Your Ultimate Guide: What to Do in Pioneer Square

If you’re wondering what to do in Pioneer Square, you’re in for a treat. This historic neighborhood in Seattle is a treasure trove of experiences, blending the charm of cobblestone streets with a rich cultural tapestry and a diverse array of activities. Lace up your walking shoes and prepare to learn what to do in Pioneer Square, ensuring your visit is filled with memorable experiences.

what to do in pioneer square

The Fascinating History of Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square holds a storied past that is instrumental in shaping Seattle’s character. It was here that the city’s first pioneers, led by the Denny Party, landed in 1852. They initially named the settlement ‘New York-Alki,’ with ‘Alki’ being a Chinook word for ‘by and by’ or ‘someday.’ True to its name, the city eventually thrived and transformed into a bustling hub.

Notably, Pioneer Square was the epicenter of the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s. Prospectors flooded into the city, dreaming of striking it rich in the Yukon. This significant event injected a new wave of energy and prosperity into Seattle, shaping its economic landscape.

However, Pioneer Square also witnessed the Great Seattle Fire in 1889, which decimated 31 blocks of the city. The resilience and determination of Seattleites shone through the smoke of this disaster. They rebuilt the city on the rubble of the fire, using the opportunity to raise the street level and reduce the city’s problems with flooding — a decision that led to the creation of Seattle’s world-famous Underground.

what to do pioneer square

Transportation Tips for Pioneer Square: Navigate with Ease

Getting to and around Pioneer Square is easier than you might think. If you’re driving, take Interstate 5 and exit at James Street, following signs for Pioneer Square. There are numerous parking garages in the area, such as the Butler Garage on James Street and the CenturyLink Field Garage on South Royal Brougham Way. Keep in mind that street parking can be limited and time-restricted.

For those who prefer public transport, Pioneer Square is well-connected with bus service provided by King County Metro and Sound Transit. Multiple routes stop within the vicinity of the neighborhood. Alternatively, consider taking the Link Light Rail which stops at Pioneer Square Station, offering quick and easy access to the heart of the district.

If you’re downtown, the Seattle Streetcar’s First Hill Line has a stop at Occidental Mall, placing you right in the middle of Pioneer Square. For a unique experience, the Washington State Ferries’ Colman Dock terminal is a short walk away, connecting Pioneer Square with various locations across Puget Sound.

pioneer square what to do

Experience the Best of Pioneer Square: Activities & Attractions

From engaging historical tours to vibrant art spaces, there’s something for everyone in Pioneer Square. The area’s rich history, art scene, sports enthusiasm, outdoor activities, and culinary attractions create an eclectic mix that guarantees your visit will be far from ordinary. Here’s a list of activities and attractions you shouldn’t miss on your Pioneer Square adventure:

Historical Walking Tours

  • Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour: Journey into Seattle’s past with a guided walking tour through the city’s original streets, now hidden underground.
  • Seattle Free Walking Tours: This local non-profit offers a fascinating tour of Pioneer Square and the waterfront.
  • Seattle Architecture Foundation Tours: Broaden your understanding of Seattle’s architectural history with a guided walking tour.
  • Pioneer Square Walking Tour: Explore the sights and sounds of Seattle’s historic district, focusing on art, architecture, and history.

Museums and Cultural Institutions

  • Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park: Explore exhibits about the Yukon Gold Rush that shaped much of Seattle’s history.
  • The Museum of Flight: Discover the history of aviation at this world-class museum.
  • The Last Resort Fire Department Museum: A hidden gem showcasing antique fire engines and the history of firefighting in Seattle.
  • Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience: This Smithsonian affiliate museum educates about the culture, art, and history of Asian Pacific Americans.
  • Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum: Learn about the history of law enforcement in the Pacific Northwest.

Events and Festivals

  • First Thursday Art Walk: Discover local art during this monthly event in Pioneer Square.
  • Upstream Music Fest: Enjoy performances by emerging artists during this citywide music festival.
  • Seattle Square Market: Attend this outdoor market held in the heart of Pioneer Square.
  • Festál Cultural Festivals: A series of cultural festivals held throughout the year at Seattle Center, a short monorail ride away.
  • Seafair: A summer-long, citywide festival featuring parades, air shows, and boat races.

Art Galleries and Studios

  • Foster/White Gallery: Explore contemporary art from both regional and international artists.
  • Davidson Galleries: Home to a wide variety of contemporary and traditional print art.
  • Occidental Square Art Market: A vibrant cluster of stalls selling arts and crafts from local creators.
  • Tashiro Kaplan Artist Lofts: Visit the working spaces of artists in this creative hub.
  • Glasshouse Studio: Watch glassblowing in action and purchase beautiful handcrafted pieces.

Sports and Entertainment

  • CenturyLink Field: Home of the Seattle Seahawks (NFL) and the Seattle Sounders (MLS).
  • T-Mobile Park: Cheer on the Seattle Mariners at this baseball park.
  • Showbox SoDo: Catch a live show at this historic music venue.
  • Comedy Underground: Enjoy a night of laughs at this premier comedy club.
  • Smith Tower Observatory: Take in panoramic views of Seattle from this iconic observatory.

Local Markets

  • Pike Place Market: Just a short walk away, this market is a must-visit for fresh produce, seafood, and local craft stalls.
  • Seattle Antiques Market: Hunt for treasures in this extensive antiques market.
  • Uwajimaya: Discover Asian groceries and gifts at this sprawling supermarket.
  • Melrose Market: A chic indoor market offering gourmet food stalls and boutique shops.
  • West Edge Market: A convenient spot for groceries, with a great selection of wines and beers.
what to do square pioneer

Outdoor Activities

  • Waterfront Park: Take a scenic stroll along the Seattle waterfront.
  • Occidental Square: Relax in this urban park amidst totem poles and art installations.
  • Smith Tower Observatory: Enjoy breath-taking views of the city from its original skyscraper.
  • Seattle Ferry Service: Take a leisurely boat ride to nearby islands or peninsulas.
  • Hing Hay Park: Experience local events and performances in this community-oriented park.

Shopping Guide

  • Ebbets Field Flannels: For vintage, American-made baseball caps and sports apparel.
  • Kuhlman: A fashionable men’s and women’s clothing and tailoring shop.
  • Utilikilts: Get fitted for a utility kilt in the heart of Pioneer Square.
  • Seattle Mystery Bookshop: A local favorite, specializing in thriller and mystery books.
  • Bon Voyage Vintage: Offers a wide selection of unique vintage clothing and accessories.


  • Trinity Nightclub: Dance the night away at this popular club with multiple lounges and dance floors.
  • Central Saloon: As Seattle’s oldest bar, it offers an authentic saloon experience.
  • J&M Cafe: Enjoy live music and DJs at one of the city’s oldest and most revered nightspots.
  • The Tasting Room: Sample a wide range of Washington wines at this cozy wine bar.
  • Damn the Weather: A stylish bar offering inventive cocktails and gourmet bites.

Culinary Delights

  • The London Plane: Part bakery, part café, part florist – this multi-faceted spot is an absolute must-visit.
  • Il Corvo Pasta: Known for its handmade pasta and a rotating menu that changes daily.
  • Tsukushinbo: A hidden gem serving traditional Japanese cuisine. Don’t miss their Friday night sushi specials.
  • Salumi: A family-owned store that offers artisanal cured meats, unforgettable sandwiches, and Italian grocery items.
  • Damn the Weather: An upscale gastropub with a creative menu that changes seasonally. Their cocktails are also a must-try.

Final Thoughts

Pioneer Square is the heart of Seattle, offering a myriad of activities that cater to a diverse range of interests. From the rich tapestry of history and culture seen in its architecture and museums to the colorful and vibrant arts scene, bustling local markets, and captivating outdoor activities, there is truly something for everyone. Whether you’re a food connoisseur exploring the culinary delights or an art lover immersing yourself in the creative hubs, Pioneer Square promises an unforgettable experience. So pack your bags and embark on an adventure that will ignite your senses and create lasting memories.

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