10 Unique Things to Do in Seattle
I've been living in the Pacific Northwest for about four years, and throughout that time, I've found some seriously unique things to do in Seattle. With easy access to water on both the east and west sides of the city, insane mountain landscapes, vast beaches, state & national parks, and never-ending bike paths, the ability to get outside and adventure around Seattle are unlike any other city I have ever experienced.
So, for the sake of this post, I want to highlight ten unique things to do in Seattle. I won't touch on The Space Needle, Pike Place, The Gum Wall, Amazon's Headquarters, The Fremont Troll, etc. I'm sure you've already heard and read all about those. Chances are, if you are reading this post, you're looking for something different to do in Seattle, something unique, right? These are some of my favorite things to do, from summer to winter, so I hope you get some ideas for unique things to do in Seattle from this post!
10 Unique Things to Do in Seattle:
Golden Gardens Beach - Volleyball, Swimming, Bonfires
Bike Paths - Burke Gillman, Lake Union, Sammamish River Trail
Mountains - Hiking, Skiing, Summer & Winter Options
Intramural & Beer League Sports
Coffee & Breakfast Spots
Mariners, Seahawks, Kraken Games
Paddleboarding, Electric Boats, Hot Tub Boat
Three Insane National Parks
Golden Gardens Park
Arguably my favorite thing to do in the summer, Golden Gardens Park is located in Ballard and features a giant beach with access to Puget Sound. You'll experience extraordinary views of the Olympic Mountain Range across the Puget Sound from the beach, with sailboats, fishing boats, and commercial cruise liners floating across the water. Sunbathing, Fishing from the pier, nature walks, and general beach activities are the name of the game at Golden Gardens Park.
However, my favorite thing at Golden Gardens is beach volleyball. The beach features six nets, two of which are first come, first serve, while the other four can be reserved in advance for an $8 fee. To book a court, you'll need to go to the City of Seattle's Website and select your dates and times for the reservation. It's important to note that for any of the courts, even if you have a reservation, you must bring your own net, ball, and out-of-bounds lines. The park supplies the poles for hanging the net, but they don't provide the net. If you need a net, this Park & Sun Sports Net is the one we use, and it works like a charm. It'll take a bit of a learning curve to set it up the first time, but other volleyball players are usually pretty keen to teach you how to set it up. Pro Tip; the courts get extremely busy in the summer, and sometimes leagues take over the reservation system. To navigate this (and my preferred playing method), I recommend grabbing your own Beach Volleyball Set. The park & sun link I included above is just for the net, but for about the same price; you can get a complete set that includes the net, poles, lines, and a ball. I have this Patiassy Outdoor Volleyball Set, which works like a charm on the beach. When you can set up your court, you don't need a reservation and aren't restricted to playing in your allotted time slot. Finding real estate to set up the court is easy as long as you get to Golden Gardens early (especially in the summer). I've spent many Saturdays playing beach volleyball from sun up to sun down at Golden Gardens, so it pays to have your own volleyball set.
At night, Golden Gardens lights up with beach fires. From May 28th to September 4th, you can use the pre-supplied beach fire rings to start a fire and enjoy the heat while watching the sun go down and the stars emerge. And if you're worried about all the fire pits getting taken (which happens), you can always bring your own. This simple outdoor fire pit does the trick for me.
This one goes hand in hand with Golden Gardens because the Burke-Gilman, one of my favorite bike paths, goes directly to the park. Spanning 20 miles one way, the Burke-Gilman is a relatively flat Bike Path that begins at Golden Gardens Park and ends on the northern side of Lake Washington in a town known as Bothell. Starting from Golden Gardens and heading east, you will bike past Fremont, Lake Union, The University of Washington, and Magnuson Park, all while enjoying refreshing views as you bike alongside Lake Washington.
You can also connect to the Sammamish River Trail and the Lake Union Loop from the Burke-Gilman. If you're looking for shorter, city-esque rides, then the Lake Union Loop and Ellioy Bay Paths are excellent choices. Still, if you want to extend a ride further than the 20 miles that the Burke-Gilman offers, you can connect to the Sammamish River Trail once you reach the end of the Burke-Gilman in Bothell. I'll include maps and more details on these specific rides below.
Elliot Bay Trail
The Elliot Bay Trail is found near the Olympic Sculpture Park off of Alaskan Way, featuring 3.4 miles of flat, smooth, paved pathways adjacent to Puget Sound. From this trail, you'll have access to small city beaches, plenty of open grass for picnics and impromptu photo shoots, and views of commercial cruise liners and large corporate headquarters, like Expedia. Once the Elliot Bay Trail ends, you can continue biking north to Ballard and Discovery Park or venture into the city to connect to our following bike path, the Lake Union Loop.
Lake Union Loop
Spanning 6 miles around Lake Union, the Lake Union Loop will give you views of, you guessed it, Lake Union! However, it will also allow you to explore Gas Works Parks, The Fremont Troll (I know, I said I wouldn't talk about this!), South Lake Union Park, the Lake Union Houseboats, the Fremont Bridge, and Fremont Brewery are easy detours into the city if you want to extend the ride for more sightseeing. If you're sightseeing and not looking for much of a workout, then I would suggest biking the Lake Union Loop and stopping at the attractions mentioned above; however, I would also suggest you extend the ride by hopping on the Burke-Gilman in Fremont and heading 4 miles west until you hit Golden Gardens Park. Stop at one of the Ballard Breweries and grab a. 6-pack to enjoy at Golden Gardens because who doesn't love a celebratory beverage on the beach after a nice ride? If you're looking for more of a workout-specific ride, this next tip is for you.
Burke-Gilman to Sammamish River Trail to 520 Trail Loop
Spanning 34 miles (depending on where you start) and gaining 1200 feet of elevation, this loop is one of my favorite summer-long rides. Beginning at the University of Washington, you'll ride on the Burke-Gilman trail until you reach the end of it in Bothell; from here, you'll hop on the Sammamish River Trail (signage is pretty obvious) for about 5 miles. After those five miles, you'll come across a wooden bridge that leads over the Sammamish River. Look out for signage for the 520 Trail directly after this bridge. Instead of looping back around under the bridge, you will veer left onto the sidewalk of the adjacent road. You'll ride along the sidewalk for about a quarter mile until you reach a stoplight. Across the stoplight, you will see the beginning of the 520 Trail. This is where the elevation comes into play, so be ready! For the next ten miles, you will climb and descend hills on the 520 trail as you weave through Microsoft's Redmond campus. Eventually, you will climb the final large hill and stand above the 520 bridge, which leads across Lake Washington back into Seattle. It's a fabulous view, and riding across the bridge is even better. Once you cross the bridge, you'll arrive on the Burke-Gilman at the University of Washington. If you have energy left at this point, I would suggest my usual bike ride finisher; take the Burke-Gilman east until you end up at Golden Gardens, where you can enjoy that celebratory beverage and take a much-needed dip into the Puget Sound.
Renting Bikes in Seattle
If you don't have a bike, don't worry, there are plenty of options for renting good quality bikes around the city. If you're looking for a leisurely sightseeing ride, you could always hop on one of the many share bikes around town. If you have the Uber App, you can use it to find Jump and Lime E-Bikes all over the city. I suggest checking out Evo's Rental options if you want a more legitimate rental. Located right next to the Burke-Gilman in Fremont, Evo has a tremendous rental system. Head onto the bike rental segment of their website and choose from Gravel, Comfort, and Hybrid bikes that you can rent for one day, 24 hours, or even seven full days. Remember that rentals get incredibly busy in the summer, so book beforehand.
I mentioned above that you should stop at a brewery to grab a six-pack on your way to Golden Gardens, well there are so many of them, you might have trouble deciding where to stop! There are breweries all over Seattle, but if you want a condensed area where you can brewery hop, then Ballard is the spot. You'll see what I mean if you search 'Ballard Breweries' on Google. Or, check out the screen grab from Google Maps below. Most of these breweries don't have food, but they frequently pair up with local food trucks, so if you're heading there on an empty stomach, chances are you'll be able to find food quickly. So grab some friends and family, bring cards or other games, and enjoy an afternoon full of craft beverages. Here's a quick guide on a few of my favorite Ballard Breweries:
Best Overall Beer Selection: Reubens
Best Sour Beers: Urban Family
Best Unique Beers: Lucky Envelope
Best Outdoor Space: Bickersons (Cornhole, anyone?)
Best IPA: All of them - Honestly, you can't go wrong.
So this entire blog circulates 'mountains' and outdoor activities in the Pacific Northwest, so I could go on and on for days about all the things to do in the mountains, but I'm not going to do that here. Instead, I'll list a few of my favorite things to do in the Mountains surrounding Seattle in the Summer and Winter.
Hiking, Backpacking, Sightseeing, National Park Visiting, River Floating, Camping, Fishing, the list goes on! Mountains surround Seattle in basically every direction, and there is no shortage of extractions in the mountains in the summer. Here's a quick list of some of the best summer attractions throughout the mountains.
Four of my favorite short hikes near Seattle
My favorite strenuous hike - Mailbox Peak
Best alpine lake hike - also great for a one-night backpacking trip
Explore Olympic National Park - More on this one later
Drive the North Cascades Highway and hike Diablo Lake
Experience American Bavaria in Leavenworth
Head to Paradise at Mt. Rainier National Park
Hike to a giant waterfall in Wallace Falls State Park
The winters in Seattle are known for gloomy, rainy days; that is true, but do you know what rain in the city usually means? It means snow in the mountains! Skiers and snowboarders can rejoice, knowing that while you might be dealing with some cold and wet weather in the city, powder awaits you in the mountains! Here's a quick guide to the best places to ski around Seattle.