For three years my husband and I lived just south of Seattle. While the city gets a bad rap for the gray skies and rain, it really is not that bad! For a majority of the fall and winter you’ll find the PNW is buzzing with locals on the hiking trails but in the summer months downtown is filled with cruise ships, tourists and long-term visitors.
We absolutely loved living in Washington and once our friends and family came up to visit they were just as excited to come back. There’s no shortage of things to do or places to see. It’s a great place if you love wine and beer, a large variety of food, family-friendly and children’s activities, party groups and your beloved dog. Can you really go anywhere without them?
If you’re looking for things to do in Washington or any neighboring states check out the Passport section of the blog. Right now I’ll just focus on downtown. It’s easiest to go through the neighborhoods so you can pick and choose what works best for your trip. If you have any questions just ask!
WHERE TO STAY
We never stayed in an Airbnb while in downtown Seattle and instead opted for the Mediterranean Inn in lower Queen Anne. Living on the outskirts or suburbs would have been too much of a hassle to get in and out with the traffic and busy streets. The Inn was always a great experience and comparable in price (if a bit lower) to other hotels near Pike Place. We also loved it because it was across the street from Dick’s for a late-night snack or early-morning hangover cure, walking distance to the Monorail in Seattle Center and city views from your bedroom window or romantically lit rooftop.
Whether you’re coming in from the north or the south you will get an awesome view of the skyline on your way in. You can also expect traffic. If you’re coming in from the north you’ll likely see the Space Needle first and a view of Fremont and Lake Union on your right.
Driving in from the south
If you’re coming in from the south (like from Sea-Tac) you will turn a corner and immediately see the skyline of Seattle as you wind your way in on I-5. As you near Seattle, Boeing will be on your left. If you have time stop in at their Museum of Flight for air and space artifacts or for a guided tour. We loved what they had to offer and being able to walk through aircrafts like Air Force One! Family friendly and interesting for anyone in your group. Tickets run about $25/adults but the first Thursday of every month is free admission!
Walking off Air Force One at Boeing’s Museum of Flight
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Speaking of Queen Anne, this historic area is well-known for it’s gorgeous homes and prime views of Seattle and Alki Beach from Kerry Park. Drive to this little strip of grass and get your photo opp in. It’s IG worthy at any time of the day in any weather. A few blocks up is the resident’s house from Grey’s Anatomy. This is an actual residence so enjoy the view but don’t get creepy trying to get inside.
I already mentioned you can stay at the Mediterranean Inn, Dick’s and other restaurants. It’s also minutes walking distance from Seattle Center which we will get to below.
Make a point to ride your bikes or drive your car over to the Fremont Troll. This is another highly residential area but they have free parking spots on the streets near the top of the hill. You will have to walk a short distance to get to the Troll under the bridge. While you can’t graffiti it you can climb up for a picture.
Fremont Troll, June 2017
I hope you’re thirsty because you’ve got some drinkin’ to do! It’s a five-minute walk down the hill to 34th street and turn left until you see Fremont Brewing Company. They are pet and child friendly with indoor and outdoor seating, merchandise, snacks and a board full of brews to choose a drink from. While sitting out here you’ll see several sea planes land in Lake Union and Duck Boat tours driving by.
No matter what you will be spending at least a day here! Seattle Center is home to the MoPOP Museum, the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center and much more. One thing we didn’t end up doing here but is very popular is the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum and the Seattle Children’s Museum. We have visited the Pacific Science Museum and had a great time (without kids!) It’s actually a really well-done area.
Children’s Science Museum
The Armory is a multi-level building full of play places, events and food stands if you need a pick me up.
The MoPOP – Museum of Pop Culture- Museum ( or whatever else they change the name to every year) is the metallic colorful structure with the large playground next to it.
They rotate exhibits from the underground music scene Seattle is known for cranking out, artists, fashion and much more. Have fun taking a few hours walking through and playing the instruments.
The Space Needle is next; you ready?! I recommend ordering tickets online so you have a reserved time to go up otherwise order the Seattle City Pass to get the best value for all the main attractions. When it’s your time to go up head to the back of the Needle, walk up the ramp and head through security before taking a walk through time. They take a photo of you and your group before you enter the elevators and on the way up a tour guide will give you some facts about the needle.
Night view of the Needle
Day view of the Needle
Photo they take before you go up the Space Needle in front of green screen
Once at the top walk all around the interior so you can enter your name on the Visitor’s Board, tap the interactive panels for help on facts around the city and check out your photo to email to your account!
Always windy at the top!
Interactive Checkin at the Needle
Walking around outside will be windy (see the above photo) and a bit cold but there are markers for you to orient yourself and free binoculars for you to check out everything you can see. If you’re lucky the mountain might be out!
You can also check out the International Fountain and walk around the lawn they’ll host several events and concerts on throughout the year.
If you choose to walk around you’ll run into the Belltown area which we will talk about in a minute. But if you want to give your feet a break, hop on the monorail.
The Seattle Monorail is next to the Armory in between the EMP Museum and the Space Needle. Tickets are $2.50 for adults or $1.25 for military. All prices are one-way so just buy before you ride. The monorail has never been packed and runs anywhere from 7:30 am to 11 pm depending on the day of the week.
Hop down to Westlake Center if you want to stay on the Monorail for now. Otherwise you can-and should at least once-walk through Belltown.
One of the most quaint and quirky, residential and comfortable areas in Seattle for us was Belltown. We walked through consistently to and from the Needle and Pike Place. As you’re leaving the needle you can choose to stop in for the game at the local sports bar in KOMO Plaza or you can cross through the lot (They used the roof of that building to film the rooftop helipad scenes in Grey’s Anatomy) and over the street to a street of bars and restaurants.
The authentic wood-fired pizzeria Bambino’s Pizzeria is at the corner on the end to your right. We always had the most accommodating service, authentic, delicious food and a large beer selection. I remember they also had a large wine selection though I never drank wine there.
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Belltown is also home to a Biscuit Bitch location. I have seen kids in here but just be aware that the menu, language and surroundings are full of colorful decor and language. Having said that the food is delicious and the coffee specialty drinks match. I enjoyed their unicorn latte (maybe only during pride month?) and the Seattle Fog.
Belltown Biscuit Bitch
The Monorail has two locations to hop on and off the monorail: Westlake and Seattle City Center. Once you step into the Westlake Plaza area you’ll see several food trucks across the street. You HAVE to try out a Seattle Dog! They’re a hot dog topped with cream cheese and sauteed onions.
Nearby is the Nordstrom #1 flagship store. I’ve been in a couple but I can say this is a BIG store and the cafe had great cocktails upstairs!
A few blocks down to the water and you’ll be at Pike Place.
Another Biscuit Bitch location is located above Pike Place. It was much smaller than the Belltown location and was just wide enough for one line up and a shelf on the side of the wall where we were able to stand and eat. Otherwise expect to stand outside or take your food to another location to eat.
On your way near 5th street you’ll come across the flagship Top Pot Doughnuts. They are one of my favorites and there are dozens of locations around the city so just google one near you. Top Pot has hand-roasted coffee and hand-forged gourmet doughnuts. I didn’t meet a doughnut or iced coffee here I didn’t like. They’re great to grab a box and take home for breakfast the next day.
Seattle street signs around the city.
Another must-see, must-do, backbone of Seattle. There will be a fairly steep hill before getting to the market. The Market opened August 17, 1907, and is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the United States. Expect this place to be shoulder to shoulder crowds near the vendor tables especially during the summer months. You will probably also be in a few lines for the more popular attractions. At the ‘main entrance’ you’ll see Rachel the Piggy Bank for the market foundation. You’ll also get the up front prime viewing of the Pike Place Fish Market fish throwers. When we have been they only throw the fish when someone makes a purchase.
Walking down the alley past the donut stand you’ll see a small Indian food stand called Saffron Spice. This is where we were introduced to samosas and, once we did, we returned each time we were in town. Pop some gum in to freshen up (plus you’ll need it in a minute) and walk back toward the fish market.
To your left there will be a staircase that leads you down to the gum wall.
This wall is cleaned every few years (once lasting a 20 year span) because the sugar from the gum erodes the brick walls. You’ll see tickets, ID’s, names and initials spread out, some on the ground and some so high up you wonder how they were placed there. Take your boomerang blowing a bubble or the picture of you adding to the saliva-filled colorful wall and NOW it is time for a drink!
At the left-end of the alley is the Pike Brewing Company. The most fun thing about this bar for me is the location and I enjoyed a few of their beers from local grocery stores or from a flight on the bar.
In front of Post Alley
Back up on Post Alley you can walk on the far side of the alley and you’ll come across Pike Place Chowder.
THIS CHOWDER is the BEST I have ever had (seriously I would pay you for a bucket right now) and there will always be at least a short line but mostly a long line backed up to Rachel’s Ginger Beer. *Rachel’s is hand brewed and the sting of ginger is real. Fun drinks on a hot day though!
July 2017 Rachel’s Ginger Beer
Sept 2015 Rachel’s Ginger Beer
We usually split a few small cups of chowder since we like to eat around the market. At the front counter you can turn around and the shelving with utensils has a basket on the top filled with inside of the sourdough bread bowls. You get the best part of a bread bowl for free and you don’t even have to order the filling bread bowl! Usually the inside seating is sparse and filled constantly so your best bet is a picnic table outside.
If you don’t feel like going to Pike Place Chowder there is a pizza counter next door called LoPriore Brothers Pasta Bar (if it’s still open) that serves large slices of New York style pizza and Italian food made in front of you.
Take a walk down the market eyeing the fresh bakeries and seafood, the colorful (and huge variety) of produce and you’ll eventually come up on Beecher’s. They’re famous for their handmade cheese products and you can watch from the corner windows as they make it. I’ve had their cheese on other occasions but never straight from the store (not a huge straight cheese person) but I have heard great things about their legendary mac-n-cheese.
You want to try a place with some bomb food that might take my #1 favorite in the market? It’s Piroshky Piroshky Bakery. Usually there is a short line but in spring and summer you’ll have to wait in a roped off line for a two minute transaction inside the no seating alley shop. But my gooodddnessss is it worth it. I LOVED the Smoked Salmon Pate for a great Seattle take on the Russian pastry. If you’re in a sweet mood I enjoyed the Chocolate Cream Hazelnut Roll. I don’t think you could really go wrong.
You’ll need the snack during your wait right next door at the ‘original’ Starbucks location. The original Starbucks was actually a few blocks north at 2000 Western Ave but then moved to this location five years later during construction. Giving the monster that dominates the coffee industry today this is still a fun experience for visitors.
You’ll wait in line before entering a quaint wood planked, narrow coffee shop. To the left is a wall of merchandise where you can grab a location mug or a bag of coffee. When you order notice the names and locations of the baristas: they are from all over the world. You will then stand in a crowded corner while you wait for your drink. I encourage you to order a drink you can only get at the roastery or reserve areas.
If you’re traveling buy your coffee in beans so you can fly with it. Once you’re at your location any Starbucks (or coffee shop) will grind the beans for you at no cost if you don’t own your own grinder. I purchased several bags of the specialty Pike Place Special Reserve which is only sold at two locations.
The Pike Place Blend OR the Pike Place Roast are also available in other locations but this is different than the above two. Coffee, right?
Once you have your drink and the photo to prove you’ve also been there, walk through the market and get the view at the back looking over the pier.
My favorite thing to do in the market is pick up a bouquet of flowers at the end of the day. For $5-$20 you can get the most incredible, HUGE bouquets of flowers. If it works out grab the bunches before the market closes in the afternoon so you don’t have to walk around with them all day but they will wrap them up with a bag of water to stay fresh.
If you’re near Pike Place market in the evening I recommend going! The streets clear out and you can find drinks up and down the streets. We had a large Mexican dinner at El Borracho Pike Place Market
and some Uli’s sausage (they have their main vendor location in the market) and beers at Old Stove Brewing
. It’s fun to see the neon sign and walk around the romantic, glistening streets at night knowing how busy it is during the day.
Purple Cafe and Wine Bar
is also near the area. I went with two girlfriends and the atmosphere was great for our night and a few girly drinks but we weren’t crazy about their food.
You can get to the pier by walking down through the gum wall alley and turn right. There will be a set of stairs and a street to cross under the bridge but the Pier is a fun place to walk around.
View of Seattle Aquarium
While I never went in you could hide from a rainy day at the Seattle Aquarium
or hop on the Great Wheel
. Tickets are a bit pricey at $14/adult but it is a one-time experience that you can choose to do.
On top of the Great Wheel, June 2017
Afterward take a walk through the Miners Landing
building. This building is like walking through a two-story covered pier with a carousel, shops, ice cream stands and restaurants. Outside to the right is the infamous Ivar’s
. If you didn’t already getcha some fish and chips in Sea-Tac then this is the place to snag some up. It’s a walk up window with a nearby enclosed eating area. They also have yummy chowder!
After our time on the pier we chose to walk the few minutes down to Pioneer Square. You can also catch an Uber if you wanted but the walk really isn’t that bad. You’ll have to walk up the tower to cross the bridge over the street and you’ll come across downtown area near the International District. Pioneer Square is trendy and filled with art galleries, coffee shops and a beautiful plaza, paved streets and lined trees.
I would have loved to take one of the underground tours in this area so if you have time go for it! Our favorite place to go at the edge of this area is Elysian Fields. Elysian is Seattle’s prime brewing company and home to Drew’s favorite: SPACE DUST IPA. Seriously he always orders it and if we find it on the East coast, he will buy it. They’re right next to Safeco Field where the Mariners play and CenturyLink field where the Seahawks and and Sounders play so on gameday this place is packed. It has a huge horseshoe bar, two seating areas and stacked bleachers with views of the game on TV. We always had great food -think upscale bar food- no matter what we ordered and I loved their seasonal beers or limited release. Check out their Capitol Hill location below.
On our way to a Mariners game we stopped at a tailgate popup in front of Pyramid Brewing Company which is conveniently across the street from the stadium. The beer garden we were in hosted several different breweries and I was introduced to one of my all-time Beerland worthy beers. A mango passionfruit IPA from Two Beers Brewing Co. They usually serve ciders because their owner was gluten intolerant but this IPA was MAGICAL. I really, really enjoyed it and I think people who don’t like IPAs would drink this all day. My only complaint was it was difficult to find afterward.
If you’re looking for a late night order of fries walk down a few blocks to The Lodge. While this bar drew us in because of the large wood doors and warm, lodge ambience inside it’s also trying to go for a sports bar and grille feel which it slightly misses for me. We’ve been twice for afternoon drinks and had a good time but I would say there are hundreds of other places if you’re only in town for a little while longer.
This is a town so easy to walk around in. I would say this is one of the most eclectic areas in Seattle because it’s packed with trendy, hip bars, gay clubs, indie stores and a drink-with-cats lounge all connected with rainbow crosswalks.
There are several artsy walls for your viewing pleasures like this…
Capitol Hill Wall Mural
Plus another Dick’s burgers location and Volunteer Park in the historic mansion district with walking trails that are always busy with locals and their dogs. It abuts Lake View Cemetery, where the city’s founders (and Bruce Lee) are buried.
This is a college district so you’ll see Seattle Central College near the Jimi Hendrix statue at 1604 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122.
If you’re looking for restaurants check out Mezcaleria Oaxaca for their rooftop happy hour and taco truck or downstairs seating for their large menu. There are so many good places to eat a variety of food a simple google search for what you’re craving won’t disappoint. If you’re looking to start your day with brunch you need to go to Witness. The chicken and waffles are exactly what you want (even if you don’t know you want them) and the drinks are poured generously. It’s a simple, southern menu and adornments in a trendy PNW fashion.
If you’re here to drink, you will be overwhelmed with your options! Number one must visit on your list should be the Unicorn. It’s a no cover, gigantic, eclectic bar that’s sure to take you on a trip (if you’re not already…WA things.) Even if this isn’t your usual scene you still need to walk around and have a sugary, cereal flavored drink. The booming music, lights, arcade games and crowd are entertainment enough.
Across the street is Elysian’s Capitol Hill Brewery. Elysian has brewed over 350 craft beers since it opened on Capitol Hill in 1996. We visited their Capitol Hill location and it reminded us of Deschutes in Portland but more of a sports bar vibe. Since they had the pride parade recently before we visited they had their pride glitter beer on tap which was fun to try although it didn’t glitter like I was hoping. Another plus is they have their own Series of beer to choose from!
There are local gay bars, biker bars, specialty bars and late night menus we loved checking out.
You’ll see this area is jam-packed with every kind of awesome gastropub or bar you could ever want to visit. If you’re looking for more suggestions send me a message!
Near Capitol Hill we’ve only been to the MBar here on the 14th floor for a fantastic view of the city and glass-walled rooftop. For this was a cocktail specialty bar where you are paying for the view and perk of the elevator, guided entrance experience. (Pictures of all this on Instagram.) You can expect a menu filled with portions of food that tastes great but you would see it on the food channel wondering if you would even feel full haha! This is a must visit for a date or girls night out. Even if you go for one drink it’s fun and quirky! Make sure to place your reservation ahead of time.
You can venture down the streets for a few more bars and pizza shops even though a majority of this area is business buildings.
Other things to do in Seattle that we did not end up seeing but wanted to were the Kurt Cobain bench (His childhood house is a few hours away here.)
Starbucks Reserve Roastery is at 1124 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101. When driving in from the south you’ll be able to sneak a peak at the logo on the towering building down past the stadiums. They have special drinks, wifi and light bites.
I decided to make a seperate post about Alki Beach which focuses on West Seattle. Check that out here!
We loved living an hour away from this city and we really enjoyed living in Washington. Don’t underestimate what this state has to offer in Seattle, the national parks or out west! It’s bordered by Oregon and Canada for your roadtrips and has direct flights to Hawaii. Whatever you choose to do I hope you have a great time and know this place has a very special place in our hearts.