I operate a tour business in Seattle called Shutter Tours, and we are in the city most every day sharing Seattle with our customers. We always ask for feedback on what our customers have seen and enjoyed within the city, so I thought I would compile a list of activities you don’t want to miss on your visit to Seattle based on feedback from our customers.
Snoqualmie Falls and City Tour
Of course, I think our Snoqualmie Falls and City Tour is one of the best tours in the city and so do almost 600 people on Trip Advisor who gave us 5-star reviews. The tour starts at the Pike Place Market at 10 AM, just late enough where you can grab some breakfast at Biscuit Bitch and a cup of coffee at the original Starbucks. About 45 minutes later we arrive at Snoqualmie Falls, which drops 268 feet to the bottom, over 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls. This is an impressive sight and summer, or winter trips here are equally spectacular. The one other thing that makes our tour a lot of fun is we give our customers simple photo tips on composition and will also take your photos in case you forgot your selfie stick.
Other stops on tour include the infamous Fremont Troll seen in the movie “Ten Things I Hate About You” and the Hiram Chittenden Locks, where you may see migrating salmon during the summertime as they navigate the fish ladder. During the springtime, the locks are homes to the nesting Great Blue Herons, with over 50 nests each year as they raise their young. We often see Sea Lions and Harbor Seals getting a free meal of salmon during the summertime in addition to many boats going through the locks. An engineering wonder that opened up in 1916 is the busiest lock system in the world based on the number of boats that go through it.
Our final stop is the most impressive stop, Kerry Park on Queen Anne hill. This is the view made famous in the show Frasier, where his condo view overlooked the city. Often we can see Mt. Rainier, the tallest mountain in the Cascade Range, towering 14,410 feet in the distance. Here you’ll want to use panoramic mode on your camera as you capture the beautiful Seattle skyline, the mountain and Puget Sound with the ferry traffic.
The tour is a quick 4 hours, and you also learn a lot about the history of the city in addition to the photo tips and the great stops. Afterwards, we suggest having lunch at Pike Place Chowder or Steelhead Diner, a great restaurant known for a wonderful seasonal menu including Dungeness Crab Tater Tots.
Savor Seattle Food Tours
Shutter Tours started about the same time as Savor Seattle, and we have watched Angela Shen build her company into the top tour in Seattle. Our customers always rave about this great food tour, and she has set the bar extremely high, inspiring other food tours in other cities. As seen in Bon Appétit Magazine, USA Today, and Frommer’s Travel Guide, Savor Seattle Food Tours is ranked #1 for the best things to do in Seattle on Tripadvisor.com
16 Different Tastings
You’ll experience the food and culture all within the Pike Place Market, on this 2-hour walking tour. Make sure you don’t eat ahead of time as you will enjoy more than 16 diverse tastings, from fresh produce, crab cakes and smoked salmon to local coffee, doughnuts, pastries and much more. Feel like a market insider on this behind-the-scenes adventure to savor the flavors of this historic attraction.
They also offer a couple of other tours, the Gourmet Tours includes seven of Seattle’s best restaurants and hot spots, complete with four wine and cocktail pairings. The Chocolate Indulgence Tour is another great choice for your visit to Seattle.
Dale Chihuly is a world-famous glass artist known for his large-scale “Glass Sculptures” and was born and raised in the Seattle area. You may not know this, but Seattle is #2 in the world for glass studios next to Murano, Italy thanks to the local influence of Dale. Dale’s work has been featured all over the world and is included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide. He has been the recipient of many awards, including twelve honorary doctorates and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. On your visit to Seattle, you don’t want to miss this impressive Chihuly Gardens to see the work of this master.
Located right next to the Space Needle, the gardens have both an indoor and outdoor gardens and an excellent restaurant called Collections Cafe’. The cafe’ is a great place to eat and see Dale’s interesting collections of random things. On the ceiling you’ll see a collection of accordions and then each table is topped with glass and underneath are other unusual items such as old toy cars and antique fishing lures. We were told by staff there that Dale has a team of four people who travel the world looking for items for his various collections.
Take a Ferry to Bainbridge Island
One of the great things about living in the Seattle area is that we have a lot of islands to visit for day trips. Bainbridge Island is a short 35-minute crossing from downtown Seattle that gives you an opportunity to see the Seattle Skyline from a different viewpoint. You can either return after you arrive or check out the City of Winslow where you can find some great little cafe’s, or have lunch at the BIMA Bistro at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.
The ferry runs about every 50 minutes, and there is no need to buy tickets in advance, just go to the ferry terminal at Colman Dock on Pier 52 to ride the ferry. Make sure you take the Bainbridge Island route and not the ferry to Bremerton, which is a longer ride.
Pike Place Market
No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to the Pike Place Market. With over 10 million visitors a year to the market, it has become the heart and soul of the city. We are at the market almost every day during our tour season, and we love the vibrancy and energy of the market that makes it such a great place to visit.
Starting in 1907 on the corner of First and Pike Place, the market has been continuously running ever since.
Between the summers of 1906 and 1907, food prices rose sharply in Seattle. Onions that had been ten cents a pound were now a $1 (keep in mind John Nordstrom sold a pair of new shoes for $2 a pair). The boom in prices followed the increase in lumber prices following the San Francisco earthquake and fire in April of 1906. But also because the middlemen were gouging the consumer. Due to this frustration, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance for Pike Place as a site for a farmer’s market and the Pike Place Market was born.
The first day only seven farmers showed up to sell their produce. Rumors from threatening boycotts by middlemen to death threats made its way around the city. This didn’t stop over 10,000 people from showing up that day. The first day was such a success that the next Saturday, over 70 farmers made their way to the market with just as many waiting customers.
Pike Place Fish
Pike Place Fish is always a hit for everyone to watch as the world-famous fishmongers throw the fish. They throw the fish to the guys behind the counter so they can be weighed and wrapped. If you’d like a little inside secret, ask the fishmongers if you can catch the fish and they might let you do that. For a good photo opportunity, shoot from the same vantage point as the above photo, but turn on your flash to stop the fish in mid-air. You’ll most certainly get a photo of the people in the crowd as well, as this location in the center of the universe for the market.
Three Girls Bakery
In 1912, Three Girls Bakery opened in the Corner Market Building on the corner of First and Pike (where Pike Place Flowers is now located). Advertising two loaves of bread for 15 cents: “A good deal for your money.” They celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2012 and are the oldest business in the market. Check out their store close to Post Alley.
Pure Foods Fish for Smoked Salmon
In 1918 the City of Seattle created City Fish to counter the high prices of fish when there was a sudden rise in the cost of salmon to 25 cents a lb. This additional competition brought the salmon prices back to ten cents a lb. and the city gave up its role of fishmonger and price fixer after the war. At Pure Foods Fish, you can by the best smoke salmon you have ever tried.. seriously. Sean is the guy you want to talk to and ask him for a free sample, and he will let you try before you buy. They can also pack for you to ship home or you can order online on their website.
The Busker, also known as performers, are great to photograph. Many of them work in the market full time, and if you do take a photo of these performers, please be sure to tip.
The Original Starbucks is always crowded during the day. If you want a coffee, get there early or wait until after 6 PM. Being one of the busiest Starbucks in the world, you know it’s going to be crowded with over 100 people in line at times. Though it is not the busiest in the world, Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo is the busiest in the world; it is the one place that every coffee aficionado wants to see when coming to Seattle.
Did you know that one of the busiest Starbucks in the US is in a secret location only accessible by those that have special access? If you put the address into your phone and try to find it, it doesn’t come up on any map. Learn more about this secret Starbucks location.
Once named the second germiest place in the world next to the Blarney Stone, you don’t want to miss the infamous Gumwall. This wall of gum has been featured in a two-page spread in National Geographic Magazine. A year ago it was cleaned after people filled it up with gum for 20 years, removing over 2,300 lbs. of gum after 130 hours of pressure washing. But don’t think there isn’t anything to see there because this has only inspired people to even add more gum to the wall. Located in Post Alley next to Ghost Alley Espresso where you can buy one of the best cups of coffee in the market.
Take a Harbor Cruise
Seattle sits on the Puget Sound, a large body of water that connects to the Pacific Ocean, making it one of the most picturesque cities in the world with the snowcapped Olympic Mountain Range off in the distance. View the spectacular panoramic background of the majestic Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges, the unique city skyline and while enjoying a first-hand look at one of the world’s largest shipping terminals. The cruise is only an hour, so it doesn’t take up a big part of the day. You can then head over to Ivars Fish Bar near Pier 52 and enjoy their famous fish and chips. Just make sure you order extra tartar sauce because that’s what us Seattleites do. The more tartar, the better.
Mt. Rainier Day Trip
Mt. Rainier is one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Towering over 14,000 above the Puget Sound area, this mountain can be seen from hundreds of miles around. A day trip will take about 10 hours and is best done June-September, but for you nature lovers, you won’t be disappointed. Stops include the Paradise Lodge, which has a short hike to the beautiful Myrtle Falls, Longmire Lodge and Christine Falls. During late summer, you may see the alpine flowers in bloom within an easy walk of the Paradise Lodge.
Dinner and Theatre at Teatro ZinZanni
Looking to have dinner and be entertained at the same time? Well, then Teatro ZinZanni is a perfect fit. Enjoy a unique evening of cabaret, comedy and a full-course dinner in a turn-of-the-century tent. It’s a 3-hour whirlwind of cirque, comedy and cabaret all served up with a delicious 5-course meal. Opt for the matinee and enjoy a 2-hour show with a delicious 4-course meal. Described as “the Kit Kat club on acid,” and “the place where the Moulin Rouge meets Cirque du Soleil,” Teatro ZinZanni is an experience not to be missed while visiting Seattle.
Enjoy the Pacific Science Center
Science geeks unite because this is the place you’ll not want to miss. Located near the Space Needle in the Seattle Center, this is a great place to bring children and adults who enjoy science. Built for the 1962 worlds fair, the arches have been a familiar part of the Seattle skyline towering above the reflecting pools. The exhibits change on a regular basis, and there is always something exciting to see no matter what time of year you visit Seattle.
Seattle to Victoria Ferry
Victoria, BC Canada is only a short 2-3 hour ride from downtown Seattle on a high-speed ferry. Traveling aboard the Victoria Clipper is a fast way to get to your destination. While onboard, entertain yourself, your family and friends with a board game, some shopping or conversation. With tables situated throughout the ship, you’ll be able to catch up on some work or play a round of cards. The vessels also have outside decks where you can get some fresh air and admire the passing scenery. It is not unusual to see Orca Whales on your way to Victoria.
Once you arrive in Victoria, you can take a trip to the beautiful Butchart Gardens or just enjoy your time by taking a Victoria Grand City Private Tour and Craigdarroch Castle, a Victorian-era Scottish Baronial mansion established in 1890 as a residence for wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and his family.
There are much more things to see and do in Seattle, and we would love to see your ideas and favorite things you have done while visiting Seattle.