Today on Lauren on Location, we have a special guest. Stephanie reached out to me a few weeks ago about writing a “One Day In” post for my blog and she suggested the city of Seattle! Well, I just happen to be heading to Seattle in less than a month (talk about small-world-coincidences) and have been dying to check out this Pacific Northwest gem for myself! After reading this guide, I’m even more excited and I can’t wait to put it to good use!
Here’s Stephanie’s perfect one day itinerary for Seattle, Washington!
Unlike other major cities, you can get a good taste of Seattle in one day. Yes, you might have to cut some things short, but with 24 hours you can fit in all the highlights.
Seattle is one of the country’s fastest-growing cities. Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing are attracting thousands of young professionals to this city. It has grown 18.7% since 2010 with no signs of slowing down.
Before going to Seattle, be prepared for the weather. Seattle gets a bad rap as being this dark, gloomy, and rainy city. Sure, it rains in Seattle. But it never really pours. So pack your rain jacket and expect a light drizzle. (Seattleites don’t use umbrellas. I’m not sure why, but I guess we just get used to the weather. An umbrella will instantly mark you as a tourist). If you are visiting in the summer you will be treated to clear skies, comfortable temperatures, and sunshine.
Seattle is a gorgeous city. Since you won’t have enough time to get out of the city for a hike, enjoy the city’s evergreen trees, Mt Rainier views (on a clear day), and keep your eye out for a bald eagle sighting.
Alright, let’s get started on this 24-hour Seattle adventure!
How to Spend One Day in Seattle:
Rise and shine- it’s time for breakfast!
Let’s kick off our 24-hours with breakfast at Biscuit B*tch. This grungy but welcoming cafe is the perfect introduction to the Pacific Northwest. Ok, so the music here is loud and you will hear “b*tch” a lot, but give it a few minutes and you will appreciate its charm. And once you try a biscuit you will understand why there are consistently lines out the door (yes, be ready for that).
Order: My go-to is the Buttered Up B*tch with Jam but the Hot Mess B*tch (Biscuit and Gravy, Eggs and Garlic Grits smothered in Cheese, Grilled Louisiana Hot Link, and Jalapenos ) is also a popular choice.
Locations: You can find Biscuit B*tch in Belltown, Pioneer Square, or Pike Place. Check here for the location closest to your hotel. If you are staying near Pike Place Market, check out the location inside Caffé Lieto. It might be harder to find this one because it’s inside this cafe and doesn’t have its own sign. But since it’s near Pike Place Market, it is the busiest location so you will probably spot the crowd waiting for their biscuits.
Enjoy a Cup of Seattle’s Best
That’s right, you are in Seattle so you need to try some coffee. The coffee culture here is strong. And as you probably know, Starbucks started here in 1971.
Seattle is full of local coffee shops, knowledgeable baristas, and coffee connoisseurs. So you have a few options for your morning cup. Some of the best coffee houses in the city are:
- Cafe Umbria– This artisan coffee shop was started by an Italian immigrant and is known for their traditional Italian-style espressos.
- El Diablo– A Cuban-inspired coffeehouse in Queen Anne that serves perfect cortados. This cafe has multiple patios that are perfect for those clear Seattle mornings.
- Milstead & Co– Located in the quirky Fremont neighborhood, this cafe offers everything you could want out of a Seattle coffee experience. It’s away from the tourist scene, has plenty of open seating, and baristas who are willing to educate you about your drink.
But, since you only have 24-hours, my recommendation is to check out the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. I know, you might want a more “local coffee” experience in Seattle, but Starbucks was started here, so it counts! And the Reserve Roastery is unlike any other coffee shop. Even if you don’t drink coffee, you still need to see this place
This is truly a coffee shrine. And this modern, upscale cafe and roastery is the perfect alternative to the not-so-original “first” Starbucks in Pike Place Market. Here you can watch the roasting process as you sip on a unique coffee drink (the menu is completely different than a regular Starbucks).
There are multiple bars around the roastery, where you can order coffee, tea-drinks, coffee flights, and alcohol (yes they serve here). There is also an Italian bakery complete with pastries and pizza. And even if you don’t want a drink, spend some time exploring the cafe and speaking with baristas about the roasting process.
See the Sights
Now that you are on a coffee buzz, it’s time to see Seattle’s most recognizable attraction. The Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and has since become the city’s icon. Don’t worry about going to the top, we will get a better view of the city later today. Instead, just head to the Seattle Center and spend some time enjoying the view from the park.
If you’re up for it, there are two popular museums near the Space Needle. Depending on your schedule, I would suggest only picking one of these museums to explore. But, if you don’t want to be rushed you can skip the museums entirely.
- Chihuly Garden and Glass: This museum is home to a collection of Dale Chihuly’s blown glass. This Washingtonian’s style is very recognizable and his art can be seen all over the world. My favorite part of the exhibit is the outdoor garden where the glass pieces are incorporated into the greenery. General admission tickets cost $29. Since you are on a short timeline, buy your tickets online in advance to skip the line at the museum. I would budget at least an hour at this stop.
- Museum of Pop Culture (MOPOP): You will quickly spot this funky, futuristic-looking building. Inside you can find exhibits dedicated to films, music, sports, and video games. This is a unique museum that celebrates all things pop culture. General admission tickets are $26 (if purchased online in advance). Again, I would suggest at least an hour for this museum.
After finishing up in Seattle Center, it’s time for lunch. And we are heading to Seattle’s other main attraction, Pike Place Market.
How to get there: You could drive, Uber, or take a bus but I recommend hopping on the Seattle Center Monorail. This short ride offers a unique view of the city. The monorail was also built for the 1962 World’s Fair and departs from the Seattle Center every 10-minutes. A one-way trip costs $2.50 and tickets can be purchased at the station. The monorail takes you to the Westlake Center, which is a short walk from the market. After exiting the station, stay on Pine Street until you reach Pike Place.
Lunch at the Iconic Pike Place Market
You can’t miss Pike Place Market. This place is so iconic and is what most people first think of when they think about Seattle.
Lunch is the perfect time to visit the market. Yes, it will be crowded, but that’s because the market is in full swing at lunch. I’ve tried to beat the crowds by going for breakfast, but most of the market isn’t open in the morning. And a lot of the shops and restaurants close before dinner. So if you want the full experience, you need to go for lunch.
You could easily wander through the market and find plenty of satisfying options. You really can’t go wrong!
But to maximize your time I suggest visiting one (or more) of these Pike Place staples:
- Beecher’s Homemade Cheese: Go here for a bowl of the “World’s Best Mac and Cheese” or a classic grilled cheese sandwich. You can even watch the cheese-making process through the glass windows.
- Pike Place Chowder: You will wait in a line to try this award-winning chowder. But if you want to try the Number 1 rated dish on Yelp, you can’t skip this place. Try their Hall-of-Fame New England Clam Chowder (yes this PNW cafe holds this award) or delicious Seafood Bisque.
- Cantina de San Patricio: If you want table service, try this Mexican restaurant tucked away in Post Alley. They also offer a great happy hour complete with margaritas and guacamole.
- Ellenos: This is more of a post-lunch option, but you need to try this surprisingly delicious Greek yogurt. I know what you’re thinking, but this Greek yogurt isn’t tart. It’s actually sweet and flavorful. And trust me, you want to try the marionberry pie flavor.
- Starbucks: Yes, Pike Place Market is home to the “original” Starbucks. But this isn’t the actual first location. The first shop opened in 1971 and relocated to this location in 1976. So technically it’s still the oldest Starbucks shop that is still open. But the lines will be long. So if it’s worth it to you, wait. But if not, just see it from the outside and move on.
If you have trouble finding somewhere to eat, head to the new MarketFront for a large patio with plenty of space to stand and enjoy your meal. You will also get a great view of downtown Seattle, Elliott Bay, and Mount Rainier (on a clear day) from here.
Before you leave, don’t forget to soak up the atmosphere. Take a picture with the iconic market sign and stop by the Pike Place Fish Market stall to catch a glimpse of the famous “flying fish.” And of course, don’t forget to contribute to one of the world’s most disgusting tourist attractions, the Gum Wall.
Explore a Quirky Neighborhood
Time to get out of the touristy area. Most visitors only spend their time in Belltown but Seattle is home to many neighborhoods, each with their own unique flavor. And of course you need to see the Space Needle and Pike Place, but to get a real taste for Seattle, make sure you also travel out of downtown.
Fremont is the perfect neighborhood to explore. It’s walkable and filled with character. You could easily spend half a day exploring this funky neighborhood, but today you only have time for the highlights.
Take a picture with the Fremont troll, look at the controversial Lenin statue, and step into a Macklemore-approved thrift shop (yes, the Fremont Vintage Mall was featured in the Thrift Shop music video).
If you are looking for an afternoon pick-me-up, Milstead & Co is located at the bottom of the Aurora Bridge (AKA the Troll Bridge). You could also enjoy some confections from Theo Chocolate, the first organic and fair-trade certified chocolate company in the country.
If you have extra time, consider biking from Fremont to Gas Works Park. This former utility plant was converted into an expansive green space. From here you can see a great view of South Lake Union (and the Space Needle). Seattle is a very bike-friendly city and there are multiple dock-free bike options in the city.
By now you have probably noticed bikes lining the sidewalks. Lime, Spin, and Ofo all recently started bike-sharing in Seattle. Just download the free app (from the bike company of your choice) and get ready to ride. To unlock a bike, use the app to scan a code on the bike. Most only cost $1 per half hour. When you are done, relock the bike and leave it anywhere (within reason). If you are heading from Fremont to Gas Works Park, follow the Burke Gilman trail. The ride is less than a mile.
Take in Some Sunset Views
The sunset time will vary depending on when you visit the city. It can be anywhere from 4:10 pm-9:00 pm. (I could not believe how early it set in the winter!). So if you are visiting in the summer, you might want to make this an after-dinner activity. But, the view from Kerry Park is the best in the city. And if you can visit during sunset, you will be rewarded with a great photo opportunity (many professional photographers wait for hours to get the perfect shot).
From here you can see the entire Seattle skyline, Elliott Bay, and Mt. Rainier. The actual park is mostly just a small strip of grass but you are really here for the city view. Be prepared, getting to this park isn’t easy. It is at the top of a steep hill, so I wouldn’t recommend walking or biking. You can drive, but street parking in this Queen Anne neighborhood can be challenging. I suggest taking an Uber.
Dinner to Fit your Budget
You deserve a delicious meal after a full day of exploring. Seattle has awesome options for every budget. Below are some of my favorites:
- Dick’s Drive-In: Seattle’s answer to In-N-Out opened in 1954. Here you can enjoy a simple burger, fries, and shake. This is a no-frills classic American fast-food burger joint, so be prepared to order at a walk-up window and eat in your car.
- Frelard Pizza Company: Hands-down the best pizza in Seattle. This is a sister restaurant of Ballard Pizza Company, but with patio seating and a fire pit, the Frelard location wins in the atmosphere category. Don’t be afraid to try the Big Moses pizza. This is a “chosen” pizza and you won’t know the ingredients until it arrives at your table. I’ve never been disappointed with the chef’s recommendation.
- Mezcaleria Oaxaca: Oaxacan food is popular in Seattle, and this Cap Hill restaurant offers some of the city’s best. Try a Mezcalita (a margarita made with Oaxaca’s popular mezcal spirit) and anything with skirt steak.
- Revel: This Korean-French fusion restaurant recently relocated from Fremont to South Lake Union. This is a family-style restaurant so order a few dishes for the table to share. Here you can try a short rib dumpling or the PNW’s famous Dungeness crab.
- Toulouse Petit: This New Orleans-inspired restaurant is one of the most popular dinner spots in Seattle. It was recently rated the 5th most popular US restaurant by TripAdvisor. Go here for seafood or steak. They also offer a substantial happy hour menu!
You’ve had a full day in Seattle, so absolutely no judgment if you call it a night after dinner. But if you’re looking to extend your day into night, consider one of the following evening activities:
- Flatstick Pub: This craft beer bar also offers indoor mini golf. Sign up for a tee time on their website.
- Unexpected Productions Improv: Head back to Pike Place for a late night comedy show. The theater is located right off the Gum Wall. On Friday and Saturday nights check out the Improv Happy Hour show for $10.
- Sports Game: Sports fans have their choice of attending an MLS, MLB, NFL, or WNBA game. The Mariners, Seahawks, and Sounders all play in the downtown stadiums, so they are convenient for anyone staying in the Belltown area.
- Go Out: Alright if you want to go out, make sure you head to Cap Hill. This neighborhood offers lively, young party vibes. For a unique experience, head to the carnival-themed Unicorn bar.
Alright, guys, there is my very full one-day Seattle itinerary. Honestly, it was challenging to narrow this down to one day because so much of what I love about Seattle happens to be outside the city. Don’t get me wrong, this is the perfect itinerary for one day. And I love the Emerald City, but what makes Seattle so great is its proximity to some of the world’s best hiking. Within a few hours, you can be in Mount Rainier or Olympic National Park. Washington is also full of state parks with breathtaking hiking trails.
So if you have the opportunity to spend more time in the Pacific Northwest, make sure to take advantage of this area’s natural beauty. There’s a reason locals call it the Pacific North Wonderland!
Thanks Stephanie!! I can’t wait to follow your guide so soon!
Have you ever been to Seattle? If, so, what would you add to this list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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