Best Things to Do in Fall in Seattle

Fall for the season when cozy indoor activities and stunning outdoor adventures await

The Pacific Northwest dazzles in any season, but the region's colors truly "wow" in the vibrant autumn months. Since options for how to spend any Seattle day can seem endless, we're happy to help you narrow down the abundance of choices. Some prefer to spend these often-cooler months cozying up inside Seattle's hygge-filled spaces (from coffee shops and eateries to museum galleries and music-filled lounges like downtown's KEXP Gathering Space). On the other hand, some view this season as the perfect excuse to get outside on trails and waterways that show off the natural beauty of our region.

As autumn arrives, Washington's national parks erupt in beautiful colors, and outdoor adventures prepare to transition from summertime hikes to snow-centric activities (like skiing and snowshoeing). Downtown treasures like Discovery Park give urban dwellers the chance to experience the changing of the seasons within city limits. Brand-new observatory experiences (at the Space Needle and Columbia Tower) raise visitors to new heights this fall, while theaters like 5th Avenue excitedly welcome lauded productions that promise to inspire and entertain.

However you choose to celebrate the season, we guarantee that this splendid place–and its wonderful people–will leave you feeling grateful for the rich bounty of the season. 



Some of Washington's most magnificent scenery can be found within this national forest's expansive boundaries. The rugged--and at times harsh--landscape encompasses the Cascade Mountains as well as an active volcano in the form of Mt. Baker. Beginning in mid-September, the forest's flora slowly changes from bright greens to reds and oranges, providing an attractive contrast to the area's coverage of conifers. Huckleberry, mountain ash and heather offer a patchwork of warm colors, often reflected in the forest's many lakes. Since the forest is so extensive, a driving tour is an ideal way to see as much fall foliage as possible in a relatively short time. Try the Mt. Baker Highway or the North Cascades Highway for some unforgettable views.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Relish the colors of the season inside the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, a natural treasure that's ideal for beautiful hikes and wintertime snow sports.

Corinne's expert tip: For science buffs: Mount Baker, also known as Koma Kulshan or simply Kulshan, is an active glaciated andesitic stratovolcano. (For outdoors lovers: Check out the skiing here in snowy months!) Nearby Bellingham is a great place to stop for live music or local brews en route to mountain adventures.

Read more about Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest →

Bellevue Botanical Garden
Photo courtesy of Courtesy Visit Bellevue

From dawn to dusk, wander this urban refuge that includes 53 acres of beautifully cultivated gardens, restored woodlands and natural wetlands. The city of Bellevue maintains the facility, keeping it in impeccable shape year-round. Explore unspoiled woodlands, Japanese gardens and the conservation area. Don't forget to browse the garden lovers' gift shop or the botanical library, which has hundreds of books in stock. Through October, take a free, 1-hour docent-led tour on Saturdays and Sundays (donations encouraged). Throughout the year, be on the lookout for special events from arts-centric gatherings to enticing seasonal events that illuminate the green spaces around the holidays.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: On the Eastside, wander this sprawling urban refuge that includes 53 acres of cultivated gardens, restored woodlands and natural wetlands

Corinne's expert tip: If in Bellevue, also check out the expansion of the Meydenbauer Bay Park, located a few blocks from downtown Bellevue. Here you'll find a swimming beach, boat launch, picnic areas, children's play area, beach house and 400-foot curved pier. The park also includes REI's Boathouse (opened in May 2019), from which you can rent stand-up paddleboards, canoes, kayaks and pedal boats to take out onto Lake Washington.

Read more about Bellevue Botanical Garden →

The 5th Avenue Theatre is known as one of the nation's leading musical theater companies, especially for its production and development of new works. Since 2002, the Seattle-based company has produced 17 new musicals. (To date, nine--including Disney's Aladdin-- have moved on to Broadway premieres, earning a combined 15 Tony Awards, including two for Best Musical--Hairspray and Memphis. The 5th Avenue Theatre also makes waves for its lauded productions of musicals from the contemporary canon and the Golden Age of Broadway. While the shows are sensational, the venue itself justifies a visit, too, thanks to a unique, Chinese-inspired design. (The exquisite theater opened in 1926 as a venue for vaudeville and film.) Upcoming productions include Austen's Pride (October 4 through October 27) and Mrs. Doubtfire (November 26 through December 29).

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy inspiring theater productions at 5th Avenue; "Come From Away" plays here from October 9 through November 4.

Corinne's expert tip: To avoid service fees, purchase tickets in person at the Box Office. (RN74 proves the perfect place to grab a pre-show meal or glass of wine.)

Read more about 5th Avenue Theatre →


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 provers 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 Things to Do in Fall because: Situated on Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, this expansive urban park proves the perfect place to soak in autumnal foliage within city limits.

John's expert tip: Pack a picnic to enjoy on the beach next to the West Point Lighthouse.

Read more about Discovery Park →

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, spicier parts). The network of abandoned rooms and paths prove interesting, but the stories and tales of seamstresses, thieves and prominent residents truly bring the area to life. This tour provides a fascinating glimpse into the city's heritage and legendary lore. 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--covering about three blocks total. The tour ends in Rogues Gallery, a quirky gift shop.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Get in the spirit of the season on spooky yet educational Underground Tours that explore the city's intriguing past.

Corinne's expert tip: Find quirky, kooky gifts to take home to friends and family at the well-stocked gift shop. Afterward, consider grabbing a cocktail (with a view) at Smith Tower's speakeasy-style bar or their brand-new, seasonal pop-up space.

Read more about Underground Tour →

Pike Place Market

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 Things to Do in Fall because: Savor the bounty of the season at Pike Place Market, a must-visit historic site, whether this is your first time here of your 20th.

John's expert tip: While foodie-centric tours abound, we're particularly intrigued by the newest, chef-driven one hosted by Eat Seattle that follows the themes of "Chocolate & Coffee" on Thursdays through Sundays (12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.).

Read more about Pike Place Market →

Clipper Vacations
Photo courtesy of Clipper

Plan nearby getaways from Seattle with Clipper Vacations packages that highlight alluring spots from charming Victoria (Vancouver Island) and Vancouver to San Juan Island (into October). To get to the enticing destination of Victoria, take a ride on one of many high-speed Clipper catamarans that leave from downtown Seattle's Pier 69. Take advantage of the Victoria Clipper's passenger-only ferry service that schedules year-round daily departures to Victoria, BC, and seasonal daily departures to the San Juan Islands, too. Autumn highlights in the British Columbia capital include ghost walks, high tea sessions, brewery walkabouts and tours that help visitors learn more about First Nations history and culture.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Among other route options, celebrate this season of exploration by traveling from downtown Seattle to downtown Victoria (B.C.) on a sleek, high-speed Clipper catamaran.

Corinne's expert tip: Keep your eye on the routes offered by the Clipper. One of its current popular routes allows guests to travel from downtown Seattle to downtown Victoria via a sleek, high-speed catamaran. Autumn highlights in the British Columbia capital include ghost walks, high tea sessions, brewery walkabouts and tours that help visitors learn more about First Nations history and culture.

Read more about Clipper Vacations →

Salish Lodge and Spa
Photo courtesy of Salish Lodge & Spa

A scenic 30-minute drive from Seattle brings you to the charmingly rustic-chic Salish Lodge & Spa, which offers Old-World ambiance and modern elegance. Get out and enjoy nature near the lodge, whether hiking around the rushing cascades or trying activities like fly fishing and snowshoeing, depending on the season. Back at the cozy venue, dine on award-winning Northwest cuisine while enjoying romantic views of Snoqualmie Falls. The team here prides itself on attending to a honeybee apiary that produces 2,400 pounds of honey per year, as well as a thriving herb garden and 800-square-foot organic vegetable garden, that provides The Dining Room and The Attic with unique culinary opportunities. For the ultimate getaway experience, book a dreamy spa service to round out your visit.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: A scenic 30-minute drive from Seattle, you'll find the charmingly rustic-chic Salish Lodge & Spa, which overlooks the region's iconic waterfalls.

Corinne's expert tip: Check out special seasonal promos and special spa offerings, like the romance- and Twin Peaks-themed packages, for example.

Read more about Salish Lodge and Spa →

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 as well as the changing colors of the seasons (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 the quaint "downtown" strip that features some shops, eateries and coffee spots. The island also features wineries, an organic distillery and other popular destinations like The Bloedel Reserve.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: From Seattle's downtown waterfront, it takes only 35 minutes to arrive on Bainbridge Island–, a laid-back hub for great food, friendly folks and beautiful art.

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! If arriving by car, enjoy driving to sites like The Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre forest garden.

Read more about Bainbridge Island Ferry →

This slumbering volcano is the second-tallest mountain in the continental United States after California's Mt. Whitney. Because of its northern locale and more extreme weather, though, Washington State's prime peak is used by many mountaineering groups to train for ascents of the world's most challenging climbs. In warmer months, flocks of climbers are cued up to challenge the summit's less strenuous routes, and throughout the year a variety of activities are available to extreme athletes and vacationing families alike. Hundreds of miles of hiking trails wind through dense past placid lakes and frothing waterfalls. There are plenty of short, spectacular day trips as well, whether hiking in summer or snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter. Lodging is available on the mountain at the historic inn at Paradise, where the visitor center offers meals and interpretive natural history.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: This slumbering volcano is the second-tallest mountain in the continental United States–and a stunning place to go on scenic outdoor adventures.

John's expert tip: One of the tallest peaks in the United States, Mt. Rainier is a training destination for international climbing parties, but during mild seasons on basic routes, the trek is accessible to climbers of most skill levels. Looking for a post-hike reward? Copper Creek Restaurant (in Ashford) serves up its famous pie just two miles from the Nisqually Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.

Read more about Mount Rainier National Park →


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