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The 26 best things to do in Seattle

The city’s most iconic buildings, parks, public art, and more

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Seattle is a beautiful and multifaceted place. Our dense tree canopies can sometimes make you forget you’re in the middle of a city. When the sun breaks through the clouds, Mount Rainier peeks out and everything absolutely glows. Our usual beloved cloud cover is like a cozy blanket, keeping things temperate no matter the season.

Yes, our weather can be wild sometimes. Thankfully, our museums are warm and plentiful. Many of our 465—count ‘em!—city parks provide both indoor and outdoor space, so you can experience the best of both worlds. A nature walk, hike, or bike ride is never more than a bus trip away.

No matter what the day is like, these 26 locations chosen by Curbed editors have you covered, featuring the city’s most iconic buildings, parks, public art, and more for you to visit.

Got littles with you? Here are the best things to do in Seattle with kids.

Here for the legendary Pacific Northwest hikes? We have you covered with the most essential trails in the region.

Points are ordered geographically from north to south.

Read More

1. Scarecrow Video

Copy Link
5030 Roosevelt Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 524-8554
Visit Website

Scarecrow Video is a Seattle institution—and after going nonprofit a few years ago, it’s been allowed to focus even more on its mission of providing access to films you can’t find anywhere else. This includes everything from obscure classics to Seattle public access archives. Its expert staff can probably direct you to anything you’re looking for, whether it’s picking up a new favorite genre or filling in your film history gaps. You can even linger and watch your finds in Scarecrow’s screening room.

2. Discovery Park

Copy Link
3801 Discovery Park Blvd
Seattle, WA 98199
(206) 386-4236
Visit Website

Discovery Park, formerly a military base, is 500 acres of transit-accessible forested wonderland. A lighthouse along the water makes for a great destination as you explore, and its close proximity to city roads means you won’t get stranded if the weather goes south.

Discovery Park is also home to Daybreak Star Cultural Center, a Native American community space and art gallery, founded after a 1970 citizen occupation of the land.

A trail surrounded by grass along a beach. In the distance is a white lighthouse with a red roof. Shutterstock

3. Suzzallo Library

Copy Link
Suzzallo Library
Seattle, WA 98105

A classic of Seattle architecture, University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library has the look of a much older library at a much older college, with Gothic arches and a bell tower—not a super-common look in the Emerald City. It was named for former UW president Henry Suzzallo, who, along with UW architecture program founder Carl Gould, established a directive to construct all new university buildings in Collegiate Gothic and encouraged local developers to do the same for the entire neighborhood.

4. Washington Park Arboretum

Copy Link
2300 Arboretum Dr E
Seattle, WA
(206) 543-8800
Visit Website

The Olmsted Brothers-designed Washington Park Arboretum covers a highly-explorable 230 acres, including the Japanese Garden and many wild, heavily canopied areas, each with their own distinct vegetation. It’s a popular spot for canoeing or kayaking, too.

A still pond surrounded by a grassy lawn. The whole area is surrounded by trees, some with leaves still green, some changing into autumn colors. Shutterstock

5. Volunteer Park Conservatory

Copy Link
1400 E Galer St
Seattle, WA 98112
(206) 684-4743
Visit Website

On the other side of the park from the water tower, the Volunteer Park Conservatory is the perfect place for an all-weather nature walk. Located inside a temperature-controlled Victorian-style glass house built in 1912, the botanical garden features a wide variety of plants, including a couple of plants more than 75 years old: a sago palm and a jade tree.

While you’re in Volunteer Park, climb up the winding staircase to the top of the 1906-built water tower for a 360-degree view of the city.

6. Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI)

Copy Link
860 Terry Ave N
Seattle, WA
(206) 324-1126
Visit Website

MOHAI is the largest private heritage organization in the State of Washington, maintaining a collection of nearly four million artifacts, photographs, and archival materials that primarily focus on Seattle and the greater Puget Sound region, more traditional historical artifacts and neon pop culture signs from yesteryear alike. Located in the historic Naval Reserve Armory in Lake Union Park, highlights include Boeing's first commercial plane, the 1919 Boeing B-1; the Petticoat Flag, an 1856 American Flag sewn by women during the Battle of Seattle; and the Rainier Brewing Company's 12-foot tall neon “R” sign.

Pro tip: check their calendar for extra-special happenings.

A long, white two-story building with a large entrance with columns and statues in front. A small, wide flight of stairs leads up to a concrete plaza around it, which has a large bell on it. Shutterstock

7. The Center for Wooden Boats

Copy Link
1010 Valley St
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 382-2628
Visit Website

There’s no better place to start exploring Lake Union than the Center for Wooden Boats. They’ve got boats powered by by sail, steam, electricity, oars, and paddles. You can go out on a scheduled trip or you can rent a boat yourself. You’ll probably learn a thing or two about local boat history while you’re there.

A wooden building with a hip roof on a pier surrounded by boats, including canoes and rowboats. Shutterstock

8. Elliott Bay Trail

Copy Link
Elliott Bay Trail
Seattle, WA

The Elliott Bay Trail is a kind of tasting menu of Seattle scenery. Start along the paved bike and walking path along the piers in the waterfront, then follow it through the Olympic Sculpture Park and through Myrtle Edwards Park—which is a great place to stop for a picnic or to dip your toes in the water. The path continues along the water to the edge of the park and through an industrial area in Interbay and part of Magnolia, which is its own kind of pretty.

The trail almost totally flat along the main drag and less than four miles, so you can see some sights without breaking too much of a sweat. There are plenty of opportunities to shorten the route based on interest and ability. It had a pretty cool makeover recently as part of Expedia campus construction, so it’s a great time to check it out.

A concrete path runs along the rocky shoreline of a bay. In the distance is a small grove of trees. In the far distance, industrial cranes and the view of a mountain. Sarah Anne Lloyd

9. Pacific Science Center

Copy Link
200 2nd Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 443-2001
Visit Website

The Pacific Science Center has a little something for everybody: iconic arches leftover from the Century 21 exposition! A laser dome that plays everything from Pink Floyd to Beyonce! Motion-activated dinosaurs! A planetarium! Best to plot your course in advance or plan to spend the better part of a day here.

Five arches with latticed tops and four-leg bases set against a mostly-cloudy sky. Shutterstock

10. Olympic Sculpture Park

Copy Link
2901 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 654-3100
Visit Website

This is the easiest way to feel artsy in Seattle without needing to spend half a day inside a museum. The nine-acre park is full of both permanent and visiting installations. While there’s plenty of installations that locals know well (the jagged red “Eagle” stands out), but a chance visit anytime will likely reveal something new you’ve never seen before, all framed by the Puget Sound.

Weather crummy? View the park from inside PACCAR Pavilion.

A sculpture of a narrow head on a waterfront boardwalk. Stairs lead up to the right. Nadezda Zavitaeva/Shutterstock

11. The Elliott Bay Book Company

Copy Link
1521 10th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 624-6600
Visit Website

This iconic bookstore used to be located in Pioneer Square, but it’s adjusted to Capitol Hill pretty seamlessly. If you want some bookish souvenirs to take home, this is your spot—in addition to giving local authors a lot of attention and great placement, they also have a selection of zines and other extremely-homegrown reading material. Hanging with bookish kids? Their children’s section is legendary, and features a little castle for holing up and reading inside.

12. Jim Ellis Freeway Park

Copy Link
700 Seneca St.
Seattle, WA
(206) 684-4075
Visit Website

Designed by legendary brutalist landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, Jim Ellis Freeway Park is one of Seattle’s solutions to a freeway that bisects an already-narrow city. Its striking brutalist design manages to inject some whimsy with waterfalls, winding staircases and ramps, and patches of greenery.

The park serves equally as a public space and as alternative pedestrian pathways between First Hill and various exit points downtown, including direct access to some office buildings and the Convention Center.

A concrete pathway slightly recessed down through landscaping with ground cover and trees. A long, minimalist fountain runs along the right side. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, item No. 178396

13. Hotel Sorrento

Copy Link
900 Madison St
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 622-6400
Visit Website

The Hotel Sorrento is the oldest hotel in Seattle to serve continuously as a hotel since its construction—in this case, 1909. Even after a few restorations, it maintains a grand appearance, with an Italian renaissance exterior wrapping around a central courtyard. Inside, enjoy a cocktail or snack by the fire.

The Hotel Sorrento is also, according to legend, extremely haunted. The alleged ghost is that of Gertrude Stein’s partner Alice B. Toklas, and she appears to be benevolent; the fireside lounge is cozy and a great place for a few snacks or beverages.

14. Seattle Aquarium

Copy Link
1483 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA
(206) 386-4300
Visit Website

Looking at otters is an incredible self-care activity, and the Seattle Aquarium has both kinds: river and sea. Look at those playful marine mammals and try to not feel good about the world—it’s impossible.

Otters not your deal? The Aquarium is still a mandatory visit if you want the closest thing you can get to an inside tour of Puget Sound. A huge underwater dome surrounds you with local sea life, and an in-depth exhibit teaches you about the life cycles of the salmon, which is a big deal here. Also, they try to feed the octopus every day at noon and 4 p.m.

15. Frye Art Museum

Copy Link
704 Terry Ave
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 622-9250
Visit Website

The Frye Art Museum in First Hill is always free, but not at any detriment to programming. The museum’s rotating exhibit varies, but its founding collection was willed by founders Charles and Emma Frye to the city in perpetuity—what the Frye’s current staff calls “a living legacy of visionary patronage and civic responsibility.”

Past exhibits have included works by Andy Warhol, Isamu Noguchi, Jim Woodring, and others.

16. Seattle Central Library

Copy Link
1000 4th Ave
Seattle, WA
(206) 386-4636
Visit Website

Although the Seattle Central Library, designed by Dutch architects Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus along with Seattle firm LMN, is an unusual shape from the outside, the idea was to let the building's required functions dictate what it should look like, rather than imposing a structure and making the functions conform to that.

The Books Spiral, appropriately, spirals up through four stories on a continuous series of shelves. This allows patrons to peruse the entire collection without using stairs or traveling to a different part of the building. A large network of windows lets you appreciate the majesty of Seattle’s sky, whether it’s clear or stormy.

An outdoor pathway along a building covered in glass, latticed windows.An angular, open, latticed wall covers the walkway to make a triangle. Shutterstock

17. Arctic Building

Copy Link
700 3rd Ave
Seattle, WA 98104

The Arctic Club Hotel is a hard building to miss—it’s lined with terra cotta walruses and features a colorful façade. It’s also a city historical landmark with a colorful history dating back to the gold rush (although the building itself didn’t come up until 1917). The main entrance used to feature a huge polar bear towering above. Even if you’re not a hotel guest you can peek inside—it has bars (with snacks!) above and below, including the gorgeous Polar Bar.

A close-up detail of a building’s terra-cotta ornament of a walrus. It’s nighttime, and there are more buildings in the background. Shutterstock

18. Washington State Ferries

Copy Link
801 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA
(206) 464-6400
Visit Website

There’s no easier way to get out on the water than riding one of Washington State’s many ferries, and Colman Dock is the largest terminal in the state. From here, you can catch a ferry for an hour-long ride to Bremerton or about 35 minutes to Bainbridge Island. There are plenty of open-air decks for taking in the sea air, and most ferries feature covered sundecks that shield from the weather while still allowing for a great view of the outdoors. (Or you can just watch the landscape pass by from inside.)

Keeping a tighter Seattle sightseeing schedule? The nearby Water Taxi will take you straight to Alki Beach in about 12 minutes.

19. Smith Tower

Copy Link
506 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA
(206) 622-4004
Visit Website

The Smith Tower is a prime example of neoclassical architecture. Its outer skin is granite on the first and second floors, and terracotta on the rest. Designed by Edwin H. and T. Walker Gaggin and built in 1914, it was the tallest building on the West Coast of the United States when it was built.

Smith Tower is one big monument of white, ornamented terra cotta wrapped around steel. The quality of the material was so good, it didn't get its first detergent wash until 1976.

It’s also one of Seattle’s architectural marvels that’s easy to get inside. Unlike the Seaboard Building, Dexter Horton, and other historic Downtown office buildings, the Smith Tower has a whole program built in, and after a recent renovation, the top-floor observatory now even features a speakeasy-inspired bar. It was also recently awarded LEED Platinum status, which is no small feat for a building more than a century old.

A vintage white tower is viewed from below against a bright-blue sky. Courtesy of Unico Properties

20. King Street Station

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303 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA
(206) 382-4125
Visit Website

Designed by Charles Reed and Allen Stem and built in 1906, the station’s 250-foot clock tower was modeled after Venice, Italy’s Piazza de San Marco’s bell tower. If you haven’t been for a few years, it’s worth a second look: A renovation completed between 2008 and 2014 uncovered ornate ceilings, wainscoting and mosaic tile work hidden after an unfortunate redesign in the 1960s.

The interior of a train station with people sitting on benches in a large, open space with cathedral ceilings. The walls are white and the floor is tile with a wide pattern of lines creating squares. Shutterstock

21. Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

Copy Link
719 S King St
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 623-5124
Visit Website

The Wing Luke Museum tells the story of the Asian Pacific experience in Seattle throughout its history—a huge part of Seattle’s story. It’s also the only community museum in the entire country devoted entirely to the history of pan-Asian Americans. The building itself was funded and constructed by Chinese immigrants in 1910.

Through 2020, Wing Luke is showing  “The Excluded, Inside the Lines,” an exhibit that explores Seattle’s history of redlining. It’s also a starting point of Chinatown Discovery Tours.

22. Seattle Pinball Museum

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508 Maynard Ave S
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 623-0759
Visit Website

Seattle is a pinball town, and the Pinball Museum in the International District spot has one of the largest pinball selections in the city. It started out as a three-month activation project through empty-storefront-activation program Storefronts Seattle in 2010 and has been running ever since.

23. Seattle Bouldering Project

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900 Poplar Pl S
Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 299-2300
Visit Website

This place is so Seattle it’s almost a joke—but a really good one. This popular indoor climbing gym has day passes, in case some outdoorsy plans get thwarted by unpredictable weather. After you’re done, a cafe inside serves craft beer, including growlers to go, and healthy eats. They also have the occasional DJ night for some late-night sweatin’. If you’re looking for more of a child-friendly outing, there’s a whole section devoted to climbs for kiddos.

24. Dr. Jose Rizal Park

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1007 12th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 684-4075
Visit Website

Named for beloved Filipino figure José Rizal, this Beacon Hill park has one of the most spectacular—and totally underrated—views of downtown Seattle. An off-leash area means there’s some good dog-watching, too.

A view of a cluster of skyscrapers framed by autumn leaves. Shutterstock

25. Northwest African American Museum

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2300 S Massachusetts St
Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 518-6000
Visit Website

Not only is NAAM a great museum to visit, the building itself has an interesting history. Originally built as Colman School in the early 1900s, it became the Northwest African American Museum after an eight-year occupation by activists—said to be one of the longest-running acts of civil disobedience in the country.

26. Kubota Garden

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9817 55th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98118
(206) 725-5060
Visit Website

Fujitaro Kubota was a highly sought-after gardener and landscaper in the Northwest, and Kubota Garden, which uses Japanese gardening concepts to showcase Northwest plant life, was his home base.

In 1987, 14 years after his death, the 20-acre garden in Rainier Beach opened as a public park. It features not only beautiful botanicals, but walking paths with multiple water crossings and bridges, reflecting pools, and waterfalls.

A bridge with a red railing over a small, calm creek surrounded by bushes and trees. Shutterstock

1. Scarecrow Video

5030 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Scarecrow Video is a Seattle institution—and after going nonprofit a few years ago, it’s been allowed to focus even more on its mission of providing access to films you can’t find anywhere else. This includes everything from obscure classics to Seattle public access archives. Its expert staff can probably direct you to anything you’re looking for, whether it’s picking up a new favorite genre or filling in your film history gaps. You can even linger and watch your finds in Scarecrow’s screening room.

5030 Roosevelt Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

2. Discovery Park

3801 Discovery Park Blvd, Seattle, WA 98199
A trail surrounded by grass along a beach. In the distance is a white lighthouse with a red roof. Shutterstock

Discovery Park, formerly a military base, is 500 acres of transit-accessible forested wonderland. A lighthouse along the water makes for a great destination as you explore, and its close proximity to city roads means you won’t get stranded if the weather goes south.

Discovery Park is also home to Daybreak Star Cultural Center, a Native American community space and art gallery, founded after a 1970 citizen occupation of the land.

3801 Discovery Park Blvd
Seattle, WA 98199

3. Suzzallo Library

Suzzallo Library, Seattle, WA 98105

A classic of Seattle architecture, University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library has the look of a much older library at a much older college, with Gothic arches and a bell tower—not a super-common look in the Emerald City. It was named for former UW president Henry Suzzallo, who, along with UW architecture program founder Carl Gould, established a directive to construct all new university buildings in Collegiate Gothic and encouraged local developers to do the same for the entire neighborhood.

Suzzallo Library
Seattle, WA 98105

4. Washington Park Arboretum

2300 Arboretum Dr E, Seattle, WA
A still pond surrounded by a grassy lawn. The whole area is surrounded by trees, some with leaves still green, some changing into autumn colors. Shutterstock

The Olmsted Brothers-designed Washington Park Arboretum covers a highly-explorable 230 acres, including the Japanese Garden and many wild, heavily canopied areas, each with their own distinct vegetation. It’s a popular spot for canoeing or kayaking, too.

2300 Arboretum Dr E
Seattle, WA

5. Volunteer Park Conservatory

1400 E Galer St, Seattle, WA 98112

On the other side of the park from the water tower, the Volunteer Park Conservatory is the perfect place for an all-weather nature walk. Located inside a temperature-controlled Victorian-style glass house built in 1912, the botanical garden features a wide variety of plants, including a couple of plants more than 75 years old: a sago palm and a jade tree.

While you’re in Volunteer Park, climb up the winding staircase to the top of the 1906-built water tower for a 360-degree view of the city.

1400 E Galer St
Seattle, WA 98112

6. Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI)

860 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA
A long, white two-story building with a large entrance with columns and statues in front. A small, wide flight of stairs leads up to a concrete plaza around it, which has a large bell on it. Shutterstock

MOHAI is the largest private heritage organization in the State of Washington, maintaining a collection of nearly four million artifacts, photographs, and archival materials that primarily focus on Seattle and the greater Puget Sound region, more traditional historical artifacts and neon pop culture signs from yesteryear alike. Located in the historic Naval Reserve Armory in Lake Union Park, highlights include Boeing's first commercial plane, the 1919 Boeing B-1; the Petticoat Flag, an 1856 American Flag sewn by women during the Battle of Seattle; and the Rainier Brewing Company's 12-foot tall neon “R” sign.

Pro tip: check their calendar for extra-special happenings.

860 Terry Ave N
Seattle, WA

7. The Center for Wooden Boats

1010 Valley St, Seattle, WA 98109
A wooden building with a hip roof on a pier surrounded by boats, including canoes and rowboats. Shutterstock

There’s no better place to start exploring Lake Union than the Center for Wooden Boats. They’ve got boats powered by by sail, steam, electricity, oars, and paddles. You can go out on a scheduled trip or you can rent a boat yourself. You’ll probably learn a thing or two about local boat history while you’re there.

1010 Valley St
Seattle, WA 98109

8. Elliott Bay Trail

Elliott Bay Trail, Seattle, WA
A concrete path runs along the rocky shoreline of a bay. In the distance is a small grove of trees. In the far distance, industrial cranes and the view of a mountain. Sarah Anne Lloyd

The Elliott Bay Trail is a kind of tasting menu of Seattle scenery. Start along the paved bike and walking path along the piers in the waterfront, then follow it through the Olympic Sculpture Park and through Myrtle Edwards Park—which is a great place to stop for a picnic or to dip your toes in the water. The path continues along the water to the edge of the park and through an industrial area in Interbay and part of Magnolia, which is its own kind of pretty.

The trail almost totally flat along the main drag and less than four miles, so you can see some sights without breaking too much of a sweat. There are plenty of opportunities to shorten the route based on interest and ability. It had a pretty cool makeover recently as part of Expedia campus construction, so it’s a great time to check it out.

Elliott Bay Trail
Seattle, WA

9. Pacific Science Center

200 2nd Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
Five arches with latticed tops and four-leg bases set against a mostly-cloudy sky. Shutterstock

The Pacific Science Center has a little something for everybody: iconic arches leftover from the Century 21 exposition! A laser dome that plays everything from Pink Floyd to Beyonce! Motion-activated dinosaurs! A planetarium! Best to plot your course in advance or plan to spend the better part of a day here.

200 2nd Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109

10. Olympic Sculpture Park

2901 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
A sculpture of a narrow head on a waterfront boardwalk. Stairs lead up to the right. Nadezda Zavitaeva/Shutterstock

This is the easiest way to feel artsy in Seattle without needing to spend half a day inside a museum. The nine-acre park is full of both permanent and visiting installations. While there’s plenty of installations that locals know well (the jagged red “Eagle” stands out), but a chance visit anytime will likely reveal something new you’ve never seen before, all framed by the Puget Sound.

Weather crummy? View the park from inside PACCAR Pavilion.

2901 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98121

11. The Elliott Bay Book Company

1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

This iconic bookstore used to be located in Pioneer Square, but it’s adjusted to Capitol Hill pretty seamlessly. If you want some bookish souvenirs to take home, this is your spot—in addition to giving local authors a lot of attention and great placement, they also have a selection of zines and other extremely-homegrown reading material. Hanging with bookish kids? Their children’s section is legendary, and features a little castle for holing up and reading inside.

1521 10th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122

12. Jim Ellis Freeway Park

700 Seneca St., Seattle, WA
A concrete pathway slightly recessed down through landscaping with ground cover and trees. A long, minimalist fountain runs along the right side. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, item No. 178396

Designed by legendary brutalist landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, Jim Ellis Freeway Park is one of Seattle’s solutions to a freeway that bisects an already-narrow city. Its striking brutalist design manages to inject some whimsy with waterfalls, winding staircases and ramps, and patches of greenery.

The park serves equally as a public space and as alternative pedestrian pathways between First Hill and various exit points downtown, including direct access to some office buildings and the Convention Center.

700 Seneca St.
Seattle, WA

13. Hotel Sorrento

900 Madison St, Seattle, WA 98104

The Hotel Sorrento is the oldest hotel in Seattle to serve continuously as a hotel since its construction—in this case, 1909. Even after a few restorations, it maintains a grand appearance, with an Italian renaissance exterior wrapping around a central courtyard. Inside, enjoy a cocktail or snack by the fire.

The Hotel Sorrento is also, according to legend, extremely haunted. The alleged ghost is that of Gertrude Stein’s partner Alice B. Toklas, and she appears to be benevolent; the fireside lounge is cozy and a great place for a few snacks or beverages.

900 Madison St
Seattle, WA 98104

14. Seattle Aquarium

1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA

Looking at otters is an incredible self-care activity, and the Seattle Aquarium has both kinds: river and sea. Look at those playful marine mammals and try to not feel good about the world—it’s impossible.

Otters not your deal? The Aquarium is still a mandatory visit if you want the closest thing you can get to an inside tour of Puget Sound. A huge underwater dome surrounds you with local sea life, and an in-depth exhibit teaches you about the life cycles of the salmon, which is a big deal here. Also, they try to feed the octopus every day at noon and 4 p.m.

1483 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA

15. Frye Art Museum

704 Terry Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

The Frye Art Museum in First Hill is always free, but not at any detriment to programming. The museum’s rotating exhibit varies, but its founding collection was willed by founders Charles and Emma Frye to the city in perpetuity—what the Frye’s current staff calls “a living legacy of visionary patronage and civic responsibility.”

Past exhibits have included works by Andy Warhol, Isamu Noguchi, Jim Woodring, and others.

704 Terry Ave
Seattle, WA 98104

16. Seattle Central Library

1000 4th Ave, Seattle, WA
An outdoor pathway along a building covered in glass, latticed windows.An angular, open, latticed wall covers the walkway to make a triangle. Shutterstock

Although the Seattle Central Library, designed by Dutch architects Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus along with Seattle firm LMN, is an unusual shape from the outside, the idea was to let the building's required functions dictate what it should look like, rather than imposing a structure and making the functions conform to that.

The Books Spiral, appropriately, spirals up through four stories on a continuous series of shelves. This allows patrons to peruse the entire collection without using stairs or traveling to a different part of the building. A large network of windows lets you appreciate the majesty of Seattle’s sky, whether it’s clear or stormy.

1000 4th Ave
Seattle, WA

17. Arctic Building

700 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
A close-up detail of a building’s terra-cotta ornament of a walrus. It’s nighttime, and there are more buildings in the background. Shutterstock

The Arctic Club Hotel is a hard building to miss—it’s lined with terra cotta walruses and features a colorful façade. It’s also a city historical landmark with a colorful history dating back to the gold rush (although the building itself didn’t come up until 1917). The main entrance used to feature a huge polar bear towering above. Even if you’re not a hotel guest you can peek inside—it has bars (with snacks!) above and below, including the gorgeous Polar Bar.

700 3rd Ave
Seattle, WA 98104

18. Washington State Ferries

801 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA

There’s no easier way to get out on the water than riding one of Washington State’s many ferries, and Colman Dock is the largest terminal in the state. From here, you can catch a ferry for an hour-long ride to Bremerton or about 35 minutes to Bainbridge Island. There are plenty of open-air decks for taking in the sea air, and most ferries feature covered sundecks that shield from the weather while still allowing for a great view of the outdoors. (Or you can just watch the landscape pass by from inside.)

Keeping a tighter Seattle sightseeing schedule? The nearby Water Taxi will take you straight to Alki Beach in about 12 minutes.

801 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA

19. Smith Tower

506 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA
A vintage white tower is viewed from below against a bright-blue sky. Courtesy of Unico Properties

The Smith Tower is a prime example of neoclassical architecture. Its outer skin is granite on the first and second floors, and terracotta on the rest. Designed by Edwin H. and T. Walker Gaggin and built in 1914, it was the tallest building on the West Coast of the United States when it was built.

Smith Tower is one big monument of white, ornamented terra cotta wrapped around steel. The quality of the material was so good, it didn't get its first detergent wash until 1976.

It’s also one of Seattle’s architectural marvels that’s easy to get inside. Unlike the Seaboard Building, Dexter Horton, and other historic Downtown office buildings, the Smith Tower has a whole program built in, and after a recent renovation, the top-floor observatory now even features a speakeasy-inspired bar. It was also recently awarded LEED Platinum status, which is no small feat for a building more than a century old.

506 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA

20. King Street Station

303 S Jackson St, Seattle, WA
The interior of a train station with people sitting on benches in a large, open space with cathedral ceilings. The walls are white and the floor is tile with a wide pattern of lines creating squares. Shutterstock

Designed by Charles Reed and Allen Stem and built in 1906, the station’s 250-foot clock tower was modeled after Venice, Italy’s Piazza de San Marco’s bell tower. If you haven’t been for a few years, it’s worth a second look: A renovation completed between 2008 and 2014 uncovered ornate ceilings, wainscoting and mosaic tile work hidden after an unfortunate redesign in the 1960s.

303 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA

21. Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

719 S King St, Seattle, WA 98104

The Wing Luke Museum tells the story of the Asian Pacific experience in Seattle throughout its history—a huge part of Seattle’s story. It’s also the only community museum in the entire country devoted entirely to the history of pan-Asian Americans. The building itself was funded and constructed by Chinese immigrants in 1910.

Through 2020, Wing Luke is showing  “The Excluded, Inside the Lines,” an exhibit that explores Seattle’s history of redlining. It’s also a starting point of Chinatown Discovery Tours.

719 S King St
Seattle, WA 98104

22. Seattle Pinball Museum

508 Maynard Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104

Seattle is a pinball town, and the Pinball Museum in the International District spot has one of the largest pinball selections in the city. It started out as a three-month activation project through empty-storefront-activation program Storefronts Seattle in 2010 and has been running ever since.

508 Maynard Ave S
Seattle, WA 98104

23. Seattle Bouldering Project

900 Poplar Pl S, Seattle, WA 98144

This place is so Seattle it’s almost a joke—but a really good one. This popular indoor climbing gym has day passes, in case some outdoorsy plans get thwarted by unpredictable weather. After you’re done, a cafe inside serves craft beer, including growlers to go, and healthy eats. They also have the occasional DJ night for some late-night sweatin’. If you’re looking for more of a child-friendly outing, there’s a whole section devoted to climbs for kiddos.

900 Poplar Pl S
Seattle, WA 98144

24. Dr. Jose Rizal Park

1007 12th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144
A view of a cluster of skyscrapers framed by autumn leaves. Shutterstock

Named for beloved Filipino figure José Rizal, this Beacon Hill park has one of the most spectacular—and totally underrated—views of downtown Seattle. An off-leash area means there’s some good dog-watching, too.

1007 12th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98144

25. Northwest African American Museum

2300 S Massachusetts St, Seattle, WA 98144

Not only is NAAM a great museum to visit, the building itself has an interesting history. Originally built as Colman School in the early 1900s, it became the Northwest African American Museum after an eight-year occupation by activists—said to be one of the longest-running acts of civil disobedience in the country.

2300 S Massachusetts St
Seattle, WA 98144

26. Kubota Garden

9817 55th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118
A bridge with a red railing over a small, calm creek surrounded by bushes and trees. Shutterstock

Fujitaro Kubota was a highly sought-after gardener and landscaper in the Northwest, and Kubota Garden, which uses Japanese gardening concepts to showcase Northwest plant life, was his home base.

In 1987, 14 years after his death, the 20-acre garden in Rainier Beach opened as a public park. It features not only beautiful botanicals, but walking paths with multiple water crossings and bridges, reflecting pools, and waterfalls.

9817 55th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98118