From going on a whale watching tour to visiting the (not-quite) first ever Starbucks, there’s plenty to do during a visit to Seattle. Honestly, the hard part is narrowing down your list.
Enjoy outdoor activities? The list is nearly endless. Are you a foodie? Plenty of options at your disposal. Like exploring craft beer? Your taste buds will thank you.
But if you only have two or three days to explore the city, what should you do? And what should you skip? Here’s your answer:
Things to do during a weekend in Seattle
Visit Pike Place Market
Opening to the public on August 17, 1907, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the United States. But it’s much more than a farmers’ market today. In addition to the farmers who set up shop there, you will also find restaurants, several fish markets (you know, where they throw the fish over your head to someone who catches it), a crafts market, and more.
It’s also home to one of the original Starbucks (which excites me, as I am a coffee nerd). After all, Seattle is where Starbucks got its start. As an aside, the very first Starbucks store opened up in Seattle in 1971 on Western Avenue in Seattle. In 1977, they shuttered operation there to move to the location it currently sits at - at Pike Place Market. Hence the reason one of Starbucks’ signature roasts is called Pike Place.
Anyways, it’s recommended that if you go, to go in the morning when the crowds are smaller.
Take the Underground Tour
Did you know that in 1889, the entire central business district in Seattle was destroyed by a fire? Neither did I! Well, when they rebuilt, they did so by constructing buildings that sat 20 feet above the original street level.
Which means, today, much of the burnt aftermath is entombed underneath modern day Seattle. And - I’m told - one of the best underground tours in the city is Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour where you can explore the Seattle of old, some of which is frozen in time underneath city streets.
Head up Smith Tower
Back in its heyday, Smith Tower was one of the tallest skyscrapers in the United States. Today, it’s no where close. But that’s not the point. As the oldest skyscraper in the city (built in 1914), it helped put Seattle on the map. If interested, you can purchase a ticket (usually between $12 and $22) to ride the elevator up to the observatory and speakeasy-themed bar.
Go even higher in the Space Needle
If there’s anything that took the place of Smith Tower, as far as icon status goes, it would be the Space Needle. From the top you can see Mt. Rainier, part of Olympic National Park, the Puget Sound and more. A general admission ticket will cost you $30-$40. But it’s sure to be an experience you won’t soon forget.
Explore craft breweries
The craft beer scene in Seattle is hopping. From Fremont Brewing - in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle to Pike Brewing Company located at Pike Place Market, you have several great options to visit and enjoy.
If you’re not staying near one that you would like to visit, most are either a short Uber/Lyft ride away or close to the city’s public transit system. I would definitely check the taproom hours before you go.
Head to Starbucks Reserve Roastery
If you’re a fan of coffee, as I am (have I mentioned that already??), there’s no shortage of it in Seattle. Starbucks, not surprisingly, is a big part of the culture. And if visiting their location in Pike Place Market isn’t enough for you, then you’ll love visiting their Roastery where you can try flights of coffee and learn way more than you ever thought you would about the coffee giant.
Take a wooden boat ride
If being on the water is where you belong, there’s plenty of that in/near Seattle. There are a number of places that rent boats, canoes, paddle boats, and kayaks to either paddle or sail around the various lakes in the area. The Center for Wooden Boats is a livery where you can do just that - or - sail for free on Sundays. According to their website, “Our volunteer skippers and crew take passengers out on Lake Union for unforgettable voyages… come every Sunday to sail them all, year-round, rain or shine for free.”
Boeing has quite a history in Seattle. It began there and continues to play a big part in the community. And if you’re an aviation buff like me, this should definitely be on your list of things to do.
The down side? Their facility is about a half hour north of Seattle in Everett - and it will take a big chunk out of your day to leave Seattle, take the tour, and get back. So you’ll have to figure out if you want to devote that much time to this or not. I almost put it in the section below entitled Things you can do - or wait for a longer visit, but clearly, I changed my mind.
Stroll along the waterfront
I’m all about seeing and learning about a place while doing it as cheaply as possible (i.e. travel hacking). Well, one way to take in Seattle that way is to take a stroll along the waterfront.
If this is something that piques your interest, Waterfront Park is the perfect place to do that. The park is located between Pier 57 and Pier 59 on Elliot Bay. Not only is it a great place to watch the sun go down, but there are things to do right around the park too. The Aquarium is on one end and on the other is the Great Wheel (a ferris wheel). It’s also near Pike Place Market
Things that you can do (if it’s high enough on your list) - or wait for a longer visit
The below options are things that should definitely be done but take a majority of the day to do. So you can do them if you want or you can wait and do them during a longer visit.
Head out for a whale watching tour
If this is something you need to check off your bucket list, you’ve got plenty of options in Seattle. From the Puget Sound Express to Clipper Vacations (just to name a few).
Take a Mount Rainier Hike
You can head to Mount Rainier for a day long hike. One option, through Get Your Guilde, picks you up from your hotel, takes you on a guided tour, and takes you right back to your hotel, which, I find fantastic.
Take in Woodinville Wine Country
Apparently Napa Valley isn’t the only area on the west coat to tour wineries. Washington has the Woodinville Wine Country where they grow anything from Cabernet to Chardonnay. Located about 30 minutes north of Seattle, you’ll find approximately 130 wineries and tasting rooms.
Explore Olympic National Park
Much like Mount Rainier, Olympic National Park is a massive park just west of Seattle. Not only is it home to some of the oldest trees in the United States, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you decide to go, there are day-long guided expeditions that you can take or, if you're adventurous enough, you can explore it on your own..
As you can see, the hard part will be narrowing down your options. And that’s not even everything! I purposely left off things like museums, the aquarium, and the zoo because, well, this is my website and I can do what I want. But those are certainly options you have at your disposal. Now, if you do plan on exploring the museums, Space Needle, and other hot ticket items, I would consider getting something like the Seattle CityPASS - which can save you on admission to many of those places.
Look at it this way: if you can’t cross everything off your list, there’s nothing wrong with planning another trip to the Emerald City.
Know of anything I’ve missed on this list? Don’t hesitate to let me know what you enjoy doing in Seattle!
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