The Best Places to Experience Waterfront Culture in Seattle

By: Crai S Bower

January 17, 2014

Seattle Waterfront

Like the tide that moves 1.26 cubic miles in and out of Puget Sound twice daily, Seattle’s waterfront is always changing. The Alaskan Way Viaduct, the seismically vulnerable visual impediment that screens the city from Puget Sound, will eventually come down, to be replaced by a tunnel. Soon, the city’s waterfront amenities will stretch from the piers to Pike Place Market and other Seattle landmarks. For now however, the stretch of waterfront from the Ferry Terminal to Myrtle Edwards Park provides the best opportunity to experience what makes Seattle’s geography so special. Here are the best places to go.

Seattle Great Wheel

Everyone loves a Ferris wheel, and the Seattle Great Wheel doesn’t disappoint. 42 enclosed gondolas convey passengers 40 feet out over Puget Sound and 175 feet into the air, providing the second best vista of the Emerald City after the Space Needle. Visits to the Great Wheel are proving as popular with locals as with the tourists.


Anthony’s Pier 66

Every waterfront restaurant fulfils a role. Anthony’s Pier 66 promises guests the classic Northwest dining experience with abundant seafood in a casual environment. The deck faces the Olympic Mountains across the Sound, an excellent spot to follow the sun’s example and wind down at the end of the day.


Ivars Restaurant | Seattle Waterfront Culture

Ivar’s restaurant © Lee Edwin Coursey


Edgewater Hotel

The Edgewater Hotel is built on a pier and enjoys a peerless roster of former guests including the Beatles – John Lennon tried fishing from his window, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, who were, incidentally, banned from visiting again. The door remains open for President Clinton, yet another celebrity guest.


Ivar’s Acres of Clams

Ivar Haglund, founder of Ivar’s restaurants, was hailed as the “King of the Waterfront” after he opened the city’s first clam bar in 1938. A folksinger and master of marketing, Haglund would fly his Salmon Sock all over the city to the consternation of civic officials. Paying homage to Ivar at his Pier 54 restaurant is requisite for any Seattle visit.


Seattle Parks | Seattle Waterfront Culture

Seattle parks © Seattle Art Museum


Washington State Ferries

It’s an open secret in Seattle that our best tourist attraction comes in the form of a massive commuter ferry where, for just a few bucks, you get the best views of the Cascades, Olympics, and the skyline. Hint: sail back to Seattle at sunset and your snapshots of fiery Mt. Rainier will fill every month of next year’s calendar.


Myrtle Edwards Park

Seattle doesn’t employ a bike share program, yet, but the 1.25-mile bike path through Myrtle Edwards Park will be a favourite tourist ride once the program launches later in 2014. The park, which snakes along Elliot Bay toward the north end of downtown, contains the urban core’s premier vista of the Olympic Mountains, especially the 7,980-ft Mt. Olympus, the tallest peak in the range.


Matt's in the Market | The Best Places to Experience Waterfront Culture in Seattle

Matt’s in the Market © Matt’s in the Market


Matt’s in the Market

One doesn’t have to stand on a pier to score priceless views of the Sound. A window table inside one of the city’s favourite restaurants (Matt’s in the Market) reveals arguably the most iconic view of the city, the neon red “Public Market Center” sign fronting the Puget Sound expanse.


Olympic Sculpture Park

The Olympic Sculpture Park is the rare urban environment that’s as popular with locals as it is with tourists. A partnership between Seattle Parks and the Seattle Art Museum, the free, nine-acre green space contains works from, among others, Claes Oldenburg, Richard Serra and Alexander Calder.


Waterfront sculpture | The Best Places to Experience Waterfront Culture in Seattle

Seattle waterfront sculpture © Crai S Bower

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Have you visited any of these Seattle waterfront venues? Let us know in the comments below.

Written by Crai Bower

Crai S Bower

Award winning travel writer, photographer and broadcaster Crai S Bower contributes scores of articles annually to more than 25 publications and online outlets including National Geographic Traveler, Journey, American Way magazines and T+L Digital.

Categories: Our Places