Seattle is one of those cities you could visit dozens of times and always feel like you have more to see. Between the compact streets of downtown, a never-ending list of tempting places to eat, excellent museums, and easy access to three – count them three – national parks, it can be hard to figure out how to fit it all in. For your first go-around, we recommend filling your days with a few iconic Seattle sights each day and leaving plenty of time to discover your own hidden gems along the way.
10am – If you can, hop the morning flight. Landing early means you’ll have plenty of time to check into your hotel and, more importantly, get started on exploring the city.
4pm – Once you’ve dropped your bags and settled in, why not pay the iconic Chihuly Garden & Glass Museum a visit? A trip during the day on a Thursday will likely mean shorter lines, fewer crowds, and more opportunities to take it all in or snap photos of each of the museum’s truly amazing pieces. If you get there around 4pm, you’ll time it perfectly to spend a couple of hours wandering the mesmerizing outdoor garden.
Bonus: The museum also has great views of the Space Needle so you’ll be able to cross seeing that icon off your list, too.
6pm – Travel days can be sneakily tiring, so plan something casual and easy for dinner. If you make it an earlier night, you’ll be well-rested for Friday’s adventures.
9am – No visit to Seattle is complete without a stop at Pike Place Market. It’s just a travel fact. Friday will be less busy than the weekend will be, so grab some coffee and spend the morning taking in all nine acres of peony-smelling, fish-tossing, bustling goodness the market has to offer. It’s also a prime spot for locally-made souvenirs. If you need a rest, the nearby Waterfront Park offers plenty of bench seating and bayside views of the Puget Sound.
Pro-Tip: It’s certainly tempting to snag that coffee we mentioned at the sight of the first ever Starbucks, but you’ll be spending a LOT of time waiting in line. Might we suggest grabbing another local brew from Storyville Coffee Company instead? It’s tucked away on the top floor of the Corner Market building near the clock tower, and their mochas are dynamite.
12pm – Grab a savory pastry or two from Piroshki Piroshki for lunch-to-go before leaving the market and head a few miles north to sample some of Seattle’s other tasty brews – beer. Fremont Brewing Company is a short 10-minute drive from the market, and its urban beer garden and taproom are a great place to relax for the afternoon. Their slogan is “Because Beer Matters” (which we love), and they specialize in beer made with local Pacific Northwest ingredients. There’s always something seasonal to try, and their specialty cask ales rotate weekly. Grab a pint and enjoy that “I don’t have to be anywhere” feeling that vacation is all about.
3pm – After you’ve sampled a few flavors at the brewery, make a quick pit stop at one of the more quirky sights in town: the Freemont Troll. Inspired by the folktale Billy Goat’s Gruff, this local art installation has become a photo-taking favorite and is just a few blocks away. Oh, and you can climb on it.
7pm – Grab dinner. Seattle boasts more than a dozen James Beard award-winning chefs and counting, so you know there’s good grub to be had. One of the most popular cuisines is Asian, and if you’re looking for a recommendation we’d suggest Revel for its unique Korean-street-food-meets-comfort-food menu. Order the short rib bowl and thank us later.
8am – Bright and early, we know. But hey, it’s road trip day! The drive from downtown Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park is just shy of two hours, so it’s definitely worthwhile to get up and go. The park also tends to get busier towards mid-day, especially on the weekends. The earlier you get there, the fewer crowds you’ll have to compete with.
Mount Rainier National Park spans more than 200,000 acres so knowing where to start is key. Our suggestion? Paradise. (No really, that’s what it’s called, and for good reason!) This portion of the park is easy to access by road, has ample parking, a visitor’s center, and absolutely breathtaking views of the mountain and surrounding wildflower meadows. There are also plenty of hiking trails to choose from, so if you want to go one mile or several, you’ve got all the options you need.
Pro tip: If you’re in search of wildflowers, the Nisqually Vista and Paradise Flower Trails in July and August are your best bet.
7pm – Sadly, it’s your last night in town, so you better get one more amazing meal under your belt. If you’re in need of a solid suggestion, our vote goes to Casco Antiguo in Pioneer Square. If you’ve spent most of the day hiking and driving, why not unwind with margaritas and Mexican food? It will be just the pick-me-up you need to make it back to the hotel with time to pack for your flight out the next day.
9am – Before you head to the airport, be sure to treat yourself to one last cup of Seattle’s staple beverage. Again, we suggest skipping the Starbucks in favor of something smaller but still local, like Street Bean Coffee Roasters. Not only do they make amazing java that’s ethically sourced, their official mission is to provide employment to street-involved young adults in the local area, so you really can feel good about splurging on that latte.
Bonus: If you have time to kill once you get to the airport, be sure to check out the Sea-Tac Airport Art Walk.
Taylor is the partner and promotional Social Media Manager at Sun Country Airlines. What she loves most? Sun Country’s love of all things Minnesota and the airline’s focus on making everyone – from crew to passengers – feel right at home. If she were hopping on a flight tomorrow, she’d be headed west to Portland or south to Puerto Vallarta.