Not every top tourist attraction is going to be worth it. So if you have limited time in Seattle, here are my ‘must-sees’ and my ‘do-withouts’.
Before we dig in, let’s get one thing straight – DO NOT skip Pike Place Market and Post Alley (this is where you’ll find the infamous Gum Wall). It’s a quintessential part of the city.
There are amazing shops and food and people watching. Some of my favorite spots are Il Bistro, San Patricio and Maximillien. You’ll also get skyline views of the city, Puget Sound and West Seattle. The earlier in the day you go, the better. It gets packed with tourists, especially on the weekends. But it is absolutely worth it.
Skip: Space Needle | See Instead: Kerry Park
Most of us here are disenchanted with the Space Needle. Not with the structure itself, it is a defining mark of our skyline; but with actually heading up to the top. There is a lot of historical information you’ll get, which is fun. But there are plenty of other places in the city to get a view. There are also much better restaurants than the one in the Space Needle. Save your money and do something a little more unique. Try to hit the Seattle Center on a nice day to get you some photo ops from the base of the needle, and then move on.
Kerry Park is located in the Queen Anne neighborhood and will give you the postcard view of the skyline and Mount Rainier. My favorite time to get there is for sunrise (this place can also get packed) and then head down to Pike Place Market for coffee and breakfast before the crowds hit. Or try any of the other great bars and restaurants in the area.
See Also: The Smith Tower. It’s cheaper with great views of the city and has a speakeasy inspired bar and observation deck.
Skip: Underground Tour | See Instead: Free Walking Tours
I did the underground tour as a kid and as an adult. Seattle was built on top of the old city, so there is definitely an old underbelly to explore. While there are some interesting facts about how the new city was built, there are better things to see in the city. The Pioneer Square area, where you meet for the tour, is still a great place to people watch for an afternoon if you have the time.
Any of the walking tours will show you other parts of Seattle and give you plenty of history tidbits. And many of them are free. There are lots of options like Haunted Seattle, Seattle 101 and Pike Place Market tours. Seeing and city on foot will always give you a better feel of the place you’re visiting.
Pro Tip: Head into the Green Tortoise Hostel across from Pike Place Market. They will give you a free map and tell you the key places to hit within walking distance.
Skip: ‘Original’ Starbucks | See Instead: Literally any other coffee shop in the market
The shop that is marketed as the Original Starbucks is not even the original building, but is located in the market near where the first one was. There will be a line out the door of the tiny shop at all hours of the day and every Seattleite knows we have waaaayyy better coffee in the city.
The market is a perfect place to try out your options. There are more than a dozen places to get coffee within a 3 block radius of the market, and that’s probably a fairly conservative count. Seattle is known for its coffee, so try as many places as you can. Spend a gray and rainy day at any of these shops for the true Seattle experience.
If you’ve got the time and transportation, get out of the city and do some hiking.
Try kayaking from UW through the Arboretum.
Stroll along Alki Beach and take in the view from across the Puget Sound.
Head into Fremont for a more artsy vibe and check out the troll under the bridge.
Walk around Queen Anne to take in the views and try some amazing restaurants.
The Pacific Northwest is beautiful and I’m lucky to have been able to grow up here.