Looking for fun things to do in Seattle?
There’s no shortage of things to do in the Emerald City—and that can be overwhelming! So we asked Seattleites on Instagram and Facebook what they consider to be the most essential things to do in Seattle. After all, who better to ask than the locals?
Some of these are seasonal activities, most of them are kid-friendly, and many are free! If you’ve done more than half of the things on this list, you can say you’re a seasoned Seattleite. If you’ve done all 50, congrats: you’ve won the key to the city.
Here are the 50 most essential things to do in Seattle:
1. See the cherry blossoms at the University of Washington
Every spring, cherry blossoms start to bloom all around Seattle from the end of March to mid-April. One of the most stunning displays is located in the Quad at the University of Washington. It’s a sight that is not to be missed.
2. Go to a Candlelight Concert
If you want to experience a memorable night of live music at an iconic Seattle venue, you need to know about the Candlelight Concert series. Every month you can choose from different concerts featuring everything from classical music to modern hits from artists like Taylor Swift. Get more info and tickets for upcoming Candlelight Concerts.
3. Visit Columbia Center for the view
Sky View Observatory atop Columbia Center offers a stunning vista of the Seattle waterfront and Elliott Bay. But those in the know recommended including a trip to the 76th-floor bathroom while you’re there.
4. Try a Seattle Dog
You can’t leave Seattle without having tried a Seattle Dog: a hot dog graced with cream cheese and onions. As one Seattleite put it, the most authentic experience is getting one from a street vendor after a night out.
5. Experience the Fremont naked bike ride
It’s up to you whether you want to partake in the famous naked bike ride or simply watch from the sidelines. This unsanctioned tradition happens every June as part of the Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade.
6. Eat a 12-egg omelette at Beth’s
Beth’s Cafe used to be Seattle’s most beloved all-night diner, until it closed down in 2021. Happily, Beth’s reopened recently. You can once again order the 12-egg omelette, although the full experience (eating it drunk at 3:00 a.m.) will have to wait until they expand their hours.
7. Visit the Museum of Flight
The Museum of Flight is a must-visit. Hot tip: they offer free admission between 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month, and children under the age of four are always admitted for free.
8. Take a ferry to one of the islands
A ferry ride should definitely be on your Seattle bucket list. Your destination options include Vashon Island, Bainbridge Island, Whidbey Island, and the San Juan islands.
9. Tour the Seattle underground
You can head to Seattle’s historic neighborhood Pioneer Square to take a tour of the Seattle underground. You’ll be able to walk along underground tunnels that were once at street-level while you learn some fascinating Seattle history.
10. Eat at Dick’s Drive-In
Some genuinely love Dick’s burgers, while others argue that they’re overrated. Either way, you haven’t had the true Seattle experience until you can say you’ve tried a bag of Dick’s. (As a bonus, it’s one of Seattle’s most affordable meals.)
11. Visit the Chihuly Glass Museum
This famous museum of glass artwork located at Seattle Center is truly a stunning sight.
11. See the Pacific Northwest Ballet perform The Nutcracker
Many Seattleites have fond memories of seeing the Pacific Northwest Ballet perform The Nutcracker every Christmas. This is a great holiday tradition to do with kids.
12. Visit Smith Tower
Smith Tower is a historic building located in Pioneer Square. You can go to the Observatory & Bar for a great view, and as of 2023 you’ll also find brunch, free movie nights, cocktail classes, and events. Read more about things to do at Smith Tower.
13. Go to the top of the Space Needle at sunset
You can get small bites and cocktails atop the Space Needle while you walk on the revolving glass floor and watch the sun set over the 360-degree view. Yes, it’s a tourist attraction, but it’s also a fun experience to do at least once.
14. Eat Molly Moon’s ice cream at Kerry Park
You’ll find possibly the most iconic view of Seattle at the miniature Kerry Park in Queen Anne. Molly Moon’s ice cream is within walking distance of the park if you want to try a popular Seattle treat.
15. Spend a day at Pike Place Market
Yes, Pike Place Market (never Pike’s) is typically full of tourists. But locals go there too! You can buy fresh flowers, produce, seafood (and do the fish toss at least once), and eat at dozens of delicious restaurants.
16. Go to the Seattle Aquarium
If you don’t like watching adorable otters eat and play, then we can’t help you.
17. Swim in Lake Washington
Every summer, Seattleites flock to the east side of the city to swim in Lake Washington. The “beaches” may be grassy rather than sandy but we don’t mind.
18. Ride the Burke-Gilman trail
The Burke-Gilman Trail is a 19-mile paved trail that provides an excellent way to see a large part of Seattle via bike. You can also walk or jog along it.
19. Have dinner and a show at Can Can Culinary Cabernet
This cabaret dinner theater located at Pike Place Market is a truly memorable experience.
20. Rent a hot tub boat on Lake Union
Here’s an outdoor activity that you can do year-round in Seattle: rent a hot tub boat on Lake Union! You’ll be warm and toasty while taking in the city views, even if it’s raining.
21. Explore the Olympic Peninsula
The Olympic National Park is only about a four-hour drive from Seattle and is home to mountains, hot springs, stunning beaches, and even a rainforest.
22. Visit the Fremont Troll
Make sure you visit Seattle’s famous Fremont Troll before he moves to Bellevue! Just kidding 😉
23. Get a drink at Central Saloon
Central Saloon’s claim to fame is that it’s the “birthplace of grunge,” since Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and more have played there. Nirvana actually had their first Seattle show there. They still host live music almost every night so be sure to go there and catch a show.
24. Visit Easy Street Records
Another iconic Seattle spot for music lovers is Easy Street Records & Cafe in West Seattle. You can browse for records, catch a live show, and eat a great meal at their diner-style cafe.
25. Go to the Museum of Pop Culture
The Museum of Pop Culture is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s an exhibition for everyone there, from movies and TV to music and video games.
26. Try Fran’s Chocolates
A Seattle delicacy, Fran’s Chocolates can be found in downtown Seattle as well as in Georgetown and Bellevue.
27. See a laser dome show at Pacific Science Center
A classic Seattle experience is seeing a laser dome show at the Pacific Science Center. Hot tip: PacSci often hosts a monthly happy hour event for ages 21 and up, in case you’d prefer to go when there are no kids running around.
28. Spend a weekend in Capitol Hill
There’s so many things to do in Capitol Hill… You can go to Volunteer Park on a nice day and tour the conservatory, you can shop and eat your heart out, and you can go dancing, see live music, or bar hop all night long.
29. See a local band play
It’s not hard to find live music in Seattle. Besides all the local summer music festivals and the annual Capitol Hill Block Party, there are venues such as Neumos, Nectar Lounge, and the aforementioned Central Saloon are just a few places to go support musical artists.
30. Spend a day at Alki Beach
One of the few sandy beaches in Seattle, Alki Beach is one of our favorite things to do in West Seattle during the summer months.
31. Take a tour of Theo Chocolate Factory
Seattle has its very own chocolate factory that fills the air in Fremont with a heavenly scent. You can sign up for a tour of Theo Chocolate Factory online.
32. Eat a geoduck
Listen, it’s not for us to comment on geoducks’ appearance, taste, or weird name (pronounced gooey-duck). We’re just here to tell you that eating one is a very Seattle experience.
33. Spend a hot summer day at Golden Gardens
Seattle’s other sandy beach is Golden Gardens in Ballard. You’ll find that the temperature of Puget Sound is frigid year-round, but that doesn’t stop Seattleites from flocking to this beach en-masse all summer.
34. See the Ballard Locks in action
The Hiram M. Chittenden (more commonly known as the Ballard Locks) is a waterway system connecting the saltwater of Puget Sound to freshwater. You can watch the locks in action and see ships go through them—for free! The botanical garden there is also worth a visit.
35. Go on the Wings Over Washington ride on the waterfront
If you find yourself on the Seattle waterfront, skip the Great Wheel and go on Wings Over Washington instead. This short virtual-reality ride is surprisingly fun (although you really only need to do it once).
36. Visit the Woodland Park Zoo
Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo is a fun activity for kids and adults alike. Hot tip: the adjacent rose garden is free to visit and quite lovely year-round, but especially so when the roses are in bloom.
37. Get dim sum in the International District
Seattle’s Chinatown-International District (commonly called the CID) is a foodie heaven. Go here for dim sum: one of Seattle’s most hearty and affordable meals.
38. Take an electric boat out on Lake Union with friends
An easy summer birthday activity in Seattle is renting an electric boat on Lake Union with friends. You can bring snacks and drinks with you and blast music while you enjoy the city views.
39. Take a scenic seaplane flight over the city
Want to see a unique view of Seattle? You can take a scenic flight with Kenmore Air. The seaplane will take off from and land on Lake Union for a thrilling ride.
40. Go to a Seahawks game
If you’ve been to a ___ (fill in the blank with Seahawks, Sounders, Mariners, or Kraken) game then you get a point.
41. Stroll through the arboretum
The Washington Park Arboretum is an underrated must-visit in Seattle. Bonus points if you’ve seen the fall foliage or the spring flowers blooming. If you’ve visited the Japanese garden there, you’re a true Seattleite.
42. Have a picnic at Gas Works Park at sunset
On a sunny day, all of Seattle will be at Gas Works Park flying kites, having picnics, walking their dogs, and throwing their frisbee right at you. The view is worth the odd frisbee to the head, though.
43. Ride the Monorail
The Seattle Center Monorail travels less than a mile and has only two stops, so it will be a short ride. It’s worth doing at least once though, for the views and just to say that you did it.
44. Visit the Seattle Central Library
Firstly, you should really take advantage of all the free things you can do with a Seattle library card if you live in King County. Secondly, you have to visit Seattle Central Library the next time you’re in downtown Seattle. First check out the Red Hall, and then go all the way to the highest viewpoint on the top floor.
45. Take a free wooden rowboat out on Lake Union
The Center for Wooden Boats offers free rowboat rentals. You just have to sign up in advance. It’s a great budget-friendly activity in Seattle.
46. Shop at Uwijimaya
Uwijimaya is a popular Asian grocery store in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. You’ll also find an amazing food court there.
47. Go to the world-famous tulip festival
Seattleites know that the arrival of April means it’s time to make the day trip to nearby Mount Vernon for the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. The rows upon rows of colorful tulips are quite a sight to behold.
48. Visit Leavenworth in October or at Christmas
Another local destination on many Seattleites’ bucket list is Leavenworth, WA. This Bavarian-style mountain town goes all out in the fall for Oktoberfest and in the winter for Christmas.
49. Browse the stacks at Elliott Bay Book Co.
Seattle has no shortage of amazing independent bookstores but Elliott Bay Book Co. in Capitol Hill is the largest. They have something for every reader, in addition to ongoing events, a charming in-store cafe, and a cozy kids’ section.
50. Hike in Mt. Rainier National Park
Finally, it’s essential to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring Mount Rainier (known by the indigenous people of the Puyallup Tribe as Tahoma). If you’re lucky you’ll see the volcano from Seattle on a clear day—or you can see it up-close by enjoying a trek through Mt. Rainier National Park. Even if you’re not up for a long, strenuous hike you could go and follow the short trail from the parking lot to Myrtle Falls.