Seattle’s skyline is instantly recognizable thanks to the iconic Space Needle, but that doesn’t mean the tourist attraction deserves a spot on your itinerary if you’re visiting the Emerald City. As much as we love a good view, observing Seattle from the top of a tower probably isn’t the best way to really see it.
So we’re going to be bold and suggest that you don’t include the most symbolic building in the city on your list of fun things to do in Seattle. From shopping at a world-famous farmers market to dining at a neighborhood haunt or sipping on craft beer at a local brewery, there are plenty of things to prioritize over taking in the view. But if that's the one thing you just have to see, then we've included a bunch of places where you can snap that Instagrammable skyline photo too. After all, what's a photo of Seattle without the Space Needle in it?
Be sure to pack your light layers (flannel optional) because we’re heading to the verdant Pacific Northwest. Ahead, your guide to exploring Seattle like an Emerald City local.
Hit the Market
If you visit Seattle's famed Pike Place Market, you’ll see why the city is known for its beautiful blooms. Florists selling tulips, daffodils, and dahlias can be found throughout the market—but affordable bouquets aren’t the only reason to visit this giant indoor farmers market. You’ll see everything from farmers selling locally grown produce to artisans making handcrafted goods to fishmongers tossing freshly caught fish.
Wander through the market and simply take it all in. If you work up an appetite, sit at the counter at Market Grill and order a fish sandwich, or head to Lowell’s for a bowl of chowder (but be sure to ask for a table with a waterfront view). If you want to order coffee from the original Starbucks, walk down to 1st and Pike to get your caffeine fix.
Seattle’s art scene is incredibly accessible. From modern museums to outdoor sculpture gardens, it’s easy to find an interesting exhibit that doesn’t require a pricey admissions ticket. Whether you want to see historic Native American art or modern installations, Seattle’s got it all.
The Seattle Art Museum, affectionately referred to as SAM by locals, is the perfect place to be on a particularly rainy Seattle day. The museum’s collection ranges from traditional Native American art to modern works by household names like Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. Notably, the highly Instagrammable Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors exhibit is on display through September 10.
The Olympic Sculpture Park, an extension of SAM, is a nine-acre park that’s free and open to the public. Featuring larger-than-life sculptures, bubbling fountains, and playful installations, the park is a family-friendly destination that art lovers (and those even self-proclaimed art haters) will enjoy.
The Chihuly Garden and Glass is, in a word, stunning. Located in the shadow of the Space Needle, the exhibit showcases incredible glass sculptures created by artist Dale Chihuly. Tickets range from $18 to $29, but the price of admission is well worth the cost, in our opinion.
Put on Your Walking Shoes
We’d be remiss not to encourage you to spend some time in the great outdoors. After all, you are in the Emerald City. What’s a trip to Seattle without enjoying the greenery?
Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill is ideal for a leisurely stroll. Grab a coffee at the nearby Volunteer Park Cafe and wander through the park, which is also home to Volunteer Park Conservatory and the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Be sure to climb to the top of Volunteer Park Water Tower for panoramic views of Capitol Hill.
Kerry Park, located in Queen Anne, is the perfect place to snap an iconic photo of downtown Seattle. Odds are this is the view you picture when you think of Seattle. On a clear day, you can see Mount Rainier beyond the Space Needle and downtown Seattle’s skyline.
Discovery Park is the largest city park in Seattle. Located on the shores of Puget Sound, the park offers beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains, and with over 11 miles of walking trails, it’s the perfect outdoor space for the active traveler.
Taste the Local Flavors
When it comes to food, this seaport city is known for its fresh seafood, but Seattle’s restaurants also reflect the diverse population of the city. Many foodie-approved hot spots feature menus influenced by Vietnamese, Indian, and Thai flavors, among others.
Ba Bar serves upscale Vietnamese dishes in a city where $5 pho is easy to find. There’s usually a crowd waiting to be seated, but trust us—it’s worth the wait. Order the bún bò Huế if you like your pho spicy.
Stateside features Asian-inspired dishes made with fresh seasonal ingredients. The menu is stellar (and the décor isn’t half bad either). Be sure to try the crispy duck fresh roll and the iced coffee creamsicle. We suggest making a reservation to avoid a long wait.
Bar Melusine offers French fare in an Instagram-worthy setting (see photo below). Owned by the same restaurateurs who operate some of Seattle’s most beloved eateries (The Walrus and the Carpenter, The Whale Wins, and Barnacle, to name a few), you can expect a great meal. We suggest ordering a round of oysters and specialty cocktail to start.
Check Out the Craft Beer Scene
With over 170 breweries, Seattle is home to more breweries than any other city in the country. From hoppy IPAs to smooth stouts to fruity sours, Seattle’s finest are serving up pints of just about every kind of beer you could want. Even if you don’t consider yourself a craft beer connoisseur, we recommend finding out what all the fuss is about firsthand.
Fremont Brewing is a great place to enjoy one of Seattle’s notoriously rare sunny days. Squeeze into a spot at a communal table in the outdoor Urban Beer Garden and rub elbows with beer-loving Seattleites. You can usually find classic pale ales, coffee porters, and experimental seasonal brews on tap, so there’s something for just about every type of beer drinker (plus, it’s kid- and dog-friendly).
Cloudburst Brewing, a hole-in-the-wall brewery in downtown Seattle known for its delicious, cheekily named brews, is where you’ll find the craft beer “in” crowd. We recommend ordering a pint of the Market Fresh Saison, which features fresh ingredients straight from Pike Place Market.
Reuben’s Brews is one of the most award-winning breweries in Seattle. The brewery has 24 beers available at its Ballard taproom, so we recommend ordering a flight of tasters. If you find something you like, Reuben’s has a Crowler machine on site, so it’s easy to bring home a 32-ounce can of your favorite brew.