One Day In Seattle: Complete Itinerary & What To Do

Seattle is an amazing city that we keep coming back to. But what if you're only there for a day? Here's what we'd do...
April 19, 2024
One day in Seattle

Seattle is a beautiful and lush city located right on the Puget Sound in Western Washington. We love Seattle for all it has to offer within its city limits and how close it is to hiking (it also has fantastic views of the Olympic mountain range and Mt. Rainier).

We lived in the greater Seattle area for a year and a half, and were able to get a really good feel of the city. This itinerary is going to detail what you should do if you only have one day in Seattle. We’ve broken it down by area, and what to do when.

Because we all have different preferences while traveling, we’ll give a couple of different options throughout the day. While one day is never enough to truly explore a big city, we think we’ve outlined a well rounded guide on how to best explore Seattle in a day.

Morning

We suggest starting the morning around Pike Place Market. Shops, restaurants, and market stands begin to open between 7 am and 9 am. I enjoy coming here right when everything is starting to open because you get to watch everyone getting organized for their day. It’s quieter and more relaxed.

View of the Space Needle during a day trip to Seattle

Coffee

Let’s start with coffee, because, who doesn’t start a big day with an awesome coffee (well…Pierce doesn’t, but I sure do). I’ve narrowed down some of my favorites that are within walking distance of Pike Place Market.

Ghost Note Coffee is ridiculously good. It offers all your standard drinks and drips but also has some super unique drinks that are served like whimsical mixed drinks when you order to stay. One of their signature drinks is called Lush Life, and it’s a lovely iced espresso drink with almond milk, homemade orange blossom honey syrup and a little grapefruit essence mixed in. The whole store is cute, delicious, and I love it.

Fulcrum Coffee Cafe is another favorite in Belltown, the neighborhood just north of Pike Place. They sell three different brands all locally roasted. Their focus is providing great taste without all the frills which I appreciate. Their cold brew with some cream is my go to!

Pike Place Market

If a movie or TV show takes place in Seattle, it almost always includes one shot of Pike Place Market; most likely it shows the fishmongers famously tossing around the fish that have been sold! What you may not know is that it is the oldest continuously operating market in the country since its opening in 1907.

The exterior of Pike Place Market

A Seattle day trip would be lacking if you didn’t visit this market because it stands as an enduring symbol of Seattle’s downtown heritage. At its heart lies a bustling public farmers market teeming with activity, accompanied by a vibrant array of over 200 locally-owned eateries, boutiques, bookstores, and novelty shops.

Treat yourself to fresh pasta and indulge in homemade donuts. Explore the diverse range of artisan stalls, and perhaps, take home a breathtaking bouquet of flowers. Be sure to visit all the levels underneath the outdoor market itself and discover a whole other world!

Pro Tip: I would honestly skip the touristy original Starbucks. It has essentially the same menu as all other Starbucks. The only addition is the ridiculously long line that you’ll likely have to wait in. And, while I can appreciate that there is a time and place for Starbucks, there are WAY better places to drink coffee in Seattle! Hence my suggestions above.

The Marketfront Sundeck presents an awe-inspiring panorama of the Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island, and the majestic Olympic Mountains. Featuring 15 public picnic tables shaded from the sun, it’s an ideal setting to savor delicacies and beverages from the market’s various eateries. Additionally, Old Stove Brewing offers its own dining experience on the deck, serving up yummy fare alongside their craft beer selections.

Here are just a couple of places we want to highlight that are located in and around Pike Place Market:

  • Seattle Dumpling Co. (1916 Pike Place) is a dumpling and soup shop in addition to an Asian market. There is cozy seating both inside and out to sit and enjoy their creations!
  • Le Panier (1902 Pike Place) has been baking fresh French-inspired pastries and bread since 1983. Their croissants are beyond amazing and have the perfect amount of flake. I personally always have to buy an almond croissant!
  • The Alibi Room (85 Pike Street #410) is a renowned speakeasy in Post Alley with mouthwatering thin-crust pizzas, among other items. While you’re there, take a stroll to witness the quirkiness of the Gum Wall.
  • Rachel’s Ginger Beer (1530 Post Alley) offers refreshing drinks handmade in Seattle. They offer their original recipe daily as well as seasonal confections sourced from several local farms, many of which sell their goods at the market.
  • Old Seattle Paperworks (Level 4 of market) is a haven for enthusiasts of vintage posters and art. They offer a diverse collection of unique and affordable pieces, ranging from original propaganda posters to vintage maps and historic newspapers, postcards, and photographs.
  • The Crafts Market is home to over 170 different local artisans that offer lovely, unique gifts in a variety of mediums. Wander the daystalls to admire all of the talent.
Something to see if you're only in Seattle for a day

Pike Street Press (1510 Alaskan Way) operates as a design studio specializing in printing using vintage letterpress techniques. Collaborating closely with designers, they craft prints tailored to individual preferences. In addition to custom orders, Pike Street Press showcases its own assortment of notebooks, cards, stickers, and various paper goods.

Check Out A Museum

There are a handful of really well curated museums and exhibits around the Pike Place area. We have included some of our favorites. Because this post is detailing what to do in one day in Seattle, we suggest just picking one for the sake of time.

This area is also home to the Space Needle, probably the most iconic building in the Seattle skyline. The view from the top provides a good view of the city, but we think there are definitely better sites (keep reading for our favorite!). However, if you have your heart set on riding to the top, we suggest doing it here. If going to the Space Needle hasn’t been a lifelong dream, we would pass.

Tight on the waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium offers an ideal location for immersing yourself in the wonders of our underwater realms! This aquarium is home to a diverse array of birds, fish, mammals, and invertebrates from local and global habitats. There are a number of educational sessions held throughout the day, featuring animal feedings, enrichment activities, and insights into the lives of different creatures and their ecosystems.

A sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium

The Seattle Museum of Art is a quick five minute walk away from Pike Place Market. Within the contemporary building lies a broadly curated collection of art spanning from ancient times to today from cultures around the world. The museum has its permanent collections always on display and offers frequently rotating temporary exhibits.

  • Seattle Art Museum Address: 1300 1st Avenue
  • Price: up to $32.99 per person, kids 14 and under are free
  • Hours: Wednesday through Sunday 10 am to 5 pm
  • Website: https://www.seattleartmuseum.org/

Named after the artist who created all the works in this museum, the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum is truly a whimsical gem. There are eight separate galleries that showcase Dale Chihuly’s use of glass as works of art. Additionally there is a Glasshouse that displays a 100-foot long glass sculpture and a phenomenally landscaped garden that was created to complement his work on display.

  • Chihuly Garden and Glass Address: 305 Harrison Street
  • Price: up to $39 per person
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 am to 7 pm, Friday & Saturday 9:30 am to 9:30 pm, and Sundays 9:30 am to 7 pm
  • Website: https://www.chihulygardenandglass.com/

Lunch in Belltown

Belltown is a bustling neighborhood that is squished between Pike Place Market and the museums around the Space Needle. It’s chock full of delicious restaurants, bakeries, indie boutiques, and bars. This is a great spot for lunch since I’m sure you’ll be hungry by this time.

Sights you can see during a day trip to Seattle

We cannot suggest Bangrak Market enough. If you even somewhat like Thai food, you’ll be more than happy to have eaten here. The owners have taken their love of street food from Thailand and brought fun and new yet simple flavors to Seattle.

Another delicious restaurant is Lola, which serves Greek-inspired food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We love grabbing a late brunch here before setting off for more exploring.

Afternoon

After lunch, head north towards Kerry Park. This offers one of the best views of Seattle and Mount Rainier. We think the view is way better than that from the top of the Space Needle. And better yet, it’s free! The walk from Bangrak Market (or another restaurant of your choosing in the area) is about 30 minutes. If you want to give your feet a break, feel free to catch a Lyft or Uber to save your energy and save some time.

The Seattle skyline viewed from Kerry Park

While you’re in the area you must get something from Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. They create some of the most mouth watering ice cream I have ever had from ingredients mainly sourced from the Pacific Northwest.

As a company, they give back to the community and try to make their workplace the best experience it can for their employees so we feel good giving them our money (which is all the time when we’re in town).

Molly Moon’s has their permanent flavors which never fail to make us happy (I LOVE the flavor Yeti and Pierce goes for Scout Mint Brownie). Their seasonal flavors rotate with what is in season. If you’re visiting Seattle for one day in the spring, I highly suggest either Lemon Bar or Vegan Blueberry Pie.

For the afternoon, we have a couple of suggestions depending on what you like to do, specifically outdoorsy vs city stuff.

For Outdoorsy Folk

There are two expansive parks in Seattle that we want you to check out. Discovery Park is on the west side of Seattle and located right on Puget Sound. On the east side of the city is the Washington Park Arboretum and the Seattle Japanese Garden. Again, because this itinerary has been written for just a one day trip in Seattle, you should pick one for the sake of time!

Discovery Park

Discovery Park is the largest park in Seattle situated on the top of Magnolia Bluff all the way to the sound. It occupies most of the former site of Fort Lawson, which was an active US Army base from the early 1900s until 1973. You can still see a number of old buildings and bright yellow houses!

Pro Tip: Since it’s close by, check out Magnolia Point located a few blocks south for another really great view of Mount Rainier. This will give you a view that’s fairly unobstructed by buildings.

The park is a perfect place if you’re looking for a serene walk away from the crowds. The landscape shifts significantly throughout the 534 acres from open meadows to forest groves and rocky sea cliffs to sand dunes. Enjoy dipping your feet into the Puget Sound along the two miles of beaches. The views are breathtaking and the air coming off the water is rejuvenating!

The Washington Park Arboretum and the Seattle Japanese Garden are situated on the opposite side of town from Discovery Park. Spanning 230 acres, the Arboretum boasts an extensive array of unique flora, earning it reputation for diverse collections, including azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias, and Japanese maples. Visitors can explore miles of scenic walking trails or lounge in the sun on one of the sprawling lawns.

Washington Park Arboretum

Nestled at the southern end of the Arboretum, the Seattle Japanese Garden offers an immersive experience for a $10 entrance fee (admission to the Arboretum and Discovery Park is free). Designed in 1960 by the renowned landscaper Juki Iida, this garden is celebrated as one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan.

Tranquil pathways wind through meticulously manicured plants, mirroring the serene landscapes of Japan. Guests can delight in the central koi pond and the inviting tea house that’s found within the garden’s grounds.Located on the northern shore of Lake Union, Gas Works Park occupies the site of a former oil plant. Transformed into a picturesque 20-acre park and green space, it offers stunning vistas of the city skyline. Remnants of the old plant’s structures remain, which serve as a quirky point of interest.

Gas Works Park in Seattle

If you like getting out on the water, there are a number of kayak and SUP rentals launching from Lake Union. We suggest renting through Northwest Outdoor Center located on the lake’s west side. This is another great way to see Seattle from a different perspective.

  • Northwest Outdoor Center Address: 2100 Westlake Avenue N., Suite 1
  • Price: $23-$40 per hour depending on type of vessel
  • Hours: vary based on the month
  • Website: https://www.nwoc.com

For The More City Inclined

Fremont is a vibrant neighborhood known for its quirky charm and artistic flair. It’s home to the large Fremont Troll sculpture that lurks under the Aurora Bridge, as well as the colorful Fremont Sunday Market offering a mix of crafts, food, and vintage finds. Within this small area is a mix of tech companies, art studios, hip cafes, and lively bars in this area which fosters a dynamic community spirit.

Because Fremont has such a distinct feel, we definitely suggest checking it out. It is located right along the northeastern edge of Lake Union and extends partially down the length of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. They have a nice waterside park that is close to a handful of well curated shops. Fremont Brewing’s Urban Beer Garden is a fantastic place to enjoy a relaxing hour or so. If you enjoy plants check out Indoor Sun Shoppe.

For something off the beaten path, take a tour of Seattle’s Underground. Underneath one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, Pioneer Square, lie a network of passages. What is viewable today under the modern city was once at street level in the mid- to late-1800s. It’s a really unique way to view the past. 

We suggest taking Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. The tours are just over an hour long. Tour guides relay rich, historical stories and highlight some pretty cool old store fronts.

  • Address: 614 1st Avenue
  • Price: $22 per adult, $20 for students, $10 for kids 7-12 years old, and $20 for those 60+
  • Hours: Daily April-September 9 am to 7pm, daily October-March 10 am to 6 pm
  • Website: http://www.undergroundtour.com/

Evening

We recommend finishing your day in the charming Ballard neighborhood. It’s one of our favorites, known for its walkability, unique shops, vibrant food scene, and historic buildings. The heart of historic Ballard is situated around Ballard Avenue, stretching from NW Market Street to the north and NW Dock Place to the south.

This is where some of the best shopping in Seattle is located. Numerous boutiques showcase local designers, trendy designs, accessories, and home decor. This area of Ballard also has a great selection of art galleries and vintage shops. Here is a list of places we suggest checking out:

  • Lucca Great Finds – 5332 Ballard Avenue NW
  • Venue – 5408 22nd Avenue NW
  • Prism – 5208 Ballard Avenue NW 
  • September – 5410 22nd AvenueNW
  • C.C. Filson Store – 5101 Ballard Avenue NW
  • Space Oddity Vintage Furniture Studio – 5318 22nd Avenue NW
  • Digs – 2002 NW Market Street
  • Good and Well Supply Co. – 5134 Ballard Avenue NW
  • Sonic Boom Records – 2209 Northwest Market Street

Before dinner, we enjoy the delicious cocktails and treats from Little Tin Goods and Apothecary Cabinet. Enjoy their Hawaiian inspired drinks and snacks in a delightful space decorated with dark wood, old bricks, and lush plants. They also have a great patio outback where you can enjoy the most perfect Seattle evenings.

For dinner, we first and foremost suggest eating some really fresh Mexican inspired food from El Moose. We absolutely love this place and go there every time we’re back visiting Seattle…even when we don’t plan on spending any time in this area.

Food from El Moose in Ballard

El Moose opened its doors in 2004 by a Seattle resident who had spent three decades living in Mexico. She brought back a rich collection of authentic recipes and added a PNW twist to form the menu. There is indoor seating in a colorful room and outdoor tables along the street. I suggest the al pastor tacos, which are absolutely mind blowing.

San Fermo is another excellent option in Ballard. This upscale Italian trattoria is located in a small, cozy, historical house. Their small but inventive menu changes daily with delicious options. Dine indoors or out on their romantic, tree-shaded patio.

The Best Time To Visit Seattle

The weather in Seattle during the summer is pretty unbeatable. With average temperatures in the 70s and low humidity, these months are a great time to visit. We also love visiting in April and May when EVERYTHING is blooming. Temperatures are a bit chillier, in the high 50s-60s but nothing that a light jacket can’t handle.

In our opinion, the best months during which to visit Seattle are late April to late September. There is far less rain during this time of year, making wandering the city much more enjoyable.

Where To Stay In Seattle

A lot of the city is made up of sprawling residential neighborhoods, so there aren’t as many places to choose from as you’d think in a city this size. We suggest staying in the area around Pike Place and Belltown. Because it’s a touristy part of the city, there are a lot of places to choose from and it’s an easy place to grab an Uber or bus.

Wrapping Up

There is so much to do to fill up one day in Seattle. It’s such a bustling city with great food and a variety of different neighborhoods, each with their own distinct character. We love spending time in this city during the spring and summer where the weather is just dreamy.

Seattle is a perfect city for anyone, because there are a variety of options to choose from. We hope this trip itinerary has given you a good foundation on how to spend the day there!

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