Things to Do in Washington
Seattle’s Space Needle, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most distinctive icons, rises 605 feet (184 meters) above the city. Once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River at the time of its construction—built for the 1962 World’s Fair—the tower features a rotating restaurant and an observation deck at 520 feet (158 meters) with 360-degree panoramic views over Seattle and its surroundings.
One of the oldest national parks in the United States, Mt. Rainier National Park was established in 1899 to preserve the wilderness surrounding Mount Rainier. Encompassing 369 square miles (956 square kilometers) of old-growth forests, wildflower meadows, glacial scenery, and wildlife, it’s a must-visit for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The Seattle Great Wheel is a can’t-miss icon that speaks to the fun-loving nature of the city’s residents. One of the biggest Ferris wheels in the US, the Seattle Great Wheel features enclosed gondolas that afford spectacular coastal views. It stands above 175 feet (53 meters) and weighs in at more than a quarter of a million pounds.
Olympic National Park covers a huge swath of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, encompassing rugged coastline, towering mountain ranges, temperate rain forests, and wildflower-filled lowland meadows. Home to some of the biggest stretches of old-growth forest remaining in the US, this misty Pacific Northwest park is the ultimate outdoor escape.
Every day from dawn to dusk, Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market buzzes with locals and tourists alike, who come to browse the 150 stalls of fresh seafood, produce, flowers, artisanal products, and local art, as well as see the numerous street performers wandering throughout.
The cold, dark waters around Seattle hide an abundance of marine life, from orca whales to giant Pacific octopus to otters and salmon. The Seattle Aquarium helps visitors access this rich underwater world without getting wet. The experience involves touch tanks, daily dive shows, and plenty of exhibits showing off the area’s sea life.
Glass artist Dale Chihuly, famous for his whimsical sculptures, was born in Tacoma but has left his mark on Seattle. Fans can revel in his colorful creations at the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum at Seattle Center. The facility includes a 100-foot (30-meter) glass sculpture, theater, and Chihuly retrospective, plus an outdoor garden.
You can’t miss this colorful shrine to pop culture and creativity. When architect Frank Gehry designed the shimmering exterior, he made one of Seattle’s most eye-catching landmarks. From rock music to science fiction, film, and video games, it’s an immersive experience that includes interactive exhibits and treasured memorabilia.
Pioneer Square, where Seattle’s founders first settled in 1852, is a bustling district in the southwest corner of downtown Seattle. The shop- and nightlife-laden neighborhood takes its name from the small, triangular cobblestone plaza known as Pioneer Square Park, and features a bust of Chief Seattle, an ornate pergola, and a totem pole.
More than just the second-largest lake in all of Washington State, Lake Washington defines Seattle as a city intimately tied to the water. Residents and visitors alike come to Lake Washington to connect with the natural beauty of the landscape, which includes views of Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Mountains.
More Things to Do in Washington
Fans of Twin Peaks will recognize Washington state’s iconic Snoqualmie Falls, an epic cataract that drops 270 feet (82 meters) in one single, massive rush. Travelers can hike down to the base of the falls, take in the views from the side of the falls, or walk a winding boardwalk along Snoqualmie River for a look from the bottom.
Just north of downtown Seattle, the glacially carved freshwater Lake Union is ringed with houseboats—including the one made famous by the movieSleepless in Seattle—and home to numerous recreational opportunities. The lake is a true urban gem, contributing to Seattle’s high standard of living.
Learn about the annual phenomenon of salmon spawning at Seattle’s Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, known locally as the Ballard Locks, where three types of Pacific salmon pass through the fish ladder during the summer months on the way upriver to their spawning grounds.
For views of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, and Mount Rainier, the hilltop Kerry Park (Franklin Place) is hard to beat. Popular with photographers, Kerry Park looks out across the city skyline, the leafy streets of the Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, and Puget Sound, where you can spot ferries leaving the Seattle waterfront for the San Juan Islands.
The award-winning Woodland Park Zoo re-creates savannah, jungle, tropical rain forest, and other exotic landscapes on a 92-acre (37-hectare) campus by Seattle’s Green Lake. Full of furry, feathered, and scaly residents from across the globe, the Woodland Park Zoo is a leader in wildlife conservation and a kid-friendly Seattle attraction.
Situated under the iconic Space Needle, Seattle’s Pacific Science Center is a museum of delight, wonder, and mystery. Visitors can explore the diversity of life in a tropical butterfly house, gaze at the stars in the planetarium, test their puzzle-solving skills in the Puzzle Palooza, and explore hundreds of hands-on exhibits.
Tiny Waterfall Garden Park, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, offers a peaceful respite from the surrounding streets, with tables, chairs, and benches that invite a relaxing visit. Planted with trees and flowers native to Japan, the park commemorates the original location of the United Parcel Service.
When a city has an enviable location on a large body of water, like Puget Sound, the waterfront becomes a top attraction. This is definitely true in Seattle, where the nearly 20-block stretch along the water is home to restaurants, hotels, markets, shops, and more than a dozen piers.
Mount St. Helens’ infamous eruption on the morning of May 18, 1980, punched a 1,300-foot (396-meter) hole in the volcano and sent fire and ash raining down the mountainside. Visitors today can view the mountain’s crater, spot wildlife, see the country’s youngest glacier, and witness the surrounding forest’s recovery.
Often simply referred to as the ID, the Chinatown-International District is the multiethnic center of Seattle’s Asian community. The neighborhood is also one of the city’s oldest, its rich history highlighted by museums, festivals, and cultural centers. Many visitors come for the food—dim sum, banh mi, sushi, and more.
The Seattle Mariners’ home field at T-Mobile Park (formerly known as Safeco Field) is a shrine to the city’s beloved baseball team. It’s also a Seattle skyline landmark, with seating for nearly 50,000 fans and a retractable roof. Whether you’re watching the Mariners play or touring the stadium, the park is a top pick for baseball lovers.
Seattle’s funky, irreverent, and always colorful Fremont neighborhood is a vibrant place to explore. The area bills itself as the “Center of the Universe,” and it’s a hotbed of interesting landmarks. Visitors stroll along the scenic Ship Canal and grab coffee, artisan chocolate, craft beer, or a full dinner at one of Seattle’s best restaurants.
Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest public park and although the green space offers over 11 miles of trails, the shorter Loop Trail is perfect for those wanting a quick taste of the scenery. Connecting to the other trails designed for further exploration, it follows the perimeter of the park, taking hikers through second-growth forests consisting of maple, alder, cherry, fir and cedar trees, open meadows and along sandy beaches littered with gnarly driftwood. The park is also a great place to get a view of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound, as well as to catch a glimpse of the diverse wildlife. Seals, sea lions, chipmunks and over 270 species of birds have made their home in and around the 534 acres of the park and just like the visitors coming here for a quick respite, have found somewhat of a sanctuary from the active city.
On the land of the park you can also find the Daybreak Star Cultural Center, a foundation providing social and educational services to Native Americans, as well as the incredibly picturesque West Point Lighthouse. The latter is also known as the Discovery Park Lighthouse and is a historic building that has been in operation since 1881. Perched on the very westernmost tip of the peninsula in the midst of windswept grass and a rocky beach full of driftwood, it makes for a stunning photo opportunity.
Puget Sound is a complex of inlets, bays, and harbors that includes not only Seattle, but also Tacoma, Olympia, and plenty of charming little towns and unique islands. The region is home to sparkling blue waters, lush green forests, sandy beaches, and a relaxed, slow-paced way of life.
- Things to do in Seattle
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- Things to do in Oregon
- Things to do in Alberta
- Things to do in Vancouver
- Things to do in Portland
- Things to do in Vancouver Island
- Things to do in Calgary
- Things to do in Napa & Sonoma
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- Things to do in California
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