You probably know by now that I love Seattle! And all of the Pacific Northwest, of course. When I told you on instagram that I would be headed back to my home state of Washington to visit, you requested that I give some recommendations. So here’s your guide on travel to Seattle and Pacific Northwest- what to do, where to stay, what to eat and what to wear! If you want an “at a glance list”, scroll to the bottom!
This time we didn’t visit every place that I love. I would need at least a month in the area since there is so much to do, and see and eat when you travel to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Today I will include other favorites that we didn’t get to this time.
Today’s post covers travel to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest in the summer. You can do all of these things year round- it is still GORGEOUS. I went in October of 2020 and got to see INCREDIBLE fall colors, and in the Spring I visited the iconic tulips in Skagit Valley (and the cherry blossoms at UW!!) Keep in mind that you’ll probably experience some of the clouds, rain and drizzle that the Northwest is known for during the months outside of summer.
Make reservations for pretty much every meal. Seattle just fully opened up since the pandemic and restaurants are fully booked. Not only that, they are very short staffed so many places aren’t able to operate at full capacity at this time (summer 2021).
Bring Layers. The Northwest gets cool in the mornings and evenings, even in the summer. Bring light jackets and sweaters when you travel to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. My post on what to wear can be found here!
The parking in Seattle is VERY expensive so IF you DON’T plan to explore OUTSIDE of the city, I wouldn’t bother renting a car. You will spend too much between the rental and parking. Just take the Link Light Rail train into the city from the airport or use a ride sharing app. When you arrive downtown you can walk or ride share to your hotel. Rent scooters/bikes or bus/street line to places you don’t feel like walking to. Seattle is a VERY walkable city!
We stayed at The Thompson Seattle. It is across the street from Pike Place Market and almost every must see is steps from there. It has a rooftop bar called The Nest (always booked out so make a reservation) and a great farm to table place for breakfast called Conversation. (and no, this is NOT the place I saw that bed bug- that was in EASTERN Washington and I won’t be going back to that hotel.)
The Edgwewater is another great Northwest hotel with a lodge feel and delicious seafood- also right on the water. The Kimpton Monaco or Hotel Vintage are both good hotels in the heart of the city. If you are into five star hotels, you can stay at the gorgeous Four Seasons (right on the water!) or the Fairmont. One hotel that I would love to try is the Inn at the Market, right above Pike Place Market, with unmatched views!
If you decide to go up to the San Juan islands and spend a couple of days there, I highly recommend the Majestic Inn in Anacortes. You can walk to restaurants from there and be at the ferries to the islands in 10 minutes. This is a great spot if you plan to go to Deception Pass, West Beach, Washington park, or Mount Erie. If you want to stay on San Juan Island, I suggest one of the many options- cottages, homes, condos or Hotel de Haro- on Roche Harbor. And if you are an outdoor enthusiast, Snug Harbor is the place for you.
In Cle Elum, a beautiful place for camping, hiking, fishing, and outdoor activities, we stayed at my cousin’s cute cabin through Vacation Rentals 365. This is near Suncadia Resort Spa and Golf club, about 96 miles outside of Seattle.
Rent a kayak on Lake Union or on Lake Washington near the University of Washington and explore the area in the water of the beautiful and scenic city lakes.
Go take a walk at the Marina on South Lake Union to look at boats and then stop and eat seafood and clam chowder at Dukes– get a seat on the deck and you can see sea planes taking off and landing in Lake Union!
If you like the outdoors and hiking, drive to Rattlesnake Ledge Trail for hiking about 2 miles up a trail to the ledge. Beautiful views there!
Bucket List item: I have yet to do this, but I want to ride a seaplane to San Juan Island one day. Kenmore Air has trips leaving from South Lake Union multiple times a day. I can only imagine the breath taking views!
Pike place market – watch the fish being thrown and see the very first Starbucks! There are rows and rows of flowers to gawk at. Vendors are there daily, selling jewelry, art, and some of the best food! Walk all the way to the north end and see some great views at Victor Steinbrueck Park.
Kerry Park is a must for an iconic view of the city in Queen Anne Neighborhood. Great any time of day, but really amazing at sunset!
Underground Tour– Walk underneath the current city of Seattle and see how they built Seattle over an existing 1889 fire ravaged city.
Gum Wall– literally a wall covered in chewed gum ? SOOO gross but ya gotta do it to say you did it… just stay far AWAY from the actual wall, haha! The city tried to clean it several years ago after like 20 plus years and people just kept putting their gum on there! So it’s back to its colorful and gummy glory now ?.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery – Really cool experience, like Willy Wonka but make it coffee 🙂
Space needle– Ride up to the top and see Seattle from the observatory. There’s a revolving glass floor and you can see all of Seattle. You can have a snack or a drink up there, or visit the Loop Lounge for a full round of drinks and light bites while you revolve for a 365 degree view of the Northwest. Buy a City Pass– you can make reservations at the needle plus you’ll also have access to the Seattle Aquarium, and a few other fun outings like an Argosy Cruise Harbor Tour, Museum of Pop Culture, Woodland Park Zoo, or Chihuly Garden and Glass. City Pass gifted us a some passes and it was so easy to explore this way!
Smith Tower– Amazing views from the top of a tall Seattle landmark, and enjoy some craft drinks up there.
The Ballard Locks– This is a cool place to see where the fresh water from Lake Union meets the salt water from the Puget Sound, and where the boats pass through. This is also the place where salmon swim up the fish ladder! Ballard is a really cool neighborhood with lots of bars and good food.
The Seattle Waterfront/Pier – Walk along the waterfront and see the beauty. This is where the big cruise ships dock, and where you can grab a ferry ride. Hop on The Great Wheel overlooking the Sound with a view of the Olympic Mountains. Have fish and chips at Ivars Acres of Clams, a Seattle place known for deep fried seafood.
Ok, this is such an incredible experience when you travel to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. It takes the whole day but it is sooo worth it!!!
San Juan Island /Friday Harbor:
Get up super early and drive to Anacortes (Fidalgo Island -1.5 hours north of SEATTLE) There will be traffic and since the ferry leaves Anacortes at 9 am you’ll need to head out early. Grab a coffee and croissant from La Panier and get on the road. And don’t forget your layers because it will be MUCH cooler there!
OR if you don’t want to get up that early, drive to Anacortes the day before and stay at the Majestic Inn. Explore Anacortes, (see things to do in Anacortes below) spend the night, in the summer check out their rooftop bar, eat at A’Town Bistro (reservations required) or Gere-A-Deli and take your ferry in the morning. It’s about 10 minutes from the hotel.
Hop on the 9 am ferry (next one doesn’t leave until almost noon). Park your car in the lot above the ferry line, pay for parking, walk to the ferry terminal and buy your ticket. If you are going to drive on, you’ll want to reserve a space on the ferry ahead of time. Once you board, find a window seat and enjoy the views! Take a moment the last 10 minutes of the trip to walk out on the front deck and snap some pics.
Then walk to Susie’s Mopeds and rent one! (call ahead to reserve). If you haven’t done this before, they give you a quick lesson and I promise if you can ride a bike, you can do it! The also have mini “scoot-coupes” if you don’t want to ride a moped. Drive one of these with your bestie by your side!
From there you can ride the perimeter of the island. You will want to see the lavender fields!
Stop along lookouts to watch for whales. Look for eagles, too! See the light house, and generally just drive around the island with a huge smile on your face.
Then go to Roche Harbor and walk around and explore the art vendors and historic resort and gardens.
If you’re not wanting to explore the island in this manner, there’s also whale watching and kayaking. So fun!
When you get back to Anacortes, eat dinner at A-Town Bistro. MAKE RESERVATIONS AHEAD. The food is sooooo good!!!!! Like literally everything on the menu. All locally sourced and I don’t know how the chef dreams up the deliciousness but you must eat here!
If you have an extra day in Anacortes and you came the day before or don’t want to do San Juan island, do this:
Drive to Deception Pass then hike or drive down to West beach. The view from the bridge is incredible. Drive through Loop road at Washington Park beach in Anacortes. Stop at the top and walk down the side of the rocky hill to look at the emerald water and maybe see some bald eagles. Go to Mount Erie lookout and see amazing views. Drive to the top and when you get there, walk through the trees and this is what you will see.
Mr. West Cafe Bar $$ Modern vibe. Full of plants and good coffee! Amazingly delicious craft brunch and drinks.
Bacco Cafe $$ Delicious breakfast featuring locally sourced food. Across from Thompson Seattle. Plan ahead for the wait.
La Panier $$ French Bakery- The best fresh, warm croissants ever. And macarons. And bread. Yum. Always a line so get there early.
Honest Biscuits $ We stumbled upon this southern style biscuit place after not wanting to wait in line at La Panier but it is good! The MacGregor has bacon, cheddar and caramelized onion. The gluten free buttonhole biscuit was so good on a bacon egg and cheese sandwich.
Moore Coffee $ Coffee shop with amazing coffee and yummy breakfast waffles. Check out their latte art!
Starbucks Reserve Roastery $ This is pretty touristy, but it’s really cool! Like Willy Wonka, but make it Starbucks. See how they roast the coffee and watch it go from point A to B to C to your cup! If you want to grab a bite, they have pastries and breakfast sandwiches.
Matt’s in the Market– $$$ Tucked up top of Pike Place Market. Pretty view of the market with large arched windows. Known for Seafood- halibut, oysters, charcuterie and wine.
Six Seven at the Edgewater $$$. Reserve a window seat here on the water for a sunset meal. Epic views of the Puget Sound literally on the edge of the water! Love their cedar plank salmon and really anything on the menu. Excellent brunch here as well. So good!
Dick’s Drive-In $ OK. It might be just me because I am local to Seattle but I am telling you these burgers and fries seem basic but they’re not. The greasy bun is so soft but they toast it on the grill so the edges at the thinnest part have a slight crunch that you only get here. The patties are thin so you get the deluxe with two patties and the special sauce. The hand cut fries are a Seattle must – soft and thin and bendy with crispy skinned edges and salty goodness that you dip in this tartar sauce that is sweet and doesn’t actually taste like tartar sauce. If you want to say you did all of the Seattle things, you have go to Dick’s, preferably on Broadway. Plus you have to go where Sir Mix-a-Lot says the cool hang out, lol!
Little Chinook’s $$ This Queen Anne spot is known for incredible fish and chips of all kinds- cod, halibut, salmon, prawns. It’s also on a marina which obviously is a nice northwest touch if you’re eating fish!
Shiro’s Sushi $$$ This Belltown sushi restaurant requires reservations a month in advance but you can always see if they can squeeze you in! This restaurant was started by one of Jiro’s (From the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi) apprentices. Right now (July 2021) they are not fully open so they are only offering a limited menu. In person dining is limited to parties of 4 or less but it is sooo good!
Molly Moon’s $ Best Ice Cream ever. Lots of locations, but Capitol Hill is my favorite. I get the honey lavender on top and the salted caramel on bottom every time.
Salt & Straw $ Ice Cream that isn’t native to Seattle, but Portland is close enough! And it is so good! I like the one on Capitol Hill. Caramel Ribbon is my go to here.
On this trip we landed in Seattle and it was HOTTT (See my post on what to wear in Seattle here) like record breaking 105 degrees hot. Literally hotter than Texas at the time, lol! Normally it is pretty mild in the summer with highs in the 80’s midland and in the 70’s near the water. Not this time! I knew this ahead of time and wore a sundress and sandals on the plane.
Since we were going to a cabin in Cle Elum (1.5 hours east of Seattle) for a couple of nights, and since our luggage didn’t make it we decided to explore the city and grab something to eat while we waited for it to arrive (it didn’t, so we ended up having to come back for it the next day :/),
We didn’t plan for this, so all our favorite restaurants on the water were booked. Instead we went to our secret spot: The Nordstrom Grill on the men’s level at Nordstrom. You guys- they have THE best burger and fries, and fish and chips ever! Don’t sleep on Grill!
Rob and I stopped at our favorite ice cream shop, Molly Moons, but it was closed due to the high temps (I don’t think they had AC at that location!). So we ended up at Salt and Straw, a Portland born ice cream shop and it was perfect. We had to stop at Kerry Park, too!
From there we drove east to the cabin and stayed two nights. We had lots of outdoor adventures – fishing, hiking, swimming- including Rob opening the front door and coming face to face with a brown bear!
We headed back to Seattle and stayed at The Thompson. We met our pastors at Salish Lodge for brunch, then visited the falls. It is always so pretty! From there, we spent some time in Seattle exploring and ate at Matt’s in the Market that evening.
The next morning we got up early and ate breakfast at Conversation in the hotel, and then headed out to spend the day on San Juan Island in Anacortes. And we did allll of the things I suggested above!
After our day on San Juan Island, we ended the evening with a meal at the acclaimed A’Town Bistro, and headed back to The Thompson. But not before we got a flat tire, which I slept through, lol. We got another flat the next day and ended up having to trade in our rental!
The next morning our pastors visited some friends in Bellevue and Rob went to breakfast with a friend. My friends Jamyrlyn and Antwanette met me last second that morning. We stopped by Moore Coffee, went to Pike Place, ate at Mr. West Cafe on Olive St, and had vegan and gluten free ice cream at Frankie and Joe’s. Their gluten free waffle cones are to die for!
That afternoon we met our friends Farrah and Paul at the Space Needle.
After spending the rest of the day there, we changed and headed at Daniel’s Broiler in Bellevue. The deck has beautiful views!
We finished off the evening at The Nest, our rooftop bar at the Thompson. A must for the views of The Sound.
We headed home but not before I got to see my Grandma Etta! She is 93 years young and as beautiful as ever. And of course I had to grab a Northwest favorite- Taco Time -where they make Mexican fast food from fresh ingredients every day. But them mexi fries and ranch…. IYKYK!!
I hope this blog post helps you to find some fun things to do in Seattle and the surrounding area! Please let me know how your trip went- tag me in your stories on instagram when you visit!!!
Here’s an “at-a-glance” overview of everything:
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