Planning a weekend trip to Seattle? We got you! With the help of our local friends, we put together the perfect 2-3 day guide for you.
Pike Place Market, Space Needle, and the Chihuly Glass Museum are among the obligatory things to do in Seattle on your first visit. Because let’s be real, we are tourists no matter how much we say we like traveling like locals.
It wasn’t until our 6th visit, that we could finally kick it with the locals. Even on the trip before that, we were still working through the tourist attractions. This time, we got to prioritize spending time with friends eating, climbing, and drinking lots of coffee (our preferred cup of joe is at our friend, Joe’s).
If you’ve been to Seattle before, check out our Seattle Bucket List to see what else you should explore next.
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Last Updated: August 9, 2022
Why Visit Seattle?
Seattle is an excellent destination if you enjoy having access to the outdoors but also want the conveniences and food options of a big city. On our previous trips, we used Seattle as a base to explore several National Parks in Washington, and now we get excited about climbing outdoors when it’s too hot in the southwest.
What is Seattle Known For?
- Coffee Culture (including Starbucks)
- The Outdoors (REI headquarters are near Seattle with their flagship store in South Lake Union)
- The Grunge Music Scene
- Tech Companies like Amazon and Microsoft
Why Trust Us?
Although we’ve never lived in Seattle, we got some help from our friends who have lived here for twelve years and three years. To put together this post, we’ve pulled from our own experiences as a visitor along with insights from our local friends.
Rather than putting together a definitive itinerary, we’ve put together options for each day so that you can choose based on your interests.
Day 1: The Touristy Stuff
As much as we try to travel like a local, the tourist attractions are there for a reason. For my own sanity, I like to maximize my first day and check out all the touristy stuff first. That way, I can take a more relaxing pace after and won’t need a vacation from my vacation.
1. Chihuly Glass Museum, Seattle Center
305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109, map
Dale Chihuly is the most recognized glass artist and this museum showcases his work. We’ve seen his pieces in several different cities, but it was amazing to see so much of his work in one place. We’re not huge museum-goers, but this one was especially fascinating since I did some glass blowing in my Chem lab before (it’s freakin hard).
Local Tip: This museum can get quite crowded, so arrive early to avoid them. We loved photos towards the end at the glass house, so if photos are your priority, head there first.
2. Pike Place Market
85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101, map
If it’s your first visit to Seattle, Pike Place is a must. It’s where you can eat fresh fish at the Fish Market, buy a cheap bouquet of fresh flowers, and perhaps wait in line at the “original” Starbucks. The Gum Wall on the lower level of Pike Place, where you can add your chewed piece of gum, although gross, is iconic too. We’ve only explored on our own, but they also have chef-guided tours.
Other Points of Interest: Crafts Market, Rachel the Piggy Bank, Ellenos Real Green Yogurt (try the marionberry flavor), Piroshky Piroshky, Rachel’s Ginger Beer, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, and Pike Place Chowder.
Pike Place is a great place to pick up any souvenirs. We used to buy Honey Pecans from Chukar Cherries every time we visited, but now they have them available at REI nationwide.
Fun Fact: Did you know the “Original” Starbucks at Pike Place is not the actual original Starbucks? The original location no longer exists and was a few blocks away, but this location is where one of the original stores moved to. In a sense, you can say it’s the original.
Local Tip: It’s Pike Place not Pike’s Place if you don’t want to drive the locals crazy.
3. Olympic Sculpture Park
2901 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, map
Olympic Sculpture Park covers 9 acres of land and is Seattle’s most prominent downtown green space. It’s an offshoot of the Seattle Art Museum and is covered with massive, as you would guess, sculptures. The park is free to visit, where you can enjoy art, views, and beautiful weather (if you’re lucky enough).
Local Tip: If you’re looking for parking, check out the Paccar Pavilion Garage, which is open daily from 6 am to 11 pm. Rates vary but start at $5.
4. Space Needle at Seattle Center
400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109, map
The Space Needle is the most recognized landmark in the city, sitting 605 feet tall. You can go to the observation deck and rotating restaurant on top, where it’s expensive and the views are just okay. OR you can head to Kerry Park (see below), where you can see a beautiful view of the skyline, including the Space Needle.
Local Tip: The Seattle Center has a bunch of tourist spots you can check out all at once.
5. Kerry Park
211 W Highland Dr, Seattle, WA 98119, map
If you’re looking for one of the best views in the city, head to Kerry Park. It’s also the best spot to get photos of the skyline with the Space Needle in it, and on a clear day, you can see Mt Rainier.
2520 Westlake Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109, map
Our local friend was worried Hot Tub Boats were going to be a gimmicky tourist activity, but after our experience, we all thought it was the perfect way to end the evening. It was a unique and fun way to experience Lake Union and Seattle, soaking in a hot tub and watching the sunset over the skyline.
Local Tip: Book early, especially in the summer. They get booked up months in advance, especially on weekends and during sunset.
Day 2: Neighborhoods
If you love slow travel, exploring neighborhoods is the way to do it.
7. Walk Around Capitol Hill
With our friend who used to live in Capitol Hill as our guide, we spent our time checking out Seattle’s well-loved food, coffee, and shops. Here are some of the highlights:
- Molly Moon’s – is a Seattle favorite. If you want gluten-free, plant-based ice cream, check out Frankie and Jo’s not too far away from here.
- Victrola Coffee – We picked up some beans for our coffee aficionado friend since this was a recommended local fave.
- First Starbucks Reserve Roastery – You can try a brew comparison or try a flight of cold brew or espresso. They even have an espresso martini flight, which I have my eye on next.
- Glasswing – Cute shop with clothes, home goods, and plants.
- Retrofit Home – This spot caught our eye as we walked by. They have contemporary pieces and mid-century modern reproductions.
- Standard Goods – A popular spot to get cute gear to rep your love for the city or pick up souvenirs.
- Plant Shop Seattle – I love a good plant store. If only it weren’t such a pain to fly back with a plant or two, I would have picked up some new plant babies.
8. Elliott Bay Book Company
1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122, map
Elliott Bay Book Company, located in Capitol Hill, is similar to Powell’s in Portland. Independent bookstores are rare these days, so go if you love to read and buy a book or two if you want to support them and keep them alive.
9. Fremont Troll
N 36th St, Seattle, WA 98103, map
On our second visit to the city, we accidentally stumbled across the Fremont Troll. It was designed and built by Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead as a project to bring art and the community together. The random find was a pleasant surprise during the day, but I’m guessing it’s super creepy at night if you’re not expecting it.
Some other points of interest in the Fremont Neighborhood
Find bars, eclectic eateries, cute shops, and quirky outdoor sculptures.
- Schilling Cider – 30+ craft ciders on tap and in bottles.
- Brouwer’s Cafe – Belgian-style grub, hundreds of beers, and over 50 scotches.
- Fremont Sunday Market – Art, antiques, and food trucks.
- Theo Chocolate – Local chocolatier for fair-trade and organic goodies.
- Fremont Rocket – A sculpture of a rocket.
- Fremont Dinosaurs – Dinosaur topiary in Fremont.
10. Elliott’s Oyster House on the Waterfront
1201 Alaskan Way Ste 100, Seattle, WA 98101, map
The waterfront is touristy, but Elliott’s Oyster House is still a favorite oyster spot among locals. While the other food wasn’t bad, if we went back, we would double down on the oysters… ALL the oysters.
Local Tip: They can get busy, so make a reservation to save yourself from having to wait.
Day 3: Outdoors
If you’re in Seattle for more than two days, we highly recommend getting outside. We love cities that have access to the outdoors, and Seattle is a great home base for hiking, climbing, paddling, and more. You can tell when it’s nice out, everyone is outside recreating and soaking up the sun (we appreciated the sun so much more when we lived in Portland).
11. Mount Rainier or Olympic National Park
Do you love exploring National Parks like us? We visited both Mt Rainier and Olympic on previous trips. While ideally, you would spend more than a day in each park, if you have limited time and don’t plan to be back in the PNW anytime soon, it’s worth making a day trip to see the highlights.
Pro Tip: Pick up an Annual Pass to save money if you plan on visiting multiple parks in a year.
12. Day Trip to Rattlesnake Lake and Rattlesnake Ledge
There are so many stunning day trips and weekend trips from Seattle. On our most recent trip, we headed to Rattlesnake Lake to SUP and fish. The crowds stayed near the beach, and we easily avoided them once we made it out on the water.
If you prefer hiking, the 5.3 mi RT hike takes roughly 3 hours to Rattlesnake Ledge and gives you panoramic views.
Local Tip: Uwajimaya is a great spot to pick up Asian snacks before any of your outings. They have many Japanese Kit Kat flavors too!
13. Discovery Park
3801 Discovery Park Blvd, Seattle, WA 98199, map
Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest park and is only 15 minutes from downtown Seattle. You can see the West Point Lighthouse, hike one of the many trails, walk the historic district at Fort Lawton, or even go tide-pooling.
Local Tip: The visitor center is a great place to start to make the most of your time there and get up-to-date info.
14. Seward Park
This is our friend’s favorite park in Seattle. A lot of people talk about Golden Gardens Park, but it gets very crowded. Seward Park is more laid back with beaches and trees.
15. Gas Works Park
2101 N Northlake Way, Seattle, WA 98103, map
What used to be an oil plant is now a 20-acre park perfect for picnicking and enjoying city views over Lake Union. It’s a popular spot to enjoy the sunset for locals and tourists when the weather is nice.
Local Tip: This is one of the best spots to see fireworks during July 4th, but it’s also packed.
Map of Things to Do – The Perfect Weekend Trip to Seattle
Seasonal Things to Do in Seattle
There are some great seasonal things to check out in the Seattle area.
- UW Cherry Blossoms (late March)
- Skagit Valley Tulips (April)
- Bald Eagles (August to October)
- Seattle Pride Fest (June)
- Capitol Hill Block Party (July)
- Leavenworth (either for the climbing season, not summer, or Christmas)
Seattle is made up of a bunch of distinct neighborhoods, each with its unique charm. Here’s a brief list of Seattle neighborhoods and their descriptions.
- Bainbridge / Bremerton – a ferry ride away from downtown to historic attractions and quaint coastal communities
- Ballard – part food hotspot and part maritime-centric enclave
- Bellevue / Eastside – a greenery wonderland with almost 100 parks
- Belltown – just north of downtown with high-rise condos and trendy restaurants & shops
- Capitol Hill – home of the city’s LGBTQ+ life, bars, restaurants, and a couple of Seattle’s popular parks
- Central District – Seattle’s cultural center of the city’s Black community
- Chinatown-International District – the anchor of Seattle’s Asian community
- Columbia City-Rainier Valley – one of the country’s most diverse zip codes
- Downtown Seattle – from downtown, see waterways, mountains, and world-class attractions
- Fremont – an artsy and quirky neighborhood on the shore of Lake Washington
- Pioneer Square – Seattle’s original neighborhood with eateries, art galleries, and coworking spaces
- Queen Anne – attractions, bars, restaurants, and historic homes
- SoDo & Georgetown – Seattle’s industrial district with breweries, restaurants, and antique shops
- South Lake Union – the heart of Seattle’s tech scene
- University District – home to the University of Washington with plenty of historic homes, shopping, bars, and cafes
- Wallingford, Green Lake & Phinney Ridge – north Seattle with yummy food and cute boutiques
- Waterfront – hang out at the piers right next to downtown
- West Seattle – the largest neighborhood with residential streets and commercial hubs
- Woodinville – 30 minutes from Seattle with over 100 wineries and tasting rooms
Places to Eat in Seattle
- 5 Spot, Queen Anne
- The Alibi Room, Downtown
- Altura, Italian
- Asadero Sinaloa
- Atulea, Bubble Tea, Capitol Hill
- Biscuit Bitch, Downtown
- Biscuit and Bean, Ballard
- Cactus, Madison Park
- Cafe Turko, Fremont
- Chateau Ste Michelle Winery
- Cherry Street Coffee House
- Crumpet Shop, Downtown
- Daily Dozen Doughnuts, Downtown
- Elliot’s Oyster Bar, Waterfront
- Ester’s Enoteca, Fremont
- The Fat Hen, Ballard
- The Flour Box, Hillman City
- Foreign National, Capitol Hill
- Frankie & Jo’s
- Fremont Bowl, Fremont
- General Porpoise, Capital Hill
- Ghostfish Brewing Co, Industrial District
- Harbor City Restaurant, Chinatown
- Hood Famous, Chinatown
- Hot Cakes, Capitol Hill
- Kakigori Dessert Cafe, Central District
- Lola, Belltown
- London Plane, Pioneer Square
- Marination Ma Kai
- Matt’s in the Market, Downtown
- Milk Drunk, Beacon Hill
- Miro Tea, Ballard
- Molly Moon’s, Capital Hill
- Mr. West Cafe Bar, Denny Triangle
- Navy Strength, Belltown
- No Anchor, Belltown
- The Noble Fir, Ballard
- Noi Thai, Downtown
- NUE, Capitol Hill
- Old Stove Brewing
- Optimism Brewing Co
- Paseo, Fremont
- The Pink Door, Downtown
- Portage Bay Cafe, University District
- Redhood Brewlab, Capitol Hill
- Serious Pie, Belltown
- Skillet, Capitol Hill
- Stoneway Cafe, Fremont
- Sushi Kashiba, Downtown
- Tacos Chukis, Mult Locations
- Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar
- Tilikum Place Cafe, Belltown
- Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge
- Wunderground Cafe
- Yonder Cider & Bale Breaker Taproom, Ballard
Local Tips for Your Weekend Trip to Seattle
- Pack a rain jacket no matter the season. You’ll likely be okay during July and August, but we never trust the weather app and since ours pack down small, it’s worth bringing along.
- If you want to do all the tourist spots, get the Seattle CityPass. There are plenty of things I would skip on the list, but if you’re dead set on at least 4-5 of them, it’s worth it.
- Bring good walking shoes. It’s hilly (so my flip-flops with no backs were not the best for walking around the city). These waterproof walking shoes are our current favorite to bring if we expect any rain, but here are some more great travel shoes for any season and travel sandals if you want to free your toes.
- Bug Spray – you’ll want to bring bug spray for mosquitoes if you’re headed outdoors (outside the city).
Getting to and Around Seattle
- Flying: Getting to Seattle is easy via flights. SEA is a major airport where you can easily find flights from any other major city. Uber or taxi from the airport to downtown is around $50 (minus surge pricing).
- Car: If you plan to explore outside the city, you’ll want a car. The downside is you’ll have to pay for parking in many places within the city. Parking is not as pricey or annoying as NYC or LA, but I would only rent if you’re day-tripping out of the city.
- Rail: Five train routes service Seattle’s King Street Station.
- Sound Transit’s Sounder – a commuter train from surrounding areas
- Amtrak – three routes
- Coast Starlight – travels between Seattle, Portland, and LA
- Amtrak Cascades – travels between Vancouver BC, Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Salem, and Eugene
- Empire Builder – travels between Chicago, Minneapolis / St. Paul, Spokane, Portland, and Seattle
- Rocky Mountaineer – high-end option between Seattle, Vancouver BC, and the Canadian Rockies
- In Town: Once you arrive, if you decide to use public transportation, which is doable if you’re staying in the city, there are a few different options. If you plan on using a mix of these, pick up an ORCA Card ($3 for the card + $8 for all-day transit)
- Link Light Rail – 16 stops from Angle Lake Station to Northgate through downtown ($2.25 – $3.50)
- King County Metro Transit – bus service in downtown Seattle and outlying neighborhoods ($2.75 – $3.25)
- Seattle Streetcars – in the South Lake Union and First Hill neighborhoods
Best Places to Stay in Seattle
How many days is enough to visit Seattle? Is a weekend enough in Seattle?
You can see the highlights in 2-3 days, but you can easily fill a whole week’s worth of activities and attractions.
Do you need a car for a weekend in Seattle?
It depends on what you want to see. If you’re staying in the city, you can get around with public transportation and ride shares, but if you’re looking to venture outdoors outside of the city, a car helps.
Is Seattle expensive to visit?
Seattle is not the cheapest city to visit, but you can focus on free activities like spending time outdoors if you’re on a tight budget.
What is the best time to visit Seattle?
July and August is the best time to visit Seattle. They have a similar climate to Portland, and after living there for a year, I will do anything to avoid the rain and gray skies (to think I used to love rain before I lived there). The summer is peak season, so expect crowds and not the best travel rates, but you will get glorious PNW summer weather. It’s almost worth dealing with the grays and rain throughout the year. If you don’t mind the rain, fall is a beautiful time to see fall foliage.
What is Seattle best known for?
The Space Needle, the waterfront, Pike Place Market, Coffee, Tech Companies, and Outdoors.
What do I need to know before going to Seattle?
Don’t forget a raincoat! Summers are still relatively cool. Plan to explore on foot.
Where should you not stay in Seattle?
Avoid staying south of SoDo, far east of Capitol Hill, and north of Northgate. Transportation options will be harder and you’re far from the rest of Seattle.
Is Seattle a walkable city?
Parts of it are walkable. We love getting to a neighborhood and walking around. You will need to take public transit or ride shares to get to different areas of the city.
Do I need a Covid test to fly to Seattle?
Not within the US. If you’re traveling back to a different country, check their local requirements.
How do I spend a day in Seattle?
Can you think of anything else you would add to your weekend trip to Seattle?
SEE MORE First Timer City Guides
“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust