Seattle’s Summer To-Do List

Seattle shines in summer with these must-dos.

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“How was the weather?” Every summer when I visit my family in Seattle, I'm asked this same question when I return to the East Coast. I know what everyone really means is, “Did it rain the entire trip?” Seattle, it seems, just can’t shake its rainy reputation. If you haven’t visited Seattle in the summer, you might be surprised to know that from June through September Seattle shines -- literally, as summer months are its dry season with the threat of rain much less prevalent. The Emerald City is an outdoorsy town no matter the weather, but if it’s summer and the sun is out in Seattle, so is everyone that lives here.

Take it from the locals and take advantage of the fleeting sunshine in Seattle with these things to do outdoors in the summer:
Paddle Along Puget Sound

From Puget Sound to Lake Washington to Elliott Bay to Green Lake, there’s no shortage of bodies of water in Seattle. So forget about touring Seattle on foot -- explore the city on water via stand-up paddle board (SUP). With a higher vantage point than a kayak, a SUP board will let you take in the city's best views and unique houseboats that line the coastline. You’ll get a different perspective of the city and an abdominal workout as you paddle along the Puget Sound with Surf Ballard’s 2-hour paddle tour.

Dine on the Edge

You’ll feel like you’re practically floating on Elliott Bay at The Edgewater Hotel’s award-winning restaurant, Six Seven’s waterfront patio. Incredible views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains as well as classic Pacific Northwest cuisine – cedar plank salmon and jumbo Dungeness crab and shrimp cake, I still dream of you -- aren’t the only things this stylish boutique hotel and restaurant are known for. Since it opened in 1962, the hotel has been famous for having rock ‘n’ roll legends as guests such as Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. The hotel’s link to music icons began when The Beatles stayed here during their first world tour in 1964. The iconic photo of The Beatles fishing from their hotel room window and the Beatles Suite commemorates the visit forever.

Go Whale Watching

The best time to spot the majestic orca whale pods on the Pacific Northwest is mid-April through September. You can find a number of boat charters that leave from downtown Seattle for half-day and full-day excursions that will take you to the area around San Juan Islands -- the best spot to see the killer whales. Orcas aren’t the only wildlife you’ll see: look out for porpoises, seals and bald eagles, too.

Soak Up the Rays on Alki Beach

Across Elliott bay, only a 10 to 15 minute water taxi from Seattle’s downtown, lies Alki Beach in the neighborhood known as West Seattle. While on a summer day it may resemble Southern California with people playing volleyball, sunbathing and picnicking on the sandy beach, one dip in the 45 to 55 degree water and you’ll be reminded you’re in Seattle. Forgo swimming and instead rent a kayak or SUP board to glimpse the ultimate sunset view: Seattle’s city skyline and Space Needle serve as your backdrop. If you’re lucky, you’ll even see a few seals basking in the sun here.

Sample Your Way Through Pike Place Market

On every tourist’s Seattle to-do list is Pike Place Market, and for good reason. The historic, open-air market is the city’s most iconic and tastiest cultural landmark to explore. Tourists might want to take a few photos of the world-famous fishmongers entertaining passerby by throwing fish, but locals know this is the best place to find the freshest local seafood in the city. Come on an empty stomach and plan on staying for a few hours so you can taste your way through the market, sampling local specialties like smoked salmon, loganberry jam and lavender short bread.

Take in Waterfront Art at Olympic Sculpture Park


Photo by: Richard Cummins

Richard Cummins

While this art-loving town has numerous art museums, don’t waste a sunny day in Seattle touring inside one. Instead, experience Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park on the water’s edge while taking in breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains and Elliott Bay. Open year-round, the public park covers 9 acres of waterfront green space, complete with rotating sculptures and permanent sculptures like the iconic 39-foot-tall red Eagle that you can bike, walk, run or picnic by.

Island Hop Aboard a Ferry Boat

Whale watching isn’t the only reason to hop on a ferry boat in Seattle. Get away from downtown crowds and visit the neighboring islands aboard a ferry boat, an iconic Seattle experience in itself, especially on a clear day when views of Mt. Rainier dazzle. The closest and most developed island is Bainbridge, full of cute coffeehouses, boutiques and galleries. For a rural retreat, head to the 13-mile-long Vashon Island to see quaint country stores, lavender farms and quiet beaches. While you’ll need a car to explore Whidbey Island, it offers dramatic views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Deception Pass Bridge and the charming town of Coupeville.

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