Seattle travel guide

A complete guide for a fantastic trip to Seattle

Snowy peaks poke up behind Seattle’s skyline, calling locals and visitors to the hundreds of acres of parks in town and the Cascade foothills, just 45 minutes from Downtown. Seattle’s natural beauty has long drawn the world’s best and brightest, and the mark of innovative entrepreneurs shows in many ways – like how hometown company Starbucks cemented Seattle as coffee country. My version of a quintessential Seattle day, to introduce a newcomer to the city, starts with a traipse through old-growth evergreen trees, followed by a morning cappuccino and taking a boat through one of the city’s major waterways. It finishes with a seafood dinner and a live show in one of the clubs that once nurtured the famous grunge scene of the 1990s, and still books cutting-edge local acts. It doesn’t necessarily cover the tourist hotspots, but Seattle’s laid back appeal shines best through these types of everyday activities that show off what it’s like in a city where people obsess over whether “the mountain is out” – if clouds are obscuring Mt. Rainier. After decades of living here, we all still gasp at the majesty of Mt. Rainier peeking out from the southern horizon and laugh at ourselves for wearing identical REI coats. The best way to understand Seattle is to don your own fleece jacket, practice reciting your coffee order (double tall oat-milk latté, anyone?), and read on to learn about Seattle’s unique brand of Pacific Northwest culture.

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Table of contents

Must-see in Seattle

Every museum, park, and tourist attraction to see in Seattle


The Space Needle

Seattle’s quintessential tourist attraction, a relic of the 1962 World’s Fair, whisks visitors 500 feet into the sky, delivering 360° views from multiple observation decks.


The Ballard Locks

This fascinating display of maritime engineering opened shipping access to Seattle’s freshwater lakes and provides visitors with plenty of big boat and small salmon action.


The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop)

Peek behind the curtain of how storied bands, beloved science fiction movies, and other pop culture icons came about in this eclectic, often interactive, museum.


Smith Tower

Once the tallest building west of the Mississippi, Seattle’s first skyscraper no longer sets records, but it still offers jaw-dropping views – and craft cocktails, too.


Central Library

Seattle’s Rem Koolhaas-designed flagship library brims with art and information, and proves to be as useful as it is architecturally impressive.


Alki Beach Park

Alki Beach masquerades as a cold-water version of the stereotypical party beach, with bonfire gatherings, a boardwalk, and surf shops.


Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific Experience

Rotating exhibits feature the philosophy of hometown hero Bruce Lee, an interactive program on various New Year’s celebrations for young kids, and a strong focus on an intersectional push for justice.


Discovery Park

Seattle’s largest park turned an old military fort into a semi-natural collection of paths along grassy bluffs, soft forest floors, and sandy shores.


Chihuly Garden and Glass

Renowned local glass artist Dale Chihuly’s colorful creations fit symbiotically with both the illustrious location at the base of the Space Needle and the natural surroundings of the gardens.


Olympic Sculpture Park

World-class outdoor art dots this nine-acre lush hillside over Seattle’s waterfront, creating a free public space integrating natural and human-made beauty with daily life.


Seattle Art Museum

Seattle’s main art museum builds on its original focus on Asian art to include local Indigenous art and feature rotating exhibits of world-class artists.


Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)

If grandma’s attic told the story of Seattle’s past, it might look like this eclectic collection of historic objects stored inside an old military building.


Center for Wooden Boats

This living museum teaches workshops on traditional wooden boat making, displays exhibits featuring and about wooden boats, and rents them out from its lakefront location.


Green Lake

Seattle’s miniature version of Central Park draws people from all over the city for the pleasant path encircling Green Lake.


Hot Tub Boats

See the city from the delightful, if slightly absurd, comfort of a floating hot tub you can motor around Lake Union.


Kerry Park

It's an open secret that this small park in Queen Anne Hill offers postcard-perfect views of the city, especially at sunset.


Theo Chocolate Factory Tour

Embrace your inner Willy Wonka at this organic, fair-trade chocolate factory. Learn about the process of turning beans into bars – with samples along the way.


Beneath the Streets

This historically accurate tour tells the story of early Seattle through the underground remnants of the original city and the streets of Pioneer Square neighborhood.


Burke Museum

Designed to spark curiosity, this natural history museum offers interactive exhibits and an inside look at what happens in its working labs.


Volunteer Park

Fifty acres of Capitol Hill’s north end hold stunning views, the Black Hole Sun statue immortalized by Soundgarden, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum.


Wa Na Wari

This ground-breaking art gallery highlights the issues facing Seattle’s Black community while nurturing and sharing many kinds of beauty.

Seasonal events in Seattle

The seasonal events Seattle waits all year for


Northwest Folklife Festival

This free event fills Seattle Center with traditional music and arts over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, unofficially kicking off summer in the city.


Seattle International Film Festival

Stars descend on the city for the start of this major movie series which screens new films big and small from around the world.


Seattle Pride Events

A celebration of all sexualities and genders as rainbows explode around the city and events go around the clock, from a classic parade to scantily clad late-night dance parties.


Bite of Seattle

More than 200 different restaurants and food booths crowd into Seattle Center, giving hungry attendees a chance to sample a Seattle smorgasbord.


Capitol Hill Block Party

This three-day concert features all genres of music in the streets and clubs at the heart of Seattle’s most vibrant neighborhood.


Seafair Weekend

A summer-long series of cultural festivals culminate in a weekend-long party on the water and shores of Lake Washington, complete with airshow and hydroplane races.


Bumbershoot Festival

The unofficial end of summer comes with this multi-day music and art festival, bringing together everything from local comedians to arena-filling national music acts.


Puyallup Fair

For more than a century, this huge, three-week state fair has brought together animals, agriculture, national music acts, rides, and classic carnival cuisine.

Once you're in Seattle

Getting around Seattle

The crystalline waters and spiky peaks that crown the city with impressive views also squish the navigable geography, rendering getting anywhere dependent on a pretty, though imperfect, collection of bridges. While not robust, the hub-and-spoke public transportation system works well for visitors, who tend to mostly be based in the hub – Downtown.

Hot Global Flavors, Chilled Local Seafood

Perched between the Pacific Coast’s bounty of seafood and the mushroom-covered Cascade mountains, Seattle feeds its chefs an ever-changing array of edible inspiration.

Renting a car and driving in Seattle

It’s possible to make it out to the alluring mountains and famous wineries just outside Seattle without your own car, but not easy. Renting a car in Seattle unlocks the freedom to operate on your own schedule, see the unspoiled forests just outside the city, and visit small neighborhoods within it.

Things to do

Seattle’s Best Playgrounds, Museums, and Sights for Families

Seattle’s many kid-friendly museums, state-of-the-art playgrounds, and ample park space in every neighborhood make it an easy and fun place to tour with kids in tow.

Music Makes Seattle Nights Come to Life



Neumos carries on the tradition of great live music in Seattle with packed crowds in a space that makes everyone feel close to the action.


Phocific Standard Time

This hidden bar upstairs from a pho shop translates the Vietnamese American experience into a light-hearted and creative cocktail shop.


Cloudburst on Shilshole

A Ballard brewery that epitomizes the genre, complete with families and dogs packing the picnic tables, but outshines any other in the quality of its innovative IPAs.


Jupiter Bar

A sprawling dive bar with an art theme, offering a slew of entertainment options, including arcade games, live music, and great tacos.


Rob Roy

Equal parts classy and classic, this Belltown cocktail bar executes service with impressive acumen and drinks with precision – and hand-carved ice.

Where to Shop in Seattle and Find the Best Seattle Souvenirs

Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market is the first stop for any shopping in the city and a great place to find unique and special local souvenirs, but there are a few other options out there.

The Best of the Northwest Sits Just Outside Seattle

To fully understand the city, visitors must leave Seattle and get out into the small towns, big mountains, and beautiful islands that pepper the rest of the Pacific Northwest. Drive into the wild nature of Washington’s three national parks, taste the pristine seafood on the beach, and buy from the local shops, and then come back to the buzz of the city for the night.

What to pack for Seattle

Bring plenty of layers and nothing fancy for a trip to Seattle