Despite its reputation as a city perpetually shrouded in rainclouds, Seattle may surprise you with its colorful, highly-progressive culture. The city has seen a population explosion in the last decade thanks to a burgeoning technology sector driven by companies such as Microsoft and Amazon. Seattleites love their city’s proximity to the great outdoors, and hikes through the Cascade Mountains or Kayak trips in Puget Sound are easy day trips.
North of downtown and facing the Puget Sound, Ballard is a waterfront community filled with small shops, craft breweries and restaurants. Particularly during the summer, visitors flock to the sandy beach at Golden Gardens Park for bonfires, picnics and volleyball. The Ballard Locks and adjacent Botanical Garden comprise one of the most beautiful park areas in the city, while Market Street is perfect for window shopping or grabbing a bite to eat.
Rising behind the metropolitan downtown, Capitol Hill is famous for being the physical heart of Seattle’s nightlife scene, as well as counterculture and LGBT communities that have thrived here since the 1960s. Packed with bars, trendy eateries and coffee shops, the neighborhood is now one of the most in demand places to live for the young employees of Seattle’s burgeoning tech industry.
Fremont is a bohemian community just across the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Historically inhabited by artists and members of Seattle’s counterculture movement, Fremont has seen some gentrification as workers seek lower rents away from downtown Seattle. Some of the most popular attractions include the massive concrete sculpture of a troll underneath the Aurora Bridge leading to Fremont, as well as a 16-foot-high sculpture of Vladimir Lenin located on 36th Street.
Seattle’s most socially and economically-diverse neighborhood extends southeast from the Central District along Lake Washington, deriving its name from Mt. Rainier towards which the valley is oriented. This area is more affordable than many of the neighborhoods north of downtown Seattle, with many different cuisines available from local immigrants. It is also well connected to downtown Seattle through the city’s light rail system, which runs along the valley’s central boulevard.
Wallingford is a large, family-friendly neighborhood north of Lake Union. While the business district includes several small pubs and restaurants, the area’s real gems are its abundant parks and public spaces. Gas Works Park on the shore of Lake Union is one of the most famous parks in Seattle, offering incredible views of both downtown and the lake. The Burke-Gilman trail is a recreational path for bikers and pedestrians that runs across Wallingford and out to Ballard, allowing easy access for outdoor exercise or relaxation.
Seattle’s large Vietnamese population has gifted the city with some of the best Pho in the United States, and Ba Bar is no exception. This hip restaurant offers plenty of dry or soup noodle dishes, spring rolls and more alongside a variety of refreshing cocktails. Ba Bar currently has three locations: in the University District, Capitol Hill and South Lake Union.
Overlooking the Fisherman’s Wharf on the Seattle Ship Canal, Chinook’s delivers delicious, fresh seafood while maintaining an atmosphere that manages to remain both classy and relaxed at once. Catch of the day is usually a safe choice, as are the Dungeness crab cakes. The restaurant can be a bit on the loud side, so feel free to bring the whole family along!
Founded in 1954, Dick’s harkens back to another time in which fast food was simple and unassuming. Choose from a regular hamburger, cheeseburger, “special” or “deluxe” burgers, then add fries and a hand-dipped shake. While it’s a simple formula, it remains an enduring Seattle classic.
Ivar’s Acres of Clams
A perfect no-frills, family friendly establishment perched on Seattle’s waterfront, Ivar’s is famous for its fresh seafood and great service. Try the signature creamy fish chowder or the classic “Halibut and Chips” paired with a cold beer. For an ideal experience, grab outdoor seating on a summer evening and watch the sun set against Puget Sound’s busy maritime traffic.
Wild Ginger is one of the best Asian fusion restaurants in Seattle, combining flavors from China and throughout Southeast Asia. Often hosting diners who have just come from a concert next door, Wild Ginger offers a few entrees that can run a little bit on the expensive side, but diners can also choose to share dishes among one another to cut costs. The fragrant duck in steamed buns is a classic choice, as are the Mongolian noodles.
While Seattle offers a wealth of cultural and historical attractions for tourists, some of the most memorable places to visit are not manmade at all. Within a few hours driving distance of downtown, the Cascade Mountains beckon, offering a lifetime’s worth of dazzling hikes, ski slopes and rock-climbing opportunities. Within the city, however, here are a few of the biggest attractions.
Pike Place Market
Known for its famous neon sign, Pike Place is a public market slightly north of downtown Seattle off First Avenue. There are many small shops and restaurants in the market, which extends several floors below street level. Pike Place Fish Market is famous for its fish mongers who toss fresh fish from stall to stall, while Beecher’s Cheese allows visitors to watch delicious cheese as it is created. If you’re feeling like some dessert, check out Le Panier French Bakery for a variety of sweet treats.
Without a doubt Seattle’s most iconic landmark is the Space Needle. It is worth a visit simply to get a bird’s eye view of the downtown area and Lake Union boats. Be warned though: waiting times are long during clear days, so be sure to reserve a ticket ahead of time. You can do so by visiting the website up to 9 days in advance.
Interested in learning more about the history of the Space Needle? Read further to learn how it became such a popular tourist attraction.
Olympic Sculpture Park
Overlooking the sparkling Puget Sound, Olympic Sculpture Park is a free, outdoor sculpture museum with both permanent and visiting installations. The park has received numerous art and architecture awards for its eye-catching designs. On summer days, tourists and locals alike throng here to catch some sun amidst the massive works of art.
Mount Si is only a 45-minute drive from Seattle. It is one of the area’s most popular trails, visited by over 100,000 people a year. The hike gains 3,100 feet in roughly four miles, making it a tough climb – but not inaccessibly so. The beauty of the trail is well worth the pain though. Hikers will experience breathtaking views of Seattle, Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains and Snoqualmie Valley.
Looking for places to stay when visiting Seattle? Click here to find the top 10 most in demand Airbnbs in Seattle.