If You Only Have Three Days in Seattle

If you only have three days in Seattle, dive into the PNW groove. Visit Pike Place Market, ride the Ferris wheel or head to the top of the Space Needle to get some perspective on the layout of the city, eat fresh-caught shellfish and drink craft beer and coffee, hear some music, read some books, see some art, and start planning your next visit.

1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Guarded by the Hammering Man sculpture outside, this superb museum collection romps from native tribal art to African masks to carvings from Oceania. Highlights include the 16th-century wood-paneled Italian Room and The Studio, a portrait of the Seattle home of Jacob Lawrence, arguably the most acclaimed African American painter of the 20th century. Check the calendar for world-class temporary exhibits, not to mention lectures, performances, film screenings, and evening SAM Remix dance parties. If you need some air, head for the waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park to catch a glimpse of art in the wild. Free to visit, this green space offers stunning views of Puget Sound and the ferries trundling across it.
85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Walk, cycle or people-watch along the shores of Elliott Bay, a downtown stretch known for its circusy flair and spectacular vistas. You can ride the Great Wheel or visit the beloved Seattle Aquarium, home to wolf eels, sea otters, and the world’s largest octopuses. Refuel with chowder from local favorite Ivar’s Acres of Clams, then hit the market’s 200 owner-operated shops, ranging from a radical book collection to the Northwest’s oldest magic store. Just don’t turn your back on the famous salmon-slinging fishmongers: They’ve been known to wallop selfie-photographers with a plastic decoy for yucks!
1428 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Taking just the ‘right’ wrong turn on a visit to Pike Place Market can land you in Post Alley, where spearmint, wild cherry, and tropical punch bubble gum drizzles down the window panes and grape, peppermint, and lemon ice gum-cicles form from sills. It may be one of the lesser-known Seattle tourist attractions, but it certainly makes a big impression with plenty of chaotic color on a rainy day. And if you’re a gum chewer, be prepared to stick a drop of your own favorite flavor to leave a colorful mark on the city.
1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
The Seattle Great Wheel, completed in June of 2012, is located at the Seattle Waterfront. It is a little expensive, and nerve-wracking on the way up, but it’s worth it. The Ferris wheel is one of the biggest in the U.S., and provides a spectacular view of Elliot Bay, Downtown, and much more. In addition, at one point during the ride, it actually goes over the water!
1001 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
Yes, you read that right... “Keep clam” is the motto at Ivar’s famous Seattle seafood restaurants. Ivar’s has plenty of locations around town, from the casual fish-and-chip stands to the fancier waterfront Acres of Clams and Salmon House, but all of them serve up piping-hot fried fish and chips, a classic Seattle dish. (Salmon would be the most Northwestern choice, but we like the halibut best.) For maximum local flavor, head to the Pier 54 walk-up bar for your chowder or shrimp cocktail, then feed leftover French fries to the grateful seagulls hanging around and begging.
2901 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
Here’s a bold claim: the Olympic Sculpture Park might just have something for everyone. Located on the waterfront, not far from Pike Place Market, it features great views of Puget Sound (well, on clear days) and the ferries going back and forth. Stroll the paths and admire the sculptures large and small scattered throughout the park, or sit on the many chairs and benches and admire the view. There’s a nearby bike trail, and the Neukom Vivarium (a giant 60-foot rainforest log ecosystem in a greenhouse) is just steps away. Best of all, it’s free! Get a dose of culture and then head down to the waterfront for some fish ‘n’ chips.
Built as a people mover for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the Seattle Monorail is a surprisingly popular attraction, especially given that it’s not very practical. It goes from downtown to the Seattle Center and back, and that’s it. The ride is short—just a couple of minutes—but if you’re staying downtown, it’s an easy way to get to places like the Space Needle, the EMP and Sci-Fi museums, the Pacific Science Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and Key Arena. Its midcentury-futuristic design is charming, and the view of downtown from above is unique. The monorail is wheelchair accessible (by elevator at Westlake and by ramp at Seattle Center), and reduced fares are available for children, seniors, and U.S. military members.
400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
Far and away Seattle‘s most iconic structure, this U.F.O saucer on a stick is an Atomic Age baby—it only dates back to the 1962 World’s Fair. A 41-second elevator still whisks guests to the observation deck, which really ladles on the natural beauty when the clouds lift and “the mountains are out.” The Needle underwent a glorious $100-million “space-lift” in 2018. Innovations include floor-to-ceiling glass walls with benches that angle backwards (designed for great selfie angles—seriously!). The landmark also added the world’s first and only revolving glass floor, spinning under the Atmos Wine Bar. A café still serves quick bites, but the full-service restaurant has yet to reopen in early 2019. Below sprawls the Seattle Center’s carnival rides, science exhibits, world-famous glass art garden and the MoPop, a superb rock and sci-fi museum that resembles Jimi Hendrix’s smashed guitar when viewed from above
305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
This colorful, photography-friendly collection of the one-eyed glass artist’s work is more than just another tourist attractions. The Northwest room, with its ceramics, textile art, Pendleton blankets, and photography of Native Americans, is a nod to the traditional arts that inspired Chihuly’s work. Playful, brightly colored glass is everywhere: oversized spheres piled into a rowboat, sea creatures and undulating glass ribbons that evoke the movement of the ocean, and fanciful “flowers” in the outdoor garden. The gift shop is large, with a nice selection of gifts, novelties, and Pendleton blankets. King County residents get a $4 discount off admission. Great for visitors, residents, and anyone who has a nice digital camera they’re itching to try out.
325 5th Avenue North
This sheet-metal fever dream by architect Frank Gehry is like a rock-and-roll Guggenheim, home to interactive exhibits that span music, sci-fi, fantasy, animation, video games, and other scrambled bits of modern life. A hands-on studio lets kids and grown-ups mess with real instruments and studio hardware. Originally intended to honor Jimi Hendrix, the building’s design echoes one of the legend’s smashed guitars (most obviously when viewed from atop the Space Needle). Critic Herbert Muschamp once accused it of “looking like something that crawled out of the sea, rolled over and died,” but visitors often enjoy the jumble of color and distorted reflections—perfect for quirky selfies!
Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
One of Seattle‘s most postcard-friendly areas, Pioneer Square is a beautiful, historical neighborhood with plenty to do. The galleries come alive for First Thursday art walks, not to mention the delicious lunch spots, quirky boutiques, and vibrant nightlife. Every Tuesday, a different food truck parks at the First & King Loading Dock (505 1st Ave S.), so there’s always something new to try. By night, the bars, pubs, and clubs fill up with tourists and locals looking for fun. The Seattle Underground Tour and Smith Tower attractions can be found here, as well as the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum and its collection of vintage police cars. But there’s plenty to see if you just amble around and explore, too.
1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122, USA
The Elliott Bay Book Company is the Seattle bookstore and, thankfully, survived its move from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill with soul and towering cedar bookcases intact. Elliott Bay lost a significant chunk of square footage during the move but gained a home right in the heart of Capitol Hill. Which makes it even easier to execute the ideal lazy Sunday afternoon combo: new novel + Fonte latte and one of the book-size housemade muffins from the on-site café (if it’s sunny, make a beeline for the grassy Cal Anderson park, just across the street). The food is northwest downhome—unpretentious salads with local greens, wholesome soups—but the abundant outlets and cozy café vibe make up for any food misses.

Try it there: The lemon crepe

Bring it home: Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and tickets to a Neptune Theater reading
1635 11th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122, USA
Cal Anderson Park (named after Washington’s first openly gay legislator) is located at the Pike/Pine nexus of gay-friendly, hipster-filled Capitol Hill. With plenty of grassy lawns for picnics, reading, or playing bocce ball, it’s no surprise that crowds flock here whenever there’s a sunny day anytime of year. It’s also conveniently located near some great shops and restaurants: Molly Moon Ice Cream, Rock Box karaoke, Cure, Cupcake Royale, Unicorn, Elliott Bay Book Company, Everyday Music, and all the cheap eats on Broadway. Grab some takeout or a coffee to go and head to the park to admire the fountain or enjoy some people-watching. On Sundays, the Broadway Farmers Market is just a block away on Broadway.
Seattle, WA, USA
Steps from Pike Place Market, this fine-dining eatery occupies a grand space with a view over Elliott Bay. It also has a west-facing outdoor patio: a rarity in Seattle, despite the city being drier than Tucson, Arizona, in the summer. Chic touches include an indoor fire table, locally made black-walnut tables and custom votive candles made by Seattle’s Glass Eye Studios. Private dining spaces can accommodate groups. Start with a cocktail—choices range from a barrel-aged old-fashioned to an English milk punch with a splash of Lucid grande-wormwood absinthe. Sustainably sourced and seasonally inspired dishes include duck confit, crispy cauliflower with red-curry yogurt, marinated beets with lemon thyme chevre, and king salmon gravlax served with tarragon crème fraiche.
1531 Melrose Ave, Seattle, WA 98122, USA
You’ll want to arrive early at Sitka & Spruce to allow time for browsing the other shops inside Melrose Market: Calf and Kid’s artisanal cheeses, Rain Shadow Meats’ sausages and steaks, Glasswing’s home decor, and Marigold & Mint’s fresh flowers. At Sitka & Spruce, chef Matthew Dillon features a rotating menu of hyper-local Northwest cuisine in shareable small plates and mains. The artfully arranged charcuterie platter is a must-try, and don’t skip the bread — the Columbia City sourdough loaf with whipped butter is a local favorite. Just want a snack? Try Bar Ferd’nand next door, also co-owned by Dillon, for a glass of wine and simple bar snacks, or take home a bottle.
1741 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98134, USA
Outfitter to the Great Klondike Gold Rush, this Seattle-based company supplied stampeders with boots, sleeping bags, Mackinaw wool blankets, and rugged attire made from water-repellent Tin Cloth. “Our materials are the very best obtainable, for we know that the best is none too good and that quality is of vital importance,” explained founder C. C. Filson. His legacy lives on with exquisite craftsmanship and a lifetime guarantee for each item, right down to the 100 percent virgin-wool dog coat. Stop into the 6,000-square-foot SoDo flagship store—treasured by local “lumbersexuals"—for limited-edition finds not available elsewhere.
600 5th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
One of the country’s largest Asian markets, this massive complex has anchored the International District since 1928—and contains a Japanese bookstore, a 12-station food court, and a Taiwanese hot-pot hot spot: The Boiling Point. Its shelves stock everything from curry to durians and juicy kalua pork, plus surprisingly good, affordable freezer bags to preserve your haul on the way home. Fancy a quick bite in the food court first? Hit Uwajimaya’s Asian deli last and pay at the express lane. While one-stop shopping rocks, fans of Asian curios and calligraphy supplies may want to wander to nearby Kobo (koboseattle.com) or Deng’s Studio and Art Gallery.
110 Stewart St, Seattle, WA 98101
The Thompson Seattle adds a dose of style to the city’s hotel scene. The angular glass structure commands views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, and its interiors riff on Seattle’s aviation heritage with exposed steel and concrete finishes. The Nest lounge, with its two fire pits, draws locals for happy hour, and the locavore-oriented Scout restaurant has already become a coveted reservation. Score a seat at the chef’s counter for a 14-course exploration of the Pacific Northwest.
2411 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
The Edgewater made its mark in Seattle history as the place The Beatles stayed when they came through on tour in 1964. Other rock stars (and those who like to travel like rock stars) have since stayed at the Edgewater, choosing it for its singular location on Pier 67 perched over the waters of Puget Sound. The public spaces make design references to the Pacific Northwest, with natural wood and stone everywhere. Waterfront rooms have sunset views that are nothing short of spectacular, and all the rooms are well-appointed, with gas fireplaces and spa-style bathrooms.
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