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So you’re planning a trip, huh? Whether you’re struggling to find unique things to do in Seattle or trying to narrow down your options, I’m here to help. In this Seattle 4-day itinerary I’m going to cover everything you need to know about planning the perfect trip to the Emerald City, from the iconic must-do attractions to the lesser-known hidden gems in Seattle.
No matter what your travel style is, Seattle is the perfect place for a long weekend getaway. While you could easily spend weeks exploring all the unique things Seattle has to offer, you’d be surprised how much you can fit into a 4-day itinerary.
My approach when it comes to traveling is to try to squeeze as many things as humanly possible into my schedule. That might not be your style, so if you’d rather take it slow and commit to less, feel free to alter this itinerary to fit your travel goals.
Looking for free things to do in Seattle? Great places to eat and drink? Hotel recommendations? We’ll cover those as well!
Tips For Visiting Seattle
Know Before You Go
The main thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t rain in Seattle as much as you think. Obviously, the amount of rain you’re likely to experience depends on the season. However, even during the “rainy” seasons it mostly just drizzles on and off. For this reason, no one really uses umbrellas, other than tourists. If you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb, you should probably opt for a raincoat instead of an umbrella. Honestly, you might not even need the coat.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a visit to Seattle can get pricey, but there are ways around that. Look into getting a CityPASS if you plan on doing all the big attractions. You can also save a lot of money by taking advantage of Seattle’s public transportation.
When visiting Seattle, dressing in layers is key. I recommend bringing some quality jeans, a scarf, long sleeve and short sleeve shirts, and a cardigan. You’ll probably also want a pair of waterproof shoes and a waterproof jacket just to be safe.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that Seattle is a plastic bag-free city, so definitely bring your own reusable bags.
Here’s what’s in my suitcase:
Get In The Mood!
Where To Stay In Seattle
- Hotel Sorrento: You get the best of both worlds at this historic hotel which features all the modern amenities you need for a comfortable stay. It’s in a relatively quiet part of the city within walking distance of both Downtown Seattle and Capitol Hill. With so many unique things to do nearby, you couldn’t ask for a more prime location.
- Panama Hotel and Tea Shop: Don’t be fooled by the outdated website. This place is cool. If you’d like to immerse yourself in some local history, this bed & breakfast-style hotel is the perfect place. The hotel is also home to the last remaining intact Japanese public bathhouse in the US, so don’t forget to take a tour while you’re there.
- Four Seasons Hotel: If you’re looking for a luxurious stay in Seattle, you can’t do any better than the Four Seasons. With just a short walk to the Seattle Art Museum and Pike Place Market, both the accommodations and the location are nothing short of idyllic.
Seattle Itinerary Day 1 – Downtown Seattle
Downtown Seattle has so much to offer. From the charming and historic Pioneer Square to the world-famous Seattle Symphony, to the super cool Museum of Pop Culture, there’s truly something for everyone.
With so many unique things to do in Seattle and so many charming neighborhoods to squeeze into your 4-day itinerary, I recommend knocking out all your Downtown must-dos in one day.
You can’t plan a 4-day itinerary in Seattle without a quick visit to the city’s most well-known landmark. If you’re traveling on a budget, you can enjoy the view from down below, snap a few photos, and head to your next stop.
If you’d like to go in, you can expect to pay about $35. Enjoy the view as you ride the elevator 520 feet above street level, and prepare for an even more impressive 360-degree view of the city from the observation deck. You might even catch a glimpse of Mt. Rainier if it’s a clear enough day!
Stop by the Atmos Café on the upper observation level for a coffee, a glass of wine, or snacks. The Loupe is the Space Needle’s revolving cocktail lounge where you can enjoy drinks and lunch or dinner. This lounge is 21+ and you’ll need to make a reservation in advance.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for a great spot to take pictures of the Seattle skyline, you’ll want to make sure you stop at Kerry Park. It’s about 1.5 miles North of the Space Needle, so a little out of the way, but worth it because you can’t beat the view!
Pike Place Market
You’ve seen the movies and heard the tales, so you probably already know about the infamous gum wall and the first-ever Starbucks. Those are fun, but there’s so much more to do and see (and eat) while you’re visiting Pike Place.
Book lovers will definitely want to stop by BLMF Literary Saloon, and if you’re a fan of comic books you’ll want to pay a visit to Golden Age Collectibles as well.
At Orange Dracula, also known as “Woolworths for weirdos”, it’s basically Halloween all year. They have a great selection of goth & vintage items like posters, patches, enamel pins, clothes, and decor.
Tenzing Momo is a great apothecary-style shop where you can buy all the herbs and incense your hippie heart desires.
Don’t forget to stop by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and Pike Place Chowder when you start getting hungry.
Seattle Waterfront Piers
Just across the street from Pike Place, you’ll find Seattle’s beautiful waterfront lined with several piers spanning a few blocks.
On Pier 59 you’ll find the Seattle Aquarium alongside Waterfront Park, where you can get a great view of both the harbor and the Seattle skyline.
At Pier 57 you can ride the iconic Seattle Great Wheel. Tickets cost $17, and the ride lasts between 10-20 minutes. You’ll also find an arcade, inside which you can ride a historic early-20th-century carousel for $2.50.
Pier 54 is home to Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. This place is mostly a tourist trap, but it’s also home to something really unique: Seattle’s own Sylvester, the Mummy of the West. His story is far too fascinating for me to adequately sum up. I guess you’ll just have to pay him a visit to learn more.
Seattle Art Museum
Time to get cultured! The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is a must-do for lovers of both classical and modern art. Since 1933 this museum has been home to Seattle’s most notable collection of art. You’ll find galleries dedicated to the Italian Renaissance, Australian Aboriginal art, contemporary sculpture, and everything in between. They’re open Wednesday-Sunday, so plan accordingly. I recommend buying your tickets in advance as they’re a little bit cheaper if you buy them online.
Seattle Underground Haunted Tour
If I could only recommend one thing to do in Downtown Seattle, this would be it. What makes Seattle one of America’s most interesting cities, in my opinion, is the fact that it’s a city built on the corpse of a city. Unlike the webs of underground tunnels in places like Oklahoma City and Los Angeles, Seattle’s underground is totally unique. What lies beneath the busy city streets aren’t tunnels at all, but the remnants of 19th-century Seattle.
This now underground city was once at ground level, but after the Great Seattle Fire and a series of floods, the city had to be elevated. On the tour, you’ll be escorted underground where you’ll walk along the city’s original sidewalks, see the former locations of speakeasies and opium dens, learn about some of Seattle’s former residents, and if you’re lucky, maybe encounter a ghost! Many of Seattle’s true gems are hidden underground, so I encourage you not to skip the Seattle Underground Haunted Tour.
Seattle Itinerary Day 2 – Ballard & Capitol Hill
Stroll Through Downtown Ballard
Day two of your Seattle 4-day itinerary begins in the charming neighborhood of Ballard.
Ballard is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Seattle. There are tons of quirky boutique shops to check out on Ballard Ave. NW, my favorites being Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop, Lucca Great Finds, and Lucky Dry Goods.
While you’re in the neighborhood I suggest seeing what’s playing at the historic Majestic Bay Theater, and then spending an hour or so at the Ballard Locks to watch the boats come and go and explore the botanical gardens. Oh, and there’s also a really cool statue of Leif Erikson for all you fans of Norse history (or Spongebob).
Fremont Bridge Troll
If you’re looking for free and unique things to do in Seattle, you should pay a visit to the Fremont Bridge Troll. This 18-foot troll is located under the George Washington Memorial Bridge and he welcomes you to climb up and snap a few pictures. The bridge troll is pretty famous so I don’t know if this counts as one of Seattle’s hidden gems… but since he is quite literally hiding under a bridge I’m going to say it does.
Parking can be hard to find nearby, so if you fancy a little walk I recommend parking over at Gas Works Park. It’s about a 20-minute walk each way, and on your way back I highly suggest you get some lunch to enjoy in the park from Crumby Sandwich & Spirits.
I love visiting cemeteries, especially ones with celebrity gravesites. You really can’t take me anywhere and expect me not to find a cemetery or two worth visiting. Seattle is no exception. Bruce Lee and his son, Brandon, are laid to rest in Volunteer Park, and many visitors come to pay their respects.
But Volunteer Park is so much more than just a cemetery. There’s also a beautiful Victorian-style conservatory, botanical gardens, an amphitheater, and more. I recommend checking out the Water Tower Observation Deck and the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
Pro Tip: If you’re trying to do Seattle on the cheap, Volunteer Park is one of the best free things the city has to offer. However, you will need to pay to access certain areas like the conservatory and the Seattle Asian Art Museum, but the prices are reasonable.
Shop Around Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill is one of Seattle’s most vibrant and bohemian neighborhoods, known for being the heart of Seattle’s lgbtq+ community, as well as its thriving art scene, independent shops, and bars.
Check out Pretty Parlor if you’re into vintage fashion, and Wall of Sound if you collect vinyl. Neko Cat Cafe is the perfect place to stop for your afternoon coffee (and cat snuggles), but make sure you make a reservation ahead of time!
Capitol Hill is also home to one of my favorite hidden gems in Seattle, Annex Theater, where they host live performances as well as game nights. If you’re hoping to catch some live music, pay a visit to Neumos.
Elliott Bay Book Company
One of my travel traditions is that I always buy at least one book in lieu of a typical souvenir (on this trip I picked up a copy of the Bell Jar.) The Elliott Bay Book Company is my favorite book store in Seattle for several reasons: They’re independently owned, they have an excellent selection of about 150,000 titles, they host hundreds of author readings every year, AND they have a lovely little cafe.
Seattle’s Official Bad Art Museum of Art (OBAMA)
The Official Bad Art Museum of Art is another one of the best and most unique hidden gems in Seattle. Located inside Cafe Racer, this collection of art will make you cringe in the best way possible. Technically this is something you could do for free, but you should at least grab a beer or a bagel (or one of their intriguing menu items such as the “wonder wiener”.) Take some time to have a seat, relax, and enjoy the works of Seattle’s unique, lesser-known artists. This is a relatively small collection so you don’t need to set aside too much time here, but I definitely wouldn’t skip this one.
Note: The Official Bad Art Museum of Art used to be located in Ballard, but they have since relocated to Capitol Hill. Their new address is 1510 11th Ave. Seattle WA 98122.
Unicorn is a delightfully quirky carnival-themed bar featuring some really creative drinks and gourmet spins on traditional carnival snacks like popcorn, corndogs, and funnel cake. The ambiance is really vibrant and fun, and there’s a pinball arcade on the bottom floor. On weekends they host Mimosa Cabaret, a Broadway-inspired drag brunch (21+).
Seattle Itinerary Day 3 – Black Diamond & Snoqualmie Falls
Day 3 is all about getting out of the city and exploring a bit more of Washington state.
There are so many amazing day trips to take from Seattle. If you’re the adventurous type you might be interested in taking a trip to Mt. Rainier National Park for a hike and some gorgeous views. If nature isn’t your thing, consider taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island, or a trip to the Bavarian-style town of Leavenworth, which is especially picturesque during the winter months.
I wholeheartedly recommend seeing Black Diamond and/or Snoqualmie Falls (you can easily fit both into one day), but if another destination grabs your attention, I say go for it!
About a 45-minute drive from Seattle lies Black Diamond, a former coal mining town dating back to the 1880s. This is undoubtedly the spookiest place I’ve ever been, AND I LOVE IT. Not many visitors take the time away from Seattle to visit this hidden gem (heh, heh… gem… diamond… get it?) but I think it’s the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Black Diamond Cemetery is said to be the most haunted cemetery in Washington, and after several visits there I can tell you that I fully believe that. Anyway, that’s a story for another time. All I’m saying is if ghost hunting is your jam, you’ll love this tiny, unassuming graveyard. Be on the lookout for a white horse, and listen for the ghostly whistling of departed coal miners. Oh, and if you feel like you’re being watched, try not to panic. That’s normal.
On your way there, you’ll most likely catch a glimpse of the Neely Mansion. You can usually get a private tour scheduled if you book at least two weeks in advance. Sometimes they host special events so check their website to see if anything is going on during your visit.
Another great way to learn about the town’s history is by visiting the Black Diamond Museum. Their hours are a little unusual, so check ahead of time. Black Diamond Antiques & More is also well worth the visit. Stop by the Lumber House Brewery to grab lunch & beer.
If you’re feeling up to a 2-mile hike along a pretty easy trail, be sure to make time for an adventure through Franklin Ghost Town. The hike takes about 45 minutes to an hour and leads you along the scenic Green River (yes, that Green River… could this town be any more spooky?) up to the old abandoned coal mine.
If Snoqualmie Falls looks vaguely familiar to you, it may be because this town once served as the set for Twin Peaks. You can visit a lot of the show’s filming locations including the Salish Lodge & Spa (the Great Northern Hotel), the Roadhouse Restaurant & Inn (Bang Bang Bar), and of course the breathtaking waterfalls. Don’t forget to stop at Twede’s Cafe (the Double R Diner) for a “damn fine cup of coffee” and a slice of pie before you head back to Seattle.
Psst! It’s a bit of a drive, but if you want to see more of the PNW, check out these fun winter activities in Bend, Oregon!
Seattle Itinerary Day 4 – Choose Your Own Adventure
Option A: Poulsbo
We’ve fit quite a lot into this Seattle 4-day itinerary, so I’d like to end our adventure with a nice, low-key visit to the adorable Nordic town of Poulsbo. To get there, you’ll need to take the ferry to Bainbridge Island (how exciting!) and then it’s about a 20-minute drive from the ferry terminal.
Start the day off right by grabbing a drink from Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse to enjoy while you stroll. This neighborhood offers tons of stores and gift shops to check out. I recommend popping into Liberty Bay Books, Northwest Land & Sea, Away With Words, and Nordiska.
Of course, there’s more to do in Poulsbo than just shopping. Take a painting class at Dancing Brush Studio, relax at Liberty Bay Waterfront Park, or take a walk down the boardwalk for a beautiful view of the boats docked in the bay.
Whenever you get hungry, head over to Tizley’s EuroPub for a taste of the old country. Make sure you save room for dessert because you’ll definitely want to stop at Boehm’s Chocolates or Mora Iced Creamery. Or Sluys Bakery for some Danish pastries. Or maybe all three.
When happy hour rolls around, you can enjoy an adult beverage at Details Wine Bar, State 42 Wines, Slippery Pig Brewery, and the Brass Kraken Pub.
Option B: Whale-Watching
If whale-watching is more your speed, I recommend going with FRS Clipper, as they’re the only tour that leaves from Downtown Seattle. You can expect to be out for 4-6 hours depending on how active the whales are that day. If you don’t end up spotting any whales your trip is free.
If you’d like to experience the best of both worlds you can take this whale-watching tour with a 2-hour stopover in the town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.
When you get back to Seattle, you’ll still have half the day to continue exploring Downtown or your favorite neighborhood. If there’s anything else you wanted to add to your Seattle itinerary this is your chance!
Free Things To Do In Seattle
- Kurt Cobain benches: An unofficial memorial in Viretta Park near the house where Kurt Cobain died.
- Rubber Chicken Museum: Get your picture taken with the world’s largest rubber chicken. Name something in Seattle more unique than that. I’ll wait. This hidden gem is located inside the Archie McPhee store in Seattle’s neighborhood of Wallingford.
- Olympic Sculpture Park: This outdoor art museum is one of the coolest free things to do in Seattle.
- Seattle’s Central Library: An architectural masterpiece. Be sure to check out the Red Hall on the 4th floor.
- Kubota Garden: A beautiful 20-acre Japanese garden.
- Union Station: This gorgeous, historic, largely forgotten train station is a great place to take some epic selfies.
Where To Eat In Seattle
- General Porpoise Donuts: I cannot go anywhere without finding the best donut shop. If like me, you’re all about jelly/custard-filled donuts, you will weep tears of joy.
- Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar: If you’re looking for quality seafood, this is the place.
- Seatown Market Diner: Anthony Bourdain dined here on an episode of the Layover, and if it’s good enough for Bourdain, it’s good enough for me. I recommend the Dungeness crab roll and the clam chowder.
- Revel: If you’re in the mood for Korean food, this is a must. Try the cilantro noodles and the short rib rice bowl.
- Orient Express Restaurant: How about some Chinese and Thai food with a side of history? Enjoy some hot & sour soup, honey walnut shrimp, or pad Thai in one of several historic train cars that have been converted into a restaurant & karaoke bar.
Where To Drink In Seattle
Coffee culture is such a big part of the Seattle scene that I would be remiss not to mention a few coffee shops.
- Sip & Ship: Wouldn’t it be nice if the post office had delightful coffee drinks for you to sip while they handled all the stress of shipping your packages? This coffee shop does just that! It’s unique things like this that make Seattle so special.
- Victrola Coffee Roasters: Hipster heaven in the heart of Capitol Hill.
- Armistice Coffee Roaster: Female-owned shop with amazing coffee and a homey environment.
- Starbucks Reserve Roastery: One of only 6 Starbucks Roasteries in the entire world. You can even book a tour!
Bars & Breweries
- Blue Moon Tavern: This historical haven for all those happy to “cause a ruckus” is one of Seattle’s most beloved hidden gems.
- Smith Tower Observatory and Bar: A gorgeous bar with a gorgeous view of Downtown Seattle.
- Elysian Brewing: Did you really even get the Seattle experience if you didn’t enjoy any craft beers?
How To Get Around Seattle
If you’re flying into the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) it’s important to note that downtown Seattle is about 14 miles away. You could always call a cab or take an uber, but the most affordable way to get to Seattle from the airport is to take the Link light rail. It’s about a 45-minute ride and you can expect to pay around $3.50.
One of the things I love about Seattle is that it’s very walkable (if sometimes hilly), and when you can’t walk, there are a lot of other convenient options. I usually prefer to rent a car when I travel but if driving’s not ideal you can always rent a bike, call an Uber, or take advantage of public transportation.
I recommend getting an ORCA card if you plan on heavily relying on the city’s public transportation. It only costs $3 to get your ORCA card, and then you can add as many funds as you want using your credit or debit card. I should mention that this card can be used for most forms of public transportation, but not the Seattle Center Monorail or the Washington State Ferries.
Another great way to get around and explore some of the unique things to do in Seattle is by taking a walking tour. There are a lot of options, but here are some I recommend:
- Seattle Underground Tour: You can use this link to get tickets for the Seattle Underground Haunted Tour or the regular tour. Both are totally worth doing!
- Underground Donut Tour: This just might be Seattle’s tastiest tour.
- Pike Place Walking Food Tour: Pike Place can be overwhelming to traverse alone. If you feel a bit intimidated this food-centered tour is for you!
- Seattle 101: This unique tour is another free thing to do during your stay in Seattle, but donations are encouraged.
- Seattle Coffee Culture Tour: This one’s for all you coffee snobs out there. I see you.
- Seattle Jazz History Tour: Hosted by the Louisa Hotel, one of Seattle’s true hidden gems. If their schedule aligns with your 4-day Seattle itinerary I really recommend it!
And thus concludes our Seattle 4-day itinerary. Did I miss any unique or free things to do in Seattle? Leave a comment and let me know what your favorite local hidden gems are! Happy travels!
Renting a car might be ideal for some visitors in Seattle, but it’s by no means necessary. Seattle has an excellent public transportation system to take advantage of, and the city is very walkable or bikeable.
Although some people insist that Summer is the best time to visit the Emerald City, I would recommend visiting during the off-season when there are fewer tourists (and fewer bugs. No one likes mosquito bites.) Visitors often shy away from traveling to Seattle in Spring or Fall for fear of bad weather, but they’re missing Seattle at its most beautiful!
Despite the fact that you could spend weeks in this city and never run out of things to do, I think an ideal Seattle itinerary would be about 4 days. That gives you just enough time to see all the iconic Seattle sights, venture into the city’s most unique neighborhoods, enjoy a bit of nature, and even take a day trip or two.
🌊 If you like this Seattle 4-day Itinerary, please don’t forget to like and share! If you do any of the things I recommended use the hashtag #theseasidecalls so I can share with my followers!