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Is Seattle Worth Visiting

I’ve been to Seattle several times and it’s one of my favourite cities in the US to visit. However, it doesn’t always have the best reputation.

Is it worth visiting? Yes. Are there drawbacks? Also yes, but that’s true of any major city in any country.

When I was on a 6-month, 22,000-mile, 48-state road trip around the US, lots of people I met were interested in my route, and several said I should reconsider and skip Seattle. 

I ignored them, went anyway and had a great time. Several of those people had never been to Seattle, so negative opinions aren’t always fair. 

I think a lot of the negative impressions that people have of Seattle are exaggerated, or apply more to residents than visitors.

There are plenty of reasons that make Seattle a great place to visit, and I think those outweigh any negatives. So, here is a rundown of why Seattle is worth visiting.

Selfies aren’t my forte, but I needed proof of what might be my 5th visit to Chihuly Garden and Glass!

7 Best Reasons To Visit Seattle

Cultural Attractions

Seattle has a lot to offer in terms of attractions. The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is always a favourite, with its collection of guitars used by music icons, original costumes and props from TV and films, and interactive music studios where you can watch and practice different musical disciplines.

There are often temporary exhibits at MoPOP so have a look at their website before you go to see what’s on.

Another popular attraction is the Pacific Science Center, which is particularly good for families. Kids will enjoy learning about space, dinosaurs and the human body. A planetarium show is included with the ticket, but you need to book a timed slot in advance to guarantee a place.

And let’s not forget the Space Needle – Seattle’s most recognisable landmark. With the revolving glass floor and 360° views, it’s a classic Seattle experience. However, it is also something of a tourist trap and there are better views to be had elsewhere – for my recommendation you’ll have to keep reading.

Puget Sound

Natural Beauty

Washington State and the wider Pacific Northwest region are beautiful parts of the USA. And there’s a good reason why Seattle’s nickname is the Emerald City. The area around Seattle offers some incredible natural beauty. 

The views over Puget Sound are lovely, and there are several ferries you can take to enjoy the best views of the city and surrounding islands.

If you have the time to go further afield, visit Olympic National Park or the Cascade Mountains. 

Purple Cafe and Wine Bar

Food and Drink

Seattle has a lot of excellent restaurants, local wines and amazing seafood. Head to Lowell’s for breakfast in Pike Place Market with views over Puget Sound. Visit The Pink Door for Italian dining with a show – trapeze artists, cabaret, musicians and more!

The first place I visited on my first trip to Seattle was Purple Cafe and Wine Bar. Forcing myself to head out despite being a bleary-eyed, jetlagged mess was worth it for the food, service and staircase surrounded by wine bottles.

On the way to West Auckland via ferry.

Another great choice is to take the ferry over to West Seattle and visit Salty’s at Alki Beach – seafood, cocktails and views over the water towards downtown Seattle. 

Music Scene

Seattle’s most famous musical export is of course Nirvana, but to this day the city is known for its music scene. If you want to see live music while you’re in town, you have a lot of options to choose from. 

The Crocodile might be the city’s most well-known venue, with a long history of performances by Nirvana, Pearly Jam and R.E.M. The line-up changes constantly so you’ll need to head to their website to see what’s coming up. 

The Showbox is another venue that hosts musicians from a wide range of genres – pop, indie, rock, electronica and more. Note, their website covers several venues, so check the details before booking.

For something a little different, head to Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley.

Two of Seattle’s many coffee shops – Victrola and Anchorhead

Coffee

Seattle is the home of Starbucks and is known for its coffee culture. Although I’m not generally a Starbucks fan, I love the wider coffee culture in Seattle. With independent roasters, lots of coffee shops and even a robot barista, there are plenty of places to try. 

For novelty value, be served by a robot at Artly or check out Starbucks Reserve Roastery (more on that later). For a more mainstream coffee experience head to Victrola Coffee Roasters or Anchorhead Coffee. 

Sports

As a Brit living in London, I don’t normally watch American sports. So when visiting a city in North America I like to either go to a game in person or watch something in a local sports bar. The city where I first watch that sport becomes my team. Which means Seattle Seahawks for the NFL, and Toronto Blue Jays for baseball. 

Seattle is home to several sports teams, and watching a game is a fun thing to do as a visitor. Tickets can be pricey, but you can experience some of the atmosphere at one of Seattle’s many sports bars. 

I had a great time watching a Seahawks game at the Yard House, with two lovely guys next to me who explained all the rules I didn’t understand!

The Seahawks, Sounders, Mariners, Kraken and Storm – pretty much all major sports have a team based in Seattle. 

Arts

Seattle is not only a hub for sports but also for arts and culture. Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and the Olympic Sculpture Park are some of the art highlights in the city. 

SAM has a wide collection, from medieval European paintings to Native American art and modern photography. 

If your art interests lean more towards performances than galleries, see what’s going on at the Pacific Northwest Ballet or Seattle Shakespeare

6 Best Activities In Seattle

Views from Sky View Observatory – with the Space Needle in the middle

Sky View Observatory – Columbia Center

If you want to get the best city views, head to the Sky View Observatory. This 360° viewing floor is the highest point in the city – significantly taller than the Space Needle. 

I enjoyed visiting the Space Needle, but it is quite expensive for what you get. The Sky View Observatory provides great views, including views of the Space Needle, so it’s the better choice of the two.

Buy a glass of wine or a cocktail and enjoy the views of the city, Puget Sound and even Mt Rainier.

P.S. If you still want to try the Space Needle, you can get a preview of the view from their website. 

Chihuly Garden and Glass

I love Chihuly Garden and Glass so, so much. I visit every time I’m in Seattle and on one trip went twice in one week. These colourful glass sculptures make me incredibly happy. 

In fact, I’m so obsessed with Dale Chihuly’s work that I made big detours on my road trip to go to other galleries displaying his work – Oklahoma City, St Petersburg, FL, and Columbus, OH. I only went to those cities to see more Chihuly glass. 

So, as you can probably tell, this is one of my top Seattle recommendations. The gallery is next to the Space Needle and includes a traditional gallery with rooms displaying different variations of sculptures, and gardens outside with sculptures placed amongst the plants. 

From large hanging sculptures made of curling tubes of glass, to nesting bowls, paintings and glass baskets, the range of colours is gorgeous. 

I love it. I take about a hundred photos every time. Please visit. 

A wine tasting in Seattle at The Tasting Room. Five small glasses of white wine on a wooden table
A wine flight at Wines of Washington

Wine Tasting

I won’t pretend that I am an expert, but I do enjoy wine tasting. If I’m travelling solo in a wine region then I often join a day tour to explore the local area. I’m not great at talking to strangers but a shared interest and a bit of wine make it much easier!

I have a detailed article about wine tasting in Seattle (as well as one about New Zealand wine if you ever head in that direction), and there are several options to try it out. 

If you want to stay in the city and only spend an hour or two, head to Wines of Washington. If you’ve got a spare day, join a tour that will take you out to areas like Woodinville. 

Fancy coffee at Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Starbucks isn’t generally my first choice for coffee, but the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a completely different experience from a typical Starbucks location. 

They offer tasting coffees, comparing different beans or different brewing methods. There is a cocktail bar serving coffee-related drinks. The main coffee menu offers drinks you won’t find in other cafes. 

I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to replicate the whisky barrel-aged cold brew with Irish cream foam. It’s the most expensive coffee I have ever bought, but absolutely worth the money. 

Pike Place Market

Another Seattle icon, you can’t miss Pike Place Market. It’s bigger than it looks from the street, as it has a few lower levels with various shops and restaurants.

The first thing you’ll come across are the famous stalls throwing fish. The fish market is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and whether you hear them call out and throw fish is dependent on whether they have any orders to pack up. It’s not a guaranteed show, but I’ve seen it a few times myself. 

A little further down you’ll find the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company, which usually has a long but fast-moving queue of people waiting for the famous mini-doughnuts. 

Another favourite of mine is Chukar Cherries – I always buy a selection of snacks based on my favourite fruit. 

You can buy artwork, jewellery, flowers, gifts, cheese, wine and pretty much anything else you could want from a market. 

Pike Place Market

Sculpture Park

The free Olympic Sculpture Park features a variety of unique sculptures, including works by well-known artists such as Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson. The park offers visitors a chance to explore outdoor art installations set against the backdrop of Puget Sound. 

With 21 sculptures spread throughout the park, it’s a lovely place to meander through, looking for artwork and enjoying the views. 

3 Day Trips From Seattle

Mt Rainier

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier is an active volcano, although the last recorded activity was about 150 years ago. It towers over the surrounding landscape and offers a range of activities for its visitors. It’s a beautiful place to visit, with lakes, streams, mountain views and hiking trails.

The trails range from leisurely to challenging, and there is lots of wildlife to spot along the way. 

Mount Rainier National Park is a great choice for a day trip – just try to get there early. Once I got close to the entrance to the park I spent almost an hour in my car queuing to get in. I left it way too late in the day, and finding parking was almost impossible.

Mt Rainier National Park

The park may require a timed entrance ticket, especially in summer, so make sure you check the website in advance to see what you need to book. In bad weather the roads may close, so always check on the day of your visit as well. 

Tip: If you are using SatNav, be careful about the address you put in – it may not lead you to the entrance. Check the website to see which entrances are open and use their guidance to get the correct SatNav information. 

Bon Vivant Wine Tours

I’ve done this tour myself and had a great time. Someone else did all the driving, I got to know some people I never would have met otherwise and best of all, I tried lots of local wines!

You’ll be taken to between 4 and 6 wineries, and try several wines at each. The most famous winery in the area is Chateau Ste Michelle which was one of the stops. You’ll see their wines on many Seattle restaurant menus, but the winery itself is on a beautiful estate and it was much better to experience a tasting flight there. 

We also went to Efeste, Martedi, and another that I can’t remember the name of! 

Book a tour with Bon Vivant here!

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

This is quite a long day trip, but I spent a full day just driving around Olympic National Park, and it was absolutely beautiful. Forests, lakes, mountains and an incredible drive.

Driving back down the mountains with mist drifting across the road was one of my favourite National Park moments. 

I spent the entire day in the car to see as much as possible in the area (including Forks…), so to make the most of it and do some hiking it would be worth doing an overnight trip and staying somewhere like Port Angeles.  

Olympic National Park

Reasons NOT To Visit Seattle

Weather

It’s no secret that it rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest. If you want warm, sunny days, then you can get lots of them in Seattle, but they are by no means guaranteed! 

Safety Reputation

Unfortunately, Seattle has a bad reputation, however, from travelling around various countries I would say that it is no worse than other major cities. It’s just for some reason people seem to be particularly vocal about Seattle. 

I’ve visited as a solo female traveller several times. In most cities I tend to pack in as much as possible during the day and then stay close to the hotel at night, but I haven’t experienced any safety issues in Seattle. 

Planning Tips

Book in advance – most attractions and restaurants can book up quickly, so if there are any places that are on your must-do list, make sure you book them. 

Check the forecast – make sure you pack layers for Seattle. You can get beautiful warm, clear days in summer, or you might get lots of rain. Be prepared for it all. 

FAQs

What is the best time of year to visit Seattle?

The best time to visit Seattle is from late June to early September when the weather is warm and dry, and the city hosts many outdoor festivals and events.

How many days should I spend in Seattle?

Ideally, spend 3-4 days to explore the major attractions, enjoy the food scene, and take a day trip to nearby natural sites like Mount Rainier.

Is Seattle an expensive city to visit?

Yes, Seattle can be relatively expensive, particularly for accommodation and dining. However, there are many free or low-cost activities, such as exploring parks and markets.

How do I get around Seattle?

If you are staying in the city centre you can get to most places on foot. Seattle has a decent public transportation system, including buses, light rail, and ferries. Rideshare services and bike rentals are also popular options.

Is Seattle a good destination for outdoor activities?

Absolutely, Seattle is surrounded by natural beauty and offers numerous outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, biking, and exploring national parks.

The form of a giant teddy bear created out of Christmas lights.
The summer might be best for sightseeing, but Seattle at Christmas is beautiful too!

Conclusion

Is Seattle worth visiting? Yes! It’s a city I’ll go back to again in future. It’s a perfect city to spend a few days in, with amazing food, wine, art and scenery.

Don’t be put off by the opinions of people who’ve never been there. With a bit of planning and situational awareness, you can have a great time in the Emerald City. 

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