Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences
Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Space Needle Views
No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to the iconic Space Needle. This landmark tower offers unparalleled 360-degree views of the Emerald City and the surrounding mountains and water.
Rising 605 feet into the sky, the Space Needle was built for the 1962 World's Fair and continues to be a must-see attraction. Visitors can ride the elevator up to the observation deck 520 feet above the ground. From this vantage point, you'll be eye-level with seaplanes taking off and landing on Lake Union. Look south towards Mount Rainier standing majestically in the distance. Gaze north across Puget Sound to see ferries crisscrossing the waters.
The views are equally impressive after dark when the city lights up. You can even plan your visit to coincide with a full moon and witness it rising over the Cascade Mountains - a memorable experience. Don't forget to look straight down at the brave souls walking around the halo surrounding the top of the Needle. This glass floor allows you to feel like you're floating above the city.
While any time of day is ideal, I recommend stopping by around sunset on a clear evening. Watching the city transition from day to night is remarkable. The Space Needle has the only 360-degree views in Seattle, which make it the perfect vantage point.
If you want the best photos, purchase a ticket to the upper observation deck. This takes you even higher above the main deck to provide the most stunning panoramas devoid of obstructions. You'll also avoid crowding issues present on the lower level.
Afterwards, enjoy a meal at the revolving restaurant inside the Needle. The rotating floor ensures every diner gets to soak in the scenery while dining on Pacific Northwest cuisine. Sit at the counter for the most expansive views.
What else is in this post?
- Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Space Needle Views
- Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Pike Place Market
- Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Chihuly Garden and Glass
- Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Ferry Rides to Bainbridge
- Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Mount Rainier National Park
- Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Seattle Aquarium
- Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Museum of Pop Culture
- Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Seafood Galore
Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Pike Place Market
Amid the glass skyscrapers and tech hubs, Pike Place Market stands as a living piece of old Seattle. As the longest continuously operated public market in the United States, Pike Place gives you a taste of the city's history while serving as a hub for farmers, artisans, and small businesses.
Even if you only have a short time in Seattle, you must walk the crowded aisles of Pike Place and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells. Locals and tourists alike flock here not just for the famous fish throwing, but for the wide array of vendors selling everything from fresh produce and flowers to handmade crafts.
Arrive hungry, because there are snacks and meals galore. Stop at the first Starbucks store, buy a hot latte, and people watch from their cafe patio overlooking the market. Sample doughnuts at Daily Dozen Donuts, in operation since the 1930s. The line for crunchy, cinnamon-sugar dusted Crullers wraps around the stand, but locals say it's worth the wait.
For lunch, there are wafts of grilled sausage and sauerkraut luring you toward Bavarian Meats. Or try the Athenian for their quick gyro sandwiches amid a cozy, tavern atmosphere. Of course, no market experience is complete without encountering the flying fish. Fight your way through thick crowds to see salmon soaring at Pike Place Fish Market, a tradition since the 1960s.
Beyond food, the variety of vendors makes this is a shopper's paradise. Find hand-carved masks and totem poles, fragrant soaps, jewelry, ceramics and much more. Support local artists while bringing home unique mementos.
If you visit on a weekend, don't miss the buskers like keyboardists, violinists, and singers performing everything from jazz to rock for tips. Their music fills the market adding to the buzz.
When your feet tire, take a break in Post Alley. Home to the iconic neon gum wall, you can add your own piece of sticky, rainbow art. Then stroll out onto the adjacent pier for a refreshing vista of Elliott Bay after the crowds.
Watching the sunset over the Olympic Mountains from here is the perfect way to end your market tour. But arrive early if you want to snag a table at one of the pier's waterfront restaurants. Places like Ivar's Acres of Clams and Elliott's Oyster House are popular spots for breaded halibut, chowders, steamers and local oysters.
Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Chihuly Garden and Glass
Amid the towering skyscrapers and bustling streets, Chihuly Garden and Glass provides a welcomed escape into a world of vibrant color and whimsy. This exhibit dedicated to the sculptures of artist Dale Chihuly immerses visitors in installations that use light and glass to mirror the beauty seen in nature.
The centerpiece of Chihuly Garden and Glass is the Glasshouse. Step inside this 4,500 square foot glass structure and become enveloped by a kaleidoscope of color and textures. Towering sculptures in crimson reds, sunny yellows, deep blues, and lush greens fill the space. These organic shapes mimic flowers, vines, and seashells.
Follow the path through the Glasshouse to view the sculptures from all angles and appreciate their scale, some stretching over 15 feet tall. Columns of twisted red reeds appear to sway as if underwater. Nearby, neon yellow fronds curl out like tentacles. Everywhere you look, there is beauty to take in.
While impressive on their own, the colored glass sculptures come alive thanks to the interplay with natural light. On sunny days, bright beams streaming through the glass ceiling illuminate the installations. The sculptures become translucent, the glass glowing as if lit from within. Even on cloudy days, the muted light enhances rather than diminishes their vibrancy.
In the evenings, strategically placed lights showcase the sculptures' forms and colors. The Glasshouse takes on a magical ambiance. One visitor described it as "walking through an underwater garden at night." The lighting shifts and highlights different angles, encouraging you to linger as the space transforms.
Beyond the Glasshouse, the comprehensive exhibit features many of Chihuly's series in both indoor and outdoor displays. Under the Sea showcases his fascination with marine life, with tentacled forms and shell-like spheres clustered in brilliant blues. The Float Boat contains his signature floats in a painted wooden boat, their lacy fins fanning out as if drifting on water.
Throughout the sprawling exhibit, Chihuly's works reflect the inspirations he draws from the natural world. The Glass Forest presents slender glass shafts in autumnal hues, clustered like trees in a whimsical woods. Icicle clusters hang from the ceiling, the glass ridged and frosted as if frozen.
Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Ferry Rides to Bainbridge
A quintessential Seattle experience is riding the ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. Hopping on these passenger ferries gives you a taste of the nautical lifestyle while providing easy access to cute island towns.
The ferry ride itself is an attraction, with the salt air breezing across your face as you gaze out at the Seattle skyline receding. On a clear summer day, there are few better ways to spend an afternoon than gliding past sailboats with the sun warming your skin.
The waters of Puget Sound are cold but beautifully clear. You may spot harbor seals popping their heads up or even glimpse the telltale fins of resident orcas. The hour-long sailing time gives you a chance to disconnect from city life and simply be present surrounded by the natural beauty.
Once docked at Bainbridge Island, rent a bike near the ferry terminal and spend the day pedaling around the island. Work up an appetite as you cruise along the shoreline, through quaint neighborhoods and into charming downtown Winslow.
Grab an outdoor patio table at Harbor Public House and fill up on Dungeness crab fritters, Penn Cove mussels in a white wine broth, and other local seafood. A nice cold craft beer or Washington State wine complements the fresh catches perfectly.
After lunch, get back on two wheels and continue your journey through the island's scenic bike trails. Ride through tranquil forests and make your way to Battle Point Park located on the southern tip of the island.
Pedal out onto the pier jutting into Puget Sound for panoramic views of Seattle's skyline across the water. It's especially mesmerizing at night when the Space Needle and skyscrapers light up in a dazzling display.
Nearby Bloedel Reserve is another highlight. These 150 acres of gardens and forests are home to mossy glens, tranquil ponds, and towering trees that create a magical realm. The Low Tide Walk extends out over the beach, immersing you in the tide pools teeming with sea stars, anemones and crustaceans when the tide goes out.
Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Mount Rainier National Park
Rising majestically in the Cascade Range, Mount Rainier dominates the landscape, towering over 14,000 feet above sea level. Visiting this active volcano and the surrounding national park bearing its name is an essential experience for outdoor enthusiasts visiting Seattle.
Hikers from beginners to hardcore will find trails catering to all levels. Over 260 miles of maintained hiking trails weave through old growth forests, wildflower meadows, rugged ridges and along rivers carved from glacial ice. Challenge yourself scrambling over boulders and sheer rock faces on treks like the Glacier Basin Trail rated difficult. Panoramic Mountain, at a moderate four miles roundtrip, rewards you with unobstructed Rainier vistas. Enjoy leisurely nature walks around tranquil lakes or through fragrant evergreen groves along paths like Westside Road or Trail of the Shadows.
Climbing Rainier's challenging slopes appeals to hardcore mountaineers. Guided summit climbs typically take 2-3 days traversing crevassed glaciers and crossing high altitude passes. Joining a guided group increases safety and improves your chances of summiting. While challenging, approximately half of climbers reach the top, especially during peak season from May to September. Your reward is joining an elite group who have stood atop one of the most iconic American peaks west of the Rockies.
If climbing seems too intense, scenic aerial tours by helicopter or small plane allow you to soak in the mountain's grandeur with less effort. As you circle Rainier's volcanic cone, crater and radiating glaciers, appreciate how this solitary peak dominates the skyline.
Winter transforms Mount Rainier into a wonderland for snow sports from November through May. Test your skills on ungroomed terrain like the steep chutes on Cowlitz and Ingraham Glaciers. Or cruise gently sloping paths groomed for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. Many find Paradise the most magical, especially when blizzard conditions give way to reveal Rainier sheathed in new fallen powder. Listen for the muffled stillness that snow brings to these slopes.
Wildlife abounds, with the national park protecting habitat for iconic Northwest species. Spotting elk grazing meadows close to the road is common in areas like Tiptop and Kautz Creek. Listen for the eerie howl of wolves echoing through moonlit forests. And patient wildlife watchers may glimpse black bears lumbering near their dens. Spring and fall bring wildflower displays attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.
Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Seattle Aquarium
Immerse yourself in an underwater world teeming with sea life by spending a day at the Seattle Aquarium along the downtown waterfront. This marine experience transports you from Puget Sound to the farthest reaches of the Pacific Ocean. It's a perennial favorite with kids, but also delights adults seeking an entertaining yet educational diversion.
You'll be impressed by the aquarium's thoughtful exhibits displaying local marine species alongside creatures from tropical seas. Massive floor-to-ceiling tanks showcase rockfish and lingcod found in Puget Sound alongside vibrant corals and schools of fish native to Micronesia. This marine diversity reflects Seattle's connection to the Pacific.
Don't miss the Pacific Coral Reef exhibit to stand eye-level with pufferfish, triggerfish and green sea turtles gliding gracefully through turquoise waters. Vibrant pink and yellow corals provide a technicolor backdrop. Ascend the spiral ramp surrounding the tank to view the reef action from above. Descend into the darkened dome at the tank's center and watch sharks and giant groupers prowl these simulated tropical waters.
The aquarium's stars are undoubtedly their playful sea otters, with daily training sessions sure to delight. Watch these fuzzy marine mammals demonstrate their natural behaviors, cracking shells and floating on their backs, while interacting with trainers. Their mischievous antics never fail to draw giggles from kids and smiles from adults.
Puget Sound fish and invertebrates also get their due. The mammoth Puget Sound tank showcases rockfish, lingcod and other local species swimming amid giant Pacific octopus and colorful anemones clinging to replicas of the Sound's rocky seafloor. Nearby touch tanks let you get hands-on with tide pool creatures like sea stars and sea cucumbers.
Knowledgeable staff and volunteers provide insights on the species and ecosystems showcased. Ask them questions and gain a deeper appreciation for marine conservation efforts making the exhibits possible. Special events like Shark Week provide additional opportunities to focus on specific species and their habitats.
Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Museum of Pop Culture
Step inside Frank Gehry's futuristic structure along the Seattle Center campus and immerse yourself in exhibits spanning music, film, TV and pop culture icons. Formerly called Experience Music Project, the Museum of Pop Culture (or MoPOP) lives up to its new name by celebrating all aspects of arts and entertainment.
Even the building's design screams fun with its multicolored sheet metal tumbling together like a giant mishmashed drum kit. Inside, interactive exhibits make learning engaging for all ages. Kids can get hands-on with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame to recreate movie scenes and create imaginative worlds. Grownups indulge their inner rockstar shredding guitars and singing karaoke in the Sound Lab.
For music lovers, the extensive galleries on Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix and other Seattle music trailblazers provide fascinating insights on the grunge era and its influences. Handwritten lyrics, vintage concert footage, and memorabilia deliver an immersive experience complemented by skilled docents who share their wisdom.
Beyond Seattle bands, find costumes worn by music royalty like Prince, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. Try your hand at mixing beats and laying down vocal tracks in the On Stage exhibit. The depth and diversity of artifacts make this a music history buff's paradise.
Of course it's not all wailing guitars in this former Frank Gehry masterpiece. The expanded focus invites you to geek out on favorite films and shows. An entire gallery devoted to horror and fantasy pays homage to icons from Dracula to Harry Potter with original props and costumes.
Totem Poles to Tiny Houses: 16 Quintessential Seattle Experiences - Seafood Galore
You haven’t truly experienced Seattle until you dive mouth first into the cornucopia of seafood this city offers. Locals will swear Seattle boasts the best sushi outside of Tokyo. Others tout the flavorful Northwest spot prawns rival anything found Down Under. And don’t forget the ubiquitous geoduck; this massive clam with the unforgettable appearance is a local delicacy.
Seattle cemented its reputation as a seafood mecca back in the late 1800s when salmon canning was king. Today, the bounty hauled in from Puget Sound and the Northern Pacific means seafood takes center stage on most menus.
Ethan Stowell is one chef leading a new generation focused on quality over quantity. His Ballard restaurant Staple and Fancy sources only sustainable seafood from the Pacific Northwest. Start with a Kumamoto oyster appetizer served nude - fanned on ice with spritzes of lemon and mignonette allowing the saline flavors to shine. Next up, try the luxurious texture of butter-poached halibut contrasted by crisp kale chips sprinkled with chicharrones. Milk-braised octopus offers tender tentacles made irresible when paired with creamy burrata and charred scallions.
For Seattle’s freshest raw seafood, sushi connoisseurs flock to Shiro’s. Their dedication to sourcing premium quality fish from Japan keeps devotees returning. Sit at the sushi counter and watch the itamae craft each perfect piece. The omakase chef’s choice sends a parade of delights, from sweet pale pink hirame (fluke) to buttery aji (horse mackerel) and rich botan ebi (spot prawn) dressed in Japanese mayo and a shiso leaf. A glass of cold sake complements each serving.
Those seeking the quintessential Seattle seafood experience should head to Pike Place Market. This iconic landmark provides an education on regional catches from the first bite. Matt’s in the Market overlooking the bustling stalls remains a longtime favorite. Their extensive raw bar selection highlights the day’s freshest oysters and clams. Dungeness crab cakes deliver sweet chunks of tender meat. For a true Seattle taste, order pan-seared wild salmon filet atop a bed of foraged mushrooms. Finish your market tour with some alderwood smoked black cod at Jack’s Fish Spot. The velvety texture will make you understand why they call it “butterfish.”