Seattle made its mark in the cruise industry decades ago as the prime embarkation port for voyages to Alaska. But the Emerald City should not be regarded as merely a place to meet your ship.
In fact, if you don’t make sure to spend some quality time in Seattle before your Alaska cruise, you are definitely missing out.
The neighborhoods right by the cruise terminals are filled with things to do. So, you can book a hotel near your ship, spend a day exploring and then hop onboard for your journey to Alaska. Note: Bell Street Cruise Terminal at Pier 66 is right by most of these attractions, and Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91 is located between two and three miles away. (So, a cab, bus or car-share ride might be necessary if you’re not up for the longer walk.)
Here are the seven best things to do right near the cruise port in Seattle.
Pike Place Market
Located just a half mile or less than a 15-minute walk from Pier 66 (for Norwegian Cruise Line and Oceania ships), Pike Place Market is one of the must-see destinations in Seattle. This iconic farmers and fish market has been in operation since 1907, and the facility is filled with hundreds of farmers, crafters, small businesses and eateries integrated into vibrant neighborhood that serves as the heart of downtown.
Make sure to stop by one of the seafood stands to watch the entertaining show as fishmongers shout out customer orders and toss fish across the arena.
This popular destination ranks among the Top 10 for most-visited aquariums in the United States. Six major exhibits in the waterfront facility right near Pier 66 showcase birds, shores, Washington waters, Pacific coral reef, marine mammals and more. The aquarium’s mission is “Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment.”
Ferry to Bainbridge Island
Hop on the ferry to head over to explore Bainbridge Island just across Puget Sound. The top attraction on the island is Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre forest garden that is magical to explore by hiking its trails. You can reach the reserve by bus from the ferry landing area. Other highlights on Bainbridge Island include Fay Bainbridge Park and the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.
Seahawks or Mariners
Whether you are sailing in summer or early fall from Seattle, you just might be able to catch a game when you are in town. The Seattle Mariners play at Safeco Field, a beautiful stadium notable for its variety of food venues and beer selection as much as the hometown Major League Baseball team. Right next door is CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL’s Seahawks. You can add your voice to the throngs of Seahawks fanatics that proudly call themselves the 12th Man.
This waterfront complex at Pier 57 is a bustling spot. Eateries include The Crab Pot, The Salmon Cooker, The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar and Alaskan Sourdough Bakery. It’s also home to a food court, souvenir shops and a carousel.
Olympic Sculpture Park
This is a 9-acre museum of sculpture and beach site that’s located about a 30-minute walk from Pier 91 or a 10-minute walk from Pier 66. The free exhibit is part of the Seattle Art Museum and is downtown’s largest green space. A Z-shaped path weaves among meadows filled with native plants, a chinook salmon habitat and nearly two dozen interesting sculpture pieces. Temporary art exhibits also are added in the summer.
Get Up In the Air
The Seattle Great Wheel is the big Ferris Wheel that forms part of the iconic skyline at the waterfront. It’s located at Pier 57, and you can take a spin to see the views of Puget Sound for $14.
Also located at Miners Landing, you can also take a virtual flight over the state with the Wings Over Washington aerial adventure. For $17, you can strap in at the high-tech “flying theater” and explore from the perspective of a soaring “spirit eagle” as you fly across Washington. The experience uses 5K cameras, laser and drone technology to showcase the San Juan Islands, Olympic National Forest and Mount Rainier, as well as other natural wonders.
John Roberts is a freelance writer and operator of InTheLoopTravel.com. He writes about cruising and active travel, highlighting how people can connect with the world and other cultures through rewarding travel experiences.