Andy Hayes is an affordable luxury travel expert now based in sunny Portland, Oregon – but still spends plenty of time in his former hometown of Seattle.
Seattle Washington is one of the most diverse cities on the west coast, and often time I think it’s given a mistaken impression, since many travel articles I see focus solely on clichéd stereotypes of the city, such as drinking Starbucks and visiting the Space Needle while the rain outside howls. While there’s nothing wrong with doing either of these things (or doing both at the same time), and yes it does rain here plenty, the city has so much more to offer.
What are the Highlights of Things to Do in Seattle Washington?
It’s hard to narrow down a list of things to do in Seattle unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. Art would be high on my list – both the Seattle Art Museum and the brand new Chihuly Glass and Gardens (right under the Space Needle) offer a great experience and you’ll be impressed with their galleries infused with a sense of Pacific Northwest flair.
Food is another option, considering Seattle’s penchant for local food. From locally-made baked goods to locally-made chocolates, go local and you’ll be fine.
Where is the best place to stay in Seattle Washington?
Many of the hotels are downtown, and this is a great choice because then your transportation options are fairly flexible. The Westin is a good choice, both location-wise and the opportunity for great views, and it also has a number of bars and restaurants in that area. I also love the very affordable Homewood Suites; the location is in between downtown and Capitol Hill, so it is easy to walk pretty much anywhere.
Hotel prices vary greatly depending on the season, so I always advise taking care of your accommodation plans in advance. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, downtown is quite busy, as well as most weekends during summer.
How do you get around in Seattle Washington?
When you can, walk. You never know what you might miss by rushing from one stop to the other, and Seattle’s many hills guarantee good views hiding in all directions. Seattle’s public transport system leaves a lot to be desired, but is a relatively easy way to get from one place to another. The light rail offers airport service, whereas the bus will take you to most other destinations. Thankfully, drivers are usually accommodating when you need help finding your way.
I don’t normally recommend driving if you plan on staying in town; traffic can be awful and parking expensive.
Best places to Eat & Drink in Seattle Washington?
Seattle’s culinary reputation is understated, but you’ll find so many great options, whether you want a burger or a Cambodian curry. Many of the best eateries are found in the surrounding neighborhoods, but some local finds:
Tom Douglas is the city’s most famous chef; to get a taste of his cuisine, try Serious Pie on the north edge of downtown. No reservations taken, so be prepared to wait – it’s worth it, and much more value priced than his other establishments.
I’d be remiss without sending you for fish and chips at Ivar’s. There are a few of them but the best one is down on the waterfront, where you can watch the birds dive-bomb and attack for their share of your French fries.
In Capitol Hill, there are lots of fantastic places to eat, but I love the Guanaco’s Tacos Pupuseria, a very casual El Salvadorian restaurant tucked away in a building right off Broadway.
For drinks, you’ll want to down a pint at one of Seattle’s many breweries – and you don’t have to go far, there’s one underneath Pike Place Market! Downtown has many cocktail and wine bars – if you are a wine drinker, be sure to sample a Washington wine, which are often the cheaper item on the menu (and many locals would say, the best tasting item on the menu) – Belltown is a popular spot for those looking for a night out.
Where are the best places to shop in Seattle Washington?
If you’re looking for boutiques and off-beat souvenirs/gifts, Fremont and Capitol Hill are the two most popular neighborhoods. Just wander and see what you find – the eclectic finds tend to change on a regular basis.
In addition, most travelers budget a few dollars to spend in Nordstrom, which is actually from here in Seattle. I’ve not been in many Nordstroms world-wide, so I can’t say if it’s different than the others, but it’s worth having a look around.
Activities or tours you shouldn’t miss in Seattle Washington
If the weather is nice, I definitely suggest a boat ride out on the sound – the views of the Seattle skyline are surreal. If you prefer things more quirky, then the “Ride the Duck” tour is certainly unique, and will highlight some parts of Seattle travelers don’t often see.
Best kept secrets
Starbucks is from Seattle, but so are many other coffee roasters. Try a cup at either Victrola (2 locations on Capitol Hill) or Espresso Vivace (found throughout the city) and see what you think of not just the coffee, but the Seattle café experience.
Another thing I like about Seattle that is often missed is the architecture. A ride up the old elevators of Smith Tower is much more atmospheric than the Space Needle, and the views are superb. Also, while at Postcard Park in Queen Anne (where many go to take photos of the skyline), consider wandering this hilly ‘hood, as the old stately homes are stunning.