14 Best Sights in Pioneer Square, Seattle

Greg Kucera Gallery

Fodor's choice
Greg Kucera Gallery
Joe Mabel [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most important destinations on the First Thursday gallery walk, this gorgeous space is a top venue for national and regional artists. Be sure to check out the outdoor sculpture deck on the second level. If you have time for only one gallery visit, this is the place to go. You'll see big names that you might recognize—along with newer artists—and the thematic group shows are always thoughtful and well presented.

AXIS Pioneer Square

Soaring 18-foot ceilings, classic brick arches, and antique wood floors make a dramatic backdrop for monthly rotating exhibits with a contemporary bent. Part of a multitasking, 6,000-square-foot studio space, the gallery features a roster of local, national, and international artists and photographers. AXIS hosts new shows with entertainment during First Thursday Art Walk.

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

Present-day Pioneer Square is actually one story higher than it used to be. After the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, Seattle's planners regraded the neighborhood's streets, which had been built on filled-in tide lands and regularly flooded. The result? There is now an intricate and expansive array of subterranean passageways and basements beneath Pioneer Square, and Bill Speidel's Underground Tour is the only way to explore them. Speidel was an irreverent historian, PR man, and former Seattle Times reporter who took it upon himself to preserve historic Seattle, and this 75-minute tour is packed with his sardonic wit and playful humor. It's very informative, too—if you're interested in the general history of the city or salty anecdotes about Seattle's early denizens, you'll appreciate it that much more. Younger kids will almost certainly be bored, as there's not much to see at the specific sites, which are more used as launching points for the stories (some of the tour is above ground, as well). Comfortable shoes, a love for quirky historical yarns, and an appreciation of bad puns are musts. Several tours are offered daily, and schedules change month to month: call or visit the website for a full list of tour times.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Davidson Galleries

Davidson has several different departments in one building: the Contemporary Print & Drawing Center, which holds the portfolios of 50 print artists; the Antique Print Department; and the Painting and Sculpture Department. Though the Antique Print Department is more of a specialized interest, the contemporary print exhibits are always interesting and worth a look.

Foster/White Gallery

One of the Seattle art scene's heaviest hitters has digs as impressive as the works it shows: a century-old building with high ceilings and 7,000 square feet of exhibition space. Works by internationally acclaimed Northwest masters Kenneth Callahan, Mark Tobey, Alden Mason, and George Tsutakawa are on permanent display.

Gallery 110

Gallery 110 works with a collective of 30 contemporary artists (primarily Northwest-based) showing pieces in its small space that are energetic, challenging, and fresh. On-site exhibitions change monthly, and once a year the gallery hosts a juried exhibition.

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

A tiny yet delightful free museum illustrating Seattle's role in the 1897-98 Gold Rush in the Klondike region, this gem is located inside a historic redbrick building with wooden floors and soaring ceilings. Walls are lined with photos of gold miners, explorers, and the hopeful families who followed them. Interactive components include ranger talks and gold-panning demonstrations.

Buy Tickets Now

Last Resort Fire Department Museum

If you're in Pioneer Square on a Thursday between 11 am and 3 pm, this museum occupying the bottom floor of the Seattle Fire Department's headquarters includes eight historic rigs from Seattle dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as artifacts (vintage helmets and uniforms, hose nozzles, and other equipment) and photos, logs, and newspaper clippings recording historic fires.

Lumen Field

Located directly south of Pioneer Square, Lumen Field hosts two professional teams, the Seattle Seahawks (football) and the Seattle Sounders FC (soccer). The open-air stadium has 67,000 seats; sightlines are excellent thanks to a cantilevered design and the close placement of lower sections. Tours start at the pro shop (be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to purchase tickets) and last an hour and a half. You'll get a personal look at behind-the-scenes areas as well as the famous 12th Man Flag Pole, and have a chance to sink your feet into the same playing surface as your favorite Seahawks and Sounders stars.

Occidental Park

This shady, picturesque cobblestone park is the geographical heart of the historic neighborhood—on first Thursdays it's home to a variety of local artisans setting up makeshift booths. Grab a sandwich or pastry at the London Plane and people watch from one of the colorful café tables dotting the tree-lined square. Note that this square is a spot where homeless people congregate; you're likely to encounter more than a few oddballs. The square is best avoided at night.

Occidental Ave. S and S. Main St., Seattle, 98104, USA

Smith Tower

When this iconic landmark opened in 1914, it was the tallest office building outside New York City and the fourth-tallest building in the world. (It remained the tallest building west of the Mississippi for nearly 50 years.) The Smith Tower Observatory on the 35th floor is an open-air wraparound deck providing panoramic views of the surrounding historic neighborhood, ball fields, the city skyline, and the mountains on clear days. It's also a superb spot to take in a sunset. The top floor includes the speakeasy-themed Observatory Bar, which features striking original architectural details and a cocktail and nibbles menu that pays homage to the Prohibition era. Smith Tower's ground-floor retail shop packed with locally made goods is also worth a visit. Can't make it to Pioneer Square? Check out Downtown's Sky View Observatory & Bar at the Columbia Center. What the sleek skyscraper lacks in vintage architectural charm, it more than makes up for with epic views.

Stonington Gallery

You'll see plenty of cheesy tribal art knockoffs in tourist-trap shops, but this elegant gallery will give you a real look at the best contemporary work of Northwest Coast and Alaska tribal members (and artists from these regions working in the Native style). Three floors exhibit wood carvings, paintings, sculpture, and mixed-media pieces from the likes of Robert Davidson, Joe David, Preston Singeltary, Susan Point, and Rick Barto.

T-Mobile Park

This 47,000-seat, open-air baseball stadium with a state-of-the-art retractable roof is the home of the Seattle Mariners. If you want to see the stadium in all its glory, take the one-hour tour, which brings you onto the field, into the dugouts, back to the press and locker rooms, and up to the posh box seats. Tours depart from the Team Store on 1st Avenue, and you purchase your tickets there, too (at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled tour).

Waterfall Garden

A tranquil spot to take a break, this small garden with a few cafe tables surrounds a 22-foot artificial waterfall that cascades over large granite stones. 

219 2nd Ave. South, Seattle, 98104, USA