11 non-touristy things to do in Seattle

Do you ever read these “non-touristy” things to do posts, and they only list the most generic, sought after things?

Like I was reading a Seattle one, and they put the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the Chihuly Glass Museum, and the zoo.

Honey… no. Those are literally the most populat things to do in Seattle.

In response to that post, here are some actual non-touristy things to do in Seattle when you’re on your trip. Not that the touristy things aren’t fun or things you should miss (honestly Pike Place is my favorite place because it has a ton of cool, hidden shops).

So if you have a few extra days in Seattle or just want to get off the beaten path, here are some alternatives to the typical Seattle sights!

Lake in Seattle

Psst: If you’re looking for the best areas and hotels to stay in when you visit Seattle, check out my local guide.

Get higher than the Space Needle

Instead of the Space Needle, check out Columbia Tower for gorgeous, panoramic city views. Plus, it’s cheaper and taller than the Space Needle, and since it’s in the middle of downtown, your pictures can include the Space Needle (so people will know you’re in Seattle)! You can buy tickets online at their website here.

Wait, oh, did you think this was about weed? You can do that legally too- check out Uncle Ike’s in Capitol Hill if this is your first time at a legal weed store.

Explore Discovery Park

Instead of Kerry Park for the traditional Seattle postcard skyline city view, check out Discovery Park, about 5 miles away from Kerry Park. It’s a much bigger, gorgeous, waterfront park so you could spend most of your day there, and it has unique views of the city and mountains, mini-hiking trails, and areas to picnic or play games.

discovery park seattle

Discovery Park Sunset (HDR) by Razvan Orendovici is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Drink actually good Starbucks at the Starbucks Reserve

Instead of waiting in line visiting the first Starbucks, check out the Starbucks Reserve in Capitol Hill. Yes, the first Starbucks is in Pike Place Market, but Seattle is also home to a Starbucks Reserve (picture a craft coffee shop by Starbucks). This has way less lines, but more importantly, better coffee experiences- like flights of clover brew vs pour over coffee! It also has cool coffee decorations, so it’s a better place to take pictures.

starbucks reserve in seattle

Starbucks Reserve Roastery by Mayuki Sawatariis licensed under CC BY 2.0

Get dim sum instead of brunch

Okay, if you love brunch like me, you still need to brunch in Seattle because it’s home to a ton of amazing brunch places. But, getting brunch is something we always do when we travel. For a less tourist-y alternative, grab dim sum instead! While you may hear jokes like “Seattle dim sum is bad, go to Richmond, Canada for good dim sum”, unless you eat dim sum in like the Bay Area, Seattle is still probably better than your US city. For a few dim sum ideas, check out this post.

Go on bike tours outside of downtown

You could be ultra non-touristy in Seattle and bike to work like the locals do (kidding! This is really here because traveling like a local isn’t always fun because then you have middle class responsibilities).

A lot of the bike tours are around downtown, but since you’re probably exploring downtown by foot already, consider doing a bike tour that takes you to a different part of the city (like Ballard or Fremont) or doing your own bike tour through one of the many trails Seattle has to offer- the Burke Gilman trail being one of the more popular ones!

Go hiking like the locals

Usually when people travel in the US, it can be hard to get out of the cities (hey, we have limited vacation time), but Washington is home to a ton of natural beauty- especially outside of Seattle. If you have a mode of transportation on your Seattle trip and love nature, you have to get out of the city and going hiking. Here are a few easy yet beautiful hiking ideas outside of Seattle. If you can’t get out of the city, still check out some of the parks in Seattle and walk around there! I already mentioned Discovery Park, but the Washington Park Arboretum and Seward Park are also gorgeous park ideas near lakes.

snow lake washington

Snow Lake in Washington state – also, one of the only times I took a picture in Seattle! Who else never takes pictures when they actually live somewhere?

Eat the best local fast food: teriyaki

Instead of eating local fast food burgers at Dick’s, eat at teriyaki shops for local fast casual food.

Teriyaki is equally as local to Seattle as Dick’s, but visitors may not hear about it as much. And no, this isn’t like your suburban mall teriyaki- it actually tastes really good, with perfectly grilled meat (or tofu if you’re vegetarian- this is Seattle), flavorful, sweet and savory sauce, and a side salad with crack dressing. Teriyaki places are easy to find, but here are some of my favorites.

Visit literally any other museum besides Chilhuly

Instead of the Chilhuy Glass Museum, check out literally any other museum. The Pinball Museum, the Museum of Pop Culture, the Museum of Computing, the Museum of History and Industry, the Museum of Flight (technically outside of Seattle but still accessible via bus or car)- Seattle has a ton of quirky museums for people with interests besides glass sculptures.

seattle pinball museum

seattle pinball museum by duluoz catsis licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Drink at tea at teahouses

Instead of drinking coffee, drink tea. Seattle is very much a coffee city first, so everyone naturally wants to grab coffee when they visit. But, there are a few delicious specialty teahouses with unique looseleaf teas. Vital T if you’re feeling tea snobby and Tea Republik if you’re feeling more fun are some of my favorites. Also, there a few full on, British style tea time opportunities- including at the Fairmont Hotel.

Spend a weekend on an island that’s basically an outdoor cage-free zoo

Instead of the Seattle Aquarium or the Woodland Park Zoo, take a weekend trip to the San Juan Islands to see animals. These islands are basically an outdoor zoo. You’re surrounded by so many animals in their natural habitat, like eagles, whales, salmon, etc, and there a ton of boat and kayak tours to see them up close- and technically, you can see them without a tour from afar just hanging out in the park! Here’s how you can spend a weekend there.

Starfish while kayaking

A picture I took again of a purple starfish we saw in the San Juans! And before you call PETA, this person is our biology major tour guide.

Art at Waiting for the Interurban

Instead of the admiring the Fremont Troll, look at Waiting for the Interurban. This is an aluminum sculpture of a group of people waiting for an interurban. Usually, they’re wearing different outfits, so it’s always unique to check out. The troll is always just the troll. They’re both in Fremont if you want to just check them both out.

Pin this non-touristy things to do in Seattle post on Pinterest

Okay, not something you should do in Seattle, but before, to have it handy on your trip!

non-touristy things to do in seattle pinterest image
And there you have it- some ideas for non-touristy things to do in Seattle! What would you add? What would you like to try out the most? Do you have questions on your Seattle trip? Let me know in the comments!

10 Comments

  1. November 24, 2018 / 2:09 pm

    I love places like these, instead of the super touristy places. I went to Seattle long ago and did some tourist stuff, but haven’t ever made it back. I might have to change that. Also, I’ve seen a lot of star fish in person, but never a purple one. That is so cool. Is it a species or something it eats? I ask because the guy holding it is a biology guy. I’m all over the great teriyaki.

    • Angelica
      Author
      November 25, 2018 / 3:42 pm

      It is a special species in the Pacific Ocean, that may be why you haven’t seen it before? But I’m so used to seeing orange ones! And yes, you need to go back and try the teriyaki and all the wonderful things 😀

  2. November 25, 2018 / 3:52 pm

    You give really great tips and details on other things to do than the traditional. We have a pinball museum where I live, too! I’ve never been to Seattle, but I know where to look for ideas now. Thank you!

    • Angelica
      Author
      November 26, 2018 / 9:38 pm

      Thanks! Yes, pinball museums are awesome, I’d love to check out the one by you too!

  3. November 25, 2018 / 9:48 pm

    I love dim sum. I bet it’s amazing in Seattle!

    • Angelica
      Author
      November 26, 2018 / 9:39 pm

      Yes! I used to complain about Seattle’s dim sum and only eat dim sum in Vancouver, but once I left Seattle I realized how good it really was!

  4. November 28, 2018 / 2:47 pm

    These are awesome ideas! I love animals so the San Juan Islands sounds fascinating..as does a Starbucks Reserve! I’d need flights of coffee for all the recommended hiking : ) It looks beautiful! Thanks for the non-touristy ideas 😉

    • Angelica
      Author
      November 28, 2018 / 8:20 pm

      Haha I agree that flights of coffee makes hiking easier :). And no problem, thanks for reading!

  5. December 5, 2018 / 5:12 am

    Awesome ideas! I love doing non-touristy things! It definitely makes me feel like I had a better adventure when I get to explore “what the locals do!”

    • Angelica
      Author
      December 5, 2018 / 9:43 pm

      I totally agree! And Seattle is definitely one of those cities where the local / non-touristy activities are more fun than the touristy activities in my opinion 🙂

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