Things to Do on a Quick Seattle Trip

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On my recent mileage-run mini-trip to Seattle I got to stay downtown at the Hyatt Olive 8 (check out that review here), but I spent as much time as possible out of the hotel and around the city. I don’t typically go to a city to sit in a hotel room – I go to explore, experience, and eat. I had less than 24 hours on the ground, but that was plenty of time to do a few cool things – most of which would be fun for families.

Use Light Rail:

I am often not a huge fan of public transportation for families who are looking to get from the airport to their hotel in a new city, but Seattle is actually an exception.  Their light rail system is so clean, efficient, affordable, and easy to use that I would not hesitate to use it with my daughter (and our luggage).  Their are many signs in the airport that direct you to the Light Rail.  Just go to the baggage claim area and signs will direct you through a parking garage and to the light rail.

20130117-135203.jpgIt cost me $2.50 one-way to go from Seattle-Tacoma airport to the last stop downtown (Westlake).  Children under 6 are free and children ages 6-18 are $1.25, and young kids would think the train is basically an amusement park ride!  I purchased the ticket via a machine and no one ever asked to see it or scan it.  It was well worth the $2.50, and as you can see below the train and stations were clean and user friendly.  Tip: Hit the red button on the door to open if it is closed.  I figured I had missed the train when the door closed, but then someone else walked up and magically opened the door by pushing the red button!



Pine Street Downtown Shopping:

The light rail let me off downtown at Pine Street right next to the original Nordstrom store that was opened in 1901.  This entire part of town was amazing if you like to shop.  There was big name store after big name store.  I was kinda in Heaven.  What was really neat is that the merchandise on clearance in a Seattle store was very different than a Texas store, so I got to stock up on a few cold weather pieces that we didn’t have on close-out in Texas (probably because we didn’t get them in the first place).

20130117-135242.jpgPublic Market/Pike’s Place:

I walked about 10 minutes from the Hyatt Olive 8 to the Public Market “Pike’s Place”.  It is a Seattle “must do”, and if you are staying downtown it is a very easy walk.

20130117-135256.jpgPike’s Place is right on the water, and this time of year will be cold and windy, so plan accordingly.  I love seafood, fresh produce, bakeries, and fresh fish, so this is my kind of place.  It’s fun to watch them throw the fish!

20130117-135312.jpgI had to try a couple oyster shooters which were pretty good.

I didn’t get a chance to visit the Seattle Greet Wheel on this visit, but I did see it from Pike’s Place.  I know that the big ferris wheel would have been a big hit with my daughter if she were with me.  The gondolas are enclosed and heated, so don’t let the weather detour you.  Children three and under are free, children 4-11 are $8.50 and adults 12+ are $13.00.

20130117-135302.jpgWhile I didn’t make it to the ferris wheel, I did make it to Sound View Cafe within Pike’s Place to warm up for a few minutes and eat some crab cakes.  This place seems to get average reviews, but it was perfect for an expensive snack, a good view, and a place to rest for a little bit in a casual atmosphere.  I enjoyed my crab cakes and appreciated a place to sit and recharge for a while before continuing on my Seattle journey.

20130117-135329.jpgAfter enjoying my crab cakes, I decided to walk to the Space Needle.  This walk was more than I would have done with a young kid as it was over a mile, but it was not too bad by myself.  There are some hills on that mile+ so, it did feel a bit longer than it really was.

20130117-135343.jpgI got to the Space Needle a little before sunset, and stayed for a bit over an hour watching it turn from day to night.  It was worth the price of admission, but admission wasn’t cheap.  It is $19 for adults 13+, $12 for kids 4-12, and children three and under are free.  Another possibility if you are going to do several Seattle attractions is to get the CityPass.  There is an indoor and outdoor viewing area and a few interactive displays within the Space Needle.  I’m sure we wouldn’t have lasted a full hour if my daughter had been there with me, but it would have been fun with kids as well.


20130117-135357.jpgAfter watching the sun set from the Space Needle I walked to Shiro’s Sushi.  I had called to make reservations in advance, and there was a good decision.  This place was delicious!  I had a yummy and fun dinner with a few friends I made in the miles and points world, including Hack My Trip.  For sushi I found the prices to be pretty fair.  This isn’t a cheap meal, but it wasn’t unreasonable for a nice night out either.  I would absolutely eat there again on a future trip.


Final Snack at the Airport:

The next morning I took the 40 minute light rail journey back to the airport and decided I needed one final seafood snack before heading back to Texas.  I headed to Anthony’s in the airport and grabbed a to-go shrimp cocktail for $2.99.  Of course this wasn’t near the quality of food I had at Shiro’s the night before, but it was fun to have one last bite of Seattle before heading home.  Anthony’s has both a take-away counter and table service.


20130117-135436.jpgOne thing I did on a previous Seattle trip that I didn’t have time to do on this trip is head to the Museum of Flight.  I can’t remember off-hand where my photos of that museum are, but it had great aviation related exhibits for both adults and kiddos.  They have indoor exhibits, and an outdoor airpark that has planes like the first jet Air Force One and a Concorde.  You will have to take a bus or drive to get there as it is not in the downtown area, but it is worth it if you have more than 24 hours in Seattle.

I very much enjoyed my brief visit to Seattle, and look forward to a longer visit to the Pacific Northwest in the future.  What “must sees” did I leave off my list (or just not have time to get to)?

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  1. Great list!

    One of my favorite things to do in Seattle is taking the ferry over to Bainbridge Island. It’s a regular commuter ferry (about 30 minutes and $8 round-trip), not a sightseeing cruise, but the views are awesome!

    If you can, plan your ferry ride over for sunset and stay on the outdoor deck for great photos. Walk somewhere on Bainbridge for dinner and then return via ferry when the skyline is all lit up after dark. It might be a late night for families (depending on time of year and when sunset falls), but it is fun, gorgeous, and romantic if you’re ever there as a twosome.

  2. And you didn’t do the underground tour? Tsk! And the Seattle / Bainbridge Island ferry?

    Don’t worry, the space needle and crab cakes at Pike’s make up for it.

    Seattle is still one of my fave cities in the world, even if it does rain (I’m a Brit, after all 😉 )

  3. Great tips! If you ever get a great fare to Portland that is the only other city with an amazing airport to downtown light rail option. My mouth dropped when the train literally stopped in front of the Nines Hotel (SPG!)

  4. I was there in Sept leaving on a 12 day cruise to Hawaii, I agree about the light rail but it was a long walk from the airport with the amount of luggage that we had. Stayed at the Arctic Club which is a great hotel downtown, did not rent a car but just walked everywhere, Space Needle, Seahawks and Mariners games at their stadiums, Pikes Market, etc..– couple of things I would suggest, Pikes Market has the original Starbucks and right next door is a Russian place that makes “meat pies”– can’t remember the name but you’ll see the line for it. Also the Underground tour, parts of Seattle were destroyed in a fire and they just built right over the top of it– if you are walking on the sidewalks every once in a while you will come to a part of the sidewalk that has glass embedded in it, this was a skylight to let in the light for the stores below– very cool.

  5. Cool – used to live up there and work across the street from Starbucks when it was a one store outfit. Another thing to see up there is the Ballard locks during a salmon run. Kiddo might enjoy seeing Nemo’s cousins coming up the fish ladder through the viewing windows.

  6. Piroshky Piroshky is the name, i highly suggest going there no matter how long the line is.

    the best breakfast in Pike’s Place is Lowell’s (no matter how touristy you think it is) amazing view and the tiger prawn benedict is one of the absolute best breakfasts i’ve ever had. the view is amazing as well, especially on a sun coming up/cloudy day.

  7. A ferry between Seattle and Bainbridge Island is
    nice at sunset. The original Starbucks is always
    often crowded but popular.

  8. We were lucky enough to spend 4 days in Seattle. Crashed at the Radisson by the airport and took the rail in everyday.

    The aquarium was a HUGE hit with my Dd. She would have spent the whole trip in the touch pools if we had the time. It was a fantastic aquarium. Right on the waterfront if you leave the market.

    The main reason for our trip was to see the King Tut exhibit, then we walked thru Chihuly. It was outstanding. We took the monorail to Chihuly/ Space needle to save on the walk!

    We also took Northwest tours to Mount Rainier for the day. It was outstanding! We are planning our next trip to Seattle hopefully this summer. The Pike market was fun, we used the items we purchased to make a light dinner in the hotel. (Wine, Cheese, Bread, some sausages.)

  9. Two hopefully useful tips:
    *Eat anything at the the Space Needle restaurant (I usually take friends for a snack or dessert) and you get access to the observation deck for free.
    *The Museum of Flight at Boeing Field is fine, but for serious aviation geeks you need to go north to Everett and the Boeing plant – it’s AMAZING to watch the production lines in action!

  10. Very sorry, Seattleite here with a pet peeve :-/. The name of the market is “Pike Place Public Market” without the ‘s. The market runs along Pike Pl (the street) and isn’t just a Place run by a guy named Pike :-). I promise I tried not to post this but I just couldn’t take it…

  11. There is a restaurant at the top of the Space needle which is very good but pricey, $25 for a very good burger and fries. However, you get free admission to the viewing area and every seat has a good to great view anyway. So if you factor in the cost of the view only, the restaurant is quite reasonable.

    My son lives in Seattle so we have visited for a long weekend each year for the last 4 years. There are loads of other things do do, not mentioned above, such as visting wineries, great hiking and other nature experiences, skiing close by, San Juan islands and much more. Also many great restaurants, although they can be expensive.

  12. The food at the Sky City restaurant (top of the space needle) is actually much much better than one would expect it to be… The Tom Douglas restaurants are top notch.. Another fun thing to do is to take the South Lake Union Trolley (aka the SLUT) from Westlake. In South Lake Union there’s the flagship REI store, Portage Bay restaurant (great pancakes), a Vivace espresso….In addition, I find Chandler’s to have a good brunch where you can watch the seaplanes land…


  13. I’ll second Piroshky Piroshky in the market. Well worth any line. If you’ve got the little one, take the Monorail to get from downtown (Westlake) to the Space Needle.

  14. I highly recommend Pike Place Chowder for excellent clam chowder, located across from the market on Post Alley; there is also a location in Pacific Place.

    @Lauren – other NA cities with convenient light rail/metro to downtown include MSP, DCA and YVR.

    @Baqa. – thanks for the correction, it was driving me crazy, too. 😉

  15. Another vote for the Underground tour, my husband and I had a long layover in Seattle (about 8 hours) on our way to Alaska for our honeymoon and we basically did Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and the Underground Tour, which ended up being a perfect use for that layover.

  16. Going to be doing one of these pseudo mileage runs to Seattle next month (hard to turn down 3.8 cpm) so thank you for some ideas what I can do with my 15 hour layover!

  17. Other good activities with kids are the Pacific Science Center, Experience Music Project, and Science Fiction Museum (all near the Space Needle); Woodland Park Zoo (a few miles north of downtown); and the aquarium (on the waterfront).

  18. Excellent trip review, as usual. Lots of information that I will put to good use. Just one pet peeve. You said about the Sushi restaurant “I found the prices to be pretty fair”. I have no idea what you consider fair, so this is useless to me. You posted the prices of light rail, space needle, and even airport shrimp cocktail. But at what I am guessing was the most expensive meal of the trip, only “pretty fair”. I just posted with this same thing with Gary, who said his meal in Grand Cayman was “very, very expensive”. And this was a RC hotel, where the website doesn’t list any prices for food at all, so no way to look it up on our own. Is there a new law that actual meal prices for full restaurants can’t be posted anymore? 😀 Or are you and Gary concerned that someone will criticise you for spending too much? To be fair, reviewers on TripAdvisor do this all the time, and it drives me crazy, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it here.

  19. You did very well with such a limited timeframe!

    Here is an itinerary we did when friends came to visit last summer. Hopefully it will be useful for someone. The key is to do Mt. Rainier on a clear day – not always easy with Seattle weather!

    Day 1

    Pioneer Square Underground Tour
    Pike Place Market
    Lunch at Lowell’s
    Seattle Great Wheel + Waterfront shops
    Mariners (night game)

    Day 2

    Mt. Rainier (Hiked to the waterfall on the Paradise side)
    Lunch at the Railroad Diner in Elbe, WA –
    Dinner at Cactus Restaurant on Alki Beach

    Day 3

    Took the ferry to Bainbridge Island
    Shopping at local shops
    Lunch at Doc’s Marina Grill
    Ice Cream at Mora Iced Creamery
    Winery Tour & Tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, WA (go before 5pm)
    Space Needle

    Day 4

    Went to the ocean in Ocean Shores, WA (2.5 hour drive)
    Rented Mopeds and rode along the beach

    Day 5 (half day)

    Fremont Troll
    Olympic Sculpture Garden

  20. My wife wants to head back to Seattle. Last time we were there was 17 years ago with the kids. We did the usual tourist things in, and out of town. My question… what is there to do for Round 2?

  21. One of the places that my wife and I went to was the Crab Pot down on the water. If you are into seafood you should check it out. You can get a TON of crab, shrimp, potatoes… and you even get a nifty bib to wear to keep yourself clean.

  22. As a Seattle native, I second the recommendation for riding a ferry. Great, cheap experience. Little C would love it. Also, riding the SLUT is fun 🙂

  23. nobody has mentioned the fantastic Wild Ginger restaurant nor Cafe Campagne. Both are absolutely great. I make a point of going to them on every (2-4/year) visit to Seattle. (I’m from Portland and we have Pok Pok and Cafe Castagna but yikes, these are 4 genius restaurants.
    Safeco field is one of the most beautiful baseball parks in America. Even w/the roof closed, it still feels open.
    In my view, there is no more beautiful city in American than Seattle. On a clear day, you can see the Olympic Peninsula, the Cascades, and everything in between.
    The relatively new outdoor sculpture garden is pretty sweet and you can watch the traffic in the Puget Sound and the traffic into or out of SeaTac. I love Seattle.

  24. Thank you so much for posting this – Couldn’t have been better timing, as I’m heading up to Seattle this weekend (for the first time and by myself – Haha). I also am staying at the Hyatt Olive 8, although, I did have a tough time deciding between the Olive 8 and the Grand Hyatt. Thanks a ton – Your reviews are always top-notch!!

  25. -Apologies for not getting to these comments quicker (we were traveling yesterday), but thanks for all the great suggestions for future trips!
    -Robert, it came to about $200 for four people including some drinks. (however I find giving exact dollar amounts to be of limited use as everyone orders differently)
    -Glad to know so many of y’all are heading to Seattle soon as well!

  26. Another Texan who visited Seattle last August (2012). My gf and I stumbled onto Shiro’s one night when we were walking around trying to decide what to get for dinner. Best decision of the trip. As a price point for other people wondering, it was 150 total for omakase for the both of us, including tip. I find that a great price for the quality of sushi and atmosphere. Better than I can get in Texas anyways (usually gets up to 100+/person).

    As a note, we had to get on a waitlist for the omakase since it’s pretty popular. Got there around 6ish, got a reservation, walked around for an hour and then they called us for our reservation.

  27. Thanks MP and Alex, knowing 50 to 75pp helps. Good to know their Omakse is not $150 pp before tip, like it is at Nobu in LA. So yes, that is “pretty fair” for a special meal in a nice place.

    But silly me, unlike the Grand Cayman Ritz that Gary just posted about, and too many of the European restaurants I see reviewed on TA, Shiro’s has an online menu with prices clearly listed.

  28. PROTIP: Avoid the space needle at all costs. Go up in the Columbia Tower observation deck instead. It’s not well publicized, but it’s about 1/3rd of the cost, and you’re FAR higher up with better views (73rd floor). Not to mention less people. Only downside is no outside deck, but still, everything else makes up for it.

  29. I went with some friends who moved to Seattle. At the time, the restaurant in the Space Needle had a 2 for 1 coupon in the Entertainment book. I bought the book and the two of us ate for next to nothing (<$30! ai) and got free admission up the needle!

    I stayed in my friend's place in the suburbs for free and gave him the coupon book that later saved him loads of $$.

    That was sometime ago and that made for a very inexpensive trip!

    I enjoy Seattle and have been back lots of times after that trip. 🙂

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