The 16 Best Seattle Tours

Explore the Emerald City's natural beauty and urban offerings with these guided excursions.

U.S. News & World Report

The 16 Best Seattle Tours

Best Seattle Tours

See Seattle's top sights from the water with a tour from Argosy Cruises.(Courtesy of Argosy Cruises)

Idyllically situated in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is a mecca for foodies, tech experts and outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you're here to see its city-based attractions like the Olympic Sculpture Park or its natural wonders like Mount Si, the best way to experience it all is with a guided tour. Browse through these 16 top Seattle tours, identified by U.S. News using both expert opinions and traveler sentiment, to help you plan your ideal getaway.

Argosy Cruises – Harbor Cruise

Sail through Seattle's Elliott Bay with Argosy Cruises. The one-hour narrated boat tour takes passengers through Puget Sound, by the shipping port and offers city skyline views. The vessel sports a full-service bar with snacks and alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. Tour-goers report seeing lots of wildlife and fantastic views. They also enjoy their friendly and informative guides. Seating is first-come, first-served, and boarding begins 20 minutes ahead of departure time. Tickets start at $31 for adults and $17 for kids ages 4 to 12; children 3 and younger ride for free. Tours run multiple times daily with additional departures during the summer months. The company also conducts wine cruises, as well as cruises of Lake Washington, among other sailings.

Alki Kayak Tours – West Seattle Sunset Tour

Discover the beauty of the Emerald City by water with Alki Kayak Tours. The West Seattle Sunset Tour takes paddlers along the west side of Elliott Bay to the mouth of the Duwamish River and then to Duwamish Head, with views of the Olympic Mountains, the Seattle skyline and area islands. Tour-goers love the excursion, the views, and the chance to spot sea lions or harbor seals during their trip. The two-hour tours depart daily two hours before sunset (at around 7:30 p.m.). Ticket fees start at $69 per person. Participants 15 and younger must have a parent present to go on the tour. The company also offers tours to the Alki Point Lighthouse and a monthly full moon night tour.

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

After the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, Seattle citizens raised street levels to rebuild their city, leaving the original streets and stores below. This underground excursion takes you through that subterranean city. Along the way, guides tell you about Seattle's history and divulge a few humorous stories about past residents. Reviewers enjoy this tour for its funny and smart guides who are well-versed in the area's history. However, they also warn about the uneven floors and several flights of stairs. The 75-minute tours are offered hourly from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. April through September and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. October through March. Tour tickets start at $22 for adults, $20 for seniors, students and teens, and $10 for kids 7 to 12; kids 6 and younger tour free. The company also offers an Underground Paranormal Experience tour and an adults-only tour that delves into the history of the old red-light district.


Qwik Tours – 90 Minute Sightseeing Tour of Seattle

For an entertaining overview of Seattle, consider this excursion with Qwik Tours, whose guides are professional actors. The company provides a 90-minute interactive bus tour that hits the city's main sights while mixing in humor, music and history. Along the way, you'll see the Space Needle, Chinatown, the Seattle Ferry Terminal, downtown, Pioneer Square and more across 15 neighborhoods. Travelers describe the tour as fun and informative. They especially appreciate tips on things to do in Seattle provided by the guides. The tour picks up at downtown, Lake Union and University district hotels. Prices start at $42 for adults, $39 for seniors and $32 for children ages 7 to 14. Tours are offered Wednesday through Friday in the morning and afternoon. The company also offers a precruise tour for those headed on an Alaskan cruise from Seattle.

Visit Mount Rainer with Tours Northwest to hike, smell the wildflowers and experience the mountain's great beauty up close.(Courtesy of Tours Northwest)

Tours Northwest – Mt Rainier Tour

A trip to Mount Rainier is a must when visiting Seattle, but if you don't want to navigate to the peak yourself, consider this daytrip with Tours Northwest. You'll ride in an air-conditioned coach bus through incredible scenery en route to the mountain. At the park, you'll have the opportunity to hike as much or as little as you want to see waterfalls, meadows and old-growth forests. Tour-goers rave about their guides' knowledge of the park and its trails. They also relish the beautiful scenery and the frequent stops for photo-ops and exploration. Tours operate late April through early November. Each tour begins at 7:30 a.m. and lasts about 10 hours. Tickets for adults cost approximately $150 and tickets for children 7 to 12 cost approximately $130. Park fees are included, but you will need to pay for lunch. Tours Northwest also provides tours of Seattle and the Boeing facility.

Bon Vivant Wine Tours – Woodinville Wineries Day Tour

On this wine-infused daytrip, you'll visit the town of Woodinville and several different wineries, including Chateau Ste. Michelle. Along the way, you'll make a stop to buy your lunch and enjoy with your small group (no more than 10 participants per tour). Guides regularly win praise from travelers, who appreciate their ability to select wineries based on tour-goers' preferences. Tours pick up from downtown Seattle hotels and last about six hours. Tickets start at $89 per person. Most tasting fees, as well as lunch, are not included. Bon Vivant Wine Tours offers daytrips to other locales in Washington's wine country, such as Bainbridge Island and Leavenworth.

Ride the Ducks of Seattle

Riders applaud this tour for its fun, efficient overview of the city. During the 90-minute trip, guides share Seattle history and facts through animated storytelling that incorporates music and comedy. Along the way, participants will see the historic Pioneer Square, the Seattle Aquarium, Pike Place Market and more, all before the land vehicle turns into a boat and takes visitors on a 30-minute ride through Lake Union. Tours operate during the week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets cost approximately $40 for adults, $25 for children ages 4 to 12, and $5 for children 3 and younger.

Seattle Free Walking Tours – The Market Experience

Enjoy an in-depth look at Seattle's famous Pike Place Market on this hourlong tour with Seattle Free Walking Tours. The tour, which runs daily rain or shine, not only educates participants on the long-running market, but includes food samples, interaction with vendors, a stop at the first Starbucks and a chance to see the famous fish throwers. Reviewers appreciate the informative tour guides and the multiple food samples throughout the tour. This tour encourages you to "pay what you feel" and therefore has no set ticket prices. The company also runs a Seattle 101 walking tour of the city, which includes the waterfront and Pioneer Square.

Take to the skies (and the water!) with an excursion from Seattle Seaplanes.(Courtesy of Seattle Seaplanes)

Seattle Seaplanes – 20 Minute Scenic Seattle Tour

Get a view of Seattle from the air on this 20-minute tour from Seattle Seaplanes. You'll cover more than 30 miles as you fly over Discovery Park, the Space Needle, the Ballard Locks, Bill Gates' estate and more. Flyers say they feel safe and comfortable during the tour and describe the views as fantastic. Flights cost approximately $100 per person. Tours depart from Lake Union. The company also offers scenic flights to Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens and the San Juan Islands.

Seattle Bites Food Tours

Pike Place Market is a top destination for locals and visitors, which is why Seattle Bites Food Tours are dedicated solely to the space. The 2 1/2-hour walking tour includes eight or nine generous food portions that could include locally made Greek yogurt, street tacos, sausages or salmon. Each tour-goer receives a personal listening device to ensure you can hear the guide in the busy marketplace. Reviewers praise their guides for their vast knowledge of the market and Seattle in general. Travelers also describe the food as amazing. Tours, which are capped at 16 participants, depart at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily. Tickets cost approximately $45 per person. Sample something you like? You can return to merchants after the tour and buy their goods using Seattle Bites' discount (up to 15% off).

Beneath the Streets

Learn about the formation of Seattle and its original neighborhood, Pioneer Square, on this one-hour Beneath the Streets tour. Seasoned guides will lead you through underground passageways dating back to the 1890s, sharing historic information, along with stories of the Klondike Gold Rush, the city's architecture and the Coast Salish tribes who originally inhabited the area. Tour-goers describe the experience as full of interesting information and praise their well-educated guides. Tours, limited to 25 people, leave every 30 minutes between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets cost approximately $20 for adults, $18 for college students and teens, and $12 for children ages 7 to 12. The company also operates an adults-only red-light district tour.

Seattle Cycling Tours – Seattle Bicycle Tour

See Seattle on two wheels on this approximately 2 1/2-hour bicycle tour that takes you past many top sights, including Pike Place Market, Chinatown and Pioneer Square. As you cruise the streets, you'll get a feel for the city's geography, history and landmarks. Reviewers rave about the guides' knowledge and navigation skills. Several riders also bill the tour as a must-do when visiting Seattle. Tours include bikes, helmets and water. Prices start at $59 per rider. Riders must be 12 or older to participate. Tours ride multiple times weekly with both morning and afternoon departures. The company also offers Georgetown, Capitol Hill and Bainbridge Island bike tours.

Taste comfort food with a high-end twist on Savor Seattle's Gourmet Seattle Food Tour.(Courtesy of Savor Seattle Food Tours)

Savor Seattle Food Tours – Gourmet Seattle Tour

Taste and sip your way through the city with the Gourmet Seattle Tour. The 2 1/2-hour walking tour includes visits to six top Seattle restaurants and artisan shops, and features more than 12 tastings, including four wine, beer and cocktail pairings. Along the way, you'll sample upscale comfort food, such as razor clam chowder and truffle cheese pizza. For dessert, you'll taste chocolates favored by the Obama family. Reviewers – both locals and visitors alike – value the quality of the food and recommend the tour as a starting point for first-time Seattle visitors. Tickets cost approximately $75; children 2 or younger who will not be eating may attend free. Tours are generally offered at 1:30, 2 and 2:30 p.m. daily, though availability varies by season. The company runs a variety of culinary-related tours, including a Chocolate Indulgence Tour and a food tour of Pike Place Market.

Puget Sound Express – Seattle Whale Watching Tours

A variety of wildlife species call Seattle home, including several different types of whales. The Puget Sound Express offers a half-day whale-watching tour that offers visitors the opportunity to see orcas, humpback whales, otters, sea lions and more in the San Juan Islands. The company's speedy boats reach the islands in about an hour and feature indoor seating with large windows, outdoor viewing decks and a cafe serving fresh blueberry buckle. Plus, the Puget Sound Express guarantees you will see whales on your tour or your next trip is free. Tour-goers rave about the courteous crew and all the wildlife spotted thanks to the crew's attentiveness and knowledge of the area. Tours last four to five hours and leave daily year-round, though departure times vary by season. Ticket prices start at $135 for adults and $85 for children 2 to 10, while children younger than 2 ride for free. The company also offers bird-watching and multi-day wildlife cruises.

Show Me Seattle Tours – Boeing Tours

Are you an aviation fanatic? You won't want to miss the chance to tour the Boeing assembly plant in Everett, Washington, which is also the largest building in the world by volume. During the 90-minute tour of the plant, which is led by Boeing staff, you'll be able to see Boeing 747, 777 and 787 jets in the process of assembly. Tour-goers rave about the tour, finding its content interesting and say the facility alone is reason to participate in the tour. Show Me Seattle leads 4 1/2-hour round-trip tours to the plant daily beginning at 8:30 a.m., picking up at most downtown Seattle hotels. Tickets cost approximately $75 for adults and $65 for children ages 6 to 12. Children must be at least 4 feet tall to go on the tour. Other Show Me Seattle excursions include tours of the city and a Coffee, Chocolate and Wine Tour.

Shutter Tours – Snoqualmie Falls and City Tour

Travelers enjoy this comprehensive tour because it offers a balance of gorgeous natural scenery and a great overview of the city's top sights. During the four-hour excursion, tour-goers start with a lesson in Seattle history, exploring the Pioneer Square area – the hub of the Klondike Gold Rush. Travelers are then transported to the beautiful Snoqualmie Falls in the Cascade foothills. Next, the tour continues to the famous Fremont Troll and then the Ballard Locks. Finally, it concludes at Kerry Park, a popular spot to snap photos of the Seattle skyline. Reviewers recommend booking this tour your first day in Seattle to get your bearings.Tickets cost approximately $65 for adults, $60 for seniors, and $50 for children 12 and younger. Tours run daily at 10 a.m. Shutter Tours also operates a tour to Mount Rainier and a Tulip Festival tour every April.

Lyn Mettler, Contributor

Lyn Mettler has written for U.S. News since 2014 covering a range of travel topics, including ...  Read more

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