Top 10 Things To Do In Seattle

A travel guide to the ten best tourist attractions you'll want to see while you are visiting or vacationing in Seattle, Washington.

Want to spend a week in The Emerald City? No, we're not talking about Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, though Seattle, Washington does have a way of working its magic on first-time tourists.

Here are the top ten spots that will make you forget about clicking your heels together and wishing you were back home.


In 1962, Seattle played host to the World's Fair, an event that also gave the city its most recognizable landmark on the Seattle skyline: the Space Needle. If your stay includes a Sunday, be sure to make reservations to have brunch at the top in its revolving restaurant. Towering over 600 feet above the fairgrounds, you will have looked out on the entire city in the course of one complete rotation. The food's a bit on the expensive side but the view, as they say, is priceless. At ground level, the former exhibition halls have all been converted to performing and media arts centers. The Seattle Symphony, The Seattle Ballet and The Seattle Opera can be found here; check local listings for performance schedules. Touring Broadway production companies, regional and world-class art shows, and exhibits such as the treasures of King Tut make for an additional tourist treat.


It wouldn't be a true trip to Seattle if you didn't spend at least a couple of hours shopping at its most famous marketplace: Pike's on the waterfront. This open air venue has been in existence for almost a century and is little changed from the bustling gathering place where fisherman, butchers, farmers and Indian traders came to hawk their merchandise. The best time to go, of course, is first thing in the morning when the fishing boats are just returning with their catch and the vendors are starting to set up their stalls. Because of the competitive nature, you can put your bargaining skills to the test. Accordingly, don't buy the first mackerel or basket of berries you set your eyes on; odds are that you can work a better deal three stalls down. As for "the pig," this is a famous statue at the market and is often used as a meeting place for families that get separated in the course of shopping, friends who are meeting up for lunch at one of the area restaurants, or starry eyed singles who want to meet their classified ad "dates" in a public setting.


Seattle was built on the shores of Elliott Bay in the 1850's and was expected by the city fathers to one day rival San Francisco as a gateway to lucrative trade in the Far East. In their haste to build the new port city as rapidly as possible along the docks, no one took into consideration a pesky thing called tide tables. Twice a day, the tides from Puget Sound came into the bay; each time they receded, they also took away the loose landfill foundation on which the hotels, bars and banks had been erected. By the turn of the century, Seattle was literally up to its kneecaps in mud and sewage. Coupled with the dilemma of that unrelenting volume of rain Seattle is so famous for, the merchants' only recourse was to install catwalks and ladders and turn their second stories into new first floor entrances. Fortunately for the rest of us, portions of the original cityscape are still available for tours that depart daily from the basement of Doc Maynard's Tavern. If you want to pretend you're an archaeologist on a quest for buried cities, you can't get any closer than this. Allow several hours and wear comfortable walking shoes.


Seattle is very big on family friendly attractions, especially those which allow young people to explore science and nature exhibits at their own pace. Located at Pier 59, the aquarium is open daily and includes tanks where kids (and their parents) can touch marine life, watch the frolics of sea otters, and also understand the spawning habits and life cycles of Pacific Northwest salmon.


Now this is a commute a lot of people would envy! Seattle provides daily ferry service to the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound, a convenience that has prompted many of the city's businesspeople to buy property across the water and enjoy a leisurely boat ride in to work every day. Nor do you have to worry about being without a car; the ferries can transport those as well. Shopping, sightseeing and a variety of ethnic eateries will keep you entertained until it's time to head back for the mainland. Ferry service is also available to Canada and Alaska (just in case you're feeling particularly spontaneous).


Want to see how Seattle's turn of the century wealthy lived? Take your own architectural tour around Queen Anne's Hill for a glimpse at beautiful Victorians, many of which have been turned into bed and breakfast inns.


Where do airplanes come from? A lot of them can name Seattle as their hometown. Though economics have severely impacted the aerospace industry at large in the Pacific Northwest, the Boeing factory continues to draw record crowds. Housed under a single roof, the plant and assembly line cover almost 100 acres of everything aeronautical. The media exhibition and guided tours will answer all your flight-related questions, including the most popular one posed by kids, "How do they get stuff that big up off the ground and into the sky?"


If your curiosity about planes has yet to be satiated by the time you leave Boeing, then make your next stop Seattle's Museum of Flight. The original Air Force 1 lives here, as well as a Concorde, a collection of jet fighter planes, and virtually everything else in-between. Note: the museum is actually less crowded during the holidays and on weekends than it is when school is in session; as one might imagine, this is one of the more popular places for an all-day fieldtrip!


Did you know that in 1914 the tallest structure west of the Mississippi was located in downtown Seattle? While Smith Tower at Pioneer Square has long since been eclipsed by Seattle skyscrapers, its photography exhibits give an enjoyable glimpse of what this district used to look like. Many of the buildings here are made of brick and house an eclectic mix of upscale boutiques, coffee houses, bars, and funky gift shops to buy souvenirs. And don't forget to have your picture taken next to the totem pole. This icon of Native American art was erected to commemorate the man who gave this city its name: Chief Seattle. If you're into the art scene, make sure to be at Pioneer Square on the first Thursday of the month; local artisans, performers and craftspeople turn out en masse to sell their work and to entertain. In addition, the galleries and restaurants extend their hours past the normal closing time.


Are there any lighthouse lovers in your group? If you're in Seattle during the summer months, weekend tours of Alki Point are available. Its Chinook name translates to "all in good time" and was actually the second name given to it. (The first was "Battery Point," imitating the New York harbor through which America's early immigrants passed on their way to a new life.) Tour guides will relate an amusing story of how the lighthouse lamp was stolen in 1970, only to turn up several years later in a shop selling nautical artifacts. Because the thief hadn't taken the time to remove his own fingerprints from the brass surface, they provided the police with the necessary evidence that led to his subsequent arrest and conviction.

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