While nowhere near as large as New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, Seattle’s unique architecture, fascinating history, and cultural capital make it one of the United States’ most famous cities.
And with this fame comes tourists hoping to visit all of the top spots they’ve heard about. But what about the road less traveled? What about the hidden gems of Seattle? That’s what we’re looking at in today’s blog: a few lesser-known spots of interest in Seattle.
We previous wrote a guide to the 5 best off-the-beaten-path spots in Seattle. This is our follow-up guide!
Whatever you’d like to do and wherever you’d like to go in Seattle, we love showing visitors around the city on our Private Seattle Tours and on our Speciality Seattle Experiences. We hope this guide inspires you to visit Emerald City!
Pier 86 Louis Dreyfus Grain Terminal
If you’ve never heard of this before, I’m not surprised. The grain terminal isn’t nearly as popular as the Space Needle or other well-known Seattle attractions. But the structure is enormous and well worth visiting on your next trip to Seattle.
On our tours, we’re always asked about this huge structure, simply because of its sheer size. It’s a hard building NOT to notice.
The Pier 86 Grain Terminal is a fully electronic grain elevator that imports grains like corn, wheat, and barley from the inland Pacific NorthWest via rail cars and trucks and then exports them via cargo ships — primarily to our Asian trade Partners.
The terminal was completed in 1970 and is owned and operated by the Port of Seattle. Once the shipping vessels arrive, the grain can be loaded to them via twin 48” conveyor belts at a max rate of 3,000 tons per hour.
This isn’t a beautiful piece of Seattle architecture, but it’s good to learn a little about one of the largest structures in the area!
Bruce and Brandon Lee’s Tombstones
Movie fans may be interested in paying their respects to the tombstones of Bruce Lee and his son Brandon — both of which can be found in Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery.
Bruce Lee is such a kung-fu icon, he almost doesn’t require an introduction, but we’ll give him one anyway. Bruce first came to Seattle from Hong Kong. He met his future wife, Linda, in Seattle and founded his own martial art style (Jeet Kun Do) right here in the city.
When Brice Lee died, he was living in California, but his widow Linda moved back to Seattle and had him buried in the Lake View Cemetery. When his son Brandon died, they had him buried next to his dad.
While it’s sad to consider how both father and son died much too young, it’s good to remember these two iconic actors and pay your respects. Just remember to be respectful — this is a graveyard, after all.
The Sleepless in Seattle Houseboat on Lake Union
Nestled up on the Eastern shores of Lake Union is the houseboat from the classic 90s RomCom Sleepless in Seattle, starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. This houseboat is now just one of over 500 parked on the lake, making it the largest houseboat community in the US.
It’s not easy to find (even with binoculars) when standing on the north shore of the lake at Gasworks Park. The famous & unique dwelling sold in 2014 for over $2 million (its movie fame no doubt played a part in the value), but it’s also an especially large houseboat. In fact, at 2,200 square feet, this is the largest houseboat in the entire Lake Union community.
At Totally Seattle Tours, we know where to find this iconic houseboat, but getting this photo is tricky to capture as it is highly frowned upon to walk into these communities without being invited. It is much like walking into someone’s fenced-off backyard without an invitation.
That said, years ago we had a guest who was a huge fan of the film and we decided to risk being ostracized from the community to make her Private Seattle Tour Experience everything she ever hoped it would be.
We are willing to do the same for you and your group if any members of your party are die-hard Sleepless in Seattle fans — but just know that we might get busted by the property manager in the process and get kicked out…
Visit Seattle’s King Street Station
This historic transportation hub is located smack dab in the middle of Pioneer Square. The station was built between 1904 and 1906 and it served the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railways when it opened on 5/10/1906.
Architects Charles Reed and Allen Stem went on to help design New York’s Grand Central Station, which opened in 1913. The 242-foot tall clock tower made it the tallest building in the city when it was first built. The San Marco Bell Tower in Venice Italy (built in 1514 and remodeled in 1912) served as the inspiration to this historic structure.
Awful decisions to cut costs in the 50s and 60s covered the gorgeous hand-coffered ceiling and replaced many original fixtures on the walls with sheetrock. The station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
A restoration project to bring the station back to its original grandeur began in 2008, after the city of Seattle bought the station from The Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway Company for a whopping $10. The restoration took on a price tag of $50 million and was completed in 2013.
The upper floors of the train station are now a cultural hub of equity-focused arts programming with revolving art exhibits that delight those waiting for their train to arrive.
The only issue with visiting King Street Station is that you can only gain access if you have a train ticket. We think the history and architecture make it more than worth buying a train ticket to enter, but it’s entirely up to you.
That’s all we have time for you today. We hope this guide has inspired a few readers to finally start planning their off-the-beaten-path Seattle trip. If you have any questions about our tours, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Seattle’s hidden gems are waiting for you!