Fancy a trip to the Pacific Coast? Well, this is one place you don’t want to miss! Seattle, also known as the Emerald City due to the lush forests surrounding it, is a modern metropolis with a rich cultural history. Secluded in the state of Washington, only one hundred miles from the Canadian border, the place is a gem primarily known for its music background. However, there are so many other things to see and experience while visiting. Even if you’re only one day in Seattle, the trip you make will be a memorable one.
What to do in Seattle for a day
1. What’s the best time to visit Seattle?
2. Few facts about Seattle
3. One Day in Seattle Itinerary
3.1. Start your day from the Pioneer Square
3.2. Visit the Pike Place Market
3.3. Climb up the Space Needle
3.4. Check out the Columbia Tower
3.5. Go on the Underground History Tour
3.6. Meet the Fremont Troll
3.7. Seattle nightlife
4. Where to stay in Seattle, Washington?
5. Extra tips for visiting Seattle, Washington
6. Day trips from Seattle
Given that this is the northernmost city in the United States, you may want to avoid coming here in autumn or winter. Those seasons are wet and fairly cold, so the best thing to do is to at least wait for the spring to really kick in. The period between the end of May and the beginning of September is the best time to visit, since it rarely gets too hot here. Still, avoiding late July and early August is maybe a good idea, though, since the tourist season’s peak brings a lot of people to the city. In any case, thanks to the moderate climate, you will be able to fully enjoy the numerous tours, sights and events in the city.
As mentioned, this is the northernmost city in the country, but it is also one of the fastest growing cities in the US, too. This is also where the global brands Starbucks and Boeing were born. However, what is particularly impressive is the importance of education and culture in this city’s everyday life. This is the place with the biggest percentage of people with at least a college degree in the country, and four out of five people are members of the local public libraries. Finally, we can’t skip the fact that this is where grunge music was born (think bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam…), but artists like Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix also spent a part of their early carriers here and were influenced a lot by the city.
Follow this guide and make the best of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do on your one day in Seattle.
So, you want to see Seattle in a day. Then why not begin your sightseeing tour from Pioneer Square, the place where everything began for the city? This is the location where Seattle’s founders first settled in 1852, but the whole area burned to the ground in 1889. However, after that the area was filled with beautiful stone and brick buildings which are still very much here and give this part of the town a very distinct historical note. If you’re into architecture, this is a must-see on your route.
Grabbing a cup of coffee and strolling through this picturesque place certainly seems like a great way to start the day. What’s more, after that you don’t have to go too far to grab a late breakfast or an early brunch.
After visiting the oldest part of the town, head north along the 1st Avenue. It will only take you about 15 minutes on foot to reach the Pike Place Market. Now, this really is something special, and the location receives literally millions of visitors every year. The market was opened in 1907 and has been working ever since, which makes it the longest non-stop running market in the US. A huge variety of seafood is everywhere you look, with numerous shops and restaurants popping up all around you. The market is famous for its fish throwing, something that is done every time a fish is sold. You simply buy something and wait for it to come flying to you. And if fish isn’t your cup of tea, you can always check out the original Starbucks here. You can book Pike Place Market tour here and enjoy tasting market’s finest food!
Once you’re done with the fish market, continue following the 1st Avenue until you get to Broad Street and turn right. You will soon come face to face with the most famous building in town and something that’s on everyone’s Seattle itinerary – the Space Needle. This 600-foot tower was built back in 1962 and provides a mesmerizing view of the city’s skyline and the nearby Mount Rainier. It is recommended you secure your tickets ahead of time, since most tourists want to get to the tower’s observation deck, so you may not be able to get in if you’re not careful. Just below the deck is a revolving restaurant where you can also soak up the incredible view and have the most memorable meal of your life.
While the Space Needle is this city’s greatest attraction, you can get an even better view of Seattle from Columbia Tower. This is the tallest building around, and it has a recently renovated observation deck on the 73rd floor. A huge black tower less than a mile from Pioneer Square, it is cheaper, less crowded and taller than the Needle.
If you have the time, do check out some of the numerous tours Seattle offers. The Underground History Tour will literally take you underground and show you a unique view of the city’s past. Food tours are also incredibly popular, so this is a must if you’re a foodie because you will be able to taste various specialties of this area.
If you want to do something slightly more unconventional, you can go on a search for Seattle’s Fremont Troll. Spoiler: this huge sculpture is located beneath the Aurora Avenue Bridge, so it’s not exactly downtown, but if you want to explore the wider city area, this is a great way to do it. The sculpture is a modern take on the old Nordic myth of trolls living under bridges, and tourists absolutely love this place. The troll is actually holding a life-size replica of a VW Beetle in one of its hands, so you can imagine quite vividly how big the statue is. It’s a great place to take pictures, you don’t have to pay anything, plus kids love it. Check it out!
At the end of your day in Seattle, you will surely want to rest and unwind a bit. Exploring Seattle nightlife is a great way to see how the people here have fun, and you have a wide variety of bars and restaurants to choose from. No matter if you want to enjoy your evening in a classy fashion or if you’re prepared to go clubbing, you will surely find a great place.
But one thing we need to emphasize here is that Seattleites absolutely love beer. Therefore, you will find quite a lot of microbreweries in the city. Plenty of clubs with all kinds of music can be found too, so give local DJs a chance and you won’t regret it. Trinity Nightclub is always a great place to do that.
Hyatt House Seattle Downtown
201 Fifth Avenue North, South Lake Union
Hyatt House Seattle Downtown has everything you could want from a hotel in a city like this. It is located literally across the street from Seattle’s main attraction (the Space Needle), but that’s not its only advantage. They will also provide you with a completely free shuttle ride in a one-mile radius around the hotel, which is more than enough to get you to your location no matter what you want to do in downtown Seattle. The rooms are well equipped, and each one has a terrace. On top of that, the hotel also has its own mini-market. If you’re looking for a complete package, you won’t find a much better deal than this.
Staypineapple at The Maxwell Hotel
300 Roy Street, Queen Anne
Another hotel with a great destination, The Maxwell Hotel puts you on the northern edge of Seattle’s downtown. It’s not too hectic, but you’re not out of the loop either. The Space Needle is close by, and if you want to go further downtown, you can always hop on the monorail which is just a few minutes’ walk from the hotel. Excellent beds, wooden floors and huge flat-screen TVs guarantee that you will be comfortable in every room, plus you can always relax in the hotel’s pool. Oh, and don’t forget about free coffee and pineapple cupcakes you can get after lunch. They’re delicious!
Green Tortoise Hostel Seattle
105 1/2 Pike Street
Green Tortoise Hostel Seattle is the perfect place for all young travellers. It is located right next to the Pike Place Market, meaning you will be within a walking distance from all major attractions. Free luggage storage and WiFi is a given, and you will be able to use the hostel’s well-equipped kitchen or rent a bike. Great and friendly staff is always at your disposal, and you can even book a tour with them if you want somebody to show you around town, so there is really no reason whatsoever not to enjoy your stay here.
– Seattle CityPass is your friend! Many people here and see all the attractions only to realize later that they could’ve paid much less for everything. Seattle CityPass is a package deal that allows you to enter five main attractions (Space Needle included) for half the price. You can buy purchase it online or at any of the attractions, and the price is 89$ for adults and 69$ for children.
– Traffic can be pretty bad here, so a smart thing to do would be to rent a bike or simply walk to your destinations. Don’t worry, there are loads of bike lanes and public transport options, plus the city is really easy to walk through.
As you can see, you don’t have to worry about what to do in Seattle in one day. However, if you’re staying in this city for a longer period, making a day trip from Seattle is an excellent idea. But where should you go? Here’s what people like to do the most when in this part of the world.
Visit Northwest Trek Wildlife Park
The nature around Seattle is astonishing. Emerald City, indeed. If you want to enjoy its beauty to the fullest, go and visit Northwest Trek Wildlife Park and you won’t be sorry. The part is just over 50 miles south from Seattle, so you will want to take a car there, and its biggest attraction is the tram tour showing you animals in the open. If you want to walk, no problem – more than five miles of trails are there for you to enjoy. On top of that, there is also walking to which is much like any conventional visit to the zoo.
Hop across the border and see Vancouver
As we said, the city is just about 100 miles from the Canadian border. So why not visit Canada? Make a day trip from Seattle to Vancouver and get a sense of the Canadian way of life. You can get there by train, bus or car, whichever you prefer, and the journey takes about three and a half to four hours. If you get an early start, there will be plenty of time to do some sightseeing, visit some of the marvellous museums, grab something to eat or maybe even go on a romantic horse-drawn tour through Stanley Park.
Visit Mt. Rainier National Park
Another place of immense natural beauty around here is the Mt. Rainier National Park. You can see Seattle mountains clearly (if the weather is good) when you climb the Space Needle, and if you want to go there, a tour can be easily arranged. Most hotels have the option of providing a bus for you to visit this, so you don’t even need your car. After a presentation in the park’s visitor centre, you will be able to enjoy serene meadows, incredible waterfalls and pristine nature all around you. The tour ends with the bus dropping you off at your hotel.
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).