by Geraldine DeRuiter
Geraldine is the founder of the Everywhereist, a travel blog for the accidentally adventurous.
Contrary to popular belief, the sun really does shine in Seattle. No, seriously. It does. Not all the time, mind you, but from late June to September (and sometimes even – gasp- October!), the sun rises early, sets late, and makes the entire Emerald City sparkle.
If you’re fortunate enough to find yourself in Seattle during the sunny summer months (or on the ever-elusive sunny non-summer day), then consider yourself lucky. Not only are you about to enjoy a usually gloomy city in all its sun-drenched glory, but you’ll find that on a sunny day in Seattle, there’s not shortage of things to do …
The Traveling Family. Got the kids in tow? No problem! Seattle has tons of family friendly activities. Just slap on the sunscreen (even if it’s overcast you can get burned) and you’ll be ready to go.
- The International Fountain. Located in the heart of Seattle Center, in the shadow of the Space Needle, the International Fountain was originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair. In warm summer months, it’s a great spot for kids of all ages to run through sprays of water and cool off.
- The Ballard Locks. Just a 15-minute drive from downtown are the Ballard Locks – a set of canals that work like an elevator for boats wishing to move between the Puget Sound and Lakes Washington and Union. There’s also a salmon ladder with underwater viewing windows, an informational center that’s actually fun (shocking!), and an expansive botanical garden. And the best part? It’s all free.
The Romantic Getaway. When it’s simply too nice outside to stay cooped up in your hotel room (no matter how tempting) there are plenty of ways you and your sweetie can get close.
- The Japanese Garden and Koi Pond – This well-cultivated park is a bit of a hidden gem – it’s never that crowded, even on the nicest of days. Take a stroll with your beloved, and pause to feed the fish in the koi pond. While your new aquatic friends nibble on their snacks, you can nibble on each other.
- The Bainbridge Ferry - You’ll be surprised at how romantic a ferry ride out to Bainbridge can be! Cuddle up with your special someone (it can get chilly, even in the summer) and enjoy some of the best views of the city. It’s only a half hour ride, and once you get to Bainbridge Island, you can enjoy a leisurely stroll, do some shopping, and grab a bite.
The Artist / Musician. Seattle is known for being home to some talented artists and musicians – maybe all the cold, rainy days give people plenty of time to hone their craft! And what better time to enjoy the fruits of their talents than on a sunny, warm day?
- Olympic Sculpture Park - This nine-acre outdoor park features sculptures from renowned artists (including Alexander Calder and Ellsworth Kelly), as well as stunning views of the Puget Sound. The admission for all this breathtaking beauty? Absolutely free.
- Pioneer Square Art Walk - The historic Pioneer Square district hosts an expansive art walk the first Thursday of every month. Sunny summer days are the best time to go (the sun sets later and the early evenings are warm and comfortable), as you lazily stroll between shops and galleries, viewing the work of local artists and feasting on (free!) snacks.
- The Buskers at the Pike Place Market. Sure, the Market is known for flying fish and terrific food, but it’s also a fantastic showcase for local musicians. Keep an eye out for large numbered music notes painted on the sidewalks of the market. These indicate where musicians can play (and the number denotes how many can be perform in that spot). They’ll be out in droves when the weather is nice.
The Intellectual. Did you know that Seattle holds the title of smartest city in the U.S? It’s no surprise that it offers some fantastic opportunities to wrinkle your brain, even on a sunny day!
- The University of Washington Campus – The UW is gorgeous year-round (whether covered in snow during winter or sprinkled with cherry blossoms in springtime) but it may be at its loveliest on a sunny day. Sign up for a walking tour, which will take you through wide open courtyards, historical buildings, and beautiful landscaping, or just roam to your heart’s (and mind’s) content through the school’s many buildings, libraries, and gardens.
- Pacific Science Center - Being cooped up in the Science Center might not sound like fun on a sunny day, but in addition to some great indoor exhibits, there’s fun to be had outside, too: spin a 2-ton granite sphere with your bare hands, ride a bicycle 15-feet off the ground, or just relax in the shadow of the Science Center arches (built along with the Space Needle for the World’s Fair, they’ve been listed as historical Seattle landmarks!)
The Business Traveler. Some well-known companies are headquartered in Seattle (Starbucks! Microsoft!), as well as some of the top hospitals in the country, so it’s not unusual to see scores of professionals in town on business. While this means the company is footing the bill (whoo-hoo!), it also means precious little time to spend enjoying the city. Here’s where to go when you’ve got a tight schedule …
- Pike Place Market – Okay, fine – Pike Place Market was also on the rainy day list, but that’s because it’s one of the best spots in Seattle. And even better when the sun is out. Whether you have half an hour or half a day, the Market is a great place to spend your time: go for a stroll, admire the vendors’ wares, enjoy scenic views, and munch on fantastic local fare.
- The Seattle Waterfront - Just west (and downhill) of the Market is the Waterfront. With stunning views of the Puget Sound, scores of shops, and plenty of restaurants to choose from, it’s a great way to get a feel for Seattle, even if you only have a few hours to spare. Grab a bite at Ivar’s (a Seattle institution), sample some delicious fudge, and, if you have time to spare, enjoy a harbor cruise or visit the aquarium.
The Group Outing. Visiting town with a whole bunch of friends in tow? There are plenty of ways appreciate the city – and spend some quality time with your friends – on a sunny day.
- Sounders Game – The entire city is positively smitten with the Sounders, its Major League Soccer team. The proof? Record-setting attendance for many games. Why not get in on all the wild, crazy, you-really-can’t-use-your-hands fun? Gather your friends and head out to Qwest field, where you can sit back and enjoy a game under a (hopefully) blue sky.
- Argosy Harbor Cruise – Want to enjoy fantastic weather and some great views of the city? Hop on an Argosy Boat Tour. You’ll learn about the city’s history, see an amazing panorama of the skyline and mountains, and soak up the sun as you cruise along the Puget Sound. It’s perfect for groups of all ages (including kids!).
The Outdoor Adventurer. If you have a rental car, and some extra time on your hands, you can always escape the city for a few hours, and enjoy the great Pacific Northwest outdoors. On a sunny day, few places are prettier (or greener! See? All that rain is good for something!)
- Snoqualmie Falls – Located less than a hour’s drive east from Seattle you’ll find this massive, 270-foot waterfall. Though the hiking trail is closed until 2013 for renovations, the observation deck and park are open. It’s the perfect place to slow down and reflect … you’ll be surprised at how calm and serene a rushing waterfall can be!
- Mt. Rainier – While only 54 miles southeast of Seattle, it takes nearly 3 hours to arrive at Mt. Rainier National Park, so be sure to leave early: you’ll want plenty of time to enjoy the mountain and visitors’ center. Grab your hiking shoes and a sweater (it’s covered in snow year-round) and get ready for a (chilly) adventure. And don’t forget to pack sunglasses – on a sunny day, the snow can be blinding.
The Shopper - Feeling the urge to spend some green in the Emerald city? Fear not – there’s enough to satisfy even the most die-hard shopaholic. When the weather’s nice, you won’t have to rush from storefront-to-storefront to stay dry. Instead, take your time, grab a cappuccino, and contemplate whether you’ll need another suitcase to lug your new haul back home.
- With two malls (Pacific Place and Westlake Center), two enormous department stores (Macy’s and Nordstrom), and a smattering of boutiques and cafes, there’s no shortage of shopping when you’re downtown. Start at 5th and Pike, and head any direction that calls to you – there’s great stuff to be found any way you go.
- Pioneer Square – Looking for something a little more unique than a GAP sweater or Old Navy pajamas? Seattle oldest neighborhood isn’t just full of history and charm – it’s also full of some fantastic boutiques, art galleries, and souvenir shops. Find the perfect gift for a friend (or yourself!) as you walk down tree-lined streets and cobblestone courtyards.
The Esoteric Traveler - Do you love all things unusual? Crave a little quirkiness in your trip? Fortunately, Seattle has character to spare. There’s plenty things to see that will satisfy your love of all things strange.
- The Sub Seattle Tour – Did you know Seattle has beaches? They’re seldom used, but still. Want to see the spot where Kurt Cobain, the tragic prince of Grunge, spent his final moments? Then hop on The Sub Seattle Tour. This 90-minute bus ride will take you through neighborhoods and sub-culture landmarks few tourists (and few locals!) ever get to see.
- Fremont - Just a few minutes northeast of downtown you’ll find Fremont, a small neighborhood that’s big on character (residents claim it’s “The Center of The Universe). The streets are lined with art galleries, restaurants, and shops. Pop your head into the antique mall, or visit the troll that lives underneath the Fremont Bridge. Stroll by a 7-ton statue of Lenin or select sushi as it whisks by on a conveyor belt.
- Ye Olde Curiosity Shop – Located along the city’s waterfront, this unique store is the perfect place to buy gifts that will have the recipients exclaiming, “Where the HECK did you get this thing?” Sneak a peek at Sylvester and Sylvia , the shop’s resident mummies, examine some shrunken heads (and pick up one or two for the road), or just
The History Buff. Are you partial to the past? Do you dig the days of yore? Then you’re in luck: Seattle has a colorful and fascinating history. Learn something new about the city’s beginnings (and be entertained at the same time!).
- The Seattle Underground Tour – Curious as to how Seattle got its start? In a misguided move, Seattle’s founders built the city on tide flats. The results were terrible (imagine that your indoor plumbing depended on the tide … when it came in, watch out!). Find out how the problem was solved by embarking on a unique walking tour that takes you deep into the underbelly of the city (both literally and figuratively!). Going on a sunny day not only means you’ll stay dry – you’ll also get to see sunshine filtered through the Underground’s purple skylights.
- The Smith Tower Observation Deck – Completed in 1914, the Smith Tower once held the title of tallest building west of the Mississippi. Now it holds the distinction of being a Seattle historical landmark, and is one of the last buildings on the west coast to still have elevator operators. Take a trip up to the observation deck, where you’ll find stunning views of downtown and the sound.
The Returning Traveler. Not your first trip to the Emerald City? Seen the sights of downtown, and looking for something new and different? These locations are a little off the beaten path, but still sure to please – especially on a sunny day.
- West Seattle and Alki Beach – Just across the Duwamish River from downtown lies West Seattle. Take the water taxi across, and you’ll get sweeping views of the entire skyline and harbor. Enjoy a stroll along Alki Beach (where Seattle’s would-be founders first landed back in 1851) and pop into any one of the many coffee shops and restaurants.
- Kubota Gardens – This 20-acre park, located a quick 10-minute drive from downtown, is a perfect mingling of Japanese gardening techniques and native Pacific Northwest plants. Take a trip along paths that will carry you across hills and valleys, around ponds, and over bridges.
Looking for more activities and outings in the Emerald City? Don’t forget to check out our list of fun things to do on a rainy day in Seattle!