The weather can play such an integral part to how much we enjoy a destination. If your first glimpse at a new city is with the sun bouncing light off buildings, and sparkling reflections in the water, you are bound to think that the city is fabulous. Sunshine is just an automatic mood enhancer. This was actually my first ‘experience’ of Seattle. I first visited in summer of 2018. In the four months I spent there, we had 3 days where it rained. I had the most incredible summer, and Seattle will always be a ‘sparkly’ city for me.
What if it’s raining when I visit?
What happens when you visit somewhere and it’s not sunny? In fact, what if it’s raining? There are so many amazing things to do in Seattle, but it is possible that it could rain on one (or more – eek!) of the days you have exploring it. So you need a plan to ensure you’re still out there making the most of it, seeing and doing the top things to do in Seattle on your rainy day.
Although, to be fair, I think Seattle’s reputation as a rainy city is a little undeserved. Whilst it might rain on many days in a year, my experience of Seattle rain is that is more often than not, extremely light. Coming from Auckland, where we get sub-tropical downpours, I call most of the Seattle rain drizzle. It’s (usually) not enough to worry about, but if you do want to escape it, there is plenty to do.
In fact, limiting this post to the top 10 things to do in Seattle when it rains was difficult, because it’s a city that has SO.MUCH.TO.DO.
So let’s start – here’s my top 10 things to do in Seattle when it rains (in no particular order);
1. Spend time at a local museum
Downtown Seattle has a museum to suit everyone – even if you’re not really a ‘museum’ person.
- Museum of Pop Culture
- Museum of Flight
- Chihuly Garden and Glass
- Museum of History and Industry
- Seattle Art Museum
- Pacific Science Centre
- Seattle Aquarium
If this is your type of thing, you may want to consider purchasing a Seattle CityPass. This will give you a great discount to 5 of Seattle’s top 7 attractions (included are the ones in bold above).
I’ve always considered myself to not really be a ‘museum person’ – I much prefer doing to looking. But museums these days are becoming really interactive, and sometimes it’s the only way to see something unique, and to learn more.
The Museum of Pop Culture is quite unique, and is a museum that will engage most ages. I loved the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum, as stunning as the pieces are, it was how some of them were displayed that I felt privileged to see.
2. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
Did you know that as you walk around downtown Seattle, there’s actually the original city UNDERNEATH it?!!
I’m not going to spoil the story, but this tour is fascinating for the history you learn as you go, and is told with great humor. I have to admit to having pretty low expectations of it, but we loved it, and will never look at the glass in the sidewalks the same way again.
3. Tour the Boeing Everett Factory
As I travel, I try and find the most unique things to do in each city I’m in. The Boeing tour definitely rates as this for Seattle. Boeing is a major employer in Washington, and has had a significant presence here for many years. The Boeing factory itself is the largest building in the world (by volume). And whether you’re a plane geek or not, you can only be impressed at the facility, their processes, and their planes. It is a truly unique opportunity, and a great thing to do on a rainy day in Seattle.
(NOTE: Due to covid, the Boeing factory tour is currently closed.)
I have the sweetest tooth, and love nothing more than a delicious dessert. And for some reason, I think enjoying one on a rainy day just makes a lot of sense! So, if you think the same way, I highly recommend;
- take yourself to Hot Cakes Molten in Ballard and enjoy one of their delicious desserts
- enjoy a hot chocolate at the Chocolati Cafe inside the Seattle library (which is an awesome building to visit, and although the cafe is very unassuming, their hot chocolate is the BEST!)
- tour a chocolate factory – consider the Theo Chocolate factory, or the Seattle Chocolate Factory – could there be any better place on a rainy day??!!
Was this obvious?! It is possible to shop in every city you visit I’m sure, but for the best shopping experience in Seattle on a rainy day, I would recommend you head to Bellevue Square. There you’ll find over 200 shops undercover – so you’ll be warm and dry as you wander.
If you’d like something with a little more character, I love the shops and atmosphere at the University Village. Although this is an open-air shopping centre, they do provide umbrellas to use for free (such a great idea!).
AND – both of these centres are home to one of my favourite dining experiences ever – Din Tai Fung. So if you get hungry, pop your name down for a table – it’ll be worth the wait.
6. Suzzallo Library, University of Washington
If you do head to the University Village to shop, you may also want to take the time to visit the University campus. It is a truly beautiful University, that will have you thinking you’re somewhere in England as you wander around. But, if it’s raining, you may want to wander less. If this is the case, head inside to the Suzzallo library. The first part of it was completed in 1926. Wander into the Graduate Reading Room, and it’ll have you wondering if you’ve stepped into a set from a Harry Potter film. It is a space to enjoy slowly and quietly. Run your hands over the beautiful oak bookcases, and their hand carved friezes. See how the light plays in the 35 foot stained glass panels. Find your home on the amazing globes that hang, and read the names of European explorers who were the first travelers.
After, enjoy a cuppa with students in the library’s own Starbucks!
7. Pike Place Market
The Pike Place Market is a Seattle institution, and very wisely, it’s mostly a covered space, so perfect to visit on a rainy day. The market actually houses markets within markets. What do I mean? There’s a fish market, a farmers market, a flower market, and craft markets, alongside shops and of course, lots of places to eat.
The fish market is world famous – known for its tradition of fishmongers throwing fish that customers have purchased, before they are wrapped. (I first read about the market in the motivational business book FISH.)
Sampling the wares as you wander the stalls is a great way to spend time.
A couple of my favorite places to do this, are not actually in the market, but across the road from it. I highly recommend you do a tasting at;
- Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
- Joe Chocolate
- Rachel’s Ginger Beer
- Ellenos Greek Yoghurt
You may have also read, if you’re looking at things to do in Seattle, advise telling you to enjoy a drink at the original Starbucks. My advice, is to not bother! You’ll wait in line for a huge amount of time, for the same Starbucks drink you can get at any of the other thousands of Starbucks in the city. Instead, I’d recommend you take a trip to the Roastery (see below).
And since we’re still talking about Pike Place, it would be remiss of me to not mention the Gum Wall. The Gum Wall is proof that truly the weirdest and most disgusting things can become tourist hot spots. IF this is somehow attractive to you, then add your gum to the wall that’s in the alley way of Lower Post Alley.
8. Starbucks Reserve Roastery
Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks, and the city is very proud to let everyone know that. You will pretty much literally find a Starbucks on every corner, BUT, you will only find a Roastery in 6 spots in the world, one of these being Seattle (of course!).
The roastery is a shrine to all things Starbucks. To quote Howard Schultz “this Roastery is the fulfillment of a decades-long dream – an homage to our relentless pursuit of coffee innovation that will create for our customers the most immersive, sensory demonstration of how we source, roast and craft the finest coffee from around the world.”
To be fair, Starbucks is not my favorite coffee (sorry guys!), however, I loved the environment of the roastery. It is a great space to sit and enjoy a special brew, and a sweet treat. (The food here is also next level Starbucks.)
And – no visit can be complete without taking home a little Roastery memorabilia. Other’s might not realise the significance, but whenever I look at my Roastery espresso cups, it makes me think of my time in Seattle.
9. Visit the Volunteer Park Conservatory
Volunteer Park seems to be a little bit of a locals secret. And a beautiful one at that. It’s a 48 acre park in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood – and is a gem of a place to visit. The fact that it seems to be THE place for wedding photos will give you an indication of how beautiful it is.
And situated in the park, is your next rainy day idea for Seattle – the Volunteer Park Conservatory. It’s just $4 to enter (or free on the first Thursday and Saturday of each month).
From the outside the building is a beautiful structure of glass – modeled on London’s Crystal Palace. Inside, the lush plantings are divided into five display houses – bromeliads, ferns, palms, seasonal, and succulents. If you’ve got green fingers, or you just admire those that do, you’ll love walking amongst nature like this.
If you feel like stepping it up a little bit, you could also take the stair walk to the top of the Volunteer Park Water Tower. 200 steps later, you’ll have great views over the city.
10. Wallace Falls Hike
I bet you weren’t expecting this on your rainy day activities list!!
BUT – it’s here for two reasons.
Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, the rain in Seattle is generally very light, and it doesn’t last all day. It’s said that Seattlelites don’t carry umbrellas – they just wear raincoats. I think this is because the rain is so light. It doesn’t have to stop you doing the things you want to do. And for me, one of the best things about Seattle, is how close and accessible it is to some amazing hikes.
I’m recommending Wallace Falls as your rainy day hike for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s an amazing hike, that has 3 levels – so whatever your physical capability, you should be able to manage some of it.
Secondly, a lot of the hike is through the bush, so you’ll be sheltered from the worst of any adverse weather.
Can I add a third reason? It’s just beautiful!
So there you go. The top 10 things to do in Seattle, on a rainy day. Or in fact, any day!
So pick what appeals the most, and go do it!
Pin this post for later too – because once you’ve started on this list, you’re going to want to continue!