Discover how to have a Seattle perfect day. Just passing through? Or maybe you’re in Seattle on business and only have one free day? Start by leaving your hotel on foot or parking your car, then hop on public transportation if you need to. Parking can be a hassle and downtown Seattle is fairly compact and easy to walk around.
Any day in Seattle must start with coffee, and you’re never far away from a good cup. Save the famous hometown chain for later; instead, try Caffé Ladro, which has several locations, including the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood. You’ll also find a hearty selection of house-made breakfast pastries.
From Caffé Ladro walk 15 minutes to the Jetsons-esque 1962 Seattle Center. The star attraction is the Seattle Space Needle and now is the time of day when you’re least likely to find a long line for the sweeping views from its observation deck. Other Seattle Center attractions include MoPOP (the Museum of Pop Culture, formerly the EMP Museum) where you can take a trip through rock and roll history, and Chihuly Garden and Glass featuring the glass sculptures of local artist Dale Chihuly.
If it’s a fine day, take a stroll through the free and impressive Olympic Sculpture Park along Western Avenue. If it’s raining, hop on the Seattle Center Monorail. Either way, your destination is Pike Place Market, where there are many lunch choices. Among them: Three Girls Bakery, a Seattle institution that serves up excellent sandwiches and makes you feel like a cool local even though you’re in the heart of the tourist zone. If the weather allows, take your food to Victor Steinbrueck Park north of the market or the foot of Union Street one block south (look for the lightning bolt). For an indoor lunch option, the Athenian restaurant and bar inside the market has moderate prices and waterfront views.
Spend another hour or so wandering around Pike Place Market. Watch the seafood vendors toss giant salmon around like footballs, check out the gross but cool Gum Wall and rub Rachel the Pig for good luck. You could stand in line at the original Starbucks for an afternoon pick-me-up. But on weekdays, beat the crowds and make your way to the chain’s location on the 40th floor midway up Seattle’s tallest building, the Columbia Tower, for a real lift.
Wander down to Pioneer Square and finish the afternoon absorbing the atmosphere, shops and galleries in Seattle’s first neighborhood. There are plenty of happy hour and evening entertainment options in this area, too. Or hop the Link light rail, bus or streetcar back to your hotel to rest and clean up before hitting the town.
If you have only one night to eat in Seattle, Ray’s Boathouse on Shilshole Bay offers well-prepared seafood with a waterfront view. Make a reservation, take a taxi or ride-share and time your dinner for sunset if you can. As a fair-weather alternative, walk on to the Washington State Ferry at Colman Docks near Pike Place Market, have dinner on Bainbridge Island (with plenty of restaurants within easy walking distance from the Bainbridge Island terminal), then enjoy Seattle’s skyline all lit up on your return ferry ride.
If you’ve still got energy, you can head to Ballard for a nightcap. Try the Nobel Fir bar, with its outdoorsy Pacific Northwest vibe and an impressive selection of local microbrews, ciders and wines. If you’re looking for something more rowdy, head to Shorty’s in Belltown where you can eat a late night hot dog while playing pinball to punk or heavy metal.
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