A Weekend in Seattle: A Local’s Guide for a Visitor

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Soaring mountain ranges. A sparkling bay dotted with ferries. Colorful house boats. Seattle, Washington is a one-of-a-kind gorgeous city, nestled between the Cascade and Olympic Mountain Ranges, tucked on the edge of Puget Sound, and sitting in the shadow of the towering Mount Rainier.

Beyond its epic landscape, Seattleites, an eclectic mix of punk rock oldtimers, tech bros zipping around on one wheelers, and outdoor enthusiasts, make the city even more vibrant.

If you’re visiting Seattle for the weekend and trying to figure out how to make the most of your time, you’re in luck! I’ve lived in Seattle for three years now and have created this guide, with everything from where to stay to the best places to score a cocktail, just for you.

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Table of Contents

How do you get to Seattle?

Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. For most visitors, your best option will be to fly in to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (often called “Seatac”), about a twenty minute drive from downtown Seattle.

I visited Seattle a couple of times from my previous home of St. Louis and airfare was often REALLY expensive- to get the best deals on flights, I swear by using the site Skyscanner, which helps you find the cheapest flights, set alerts for routes to certain cities, and other money saving hacks. 

To get from Seatac to downtown Seattle, you can either grab an Uber or Lyft or take the Sound Transit’s Link light rail, departing approximately every 15 minutes (adult fares are between $2.25 and $3.25; trains run around 6 AM to midnight daily).

If you’re primarily staying downtown during your visit, I wouldn’t recommend renting a car (parking can be challenging and can definitely add up), but if you plan on exploring different neighborhoods in the city or even beyond Seattle-city limits (like to Mount Rainier or Olympic National Parks), picking up a rental car is probably a good idea.

When should you visit Seattle?

Inarguably, the best time to visit Seattle is in the summertime, which, unfortunately, is also the most popular time to visit. With warm, but pleasant temperatures (with average highs in the mid-70s) and clear sunny skies, summer in Seattle (from about June through August) is nothing short of magic and is the best time to take advantage of Seattle’s gorgeous outdoor scene.

View from Alki Beach of the Olympic Mountains at sunset in Seattle

Fall (September through October) is a close runner-up, though- while the weather stays pretty warm (with average highs in the mid-60s), the skies generally remain fairly clear and pricing on flights and hotels may be a bit more stomachable.

Winter and spring (November through April) are the low season and generally pretty rainy, although the rain tends to be more of a mist (frequently called by locals as “mizzle”- mist plus drizzle), rather than an intolerable downpour. Further, the temperature rarely dips below the high-30s here, so if you’re a budget traveler and don’t mind getting mizzled on (just go with it), it may just be the perfect time to visit!

Woman sitting on a railing with Pier 57 and the Seattle Greet Wheel in the background in Seattle, Washington

Things to know about Seattle before visiting

When talking to friends and family outside of Seattle or folks who may have previously visited the city on a quick trip, I’ve realized a lot of people have some misconceptions or an incomplete view of the city. So here are some things you should probably know about the city before your visit (which may or may not make your time exploring Seattle a bit better):

Seattle and Washington state have a vibrant Native culture.

Seattle is the ancestral land of the Duwamish Tribe and is the only major U.S. city named after a Native chief, Chief Si’ahl (pronounced “See-ahlth) of the Suquamish and Duwamish people.

There are 29 federally recognized tribes through Washington state alone and Washington public schools have actually implemented a curriculum called “Since Time Immemorial”, which shifts elementary history lessons from being Euro-centric and provides deeper context around the history of Washington’s Native people (uh, can a 30-something sign up for that? Asking for a friend).

You can find out more about Native art and culture at several museums and galleries in the Seattle area, including the Suquamish Museum, the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, the Seattle Art Museum, and Steinbrueck Native Gallery

Seattle is EXPENSIVE.

While Seattle was a much smaller and more affordable city through the 1990s, something changed all of that- the tech boom. With companies like Amazon and Microsoft exploding here, more and more people are moving to the area, with plenty of 20-something software engineers, making multi-six figures a year, running (or more often, one wheeling) around the city.

With that sort of wealth, the prices of everything, from housing to cocktails and coffee have steadily increased over the last two decades. So don’t be surprised to see $15 cocktails and $25 burgers- I’ve lived here for almost three years and, having moved from one of the cheapest cities in the United States, I still get sticker shock!

View of the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park, with Mount Rainier in the background, at sunset

Seattle has a large homeless population. 

My point above relates directly with this one. With the significantly increased prices over the last decades, many Seattleites were priced out of their homes and were forced to move- or worse.

Seattle has a homelessness crisis- in 2020, it was estimated that some 12,000 individuals were experiencing homelessness in the city. During your visit, you will absolutely see people living in tents, tarps, brokedown RVs, or sleeping bags on the sidewalk (especially in the downtown, Pioneer Square, or Capitol Hill neighborhoods) and next to highways.

If you have some extra food (or better yet, socks, which I understand is one the most coveted items for homeless people) to share, it will absolutely be appreciated by these folks, who are real humans, with hopes and dreams and feelings. They are not a nuisance and rather, represent a failure in our country to provide adequate resources, including affordable housing and substance abuse treatment, for the most needy amongst us.

Many homeless people are also grappling with mental health issues and while observing someone experiencing a mental health crisis may feel a bit scary, please remember that these folks are in a much scarier situation than you and they’re extremely unlikely to cause you harm.  If you’d like to do something to help, consider donating to the Compass Housing Alliance or FareStart, which are both committed to providing resources to homeless individuals in the Puget Sound area. 

It can rain… a lot.

Because of its location near the Pacific Ocean, Seattle is one of the cloudiest cities in the United States and gets a fair amount of rain, about 38 inches per year. This is actually on par with the United States average as a whole (and interestingly, my previous home of St. Louis in the Midwestern United States got 42 inches per year). 

As mentioned above, though, instead of a day or two of pouring rain every other week, as is typical in many American cities, Seattle’s precipitation is more of a constant mist or drizzle (my husband and I like to call it *mist kisses*) in the winter and spring months and rarely does it steadily downpour.

For this reason, many Seattleites refuse to use umbrellas as a sort of Pacific Northwest badge of honor. Not to worry, though- I live and work here and use an umbrella, well, whenever an umbrella is needed and I haven’t been kicked out yet!

Woman wearing a raincoat and an umbrella, looking over the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park

What to pack for Seattle

I trust you can figure out how many pairs of underwear and socks to pack, but here are some things I’d recommend throwing in your carryon (I’m planning on upgrading my well-loved carryon to this backpack) before your trip.

Rain gear:

One more time for the people in the back- it can be quite wet in Seattle! I’d recommend packing a decent raincoat (here’s an option for men) and an umbrella. I also think that rainboots are quite cute, especially with dresses, but since they’re not easily stowed in a carry-on, you could alternatively bring some other type of waterproof shoe, like a hiking boot (like this one or this one). These type of shoes will both keep your feet nice and dry and come in handy if you plan on exploring Seattle’s gorgeous natural surroundings!

Hiking clothes:

While the city of Seattle is awesome, a lot of its charm (at least, in my opinion) lies in the gorgeous surrounding landscape. If you plan on taking advantage of all this natural beauty during your time in the area, be sure to bring along hiking boots, pants that are comfortable to hike in, and a Nalgene bottle so that you can take along plenty of water.

Woman sitting at the Gobbler Knob's Lookout in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington

Swim gear:

If you come in the summertime, one of my absolute favorite things to do is go kayaking or paddleboarding in Seattle’s many bodies of water, set against the iconic Seattle skyline.

So be sure to pack a swimsuit (I have one of these in white and red for that Baywatch effect and here’s an option for the fellas) and some quick-drying shorts that can double as your walking out and about wear and for your time spent in the water (I have a pair like these and here’s an option for men). No one likes swamp butt!

Casual clothing:

I like to know the vibe of the city I’m visiting- for example, New York City and Tokyo are very fashion forward, whereas Palm Springs has kind of an upscale desert hipster aesthetic.

Seattle has a very laid back culture and you’ll be hard pressed to find any restaurant or bar in the city where you’ll be out of place wearing a decent pair of jeans. If you do want to fit in, you’ll never go wrong with packing a flannel shirt (like this or this)- there are days where my whole work team will show up to work, all wearing plaid!

Woman holding a coffee mug and sitting on a stoop

A jacket:

One of my favorite things about Seattle is that it pretty much stays between 45-75 degrees year-round, which means I’m rarely freezing or profusely sweaty. That being said, it’s often just a bit chilly, especially when wandering down the city’s streets or dining outdoors. I’d recommend packing a light jacket- I like this faux leather one (plus, you’ll fit into Seattle’s “I’m so hardcore!” theme) or this option for men.

Where to stay in Seattle

Seattle is a city of neighborhoods- it’s really hard to get a good picture of what Seattle is like without exploring several different areas.

That being said, there are a couple of neighborhoods in Seattle to stay in that make a bit more sense for visitors than others. For example, if you stay in downtown Seattle, you’ll have easy walking access to a lot of the main tourist attractions, like Pike Place Market or the Seattle Art Museum, but also close to other happening neighborhoods, packed with restaurants and coffee shops, like the popular and funky Capitol Hill or trendy Belltown. And luckily, the vast majority of Seattle’s hotels are concentrated here.

If you’re instead looking to have a bit more offbeat and “local” experience, I’d recommend checking out accommodations in the Ballard neighborhood, which has more local boutiques and SO MANY BREWERIES or Fremont, a very quirky area known for the larger-than-life sculpture of the Fremont Troll (so you can recreate some sweet scenes from 10 Things I Hate About You) and an imposing statue of Lenin. 

Fremont Troll under a bridge in Seattle
  • For staying in downtown Seattle, check out The Thompson, for a boutique hotel close to Pike Place Market or The Kimpton Hotel Vintage Seattle, for its central location and nightly (free!) wine hour. If you’re looking for more budget accommodations, The Green Tortoise Hostel’s location cannot be beat for the price.
  • For accommodations in Ballard, consider Hotel Ballard, just steps away from the neighborhood’s stylish restaurants and bars.
  • For the Fremont neighborhood, check out the HotelHotel Hostel for affordable rates and spacious private suites.

What to do in Seattle for a weekend

And finally, to the fun part- what are you actually going to do during your weekend in Seattle? I’ve got plenty of ideas for you!

Things to Do in Seattle

Pike Place Market:

Some things are touristy for a reason and Pike Place is one of them. Founded in the very early 1900s and situated right along Eliot Bay, this public market was originally founded as a place for locals to sell their fish and produce.

These days, Pike Place not only serves as one of Seattle’s top tourist attractions (and the 33rd most visited attraction in the WORLD!), but you’ll also find visitors and locals alike shopping for a variety of goods from spices to crystals and comic books and everything in between.

View down a cobblestone street leading to Pike Place Market and Elliott Bay in Seattle

The market was expanded multiple times throughout the last century, which has left several of the market’s buildings and streets built a bit haphazardly and crookedly, so it feels like you’re exploring Diagon Alley in Harry Potter (cobblestone streets and all!).

I plan on writing a whole post about Pike Place, but some of my favorite stops there include Old Stove Brewery, for craft brews overlooking the bay, Ghost Alley Coffee for artisanal coffee (in my opinion, it’s not really worth waiting in the line to go to the “first Starbucks” located in the market- mostly because it wasn’t actually the first Starbucks!), and the Three Girls Bakery, a bakery specializing in Sephardic pastries and baked goods.

Also be sure to make a quick stop at the incredibly disgusting, yet fascinating gum wall- an alleyway where thousands of visitors have stuck their used gum for over 20 years. It was named one of the top five “germiest” attractions in the world and the last time the wall was cleaned, in 2015, over 2,300 pounds of used gum were removed!

Visiting the Seattle Center:

The Seattle Center is an area north of downtown, in the lower Queen Anne neighborhood, and provides many of the city’s top attractions. You can choose to gaze up at the Space Needle, the city’s iconic spaceship-looking building constructed in 1961 for the World’s Fair, or instead, go up to its viewing deck for spectacular views of the city below ($35 per adult ticket).

Additionally, you can pop in Chiluly Garden and Glass, a museum showcasing a vast collection of the whimsical and colorful glass artworks of Dale Chiluly ($32 per adult ticket). Keep your eyes peeled for interesting events here- there’s occasionally fun stuff, like yoga classes provided in its atrium, under the magnificent glass sculptures hanging above.

View of the Space Needle from the ground in Seattle

If you plan on visiting both attractions, you can score a package deal for $49 or if you happen to be a Washington resident, you can get a discounted admission for each of the sites. 

Also in the Seattle Center is the Museum of Pop Culture ($30 per adult ticket), which, given its eye popping architecture by Frank Gehry, is hard to miss. This unique museum is basically like a shrine to all things pop culture- think a collection of Prince’s guitars, relics from campy horror movies, and an exhibit on Minecraft and its influence on our culture. 

Visiting green spaces:

While Washington has some epic scenery, you don’t have to leave Seattle’s city limits to check out some great parks. A handful of my favorites:

  • Kerry Park, a teeny public space in the Queen Anne neighborhood that provides some of the best views of the Seattle skyline;
  • Gas Works Parks, unabashedly my favorite park in Seattle, with a decaying old gasification plant in the center and a panoramic viewpoint of Lake Union and downtown;
  • Olympic Sculpture Park, a nine acre greenway set directly on the shores of Elliot Bay, with fantastic views of the Olympic Mountains and strewn with almost two dozen metal sculptures;
  • Seward Park, a green space along Lake Washington, with a great little beach, beautiful cherry blossoms in the spring, and spectacular views of Mount Rainier on a clear day; and
  • Discovery Park, the best place within city limits to go hiking, with almost 12 miles of trails to explore.
Woman standing under cherry blossom tree and looking at Mount Rainier from Seward Park in Seattle

Seattle Art Museum:

This museum boasts over 25,000 pieces of art and unlike a lot of other art museums in major U.S. cities, its collections skews more towards Native, modern, and global artists (everything from African to Australian aboriginal), rather than focusing primarily on Euro-centric artworks. If you’re an art lover or looking for a way to seek shelter from the rain for a few hours, this is a not-to-be-missed spot.

Hit the beach:

I think most people don’t think of Seattle as a beach town, but if you look closely enough, you’ll definitely find areas of the city that could easily be mistaken for San Diego, with surf shacks and colorful bungalows dotting the streets.

My two favorite beaches in Seattle are Alki, located in West Seattle (I’m biased- I live within walking distance!) with waterfront views of downtown Seattle to the east and the Olympic Mountains to the west and Golden Gardens, a popular stretch of sand with hands down some of the best sunsets in Seattle.

Couple having a picnic along Alki Beach with the Seattle skyline in the background at sunset

DIY Walking Brewery Tour in Ballard.

Did you know that Seattle has the second most breweries of any city in the United States (my hometown of Chicago holds the title on that one!)? The Ballard neighborhood is lucky enough to be home to many of them- in fact, it has 11 breweries in just one square mile!

The neighborhood has created a Brewery Passport Program– if you’ve got what it takes to collect stamps at all 11 breweries, you not only get bragging rights, but a commemorative drinkware to mark the occasion (… and also, probably a hangover).

Even if you’re not quite ambitious enough to partake in that program, stopping at a brewery here is a great way to get a peek into local life, usually see a bunch of cute dogs, and get a tasty beer. My favorite breweries in Ballard are Rueben’s Brews; Urban Family Brewing Company (THEY HAVE BEER SLUSHIES!!); and Lucky Envelope.

Kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding:

As mentioned in the What to Pack section above, this is one of my favorite summertime activities- usually a great way to workout and take in spectacular scenery in one go.

Three of my favorite spots to get out on the water are: Alki Beach (check out Alki Kayak Rentals) for great views of the skyline and a chance to even see some orcas; Ballard, where you can cruise to and get unique views of Discovery Park from your kayak (I’ve had good experiences with Surf Ballard AND have gotten to paddleboard with harbor seals here!), and on Lake Union, for spectacular views of Gas Works Park and the Space Needle (check out Moss Bay for rentals).

If you’re into a more unique or relaxing experience, you can also rent a hot tub boat that floats around Lake Union- while I’ve never personally done it (although they LOVE to advertise to me on Instagram), it seems like a perfect activity for a bachelorette party or girls trip.

Hop on a ferry boat to Bainbridge Island:

This is another classic touristy activity, but it’s a great and inexpensive way to take a boat cruise and visit a cute island town, with distinctively different vibes than Seattle. For under $10 roundtrip, you can hop on a ferry in downtown Seattle (check out schedule and fares here) and cruise 35 minutes to the quaint town of Winslow on Bainbridge Island.

Ferry boat in front of the Seattle skyline

While you’re on the ferry, keep your eyes peeled for seals and orcas, which inhabit the bay. Once you’ve arrived in Bainbridge, there’s plenty of cute shops and restaurants in the “downtown” area to keep you occupied for a few hours- some of my favorites are Eagle Harbor Book Company, Willowtree for some on-tap kombucha, and Conservatory Coastal Home, for carefully curated home goods.

Visit the Amazon Spheres:

The Amazon headquarters boast an urban garden with plants found in the Amazon rainforest (get it?), enclosed in enormous glass and metal spheres, for an interesting intersection of natural beauty and modern architecture.

Amazon Spheres in Seattle

The Spheres are intended to be a private workspace for Amazon employees, but they are usually open two Saturdays every month for public visits, by reservations only. If you can’t snag a reservation there, there’s also a speakeasy-like maritime-themed bar called Deep Dive, in the belly of the Spheres, that’s absolutely worth a visit!

Places to Eat in Seattle 

I’m planning on writing a whole post on the best places to eat in Seattle, but here are some of my absolute favorites!
Note: Justin and I follow a vegan diet, so I only recommend restaurants that offer at least one vegan or vegan-izable dish and that I think everyone will find delicious and enjoyable!

Westman’s Bagels:

I love everything about this place. It’s an open-aired bagel shop (so, quite literally, a hole in the wall) with LGBTQ+ friendly vibes and the best bagels in Seattle. 


With a spectacular brunch and stick-to-your ribs offerings (think chicken and waffles and meatloaf sliders), this is a great place to fuel up for the day and soak in some decidedly Pacific Northwestern hipster vibes. 

Good Day Donuts:

Admittedly, this is well off-the-beaten tourist path, but if you happen to find yourself in the West Seattle neighborhood (while making a stop at Alki Beach, perhaps?), do yourself a favor and pick up a salted maple doughnut. The staff here is so sweet and the doughnuts are oh so right.

Pike Place Chowder:

Unlike my previous recommendation, this is in the heart of Pike Place Market, so very much THE tourist path. So is it touristy? Yes. Will you have to wait in line? Yes. Is eating a bread bowl of the deliciously creamy chowder worth it? Also yes.

Ramen Danbo:

Hands down the best ramen I’ve had outside of Japan. Unlike a lot of ramen places, you get to customize your dish (think thin or thick noodles; how thick you want your broth; and how umami-y you like it), which makes the delicious soup that much better.

Marination Mai Kai:

This local favorite dishes up Hawaiian-Korean fusion and has a colorful patio with one of the most spectacular views in the city.

Un Bien:

Located in a part of Ballard with decidedly surf town vibes, this vibrantly-colored eatery serves up enormous and delicious Caribbean sandwiches. 

Ba Bar:

Stop in this Vietnamese restaurant for some seriously tasty pho and an awesome happy hour. 

Din Tai Fung:

With a dedicated, almost cult like following, did you even visit Seattle if you didn’t stop at this Taiwanese eatery with all the buns and dumplings your heart craves?

Pi Vegan Pizzeria:

This place is not only the oldest vegan pizzeria in the nation, but also has the kind of pizza slices your stoner friends dream up (mac n’ cheese pizza, anyone?). My life has been forever changed after having their buffalo chicken pizza and I don’t ever want to go back. 

Rachel’s Ginger Beer:

A Seattle institution with fun flavors of ginger beer, like guava and spicy pineapple, AND my beloved Dole Whip (a soft serve ice cream-like substance with a pineapple juice base, made famous by Disneyland) on tap and various libations, like whiskey and rum, for you to mix and match with your ginger beer.

Salt & Straw:

Probably my favorite ice cream joint on the planet, scooping decadent dairy and non-dairy confections, with rotating flavors like huckleberry cornbread and bourbon and caramelized honeycomb.

Places to Drink in Seattle

The Nest:

This is a rooftop bar on top of The Thompson hotel, providing panoramic views of Pike Place Market, Eliot Bay, and the Seattle Great Wheel. While you should expect to pay heartily for the views (vis a vis the price of the cocktails), it’s definitely worth a stop to catch at least one sunset over the bay. Pssst… you will need a reservation.

Bait Shop:

A lively nautical-themed bar in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, with chill vibes, delicious fries, and boozy slushies. 

The Pine Box:

Seattle has a distinctively edgy vibe and is there anything more edgy than slinging back beers in a converted mortuary? Enjoy the dozens of taps at this beer bar, while hanging out in the pews of a 1920s funeral home.

Cocktails on a railing overlooking Elliot Bay in Seattle at sunset

Knee High Stockings Co.:

I’ll probably seem mega-uncool by saying that I like speakeasies, but I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care. I love me a speakeasy. This tiny one has really unique and inventive cocktails, but more than anything, they have one of the best happy hours in the city. Plus Anthony Bourdain stopped here!

Stampede Cocktail Club:

This funky bar is run out of an old house, has a sprawling patio, and serves up some of the best cocktails in the city. If you don’t want to wait, though, be sure to get here early!

I hope your visit to my fair city is full of spectacular views and delicious eats. Am I missing any hiddens gems that you love in Seattle? Let me know in the comments below!

Cityscape of Seattle

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