Headed to Washington and trying to plan the perfect long weekend trip to Seattle?! I promise you, after reading this 3 day Seattle itinerary, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to make it to the Pacific Northwest!
There’s a reason Seattle’s called “The Emerald City”. It’s a dynamic city with a booming tech industry, thriving coffee culture, and an active and outdoor lifestyle – easily the crown jewel of the PNW! Add in quirky and hip neighborhoods, tons of green space, world-class cuisine, and that iconic Space Needle, and you’ll be planning your weekend in Seattle faster than you realize!
And oh, the views! Washington State’s largest city (yes, that’s Seattle we’re talking about!), has scenic views of Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains, plenty of islands (hello Bainbridge and Whidbey!), plus Mount Rainier (when she ain’t hiding)!
Now that I live in California, I make it to Seattle every other year. And quite honestly, I’m never ready to leave! There’s way too much to do – but follow my Seattle itinerary and you’ll get to all my favorites.
I’ve been to the city a handful of times – 3 days in Seattle for some fall foliage, a quick trip en route to Olympic National Park, and most recently, a long weekend in Seattle to visit some close friends who recently moved there.
And get this – The Emerald City was actually my first ever solo trip (way back when in 2015). So you could say the city holds a special place in my heart, as it was where I discovered my love for solo travel and the first place I truly felt empowered.
If that sounds like your kinda fun, you’ll wanna plan your 3-day Seattle weekend getaway right away! I’m sharing an extensive guide to help you plan out your best Seattle itinerary possible. Grab a coffee (the city’s known for its caffeine after all…), and let’s get started!
Weekend in Seattle Itinerary Logistics
Where is Seattle and How to Get There
Seattle is a major port city in the Pacific Northwest, located in the state of Washington. It’s nestled between the picturesque Puget Sound to the west and the stunning Cascade Mountain Range to the east, meaning views for days and days (and days).
The city is surrounded by water, mountains, and evergreen forests, and is even within driving distance to 3 major national parks (Olympic, Mt. Rainier, and North Cascades). Plus there’s easy access to a whole slew of small islands (Bainbridge, Whidbey, and the San Juan Islands to name a few), and other scenic spots in Northwest Washington.
Looking at a map, you’ll see Seattle’s pretty much equidistant between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Canada (a little over 3 hours from both). Talk about a great spot to live for epic weekend trips!
Flying to Seattle
When you fly into Seattle, you’ll be heading to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (airport code SEA), also known as Sea-Tac Airport. It’s the primary airport serving Seattle and the surrounding region, and the largest in Washington State. Make sure to get a window seat – the views are some of the best I’ve seen!
Sea-Tac is a major hub for a few airlines, including Alaska, Delta, and Southwest – meaning you can find tons and tons of nonstop flights to Seattle. For reference, my flight from San Francisco was quick and easy, only an hour and a half direct (and after flying all the way to Tanzania that summer, I was so down for a super quick flight).
Getting from the Airport to Downtown Seattle
Once you get to Sea-Tac, you’ll need to make the 14 mile trek to downtown Seattle.
You can plan to rent a car (not recommended as parking in downtown Seattle is pretty limited and expensive), take a taxi or ride-share ($40-50 based on traffic), or use a shuttle bus (a cheaper alternative for solo travelers).
Don’t mind taking public transit?! I highly recommend taking The Link Light Rail – it’s easily one of the most convenient and cost-effective ways to travel from SEA to downtown Seattle.
The ride to downtown Seattle takes about 35-40 minutes and costs less than $3 for adults. Trains run frequently throughout the day, making it super convenient!
Driving to Seattle
Seattle is in the middle of oh so much, and close to plenty of other regions, both in the US and Canada. The city is well-connected by major highways, including Interstate 5 (I-5) along the coast, Interstate 90 (I-90) through the Cascade Mountains – beware it gets super snowy in the winter, and US Route 2 (US-2).
Here’s driving distances from major nearby-ish spots:
- From Mount Rainier National Park: ~1 ½ hours, 80 miles
- From Olympic National Park: ~2 ½ hours, 150 miles
- From North Cascades National Park: ~2 ½ hours, 130 miles
- From Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada): ~2 ½ hours, 150 miles
- From Portland, Oregon: ~3 hours, 180 miles
- From Whistler, British Columbia (Canada): ~4 hours, 215 miles
- From Spokane, Washington: ~4 ½ hours, 280 miles
- From Victoria, British Columbia (Canada): ~4 ½ hours, 180 miles (includes a ferry crossing)
- From Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: 6 ½ hours, 400 miles
- From Boise, Idaho: ~8 hours, 500 miles
Coming from Canada? Remember to bring your passport and add in extra buffer time for border crossings!
Regardless of where you’re coming from, you may actually wanna keep your car parked in a garage for the duration of your weekend in Seattle. Parking is tough and pretty expensive, and you don’t really need it (much) if you follow this Seattle itinerary anyways!
I’ve only had access to a car on one of my trips, and while it made getting to some neighborhoods a bit easier, you can totally get by with walking and the occasional Uber/Lyft.
Public Transport to Seattle
Prefer to travel to Seattle by public transport? No worries! Seattle is well-connected to other major cities by both bus and train, especially other spots in the Pacific Northwest.
Greyhound and FlixBus connect Seattle to a whole slew of different cities in the US and Canada, including Portland, Chicago, and Vancouver. Just beware of all the potential transfers – it may take way longer than you think, depending where you’re coming from of course.
Amtrak provides train service to Seattle via the Cascades and Empire Builder routes. Note that The Seattle Amtrak Station (Seattle King Street Station) is located about a mile from downtown Seattle. You may wanna call an Uber to your hotel if you don’t feel like carrying your luggage all that way – I would, no shame!
Ferry to Seattle
If you’re coming from nearby islands or the Olympic Peninsula, you can even take Washington State Ferries (WSF) to reach downtown Seattle. By far my favorite way to enter the city!
Make sure to stand on the upper deck for panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains, the Cascade Range, and the city’s iconic skyline. Psst – it’s usually unbelievably windy up here, so you’ll definitely wanna bring along a windbreaker or warm fleece!
And as you sail across the Puget Sound, look out for wildlife – it’s not uncommon to see seals, birds, and sometimes even orca whales (!!!).
Most ferries end at Colman Dock in downtown Seattle, right on Alaskan Way (only a 15 minute walk to Pike Place Market).
Planning to do a longer Washington road trip?! You can drive your car right onto the ferry, for an extra fee of course, haha!
How to Get Around Seattle
Walk: Time to get in those steps! Many of the popular attractions you’ll wanna see during your weekend in Seattle are easily accessible by foot! I think I walked almost 20k steps (over 8 miles) every day, so definitely wear comfy walking shoes and slather on that sunscreen in the sunny summer months.
While Seattle doesn’t have as many horrendously steep hills as San Francisco does, there is some elevation! Particularly as you walk away from the waterfront into the city, like walking from Pike Place to Capitol Hill.
But depending on when you visit, it may just be too wet to walk long distances, so plan on alternate means of transport (Uber or public transit).
If you follow my suggested 3 day Seattle itinerary, you’ll be visiting a whole bunch of neighborhoods, which you definitely cannot get to all on foot. The Downtown Core, including Pike Place, Belltown, Seattle Center, and Capitol Hill are all walkable from each other, but you’ll need to take either ride shares or public transit to get to the others.
Monorail: Headed to the Seattle Center from downtown Seattle and don’t wanna walk the mile? You can take the monorail, which was actually built for the 1962 World’s Fair!
It only runs between two stations: the Westlake Center Station in downtown Seattle (a few blocks from Pike Place Market) and the Seattle Center Station (near the Space Needle) but it’s a quick (2 minutes!!!) and convenient route between two of the most popular Seattle activities.
By Car: If you’re just planning to explore downtown Seattle and the surrounding neighborhoods, you honestly don’t need a car. I’d only really recommend it if you’re planning to explore areas outside the city itself (perhaps a national park or two if you’ve got more time).
Most of the city is pretty walkable, and there’s also public transit and Uber within the downtown area. Plus, street parking can be pretty hard to find, and hotel parking can get rather expensive.
And don’t worry, you can even get to Bainbridge (included on this weekend trip to Seattle!) by just walking and using public transit!
Public transit: Seattle has an extensive public transportation system, including buses, a light rail, and a streetcar network. Perfect if you’re planning to follow this 3 day Seattle itinerary and don’t want the hassle of driving in a big city.
Here’s the major public transit to use here:
- King County Metro Transit: This is an extensive bus network that covers Seattle and the surrounding areas. Use the nifty trip planner on the website to easily figure out what route to take! There’s just way too many buses to remember them all!
- Sound Transit: This company operates regional buses and the Link Light Rail within the Seattle metropolitan area (which you can take from the airport). There’s also connectivity to neighboring cities like Bellevue and Tacoma.
- Seattle Streetcar: The Seattle Streetcar runs two lines – the South Lake Union Line (from Belltown to South Lake Union) and the First Hill Line (from Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square).
- Washington State Ferries: Thinking about taking a day trip? You’ll probably be using the ferries! They run all day every day (look at the exact schedule of course), and head to spots like Bainbridge, Bremerton, and Whidbey Island.
Local tip: Planning to take a lot of public transit during your 3 days in Seattle? Grab an ORCA card (One Regional Card for All) at a station to save a bit of cash! Having an ORCA card makes taking public transit super easy – you load funds onto the card and use it for buses, light rail, monorail, streetcars, and even the ferries. Way better than buying new tickets every time!
When to Plan your Seattle Itinerary
Exactly when you plan your Seattle itinerary will drastically affect your trip. Technically, there’s 4 seasons here, but I’d aim to visit in what I consider dry season.
Seattle sparkles from April through October, with days bursting with sunshine, getting into the high 70’s/low 80’s during prime summer months. But shh – let’s keep that little detail to ourselves. Everyone thinks it basically rains 24/7.
And yes, it’s true. Seattle does get some rain. A lot of rain actually – but only in certain months.
I’ve visited in May, June, September, and October and had all kinds of weather. Rain, sunshine, nasty clouds, overcast skies, clear nights, and misty mornings. Just gotta come prepared – as they say, there’s no bad weather, just wrong clothing.
Is it really as rainy as everyone makes it out to be?! Yes, but not really… Seattle does have a reputation for being a rainy city, but the reality is a bit more nuanced. While it does receive a fair amount of precipitation, it’s not as consistently rainy as some stereotypes suggest.
According to The Seattle Times, there’s even different kinds of rain in Seattle (some that evaporates before it even reaches the ground)!
And get this – in terms of annual rainfall, Seattle receives LESS rain (around 38 total inches) than some other major US cities, like New York City, Miami, and even Houston. Who would’ve thought?! It just comes in the form of annoying mist and drizzles instead of all at once in massive thunderstorms.
While Seattle does have a high number of rainy days, it doesn’t typically rain all day, every day. Rain showers can be relatively short-lived, interspersed with periods of dry weather! Just bring a raincoat and you’ll be fine (and maybe leave those expensive sneakers at home).
Psst – leave that umbrella at home; true Seattleites don’t use them. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb!
Summer (June to August): Peak Tourist Season
Everyone loves visiting Seattle in summer (including me!), and it’s easy to see why! It’s by far the most popular time to plan a weekend trip to Seattle, and when I’d go if I had to choose. It’s peak tourist season, with longer daylight hours (the sun doesn’t set until after 9pm!), and there’s hardly any rain.
Temps are comfortable in the mid-60s to mid-70s°F, and sometimes even getting into the 80s°F. It’s the perfect time to be outdoors, hanging out in Seattle’s green spaces, along the waterfront, and hanging out on rooftop bars and observation decks. You could even go to the beach (yes, there’s a few here in Seattle)!
But because of this nearly perfect weather (much needed after a dark and wet winter), expect tons of crowds, higher accommodation prices, and lots more traffic.
Spring and Fall: Shoulder Seasons (March – May and September – November)
Spring and fall are considered the shoulder seasons in Seattle.
In spring, there’s cherry blossoms blooming, colorful tulips, and tons of greenery. The temps are mild (mid-50s to mid-60s°F) with plenty of spring showers. It’s a great time to visit as long as you bring a rain jacket!
Fall brings vibrant fall foliage (head to Discovery Park!), cooler temperatures (especially at night), and the return of rain. You should kinda expect to see some rain if you’re planning a Seattle itinerary in the fall, although there’s typically not tons until about November or so.
Note that there’s been an increasing amount of smoke from wildfires in September, so always check on air quality if it smells a bit smokey before spending too much time outdoors.
Winter: Low Season (December to February)
People like to hate on winter in Seattle, and I get it – the city is extremely wet with tons of overcast skies and drizzly or light rain almost every day. It’s fairly chilly and super moody, with temps in the upper 40s to mid-50s°F, although it’s hardly ever below freezing (even at night).
Overall, winter is pretty mild compared to other parts of the country (there’s no snow here!), but yup – it’ll be wet! Plan your 3 days in Seattle during the winter if you’re excited about all the indoor activities; there’s tons of museums to check out, cute coffee shops to relax in (I mean, Starbucks was founded here in Seattle afterall!), and tons of restaurants to indulge in.
But honestly, if you wanna see Seattle in all its glory (highly recommended), I’d steer clear of winter. There’s just too much gorgeous natural scenery to miss out on!
Where to Stay in Seattle
If this is your first time planning a weekend in Seattle, you’ll undoubtedly wanna stay close to all the action and main attractions. This means getting a hotel downtown, preferably near Pike Place Market!
When you think of Seattle, you’re most likely thinking of downtown! This is where you’ll find the ever-so-popular Pike Place Market (with its dozens of stalls), the Seattle Central Library, the infamous gum wall, and the “original” Starbucks.
It’s super central to the rest of the city, and you can easily stroll from Pike Place to the waterfront, Pioneer Square, the Seattle Center, and even Capitol Hill. This is where we stayed on our last visit, and I LOVED being able to walk almost everywhere!
In Downtown Seattle you’ll find a huge range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels with rooftop skyline views (!) to budget-friendly chain hotels and cute boutiques. Can’t go wrong with any – it’s easily the best location!
There are a few downsides of course, including budget (it’s typically more expensive), noise levels (since it can be busier), and parking costs/availability if you plan to rent a car.
Here’s a few hotels to check out:
- Pali Hotel Seattle: A cute and comfy boutique hotel smackdab in the center of downtown Seattle (right across the street from Pike Place Market)! I love the eclectic decor and trendy ambiance – especially the attached restaurant.
- Thompson Hotel: A chic stay with epic design details and dizzying views! Make a reservation for rooftop drinks at sunset – the view of the waterfront is phenomenal!
- Kimpton Hotel Monaco Seattle: A luxury boutique hotel with a sophisticated yet playful design. And only a few blocks from Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, and the waterfront (and right next to the stunning Seattle Central Library).
- Green Tortoise Hostel: On a tight budget? Consider staying here – I stayed at this hostel on my first ever trip to Seattle when I was traveling solo, and had the best time. You can’t really beat its location – it’s less than a block from Pike Place! Save your pennies for an extra macaron from Le Panier (one of my faves).
Belltown is located just north of downtown, known for its vibrant nightlife, trendy restaurants, and lots of art galleries. It’s a great choice if you wanna be a few minutes from downtown, but in a less touristy area.
I recommend checking out:
Capitol Hill is such a vibe! It’s roughly a 20 minute walk (uphill I might add) from downtown, and it’s a great mix of historic charm and contemporary style, with a vibrant arts and music scene.
It’s a super diverse neighborhood, known for being eccentric and LGBTQ+ friendly, with tons of indie shops, laid-back coffee shops, and a creative arts scene.
There’s not tons of hotels in Capitol Hill, but here’s my suggestions:
Other Important FAQs about Visiting Seattle
- Is a weekend trip to Seattle really enough?! 3 days in Seattle is the perfect amount of time for seeing the city’s highlights, plus even a half-day trip to Bainbridge! Yes, you’ll probably be sad to leave, but hey, you can always come back! Think of a long weekend trip to Seattle as a sampler; you may even be convinced to move here! Guilty!
- Where’s the best coffee in Seattle? Ask 5 Seattleites and you’ll get 5 different answers, haha. Probably because they take their coffee very seriously here. Espresso Vivace, Cafe Allegro, Victrola Coffee Roasters, Anchorhead Coffee, and Caffe Ladro are all classic and solid choices. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is pretty cool, too!
- Where to watch the sunset in Seattle: I’m a sucker for sunsets, and if the sky is clear, you bet there’ll be a great one! I recommend Kerry Park (my favorite by far!), the observation deck of the Space Needle or Smith Tower, a rooftop bar with a cocktail in hand (highly recommend The Nest), or Alki Beach.
- Are there beaches in Seattle? Yup – I was kinda surprised too! These aren’t the kinda beaches where you’ll find people sunbathing and swimming tho – this isn’t Southern California or Hawaii, haha. The water is COLD, but there are pretty great views of the Olympic Mountains, so there’s that! Head to Alki Beach and Golden Gardens Park – the two most popular ones.
- Is the Seattle CityPASS worth it? Honestly, probably not. I only recommend it if you’re planning to go up the Space Needle twice – once during the day, and once at night. It also includes access to the Seattle Aquarium, plus your choice of 3 of the following: an Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), Woodland Park Zoo, and Chihuly Garden and Glass. Decide for yourself though!
- Why is Seattle nicknamed The Emerald City? Easy question – because of all its lush greenery and natural beauty! Even year round, since there’s so many evergreen trees in the area.
- A note on the homeless population: Just like in San Francisco (and many big cities on the West Coast), there’s a fairly large homeless population in Seattle. You’ll undoubtedly see some tent cities (what we call a large group of tents) during your 3 days in Seattle. Just remember – they are people too, and the local government is trying to figure out how to help them as best they can.
So let’s get to it — the ultimate Seattle weekend getaway itinerary coming right up! Be prepared for lots of coffee, that stunning skyline, and if you’re lucky, a peek or two of Mt. Rainier!
Long Weekend in Seattle Itinerary
Like most of my itineraries, it’s rather fast paced. If you’d rather take it slow and have a more relaxing 3 days in Seattle, either eliminate a few activities or stay an extra day! Also, this is Seattle we’re talking about – you may need to adjust some things based on weather. But don’t worry, a cozy coffee shop is never too far!
Psst: This Seattle itinerary assumes you have 3 full days in the city. Meaning you got here the night before and can start your first full day the next morning. You can probably squeeze everything in on Day 1 if you arrive in the early AM, but depending on your travel style, you may feel kinda rushed.
Seattle Itinerary Day 1: Main Tourist Attractions
Morning: Half Day at Pike Place Market
Time for your first day of your weekend trip to Seattle! And we’re waking up early today because we’re off to the market!
I’m sure you’ve heard of Pike Place Market – it’s a true icon of Seattle, established way back when in 1907. And get this – it’s one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the United States!
There’s so much to see and do here, and of course eat! You can either do a DIY food tour or guided tour at Pike Place (highly recommended – just look at those raving reviews). But whatever you do, wear your stretchy pants – the market’s got so much good stuff. And skip breakfast today; you’ll be eating your way through the market for breakfast and lunch!
Psst – there’s no S in Pike Place. Call it Pikes Place and everyone will know you’re a tourist, haha.
There’s dozens of places to visit in Pike Place (way too many to list), but here’s a small sampling of my favorites!
- Piroshky Piroshky: I come here EVERY SINGLE TIME I’m in Seattle, even if I’m just visiting for a day. The line is always long, but don’t worry, it goes super fast. My favorites are the potato and cheese piroshky, chocolate cream hazelnut roll, cinnamon cardamom braid, and the cheddar garlic roll. We missed them so much we bought a box of $50 worth once and kept them in our freezer for months, haha.
- Beecher’s Homemade Cheese: Kinda an institution around here – definitely get a cup of mac and cheese and/or a grilled cheese to share. And make sure to ask for samples – they happily give them out (the cheese curds are my favorite)! Watch the huge vats of cheese spinning around, it’s wild!
- La Panier: There’s a reason the line’s always out the door. A French bakery known for their macarons, freshly baked bread, and chocolate eclairs. The croissants are oh so buttery and flaky… mmm I want one right now, haha. Worth the wait, I promise.
- Mee Sum Pastry: Everything is delicious, but the BBQ pork humbows (best in the city!), red bean sesame balls, and truffle shumai are the most popular. I especially loved the chicken shrimp chive dumpling on my last visit – way more filling than I thought it’d be, and a nice change from all the sweet stuff! Come early and everything will be super fresh and steamy.
- Ellenos Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt infused with modern flavors & toppings?! Yes please! Even if you don’t think you like Greek yogurt you gotta try it. Think marionberry pie, passionfruit, and even lemon curd. Only of my favorites at the market. Edit: Unfortunately this spot recently closed – fingers crossed they find another location pronto!
- Truffle Queen: An Italian grocery store that sells all things truffle! Truffle pesto, truffle salt, truffle cream, and more truffle samples. What could possibly be better?! The second you walk in you’ll smell the deliciously intoxifying scent of truffles – my favorite! Still kicking myself I didn’t pick up some truffle olive oil! Stop here for some wine tasting, too!
- Pike Place Chowder: Come here if you’re looking for some of the creamiest, flavorful clam chowder you’ve ever had. Not sure it beats the chowder in San Francisco or Monterey, but it’s damn close. Definitely opt for the sourdough bread bowl if you’re sharing – the bread soaks up all the soup and it’s delicious!
- Rachel’s Ginger Beer: The best place in the city for ginger beer – they’ve got a ton of different flavors (white peach, mango, and passionfruit vanilla are my faves), and you can even add booze and/or pineapple Dole Whip soft serve to them! Super refreshing on a hot day (yes, Seattle does have some of those!). Another must during any 3 day Seattle itinerary.
- Storyville Coffee: Great coffee with an even better ambiance, and super friendly staff (they even bring you water with your coffee). Kinda hidden on the third floor, but worth the short trek up. While it doesn’t have the best coffee in the world, it’s an experience for sure. Sit by the fireplace, sip your latte, and do some people watching. Great on a rainy day!
Local tip: Buy a bag of beans and you’ll get a free drink! Plus a free mug for first time visitors! Get a cinnamon roll to go with your coffee – and ask for it to be warmed; absolutely divine!
- Maiz: A relatively new savory spot, and easily one of the best tacos in town. Coming from California (and visiting Mexico every year), I have really high standards for Mexican food. And Maiz didn’t disappoint one bit. They have different proteins every day (I tried their chicken mole, and wow, so much flavor!), and make their own tortillas right in front of you from their special house ground masa. Super authentic Mexican drinks as well (like horchata, atole, and Mexican mocha). I’ll most definitely be back!
- Gum Wall: One of Pike Place’s most iconic spots! Easily Seattle’s dirtiest, grimiest, and stickiest alley in all of the city. Kinda disgusting and gross, but a must during any weekend trip to Seattle. A great spot to take photos (just don’t get too close), and a much-larger version of the gum wall down in San Luis Obispo.
If deciding where to eat seems wildly overwhelming (or you’re solo and have no one to share things with), I’d 100% recommend a guided food tour of Pike Place Market. The tour (led by a local chef!) makes 9 different stops (with about 15 small bites) and you even get to skip the line at most (great for those pressed for time).
You’ll also check out a secret garden (that grows food), learn about bean-to-bar chocolate, and the history of the market. Read reviews and book your Pike Place Market food tour here!
Psst – there’s even a guided tour for all you plant-based folks!
I also love Three Girls Bakery, Daily Dozen, World Spice, indi Chocolate, and all the fresh produce markets within the main market. Told you there’s lots to see, do, and eat here!
Other things to do at Pike Place Market:
- Wander inside the market and check out the artisan stalls and hundreds of independent businesses
- Check out the beyond gorgeous bouquets of fresh flowers (the type changes based on the season) from the Flower Market
- Watch the fishmongers toss fish back and forth to each other at The Pike Place Fish Market
- Take iconic tourist photos with the The “Public Market Center” sign
- Say hello to the iconic pigs around the market – the famous one being right across from the fish market
Should you visit the iconic Starbucks at Pike Place Market?
That’s completely up to you of course. In my opinion, if you’ve only got 3 days in Seattle, I’d skip it. The line is always horrendously long and no, it doesn’t move too quickly (you’ll easily wait over an hour if you don’t get there super early).
Plus, the menu is the same as every other Starbucks around the country. I’d visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery later on during your weekend trip to Seattle instead – it’s way larger and there’s lots to see there (plus, espresso martinis!).
AND – get this, it’s not even the original Starbucks location like everyone thinks it is! It’s the second – the first unfortunately burned down.
Read Next: The Complete Guide to Pike Place Market (tons more info and foodie spots!)
Afternoon: Seattle Center
Up next – the Space Needle and Seattle Center, but first a quick detour to either the Olympic Sculpture Park or the Amazon Spheres. Unless you’ve got a friend with Amazon access or you’re lucky to be there when the spheres are open to the public, you won’t have much choice.
Quick Detour Choices
Olympic Sculpture Park: Walk 15 minutes north on Alaskan Way and you’ll bump right to the Olympic Sculpture Park! Operated by the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), it combines art, nature, and stunning views of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains. What is it? An outdoor sculpture museum and public park!
Notable pieces include Alexander Calder’s “Eagle” (my favorite), Louise Bourgeois’s “Father and Son,” Richard Serra’s massive “Wake”, and Jaume Plensa’s “Echo”. A great place to hang out for a bit and go for a stroll. And right on the way to our next destination!
Amazon Spheres: Futuristic glass bubble domes with an indoor garden inside? Sign me up!
How’d you like to work there?! Hopefully not during your 3 days in Seattle though! The Amazon Spheres are just that – an innovative workspace located at the company’s corporate headquarters in downtown Seattle.
The three interconnected domes are designed to mimic the look and feel of a tropical rainforest, and yes, there’s a huge collection of plants (over 40,000 of them!) and indoor gardens throughout! And even a large fish tank!
Traveling with an Amazon employee?! Time for them to whip out their badge! After 4 trips to Seattle, I finally made it inside the Amazon spheres – I’m lucky that my husband just so happens to work for the company now!
The spheres are not typically open to the general public, so there’s two ways to access them:
- Restaurants inside the spheres: If you don’t have badge access and really wanna see the spheres, you can admire the unique architecture from the outside and/or have a meal here. Note that while the restaurants are technically inside the spheres, you cannot enter the private workspace area. I stopped inside Willmott’s Ghost and wow, I loved all the pastel colors and eccentric, yet modern design.
- The Spheres weekend public visits: Every first and third Saturday of each month, the Spheres are open to visitors by reservation only, free of charge! Reservations become available 15 days before the date. If the dates work out, I highly recommend you go!
Seattle Center Attractions
Next up, make the short walk over to the Seattle Center, located in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle. This is where you’ll find Seattle’s most popular attractions, like the Space Needle, Museum of Pop Culture, Chihuly Gardens and Glass Museum, and the Pacific Science Center.
Depending on how long you spent at the market (no judgments – you could easily spend a full day there!), choose from the following activities:
Space Needle: The Space Needle is to Seattle what the Golden Gate Bridge is to San Francisco. The most iconic symbol of Seattle! It’s an obvious choice, and although wildly crowded and overpriced, heading up to the observation deck is worth it once in your life (as long as the weather cooperates).
If your Seattle itinerary falls over the weekend, expect massive crowds (especially on clear, sunny summer days). We went on a Sunday afternoon and waited almost an hour I think… Definitely give yourself enough time to wait on line and then enjoy your time at the top (30-60 minutes for most people).
Once you’re at the top (520 feet up), look out for landmarks like the downtown skyline, Elliott Bay, Mount Rainier, the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges, and even the distant San Juan Islands on a clear day. I loved the new floor-to-ceiling windows and outdoor viewing platforms, and there’s even a rotating bar with glass floors (a bit nerve wracking if you ask me!).
Buy tickets here! If you’re planning to visit both the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass, definitely buy a combo ticket! You’ll save some money!
Cloudy and/or rainy? I’d skip a ride to the top – the views won’t be nearly as impressive and visibility won’t be great at all. Save your $40 bucks or so.
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP): Even if you’re not a museum person, you’ve gotta go here. It’s SUCH a fun spot, and definitely not like any other museum I’ve ever been to. The museum is totally interactive, and there’s exhibits that cover all things pop culture, like music, science fiction, fantasy, video games, and more.
Don’t miss the Sound Lab (where you can test out rock ‘n’ roll instruments), the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and the Indie Game Revolution (I loved playing video game demos from independent game developers). On my last visit, there was a huge exhibit all about Prince – I could get enough! Also check out the exterior architecture of the building – the permanent iridescent ombre effect is so cool (and a great spot to take some photos).
Chihuly Gardens and Glass: An entire art museum (and sculpture garden) dedicated to the breathtaking glass artistry of renowned artist Dale Chihuly. One of my favorite spots in all of Seattle – I’ve been numerous times and still wanna go back, haha!
Have you ever seen the stunning glass flower ceiling in the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas?! Yup, that’s Dale Chihuly too!
Remember – if you’re planning to visit the Space Needle as well, buy a combo ticket for both. You’ll save about $20!
Pacific Science Center: A family-friendly science museum featuring plenty of hands-on exhibits, a tropical butterfly house, and even an IMAX theater. I’ve never been but heard it’s great for kids!
Local Tip: Check out the UpGarden P-Patch Community Garden. Most people planning a Seattle itinerary have never heard of this garden located on the roof of a nearby parking garage. Worth the short walk over. There’s even an airstream and a classic car right in the garden!
Night: Dinner and drinks in Belltown
For your first night of your 3 days in Seattle, I recommend staying close by and hanging out in Belltown. Here’s some of my favorite spots for dinner and drinks:
- Rocco’s: A lively Italian-American eatery serving up some of the largest New York-style pizzas in Seattle. There’s an endless amount of toppings – we loved our 3 Pigs and Lasagna split pie. PS – the pies are HUGE (four of us were sharing one and we had tons left over).
- Serious Pie: Tom Douglas’s take on gourmet wood-fired pizzas with innovative toppings and locally sourced ingredients. The space is casual yet upscale, and you’ll probably wanna make a reservation.
- Lola: A Mediterranean-inspired menu with Greek mezes like lamb and pork meatballs, chicken skewers, and pita with dips. Brunch is also really good, so add this to your weekend in Seattle if you’ve got time – the made-to-order donuts are heavenly. Another Tom Douglas Restaurant so you know it’s good.
- Pink Door: I’ve admittedly never been, but this eclectic Italian spot has been on my Seattle bucket list for years. Make a reservation a few weeks/months in advance – it’s popular for a reason.
- Navy Strength: Come here for creative, exotic, and expertly crafted tiki-style drinks in a tropical-inspired setting. My friend’s drink even went up in flames – purposefully, haha.
- Bathtub Gin: A speakeasy-type bar hidden behind the gin shop. Come for the cozy, Prohibition-era ambiance, stay for the curated selection of craft cocktails.
Weekend in Seattle Day 2: Exploring Local City Neighborhoods
Note: Greater Seattle is larger than you think! You’ll either wanna drive today, or use public transit or ride shares. Nothing is too far away, but it’s way too far to walk everywhere!
Morning: Brunch in Ballard and Beyond
Brunch at Sabine Cafe: The perfect early-morning pick me up! We loved this trendy Middle Eastern-style brunch, complete with seasonal lattes and a sunny, outdoor terrace with colorful murals.
There’s lots of savory and sweet options, like Turkish eggs, perfectly cooked za’atar potatoes (really, don’t miss them), tahini and date greek yogurt, oat pancakes, avocado toast, cinnamon rolls, and mascarpone toast! Such a great spot with some old world charm.
Ballard Farmers Market (Sunday’s, year round): I swear, I’ve been to lots of farmers markets around the globe, and the one in Ballard was easily the best one yet.
There’s a huge variety of vendors (it’s not the same thing a million times over), with locally grown produce (omg those heirloom tomatoes looked so juicy and I was drooling over all the berries), cheeses/jams/breads, handmade pottery, food trucks, and so much more. Definitely gets busy here, so prepare for some crowds!
Ballard Locks: An interesting place to learn about boats and locks! The Ballard Locks lets boats and salmon pass between the salt and freshwater of Washington Lake.
There’s also a fish ladder and sometimes seals playing around. If you’re lucky, you may catch the larger vessels being lowered or elevated – pretty cool and reminds me of our time in Panama a tad!
Discovery Park: Itching to get in an early morning hike? Head over to this urban oasis! There’s tons of trails (the park is over 534 acres so you’ve got your pick!) with forests, meadows, beaches, and dramatic sea cliffs overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.
We did a short 2 mile walk/hike, and even got to see Rainier peeking out for a bit!
Afternoon: Fremont and South Lake Union
Fremont: A quirky and artistic neighborhood close to Lake Union, home to the Fremont Troll sculpture under the Aurora Bridge, more public art installations, and a variety of cafes and shops.
There’s also the Fremont Brewing Company, Gas Works Park (great for a walk with views of the Seattle skyline), Fremont Sunday Street Market (a good mix of antique and independent artists), and Theo Chocolate (with lots of free samples).
South Lake Union: You could easily spend all day here – the freshwater lake is perfect for a relaxing afternoon of boating, kayaking, and scenic walks by the water. If you’re trying to cram lots into your 3 day Seattle itinerary, I recommend having lunch by the water and then either taking a 20-minute seaplane tour or a 2-hour locks cruise on Lake Union.
A seaplane tour with Kenmore Air will give you an aerial view of the Space Needle, the houseboat communities, Elliot Bay’s dramatic downtown skyline, and the U of Washington campus. One of my favorite things I’ve done in Seattle to date!
South Lake Union is also where you can visit the REI Flagship location (the store is MASSIVE), and Espresso Vivace, said to be one of the best coffee spots in all of Seattle, if not Washington state.
Night: Kerry Park and Capitol Hill
Sunset at Kerry Park
My all-time favorite spot for sunset in Seattle, with stunning panoramic views of the city skyline. Here on a super clear night? You may get lucky and see majestic Mount Rainier in the distance! It gets busy here, so come a bit early to secure your spot (the park really isn’t all that big).
Want something sweet or a pre/post-sunset drink? Check out Molly Moon’s Handmade Ice Cream (a woman-owned business with amazing seasonal ice cream flavors) and/or Bar Miriam (a trendy intimate cocktail bar with a great vibe).
Psst – depending what month you visit, you may wanna have dinner before heading to Kerry Park. The sun doesn’t set until way past 8:30pm in the summer months, so factor that in!
Dinner and Drinks in Capitol Hill
- Tavolata: Two words. Fresh pasta. Come during happy hour for the best deal in town (a great mix of their full menu). Don’t miss the pappardelle and the spicy sausage rigatoni – my two favorites.
- Kedai Makan: Malaysian street food at its finest! I was honestly blown away by my nasi goreng (with such authentic flavors), and the space is so chic, yet laid-back at the same time.
- Oddfellows Cafe: Stylish American farm-to-table food with a unique twist of classic and modern flavors. Sit in the beautiful courtyard – also a great spot for brunch!
- Pie Bar: A bar that sells fresh, homemade pie?! Sign me up. The inside feels kinda cramped and the service is nothing to write home about, but that pie, OMG that pie. The perfect way to end any night in Seattle.
- Gemini Room: A hip and trendy cafe and lounge with some creative craft cocktails – my blood orange marg was great. The space is kinda funky (with lots of mid-century modern decor) and gives off a subtle Mad Men loungey vibe that I loved.
- Unicorn: A bit grungy and oh so quirky, this gem prides itself for being an eccentric carnival-themed bar and arcade. Not really my vibe, but worth a quick look downstairs (there’s pinball machines and dancing!). I can see it being fun after a few drinks, haha.
- Starbucks Reserve Roastery: Coffee lovers, this is your place. And way more impressive than the Starbucks at Pike Place if you ask me. There’s multiple coffee bars, a roasting area, and you can even order an espresso martini flight. My kinda place.
You’ll also find Victrola Coffee Roasters (known for their rich espressos) and General Porpoise (fluffy brioche donuts filled with creative flavors like lemon curd and chocolate marshmallow) here in Capitol Hill.
These spots close a tad earlier in the day, so you may need to rearrange your Seattle itinerary if one of these is on your need-to-visit list.
Seattle Itinerary Day 3: Bainbridge Island, Waterfront, and Historic District
Morning: Half Day on Bainbridge Island
On your last and final day of your 3-day Seattle itinerary, get outta the city for a bit! The surrounding islands are just too scenic to ignore for any longer! And Bainbridge Island makes for the perfect half-day trip, great if you’ve only got a weekend in Seattle or so.
I was giddy the entire time on the island, soaking up the sunshine and admiring all those evergreen trees off in the distance.
Bainbridge Island is known for its picturesque and charming town, natural beauty, artistic community, and relaxed island lifestyle. It feels a tad like Sausalito (one of the best day trips from San Francisco), but even quieter and less touristy.
I’d aim to leave Seattle no later than 8am, so you can take your time in Bainbridge and still have the rest of the day for more city exploring.
In half a day, you can stroll the charming town of Winslow (only a 10 minute walk from the ferry terminal), visit the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, browse the local boutique shops (I bought a beautiful postcard here), stroll by the water and harbor, and learn about the island’s history at Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.
In terms of food/drink, have some fish and chips for lunch (I highly recommend Proper Fish), grab a local beer or two from Bainbridge Brewing Alehouse, indulge in a pastry from popular Blackbird Bakery, and/or have some ice cream at Island Cool Ice Cream (previously the famous Mora Iced Creamery).
Note that Bainbridge is fairly large, and if you wanna explore beyond the main commercial center (Winslow), you’ll need to bring a car or take the Kitsap Transit bus.
How to Get to Bainbridge Island
Getting to Bainbridge Island from Seattle is so simple – it’s only a 30 minute ferry ride away, and costs less than $10 roundtrip! AND you can even walk to the Seattle Ferry Terminal (also known as Colman Dock) from Pike Place in less than 20 minutes. Pretty sweet, right?
The ferry across the Puget Sound is kinda like an attraction in and of itself – make sure to stand on the top deck for stunning views of the Seattle skyline and the Olympic Mountains. It gets breezy up here so make sure to take a windbreaker with you!
Always check the Washington State Ferries website for the most up-to-date information on departure times to/from Seattle. Pay close attention to the ferry schedule headed back to Seattle – depending on the season, there may only be one every two hours or so. You don’t wanna miss it!
Buy tickets at the ferry terminal or in advance on the ferries website. You can also easily tap your ORCA Card – just make sure you have enough cash loaded on!
Afternoon: Pioneer Square
Once you make it back from Bainbridge, walk a few blocks to Pioneer Square, Seattle’s historic district.
Note: I’m saving this neighborhood for almost last, because, well, if you don’t make it here during your weekend trip to Seattle, don’t be too upset, haha. It’s great if you’ve got the time, but I honestly wouldn’t rush Bainbridge Island if you got on a later ferry than you originally wanted to.
The Underground Tour is the most popular thing to do in Pioneer Square, and it’s super quirky and honestly kinda wacky and odd. You go below the streets to explore the abandoned, historic storefronts and passageways of old Seattle. I learned tons about Seattle’s history, including the 1889 fire, the Red Light district, and lots about the poor sewage system, haha. Very informative!
Read reviews and buy tickets here (they sell out!).
Psst: If you’re claustrophobic, you may wanna think twice about doing the underground tour. Not that any spaces are super tight, but once you’re down below, you kinda can’t get back up unless you interrupt your guide.
A few other recs for Pioneer Square:
- Smith Tower: This is an iconic Seattle skyscraper that was once the city’s tallest building (at 35 floors). Head up to the observation deck for panoramic views of the city and Puget Sound – high on my Seattle bucket list! (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
- Occidental Square: A lively urban park with a super rich history! Lots of locals hang out here and have their lunch, and there’s some art installations and even food trucks nearby.
- Waterfall Garden: Secret and unassuming, I never would’ve found it if I wasn’t looking directly for it! The garden is known for its 22-foot artificial waterfall, lush greenery, and tranquil atmosphere. Great for some peace and quiet!
- Seattle Central Library: If you’re a book lover and/or have a thing for modern architecture, you’ll wanna add The Seattle Central Library to your Seattle itinerary for sure. The library is an architectural masterpiece – architect Rem Koolhaas designed a striking, glass building that’s so unique and innovative! If I lived here, I’d be here every single week.
Late Afternoon/Night: Seattle Waterfront
Stroll along the Alaskan Way Promenade (a picturesque waterfront walkway), and you’ll come across a whole slew of other popular Seattle attractions. This whole area is super touristy and a little bit kitschy – kinda like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco to be honest. While it’s not my favorite, it’s a must on any first-timer’s Seattle itinerary, even if you just walk around for a bit.
There’s three main attractions here:
Seattle Great Wheel: Located at the end of Pier 57 – Miner’s Landing, this is the tallest Ferris wheel on the West Coast, and reminds me of the one we have in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park).
You can hop on at any time of day, but it looks especially cool lit up at night – it’s covered in over 500k LED lights!
Seattle Aquarium: With exhibits including an underwater dome, a window on Washington waters, pacific coral reefs, and marine mammals, you could spend hours or so perusing the aquarium. They even have puffins!
This is not your typical aquarium – they put so much effort into conservation and sustainability. Something more zoos and aquariums should be doing, in my opinion. And since the last entry is at 5pm, it’s a great late-afternoon activity if you’re looking for more things to do.
Harbor Cruise: If you’re into never ending skyline views (Space Needle included), an hour out on the water, and possible sightings of Mt. Rainier, you’re in for a treat. It’s the quintessential Seattle cruise experience, taking visitors on a fully-narrated tour in the Puget Sound, pointing out the important landmarks, and teaching everyone all about Seattle’s maritime history.
Honestly, if you took the ferry to Bainbridge this morning, I’d skip the harbor cruise. It’ll kinda seem redundant to get back out on the same exact water, especially on the same day, haha. Plus, the ferry ride is way cheaper, almost $30 less.
BUT if you’ve decided to skip Bainbridge and have a more relaxing morning, definitely take the harbor cruise! I took it on my first trip to Seattle and it was one of my favorite activities! Next time I desperately wanna cruise around the harbor on a tall sailboat sunset harbor cruise!
So there ya have it – the best way to spend 3 days in Seattle! Will you be following this weekend trip to Seattle itinerary?! What are you the most excited for?