Travel Guide: One Day in Seattle
Visiting the West Coast soon? Do you plan on spending one day in Seattle? Then you’ve come to the right post, my friend! Seattle might be the 18th largest city in the United States, one that is packed with plenty of world-class museums, funky neighborhoods, and endless restaurants at your fingertips, but, regardless of the many things to see and do in Seattle, you’re still able to cover a lot of ground in only 24 hours.
So, even though it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, don’t shy away from a day trip to Seattle. It’s a perfect place to stop while en-route to Vancouver or even while waiting for your cruise ship to Alaska. The Emerald City is very popular for domestic and international tourists, and it’s easy to understand why that’s the case.
And, for the record, I loved traveling alone in Seattle and think it’s a fantastic destination for solo wanderers!
Is Seeing Seattle in One Day Possible?
As I’ve said, I definitely think you should take a day trip to Seattle. Will you see everything, though? Uh, no. No chance in hell.
However, by planning strategically, one day in Seattle is still a worthwhile endeavor. For example, buying a CityPASS for Seattle cuts down on the amount of time spent in lines (with the exception of the Space Needle). Not to mention, you save a lot of money in admissions fees and tickets.
Most importantly, my advice is to plan your one day itinerary in Seattle in advance. You don’t want to waste important time waffling on what lunch spots to eat at or what museums to visit. For day trips, intricate planning is essential for successfully covering as much ground as possible despite time restrictions.
Make decisions and stick with them. A good sense of direction helps too.
What to See in Seattle in One Day
Honestly, a lot of what you want to see depends on your own personal preferences. Are you a foodie? Do you like art museums? How about turning off your phone and getting lost in different neighborhoods? Seattle offers everything and anything to all types of travelers. You just gotta do plenty of research ahead of time.
However, we need to start somewhere, and I bet you stumbled upon this post searching for specific recommendations.
Listed below are my personal suggestions for seeing Seattle in one day. Revise this list however you see fit. Happy reading!
1. Take Pictures of the Iconic Space Needle
You can’t visit Seattle and not go to the Space Needle. Sorry. Come and take lots of pictures of Seattle’s most famous landmark. Be a tourist here. Jump around. Snap ridiculous selfies. Have fun.
Go to the top of the Space Needle and see Seattle’s skyline if you want to. However, I need to give a full disclaimer about scaling the top of the Space Needle. The tickets are hella expensive. As of 2019, a ticket for one adult cost $35. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my visit to the top of the Space Needle, and thought walking across the glass floor was a great experience. But you need to decide on whether or not it’s worth the money.
Furthermore, there’s no way to cut the line at the Space Needle. You need to reserve for a specific hour and wait with everyone else. You need to be extra careful with your planning if you intend to only have 24 hours in Seattle.
2. Go and Visit Seattle’s Museum of Pop
Yessss, my favorite museum in all of Seattle is the Museum of Pop or MoPOP. Even if you normally hate museums, I’d recommend this one, because it’s so, so, so much fun and informative! My favorite exhibits were “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses,” “Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic,” and “Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film.” MoPOP helped me remember my many varied interests and encouraged me to buy a few new fantasy and horror novels for my collection.
Another quick warning. You’ll need to dedicate at least two hours to fully appreciate MoPOP, but again, I think this museum is worth extra time and attention – especially for pop culture buffs!
3. See Chihuly Garden and Glass
Right next to the Museum of Pop is Chihuly Garden and Glass. This museum showcases the colorful glass works of Dale Chihuly. I don’t have much to say about this museum except that the glassworks will blow your mind. Take plenty of Instagram worthy photos here.
4. Explore Pike Place Market
Feeling hungry? Then you have only one place to go, my friend. Which is another one of Seattle’s most popular tourist attractions: Pike Place Market.
Seattle’s original farmer’s market was originally established in 1907. The fish markets are very well known and tend to get crowded. Simply get lots inside the farmer’s market and sample lots of Seattle’s local cuisines. There are also plenty of food tours that focus specifically on Pike Place. Book yourself on a tour if you want to hit all the most important sellers and want to learn a bit of history, too.
Not wanting food? Then explore Pike Place’s crafts market located in the North Arcade. Buy lots of cool souvenirs for friends and family.
5. Take a Seattle Underground Tour
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour is truly one of the coolest ways to see Seattle. I mean, you go underground historic Pioneer Square. Not to mention, this tour consistently ranks highly on all the major review sites, and it’s one of my own highlights from my solo trip to Seattle.
Needless to say, don’t miss taking an underground tour on your day trip to Seattle! You’ll learn all about Seattle’s history as you walk alongside subterranean storefronts and sidewalks. Keep in mind that this isn’t a supernatural or horror tour.
You’ll find Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour at 614 1st Avenue.
6. Explore Seattle’s Many Diverse Neighborhoods
Don’t limit your sightseeing to Seattle’s downtown core. Admittedly, while most tourist attractions are downtown, having a neighborhood experience is important for your day trip to Seattle.
- Ballard: This waterfront neighborhood is well known for indie shops and trendy eateries. If you want a “hip” place to go and explore then check out Ballard. You won’t be disappointed.
- Capitol Hill: Diverse Capitol Hill is easily accessible from Seattle’s main Downtown area. This residential district is the center of Seattle’s LGBT community.
- Fremont: I loved Fremont. If you have more time, here are some the cool things to see and do in Fremont. It’s a great place. In particular, you need to snap a picture with the Fremont Troll.
Ultimately it’s your choice deciding which neighborhoods you wanna visit, but you can’t go wrong with any of those three options. They all have great coffee shops too (duh).
7. Drink at Starbucks (I Know, I Know…)
Stoooooop. I already know you’re rolling your eyes and shaking your head in dismay. But, come on, Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks and I think you should go at least once.
The very first Starbucks store, which was established in 1971, is known as the 1st & Pike Store and located right at Pike Place Market entrance. Check out the historical decor and buy a coffee if you want. Of course you don’t want to only limit yourself to Starbucks.
8. See the Stunning and Free View at Kerry Park
Want the best free view in all of Seattle? Then take an Uber ride to Kerry Park located in Queen Anne Hill. On a clear day, you’ll even be able to see Mount Rainier. Take plenty of pictures, but also use some time to sit and quietly enjoy Seattle’s stunning skyline without looking through a camera or phone.
What to Eat with One Day in Seattle
One of the BEST reasons to come to Seattle is the food and drink. Oh my god, you guys. I splurged so much on food when I visited Seattle. Here are a few of the spots that I’d recommend for your day trip to Seattle. Try not to drool too much.
- Fran’s Chocolates: A family owned confectioner that sells some of the most delicious chocolates I’ve ever tasted in my life. Fran’s Chocolates is located on 1325 1st Ave.
- Pike Place Market: Get lost in Pike Place Market and sample as much cuisine as you can to fill your stomach.
- Serious Pie: Want pizza? Then you can’t miss Serious Pie! The handcrafted dough will melt in your mouth and make you feel as if you’ve been transported to heaven. Find Serious Pie on 316 Virginia St.
- Von’s Gustobistro (Also Known As Vons1000) : This casual dining spot is particularly known for its insanely large booze collection.
- The Walrus and the Carpenter: An oyster bar located in Ballard. The Walrus and the Carpenter is an extremely popular place, so stand at the door early (before opening hours) to ensure you snag a seat at the bar. A must for seafood lovers! The Walrus and the Carpenter is located on 4743 Ballard Ave. NW.
And, of course, you don’t want to miss out on tasting sushi. Seattle is right on Puget Sound and has some of the greatest sushi ever.
24 Hours in Seattle: Where Do I Stay?
Honestly, with only one day in Seattle to spare, I’d aim to stay at one of the hotels located in the main downtown core. Staying close to the big attractions, such as Pike Place Market, will cut down on the amount of precious time wasted in transit.
Seattle has accommodation to fit any budget. And, yes, there are a variety of hostels where you’ll be able to meet fellow solo travelers. I stayed in Fremont on my trip to Seattle, so sadly I don’t have specific recommendations for Downtown hotels or hostels. Just make sure to closely read the reviews.
How to Get Around with Only One Day in Seattle
For the Downtown attractions, use your own two feet and walk especially during nice sunny weather, which is a special gift for a day in Seattle!
As for visiting neighborhoods such as Fremont and Ballard, I’d recommend using a rideshare app such as Uber or Lyft to save time. Sure, you’re more than welcome to walk those distances, but I’d advise against it. Seattle is pretty spread out, and the terrain is notoriously hilly.
And not to ruffle any feathers, but Seattle has a rather large homeless population. I didn’t feel as if they were dangerous, but regardless, I wasn’t comfortable walking through certain streets.
How Much Will One Day in Seattle Cost?
Time for some bad news. Over all, I thought Seattle was pretty expensive across the board. The cost for food, attractions, accommodation, transportation, etc. isn’t exactly ideal for traveling on a budget. Granted, my experience is totally bias. Why? I went on a mission to spoil myself, so I used my Chase card as if money was no object. So, yeah, don’t take my word as the Gospel Truth.
However, there are some ways to reduce costs in Seattle. For instance, opt for the free views at Kerry Park and Gas Works Park (in Fremont) instead of shelling out cash to go to the top of the Space Needle. To lower the cost on food, buy a picnic lunch for the parks and only go out for dinners instead of spending the premium for all your meals.
And, finally, the Seattle CityPASS can save money if you’re the type of traveler who wants to go to at least five big attractions.
Would you go to Seattle for a day? For locals, what would you recommend to travelers who plan to see Seattle in one day? Share all your thoughts and suggestions in the comments!
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