people kayaking in puget sound

Paddle the Puget Sound. (Photo: Getty Images)


From Seattle’s Mountain Peaks to Stunning Stadiums, Opt Outside in the Emerald City

Step off a plane, train or boat into Seattle and breathe in the woodsy pine scent or salty ocean air. Even in the heart of the city, thick evergreens shade parks, the foghorns echo from Elliott Bay and the mountains loom over every skyline: Rainier to the south, Baker to the north, the Olympics to the west — behind Puget Sound — and the nearby Cascades to the east.

Woods, water and hills shape the Emerald City, making it an ideal spot for outdoor adventures and sporting events. Whether you want to stay in town or take a drive, the best way to explore Seattle involves heading outside and getting up close and personal with the nearby nature.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

See the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Carl English Botanical Garden

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, the busiest locking system in the country, manages the water flow between the freshwater of lakes Union and Washington and Puget Sound’s saltwater. Visitors can watch the boats rise and fall with the water from the bridges, then view the fish ladder in the center, where salmon bypass the system.

The grounds include the 7-acre Carl English Botanical Garden, a lush, peaceful strip between the water and the city. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which runs the locks, gives daily free tours of the site when it is safe to do so.

Paddle Lake Union in a Wooden Boat

lake union aerial view
Head toward the waters of Lake Union. (Photo: Getty Images)

At the Center for Wooden Boats, visitors can get hands-on with maritime history at an education center or just go for a paddle in the sunshine among the houseboats and seaplanes that keep Lake Union buzzing with activity.

This nonprofit on the waterfront displays land-based exhibits inside the building and rents out its fleet of sailboats, rowboats, canoes and kayaks from the nearby pier.

Soak in the Spring Weather at a Sounders Game

Seattle is a soccer city, and the most exciting matches bring thousands of fans — many bearing band instruments — to march to the game from Occidental Park, starting an hour before kickoff.

Decked in Sounders scarves, the colorful group leads the way into Lumen Field, the outdoor stadium it shares with the Seahawks, to watch the two-time MLS Cup winners take on teams from around the country and world.

Walk About the Sound at Discovery Park

discovery park lighthouse in seattle
The Discovery Park Lighthouse marks a scenic spot. (Photo: Getty Images)

At 534 acres, Discovery Park ranks as Seattle’s largest urban park and has scenery to please every type of person: About 12 miles of walking paths weave through the dense, damp forest; over the windswept grassy bluffs; and along the sandy shores of Shilshole Bay.

Two miles of tidal beaches lead to and from a historic 1881 lighthouse on the repurposed grounds of the former Fort Lawton military base on the edge of the Magnolia neighborhood.

Mount Rainier National Park

mount rainier peaks and forest
Breathe in the mountain air at Mt. Rainer. (Photo: Getty Images)

If the mountains are calling, take a day trip to Mount Rainier National Park, about two hours south of the city. Centered on the 14,400-foot active volcano, the park also includes tons of glaciers, rivers, meadows and forests.

Year-round snow, spring wildflowers and summer berries bring out the crowds to drive, walk and climb through the 369-square-mile park.

Bike Between Breweries in Ballard or Beyond

The Burke-Gilman, a 27-mile rail-trail designed for walking and biking, stretches from Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood to the suburb of Bothell.

Bike stores like Recycled Cycles and Evo, among others, rent out bikes from the edge of the trail, which you can ride into the microbrewery hub of Ballard to check out the dozen or so taprooms there.

Alternatively, from Ballard, head off on a longer ride, passing by a slew of other breweries, including Burke-Gilman Brewing, Magnuson Cafe & Brewery, and 192 Brewing Company. Most of the breweries are family- (and often dog-) friendly, with snacks and nonalcoholic drinks on hand.