Top five things to do in Seattle, Washington

Posted on 18 February 2013

Before moving to the US, the only vague association I had with Seattle was the TV programme Grey’s Anatomy and the weather, very rainy. The rainy side I’m sad to admit is true, but Seattle has a lot more to offer than just steamy doctors and nurses. Here are my top five activities if you ever find yourself in Seattle.


 1. Space Needle

The space needle is iconic as it stands out in height and style amongst an otherwise smallish city centre. The 360-degree view from the top of the building showcases the beautiful mountain ranges and sprawling city in the distance. We were lucky enough to go up on an extremely clear day and saw the ice-caped snowy peaks of Mount Ranier glistening against a bright blue sky. The 184m high structure was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and its structure can withstand extreme winds and earthquakes. The observation deck is a perfect way to get your bearings in the city and plan the rest of your trip. Be wary of long queues, especially during the summer months.

Tickets are $19 to take the elevator ride to the Observation deck.
For more info visit their website.

The views from the top of the Space Needle are magnificent on a clear day.


2. EMP (Experience Music Project) Museum

If you’re into music you’ll love this museum. We spent over four hours exploring all the exhibitions and the interactive rooms in this spectacular building, designed with a true rock ‘n’ roll mindset. The three-thousand panels that make up the structure are constructed from stainless steel and definitely make the building stand out as unique.

The highlight for me (and many others) is the exhibit on the legendary band: Nirvana. The band originally started in Aberdeen in Washington State, but they gained their popularity and success in Seattle. Stories about the band and its members are mixed with paraphernalia, including quite a few of the guitars Kurt so notoriously destroyed onstage. Other artifacts include drums, old pictures of the band, original album artwork, posters, Kurt Cobain’s grungy clothing and more. We went on a free tour led by a hardcore fan who added her own experiences and knowledge of the band which was great.

Other music exhibits include Jimmy Hendrix, the history of the guitar (the audio tour lets you listen to each guitar on display from early banjo’s and hawaiian instruments to electric guitars), as well as a photographic journey through the ‘life on tour’ for the Rolling Stones. Another highlight for the musically-inclined or curious is an entire floor of instruments and recording equipment along with sound rooms (free for visitors to experiment with). You can even collaborate with your friends and create your own music video in a quirky karaoke experiment.

Non-music exhibits included sections on horror and sci-fi movies, with original set-pieces from films like the Matrix, Star Trek and Men in Black. A pretty cool to see these cult-items on display.

Tickets cost $20 (worth every cent, I promise!)
Fore more info visit their website.

Awesome guitar sculpture in the Experience Music Project museum.


3. Pike Place Market and the first Starbucks

I’m one of those travellers who really enjoys markets: from food to crafts, it’s always a priority of mine when visiting a new city. Pike Place didn’t disappoint. Situated close to the shoreline, the 9-acre market started way back in the 1900’s as a farmers market. Today it sells everything from fresh fish to flowers, tea cups, baked goods to hippy clothing. It has been dubbed the ‘Soul of Seattle’ and although quite touristy, I would suggest making a stop on your trip. Make sure to get there early as it gets very busy, and ideally weekdays are the best time to visit. The first original Starbucks is situated across from the market entrance and if you can face the long line to get in, you may get to pop inside to see the interior. Alternatively walk about two blocks over and you’ll see about 4 more modern-day Starbucks. Starbucks aside, Seattle has some really good coffee shops and is definitely fully immersed in the coffee culture. We particularly enjoyed Moore’s Coffee in downtown Seattle, a cute little spot with only two tables, no queues and great coffee.

If you make it to Pike Place and aren’t shopped out, try and see if you can find the ‘Gum Wall’, a little alley that’s covered top to bottom in thousands of various colours of gum. It’s quite an eye-opening ‘artwork’. Feel free to add your own contribution to the expanding wall.

Market hours: Monday – Saturday 9am – 6pm, Sunday 9am – 5pm.
For more info visit their website.

Plenty of fresh fruit and veggies for sale at Pike Place Market.

Pike Place is a great place to catch the sunset after a busy day of shopping.


4. Pioneer Square and Underground Tour

The founders of Seattle first laid foot in Pioneer Square, making it one of city’s oldest suburbs. Today the area is home to many bars, restaurants and interesting 19th Century buildings. However, what most people don’t know is that under the bustling modern sidewalks lies the old roadways and first-floor storefronts of old downtown Seattle. The city had to be built up a level because of a fire that destroyed the area in 1889, and because the streets had initially built on tide flats (not ideal with rainy weather). After the fire, the city was rebuilt above the old streets and the old roads were never filled in during construction.

Take an underground tour of the area, which takes you through a humourous account of the history of the risqué activities that used to take place in these passageways (prostitution was rife during these times). You see entrances to old hotels, old storefront doors and perhaps may even spot a ‘ghost’ of the past (as suggested by our tour guide).

Tickets for the Underground tour cost $16.
See their website for more info.


5. Listen to live music in Capitol Hill

Seattle is home to America’s grunge music movement. Bands such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana (see EMP museum), Alice in Chains and Soundgarden all originated here, and the culture of watching live music is still very much a part of experiencing the city. There are countless live music venues, many of which are in the Capitol Hill area to the East of the city. We ventured to the ‘Comet Tavern‘ where we watched 3 talented bands play to a small audience. We really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the place: it had no bells and whistles, cool rustic grungy décor, cold beer and interesting characters to people-watch. We felt ‘nostalgic’ thinking that bands like Nirvana grew their success by starting their careers in venues like this. Check out Thrill Call for other music venues in Seattle.






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