It should come as no surprise to visitors that a rainy day or two is coming from the territory that is Seattle. Finally, the lush green landscape that earned Washington State’s largest city its nickname Emerald City it didn’t come out of nowhere. It was due to rain.
Especially in late fall and winter, rain is a pretty good bet. Seattle averages 14 days of rain per month in November, December, and January, and February and March average 12 and 13 days of rain per month.
When I arrived in Seattle, I was thrilled to realize that the rain seemed to intensify the entertainment at Seattle’s many attractions – from the spectacular Glasshouse at Chihuly Garden and Glass to the city’s iconic coffeehouse scene.
Here are 9 amazing things to do in Seattle when it’s raining:
Several of my tours have been led by Visit Seattle and Seattle CityPASSbut my opinions are my own.
1. Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market, a wildly popular downtown Seattle market, not only offers a dizzying array of chocolates, fruit, seafood, and flowers, it’s also wonderfully rainproof. Most of the market is fenced off and the exteriors are usually protected by awnings and overhangs.
I’ve always loved wandering around Pike Place, watching the fishmongers’ funny antics, tasting chocolate-covered cherries, and browsing the gift shops with their beautiful fresh and dried flowers, old books, and unique handbags and scarves. Rainy weather can bring larger than usual crowds, but all of this contributes to the bustling atmosphere in the market.
Pro Tip: Pike Place Soup
For classic Seattle clam chowder, visit the award-winning Pike Place Chowder. To avoid the crowds at Pike Place Market, head just a few blocks northeast to Pacific Place Center.
2. Starbucks Reserve Seattle Roastery
Among Seattle’s many claims to fame is its famous coffee-drinking culture. The international Starbucks chain began its operations at the site on Pike Place. Now independent coffee shops are found on street corners throughout the city.
For a unique and unique coffee experience, visitors should not miss the Starbucks Reserve Seattle Roastery in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Described as “an immersive and dramatic expression of our passion for coffee”, the Roastery offers a wide selection of coffees, cakes and smoothies. It is also a beautifully designed space that gives customers a fascinating look at the smoking process.
3. Chihuly garden and glass
Dale Chihuly, a glass artist, started out in nearby Tacoma, and Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass perfectly showcases the work of the world-renowned Washington DC artist.
The entire area is perfect for a rainy day, but I especially like the magnificent Glasshouse, a 40-foot centerpiece of the garden that covers 4,500 square feet and has huge windows overlooking the adjacent Space Needle. The Glasshouse sculpture never ceases to take your breath away with its palette of reds, oranges, yellows and ambers. The raindrops on the arched windows only intensify the colors.
Professional advice: Seattle embraces its rainy vibe, and for fun, check out the colorful Maxwell Hotel Staypineapple – located just steps from Seattle Center and Chihuly Garden and Glass – with its “Kissing in the Rain” package.
4. Museum of Pop Culture
From Jimi Hendrix to Nirvana, from fantasy to sci-fi, the Museum of Pop Culture (or MoPOP) covers the pop culture scene.
The expansive, multifaceted museum features around a dozen extremely detailed and hands-on exhibits, some of which are interactive and cover a range of music genres from rock to punk to hip-hop. Exhibits – eg Worlds of myths and magic, thrill of horror, and Science Fiction + Fantasy Hall of Fame – they also give you an insight into movie genres.
Some of the highlights of MoPOP for me are the old photos in the new Contact High: A visual history of hip-hopthe delight of the huge HD-LED screen in Sky Church and what is amazing Guitar gallery features guitars from many music legends and clips from nearly 30 musicians including Poison Ivy, Slash, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bob Dylan.
Professional advice: Seattle’s iconic Space Needle is right next door to Chihuly Garden and Glass and MoPOP, and the three make a great trio of trips around the Seattle Center area, although it’s probably best to wait for a sunny day to enjoy the views from the Space Needle.
5. Dim Sum Brunch at Din Tai Fung
For something warm and comforting on a rainy morning, what could be better than noodle soup, shrimp and hot tea? I love dim sum brunch and the Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung has long been on my list of places to go must to try.
Fortunately, Seattle has three locations for a popular restaurant. My family and I made a spot stop at Seattle’s beautiful five-story Pacific Place mall on a rainy Friday morning. We ordered various dim sum options such as tasty – and photogenic – cucumber salad, seaweed and bean curd in vinegar sauce, pork xiao long bao (soup noodles) and sliced chicken noodle soup. It was the perfect antidote to a damp, cold November day!
6. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
For a glimpse into Seattle’s distant past, look down into the underground passages that run beneath the sidewalks and streets in the Pioneer Square neighborhood.
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour takes tour groups deep beneath modern-day tunnel walkways that were once main roads and first-floor storefronts in Seattle’s old downtown. Along the way, you’ll pass old signs, historic skylights, and restored saloons such as the interior of Doc Maynard’s Brothel, where the tour begins.
The route takes you through the above-ground historic Pionierów Square before heading to three different subway sections. My tour included about 30 people and our guide told us funny stories about the exploits of Seattle’s early inhabitants. The tour advertises itself as “a story with a twist” and it certainly lives up to that slogan.
7. Aviation Museum
For a chance to travel through time and space, the Seattle Aviation Museum is an experience not to be missed. From the early days of airmail, to Apollo space exploration in the 1960s, and into the future, the museum offers a comprehensive look at the wonders of flight.
Billed as “the largest independent, non-profit aviation and space museum in the world”, the Aviation Museum is sure to amaze visitors young and old with its vast collection of aircraft, spacecraft, artifacts, galleries and exhibits that touch on the past, present and future of flight.
The museum now also houses the interesting Walt Disney Studios traveling exhibition, which chronicles the contributions of the Allied war effort during World War II.
8. Smith Tower
For a bit of early 20th-century glamour, head to the 484-meter tall Smith Tower, which was Seattle’s first skyscraper and the tallest building west of the Mississippi River when it was built in 1914.
Today, visitors can browse the historic exhibits on the ground floor that tell the story of the iconic tower over the decades, then take the historic elevator up to the open-air observation deck. Although the observation deck is best used in good weather, the elevator also offers a pleasant ride on a rainy day to the speakeasy-style bar, where visitors can sip on a classic cocktail.
When I visited, I was lucky enough to rest in the rain so I could enjoy the fantastic 360 degree views of Seattle from the Smith Tower.
Any visit to Seattle should include a tour of the Capitol, a neighborhood that Visit Seattle describes as “probably Seattle’s coolest neighborhood.” Numerous bars, cafes, breweries and ciders make Capitol Hill the perfect place to crawl after food or drinks, and many places are cozy on a rainy afternoon or evening.
On my recent trip, I checked out quirky and fun Montana to try the famous Montana Mules bar. I then hopped into Dino’s Tomato Pie for a slice of the signature square pizza dough. Other interesting places to try on Capitol Hill include Capitol Cider for a cider flight, the southern-influenced Wandering Goose Café for fried chicken and pimento mac and cheese, Elysian Brewing Company for a range of craft beers, and local favorite Rachel’s Ginger Beer for a drink non-alcoholic with a tart blood orange.
Pro Tips: Discovering Seattle
Along with the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and MoPOP, the Seattle CityPASS includes the Seattle Aquarium (another great rainy-day attraction), where visitors can see sea otters, giant Pacific octopuses, and crested puffins. The CityPASS also includes the stunning Woodland Park Zoo near the Ballard District and an exciting Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour. The pass includes five attractions to choose from: Space Needle, Aquarium and three others.
Art, Gardens And Chocolate
Seattle also has many other rainy-day must-sees, including the Seattle Art Museum; Volunteer Park Conservatory, a historic greenhouse and botanical garden on Capitol Hill; and chocolate factory tours at Theo Chocolate, located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.
To make your rainy adventure as comfortable as possible, remember to pack a rain jacket, waterproof shoes and an umbrella. Purchasing an ORCA card is also handy to use the convenient light rail system that connects Puget Sound.