Even though Seattle has a reputation for being rainy and gray, the truth is that the city is much more than just its weather. In fact, as far as West Coast destinations go, Seattle is fast becoming one of the most popular. And with affordable flights, hotels and food, it's not difficult to understand why.
If you're headed to Seattle for the first time, here are six things you'll want to make sure to check out.
Pike Place Market
Overlooking Elliott Bay right on the waterfront in Seattle, Pike Place Market is one of my favorite places to visit in the city. This public market is one of the oldest in the United States, having been open for more than 100 years. You'll find everything here from produce to antiques to fresh fish (and be sure to visit the fishmongers - sometimes they put on a little show and throw fish at one another). You can also find the world's first Starbucks here at 1912 Pike Place, as well as some entertaining street performers.
Built in the Seattle Center in 1962 for the World's Fair, today the Space Needle has become the symbol of Seattle. There's an observation deck at the 520 foot level and on clear days you can see not only the Seattle skyline from here, but also the nearby Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges. My tip for visiting the Space Needle is to buy a day/night ticket so you can go up once during the daytime and once after the city has lit up at night.
Possibly one of the most unique tourist attractions in Seattle is the EMP Museum. This ode to contemporary popular culture used to be known as the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, but has since (thankfully) shortened its name. Founded in 2000 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, today the EMP Museum hosts exhibits that focus on everything from musical icons to fantasy & science fiction to architecture.
Located in the southwest corner of downtown Seattle, Pioneer Square is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. Unfortunately, most of the original buildings here burned down in the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, but the neighborhood nevertheless is worth a visit. You can go up Smith Tower, the oldest skyscraper in Seattle that, at 38-stories was actually one of the tallest buildings in the U.S. when it was built in 1914. Or perhaps the city's famous Underground Tour is more your speed. Here you can explore the underground passages that used to be Seattle's main roadways before the city level was raised to avoid flooding.
Planes, planes, planes
As the home to Boeing, one of the major aircraft manufacturers in the world, Seattle has a special relationship with planes and flight. The Museum of Flight in Tukwila (south of downtown Seattle) is a must-visit for any aviation fan, and you can even stop by Boeing and go on a unique tour that allows you to design and virtually test your own jet.
Parks and art
Seattle has some great outdoor parks, too. One of my favorites is Olympic Sculpture Park, a (free) outdoor sculpture museum on the waterfront that is operated by the Seattle Art Museum. Another park worth visiting is the 19-acre Gas Works Park, a public park on the grounds of a former coal gasification plant. This park is unusual because portions of the old plant are incorporated into the design.
Do you have any other suggestions for visiting Seattle?