Back in the 1980s, Seattle was nicknamed “The Emerald City” for its verdant parks. Even though the city has rebuilt itself to have more skyscrapers and less greenery, it has managed to keep its moniker. As one of the fastest-growing cities in the USA, Seattle has developed not just on a tourism scale, but on an economic level as well. It became famous for being the home of major company establishments, such as Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, and Amazon.
With its breathtaking skyline and distinctive attractions, Seattle makes for a perfect weekend getaway, especially from the nearby cities of Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, BC. If you are making this trip, here is what you can do on a weekend in Seattle:
1. Ascend to the top of Seattle’s most iconic landmark, Space Needle
Standing at 605 feet (184 meters) tall, the Space Needle is easily Seattle’s most iconic and famous landmark. Its distinct narrow structure can be seen from numerous locations within downtown Seattle.
Ascend to the Space Needle’s observation deck at 520 feet (160 meters) above ground. Only taking a 41-second elevator ride to get to the top of the Needle on a good day, you can get some great views of the Seattle skyline. However, do note that the ride will take double the time on windy days. And if you wish to take your Space Needle experience up a notch, there is also a revolving SkyCity restaurant just below the observation deck. From here, you can enjoy a remarkable fine dining experience with a view of the city.
Address: 400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109
Opening Hours: 8 am - 12 midnight *Hours listed above for observation deck only; see website for restaurant’s opening hours
Duration: At least 30 minutes
Price: From 22 USD (adults) and 14 USD (kids under 12)
Website: Space Needle
2. Admire the colorful glass sculptures at Chihuly Garden and Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass is an exhibit showing the studio glass designs of Dale Chihuly, an American glass sculptor. Recognized for his unique large-scale blown glass sculptures, Chihuly put together this showcase to give the public a chance to awe at his beautiful works.
Walk through the exhibit and take some time to admire the little details. No photos could ever do this place justice. The exhibit consists of 3 components: the Garden, the Glasshouse, and the Interior Exhibits, all of which are filled with vibrant and illuminating colors. The Glasshouse section features one of Chihuly’s largest and most renowned suspended sculptures at 100 feet (30.5 meters) long.
Guided tours are also offered multiple times a day for those interested in learning more about Chihuly and his works. Or if you wish to enhance your experience even more, live music performances occur at the exhibition’s outdoor Art Plaza every Thursdays in July and August.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Address: 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109
Opening Hours: 9 am - 9 pm (Monday to Thursday), 9 am - 10 pm (Friday to Sunday)
Duration: At least 30 minutes
Price: 27 USD (adults), 16 USD (kids under 12) *Cheaper prices are offered for packages to both the Space Needle & Chihuly Garden and Glass
Website: Chihuly Garden and Glass
3. Take the Washington State Ferries route to Bainbridge Island for a half-day trip
As the largest ferry operator in the USA and the 4th-largest ferry system in the world, Washington State Ferries has become an attraction in its own right. While locals use ferries to travel between Seattle and other nearby areas, tourists take a ride for fun. Not only do you get to cruise through the calming waterways of Seattle, you also get to enjoy a view of Seattle’s skyline no matter what route you take. And this is a sight that should not be missed!
If taking a boat ride with no destination sounds boring, don’t brush this off so quickly. Take the route to nearby Bainbridge Island, a popular day-trip destination. With attractions and activities such as a waterfront trail, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, canoeing, and paddle-boarding, your kids are guaranteed to have a blast here away from the hectic city.
Washington State Ferries
Duration: Around 35 minutes from Seattle to Bainbridge Island
Price: 8.20 USD (adults), 4.10 USD (kids and senior citizens) *Price listed above only applies for rides between Seattle and Bainbridge Island; cost varies depending on destination
Duration: At least half a day
4. Explore the hidden corners of Pike Place Market
As one of the oldest public farmers’ market in the USA, Pike Place Market is Seattle’s most popular tourist destination. In fact, it also fares well on a global scale, ranking among the top 50 most-visited attractions in the world. It is a place of business for many small local farmers, craftsmen, and merchants.
Stroll through the cozy shops within Pike Place Market. Known for its unique stalls, Pike Place Market is filled with antique dealers, collectable stores, fresh produce stands, and small family-owned restaurants. Because of its proximity to the water, the best eats here consist mostly of fresh local seafood. The one dish that you shouldn’t miss is the Pike Place chowder. The warm, creamy, delicious bowl of soup will be exactly what you need to make your stomach happy, especially in those colder winter months.
Pike Place Market
Address: Cross section of 1st Avenue and Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98101
Opening Hours: 6 am - 1.30 am *Hours vary depending on individual vendors and restaurants; see website for more details
Duration: At least 30 minutes
Website: Pike Place Market
5. Contribute your own piece of used gum to the Gum Wall
You’ve probably all heard of the Gum Wall before. This local landmark is nothing more than a brick wall located near Pike Place Market that is covered in used chewing gum. But yet, it has become so famous that no trip to Seattle would be complete without a stop here.
Even though it was recently cleaned up at the end of 2015 for the first time in over a decade, gum has already been re-added to the wall. Add your own piece of gum to the wall and contribute to this master piece. It may sound disgusting, but there’s something undeniably fun about doing so. If that still doesn’t appeal to you, just snap a couple of photos in front of the wall. It makes for a vibrant and quirky backdrop that is truly one-of-its-kind.
6. Buy a cup of coffee at the first Starbucks in the world
Did you know that the world-famous Starbucks brand originated in Seattle? Established in 1971 at Pike Place Market, the original Starbucks store still stands and has become a popular attraction among tourists. It has maintained most of its early appearance, including its very first logo, to preserve historical significance.
While the coffee does not taste any different than other Starbucks in the US, it is still fun to say that you’ve sipped on a cup of coffee from the first Starbucks in the world. Be prepared to face long lines here, especially on the weekend. There are several Starbucks stores located near Pike Place Market, so be sure not to get it mixed up with another regular store. Just look for the one with the longest lines and you’re set.
Fun fact: although commonly referred to as the first Starbucks ever, its current location is actually the second address. The official first store was situated at Pike Place Market too, just a few blocks away. However, it moved to its present spot in 1976, not long after its establishment.
Original Starbucks store at Pike Place Market
Address: 1912 Pike Place, Seattle, WA 98101
Opening Hours: 6 am - 9 pm
7. Grab a delicious and fresh seafood dinner by the Downtown Seattle Waterfront
Facing the peaceful Elliott Bay, Downtown Seattle Waterfront is a great place for evening strolls along the waterfront, especially in the evening when the sun sets on the horizon. If you wish to get another perspective of the waterfront, take a ride on Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57. Standing at 175 feet (53.3 meters) tall, it is the tallest Ferris wheel on the West Coast, and it will provide you with amazing views of the city.
However, one thing you cannot miss here at the Downtown Seattle Waterfront is a belly-filling meal of fresh seafood. The best part is that you get to enjoy a waterfront view by the pier, an unbeatable experience. There is an abundance of restaurants there, catering to different budgets and preferences. But if you need some help deciding which restaurant to eat at, Elliott’s Oyster House is recommended. Famous for having over 30 varieties of oysters (as its name suggests), it also offers guests crab, lobster, and so much more that you can indulge in.
Downtown Seattle Waterfront
Address: 1001 - 2701 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101
Website: Downtown Seattle Waterfront
Elliott’s Oyster House
Address: Pier 56, 1201 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101
Opening Hours: 11 am - 10 pm (Sunday to Thursday), 11 am - 11 pm (Friday to Saturday)
Website: Elliott’s Oyster House
8. Watch the sun set against Seattle’s skyline at Kerry Park
Renowned for its amazing views of the skyline, particularly at sunset, Kerry Park is one of the most well-known parks in the city. There is something magical about Seattle’s skyscrapers reflecting the fiery sun. And even at night, the skyline dazzles with city lights that flicker over the water. This unimaginable view is one you will not want to peel your eyes away from.
Snap a photo of Seattle’s skyline or Mount Rainier through a sculpture. Often used to frame photographs, the famous ‘Changing Form’ figure stands in the middle of park. Nothing makes for a more artistic photograph that one of Seattle through the metal circles of this structure.
9. Learn about the airplane production business at Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour
Located around a 30-minute drive north of Seattle is the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour, an aviation museum and home to the Boeing factory. Founded right here in Seattle, Boeing is one of the biggest airplane manufacturing companies in the world. Chances are, you’ve probably taken a Boeing airplane before, whether you were aware of it or not.
Find out more about how airplanes are made and learn about Boeing’s production line. Tours are offered for visitors who wish to get a complete experience. Apart from exhibitions (with photos, videos, and snippet explanations) about how planes are made, the guided tour also takes you through the factory. Through this first-hand experience, you will discover so much about this magnificent mode of transportation that takes us all over the world.
Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour
Address: 8415 Paine Field Blvd, Mukilteo, WA 98275
Opening Hours: 6 am - 9 pm
Duration: Around 3 hours
Price: 20 USD (adults), 14 USD (kids under 16) *Cheaper prices are available for access to Future of Flight Gallery only, without Boeing Tour *It is recommended to purchase tickets online in advance to secure your spot on the tour
10. Marvel at panoramic views of Seattle from the Sky View Observatory
At 902 feet (275 meters) tall, the Sky View Observatory is the tallest public viewing area on the West Coast. It is located on floor 73 of Columbia Center, the tallest skyscraper in both Seattle and the state of Washington, and also the second-tallest on the West Coast.
Gaze at 360-degree panoramic views of Seattle from the observation deck. If the weather is clear, you will also be able to see Mount Rainier, Bellevue, Cascade Mountains, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay, and the Olympic Mountains. The experience also includes information about Seattle and each landmark.
However, the best part of the Sky View Observatory is that you can see the Space Needle from here. Even though going up the Space Needle is a classic tourist attraction, part of its glory comes from its exterior appearance, something you can enjoy from this building. It is also more affordable compared to the Space Needle’s observation deck, which is always a plus!
Sky View Observatory
Address: Columbia Center Floor 73, 701 5th Ave, Seattle, WA
Opening Hours: 8 am - 11 pm
Duration: At least 30 minutes
Price: 14.75 USD (adults), 9 USD (kids under 13)
Website: Sky View Observatory
11. Discover unique works of art at Seattle Art Museum
With a collection of around 25,000 works of various modern, ethnic, and European art, Seattle Art Museum is a great spot for art-lovers. Apart from its diverse art pieces, the museum also features traveling exhibitions that are constantly changing and that are a main highlight of the museum.
Consisting of 3 major facilities, the main museum in downtown, Seattle Asian Art Museum in Capitol Hill, and Olympic Sculpture Park on the waterfront, it is not difficult to find yourself spending an entire day here. But if you’re pressed for time, it is recommended that you just visit one out of the three facilities. Visit the main Seattle Art Museum for Western art, Seattle Asian Art Museum for Asian art, and Olympic Sculpture Park for outdoor sculptures. No matter what kind of art you’re looking for here, you’ll be sure to find something that interests you.
Seattle Art Museum
*Information listed below for Seattle Art Museum only; see website for details on hours for Asian Art Museum and Olympic Sculpture Park
Address: 1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
Opening Hours: 10 am - 5 pm (Monday, Wednesday, Friday to Sunday), 10 am - 9 pm (Thursday). Closed on Tuesdays
Duration: At least 1 hour
Price: 19.95 USD (adults), 12.95 USD (youth between 13 and 17 years old), free (kids under 13)
Website: Seattle Art Museum
12. Take a tour of Ballard Locks, the busiest lock in the USA
Also known as Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, the Ballard Locks is an icon and a popular tourist destination in Seattle. With nearly 50,000 vessels going through it each year, it is the busiest lock in the USA and has been deemed a national historic site.
Watch fish in their natural habitat from the viewing platform as they migrate through the fish ladder. The best part about Ballard Locks is that all facilities (including private boats, guided tours, and summer concerts) are completely free of charge. Its beautiful park setting allows you to momentarily escape the bustling city life, something everyone could use every now and then.
Address: 3015 NW 54th Street, Ballard, WA 98107
Opening Hours: 10 am - 6 pm
Duration: At least 30 minutes
Website: Ballard Locks
13. Swing high above the ground at Emerald City Trapeze Arts
If you’re looking for something more unique to do in Seattle, visit Emerald City Trapeze Arts to learn some tricks of the circus. Without any prior experience, you can join an introductory class on flying trapeze and aerial arts, and have a blast swinging in the air. The only requirement is that all participants must be between 6 and 89 years old. But otherwise, remember to bring all your energy and channel it into this thrilling activity!
Featuring a rustically charming studio with wooden beaming, Emerald City Trapeze Arts will make you feel as though you are in a real circus. Open till 9.30 pm every night, it is the perfect way to kill some time in the evening before you retreat back to your hotel. It is also a fun method of exercising; you won’t even realize how much your body is working until your session is over.
Emerald City Trapeze Arts
Address: 2702 6th Ave South, Seattle, WA 98134
Opening Hours: 9.30 am - 9.30 pm
Duration: At least 2 hours
Price: From 30 USD
Website: Emerald City Trapeze Arts
14. Stroll past the beautiful plants in Washington Park Arboretum
Discover unique plants and flowers that cannot be found anywhere else in the world at Washington Park Arboretum. This botanic garden has a dynamic variety of flora, making it a perfect spot for a picnic or to just enjoy the tranquility of nature.
Take your pick out of the 4 main sections of the park: Pacific Connections Garden, Witt Winter Garden, Woodland Garden, and Shoreline. Each area features different plants and flowers that correspond to a particular theme. If you’re interested in exploring more, there is also a Japanese Garden at the south end of Washington Park Arboretum, where you can discover east-Asian floral. However, do note that this requires a separate entrance fee.
Washington Park Arboretum
Address: 2300 Aboretum Drive East, Seattle, WA 98112
Duration: At least 30 minutes
Website: Washington Park Arboretum
15. Soar over the city with Seattle Seaplanes
Now that you’ve seen Seattle’s skyline from tall observation decks (i.e. Space Needle, Sky View Observatory) and from the ground (i.e. Kerry Park, Washington State Ferries), why not take it one step further and enjoy the city from the sky?
Seattle Seaplanes offers 20-minute scenic flight tours over Seattle. Flying over Ballard Locks, the University of Washington, Space Needle, downtown Seattle, and many more places, it will allow you to soar over the city’s great sights. Although it is slightly pricey, it is a convenient way to save time, especially if you’re trying to see as much as possible in one short weekend.
Address: 1325 Fairview Ave East, Seattle, WA 98102
Duration: 20 minutes
Price: 97.50 USD
Website: Seattle Seaplanes
Although Seattle is one of the rainiest cities in the USA in general, it actually has some of the least rain during the months of June to September. So if you’re planning to visit Seattle, summer is the recommended time for you to experience the city at its best. From its towering skyscrapers to its luscious greenery, it strikes the ideal balance between a tranquil hideaway and a hectic city. Delicious food, beautiful views, and iconic landmarks … what more could you ask for in a vacation?!
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.