Seattle is growing so fast it sometimes feels like a living being, one figuring out this brave new world at the same time it’s creating it. With that in mind, here are the top ten fun things to do in Seattle, rain or shine.
Pike Place Market
This downtown landmark’s seafood counter and its flying fish may be the most famous part of Pike Place Market (market 9am-6pm Mon.-Sat., 9am-5pm Sun., individual shop hours vary), but there’s enough produce, spices, crafts, buskers, and fresh-made doughnuts to fill an entire day.
Seattle Art Museum
Discover a peerless collection of Northwest art at the Seattle Art Museum (1300 1st Ave., 206/654-3100; 10am-5pm Wed. and Fri.-Sun., 10am-9pm Thurs.; $20 adults, $18 seniors, $13 students, children free). Displays range from the traditional to the cutting-edge, with artists like John Singer Sargent and Jackson Pollock represented.
The Seattle Center (305 Harrison St., 206/684-7200) collection of museums, sights, green spaces, and fountains–comprised of big-name attractions like the Space Needle, Museum of Pop Culture, the Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation–entices visitors to spend as much time as possible here.
The city’s retro icon was born as a sketch on a cocktail napkin by one of the 1962 World’s Fair planners, and the 605-foot Space Needle was built in less than a year. At 520 feet, the Observation Deck (10am-11pm Mon.-Thurs., 9am-11:30pm Fri.-Sat., 9am-11pm Sun.; $18-28 adults, $16-26 seniors, $11-17 youth 4-12, children 3 and under free) features indoor and outdoor binoculars and information on what you can see.
Olympic Sculpture Park
What was once an oil company’s waterfront land has been reborn as Olympic Sculpture Park (2901 Western Ave., 206/654-3100; sunrise-sunset daily; pavilion: 10am-5pm Tues.-Sun. summer, 10am-4pm Tues.-Sun. winter; free), a series of zigzagging green spaces that hold massive works of art.
Museum of History and Industry
Interactive exhibits, artifacts, and curiosities offer insight into the city’s past, present, and future at the Museum of History and Industry (860 Terry Ave. N, 206/324-1126; 10am-5pm Fri.-Wed., 10am-8pm Thurs.; $17 adults, $15 seniors and students, children free). The museum saw renewed interest when it moved to this former armory building in 2012—finally, the city’s best museum about itself wasn’t on the periphery, but close to downtown, in a striking four-story waterfront home.
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
Boats big and small gain passage to the Ship Canal through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (3015 54th St. NW, 206/783-7059; grounds 7am-9pm daily, fish ladder 7am-8:45pm daily, visitors center 10am-6pm daily May-Sept., 10am-4pm Thurs.-Mon. Oct.-Apr.; free), next to a special thoroughfare made just for salmon. For the mechanically minded, there’s nothing like an afternoon watching the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operate the locks.
The craze for caffeine was born here, and the city’s blocks are full of corporate coffee chains and indie outposts alike. In the 1990s, Seattle’s cultural explosion saw salon-style coffee shops popped up on almost every block in the city, becoming places where counterculture, music, poetry, and activism could thrive. Starbucks reigns, but there are also local mini-chains like Cherry Street Coffee and Uptown Espresso, and one-off favorites like Lighthouse Roasters and Monorail Espresso.
Seattle’s storied live music scene attracts talent from around the world and across genres. This is the city that Jimi Hendrix called home, where Kurt Cobain found fame before his tragic end, and where Macklemore became an independent rap sensation. Rock, soul, and pop acts are drawn to stages at the likes of Neumos, Tractor Tavern, The Triple Door, and even the busking corners in Pike Place Market.
An abundance of local, artisanal breweries place the city at the forefront of this hoppy trend. You’ll find the beer on tap in many of the city’s bars, though never canned or bottled. Brewers are stretching beyond IPA into new specialty areas, including porters, sour beers, and session ales. Bars like Tap House Grill and Noble Fir offer a chance to taste the wide variety of Northwest beers.