Every city has its own stories and attractions, but the unique things to do in Seattle beat them all by a mile. In Emerald City, you can have a lifetime of new experiences, and then at least a few more. We’re here to introduce you to some of the most unusual and exciting activities and places to check out in and around this West Coast metropolis.
We all know what the first thing that comes to mind is when you think of Emerald City. Rain, Space Needle, grunge, Starbucks, and that interception in Super Bowl XLIX. It’s all there, yes, but moving to Seattle means so much more. Stay with us and discover some of the reasons why folk just love their hometown and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Mount Rainier Is the Perfect Photography Spot
Visible from downtown Seattle, Mount Rainier is the highest peak in the US (outside of Alaska). It is also a dormant volcano with a history of wreaking havoc in the area. And it is a national park.
So on the first occasion after settling in, head there for a day of hiking or snowshoeing. Of course, if you wish to test yourself on one of the more challenging trails, there are many guides to ensure your safety.
There are forests, glaciers, waterfalls, and lakes. You may see some elk, coyotes, and even black bears (preferably from a nice distance). And the view from the top is truly majestic. If you’re to be a genuine Seattleite, you have to like Mt. Rainier.
Kerry Park Offers a Great View
If Mount Rainier provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the State of Washington, then Kerry Park does it for the Emerald City. From the slope of Queen Anne Hill, you can see all that makes Seattle what it is, including:
- the Space Needle
- panoramic wheel
- downtown skyscrapers in front of you
- lovely Puget Sound to the west
- snowy peaks of Mount Rainier in the background
There are few things in the world that can compare to watching ferries in Puget Sound from Kerry’s while the sun sets on the horizon.
Go Shopping at Pike Place Market
Ok, this one may be in every single must-see list, but Pike Place Market is really a sight to behold. Over a hundred-year-old marketplace on the slope of the hill above Elliott Bay offers permanent and seasonal products, fish markets, specialized stores, hundreds of craftsmen, and countless stalls where you can buy a bite for the road.
It can take a really long time to fully explore Pike, especially with people all around. Still, you have to be a Seattleite to learn all its secrets. We strongly encourage you to embark on that quest.
The Whale Watching Tour
So far, we’ve stayed on land. Now it’s time to head out to the sea for a day or two. Sail away to the nearby San Juan Islands. It is probably the only place in the world where you can see orca whales on any given day.
Orcas are beautiful animals (dangerous, too, mind you), and if you’re wondering about things to do in Seattle with kids, it would just be cruel to deny them the opportunity to see them out in the open. Children (and you) will love it! SeaWorld doesn’t come close to it.
Free Sailing in the Center on Wooden Boats
One of Seattleite’s traditions is sailing on Lake Union. And even better, it’s free every Sunday! Come in the morning to sign up, then head out onto the lake in one of the many vessels of various types operated by volunteer crews. If you’re lucky, you may even sail on a yacht and catch a breath of fresh air on the waves for an hour or so.
Of course, during the week, there are boating classes for all who wish to learn the craft of seamanship.
Seaplanes Are a Real Thing Here
Among the many tours that you can take in Seattle, there is one taking place in the air. For 20 minutes, a Kenmore seaplane tour will fly you over all the important places. If the weather is fine, you’ll be able to see the mountains. Yes, Mount Rainier as well.
Other Outdoor Attractions
You thought that you’ve heard all about outdoor fun here? Better think again, because we’ve just begun. We simply have to share more places with lots of greenery and pristine nature.
The first one is Volunteer Park, in the middle of the affluent Capitol Hill neighborhood. The park’s home to a century-old plant conservatory, which features everything from ferns to cactuses and seasonal plants. Each section of the greenhouse has different conditions, depending on the species that live there.
We’re sure you’ll like to see decades-old trees that exist here, as well as a collection of carnivores. Another treat for horticulture lovers are orchids. The number and diversity of them are ever-expanding since the collection began in the early 1920s. Most acquisitions come courtesy of US customs, who often donate specimens they confiscate.
Washington Park Arboretum
Another gem of this city is the Arboretum, situated on the shores of Lake Washington. It is (with just a touch of subjectivity) one of the finest and most beautiful botanical gardens in the world. There is something for every season, starting with mighty oaks and maple trees.
Among the main attractions are Azalea Way and Rhododendron Glen, both easy to get sucked into and lose track of time. And you can go there every day, for free. It is a lovely spot that will welcome every Seattleite, new or not.
Woodland Park Zoo
Now it’s time to turn your attention to animals, which, in this case, means Woodland Zoo. Not to brag, but it’s the zoo that shares the top spot in the number of received awards with its counterpart in the Bronx.
Like the finest zoo that it clearly is, Woodland sports many different habitats. Brown bears, elk, and wolves are among the representatives of North American fauna. In the African savanna are zebras and lions, among others. Orangutans, sloths, Indian rhinos, Malayan tigers, and many more inhabit a section dedicated to tropical Asia.
In the zoo, you can also see Humboldt penguins, and the establishment offers to its visitors the experience of feeding the birds or watching hawks or owls hunting.
The Underground Tour is One of the Most Unique Things to Do in Seattle
After much of downtown had disappeared in flames in 1889, new buildings were made on top of the ruins, leaving an entire network of tunnels and rooms beneath the streets.
Once a domain of unsavory crowds, today it is a tourist attraction, but also a perfect first step in getting to know your new home from the tales the Underground Tour guides will share with you along the way.
Pioneer Square Ghost Tour
What’s a town without haunted houses and ghosts? Not much, really. Luckily, Seattle has them. And there’s a tour taking you around those places. Since you’re guided by true believers, it is certain that you’ll learn much. It’s a fun walk around Pioneer Square and its surroundings, ending in a haunted space underground. If you wish to know all about the eerie part of the city’s lore but aren’t too fond of walking, there’s the Spooked in Seattle! museum.
For Good Old-Fashioned Food, Go to Dick’s
Seattle is a hip town now, as it was back in the day of the counterculture. In the spirit of our age, restaurants offering organic, vegan food without gluten, and of course made from local sources, are everywhere. And then there’s Dick’s.
In this chain of joints, which the Esquire once labeled as “life-changing,” you can eat burgers with gluten and stuffed with cheese for just two bucks. And make no mistake, the lines are there for a reason.
The House That Defied
In the hip neighborhood of Ballard, sits one of the most beloved houses in town, and the one you have to view from up close. Here’s the story:
Some years back, in 2006, an old lady named Edith Macefield was offered $1 million to sell her home to developers and she refused it. Construction went on, and the house got surrounded and squeezed by much taller buildings.
Edith (who passed away in 2008) became a local hero for standing up to the sharks, and her house became something of a shrine for the fans of Disney’s animated hit “UP!,” which was released in 2009. Disney even used the house for promotion, attaching many balloons to its roof. Since 2013, the Macefield Music Festival is held in Ballard every year, as an homage to the woman who stood her ground.
This Is the City of Grunge and It’s Proud of It
Every born-and-bred Seattleite will tell you that the history of music (and maybe even the world) experienced its definitive before-and-after moment when a handsome blond guy started screaming “Here we are now, entertain us”, on the microphone. All the kudos to Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and others, but it was Nirvana that really launched Seattle’s music scene to the big stage. The heyday didn’t last that long, unfortunately, but grunge has changed the city’s culture for good and left us with the following recommendations.
Visit Crocodile Club
The birthplace of grunge, Crocodile Club was and remains one of the best places in the country for live performances. Nirvana played there back in the day, as have Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, and others.
If you’re any kind of rock music fan, visiting Crocodile Club should be very high on your to-do list after the relocation. There’s history, of course, but also concerts of local and not-so-local bands. And then there’s customized pizza for seven bucks.
Check Out the House of Kurt Cobain
When Kurt Cobain passed away in 1994, grunge went into decline. But his personal legend persists. The house in which he died still stands as well. So hop into a car, and join many others who pay their respects to the great man by driving by the house.
The Story of the Fremont Troll
Once upon a time, underneath Aurora Bridge, there was a seedy place in every sense of the word. And then a troll appeared. Made of concrete, steel, and wire in the 1990s, 18-foot tall Fremont Troll still guards the neighborhood, grasping a snatched Beetle car.
It is a favorite hang-out spot for both kids and adults who can climb on it or take a selfie. If you wish to present him with a gift, the troll’s birthday is October 31. And yes, there’s a party every year. The troll was even honored on TV, making him the focal point of the final season of the show “Once Upon a Time.” Oh, in case you were wondering, that Beetle came from California.
Unique Things to Do in Seattle Include Visit to a Twin Peaks Cafe
While we’re on the TV shows turf, we simply have to brag about “Twin Peaks.” Though not exactly in Seattle, the show was filmed only a few minutes’ drive away from it. There, you can go to the popular Twede’s Cafe in Snoqualmie, visit other important sites, and even go to the nearby falls. You can’t tell us this doesn’t make it worth the cost of shipping a car here.
Experience the Hyper-Vibrancy of South Lake Union
The neighborhood located on the southern shore of Lake Union is one of the city’s hotspots and best Seattle neighborhoods. It is where you come in search of a job (Amazon and Google offices are there), but also if you wish to eat in some of the best restaurants in Seattle. The choice of cuisines will blow your mind away. If we had to choose, we would opt for Portage Bay Cafe. The best brunch ever to share with friends or significant other. True story.
South Lake Union is also where you come if you’re a boat enthusiast. There are floating homes, ships and boats of all kinds, Historic Ships Wharf, and many inescapable seaplanes.
Seattleites love Seahawks. They are the city’s pride and joy. And yes, that last action should have been a run, but there’ll be more Super Bowls (fingers crossed). Therefore, folks love the big arena, CenturyLink Field. The view from it is magnificent, so don’t miss out on it.
There is one more public event that you may participate in if you’re a soccer fan. The stadium is where the local MLS team, Seattle Sounders, plays its games as hosts. Before every game, fans gather on the Pioneer Square and then go to the game together. It truly makes you proud to be a Seattleite.
Museum of Flight
The history and economy of Emerald City are closely linked with aviation. After all, it’s where Boeing was established more than a hundred years ago. So it is only natural that it has a top-notch museum of aviation. During a tour around the Museum of Flight, you’ll see iconic aircraft from various eras.
There are, among others, the first-ever jetliner, de Havilland Comet, a Concord which you may enter, and the first presidential plane, Air Force One of Kennedy, Johnson, and Ronald Reagan.
Separate sections are dedicated to space flights and fighter aces from both world wars. If you ask us, this is a real jewel in Seattle’s crown.
Extraordinary Museums and Shops
Telling you all about Seattle’s comings and goings would take a couple of lifetimes. So a quick shortlist of favorite weird or geeky places is in order.
Situated inside Seattle’s Cafe Racer, OBAMA (pay no heed to the acronym, locals are mostly liberal) exhibits artwork meant to amuse.
Started as a hobby of a married couple, it has grown over time into a huge collection of classic pinballs. All of them are playable, and once you pay a $15 ticket, you can play as much as you like.
When a couple of dedicated treasure hunters open a shop for the items they collected, this is what you get. If you wish to buy souvenirs that are often creepy, NCC is a place for you. And the boxes are hand-made.
As the name implies, it’s where you can see various stuff, from shrunken heads and narwhal tusk to hand-made Native American art. But the stars of the show are two mummies, named Sylvester and Sylvia, and one Fiji mermaid.
The Space Needle
Fine, we admit that we can’t omit the most famous of all the city’s landmarks. It has its Lego version, it has been featured in many movies and TV series (yes, yes, Sleepless in Seattle too), and was used as a lightning rod by Bill Nye the Science Guy. But let us share a secret with you: vista from the Smith Tower is better.
Packed Yet? Of Course You Are!
All in all, living in Seattle is a great experience. In fact, hiring moving services may be the best thing you’ve ever done. There is loads of fun stuff, the cost of living in Seattle is more than affordable, and getting auto transport will allow you to explore the surroundings, which are marvelous by themselves. And when you come, make sure to share your stories and favorite places with the next round of Seattleites.