Actually Cool Things to Do in Seattle This Summer

Slap on some sunscreen and get out there.

There is no summer quite like the Pacific Northwest summer. The weather is utterly perfect, it's neither too hot nor too cold, and we’re surrounded on all sides by beautiful bodies of water (aka, opportunities to swim). This year, it feels particularly exciting to have finally arrived at our favorite season, as everyone is getting vaccinated, coming out of hibernation, and generally ready to have a, shall we say, memorable summer vacation. Below, some actually fun activities to enjoy in Seattle, all season long. 

Have a good old-fashioned beach day 

Ballard, Washington
Heading to the beach for the day is one of the oldest (and most classic) activities in the book for a reason. This summer, soak up some sun at Golden Gardens, which has been an official Ballard institution since 2005—aka, when the park’s bathhouse was designated a historic landmark by the city of Seattle. 

Indulge in an ice cold treat 

Multiple locations
Is there any treat more delightful than homemade ice cream from Molly Moon’s? Not in this city. As a rule, hot afternoons call for ice cold indulgence: Just visit one of eight locations currently open and select from 14 flavors like cold brew coffee, honey lavender, and salted caramel. There’s even a dairy-free chocolate option for the vegans among us.

Plant your garden with help from Seattle Seed Company

Your home
There’s a very convincing argument to be made that Seattle is the garden box capital of the world. Ready to join the club? Simply look up the experts at Seattle Seed Company and start preparing your dirt. You’ll be eating homegrown summer squash for breakfast, lunch, and dinner before you know it. 

Try out one of Seattle’s many pop-ups

$ - $$
Seattle’s dining pop-ups are a dime a dozen, and it’s totally understandable if you’re overwhelmed with choice. Not to worry: If we’re lucky, they’ll be here all summer long, so you have plenty of time to try them all. We’d recommend starting with Karachi Cowboys (Sundays, inside Fair Isle Brewing), Old Salt (Thursday - Sunday, inside Manolin), or Little Neon Taco (everyday, inside La Dive).

Take a tour of Lake Union by boat 

East Queen Anne
The season for lakeside living is officially upon us, and what better way to ring it in than by boat? This is certainly not the cheapest way to experience Lake Union, but it might be the most stunning. Start your journey at the docks in East Queen Anne and prepare for an extra bougie, extra beautiful tour de lake.

Chef Brian Clevenger
Courtesy of Chef Brian Clevenger

Up your chef game with a virtual cooking class 

Your home
If you’re still not ready to dine out at a restaurant, simply bring the restaurant to you—with a virtual cooking class hosted by Chef Brian Clevenger (of Vendemmia, Haymaker, and GH Pasta Co fame). Here, you’ll pick up a new skill, eat some delicious food, and get one-on-one advice from the master himself. 

Get cultured at Seattle Art Museum

Seattle Art Museum has been open for a while now, but if you’ve yet to visit, there’s no time like the present to get reimmersed in the world of art history. Take a date, drag a friend along, or go solo; there’s plenty to see, and a ticket will only set you back $19.99 (and must be purchased online in advance). The museum currently has two shows that will be on view through the end of summer: “Dawn Cerny: Les Choses” and “Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence”

Find a Sound Garden and The Black (Hole) Sun

Sand Point/Capitol Hill
Soundgarden is one of Seattle's seminal bands, and a pioneer of '90s grunge. A Sound Garden is a collection of towering metal sculptures in a park overlooking Lake Washington that turns the wind into an eerie, but soothing kind of music… and is the inspiration for the band's name. The inspiration for the title of the band's most famous song? Another art installation: this one called The Black Sun, overlooking the city from another local park.

Eat a “life-changing” burger at Dick's

Various locations
Sir Mix-a-Lot rapped about bringing his posse by for some burgers. Macklemore danced on the Broadway location's rooftop. Esquire called it the "most life-changing burger joint" in America. But the best recommendation? The people still lining up outside these old-school joints just before they close at 2am every night, even though you can now get Dick's delivered via DoorDash. 

Pike Place Market

It's the best farmers market in the country. Period. So heading there for some shopping (provided you wear a mask) is a no brainer, but figuring out what to do once you get there isn't. Luckily, our guides to the 50 Best Things to Eat, and the Best Secret Shops in the Market, will get you started, but the still newish Marketfront, and the myriad shops/stalls lining Post Alley give you almost endless options. There are even options for people who aren't comfortable actually going to the market—boxes of items from market vendors you can get delivered to your home.

Watch the sunset at Kerry Park

Queen Anne
Get all of the views that you’d get if you spent the money to go up the Space Needle, with none of the expense at this iconic Seattle park. Or, if you'd rather share the experience with fewer people, head a few blocks away to the lookout across the street from Parsons Gardens. 

Soak up some sunshine (and booze) at a rooftop bar 

Various locations
Once summer weather lands in Seattle, the only appropriate place to be is outdoors. That said, there are several establishments in this city willing to provide a sanitized, socially distanced place to drink with views of the city, which along with the current emphasis on al fresco dining, makes them the perfect place to go almost anytime of day. Some of our favorites include downtown destinations the Fog Room and Mbar, or the quirkier Rooftop Brewing in Queen Anne.

Gourmondo’s salad
Courtesy of Gourmondo’s

Picnic on the waterfront at Olympic Sculpture Park

$ - $$
The views from Olympic Sculpture Park are objectively beautiful, but food makes a trip down to the waterfront that much better. We recommend stopping by Gourmondo’s new “micro market” at Café Omeros, created in collaboration with grocer Cone & Steiner, for your picnic provisions (a short stroll away, at 201 Elliot Ave W). There, you’ll find everything you need for the afternoon, set up in the style of old-school European markets.

Have a boozy afternoon at Washington’s oldest winery 

Woodinville, WA
$ - $$
Just 20 minutes outside of Seattle sits Washington State’s oldest winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, on 105 acres of wooded forest (and yes, there is an actual chateau there, too). Pay a visit and let the hours slowly melt away while you drink with a view (the tasting room is open 11 am - 5 pm, Wednesday - Sunday). There are also a few special winery “experiences” that you can book ahead of time here, like a feature flight tasting, a private igloo rental, and more.

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Emma Banks is a contributor for Thrillist
Bradley Foster is a former Thrillist editor who you and your guests will probably run into at Dick's.
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