Resting between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, amidst scenic mountains, Seattle offers almost limitless activity options for residents and visitors alike. Whether you take a stroll through a market or catch a ferry to one of the nearby islands, Seattle provides the perfect blend of natural and modern attractions.
1. Pike Place Market
One of the most popular tourist destinations is the original Seattle farmer’s market, established in 1907. Open year-round, the Pike Place Market includes produce stands, butcher shops, specialty food stands, boutiques and fish markets. One of the highlights is watching the fishmongers toss fish that customers have purchased before the fish is wrapped. The market is also home to the original Starbucks store, opened in 1971.
2. Alki Beach
One of the few true sand beaches in Puget Sound, the West Seattle Beach stretches for almost two and a half miles and looks across Elliot Bay at downtown Seattle. In addition to offering just a place to sit and relax, Alki is also a hit with beach volleyball players. The paved path is used by walkers, runners, rollerbladers and parents pushing strollers. Salty’s, with its view of the city, is the most well-known of the Alki eateries, but the street along the beach offers numerous dining options. Water taxis offer a quick, convenient transportation alternative between Alki Beach and downtown Seattle.
3. Washington State Ferries
Although many Seattleites are immune to the daily comings and goings of the green-and-white ferries, they offer a relaxing, enjoyable and scenic way to take in much of the area, including fabulous views of downtown Seattle. The 35-minute route between Seattle and Bainbridge offers almost two dozen sailings per day. Another route operates between Seattle and Bremerton. A quick 20-minute trip gets you from Fauntleroy in West Seattle to Vashon Island. From Anacortes, about 80 miles north of Seattle, ferries operate out to the scenic San Juan Islands or on to Sidney, B.C. Many passengers forego their vehicles and simply bring aboard their bike for a ride on the other side.
4. Boeing Tour
Seeing a 747 on the assembly line is truly amazing. The Boeing Tour of the Everett production line – which also includes 767s, 777s and the 787 Dreamliner model – offers a 90-minute look at the airplane building process. The complex, which houses a twin-aisle assembly line, is housed in a building that covers 39.8 acres, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest building by volume. The tour also includes the Future of Flight Aviation Center. Aeronautical enthusiasts can also take in the Museum of Flight and its historic aircraft collection just 10 minutes south of downtown Seattle, or the Kenmore Air Harbor Seaplane Base on Lake Union.
5. Mount Rainier
Although on a clear day, majestic Mount Rainier appears to be just down the road, the tallest mountain in Washington State is located about 60 miles southeast of Seattle. At 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is the highest mountain in the Cascade Range. Mount Rainier National Park, a photographer’s dream, offers over 260 miles of maintained trails of varying degrees of difficulty, including many perfect for day hiking. Overnight wilderness camping is also allowed in the park with a permit.
The park changes greatly in the winter and most of the roads are closed to the public. The average snowfall at the Paradise area, at an elevation of 5,400 feet, is 643 inches – or 53.6 feet. At one time, Paradise held the world record for measured snowfall in a single year with 1,122 inches in 1971-1972, or 93.5 feet.
6. Ballard Locks
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, or Ballard Locks, were dedicated in 1917 and connect freshwater Lake Washington, Lake Union and Salmon Bay with saltwater Puget Sound. The larger of the two locks is 825 feet long, built to accommodate the larger ships of the day, while the smaller is 150 feet. The complex also contains a fish ladder. Fishermen's Terminal, east of the locks and immediately west of the Ballard Bridge, has been the home to the Alaskan fishing fleet. Adjacent to the locks is the seven-acre Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden — a tranquil park-like setting with about 500 species of plants, trees and shrubs from around the world.
7. Seattle Center
Located on the site of the 1962 World’s Fair, Seattle Center features the city’s most recognizable landmark, the 605-foot tall Space Needle, which was built for the exposition. The observation deck at 520 feet offers an amazing 360-degree view of the city and beyond. Diners can enjoy the revolving SkyCity restaurant located near the top of the Needle. For an added throwback experience, take the monorail from downtown to Seattle Center. A quick tip: Get the front seat.
The EMP Museum is also located at Seattle Center. Originally founded as a music museum by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the EMP Museum (Experience Music Project) has been refocused on popular culture. In addition to exhibits on such topics as science fiction, horror movies and indie games, the Guitar Gallery, features dozens of historic instruments.