Discover the Magic of Seattle: Your Ultimate Summer Bucket List

Seattle, known for its iconic Space Needle {where we happened to get engaged nearly three decades ago!}, also has a vibrant cultural scene and everything becomes more magical and alive in the summer. After months of dark and dreary days, the sun draws everyone out, and the guests start pouring in! Especially with the incredibly busy cruise port with cruises headed to Alaska from May to September. You'll find lush greenery, stunning waterfronts, and bustling neighborhoods, with plenty of opportunities for adventure and relaxation. Whether you're a local or a visitor, here's your ultimate Seattle summer bucket list to ensure you make the most of the sunny season in the Emerald City!


Discover the Magic of Seattle: Your Ultimate Summer Bucket List


1. Pike Place Market: A Seattle Staple

No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to Pike Place Market {notice there's no s in the name!}. This historic marketplace is a feast for the senses, offering everything from fresh seafood and local produce to artisanal crafts and eclectic street performers. Start your day with a cup of coffee from the original Starbucks, then explore the vibrant stalls and shops. Don't forget to wander downstairs. Most people don't venture far off the main strip. 

Check out this post for a locals guide to Pike Place Marketlocals guide to Pike Place Market with all of my favorite stops!

Don't miss checking out the iconic Gum Wall. Most people either love it or hate it, but it's an experience you need to have regardless!

Pro tip: if you are visiting, many hotels and even cruise ships offer vases for you to borrow if you pick up fresh flowers from the market!

2. Chihuly Garden and Glass: A Glass Wonderland

Next to the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass is a must-see attraction that showcases the breathtaking glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly. It also has some pretty incredible views of the Space Needle! The exhibition features a stunning array of Chihuly's work, including intricate glass-blown flowers, vibrant installations, and the spectacular Glasshouse, where a massive suspended sculpture reflects the changing light of the Seattle sky. Wander through the garden, where Chihuly's sculptures blend seamlessly with the natural garden landscape.

Pro tip: If you love Chihuly's art, don't miss heading down to Tacoma, where he's from, to the Museum of Glass. You could spend hours in the hot shop watching glass artists create. You also don't want to miss the free Bridge of Glass. It's incredible. Read more about it here.

3. Space Needle: A Bird's Eye View

For the most incredible views of Seattle and beyond, head up the Space Needle. This iconic structure, built for the 1962 World's Fair, offers a 360-degree view from its observation deck. On clear days, you can see Mount Rainier, the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, and Elliott Bay. The recently added revolving glass floor, the Loupe, provides an exhilarating experience as you gaze down at the city below. 

Pro tip: Purchase a Seattle CityPASS to avoid the lines, save some money, and take advantage of a few of the great items on this bucket list all at once!


4. Alki Beach: A Taste of the Coast

Alki Beach in West Seattle is the perfect spot for a summer day by the water. This long stretch of sandy beach offers stunning views of the Seattle skyline and Puget Sound. It's a great place for sunbathing, beach volleyball, or a leisurely stroll along the paved path. Rent a bike or rollerblades to explore the area, and be sure to stop at one of the many cafes and restaurants for a bite to eat. In the evening, gather around a beach fire pit for a classic Pacific Northwest experience. 

Pro tip: The fire pits unlock between 4-5 and must be extinguished by 10 pm. They are first come, first served!

5. Seattle Great Wheel: Waterfront Fun

Situated on Pier 57, the Seattle Great Wheel is one of the city's most popular attractions. This giant Ferris wheel offers stunning views of Elliott Bay and the downtown skyline. The climate-controlled gondolas make it a comfortable ride year-round, but there's something special about experiencing it on a warm summer evening as the city lights up. Pair your visit with a walk along the waterfront, where 
you can enjoy fresh seafood, street performers, and souvenir shopping. 

Pro tip: don't miss this post for more entertainment on Pier 57 and for one of my favorite downtown restaurants!

6. The Washington Park Arboretum: A Botanical Paradise

The Washington Park Arboretum is a hidden gem located along the shores of Lake Washington. This 230-acre park is home to a vast collection of plants and tress from all around the world. In the summer, the arboretum is popping with color and has blooming flowers and lush greenery. Wander through the Japanese Garden, take a canoe or kayak out on the water, or simply enjoy a leisurely walk along the trails. The Arboretum is a haven for plant lovers and a peaceful retreat in the city.

Don't miss this post: Exploring Seattle Like a Local

7. Gas Works Park: Industrial Charm

Gas Works Park, located on the site of a former gasification plant, offers one of the best views of the Seattle skyline. The park's unique industrial instructions have been incorporated into the landscape, creating a fascinating blend of history and recreation. On sunny days, the park is filled with people flying kites, picnicking, and enjoying the view. It's also a prime spot for watching fireworks on the Fourth of July.

8. Ballard Locks: An Engineering Marvel

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, most often called the Ballard Locks by locals, are a fascinating example of early 20th-century engineering. The locks connect Puget Sound with Lake Union and Lake Washington, allowing boats to navigate the different water levels. During the summer, the fish ladder is particularly interesting as salmon make their way upstream to spawn. The nearby Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden adds to the charm of the area, making it a lovely spot for a leisurely afternoon.

9. Discovery Park: Nature's Retreat

Seattle's largest green space, Discovery Park, offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. With over 500 acres of forest, meadows, and beaches, this urban oasis is perfect for hiking, birdwatching, or simply enjoying the natural beauty. The park's West Point Lighthouse provides a picturesque backdrop for photos, and the loop trails offer varying levels of difficulty, making it accessible for all fitness levels. Don't forget to bring a picnic to enjoy at one of the scenic overlooks.

10. Fremont: The Center of the Universe

Fremont, one of Seattle's quirkiest neighborhoods, is known for its offbeat art and eclectic vibe. Start your visit with a selfie at the Fremont Troll, a massive sculpture lurking under the Aurora Bridge. Explore the neighborhood's unique shops, cafes, and breweries. Don't miss the Fremont Sunday Market, where you can find everything from vintage clothing to handmade crafts. For a touch of whimsy, check out the Fremont Rocket and the Lenin statue, two landmarks that epitomize the neighborhood's playful spirit.


11. Kerry Park: Iconic Views

For the quintessential postcard view of Seattle, head to Kerry Park in the Queen Anne neighborhood. This small park offers an unbeatable vantage point for photographing the skyline, with the Space Needle in the foreground and Mount Rainier in the distance. It's a popular spot for both tourists and locals, especially at sunset. Bring a blanket and enjoy a peaceful moment while taking in one of the best views of the city.

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12. Mount Rainier National Park: A Day Trip to Remember

Just a short drive from Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park offers breathtaking natural beauty and a variety of outdoor activities. The iconic Mount Rainier, an active stratovolcano, dominates the landscape with its snow-capped peak. In the summer, the park's meadows burst into bloom with colorful wildflowers, making it a hiker's paradise. Popular trails include the Skyline Trail at Paradise and the Sunrise Rim Trail. For those less inclined to hike, the park's scenic drives offer stunning views and plenty of photo opportunities.

Don't miss this post! This is a locals guide to making the most of one day in Paradise at Mount Rainier. 

Pro tip: as of the summer of 2024, timed entry reservations are now required for entry to Paradise and Sunrise. You can learn more here. 

13. Seattle Art Museum and Olympic Sculpture Park: Cultural Delights

Art enthusiasts will find plenty to love at the Seattle Art Museum {SAM} and its outdoor extension, the Olympic Sculpture Park. SAM's downtown location {near Pike Place Market} has an impressive collection of art from around the world, including notable works by Northwest artists. The Olympic Sculpture Park, located on the waterfront, is free to the public and features large-scale sculptures set against the backdrop of Elliott Bay. It's the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll and a picnic.

14. Woodland Park Zoo: Family Fun

Woodland Park Zoo, located in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood, is a fantastic destination for families. The zoo is home to a wide variety of animals from around the globe, including elephants, gorillas, and penguins. In the summer, the zoo hosts numerous events and activities, such as the popular ZooTunes concert series. The lush, landscaped grounds make for a pleasant day out, with plenty of picnic spots and play areas for kids of all ages.


15. Seattle Mariners Game at T-Mobile Park: America's Pastime

For a quintessential summer experience, catch a Seattle Mariners baseball game at T-Mobile Park. The stadium's retractable roof ensures a great game experience regardless of the weather, and the atmosphere is electric, especially when the Mariners are playing well. Enjoy classic ballpark snacks like hot dogs and garlic fries, and some not so classics like toasted grasshoppers. You can also pick up my favorite local cookie, the Metropolitan Market cookie! It's to die for! Soak in the views of the city skyline from the stands.

Pro tip: plan an evening game so you can watch the sunset from the stands!

Seattle's summer is a season you aren't going to want to miss. You'll find iconic landmarks and cultural attractions as well as natural beauty and quirky neighborhoods to explore. There's something for everyone here!

Coming for a cruise? What Hotels to Stay in Around Seattle

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