Things You Must See in Seattle When on a Cruise

Updated: Our list of the top Seattle attractions you need to visit before or after your next Alaskan cruise (2021).

Top Things to Do in Seattle

If your travel plans are taking you “way up north”, then you might be stopping in the Pacific Northwest first. Many Alaska cruises originate from Seattle, WA, allowing travelers the ease of leaving from a U.S. port. While you are probably eager to explore Alaska, you should not neglect the Emerald City itself. There is plenty to do and see especially during the summer months. You could easily spend days traversing this city, but let’s be honest, you have a cruise ship to board! So here, we highlight all the best things to do in Seattle with limited pre-cruise or post-cruise time.

Things You Must See in Seattle During Your Alaska Cruise

Space Needle

While some may label this a “tourist trap”, we enjoyed our time at the Space Needle and the surrounding area of Seattle Center. This 605-foot structure is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, and it now offers multi-level viewing experiences.

Top Things to Do in Seattle

Taking the 41-second elevator ride up to the Observation Deck, you have amazing 360-degree views of Seattle. With relatively clear weather, you will even be able to see Mount Rainer, Puget Sound, and the Olympic Mountains off in the distance. Further, there is a new lower level called the Loupe. The Loupe is the world’s first rotating glass floor experience offering unique downward views of Seattle, along with the Loupe Lounge for drinks and snacks.

For similar panoramic vistas, you can also visit the Sky View Observatory. Located on the 73rd floor of Columbia Center in Downtown Seattle, this is the tallest public viewing area in the Pacific Northwest. At 902 feet, the views from here won’t disappoint, either.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Glass, flowers, and art — the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition has it all. And it’s consistently ranked as one of the best things to do in Seattle. You will be visually captivated by the craftsmanship and uniqueness of the art installations at Chihuly Garden and Glass.

Top Things to Do in Seattle

A Washington state native, Dale Chihuly’s glass works are displayed in eight galleries, the centerpiece Glasshouse, and a lush Garden. One of our favorite installations was the aptly named Sea Life — you probably would have guessed that! There are also many other impressive displays including elaborate chandeliers and the Persian ceiling.

It is not exactly a huge museum, but you can definitely spend about 90 minutes (or more) strolling through the museum exhibits, the glasshouse, and the adjacent garden admiring these massive pieces of glass art. Package tickets including the Space Needle can be purchased.

Pike Place Market

No time spent in Seattle would be complete without a morning at the world famous Pike Place Market. This historic waterfront attraction is home to some of the freshest seafood, locally made crafts, and unique eateries. It is one of the country’s oldest farmers’ markets with plenty of flowers, fruits and vegetables, and other homegrown goodies found throughout the multiple floors of its plaza.

Top Things to Do in Seattle

If you happen to visit the market after your cruise, you could pick out some fresh salmon or crab and have it iced down and boxed up for you. Many places will even ship it home for you (for an additional fee). Even if you do not plan on buying anything, you should still stroll the market to gain a new appreciation of these independent proprietors.

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While at Pike Place, you should definitely visit the original Starbucks, which is conveniently located across from the market. Opened in 1971, today the shop serves as a Mecca for Starbucks fans, serving up coffee and other exclusive merchandise.

Top Things to Do in Seattle

If you are a true java fan, another one of the things you must see in Seattle is the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room over in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. This is the first of the local coffee company’s massive spaces designed to truly showcase coffee (think Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory). You can watch coffee beans being roasted, sample brews that you cannot find anywhere else, and even take a roastery tour.

Pier 57

A short walk from Pike Place Market, you will encounter Miner’s Landing at Pier 57. Perhaps the most noticeable landmark at this waterfront location is the Seattle Great Wheel. Who wouldn’t love to be 175 feet in the air snapping photos of this beautiful city? Unfortunately, it only makes a few revolutions, so do not expect too much for the price. By night, the wheel puts on LED light shows.

Top Things to Do in Seattle

Also located at Pier 57 is the Wings over Washington experience. This aerial adventure gives you a scenic bird’s eye view over the state (think Disney’s Soarin’). This state-of-the-art “flying theater” provides an immersive experience filled with sights, sounds, and scents as you soar over mountains, waterfalls, and more.

Miner’s Landing also features shopping and dining on the waterfront with plenty of fresh Pacific Northwest seafood on the menus.

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The Seattle Aquarium

Adjacent to the Miner’s Landing area is the Seattle Aquarium. One of the largest aquariums in the United States, this landmark offers a variety of exhibits, including interactive areas where visitors can touch marine life from the Puget Sound ecosystem. There is also the Underwater Dome, with 360-degree views of the amazing sea life in the area and an educational center to learn about orcas.

While here, you will also discover birds, marine mammals, and tropical fish.

Things You Must See in Seattle

If you have the time and want to learn more about the abundant sea life in this coastal area, then the Seattle Aquarium should make your list of the best things to do in Seattle. The aquarium is open daily from 9:30 am to 6 pm (last entry is at 5 pm).

Harbor Cruise

Yes, you are going on a cruise (or just returned from one), but consider a sailing around the harbor to truly capture the beauty of this area. One of the most popular tours offered by Argosy Cruises, is a harbor cruise that provides city skylines and mountain vistas within 60 minutes. The company also offers a 2-hour cruise through the Ballard Locks (Hiram M. Chittenden Locks).

Top Things to Do in Seattle

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Bainbridge Island

If you can’t get enough of the water, you can also take a ferry over to Bainbridge Island. An approximately 35-minute ride will transport you across Elliot Bay and worlds away from Downtown Seattle.

You can hop aboard the ferry at Pier 52, which will drop you off within walking distance to Winslow. Here at the central hub of the island you will find plenty of dining options, shops, museums, and waterfront trails.

Things You Must See in Seattle

One of the most notable attractions on the island is Bloedel Reserve. This 140-acre reserve is home to gardens, ponds, and nature trails where you can spend a few hours exploring. To get here, you will need to take a bus from the ferry terminal.

Olympic Sculpture Park

Olympic Sculpture Park is another popular attraction that you must see in Seattle. Part of the Seattle Art Museum collection (which also includes the Asian Art Museum), this park is open year round. It allows travelers and locals alike the chance to spend some quality time with nature in the park and surrounding walking and biking trails.

Here, you can see across to the Olympic Mountains and marvel at the sculptures that are strategically placed throughout the area. A tour map and other literature about the park can either be found in the park pavilion or online.

Top Things to Do in Seattle

This is one of the largest “green space” in Seattle, so don’t be surprised if there are plenty of other admirers here too. Free tours occur seasonally and last 60 minutes. These tours offer some insight into the design and history of the park and its sculptures.

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Sports Stadiums

While in Seattle, sports fans need to venture off to the SODO neighborhood to get their fix of baseball, football, or both.

T-Mobile Park (formerly SafeCo Field) has been home to the Seattle Mariners since the ballpark opened in 1999. Even if the Boys in Blue are not playing, you can take a tour of the facility. This 1-hour tour gets you ground level to see all the stadium has to offer and includes some behind-the-scene areas normally not open to the public.

Top Things to Do in Seattle

If you are cruising later in the Alaska season, you might have a chance to catch a game at Lumen Field, home to the Seattle Seahawks. You can also book a tour of this stadium (90 minutes) on non-game days.

Wine Tasting

Sure, your cruise will have plenty of wine, but it will likely won’t spotlight the local Washington wine scene. There are hundreds of wine-tasting rooms across Lake Washington in Woodinville, but the SODO neighborhood has recently become a hub for tastings, as well.

Top Things to See in Seattle

Local recommendations include EfesteNine Hats, and Rotie for a good sampling of the state’s proud viticulture. These wine-tasting venues are conveniently located a short distance away from the sports stadiums.

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Pioneer Square

Adjacent to the two sports stadiums is also Pioneer Square. Pioneer Square is Seattle’s oldest neighborhood and certainly one of the things you must see in Seattle when on a cruise. This historic neighborhood is home to many restaurants, art galleries, and museums. Smith Tower is one of Seattle’s oldest skyscrapers and still offers great views from its 35th floor observation deck.

Things You Must See in Seattle on a Cruise

To get you prepared for your trip to Alaska, you might want to visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park or take the self-guided Trail to Treasure walking tour through Pioneer Square.

Another popular activity is Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. As the name implies, this tour literally takes you underground to explore the original Pioneer Square neighborhood. Reconstruction after the Great Seattle Fire in 1889 buried the “original Seattle” underneath. Thus, this 75-minute tour is the only way to explore the interconnecting Seattle Underground.

Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)

Nerds and music lovers unite! MoPOP, formerly called the EMP Museum, is where pop culture and art collide. It features some out-of-this-world exhibits, with massive collections of contemporary pop culture.

Examples of exhibits include Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses; Fantasy: Worlds of Myths and Magic; Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Films; the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame; and the Guitar Gallery.

Top Things to Do in Seattle

While exhibits do change periodically, we enjoyed the World of Myths and Magic. This exhibit featuring memorabilia from famous movies and shows like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. We were also held captive by the Thrill of Horror Films, and I was in geek heaven reveling in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

If you are looking for other museum options the Pacific Science Center and the Museum of Flight are popular choices, as well.


Have you been to Seattle on a cruise? What are some of your must-see attractions in this city? Drop us an anchor below to share your experiences visiting the Pacific Northwest.

Don Bucolo, or “DB”, loves everything about cruising- the ocean, the food, and the atmosphere. While he may be obsessed with doing extensive amounts of research on ships and all elements of a cruise, Don enjoys sharing his new found knowledge with fellow cruisers. When he is not sailing the high seas, he does whatever his wife tells him to do-it only took 10 years to realize this.
Don Bucolo
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