Framed by craggy mountains, evergreen forests, and the deep waters of Puget Sound, Seattle brings a dynamic mix of urban life and rugged natural beauty. It’s a happening Pacific Northwest metropolis with a laid-back vibe, famed for its musical innovations, fast-expanding tech industry, and hip food and drink scene. There are outdoor adventures aplenty, from gentle paddles across Lake Union to invigorating strolls in old-growth forests. Waves of global immigrants, including sizable Chinese and Japanese populations, have left their mark on Seattle, and you can experience their cultures by wandering diverse neighborhoods like Chinatown-International District.
To get your bearings, take in panoramic views from the observation decks of the soaring Space Needle, complete with a revolving glass floor. This iconic 1962 spire rises above the Seattle Center, a landmark complex of museums and attractions that include the shimmering, Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Pop Culture and Chihuly Garden and Glass, housing kaleidoscopic glass art displays. Along the city’s waterfront, visit Pike Place Market to sample local produce and the Seattle Aquarium to see all sorts of marine critters, from river otters to porcupine puffer fish.
Things to do around Seattle
- Japanese culture: In Seattle’s Japantown, you can tuck into sushi or beef teriyaki at Maneki Restaurant, a no-nonsense eatery dating to 1904. Browse manga in Kinokuniya bookstore, and then shop for rice candy and shrimp chips in Asian supermarket Uwajimaya. Beyond downtown, a peaceful trail meanders around a pond and a cherry orchard in the Seattle Japanese Garden.
- Beaches and parks: Hiking trails crisscross Discovery Park, a sprawling green space in the Magnolia area with rocky beaches and a 19th-century lighthouse. For sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains, take a picnic to Alki Beach Park, a short ferry ride from downtown.
- Coffee scene: The original Starbucks at 1st Avenue and Pike Street has become a favorite selfie spot for fans of the chain. If you want to avoid the lines, head to the company’s Reserve Roastery in the trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood, where you can enjoy a cold brew flight, an affogato, or a coffee-based cocktail.
- Seattle specialty eats: Slurping on freshly shucked oysters is a quintessential Seattle dining experience. Gulp yours raw, grilled, or fried with a dash of aioli or garlic butter and a side of champagne. For a classic street snack with a local twist, order a Seattle dog—a hot dog topped with caramelized onions and slathered in cream cheese.
- Ballard boutiques: This hip neighborhood with Scandinavian origins is a great place to check out one-of-a-kind stores selling vintage clothing, quirky gifts, and homewares. You can rummage for rare vinyl at Sonic Boom Records, which hosts regular in-store performances.
When to go
Summers in Seattle are typically sunny and dry, with daily highs in the mid-70s, dropping to the mid-50s overnight. A packed summer events season includes the Seattle International Film Festival (late May/early June), and Bumbershoot, a massive music and arts festival held at the Seattle Center over Labor Day weekend.
It’s no secret that Seattle receives its fair share of rain from fall through spring, but temperatures rarely drop below freezing. A good umbrella and a waterproof jacket are all you need to head outside. In April, visitors can get involved with Japanese culture at the Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Festival, home to martial arts exhibitions, dance and music performances, craft demonstrations, and other fun things to do.
If you’re planning to visit several major sights, invest in a Seattle CityPASS. The pass is valid for nine consecutive days and offers significant savings on individual admission to five attractions, including the Space Needle and the Seattle Aquarium.
Planning your trip to Seattle? Take a look at our area hotels to find your perfect spot.