The Emerald City is a must-visit for anyone who loves adventure, nature, history, and food. Yes, it rains pretty much all the time, but that just makes the city of Seattle even more beautiful. Whether you’re building your travel bucket list for the first time or you’re exploring new destinations, these must-try Seattle bucket list activities will keep you busy.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Downtown Seattle Bucket List
- Seattle Bucket List Activities Outside of Downtown
- Seattle Bucket List Ideas for Summer
- Seattle Food Bucket List Ideas
Seattle is a constantly evolving city. Things don’t stay the same for long around here, but you can spot glimpses of Seattle’s history around every turn if you look closely. From world-class food to jaw-dropping sights, I’ve compiled my list of favorites that push beyond the tourist classics. Here are 28 must-try Seattle bucket list activities from a local.
Downtown Seattle Bucket List
As a Seattleite, I must admit Seattle residents don’t spend a lot of time downtown. Though this is where you’ll find most of the city’s history, the true culture shines in the smaller, local neighborhoods. However, these downtown must-dos should be on any Seattle bucket list.
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1. Explore Pike Place
First, no trip to Seattle would be complete without exploring Pike Place Market. This original farmer’s market is over 100 years old, and it’s Seattle’s largest incubator for local businesses. Though it can get overwhelming, there is so much to see (and taste) here.
2. Ascend the Space Needle
For a view of the city and the surrounding mountain ranges, head to the Seattle Center to ascend the iconic Space Needle. While there, explore some of the other museums and sights in the area.
Tip: Book your Space Needle trip on a clear day so your view isn’t blocked by Seattle’s typical fog.
3. Stroll the pier
The downtown waterfront is a breathtaking way to see the city. Though many of the pier restaurants and shops are touristy, they still have their own charm.
4. Eat in the International District
For an off-the-beaten-path option downtown, visit the International District. Also known as Chinatown, this has been the anchor for Seattle’s Asian community for a century.
Tip: While there are so many great places to try here, Dough Zone is the best place to get dumplings in the city.
5. Photograph the Gum Wall
Though a wall covered in used chewing gum might not sound like your idea of a tourist destination, think again. The Gum Wall is located by the Pike Place Market Theater in Post Alley. Yes, it’s as gross as it sounds.
6. Go underground
Did you know Seattle has a lot of its history underground? In the Pioneer Square neighborhood downtown, there’s a network of underground passageways. These previously were at ground level, but the streets were later elevated. The Seattle Underground Tour gives guests access to these streets once again.
7. Ride the Seattle Monorail
Part of the Century 21 Exhibition, the monorail is a part of Seattle’s history. The scenic ride takes you from the Westlake Center downtown to the Seattle Center. It costs $3 to ride.
Seattle Bucket List Activities Outside of Downtown
While most think their Seattle bucket list should focus on downtown activities, this misses much of the culture in Seattle. Some of the real magic is found in these activities outside of downtown.
8. Sightsee at Gas Works Park
This 19-acre park is on the spot of the former Seattle Gas Light Company at the northside of Lake Union. More than just a gorgeous park, this is also the best place to take in the Seattle skyline.
9. Say “Hi” to the Fremont Troll
For a bit of Seattle’s quirkiness, say “hello” to Seattle’s Fremont Troll. This colossal statue is found under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge in Fremont. You might recognize it from the 90’s film 10 Things I Hate About You and other Seattle scenes.
10. Bar-hop in Capitol Hill
Want to explore some local nightlife? It doesn’t get more Seattle than Capitol Hill. This diverse area of the city is packed with bars, eateries, indie stores, and museums.
Tip: One of the staples of Capitol Hill is the carnival-themed bar named Unicorn. Home to Macklemore’s famous “Thrift Shop'' music video, you’ll find hilarious drinks here that taste as good as they look.
11. Watch a Seahawks or Mariners Game
Few things feel as Seattle as watching a sporting event. Named one of the most passionate sports regions in the country, you can always spot a large crowd of roaring fans at a Seahawks or Mariners game.
12. Window shop in Ballard
Another hip neighborhood to check out is Ballard. Historic Ballard Avenue is filled with indie shops, trendy restaurants, and craft breweries. Visit on a weekend afternoon to see swarms of locals window shopping.
13. Visit the Hogwarts Library
The Suzzo and Allen Libraries at the University of Washington is like stepping directly into a Harry Potter book. This gothic-styled library is an architectural wonder with 65-food high vaulted ceilings and glass windows.
14. Explore North Bend
Located on the furthest corner of King County, North Bend, Washington is worth a trip. Home to the iconic TV show Twin Peaks, you can dine at the famous Twede’s Cafe under Mount Si.
Tip: North Bend also has the largest variety of hikes if you’re looking to get active.
Seattle Bucket List Ideas for Summer
Though beautiful all year long, Seattle truly takes on a new life in the summertime. With warmer days and rain-free weather, this is the perfect time to explore the outdoors.
15. Swim at Greenlake
Greenlake is a large lake in northern Seattle. With multiple swimming beaches and diving boards, you’ll catch hundreds of Seattleites escaping the heat here on warm days.
16. Soak up the sun at Alki Beach
Though a bit further, venture to West Seattle for Alki Beach. Seattle’s only beach, Alki Beach borders the chilly waters of the Puget Sound and offers beach-themed restaurants and bars.
17. Ride the Washington State Ferry
One of the things that make the Seattle area unique is the Puget Sound waters. In fact, the fastest way to get around is often via the Washington State Ferry.
Tip: Though you can take the ferry to a lot of places, some of the best summer destinations are Vashon Island, Bainbridge Island, and the San Juan Islands.
18. Take a road trip
Another summer must-do in Seattle is to take a road trip. With many cities and sights big and small to explore within a few hours, you never know what you might discover.
Tip: Popular summer road trips include driving to Mount Rainier, exploring the Olympic Peninsula, and visiting Leavenworth, WA.
19. See the Cherry Blossoms at the university
Though this is more of a spring activity, it continues through the start of summer. Washington has the perfect weather for blooming cherry blossoms, and the best place to spot them is at the University of Washington.
20. Sip wine in Woodinville
Located in King County, Woodinville is a place for wine lovers to enjoy over 100 wineries. Washington state is known for its wine, and this is the ultimate spot to sip them all.
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21. Take a hike
Lastly, the definite activity of Seattle is hiking. It’s the city’s favorite pastime, and there are so many places to explore within the city and nearby. Just make sure you pack a rain jacket!
Tip: The best hike within the city of Seattle is the miles of trails within Discovery Park.
Seattle Food Bucket List Ideas
Finally, the Seattle bucket list couldn’t be complete without a food bucket list. There are so many unique regional foods to try here, and there’s a reason it’s a foodie’s paradise.
22. Visit a coffee hut
To begin, make sure you visit a coffee hut. Known as America’s Coffee Capital, there are so many local brews to try here. However, the coffee huts on the side of the road are an absolute must.
Tip: If you spot a “bikini” espresso hut, you’ve been warned! These are more risque, and they include an element of adult entertainment while getting your cup of joe.
23. Try a Seattle dog
Seattle even has its own version of the hot dog. A Seattle-style dog is a hot dog topped with onions, cream cheese, and other fixings. You can find these after a night out or after any sporting event.
24. Take a chocolate tour
Did you know Seattle also has a lot of well-known chocolate factories? It’s true, and you’ll fall in love with these unique flavors.
Tip: The only chocolate maker located directly within Seattle is Theo’s Chocolate in Fremont.
25. Snag a burger at Dick’s Drive-In
Next, located in various parts of the city, Dick’s Drive-In is a fast-food restaurant located in Seattle. Founded in the 1950s, the prices of Dick’s remain exceptionally low, making this the perfect place for a burger and shake.
26. Delight in Beecher’s handmade cheese
This artisan cheesemaker is based in Pike Place Market, but you’ll also find its delightful cheeses across the country. At the flagship location in Pike Place, you can even see them making the cheese by hand.
Tip: Two words: cheese curds.
27. Enjoy Ellenos real Greek yogurt
Forget everything you think you know about Greek yogurt. Ellenos does it better, and these delicious cups taste more like dessert than any yogurt you’ve tried before.
28. Take a food tour of Pike Place
Last but not least, don’t try to figure out how you’ll try a little bit of everything at Pike Place. It’s impossible to fit into a single trip. Instead, book a chef-guided food tour to make sure you’re exploring the best tastes while learning more about the history of the market.
Experience the Emerald City
Though Seattle isn’t known for its amazing weather, it offers everything a tourist or local could want. Now that you know how to make a travel bucket list specifically for Seattle, you’re ready to plan your next trip to the Emerald City. From Pike Place to the Puget Sound, make sure you step off the tourist path to explore something new.
Where will you travel next? When we travel to new places, we come to know ourselves in a deeper way. Whether you’re exploring the Pacific Northwest or the United States as a whole, don’t miss Seattle.