Seattle is my favorite city in the United States, and probably the world. I called it home for several years, and it still feels like it even though I don’t live there anymore. There are tons of things to do in Seattle if you have the time. However, if you’re limited to a long weekend and are just looking to hit some of the highlights, this flexible three day itinerary will help you see some of the best Seattle has to offer.
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So are you ready to learn how to spend three perfect days in Seattle?
How to Get There
Seattle Tacoma (SeaTac) Airport is the main airport for the Seattle metro area. It’s possible to explore wide swaths of Seattle without a car if you wish to, as the light rail links in to the rest of the transit system. Public transportation in Seattle is one of the best in the country, and parking in some parts of the city can be expensive. However, if you want to explore things farther afield, renting a car to get around is the way to go.
Driving in, you’ll want to head in on I-90 if you’re headed from the east, or I-5 if you’re headed from north or south. They’re the main arteries in and out of the city, so be prepared for heavy traffic around rush hour or weekends. Avoid it if you can!
Where to Stay
Budget – University Inn (StayPineapple) or Mediterranean Inn. The Mediterranean Inn is one of the more affordable places to stay that’s still down close to all the action around the Space Needle. The University Inn, is like it says, close to the University. That puts it’s a little bit off the main drag, but still close enough to the action that you don’t have to travel too far. It’s affordable, and close to some delicious restaurants and public transportation.
Middle of the Road – Edgewater Hotel. This hotel is located in right on the waterfront – you seriously couldn’t get closer and the Beatles fished out of their windows when they stayed here in the 60s. The rooms have an upscale Northwest vibe that’ll make you feel like you’re at someone’s house rather than a hotel. The hotel is also centrally located which means dozens of restaurants and things to do are just outside your door.
Luxury – Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle– a luxury hotel, the Pan Pacific has a great location in the heart of it all. You can walk to most of the main attractions in the city, from the Space Needle to Pike Place Market and more. The rooms are sleek, with stunning views. Even the tubs have a view as the shutters unfold to look out over the city.
Seattle Itinerary Day 1:
Is there a more iconic thing to do in Seattle then visit the Space Needle? Whether you want to save your money and snap a quick photo from underneath it, or you want to have the full experience of riding the elevator all the way to the top – it should be on your list.
It is a little pricey to go up to the deck, but you can bundle it with other activities in the area to save some money. (I recommend getting a CityPass as it’ll save you quite a bit on admissions and tickets for all of the major attractions including many that I recommend doing!) If it’s a clear day, the views are absolutely worth it. You’ll get a birds eye view of the city, the mountains peaking out in all directions and an expansive view of Puget Sound stretching out beyond.
Next up – the Pacific Science Center or Museum of Pop Culture or Chihuly Garden and Glass. Take your pick. If you’re strategic about your visit, you can probably fit in two of these (although you may start suffering from museum fatigue by the end if you try to do all three).
The Pacific Science Center is a great place to visit if you’re traveling with kids. They have changing exhibits and lots of hands on activities, so you can be sure you’ll find something to entertain everyone.
The Museum of Pop Culture, formerly the Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum, not only has wild architecture but an equally interesting collection. If you’ve ever loved Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Star Wars or Star Trek? Make sure to make a stop here.
Chihuly Glass sculptures are world famous, and the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum is the place to see some of his best works all under one roof, and marvel at the kind of talent we all wish we had.
After touring the museum(s) of your choice, grab a bite to eat. I highly recommend Dick’s (see where to eat below) but there are lots of yummy options in the area.
After refueling, head up the hill in Queen Anne to find Kerry Park. It’s a small, somewhat hidden little park with the iconic view everyone wants to have of the Seattle skyline. Grab some pictures, watch a few wedding parties and wannabe models pose for the camera, and take in another gorgeous view of the city. (If your fear of heights kept you out of the Space Needle, this is the next best thing).
Where to Eat in Seattle Day 1:
Breakfast: For your first full day in Seattle, you’re going to want to get a delicious and filling breakfast. For that, there is no better place than the Portage Bay Cafe. It’s my absolute favorite breakfast spot in Seattle. They have several locations but I’m partial to the Roosevelt one, not least of which because it’s near my alma mater, the University of Washington. They have amazing organic and hearty breakfast dishes that will keep you going through all the sightseeing you’re about to pack in. I’ve loved everything I’ve ever had, but the french toast is extra delicious.
Lunch: There are plenty of lunch picks in Lower Queen Anne and South Lake Union, as well as several places to grab a quick bite in the area around the museums, but my favorite place? Dick’s!
Dick’s is an unassuming fast food stop that has a limited menu, and it’s one of the most popular local spots in the city. They are old school, and have been around since the 1950s. They never freeze their beef, the fries are unprocessed, and the milkshakes are divine. Seriously, I dream about their burgers and milkshakes. And the food is cheap, so if you’re on a budget it’s THE place to go.
Duke’s, located on Lake Union, serves up some of the tastiest seafood in Seattle. They’re famous for their crab cakes which feature Dungeness crab, a Pacific Northwest specialty. You’ll also get a view of the local marina, where you can dream about which boat you’d buy if you moved here.
After dinner, grab some ice cream at Molly Moon’s. From classics like strawberry and chocolate chip cookie dough, to more adventurous flavors like Earl Grey and Honey Lavender there is a a cone for every palette.
Seattle Itinerary Day 2:
After you grab breakfast at the Biscuit Bitch (that’s right, see what to eat on day 2 to learn more about this delight), Pike Place Market is first up on your list today. Like the Space Needle, it’s something Seattle is known for and while yes, it is bustling with other tourists, there’s a reason people go here. There’s delicious food, a quirky atmosphere, lots of little shops to duck in and out of, and the breeze coming in off the water make it an unforgettable experience. And yes, you can see some fish tossing while you’re there.
After you finish up at the Market, head over to the Seattle Aquarium. It’s located right on the water and it’s small enough that you won’t get overwhelmed with exhibits. It’s the perfect amount to be enjoyable. The octopus and otters steal the show, so make sure you catch them both while you’re there!
Next up, hop a ferry ride across the sound or take one of the sightseeing boat trips out on the water. You’ll get great pictures of the city skyline from the water, and you’ll get to see it from a whole new perspective. If you choose to take the ferry, you can explore one of the smaller towns across the water, duck into some cute shops and grab a pre-dinner snack.
After you get back off the water, you’ll have worked up an appetite so you’ll want to grab some dinner (see recommendations below). Then, head to the Seattle Great Wheel for a nighttime ride. The wheel is covered in hundreds of thousands of LED lights and puts on a light show, so even if you’re not willing to take on the heights, you can still enjoy the views from the ground.
Where to Eat in Seattle Day 2:
Head over to the Biscuit Bitch for breakfast. It’s name might be a little coarse, but the attitudes here are not. The owner prides herself on having a down home feeling and warm service to locals and tourists alike. They also just happen to have delicious southern-style breakfast food and good coffee.
For lunch, head to one of the local places in Pike Place Market. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is famous for their cheese selection, but they also serve up some cheesy good snacks like mac’n’cheese and grilled cheese. If chowder is your thing, you need to try Pike Place Chowder for lunch. They have tons of varieties with something for everyone (even vegan options!) Frankly, I’d just make lunch one long foodie tour of Pike Place Market. And don’t forget to take a few goodies back to your hotel to snack on, or better yet, for a picnic the next day!
Oh and before you leave, don’t forget to grab a coffee at the original Starbucks. I know, I know. There are better coffee places in Seattle – some with more personality and charm, but it’s one of those times you just need to embrace your inner tourist and have fun.
If you’re looking for dinner options try the Pink Door. The restaurant serves Italian food in a rustic setting. If you’re looking for seafood (it is Seattle after all), have dinner at the iconic Elliott’s Oyster House. The oysters here are good of course, but there’s a wide variety of seafood to choose from here.
Seattle Itinerary Day 3:
A huge part of Seattle’s appeal is how close it is to nature and how much there is to do outside. That means getting out of the city though, and it’s the perfect way to spend a day. There are dozens of options, but I’ve narrowed them down to a few of my favorites.
The first option is to head out to Mt. Rainier National Park. It’s definitely a bucket list item to check off if you’re ever in the area. The 14,000 ft active volcano offers all kinds of activities from watching wildlife to hikes and more. If you’re visiting in the middle of the summer you have the chance to see gorgeous views of wildflowers in Paradise Valley, not to mention stunning views of the surrounding valleys.
Mt Rainier is a trip that will take you the whole day, however, as it’s roughly a two hour drive there and back.
A second option is heading out to Snoqualmie Falls, which is closer to the city at a little over a 30 minute drive. Made nationally famous by it’s appearance in the tv show Twin Peaks, the falls offer a peaceful respite away from the city. The parking lot and the viewing area are both free, so bonus if you’re on a budget. If you’re a photographer, be sure to bring your camera as you can get truly beautiful photos here.
After the falls you can stop at Tiger Mountain or Cougar Mountain for a hike and a picnic (grab some grub the day before at Pike Place Market or stop at Uwajimaya market for some delicious Asian food.
If you want a change of scenery on the way back from the Falls, take the 520 bridge. It’s the famous floating bridge that crosses Lake Washington.
And last, but not least, if you’ve always dreamed of visiting the Pacific Northwest and seeing whales were always part of that vision – take a day trip to go whale spotting. A number of companies offer the outings, and while they typically can’t guarantee you will see a whale, the beauty of just being out on Puget Sound is worth it.
Where to Eat in Seattle Day 3:
For a hearty breakfast, head over to Beth’s Cafe. A good old fashioned American diner, it’s popular with tourists and locals alike, and has massive breakfast plates. If omelets and diner food isn’t your thing, try Top Pot Donuts. A local donut and coffee chain that Seattlites swear by.
For lunch, I recommend packing a picnic. Plan ahead when you go to Pike Place Market the day before and grab some food to take with you on your hike, or head to Uwajimaya for the best selection of Asian food in Seattle.
For dinner on your last night, keep it casual with some pizza at Serious Pie. They’ve got a ton of different topping options from the usual favorites all the way to more unique tastes like cherries, fennel and gorgonzola. Or you could get tacos at Tacos Chukis, because who doesn’t need more delicious tacos in their life?
If you still have some extra time on your hands, head to one of the local parks before dusk. My personal favorite is Discovery Park, and it has the bonus of being near the Ballard Locks where you can catch a glimpse of salmon and boats making their way through.
Looking for more things to do in your Seattle itinerary or thinking about swapping something on the itinerary out? Try this list of 65 Things to Do in Seattle.
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