3 Days in Seattle

Jul 10, 2018

Heading to Seattle? Our 3 days in Seattle itinerary + guide is full of must-see attractions, coffee shops, and restaurants, perfect for first-timers to Seattle (or Seattleites looking for ideas for their next weekend adventure).

We first visited Seattle in 2014 and fell madly in love with the city. It truly has everything–tons of parks, cute neighborhoods, a big tech scene, bodies of water, gorgeous mountains, islands, professional sports teams, and so much more!

We lived in Seattle for 3 years and explored so much of what this wonderful city has to offer and still find ourselves in awe of the scenery and endless things to do.

We’ve put together a 3 day Seattle itinerary and guide that includes all of our favorite places to hike, eat, drink, and more! It’s a very busy itinerary, but it will give you a chance to experience everything that makes Seattle special, and make you fall in love just like we did.

Have questions about Seattle? Send us a message on Instagram! We’re always happy to help 🙂 And if you’re looking for more Seattle or Washington ideas, check out all of our Washington posts. Some of our favorites are:

Note: this blog contains affiliate links. Full disclosure– if you click on these links and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

When to visit Seattle

Seattle Weather

One of the first things that comes to mind when people think of Seattle is rain! Seattle is known for being cloudy and rainy, but we’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s not as bad as people make it out to be! In fact, cities like Houston and Atlanta actually get way more inches of rain per year than Seattle.

That’s not to say that it isn’t gloomy or rainy in Seattle, but the rain is more like a mist and it sometimes just adds to the city’s vibe. However, it doesn’t rain everyday of the year…Seattle actually has the best summers in the country! (Source: us, so it’s not scientific fact, but they are amazing!)

While the winter months are definitely gloomy and rainy in Seattle, the summers are absolutely stunning! With highs in the 70s-80s (with the occasional 90+ degree day) and hardly any rain, the weather is absolutely perfect.

Since Seattle is such a great launching point for many outdoor adventures, the summertime gives you the ability to go on endless hikes without worrying about snow or ice and have many chances to see views of Mount Rainier. The prices and crowds will be a lot higher though, so make sure to plan in advance and be prepared to see more people!

Spring and fall are also beautiful times to visit Seattle! While your rain chances will be higher than the summer, you’ll get to experience some beautiful nature, like the cherry blossoms and tulips in the spring and the fall foliage in the fall. The crowds are also a lot lighter during this time and prices will be too!

And if you do happen to visit in the winter, you still can have a great time! The nice thing about Seattle is that the winters are pretty mild and it rarely snows in the city. Just be prepared to get a little wet and bring a rain jacket and a positive attitude. We explored Seattle and Washington year round and always had a blast.

To see some ideas of things to do in Seattle when it’s rainy or cold, check out these two guides:

Getting to Seattle

Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash

Seattle is home to one major airport, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), also known as SeaTac. SeaTac is located about 15 minutes south of downtown Seattle, making it super convenient to get into the city.

All major airlines fly into SeaTac, so depending on where you’re flying from, you should have a handful of options to get there. On your flight in, make sure to keep an eye out for Mount Rainier. Seeing her from the sky is one of the most magical experiences!

Seattle is also located close to Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, BC, which are both 2.5 hours by car, assuming there is no traffic (there usually is!). If you are visiting either of these cities and have extra time, we highly recommend adding Seattle to itinerary too!

SeaTac airport tip: the best place to eat at the airport is Beecher’s and the best coffee is at Floret or Cafe Vita (which is next to Beecher’s).

Getting Around Seattle

Pier 66 | Free and Cheap things to do in Seattle

From the airport: So you landed at the Seattle airport and want to head to your hotel or Airbnb. What’s the best way to get there? There are a couple options, but we recommend taking the Link Light Rail to downtown Seattle (it also goes to Capitol Hill!), which is a relatively quick ride (40 minutes) and super affordable ($3.00).

Depending on where you are staying, you can either walk to your lodging or take an Uber/Lyft from the light rail station, which will still save you money.

Another option from the airport is to just take an Uber/Lyft all the way to your lodging, but this can be $$$ and can take a while if there is traffic. From the airport to our apartment in Upper Queen Anne, the ride was usually $40. Which could be spent on more coffee or food! 😉

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Around the city: Once you’re actually in the city, there are so many options of how to get around. We actually downsized to one car we moved here because of how great (and affordable) the public transportation is! For a lot of the major tourist attractions, you could easily walk (warning: the city is hilly!), bike, take public transportation, or Uber/Lyft.

We wouldn’t recommend renting a car unless you plan to go into the mountains (which is a MUST in our opinion), as parking can be a bit tough in some areas. You can rent cars at various spots downtown if you want to just rent for a portion of your trip!

Where to stay in Seattle

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While most people will stay in downtown Seattle, besides Pike Place Market, downtown Seattle doesn’t have a ton to offer. It’s mostly made up of department stores, large retail chains, and businesses.

We always tell people we know visiting Seattle to stay outside of downtown in one of the many neighborhoods that make the city special! We we will cover these neighborhoods below, but you can also read more about them here. Staying in one of these Seattle neighborhoods will give you a much more local experience!

Note: We do like to warn people before they visit is that Seattle does have a large homeless population. You’ll notice this the most downtown and while we never had any issues, it’s just something to be aware of and prepared for.

Airbnb

As always, we recommend Airbnb for your time in Seattle! Seattle is home to so many cool neighborhoods, each with their own vibe. These neighborhoods typically do not have any hotels, so if you want to experience Seattle like a local, choose Airbnb! Here are some of the top neighborhoods to stay in.

Capitol Hill

A bustling, quirky, hip neighborhood just east of downtown Seattle. You can take the light rail from Capitol Hill to downtown and to the airport, making it a super convenient spot. Some Airbnb options:

  • Option 1: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom with rooftop city views
  • Option 2: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom close to the light rail
  • Option 3: A studio with Space Needle views
  • Option 4: A 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom Dutch Colonial home one block from the heart of Capitol Hill
  • Option #5: A 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom guest house

Queen Anne

There are two parts of Queen Anne, upper and lower. Upper Queen Anne (where we lived) is quaint and quiet, while Lower Queen Anne is closer to downtown and has a bit more energy. Both are great areas with easy access to all spots on this Seattle itinerary! Some Airbnb options:

  • Option 1: A 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom flat walkable to downtown
  • Option 2: A studio in a private guest cottage
  • Option 3: A cozy 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment in Upper Queen Anne
  • Option 4: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom guest suite walkable to Seattle Center
  • Option 5: A 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment in Upper Queen Anne with a balcony

Ballard

Ballard is one of our favorite neighborhoods in Seattle. It’s more north of downtown, but is home to lots of local shops, breweries, coffee, and restaurants.

  • Option 1: A super cute tiny house
  • Option 2: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment close to the heart of Ballard
  • Option 3: A gorgeous 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom “little house”

Fremont

Fremont is another one of our favorite neighborhoods. Next to Ballard and across Lake Union from downtown Seattle, it’s home to quite a few items on the itinerary below.

  • Option 1: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment with a home gym
  • Option 2: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom cottage loft
  • Option 3​: A super charming 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom guest suite

PS: If it is your first time staying at an Airbnb, click this link to get $40 off your first stay!

Hotels

Hotels can be super pricey in Seattle, especially in the summer months. If you’re more of a hotel over Airbnb traveler, check out MotifInn at the Market, Hotel Max, or Thompson Seattle.

Day 1

  1. Kick off your trip with a visit to the famous Pike Place Market. Even after living here for over a year and a half, we still love coming here! Tip: get there between 8-9 AM to avoid the crowds! Want to skip the lines? Savor Seattle offers Pike Place Food Tours which hit up most of these spots. The tours are two hours long and $42, which includes the food.

    Below are some of our favorite spots in the market (you can also watch our vlog on Pike Place Market for a mini tour!). Warning: lots of eating involved, so come hungry!
  2. Take the monorail or walk to the Seattle Center, home of the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and MoPop. Depending on how much time you have and your interests, you can either visit all three spots or pick one or two. Tip: You can get a combo Space Needle and Chihuly ticket here.
     
  3. Get more coffee at La Marzocco Cafe, located inside the KEXP radio station. They feature a new roaster each month and have a showroom of their gorgeous espresso machines.
     
  4. Venture out to Discovery Park and take a stroll to the West Point Lighthouse. Start in the north parking lot and follow the signs to the West Point Lighthouse/South Beach.
     
  5. Enjoy the sunset at Kerry Park, a small park/overlook with the best view of Seattle, in our opinion. Fun fact: we got engaged here in 2014! Make sure to walk down Highland drive to the other overlook for a great view of the Olympic mountains and to gawk at the beautiful mansions lining the street.
     
  6. Grab dinner and drinks at The Pink Door! This is one of the top restaurants in Seattle and located at Pike Place Market. They have entertainment every night of the week. Make a reservation well in advance, this place is popular!
     

Day 2

  1. Get up early (we know you’re on vacation, but there’s too much to see!) and grab some breakfast! Depending on where you are staying, here are some good breakfast options:
    • Fremont: Stoneway Cafe—quick, cheap, and delicious! We recommend the breakfast burrito.
    • Downtown: Biscuit Bitch or The Crumpet Shop—both are popular and quick spots right by Pike Place Market.
    • Queen Anne: The 5 Spot—classic breakfast options + a special rotating themed menu.
    • Ballard: Biscuit and Bean—order at the counter biscuit spot.
    • Capitol Hill: Skillet—known for their chicken and waffles or Glo’s for a classic diner breakfast.
       
  2. Rent a car (We’d suggest doing this the day before so you have it ready!), pack a lunch, and explore the beautiful nature that surrounds Seattle! Here are some options for you to consider (Warning: all of these trails get busy). For more ideas, check out our 37 Favorite hikes in Washington blog!
    • Snoqualmie Falls & Rattlesnake Ledge (<1 hour away)—These are two classic spots super close to the city and doable any time of the year. Between the two, it’s about 5 miles of hiking and about 1,400 elevation gain and neither require a pass to park. These are definitely some of the busiest spots in WA, but for good reason, they are beautiful and easy to access!
    • Franklin Falls (1 hour away)—2.0 miles round trip, 400 ft elevation gain. This is an easy, but beautiful hike that takes you along a river, by a cool A-frame house, and ending with an epic waterfall!
    • Snow Lake (1 hour away)—7.2 miles round trip, 1,800 ft elevation gain. Note: Snow Lake requires the Northwest Forest Pass. You can print a day pass in advance here.
    • Lake Twentytwo (1-1.5 hours away)—5.4 miles round trip, 1,350 ft elevation gain. Heather Lake is another great and slightly shorter option just down the street from Lake TwentyTwo and is 4.6 miles round trip and 1,034 ft elevation gain. 
       
      Note: Franklin Falls, Lake Twentytwo, and Heather Lake require the Northwest Forest Pass. You can print a day pass in advance here.
       
  3. Grab some post-hike caffeine and treats at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. The space is gorgeous and you can watch them roast coffee!
     
  4. If you have enough time after your hike, walk around the streets of Capitol Hill. Some of our favorite shops are The Elliott Bay Book Company, Standard Goods, Glasswing, and Retrofit Home.
     
  5. Get dinner at our favorite spot in town, Tacos Chukis. It’s a little bit of a hole in the wall and a little hard to find, but it’s so dang good (and cheap!).
  6. Enjoy ice cream at Frankie & Jo’s (vegan, but SO good! It’s our favorite ice cream shop!), Molly Moon’s (a Seattle classic!), or get ice cream sandwiches at Hello Robin.
     
  7. If you’re not exhausted, grab drinks at Unicorn, Sol Liquor, Pie Bar, or Needle and Thread (A speakeasy that is a little pricey, but is a cool experience. Make reservations!)
     

Day 3

  1. Take the 35 minute ferry ride to the charming Bainbridge Island! It’s a short walk from the ferry to the main tourist area on Bainbridge, so no car is needed. You can check the ferry schedule here.
    • Grab coffee and breakfast! Blackbird Bakery and Streamliner Diner are popular spots, but we love this hole in the wall spot at the back of a gas station called Jake’s Pickup! It’s not fancy food, but super delicious and would be great to take on a little picnic.
    • Walk around the shops on Winslow Way and wander around the Waterfront Park.
       
  2. Take the ferry back to Seattle and grab lunch from Paseo to enjoy at Gasworks Park, a cool former gasification site with lots of picnic space and a view of downtown Seattle.
     
  3. Explore the Fremont neighborhood. Some of our recommended stops:
  4. Want to try some local beer? Head to Fremont Brewing, Stoup Brewing, or Reuben’s Brews. Prefer coffee? Head to MilsteadCafe Umbria, Ballard Coffee Works, or Slate Coffee Roasters instead.
     
  5. If you have time, check out the Ballard Locks. You can watch the boats enter the locks and see the salmon on the fish ladder. It’s super fascinating and free!
     
  6. Dinner in Ballard at Asadero (Awesome Carne Asada for a great price. One of our favorite restaurants!), Stoneburner (make reservations in advance), or The Walrus and the Carpenter (it gets crazy busy, get here early!)
     
  7. Dessert at Hot Cakes, an amazing spot with molten chocolate cakes and boozy milkshakes.

If you have extra time…

Have more time than the 3 days on our Seattle itinerary or just looking for more options? Here are some ideas of additional things to do!

Food

  • Dick’s Drive-In–the classic late night, cheap burger joint in Seattle.
  • Marination Ma Kai–one of our favorite spots in Seattle! Affordable Hawaiian food with a view. You can take a quick water taxi ride from downtown Seattle over here too!
  • Bongos–awesome outdoor seating and caribbean food!
  • Il Corvo–a weekday lunch only pasta spot, featuring three pastas everyday. The line gets crazy long, so get there early!
  • Teriyaki is very popular in Seattle, one top rated spot is Teriyaki 1st by UW.
  • Matt’s in the Market–a spot at Pike Place Market that has views of Elliott Bay, the Olympics, and the market’s famous sign.
  • General Porpoise–they have a location in Capitol Hill and new shop in Pioneer Square. The Pioneer Square location is gorgeous!
  • Tilikum Place Cafe–known for their dutch babies!

Coffee

Activities

Planning a trip to Seattle?

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about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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12 Comments

  1. Rebekah

    Thanks so much! We will be in Seattle for 3 days before a flight overseas. Can you recommend a tour company for Mt Rainer and a hotel to stay at? Someplace close to the airport but with easy transportation to the Market?

    Reply
    • Kathryn Frazer

      Hi Rebekah! We have personally never done a tour, but have heard great things about Tours Northwest! It is pretty pricey though, so you could likely rent a car for cheaper and explore on your own! If it’s spring/summer, Tolmie Peak and Naches Peak Loop are great trails and if it’s winter, Paradise has areas to snowshoe. As for a hotel, I’d recommend checking out somewhere along the light rail, as you’ll be able to get to the airport and the market super easily (both are right on the light rail or just a block or two away)! A few good options are: Motif, Grand Hyatt, and the Sheraton. Hotels are pretty pricey though depending on the time of the year, so if you like Airbnb I would check it out too and look in the Capitol Hill area to be close to the light rail. I hope this helps and have an amazing trip! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Kylee

    You hit everything! Have you been to Walrus and the Carpenter? That and the Pink Door, which you mentioned, are my two favorites!

    Reply
    • Kathryn Frazer

      Yay! We’re so glad you think we hit it all! ?? We haven’t been to Walrus and the Carpenter, but have heard amazing things. The Pink Door is delicious though! ?

      Reply
  3. John C

    Super helpful! I’m visiting Seatlle in a few weeks and I’m glad I came across your post.

    Reply
    • Kathryn Frazer

      We are so glad this was helpful John! Let us know if you have any questions about Seattle and have an AWESOME time!

      Reply
  4. Missy Cramer

    Hi, we are visiting next week. Is there an inexpensive place to eat with nice water views?? Also are there tours of the houseboats on lake union??

    Reply
    • Kathryn Frazer

      Hi Missy! Marination Ma Kai is an awesome spot on the water in West Seattle with views of the skyline! It’s one of our favorite spots to eat. It’s Hawaiian inspired food and order at the counter and pretty cheap (we usually order a handful of items each). There is also Ray’s Cafe, a sit down spot in Ballard that has a water view. It shares a space with Ray’s Boathouse, which is pricier, just FYI!

      As for house boat tours, Argosy Cruises does a tour on Lake Union! You can also rent kayaks and kayak in front of the house boats or rent a small electric boat (better for bigger groups). I hope this helps! Let me know if you have other questions and have an AMAZING trip! ?

      Reply
  5. Yvette Picon

    Have you done a half-day/or full day trip to Canada?

    Reply
    • Kathryn Frazer

      We love going to Vancouver/surrounding areas for the day and have done many day trips! We would leave super early (which means no line at the border!) and come back late. It’s a long day, but sooo fun and you save a lot of money on lodging!

      Reply
  6. Ari

    This is PERFECT! I’ll be in Seattle in about two weeks and have been trying to independently look up things to do, but this puts everything in one neat place! Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Kathryn Frazer

      We are SO glad! That’s our goal with creating these guides! We have a Seattle Bucket List too if you need even more ideas. Have a great trip and let us know if you have any questions! 😀

      Reply

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