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What to See & Do in Seattle: A Starter Guide

The Emerald City’s myriad delights - for lovers of coffee, culture and outdoor challenges - make it rather difficult to pare down a list of attractions. We offer this primer as a good starting point, the definite “musts” in downtown Seattle (and very nearby). If you’re an outdoorsy type, there are limitless opportunities in the North Cascades, the Olympic Mountains, on the peninsula, Mount Saint Helens and beyond. Today, however, we start in the heart of Seattle, by the water, as ferries float in and out of the harbor with the majestic Olympics in the distance, a city both humbled by and proud of its natural beauty.

Pike Place Market

Even after a recent facelift and expansion, Pike Place Market is still true to its roots. From its iconic and picturesque sign to the gum wall, music-playing buskers to seafood-tossing fish mongers, this historic market has long been a favorite of both visitors and locals. Peruse the stalls brimming with colorful flowers and produce, gape at king crab legs, pick up freshly baked goods and browse the goods of more than 225 local artisans.

The Underground Tour

Go beneath the sidewalks of Pioneer Square to get a glimpse of Seattle’s original downtown. On this subterranean tour, you’ll see the remains of the city’s first buildings and learn how the city rebuilt on top of itself after the Great Fire of 1889. Take time after the tour to explore Pioneer Square’s hip restaurants and fun shops and hidden attractions like Waterfall Garden Park.

Pacific Science Center

A perennial family favorite, the curiosity-quelling Pacific Science Center is located conveniently in Seattle Center, near the Space Needle and Armory. Interactive science exhibits explore everything from the galaxies to dinosaurs. Visit the Tropical Butterfly House, the planetarium or the IMAX theater while you’re here.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Just a few steps from the Pacific Science Center, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum celebrates the work of locally born, world-renowned glassblower Dale Chihuly. While his mesmerizing artwork can be found around the world, this is the most comprehensive collection of his pieces. The glasshouse is the stunning highlight - look up to see the 100-foot-long, red-, orange- and yellow-hued sculpture hanging from the ceiling.

Seattle Great Wheel

New to the city - in 2012 - the Seattle Great Wheel lights up the Seattle waterfront - literally. More than 500,000 LED lights on the spokes of the Wheel, set on Pier 57, change color every weekend night, with themed lights on holidays and game days. Grab a ticket and take three revolutions in one of the air-conditioned gondolas, with jaw-dropping views of the city, water and mountains.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room

What’s more Seattle than Starbucks? Visit the Willy Wonka-esque Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, where you’ll be treated to exclusive beverages, can browse the coffee library, and will learn about various brewing methods.

West Seattle via Water Taxi

Experience a little bit of California (minus the palm trees) in charming West Seattle, one of the city’s most scenic neighborhoods. There’s a causal beach town vibe here, across Elliott Bay from downtown. A water taxi straight from Seattle’s Pier 50 delivers you right into West Seattle, within walking distance of the neighborhood’s top attractions.

Start by wandering Alki Beach Park, which stretches for two miles from Duwamish Head to the Alki Point Lighthouse. You’ll pass fish-and-chips joints, beach volleyball courts, launching spots for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, firepits for evening bonfires and more. The paved Alki Beach Trail is perfect for a leisurely stroll or bike ride.

For a fantastic view of the Seattle city skyline, Elliott Bay and the Cascade Mountains, make your way up the steep road from Alki Beach Park to Hamilton Viewpoint Park. Schmitz Preserve Park is also within walking distance of Alki and offers 1.78 miles of quiet hiking trails in old-growth forest.

Continue your West Seattle exploration with a show at the Arts West Playhouse, a classic revival movie at the vintage Admiral Theater or shopping for one-of-a-kind treasures at the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall. And don’t miss the chance to spend an afternoon in Lincoln Park, with 5 miles of walking trails, an outdoor heated saltwater pool, biking trails, a beach trail and more on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound.

Ready to see what Seattle has to offer this summer? Let’s chat.

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