This post is also available in: French
If you’re planning on visiting Seattle but aren’t sure where to start, read on to discover the three-day itinerary that I created after my recent trip. Seattle is a modern, cool, quirky city that not only offers excellent things to do downtown but also has a wealth of natural attractions on the outskirts. First-time visitors will, of course, want to visit the Space Needle and the Original Starbucks, so this three-day Seattle itinerary allows you to explore the highlights and much, much more!
The Best Time To Visit Seattle
Seattle has a very changeable climate depending on the time of year so you’ll want to plan your trip carefully to ensure you have the weather to be able to make the most of this amazing city! The best time of year to visit Seattle is during the summer months of June to August, as these are the months that have long, clear, sunny days. At this time of year, the weather is warm enough to enjoy hiking, walking in the city parks and sight-seeing and the clear skies enable you to admire epic views from the top of the Space Needle (which are harder to come by during other seasons!).
Of course, there will be times during late spring and early autumn that also offer dry, clear days, but as it’s nature, these can’t be guaranteed. Therefore, if you wish to travel to Seattle at another time of year it’s worth packing plenty of layers and some waterproof footwear and clothing so you are prepared for every eventuality.
Seattle is known for being quite a rainy destination in winter, so unless you don’t mind a bit of drizzle, you might want to avoid this season altogether. Rainy season can last from September all the way to March in particularly bad years, so if hiking is on your agenda or you can’t stand the rain, opt for one of the summer months.
Because the weather is so much better in summer this does mean that prices tend to be high and places are a little more crowded (particularly around Mt. Rainer and the National Parks), but as long as you plan accordingly you can still have a fantastic trip.
How To Get To And From The Airport In Seattle
There are a number of ways to get from Sea-Tac Airport to downtown Seattle and the option you choose depends on your budget, the amount of luggage you have and whether you will be doing any traveling outside of the city during your trip or just staying downtown.
Take the Light Rail
The easiest and cheapest option that most travelers choose when getting from Seattle airport to downtown is the Light Rail service. This railink leaves from outside the airport (around 10-15-minute walk) and takes approximately 40 minutes to reach downtown. The price of a single from the airport to downtown on the Light Rail is just $3.00, so it’s a great choice for budget travelers or those who’d prefer to save their money for activities.
Of course, if you have loads of luggage you might not want to walk 15 minutes to the station, in which case an alternative option may suit you better.
Take A Taxi
Seattle has both licensed City of Seattle cabs and also Uber and Lyft services available from the airport so you can choose a taxi to suit you. Prices vary depending on the time of day you travel and whether you are sharing your cab or hiring it exclusively. The cheapest Lyft rideshare services from the airport to downtown start at $14 or $29 for a private car. Uber is a little more expensive, approximately $29-37 for an Uberpool and $33-42 for an UberX. For these services, you will need to go down to the parking lot on the third floor where there is a rideshare pickup zone.
Alternatively, you can hop in a taxi from the rank outside the airport, which is likely to cost around $50 at non-peak times and can get up to $75 in rush hour! There is a set rate of $2.70/mile plus pickup fees and delay charges. Going back to the airport from downtown is usually charged at a flat fee of $40.
Take A Shuttle
If you have a lot of luggage but don’t want to take a taxi then the happy medium is a shuttle service, also known as an Airporter. Shuttle Express and Speedi Shuttle have service running from Sea-Tac to the city, with costs starting from $15.99 (Speedi) and $18 (Shuttle Express).
Hire A Rental Car
Lastly, if you think you will be traveling in and out of the city during your time in Seattle, you may want to hire a rental car. All the major US rental car providers have offices in the airport so you can book online in advance or just turn up and see what’s available. This is a good option if you are staying somewhere further out of the center or somewhere that has parking, but please be aware that parking at downtown hotels can be very expensive!
How To Get Around Seattle
Getting around Seattle depends on where you want to go and how much you like walking! Seattle is a really beautiful city so wandering around on spring/summer days can be wonderful, but if you want to simply get from A to B you may be looking for other options. The easiest option to get directly to your destination is to use Uber which is available all over the city. This is cheap and reliable and there are plenty of drivers both day and night.
Alternatively, you might want to use public transport in which you’ll want to look up the Link Light Rail, the King County Metro Transit and the Seattle Streetcars. Each of these has different routes and destinations so you’ll need to do a little research to see what works for you. If you will be using public transport a lot during your time in Seattle, you may want to purchase an ORCA card, a transit pass that can be used on all of the above services. In addition, the Seattle City Pass gives you access to both city attractions and public transport, so it’s perfect for first-time visitors who want to explore the whole of the city.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that should you click on certain links, and then subsequently purchase a product, I will receive a small commission.
3 day Seattle itinerary for first-timers
3 days in Seattle: Day One
The Space Needle is probably the most famous attraction in Seattle so it’s no wonder that it’s the first thing on my three-day Seattle itinerary. This towering attraction, built for the 1962 World Fair, stands at 605ft (184m) in the heart of Seattle and is an absolutely iconic site. Guests can visit the Space Needle day and night, heading up to the observation deck to enjoy 360-degree panoramic views. The glass walls, floors, and benches may be a little much for anyone with vertigo but everyone else should enjoy the thrill of being this high up above the city!
Top Tip: As the Seattle Pass gives you day and night access during a 24-hour period, you might want to visit in the morning and then again at sunset later in the day.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Included in your ticket to the Space Needle (or your Seattle Pass) is Chihuly Garden and Glass, a beautiful museum exhibition showcasing the work of Daly Chihuly. Chihuly is an ambitious and talented artist who has created hundreds of spectacular pieces during his decades of glasswork and this exhibit combines both glass pieces and botanicals, some so stunning you won’t know if they’re natural or hand-crafted!
The Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition is located next to the Space Needle so it’s a great activity to follow on from your journey up to the observation deck.
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is an attraction that’s ideal for all the family with ever-changing exhibits centered around everything from pop stars and instruments to virtual reality, gaming, tattoos and fiction there’s enough to keep everyone interested!
This again is included in the Seattle Pass, so Day One of this Seattle itinerary will really help you make the most of your pass.
Other Attractions Nearby
Depending on how much time you have available, you may want to check out other attractions nearby such as the Pacific Science Center, the Seattle Children’s Theatre, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center and the Olympic Sculpture Park. There are plenty of options both indoors and out, so no matter what time of year you visit you’ll find something fun to do.
Kerry Park Viewpoint
To round off your first day, head up to the Kerry Park Viewpoint where you can take in a view of the whole city, Space Needed included this time. The park itself is quite small but the view of Seattle, both day and night, is spectacular. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see Mt. Rainier in the background!
You can either walk to Kerry Park or hop in an Uber/Lyft car, but either way the view is worth it.
3 days in Seattle: Day Two
Pike Place Market
Start Day Two with a visit to Pike Place Market, Seattle’s original farmers market that is home to fantastic produce and delicious eateries. Meander your way around the market trying samples and buying gifts before stopping off at one of the many great bakeries or restaurants for a coffee and a pastry to begin your day in style.
Next up is the slightly unusual attraction known as the Gum Wall. This is, as the name suggests, a wall covered in chewing gum! Located in an alley below Pike Place Market, The Market Theater Gum Wall has become a tourist destination in its own right with people flocking here to take selfies with the Gum Wall as a backdrop. While it may seem a little gross, the Gum Wall is actually quite artistic and is much loved by the City of Seattle.
The First Starbucks
Another of Seattle’s famous sites is the Original Starbucks located at the Pike Place Market. Unlike other Starbucks stores that have reinvented their style many times over the past few decades, this store has remained the same due to its historical significance. The Original Starbucks was established in Seattle in 1971 and the vintage store is a fun place to grab a coffee if you’re a Starbucks fan!
Eat Mac and Cheese at Beecher’s
Day Two of your Seattle itinerary is a bit of a foodie day, so it only seems right to continue your trip with a visit to Beecher’s. This Handmade Cheese store and cafe allows you to witness the skilled cheesemakers at work before dining on what is often referred to as the ‘World’s Best Mac & Cheese’.
Enjoy a selection of divine cheeses made west of the Mississippi and top it off with a Breadzel, a heritage grain, bready form of pretzel!
Once you’ve had your fill of Seattle’s top restaurants and cafes you might want to walk it off along the waterfront. Thankfully, Seattle has a lovely waterfront area with the Seattle Great Wheel, the Aquarium, the Wings Over Washington flying theater experience and plenty of shops and sites to keep you entertained.
From the Seattle Waterfront, you can also hop on an Argosy Harbor Cruise, a gentle ride along the water which allows you to see the city from a new angle. As you travel around the harbor you’ll discover interesting facts about Seattle’s history and landscape. From the boat, you can witness the Seattle skyline, the Elliott Bay waterfront, the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges and the city’s large shipping terminals.
If you’re interested in other Seattle tours you might like Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, a humorous walkthrough subterranean Seattle which lies under the city you see today. The city was rebuilt on top of itself after the Great Fire of 1889, so there is a whole world lying beneath the ground.
Not only is this underground site fascinating but the tour guides are hilarious too and know how to keep an audience captivated!
Back above ground is Pioneer Square, the original location that settlers stopped in when discovering the region in 1852. While this neighborhood has been through many manifestations over the years, it is still one of the most charming areas with both history and culture as well as modern architecture, sites, restaurants, and shops.
Seattle Public Library
The Seattle Public Library is your last attraction for day two and is not only an ideal for book lovers but also those interested in modern architecture. The mirrored facade of the library, with its unique shapes and angles, is highly attractive and provides dazzling light and reflections throughout the day. While it is very much still a public library, visitors are able to go inside to view the internal space and are welcome to enjoy a cup of coffee from the on-site cafe.
3 days in Seattle: Day Three
Located around 25 miles north of Seattle, the Boeing Future Of Flight Tour allows you to witness some of the world’s largest and most famous planes before they take to the sky. This tour enables to you see production processes of the 747, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliners during a 90-minute tour of the factory while learning about the history of these huge planes.
The Boeing factory is the largest building in the world by volume, which I guess it has to be to fit in all those planes!
Guests can either self-drive out to the factory, or take a guided tour from downtown Seattle.
Capitol Hill Neighbourhood
The Boeing Tour returns to downtown Seattle around 2 pm so you’ll have the rest of the afternoon to catch up on any attractions you missed or would like to go back to. If you want to discover even more of the city, head over to the Capitol Hill Neighbourhood, an area known for its stylish boutiques, LGBTQ-friendly nightlife, thrift shops and its variety of restaurants.
You can easily while away the afternoon/evening here, wandering the streets, checking out the lively local scene and visiting the Original Starbucks Reserve Roastery. You can even take a tour of the Roastery diving into the history of Starbucks, learning how the coffee goes from farm to cup and tasting samples led by Starbucks Certified Coffee Masters.
Where to stay in Seattle
If you want to be in the heart of Seattle then you’ll want to seek out a hotel in the Downtown district. This area is home to Pike Place Market, the waterfront and big-brand shopping so is ideal for first-time visitors. Downtown Seattle is also the best place to stay if you are a business traveler. The State Hotel is a modern, stylish hotel that is located just 550 yards from Pike Place and it also boasts a terrace, bar and an on-site fitness center. Another great option in Downtown Seattle is the Kimpton Palladian Hotel, an artsy property that features a daily wine hour, free bike hire and an excellent location.
Belltown is a cool area of Seattle situated just north of downtown which not only features a range of chic bars and boutiques but also offers some amazing apartments and hotels. Ace Hotel in Belltown epitomizes the trendy vibe of the area with minimalist décor and edgy, cool styling. Alternatively, you could opt for one of the luxurious suites at WhyHotel Seattle which features fully-equipped units as well as a shared fitness center and lounge.
As I mentioned early, Capitol Hill is a fun and stylish region and is a particularly good option for the LGBTQ community who want to enjoy the welcoming, vibrant nightlife. This is definitely the spot to go if your Seattle travels are going to be more centered around partying than sight-seeing. One of the best places to stay in Capitol Hill is the Gaslight Inn, an amazing property that has become a landmark in its own right! This home-from-home features a swimming pool, communal lounge, and pretty gardens and each room is individually decorated to make it feel warm and cozy.
Now you know all you need to about planning a trip to Seattle, from how to get there and get around to when is the best time to year to travel to Seattle as well as what to do when you’re there! I really hope you’ll enjoy Seattle as much as I did!
Let me know your thoughts about this incredible city in the comments below.