Best Attractions near the Cruise Port in Seattle

Once You've Come to Shore, Keep on Cruising to Seattle's Hottest Sites

With Seattle's cruise ports located close to the thriving downtown zone, passengers will disembark to quickly find a wealth of possible activities available at their fingertips. Thanks to the natural beauty surrounding this city that sits on the edge of Elliott Bay, visitors can stay close to the water for an abundance of enjoyable activities that range from wandering the piers and exploring the aquarium to visiting the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park. Other activities cover the gamut of interests at destinations like Pike Place Market, the Experience Music Project museum and the Underground Tour, among many others.

Cruise passengers can either walk directly from the cruise port to nearby activities, or they can hop on a bus (or in a taxi) for a quick ride to their destination. One of the cruise ports pulls in close to Discovery Park, a 534-acre natural area park operated by the Seattle Parks and Recreation. (This is also Seattle's largest city park in Seattle, and it occupies most of the former Fort Lawton site.) If visitors have longer amounts of time to dedicate to exploring the surrounding region, they will be happy to hear that downtown ferry ports grant access to desirable destinations like Bainbridge Island or Alki Beach in West Seattle.


Pioneer Square

When Seattle's 1889 fire leveled part of the city, officials decided to raise the city to a higher level, both metaphorically and literally. The portion left behind (and beneath) is now subject matter for a tour of Seattle's past, especially its unsavory part. The network of abandoned rooms and paths is interesting, but the stories and tales of seamstresses, thieves, and prominent residents really brings the area to life. This tour provides a fascinating glimpse into the city's heritage. The tour begins inside Doc Maynard's Public House, a restored 1890s saloon, and continues through historic Pioneer Square to three different sections of Underground--about three blocks total. The tour ends in Rogues Gallery, the gift shop.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: The Underground Tour offers a quirky look at Seattle's secretive subterranean past.

Corinne's expert tip: Find quirky, kooky gifts to take home to friends and family at the gift shop Rogues Gallery.

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Situated on Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, this expansive urban park--the largest in Seattle--offers two miles of beach trails and nine miles of winding footpaths. Ostensibly a bluff-top reserve, Discovery Park protects a remarkable urban wilderness and is a great place for nature-watching. The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, which features art and cultural exhibits, is also located at the park, as is a marine reserve. An 1881 lighthouse, the oldest in the area, can also be found here. Offering breathtaking views of both the Cascade and the Olympic mountain ranges, the park's remote site includes two miles of protected tidal beaches as well as open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves, active sand dunes, thickets, and streams.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Discovery Park, not far from cruise port in Magnolia, is a 534-acre natural area, urban park with a beautiful beach and stunning views.

Corinne's expert tip: The park occupies the grounds of the former Fort Lawton military base, and there is interesting interpretive history here about the park's past and information on its pioneering role in the national military base re-use program that began in the early 1980s. The park's Fort Lawton Historic District includes "Officers' Row," military buildings surviving from the park's days as a fort.

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Bainbridge Island Ferry
Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting

From Seattle's downtown waterfront, it takes only 35 minutes to arrive at Bainbridge Island. Along the way, you can enjoy all the wonderful sights that make Seattle such a unique city (the ferry ride itself is worth the journey!). The snowcapped Olympic Mountains, Seattle's skyline and the eastern view of Mount Rainier are all points of interest along the way. (It's also fun to watch all the car and bike commuters onboard.) Peak season is early May through mid-October. Once on Bainbridge Island, it's easy to walk to a quaint "downtown" strip that features some shops, eateries and coffee spots. The island also features wineries, an organic distillery and other popular destinations.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: The Bainbridge Island Ferry whisks passengers across to a magical day-tip destination, but the ferry ride itself is worth the journey!

Corinne's expert tip: Bundle up; if you want to sit outside to enjoy the views, the wind makes it chilly, even on sunny days!

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If you could go to just one place in Seattle to visit, the Seattle Center would be it: 74 acres of parks, sculptures, fountains, cultural venues, restaurants and entertainment for all ages. This is the site of the Seattle World's Fair in 1962 also known as Century 21 Exhibition and it has celebrated its 50th anniversary. Today, Seattle Center is an exciting eclectic mix of 1960's "futuristic" structures alongside seemingly incongruent objects such as a Native American Totem pole, Modernist art mural, gigantesque Calder abstract Eagle sculpture and extreme architecture by renowned Frank Gehry. In good weather free concerts are held outdoors here at the Mural Amphitheatre which was built for the Seattle World's Fair by Paul Horiuchi, a Japanese-born artist who immigrated to the Pacific Northwest. Everything is here to experience Seattle, and on a clear day you see all of Seattle and beyond from the top of the 1962 World's Fair Space Needle.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Seattle Center is a complex of arts centers, museums, parks and other attractions at the epicenter of the city's tourist circuit.

Corinne's expert tip: If you're visiting Seattle in the month of August, be sure to check out the free Concerts at the Mural summer music series (on Friday nights).

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Pacific Science Center

The Pacific Science Center is a great place for the entire family to learn about the natural world in an entertaining way. Children love games and demonstrations about physical science; exhibits displaying dinosaurs, insects, computers and robots, and the human body will bring science and natural history to life right before your eyes. Animal exhibits, which tend to be everyone's favorite, let visitors watch animals such as the naked mole rat, which is the only known cold-blooded mammal. In the butterfly house, museum-goers are surrounded by thousands of butterflies, who often land on those wearing bright colors and standing very still.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: The Pacific Science Center is a family-friendly destination that helps kids learn while having fun. Science and natural history thrive at this entertaining, hands-on venue.

Corinne's expert tip: Calling all film buffs! The Pacific Science Center is a great spot to catch IMAX films (arrive early, though; the Center has a no-late-seating policy for both theaters).

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Olympic Sculpture Park
Photo courtesy of SAM-Olympic Sculpture Park

Olympic Sculpture Park: Stroll through the grounds and admire the fascinating large-scale works on display at this nine-acre green space. Extensive landscaping enhances the park's beauty, and a walkway, extending from the beach to Belltown, provides views of the Puget Sound and of downtown landmarks. Among the pieces on view along the way view is "Eye Benches I, II, III" by Louise Bourgeois, a series of functional carved-granite benches that take the form of giant eyeballs. Also here is a work from the height of famed sculptor Alexander Calder's career, "The Eagle" from 1971, a huge abstract steel sculpture in bright orange. Free public tours of the park are offered, and times and topics vary by season.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: The Olympic Sculpture Park draws visitors for its unique allure: a free, alfresco art "museum," with stunning water views.

Corinne's expert tip: Although it's mostly an outdoor experience, the sculpture park features the PACCAR Pavilion, within which the Seattle Art Museum operates the SAM Shop at Olympic Sculpture Park. The shop offers a delightful and distinctive collection of artist multiples and art objects that serve as tasteful souvenirs of your visit here.

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A 48-foot Hammering Man sculpture marks the outside of this vast museum, and adjustable steel panels flank the glass walls and allow light to enter the innovative front space known as the Brotman Forum. Upon entering, visitors encounter an extraordinary display of nine sculpted white cars hanging in the air at different angles. The galleries house displays of Native American, African, and European art. To showcase particular events, each gallery within the spacious building is given an identity corresponding to its specific exhibit. Along with the wealth of art available for perusing, visitors also have the opportunity to enjoy regularly-scheduled lectures, classes and live performances. Two museum shops are available.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Downtown's Seattle Art Museum (or SAM) boasts an impressive collection of Pacific Northwest Native American and Asian art, plus much more.

Corinne's expert tip: Called simply SAM by locals, the museum is known for its extensive and well-curated collections of Pacific Northwest Native American and Asian art. SAM also has been known to land exclusive international touring exhibitions, including Monet and Gauguin. Check out the website for free entry days--like the first Thursdays of each month, which are free to all.

Read more about Seattle Art Museum Downtown →

Seattle Aquarium

Seattle Aquarium shelters a host of marine life, highlighting creatures found in the Pacific Northwest. One of the facility's most intriguing features is an underwater dome where visitors can watch fish and sea mammals swim around them. A kid-friendly touch tank lets children handle sea creatures and learn to treat them gently. Other attractions concentrate on spawning salmon and the antics of several adorable sea otters, who really earn their keep at feeding time. At the "Window on Washington Waters," watch dive shows that take place daily at 10 a.m. 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Guests of all ages enjoy whimsical exhibits with themes like "ocean oddities."

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: The Seattle Aquarium features fascinating creatures from the Pacific Northwest in a nice, waterfront setting. Enjoy sea otters and daily dive shows.

Corinne's expert tip: Enjoy the "Window on Washington Waters" where dive shows take place daily at 10 a.m. 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

Read more about Seattle Aquarium →

If you're ever going to visit a venue dedicated to the magic of music, Seattle is THE place to do so. This intriguing museum celebrates the history of rock and roll. Over 80,000 American music mementos are showcased in the ultra-modern Frank Gehry-designed building, which resembles a smashed guitar. Among the displays are Janis Joplin's floral bell-bottoms and a leather jacket once worn by Elvis Presley. Sky Church, a performance arena erected to host concerts by world-renowned musicians, is also part of the complex. After viewing the exhibits, guests may unwind in the museum's Turntable restaurant or Liquid Lounge bar.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Experience Music Project delights visitors of all ages with its music memorabilia and hands-on activities. You can't miss the funky building at Seattle Center.

Corinne's expert tip: Warm up those music-playing hands; interactive exhibits here at the EMP (what locals call the site) allow patrons to practice their own tunes in mock studios and even on a simulated concert stage.

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Pike Place Market
Photo courtesy of Magic in the Market/Richmond Public Relations

Sights, smells, and sounds make Pike Place a head-spinning whirlwind for first-time visitors. Fishmongers near the main entrance entice buyers with loud hawking and dexterous salmon throwing antics, the briny smell of fresh seafood filling the air. Countering that are the rows of vibrantly colorful flower stalls, which emit their pleasing perfumed aromas to passersby. Farm-fresh produce is mounded high along the aisles, and local artisans display their art and wares unique to the Northwest. Restaurants, a brewery, and specialty shops for everything from antiques to movie ephemera fill the multi-level maze. To help visitors find their way, the Market Foundation offers fun and informational tours Wednesdays through Saturdays, starting at the Market Heritage Center at 1531 Western Avenue. Once you have your bearings, pick out a favorite spot and enjoy some of the best people-watching around in this eclectic and progressive environment.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Pike Place Market is perhaps THE quintessential Seattle destination; here watch the fish throwers, talented buskers and an array of local artisans selling goods.

Corinne's expert tip: Across the street from the main market building along an arcade of shops and restaurants, the original Starbuck's Coffee remains in its unassuming original location.

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Meet Corinne Whiting

Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's...  More About Corinne