Seattle Guide: Planning Your Trip

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When you think about vacations, chances are your imagination wanders to warm seashores, exotic locations, or classic European cities. But why not think out of the box? Why not consider a city that’s got an undeniable appeal, isn’t overtaken by tourism, but has enough things to do for both residents and visitors alike that it makes a superb vacation destination?

Seattle is an amazing vacation destination—for families, for couples looking for a romantic getaway, for active and outdoorsy adventures, or for solo travelers.

The Emerald City is filled with unique attractions like the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, a fresh local food scene, and outdoorsy pursuits galore.

Planning Your Trip

•    Best Time to Visit: Summer, when the weather is warm and dry, and they days are long.
    Language: English
•    Currency: US Dollars
•    Getting Around: Driving is the most common way to get around, but if you want to stay right in the city, there’s a bus system as well as some light rail.
•    Travel Tip: Always pack layers when you travel to the Seattle area. Even in the summer, some days or evenings might be cool so a light jacket is never wrong to bring along. In other seasons, weather can vary day by day or even within the span of a single day and a rain jacket is a valuable item to pack.

Things to Do

Seattle is a lot of fun and has many things to do with a variety of interests. Of course, Seattle is known for its major attractions like Seattle Center and Pike Place Market, but it’s also an amazing destination for hiking, kayaking and other outdoor adventures.

  • Seattle Center: Seattle Center is home to many attractions all in one spot. It’s popular with residents and visitors alike. The Space Needle is within its bounds and offers great views of the city. Festivals and events are common throughout the year and include cultural festivals, Northwest Folklife, Winterfest and more. And there are plenty of individual attractions here too, from the Pacific Science Center and MoPop, to Chihuly Garden and Glass, to KeyArena, to the International Fountain.
  • Pike Place Market: Pike Place Market is an iconic farmer’s market. You can buy fresh produce, meats and flowers, but you’ll also find restaurants and eateries galore, as well as shops to explore. Don’t miss the famous Pike Place Fish Market where you’ll see the workers throwing fish, but make sure to wander beyond that as you'll find everything from unique spices to rock shops and artist-made goods within.
  • Seattle Waterfront: Just down a giant set of stairs behind Pike Place Market, the Seattle Waterfront is home to places like the Seattle Aquarium, the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, the Seattle Great Wheel, and Wings over Washington, as well as spots like Ivar’s to stop and eat along the water.

Explore more things to do with our full-length articles on the 50 best things to do in Seattle, the best free things to do, or things to do under $10.

What to Eat and Drink

From seafood to produce, Seattle is known for fresh and delicious food across the board. Seattle is located right on the shores of the Puget Sound, which connects to the Pacific Ocean, meaning we get seafood galore. Don’t miss locally caught salmon and Dungeness crab! You’ll find no shortage of restaurants in town that take advantage of local ingredients as Northwesterners take pride in all things local.

Tom Douglas is one of the city’s star chefs and his restaurants are all centrally located in or near downtown Seattle and include Northwest cuisine (Etta’s), Greek (Lola), Asian fusion and more. The Northwest in general also puts a focus on locally sourced or organic ingredients, and a number of restaurants factor that into their menus, including Tilth and Barking Frog in nearby Woodinville wine country.

Seattle is also known for its microbrewery scene. The Ballard neighborhood has a number of microbreweries, and you’ll find larger Pyramid and Elysian in SoDo and Capitol Hill respectively. If you’re not a fan of beer, there is lots of local wine to try due to both Eastern Washington, but also Woodinville Wine Country right outside of Seattle.

Explore more places to eat and drink with these pieces about the top affordable upscale restaurants, view restaurants and where to eat seafood in Seattle.

Where to Stay

For the quintessential Seattle experience, stay in the heart of downtown where you won’t need to worry about driving to get to most of the city’s key spots. Options include the Hyatt Regency, Four Seasons as well as a number of boutique hotels. There are also plenty of budget hotel options, too. However, staying downtown means dealing with parking (you’ll pay for parking just about everywhere), traffic and crowds. If you prefer something quieter and more intimate, look to Seattle’s other neighborhoods. Capitol Hill is a fun part of town for nightlife, parks and local shops. Likewise, Ballard, Fremont, and Wallingford have local shopping and fun things to do like the Ballard Locks or going to visit the Fremont Troll.

Explore more about where you can stay in Seattle with this list of luxury hotels, romantic hotels or find out where you can stay near Seatac Airport.

Getting There

Seattle is easy to get to via Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is less than a half hour south of the city. You can take light rail from the airport to the city, and then use Metro Transit buses to get around, but it’s best to rent a car so you can get out of the city core. You can also get to Seattle via Grayhound or Amtrak.

Money Saving Tips

  • Explore Seattle’s museums on the first Thursday of each month as many open their doors for select hours for free.
  • Seattle’s parks are amazing and all free to visit.
  • Use the light rail for some local trips and skip paying for parking in the downtown core.
  • Buy a CityPass to save on admission to the top attractions if you plan to do more than one top attraction during your visit.
  • Learn more about the cheapest ways to have fun in Seattle with this list of free things to do.