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The Seattle Great Wheel is a popular tourist attraction
The Seattle Great Wheel is a popular tourist attraction | © MattLphotography / Alamy Stock Photo
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17 Reasons Why You Should Visit Seattle

Picture of Jacklyn Grambush
Updated: 3 January 2019
The Pacific Northwest is an enchanting region from which legends have sprung. In the pocket of the Puget Sound Lowlands, the city of Seattle has flourished, welcoming visitors and new residents. From city-specific opportunities to the majestic nature that thrives around it, here are the top reasons to visit the Emerald City.

Festivals

Home to more than 100 annual festivals, the city of Seattle loves a celebration. The Emerald City throws parties for food and drink (Taste Washington, Bite of Seattle, Oktoberfest), movies (Seattle International Film Festival), technology (PAX), music (Bumbershoot, Capitol Hill Block Party, Sasquatch Music Festival), and more (Emerald City Comicon, Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, Pride Festival, Seafair), including for the great state in which it resides (Washington State Fair).

Chinese Dragon team performs in Chinatown International District Seafair parade Seattle Washington USA
The Seafair Parade is one of Seattle’s most popular celebrations | © Chuck Pefley / Alamy Stock Photo

Ecological diversity

Seattle has access to mountains, ocean, a rainforest, desert, city, farmland, islands, and even a volcano. It’s well worth driving a few hours outside the city to explore the wilderness.

Seattle skyline with the Space Needle and Mt. Rainier
Seattle is a dense metropolis surrounded by vast, empty natural landscapes | © Scott Anderson / Alamy Stock Photo

Outdoor activities

Since three-fourths of the year’s weather is dreary, Seattleites are that much more motivated to take advantage of outside activities when the weather allows. And when paired with the varied terrain described above, there’s something for everyone. Seattle is a wonder to visit if you like hiking, fishing, cross-country skiing, sailing or canoeing.

Seattleites love to make the most of good weather
Seattleites love to make the most of good weather | © oksana.perkins/Shutterstock

Industry titans

Seattle brought the world Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, Costco, Boeing, Nordstrom, Expedia, REI and Sub Pop Records (which brought the world Nirvana, Soundgarden and the Shins, to name a few). Come and explore the city that inspired world-class companies, and then go and find the original space in which each of these powerhouses began!

The original Starbucks coffee shop in Pike Place Market, Seattle
The original Starbucks coffee shop is found in Pike Place Market, Seattle | © Simon Crumpton / Alamy Stock Photo

Music legends

On a similar note, Seattle not only turned out entrepreneurial geniuses, but musical ones too. If you love Heart, Jimi Hendrix, Kenny G, Nirvana, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Pearl Jam, Macklemore, Chris Cornell, Death Cab for Cutie or Odesza, then you appreciate Seattle musicians. Seattle is one of the few cities that is solely credited with the birth of its own music genre: grunge. Not enticed yet? Then come for the current music performances. Seattle is on everyone’s list of top cities for live music. Go ahead, Google it.

© Robert Sorbo/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Kurt Cobain is one of Seattle’s most famous music legends | © Robert Sorbo/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Movie references

From Sleepless in Seattle to Twilight to An Officer and a Gentleman, Seattle has inspired (and provided the background for) a whole host of of films. You can check out Stadium High School in Tacoma (10 Things I Hate About You) or see landmarks featured in shows such as Frasier. And don’t forget Grey’s Anatomy!

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The high school in ’10 Things I Hate About You’ is actually Stadium High School in Tacoma | © Dylan McCann Alyea/Shutterstock

Art

Other than the show-stopping Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle boasts almost 200 art galleries, five art museums (including SAM) and numerous public art projects scattered across the city. To help people discover all the city has to offer, The Office of Arts and Culture maintains a public-art app called STQRY, and local government provides downloadable maps.

There is beautiful artwork on display at Chihuly Garden and Glass
There is beautiful artwork on display at Chihuly Garden and Glass | © Rachel Nosce/Shutterstock

Whale watching

The San Juan Islands are the best place to spot whales, especially orcas. The largest of the San Juan Islands is actually named Orcas (pronounced ‘or-kiss’) Island. Keep your eyes peeled on a ferry across the Puget Sound or set up a proper whale-watching tour!

Seattle offers some of the best whale-watching spots in the country
Seattle offers some of the best whale-watching spots in the country | © Monika Wieland Shields/Shutterstock

Marijuana

As of December 6, 2012, adult possession of marijuana became legal in the state of Washington. For some, that is reason enough to visit Seattle.

Attractions

Seattle offers a variety of tourist sites you won’t find anywhere else, including the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the Gum Wall, the Ballard Locks and the Fremont Troll.

Close-up of gum wall - USA - Washington - Seattle
The gum wall is one of Seattle’s more unusual tourist attractions | © Peter Carey / Alamy Stock Photo

Views

Seattle is a full-on city with skyscrapers and bumper-to-bumper traffic sandwiched between the salty Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains to the west and the Cascade Mountains beyond Lake Washington to the east. From either side, you’ll catch a sleek city skyline squeezing into the glory that is the Pacific Northwest. This is ‘breathtaking’ redefined.

Seattle Washington
The views in Seattle are second to none | © Susan Viera / Alamy Stock Photo

Sustainability-minded

The Evergreen State works very hard to stay, well, evergreen. Besides, it’s difficult not to think about the environment when Mount Rainier takes up your rear-view mirror on the way to work every day. Seattle’s electric utility, Seattle City Light, was the first in the US to become carbon neutral. Over the past 25 years, recycling by Seattleites saved over three million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2012, single-family households recycled nearly 70 percent of their waste. Seattle is one of five cities in the nation in which more than half of the commuters don’t drive to work solo.

Seattle Center

It would be very unusual to be a first-time Seattle tourist and not go to the Seattle Center. Originally designed, along with the Space Needle, for the 1962 World Fair, it has remained a relevant and prominent Seattle spot. The center houses two professional sports teams: the Seattle Storm and the Seattle Reign. Both Bumbershoot and the Seattle International Film Festival take place on its campus. It is best known, however, for the Space Needle, Seattle Monorail, Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the Experience Music Project) and the Pacific Science Center.

WA14138-00...WASHINGTON - The Monorail entering the tunnel through the Museum Of Pop Culture located at the Seattle Center.
The Monorail and the Museum of Pop Culture are both located at the Seattle Center | © Images By T.O.K. / Alamy Stock Photo

Wine, beer and cider

In Washington state, there are more than 66 vineyards and 62 cideries. Washington has the second-largest number of wineries and fourth-largest amount of cideries in the US. In 2014, Washington State had the second-largest number of breweries in the nation after California. Since then, approximately one hundred more breweries have opened for a current tally of 362.

Ripe Syrah Grapes In The Vineyard
Washington State is home to more than 66 vineyards | © searagen / Alamy Stock Photo

Aquarium and zoo

The Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo lead the city of Seattle by example. The aquarium is recognized for its community outreach and mission to support marine conservation. The zoo, founded in 1899, has been awarded for its education programs, conservation efforts and sustainable operations.

The Seattle Aquarium at Pier 59 on the Elliott Bay waterfront of Seattle.
Seattle’s aquarium is located at Pier 59 on the Elliott Bay waterfront | © UrbanImages / Alamy Stock Photo

Food

Being on the coast, Seattle has the best seafood. Salmon, oysters, tuna – if you name it, it’s better in Seattle. And that includes chowder (step aside, New England). More into turf than surf? Dick’s Drive-In has got your back. Not into meat or fish? Washington State produces approximately 60 percent of apples for consumption in the US, and they are darn delicious.

Oysters on crushed ice with antique oyster knife and silver fork with lemon fruit and pearls on a tin plate on a marble slab.
Seattle’s seafood is unbeatably fresh | © marilyn barbone / Alamy Stock Photo

History

Last but certainly not least, visit Seattle for the history. The city was founded in 1851 and named after Chief Seattle, the chief of the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes, who forged a relationship with the settlers. A few decades later, the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 tore it down. The city’s people, while rebuilding, developed a network of underground tunnels, so be sure to take the Underground Tour.

This passageway was once at street level, it now forms part of the Seattle underground tour started by Bill Speidel in 1965
This passageway forms part of the Seattle Underground Tour | © John Gaffen 2 / Alamy Stock Photo