Seattle is a great city to visit, whether you’re looking for a short day-trip or a longer stay. Its natural beauty, connected with various attractions, sightseeing, and cultural events is a perfect place to spend your time. From budget-friendly trips, through family-friendly days off, to high-end escapes, Seattle has a lot to offer.
Day Trip to Seattle: The Itinerary
This itinerary highlights the best spots that you can visit during one day in Seattle. Choose spots and attractions you like the most, and give yourself time to properly discover this city.
Get a Good breakfast to Kickstart Your Day
You have probably heard before that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is extra true if you have a day full of walking, visiting, and exploring in front of you. Be sure to get a filling breakfast before you start your Seattle adventure.
The good news is, when it comes to breakfast, Seattle has a lot of options, including:
- Biscuit Bitch (ideal for gluten-free and veg options)
- Sweet Iron (waffles)
- The Fat Hen
- Bacco Cafe
and much more.
Hunt for Unique Souvenirs and Great Food at Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is a great shopping spot with many interesting shops and sights. Starting from stalls with food, and through to over 225 little shops with handicrafts executed by local artists – it’s a perfect place to get unique souvenirs.
The market was founded in 1930, mostly for fishmongers. Around 1986, the market was on the edge of bankruptcy, but thanks to games and attractions offered to clients, it became famous again. One of the most common views is fish throwing – when a seller throws the fish before wrapping it for the customer. Nowadays the market is extremely popular and attracts up to a whopping 10 000 visitors per day!
Don’t miss Rachel the Piggy Bank – a giant piggy bank that has stood in the market since 1986, and which each year collects a lot of money. And when you get tired of checking out the little shops, grab a coffee in the Original Starbucks – founded in 1971, still with genuine decoration and design. All of this with live music playing in the background.
In 2017 the market was expanded, and now, you can admire the great views of Elliot Bay from there.
Become a Pop Star in the Museum of Pop Culture
This building was designed by the famous Frank Gehry and it is simply stunning. So even if you don’t plan to enter, you should definitely see it from the outside.
Because the construction is made of individually cut and shaped aluminum and steel, the building reflects light. That means it’s constantly changing, depending on the light conditions, and it’s never the same: just like the music that inspired the architect to create this structure. Looking at the building is a spectacle in itself.
Visit the museum to try the Sound Lab, where you can jam on consoles, drums, guitars, and other instruments. Good news – the walls are soundproof! Fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy can find their favorite characters and creators in the Hall of Fame. There are many temporary exhibitions that bring various sectors of pop culture closer to visitors – don’t miss them!
Warning: if you are tight on time, and have more things to see in Seattle, be aware that in MoPOP you can easily lose track of time.
Take a Ride on the Seattle Center Monorail
Working for over 60 years, the Monorail travels above the city streets, giving a memorable perspective of Seattle. It’s fun and eco-friendly. It is also quite fast, as it can reach 45 miles (about 72 km) per hour.
You can use it in case you need to get from Seattle Center to downtown Westlake Center. Or hop in if you simply want to enjoy a unique way of sightseeing.
Find the Seattle Troll
Perhaps you have heard legends of trolls that live in the mountains and rest under the bridges near sleeping villages. But can a city like Seattle have its own troll? Yes, it can! It “lives” under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge.
The Fremont Troll is a truly scary sculpture – a big troll who is eating a Volkswagen car is an example of hostile architecture, which is supposed to discourage the presence of homeless people under the bridge.
The art piece indeed took over the homeless people’s spot, however, it didn’t fully solve the issue of homelessness in the area.
Nowadays the troll is almost a city celebrity. Gladly photographed by visitors, it was even featured in a few movies, including Death Note.
Immerse in Knowledge at the Pacific Science Center
This spot is a perfect place if you’re traveling with family. It is also a great choice for those who are fascinated by science and are looking for a unique learning experience.
Take a trip to outer space in the planetarium. Admire the colors on the wings of various species of butterflies in the Tropical Butterfly House, immerse in virtual reality, and discover so much more by doing hands-on experiments.
Take a Ride in the Seattle Great Wheel
At 175 feet tall, the Seattle Great Wheel offers spectacular views of the city. Located at the tip of Pier 57, the wheel allows you to admire the waterfront from above.
Enjoy the ride! Whether at night, when the lights reflect on the water, or during the day when you can see Seattle in full splendor. It’s a perfect place for everyone: families, couples who are looking for some romantic activities, as well as solo travelers, looking for a great place to take pictures.
Visit the Oldest Skyscraper in the City
Since we are talking about great views, Smith Tower was built in 1914, which makes it Seattle’s first skyscraper. The ride up is an experience itself – jump into manually operated elevators to get to the 35th floor. From there, you can enjoy a 360-degree view and sip a cocktail from the Prohibition-themed bar.
Become a Bookworm in Seattle Public Library
When you hear the word library, do you think about dark, dusty rooms, filled with books? In Seattle, you will forget all that you know about classic libraries. Made of glass in an amount that could cover five football stadiums, the library is a true piece of art of modern architecture.
On the 10th floor, you will find a great reading room that overlooks Elliott Bay. Inside you can take a self-guided tour, enjoy free WiFi, and grab some coffee. Just don’t lose your sense of time! It is pretty easy to do so!
Admire the Sunset from the Space Needle
The Space Needle is one of the most emblematic structures in the whole world, and is definitely a landmark of the city. It was created in 1962 for the World’s Fair. You can admire a stunning panoramic view of Seattle, whether during the day or catching a sunset that turns the sky, landscape, and all the buildings below into a beautiful painting.
You can visit two floors of the Space Needle. The lower level offers a thrilling walk over the all-glass floor, and the higher one has a view through the floor-to-ceiling windows. What is best is that you can lean on the slightly tilted windows and have a closer look at what’s under you.
If you want to elevate your close-to-the-sky experience, have a coffee or a drink in Atmos Cafe or Atmos Wine Bar.
Visit the Seattle Art Museum with Olympic Sculpture Park
For those who love art, the Seattle Art Museum is a must-see on the map of this city. Founded in the 1930s, it is a house for various art collections with about 25,000 pieces of art from different eras and regions. In the permanent collection, visitors can admire pieces from antiquity to the contemporary. Additionally, the museum offers many varied temporary exhibitions.
It is the biggest museum in Seattle, so be sure to take enough time to visit it.
The Olympic Sculpture Park is the outdoor part of the Museum. It has a wonderful location at the waterfront, and is free for the public. So if you are a bit tight with your budget but still want to enjoy some art, this park is a perfect choice.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass is one of the most unique places in the city. It is a garden and museum that features pieces of art designed and executed by Dale Chihuly. The artist was born in Seattle and is world renowned for his creations in glass.
The center of the garden is the glasshouse in which visitors can admire a glass sculpture 100 feet (around 30 meters) long. Suspended by the ceiling, it creates a unique spectacle of light that pierces through red, yellow, and orange pieces.
The garden is carefully landscaped and is a perfect shelter from the hustle of the city. On the land, you can find eight galleries. It’s a perfect place for people who like art, nature lovers, and those who are searching for the most Instagramable spots in Seattle.
Go Underground in Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square is a must-see for all people who like old buildings and a slow vibe. This original downtown features a lot of colorful buildings in the Romanesque Revival style.
From there you can go underground with a guided tour and discover the remains of the previous buildings. Take a break in one of the charming cafes or restaurants. Pop into hip shops and boutiques for a little shopping and don’t forget to take pictures of buildings covered with ivy.
Have a Unique Starbucks Experience
You already know that in Seattle you can enjoy your espresso in the first Starbucks cafe ever. But if you are a true coffee lover, you might want to elevate your experience and visit Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.
Located on Capitol Hill, the place is a true gem for everyone interested in the history of Starbucks.
Learn about various brewing methods, discover the coffee library, and enjoy exclusive beverages designed especially for you that will make your taste buds sing. All of this while being surrounded by beautifully designed solid teak and stone marble interiors handcrafted in New York.
Unwind in Waterfall Garden Park.
Located right next to Pioneer Square park is a perfect place to hide from the noise of the city. It also has a very interesting history that reaches back to 1907. That year, a young man founded the American Messenger Company. Until the 1930s, the company was operating mostly around Seattle. But then it expanded to deliver packages to other parts of the USA. It also changed its name to United Parcel Service or as you might know it: UPS. In 1975, the company changed its headquarters to Connecticut.
The land previously occupied by the company turned into a part of the Pioneer Square neighborhood. The tiny Waterfall Garden Park is supposedly located in the exact place where the original American Messenger Company was founded.
In the park, you can listen to the murmur of the water that cascades down from a 22-foot (about 6.7 meters) man-made waterfall and unwind from the hustle of the city. The park was created and is maintained by the Anne E. Casey Foundation – founded by UPS’s founder.
Best Time to Visit Seattle
Seattle is on your bucket list but you don’t know when to visit it? Here are some tips. The best time to visit is early autumn (September to October). Those months are after the peak season, which means you can avoid crowds. Additionally, the rates for hotels are lower and you can choose from more free establishments.
Early fall in Seattle can still be quite warm with the last breath of summer, however, you should bring some warmer clothes as well to protect yourself from the colder winds from the waterfront.
Spring is also quite a good season to visit this city. It is the best period if you are looking for budget-friendly options, as lodging prices drop. However, you must be aware of the high possibility of rain and strong Pacific winds. Even though the average temperature is between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit (12-18 degrees Celsius), the strong winds make it feel much colder.
The most popular time to visit Seattle is between June and August. Temperatures are around 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius), and the risk of rain is pretty low, so the weather is perfect for sightseeing. What attracts tourists during this month is also whale watching, so if that is your must-see attraction, try to go to Seattle during the summer. Remember that since it is peak season, you should expect crowds, higher hotel rates, and low availability. During this time of the year, don’t risk a spontaneous lodging search, because that can cost you dearly.
Winter might be the worst time to see Seattle. The temperature drops to 30-40 Fahrenheit (-1-5 Celsius) and the possibility of rainfall, or even snow, is pretty high. However, if you are not afraid of the cold and damp and are looking for a budget-friendly escapade, during the winter months, accomodation prices drop drastically.
How to Get to Seattle
The main airport is the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). You can fly there with more than 30 airlines. Once you land there, you can get to downtown Seattle by taking an Uber, Taxi, or jumping into the light-rail train, which is the cheapest option.
If you are planning to stay for one day in Seattle and then discover the area in a rental car, possibly reserve it before arrival. Then head to the free shuttle stops located on the south and north end of the airport.
SEA is a big airport and sometimes it can get a bit crowded so it is good to arrive three hours before departure for international flights.
From Seattle’s King Street Station, you have five train routes. From there you can transit to Lakewood, Portland, Los Angeles, Tacoma, Salem, Chicago, Minneapolis, Canadian Rockies, and more.
How to Travel Around Seattle
If your hotel is a bit distant from the center or you want to travel a bit outside of the areas crowded with tourists, you don’t have to worry. Seattle offers great public transport with various options.
Link Light Rail
You can use it to make trips from Angle Lake Station to Northgate. In between, the train stops 16 times. It’s a good way to get to SEA Airport and downtown Seattle. Trains pass by every 8-15 minutes. The connection between the airport and downtown takes only 40 minutes.
King County Metro Transit
You can use this service if you need to move around downtown Seattle and remote areas in King county.
You can also use Seattle streetcars, and the Monorail, which was mentioned before.
Get a Bike
Do you like active sightseeing? Or maybe want to see as much of the Emerald City as possible? Renting a bike is a perfect idea. Seattle is a bike-friendly city. There are a lot of lanes, quiet streets, and even bike-specific traffic signals.
In the city, you can rent a bike from Lime or Veo. You will see a lot of dock locations scattered around the city. They offer more than 3,000 bikes, so you can be sure you will find one for yourself. If the hills of Seattle make you doubt your cycling skills, choose one of the bikes that have an electric-assist option. During the warmer months, there are also scooters available to use.
Where to Stay in Seattle
Seattle offers a lot of lodgings. Starting from budget-friendly hostels, through medium-range accommodations, to the best hotels that offer unique spa experiences and much more. Read on best hotels in Seattle to see our top recommendations.
You can reserve your place on popular sites such as Booking.com or Airbnb, or simply contact the hotels directly. If you are planning to visit the city during the peak season, be sure to book your stay at least a few weeks in advance. Otherwise, you might not find suitable accommodation and risk spending a lot of money on finding a place to stay for the night.
Day Trip to Seattle: Summary
The list above should help you with choosing the best places in Seattle for your daytrip. Choose those that you like the most and that you yearn to see. Make a list and keep it with you for your next trip, because it’s more than sure that you will want to spend more time here.
Seattle is a place that has so many attractions that one day might not be enough. However, even if you have limited time, it is definitely worth tasting a few flavors of this city. Be careful though, once you try it, you might want to stay for much longer than just a day.