Seattle - Port Guide
This port guide comes to you from Lisa Pederson of Snapshot Traveler. She writes about her experiences, focusing on those extra special ‘snapshot’ moments. Lisa has lived in Seattle for years, and has kindly written this insightful Port Guide to her home city for us.
Thank you very much Lisa for this thorough and interesting guide. Read on to get her local insider info.
Karen's Quick Guide
Where is the ship/how to get to the sights?
In Seattle, cruise ships dock at one of two spots:
Pier 66, Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal
Pier 91, Smith Cove Cruise Terminal
Cruise ships in Seattle dock at one of two locations: Bell Harbor at Pier 66 or Smith Cove at Pier 91. Both piers are located along Alaskan Way; however, Pier 66 is a bit more centrally located.
Typically, cruises run from Seattle from May – September, which are the warmer, dryer months in the Pacific Northwest. However, the temperatures can be much cooler in the evenings:
|MONTH||AVERAGE TEMP F||AVERAGE TEMP C|
Although the temperatures are mild during the spring and summer months, the weather can be unpredictable. It’s not uncommon to have rain and sunshine all within the same day, and sometimes simultaneously! Think layers when touring the Seattle waterfront. Long-sleeved t-shirts, light sweaters, hoodies, etc. topped with a lightweight water-resistant or waterproof jacket with a hood. You may opt to bring an umbrella, but as you’ll notice with locals, many skip this altogether. Often, the rain is not a torrential downpour and you’ll be able to get by with just a jacket hood covering your head.
Sights & Sights
A Dash of Adventure
Wings Over Washington: This “flying theater” uses state-of-the-art 5k camera technology to transport folks through some of the most gorgeous places in Washington State from the Hoh Rainforest to Mount Rainier and beyond. With a breeze in the air and mist on your cheeks, you’ll be completely immersed in a world that seems so real that you can reach out and touch it.
The Seattle Great Wheel: One of the newer installments along the waterfront, the Seattle Great Wheel is neighbors with Wings Over Washington. At a whopping 175 feet tall, it provides stunning views of Puget Sound and the city skyline. On clear days, you’ll be able to spot the gorgeous Olympic Mountains to the west and Mount Rainier to the south. Gondola’s hold up to 8 people, but if you want a private ride for just your group, opt for the VIP pass.
A Sprinkle of Culture & History
Olympic Sculpture Park: Located between Myrtle Edwards Park and Pier 66, the Olympic Sculpture Park is a fun, eclectic mix of local sculptures crafted from metal, stone, and wood. As you wander the paved pathway through the park, you will find creations such as Bunyon’s Chess, the Eagle, and the Eye Benches. The best part? This park, part of the Seattle Museum of Art (SAM), is free to the public.
Tillicum Village: If you have some extra time on your hands in the city, consider taking one of the day tours to Tillicum Village. Tours to this Native American village on Blake Island are through Argosy Cruises where visitors have the option between a 4 or 5 hours excursion. Visitors are treated to an authentic fire-roasted meal and entertained by Native American storytelling.
Pioneer Square: About a mile from Pier 66, you’ll find the historic Pioneer Square. This tree-lined, cobblestone plaza is dubbed as the “birthplace of Seattle.” Here you will find a mix of pubs, restaurants, coffee houses, galleries, and shops. A local favourite? The long and narrow Doc Maynard’s Public House serving up northwest-styled snacks and tasty local beverages. If you want a splash of humor with a bit of Seattle history, consider taking the 75-minute guided Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, which conveniently starts at Doc Maynards.
A Spoonful of Sound
Owl N’ Thistle: Located near Pioneer Square (about a mile away from Pier 66), you’ll find the Dublin-style pub, Owl N’ Thistle. You can sample hearty Irish dishes such as colecannon (mashed potatoes, cabbage, kale, and cheese all baked into one savory treat), fish & chips, and Guinness beef stew, and enjoy a pint or two. The best part of this pub is the live music where you’ll find yourself singing along to some Irish classics and more contemporary hits.
Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley: For an evening of incredible music and delicious northwest cuisine, make reservations for an evening at Jazz Alley. Located in the heart of downtown and only a little over a mile from the waterfront, you’ll be treated to internationally acclaimed and local jazz and fusion musicians. If you plan to go, book in advance to reserve your table – seats fill up fast!
MoPOP Museum: The Museum of Modern Art, better known as MoPOP was founded by the city’s beloved philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen. This unique building, formerly known as the Experience Music Project, is a hands-on, full-immersion experience of the world of popular music and art. With a rotating list of exhibitions (ex: local greats such as Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam), a Sound Lab where you can try your hand at playing different instruments, science fiction exhibits, and a Holodome (immersive reality experience), MoPOP has a little something for everyone.
A Pinch of Weird
The Post Alley Gum Wall: Yes, there is a wall in Seattle – in Post Alley to be exact – that is covered in chewing gum. The story behind the gum starts in 1993 when patrons of a nearby theater stuck their gum to the brick wall outside of the venue. Cleaning crews grew tired of cleaning up the gooey mess and let the pile of gum grow. Fast-forward to today and you will find chewing gum creations (works of art?) along this wall. Gross? Most definitely. But for some reason, people seem to like to snap a picture or two of this strange Seattle site.
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop: Need an animal skull in a dome? Or perhaps a book on the mysterious Pacific Northwest Bigfoot? Ye Olde Curiosity Shop has been keeping patrons – over a million visitors a year - entertained since 1899 with its strange shop of curios and souvenirs. Located on Pier 54 next to Ivars.
My recommended independent tours
Below are a few great tours I would recommend doing in Seattle.
The choices for shopping and souvenirs are endless in Seattle. Here are a few of my favourites from along the waterfront:
Made in Washington Stores – As the name implies, all the items in this gift store are “Locally inspired. Locally made.” At the Pike Place location (1530 Post Alley), you’ll find smoked salmon, hand-blown glass, locally made snacks and sweets, and Pacific Northwest knickknacks. A fun stop if you want to add a little bit of “Seattle” to your souvenirs.
Moon Valley Organics – This body care line was the brainchild of Pacific Northwest natives Kim & Aaron Otto. Not only are their products USDA certified organic, part of their profits go toward saving our friendly pollinators: the bees. You can find Moon Valley Organics at Pike Place (1903 Pike Place).
Simply Seattle – T-shirts, hoodies, tanks, hats, totes, toys and much more – all adorned with Seattle-themed logos. This shop is also a great place to find local sports team clothing such as the Seahawks, Sounders, Sonics, and Huskies. Located at Pier 54.
If you only have two hours
Many of the sites, restaurants, and shops are within walking distance of the cruise ship terminals. The Seattle Waterfront is fantastic mix of mouthwatering meals, eclectic art, unique crafts, breathtaking views, and of course, coffee! The best way to get a “taste” of the Seattle waterfront is to walk. The waterfront itself is roughly 1.5 miles and a relatively easy stroll with many stops along the way. The free hop-on-hop-off trolley that runs along Alaskan Way is also a great option.
Starting at Myrtle Edwards Park (spectacular views of Elliott Bay, Bainbridge Island, and Olympic Mountains) on the northwest side of Alaskan Way and working your way southeast is the most efficient way to see the sites along the waterfront. You’ll pass by the Olympic Sculpture Park, the Seattle Aquarium at Pier 59 and the neighboring Miners Landing (great shopping for knickknacks and souvenirs), Seattle Great Wheel and Wings Over Washington at Pier 57.
Down the waterfront just a bit further is Ivar Fish Bar at Pier 54 – a quick, easy way to grab a bite at one of Seattle’s favorite seafood joints. You’ll also find Ye Olde Curiosity Shop – it’s weird and worth a peek!
Last, be sure to save time for wandering through the Pike Place Market, which is a short walk from Pier 54. If you don’t see the fish flying at the Pike Place Fish Co, just ask! They are happy to toss some fish for tourists to see!
If you want to see some of the sites that are a little further away from the waterfront (Seattle Center, The Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, Capitol Hill, etc.), Uber, Lyft, and even a taxi are good options, but be sure to plan your time accordingly.
What is it known for?
When you think of Seattle, often people think of rain. Contrary to popular belief, it rains at lot less in Seattle than people think. Averaging about 37 inches a year, cities such as New York, Atlanta, and New Orleans get more annual rainfall.
Seattle is also known for its coffee. This is the birthplace of Starbucks, which you will see plenty of if you visit the city. In fact, the very first Starbucks is located at Pike Place Market near the cruise terminals.
Seattle is also known for its rich history in music. Big names such as Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Macklemore, Kenny G, and Sir Mix-A-Lot all got their start here in the city. The love for music runs deep in Seattle, and you will find music everywhere, from street corners to the fanciest of venues.
Seattle and the surrounding areas LOVE their sports teams. The Emerald City is home to the Super Bowl 48 champs: The Seattle Seahawks as well as the baseball team, the Mariners, and Major League Soccer team, The Sounders FC.
Last, Seattle has deep roots in the fishing industry, and it’s here you’ll find some of the freshest, most delectable seafood. From fresh salmon, halibut, crab, clams, mussels, and even geoduck – Seattle has no shortage of pescatarian delights.
Food & Drink
The Crab Pot: If you’re looking for a meal that you can really dig into, make your way to The Crab Pot at Miner’s Landing. Although you have the option to order your own entrée, consider ordering one of the “Seafeasts” to share with a buddy or two. Crab legs, shrimp, corn, and potatoes all poured onto your table to enjoy!
Ivars Restaurant: This Seattle seafood staple has been around since the 1930s and is known for catch phrases such as “keep clam.” If you’re looking for a quick bite, head to Pier 54 and grab a basket of fish and chips or better yet, try the clam chowder bread bowl. You can saddle up to one of the tables on the dock, enjoy your meal, and watch the ferry boats float by.
Sister’s European Café: Fun, vibrant, and smack-dab in the middle of Post Alley, Sister’s European Café serves up grilled sammies, soups, and salads. Try some of the breakfast favorites such as the “Eggstra” or the “Eggcellent” – you won’t be disappointed!
Pike Place Market: At Seattle’s oldest farmer’s market, you’ll find fresh fruit and veggies, smoked meats, and of course, tons of fish. This open-air market is home to the “flying fish” which you can see sailing through the air at the Pike Place Fish Market.
The market is a short half-mile from Pier 66. In addition to the fresh food, you will find hand-crafted items, specialty foods, souvenir shops, cafes, and a ton of restaurants. One local favorite? El Borracho, a taqueria that puts a creative twist on its fare, such as their Pato – shredded duck carnitas with pickled onion and fresh queso. For those feeling a little less adventurous, they offer a full menu of other delicious meals, including vegan options.
Old Stove Brewing: This relatively new Pike Place brewery and tap house is home to home to a dozen different IPAs, lagers, stouts, and ciders – all brewed onsite and ready to taste! Try the award-winning Belgium farmhouse style beer, Saison du Snozberry.
The Chocolate Market: A vintage candy boutique in Pike Place, The Chocolate Market sells locally crafted, artisan treats. Fudge, truffles, caramels, and milk chocolate creations – it’s enough to satisfy your sweet tooth!
Starbucks: Yes, you can find Starbucks everywhere, but Seattle is the birthplace of this global coffee company and you can visit its very first location, which opened in 1971, right at Pike Place Market.
Free Wi-Fi is available in many restaurants and cafés – just ask! Easily accessible Wi-Fi can be found:
- Starbucks (Closest locations to cruise ship terminals: Pike Place Market, Pier 55, and Pioneer Square)
- Anthony’s Bell Street Diner, Pier 66
- Alaskan Sourdough Bakery, Pier 57
The currency here is US dollars. Additionally, all major credit cards are accepted here. You can find ATM machines at Bell Harbor (Pier 66), Wells Fargo at Miners Landing (Pier 57), and near the Sister’s European Café in Post Alley (1916 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101).
If you are flying to SeaTac International Airport, consider exchanging your currency at the airport at one of the Exchange Centers as there are no downtown bank locations that handle foreign currency exchange.
Lisa’s Top Tip
Try the seafood, especially the salmon dishes. Dine-in restaurants such as Anthony’s at Pier 66 is a fantastic Pacific Northwest restaurant that serves up mouthwatering salmon dishes, to-die-for crab cakes, and seasonal desserts. If you’re a little worried about pricing, try to dine during their lunchtime hours for a more budget-friendly meal. Dining along the waterfront is an absolute treat as the view is every-changing: boats sailing across Elliott Bay, seagulls soaring through the air, and perhaps the sun illuminating the city.
My experience here
I have lived in the Pacific Northwest all of my life and spending time along the Seattle waterfront is always a treat for me. For me, one of my favorite things is seeing friends/family members experience the city for the first time. I love seeing awe in their faces when they smell the salt in the air and see Puget Sound for the first time. I love hearing the laughs when they see the fish flying through the air at the market. I love hearing “Oh, wow!” as they take the first bite of our northwest seafood.
There are a couple of places that have become a staple for me when I visit the waterfront:
Piers 54 and 57 - I love wandering through Miners Landing (Pier 57) with its wooden plank flooring and fun mix of shops and restaurants. It’s almost as if I’m transported back in time. If you happen to have little ones with you, there is a merry-go-round inside the building! Pier 54 is home to my favorite place for clam chowder – a must (even in the summer) if I’m on the waterfront. Ivars Acres of Clams: Quick service, always super yummy, and great views of the Sound.
Pike Place – Even if it’s just for a short while, I always make a point to wander through the market. The goods – produce, fish, flowers, and handcrafted items – are always new, but the energy is always the same:
My Most Memorable Moment
For me, it’s sometimes difficult to see Seattle as a “new” destination with all the years I’ve lived in Washington. However, my most memorable moment was when my family was visiting from out of town, and we bought tickets for Wings Over Washington. It was my first time on this “flying ride” and I was absolutely blown away. I had tears in my eyes as we soared over some of Washington’s most beautiful sights. Go and see the best of the best of Washington! I can’t recommend this ride enough!
Lisa is a travel blogger with My Snapshot Traveler, a site that highlights singular, memorable moments from travel from folks around the globe. She has her roots in the Pacific Northwest but is always looking to add stamps to her passport and share Snapshot Stories along the way. For more on My Snapshot Traveler, please visit Lisa on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and her travel blog, My Snapshot Traveler.
Disclosure: Please note that some links to products and services on this site may be affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase through them, at no extra cost to you, I may earn a small commission. I only recommend products and companies I use and believe in, and any income I might make will go to me being able to keep running the site, and keeping it ad free. If you enjoy my free content and would like to support my site, please utilize these links when booking any of the products recommended.