Seattle: What, When and Where to Visit
Without typecasting it too much, the city of Seattle is known for a lot of things: beer, coffee, music, festivals, seafood, scenery, rain and Pike Place Market…to name just a few.
Seattle could be described as a city of surprising contrasts, unpretentiousness, vibrant seasons and natural beauty. Let us give you a few ideas to help you start planning your Seattle vacation today!
When to Visit
Summer is the city’s busy season, so the fall can be characterized as the sweet spot for tourism. The weather is still lovely from September to November, and hotels are less crowded and cheaper. Be prepared, though, because it is Seattle: Bring a rain jacket.
What to Do
Seattle hosts many festivals throughout the year, such as the Northwest Folklife Festival (free) and the Seattle International Film Festival, both in May; the Fremont Fair in June, Seattle International Beer Fest in July, Seafair in July and August, and Bumbershoot in September. Bumbershoot is the nation's largest music and arts festival, attracting over a million people to Seattle Center every Labor Day weekend. The beer fest is a high-end 3-day beer festival specializing in rare, hard-to-find and exotic beers. Seafair is an annual July-August festival with ship tours, air shows, hydroplane races, parades and street performances on the shores of Puget Sound.
For visitors wanting to experience a little of everything iconic at a discounted price in Seattle, they might want to get a Seattle CityPASS, which includes admission to the city’s top attractions, including the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises, Pacific Science Center, Experience Music Project and an option of the Museum of Flight or Woodland Park Zoo.
It would be hard to go to Seattle and not stroll around Pike Place Market. It’s good exercise and it’s free. Established in 1907, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operated farmers’ markets in the U.S. Enjoy samples of local food from vendors and be entertained by street musicians. There’s always something going on at Pike Place Market, and it’s only closed 3 days a year.
On the downtown waterfront near Seattle Aquarium, ride the Seattle Great Wheel, a 175-foot tall Ferris wheel with enclosed gondola-type cabins, for a view from on high of the city, Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains to the west. The Great Wheel became the tallest Ferris wheel on the west coast when it opened on June 29, 2012.
Marvel at Chihuly Garden & Glass in the Seattle Center, right next to that little-known structure people call the Space Needle. Chihuly opened in 2012 and showcases the beautiful studio glass of Dale Chihuly. Use the coupon in your Seattle CityPASS booklet to receive up to $5 off general admission.
How about a beer tour on rainy day? Many local brewers, including Redhook Ale Brewery, Pike Brewing Company and Pyramid Alehouse, offer tours of their operations. In case you get too sudsy, you can wash your beer down with food at these places that offer full menus.
You could always book a Road Dog Seattle Brewery Tour, which will provide transportation to and from each brewery. Learn about Seattle’s unique brewing history, taste samples and learn about the beer making process during the tour.
Where to Eat
Café Campagne is a French bistro in Pike Place Market on historic Post Street. Grab some breakfast there. We hear the poached eggs in a red wine foie gras sauce are amazing. For lunch, how about a Caribbean pork sandwich from Paseo in Ballard?
If you like handmade pasta, you’ll probably like Il Corvo in Pioneer Square. Get your seafood fix at Ray’s Boathouse. Every Seattle local has probably eaten there at some point. Ray’s has a downstairs Boathouse, with a pricier menu and fancy napkins; and then there’s Ray’s Cafe upstairs, with a more casual vibe. The upstairs dining makes for some amazing views of Puget Sound and the rugged Olympic Mountains.
Where to Shop
You can’t visit downtown Seattle and not go shopping. With more than 1,000 different retailers, downtown is the main retail area in Seattle. There’s also independent boutiques not found anywhere else.
You can also find hundreds of unique shopping options throughout all of downtown’s 12 neighborhoods. If you’re into antiquing, check out Deluxe Junk in Fremont. It's located on 3518 Fremont Place N.
Get your bookworm wiggling at the Elliott Bay Book Company in Pioneer Square. Or try out some of the outlets malls on the outskirts of the city. The newly opened Seattle Premium Outlets, north of Seattle on I-5, has some of the best outlet shopping around.
Where to Stay
The Mayflower Park Hotel is classy and close to Pike Place Market as well as many bars and restaurants, and there’s even free WiFi. I also like Kimpton Hotels, specifically the Alexis Hotel on First Avenue and Hotel Monaco Seattle on Fourth Avenue.
For more suggestions, a great resource is visitseattle.org. As a convention and visitor’s bureau, their people are the pros when it comes to servicing visitors and answering questions.
How to Get Around
Speaking of Visit Seattle, here’s a good link to their page about transportation options in Seattle. Seattle is considered an easy city to drive around in, but the monorail, bus system, water taxis, etc., make it easier yet.