3 Days in Seattle: How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Seattle
Seattle is a beautiful city, full of things to do, see, and eat no matter what you’re into. I know, because I lived in the Seattle area for almost 20 years from elementary school to after college, and spent a large part of that time exploring all corners of the city. One of the best parts about Seattle is that no matter what you’re looking for, you’ll probably find it. And there’s most likely a passionate community that’s into the same thing as you, whether it’s craft beer or Magic the Gathering (or anything in between).
It’s also home to some of the best food, drinks, coffee, outdoor activities, and picturesque ferry rides in America. I wrote this detailed guide to 3 days in Seattle to help you plan the perfect trip to my hometown.
In this guide to planning an amazing weekend in Seattle, you’ll have time to visit the most well-known and interesting places in the city while still having enough time to wander and explore a little bit. But you’re going to be left craving more, so I guess you’ll have to find your way back.
The city is going through a massive transformation right now with all of the jobs created by Amazon (they basically built an entire area of the city, which is crazy to me), and there is not nearly enough housing for that influx of people. The result is exploding rent prices and a corresponding uptick in homeless people on the streets of Seattle. It has made for some tensions in local government recently, as the city tries to figure out how to help as many people as it can.
Why am I the right person to craft a Seattle itinerary, you ask? Seattle holds a special place in my heart. Midway through 4th grade, my family moved from Northern California to Bellevue, and I spent the next 15+ years in the great Pacific Northwest, including time in the city. I’ve done everything on this list, and have taken countless visiting friends and family on some variation of this itinerary.
If you don’t have a place to stay in Seattle, head over and read about the best places to stay in Seattle or the 11 coolest hotels in Seattle, and find the perfect home base for exploring Seattle.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.
How Many Days Do You Need in Seattle?
We think 3 days in Seattle is the perfect amount of time to see the best of the city.
You’ll have a chance to do all the “touristy” things – Pike Place Market and Seattle Center – while saving time to do our favorite thing to do in Seattle, which is to explore Seattle’s amazing, more residential neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Fremont, and Ballard.
If you have less than three days, don’t worry. Below the detailed itinerary, we have a section that lays out exactly what to do with one or two days in the city.
With two days, you’ll be able to do the highlights, but you’ll have to save a few of our favorites for your next trip.
We have an entire guide to visiting Seattle in a day, which is going to be a whirlwind, but is our best thinking on how to spend 24 hours in the city.
If you happen to have more time, there’s a section for that too.
If a weekend in Seattle spent walking, eating, and drinking your way through the city is what you’re looking for, that’s what you’re going to find in the itinerary below.
Let’s get something out of the way up front: We’d recommend skipping the Space Needle and the Seattle Great Wheel, which are both overrated and pricey, and using that time elsewhere. You will find these on most Seattle itineraries, and we’ve done both, including a ride on the Great Wheel on a rainy night when, spoiler alert, you can see almost literally nothing through the rain running down the car windows. I’m not bitter, you’re bitter!
Anyway, the point is that neither is worth the time or money. Trust us. There are better views to be had in Seattle, and we’ll tell you where to find them below.
Where to Stay in Seattle
If you’re only in Seattle for a long weekend, then we’d recommend you opt for one of the neighborhoods that is close to the Downtown Seattle core rather than some of the further out (but equally fun and exciting!) neighborhoods like Ballard and Fremont.
There are two neighborhoods we’d recommend for first-timers with 2-3 days: Belltown and Downtown Seattle. See below for some more specific recommendations to help you find the perfect place to stay.
PS: We have an entire, super detailed guide that we put together to help you find the perfect place to stay in Seattle for your particular style and budget. For more detail, definitely make sure to read that.
Belltown: Central & Hip
Walking distance to the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, Belltown is a great spot to use as your home base in Seattle. There’s a ton of bars and restaurants in the area, and you’ll basically be able to walk everywhere.
Recommended Hotels in Belltown: We have stayed at the Ace Hotel, which is a great option just north of Pike Place in the heart of Belltown (and the prices are surprisingly reasonable). Hotel Andra is another great option, and the restaurant on the ground floor, Lola, is one of our favorite gluten free restaurants in Seattle.
Downtown Seattle (Near Pike Place)
Downtown Seattle, unsurprisingly, is about as central as you can get. Specifically, we’d focus on the area immediately around Pike Place Market, which will not only put you close to the most interesting “touristy” thing to do in Seattle, but will also put you adjacent to both Belltown and Pioneer Square, which are cool parts of town.
Recommended Hotels near Pike Place Market: There are two outstanding hotels near Pike Place that should be on your list. Inn at the Market is where my mom used to stay when she came to Seattle for business (before we moved), and it’s quite literally half a block away from Pike Place Market. The State Hotel, which is also right there, is at the top of our list of the coolest hotels in Seattle.
Quick Tips for Visiting Seattle
Before we jump in, let’s cover a few quick tips for planning a trip to Seattle.
First and foremost, I want to talk about the visible unhoused population in the city.
On your trip, you will likely see signs of the homelessness crisis and relatively large unhoused population that Seattle is currently grappling with. And, to be frank, so are all of the other major cities on the West Coast.
If you’re not used to seeing the unhoused population on the street, please do your best to remember that they are people. Just like you. They aren’t an eyesore, or something that is “ruining our city” – which is something I hear far too often from Seattleites.
They are experiencing trauma brought on by a government – local and federal – that has completely and utterly failed them, and they are largely harmless. They are humans, which is something that far too many people need to be reminded of.
If that makes you uncomfortable, I’d suggest avoiding the area around Pioneer Square.
With that (somewhat sobering) note out of the way, here are a few more quick tips.
- Bring a rain jacket everywhere. At least outside of the summer months. It might not seem like it won’t be raining later in the day, but it very well might start without much warning. It doesn’t usually rain that hard in Seattle. It’s usually more like a light mist rather than a torrential downpour, which means a rain jacket is more than enough to keep you dry. I personally have and recommend the Columbia Watertight Jacket as a solid affordable rain jacket that’ll cost you less than $100, and keep you 100% dry (click here to see the version for women). If you want a performance rain jacket that can stand up to the nastiest weather, look at the Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell. Oh, And never, ever trust the weather app.
- The Downtown Core (Pike Place, Belltown, Seattle Center, Capitol Hill) is walkable, but to get to neighborhoods outside of that area you’ll need to use rideshare apps like Lyft (or rent a car, but we don’t recommend that option because parking is either expensive or a nightmare).
- Don’t buy the Seattle City Pass. It’s not worth it if your idea of a nice weekend trip is to walk, eat, and drink your way through a city. The pass – which you can read about here – includes admission to two attractions – the Space Needle (twice, which is how they make the value seem so good) and the Seattle Aquarium – plus your choice of three other attractions. If you follow our itinerary below, you’d spend less than $65, and you’ll only even spend that much if you did BOTH the Chihuly Gardens and Glass AND the Museum of Pop Culture (which, honestly, wouldn’t be a bad use of your time). The pass costs $109 for an adult, which means it’s BARELY (literally by $1) even worth it if you also do the Space Needle once. It’s only worth it if you do literally every attraction they cover, including the Space Needle twice, and we wouldn’t recommend doing that with 3 days. Or 4 days. Or any amount of time, really.
A Long Weekend in Seattle: A Complete 3 Day Seattle Itinerary
Here is how I spend a long weekend in Seattle when I’m with first-time visitors.
This itinerary is best for people who love to walk and want to see the best sights in Seattle in 3 days.
Off we go!
Day 1: Pike Place Market, Seattle Center, and the Best View in Seattle
On your first day in Seattle, start by hitting two of the biggest tourist attractions in the city – Pike Place Market and the Seattle Center – before heading up to Kerry Park to take in the best view of the city at sunset.
Pike Place Market
First of all, it’s Pike Place Market – there’s no “s” at the end (P.S. that’s how you can tell if someone is actually from the Seattle area or not).
Pike Place Market is one of those tourist attractions that is, on the one hand, very touristy in the sense that locals only really go there if they’re hosting visitors from out of town, which I am definitely guilty of. On the other hand, I’m always impressed with how cool it is.
Unlike the Space Needle (spoiler: we wouldn’t recommend it), this is one of those places that you really shouldn’t miss on your Seattle weekend adventure.
Where to Get Coffee at Pike Place Market (NOT THE FIRST STARBUCKS)
Time for a mini rant that I go into any time I hear someone talk about the “first Starbucks” at Pike Place Market like it’s anything other than a brilliant marketing job.
Some people will send you to the first Starbucks at Pike Place Market. But what if I told you that was a lie? (psst it’s a lie). It’s not actually the first Starbucks, it’s just a great marketing job.
In fact, the coffee there is exactly the same as any of the other seventeen Starbucks locations within a two block radius.
The only difference is that you will wait in a line that can be up to 40 times longer. Oh, and the siren logo still has its nipples. I guess that’s a difference too.
For better coffee – some of the best coffee in Seattle, I’d say – and shorter lines, head to Anchorhead Coffee just down the street from Pike Place Market and let’s get this party started!
A Guided Food Tour of Pike Place Market
If you’re a foodie, I’d recommend investing in a guided tour of Pike Place to dive a little deeper into the history, and, more importantly, the best things to eat and drink.
My brother gave my mom this tour of Pike Place Market a few years back as a gift, and they really enjoyed it. I also think their early morning tour, which gets you to the market before the crowds really start to arrive, is a cool way to experience the market.
Both tours include enough food to be considered a light lunch, so come hungry! You’ll taste things like cheese, clam chowder, and more. Plus, you’ll get the history and context around the market and why it’s an important landmark in Seattle.
Visiting the Market Independently
If you did not choose to take the guided tour of the market to learn about its history and taste some delicious food, which I highly recommend, here are the places you shouldn’t miss.
- Amazing Greek Yogurt: Stop by Ellenos Greek Yogurt for some of the best greek yogurt I’ve ever had in my life. Get it topped with various fruits and other sweet combinations, and walk over to…
- The Gum Wall: If you think about it, the now Insta-famous gum wall is more than a little bit gross. But it’s worth seeing. It’s tucked away basically directly below the fish throwing area of the market.
- The Flying Fish: A Pike Place classic – hang out around the fish area just across the street from Elleno’s to see the fish throwing in action. For one of my friend’s birthdays recently, we actually bought fish and other seafood here, which was a fun experience and was definitely my first time doing anything other than watching the fish fly.
- Piroshky Piroshky: A cult classic, this place has been serving up Russian pastries since the early 90’s, way before Seattle was “cool.” Various fillings are wrapped in a buttery, flaky puff pastry (I think that’s what it is, anyway) and served out of a literal hole in the wall. They have vegan and vegetarian options, but no gluten free options.
- Beecher’s Cheese: My mom gets me Beecher’s cheese every time I come home because she knows how much I love it. Their flagship cheese is to die for, and at their Pike Place outpost you can get it as a Mac & Cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich (neither are safe for Celiacs, but the cheese itself is!).
- Biscuit Bitch: Southern style biscuits and gravy with a bunch of different varieties to choose from. Follow your nose and the long lines to get here. IMPORTANT: The gluten free biscuits are made in the same area and on the same equipment as the rest, and are NOT SAFE FOR CELIACS. Everyone else go crazy.
- Rachel’s Ginger Beer makes, you guessed it, ginger beer! You can get it straight or as part of a cocktail. They have some really fun flavors, like Caramelized Pineapple and Blood Orange, and they are constantly churning out new ones. Everything they make is gluten free and dairy free.
- Indi Chocolate: I mean, high-quality, small batch, single origin dark chocolate. Need I say more? We particularly like their drinking chocolate, and there’s a fantastic view out over Seattle and the Puget Sound from the patio area right outside.
Olympic Sculpture Park
After Pike Place Market, wander north through Belltown towards the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is an outdoor art installation that is on the water with a commanding view of the Olympic Mountains across the water.
It’s a cool place to walk through, but there’s not a whole lot else to do and see here. It’s worth a stop on the way to your next destination, Seattle Center, which is where you’ll find the Space Needle.
While the Space Needle is certainly a great place to visit in terms of the area surrounding it, I actually WOULDN’T recommend going up to the top.
Sure, it’s a cool view, but it also costs an arm and a leg ($35, at the time of writing), and it’s not THAT cool.
That being said, there are some interesting things to do around it within Seattle Center, so I would still recommend heading that direction. Plus, below, I’ll give you a tip for getting the best view of the Seattle skyline – including the Space Needle.
At the Seattle Center, there are three things worth doing (plus one extra that’s a great option if you have kids). Up to you on how many of the three you choose to do yourself, but all three are cool, unique experiences (unlike going to the top of the Space Needle).
- Coffee at Caffe Vita / KEXP: I love the Caffe Vita space at the Seattle Center, in the shadow of the Space Needle. High ceilings, comfy couches, and a real operating radio station make it a very pleasant place to hang out. And Caffe Vita makes great coffee, which helps.
- The Museum of Pop Culture: Fun fact, I had my high school prom here (though at that time it was called the Experience Music Project). Today, they’ve expanded their breadth to include all things pop culture, from music to television and other forms of media. They have rotating exhibitions that are always cool, and it’s my number one recommendation for most people at Seattle Center. More information and tickets here.
- The Pacific Science Center: This is a cool stop for families with kids. We used to come here annually in elementary school. Their mission is to “ignite curiosity in every child and fuel a passion for discovery, experimentation, and critical thinking in all of us,” which I really like. They have a bunch of interactive permanent exhibits, along with a rotating seasonal exhibit that changes every so often. More information and tickets here.
- Dale Chihuly Gardens and Glass: A tribute to one of Seattle’s most famous artists, Dale Chihuly, this is a beautiful (very Instagrammable) museum featuring some of his most impressive work. His work has been featured in some of the most famous museums in the world. It’s super unique, and is made up of a few different parts. Don’t miss the Glasshouse, which is exactly what it sounds like, and the gardens, which are full of different pieces from his career. More information and tickets here.
Sunset at Kerry Park
If you’ve skipped the Space Needle, you’re probably looking for an equally impressive view of the city where you can save some money, but still get a nice view.
Ladies and gentleman, I present you Kerry Park, which is not only our favorite view of the city, but is also 100% free since it’s a public park.
It’s a short walk up the hill to reach it, and it’s worth the effort. You’ll likely share the view with a group of people, but you’ll hardly notice since you’ll be so busy picking your jaw up off the ground.
From Kerry Park, you’ll get a view out over the entire city, from the Space Needle in the foreground, to Elliott Bay and even Mount Rainier (if you’re lucky and you’re here on a crystal clear day) in the background.
It’s spectacular, and it’s worth the detour.
Pro-tip: Stop by Toulouse Petit in Queen Anne for an awesome happy hour featuring delectable Cajun/Creole cuisine. Or, if you’re on a tight budget, you can’t go wrong with Dick’s Drive-In, which is Seattle’s answer to In-n-Out. Be aware though, no substitutions!
Dinner and Drinks in Belltown
Post-sunset, head back to Belltown, which is the neighborhood just north of Pike Place, for dinner and drinks. This is our favorite part of the downtown core because it is absolutely packed with amazing bars and restaurants.
Here are a few of our favorites (some of them are on the downtown side of the border, but close enough).
For drinks, head to…
- Bathtub Gin for fancy cocktails in a speakeasy setting (yes, there is a bathtub).
- Seattle Beer Co. for a nice selection of local beers and ciders near Pike Place Market.
- Cloudburst Brewing to experience the local craft beer boom at the source.
- Navy Strength for great tropical cocktails and a fun atmosphere.
For dinner, head to…
- Serious Pie: Alysha’s favorite, this is the place to go for pizza. It’s a Tom Douglas restaurant – he’s a famous Seattle restaurateur – which means it’s probably going to be good.
- The Pink Door: Pasta and a burlesque show? It’s a really fun place for dinner (though the entertainment varies night to night). Make a reservation in advance if you can, though half of the restaurant is saved for walk-ins. At the time of writing, burlesque shows are Saturdays at 9:30 pm, and you’ll want to reserve in advance.
- Lola: One of our favorites, this is Tom Douglas’ take on Greek food. Get the haloumi and fig kebabs.
- The Alibi Room: Below Pike Place Market, this dimly lit bar serves up some great wood-fired pizza – it was a pre-Celiac favorite for Matt, and he dragged Alysha here the first time she came to Seattle with him to watch her eat one of their pizzas, despite the fact that he couldn’t eat them himself.
Day 2: Exploring Two Cool Neighborhoods – Capitol Hill and Fremont
Now that you’ve gotten the traditional “tourist” things done on your first day, spend your second day in Seattle on the parts of Seattle that we think are special – exploring some of the best Seattle neighborhoods.
In this case, we’d recommend two of our favorites: Capitol Hill and Fremont (don’t worry, we’ve got another great one – Ballard – waiting for you tomorrow!).
Exploring Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill is an amazing little area in Seattle, just east of the downtown core (it’s walkable from downtown in about 15 minutes or so). We always, always, always find ourselves in Capitol Hill when we make our way to Seattle, and it’s usually near the top of the list of places we take visitors.
If you’re a Starbucks lover you’ll definitely want to visit the very first Starbucks Reserve Roastery for an immersive dive into all things Starbucks. Unlike the “first Starbucks,” I actually think this place is worth visiting.
Even if you don’t like their coffee (guilty!) it’s a really cool experience, especially for people from out of town, and is well worth a stop on your trip. It’s a big, beautiful space with plenty of options – from traditional Starbucks drinks, to a cold brew bar and a pour over bar. Plus, all sorts of coffee gadgets and branded merchandise.
If you’re looking for some of the best coffee in Seattle, head just up the street to Victrola Coffee Roasters, or over a few blocks to nearby Analog Coffee, who brings in some of the best coffee from the Pacific Northwest from a variety of roasters.
If you’re a coffee nerd like me, read my guide to the best coffee in Seattle.
If you’re more of a tea person, head over to Atulea, a new discovery for us, and get one of their milk teas, bubble teas or matcha lattes. Get the Ube Matcha, and thank us later.
Don’t mis The Elliott Bay Book Company, a multilevel bookstore, and maybe arrive just in time for a book signing or fun event. It’s like Powell’s in Portland, which might just be my favorite place on Earth, except it’s in Seattle. It’s a must-stop for book lovers. SUPPORT INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES.
By now, you’ve probably worked up quite the appetite. Lucky for you, you’ve got plenty of options nearby. Plus two choices for ice cream. But more on that in a second.
I’d highly recommend Capitol Cider, a 100% gluten free restaurant in the heart of Capitol Hill with a great menu for lunch, brunch, dinner, and everything in between. Plus, they’ve got an impressive array of cider, hence the name. They even have 100% gluten free fish & chips!
Not into that? Head to Oddfellows Cafe (not Celiac-friendly, unfortunately, although their menu is marked gluten free) next to Elliott Bay Books and get their trademark biscuits and gravy.
No matter what you choose to do in Capitol Hill, you have to grab some of Seattle’s best ice cream. You’ve got two great choices in Capitol Hill.
First, Molly Moon’s, a local chain that is allergy-conscious (if you ask nicely, they’ll use a new scoop and scoop from a new tub) and has all sorts of rotating seasonal flavors. They now have locations all over the city, and are becoming an ice cream empire. But in a good way.
The second option, which is great for those of us who avoid gluten or dairy, is Frankie & Jo’s, which is a 100% gluten free and plant-based ice cream spot. Why not both?
Trust me, you won’t want to miss the ice cream. Even if it’s raining.
If you’re more into doughnuts, head over to General Porpoise to pay way too much for a doughnut that, ultimately, is worth it.
For afternoon drinks, check out Sun Liquor Distillery’s Sol Liquor Lounge. Creative cocktails in a trendy space with handcrafted spirits? That’s so Seattle.
An Afternoon in Fremont
After Capitol Hill, hop in a Lyft (or drive yourself) up to Fremont, another one of our favorite parts of Seattle. This is another place where, no matter how much we say we’re going to “branch out,” we always seem to find ourselves.
Fremont is across Lake Union from downtown Seattle, which means it has a nice view of the city from Gasworks Park (we’ll get to that in a second).
The happening part of Fremont is really only a few square blocks just across the Fremont Drawbridge, and the neighborhood becomes pretty residential once you get a block or two off of that stretch.
But that little area is packed full of bars, restaurants, boutiques, and more.
- Schilling Cider: Our favorite place to get cider in Seattle, this cider bar in Fremont has their own ciders on tap, but then has 20+ taps of guest ciders (mostly from the Pacific Northwest with a few others from further afield thrown in). You can bring your own food, and they have a variety of board games to play. The menu is color-coded to help you figure out which ciders will fit your palate. Get a flight and try a few!
- Milstead & Co: One of our favorite Seattle coffee shops, this place brings in different coffees from around the country that they’re excited about, and serves them as filter coffees or as espresso-based drinks. It’s a bright space with high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows, which makes it a perfect place to linger as you re-up your caffeine dose.
- Brouwer’s Cafe: One of my favorite bars in Seattle, you can enjoy one of the many craft beers on tap, or one of the many, many more they have in bottles. This is the place to go in Fremont if you’re into craft beer and want to try a bunch of different beers from local breweries. They also have a great cider selection, and the bartenders are friendly and will help you find a beer you might like if you’re not sure what to order.
- The Fremont Troll: Recently, I realized that I had never actually been to the Fremont Troll itself, despite having been to the area many, many times over the past decade and a half. It’s a stone sculpture under the Aurora Bridge that was built back in 1990 as an homage to the trolls-under-bridges of Scandinavian folklore.
- Theo Chocolate: There are two things to do at Theo Chocolate that are worth taking time to do. First is their factory tour, which starts with an informative lecture (for lack of a better word) about how they source and make their chocolate, followed by a walk through the actual factory where their chocolate is made. Second is their store, where you can taste all the different varieties of chocolate they have available at the moment.
- Fremont Brewing: While Brouwer’s is the place to go to try a wide variety of craft beers, this is the place to go to try craft beer straight from the source. The source being one of the original craft breweries in Seattle. They have a nice beer garden (that is covered for the winter months) in Fremont.
Gasworks Park at Sunset
After you’ve had some fun exploring the bars, breweries, and boutiques of Fremont, head down to the Fremont Canal Park (here on Google Maps) and hop on the Burke Gillman trail heading southeast towards Gasworks Park.
It’s a nice walk along the canal, and eventually you’ll reach what has to be among the top parks in Seattle.
The park is on the north side of Lake Union, opposite Downtown Seattle on the far end, and is named for the huge structures that dominate it, which are part of a former Seattle Gas Light Company plant.
The real highlight is the view, which is great at sunset. On a nice summer evening, come a little early to get a seat up on the grassy hill to watch the light show unfold as the sun sets behind the Olympic Range to the west.
Day 3: Discovery Park and Ballard
On your last day in Seattle, get out for a nice hike to the edge of the Puget Sound in the morning, then explore Ballard, another of Seattle’s great neighborhoods, in the afternoon and into the evening.
A quick note: We think the Ballard Sunday Farmers Market is one of the best around, with countless stalls of farm-fresh produce, small-batch packaged food items like cider, hot sauce, and vinegar, and a range of rotating food trucks. We’d recommend doing your best to make this day fall on a Sunday, if you can.
A Walk in Discovery Park
First, head out to northwest Seattle for a morning hike through what we think is Seattle’s best green space – Discovery Park.
Discovery Park takes up 538 acres in northwest Seattle, making it the largest park in Seattle. You’ll park (or get dropped off by your rideshare) and start your walk atop a coastal bluff with great views of the Sound and Olympic Range before descending down to the water, where there’s a nice driftwood-laden sandy beach called South Beach.
At the point just a few hundred feet away, you’ll find the West Point Lighthouse, where you’ll usually find a bald eagle hanging out (at least we have almost every time we’ve been here).
Take this loop through the park, which is a relatively easy walk, keeping an eye out for eagles passing overhead. There are a couple of starting points to choose from – this is the one we’d recommend because it’s next to the Visitor Center and bathrooms.
After a morning at the park, head over to Ballard to round out your exploration of three great Seattle neighborhoods over the course of your Seattle weekend itinerary.
Ballard is one of our favorite parts of Seattle. The biggest problem is that it takes forever to get there because it’s tucked away in northwest Seattle, requiring a little bit of a journey to get there from the downtown core.
Lucky for you, you’re already in the area if you’ve made it to Discovery Park! The distance also means that fewer tourists make it up this direction.
There are a few attractions here that are worth seeing – the Ballard Locks and National Nordic Museum, to name a few – but we think the magic of Ballard is the combination of shopping, eating, and drinking that the area has to offer.
We already mentioned the Ballard Farmers Market, which happens on Sundays and is well worth your time. The entire main street in Ballard is lined with vendors of all kinds, and the atmosphere is a fun one, brimming with a vibrant energy as people and pups peruse the stalls for their weekly produce, next meal, or other fun find.
If you’re looking for a post-hike brunch, head up to the Fat Hen, just north of the heart of Ballard. Make a reservation if you can, it’s a popular spot. They’re particularly known for their breakfast sandwiches and fried chicken sandwiches, but they have a wide array of brunchy dishes to choose from.
Here are a few more of our favorite spots in Ballard, but we’d encourage you to do some exploring and discover a spot or two on your own.
- Miro Tea: This is a common request from Alysha, who loves tea and isn’t into coffee. We think this is the best tea shop in Seattle, and offers a wide selection of simple teas by the pot/glass, along with some super inventive tea lattes.
- Bitterroot BBQ: The best barbecue I’ve had in Seattle, and the portions are gigantic. Lots of gluten free options, too, which is always a plus!
- The Noble Fir: I’ve loved this place for years now, and the “woody” interior with cozy reading nooks and lots of natural light is everything I’ve ever wanted from a neighborhood bar. They have a good selection of beer, wine, and cider, and it’s right on Ballard Avenue, the main street in the neighborhood.
- Yonder Cider & Bale Breaker Taproom: A shared taproom, split between Yonder Cider, one of our favorite cider companies in Seattle and Bale Breaker Brewing, a local brewery. The highlight is their outdoor space, which is great in the summer, and has fire pits and a tent for the wetter months.
- Cloudburst Brewing: Cloudburst, who was mentioned above in the downtown section, also has a location in Ballard on Shilshole Avenue that is much more industrial-chic. There’s a food truck onsite, and it’s a nice place to sample some local beer from the brewery every person I asked put on their list of the best breweries in Seattle (since I can’t drink beer, I’m not exactly the best person to ask, so I crowdsourced!).
- Shopping in Ballard: There’s a thriving collection of boutiques lining Ballard Avenue that are worth poking your head into. We like Venue, which is a sort of showcase space for local artists (we have a tote from Red Umbrella Designs that we absolutely adore – it has been all over the world with us now!). Standard Goods is a good place to pop into for a selection of very “PNW” items, from clothing to accessories and more.
Got Less Time in Seattle?
If you have less time in Seattle, you can totally see the highlights, but you’ll have to make some tough decisions on what to keep and what to save for next time.
Here’s our best thinking on how to spend your time.
What to Do with One Day in Seattle
We have an entire guide to spending one day in Seattle, which you should definitely head over and read for more detail.
The high level overview is that you should follow day 1 of the itinerary above, but do dinner and drinks in Capitol Hill rather than Belltown (although you really can’t go wrong with either).
What to Do with Two Days in Seattle
With two days in Seattle, follow the itinerary above as written for the first two days, saving Ballard and Discovery Park for a return trip.
Getting to Seattle
If you’re coming from out of town, the best airport to fly into is going to be Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), or SeaTac as it’s known to locals.
SeaTac is about 30 minutes south of the city center, and the best way to get from the airport to the city is the Light Rail system (more on that in a second).
The other option is flying into the much smaller Paine Field (PAE), which is around 45 minutes north of town. The positive of flying in and out of that airport is that it’s far less busy, and security is a breeze. The downside is that it’s going to be more expensive, less well-connected, and it has fewer flight options.
Getting Around Seattle
Seattle isn’t a huge city, but it is fairly spread out and hilly.
While you can easily walk around the downtown area (roughly Downtown, Belltown, Seattle Center, and Capitol Hill), if you want to explore other neighborhoods you will need to catch public transportation or a Lyft.
Getting to Seattle from the Airport
There are two main options for getting from SeaTac Airport, which is about 15 miles south of Seattle, to the city center.
You can take the Light rail from the airport to Downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill, and the University of Washington. And it’s super easy. It’s cheap, fast, and efficient, and the most affordable way to get to the city. Plus, you get to zoom by the inevitable traffic going into the city!
The other option is Lyft or Uber, which will be more expensive and, depending on traffic, could take a LONG time during rush hour.
Getting Around Once You’re in Seattle
There are a few different forms of public transportation that you can use to get around including light rail, buses, ferries, and water taxis.
Even if you are in Seattle for a short amount of time it is worth purchasing an ORCA card, which is a travel card that money or passes can be loaded onto.
On days when you plan on taking a lot of public transportation it will be worth your while to purchase a regional day pass which will cost you $8 (plus the new Orca card fee of $5 if you haven’t gotten yours yet). The pass covers unlimited trips on public buses, streetcars, trains, and water taxis for fares under $3.50.
If you are taking a longer journey that costs over $3.50, which won’t be an issue unless you’re taking a ferry or the light rail to the Airport, then the difference will be charged to your Orca card.
Do You Need to Rent a Car in Seattle?
In short, if you’re planning on hanging out inside Seattle’s city limits, you won’t need a car. In fact, we’d say it’ll be more of a nuisance than anything else.
Parking in Seattle can be horrendous, depending on where you are. Pay attention to street parking signage, which varies by time of day and day of the week. If you rent a car, you’ll probably have to pay for either a) a parking garage or b) a parking ticket.
Unless you’re trying to take a day trip from Seattle, don’t rent a car. If you need to go somewhere that’s not on a convenient public transportation route, use Lyft.
If you’re trying to fit in a day trip to a place like Mount Rainier or the mountains east of the city, then a car will be worth having. You could do a guided day trip that includes transportation, but the car will give you more flexibility to explore at your own pace.
If you are planning on renting a car, we’d suggest renting it downtown, and renting it for only the time you’ll need it (aka the day you’re going to do the day trip).
When to Visit Seattle
It’s probably no surprise to you that summer is the best time to visit the Pacific Northwest. You’ll find blue skies and warm temperatures from July to September. June and October are also generally nice, but you might get a few days of gray skies in the shoulder months.
With summer comes higher prices. But I tell everyone that there’s no better place to be than Seattle in summer. Long days. Warm weather. Crisp blue skies. Mountains on three sides.
In other words, paradise.
The spring, fall, and winter are gray. Really gray. But as long as you pack a rain jacket, you’ll be fine. It rarely rains hard in Seattle, it’s more of a consistent light mist.
We have spent two consecutive winters up in Seattle – and I do mean the dead of winter – and it’s a little gloomy, but there are often days where it’s cool, crisp, with not a cloud in the sky, and it’s easier to appreciate those beautiful days when they’re sandwiched by ten straight days of drizzle.
The point is that Seattle can be a great destination in the offseason – prices are significantly lower, too – but you’ll need to plan for it and be prepared to be wet and cold.
I still consider Seattle home. And it’s a great place to spend 3 days exploring. This 3 day Seattle itinerary is meant to guide you on your first trip to Seattle. Complete with what to do, where to explore, and what to eat and drink.
I’d love to hear how this guide helped you and what the highlights were for you.
Drop a comment below and let me know how your trip went and what spots you loved, were underwhelmed by, or you think I missed.
More to Explore in Washington State
Heading to the great state of Washington? Here are some other posts you might like.
- The Best Things to Do in Seattle: A Local’s Complete Guide (coming SOON!)
- Where to Stay in Seattle: 7 Amazing Areas to Stay
- How to Plan an Amazing Weekend in Seattle (3 Day Itinerary)
- One Day in Seattle: How to See The Best of Seattle in a Day
- The 8 Best Day Trips from Seattle: A Complete Guide
- 10 Amazing Weekend Getaways from Seattle: A Complete Planning Guide
- Where to Find the Best Coffee in Seattle: 15+ Amazing Seattle Coffee Shops
- Gluten Free Seattle: A Complete Travel Guide for Celiacs
- How to Plan an Amazing Washington State Road Trip
- The 19 Best Airbnbs in Washington State
- 33 Incredible Cabins in Washington State
- 12 Amazing Easy Hikes in Washington State for Beginners
- How to Plan an Amazing Olympic National Park Itinerary
- What to Do in Leavenworth, Washington: A Complete Guide
- What to Do on San Juan Island: A Complete Visitors Guide
- The Best Things to Do on Orcas Island: Complete Planning Guide
- The Best Things to Do on Vashon Island: A Complete Day Trip Guide
This post is so helpful in planning my upcoming trip thank you for all the details and insider tips! Can’t wait to visit.
You’re welcome! Enjoy your trip!
I appreciate this itinerary. It will come in handy as I visit for the first time next week. I especially appreciate your compassionate mention of the unhoused community in Seattle. I’ve been disheartened that this has been the first thing several people have “warned” me of when I mention going. Thank you for reminding your readers that everyone is worthy of dignity regardless of their housing status.
Hey Madison! Thanks for the kind words.
We moved to Portland, and often the first thing people from other places in the US (but oddly not in other countries) ask about is riots, “isn’t the city on fire,” etc. We have yet to see even one riot while living here.
It reminds us that it’s important to remember that a) not everything you read on the internet is true and b) humans are humans, whether they have the resources to afford a home or not, and deserve to be treated with dignity.
Hope you enjoy your trip – cheers!
Thank you for this! Traveling this week and will be taking many of your suggestions
You’re welcome, Camille. Enjoy!