Seattle Holidays: The Best Things To Do (Beyond Drinking Coffee)

March 8 seattle space needle

Image credit: Michael Discenza

Most cities make do with a single nickname, or two.

Seattle, on the other hand, has several monikers to choose from: “Emerald City” (for its lush greenery), “Rainy City,” “Coffee Capital” (thanks to Starbucks), “The Birthplace of Grunge Rock,” and “Jet City” (Boeing was founded in Seattle), to name a few.

There is much that Seattle is known for, which makes it an exciting destination for any traveller. Below, we show you different ways to enjoy the best of this northwestern American city.

1. What You Must See In Seattle

seattle chihuly garden
For a bird’s eye view of the city, the iconic 184-metre tall Space Needle is where most visitors flock. (When the observation tower opened in 1962, it was seen not only as a national monument, but also as a symbol of humanity’s desire for exploration.) Other visitors swear by the view at the observation deck of the 295-metre Columbia Center—you may have a better chance of beating the crowds here.

If you prefer to admire the city from ground level, writer-rocker (and Seattle native) John Roderick recommends making a trip to Gas Works Park, where you can “see the whole city, framed in the hills… and [understand] how it’s laid out.”

To get an entirely different perspective of Seattle, sign up for Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, which promises to be a “humorous stroll” through the intriguing Seattle Underground, a network of subterranean city spaces that fell into disuse in the early 1900s.

A must-see museum in Seattle is the Chihuly Garden and Glass, an exquisite showcase of glass sculptor Dale Chihuly’s works in both indoor and outdoor settings. According to Forbes, this ranks among the “10 Best Museums” of the US.

If you have time for browsing in marketplaces (click here for a list), Pike Place Market is not to be missed. Here you can find the world-famous Pike Place Fish Market, popularized by the book Fish: A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results, where sellers of fresh seafood are commonly seen tossing fishes to each other while having a ball of a time.

2. The Quirkiest Seattle Attractions

seattle history museum

Bursting with personality, Seattle’s museums range from the stately to the offbeat. Comprehensive museums such as the Museum of History and Industry, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Frye Art Museum provide ample fodder for serious knowledge seekers keen to imbibe the city’s heritage, art, and culture on their Seattle holidays.

If you prefer special-interest collections, these museums will be right up your alley: the Museum of Pop Culture, the Seattle Pinball Museum, the Center for Wooden Boats, and the Museum of Flight (which has the largest air and space collection in the US).

fremont troll seattle

To spend time in a community that “prides itself on all things peculiar,” head to Fremont for a day of whimsy and wonder. Look out for the quirky Fremont Troll sculpture that resides under the Aurora Bridge—a favourite photo spot for tourists. (Click here for our Fremont guide, and here for a map of street art in Fremont and other Seattle neighbourhoods.)

While in Seattle, martial arts fans can pay tribute to the legendary Bruce Lee, whose final resting place is in Seattle alongside his son, the late actor Brandon Lee. (The younger Lee died tragically in a movie prop accident back in 1993—the 20th anniversary of his father’s death.) The Lees’ burial site is considered one of the “top celebrity memorials” in the world.

Movie and music buffs may hold fond memories of the 90s cult film, Singles. The romantic comedy revolved around the lives and loves of Seattle 20-somethings, and it was set to a soundtrack that showcased the best of the city’s grunge scene. Helmed by acclaimed director Cameron Crowe, Singles was widely credited for introducing Seattle to the masses, and if you are up for a day of nostalgia, you can use this map to visit locations that were featured in the film.

3. Top Seattle Restaurants

fine dining in a restaurant
Image credit: Jay Wennington

If the thought of dining at Seattle’s “most revered” restaurant—otherwise known as Canlis—seems slightly intimidating, know that your fears are unfounded. “We fight this reputation that we are a crazy-expensive, old-people restaurant. That’s not really the case,” says Brian Canlis, grandson of the restaurant’s founder, Peter Canlis. “Here’s the thing: special and accessible are not mutually exclusive.”

Canlis has a formal dress code, but the food and overall experience will be well worth your efforts. A blow-by-blow account of dining at Canlis (by Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger) concluded that “the kitchen aims to blow your mind. And it succeeds.” A Seattle Times review also noted that Canlis was thriving in the hands of its young executive chef Brady Williams, and that diners should anticipate “a four-star dining experience.”

To patronise Seattle’s “best new restaurant” of 2017, as voted by the readers of Seattle Magazine, head to JuneBaby, which specialises in Southern cuisine (the food traditions of the African Americans from the Southern United States).

For more places to eat in Seattle, bookmark Seattle Magazine’s “Best of 2017” list, Eater Seattle’s list of 2018 “Essential Restaurants,” and Pan Pacific Seattle’s dining guide.

4. Things to Do in Seattle at Night

seattle nightlife
According to Seattle Magazine, the city’s most-loved bars are: Mbar, Foreign National, and Le Caviste. For “live music,” try The Crocodile and Tractor Tavern. For late-night comedy and entertainment, book a ticket at Parlor Bellevue (but note that recent reviews have been mixed). To do as the locals do, refer to the nightlife recommendations by the Not For Tourists website.

Last year, rising star chef Brady Williams (of the aforementioned Canlis) was quizzed about his Seattle haunts. His recommendation for a casual night out: a pizza dinner at Delancey, followed by drinks at the neighbouring Essex bar. Williams also named his favourite Seattle bars: Streamline Tavern, 9lb Hammer, Rob Roy, and Bathtub Gin & Co.

To enjoy refreshing specialty cocktails, handcrafted Seattle ales, and a premium selection of Northwest wines, Pan Pacific Seattle’s Lobby Bar is the place to be. The bar offers a daily happy hour, unique entrees, and small plates to share.

Can’t get enough of Seattle? Read our Seattle coffee guide, or find out how you can plan a picture-perfect Seattle wedding. For your accommodation needs, speak to our friendly team at Pan Pacific Seattle.

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