I have put together a Weekend Travel Guide to Seattle, Washington. In this guide, you will find things you must see, things you can do/see for free and things I suggest you avoid – especially if you are visiting only for a weekend.
We visited Seattle during the long weekend in Canada and I still feel we could have done with 1 extra day, to slow things down a little and get to see everything we initially had planned. The fact it rained on both days didn’t help either!
Things to do in Seattle for Free
- Seattle 101 Walking Tours – These are free 2 hour tours of downtown of Seattle, where you get to find out about the history and interesting facts of the local area. The tours are free, but don’t forget to tip your guide as they are donating their time.
- Pike Place Market – Very lively fresh produce market with buskers right at the waterfront. This market is extremely busy, so get there early to avoid huge crowds. You can roam around the market for free and watch the “fish show”. You will no doubt, be persuaded to buy something tasty (who can resist?) but the entry to the Market is free of charge.
- The Gum Wall – Right underneath the market you will find the legendary gum wall. To be quite honest I completely don’t understand the hype. To me it was quite gross,
- Amazon Spheres – These are fun to look at and great architecturally, three glass Spheres in which you will find part of the Amazon HQs in Seattle. The area around the spheres is called Salt Lake Union (SLU) where you have community swings and when we were there they were giving away bananas for free. Pretty cool touch if you ask me.
- Up Garden – This is a small community garden at the back of the Space Needle. This space is so peaceful! You can bring your lunch here, there are plenty of seats amongst super cool installations like an old Cadillac or a rusty Camper van. You have a pretty awesome view of the Space Needle too – totally undisturbed.
- Kerry Park – Kerry Park is a small public park in Seattle. There’s not much to “do” there, however it does (apparently, as we ran out of time) have a pretty awesome view of the downtown skyline, especially during sunset. It’s a little bit outside of the city, therefore I suggest grabbing a bus if you’re not driving.
- Pioneer Square – This is a lovely, old “vintage” area only couple of blocks away from Pike Place Market. It’s great to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere it holds. Old red brick buildings, taking you back to the Klondike days of Seattle, with plenty of fairy lights to set the mood.
- Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park – This is not in fact a park, I would describe it as a small museum. The admission is completely free and it is located just of the Pioneer Square. This “park” tells you a story of the Klondike Gold Rush era, what Seattle was like, where did the people come from and how and if they got rich. This is a super interesting piece of history and it’s quite interactive too, therefore I’d highly recommend visiting with children.
- Central Library – While it is a fully functioning public library, the design of it – inside & out is worth taking a peek. It’s on the way back from the Pioneer Square via 4th Avenue if you wish to walk by it.
Top Things to do in Seattle – Paid
- Museum of Pop Culture – this is one of the coolest and most interesting museums I have ever been to. From the birth of hip hop, through to fashion and horror movies this museum really brought me back to my childhood (90s babies will love this place). The museum has dynamic pricing, therefore if you are in a position to visit the city mid week you will get the best value at approximately $26 USD + tax. We paid $32.00 USD + tax, as we visited on Labor Day Weekend and the price was increased due to demand.
- View of Seattle from Above – This is where you have multiple choices that best suit your budget. Space Needle Admission is anywhere from $34 – $39 per person + tax (which is outrageous); Skyview Observatory where you can grab a drink up top will cost you $25.00; lastly the Smith Tower Observatory costs $19.00 and if you are local and can provide a valid Washington ID you will get 20% off the ticket price. Each of these options will provide you with relatively similar views; you just need to make a choice which one best suits your needs and budget.
- The Great Seattle Wheel – This is also a great option to see Seattle from up high. This is of course, nowhere near as high as the observatory decks mentioned above, however it’s a great alternative. The admission is $17.00 + tax per adult, or if you’re feeling fancy you can fork out $50 for a Glass Bottom Cabin “VIP”. I am sure the sunset views right by the water are stunning from the top.
- The Seattle Roastery – Starbucks Reserve – Disclaimer: We didn’t make it to the roastery, but hear me out. We did stand in line for 1 hour to get into the 1st ever Starbucks. I admit, this was my fan girling moment. The store itself was nothing special and I got my first this season Pumpkin Spice Latte (it’s almost fall, or so I told myself) and I paid a regular price. Did it taste different? No. But hey, it was for the experience. Now, I have heard many amazing things about the Roastery, and if you still feel like you want to visit Starbucks but aren’t willing to stay in line for an hour I suggest you check this place out instead. You can schedule a private tour of the roastery and do a tasting which sounds like so much fun!
- Ghost Alley Espresso – This is another amazing spot to get your caffeine fix in Seattle. Located right at the Gum Wall, underneath the Pike Place Market this tiny location is always busy and the line is all the way up the street.
Some other places that were recommended that we didn’t get to:
- Seattle Underground Tour – This underground tour has been highly recommended by a number of people, however due to time constraints we didn’t get to it. Admission is $22 per person + tax and the tour lasts for 75 minutes.
- Bainbridge Island – This is a small city on an island just off Seattle accessible by Ferry. The city boasts a coastal vibe with natural reserve, Scandinavian influences and relaxed way of life.
- Take a walk through Capitol Hill – We actually did get a chance to quickly run through Capitol Hill, however not enough to have an opinion. It does appear to be a nice area, very hipster with many breweries, restaurants and viby stores.
Things to avoid in Seattle
As with any city there are things that are on the map as “must see” or do and I can tell you first hand what to avoid, not wasting your time on and which areas to avoid altogether.
- Chinatown – International District – On any of the tourist maps you will have the Chinatown District. Now, in every city I have ever been to its been an amazing part of the city rich with culture and vibrant colors. Perhaps, this may also be a case here, however the majority of it and mainly the very entrance to it, is overshadowed by homeless, disadvantaged individuals and general havoc and trash. It was an area we definitely did not feel safe walking around in broad daylight. This is an area right off Union Station/Kingstreet Station so if you are traveling by train or bus to Seattle, please bare that in mind upon arrival.
- Union Station / Kingstreet Station – Please refer to my point above.
- Olympic Sculpture Park – Even though this park is mentioned in all guides as a free thing to do in Seattle, it is genuinely a small park with 3 or 4 sculptures that aren’t actually all that significant. If you are an art buff and have the time, by all means please walk through. You can visit it walking back downtown from the Space Needle.
- Boeing Future of Flight – Now hear me out on this, as it’s not all bad. Currently the Boeing factory tour is closed, as they are still trying to figure out how to make the tours safe for the employees who are critical to the building of new planes. With that being said, currently the only available “attraction” is a 1 hour movie with an employee commentary alongside it about the history of Boeing. They also have a small lobby of sorts, which is interactive and you can read through the history of Boeing a little more. You do not get to see any planes whatsoever and this is why for the time being I suggest you avoid it. If you are a plane fanatic, I suggest you take a look at Museum of Flight instead. We haven’t made it there ourselves but I heard it’s good.
- Jimmy Hendrix Statue – This will be pointed out to you on the map by Capitol Hill neighborhood. If you are around the area, sure go and take a look, but don’t go there simply for that. It’s a life size statue outside 7 Eleven which is in a shadier part of Capitol Hill. It is not worth trekking over.
Some other useful information about Seattle
Parking on the streets is free on Sundays and Holidays. If you do want to get free parking on those days downtown, you have to be there extremely early, as it is impossible to actually find parking. On weekdays, the parkades will charge you anything from $25-$40 a day for parking. If you have a little extra time, park a little further down – 10/15 minutes walk, where you pay $2.50 an hour and walk downtown. In addition, all hotels downtown charge nightly parking rate of approximately $40-$60 dollars that you need to incorporate into your bill if you intend on driving.
There is a toll bridge between Bellevue and Seattle which costs $4.05 each time you pass. Make sure you pay this toll to avoid any interest and fines. The toll is automatic and takes a photograph of your car, therefore no payment on site available.
If you are looking to save money on accommodation, I strongly encourage you to take a look at hotels in Bellevue. It is located 10-15 minutes drive from downtown and the hotels are almost half the price than what you’d pay downtown. Bellevue although quieter area of the city, still has a mall, plenty of bars and restaurants that will provide you with enough to do and spend the evening there.
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