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Best Things to Do in Fall in Seattle

Fall for the season when cozy activities and stunning 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 on Seattle's hygge-filled patios (at coffee shops, eateries, breweries and rooftop bars). On the other hand, some view this season as the perfect excuse to get out 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. Observatory experiences (at the Space Needle and Columbia Tower) raise visitors to new heights this fall, while music venues The Triple Door excitedly welcome talented artists who 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. 

 


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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 →


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 →


This beautiful arboretum, designed by Edmond S. Meany, covers 200 acres and features many species obtained via a seed exchange with universities throughout the world. The Japanese Garden is a lovely, quiet refuge from the busy city, and the waterfront trail leads visitors through a Native American burial ground to the Duck Pond. If you're in the mood for some time alone, you can take a canoe out on the pond and relax in Mother Nature's care. The Arboretum is open every day from dawn to dusk, free of charge. Visitors of all ages might enjoy exploring the site through the help of a self-guided tour. (Go online to print out a trail map, listen to an audio tour and more.)

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Soak in the fall foliage at this beautiful, 200-acre arboretum, designed by Edmond S. Meany and featuring fascinating many species of flowers and trees.

Corinne's expert tip: Madison Park Beach is another nearby attraction outdoor lovers will want to check out. (It's located just a short drive away.)

Read more about Washington Park Arboretum & Japanese Garden →


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The Triple Door
Photo courtesy of The Triple Door


Located in Seattle's historic Mann Building in the heart of downtown, this intimate and sophisticated, award-winning music and dinner theatre occupies the renovated space that formerly housed the Embassy Theater (originally a 1920s vaudeville house). The Mainstage, downstairs on the lower level, is an intimate candlelit spot with state-of-the-art sound and booths that offer clear sight lines to the stage. An Asian-fusion menu is provided by adjacent Wild Ginger restaurant, and the same cuisine can be enjoyed upstairs in the bar. In this upstairs lounge-like space, live music, DJ sets and a stellar happy hour menu have become legendary around town.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Enjoying inspiring music, alongside tasty food and drink, at this intimate and sophisticated, award-winning music and dinner theatre.

Corinne's expert tip: Masks are required in the venue except when eating and drinking.

Read more about The Triple Door →


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. Don't miss the Country Breakfast, a Salish Lodge tradition featuring four courses, including steel-cut oats and the iconic "Honey from Heaven™ service," where honey from the lodge's hives gets poured from high above your plate onto buttery, house-made biscuits.

Read more about Salish Lodge and Spa →


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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 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. (Check latest opening info befogging visiting the cultural center.) 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. (The park's Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, now has a sister gallery in Ballard called Sacred Circle Gift Shop.)

Read more about Discovery Park →


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 →


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. 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 50th.

John's expert tip: Special events throughout the fall help celebrate the 50th anniversary of saving the Market, which was then at risk for urban renewal by demolition. (Visit PikePlaceMarket.org/Keep-Market.) Grab a bite at Old Stove Brewing in between your Pike Place wanderings.

Read more about Pike Place Market →




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 queued 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. (Check out the current reduced schedule online.)

Read more about Mount Rainier National Park →


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Waterfront
FSR Clipper
Photo courtesy of FSR Clipper

Seattle-area residents and visitors alike are thrilled to see the return of the San Juan Clipper, the only operator offering half- and full-day whale watching tours from the downtown Seattle waterfront (Friday through Monday, May through October). At this time of year, passengers can glimpse mammal-eating transient orca whales, humpbacks and gray whales finishing their northern migration across the Salish Sea, plus a variety of playful seals, sea lions and swooping bald eagles. Guests can also choose to enjoy the Clipper's direct, fast ferry, featuring a brand-new interior, prime for weekend getaways that give sufficient time to explore magic-tinged San Juan Island.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Until October, happy boat passengers enjoy the San Juan Clipper, the only operator offering half- and full-day whale watching tours from the downtown Seattle waterfront.

Corinne's expert tip: While service to Victoria is temporarily suspended, guests can still enjoy the Clipper's direct, fast ferry, prime for weekend getaways that give sufficient time to explore magic-tinged San Juan Island. Once guests have slid onto island time, paddling and kayaking outings pushing off from the shores of San Juan grant up-close access to the region's bounty of wildlife.

Read more about FSR Clipper →


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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

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