Although many know Seattle for the world-famous coffee company that got its start in the city, Seattle has more to offer visitors than its unique cafe culture. The Emerald City is bordered by water on two sides, filled with a smattering of lakes and surrounded by a host of national parks and forests further afield. Seattle’s green spaces and natural beauty are best enjoyed during the city’s short but sweet summer months, but the city’s iconic landmarks and attractions give visitors plenty to do even when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Several of the city’s major attractions are located near the Space Needle.
The Space Needle (spaceneedle.com) is to Seattle what the Empire State Building is to New York, an icon capable of representing the whole city with only its outline. On a clear day, you can see Puget Sound, Mount Rainier and the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges from the 360-degree view atop of the 520-foot-high tower. Even on one of Seattle’s frequent misty, foggy days, you’ll want to take the 41-second elevator ride to the top and dine in the revolving restaurant.
One of Seattle’s oldest and most architecturally rich neighborhoods, Pioneer Square (pioneersquare.org) is a registered National Historic Landmark. The elegant Victorian neighborhood now houses a burgeoning art scene, best visited during the open-studio art walk on the first Thursday of each month.
Seattle’s main attractions, like the city itself, are firmly grounded in their natural surroundings. At Pike Place Market (pikeplacemarket.org), near the waterfront, massive bouquets of exquisite flowers sell for as little as $5, while local fisherman draw in shoppers with their energetic fish tossing. Along the expansive boardwalk that runs behind the market, the Seattle Aquarium (seattleaquarium.org) showcase pacific marine life through six major exhibits focusing on local flora and fauna, marine mammals and reef life. Near the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center (pacsci.org) has a butterfly house, insect village and robotic dinosaur models, as well as temporary exhibits and special daily presentations. In the same area, the high-tech Experience Music Project (empsfm.org) is both a homage to contemporary music, with temporary exhibits based on popular musicians, and a hands-on sound lab where visitors can create their own sound landscape.
Extending narrowly along Washington’s western edge, Lake Washington effectively separates Seattle from the mainland, while Union Lake makes up part of the Ballard Lock system connecting Lake Washington to the Pacific. If you arrive in Seattle by car from the east, you’ll take in an expansive view of Lake Washington when crossing the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge. For a more leisurely viewing experience, hop on one of the Washington State Ferries over to Bainbridge Island, or rent a rowboat or canoe from the University of Washington Waterfront Activities Center. The center opens to the public for hourly rentals year round, except November and December, when it closes for the winter.
Gas Works Park is the most unique park in Seattle. In a sheer departure from your average sculpture park, where the twisted metal structures are purpose-built in an artistic manner, the material came first at Gas Works. Remnants of a coal gasification plant were reimagined into metal play structures, picnic shelters and sculptures at this American Society of Landscape Architects Design Excellence Award-winning site. If you visit Seattle in fair weather, make sure to visit Green Lake Park, due north of Gas Works. One of the most beloved green spaces in the city, this clear, still glacier lake features a wide 2.8-mile path circling just along the shore of the lake.
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