Aug 25, 2015

Seattle Travel Tips

Every summer various friends will visit Seattle and ask us for for tips. I've copied and pasted and rewritten our Seattle travel advice email so many times that I decided it's finally time to get it down in blog form so I can just pass the link to anyone who is interested. So here it goes...

Seattle is a sprawling city with very distinct neighborhoods, so I will break it down by geographic area. If you are staying right in downtown and have just a day or two to sight-see, you might be able to get everywhere by walking, monorail, or city bus, but if you want to explore the greater city limits, I would recommend renting a car.


Pike Place Market - Seattle's bustling outdoor market sits above the Seattle waterfront. It's an iconic Seattle spot and home to the first Starbucks, the famous flying fish, and lots of pretty flowers. Whenever I give friends tours of Seattle, the market is always one of their favorite stops. Don't forget to buy some freshly made donuts! Where to eat: The Crumpet Shop, Pike Place Chowder, Piroshky Piroshky, The Pink Door, Matt's in the Market

The waterfront - You can walk down from the market to the Seattle waterfront. Here you will find lots of piers and shops, the Seattle Aquarium, the Great Wheel, and amazing fish and chips for lunch {but beware of the birds!}. Where to eat: Ivar's Pier 54 Fish Bar, Elliott's Oyster House, The Zig Zag Cafe

Downtown shopping - A few blocks up from Pike Place you will find the downtown shopping district {Westlake Center, Pacific Place, and adjacent shops}. Most of the stores are just common chains {Macy's, Urban Outfitters, GAP, Anthropologie, etc.}, but you can also visit the flagship Nordstrom and some fun local shops as well. You can also catch the monorail from here to zip across town. Where to eat: Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, Umma's Lunchbox, Caffe Senso Unico, Calozzi's Cheesesteaks, Dahlia Bakery, Lola

The Seattle Center - The Seattle Center is a few miles across town from the shopping district and the monorail links the two areas. This is where the Space Needle is located as well as a bunch of fun museums. The Space Needle is quintessential Seattle, although it's expensive to go to the top these days. Right next to the Space Needle is the EMP Museum, which is full of exhibits on music and pop culture. You will also find the Chihuly Garden and Glass here, which is ranked by many as the best attraction in Seattle. The Pacific Science Center and the Seattle Children's Museum are both in this area too. The Pacific Science Center is great for people of all ages. Be sure to pick up some Seattle Fudge from the Seattle Center food court. Amaretto is my favorite! Where to eat: Tilikum Place Cafe, Holy Cannoli, Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar, Toulouse Petit

Pioneer Square - This is Seattle's historic district on the south end of downtown. This is where you will find the Mariners and Seahawks arenas, an array of sports bars and pubs, and some fun art galleries as well. Overhead you will see Smith Tower, which now seems short against the Seattle skyline but was once the city's tallest building. Beneath the streets, you can take Seattle's famous underground tour. Where to eat: Tat's Delicatessen, Il Corvo Pasta, Shawn O'Donnell's American Grill and Irish Pub


GreenlakeThis is the cutest little neighborhood just north of downtown. The lake is a 2.6 mile loop, and you will find people walking, running, or rollerblading around it at all hours of the day and in any type of weather. There are places to stop for ice cream or coffee along the way. There are tons of recreational activities at the lake. You can play pitch and putt golf. You can rent kayaks, pedal boats or stand-up paddle boards. You can swim and jump off the high dive or you can hang out on the lawn where people are constantly playing soccer or tossing a Frisbee. Where to eat: The Butcher and the Baker, Bongos, Greenlake Bar and Grill {for happy hour}

Wallingford - This is a cute area on your way to Freemont or Greenlake. It's the home of the Woodland Park Zoo, which is great for kids and they sometimes offer rainy day discounts, so don't let Seattle weather deter you from this attraction. Where to eat: Molly Moon's Ice Cream, Bizzarro Italian Cafe, Dick's Drive-In {on 45th Ave.} for the best burger and fries

Freemont - This little neighborhood is home to many cute shops and restaurants. Here you will find the famous troll under the bridge, the Freemont Sunday Market, and Theo Chocolate where you can take a tour of the factory. Nearby the Burke-Gilman Trail runs along the shore of the lake beckoning you to take a stroll or jog. On your way to or from Freemont, you can check out the iconic Gas Works Park and have a picnic while gazing across the lake at Seattle's skyline. Where to eat: Paseo Caribbean Restaurant, Royal Grinders, Uneeda Burger

Ballard - There is where you will find the historic Hiram M. Chittenden {"Ballard"} Locks, where boats are transported from Salmon Bay to the Puget Sound. This area includes a fish ladder where salmon migrate from freshwater to the ocean and back again. Next to the locks is a beautiful botanical garden. The Ballard area is historically a Scandinavian community so you might want to check out the Nordic Heritage Museum. Golden Gardens is a huge public park that runs along the Puget Sound, where you will find hiking trails, beach access, and wetlands. It provides gorgeous views of sailboats by day or stop by in the evening for a sunset campfire on the beach. Where to eat: The Walrus and the Carpenter, Bastille Cafe and Bar, Ray's Boathouse

The U-District - This is the college area surrounding the University of Washington. The college campus is gorgeous and the football stadium is right on the water. "The Ave" {University Way NE} is the main street to the west of campus and it's filled with vintage clothing stores, dive bars, and bookstores. It's kind of grungy but with a hip, smells-like-teen-spirit vibe. Nearby, the Agua Verde Paddle Club is a fun place to go for happy hour or dinner. It's a fun Mexican restaurant {with a healthy PNW twist} and you can rent kayaks and go out on Lake Union before or after your meal. Where to eat: Portage Bay Cafe, Morsel, Aladdin Falafel Corner, Teriyaki 1st, any hole in the wall Thai place on the Ave {Thai Tom's is the most famous, but Pinkaew or Araya's Place are also good options.}

West Seattle - If you want to hang out on the water, it's fun to watch the sun set over the city from Alki Beach. Where to eat: Pizzeria 22, Marination Ma Kai, Moondrop Coffee and Tea

Other neighborhoods of note - Capitol Hill, Queen Anne Hill, Chinatown-International District


If you have a few days in the Pacific Northwest, here are a few recommendations of things to do outside the city.

Take a ferry ride - The Seattle area is unique because it's surrounded by water almost on all sides, and the state operates the largest ferry system in the USA. I highly recommend taking a ferry ride out of the city to catch some breathtaking views of the Puget Sound. You can walk on or drive onto most ferries and visit places such as Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, or Vashon Island. You could also consider an overnight trip on Whidbey Island or the San Juan Islands.

Drink some wine - About 30 minutes east of Seattle, you will find a cute little town named Woodinville which is home to some of Washington's best wineries. The most famous is Chateau Ste. Michelle, but there are many to choose from in the vicinity. Most of them have tours and tastings daily.

Hike or ski - Seattle boasts mountain ranges to the east and the west. You can ski or snowboard at Stevens Pass or Snoqualmie Pass {typically November - March} or hike various trails in the Cascade Mountains year round.

Visit a waterfall - If you travel eastward into the mountains, you will come to a tiny town called Snoqualmie, home to a gorgeous 270 foot waterfall. You can grab something to eat at Salish Lodge or bring a picnic to the two acre park. You can also visit the Northwest Railway Museum if you have any train-obsessed children with you.

Pick some berries - If you visit in the summer, berry-picking is a fun Northwest family activity. Depending on the time of year, you can pick strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.


Foodies - Here is a quick list of upscale restaurants you might want to try if fine dining is your thing...
American: Canlis, Lark, Art of the Table
Italian: Spinasse, Serafina, How to Cook a Wolf
Pacific Northwest: Dahlia Lounge, Sitka and Spruce
Steak: Metropolitan Grill
Seafood: Palisade

Recreational - If you like to run, walk, camp, or climb, check out these spots...
Discovery Park
Burke-Gilman Trail
REI climbing wall
Visit Mt. Rainier

Theaters - Seattle has a vibrant entertainment scene. You can catch a Broadway show at the 5th Avenue Theater or the Paramount Theater. Both are gorgeous inside. There is also live music all over the city. Check out shows at The Showbox, Benaroya Hall, or El Corazon.

Bookworms - If books are your thing, Seattle is full of independent bookstores and beautiful libraries... Seattle Public Library Central, Lamplight Books, Lion Heart Book Store, Left Bank Books Collective, Elliott Bay Book Company, Third Place Books {Ravenna location - visit the Pub in the basement}

Good for kids - I mentioned these above, but here are some of the best spots to visit with children...

Pacific Science Center, Seattle Children's Museum, Pike Place Market, Greenlake, Ballard Locks, Woodland Park Zoo

Best spots for pictures - Seattle is gorgeous. Here are the best locations to get photos of the skyline or the water... Alki Beach, Kerry Park, Gas Works Park, Golden Gardens

So there you have it... way too much information about one of America's best cities. Obviously, you could not even visit half the places listed here on a single trip, but peruse the recommendations and pick a few places that sound good to you. Whether you are eating thai food with college kids in the U-district or bustling around Pike Place with other tourists, you really can't go wrong if you are spending your day in Seattle.

1 comment:

  1. Erin Stutz8/25/15, 10:57 AM

    Thanks Jen! This will be a great resource for our trip next weekend!

Add comment
Load more...

Please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you!