Every time I visit Seattle, I’m reminded of how eclectic of a city it is.
Having visited the Pacific Northwest a few times, I’ve had the chance to explore many of Seattle’s neighborhoods, and because I know a lot of people automatically think “Space Needle” whenever they hear “Seattle,” I’m sharing my top 5 things to do on a visit to Seattle.
If you’ll be in Seattle for a few days, check out my city guide to Seattle for my favorite places to explore, eat and drink.
5 Must’Do’s When Visiting Seattle
It may be touristy, but for good reason. In 1907, the market was started as a way for the city to work around the middle-men that had gotten between the locals and the producers. Since then, it’s become one of the city’s most popular attractions.
Even though I’ve been to Pike Place a few times, I still haven’t explored all the stores and restaurants in the marketplace- it’s truly massive.
On one of my first visits to the market, I took a food tour by Savor Seattle. On the tour, you not only see the market and meet the merchants, you also learn the history of the market, and try a bunch of food bites (16+, enough for a meal!). All of Savor Seattle’s tours highlight the vibrant stories of the people and places that make Seattle a great culinary center. What’s more, at the end of your tour, the guide gives you a discount card for over 50 places around the market.
Whether you take a guided tour or decide to stroll through the market on your own, a few of my favorite places to check out: MarketSpice (cinnamon orange tea), Pike Place Chowder, Etta’s Seafood (mini crab cakes), Daily Dozen Doughnut Co., the “original” Starbucks, Piroshky Piroshky, Rachel’s Ginger Beer, Beecher’s (mac ‘n cheese was rated the best by Oprah), The Crumpet Shop, Ellenos Greek Yogurt, the gum wall in Post Alley & don’t miss the flying fish!
Caffeinate & Eat
Even though I live in one of the best foodie cities in the world (New Yorkkk), I love visiting Seattle for vacation because the city’s food & drink scene is ever-evolving. With so many unique and delicious restaurants, bars and cafes, planning a few meals can be just as exciting as visiting any other attraction.
The places below are by no means a comprehensive list, but some of my favorite spots that I find myself going back to time after time. In my Seattle City Guide, I’ve grouped my favorite spots by neighborhood in case you’re in, Capital Hill, for example, and looking for somewhere to grab brunch.
- Elm Coffee Roasters: Filter coffee is excellent, reminds me of cafes in Portland
- The London Plane: This place rules them all. Part cafe (best brunch!), part specialty foods grocery, part floral workshop, this place specializes in all things beautiful
- Starbucks Roastery: Much better blends than the regular drip, and there’s a Serious Pie outpost here (win!)
- Oddfellows: Morning, noon and night. Love having breakfast here and setting up shop to work for the day, such a lovely ambiance
- Sitka & Spruce: Tucked into Melrose Market’s collection of foodie stores and cafes, this place excels at clean, vegetarian food. The savory seasonal yoghurt is always a must-order for me
- Skillet Diner: Come for the giant cinnamon roll, try any of the brunch entrees- they’re all solid
- Serious Pie: Tom Douglas, I love you and your delicious pizzas. Roasted mushroom and truffled cheese pizza is unbelievable
- The Walrus & the Carpenter: No trip to Seattle is complete for me without stopping at this tiny, yet charming place for oyster happy hour (the rest of the menu is also stellar). There’s a line out the door for a reason. I usually go when they open, but if you end up waiting for a table, pass the time with a glass of wine at Barnacle next door
- Westward: A seaside favorite- seasonal Mediterranean cuisine, fresh oysters, rose, and al fresco dining on the water with a fire pit & adirondack chairs. What more could you ask for?
- Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery: Molten chocolate (flourless) cakes. So rich, so dense, so delicious
- Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream: Freshly baked waffle cones and unique flavors of ice cream. Salted caramel, Scout mint, strawberry balsamic, Earl Grey…really, you can’t go wrong here
- Top Pot Doughnuts: A local chain serving up flavored cake doughnuts, ’nuff said
- Canon: Just bring me all of the whiskey. This place is not to be missed, outstanding cocktails and more than 2,600 labels
- Tavern Law: This place takes cocktails seriously. Upstairs, through the bank-vault door is another hidden cocktail gem, The Needle & Thread
- Sun Liquor Lounge: Old-timey gin drinks, personally enjoyed the Mai Tai
- Herb & Bitter Public House: The drink lists are inside of classic children’s books, but the cocktails are all grown up
- Damn the Weather: Without a doubt, one of the best drink places in Seattle. Tipplers are on point
I’m a big Chihuly fan, so this collection of his works was right up my alley. Stunning glass art, to say the least, the pieces in each room are absolutely remarkable.
I’m a sucker for a sunset and a good view. Said to be the best place to take a picture of the Seattle skyline, Kerry Park is located on the south slope of Queen Anne Hill. Come ~20 minutes before sunset to allow time to find a space to set-up, Kerry Park can become crowded.
The Pacific Northwest is stunning. Maybe it’s because I live in New York, but I can’t imagine a visit to Seattle without an afternoon spent in one of the city’s many parks, or a morning spent hiking one of the peaceful, stunning trails just outside city limits.
Again, my list of places is by no means exhaustive, but represents some of my go-to’s whenever I’m in the city. If you’re a big hiking fan, would definitely do some of your own research or consider a trip to Mt. Rainer or a weekend spent on Bainbridge Island.
- Gas Works Park: Built on the site of an old coal gasification plant, many of the plant remnants are part of the park. Great place to have a picnic on a nice day and take in the Seattle skyline
- Golden Gardens Park: Sunny summer days are best spent here
- Discovery Park: Love the paths and trails here for morning runs or afternoon walks
- Japanese Gardens: The gardens aren’t massive per se, but they’re big enough to find a quiet spot and just enjoy the beautiful scenery around you- the ponds, waterfalls and flowers make these gardens the definition of a hidden gem
- Two hiking trails I’ve enjoyed ~an hour outside the city: Twin Falls & Rattlesnake Ledge
- TreeHouse Point: Don’t expect to go hiking here, but it is a good place to spend a few hours immersed in nature. TreeHouse Point place is a childhood dream come true. I came out one afternoon for a property tour, so cool seeing all of the tree houses. If you can swing it, this would be an awesome place to stay for a night outside the city
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour: Walking tour through Pioneer Square and the forgotten streets below. A bit unusual, a bit quirky, perfectly representative of Seattle
Extra Know Before you Go Info
- When to Go: I’ve been to Seattle during every season, but late spring, summer and early fall are my favorite times to visit. Your odds for sunny days are higher during this time of the year, and summer temperatures are pretty mild in comparison to other parts of the country (70’s/80’s with low humidity). Whenever you visit, bring a waterproof coat and footwear option. It doesn’t rain constantly in Seattle, but if it does, you’ll be glad you’re prepared
- Where to Stay: I usually stay with friends, but would recommend either looking for an Airbnb (there are plenty!) or hotel in Capital Hill, Queen Anne, Pioneer Square (closest to downtown), or Ballard if you want to stay slightly outside the city in a part of town that’s a bit more residential, but has just as many great restaurants, bars and shops
- How to Get Around: Seattle has a bus and light-rail system, but the most convenient way to get around is to drive or take an Uber. Fortunately, the city has ever-expanding Uber options, including Pool and a new, flat-rate carpool option called UberHop (cheaper than Pool, but the pick-up and drop-off destinations are fixed- super convenient if you’re just trying to get from one part of the city to another)
- If you’re flying into Seattle-Tacoma, you can take Link light rail to downtown for $3 (takes around ~40-50 minutes)
Have you ever been to Seattle? What did you enjoy most about your trip?