Things to do in Seattle

Must-see Seattle sights

Home of Nirvana, Starbucks, the Space Needle and the setting of sitcom Frasier, Seattle has long been a place of curiosity.

  1. Tuck into the USA’s oldest food market
  2. Learn about local sea life at the aquarium
  3. Admire the city from the Space Needle
  4. Pop along to discover Seattle’s musical heritage
  5. Be sleepless in Seattle’s nightclubs and bars
  6. Get on board the aviation scene
  7. See the glass creations of a local artist

With direct flights increasingly popping up, including one from London, Washington State’s biggest city is easier to visit than ever. Up in America’s Pacific Northwest, those greyish skies seem to feed Seattle’s creativity. Live music and top-notch museums brush shoulders with booming craft brewery and coffee scenes. And the food? Well, that’s reason to visit in itself, with Pike Place Market and experimental chefs fusing American food with just about anything – as long as it’s local.

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1. Tuck into the USA’s oldest food market

There’s nowhere else in the USA quite like Pike Place Market. Founded in 1907 on the waterfront, it’s the oldest continuously working public market in the USA. The covered complex is a labyrinth of 13 buildings covering a massive, triangular, area, holding some 300 produce and fish vendors, bakeries, craft stalls and boutiques. A breakfast at one of the dining spots will set you up well for the day; fill your belly with an egg-and-ham crumpet from the Crumpet Shop, or a crab omelette at Lowell’s. For lunch, join the crowd at popular Pike Place Chowder to pick up their crab-and-oyster speciality.

While you’re there: Love Starbucks? check out the branch at 1912 Pike Street – it celebrates the original Starbucks that opened in 1971.

2. Learn about local sea life at the aquarium

Up here in the Pacific Northwest, you’re not far from majestic wilderness. A great reminder of this is Seattle Aquarium’s centre dedicated to learning about orcas (killer whales), the wildlife icon of this region. It’s one of the top things to do in Seattle for kids. You’ll encounter plenty of sea creatures too, with hundreds of species of fish, including an underwater dome showcasing the marine life of the Puget Sound. Highlights include a functional salmon hatchery and fish ladder, the ever-popular otters and adorable fur seals.

While you’re there: Ask at the ticket desk for info on feeding and presentation times.

3. Admire the city from the Space Needle

Resembling a UFO on a stick, the Space Needle is one of the USA’s most recognisable landmarks. Going up to the top is one of the best things to do in Seattle, thanks to the panoramic view from the 520ft observation deck. Even if you don’t have a head for heights, the structure is impressive viewed from ground level, especially when lit up after dark. Make the trip from the city centre by monorail to complete a fun, high tech, trip.

While you’re there: Brave the world’s only rotating glass floor.

4. Pop along to discover Seattle’s musical heritage

Every good Seattle holiday involves delving into its musical heritage. To get to grips its musical legacy, visit the Museum of Pop Culture, which houses special exhibits dedicated to the city’s rock legends including Jimi Hendrix, who was born in Seattle in 1942, and the seminal Seattle band Nirvana and lead singer Kurt Cobain. The museum building is a work of art itself - a crazy, giant burst of coloured aluminium. The museum’s buzzing with activities such as Guitar Gallery, featuring instruments played by legendary US guitarists and clips of them in action; and Sound Lab, where you can explore the tools of rock 'n' roll through hands-on action with electric guitars, drums, samplers, mixing consoles and more.

While you’re there: Record your own song in the Jam Studios.

5. Be sleepless in Seattle’s nightclubs and bars

Whether you’re into clubbing or live bands, you’ll find the music you like in Seattle. The nightlife scene is most lively in Pioneer Square, Seattle’s oldest district, a few blocks south of downtown. Popular clubs here include Underground, which pulsates to different dance music subgenres from Drum and Bass to Trance. If soul is more your style, head for Capitol Hill, another prime district for music, where clubs include Emerald City Soul Club, offering 50s and 60s sounds to die for.

While you’re there: Order an ‘Old Pal’, Seattle's most popular rye whiskey cocktail.

6. Get on board the aviation scene

Interested in the technology of flight? Take off about 25 miles north of Seattle, to the place where Boeing aeroplanes are made. The Boeing Future of Flight offers the only public tour of a commercial jet assembly plant in North America. The 90-minute tour of the Boeing plant (the largest building in the world by volume), involves seeing 747s, 777s and 787s are in various phases of production. Note that kids must be at least 4ft tall to take the tour. Seattle also has a Museum of Flight, with one of the best collections of historic aircraft in the USA. Two giant galleries are filled with exhibits, from a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to a Spitfire. You can walk the aisle of JFK's Air Force One and climb aboard the West Coast's only Concorde.

While you’re there: Soar over Puget Sound in a flight simulator at the Museum of Flight.

7. See the glass creations of a local artist

When you’re planning what to do in Seattle after going up the Space Needle, you only need to look next door. The astounding Chihuly Garden and Glass showcases glass artist Dale Chihuly’s extravagant creations, from the Persian Ceiling to towering forests of blue glass, all in harmony with real garden plants. Chihuly was born in nearby Tacoma and is a celebrity in the USA. Even if you’ve never heard of him, his glass art is awe-inspiring. To save the admission price you can admire his biggest installations by peering over the garden hedge but you’ll only really appreciate the spectacle from the inside.

While you’re there: Try some Washington and Oregon wines in the Collections Café after.

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