There are plenty of attractions to visit in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest’s sprawling metropolis. The Emerald City is home to some of the best forests and parks in the United States, while its coffee shops and breweries are legendary.
The Seattle Aquarium is conveniently located on Pier 59, adjacent to restaurants and the harbor cruise. The aquarium houses more than 380 species of birds, fish, invertebrates and marine mammals, some of which visitors can interact with and touch. It also contains simulated coastal zones, featuring wildlife such as otters, seals and seabirds. What the Seattle Aquarium lacks in size, it makes up for in several interesting hands-on displays and staff that take the time to educate and entertain children and adults.
The Washington Park Arboretum consists of around 5,500 different plants from around the world and covers 230 acres (93 hectares). While any time of year is good to visit, the arboretum is especially colorful during spring and fall. The grounds and trails are beautifully maintained and organized. There are multiple kinds of birds, including owls and hawks.
Located close to the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center offers a range of educational experiences for young and old. This place has something for everyone, so it’s perfect for families. Membership includes feature-film IMAX discounts and numerous free movie experiences. The staff is knowledgeable, and the programs related to geology of the Pacific Northwest are interactive and informative. The place is spread out over several buildings, so it is wise for visitors to wear comfortable walking shoes and get a map of the layout.
No visit to Seattle is complete without a visit to the Space Needle, the city’s 604-foot (184-meter) tower. After buying your ticket, take the elevator up to the Observation Deck to soak up 360-degree views of Seattle and its surrounding areas. For those with an aversion to heights, the Space Needle, with its distinctive 1960s design, is just as enjoyable at ground level.
Visitors can stroll through this legendary market and enjoy the many beautiful and reasonably priced flowers. There are also many shops and vendors selling artisan goods, fresh fruit and vegetables and, of course, seafood. If you’re a fan of quirky attractions, make sure to head to the market’s bottom level to see the Gum Wall in all its glory.
The Olympic Sculpture Park spans over the railroad tracks and features walking and cycling trails. It is a great place to take in views of the city across the water while admiring innovative art and sculptures. The installations are all very modern and set among beautifully landscaped paths. Open every day, the park is free and usually not crowded.
The 5th Avenue Theatre is decorated with spectacular and intricate Chinese carvings throughout. This non-profit theatre, which opened in 1926, puts on new and touring shows as well as revivals. Some of the biggest Broadway shows in recent years started life here, so expect high-quality productions. Another bonus is that it is located in the center of the city, meaning restaurants are all within walking distance.
Kubota is a 20-acre (eight-hectare) Japanese garden designed with plants indigenous to the Northwest. The city acquired the garden in 1987 from the estate of Fujitaro Kubota – the horticulturist who first led the way for this culture-combining technique back in 1927 – in order to protect and support it. Today, the garden and its foundation are largely managed by volunteers.
In 1998, the city voted to improve all 22 branches of the Seattle Public Library. The location of the Central Library stayed the same, but it was completely redeveloped by architectural visionaries Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus. Adhering to the principle that “form follows function,” the architects created an accessible design that depicts and encourages the celebration of literature, with a thought-provoking, cutting-edge aesthetic. Working closely with the public as well as the library’s board and staff, Koolhaas and Prince-Ramus revamped the entire library building, adding space and improved function to an innovative, contemporary design. The library now houses over one million books as well as a comprehensive digital archive.
As the birthplace of Starbucks, Seattle is home to some of the brand’s most special coffee shops. One of these is the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. Located on Capitol Hill, just nine blocks from the original Starbucks, visitors are invited to “experience coffee from the unroasted bean to [their] cup of coffee.” This place is a must-visit for coffee aficionados and fans of the chain.
Ride the original manually operated elevators at Smith Tower up to the Observatory Bar. Built in 1914 and standing at 484 feet (147.5 meters), Smith Tower is Seattle’s first skyscraper, predating the city’s Space Needle and Columbia Tower. The Observatory Bar offers 360-degree views of the city and a prohibition-themed cocktail lounge that pairs perfectly with the historic architecture.
With 76 floors, the Columbia Tower stands as Seattle’s tallest building. And luckily for tourists, located on the 73rd floor is the acclaimed Sky View Observatory, the tallest observatory in the entire Pacific Northwest. Enjoy views of the Olympic and Cascade ranges, Mount Rainier, the San Juan Islands and, of course, Seattle. Before leaving, make a pit stop on the 40th floor, where coffee enthusiasts will find a Starbucks with incredible views of the Emerald City.
Wedged in the middle of the Capitol Hill neighborhood is The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle’s popular independent bookstore. Its shelves are chock-full of over 150,000 titles, and beneath many of the spines are handwritten synopses, ratings and personal comments written by the staff. Relax and warm up by browsing the endless row of shelves that this local favorite has to offer.
Fast-food fans should head to Dick’s Drive-In | Courtesy of Dick’s Drive-In
Established in 1954, Dick’s Drive-In is a Seattle fast-food staple. The menu, which features favorites like cheeseburgers, fries and shakes, has essentially remained untouched since the restaurant’s opening all those years ago. The local chain is still a family-run establishment, operating in popular neighborhoods like Lower Queen Anne, Capitol Hill and Wallingford. That on top of its cash-only, stripped-down menu makes for an original burger-eating experience.
Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood is a night-time hotspot with bars and restaurants lining every major street. One of its best-kept secrets is the Needle and Thread speakeasy, located in the popular Tavern Law cocktail lounge. Situated at the back of the venue is an old bank vault door that opens into an intimate 25-seat bar. Expert bartenders prepare the prohibition-inspired drinks as they see fit. Just give them a mood, and they’ll work their magic.
Fremont Brewing offers it all: delicious beer made with local ingredients, a great location and a spectacular view of Lake Union. The brewery was founded in 2009 after founder Matt Lincecum decided to switch from being an attorney specializing in beverage and hospitality law to building an establishment of his own. Since then, the company has quickly become a Seattle favorite. Kick back and enjoy a pint of one of Fremont’s seasonal IPAs, year-round ales or barrel-aged bourbons.