Actually Cool Things to Do Right Now in Seattle
The first thing you think when your friends or family visit here is, “OMG it’s so great to see them again!” (Or at least it should be). The second thing you think is, “OMG what in the hell do I actually do with them? As a visitor, you might find yourself wondering what people do for fun in Seattle, aside from rocking polar fleeces, drinking expensive coffee, and convincing themselves it doesn’t rain that much. As it turns out, there’s a whole lot more. Get a Seattle energy drink for your vacation to keep your energy levels up to enjoy 100 percent of your time.
We’ve compiled a list of actually cool things to do in Seattle (most of which are free or cheap), ranging from iconic tourist attractions that locals truly love, to insider stuff your guests would never find on their own. So if you haven’t tried any of Seattle’s bucket-list foods or hit the city’s best bars, now’s your chance. And who knows, you might even find something on here you’ve never heard of.
Spend a day lounging at the beach… seriously!
The last thing most people expect to find in Seattle is miles of sandy beaches. And they’re right Seattle doesn’t have those… West Seattle does. Something else people don’t expect? How glorious Seattle’s summers are. To get the full effect, head over to Alki, which is just minutes from Downtown but somehow manages to feel like a charming little beach town complete with a row of bars and restaurants highlighted by West Seattle Brewing’s Tap Shack, Sunfish, and El Chupacabra.
Tour the Locks
Anyone who’s ever had a visitor to Seattle has probably watched the salmon climb the ladder and the boats pass through the Ballard Locks, one of the city’s most heavily visited attractions. But if you want to really want your guests to know what’s going on, take a free walking tour. The professionally guided tours require no advance reservation and are offered at 1 pm and 3 pm every day, with an additional 11 am a tour on weekends.
Go outside and enjoy our lush nature
So the No. 1 reason people move to Seattle is… well, tech jobs. But they ALSO really like the great outdoors. Maybe a little too much. That said, you don’t have to go trail riding or rock climbing to get in on the action (though we do have a list of some underrated hiking trails, right here), all you have to do is go for a jog around Green Lake, or ride the Burke Gilman Trail, or hit any of number of other outdoor exercise spots around town.
See A Sound Garden and the Black (Hole) Sun
Soundgarden is one of Seattle’s seminal bands and a pioneer of ’90s grunge. A Sound Garden is a collection of towering metal sculptures in a park overlooking Lake Washington that turn the wind into an eerie, but soothing kind of music (and the inspiration for the band’s name). The inspiration for the title of the band’s most famous song? Another art installation, this one called the Black Sun that overlooks the city from Volunteer Park.
Make a midnight run to Dick’s
Sir Mix-A-Lot rapped about bringing his posse by for some burgers. Macklemore danced on the Broadway location’s rooftop. Esquire called it the “most life-changing burger joint” in America. But the best thing here? The crowds lining up outside these old-school joints just before they close at 2 am every night… but if you’re more of a “burger at not 2 am” person, there are still a ton of great burger joints around town.
Grab Seattle’s most underrated and authentic dish: teriyaki
Teriyaki, the dish that The New York Times called Seattle’s version of the Chicago dog, was basically invented in Seattle back in the ’70s as a cheap alternative to fast food. Don’t believe us? Here’s a video explaining the whole thing. And while the sweet sticky dish may be fading from the local food scene lately, there are still hundreds of places to people for a taste of Seattle’s signature dish.
Take a day trip on a ferry
Washington State has the largest ferry system in the county (the fourth largest in the world) and some of the boats sail right from Seattle. The best day trip is probably from Mukilteo, a half-hour north, to Langley — a lovely little seaside town on Whidbey Island full of art galleries, and restaurants like Village Pizzeria, or Prima Bistro. Don’t have time for that? Don’t worry, you can take a water taxi to West Seattle (and get something to eat at Marination Ma Kai) instead.
See if you can grab some seriously hard to get ramen
There are lots of places in Seattle to get good ramen, but every Friday at lunch (and only on Friday at lunch), the teeny Tsukushinbo dishes up its famously good and infamously hard-to-get ramen. The line outside is because this spot only slings a couple of dozen bowls per day: their richly flavored broth takes four days to make, so you have to get it while it’s hot, or you don’t get it at all. Until next week. Maybe.
Catch an awesome exhibit at SAM
The Seattle Art Museum is worth a visit for the exhibitions alone, but it also boasts a ton of public programs and performances, including regular film screenings (they’re showing Alfred Hitchcock flicks all spring), periodic parties called SAM Remix that turn the museum space into a nightclub, and their annual Summer of Sam at the Sculpture Park in Belltown, which features tons of activities over the warmer months.
Take a ride with the SLUT
Sure, the CITY calls it the South Lake Union “Streetcar Line”, but everyone else calls it the South Lake Union Trolley… or SLUT, and it winds through Seattle’s fasting growing neighborhood, the home to Amazon, and by a ton of bars and restaurants including some of our favorites like Re: public, Barolo, bar, and more. Our advice: hit a different spot at every stop.
Eat a Seattle Dog
They’ll probably be a little horrified when you first suggest it — you want me to put WHAT on a hot dog?! — but once they try the admittedly strange combination of grilled onions and cream cheese on a lightly toasted bun, they’ll understand why, for the last 20 years, the Seattle Dog has been a mainstay at street food vendors across the city.
Play vintage video games that you can still win
Home to Nintendo, Microsoft, Valve, and a slew of other game developers, Seattle has always been a gaming town, so it shouldn’t be surprising to find a handful of places still offering the kind of games your guests probably grew-up playing, including the no-frills Add-a-Ball arcade in a Fremont basement, and the Seattle Pinball Museum, where you’ll find dozens of old school machines.
Get coffee at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery
Sure, you could take them to the “original” Starbucks in Pike Place Market (FYI, the first location actually opened down the street in 1971 but moved to the current address five years later), but once you get past the crowds there isn’t much there. Instead, hit the Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Pike/Pine, where you get an intimate view of both the roasting and the brewing process, and you can try things like whiskey barrel-aged cold brew.
Try some of Seattle’s best doughnuts
Helmed by one of Seattle’s best chefs, Renee Erickson, General Porpoise Doughnuts is quickly becoming a Seattle institution thanks to classic baked goods made with fresh local ingredients. There are currently two public locations (and an Amazon employee-only location), but a third will be opening soon, making it even easier to get your hands on these tasty treats.
Sit in the bleachers at Safeco and catch a game
Let’s face it, you don’t go to a Mariners game for the baseball — the team’s current playoff drought is longer than any other team in sports — but you should go for that feeling you get sitting in the bleachers on a sunny day, listening to the crack of the bat, and eating a hot dog (or because this is Seattle, some sushi, or Din Tai Fung’s world-famous dumplings). And the best part? Tickets cost as little as $7.