Seattle is one of my all time favorite cities to visit. The mountains surrounding the city and to some extend the weather reminds of my native city Kathmandu. Seattle is big enough to call a major metropolitan but with population small enough to not make you crazy like some of the big US cities. I recently went to Seattle. This was my second time in the city. I feel confident enough to recommend few places for anyone visiting for the first time. Hence I created this city guide. Hope you find it useful.
Where to stay?
The city of Seattle offers many accommodations whether it is luxury hotel or a casual Airbnb. Ananta and I were in Seattle during one of the major holiday weekend. In addition to being a holiday weekends, Seattle was also hosting PAX and Bumbershoot. Hotels were in high demand and pretty expensive. So we decided to stay in Bellevue; a neighboring city within the metropolitan which is about 16 minutes drive from downtown Seattle. We rented a car for our trip so we didn’t mind being a little way from the heart of the city. It definitely saved us some money on our hotel. We also got free parking which is usually a big hidden cost that we sometimes fail to take into account.
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What to do?
Seattle weather can change very fast. So if hiking is in your itinerary and your first day in Seattle is turning out to be beautiful then hike that day. Our first 3 days were beautiful. The skies were clear so we had a very good view of Mt. Rainier even from the city. But hiking up to Mt. Rainier was a different story. You truly see the enormity of the mountain.
Another option to view Mt. Rainier would be to go to observation deck in Space Needle. Lines can get crazy so make sure to buy the ticket ahead of time or buy at one of their kiosks. Even better if you go early morning or late evening. You can get discounted tickets plus the queue going up won’t be as long as in peak hours of the day. And if hiking or paying a fee, standing in line is not an option for you, I suggest heading to Kerry Park in Queen Anne. Parking can be a hassle but once you find parking you not only get a view of the mountain but city as a whole.
If you are a hiker and Mt. Rainier National Park doesn’t satisfy your hunger or hiking to see a mountain is not your thing and you have spare time then I suggest taking a 2.5 hours drive to Olympic National Park. It has beautiful rocky beaches. Just search for “beaches in olympic national park” over the internet and you will see what I am talking about; a sight worth driving!
There are lot of places within the city for sightseeing. You can walk around the city or drive like we did or get one of those city LimeBike. You can go check out the bustling Pike Place market, grab a coffee from the first Starbucks or get a Piroshky from Piroshky Piroshky. Warning, lines at both these places are very long. Or you can stop at one of the cute little cafes in Post Alley. Mornings by the water body is always fun. I highly suggest taking a walk along the pier. I also loved walking in neighborhood like Ballard. There was a farmer’s market in Ballard the last time I visited. It was truly lively! Discovery Park is another option if you want to go for a walk or get away from urban life. Also don’t forget to check out the troll in Fremont. It will surely excite your younger company.
Washington is famous for aviation. The largest Boeing manufacturing plant (Future of Flight) is in Mukilteo, 30 minutes drive north of Seattle. You can choose to buy tickets for only Aerospace Gallery or do the tour of the whole plant. I suggest the second one. I also suggest buying the tickets in advance as they get sold out pretty fast. A lot of test flights happen here before the jumbo jets are sent to their rightful owners so you never know what you will see in the runway. I enjoyed every bit of this tour. You should have seen the smile on my face but cameras were not allowed during the tour.
Another attraction for AvGeeks like us is the Museum of Flight. Unlike the Future of Flight, this one is about the history of aviation. This showcases different planes, not just Boeing. However the original Boeing building is housed in the perimeter for this museum. The highlight for me was getting a chance to go inside Concorde and Air Force One.
If you have done everything you could possible do in Seattle, I suggest taking a day trip to Bainbridge Island. You can either drive which takes a little over an hour from downtown Seattle or take a 20 minutes ferry ride. You can choose to take your car or not. Tickets can be bought right at the pier. If you decide to take your car, make sure to follow the sign painted on the road to find waiting area for cars. We got lost for good 15 minutes! There are also many parking areas on the opposite side of the pier if you decide not to take your car.
One thing that I really wanted to do but ran of time was whale watching. There are lot of tour companies that offer whale watching. They have ferries that pick you up right from Seattle and take you to San Juan island. Keep in mind these tour takes almost all of your day. So if you are in time crunch, maybe keep this for your next visit.
Where to eat?
Seattle offers a great selection of restaurants but seafood is their speciality as it is very close to water body. Elliot’s Oyster House is right on pier so if your itinerary includes evening stroll in Seattle’s water front, then this restaurant fits perfectly. Other local favorites includes Pike Place Chowder,Taylor Shellfish, Ivar’s Seafood Bar. If you looking for casual eateries then there are many around Ballard and Fremont area. French inspired Bastille Cafe and Bar, The Walrus and The Carpenter comes to mind. Percy and Co. was one other place in Ballard that was highly recommended by my readers and by many food/restaurant websites but our experience was a bit on the opposite side. I don’t like to leave a bad review for anything as I truly believe that no business tries to give you bad service (or food in this case) but we found both our orders for brunch at Percy and Co. very dry. It could very well be a fluke but we weren’t very impressed given that this place is highly rated/recommended.
Seattle also has a big choice for Asian restaurants. During my last visit, my ex-roommate who now lives in Seattle took me for dim sum at Din Tai Fung in Bellevue. I loved it then so I went this time as well. I still love it! Just a note, this place gets really crowded during dinner times. If you are looking for a brewery, I recommend Optimism Brewery in Capitol Hill. Also while you are in Capitol Hill don’t forget to grab donuts from General Porpoise.
Bainbridge has its own selection of eateries. We had lunch at Cafe Nola. I enjoyed my tacos but Ananta wasn’t impressed with his fish and chips. Some other places that were recommended include Via Rosa 11 Italian
That was a whole lot of food! Let’s talk coffee. Seattle is a true coffee lover’s paradise. There is a coffee shop (sometimes 3 at once) in every block and corner. I have never felt so anxious deciding which coffee shop to go to. I was literally a bit stressed out. Since there is a big selection for coffee shops in Seattle, I decided to make a separate post of my favorites. Read it here.
Where to shop?
Downtown Seattle has a lot of shopping options. The retail scene is pretty good within downtown Seattle. Pike Place market offers variety of goods from local vendors. Likewise there are many local boutique stores in Seattle neighborhoods like Fremont, Capitol Hill, Queen Anne and Ballard. Bainbridge Island offers it’s own unique boutique stores for home and self. Bellevue also has its own malls for both high street and high end likes.
Hope this city guide was helpful. Let me know if there is anything else that is a must see/visit in Seattle that I need to include. Also don’t forget to visit my Seattle travel diary from 2015 here.