As a coastal city escape in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest region of the United States, Seattle offers culture, cuisine, and (of course) coffee. Also known as the Emerald City, exploring Seattle grants you access to the expansive outdoors, with evergreen national forests and rugged islands in close proximity. Puget Sound and the stunning Cascade Mountains provide an idyllic natural backdrop to this rainy city.
From perusing world-famous markets and sampling all forms of espresso at the original Starbucks to tasting your way through the bustling downtown and hiking nearby trails, Seattle is a destination that appeals to all types of travelers. Here are 10 things that Seattle is known for to inspire your next trip.
The Space Needle
Perched in the heart of Seattle, the famous Space Needle soars over 600 feet into the sky. This iconic landmark is one of the top things that Seattle is known for. Originally constructed for the World’s Fair in 1962, the Space Needle was built to represent the architecture of the future.
Soar to new heights high above the Emerald City for an incredible panorama of one of the best skylines in the world. Travel upwards to the observation deck, where floor-to-ceiling windows offer sprawling views over the city of Seattle, the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, Puget Sound, Elliott Bay, and the resident star, Mount Rainier.
Learn about the companies that have taken up residence in the Space Needle throughout the years, including a radio station, large event space, restaurants, and observation decks. Gaze out as far as you can see from the glass benches, walk on the Loupe—an innovative rotating glass floor—and capture photos of this unbelievably iconic Seattle experience.
Pike Place Market
You’ll recognize the world-famous neon sign before entering the buzzing Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. Experience the soul of the city in one of the oldest continuously operating markets of its kind in the country. Browse local goods, from fresh-cut flowers and antiques to produce, and see the famous fish-tossing that the market is known for. If you’re lucky, live music will provide the soundtrack.
Order a coffee at the original Starbucks located within Pike Place Market. Watch talented street performers as you shop, and stop at some of the market’s other highlights, such as the giant bronzed piggy bank, Rachel.
Save room for a sweet treat from one of the many delicious dessert vendors. Mini doughnuts, soda fountain shakes, artistic eclairs, and raw, unfiltered honey that’s sourced locally are just some of the sugary delights available at Pike Place Market to round out your visit.
The picturesque Puget Sound is one of the top things that Seattle is known for. Dotted with islands ready for you to explore, this inlet provides the scenic backdrop to the city of Seattle. Board the ferry to set foot on the San Juan Islands, Blake Island, or Bainbridge Island, or drive to nearby Whidbey Island and Vashon Island (known as the heart of the sound), where you’ll uncover a rich natural setting with plenty to do.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find a treasure trove of fresh-air activities just outside of the city in Puget Sound. Spot whales in the famed Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, or get a glimpse of these magnificent creatures while en route to any of the island waterways.
Read: Best Place to See Orcas in the Wild
Uncover the natural wonders within the tidepools of Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island, or take to the hiking trails in Camano Island State Park. Rent a sea kayak or join a guided tour for an unforgettable perspective of this region.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
One of the most notable things that Seattle is known for is the art of glass-blowing. Marvel at the colorful artwork at Chihuly Garden and Glass, a museum dedicated to the work of local glassblower, Dale Chihuly. Browse galleries filled with works of fine art crafted from glass.
Step inside the star attraction, the Glasshouse, where vividly hued glass sculptures dangle over 100 feet from the ceiling within a space that pays homage to the artist’s love for conservatories. The reds, oranges, and yellow tones will warm your soul as you admire this larger-than-life installation.
Stroll through the property’s garden to encounter colorful highlights like the Reeds on Logs and Crystal and Icicle Towers that pop against the natural trees and flowers.
In Pioneer Square, Seattle’s original downtown, experience the neighborhood’s deep history and admire the Renaissance Revival architecture that it’s known for. Step back in time to where Seattle began in the 1850s.
Shops, restaurants, and other points of interest highlight the history of the city as well as the connection to the indigenous peoples tied to the land Seattle was established on. Stop at the Waterfall Garden Park, where you can rest your feet while listening to the sounds of a 22-foot manmade waterfall.
Appreciate art as you tour the neighborhood, uncovering amazing murals and interesting galleries. Other Pioneer Square highlights include the totem pole, Iron Pergola, and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. If you’re feeling adventurous, head below the streets for a thrilling tour of the subterranean passages that the pioneers used.
Discover the historic underground world of Seattle’s founding neighborhood, Pioneer Square. Walk beneath the streets as you explore and learn about the preserved sidewalks and storefronts that survived the Great Fire of 1889, only to be built upon when the city was brought back to life. To avoid drainage issues that plagued the city before, the new city was constructed at a higher position, leaving what remained from the first settlement underground.
This “buried city” is part of the National Register of Historic Places and contains an interesting past of often humorous stories about the pioneers that once settled here. Venture through hollow tunnel alleyways as you view storefronts, display windows, and old sidewalks that the first settlers once traversed.
With nature in such close proximity to Seattle, it’s no surprise that an abundance of outdoor gems awaits just outside of the city. Snoqualmie Falls, located about a half-hour east, is one of the natural wonders that Seattle is known for. Dropping almost 270 feet, this waterfall features two observation decks, hiking trails, and spectacular scenery.
Explore the two-acre park on one of the trails that skirt the rim of the gorge for a fantastic vantage point of the falls. If you’re feeling more adventurous, challenge yourself with a short but steep trek to the base of the waterfall, where you’ll get a different perspective—with a side of mist.
Woodinville Wine Country
Located a short half-hour from the center of Seattle, the Woodinville Wine Country is a well-known destination for wine enthusiasts and beer lovers. Composed of four districts, you’ll have your pick of wineries, eateries, and microbreweries to explore.
In the West Valley District, the Sammamish River serves as a picturesque backdrop for boutique wineries in an up-and-coming region. Learn about wine production in the Warehouse District, follow the cycling trails for pizza and wine tasting in the Hollywood District, and uncover what’s new on the culinary and beverage scene Downtown.
The Seattle Great Wheel
Seattle’s famous Ferris wheel is an iconic part of the city’s skyline. Constructed in 2012, this popular attraction is the tallest Ferris wheel on the West Coast, stretching 174 feet into the air.
Climbing aboard will grant you a fantastic way to see the city from above. Enjoy the sprawling views of the pier, downtown, Puget Sound, and mountains from the comfort of your enclosed gondola.
Sunset is one of the best times to experience this picture-perfect vista. On weekend nights, watch the LED light show, where thousands of colorful lights dazzle from afar in various patterns and designs.
The Pacific Northwest is known for its indigenous cultures, which you can experience for yourself on a day trip from Seattle to Tillicum Village on nearby Blake Island. Embark on a boat ride to the island and watch skillful carving traditions, browse handmade artisan goods, and marvel at the handiworks crafted by the Native American artists.
Enjoy fresh West Coast salmon and steamed clams roasted over a fire while watching traditional Native American dancing. Be regaled by authentic storytelling and learn about the customs practiced by these communities. Walking trails are a popular way to experience the gorgeous scenery on this island, with Mount Rainier and Seattle’s skyline forming part of the stunning backdrop.
If you’re in search of the perfect combination of city and nature, uncover what Seattle is known for on a luxury Seattle cruise. Browse itineraries on our website and book your next unforgettable vacation today.