Behind-the-Scenes Tours to Take in Seattle

Whether you're into chocolate, architecture or sports, there's a Seattle tour for you
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Watch chocolate being made at one of Seattle's many candy-making facilities.

There’s a lot going on in Seattle. Developments in the tech, tourism, culinary and manufacturing industries make for one bustling city. Want the inside scoop on the action? Some of Seattle’s biggest and most successful companies offer fantastic tours of their facilities. Take an afternoon and get to know a few with some of the highlights here. 

Tech Tours

Amazon: The demand for an inside look at the tech hub's HQ is so high that those wanting a tour are required to join a waitlist. It’s a hard tour to score, so if you can’t get a reservation, check out our coverage of our visit to HQ. The hour long tour is offered Wednesday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and lasts an hour. 

Living Computer Museum: A guided tour is included in the price of admission to Seattle’s vintage computer destination. Tours are between 45 and 60 minutes and are currently offered at 11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. each day.

Microsoft Visitor Center: If you prefer not to be led around by a tour guide, try a free self-guided tour through hands-on exhibits and explorations of the company's innovations and latest products. The Center is located in Redmond; see website for daily hours.

Food and Drink

Theo Chocolate: If you’re looking to indulge a sweet tooth, consider one of Seattle’s most popular chocolatiers. The Fremont-based tour is $10 per person and features a walk-through of the facilities and a history of chocolate making. (Tip: Visit on a weekday when chocolate is in production). You can also visit Boehm’s Candies in Issaquah; free self-guided window tours are available during business hours, and guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more. Guided tours cost $5 per person and feature candy craftspeople at work and candy samples, as well as visits to the founder’s chalet and the High Alpine Chapel. If you don’t mind a road trip out of the city, visit the Liberty Orchards factory in Cashmere, which offers samples an inside look at their factory candy making, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through December.

Chateau Ste Michelle Winery: There are a host of tours available at this Woodinville winery, including a complimentary tour and tasting, which gives attendees a 35-minute glimpse of winemaking in the Columbia Valley region; a $10 per-person garden tour on Tuesdays and Thursdays April through October, which highlights the winery’s historic grounds; and an Ultimate Tour & Tasting, a specialty 90-minute tasting with a wine specialist, who shares high-end wines with paired bites, $100 per guest up to 4 guests; more than 4 guests $85 each. Garden Tour and Ultimate Tour & Tasting require advance appointments.

Redhook Brewing: Although a Seattle location is slated to open in 2017, the Woodinville location of Redhook currently offers a guided walk through of the brewery and a history of the company's craft. Samples, of course, included. Tours cost $5 a person and are offered Monday through Thursday at 1 and 3 p.m., and Friday through Saturday, 12 p.m to 3 p.m. (every hour on the hour).

Engineering and Design

BoeingAlthough this mammoth company no longer calls Washington home, public tours of Everett factory facilities are still offered seven days a week. Located in Mukilteo, the factory gives tour-goers the chance to see airplane manufacturing. Tour is approximately 90 minutes.

Bullitt Center: Described as "the greenest office building in the world" by Architectural Digest, the Bullitt Center offers hour-long tours highlighting the building’s design strategies, mechanical and electrical rooms, the greywater and rainwater treatment systems, non-flush toilets and more. Tours are held Tuesdays at 4 p.m. and Saturdays at noon; the cost is $5 a person and are held by reservation only.

Hometown Highlights

Safeco Field: If you're a Mariners fan, check out the 19.59-acre ballpark and its unique features, including the retractable roof and urban garden. Tours are one hour and are available Tuesday through Sunday (times and prices vary). Private group and birthday tours also available. If football is more your thing, tours of CenturyLink are also available Friday through Sunday at 10:30 a.m., and 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. (except on November 7-14, 20 and 24). Prices vary. Private tours also available upon request, scheduled in advance.

Seattle Public Library: It's hard to miss, but if you're wanting a closer look at downtown Seattle's flagship library, virtual, self-guided phone and audio tours are available to the public, as well as tours for groups and schools. Most tours are free, but parties of 10 to 20 must make arrangements at least two weeks in advance through an online request form.

Starbucks Roastery: It's basically what Seattle is famous for. At the roastery and tasting room on Pike, coffee addicts (ahem, we mean aficionados) can peruse a coffee library and main bar, chat with specialists, and watch roasting production. Roaster is open daily 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Notable Historic Sites

Georgetown Steam Plant: The Plant, a National Historic Landmark, is open to the public the second Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with free guided tours at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The tour is free; groups of 15 or more should call ahead at 206.763.2542.

Seattle Times' North Creek Production Facility: Watch the Seattle Times roll fresh of the presses at the printing facility in Bothell. Tours are an hour long and conducted by appointment only; scheduling varies by season. To schedule, call 425.489.7000 or email kpalmer@seattletimes.com.

Alki Point Lighthouse: You might have missed tours for the season, but it's not too late to start planning ahead to next spring. U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarists and U.S. Coast Guard Active Duty personnel provide public Lighthouse tours on summer weekends. The functioning, fully-automated aid-to-navigation structure is located on an active U.S. Coast Guard Site and is one of eight lighthouses on (or near) the Puget Sound open to visitors. Check website for updates on 2017 tours.

(Tip: Check out historicseattle.org for more tours of Seattle spots.)

Arts and Culture

Benaroya Hall: In conjunction with the Watjen Concert Organ Recital-Demonstrations, free public tours are available without reservation for groups of nine or less; tour-goers can choose from an abbreviated tour at noon, or a full tour at 1 p.m. Group tours for 10 or more must be scheduled at least one month in advance and coincide with the 1 p.m. public tours. Tours available to those 10 and older.

Paramount Theater: Free tours of the historic theater are offered the first Saturday of every month at 10 a.m. Tours last 90 minutes. Tours can be requested for student groups, seniors or special groups by submitting an application online; groups receive a behind-the-scenes look at the backstage operations, history and technical workings of the theater.

Recreation and the Outdoors

Washington Park Arboretum: There are a host of various tours available at the University of Washington’s outdoor oasis. Private tours include tram tours, which are $100, regardless of group size, and walking tours, which feature different themes based on the season and are priced based on group size. Private tours last 60-90 minutes, with three weeks advance notice and advance payment required. Self-guided tours are offered during 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. business hours; maps and audio guides are available. There are also scheduled guided tours you can attend, which include information and activities for the whole family, including seasonal themes.

Filson: If you’re into the latest outdoor gear, visit the facilities of Filson HQ, where complimentary factory tours are given every Tuesday at 10 a.m. and Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at the newly-relocated flagship store. Tours include information on the manufacturing of garments, bags and other outdoor gear. Visit the company website to RSVP for tour dates.

Remlinger Farms: A good fall option for families with children, Remlinger Farms offers farm tours for groups of all ages, including walk-throughs of a pioneer home, corn milling, a steam train, theater and barnyard, as well as other educational activities. All tours, including self-guided tours, require reservations. To reserve your space, call 425.333.4135, ext. 303, or complete online registration. Tours through the end of October; admission prices vary. 

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