The Seattle Waterfront: What to Do in One Day

by  Amy E. Robertson | Aug 17, 2016
Seattle waterfront
Seattle waterfront / cestes001/iStock

Seattle’s waterfront is undergoing a major facelift, and it has more to offer than ever on a sunny summer afternoon. Here's how to soak up every second of it.

Start at the Olympic Sculpture Park, a free sculpture garden that is part of the Seattle Art Museum. The nine-acre park overlooks the northern end of the waterfront and is home to nearly 20 works, including pieces by renowned artists Alexander Calder and Mark di Suvero. (Occasional public tours are listed on the website.) The edge of the sculpture park connects to Myrtle Edwards Park, where Seattle’s urbanity suddenly gives way to beach access. A pedestrian and bike path stretches more than a mile along Elliott Bay, and there are spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.

Facebook / Anthony's Restaurants

After soaking up nature at Myrtle Edwards, a coffee break is in order. Uptown Espresso at Pier 70 is home of the “velvet foam” -- a latte here is a must. Those ready for a more substantial snack can continue on to Pier 66, where the Pacific Northwest seafood chain Anthony’s has two outposts. (Pier 66 is also where ships from Norwegian and Oceania cruise lines dock.) Anthony’s Pier 66 is the upscale venue upstairs, perfect for special occasions, while the ground-floor Bell Street Diner is more casual and budget-friendly. Both offer outdoor dining and stunning views of the sound.

Hayton Farms / Facebook

Long-term plans for the Seattle waterfront include a traffic tunnel to replace the elevated highway known as the Viaduct, so skirt past the construction to continue on to the Seattle Aquarium. The indoor and outdoor exhibits introduce visitors to its fish, birds, and mammals, with an emphasis on local wildlife. Next door is Seattle’s Great Wheel, offering a bird's-eye view of the city and Elliott Bay. Opposite the aquarium, steps lead up the hill to the famed Pike Place Market, which has been open for more than a century.

Facebook / Pike Place Market

The waterfront is chock-full of the city’s kitschiest souvenir shops, but reasonably priced mementos can be found at the Seattle Shirt Company at Pier 55, which stocks baseball caps, jewelry, shot glasses, and T-shirts. Next door, those who wish to get out on the water can sign up for an hour-long tour of the sound with Argosy Cruises. For a similar experience without breaking the bank, head past the ferry terminal to Pier 50 to take the much cheaper water taxi across the bay for the 15-minute ride to West Seattle. ($5.25 each way; there is a good Hawaiian fusion restaurant at the West Seattle terminal, called Marination Ma Kai, should you choose to get down to explore and eat.)

Fish tacos / Facebook

Other great dining options along the waterfront include Elliott’s Oyster House, offering excellent, if pricey, local seafood. For the best deal, hit happy hour in the lounge, Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Ivar’s Fish Bar is another fun choice. The seafood is reliably tasty, and the outside patio affords a great view of the water and departing ferries from the neighboring terminal.

Didn’t get enough of the waterfront? Book a room at the Edgewater Hotel, where the Beatles famously stayed during their 1964 world tour (as have music legends Pearl Jam, The Village People, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Willie Nelson, and more). Doubles start at $350.

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