What to See in Seattle in One Day: The Perfect Itinerary

What to see in Seattle in One Day

Thanks to a required work training, I recently spent 6 weeks in Seattle! While Monday through Friday was spent in training near the airport, I took full advantage of exploring the Emerald City and beyond on the weekends. I’d ride the light rail into the city to explore the city’s top tourist attractions and hip neighborhoods. Now, you may not have six weeks, or even two days, to explore Seattle. I distilled all my favorite places in Seattle and added must-see tourist spots into this guide for what to see in Seattle in one day.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a tiny bit of income if you decide to make a purchase or booking.

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Best Time of the Year to Visit Seattle

Seattle has a reputation for being a rainy place, and I admit that I enjoy rainy weather (it reminds me of Ireland). I was there for 6 weeks during Spring, from early April to mid-May, and there were plenty of gorgeous days. When I commented on this to locals, they informed me that the best-kept secret in the Pacific Northwest is that the summer months in Seattle are gorgeous. 

However, each season brings something different to Seattle. Here’s what you can expect in regards to weather year-round.

Winter in Seattle (December-February)

Seattle’s winter is mild compared to many other parts of the country, with temperatures rarely dipping below freezing. However, in recent years, a handful of snowstorms have made getting to and around the city challenging. 

If you decide to visit in the winter, you can check out the tree-lighting ceremony at Pike Place Market or go museum-hopping around Seattle Center.

Spring in Seattle (March-May)

I thoroughly enjoyed spending my spring in Seattle. Everything was in bloom, and the weather was fantastic! 

If you visit in the spring, check out the Cherry Blossoms at the University of Washington or stroll through the eclectic Fremont Sunday Market.

Summer in Seattle (June-August)

Summer is the most popular time to visit Seattle. With warm temperatures, long days, and minimal rainfall, it’s the ideal season for outdoor activities and festivals.

If you visit Seattle in the summer, check out Seafair, an iconic festival with hydroplane races. Go for a paddle around Lake Union, or take a few day trips to the surrounding national parks.

Fall in Seattle (September-November)

Fall in Seattle brings crisp air and colorful foliage. It’s a beautiful time to enjoy the city’s urban attractions and surrounding natural beauty with fewer crowds.

If you visit Seattle in the fall, check out the foliage at Washington Park Arboretum or go to Oktoberfest in Fremont.

Cal Anderson Park

How to Get to Seattle 

Getting to Seattle by Air

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) serves Seattle. Multiple airlines fly to Seattle, but Alaska Airlines is one of the most popular air carriers in the Pacific Northwest. Its home is in Seattle, so you will likely be able to find direct flights from your home to Seattle on Alaska Airlines. 

Getting to Seattle by Car

Driving from Portland, OR

If you’re visiting Seattle from the Northern Oregon area, like Portland or Vancouver, I recommend driving, as it’s a roughly 2.5-hour drive. Alternatively, there are flights between Portland Airport and Seattle Airport.

Driving from Vancouver, BC 

If you’re visiting from Vancouver, BC, you can cross the border to Seattle in about a three-hour drive. Alternatively, check for flights between Vancouver and Seattle.

How to Get Around Seattle

Driving or Using a Rental Car in Seattle

Once you get to Seattle, how do you get around? If you’re driving from home, you can, of course, use your car, but driving in the city is stressful, and parking is limited. I recommend booking a hotel with parking and then using public transportation, ride-share apps, or walking to get around.

If you’re renting a car for Seattle so you can make a great Pacific Northwest road trip, pick your car up from the rental car center at the airport and drive to your accommodation. Again, once in the city, I recommend leaving your car safely parked at your hotel. You really won’t need it for this one-day itinerary!

Using Public Transportation in Seattle

Taking public transportation in Seattle is not only budget-friendly but also safe and can get you just about everywhere on this one-day itinerary.

There are multiple modes of public transit in Seattle, including light rail, monorail, streetcar, ferries, and buses. 

If you only have a day in the city, you can pay for public transportation ride-by-ride, which is the most straightforward option. Alternatively, you can get an ORCA Card

The Orca Card allows you to pay for transit services with just one card. You can get the ORCA card online or at light rail stations. The card itself costs $5, and you can add any amount of money to cover your fares.

You can add money online, at vending machines, or through the ORCA app.

To use the ORCA card, simply tap it on the card reader when you board. You do not need to tap it when you exit.

Seattle Streetcar: The streetcar has two lines: the South Lake Union line and the First Hill line. The South Lake Union line connects the South Lake Union neighborhood to downtown Seattle. The First Hill line connects Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square through First Hill and the Chinatown-International District. And yep, you can use your ORCA card.

King County Metro Buses: Seattle has an extensive bus network connecting most of the city and surrounding areas. Just tap your ORCA card when you enter.

Washington State Ferries: One of the best day trips from Seattle is to Bainbridge Island, and you’ll ride the Washington State Ferry to get there. You guessed it, you can use your ORCA card!

How to Take the Light Rail in Seattle 

If you don’t have a car and are arriving via air at the SEA airport, the Link Light Rail is connected to the airport. Follow the signs throughout the airport to the light rail station. A train leaves approximately every 5 minutes, and you can purchase your ticket at the station.

The ride from the airport to downtown Seattle takes approximately 1 hour. Here are a few stops of note on the light rail:

  • Stadium: Get off here if you’re going to any games or concerts!
  • Pioneer Square: Closest stop to the ferry terminal if you’re going to Bainbridge Island
  • Westlake: Closest stop to downtown Seattle and Pike Place Market
  • Capitol Hill: Stops in the heart of the Capitol Hill neighborhood (which is on this itinerary)
  • University of Washington: Stops closest to the University of Washington

A one-way ticket costs $2.25-$3.50 depending on how far you travel, and you can use your ORCA card. 

Riding the Seattle Monorail

I found out about the Seattle monorail after I’d already walked from Pike Place all the way to Seattle Center! While it was a nice walk, I would’ve preferred the monorail, which I did ride back downtown!

The monorail only runs between Seattle Center (where the Space Needle and many museums are) and Westlake Center (Nordstrom and Pike Place). 

A one-way ticket costs $3.50; you can use your ORCA Card.


Uber and Lyft are readily available throughout the Seattle metro area. I recommend using Uber or Lyft if you’re out late at night. 

Seeing Seattle On Foot

Seattle is a very walkable city. I think neighborhoods are best explored on foot so you can soak in the atmosphere and make your own discoveries of shops and cafes. Some neighborhoods, like Queen Anne, are quite hilly, so include a good pair of walking shoes on your Seattle packing list. 

What to Pack for Seattle 

Speaking of your Seattle packing list, here are a few essentials to pack for your day in Seattle.

In regards to what to wear, one thing I noticed about Seattle style is that it’s a very casual city. The unofficial Seattle dress code is your favorite pair of jeans, a fun top with a light sweater, and sporty shoes. I don’t see a reason to go out and buy a new wardrobe for Seattle. Your current everyday wear will be perfect.

Essential to Pack for a Day in Seattle

  • Waterproof Jacket: Be prepared for the rainy weather Seattle is known for with a lightweight, waterproof jacket. I like this one!
  • Comfortable Walking Shoes: With so many attractions and neighborhoods to explore on foot, comfortable shoes are a must. I wore these Nikes all over Seattle, and they were super comfortable! Buy the Nikes here!
  • Layered Clothing: Dress in layers to adjust to changing temperatures throughout the day.
  • Sunglasses and Hat: Protect yourself from the sun on those clear, sunny days.
  • Sunscreen: Protect your skin even on cloudy days, as UV rays can still penetrate. Don’t forget to reapply. I love Supergoop!
  • Phone: Keep your phone handy for navigation, photos, and emergency contacts. 
  • Camera: Capture the beautiful sights and moments during your day.
  • Portable Charger: I also recommend packing a portable charger so your phone has enough juice for the entire day. I use this Mophie one!
  • Public Transportation Maps or Apps: To navigate the city efficiently, have a map or download transportation apps like Transit Go or Google Maps.
  • ORCA Card: This card provides easy access to Seattle’s public transportation system.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Seattle is a very sustainable-friendly city, so bring a reusable waterfall and refill at water fountains or cafes. I’m a Hydro Flask girlie but I also love this collapsible water bottle for something more lightweight.
  • Snacks: Pack some healthy snacks to keep your energy up as you explore.
  • Backpack or Tote Bag: Carry all your essentials comfortably and have room for any souvenirs you might pick up. I love the Nordace backpack for travel, but I recently found this waterproof backpack which looks almost exactly like the Nordace! Purchase your backpack here!

Check out my complete Seattle packing list on Amazon so you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your day exploring Seattle.

Downtown Seattle
Victorian Conservatory in Volunteer Park

Solo Travel Safety Tips for Seattle

Overall, I felt very safe exploring Seattle. However, like any big city, exercising caution and following my top solo female travel safety tips is essential.

  1. Maintain awareness of your surroundings: Don’t use headphones when walking so you’re aware of traffic and others around you. If you need to use Google Maps to help navigate you to your destination, turn on the navigation, put one headphone in your ear to listen, then put your phone away and walk confidently.
  2. Use Uber or Lyft to get home at night: I’m not someone to tell you that you must be in bed before it’s dark out! But if you’re out past dark, take an Uber back. Don’t walk alone at night and avoid poorly lit areas,
  3. Keep valuables out of sight: Unless you’re actively taking photos, keep your phone away and your camera packed.
  4. Stay hydrated and full: This may seem pretty obvious, but it’s easy to get dehydrated when you’re out all day. Keep your water bottle full and pack snacks to keep you going in between meals.
  5. Choose reputable and safe accommodation: I will recommend highly rated hotels and other accommodations to stay at in Seattle so that you have a few high-quality options to choose from.

Like other major cities in the US, Seattle is facing a housing crisis, so you will see many homeless individuals, especially downtown. Mostly, they don’t bother you if you don’t bother them.

Fentanyl is also prevalent in the city. But unless you go looking for it, you shouldn’t have an issue with this.

The Top Tourist Attractions in Seattle

There are a few main tourist attractions to visit in Seattle. Some will appear on the following one-day itinerary, while others will not. If you want to add these to your bucket list, please do! I love it when people use my itineraries as a base for creating their own!

Space Needle

Seattle’s iconic Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, whose theme was “ The Age of Space.” At 605 feet tall, it’s the tallest building in Seattle and offers 360o views of the city, Puget Sound, and surrounding mountains. It truly is 360 because the rotating glass floor lets you see below! If you’re visiting in the fall to late spring, enjoy the views with a creative cocktail at the Loup Lounge.  

The Space Needle is open for admission all day. Time your visit for sunset, especially on a clear day! 

Ticket prices range from $26-$46 depending on the time of day you visit.

You can also combine your ticket with the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum for $48-$68.

Purchase your combined Space Needle & Chihuly Garden and Glass tickets here.

The Space Needle is also included in the Seattle CityPASS.

Purchase your CityPASS here.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Next to the Space Needle is the unique Chihuly Garden and Glass. The exhibition showcases Dave Chihuly’s bold and bright glass artwork. The indoor galleries are filled with the artist’s amazing creations, some underwater-themed and others garden-themed. In fact, there is an outdoor garden filled with his glasswork.

While a bit pricy, I thoroughly enjoyed the museum and highly recommend adding it to your itinerary.

The museum is open year-round, generally from around 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., but check the hours before visiting to be sure.

Tickets range from $26 to $39, depending on the visitor’s age. Children under 4 are free!

Purchase your Chihuly Garden and Glass ticket here.

Again, you can combine your Chihuly Garden and Glass ticket with the Space Needle.

Purchase your combined Space Needle & Chihuly Garden and Glass tickets here.

Chihuly Garden and Glass is also included in the Seattle CityPASS.

Purchase your CityPASS here.

Chihuly Garden and Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass

Museum of Pop Culture

If you love music and pop culture, you must visit the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). MoPOP is such a fun museum where you can learn about legendary (and PNW) artists like Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. I found it interesting to learn how Nirvana rose to one of the most iconic bands in the world. Also, the Jimi Hendrix room houses the most extensive collection of his guitars! 

There is also a science fiction and fantasy section with items from Game of Thrones. If you’re interested in horror films, there is also a horror film section, which I skipped.

Ticket prices range from $33 to $35, depending on the day and time of your visit.

Purchase your MoPOP entry ticket here.

MoPOP is also included in the Seattle CityPASS.

Purchase your CityPASS here.

Pike Place Market

Whether it’s your first or 100th time visiting Seattle, you can’t skip the iconic Pike Place Market. Even locals I met enjoyed going to Pike Place Market on occasion. Just don’t call it Pike’s Place, and you’ll be golden!

Here, you can watch the fishmongers toss fish (usually only in the mornings) and visit the original Starbucks.

The first Starbucks is quite small and usually has a long line of people waiting to enter (especially on the weekends). If you want to visit, try going off-peak hours or during the week.

Another draw to the Pike Place area is the gum wall. I visited it on my very first trip to Seattle years ago and did not feel the urge to return. It’s kind of gross, but you can add your gum to the wall if you’d like!

A few other places to highlight that you should visit in Pike Place Market are Rachel’s Ginger Beer, Piroshky Piroshky, and Beecher’s. 

Alternatively, book a Pike Place Market Food Tour to try all the great places to eat in the market!

Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market

Kerry Park

Kerry Park, located in the Queen Anne neighborhood, offers a stunning view of the city, featuring the Space Needle, Elliot Bay, and Mount Rainier (especially on a sunny day). The park itself is small, but the panoramic views are incredible. As such, it’s a popular spot for photographers, so bring your camera with you.

If you’re walking to Kerry Park, please know it is at the top of a steep hill—rivaling those in San Francisco. If you don’t want to contend with that, take a quick Uber ride to the park.

While you’re at Kerry Park, spend some time exploring the charming Queen Anne neighborhood. There are shops and restaurants on Galer Street and Queen Anne Ave N. I recommend Molly Moon’s ice cream, Via Tribunali for pizza, and Cafe Fiore for a great matcha latte. 

View from Kerry Park
Standing at the overlook of Kerry Park in Seattle, Washington.

Olympic Sculpture Park

Check out Olympic Sculpture Park, a free public park operated by the Seattle Art Museum. It’s a peaceful place to enjoy outdoor art against the backdrop of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains.

Seattle Waterfront

Seattle’s waterfront park reminds me of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, especially now that San Francisco’s giant Ferris Wheel is at Pier 39. Seattle’s waterfront is not just filled with souvenir shops and seafood restaurants; it’s also home to the Seattle Aquarium and the Seattle Great Wheel.

The waterfront is also a jumping-off point for ferry rides to Bainbridge Island and other boat tours.

While I don’t recommend spending too much time here, if time allows on your itinerary, you can walk from the ferry terminal to Pike Place Market after a day trip to Bainbridge Island. 

Seattle Waterfront

Fremont Troll

While there are many trolls around the Seattle area, the most popular is the Fremont Troll. The 18-foot concrete troll hides under the Aurora Bridge in the Fremont neighborhood. It crushes a VW Beetle in one hand while staring out to sea with its one good eye. The Fremont Troll is a unique part of Seattle and can easily be seen while you’re exploring the fun things to do in the Fremont neighborhood.

Your Perfect One Day in Seattle Itinerary

Now that we’ve gone over some of Seattle’s top tourist attractions, here is how I would build the perfect one-day in Seattle itinerary, adding a few gems we haven’t discussed yet!

Breakfast at Mr. West Cafe Bar

Mr. West Cafe is one of my favorite coffee shops in Seattle. There are multiple locations in Seattle, but you’ll start your day at the downtown location. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but I liked their avocado toast and chicken souvlaki if you’re there later in the day. The matcha latte was exceptional as well.

Mr. West Cafe Bar
Mr. West Cafe Bar

Pike Place Market Tour

After breakfast, head over to Pike Place Market. You can opt to do a guided market tour like this one or something more self-guided. The market tour lasts approximately 2 hours and includes 9 food tastings. You could easily use this for breakfast or lunch.

Book your chef’s guided Pike Place Market tour here.

Lunch at Le Pichet

I know the morning basically revolves around food, but if you’re not eating at Pike Place Market and find yourself hungry, have lunch at the adorable Le Pichet French bistro. The food and wine here are excellent, as is the ambiance.

Monorail to Seattle Center

When you’re done at Pike Place Market, take the Monorail from Westlake to Seattle Center. Alternatively, you could walk from Pike Place to Seattle Center through Belltown. If you decide to walk, stop at the Olympic Sculpture Park on the way!

Chihuly Garden and Glass, MoPOP, and the Space Needle

Thankfully, Seattle put two of its more popular museums right near the Space Needle. Which museum(s) you choose to visit is up to you, but you could easily see them all in a few hours.

I spent about 45 minutes in Chihuly Garden and Glass and 45 minutes in MoPOP. I’m not much of a lingerer in museums, so I quickly move through them. To be on the safe side with your itinerary, let’s allocate 1.5 hours for each museum. Head up to the Space Needle observation deck when you’re done at the museums!

Book your CityPASS here to visit them all!

Seattle Center and Space Needle
Standing at the Chihuly Glass Gardens in Seattle.

Kerry Park

Ready for more great views? Walk or take an Uber to Kerry Park. It is about a 30-minute walk from Seattle Center, including a steep hill, so be prepared for a climb. As mentioned above, the park is small, but the views are well worth the effort. 

Seattle Packing List

Dinner at Via Tribunal

After all the museums and the walk up to Kerry Park, it’s time for another meal! Walk three blocks from Kerry Park to W Galer St for a Neopolitan-style pizza at Via Tribunal. This is a local pizza spot with an excellent selection and friendly service.

Ice Cream at Molly Moons

After dinner, stop next door at Molly Moons for a treat! This local ice cream shop has our favorite flavors and a few creative ones on the menu. I really liked the Earl Grey. Give them a try!

Drinks at The Nest Rooftop Bar

Make your way back downtown via Uber or a walk to Seattle Center and the monorail back to Westlake. Once downtown, enjoy a cocktail or two at the Nest Rooftop Bar. The bar is at the top of the Thompson Hotel but is also available to non-hotel guests.

Enjoy the views of the Seattle waterfront as you sip a fancy cocktail and relax from a busy day exploring the best things to do in Seattle!

The Nest Rooftop Bar
The Nest Rooftop Bar

If You Have Extra Time in Seattle

If you have more time in Seattle, I highly recommend spending a day exploring its unique neighborhoods. 

I enjoyed discovering the fun things to do in Capitol Hill and Fremont. Alternatively, head to West Seattle for a sunny day at Alki Beach!

The Best Day Trips from Seattle

If you’re in Seattle for a weekend getaway and want to explore outside the city while using Seattle as your base, I highly recommend a day trip to Bainbridge Island or Snoqualmie Falls and Leavenworth. 

Pegasus Coffee Shop in Bainbridge Island.
Wine tasting flight from Fletcher Bay Winery in Bainbridge Island.

The Best Weekend Getaways from Seattle

Maybe you only have one day in Seattle because you’ve planned a more extensive Pacific Northwest trip. If that’s the case, I highly recommend checking out nearby National Parks such as Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and Cascades National Park.

Where to Stay in Seattle

Seattle offers many accommodations to suit every traveler’s budget and preferences. If you’re looking for name-brand hotels, there are Hiltons, Marriots, and StayPineapple throughout the city and a local hotel chain called Silver Cloud. Here are some top recommendations for budget-friendly, mid-range, and luxury stays:

Budget Friendly Accommodations

Green Tortoise Hostel: Located just up the street from the Gum Wall near Pike Place Market, this hostel is a favorite for budget travelers. It offers dormitory-style rooms, private rooms, and a lively social atmosphere. Complimentary breakfast, communal kitchen facilities, and organized activities make it an excellent choice for solo travelers looking to meet others.

Check rates and availability here.

Mid-Range Accommodations

The Maxwell Hotel (StayPineapple): Situated in the heart of Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, The Maxwell Hotel offers stylish and colorful rooms with modern amenities. The hotel is within walking distance of the Space Needle and Seattle Center. Guests can enjoy free Wi-Fi, complimentary bike rentals, and an on-site bar and restaurant.

Check rates and availability here.

Luxury Accommodations

The Lotte Hotel: This is actually a hotel we use for flight attendant layovers, and they rave about it! It’s a newer luxury hotel located just a block away from the Seattle Public Library. The flight attendants love the luxury amenities (Marvis toothpaste, anyone?) and modern rooms. 

Check rates and availability here.

There you have it! Everything you need to know about what to do in Seattle for the day! With this Seattle itinerary, you’ll see the diverse sides of this dynamic city! If you have any questions about planning your trip to Seattle, comment below, and I’ll get back to you!

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