Updated: 02/25/2018 | February 25th, 2018
I associate Seattle with three things: Starbucks, music, and hippies. It’s a city filled of coffeeshops where musicians and artists entertain residents while talking about saving the world. It’s a liberal city and alternative city. It’s clean, sits next to a beautiful bay, and has great food and an exciting nightlife.
I expected all of these things when I went to Seattle. Over the years, I have heard people talk about Seattle and its charm. Seattle had to be cool, I thought.
When I finally visited, Seattle lived up to its reputation. It was a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t live there. For me, the measure of a truly amazing city is if I could see myself living there. I could live in many cities, but I don’t think that I would want to live in Seattle.
However, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy my time there. No, Seattle is an awesome place to visit. It is a city with a beautiful harbor and bay full of islands, that are incredible during the few months of warm weather. The foodie scene is second to none. People are friendly and open-minded. The music scene only seems to get better with the passage of time. I loved the city as a place to visit and, since that first visit, have returned over and over again, always finding something new and exciting to do or see. These are some of the things I enjoyed:
Pike Place Market
(1st Ave and Pike St., 206-682-7453, pikeplacemarket.org)
Pike Place Market is located right downtown near the waterfront and is one of the major “things to do” here. The stores open early, and you’ll find people selling all sorts of fish, produce, food, jams, flowers, and gifts. The market is filled with people all day, so expect crowds no matter when you go. There is some great food, but expect to pay more than you would elsewhere in the city. Don’t forget to see the famous fish throwers. It’s fun to watch! The market is open every day but Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mornings before 12 pm are generally the least crowded.
Woodland Park Zoo
(5500 Phinney Ave N., 206-548-2500, zoo.org)
Woodland Park Zoo? which spreads across 65 acres, has more than 1,000 animals from 290 species. While I am not a big fan of zoos (I don’t like caged animals), this zoo does a nice job of treating the animals humanly and providing detailed educational information to visitors. This zoo’s missin is on perservtion and science.
Mount Rainier National Park
Located about 90 miles from the city, there are hundreds of miles of hiking at this national park. You can easily get lost in nature here (in a good way). Stunning trails, vistas, and plenty of chances to avoid people. The best weather in the summer when the weather is warm and dry and the wildflowers are blooming but the fall foliage is something not to be missed. There are various campgrounds around the park if you want to stay overnight (fees are $20 per night).
(400 Broad St., spaceneedle.com)
Probably the city’s best-known landmark, the Space Needle offers breathtaking views of the city and surrounding mountains from the top. The elevators travel at 800 feet per minute, which is as fast as a raindrop falls to earth. There’s also a rotating restaurant at the top, offering the same beautiful and panoramic view.
Seattle Art Museum Downtown
(1300 1st Ave, 206-654-3100, seattleartmuseum.org)
A 48-foot Hammering Man sculpture marks the outside of this vast museum. There are a lot of good art exhibits, with a heavy focus on modern art. There are always special exhibits (when I was there, it was Picasso). Try to visit its special museum nights when the museum offers live music, drinks, and interactive art activities. It’s a better way to spend an evening than at the bar.
(1075 Lake Washington Blvd E., 206-684-4725, seattlejapanesegarden.org)
I love Japanese Gardens, and I was impressed by the one in Seattle. It’s peaceful, with a waterfall, koi fish, turtles, rock gardens, and bonsai trees. It’s a good place to relax and contemplate life. It’s located in the Arboretum on the east side of the city. On the first Thursday of the month, admission is free from 3 pm until closing.
(3015 NW 54th St, 206-780-2500, ballardlocks.org)
The locks provide a link for boats between the Puget Sound and the Ship Canal. Locals and tourists alike watch the parade of boats pass through as the locks’ water levels are adjusted. I highly recommend the fish ladder, which allows salmon to pass between the fresh and salt water. There are glass panels below the water line to watch the fish as they swim upstream. It’s pretty cool.
Located right near the Underground Tour, Pioneer Square is where Seattle began. You’ll find old Gold Rush buildings, big squares, and a lot of history. I liked seeing the old brick buildings and salons. The area has a certain old-time charm to it. And, supposedly, the best coffee in town is at the nearby Zeitgeist coffee shop (but really everyone in Seattle has a strong opinion on where to find the best coffee!).
Boeing Museum of Flight
(9404 E Marginal Way S, 206-764-5700, museumofflight.org)
If you like planes, this place is a must see. You’ll see planes through the ages and get a chance to see the original Boeing “factory” as well as the original Air Force One too. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about the history of aviation and how planes are mind. The museum is south of the city but you can take Metro Bus #124 from there.
(N. 36th Street at Troll Avenue N.)
Located under the north side of Aurora bridge (where else would you find a troll?), this troll eating an original Volkswagen Beetle troll was commissioned as an art project by Fremont. Visitors are encouraged to climb on the troll and have fun.
The Underground Tour
(614 1st Avenue, Pioneer Place Park, 206-682-4646, undergroundtour.com)
This is one of my favorite activities in the city. I love a good underground tour. Here, you’ll learn about the early history of the city, how it was constructed, and what life was like back in the 1800s. You’re taken to the original sidewalks BELOW the current ones when original Seattle was 14 feet lower than its current level. The jokes may be cheesy, but I highly recommend it for the history lesson you get.
If you are looking for cheap food, head to Chinatown for dim sum and cheap dumplings.
If you want to tour the bay but not pay a lot of money, take the ferry to Bainbridge Island. It’s only $8.20 for walk-ons aged 19-64, and you to see part of the harbor without paying the huge price of the tour boats.
While I don’t get all the hype about Seattle, it’s a good city. You should visit because there’s great food, it’s beautiful and clean, and it’s set right between the mountains so it’s perfect for nature lovers. While the city didn’t live up to the hype, I’d love to come back one day and explore more. After all, every city deserves a second chance.
Book Your Trip to Seattle: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I never ever go on a trip without it. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. You should too.
Need Some Gear?
Check out our resource page for the best companies to use!
Want More Information on Seattle?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Seattle for even more planning tips!