In the heart of downtown, SAM wows with its light-filled galleries housing everything from Australian aboriginal paintings and ancient Mediterranean sculptures to Native American house posts. Plus, its lineup of rotating special exhibits continues to draw arts-lovers season after season.
Open since 1952 on Capitol Hill, Frye Art Museum is always free. Alongside the permanent collection from the Fryes, who amassed more than 230 paintings—primarily late 19th- and early 20th-century German art—you’ll find cutting-edge rotating exhibits on offer.
Known for boundary-pushing exhibitions, Henry Art Gallery aims to inspire original thinking. Visit this University of Washington museum to see a sizable collection of contemporary art, photographs, costumes, and textiles.
A ballet company of the highest caliber, PNB presents more than 100 performances a year at the beautiful McCaw Hall under the artistic direction of Peter Boal. Shows vary from contemporary interpretations to timeless classics like holiday favorite The Nutcracker.
With more than 100 years of history and multiple Grammys under its belt, Seattle Symphony is one of the country’s top symphony orchestras. Catch them in concert at Benaroya Hall, where the acoustics are just as impressive as the musicians.
See musical theater at its belt-it-out best at the ornate 5th Avenue Theatre, known for incubating shows that go on to do big things. Hairspray, Aladdin, and Memphis started here, just to name a few.
The undisputed icon of Seattle, the Space Needle soars 605 feet in the air. Take the 43-second elevator ride to the outdoor observation deck, where you’ll be at the perfect vantage point to plan where to go next.
Before the Space Needle came to town, the Smith Tower was the tallest building in the city, and even the tallest building west of the Mississippi for many years. Its observatory offers picture-perfect vistas, along with Prohibition-era craft cocktails and a legendary Wishing Chair.
The tallest observatory of all is located inside the sleek Columbia Center. Head to the 73rd floor, where you’ll be treated to 360-degree views that include the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, Elliott Bay, and all of Seattle’s skyline.
Appropriately located on the waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium offers plenty of underwater exploration. In the Window on Washington Waters exhibit, spot native Puget Sound marine life such as salmon and sea anemones. Divers put on three shows daily to talk to aquarium visitors from underwater. Elsewhere, admire jellies, try to find the giant Pacific octopus, and feel a bumpy sea star.
There’s always something new to learn at the Pacific Science Center, which features a tropical butterfly house, two IMAX theaters, a planetarium, and hands-on science experiments on topics ranging from reaction time and gyroscopes to pollinator plants.
You might feel like a kid at heart when you spot the dozens of pinball machines inside the Seattle Pinball Museum, which includes old classics and brand-new prototypes. Best of all, no quarters are necessary—just pay a flat admission fee and pinball your heart out. Bonus: Seattle Pinball Museum sells soda for the kiddos and beer for adults.