Help a Reader Travel: Seattle, Washington

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Welcome to another post of helping a reader travel! As I’ve mentioned before, I have not been to every destination (unfortunately), but do get questions from friends and other blog readers on all sort of travel destination questions. Thus far, we’ve been able to help other readers travel to MauiThe Greek IslandsPacific Coast HighwayArgentina /Buenos AiresCosta RicaCape Cod & The IslandsIcelandGenevaCanadian RockiesRomeIsraelPeru / Inca Trail, StockholmChicagoParisHanoiAustinPuerto RicoBrugesSalzburgIstanbulLas Vegas, Jamaica, India/Golden Triangle, Auckland, Singapore, Moscow, and The Oregon Coast.

So this weeks travel destination includes Washington. Last week was the Oregon Coast and I got a follow up email from a reader, Gabby, on things to do in Seattle, Washington:

“I am also planning on doing the Oregon Coast this summer and starting my trip in Seattle, Washington. How many days do I need in Seattle to see the big highlights? Also, what part of the city is ideal for a tourist? There seems to be hotels all over, and I have no idea what area I should be focusing on! What do you suggest? Also, what are some day trips outside of Seattle? Thanks for all of your help and I am really looking forward to a West Coast trip!”

If you’ve ever been Seattle, Washington, please help out reader Gabby by commenting below.

Also, if you have any upcoming travel where you need some help, feel free to email me at to be a featured “Help a Reader Travel” Monday special. Thanks!

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. I did Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Mt. Rainier in 5 days over Labor Day weekend last year. I planned the trip myself and it worked out very efficiently.

    We stayed at the Hyatt on Olive and 8th. It’s a very new hotel and has a nice gym.

    We arrived in Seattle at 2 pm from Victoria and mostly walked around the waterfront. It’s quite beautiful there.

    One of the highlights of the trip was a trip to Mt. Rainier. We took a tour bus and the guide was extremely knowledgeable about the park. There are many companies operating tours to Mt. Rainier and I spent a long time doing research on them and we went with The reason for this was that they make several stops along the way so one can take pictures and then give you 1.5-2 hours of time where you can hike. We hiked all the way up to a glacier!

    If you have your own car, you can probably go to Mt. Rainier yourself.

    However, weather on Mt. Rainier is volatile and it’s best to go on a sunny day. Generally, if you can see the mountain from the city, then it should be nice and sunny on the mountain. We were lucky with the weather and caught a beautiful day when we went!

  2. I went to the Boeing Factory in Everett. It was amazing. I also went to a shooting range a couple minutes from Paine Field as well. I had a blast.

  3. Love it there. There’s tons of downtown hotels (I like the Grand Hyatt) but if you stay there parking is going to cost you $25-$30/day. (Assuming you rent a car; you can also take the new rail from the airport straight to downtown … depending on weather, you may not need a car for exploring downtown.) Downtown, you’ve got the Seattle Center (where the Space Needle is located), Pike Place Market, and a big aquarium near Pike Place. You’ve also gotta stop at Salumi (if it’s open!) and get a sandwich — be prepared to wait in line. I love visiting Snoqualmie Falls, seeing the view from the top and then hiking down to the bottom. Stopping at XXX Rootbeer and Boehms chocolates on the way there or the way back. In Ballard, I love the Ballard Locks (aka Hiram M. Chittenden Locks); the grounds are beautiful (weather permitting) and, depending on season, you can see fish swimming between fresh and salt water down on the “fish ladder.” (Ballard Locks is free, too. Just gotta pay for meter parking.) Stop at Archie McPhee while you’re in Ballard for one of the most unique toy/novelty stores. As far as day trips, there are tons of little islands in Puget Sound … you can grab a ferry and explore one or some of those. If you want to go out further, Vancouver BC is just a few hours north, and/or you can take a ferry to Victoria BC.

  4. I used to live in Seattle so my viewpoints a little biased… but here are my thoughts…

    Stay downtown. Do not rent a car… Take the light rail from the airport; it’s super convenient… my favorite hotel is probably the Four Seasons right now but for our points lovers there are plenty of Hyatts, Hiltons, and Starwoods available… I’ve always been partial to the Grand Hyatt but Olive 8 is nice too…

    Things to see: Pioneer Square/Underground tour is great- make sure you hit Salumi as well (Mario Batali’s dad opened it). Of course Pike Place Market. The Space Needle is great and the restaurant is actually fairly decent (take the monorail from Westlake Center). South Lake Union has some great options such as the REI flagship (take the South Lake Union Trolley aka the SLUT). 2-3 days will sort things out nicely… Museum of Flight/Boeing Factory always important for the aviation geeks… Good day trips would be anything ferry based. Ferry to Bainbridge Island. Victoria and San Juan Islands are nice, though you might want to stay the night there. Food wise any Tom Douglas restaurant is great. I like Portage Bay a lot as well..

  5. You could stay as few as three nights or as long as a full week. I live here and still haven’t seen everything. As for hotels, avoid the area near Northgate, Aurora, and the airport. That leaves you with downtown (expensive), South Lake Union (cheaper, but no full service properties), and Bellevue (cheaper, but at 20-30 minutes to cross the bridge). One of the best compromises is the Watertown Hotel, near the University District.

  6. We spent a long weekend in Seattle, loved it!!!! Planning on coming back soon.

    We also took the tours Northwest to Mount Rainier. Loved it that they picked us up at our hotel and dropped us back off there. Mount Rainier was so cool and it was nice to visit the 1st time with a tour.

    We enjoyed the Chihuly museum which is right under the space needle. And the aquarium was outstanding. My Dd could have hung out at the touch pools all day. In fact that was 1 day, the aquarium and Pike market for us.

    Pacific science center was not worth it really beside the King Tut items which I think have moved on. Took the Monorail to space needle area once we exited the light rail station. Less walking is a plus.

    We stayed at the Radisson by the airport as I had points. Walked to the hotel from the airport and a quick 2 block walk to the light rail station each morning. I wish all cities were as easy to visit as Seattle! No car was needed!!!!!

  7. Anyone here ever do Olympia National Park? I’m also visiting Seattle this summer and would love to go there, but it seems difficult logistically. Thoughts?

  8. I grew up in Seattle and every year when I go back, I’m reminded on how bike/carless-friendly the city still is. If you get a chance, forgo car rental and just rent a bike and do the bus/bike everywhere. Almost every bus has a bike rack!

    You’ll get to see more while you’re on the bus, and be far more versatile when you’re on a bike.

  9. Stay downtown. Hyatts, Westin, Sheraton, W, Four Seasons, Fairmont, Inn at the Market etc. You don’t need a car for exploring in town or taking a ferry. Maybe rent a car for a day or two to explore Mt Rainier, Olympic Peninsula etc. Car rentals are available downtown. Lots of guidebooks.

  10. @Allen. It’s very friendly. Last time we visited we used zip car to get the places we needed to go that wasn’t within he realm of public transport.

  11. Just did Seattle for the 1st time. Stayed at the downtown Sheraton w/ points+cash very reasonably. They have a nce conceirge lounge. There is a lot to do downtown. It’s fun to take the ferry, too. Teenage kids loved the underground tour. Pikes has wonderful one of a kind gifts. Great food everywhere!

  12. People often don’t realize how hilly Seattle is, be prepared for it. As others have said, stay in downtown, there are so many options.

    Pike Place Market, the waterfront and Pioneer Square are good for one day. Be sure to stop at the original Starbucks at PPM if you’re a coffee drinker. The Seattle Underground Tour operates out of Doc Maynard’s in the Square, you may need reservations.

    Another day could be Seattle Center (Space Needle, Experience Music Project & SF Museum, plus probably some kind of cultural festival no matter when you’re there), followed by the Fremont neighborhood (self-declared Center Of The Universe, Set Your Watches Back 5 Minutes; public art galore). Finish up at Gasworks Park if the weather is good.

    People-watching: along Pike/Pine climbing up from downtown and along Broadway, along University Avenue, Green Lake Park, Belltown.

    U of W Arboretum if the weather is nice, huge with well-done pathways (some literally extend over Lake Washington); the Japanese Gardens are worth it almost by themselves.

    Besides Archie McPhee’s, Ballard has the largest Norwegian population outside of Norway, and is visited essentially every year by their King & Queen. (Beware lutefisk! Seriously. Do not accept.) Old downtown Ballard between Market Street & Shilshole Ave still has the old brick buildings. West of Ballard is Golden Gardens Park, and of course the locks. On the opposite side of the Ship Canal from Ballard is Fisherman’s Terminal, several ships from “Deadliest Catch” home port there. (Yes, you could meet Sig while just poking around, I did.)

    Museums: aside from the EMP, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Frye Museum on the UW campus, Museum of Industry & Technology, and more. The Museum of Flight is south of downtown a ways, but enormous & worth it.

    Kitch: Ride The Duck tour. Take a water taxi across Elliott Bay to Alki. Take the monorail from Westlake Mall to Seattle Center.

    Parks: Aside from those already named are Discovery, Volunteer, Carkeek, Ravenna and Magnusson/Sand Point.

  13. Since you asked about big highlights, I’ll second the Ride the Duck tour – Touristy, of course, but you’ll see the stadiums, downtown, north Lake Union, and Fremont without having to walk. I found the Underground Tour to be very interesting. Museum of Flight is great – minimum of 2 hrs, but probably better to plan on spending 4 or more if history/aviation are intersting ! If you’re on a tighter budget, downtown’s too busy, or you want to have a car your whole visit, you might look at the Uptown/Lower Queen Anne area close to the Seattle Center. There’s great access to buses going every direction and several hotels have free parking. Hampton Inn and Four Points are there.

  14. Stayed in the Weston right under the monorail and very near other good transportation. Enjoyed the space needle by having a good lunch on top and skipping the entry fee that way. Liked Pike’s place and nearby Irish Pubs with deals on Friday nights. Something worth seeing but unexected is the suberb central libarary building and also the underground tour. We liked the baseball field also. First enjoyed an overall tour in a van.Excellent and an economomical way to get overview and see many outdoor sculptures, etc. What a great city.

  15. Seattle is such a great city with so many things to do. There are a lot of great options in terms of accommodations. The Hampton Inn Rooms are nice, and located in the downtown centre.

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