Best Things To Do In Seattle On Vacation

Take a Seattle Day Trip Before or After your Cruise

By  Amanda Mesa | Published on February 20, 2023

Seattle, Washington, is a common jumping-off point for cruises to Alaska and British Columbia. It's also a great place to spend a few days before your Seattle to Vancouver cruise getaway, as there are so many things to do in Seattle within an easy walk, a tram ride or a drive from the city center. Whether you're traveling solo, with your significant other, or with kids in tow, this vibrant gem of the Pacific Northwest brims with reasons to linger.

Outside of being an ideal port for taking an Alaskan cruise, Seattle is perhaps best known for its unbeatable access to outdoor activities. Hugged by the wildlife-rich waters of Puget Sound and just a car ride away from hiking trails, national forests, towering mountains and white-water rafting. However, its incredible restaurant and bar scene has earned it a reputation as a must-visit spot for foodies and cocktail aficionados, and its abundance of unique museums (don't miss the Seattle Art Museum), parks and landmarks make it impossible to be bored during any Seattle vacation. I have now visited during every season and still feel as though I've hardly scratched the surface of what this amazing city has to offer.

If you're wondering how to fill a few days in Seattle before taking a cruise from Seattle to Vancouver and Alaska, you've come to the right place. I've rounded up some of my favorite experiences within the city, as well as a few worthwhile day trips if you happen to have a car and are looking for things to do before or after your cruise.

Put Together Seattle Day Trip Ideas

Seattle Tourist Attractions, Start With A Visit To Space

When in Seattle, start at the Space Needle. Hands down the most iconic landmark that can be seen while creating an epic Seattle day trip, the Space Needle. It stand as an engineering marvel that soars 605 feet tall and yields stunning panoramic views of the skyline, the Sound, and — on clear days — Mount Rainier in the distance. Built for the World's Fair of 1962, it's one of the most photographed structures in the world and a national treasure. The Space Needle now features two new levels, including one with an all-glass floor and another with floor-to-ceiling glass. You can step onto The Loupe, the first and only rotating glass floor in the world, or test your mettle on glass benches that make you feel as though you're leaning out over the void. This experience is totally family-friendly, but I don't recommend it if you're afraid of heights.

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See the Emerald City when you cruise from Seattle.

Free Things To Do Around The Seattle Area

From there, wander the beautiful city and enjoy one of the best free things to do in Seattle, visiting the legendary Pike Place Market — a bustling hub of shops and stalls, tucked-away restaurants and cozy bars. The original Starbucks is located here in this busy marketplace, but if you don't feel like waiting in the ever-present line for a cup of Pike Place Roast, you'll find plenty of other locally owned shops around the market to choose from (Storyville Coffee and Ghost Alley Espresso are personal favorites).

Visit Seattle As A Local

During your visit, you can browse souvenirs, handicrafts and other curiosities made by local brands and artisans, or enjoy delicious snacks from popular local vendors. I loved the Eastern European pastries served at Piroshky Piroshky, which has been a Pike Place hallmark for two decades. If it's warm out, head to Shy Giant for incredible waffle cones and frozen yogurt. And if you're craving a cocktail, you'll find great options at Radiator Whiskey. The best part? Those are just some of the many great spots at this always-buzzing landmark.

Chihuly Garden and Glass is a long-term exhibition of Dale Chihuly's stunning art pieces, all made from glass. While there's not a ton for small children to do here, adults will certainly find plenty to love about the exhibit. Encompassing eight breathtaking galleries, the beautiful Glasshouse and a lush garden, it's a wonderfully romantic setting for couples to spend a few hours before a cruise out of Seattle. The Glasshouse is particularly striking — it covers nearly 5,000 square feet and spotlights a 100-foot-long suspended sculpture crafted from red, orange, yellow and amber glass that transforms as the light changes throughout the day. The exhibit's famous garden also features Chihuly's work, set against a lush backdrop of foliage that changes every season.
The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is one of the best things to do in Seattle during the day and the sunset, whether you're visiting with kids, your significant other or simply exploring the city solo. I spent several hours here during my last Seattle vacation and still don't think I saw everything on offer. Tickets typically cover access to 12 fascinating and interactive exhibits. My favorite one was "Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic," though there's something for horror-film buffs, guitar enthusiasts, rock fans and science-fiction connoisseurs, too. Traveling exhibits have run the gamut from a showcase on Minecraft to a deep dive into the cultural significance of tattoos. You can easily spend an entire day wandering from one exhibit to the next, so allow enough time to fully explore the museum. Also, the gift shop is massive and well-stocked with all kinds of cool souvenirs to remember your visit to Seattle by.
If you have a few days to spare — and a car to get around in — you'll find all kinds of adventures waiting outside Seattle.


Seattle brims with fantastic options to grab a bite, pint or cocktail. It's a true foodie city, and you can't go wrong with any pick. One of my favorite places to eat in Seattle, tucked away on East Pike Street about a mile from Pike Place Market, is Saint John's Bar & Eatery, a cozy hole-in-the-wall eatery with a lot of personality. Dinosaur posters line the walls, and drinks and dishes sometimes come with little plastic toy dinos. Their weekend brunch is out of this world, and dinner runs the gamut from goat cheese-stuffed dates and melt-in-your-mouth sandwiches to truffle-mushroom pasta and lip-smackingly good chicken wings. If you're looking for things to do in Seattle at night, you'll find plenty of delicious cocktails on their drink menu.

Located right inside Pike Place Market, Athenian Seafood Restaurant and Bar offers fresh-caught favorites served with a side of beautiful waterfront views. Drop by during breakfast for a hearty breakfast bagel sandwich, a Dungeness crab Benedict or a fluffy omelet packed with Alaskan cod, prawns and salmon. Or come in during lunch or dinner for crispy-fried calamari, fresh Penn oysters on the half shell, creamy clam chowder or Alaskan king crab legs.

This gem is located about a 15-minute drive north of the Space Needle, but for meat lovers, it's well worth the drive out of the city center. Its mission is to serve premium, lean meats from small-scale ranches and farms that raise animals responsibly. If they're on the menu during your visit, I recommend starting with the lamb and marjoram sausage and the venison pâté, then working your way to the New Zealand elk rack, the fennel-braised wild boar shoulder or the fragrantly spiced duck confit. If you prefer a traditional steak, you'll find a range of chops to choose from, starting at 8 ounces and going all the way to a 21-day dry-aged tomahawk. Oh, and the cocktails here are just as wow-worthy.

 Explore Day Trips From Seattle

Seattle To Alaska Cruises That End In Vancouver

On an 8 day 7 night Alaska vacation getaway you can find itineraries starting from the Seattle cruise port and ending in Vancouver. This gives you and your family or travel party plenty of time to discover the best things to do before your cruise in Seattle as well as after your cruise in Vancouver while visiting the cities of Alaska along your travels.

The Best Park In Seattle For Walking Hikes

If you have a few more days to spare — as well as a car to get around in — then you'll find even more adventures waiting just outside the city. Seattle day trips are well worth the drive to discover what lies beyond the city. Starting with a scenic day trip out to Mount Rainier National Park for incredible wildlife viewing and epic hikes, it's best to visit the park from June through October.

Seattle Vacations For Couples Seeking Romance

If you're visiting on a couple's vacation, one of the best things to do in Seattle is to set out on a day trip to Woodinville, Washington, home to a large number of wineries. If you're driving, you should absolutely have a designated driver — but considering that Woodinville is just a 24-minute car ride away from Seattle, you'll have more fun if you just call a cab or ride-share from the city. Here's a pro tip: Purchase a tasting pass online, and you'll get to taste your way around the different wineries at a huge discount.

Stunning Waterfalls In Seattle

A short drive from Seattle will take you to Snoqualmie Falls in Washington, a stunning waterfall that towers 268 feet. Though it's always been a well-known sight, the David Lynch television series Twin Peaks made it an icon of the Pacific Northwest — and you can visit several of the show's filming locations nearby. Just a short walk from the parking lot of the falls, you'll find an observation deck that offers breathtaking views of the top of the falls. If you have some time to spare and a good pair of hiking boots, try the Snoqualmie Falls hike for the ultimate Pacific Northwest outdoor experience.

Written By

Amanda has written for Royal Caribbean since 2017. She also covers travel, lifestyle, food and beverage for Indulge Magazine, the Miami Herald and PureWow. She's traveled extensively around the world, enjoys building unforgettable itineraries and loves introducing readers to lesser-known destinations.

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