Seattle Bucket List: 10 Must-See Sights and Experiences

Seattle is an amazing town with so much to offer, it can often feel overwhelming when you’re trying to decide what to do and see. If you need some inspiration for your Seattle bucket list, here are 10 must-see sights and experiences to add ASAP!

  1. Journey to the top of the Space Needle – you can experience this iconic Seattle landmark through general admission or by grabbing a cocktail in their revolving lounge
  2. Do some shopping at Pike Place MarketPike Place Market is full of unique shops, vendors, and restaurants, making it a great place to wander around for an afternoon
  3. Visit the Museum of Pop CultureMoPop is truly one of the coolest and most unique museums I’ve ever visited
  4. Picnic at Gas Works ParkGas Works Park is one of my top recommendations for first-time visitors to Seattle because you’ll get fantastic views of the skyline and Lake Union. Plus, you may recognize it from the movie 10 Things I Hate About You
  5. Hike through Discovery Park – an outdoor-lovers oasis right in the heart of the city! The Discovery Park and Lighthouse Loop Trail is a great day hike
  6. Take in views of the city skyline at Kerry ParkKerry Park is a gorgeous spot to enjoy sunrise or sunset
  7. Sample some coffees at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery – the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a great alternative to the Original Starbucks
  8. Pay a visit to the Ballard Locks – the Ballard Locks are interesting and educational, truly the best of both worlds
  9. Admire the architecture of Seattle Central Library – visiting the Seattle Central Library is the perfect rainy day activity: check out my photo diary from a recent visit by clicking right here
  10. Go sailing or paddle-boarding in Lake Union – enjoying Lake Union is a classic summertime activity

Seattle Central Library – Photo Diary

Looking for a unique (and free!) activity in Seattle? Consider paying a visit to Seattle Central Library. Seattle Central Library is a public library in the heart of downtown Seattle that features some stunning architecture. The building, which is constructed largely out of glass and steel, has a very geometric and striking appearance, giving you plenty of great photo opps. The library is also massive with 11 stories and capacity to hold over 1 million books. Seattle Central Library is well-known for its unique architecture and is visited by millions of people every year. I love wandering around the library and people-watching on a rainy day, and I highly recommend a visit if you’ve never been.

Deception Falls

Despite the ominous name, Deception Falls is a beautiful waterfall and hiking area located near Skykomish, Washington. At only half a mile roundtrip, the hike to Deception Falls is a great spot to stretch your legs, take some photos, or bring friends and family who are visiting from out of town.

The Deception Falls Recreation Area is located along the north side of US Highway 2 by mile marker 56. There is a large parking lot with restrooms and picnic tables, making it a great lunch spot, and an interpretive trail that leads you through the forest and to the falls.

Even though the falls are located right off the highway, you’ll feel as though you’re worlds away from civilization. When I visited Deception Falls in late October/early November, the water was incredibly high thanks to a lot of recent rainfall.

Deception Falls is a great option for those seeking beautiful waterfall views without a significant hike, and is well-suited for hikers of all ages and experience levels.

5 Fun Seattle Date Ideas

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and whether you have a significant other in your life or not, it’s always a fun excuse to celebrate and share the love. Even if you’re celebrating solo, I encourage you to take yourself out on a date and really treat yourself, because you deserve it! If you need some inspiration for Valentine’s Day or otherwise, here are 5 fun date ideas in the Seattle area.

Dinner and a show at The Pink Door

Image courtesy of ThePinkDoor.net

The Pink Door is a well-known, speakeasy-style restaurant located along Post Alley in Pike Place Market. The restaurant is cozy and eclectic, with gorgeous waterfront views. I took myself on a date here a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed their antipasto of the house and linguine alle vongole (pasta with baby clams and garlic in a white wine sauce), though the menu does change regularly to feature fresh seasonal ingredients. The Pink Door is also known for providing some spectacular entertainment ranging from aerial performances to jazz bands and burlesque shows.

Catch sunset at the top of the Space Needle

Image courtesy of Trip 101

I know, I know – the Space Needle has a reputation for being a major tourist trap in Seattle. But sometimes it pays to be a tourist in your own city, and experiencing sunset from the top of the Space Needle is truly incredible. You’ll be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views of the Puget Sound and surrounding mountain ranges that are hard to find anywhere else in the city. You can enjoy the Space Needle through general admission or by sipping on some drinks at the Loupe Lounge, a rotating cocktail bar located at the top.

Walk through the Volunteer Park Conservatory

I recently visited the Volunteer Park Conservatory for the first time (enjoy my photo diary here!) and was blown away by how beautiful this spot is! Volunteer Park is located in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and the greenhouse pictured above is over 100 years old! The conservatory is very peaceful and features all kinds of trees, flowers, cacti, and everything in between. This is a great spot to go solo or with a loved one, especially on a rainy day.

Hike to West Point Lighthouse in Discovery Park

Discovery Park is a gorgeous area of hiking and walking trails, and one of the highlights is West Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is perfectly picturesque, and the hike there will lead you through forests, meadows, and sandy beaches. At 4.4 miles roundtrip, it’s definitely a solid hike to get there, but the stunning views will make the effort well worth your time. While the trail is especially beautiful in the spring and summer when wildflowers are abundant, you’ll still catch some beautiful sights if you go before then.

Picnic at Gas Works Park

For first-time visitors to Seattle, Gas Works Park is always at the top of my recommendations list. The park, which used to be Seattle Gas Light Company plant, is a super cool spot that mixes industrial with the outdoors. The park offers fantastic views of Lake Union and the Seattle skyline, and is an awesome place to fly kites, walk, bike, or picnic. I love visiting Gas Works whenever I’m in town, and have enjoyed several picnic dates on its rolling hills.

Volunteer Park Conservatory – Photo Diary

Seattle’s Volunteer Park Conservatory is a stunning botanical garden and conservatory in the heart of the city. The iconic glass greenhouse has been a fixture of the park since 1912, and is a beautiful piece of architecture. If you’re looking to escape the rain and enjoy a slice of Seattle history, a visit to the conservatory is a great option. Tickets are $4 for adults 18+ and $2 for kids 12-17 (free for children under 12).

5 Seattle Tourist Traps to Avoid, and Where to Go Instead

Seattle has so many activities and attractions, it can be overwhelming to decide what to do and what to skip on your first visit. Here are my recommendations on five Seattle attractions to avoid, and five definitely worth the visit instead.

Skip: The Gum Wall

The Seattle Gum Wall is exactly what it sounds like: a wall. Covered in gum. If you happen to be walking in the area, it’s a fine stop to add to your route, but I wouldn’t go for the sole purpose of seeing it. Plus, the wall is frequently flooded with people wanting to take selfies or add their own chewed-up bubblegum.

Instead try… Pike Place Market

I know, I know – Pike Place Market is probably the quintessential tourist trap when it comes to Seattle. But I have to say, you should visit at least once. The market itself has a lot of interesting history, and I thoroughly enjoy walking through all the stalls and vendors. You can get some great views of the water, and there are lots of options for shopping, eating, and drinking. I would recommend trying to visit on a weekday or earlier in the morning/later in the evening to avoid the massive crowds that tend to form.

Skip: Original Starbucks

Fun fact: the “Original Starbucks” at Pike Place Market is actually considered the second Starbucks store, because the true first store was located in another location! Sure, it’s cool to walk by, but there are always extremely long lines and unfortunately, it is literally just another Starbucks store. Not worth the hype, in my opinion.

Instead try… The Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Seattle without paying homage to Starbucks in some way. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a really cool spot I’d recommend visiting. The building itself is historic with gorgeous architecture, and you can actually book tours to see how everything works. Plus, the menu has some unique items you won’t find at other Starbucks locations, like a flight of cold brew to sample three different flavors and ice cream/coffee concoctions.

Skip: Seattle Aquarium

Confession: I haven’t actually been to the Seattle Aquarium myself, but I don’t plan on visiting anytime soon either. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the aquarium, and pricing tends to be quite expensive, so I wouldn’t say you have to visit it while you’re in town. Of course, if you especially love aquariums you may have a good time, but there are so many other unique spots you could visit instead that the aquarium would be low on my list of must-visits.

Instead try… MoPop

MoPop, or The Museum of Pop Culture, is a really unique museum located in the heart of Seattle. MoPop features different exhibits on books, movies, bands, and pop culture movements. I’ve been twice now and thoroughly enjoyed each visit, especially the exhibits on Nirvana and the history of horror movies. Plus, the MoPop building itself has some interesting architecture, and is located right by the Space Needle which makes for good photo opps. I would recommend MoPop more for older crowds, as little kids may not be super interested in the types of exhibits they host.

Skip: The Seattle Great Wheel

The Seattle Great Wheel is a large Ferris wheel that will give you a birds-eye view of the downtown skyline. Unfortunately, tickets to the ferry will cost you $11-$16 a person, depending on age. I’d prefer to head somewhere else for free views of the skyline, and just admire the Ferris wheel from the ground. I will say that seeing the Ferris wheel lit up a night is a pretty sight, but again, I’d recommend enjoying it from the ground than paying for tickets to go up.

Instead try… Kerry Park

Kerry Park is a small park located in the historic Queen Anne neighborhood. The park offers sweeping views of the city, and is completely free! Sure, the view will be different than if you were in the Ferris wheel right downtown, but I personally prefer to see the city, water, and the mountains beyond all in one view. The Queen Anne neighborhood is a beautiful area to drive through as well, with lots of older homes and mansions.

Skip: Alki Beach

Alki Beach is a strip of sand that runs along Elliot Bay. You’ll get some decent views of the skyline, but given the beach is only about 2.5 miles long, it can get overcrowded and kind of dirty. If you’re looking for a quick stroll through the sand, Alki Beach will do just fine, but it isn’t a must-see in my opinion.

Instead try… Discovery Park

Discovery Park is a large public park located right in Seattle, with 10+ miles of walking trails through forests, bluffs, and along sandy beaches. I highly recommend the Lighthouse Loop Trail which will take you to West Point Lighthouse. Discovery Park is a great area for hiking, wildlife-watching, and photography. Because some of the areas within the park are protected, the trails and facilities are well-kept and you’ll really feel like you’ve stepped into another world. As a bonus, the park is completely free to visit!

Best Day Trips from Seattle

I recently shared an article detailing my favorite day trips from Atlanta (read it here), and was feeling inspired to do a Seattle version! Washington is one of my favorite states to explore and there are so many awesome day trips from Seattle, so let’s jump right in with some of my top recommendations.

Bainbridge Island – 35 minutes via ferry

Bainbridge Island is a beautiful area just a short ferry ride from downtown Seattle. I only spent part of a day on the island, but I absolutely fell in love with how quaint it is, and I can’t wait for my next visit. Whether you’re a fan of the outdoors, an arts lover, or a shopaholic, Bainbridge has something that everyone will love. For some of my favorite stops on the island, read my guide to Bainbridge Island right here.

North Bend + Snoqualmie – 40 minutes

The towns of North Bend and Snoqualmie are only about 30-40 minutes from Seattle, and they’re some of my favorite areas to spend a day exploring. Make sure to bring an appetite and grab a bite at Twede’s Cafe in North Bend, a well-known diner that was featured in the show Twin Peaks. Catch a movie at the North Bend Theatre, or take a hike up to the summit of Mount Si for views of the whole Snoqualmie Valley. Just down the road is the town of Snoqualmie (make sure to watch for elk on the drive over!), an area rich in history and natural beauty. Downtown Snoqualmie is home to lots of shops and restaurants, and Snoqualmie Falls is a must-visit spot for jaw-dropping views of a massive waterfall. I also have a full guide to North Bend and Snoqualmie, which you can read here!

Leavenworth – 2.5 hours

Leavenworth is a stunning Bavarian village tucked among the Cascade Mountains. During the summer, Leavenworth is the perfect place for hiking, rock-climbing, or tubing down the Wenatchee River. Over the winter, Leavenworth transforms into a winter wonderland, with massive displays of Christmas lights. With plenty of shopping and a good variety of restaurants, Leavenworth is a day trip that everyone in the family is sure to love.

Mount Rainier National Park – 2 hours

Of course, a visit to Washington truly wouldn’t be complete without spending some time in Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier is a stunning sight, and seeing it up close and personal is seriously awe-inspiring. Mount Rainier National Park is a massive park with tons of hiking areas for any level of difficulty/length you’re looking for. Naches Peak Loop Trail is a short hike offers some serious bang for your buck with stunning views of Mount Rainier almost the entire way. Skyline Trail, meanwhile, will make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world, offering views of alpine meadows, waterfalls, and glaciers.

Olympic Peninsula + Olympic National Park – 2 to 3.5 hours (depending on where you go)

The Olympic Peninsula is a beautiful area of Washington, featuring glaciers, rainforests, and rocky beaches. There’s so much to see and do in the area that a day really doesn’t do it justice, but a day trip is still 100% doable! For a shorter trip, I recommend visiting the Port Angeles area. Port Angeles is a cute little town right on the water with lots of shopping, restaurants, and some museums about the area’s history. You can also drive over to Hurricane Ridge for hiking, or just to take in some stunning views of the area. If you’d like to explore the Olympic Peninsula further, I highly recommend visiting the Hoh Rain Forest – you’ll feel as though you stepped into Jurassic Park with all the massive, mossy trees! A bit past Hoh Rain Forest is the town of Forks and Rialto Beach, classic PNW areas you may recognize from the Twilight series. I have a whole guide to the Olympic Peninsula here where I give you even more ideas on must-visit spots!

Have you visited any of these spots yourself? What’s your favorite day trip from Seattle? Let me know down below in the comments!

Exploring Woodinville, WA

Woodinville, WA is one of my favorite little towns in the state, boasting lots of wineries, restaurants, and shops. I love visiting Woodinville for an afternoon stroll or an evening out on the town, and I want to share with you some of my must-visit spots.

The first place you visit in Woodinville should definitely be Grounds Coffee Co. Grounds has become one of my favorite coffee stands in the area, and they always serve up delicious (and beautiful!) creations. Pictured here is an aloha mocha and a snickerdoodle iced coffee – yum!

After getting your caffeine fix, it’s time for lunch (or dinner) at one of my favorites, Hollywood Tavern. Hollywood Tavern is a small but beautiful restaurant with cozy decor, a massive outdoor fire pit, and a great selection of food. I love visiting over the summer and enjoying cocktails and live music in their outdoor area!
Their crispy brussel sprouts and fried pickles are delicious starters, and one of my favorite entrees is their green goddess salad with salmon added on top. While ordering salad may not be your first inclination when dining out, theirs is truly delicious and always my go-to.
Hollywood Tavern also shares a parking lot with Woodinville Whiskey Co., another cool spot.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a trip to Woodinville without stopping by a winery. Woodinville is considered renowned wine country, and you’ll find wineries of all sizes on almost every corner. Even if you’re stuck being the DD, most of the wineries have excellent atmosphere for hanging out, sharing small bites, and enjoying the beautiful region.
JM Cellars is a great option if you want to feel a little removed from the heart of Woodinville. The property is beautiful and spacious, with rustic decor and a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces to enjoy.
My personal favorite winery visit was to Chateau Ste. Michelle. Not only do they make some of my favorite wines, but the winery itself is beautiful and truly makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the French countryside. Their tasting room is also gorgeous, with dark and moody fixtures that make you feel like a VIP.

All in all, Woodinville is definitely on my list of must-visit Washington towns. The whole town is cozy and quaint, making it the perfect spot for date night, girls night out, or dinner with family. Have you visited Woodinville before?

Day Trip to Bainbridge Island

If you’re look for a quick day trip from the Seattle area with plenty of shopping, food, and beautiful scenery, Bainbridge Island is the perfect destination for you.

Bainbridge Island is a small island in the Puget Sound located just a short ferry ride from downtown Seattle. The ferry ride itself is part of fun, as it offers stunning views of the Seattle skyline. Even with cloudy weather, the city’s beauty truly shines through, and I highly recommend heading to the ferry deck to catch a glimpse for yourself.

Once you arrive on Bainbridge Island, I suggest making Pegasus Coffee Company your first stop. Pegasus Coffee Company is a quaint coffeeshop that looks plucked straight from the English countryside. Inside, the shop is cozy and welcoming, with delicious coffee and pastry options – including some awesome vegan treats as well!

After warming up with some coffee, make your way over to Riverfront Park, where you can catch beautiful views of sailboats, costal homes, and maybe even some some sea life! We were lucky enough to spot a family of otters playing and swimming around the dock when we visited.

After a stroll through the park, return to the downtown area to do some shopping. There are loads of cute shops and boutiques lining the main street through town, and there’s definitely something for everyone in the family to enjoy. One of my favorites was Town & Country Market, a quaint supermarket with lots of local goodies, like candles and chocolates.
If you need another pick-me-up, I recommend Coquette Bake Shop, a walk-up coffee stand conveniently located right downtown.

Once lunchtime rolls around, you’ll find plenty of options to satisfy a variety of cravings. From American classics at Doc’s Marina Grill to delicious pies at Westside Pizza, you’re sure to find something yummy.
A half-day is plenty of time to experience Bainbridge Island, but there are plenty of other activities if you’d like to make a full day or weekend of it. From museums to wine-tasting to hiking, the quaint island has a lot to offer.

I can’t wait to return and explore even more of Bainbridge, and I hope this guide helps you as you plan a visit for yourself!

Kubota Garden

Kubota Garden is a gorgeous outdoor escape just outside of Seattle, Washington. The garden is unique in that it combines traditional Japanese landscaping with native Pacific Northwest plants. Kubota Garden has 20 acres of moderate walking trails making it a great spot for visitors of all ages. As a bonus, the garden is free to visit and dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash!