If you are planning a trip to Seattle, you might find your plans interrupted by unexpected rainfall- but don’t worry, Seattle knows just how to make the most of rainy days and in this post we’ll review some of the best ways to ENJOY what rain brings to the city.
It’s important to remember that in Seattle, unless it’s a rare total downpour, we pretty much just continue with life as normal! Rain in Seattle tends to be a gentle rain with small raindrops, making it pretty comfortable to carry on with normal activities with no special equipment other than a good pair of shoes and a light raincoat.
The following activities are some of my favorite Rainy Day Seattle adventures, many of which are actually better enjoyed on rainy days than when the sun is out.
Seward Park and Seattle Arboretum
While you might not think of going to the park in the rain, and Seattle rain tends to be more mist than downpour. With a decent raincoat, you can still explore without getting too wet. In fact, the Arboretum and various wooded parks are actually very enhanced in their beauty on a rainy day.
Walk the trails at the Arboretum and attached gardens to enjoy this rain enhanced space (almost) all to yourself. Seward Park trails lead through the old mossy trees. with good cover overhead- allowing you to explore a moss-covered world that comes alive in the rain.
Beach Combing / Low Tide
One advantage to rain during your visit is that you’ll get to experience rain in one of the world’s largest temperate rain forests. In both the forests and the waterfronts, rain transforms the landscape as creatures specially adapted to this environment thrive in the wet weather.
While Seattle has a mostly-indoor aquarium, beach combing and low-tide exploring in the rain can be a memorable adventure! I always recommend visitors check the Tide Forecast and plan a beach visit when the tide is at it’s lowest.
The best beaches to hit for rainy-day low tide exploring are:
- Constellation Park – West Seattle
- Edmonds Ferry Dock – Edmonds
- Richmond Beach Saltwater Park – Shoreline
Because Seattle is so accustomed to rainy days, the rain garden is elevated to a art here. Rain gardens trap and channel rainwater into decorative (and often functional or even edible) landscapes. In the Puget sound regions, rain gardens serve an additional purpose- diverting rainwater along more convoluted courses than directly into storm drains. In an urban landscape, if all rainwater is directed to storm drains, the drains are at risk of overflowing (and overflowing storm drains cause untreated water to flow directly into the Puget Sound). Seattle’s thousands of rain gardens- big and small- enhance the beauty of a rainy day, provide ambient sound, and help keep the Puget Sound on an upward trend towards improved water quality.
“A rain garden is a shallow depression containing spongy soil and a variety of plants that thrive in northwest sun, soil and moisture conditions. It collects water from your roof downspout and allows it to safely soak into the ground.” – 7milliongallons.com
Rain gardens can be visited rain or shine any time of the year, but unlike most adventures, they provide a special bonus for rainy day adventurers.
Best Rain Gardens:
An umbrella themed art installation/rain garden sits at at 2801 1st Ave, as well as the nearby artist-design Vine Street Rain Garden (both adjacent to the Olympic Sculpture Park which is, itself, a giant rain garden)
Some of the top rain gardens in Seattle include the roof of the Ballard Library, the SAM sculpture park, and the Sea/Tac transfer center. Many rain gardens are discrete- but you can find a listing of rain gardens at 12000raingardens.org.
Seattle has fun inside adventures as well. In the heart of Seattle’s downtown-adjacent neighborhood of Belltown lies “Cinerama,” one of only three remaining movie theaters in the world that can show three panel Cinerama films. The landmark movie theater and its signature curved screen is open daily showing top films, and open occasionally to show vintage Cinerama flicks.
Seattle Public Library Central Branch
One of my favorite Rainy Day activities is taking visitors to the central branch of the Seattle Public Library. Inside this iconic, asymmetrical glass building there are seating options on each floor positioned perfectly for enjoying the rain rolling off the steel and glass latticework exterior of the library. It’s the perfect spot to sit and read, chat, catch up on work, or time your visit for a grown-up story hour.
As a bonus, it was recently rated as the most instagrammable library in the world- and includes a notoriously-creepy 4th floor worth exploring for the more adventurous of travelers.
Other rainy-day-visit worthy libraries include the Suzello Library on the campus of the University of Washington and it’s Hogwarts reminiscent architecture, however, limited parking options mean a rather long walk in the rain to visit this building.
Waterfall Park and Pioneer Square
This secluded urban oasis of the UPS Waterfall Park is a privately owned park, open to the public, tucked behind Occidental Square Park. This monument built by the UPS corporation to mark their original location features a 22-foot waterfall. With tables and seating under a rain-blocking overhang, it’s the perfect spot to eat lunch, read a book or just relax in small and quiet sanctuary of this “secret” little park.
Seattle’s Secret Urban National Park
Adjacent to the Waterfall Park, there’s a national park- yep, a National Park!- right in the heart of downtown. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is owned by the National Parks Service and thus, is given the official designation of a national park. You can learn more about this museum and park commemorating an important part of American history via the National Park Service’s Website for this Park.
Rain Art Hunting
Seattle is a hub for modern creators, and among this is the creator of a “superhydrophobic coating” used to create art in public spaces that shows up only on rainy days.
Seattle has dozens of street art installations created using superhydrophobic (water repellant) coatings. These installations are designed to be invisible and only to appear on rainy days when walls or pavement are wet. You can find a map of “rainworks” here.
30 miles from the heart of downtown Seattle lies Snoqualmie falls, a 268-foot waterfall that roars to epic proportions during rainfall. If you’re looking for a way to spend a rainy day in Seattle- it’s worth a gamble heading to “the falls.” The Pacific Northwest’s many microclimates mean that by the time you’ve arrived at the falls you may have found clearer weather- or it will still be raining and you’ll be treated to the epic rain-swollen cascade.