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Top 14 Unique Things To Do in Seattle

Take a Selfie with the Fremont Troll Fremont Troll
Credit: Fremont Troll by norse via Flickr

Take a Selfie with the Fremont Troll

What Is It? While you’re in Fremont, you don’t want to miss the opportunity for a selfie with the Fremont Troll.

Why Do It? The 18-foot-tall, one-eyed troll lives under the Aurora Bridge and sits clutching a Volkswagen Bug. Created in 1990, the two-ton sculpture is made of concrete, wire and steel, with a hubcap serving as his one good eye. He was created by a team of local artists as part of a competition to promote urban renewal – and while the judges dismissed it as a “hideous fiend,” locals loved it and the troll ultimately won the right to lurk in the space under the bridge for all eternity.

Good to Know: Kids and adults alike can climb all over it, or just pose for a fun picture that makes a perfect souvenir for capturing the quirkiness of this funky neighborhood.

Take the Water Taxi to West Seattle West Seattle
Credit: West Seattle by Oran Viriyincy via Flickr

Take the Water Taxi to West Seattle

What Is It? The West Seattle Water Taxi offers one of the best entertainment values around.

Why Do It? During the 12-minute trip across to Seacrest Park, you’ll enjoy fantastic views of the Seattle skyline as it takes a more southern route across the bay. Once there, you can enjoy dining at one of the most popular seafood eateries in town, Salty’s, which offers sweeping Puget Sound vistas.

Good to Know: Afterward, take a walk along the Alki Trail path which follows Alki Beach. Jack Block Park, is just a 5-minute stroll south, a hidden gem that few visitors make it out to. It offers a 45-foot observation tower and public beach access with breathtaking views of the Sound, Alki, downtown Seattle and beyond.

Sail for Free at the Center for Wooden Boats Center for Wooden Boats
Credit: Center for Wooden Boats by wikimedia.org

Sail for Free at the Center for Wooden Boats

What Is It? Where else can you go sailing for free? The center for Wooden Boats may be one of only a few spots in the country where you can do just that.

Why Do It? At its Lake Union location, visitors not only can take all sorts of classes and lessons but every Sunday, they can head out onto the water with volunteer skippers and crew on spirit boats, schooners, electric boats, steamboats, and occasionally yachts – all at no cost.

Good to Know: It’s been a Seattle tradition for years, year-round, rain or shine. The ride lasts for about an hour, and sign-ups begin in person at 10 am on Sunday – arrive early, especially on holiday weekends and sunny days.

Explore the Nordic Heritage Museum  Nordic Heritage Museum
Credit: Nordic Heritage Museum by wikimedia.org

Explore the Nordic Heritage Museum

What Is It? The Ballard neighborhood, located just north of downtown Seattle, is famous for its Nordic roots, though few people realize that it’s home to a fascinating Nordic Heritage Museum.

Why Do It? The permanent collection is spread across four galleries, including fine arts, three-dimensional objects, a music library with more than 8,000 recordings and texts of traditional Nordic music and dance, and items donated by community members. It also features temporary and traveling exhibits, like one that showcased the life of Ivar Haglund, of the famous Ivar seafood chain.

Good to Know: At all times, you’ll discover a multitude of cultural treasures and memorabilia that belonged to Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Fins, and Icelanders who settled in America.

Check Out the Fremont Sunday Market Fremont Sunday Market
Credit: Fremont Sunday Market by Fremont Sunday Market

Check Out the Fremont Sunday Market

What Is It? Sure, you know all about Pike’s Place Market, but have you ever been to, or even heard of the Fremont Sunday Market?

Why Do It? Located in the Fremont neighborhood, and easily accessible via public transportation or just a 10-minute drive from downtown Seattle, this market is a lot more than a farmers’ market, it’s a place where locals come to mingle, providing visitors a good glimpse of what it’s like to live in Seattle.

Good to Know: In addition to fresh, local produce, you’ll find some of the city’s best food trucks, an indoor market with antiques, vintage clothing and a variety of flea market-type finds, not to mention the array of entertainment, from buskers plunking the sitar to fantastic local bands.

Rent a Canoe and Paddle the University of Washington's Backyard University of Washington’s backyard
Credit: University of Washington’s backyard by University of Washington

Rent a Canoe and Paddle the University of Washington's Backyard

What Is It? If you’d love to paddle around the practically endless waters that surround Seattle, it’s surprisingly easy and affordable to do.

Why Do It? The University of Washington’s Husky Stadium has a backyard filled with scenic wonders, and at the Waterfront Activities Center (WAC), located right behind the stadium on Union Bay, canoes are available for rent to the general public seven days a week between March and October.

Good to Know: You can make canoeing as hard or as relaxed as you’d like, gliding across lily pad-filled waters, passing geese and ducks, while taking in magnificent views.

Head Underground at Pioneer Square Pioneer Square
Credit: Pioneer Square by bigstock.com

Head Underground at Pioneer Square

What Is It? Pioneer Square is Seattle’s original downtown area, and today, it’s one of the most interesting neighborhoods in the city.

Why Do It? Nearly 40 years after it was first settled, in 1889 a fire destroyed much of the area, including the waterfront, leaving the city to rebuild on top of the ruins. Today, the labyrinth of streets, alleys, and buildings that still lie underneath can be explored by taking an underground tour.

Good to Know: You’ll get an incredible glimpse of the city’s past, including its old storefronts while hearing the riveting tales of Seattle’s early pioneers and their exploits. If you like ghost stories, take the ghost tour of this reportedly haunted underbelly after dark, it includes a lesson on the basics of ghost hunting before you’re set off on your own paranormal exploring adventures.

Tour Theo Chocolate Theo Chocolate
Credit: Theo Chocolate by Richie Diesterheft via Flickr

Tour Theo Chocolate

What Is It? Also located in the Fremont neighborhood, just down the street from the Sunday Market, Theo Chocolate was the very first fair trade and organic bean-to-bar chocolate factory in North America.

Why Do It? Tour into the world of chocolate and the company’s incredibly creative flavors. You’ll be entertained by the story of cocoa, and how the cocoa fruit is transformed into chocolate in addition to learning about environmental issues related to cocoa farmers while taking the walking tour through the facilities where chocolate is made.

Good to Know: The highlight is sampling the delicious products. Before you leave, be sure to stop by the retail store where you can stock up and flavors like Coffee and Cream, Salted Almond, Ghost Chili, and Bread & Chocolate.

Make a Difference at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center
Credit: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center by namho via Flickr

Make a Difference at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center

What Is It? The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center is free to visit, and everything there is designed to open and inspire your mind. Visitors of all ages are taken on an interactive journey, bringing to life the connections we all share with others across the globe.

Why Do It? You can learn about the incredible work the foundation and its grantees are doing all over the world, with hands-on exhibits and videos taking you to some of the most complicated challenges and engaging solutions.

Good to Know: Get immersed in debates about poverty, health and education – and, if you have a cause that’s close to your heart, you can add your thoughts to the Share Your Cause Tree. Discover how you can broadcast your cause to the world, perhaps by designing a billboard in the Innovation & Inspiration Gallery. The center also offers a wide range of programs and community events.

Cruise to Blake Island and Tillicum Village Tillicum Village
Credit: Tillicum Village by Paul Trafford via Flickr

Cruise to Blake Island and Tillicum Village

What Is It? Many people take the ferry to Bainbridge Island from Seattle, but most don’t manage to visit the little island passed along the way.

Why Do It? Blake Island is the birthplace of Chief Seattle, and it also hosts Tillicum Village, where the traditions of the indigenous people have been carefully preserved and brought to life.

Good to Know: It offers the chance to explore the art and history of the area’s native tribes and even taste traditional foods, like delicious steamed clams, to get an idea of how they lived.

Go Houseboat Hopping Seattle
Credit: Seattle by bigstock.com

Go Houseboat Hopping

What Is It? Seattle is home to the largest houseboat community in the world, outside of Asia, with approximately 500 floating around the Puget Sound.

Why Do It? They offer breathtaking views of the surrounding waters, and are themselves a stunning sight to see with their unique architectural designs with exuberant colors, quirky details and lavish gardens, along with some pretty cool interior elements.

Good to Know: Unfortunately, as the docks are all on private property, it’s hard to get more than a glimpse unless you know one of the owners – but, if you’re here in September, you might get lucky. This is the time when, for just one day a year, a dozen or so of them are opened up to the public as part of a fundraiser by the Floating Homes Association. If you miss it, you can rent a canoe or kayak and nose through the liquid streets to view the houseboats from the water.

See Bad Art at Cafe Racer Official Bad Art Museum of Art
Credit: Official Bad Art Museum of Art by museumofbadart.org

See Bad Art at Cafe Racer

What Is It? For something very different, visit the Official Bad Art Museum of Art, also known as “OBAMA.”

Why Do It? It’s located inside Café Racer and features paint-by-numbers, black velvet paintings, the famous portrait of dogs playing poker and other works meant for your amusement. It tends to attract those who appreciate the absurd, with the interior painted in a shade that might remind you of a Cheeto. Artists, anti-artists, art lovers and art haters, musicians and all sorts come and go, taking in the fascination of the multitude of bad art that covers each and every wall.

Good to Know: In the café itself, you can enjoy unique items like the “Wonder Wiener,” a polish dug with bacon placed inside and grilled and then stuffed with green chilies, onions and green cheese, served on a toasted bun.

Grab a Pint and Listen to Live Music at Owl 'N Thistle Owl 'N Thistle
Credit: Owl 'N Thistle by Owl 'N Thistle

Grab a Pint and Listen to Live Music at Owl 'N Thistle

What Is It? Tucked into a little alleyway that can be a bit challenging to find, few visitors make it into the Owl ‘N Thistle, but if you’re in need of a Guinness and some great live music, skip the chains – this is where you want to go.

Why Do It? Its dark library-vibe fits the location, and the Guinness is perfectly poured. This Irish pub not only has the best fish ‘n chips in town too, but during happy hour, they’re definitely the best deal around.

Good to Know: The Guinness beef stew and shepherd’s pie are two other delicious options – and for those who want to watch the big game, the big-screen TV broadcasts the top sporting events of the day.

Stop for Brunch at Portage Bay Café Portage Bay Café
Credit: Portage Bay Café by Portage Bay Café

Stop for Brunch at Portage Bay Café

What Is It? If you want to enjoy some of the best brunches in Seattle, locals will tell you to go to Portage Bay Café, frequently named the top spot for brunch in the Emerald City.

Why Do It? If you don’t want to wait in a long line, especially on the weekend, reserve a table or plan to arrive early – if you do find yourself waiting, free drip coffee is available to help keep your energy up until you get a table. Portage Bay sources organic and sustainable ingredients from local farms, including cage-free eggs from Olympia and sausage made in-house with Carlton Farms pork, as well as all organic and local fruits and veggies whenever possible. You’ll find something for everyone, including gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options.

Good to Know: Reviewer favorites include Eggs Benedict, the Goat Cheese Scramble and the heavenly French toast that can be smothered with the wide range of toppings from the breakfast bar, like maple syrup, whipped cream, nuts and all types of seasonal fruits.

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