When it comes to getaways that include exploration of a city, it’s best to get all your ducks in a row long before you arrive. This includes putting together a basic itinerary of places you wish to see and things you want to do. That isn’t to say that you can’t make a substitution or two if you discover something more desirable during your stay, or perhaps wish to add or subtract something from your schedule. But unless you have a fundamental understanding of what the city has to offer and a general plan that will incorporate the things that are the most appealing and important to you, chances are high that you will miss them and will return home feeling cheated. Vacations and getaways pass far too quickly to be fumbling around with research, reservations, and directions that could have been taken care of weeks in advance.
Seattle, Washington is one of those cities that is chalk full of things to see and do, with a beautiful waterfront and a bustling city full of cultural activities, dining options, and attractions. So to help with your plans we’ve assembled a list of destination suggestions. But rather than plan Day 1, 2, and possibly 3 for you, we think it’s best if you peruse the options and decide what speaks to you. Then arrange your days accordingly, making sure to group your activities together based on where they are located – there’s no point in backtracking and wasting valuable time. First up – where to stay.
Seattle offers a wide spectrum of accommodations, from moderately priced one-of-a-kind inns and Airbnb locations to 3, 4 and 5-star brand name chain hotels and unique upscale resorts. The choice really depends on your preference and budget. If money isn’t a big concern and you’re looking to stay in the heart of downtown, the Sheraton Seattle is an excellent choice given that it is mere steps from the waterfront as well as Pike Place Market. With fabulous cityscape views, it’s also close to the Space Needle and Seattle Art Museum.
However, if you’re looking for more of a resort that has it all, such that you travel into Seattle for attractions during the day and retire to a relaxing riverside oasis during the evening, we highly suggest Willows Lodge for a rustic yet luxury experience you won’t soon forget. Approximately 25 minutes from downtown Seattle, Willows is located on Sammamish River in Woodinville Wine Country and it offers everything from upscale dining to spa services and live entertainment.
When making a list of attractions to visit, the iconic Space Needle tops almost everyone’s list. At 605 feet high, the structure offers 360-degree views of the city and beyond, including Mt. Rainier. As such, it’s a great place to take photos that capture Seattle and the beauty of its outskirts. The Needle also offers fine dining at SkyCity Restaurant, where the menu features mouth-watering brunch and dinner selections with a gourmet flare.
Not finished with heights just yet? Visit Smith Tower, a Seattle landmark that features an old-fashioned copper and brass elevator car that carries passengers to the historic observatory on the 35th floor. Or, venture to Queen Anne Hill in Kerry Park for spectacular views of the skyline.
After you’ve completed an overview of the skyline, consider boarding the Seattle Center Monorail for a ride to Westlake Center. It’s just a quick little jaunt totaling no more than 2 minutes, but it’s a fun and futuristic way to go. Or head to the Seattle Waterfront, a popular destination for year-round activity and plenty of shopping and dining opportunities, particularly when it comes to seafood. The Waterfront also provides much in the way of boat cruises in Elliott Bay and beyond. Whether you’re looking for an hour-long sightseeing excursion to view the skyline from the water, get an up-close view of the Orcas in the bay (in the summer), or catch a cruise heading out to sea, you’re sure to find it all on the Waterfront.
On the waterfront is also where you’ll find the famous Pike Place Market, the farmers’ and artisans’ market for flowers, fruits, and vegetables as well as crafts, gifts, jewelry, and clothing. With such an eclectic mix of fabulous finds, you will likely discover something fun or unique to take home to family or friends.
Got a sweet tooth? Make your way to Theo Chocolate Factory for a tour and free samples of chocolate made from organic cocoa beans. Or, consider a trip to Schilling Cider House for tastings of more than 2 dozen craft ciders. Still hungry, head to Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, rife with authentic food and interesting shopping.
If museums are your thing, Seattle has several to offer, starting with the always fascinating Museum of Pop Culture, dedicated to the history and exploration of pop music and pop culture. If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, check out the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) or the Seattle Art Museum which displays the well-known works of Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol, as well as exhibits that include Native and Meso-American collections.
There is also the Museum of Flight, featuring the SR-71 Blackbird which is famous for speeds up to Mach 3. And the follow-up to that particular sightseeing tour, though technically not a museum, is undoubtedly the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour, located near Boeing’s largest assembly plant at the Paine Field airstrip. If plans and air travel are your passion, you can definitely pursue it in Seattle. Also not a museum but definitely falling into a similar category is the Pacific Science Centre which features 5 buildings worth of science exhibits, including 2 IMAX Theaters, a Butterfly House, a light show and a planetarium.
If heights and museums don’t appeal to you and you’re more of a lover of animals and marine life, then consider a trip to Woodland Park Zoo or the Seattle Aquarium which highlights a 120,000-gallon aquarium filled with Washington marine life, including salmon and vibrant rockfish. Both of these options offer an interesting and relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
If you’re the outdoorsy type and wish to make use of Seattle’s beautiful open areas, opt for an afternoon of exploration at Golden Gardens Park where visitors can be assured of breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains. Wildlife in the form of turtles, beavers, ducks and other water fouls can be found in the wetlands contained in the area. For a more active outdoor experience, venture to Lake Union – surprisingly located in the midst of the city – where you can rent boats, kayaks, and paddleboards, or climb aboard an amphibious tour vehicle called Ride the Ducks. The brightly painted boat/bus takes tourists directly from the streets to the lake and keeps the guided excursion right on going.
Finally, if golf is in your blood, get out and hit the links at Salish Cliffs Golf Club. If tastings are your thing, join one of several winery tours, or there are handfuls of escape rooms and scavenger hunts to choose from. Plus, there’s the Pacific Northwest Ballet for an evening of refinement and a dozen or more must-see comedy clubs for a night of laughter.
The fact is, Seattle is a beautiful city with photo opportunities at every turn. The scenic waterfront and mid-city lake are nicely offset with an impressive skyline and majestic mountains on the horizon. And in every crook and cranny of the city, there are things to see and do. It’s a great place to spend a weekend getaway or even a week’s vacation, and chances are that your time spent in Seattle will run out long before you’ve done it all.