With its picturesque skyline, friendly people, and abundance of delicious food and liberal sentiment, what’s not to love about Seattle?
We traveled to Seattle last year right as we were transitioning from spring into summer and lucked into the most beautiful weather and temperature while we were there. Everyone famously references the typically cold and rainy Seattle climate, but I secretly think this is all a conspiracy sustained by the people of Seattle to keep swarms of travelers from settling down there.
Whether you go there looking for adventures in nature, gastronomic exploration, or just to entertain yourself trying new cocktails – there’s something for everyone. Very few cities have such a diverse personality and soul in terms of activities, and for that reason I think Seattle is the perfect spot if you’re traveling in a group that has wildly different tastes. I can’t imagine someone not finding at least one thing to love.
Since we’re officially out of the cold clutches of winter (Seattle does get snow), it’s the perfect time to go! Here I’m rounding up tips on how to plan the best Seattle trip!
Catch an early flight:
If you’re flying in from the opposite coast (6hr flight), you’ll definitely want to leave early to maximize your time. We arrived early and had time for brunch and some light exploring before checking in to our Airbnb. Seattle has activities at all times of the day, so you’ll have no problem finding a way to kill time before check-in.
Find a good place to stay:
Normally I’m an advocate for staying as close to the city center as possible, but since we had a car this time, we decided to venture out a bit and save some money there. We stayed in the West Seattle area in an adorable basement apartment for only $80/night! It was only a 15 minute drive into downtown Seattle, and the neighborhood we stayed in also had plenty of great spots to eat and drink – plus – was minutes away from the beach. Seattle has a great market for Airbnb’s, and they start as low as $40/night.
Rent a car:
Seattle is the perfect place to rent a car because there are so many incredible areas outside of the city worth adventuring to. Mt. Olympus, Mt. Rainier and a hundred other great spots in between are all about a two-hour drive if you have a car. There’s even Canada and wine tasting if mountains aren’t your thing. We had a great little Mitsubishi Outlander with a giant sunroof, which was perfect since there was so much to see!
- Olympic National Park – 2 hrs // $30 per vehicle // lots of rivers and lakes + access to the pacific shore
- Mt. Rainier National Park – 2 hrs // $30 per vehicle // lots of meadows, trails, and vistas
- Diablo Lake – 2.5 hrs // probably the bluest water you’ll ever see // stay a night at Ross Lake Resort
- Chateau St. Michelle – 30 mins // absolutely stunning property // live music in the summer
- Victoria, Canada – 2 hrs 45 mins on the ferry // $115 – $160 RT // for the more city-oriented, just make sure to bring your passport!
Take it easy:
Even though you might feel the pressure to be constantly on the move and see everything, make sure to slow down, too. Seattle can have a very relaxed vibe and it’s not rare to see people sunbathing or spending a lot of time at parks. Sunsets on the water are nothing short of breathtaking, so carve out time to just sit back and enjoy the view. Do it for free at a park, or grab a first row seat on a rooftop for a really memorable time. We did drinks on the Thompson rooftop, and the drinks were pricey, but 100% worth it for the view! If you’re on a budget, try getting a sandwich from Paseo (dubbed best cold sandwich in the city by a bartender we befriended) and eating it at Kerry Park (where the hero image for this post was taken).
Eat your heart out:
Seattle is a fantastic foodie city to do some exploring in. They have all sorts of cuisines, with an obvious focus on seafood and an amazing spotlight on farm to table fare. They can get pretty progressive and experimental – from brisket-infused bourbon to geoduck, the world’s most NSFW mollusk.
- Biscuit Bitch – A thousand million percent worth the hype, but expect a line.
- Trove – Interesting multi-room restaurant concept featuring Korean BBQ and a truly innovative cocktail bar.
- Mezcaleria Oaxaca – Really, really solid Mexican food and fantastic happy hour specials for a break on your wallet.
- The Pink Door – Super trendy and famous, but go at least once because it really is a fun time.
- Pike Place Market – Obviously, can’t miss this one! We did an Airbnb experience that allowed us to taste food at multiple vendors and I can’t recommend it enough. It was a much better way to educate ourselves about the market and more efficient than trying places individually. Another perk is that you also get to skip the line at most places.
Also, drink your heart out:
Had to do a separate section for drinks because there are *literally* too many good ones. We went to Rumba four times while we were in Seattle and they basically know us intimately now.
- Rumba – Top of the list because holy crap SO many rum options that I never even knew existed. Incredible bartenders that were knowledgeable and passionate.
- Canon – “America’s largest spirit collection”. That’s pretty much all you need to know.
- Foreign National – Romantic speakeasy with limited seating and a disco ball. Innovative drinks and free shots at midnight.
- Bathtub Gin – Another great speakeasy; just beware the entrance is tricky to find as it’s in an alleyway and there’s only a tiny sign.
- Ohana Belltown – Honorable Mention because we glued a dollar to the ceiling of this tiki bar.
Give each neighborhood a chance:
You may be tempted to stay strictly around Pike Place Market and the downtown Seattle area, but there’s actually so much to see in the surrounding neighborhoods and even in the West Seattle area. West Seattle, where we stayed, is a beautiful area with a very coastal feel because it’s essentially a small peninsula surrounded by water. It has a very relaxed, suburban vibe. Bainbridge Island is another great day trip if you have time. It’s accessible by a short ferry ride and is STUNNING. There’s hiking, walking trails, charming boutiques, and about 6 wineries to spend the day at. On top of all that, it’s also surrounded by beautiful beaches that are prime picnic set up spots.
Yes, go see the original Starbucks:
As much as I try to go out of the box with my tips, there’s also some cliché spots you shouldn’t miss. Seeing the original Starbucks, even if you don’t go in, is pretty cool. Expect a line if you want to go inside and order. The Space Needle is another can’t miss – we did it at night and it wasn’t too crowded. Also put whale-watching, the lavender fields, and kayaking on Lake Union on your list. And if you’re looking for a neat view of the Space Needle, we ventured into the East Queen Anne neighborhood and got fantastic photos.
Go in a group, go as a couple, or go solo – just go! Seattle is breathtaking and beautiful and you won’t be short on things to do. It’s innovative and informal, serene and eager at the same time. But most of all, it’s extremely inviting and people are way too nice when they’re driving. That’s how I know you’ll have a good time. Happy travels!
// Thanks to Mitsubishi for providing the Outlander for us to use.