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 touristy things to do in Seattle.
So instead, here are some actual non-touristy things to do in Seattle. Not that the touristy things aren’t fun or things you should miss when you’re visiting. But, if you have a few extra days in Seattle or just want to get off the beaten path, these are some of the most interesting alternatives to the typical Seattle sights!
PS: If you still need a place to stay, check out my Seattle neighborhood guide. And if you’re looking for more help with planning your trip, scroll through my Seattle travel guide or Seattle travel tips. And if you have any other questions about traveling to Seattle, let me know in the comments!
In This Post
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.
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.
Drink actually good Starbucks at the Starbucks Reserve
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.
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 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.
Drink 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.
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.
Go to arcade bars instead of regular bars
Everyone goes to regular bars when they go to new cities. But you can do something a little more unique when you’re in Seattle- check out one of the many arcade bars! From Add A Ball to Olaf’s to even Full Tilt Ice Cream in Ballard (if you prefer ice cream over beer), there are a ton of places where you can play pinball or arcade games while drinking beer!
Shop at thrift stores
Seattle is a city with sustainability in mind, and it affects how people shop too! The city is home to a ton of unique thrift stores– with lots of outfits you’ll want to wear. Trust me, I didn’t realize how awesome Seattle had it with great thrift stores until I lived in San Diego. If you want trendy outfits, check out Crossroads. If you want to shop for outfits from past decades, head to Pretty Parlor. Thrift shop finds make a fun, sustainable souvenir.
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Okay, not something you should do in Seattle, but before, to have it handy on your trip!
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!