Also known as the Emerald City, Seattle is a unique corner of the United States, offering sea to sky landscapes, lush evergreen backdrops and blocks of coffee shops roasting that perfect bean. There’s a reason over 40 million people chose to visit Seattle last year alone. It has an underrated appeal that surprises even the most seasoned traveler. And don’t let the rainy vibes get you down…it adds to the experience – remember Washington is the Evergreen state for a reason! With that said, here’s your Seattle Travel Guide…
Seattle Travel Guide
In this post I’ll cover everything you need to plan the perfect trip to Seattle, including the best time to visit, where to stay, things to do, and of course, the ultimate restaurant list!
The Best Time To Travel To Seattle
If you plan your trips around the weather, the best time to enjoy warmer temperatures, blue skies and minimal rain is July – September. You’ll likely see 70 degree days, with rare spikes in the 80’s and 90’s. This is peak travel time which coincides with music festivals and outdoor events…however, this can also bring in the most crowds. So keep that in mind!
April and May offer beautiful crisp mornings followed by 55-65 degree days, which are fantastic for exploring the city and capturing the cherry blossom bloom.
If you prefer lower tourist traffic, October through February are your go-to months, though be prepared for chillier temperatures, grey skies and rain. I personally love a misty Pacific Northwest day, especially for exploring museums and art galleries or cozying up in a coffee shop with friends.
Things To Do In Seattle
Probably the most iconic spot in Seattle is Pike Place Market, one of the oldest public farmers’ markets in the U.S., located in the heart of the city overlooking Elliott Bay.
The year-round market includes owner-operated bakeries, fish markets, butcher shops, produce stands, specialty food stores and 225 local and regional craftsman.
There are also more than 80 restaurants from take-out counters to fine dining…so my advice is to bring your appetite!
One of my most recommended experiences is offered by Savor Seattle – providing guided food, drink and culinary getaway tours. It’s one of the best ways to enjoy the flavors of the city, gaining VIP access to Seattle’s most influential food scene.
Located in Post Alley below Pike Place Market, Theatresports is a competitive weekly improv show made up of two teams that act out hilarious scenes initiated by the audience. It’s a lighthearted fun activity if you’re looking for something different. Showtimes are every Friday and Saturday at 10:30pm and tickets are under $15!
Next to the entrance for Theatresports in Post Alley is the famous Seattle Gum Wall. It’s a super quirky landmark that warrants a photo if you’re in the Emerald City. Fun fact – it’s nearly 50 feet long…so plenty of room to grab a selfie even with the hordes of tourists.
Another interesting attraction is the Fremont Troll, an 18 foot public sculpture in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle made of steel, rebar, wire and concrete. It’s unique, massive and worth the stop.
Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, the Space Needle is one of the most prominent landmarks in Seattle’s skyline, soaring 520 feet above ground. And it just received a multi-million dollar renovation!
The new, elevated experience includes The Loupe, the world’s first and only rotating glass floor, and the Skyrisers, tilting glass walls on the open-air deck, which feel like you’re floating over the city.
Also included with your ticket are professional Sky-high Selfie and Zoomie photos, a digital globe interactive experience and a virtual reality bungee jump.
The Space Needle is open 365 days a year and also offers a cafe and wine bar onsite. There are multiple ticket options including packages with Chihuly Garden and Glass or the Citypass which offers at least 46% off on 5 of Seattle’s top attractions.
Located at the base of the Space Needle next to the Seattle Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass is one of the most beautiful exhibits in the city, sharing the ambitious and detailed work of the famed glass artist, Dale Chihuly. In addition to the Exhibit, Glasshouse and Garden experience, you can also find special events like Yoga under Glass which are open to the public.
Also built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, the Seattle Center offers 74 acres of education, art and entertainment, most notably hosting festivals like Bumbershoot, Seattle Pridefest and the Northwest Folklife Festival.
In the center of the property you’ll find the International Fountain, a popular spot in the summer for all ages. In fact, most people don’t realize this but all of the water is recycled and probably the cleanest in the city, with three types of treatment before it ever reaches the public.
Museum of Pop Culture
Also known as MoPop, this nonprofit museum next to the Space Needle celebrates contemporary pop culture through engaging exhibits, 17 of which have toured across the U.S. and internationally.
MoPop is an inspiring experience that integrates music, fashion and icons throughout history, making it another one of my favorite attractions in Seattle. Save $2 by purchasing your tickets online and kids 4 and under are free.
The nation’s first full-scale commercial monorail system is a fun and convenient way to travel from downtown Seattle to Seattle Center. You can even bundle your monorail ticket with a Seattle Center 4-Pack. Individually one-way fares are only $2.50 and kids 4 and under are free!
The Seattle Aquarium offers a family-friendly hands-on marine experience featuring birds, mammals and fish among other sea life found in the Puget Sound. Through conservation education they emphasize the value in restoring our marine environment in a fun and exciting way. I highly recommend if you’re traveling with kids! You can save $2 by purchasing tickets online and kids 3 and under are free.
Located at Pier 57 on Elliott Bay, the Seattle Great Wheel was the tallest ferris wheel on the West Coast of the U.S. when it opened in 2012, spanning 175 feet high. Each gondola can fit 8 people, showcasing the Puget Sound and Seattle skyline all at once. Regular admission is $14.
Also known as “Seattle’s Original Neighborhood,” Pioneer square has evolved since its birth in 1852, yet still holds that classic old Seattle feel. From vibrant shops and art galleries to secret foodie spots and pubs, the neighborhood is still one of the best spots in the city. And its adjacent to Chinatown, SODO and the Central Watefront.
Upper Queen Anne is a cozy neighborhood filled with boutique shops, healthy cafes and wine bars coexisting with 19th-century homes that are true to Seattle’s architectural history. And down the hill you’ll find lower Queen Anne, the Seattle Center hub.
A must-see neighborhood while exploring Seattle, Capitol Hill offers trendy bars, up and coming restaurants, indie shops and a variety of coffee shops. You can also find one of the best panoramic views of Seattle atop the hill at Volunteer Park.
Home to Amazon and its biotech neighbors. South Lake Union is one of the newly developed Seattle neighborhoods that has taken the city by storm. Transformed into a culinary, artistic and technologically innovated hub, South Lake Union is a fascinating neighborhood. In addition, a site to see at lunchtime, as the food trucks pull up, with lines around the block.
The neighborhood also rests up against Lake Union, Seattle’s freshwater lake that resides entirely within the city limits, where you can rent paddle boards, board a Seaplane or even take a sunset cruise.
The second largest natural lake in Washington state, Lake Washington is a summertime pastime for locals and tourists alike. A great way to explore both Lake Union and Lake Washington, among other waterfront sights like the Ballard Locks, is Argosy Cruises, which hosts narrated tours year round.
Located on the north shore of Lake Union is Gas Works Park, a 19.1-acre public park which used to be the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant. It’s a popular spot in the summer for flying kites, picnics, yoga and watching the sun set over the city.
A few things come to mind when you envision a Seattle Travel Guide, Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and a ferry crossing the Puget Sound. There are 23 ferries in Washington State, making it the largest ferry fleet in the United States. Fares start as low as $8.50 for adults ($4.25 for youth and seniors). From Tacoma, Washington, to Sidney, British Columbia, the ferries travel up and down the Sound, acting as a marine highway for commercial users, tourists and daily commuters alike.
A hidden gem on the shores of Lake Washington, Washington Park Arboretum is a joint project managed by the University of Washington Botanic Gardens and the City of Seattle. All 230 acres of trails, gardens, natural areas and wetlands are free and open to the public. Except for The Japanese Garden which offers admission.
If you’re up for an adventure, there are 3 beautiful National Parks within a few hours of Seattle, including Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park and North Cascades National park. Add at least one of these to your summer itinerary.
Just 30 minutes from downtown Seattle in the Sammamish River Valley is Woodinville Wine Country, home to over 100 wineries and tasting rooms representing the best in the region. This deserves an entire afternoon… If not a weekend.
Where to Stay
The Sound Hotel is Seattle’s newest accommodation in the Belltown neighborhood offering a modern aesthetic paired with a music vibe true to the city’s roots. Furthermore, the rooms are spacious, the staff are knowledgable and the location is key for wandering the city by foot.
The Charter Hotel offers state-of-the-art amenities, amazing Argentine-inspired cuisine in their in-house restaurant, Patagōn, and breathtaking views of Elliott Bay. Pike Place Market is only a block away, among other downtown attractions.
Nestled in the Pioneer Square neighborhood, Embassy Suites is the perfect location to cheer your favorite team on. Within walking distance to CenturyLink Field and T-Mobile Park. Plan your trip to watch Seahawks Football, Sounders FC or Mariners baseball!
Embassy Suites also offers free made-to-order breakfast and a complimentary evening reception with drinks and snacks. The heated indoor pool and sun deck also provide that urban respite you’re craving after a long day of exploring.
Best Restaurants in Seattle
A Seattle travel guide wouldn’t be complete without including Bar Melusine. Founded by Seattle-renowned chef, Renee Erickson, the menu showcases local oysters and inspired bites from the French Atlantic Coast.
The London Plane space includes a cafe, wine bar, specialty grocery, flower shop and bakery. The Mediterranean menu offers a wide variety of local and artisanal ingredients, sustainably source and intentionally prepared.
Plum Bistro serves up some of the best plant-based comfort food in Seattle. From Buffalo Portobello Burgers to Sweet Potato Gnocchi, this chic Capitol Hill restaurant offers the ultimate vegan menu that is guaranteed to please any palate.
Located in the South Lake Union neighborhood, Serious Pie & Biscuit offers delectable ultra thin crust pizza with inventive toppings like charcuterie, foraged mushrooms and imported cheeses. And the biscuit menu has everything from fried chicken and gravy to seasonal jams.
The largest independent cider bar in the country. Capitol Cider occupies two floors in a 100+-year old building in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The menu is 100% gluten-free, serving up gourmet comfort food with locally-sourced ingredients. Downstairs is The Ballast Bar, a late night music, art, and game venue with a rotating calendar.
A local favorite in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Poquitos serves up authentic Mexican food and seasonal margaritas in a Spanish colonial aesthetic, which includes over 15,000 handmade Talavera tiles that line the walls and kitchen. Also, if you’re feeling adventurous, order the Chapulines.
Located in the luxury downtown Hotel Theodore, Rider Seattle offers a regionally-sourced land and sea menu in a rustic-chic space. From Rockfish Crudo to English Pea & Dungeness Crab Ravioli, the culinary passion is evident in every dish.
Located nine blocks from the original Starbucks Pike Place store, the Seattle Roastery has a unique menu featuring coffee, cocktail and ice cream fusions, with a flight being one of the most popular experiences. Newly added is the Milanese-inspired bakery by Rocco Princi offering artisanal pizzas, pastries and bread paired with colorful salads and handmade desserts.
Home to the “world’s greatest dumplings,”. Din Tai Fung has 4 locations in the greater Seattle area, including one downtown inside the Pacific Place shopping center. Even though it’s not a Seattle original, the multi-course DIY menu is always a local favorite.
Serving up delicious plant-based ice cream that are entirely dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free and some, even cane-sugar free. Frankie & Jo’s may have a line out the door…but it’s worth the wait. Also, all of the milk and bases are made in-house, and they limit the number of ingredients to maintain the flavor and integrity of the treats.
If you prefer that true homemade ice cream experience, Molly Moon’s offers creative flavors like salted caramel & honey lavender made of dairy from hormone-free cows. With seven locations in the greater Seattle area, it’s one of the most popular creameries on the West Coast.
Mighty-O Donuts has been a Seattle staple since 2000, made of GMO-free, zero trans fat, vegan, organic ingredients. From French Toast to Raspberry Riot and Good O’l Glazed, they’re the reinvented classic donut with a healthier twist.
As seen on ABC’s Shark Tank, Cinnaholic is the ultimate gourmet cinnamon roll bakery. With over 20 unique frosting flavors and a variety of toppings, it’s anything but your average treat. Stop by to experience their handcrafted cinnamon rolls, brownies, edible cookie dough and baked cookies. All of the products are 100% vegan, dairy & lactose-free, egg-free, cholesterol-free and made with vegan beet sugar.
Rachel’s Ginger Beer has 3 locations in Seattle, including the flagship store in Pike Place Market. Serving up ginger beer cocktails, ice cream floats, and growlers to go. In addition, kids are welcome at all locations, all hours.
Located in The Thompson Hotel, hovering above Pike Place Market, The Nest has become one of Seattle’s iconic rooftop bars with breathtaking views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountain Range. From hand-crafted cocktails, to wine and small seasonal snacks, it’s a perfect happy hour spot to watch the sun go down.
A visit to Seattle wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Knee High Stocking Co. An intimate speak-easy-style vibe owned and operated by two local sisters. The rules are to stay off your phone, and no flash photography. Also, don’t order anything with Red Bull and be patient as your cocktail is carefully crafted. It’s a true Northwest gem.
The Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail extends from the city of SeaTac to the University of Washington. With stops in South Seattle neighborhoods, the stadium district, the International District/Chinatown and downtown locations, it’s great option for travelers coming to or from the airport.
The Link Light Rail service runs from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 a.m. to midnight on Sundays. Trains arrive and depart every 6 to 15 minutes, depending on the time of day.
Uber & Lyft
Seattle is a ride-share-friendly city so your Uber & Lyft app will come in handy!
Only offered in Seattle and Portland, Reach Now exclusively offers a BMW or Mini for ride-share or rental. Also, use code PORTIAFREE to save $5 off a ride!
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