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!

A Slightly Morbid Tour of Seattle

Today we’re embarking on a slightly morbid tour of Seattle, visiting some landmarks of famous icons who walked the streets of Seattle and whose legacies live on in the city today.

The first, and probably best known, stop on this tour is Viretta Park/Kurt Cobain’s house. Kurt Cobain is one of the most iconic musicians to emerge from Seattle’s grunge scene in the 90’s. Nirvana is one of my favorite bands of all time, so this was a must-visit spot on my list.
Located in Lake Washington, Viretta Park sits right next to the home once owned by Cobain, which is also where he sadly passed away. The house itself is very private, but you can catch a glimpse of it from the park, where a bench stands to memorialize Cobain. This is a beautiful area to drive through, and Viretta Park is a great tribute to such an iconic artist.

The next two stops on our tour are all about Jimi Hendrix, another famed Seattle musician. First up is the Jimi Hendrix Memorial, located in Greenwood Memorial Park. Hendrix’s actual grave in Greenwood Memorial Park is very simple, so the memorial serves as a place for fans to remember the artist and pay tribute to him.
Another stop for Jimi Hendrix lovers is his statue, located on Broadway Street in downtown Seattle. The statue depicts him playing the guitar, and is a beautiful reminder of his work and the impact he had on Seattle’s music scene.

Last up, we’re heading to another cemetery to see the graves of Bruce Lee and his son, Brandon. Their graves are located side-by-side in Lake View Cemetery, a beautiful spot in the heart of Seattle. I had no idea before visiting the graves that the Lee family had any connection to Seattle, but I learned Bruce lived in Seattle for several years. During his time in Seattle, he took classes at the University of Washington and began teaching martial arts in Chinatown.
Although the father and son’s passings were unfortunate and untimely, it is comforting to know their final resting places are together in a beautiful spot.

If you visit any of these places, I encourage you to do so respectfully, considering that these were not just celebrities, but fathers, sons, brothers, and husbands.

Famous Seattle Filming Locations

Today we’re going on a tour of some famous filming locations throughout Seattle (and the surrounding areas). Seattle is an awesome town that has served as the setting for some pretty iconic movies and TV shows, so keep reading if you want to experience some of these locations for yourself!

Gasworks Park

Gasworks is one of my favorite Seattle parks to visit, regardless of whether you’re a movie buff or not. Located right on Lake Union, it provides fantastic views of the skyline, and is the perfect spot for a stroll or picnic. You might recognize Gasworks from 10 Things I Hate About You, one of my favorite 90’s romance movies. In the film, they converted the park into a paintball field, and while this was sadly just for the movie, the park is still well worth a visit. Gasworks was also featured in Singles, another well-known 90’s movie.

Lake Union

Speaking of Lake Union, the houseboat that served as Tom Hanks’s home in Sleepless in Seattle can be found docked in Lake Union. My personal favorite way to explore Lake Union is by paddle-boarding, though I’m sure it would be a blast to sail around as well. Lake Union is located in the heart of Seattle, and will give you great views of the city as you enjoy the outdoors. Even if you don’t spot the exact houseboat from the movie, they’re all fun to see (though deceivingly expensive)!

Stadium High School

Continuing on the 10 Things I Hate About You theme, next up is Stadium High School. Stadium High School is an actual public school located in Tacoma, about 45 minutes south of Seattle. The school served as the main setting for 10 Things I Hate About You, and the football stadium was featured in the iconic scene where Heath Ledger serenades Julia Stiles from the stands. You’re welcome to park and wander around the grounds, although they do close the stadium during football games.

Twede’s Cafe

Twede’s Cafe, located about 45 minutes east of Seattle in the town of North Bend, is an iconic establishment featured in the TV show Twin Peaks. The cafe has a cool retro feel, and most of the employees are happy to point out some of the filming spots throughout the cafe that were used for the show. Even if you just pop in for some pictures, I highly recommend taking the time to enjoy a “damn fine cup of coffee” and a cherry pie! It is the place where pies go when they die, after all! I even have a whole guide to North Bend and the neighboring town of Snoqualmie if you want to make a day, or weekend, trip.

The Olympic Peninsula

Of course, a list of famous filming locations throughout Washington wouldn’t be complete without mentioning possibly the most famous PNW-set series of all: Twilight. Twilight is set in the small town of Forks, located several hours northwest of Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula. Forks is a quiet town that has definitely capitalized on the success of Twilight by putting up signs marking the border between vampire and werewolf territory and even opening a museum featuring memorabilia from the movies.
Another great option is to visit Rialto Beach, located in Olympic National Park, or La Push, located in the Quileute Reservation. Both spots provide beautiful opportunities to stroll along the rocky beaches and take in gorgeous views of the coastline. Check out my guide to the Olympic Peninsula if you want more recommendations for your visit!

What are some of your favorite Seattle-set movies and TV shows? Are there any iconic filming locations I missed?

Bellevue Botanical Garden

The Bellevue Botanical Garden is a peaceful escape in the heart of Bellevue, perfect for an after-work stroll or a family outing. The garden is free to visit and features several trails and walking paths through 53 acres of gorgeous forests and meadows. There are 11 unique areas within the garden that offer plentiful opportunities to wander around and explore.

The majority of paths within the garden are gravel, and there is minimal elevation change, making it a great option for families and hikers of all experience levels. The garden is open year-round, and is gorgeous in every season, though I find spring and fall to be exceptionally beautiful.

My favorite areas within the garden are the Ravine Experience and the Yao Garden. The Ravine Experience features a massive 150′ suspension bridge that leads you over a deep ravine. This is a great spot for photos, and to observe the surrounding forests. The Yao Garden, a traditional Japanese garden, is also a beautiful area. During the fall, the maples throughout Yao Garden turn an incredible shade of bright red.

The garden also hosts several seasonal events, such as a Mother’s Day event and a holiday light display in the winter.

Bellevue Botanical Garden has become one of my favorite spots to explore because I always discover a new area, path, or photo op every time I visit. If you seek a relaxing nature escape but don’t want to drive far out of the city, Bellevue Botanical Garden is the perfect spot.

Franklin Falls

Franklin Falls is a 2 mile out-and-back hike in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that’s perfect for hikers of all experience levels.

The trailhead for Franklin Falls is located about 25 minutes outside of North Bend on Denny Creek Road, just past the campground. While you can enjoy Franklin Falls year-round, Denny Creek Road does tend to close in the winter which will add 4 miles roundtrip to your hike.
Franklin Falls is also a very popular destination for hikers, photographers, and families, so try to visit during off-times (such as weekdays or early mornings) when possible.

Pro tip: parking is $5/day or free with a Northwest Forest Pass – more info at fs.usda.gov.

The trail runs parallel to the Snoqualmie River most of the way and, with only 400′ of elevation gain in total, is very family-friendly. The river does flood on occasion which may make the trail exceptionally washed out or muddy, so be prepared to get a bit soaked along the way. It’s also fun to spot the gorgeous A-frame cabins along the river as you hike.

After a mile, you’ll begin to hear the roaring of Franklin Falls and soon, you’ll spot the stunning 130′ waterfall. Be careful as you hike downward over slippery rocks to the base of the waterfall and take in the full beauty of the falls.

A short hike back will return you to your car to carry on with more adventures! Franklin Falls is one of my favorite hikes in the area because you get a stunning view for minimal effort, so let me know if you’ve visited or plan to soon!

A Weekend Guide to Snoqualmie + North Bend

The towns of Snoqualmie and North Bend, located in the Snoqualmie Valley, are some of my favorite areas to visit when I find myself in Washington. This guide is an overview of what I consider the must-see spots in Snoqualmie and North Bend, and my idea of the perfect weekend spent exploring this area!

Day 1

Start your day off on the right foot by enjoying an indulgent brunch at the Salish Lodge & Spa. The Salish Lodge is a picturesque establishment situated right on top of Snoqualmie Falls. The dining room features stunning views of the surrounding forest and the Snoqualmie River, and the whole lodge feels cozy and welcoming. For brunch, I would highly suggest treating yourself to their country breakfast, a multi-course affair with fresh baked goods, pancakes, oatmeal, meat, eggs, and more. The highlight of this breakfast is the “Honey From Heaven” service where they drizzle house-made honey atop freshly baked biscuits. If you have the option, I’d also recommend pairing the breakfast with a mimosa or Snoqualmie coffee (both alcoholic).

After brunch, you’ll probably feel like going to your room and passing out, but I encourage you to take the time to explore Snoqualmie Falls. There’s an upper and lower park, and both offer uniquely beautiful views of the waterfall. The upper park is less than a minute walk from the Salish Lodge, overlooking the dramatic falls and Snoqualmie River. To access the lower park, you can either hike about 3/4 mile down along a gravel trail, or drive to the lower parking lot. From the parking lot, you can follow a boardwalk along the Snoqualmie River that will lead you to a viewpoint at the base of the falls. There are also a lot of informational signs and exhibits around the park to learn about the history of the falls and the Snoqualmie Valley.

Fun fact: I actually used to work at the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Museum, located across the river from the Salish Lodge! The museum is open seasonally during the summer, but I would check the website for updates before stopping by. The museum is small but mighty, packed with information about the history of the hydroelectric plant located within Snoqualmie Falls.

Once you’ve explored Snoqualmie Falls, it’s time to drive over to downtown Snoqualmie. Downtown Snoqualmie is small and quaint, consisting mostly of local shops, restaurants, and a few more museums. There are lots of small shops and boutiques to pop in and out of if you’re searching for souvenirs and locally-made goods. If you’d like to learn more history about the area, I also suggest checking out the Northwest Railway Museum, which educates visitors on the railroad in the region. The museum also hosts seasonal events like a Santa Train around the holidays and a Thomas the Tank Engine weekend in September.

If you’re starting to get hungry for lunch/dinner, I’d recommend Snoqualmie Falls Brewery, a low-key spot with great beer and food options. Remember to save room for ice cream though, as a visit to Snoqualmie Ice Cream is a must, and the perfect way to end your first day of adventures.

Return to your room at the Salish Lodge, curl up by the fire for a bit, and get a good nights rest before kicking off day 2!

Day 2

Snoqualmie and North Bend are surrounded by the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, which offers endless options for hiking. Near the Snoqualmie Valley you can opt for Mount Si, a difficult hike to sweeping views of the valley, or something more family-friendly, like Franklin Falls. I personally recommend Franklin Falls because the trail is short, easy to moderate in difficulty, and absolutely stunning. The trailhead is about 40 minutes from the Salish Lodge, making it a convenient destination for a quick morning hike. The trail itself is only about 2 miles roundtrip and will lead you to a 130′ waterfall. The setting is beautiful, though this hike does get quite popular, so try to head out early in the day, if possible.

After relaxing and freshening up following your hike, it’s time to head to North Bend, another picturesque town. North Bend is just about a 10 minutes drive from Snoqualmie, and make sure you look for elk along the way, as you can frequently spot herds beside the road. You’ll also be granted with beautiful views of Mount Si as you drive. Once in town, there are a number of small shops to explore, and even an independent theater that showcases classic films and hosts special events, like film festivals and comedy shows.

The real star of North Bend, however, is Twede’s Cafe, which you may recognize from the iconic show Twin Peaks. The diner was featured extensively in the show, and the staff are usually kind enough to show you some of the well-known filming spots and memorabilia throughout the restaurant if they have time to spare. Even if you’re not a fan of the show, Twede’s Cafe is like stepping back in time, making it a super fun dining experience. At the very least, you must enjoy a slice of cherry pie and an order of their “damn fine cup of coffee.”

And there you have it folks: my guide to an ideal weekend spent exploring Snoqualmie and North Bend. I hope you have an opportunity to visit these towns for yourself and experience their beauty and history, and I hope this guide provided you with some ideas on what to do and see!