Put on your comfortable shoes, grab your camera and disembark — you’ve arrived in Seattle and time is of the essence. Home to some of the most beautiful scenery on the West Coast, the Emerald City is a popular choice for cruise stopovers. From picturesque parks to fish-filled markets, skyscrapers to a gum wall, Seattle is the perfect combination of art and smart. We’ve narrowed down a list of must-see things to ensure your short time in Seattle is memorable.
The famous Space Needle landmark stands at 605 feet tall and is an absolute must during a trip to Seattle. Whizz up to the observation deck in the elevators and look out the glass windows over the busy city landscape below. Once at the top, enjoy breathtaking panoramic views across Elliott Bay and rows of skyscrapers, and on clear days, the snow-capped peaks of the mountainous backdrop. After you’ve had your fill of photo-taking and fresh air, grab some food at the rotating restaurant, SkyCity. Located in the UFO-shaped part of the Space Needle, the restaurant is praised for its fresh cuisine and unique dining experience. Tuck into some crab and watch the Seattle skyline drift by.
Seattle Great Wheel
Over on Pier 57, the Seattle Great Wheel perches on the water edge, slowly turning to reach a peak of two hundred feet. The wheel gives fantastic views of the waterfront, dotted with the white specs of sails and boats. A ride is a great group activity as each gondola fits up to eight people, and if you’re feeling brave, request a VIP gondola and complete your journey with a glass floor. Visitors can buy tickets in advance or at the base of the wheel.
The wheel is particularly spectacular at night when it’s illuminated by colorful lights shining across the calm bay. When you’re back on solid ground, wander along Pier 57 where you’ll discover a games arcade and a vintage carousel, perfect for young children or nostalgic adults.
Pike Place Market
A short walking distance from the Seattle Great Wheel, Pike Place Market is the community hub of Seattle. Established in 1907 to bring together farmers and locals, the market is an energetic space filled with fresh produce, artisanal shops, and entertainment. Stroll through the buzzing atmosphere, sample foods, buy cute gifts, and remember to duck when the fresh fish catch takes place. The throwing has been a tradition for more than 30 years and entails fish vendors launching seafood to one another, much to the amazement of spectators.
If you prefer something with a lower velocity, the market hosts an array of events throughout the year, as well as guided tours and educational workshops. Need to restore your caffeine levels after a day exploring? The first-ever Starbucks shop is located across the road from Pike Place Market and has kept its original outside appearance. Swing by for a cappuccino and a slice of history.
True to quirky Seattle form, a side alley wall covered in colorful, chewed gum is a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike. The wall has been collecting used gum since the early 90s and is over 50 feet long. It got its new coating when people going to the nearby theatre would stick coins to the wall using the gummy substance. After a while, the coin tradition was dropped and only gum was stuck on the expanding brick. While we definitely recommend you don’t get too close to the sticky alleyway, visitors are encouraged to contribute to the wall, so remember to get chewing before you arrive, and leave your mark in Seattle.
To reach the gum wall, follow the ramp down Pike Street and turn left, you won’t be able to miss the bright mosaic pattern.
The Fremont Troll is another edgy artwork in Seattle, hiding under the North end of the Aurora bridge. The sculpture emerged on Halloween back in 1990 and was created by Steve Badanes, Donna Walter, Will Martin, and Ross Whitehead, who won a contest with the arts council to improve the messy underpass. With long, shaggy hair, a skinny frame and curled bottom lip, the troll is both scary and endearing. In his extended right hand, the sculpture crushes an old Volkswagen beetle car, while its right eye is made using a car’s hubcap. The significance of the car parts on the troll was intended as a protest against outsider development in Seattle.
Travelers are free to clamber up the 18-foot troll and pose for photos. If you’re visiting around November you may see people in costumes getting ready to celebrate ‘Troll-oween’ — a festival beginning at the underpass and moving on to other unusual art pieces in Seattle.
During your time in Seattle, you might just spot a duck in the lake — not the quacking kind, but the popular amphibious trucks that offer tours of the city on land before driving into the water for a mini cruise. The vehicles were originally built for military use to transport cargo from the water directly onto the shore. Nowadays the ducks are driven by a Coast Guard-certified captain, coasting along the Seattle waterfront, through Pioneer Square, past Pike Place Market to downtown, and finally splashing into Lake Union. The way the ducks are designed means that the journey on both roads and waves is smooth, but don’t expect to sit quietly, the tour is rammed with singing and dancing, as well as surprisingly facts about Seattle. The ducks depart all year round from either Westlake Center or the Seattle Center, but their availability depends on the season, so it’s best to check the schedule before booking.
Make the most of being on solid ground by making your way to Kerry Park. Situated halfway up Queen Anne Hill, the park may be small but it has big sights. With an unobstructed view of the city and the bay set against the grand Mount Rainier, it’s no wonder Kerry Park has featured in multiple movies. Sit on the grass and enjoy a picnic, watch as ferries glide across the water, or marvel as the sun sets over silhouetted roofs. Kerry Park is the perfect spot to take in Seattle in its entirety, and to make a lasting memory of the city.
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