The Top Attractions in Seattle

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Seattle boasts beautiful natural scenery, numerous parks, many cultural attractions, a temperate climate, and a booming economy. The city is cradled by both the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges and rests beside Puget Sound, and there is a reason it's known as the Emerald City. Here’s a few our favorites things to do in Seattle.
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  • 1. The Top Attractions in Seattle Seattle boasts beautiful natural scenery, numerous parks, many cultural attractions, a temperate climate, and a booming economy. The city is cradled by both the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges and rests beside Puget Sound, and there is a reason it's known as the Emerald City. Here’s a few our favorites things to do in Seattle:
  • 2. 1. Pike Place Market Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the country that overlooks beautiful Elliott Bay along the waterfront in Seattle. Look for the big, iconic “Public Market Center” sign on Pike Street overlooking the waterfront, and you will have found the symbolic center of Seattle for both residents and visitors. Pike Place Market has been open since 1907 and currently has over 500 merchants in both indoor and outdoor markets. The upper street level contains the famous fishmongers (and fish throwers) and fresh flower and produce stands. Lower levels house antique dealers, comic book and collectible shops, and food stalls and restaurants. The original Starbucks Coffee moved to 1912 Pike Place in 1975. Starbucks actually opened their first store in 1971 about a block north on Virginia Street and moved to the Pike Place location when the first building was demolished. Nevertheless, the Starbucks is still a popular stop for visitors who want to visit the “almost-original” Starbucks. Other notable attractions include Rachel the Pig and the Wall of Gum. Rachel the Pig can be found under the Public Market Center sign and has been a part of the market since 1986. The notorious Wall of Gum is an actual wall plastered with used chewing gum that can be found in Post Alley under the market - read more here (Photo by Elsie Lin)
  • 3. 2. Chihuly Garden and Glass Chihuly Garden and Glass is a one-artist museum dedicated to showcasing master glassworker Dale Chihuly’s artworks. Located in Seattle Center, it opened in 2012 and is the largest museum in the world dedicated to Chihuly’s art. The facility includes 4 areas: • the Exhibition Hall – has eight galleries and three Drawing Walls that offer a comprehensive showcase of Chihuly’s most significant works. • the Glasshouse – this light-filled space houses a suspended 1,400-piece, 100-foot-long sculpture, which is one of Chihuly’s largest structures. • the Garden – this area has outdoor large glass pieces set along paths and among plants and gardens. • the Theater – shows videos that explain the process of making the pieces. There is a cafe and a bookstore on the grounds. Be sure to bring your camera – there are many great photo opportunities - read more here (Photo by Kyla Duhamel)
  • 4. 3. Space Needle The Space Needle is an observation tower that rises 605 feet above Seattle and has become an iconic landmark for both the city and the Pacific Northwest. The tower was built for the 1962 World’s Fair that was held in Seattle, and, at the time, it was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. Almost 20,000 people a day rode the elevators to the top during the fair, and it is still a popular downtown attraction. The tower was built to withstand winds up to 200 mph and earthquakes up to 9.1 magnitude, and the structure contains 25 lightening rods. A spiral stairway leading to the top was a part of the original design, but that plan was nixed before construction began. The 848-step staircase was added as part of a remodel in 2000. In 1999, the Space Needle was designated a historic landmark. A trip up the Space Needle is a bit hokey and outdated, but it’s all about the view. If the weather is nice, the views are awesome. The observation tower looms 520 feet above Seattle and offers unrivaled 360 degrees views of the city, Elliott Bay, and the various islands. On a good day, the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges, including Mount Rainier, can be seen in the distance. The rotating SkyCity restaurant specializes in Pacific Northwest cuisine and resides just below the observation deck at 500 feet elevation. If you visit the restaurant, entrance to the observation deck is included for free - read more here (Photo by Tiffany Von Arnim)
  • 5. 4. Seattle Art Museum The Seattle Art Museum (also known as the SAM) houses a collection that includes approximately 25,000 works of mostly Modern and ethnic art, as well as more traditional European art and a notable collection of Northwest Coast Native American art. The museum was founded in 1933 with 1,926 pieces of art. Today, the SAM has expanded to include 3 separate facilities: the main building in downtown Seattle, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and the outdoor Olympic Sculpture Park that opened in 2007 along the downtown waterfront. The main building is a beautiful, vertically-oriented, light-filled building that opened in 1992. It was designed by renowned architect Robert Venturi and later expanded by Brad Cloepfil and now takes up the first four floors of a 16-floor building. Major artists represented at the SAM include Jackson Pollack, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keefe, Robert Rauschenburg, and Roy Litchenstein. Lesser known modern and ethnic artists in the SAM collection include Cai Guo-Qiang, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Mark Tobey, Do-Ho Suh, and Jacob Lawrence. More classic European artists represented include Dalmasio Scannabecchi, Puccio di Simone, Giovanni di Paolo, Luca Di Tomme, Bartolomeo Vivarini, and Paolo Uccello. The admission price is a suggested amount, and there are free days on the first Thursday of each month – check their web site for details - read more here (Photo by Al Pavangkanan)
  • 6. 5. Olympic Sculpture Park The Olympic Sculpture Park is an extension of the Seattle Art Museum that resides outdoors along Seattle’s waterfront. The free public park features both permanent and visiting installations. The sculpture park is part of the Seattle Art Museum, as is the Asian Art Museum. The 9 acre park opened in 2007 on a former industrial site that was occupied by the Unocal oil and gas corporation until the 1970’s. With funding was provided by $30 million gift from Mary and Jon Shirley (former COO of Microsoft and Chairman of the Seattle Art Museum Board of Directors), the formerly contaminated brownfield has been transformed into a welcome downtown’s green-spaces and one of Seattle’s most popular attractions. There are not many parks with art installation similar to Olympic Sculpture Park in America, and the park appeals to both lovers of Modern Art and people out for a stroll along the waterfront. Prominent pieces in the collection include Typewriter Eraser, Scale X by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Wake by Richard Serra, and Eagle by Alexander Calder. The park is located on the southern end of Myrtle Edwards Park and connects to Centennial Park, which altogether makes for a long strand of waterfront green-space that perfect for walking, biking, jogging, or sitting on a bench and watching the sunset - read more here (Photo by Doug Kerr)
  • 7. 6. Museum of Flight The Museum of Flight in Seattle is the largest private air and space museum in the world. It’s 12-acre facility is located on the southern end of King County International Airport south of downtown and holds more than 150 aircraft, including more than 85 historic air and spacecraft. Aircraft exhibited include everything from 18 World War One aircraft to many Boeing airplanes to a Lockheed drone. Kids will love the Tower at Boeing Field, which lets visitors watch aircraft take off and land while listening to live conversations between pilots and air traffic controllers. Notable aircraft on display at the museum include: • The first flight-worthy Boeing 747. • The first Air Force One Presidential Jet. • A British Airways Concorde. • The Gossamer Albatross II human-powered aircraft. • One of only five Aerocars in existence, which was an automobile with detachable wings and propeller. There are a couple of extra tours available at the museum. The Boeing Field Runway Tour that gives visitors a behind-the-scenes at King County International Airport, and the Shuttle Trainer Crew Compartment Tour gives visitors a chance to explore the Space Shuttle Trainer where Astronauts train for Space Shuttle missions - read more here (Photo by Pascal Walschots)
  • 8. 7. Mount Rainier National Park Mount Rainier National Park makes for a great day or overnight trip from Seattle. The park opened way back in 1899, making it the fifth oldest National Park in the country. Mount Rainier is 14,410 feet tall, which makes it the tallest point in the Cascade Range. The slopes of the mountain contain over 25 glaciers, plus streams, old growth forests, and subalpine meadows full of wildflowers. Animals that can be observed at Mount Rainier include elk, Columbian black-tailed deer, black bear, marmots, and mountain goats at higher altitudes. Things to see at Mount Rainier: • Paradise (south side) -this is the park’s most popular destination because it offers stunning views and beautiful wildflower meadows. It is a good place for dayhikers to find a short hike. • Sunrise/White River (east side) – this is the highest park elevation accessible by car at 6400 feet, and it offers good hiking and beautiful mountain views. The National Park is about a 2.5 hour drive from Seattle. Plan on making a day of it, and hope for clear weather. Drive to Paradise for stunning views and wildflower meadows. Also, drive to Sunrise, which, at 6,400 feet, is the highest point in the park reachable by vehicle. Plenty of hikes begin at both locations - read more here (Photo by Jeff)
  • 9. 8. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is located in the Pioneer Square National Historic District in downtown Seattle and commemorates the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s, when people set out from Seattle to seek their fortune in the Yukon Territory. The park is located in the 1889 Cadillac Hotel building in the in the Pioneer Square National Historic District, which is where many gold prospectors stayed and bought their supplies before heading out. The facility is really more of a visitors center and museum than a park, with a film and many interactive displays explaining the story of people setting out to find their fortune in the gold rush stampede. It’s good for kids, and it’s free. During the summer there are special programs for visitors. People in Seattle first got word of the discovery of gold in the Yukon, and, from in the next two years, tens of thousands of people either left Seattle or made their way through Seattle on their way north to try their hand at gold prospecting. With Seattle being their last stopping point, the hopeful miners spent their savings on months worth of food, clothing, equipment, pack animals, and steamship tickets. Seattle’s economy boomed and the population exploded, earning the city the nickname of the Queen City of the Pacific Northwest - read more here (Photo by Bart E)
  • 10. 9. Bainbridge Island Bainbridge Island is a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle and makes for a perfect day- trip. The hilly island offers visitors who make the trek across Elliott Bay a scenic and quiet refuge of rocky shorelines, beaches, quaint houses, a winery, art galleries, restaurants, a farmers market, and the beautiful Bloedel Reserve. Bainbridge is 5 miles wide and 10 miles long. The views of the Seattle skyline from the ferry are stunning, and sometimes, whales can be spotted along the way. Check the ferry schedule here. Things to do and see on Bainbridge Island: • Bainbridge Island Vineyards and Winery. • Bloedel Reserve. • Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. • Bainbridge Island Historical Museum. • Bainbrdge Island Vineyards Winery. The village of Winslow is just a short walk from the ferry and features a number of restaurants, unique shops, and a waterfront park. Outside of downtown, Bainbridge Island retains an agricultural feel. Bike and kayak rentals are availble for exploring the island. Also, Bainbridge has a bus system that goes by many of the major attractions, so a car is not necessary - read more here (Photo by Richard Ha)
  • 11. 10. Hiram M. Chittenden Locks The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, also known as the Ballard Locks, is an excellent place to watch the salmon migrating up the fish ladders, which happens from June to September. The locks sit at the west end of Salmon Bay north of downtown Seattle between the neighborhoods of Magnolia and Ballard. They are a part of Seattle’s Lake Washington Ship Canal, and among other things, the locks help prevent the mixing of sea water from Puget Sound with the fresh water of the lakes upstream. Besides watching the salmon, there are also harbor seals, bald eagles, blue herons, and belted kingfishers to see. If the salmon are not running, the location is still great for watching the boats being raised or lowered to different water levels as they go through the locks. Visiting the locks is free. Inside, there is a visitors center with a short movie presentation, exhibits, and gift shop, plus windows that let visitors have an underwater view of the salmon. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable. The Carl S. English, Jr., Botanical Garden is located on the Ballard side of the locks, which makes for a beautiful setting of water, boats, abundant plants, trees, and lush grass. The place is great for having a picnic, and in the summer there are free concerts by local musicians on the grounds - read more here (Photo by Alan Sandercock)
  • 12. 11. Savor Seattle Food Tours Savor Seattle Food Tours gives visitors an easy and fun way to hit Seattle’s top food spots and culinary institutions and get a general feel for the city. The guides are informed and friendly, and the tours are a great way to explore Seattle food and drink culture and history while meeting new people. Savor Seattle Food Tours has a few tours available: • Pike Place Market – this popular two hour walking and eating tour offers visitors a behind-the-scenes tour of Seattle’s iconic 100 year old public market full of stories and insider access. • Gourmet Seattle – this three hour walking tour takes visitors on a progressive dinner through some of Seattle’s most best restaurants in downtown and Belltown. • Chocolate Indulgence – Seattle’s chocolate subculture is the focus of this two hour walking dessert tour, and guests will participate in 16 chocolate tastings. • Hip on the Hill – guests will eat and drink their way through happening Capitol Hill on this 2 hour walking tour. • Booze-and-Bites – this 2 hour walking tour offers tastings and cocktails from some of Seattle’s hippest and hottest restaurants while telling the story of Seattle’s cocktail history. For the more adventurous visitor, Savor Seattle also offers a Gourmet Kayak Tour in the San Juan Islands - read more here (Photo by John Tregoning)
  • 13. 12. Discovery Park Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest public park at 534 acres and offers amazing views of Puget Sound and abundant wildlife in an area not too far from downtown. The two miles of protected tidal beaches and bluffs are great for exploring and offer panoramic views across Puget Sound. The diverse terrain includes dramatic sea cliffs, coniferous forest with towering trees, meandering streams, shrub habitat, grassy meadows, sand dunes, and tidal beaches. Wildlife that can be found in the park includes over 250 species of birds, plus sea lions and harbour seals. Attractions at Discovery Park: • Trails – for hikers, there are nearly twelve miles of walking trails in the park. The Discovery Park Loop Trail begins at the visitors center and runs for 2.8 miles. It is the access point for many of the other trails. • West Point Lighthouse – the historic lighthouse anchors the westernmost point of the park and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. • Beach – getting to the beach requires a hike down a steep trail, but those who make the trip are rewarded with great views, especially at sunset. • Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center – offers insight into the indigenous peoples of the Puget Sound regions. • Environmental Learning Center – offers in-depth looks at nature. Discovery Park also has play areas for kids, picnic areas, and tennis courts - read more here (Photo by ewoerlen)
  • 14. 13. Pioneer Square Park Pioneer Square Park is located in downtown Seattle and is a historic district that was one of the first settlements in the Northwest. After years of neglect, Pioneer Square was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. Today, Pioneer Square Park is a central hub for Seattle, and the surrounding area is home to much of Seattle’s nightlife, art galleries, shops, and bookstores. Restaurants can be found at every turn. Notable features of the Park include: • Tlingit Totem Pole – this is a replacement totem pole built by the Tlingit tribe. The original was stolen from the tribe and then burned by an arsonist. • Wrought-iron Victorian pergola – was originally was built in the early 1900’s as a shelter for those waiting for a cable car and as an entryway to an underground bathroom. It burned down in 2001 and was rebuilt. • Waterfall Garden – this 22-foot artificial waterfall was built as a monument to U.S. Postal Service workers. • Bust of Chief Seattle – this bronze bust of the leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes was created in 1909 by artist James Wehn. • Smith Tower Observation Deck – this 38 story skyscraper was completed in 1914. The 35th floor is home to the Observation Deck and Chinese Room. Warning: there are some panhandlers in the area, and the area can get sketchy late at night - read more here (Photo by J Brew)
  • 15. 14. Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream claims to bring joy to Seattle one scoop at a time, and there’s probably no denying that they make Seattle a happier place. Along with the exotic flavors, there’s also classic favorites such as Vanilla Bean and Melted Chocolate. The flavors rotate with the seasons, but some are always available. Organic and local ingredients are used in most of their ice creams, and everything sold is compostable – Molly’s does not even have a trash can. • Balsamic Strawberry – Strawberry Ice Cream with Chunks of Real Strawberries and a Ribbon of Thick Honey Balsamic Reduction from Washington. • Salted Caramel. • Stumptown Coffee – a Sweet Cappuccino taste made with Locally-roasted Beans Cold-infused into Dairy overnight. • Maple Walnut – Organic Maple Extract with Organic, California–grown Walnuts. • “Scout” Mint – real Girl Scout Thin Mints in Mint Ice Cream made with Organic Peppermint Extract from Washington-grown Peppermint. The original, Wallingford store is located at 1622 1/2 N 45th Street, Seattle, WA 98103 - read more here (Photo by Nonsequiturlass)
  • 16. 15. Beecher's Handmade Cheese Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is an artisan cheese shop and cafe located in Pike Place Market, and they actually make cheese in a glass-walled kitchen on-site. Kurt Beecher Dammeier’s dream became reality in 2002 when he rented out a storefront in Pike Place market and began buying cheese-making equipment in order to pursue his dream of making cheese. He partnered with a knowledgeable cheesemaker and found a good, local source of non-rBST milk on a dairy farm in Duvall, Washington. Soon after that, he was in business. Today, Beecher’s sources their milk from a few local sources, and they make many different kinds of cheese on-site. Depending upon the day, the cheesemakers may be making Beecher’s signature 15- month aged Flagship, their Flagsheep, their Marco Polo, or any of their other cheeses. They also sell cheeses from other local Pacific Northwest cheesemakers. Don’t go just thinking Beecher’s is a cheese shop – it’s also an aweso
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