The Top Seattle Museums, Attractions, & Tours

05/18/2022 | by Andy | Local Area Guide

A trip to Seattle can offer you so much. From simply strolling through our quaint neighborhoods, hitting the tourist hot spots downtown, or checking out one of our many museums, attractions, and tours, you certainly won’t lack for things to do here.

A few are favorites because they are interactive, or offer something not found elsewhere. These are the Seattle museums, attractions, and tours we’ve shared about here. Once you’re settled into your vacation rental home, it’s time to get out into the city and explore!

We have also listed price ranges – the lower end of the ranges is for discounted tickets, such as youth, senior, military, and AAA.

Let’s dive right in to a few places to visit that you shouldn’t miss on your next trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Best Museums in Seattle

The Museum of Flight

  • 9404 E Marginal Way S, Seattle, WA 98108, USA
  • 206-764-5700
  • Website:
  • Admission: $16-$25. Discounted tickets available for youth, and seniors. Children 4 and under are free. Check membership rates, as it can sometimes pay to buy a membership even if you are only visiting once.
  • Tickets can be purchased in advance online. An AAA discount is available with advance purchase.
  • Open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

If the Boeing tour farther down on our list isn’t enough to satisfy your curiosity, head to the Museum of Flight. It is located just south of Boeing Field. Boeing Field, officially called King County Airport, is a facility where you can spot planes from around the world that are there for repairs, maintenance or test flights.

The Museum of Flight features exhibits typical of an aviation museum, including commercial, military and historic planes. The space exploration exhibit includes a “Trainer Crew Compartment” from the Space Shuttle program (additional admission).

The museum collection is varied enough to appeal to adults and children. At the “Air Park” outside, you can tour notable planes, including a retired Concorde SuperSonic Transport, an Air Force One (from before a 747 was used for POTUS transport), and one of the first 787s to roll off the assembly line. As at the Boeing Factory tour, you can also watch the air and ground traffic at the adjacent Boeing Field while listening to the tower communications.

There are several exhibits that are enjoyable for toddlers and young children.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

  • 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
  • 206-753-4940
  • Website:
  • Admission: $19-$32 ($14-$22 after 6 p.m.). Discounts available for youth and seniors; children 4 and under are free.
  • Note: There are also ticket packages that include admission to the Space Needle Observation Deck for an additional $27 for adults and $17 for children.
  • Open 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. (and until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). Closing times vary by season.

Dale Chihuly, among the world’s most acclaimed glassblowers, hails from nearby Tacoma. In Seattle Center, at the base of the Space Needle, is a must-see museum exhibiting his prolific works. Stand in awe in the glasshouse at the size and scale of his art.

Watch videos documenting the artistic process. Imagine the defenses that must be in place to protect the works from an earthquake. After strolling through the museum, make your way to the outside gardens where you will find many more works incorporated into the landscaping.

Clever garden-goers will spot the reflection of the Space Needle in some of the round pieces on the ground. Talk about a great place for a photo opp!

Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)

  • 860 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
  • 206-324-1126
  • Website:
  • Admission: $16.95 – $21.95 (Free for children 14 and under; Free first Thursday of the month)
  • Open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Extended hours the first Thursday of every month. Please check the website for holiday hours.

The name of the museum is a bit of a misnomer. Think of this as more of a museum of the history of Seattle. It covers the last few centuries of the city, including its exponential growth in the past few decades.

The museum is set on the edge of South Lake Union, with notable views thereof. From the museum or the park outside, watch the countless seaplanes come and go, bringing commuters and vacationers to Seattle’s numerous neighboring islands.

Museum of Pop Culture

  • 325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
  • 206-770-2700
  • Website:
  • Admission: Admission: $17 – $28 (Children 4 and under are free; $2 discount on adult tickets for online purchase) *
  • Open daily 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Hours are extended in summer, from late May through Labor Day. Please check the website for holiday hours.

Seattle’s music scene, including its role as the birthplace of grunge is well documented here. Learn more about Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, and other musicians who rose to fame here. Until recently, this museum was called the Experience Music Project (EMP). It is a well-regarded museum exploring pop culture, especially music.

Seattle Art Museum

  • 1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
  • 206-654-3100
  • Website:
  • Admission: $19.99 – $29.99 (Children 14 and under are free. Free to all on the first Thursday of each month. Free for Seniors on the first Friday of each month.)
  • Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Closed on Tuesday.

SAM, located in downtown Seattle, is a fine art museum. You won’t likely confuse it for the Louvre or New York’s Metropolitan, but it is a good museum in which to spend a few hours.

While they have a few permanent exhibits, they often have special exhibits that may be more interesting than the permanent collection. Please note these special exhibits often sell out in advance.

There is a “Hammering Man” statue outside the Seattle Art Museum that is similar to versions located in Frankfurt and Seoul.

Pacific Science Center

  • 200 2nd Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
  • 206-443-2001
  • Website:
  • Admission: $13.95 – $25.95 (Children 2 and under are free)
  • Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

Located near the Space Needle, this science museum has a planetarium and IMAX theater. There are often interesting special exhibits – be sure to check the schedule in advance as pre-purchasing tickets is often required.

There are several interactive exhibits in the museum that are good for toddlers and young children.

Purchase tickets online in advance to save time at the museum.

Seattle Children’s Museum

  • 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
  • 206-441-1768
  • Website:
  • Admission: $12 (free admission for children under 1 year)
  • Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on weekends. Closed on Mondays.
  • Check the website for holiday closings. Please note the museum is closed during Bumbershoot (Labor Day weekend) unless you have tickets to the festival.

The museum is located near the Space Needle in the basement of the “Armory” building. At first glance, the museum seems a bit drab, but there are a lot of hands-on things to do and our daughter loves it. There is a nice food court above that features Seattle eateries and even kid-sized tables.

KidsQuest Children’s Museum

  • 1116 108th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004, USA
  • 425-637-8100
  • Website:
  • Admission: $12.50 (Children under 1 year old are free)
  • Hours vary. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekdays and Saturday; 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Closed Mondays. Check the website for holiday hours.

Newly opened in 2017, the museum is located in downtown Bellevue. Highlights include the water room and the two-story climbing tower. It’s about a 20 minute drive from our homes and gets very crowded on the weekends.

Be mindful that the GPS might direct you over the 520 floating bridge, which has a cashless toll and most rental car companies charge a significant premium. To avoid that, take I-90, which will take just a bit longer, but it is free.

America’s Car Museum

  • 2702 E D St, Tacoma, WA 98421, USA
  • 253-779-8490
  • Website:
  • Admission: $10 – $18 (Children 5 and under are free).
  • AAA and State Farm discounts available with advance purchase.
  • Open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Check the website for holiday hours.

At 165,00 square feet, the museum is the largest car museum in North America. The collection consists of automotive artifacts and 250 automobiles spanning 100 years, as well as another 100 vehicles on loan from private collections. The collection includes both domestic and foreign makes.

We suggest allowing several hours for your visit.

Museum of Glass

  • 1801 Dock St, Tacoma, WA 98402, USA
  • 253-284-4750
  • Website:
  • Admission: $5 – $17 (children 5 and under are free; AAA discount)
  • 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. Check for holiday hours.

If you enjoyed the Chihuly experience, consider a ride south to Tacoma to see the Museum of Glass. This museum centers around a glassblowing studio, where artists work away to the delight of visitors in stadium seating. A narrator explains the process.

There is a longtime “temporary” exhibit at the museum featuring glass objects designed by children and then crafted by professionals according to the kids’ specifications. This is an excellent gallery.

Nearby, there is a bridge that crosses a Tacoma thoroughfare which displays scores of Chihuly works.

National Nordic Museum

  • 2655 NW Market Street, Seattle, WA 98107
  • 206-789-5707
  • Website:
  • Admission: $20 – $10 (children 4 and under can enter for free)
  • 10 a.m. – 5 p.m daily, closed on Mondays.

Boasting itself as “your gateway to Nordic history and contemporary culture,” this museum is unlike any you’ve probably visited before. Located in the Ballard neighborhood, you can learn more about some of the first settlers to the Seattle region and about contemporary art.

A few of the exhibits rotate from other Nordic museums around the world, from Iceland, Norway, and other Nordic countries, while a few always stay in the Seattle branch. This Nordic Heritage Museum is a unique one to learn a bit more about the history of Seattle and the culture that still engulfs some of our neighborhoods.

If you enjoy this museum, you might also enjoy a visit to the Center for Wooden Boats in Lake Union.

One-of-a-Kind Attractions in Seattle

Space Needle

  • 400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
  • 206-905-2100
  • Website:
  • Admission: $24.50-$37.50. Children under 5 are free.
  • Advance purchase tickets available online.
  • Observation deck is open daily 8 a.m. – 12 a.m.

We include this here for geographic proximity to the Chihuly Garden (and because they offer a combo admission ticket), not because it is a highlight equal to those above and immediately below.

Many tourists in Seattle consider the Space Needle an obligatory stop, given its iconic stature as a symbol of the city. We consider it a bit overpriced.

Unless there is a clear sky offering views of Mt. Rainier, this is hard to justify. You can circumvent the admission fee with food and beverage purchases at the (pricey) revolving restaurant at the top – consider going for lunch.

Smith Tower Observation Deck

  • 506 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
  • 206-624-0414
  • Website:
  • Admission: $16 – $20. (10% discount when purchasing tickets online.)
  • “Legends of Smith Tower Experience” 10 a.m – 9 p.m.; bar closes at 11 p.m. on weeknights and at Midnight on weekends (Thursday-Saturday).

An alternative to the Space Needle for taking in the fabulous views of Washington state is the Smith Tower. The tower was completed in 1914. At the time, it was one of the tallest office buildings in the world outside New York City, and it remained the tallest building on the West Coast for almost 50 years. The observatory is accessed by a ride on historic elevators.

The views are stunning. They include Puget Sound, the Port of Seattle, the sports stadiums, the Olympic and Cascade Mountain Ranges, Mt. Rainier, and more. The tower was renovated several years ago and also features a speakeasy-inspired bar.

The Seattle Great Wheel

  • 1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
  • 206-623-8607
  • Website:
  • Admission: $9 – $14 (Children 2 and under are free)
  • Looking for a luxury experience? Book the VIP cabin.
  • Hours vary by day and by season, but it is generally open from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., with extended hours on the weekend and during the summer.

This is Seattle’s fairly new (est’d. 2012) Ferris wheel, located at the downtown waterfront and extending over the water. Cabins hold up to 8 people.

Views from your ride include the Space Needle, Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island, the Port of Seattle, the sports stadiums, the Olympic and Cascade Mountain Ranges, Mt. Rainier, and more. It is worth the price of admission on a clear day.

Seattle Center Monorail

  • Seattle, WA 98109, USA
  • 206-905-2620
  • Website:
  • Admission: $1.25 – $2.50. Cash only. (Children 4 and under are free; youth military, disabled and senior discounts)
  • Open 7:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. on weekdays and 8:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Extended hours during the summer. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
  • Check the website for schedule changes.

The monorail was built as a boast of technological innovation for the 1962 World’s Fair (as was the Space Needle). The monorail connects Seattle Center (Space Needle, Children’s Museum, Chihuly Museum) and downtown.

It departs every 10 minutes and is an enjoyable ride for children and could be a useful mode of transportation. Andy has never been on it, though whenever it is mentioned, he can’t help singing to himself (“monorail, monorail, MONORAIL”) a la The Simpsons.

Seattle Aquarium

  • 1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
  • 206-386-4300
  • Website:
  • Admission: $24.95 – $34.95 (Children 3 and under are free; discounts for WA state youth, military, seniors, online purchase).
  • Open daily 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. (last entry at 5 p.m.).
  • Check the website for holiday hours and other closings.

We haven’t been yet and as aquariums go, this one is on the smaller side – it also strikes us as being expensive. Nevertheless, it’s likely a good place to spend a few hours, particularly if you are looking for an indoor activity on a rainy day. It’s located on the waterfront.

Woodland Park Zoo

  • 5500 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103, USA
  • 206-548-2500
  • Website:
  • Admission: $13.95 – $22.95 (children 2 and under are free)
  • Open daily 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. from October through April, and until 6 p.m. from May through September.
  • Closed on Christmas.

This zoo might not have the cachet (or the scope) of the San Diego or Bronx Zoos, but there is more than you can see in a single visit. Be sure to visit the giraffes to see little Lulu, born in June 2017. There is also a petting zoo (open seasonally), a carousel, and the Zoomazium, an indoor area for kids 0-8.

Parking is $6, but you might be able to find a free space on the street.

Seattle Public Library-Central Library

  • 1000 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
  • 206-386-4636

Bibliophiles and architecture fans alike will appreciate the main branch of the library system (1000 4th Avenue). The building design is unusual from inside and out.

Once inside, you can ascend via elevator, or walk on a circuitous route that is marked according to the Dewey Decimal System.

Go to the top for a wonderful view, little known to most Seattle residents and visitors.

Gum Wall

  • 1428 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
  • 206-587-2414

Before entering Pike Place Market, check out the famed Gum Wall in Post Alley. To get there, take the non-descript set of stairs down from the fishmongers at the market. Walk into an alley past the people selling Ghost Tours.

On your left is the Gum Wall, so named for the thousands of pieces of gum, in every color and style, stuck against the wall. Marvel at the scene. Some are mesmerized by the sight. Others are disgusted.

Pike Place Market

  • 85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
  • 206-682-7453

You will find the instantly recognizable sign for the market fittingly located at the end of Pike Street. The market is a mecca for pilgrims to Seattle, and should be prioritized for any first-time visitors. Stroll through the stalls and enjoy the generous samples of olive oils, fruits, salmon, and chocolate covered cherries.

At one end of the market you will find the famous fish sellers, known for calling out orders to one Pike Place Market vendor to another and then tossing large fish over the heads of delighted (or bewildered) onlookers.

Spoiler alert: They don’t actually sell the specimens being thrown.

Within the market, you can find great fresh flowers (cheap, too!), local crafts, gourmet items, and organic produce. On the less charming side, you will also find plenty of gift shops selling Seattle t-shirts, mass produced art, and other junque. (Andy’s mother claims that junk masquerading as something fancier is junque – spelled differently but pronounced alike.) In the summer, you can usually see a cruise ship awaiting departure to Alaska.

There are a few recommended stops in the market:

  • If you are into truffles, La Buona Tavola is located at 1524 Pike Place, with lots of truffle products and other gourmet wares. They are very generous with samples. If you want, pull up a seat at the wine bar for a tasting flight.
  • The original Starbucks is located across from the market, about halfway down at 1912 Pike Place. This isn’t so much a “recommended” stop, as it is a note of interest. Our coffee-drinking visitors assure us that the coffee tastes the same here as at any other location. Here, you get the benefit of waiting in an interminable line for your pick-me up. Said line snaking out the door and down the street will help you find the shop. Inside, you can also get a souvenir mug so that your colleagues at the office will know where you have been.
  • A block or so from Starbucks is Beecher’s Cheese, at 1600 Pike Place. This is a Seattle business known for its Flagship Cheddar. Watch from the street as cheese makers prepare curds in an enormous vat that looks like an overgrown bathtub (or small swimming pool). Step inside for samples, and consider picking up a block of the Flagship to snack on with wine at home.
  • If you’re looking for a restaurant to sit down and have lunch, we recommend Athenian. It’s accessed through the indoor corridor by all the fish sellers – you’ll see a large neon sign overhead. When you walk in, you’ll notice the lunch counter with a decal indicating that Tom Hanks sat there in Sleepless in Seattle. Tables are located upstairs with a great view overlooking Puget Sound. Prices are reasonable and the food is good and reliable.

The Olympic Sculpture Park

  • 2901 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
  • 206-654-3100

Located north of Pike Place Market. It is a free park operated by the Seattle Art Museum, which displays outdoor sculptures of various sizes throughout the property. The park opens daily 30 minutes after sunrise and closes 30 minutes after sunset.

From the Sculpture Park, you might enjoy a good view of the Pier 91 Cruise Ship Terminal about two miles north. From this pier, countless tourists embark by ship for Canada and Alaska.

Pro Tip: The above suggestions combine to create an enjoyable (though hilly) walking tour. The sensible order would be to go from south to north in the same order written above, starting at the Library and/or Columbia Tower, continuing to Pike Place Market (first the Gum Wall, then the fish throwers, and then darting in and out to cover the main vendors and La Buona Tavola/Beechers/Starbucks). Then continue north to the Sculpture Garden before finally arriving for a view of the cruise ships.

Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls, Snoqualmie, WA 98024, USA

About 30 miles east of Seattle, off I-90, is Snoqualmie Falls, a 268-foot waterfall with a beautiful scenic overlook. While there, you can enjoy lunch or dinner at the Salish Lodge, overlooking the falls.

Most Interesting Tours in Seattle

Boeing Factory Tour

N 6th St, Renton, WA 98057, USA

+1 312-544-2000

Hands-down our top recommendation, especially for those with a childlike fascination with flight. Boeing has deep ties to Seattle and maintains a manufacturing facility in Everett, about 35 minutes north of the city.

Here, Boeing produces planes such as the 747, 767, 777, and their newest pride and joy, the 787. Visitors are afforded a guided tour through the assembly facility, which is the largest building in the world as measured by volume.

There is a small “Future of Flight” aviation museum at the main visitors’ center. You can also watch arriving and departing planes – some of which are test flights – from the observation deck… all whilst listening to the control tower communications. A few important notes concerning this tour:

  • There is a minimum height requirement of 4 feet (122 cm)
  • Website:
  • Admission: $15-$25
  • You can reserve tickets online. We highly recommend doing so on weekends and holidays. Tours often sell out, though a few days advanced planning should suffice.

Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour

  • 614 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
  • 206-682-4646
  • Website:
  • Admission: $20 – $22. ($10 for children 7 – 12. Discounts for seniors and students.)
  • Tours are offered hourly, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. from April through September and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. from October through March.

Although a bit hokey, this is a good activity for a rainy day and appeals to adults and children alike.

Taking place in Pioneer Square, the 75-minute tour is a stroll through subterranean storefronts and sidewalks entombed when the city rebuilt on top of itself after the Great Fire of 1889.

UW South Campus Center

  • 1601 NE Columbia Rd, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
  • 206-543-0530

For a relaxing self-guided tour of one of the oldest universities on the West Coast, check out the flagship campus of the University of Washington. Wikipedia offers a fairly comprehensive guide. You can also find a map online. Highlights of the tour include:

  • Central Plaza: More commonly known as Red Square, thanks to its brick environs and Communist-era architecture.
  • Rainier Vista: On a rare crystal clear day, there is a magnificent view of Mt. Rainier framed above a long, straight, wide walking path with a water feature at its center.
  • If you are here in March, do not miss the cherry blossoms on the main quad. Peak bloom is generally in mid-March, but it can vary by several weeks depending on the weather. (See Annual Events and Festivals)

Get Ready to Enjoy the Other Side of Seattle

With these unique museums, one-of-a-kind attractions, and interesting tours, you’ll be ready to see a side of Seattle that most tourists miss out on. The tough part is choosing which one you’ll visit first!