesmerizing Bruun Idun who sings to orcas by Colman Pool in West Seattle are easily accessible for those craving an adventurous experience amidst the beauty of nature.

Olympic Sculpture Park

Located on the northern edge of downtown, this park is a branch of the Seattle Art Museum. Spanning nine acres, it boasts a winding path that leads to Elliott Bay and showcases an array of artwork from both local and international artists. The sight of Alexander Calder’s “Eagle” perched above the water is a popular spot for sunset views and pictures. Teresita Fernandez’s “Seattle Cloud Cover” beautifully blends natural surroundings with man-made art, while Jaume Plensa’s waterfront sculpture “Echo” is truly captivating. With smooth pathways and accessible ramps, navigating the park is simple. Though there is limited information provided at each sculpture, visitors can download a map and guide from the park’s website for further context. Admission is free and guests can choose to make a quick stop for photos or have a leisurely picnic on the grounds.

Space Needle

The Space Needle stands tall like a futuristic monolith, casting its shadow over the bustling city of Seattle. A symbol of progress and innovation, this iconic landmark was erected for the 1962 World’s Fair, serving as an observation tower for visitors to marvel at the surrounding area. With a swift ride up the elevator, daredevils can reach the top of the Space Needle and experience breathtaking 360-degree views. The recently completed $100 million renovation offers both an enclosed viewing level with a glass floor, allowing for spine-tingling peeks at the bustling city below, and an open-air deck level where visitors can feel the wind whip through their hair as they take in the magnificent panorama.

Green Lake Park

The Olmstead Brothers’ vision for Seattle’s park system placed Green Lake at its center, a jewel in the midst of an urban landscape. Bursting with life and activity, the three-mile path encircling the lake is always bustling with people walking or biking. The fields and courts are a magnet for sports enthusiasts, drawing in residents from all corners of the city. The inviting beaches beckon visitors to bask in the sunshine during the summer months. As one takes a leisurely stroll around Green Lake, they are greeted not only by fellow walkers and joggers, but also by nature’s bounty – birds singing, trees rustling, and flowers blooming. And amidst this natural wonderland stands historic landmarks such as the bathhouse and aqua theater, remnants of a bygone era that add to the charm of this beloved spot. A trip around Green Lake is a true immersion into Seattle culture – a vibrant blend of outdoor adventure and community spirit.

Green Lake Park is a well-known spot for city dwellers to go on runs and hikes, and it’s also one of the most cherished parks in Seattle. It attracts thousands of visitors every day. The park offers both an inner loop and an outer loop, measuring 2.8 miles and 3.1 miles respectively. The inner loop tends to be more crowded, while the outer loop is often overlooked. Runners have their own path made of crushed granite, while those using wheels can travel on paved paths.

Green Lake Park, Seattle.

Woodland Park Zoo

Located in the charming Phinney Ridge neighborhood, the Woodland Park Zoo has been a beloved destination for families in the Pacific Northwest since its founding in 1899. With over 900 animals representing 250 different species, this non-profit zoo is dedicated to saving wildlife and inspiring conservation efforts. The expansive grounds boast a lush canopy of over 90,000 plants, trees, flowers, and shrubs from 1,300 species. The zoo’s accolades speak for themselves with over 65 awards across various categories. Drawing in more than 1 million visitors annually, the zoo’s website provides information on hours of operation, admission fees, and other important details for those interested in planning a visit.

Mother lion with cubs (Panthera leo) at Woodland Park Zoo’s African Savanna exhibit, which showcases the remarkable species that exist on these shrinking wild grasslands.

National Nordic Museum

Tucked away in the heart of this region lies a hidden gem, the Nationial Nordic Museum delves deep into the rich history and culture of the Nordic peoples. Textiles, archival ephemera, and artwork from generations of Nordic immigrants adorn its walls, offering a thought-provoking journey through time. As you wander through the museum’s halls, temporary exhibits showcase an array of works from talented artists of Nordic descent. And when hunger strikes, don’t settle for a mere museum cafe – indulge in truly exquisite dining at Freya, the museum’s restaurant specializing in authentic Nordic cuisine. With each bite of savory smørrebrød, you’ll taste the essence of the Nordic spirit and understand why this museum is a must-visit destination for any true lover of history and culture.

Frye Art Museum

The Frye Museum is a hidden treasure, disguised as a humble building in the heart of the city. As visitors enter through its striking entrance, they are immediately engulfed in a world of mesmerizing art. The galleries are carefully designed to showcase modern and contemporary masterpieces, illuminated by beams of natural light that only enhance their beauty. Notable for its expansive collection of over 200 oil paintings from renowned European and American artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the museum has since grown exponentially, diversifying its holdings to include works from later periods and previously marginalized artists. Each exhibit is thoughtfully curated, providing an extensive and enlightening journey through the rich history of art. Prepare to be captivated and transformed by this exceptional cultural haven.

Bainbridge Island

A mere 35-minute journey from the busy Seattle Ferry Terminal, Bainbridge Island beckons with promises of adventure and excitement for families and couples alike. With options to walk, drive or even bike off the boat, you’ll find yourself in downtown Winslow in no time. But this quaint town is more than meets the eye, as it boasts a vibrant array of bookstores, coffee shops, boutiques and cafes waiting to be explored on Winslow Way. For those seeking a dose of nature, Waterfront Park and City Dock offer an invigorating hike along the rugged shoreline. And for an unforgettable evening, indulge in the bold flavors of Ba Sa, a Vietnamese restaurant infused with local ingredients, before retiring to the enchanting Eagle Harbor Inn for a fairy tale-like stay. This is not just a day trip – it’s an unforgettable experience on Bainbridge Island.

One of the most exhilarating hikes on Bainbridge Island is the Cross Island Trail, a 4.9-mile adventure that takes you through stunning landscapes and breathtaking views of the Seattle skyline, Mount Rainier, Olympic Mountains, and Pacific Northwest forests. This trail winds through lush parks and natural areas, including Grand Forest East, Grand Forest West, and Hilltop. With its challenging yet rewarding terrain and well-marked path adorned with the iconic Cross Island Trail logos, it’s perfect for intermediate hikers seeking an adventure through the diverse beauty and history of Bainbridge Island. Whether you choose to conquer it as a point-to-point trek or a longer out-and-back excursion, this trail will leave you in awe of nature’s splendor.

Bainbridge Island Ferry on Puget Sound

Snoqualmie Falls

Nestled just outside the bustling city of Seattle lies a magnificent 270-foot waterfall, a natural wonder that will leave you breathless. A short hike to its base reveals the raw power and beauty of nature. And now, with the Snoqualmie Tribe reclaiming their ancestral land, there is even more to explore and discover. A new visitors center, adorned with stunning Indigenous art and showcasing the rich history of both the tribe and the falls, is a must-see for anyone seeking adventure and cultural enrichment. It’s the perfect half-day trip for those craving a taste of the awe-inspiring Pacific Northwest without venturing too far from urban comforts.

Snoqualmie Falls. at Falls City, Washington.


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