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The 20 Best Things to Do in Seattle for First Time Visitors


Seattle, also known as the Emerald City, is the largest city in the state of Washington, and it is located between Puget Sound and Lake Washington. This city is the fourth-largest port city in North America, and it was inhabited by Native Americans for more than 4,000 years before Europeans permanently settled. The rich history and diversity of this city make it a fascinating place to visit. When visiting Seattle for the first time, you probably will not know where to start as there are so many things to see and do during your stay. To help you decide what to include in your itinerary, the following are the 20 top things to do in Seattle for first-time visitors.

19. Pacific Northwest Ballet

Regardless of whether you enjoy traditional ballet or modern shows, the Pacific Northwest Ballet delivers a wide range of performances at the McCaw Hall in the Seattle Center. Their performances include revamped versions of the classics. An evening watching the ballet is a cultural experience that is a little different from the other evening entertainment offerings in Seattle. The Pacific Northwest Ballet has the highest per-capita attendance in the United States and the company has more than 11,000 subscribers. Currently, there are 49 dancers in this dance company.

19. Chihuly Garden and Glass

One of the more unusual attractions in Seattle is Chihuly Garden and Glass. This museum is dedicated to the work of Dale Chihuly, who is a locally born world-renowned glassblower. It is the most comprehensive collection of Chihuly’s art to date and features interior galleries of which the highlight is the 100-foot red, yellow, and orange sculpture that is suspended from the ceiling in the glasshouse. This is an unusual attraction that will particularly appeal to art enthusiasts.

18. Pacific Science Center

A great day out for all the family is a day at the Pacific Science Center, says Visit Seattle. The highlight of a visit to this museum is the planetarium, where you can learn about galaxies near and far. A vast array of different scientific fields are explored during a visit with interactive and fun activities. Many people love the beauty of the Tropical Butterfly House, and others enjoy the experience of maneuvering a two-ton granite ball through the power of physics.

17. Seattle Center Monorail

A relic of the World’s Fair, the Seattle Center Monorail links the Seattle Center to the Westlake Center in downtown Seattle. It is a designated historic landmark that can reach top speeds of 45 miles per hour. This futuristic-looking mode of transport weaves above the streets between the skyscrapers. Not only is it a great way to get from one attraction to the next, but it is also a fantastic way to get a unique view of the city.

16. Elysian Brewery

For those who enjoy drinking craft beer, a visit to the Elysian Brewery in Capitol Hill is an excellent day out. Not only can you see how the beers are made and learn about the production process, but you can also sample the produce. This is a day out for the over-21s only due to the nature of the attraction.

15. Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Bobo and Chichi recommend a visit to Starbucks Reserve Roastery. This is far more than a visit to a regular Starbucks coffee shop. It is described as having a whimsical atmosphere, and visitors can watch the coffee beans being pumped through copper pipes into tanks for the staff to freshly prepare the coffee. It is a great place to spend an hour enjoying the freshly brewed coffee while taking a break from the hustle and bustle of Seattle’s streets.

14. Living Computer Museum + Labs

It is impossible to imagine life without computers now as they have become such an essential part of daily life. The history and evolution of computers are fascinating, and one of the best places in the United States to learn more about this subject is at the Living Computer Museum + Labs in Seattle. You can see some of the original computer models from the 1960s and explore the evolution of these devices through to the modern-day. Most of the displays are interactive and include self-driving cars, robotics, virtual reality, digital art, video game making, and much more. The museum is located in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle.

13. Museum of History and Industry

Often abbreviated to the MOHAI, the Museum of History and Industry is located in an old city armory on the southern tip of Lake Union. There are more than 100,000 historical artifacts on display along with various interactive exhibits. It is divided into sections that cover topics including technology, aerospace, maritime history, shipbuilding, sports, and music. If you take a trip to the top of the building, you can enjoy views of the city from the 360-degree periscope. Both children and adults alike enjoy this attraction. When you have finished seeing the exhibitions, you can enjoy a bite to eat in the museum’s café before exploring the lakeshore.

12. Woodland Park Zoo

A great day out for all the family is a trip to Woodland Park Zoo. This award-winning zoo is home to more than 1000 different types of animals, including poison dark frogs, otters, hippos, big cats, elephants, giraffes, and penguins. There are talks, shows, and educational activities run daily, and visitors can enjoy watching the animals being fed. This is an attraction that is both educational and fun, and it is a great choice for animal lovers.

11. Seattle Art Museum

Visit Seattle says that the Seattle Art Museum is a venue that can offer you two completely different experiences, so it is like a two-in-one activity. The main attraction is the art museum, which dates back to the 1930s and is the largest museum in the city. The collection of artwork covers a variety of eras and geographical regions. There are also examples of many different types of artwork. Once you have worked your way around this exhibition, make your way outside to enjoy the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is an extension of the museum.

10. Bainbridge Island

The waters of Puget Sound are dotted with tree-covered islands, including Bainbridge Island. This island is the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula but is also a destination in its own right. You can walk, drive, cycle, or take a water taxi to visit Bainbridge Island. There are several attractions to enjoy when you visit this island, including Bainbridge Island Art Museum, Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, West Port Madison Nature Preserve, and Bloedel Reserve.

9. Seattle Underground Tour

It may seem unusual to sink below the city, but you can learn just as much about Seattle’s colorful history while underground as you can from walking the streets. The underground tours are interesting, and you will see some fascinating sites. There are some surprising architectural details to enjoy underground, along with some interesting antique plumbing. The tours take place below Seattle’s famous Pioneer Square, which is an area filled with history. Underground Seattle was once condemned but has now become a unique tourist attraction.

8. The Museum of Flight

This museum boasts one of the largest air and space collections in the United States. Not only are their multiple impressive exhibits to see, but there are also multiple interactive experiences to enjoy, such as flight simulators and shuttle trainer tours. There is something at this museum for people of all ages.

7. The Seattle Great Wheel

One of the most recent additions to the list of best attractions in Seattle is the Seattle Great Wheel. This was only built-in 2012, but it is already recognized as one of the iconic symbols of the Seattle skyline. It is located at the end of Pier 57, and visitors can ride in one of the air-conditioned gondolas. They are on the ride for three revolutions, which gives them plenty of chances to enjoy the views across the city from this unusual perspective.

6. Wing Luke Museum

The Wing Luke Museum focuses on stories of the immigrant community in the Pacific Northwest. This is not just about tales of hardship, but also covers the contribution they have made to Seattle and how immigrants have shaped the multi-cultural community of this city. Some of the exhibits include a retrospective of the life of Bruce Lee and a section devoted to how Asian Americans have shaped surf and skateboard culture.

5. The Seattle Aquarium

Seattle is located by Puget Sound, which is a body of water that is home to the world’s largest octopus, the Giant Pacific Octopus. This beast of an animal can grow up to 14 feet in length. A whole section of The Seattle Aquarium is devoted to these creatures. However, there is plenty more to see at this attraction. There is a floor-to-ceiling display of marine life in the waters of Seattle, tide pool touch tanks, vast tanks filled with tropical fish, and daily activity programs. Many people love the puffin habitat and the otter displays.

4. MoPOP

MoPOP is a celebration of pop culture, including music and movies. The exhibits at this attraction are constantly changing, but there are always displays relating to rock n’ roll. The lower level of the museum is devoted to science fiction and fantasy in films, video games, and literature. MoPOP also hosts many exciting events throughout the year.

3. Pike Place Market

For some people, shopping at the market is heaven, while for others this is not much of an attraction to enjoy during a vacation. However, you are missing something if you do not visit Pike Place Market during a trip to this amazing city. Pike Place Market id more than just a place to shop, it has become something that defines Seattle and its culture. The building is magnificent, and you should spend some time admiring the murals and the architectural details. You have the option to wander around the market freely, or to take a tour, such as a food tour. This is also a great place to eat out as there is everything from food stands for snacks on the go to fancy restaurants for a memorable dinner.

2. The Space Needle

An iconic landmark on the Seattle skyline, The Space Needle was built in 1962 when Seattle hosted the World Fair. It is the best place to enjoy the city views as this structure stands at 605 feet tall. You will ride ot the observation deck on the elevator. This takes just 45 seconds and a tour gives you a very brief guide of the landmarks you can see. Once you are on the observation deck, you can spend longer identifying the different landmarks and learning about their history while enjoying the impressive 360-degree panoramic views. There are glass benches that seemingly hover above the ground and various exhibits lining the deck. You can even grab a drink and a bite to eat while you are there.On the level below the observation deck, there is a rotating glass floor

1. Elliott Bay Water Taxi

The bodies of water are an important part of the geography of Seattle. If you are walking or traveling around by car, you will often find yourself traveling for a mile to get to somewhere that is only a quarter of a mile from your starting point as you must negotiate various water inlets. This means you will go over lots of bridges in Seattle. A much quicker way of getting around is to take the water taxis, says Santorini Dave. While these are a mode of transport, they are also a popular tourist attraction as they offer a fun experience to visitors and the chance to admire the city skyline.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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