72 Hours in Seattle
Unless you’re bound to a rental car or want to shell out a large sum of cash on a taxi, plan on taking the Link light rail from the airport to your hotel if you’re staying in the downtown area once you arrive in the afternoon. It will only cost you a few dollars and you’re easily guaranteed a seat since the airport is only the second stop on the line. Just be forewarned that it is a mild “hike” from the airport to the station.
The great thing about flying west is that the clock “turns back.” So plan on dropping your bags off at your hotel (although hopefully your hotel room is ready by now) and set out. Just have an umbrella with you (it is Seattle). Hopefully just carting it along will stave off the rain gods from doing their thing but if that doesn’t work, you at least will be prepared.
You’re no doubt hungry by now, so why not check out two things at once by heading to one of the city’s most beloved (and utterly mobbed) areas, Pike Place Market (and remember there’s no “s” in Pike unless you want to stand out for the outsider that you are). Coming here will allow you to feed your stomach (and wash away all tastes of that average, overpriced airport food) and also check out some incredibly cool small businesses. There are so many places to choose from to eat, just do your research in advance and come with a plan of attack (i.e. don’t aimlessly wander or you’ll end up wasting time).
Pike Place Chowder is a great spot and the lines are shorter towards the end of the day (but remember they and other places in the market area are only open until 6 PM but will stop queueing before then). There’s also a slew of international cuisine options ranging from Chinese street food (Szechuan flat breads) to Persian kebobs to crepes and much more.
If you still are craving something on the sweeter side, queue up at Piroshky Piroshky, a tiny little takeout spot serving a variety of sweet and savory Russian pastries. This line is also worth the wait, although don’t go too late in the day as they’ll also be sold out of items long before closing.
And even though you’re in Seattle, resist the temptation to get a coffee at the “original Starbucks.” The line isn’t worth the wait and your time is better spent checking out the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room which is found in Capitol Hill. While there aren’t formal tours, you can see the various stages in the coffee roasting process along with some awesome photos and incredible smells. And the best part is the “coffee bar” where more upscale coffee concoctions are offered (with higher prices to match). It’s definitely worth it.
You’ve packed a lot in for the few hours you’ve been there so call it a day and get some sleep to be armed and ready for tomorrow’s adventures.
If you’re coming from the East Coast, another great thing about flying west is that your body clock still wants to wake up “early” so you can start the day on a good foot. Since there’s still so much to see and do here, head over to Café Campagne in the Pike Place Market area for a terrific French-style brunch. Just go early since it will fill up as the morning progresses.
Another benefit of being up early is that the market won’t be “as” crowded as it is later on in the morning and in the afternoon. Just be aware of your belongings and also be prepared for some arm/body maneuvering in order to get by. The amazing flower stalls will no doubt capture your fancy and if you’re looking for a great souvenir to take home with you, check out Chukar’s Cherries. If you’ve never been the biggest fan of cherries, clearly you’ve never had them dipped in all sorts of chocolate flavors.
A slightly less crowded shopping option in the market area is the Made in Washington store. This location is right by Pike Place Chowder and only sells items made in Washington State. Everything from gorgeous pottery to smoked salmon to wine and more can be found here.
You haven’t seen Seattle until you’ve seen it from the water. While there are various tour companies that offer sightseeing cruises, opt for the more local and much less expensive option by taking the Bainbridge Island ferry. Roundtrip tickets from the city’s Pier 52 will cost you about $8 and the ride itself is about 35 minutes. Ferries leave twice an hour during the week (it’s a commuter ferry) and once an hour on the weekend. You’ll be afforded gorgeous views of the skyline (Space Needle included) although being on the open water can get quite windy and chilly so dress accordingly.
You’ll be able to see and do more on Bainbridge Island if you have access to a car, but if you don’t you can still have a pleasant wander along the water’s edge. Plan on spending as much or as little time here as you want before heading back.
After arriving back in Seattle, check out some of the shops that line First Avenue like Fran’s Chocolates (the preferred chocolatier of the Obamas) and Milagros Mexican Folk Art. And if you’re in need of some libations, Pike Place Brewing is also right here.
Depending on how you want to spend the late afternoon/evening, you can always go on a food tour or the famous Underground Tour where you can check out the part of the city that was ground level at the city’s founding in the mid-19th century. Not to mention there’s always just enjoying a nice meal out too.
If you ever dreamt of imbibing in a former speakeasy, Bathtub Gin is your place. It’s located in an alley, in a very nondescript building, complete with a smartly dressed bouncer at the door (a la Boardwalk Empire), is small beyond words and yet it’s an experience to remember. You will definitely think you’ve been transported back to the 1920s.
The city’s Belltown neighborhood is a fantastic spot to eat or just grab a drink. It has an ambiance that will definitely remind you of New York City’s West Village. Don’t stay out too late though as you have a busy day ahead tomorrow.
Start your day off right, with a doughnut that is. While they’re not nearly as famous as Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts, the sweet fried confections found at Top Pot Doughnuts still pack a mean and tasty punch and offer a wide selection of flavors too, along with a dizzying array of caffeinated options. Various locations are found throughout the city including one on Western Avenue.
While you wouldn’t know it from the sleek and shiny tall buildings you see more Uptown, the city of Seattle has very humble origins. It was by all accounts a “Western” town and no place is this more apparent than the Pioneer Square section of the city. The buildings are older and darker here and it is eerily quiet and less frenetic than what you’ll encounter 20 blocks north. The Tlingit Indian Totem pole is also not to be missed, another reminder of how deep a connection Seattle has to its Native American ancestors.
Keep heading deeper into the city’s original section and you’ll come across the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. This is a great little museum you can check out to learn all about this often forgotten period in American history (well, at least in schools on the East Coast). As it’s run by the National Park Service it’s free to enter and for kids it also offers some great interactive learning exhibits.
It may not have quite the reputation of other American cities in regards to its sports, but Seattle is still first and foremost a sports town as it’s home to major league baseball, football, and soccer. So if sports are your thing, plan on attending a game if one of the home teams is playing. Both Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field are only a short walk from the Klondike Gold Rush museum. And if overpriced stadium fare isn’t your thing, grab a quick lunch from Elysian Fields, a brewpub that’s part of the Elysian Brewing Company. You’ll definitely get in the game spirit that way as it will be mobbed with local fans.
After the game, take the Link light rail back to your hotel since the Stadium Stop is a convenient place to get on. Hopefully you’ve made dinner reservations somewhere nice, preferably along the water like Elliott’s Oyster House restaurant. Nothing beats a meal when it consists of fresh seafood and gorgeous views.
And if you’re already down at the pier, take a ride on the Great Wheel, the city’s own Ferris wheel. It’s touristy and yet you’ll have killer views of both the bay and skyline. If it’s a nice day, plan to ride it during sunset. A great way to end your final day here.
Okay, your final hours in Seattle are winding down so make the most of them. Plan on getting to the city’s most iconic landmark bright and early. Not only will tickets be less, so will the lines. And reserve your tickets in advance; there’s no reason not to. From the downtown area, hop on the monorail that was originally built for the World’s Fair when Seattle hosted it back in 1962. This used to transport fair guests from the downtown up to the Needle. Today, it’s a cheap (rides are $2.25) and quick way to get to the attraction.
While you’re up here, you’ll also want to visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass. Even if art isn’t your “thing,” you’ll still be blown away by the stunning beauty of these colorful glass creations. You can purchase a combo Space Needle ticket which will save you a little money.
You’re just about out of time in this visually unique and stunning city. Grab one final memorable meal, or do some last minute shopping. Don’t worry about when you’ll return; you will. Because there’s still that much more to see of this city that features a little bit of everything and everyone in its look and feel.