The Ultimate 3-Day Seattle Guide

The Ultimate 3-Day Seattle Guide

If you haven’t found the time to visit Seattle yet, pull out your calendar and make a plan. The Pacific NW is famous for the drizzle, but its summer/fall seasons are famous for their mild perfection. June through October is ideal. Here’s a great list of things to do on a long 3-day weekend getaway to Seattle, Washington — rain or shine — to give you a sweet introduction to what this city is about.

Comfortable walking shoes are a must in Seattle. There are a lot of hills and temperature fluctuations especially near the waterfront. Dress in layers so that you can easily adjust as you explore the city.

Day 1: Downtown

  • Start your day at the Belltown Macrina Bakery for a pastry and coffee before you make your way West to the sculpture park (pavilion entrance).
  • The 9-acre Olympic Sculpture Park offers amazing views of the Puget Sound, with the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Rainier in the distance.  Entry is free. Wind your way through the open-air sculptures and head down to street level below to wander down the classic waterfront towards the market.
pike place, Seattle, farmers market
  • After dozens of cute touristy shops and cafes (and even more cruise ship travelers), you’ll cross the street to head back up the hill towards the East entry to Pike Place Market.  You’ve probably seen the “Public Market” sign and clock in photographs a hundred times. Yes, it’s a tourist attraction but it’s also a busy, working market with beautiful fruit, produce and flowers. Vendors and makers abound selling both cute wares and unnecessary tchotchkes.
Skip a visit to the “first Starbucks”, which is in the Market. Lines are unnecessarily long and guess what? Inside, it’s just like any other Starbucks you’ve ever been to. Snap a picture of the exterior from the street and keep moving. For a unique Starbucks experience on the brand’s home turf, visit the first Starbucks Reserve Roastery up on Capitol Hill.
  • If the market feels too hectic for lunch (it most likely will), venture to nearby Post Alley and nab an outside table at Café Campagne, a lovely French brasserie just beyond the crowds. When you’re done, pop upstairs to the delightful Watson Kennedy store for a quick shopping spree of all things lovely. 
smith tower, Seattle, pioneer square
  • After lunch, stroll towards Pioneer Square. Pioneer Square is the heart of historic Seattle. Once home to Indigenous Coastal Salish people, it became Seattle’s original first neighborhood in the mid-1800s. It eventually became ground zero for the railroad and for folks setting off on the Alaksa Gold Rush. Today, there are a lot of nods to history in the architecture, saloon-style bars and walking tours. Visit the shops and art galleries, as well as the nearby Chinatown-International District.
  • Head back to your hotel for a quick rest and clean up before a fancy dinner at Sushi Kashiba. Chef Kashiba is a three-times James Beard nominee, and the restaurant offers high-end sushi and omakase with water views. (The set course menu is very worth it!)

Day 2: Ballard and Magnolia

  • Day 2 is all about soaking in Seattle’s beautiful outdoors. Plan to drive (or Uber) up to the trendy neighborhood of Ballard. With a deep maritime and Scandinavian history, there’s a nautical vibe and a relaxed Scandi-aesthetic.
  • Get your day going with a yummy brunch at Sabine Cafe. They have tables inside and out, and the classic, comfortable ambiance brings out a different side of Seattle than you experienced on Day 1. After eating, spend an hour wandering around the casual neighborhood. Pop into the many gorgeous housewares and modern clothing shops for a few souvenirs. 
  • When you can break away, walk yourself down Market Street to the National Nordic Museum. This is the largest and most promient museum in the United States dedicated to Nordic heritage, culture and immigration. (You guessed it…Seattle has a huge Nordic-heritage population.) This beautiful space features engaging story-telling and high-design.
seattle, ballard, locks
  • From the museum, continue down Market Street on foot towards Hiram M. Chittenden Ballard Locks.  This is where boats of all sizes move from salt water to fresh water, and vice-versa. Boats are “locked” in and the water is mechanically leveled out so that they can pass with ease. It’s amazing to see, so be sure to wait around to catch the action. The Locks is a free destination.
At the Locks, there is also a fascinating Fish Ladder Education Center where you can see how salmon populations migrate safely from one body of water to the next (up a fish ladder!). It’s a quick stop, and worthy of the 15 minutes.
  • If you’re up for more outdoor time, drive over to Discovery Park in the Magnolia neighborhood.  There’s a cultural center, miles of urban hiking trails and the old buildings of the now decommissioned Fort Lawson. There are dozens of trails (long and short) and many will have you wandering through old-growth forest and meadows before emerging to glorious views of the Puget Sound.
  • When done, grab an early dinner at Maggie Bluffs located on the Marina in Interbay. One of the Seattle Yacht Clubs is also here, so the boat watching is incredible. The restaurant is super casual and sitting outside for the iconic views of Mt. Rainier and the Seattle skyline in the distance is worth it.  Order the fish and chips. A cold local beer never tasted so good.

Day 3 – Downtown (again!)

  • Fill your last day with culture.  Kick off the morning with the best doughnuts in town at Top Pot Doughnuts in Belltown. It’s hard to explain just how good these are, so you’ll have to check them out for yourself. Drool.
  • Burn those carbs and walk a few blocks towards the famous Space Needle. You can head up to the observation deck if you desire. Tickets are available for pre-purchase.
  • The Space Needle is conveniently located in the Seattle Center, where you can find numerous other interesting stopping points, including museums and casual food. First, check out the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum dedicated to the beautiful work of world-famous glass artist Dale Chihuly. See live demos and marvel at the incredible glass art pieces both inside and out
  • Next check out MoPop, the Museum of Modern Pop Culture. (Also in the Seattle Center.) If you’re a Gen X’er like I am, this museum will speak to the deepest core of your musical youth with a heavy nod to the grunge era. To be honest, the architecture of this building alone is enough to pull you in.  
  • If you’ve timed things right, plan to take in some entertainment on your last night in town. Catch a show at The Showbox or the new-and-improved Crocodile. Or head to T-Mobile Park for a Seattle Mariners baseball game at one of the most beautiful stadiums in the league. These options are all walkable downtown, and will give you all of the Seattle feels.

Where to Stay

Here are three great downtown options easily partnered with the 3-Day Gadabout itinerary shared.

Space Needle photo by Jared Vandermeer on Pexels. MoPop photo by Hester Qiang on Unsplash. All other photos by Leslie Hodgin.

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