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Top 10 things to do in and around Seattle
Known as ‘The Emerald City’ due to its lush green surroundings, Seattle is tucked away in the Puget Sound, facing out onto the vast Pacific Ocean and bordered by rainforest, active volcanoes, dramatic mountain ranges, arid desert and vineyards. As well as making a brilliant base from which to explore the surrounding landscape, the city itself is a fun and quirky location which is home to the original Starbucks and the headquarters of Microsoft. Our North America specialist Jenny has whittled down her top things to do in and around this iconic Pacific Northwest city.
1. Go up the Space Needle
The Space Needle is possibly Seattle’s most recognisable tourist attraction – an observation tower measuring 605 feet tall, with a viewing platform at 520 feet. This iconic structure offers spectacular views across the city and surrounding ocean, but also of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains. My favourite time to visit is just before sunset, or even for dinner in SkyCity, the revolving restaurant just below the observation deck.
2. Be mesmerised by the Chihuly Garden of Glass
Seattle is a quirky and colourful city bursting with innovative art installations. The Chihuly Garden of Glass is one of my personal favourites – a mesmerisingly colourful art exhibition which pays homage to the work of Dale Chihuly. Located right by the Space Needle, this exciting installation boasts incredible displays of brightly coloured glasswork, from boats made of blown up glass to huge hanging glass chandeliers.
3. Visit the famous Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is a huge market sprawling along the Seattle waterfront. It is filled with buskers and craft stalls but has become most famous for the Pike Place Fish Counter, which recently acquired world fame thanks to the creative routines of the fishmongers hitting YouTube. Dressed in their bright orange overalls and boots, they celebrate their sales by throwing the fish to one another, often breaking into song and dance to entertain the expectant crowd. Popular food tours offer the chance to explore the market in more detail – throwing you right into the heart of the noisy market and allowing you to sample the local delights, from doughnuts dripping in sugar to Oprah Winfrey’s favourite ‘Mac and Cheese’.
We would highly recommend staying at the Inn at the Market when in Seattle. It is brilliantly located right opposite Pike Place Market and the aquarium, in the heart of downtown Seattle.
4. Marvel at a true feat of engineering
A short drive out of Seattle will take you to the largest Boeing factory in the world. This is well worth a visit and gives you the chance to witness the creation of some of the finest models of aviation.
5. Explore Seattle’s underground world
A fantastic activity for both the old and young is Bill Spiedel’s Underground Tour in Pioneer Square. An experienced guide will take you down to the city’s old sewage system and tell you tale after tale about Seattle’s colourful and rather hilarious past. The tales feature an apprentice carpenter who set fire to the entire city, a corrupt mayor who destroyed any democracy the city enjoyed, and a promiscuous seamstress who ran an illegal brothel right in the heart of the square.
6. Enjoy a cocktail on Capitol Hill
Once you’ve soaked up the many delights of Seattle, head to Capitol Hill, just a stroll away from the waterfront, to enjoy a delicious cocktail and sample the city’s grunge music scene. Capitol Hill really comes to life every evening – as one of the city's most prominent nightlife and entertainment districts and the centre of Seattle's counterculture communities, it is a great place to people watch!
7. Venture out into Mount Rainer National Park
From Seattle, I would thoroughly recommend taking a trip to nearby Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier is the highest mountain in Washington State’s Cascade Range, and although it has been dormant for over a decade, it is still an active volcano. The mountain range is a delight in the summer with lush wild flowers in purple, yellow and white covering its base and creating a spectacular sea of colour below the snow-capped peak of the volcano. There are a range of walks available here – from strolling through the flowers to hiking right up to the John Muir base camp, and everything in between! In winter, the lush evergreen forests are covered in thick white snow and wildlife is plentiful on the mountain, from black bears and black tailed deer to mountain goats and red squirrels. On your way back to Seattle a stop at Reflection Lake is a must. The view of the majestic volcano reflecting in perfect symmetry onto the clear blue lake below is absolutely breath-taking.
8. Explore the Olympic Peninsula
West of Seattle sits the Olympic Peninsula, complete with temperate rainforest, the Olympic Mountain Range, fresh water lakes ideal for swimming and water sports, wild beaches filled with driftwood and sea stacks, and the famous Dungeness Spit. Tuck into some of the excellent local seafood for which the area is famous, including of course delicious Dungeness crab.
A stay in Lake Crescent Lodge with its cosy fireplaces, mounted deer heads and fantastic views of the lake and surrounding forest will have you thinking of the Scottish Highlands.
9. Spend a few nights on the San Juan Islands
A trip to Washington State would not be complete without a truly adventurous few nights on the San Juan Islands, locally referred to as the ‘second New Zealand’. These wild islands offer kayaking trips amongst sea otters, seals and sea lions and whale-watching excursions to see pods of orcas, humpback whales and a variety of marine wildlife. In the summer, the islands are great for cycling and water sports and attract American holidaymakers looking for some time on the coast.
10. Head further afield
Once you’ve made the journey as far as Washington State and explored all the delights on offer here, you may as well make the most of it and head a bit further afield. A short train ride from Seattle will take you north into Vancouver and Western Canada, or south to Portland and Northern California.
Inspired to head to this untouched corner of the USA?
Give Jenny a call on 020 3141 2830 and she can tailor the perfect trip for you.