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.
Crystal Mountain. Two hours south of the city. Best for views of Mount Rainier, but the pictures will only be there if the sun is out.
Summit at Snoqualmie. One hour directly east of Seattle. The most accessible access from Seattle and a lot of easy, beginner terrain
Mount Baker. Three hours north of Seattle. Fantastic for powder and off-piste skiing. Likely less busy than any of the other resorts as well.
If you aren't much of a skier or snowboarder, don't let that stop you from getting out and enjoying the snow-covered mountains! If you stay in the city, you will miss some fantastic views and landscapes. Instead of skiing, you can rent or buy snowshoes and stroll on many different trails, all within an hour's drive from Seattle. This post from the outdoor project is a good resource for which routes are ideal for snowshoeing.
Intramural & Beer League Sports
This point is mainly suited for anyone living in (or moving to) Seattle looking to add some extra activities to their weekly schedule. About two years ago, I started getting into some Intramural sports around Seattle and got pretty hooked from Kickball to Indoor Soccer to Beach Volleyball, Flag Football, and more. There are a lot of Intramural and Beer League sports organizations around the city. The most prominent organization that coordinates these sports is known as Underdog Sports. You can check out their website to see all the sports and leagues offered and when each league takes place. If you have a group of friends, colleagues, etc., that are looking to play, then you can sign up for a team, but if you are flying solo, don't let that stop you from playing! You can sign up as an individual free agent and get put onto a team. Keep in mind if you are new to Seattle, this is a great way to meet some new people while having fun at the same time. I've been playing in the kickball league for the past two years, and it's been a great way to get to know other people, both during the game and over the post-game beers.
Outside of Underdog Sports, there's a great Indoor Soccer League known as Arena Sports and an outdoor soccer league known as Seattle Rats; Seattle's Parks and Rec department organizes Pickleball, Basketball, and Softball leagues, and Disc NW organizes Ultimate Frisbee Leagues. I haven't lived in many cities, so I'll admit I don't have much to compare Seattle against, but it's pretty great to have the option of playing in so many different adult leagues. It's a great way to meet new people, have fun during the week, and stay in shape.
Coffee & Breakfast
Some people call Seattle the Coffee Capital of the World, and it doesn't take long to see why. Whether you're strolling downtown or in a smaller Neighborhood like Fremont, Queen Anne, or Ballard, you'll likely see coffee shops on nearly every corner. With the wet and gloomy winter weather, it's no surprise that a hot comforting beverage is so popular throughout the city. Every local coffee shop seems to have its unique twist on a drink, pastry, or breakfast sandwich, and it's always fun to experience the differences. Moore Coffee, located downtown, is known for its unique Lattee Art. In Capital Hill, you can view the Starbucks Reserve, where they roast coffee beans and make unique drinks. FYI fancy means overpriced in this case, but it is an excellent experience, nonetheless. If you're looking for high-quality espresso, walk up to the window at Monorail Espresso, located downtown. If you're hungry, you can find a delicious bagel breakfast sandwich at Bagelbop in Pike Place Market, sit down for brunch at Portage Bay, or, my personal favorite, grab a coffee and biscuit breakfast sandwich from the Seattle Biscuit Company or Ballard Coffee Co. The next time you get a rainy, dreary Seattle day (trust me, it'll happen), take advantage of the gloom by coffee shop hopping and finding your favorite local joints!
Mariners, Seahawks, Kraken Games
Okay, back to the Sports! But this one involves watching, not playing. Seattle has many professional and semi-professional sports teams, from Soccer to Baseball, Hockey to Football, Basketball, Rugby, Ultimate Frisbee, and more! In the summertime, Seattle Mariner's games happen very frequently, and they are usually quite affordable. We're talking anywhere from $10 - $25 for the nosebleeds. I suggest grabbing those tickets and hanging out in the T-Mobile pen, where you can find some decently-priced beers and food. If you get seats down the first baseline, especially if they are nosebleeds, you'll get a great view of Seattle's Skyline, as seen in the photo below.
If Baseball isn't your thing, you can spectate many other sports, as listed above. Right next door, you'll find Lumen Field, home to the Seahawks and the Sounders. The Seahawks tickets are pricey, but it is a fantastic experience if you can afford it, while the Sounders tickets aren't usually too bad, and Seattle goes nuts for soccer.
As of last 2022, Seattle goes pretty nuts for hockey, too, since they finally have a team to cheer for! You'll find Climate Pledge Arena, home of the Seattle Kraken, located right near the Space Needle. The arena is a sight to see, as it is the "most progressive, responsible, and sustainable arena in the world," as touted by their website. Like the Seahawks, the Kraken tickets can be a little pricey, so be ready for the sticker shock. Check out the Gametime app and keep an eye on tickets as game time looms closer, and you may get lucky with some good deals on any of these events. If you need a cheaper option for watching the Kraken (or any other game), check out the Angry Beaver in Greenwood, Fuel Sports in Crown Hill, Station 18 in Ballard, or Buckley's in Belltown. These are great sports bars for any of the sports mentioned above.
Access to Water - Paddleboarding, Electric Boats, Hot Tub Boats
With water on both the east and west sides of Seattle, along with Lake Union right smack in the middle, the opportunities to get out on the water are endless, and if you're reading this in the winter before you go scrolling, read these three words: Hot Tub Boats. Yeah, you read that right. Located on the western side of Lake Union, you can find the unique experience of floating on Lake Union in a Hot Tub. Operating year-round, the Hot Tub Boats can fit up to six people and will cost $400 for two hours.
Now, that option is pretty unique, so here are some other regular boating options:
Get My Boat is an online service similar to Air BnB, but for boats! You can find great options to rent a speed boat, pontoon, yacht, or anything else.
The Electric Boat Company is perfect for a leisurely ride. Located on the western side of Lake Union, these boats fit up to twelve people and include a large table, sunshade, and even heaters if you're boating in the winter. These boats put along at a max speed of 6 mph, so if you're looking for a mellow booze cruise, afternoon picnic on the water, or amazing views of Seattle, look no further. Prices depend on the size of the boat, with the cheapest being $99 per hour and $189 per hour for the largest vessel.
Argosy Cruises are a great way to spend an afternoon learning about Seattle's history while enjoying some time on the water. With an hour-long Harbor Cruise and a two-hour-long Locks Cruise, you'll board a large boat filled with other sightseers and hear all about Seattle and the surrounding landscapes over the loudspeaker from a tour guide. I did the Locks Cruise when I first moved to Seattle, and although I was skeptical at first, I enjoyed it while learning a lot of unique facts. I would recommend it for a low-key, slower afternoon.
Paddleboard & Kayak Rentals can be found near Lake Union and Golden Gardens. Northwest Outdoor Center, Agua Verde Paddle Club, and Moss Bay are good options for Lake Union rentals, while Ballard Kayak and Surf Ballard are good options for renting near Golden Gardens. If you're looking for Lake Washington Rentals, REI offers paddleboard rentals at two boathouses on Lake Washington in Bellevue.
Disc golf is one of my favorite things around Seattle, especially in the Spring and Summer. Whether you're a novice or an experienced Disc Golfer, Seattle offers several courses that fit any ability level. If you've never played disc golf and you're wondering what it is, well, it's one of the fastest-growing sports in the country! Disc Golf is similar to regular ball golf, except that you're using (you guessed it) discs instead of balls. Yes, that is discs, not Frisbees! You have a Driver, Irons, and a Putter in ball golf; in Disc Golf, you acquire different discs that act as a Driver, Irons, and Putter. There are some great beginner sets out there that can help you get started. You only need three discs when starting and learning how to play. In Disc Golf, the only investment you'll need is in your gear. Most courses are free to play, so it's not surprising that the sport is snowballing. So grab a set of discs, and get out there for a nice relaxing round of discs. Here's a brief overview of some of the best courses in Seattle.
From North to South, the Best Four Disc Golf Courses in Seattle:
Located about 20 minutes north of Seattle, Terrace Creek offers a mix of wide-open drives and heavily wooded technical shots. The course starts with four holes on one side of the street. After the 4th hole, you'll cross the road to find the fifth tee waiting for a long drive into a wide-open fairway. After the fifth hole, you'll walk around a soccer field before heading into the woods, where the holes will get tight and technical. The 18th hole on this course features a sizeable downhill drive over a ravine, so be cautious on this one, as it is not hard to lose a disc. Overall, this course is super fun and challenging, but it doesn't have much signage, and I wouldn't recommend it for beginners.
The closest course to Seattle, just 10 minutes north of the heart of downtown, Mineral Springs Disc Golf course is an awe-inspiring use of space for course design. The course features 18 holes, but it only takes up the acreage of one city block. The holes are very short, and this course feels more like a pitch and putt than an entire disc golf course. You'll play the same nine holes twice but from different tee-pad locations for the 18-hole experience. This is an excellent spot for beginners or anyone looking for a quick Disc Golf fix near Seattle.
Lakewood King County Disc Golf Course
Located just over 15 minutes south of Seattle, Lakewood is one of the most popular courses around Seattle, and for a good reason. The course features a full 20 holes and even offers a few par 4's for those looking to test how far they can throw. The course is well maintained and includes a disc golf shop on the premises if you need extra discs for your round. If you're a beginner, you may have some issues with the longer holes, but you could easily skip them and hop around to anything suitable for your skill level. Overall, this is one of my favorite courses, and I would highly recommend checking it out if you're looking to play some Disc Golf near Seattle.
SeaTac Disc Golf Course
As the name says, this course is close to SeaTac Airport. About 20 minutes south of Seattle, the SeaTac Disc Golf Course is the most challenging of the four courses near Seattle. The course features 27 holes and is primarily par 3's, but it has five or so par 4's, depending on the layout. A few par 3's are also 350+ foot holes, so for average players like myself, that can get difficult. Most of the holes are open, but there are a lot of weeds and thick brush along the sides of the course that can swallow discs. Overall, if I'm looking for a full, challenging day of disc, I enjoy SeaTac, but I wouldn't recommend this course to beginners or anyone looking for a quick round.
Three Insane National Parks
With three of the country's best National Parks at your doorstep, there are endless opportunities for hiking, backpacking, and adventuring in the summer, paired with world-class skiing in the winter. I've already written a handful of times about Olympic National Park, and it is high on my list to write more about Rainier and North Cascades National Parks. All three of these parks are 3 hours or less from Seattle. Here's a brief guide on each of these parks.
Mt. Rainier National Park
Sitting about 2 hours south of Seattle, you can't miss Rainier when the sun is out, and the skies are clear. As the highest mountain in the Northwestern Cascade Range, spanning an elevation of 14,410 feet, it looms over the city in an awe-inspiring fashion. Rainier is the most accessible national park in Seattle, and because of this, it can get hectic. Try to visit Rainier during the week if at all possible. I'd suggest going to the Paradise mountain area, where you will need a National Parks Pass, and going on the Skyline Trail hike. It's a mellow 5.5-mile hike with amazing up-close views of Rainier, beautiful blooming flowers, and surrounding mountains.
Olympic National Park
Perhaps my favorite National Park in the Seattle area, Olympic National Park, can be reached within three hours by car, or you can hop on a ferry across the Puget Sound. I usually opt for driving the entire length for simper logistics, but the ferry ride is an excellent experience if you have never done it. Olympic is the only National Park in the country where you can stand on a mountain-top, walk along ocean beaches, and stroll through the rainforest in one day. I suggest driving up the famed Hurricane Ridge for a panoramic view of the Olympic Mountain Range and Vancouver Island to the North. Then, head towards the Pacific Ocean, where you will pass Crescent Lake, a giant alpine lake, and end up at Rialto Beach. From here, take a stroll and marvel at the Pacific's unique landscape and power. Then wrap up the day by heading south to the Hoh Rain Forest or North to Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point of the continental US. Endless adventures are awaiting in Olympic National Park. I've written a two-day itinerary in Olympic National Park here for more details.
North Cascades National Park
Located a little over two hours north of Seattle, Noth Cascades National Park is the least visited park out of the big three, but don't let that deter you. There is no entrance fee to enter this park, so you are free (literally) to adventure! However, I would only visit this park from June - September, as snow can cover the trails throughout the fall, winter, and spring and cause road closures. If you're looking for amazing hikes, check out the Maple Pass Loop, Thunder Knob, or Sahale Arm. If you want to dip in turquoise, alpine water, check out Diablo Lake. Or, if you're looking for a nice scenic drive, hop on the North Cascades Highway, where you're wind throughout the Cascade Mountains alongside alpine lakes and blooming meadows.
Well, there you have it. Ten unique things to do in Seattle! I hope you found this post informative and helpful. These are some of my favorite things to do in and out of the city, and I hope you'll enjoy them too. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below, and I'd be happy to help where I can. Happy adventuring!
And if you're looking for more ideas on what to do in Seattle or what makes the city so great, check out this post from Redfin, where I got to add my two cents about the great outdoor activities that Seattle offers.
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