If Pier 57 and the Seattle Aquarium haven't quenched your desire for watery attractions, head to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, popularly known as Ballard Locks. This canal complex allows more than a million visitors a year to watch ships pass from Puget Sound to the Union and Washington lakes—along with the salmon making their way upstream via the locks' famous Fish Ladder. Be sure to visit the adjacent Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden, one of the loveliest green areas in the city.
No discussion of Seattle's culture scene is complete without a nod to grunge, the music genre that stormed out of the Emerald City in the early 1990s. The Crocodile, the Belltown venue often referred to as "the cradle" of the so-called Seattle Sound, opened in 1991—just in time for the emergence of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and a host of other flannel-shirted music legends. Though grunge may have faded, the Crocodile remains the city's premier place to see a show.
Bookworms will find plenty to keep them occupied in Seattle—from the Blue Moon Tavern, a hangout for Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, to Rem Koolhaas’s hyper-modern Central Library. Then there's Elliott Bay Book Company, the sprawling Capitol Hill store that may lead you to spend more time browsing than reading. Its shelves carry more than 150,000 titles, but its helpful staff will be more than happy to make a suggestion should you get lost. The shop is also at the center of Seattle's literary community, hosting hundreds of author readings a year. Plus, there's a nice café in the back.
Seattle seems to have made a point of installing strange sculptures—a statue of Lenin, for instance, or the oddly attired figure in A Salish Welcome, erected in honor of the city's salmon. Strangest of all is the 18-foot concrete-and-steel troll emerging from the ground under the Aurora Bridge while crushing a VW Beetle with its hand. The work, commissioned in in 1990 to clean up a sketchy underpass, is a popular spot for photo ops (especially among kids) that's flanked by a small park and a community garden.
Address: N 36th St & Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
It seems strange that one of Seattle's nicest green spaces—dotted with parks and surrounded by glorious countryside—should occupy the grounds of a shuttered industrial complex, its rusted remnants still towering over the picnickers and kite-flyers who come here. But the park's location, on the north shore of Lake Union—along with some inspired landscaping—makes it oddly appealing. In fact, if anything, the old gas works actually heighten the beauty.
From the Museum of Popular Culture to the Northwest African American Museum, Seattle is ideal for travelers who like a bit of learning with their leisure. Once a small exhibit in an old schoolhouse, the National Nordic Museum recently moved into a spectacular building in Ballard that has become as much of a draw as the exhibits, which range from Viking helmets to modern Scandi design. Be sure to try the museum's acclaimed Nordic restaurant, Freya.
The Seattle Art Museum's most impressive exhibit isn't actually in the museum. Rather, it's on a nine-acre plot of waterfront land adjoining the Elliott Bay Trail and Myrtle Edwards Park. The multilevel garden is decked out in monumental structures from artists including Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder and Louise Bourgeois—and if all of that isn't grand enough for you, simply turn around and look across the water at the Olympic Mountains.
Best known for the crowd-pleasing merchants who fling fresh-caught salmon through the air, this 1907 marketplace is the best spot in town to shop for dinner ingredients and souvenirs. While you're here, try an oyster po'boy at Matt's in the Market, or join the line for a Russian hot pocket at Piroshky Piroshky. Those looking for a quirky snapshot should seek out the Market Theater Gum Wall, a kaleidoscopic (and slightly unappetizing) tribute to the undersides of high school desks everywhere.
The Emerald City's history goes deep—all the way underground, in fact. Dig into Seattle's subterranean side with this tour, which take guests through interconnecting tunnels lined with storefronts and sidewalks that were buried when the city was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1989. It makes for a fun family activity, as the guides go for a spooky yet humorous tone that kids will enjoy.
This public art project recruited 64 artists from around the world (everyone from Portland's Gage Hamilton to Mexico City's Paola Delfín to Singapore's Soph O) to contribute murals to a formerly drab transit corridor south of downtown. Art connoisseurs can view the two-mile stretch of works from the Sound Transit Link light rail, via Metro Transit buses 150 and 594 or by walking or biking on the SODO Trail.
Ballard's landmark Bop Street Records closed in spring 2020, meaning there's now only one world-class record shop on the 2200 block of NW Market Street. Sonic Boom Records has been around since 1997 and in that time has hosted live performances by acts such as Death Cab for Cutie, the Shins and My Morning Jacket. That's in addition, of course, to offering a High Fidelity-worthy selection of vinyl.