When looking for a place to stay in Seattle, consider more than just the price, but also things like the hotel’s location and convenience to public transportation and attractions you’ll be visiting during your stay. Hotels near the Seattle airport are more reasonably priced, but these hotels are 15 miles from downtown and require a taxi or public transportation, if you don’t opt for your own rental car. In downtown itself you’ll find 5 star Seattle hotels conveniently located near Pike Place Market and other major attractions, such as the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Aquarium, and Waterfront Park. If you want a more boutique hotel with reasonable prices (and don’t mind using public transportation), consider staying in neighborhoods surrounding Seattle, such as Queen Anne, which has smaller inn-style accommodations not too far from city center.
Nearby Capitol Hill has some of the same types of accommodations, but may be suited for those who want to stay in a neighborhood with a livelier nightlife. It’s in Lower Queen Anne that you should consider staying with kids, since kid-friendly attractions like the Seattle Space Needle, EMP Museum, and Pacific Science Center, are all within walking distance.
Seattle is unique in that there are so many different ways to arrive, be it by car, train, ferry, airplane, or even floatplane (cruises from Seattle operate during the summer months). For those traveling by car, Seattle is convenient to numerous Pacific Northwest metros, including Spokane, Portland, and Vancouver, British Columbia, just to name a few. King Street Station, located in downtown Seattle, is one of the stops on the Amtrak Cascades line, which travels between Eugene and Vancouver, with stops also in Salem, Portland, and Tacoma. Washington state ferries sail between Seattle and many of the Pacific Northwest islands, as well as Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Air travelers to Seattle can find cheap Flights to Seattle on Expedia.com and will likely be flying into Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA), located just south of downtown Seattle. Shuttles and taxis run 24/7, while Central Link light rail runs between downtown Seattle and the airport from 5 a.m. until 1 a.m. Travelers who want a little more flexibility can book a car rental, with the car rental facility located just a five-minute shuttle ride from the airport. Also unique to Seattle is the seaplane base at Seattle’s Lake Union, which flies to/from the San Juan Islands and Victoria, British Columbia.
While the Greater Seattle area itself is expansive, Seattle itself isn’t too big that you can’t easily walk much of it. If you’re staying at a downtown Seattle hotel, you’ll be within a few blocks of the Seattle Aquarium, Pike Place Market, and the waterfront, and a five to ten-minute cab ride from Seattle Center and the Seattle Space Needle. However, it’s also easy to get around using public transportation. The Central Link light rail, which connects downtown Seattle and the airport, makes several stops downtown, including South of Downtown (SoDo), which is where Safeco and CenturyLink Field are, Chinatown, and Westlake, which is just a couple blocks from Pike Place Market. Rather than having to pay every time you ride, consider getting an ORCA pass at one of the downtown stations, which you can also use on any of the buses. You can typically hail a taxi, although you’ll find them at many of the luxury hotels in Seattle (or have your hotel call a taxi for you).
If you plan on visiting some of the outerlying neighborhoods in and around Seattle, such as Bellevue or Kirkland, a rental car can come in handy. Most Seattle hotels offer self or valet parking, but note that most of downtown Seattle and its nearby neighborhoods are metered parking.
When visiting the Emerald City, there’s no missing its most famous attraction, the Seattle Space Needle. Located at the 74-acre Seattle Center (built for the 1962 World’s Fair), the Space Needle rises several hundred feet above the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, welcoming over two million visitors annually. Visitors take the elevator to the top of the Space Needle, where they are greeted with views of Seattle, both the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay, and surrounding islands, such as Bainbridge Island. It’s also home to Skycity, a restaurant at the top of the Space Needle that rotates 360 degrees for complete views of Seattle.
Nearly as iconic as the Seattle Space Needle is Pike Place Market, located within walking distance of downtown Seattle hotels, overlooking the Puget Sound. You can’t visit the market without visiting the fishmongers, who draw a crowd every day, as they throw huge fish that customers have bought. You’ll find much more at the Pike Place Market, including tons of local shops, restaurants, bakeries, and merchants selling everything from chocolate to flowers to artisan crafts. Right across from Pike Place Market you’ll find the first Starbucks, which dates back to 1971.
The Seattle Space Needle may be a Seattle icon and the most popular attraction at Seattle Center, but the other features of the entertainment complex are just as worthy of a visit. In addition to the Space Needle, Seattle Center is also home to the Seattle Center Monorail, Pacific Science Center, Experience Music Project Museum, and Mercer Arena. Just a mile from Seattle Center is Kerry Park, which offers one of the best views of Seattle (and Mt. Rainier on a clear day), though you’ll probably want to drive or take a cab, since it’s a steep hike to the top.
Along the Seattle waterfront near Pike Place Market, visitors can find numerous Seattle attractions, including Waterfront Park, Olympic Sculpture Park, the Seattle Aquarium, and the Seattle Great Wheel, which was recently opened and stands as the tallest Ferris wheel on the west coast. Also on the Seattle waterfront is the ferry terminal, which provides a water taxi to West Seattle, as well as ferries to Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Vashon Island, and Victoria, British Columbia (and the San Juan Islands during the summer). A few miles south of Seattle is the Museum of Flight, which is the largest private air and space museum in the world.
While Seattle has long been inhabited for thousands of years, it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that Seattle started to grow. It was in 1865 that Seattle was actually incorporated as a town, and it didn’t really see substantial growth until the very end of the 1800s during the Klondike Gold Rush, which though starting in 1896, didn’t reach Seattle until the following year. The gold rush coupled with Seattle’s waterfront location, made it an important shipping destination in the Pacific Northwest.
The early 1900s saw Seattle continue to grow with the addition of transcontinental railroads, reinforcing its importance as a shipping and trade destination. While Seattle started to be put on the map because of the shipbuilding that it was providing for the wars, it became a destination in the 1950s when Boeing introduced the first commercial jet airliner. A few years later, it hosted the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, which brought nearly 10 million visitors to the fairgrounds, which is now known as Seattle Center. The Seattle World’s Fair showcased the monorail, Seattle Space Needle, and other attractions that were built for the event. Decades later Seattle is still a booming town of innovation that will only continue to grow.
Arts & Entertainment
Over the years Seattle has established itself as a music destination that can rival the likes of Nashville, Austin, and Memphis. Musicians hailing from the Seattle area include Macklemore, Soundgarden, Modest Mouse, and Head and the Heart, just to name a few. Many of Seattle’s music venues are smaller venues, such as Columbia City Theater, which has hosted the likes of Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. For those who prefer the performing arts, there is plenty of that in Seattle, many of which are convenient to downtown Seattle hotels. The Paramount Theatre, a 2,807-seat performing arts venue in downtown Seattle, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is an official Seattle landmark, frequently playing host to Broadway shows.
Visitors can find artwork on display at numerous museums in Seattle. While the primary Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is located in downtown Seattle, other facilities, including the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) in Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill, and the Olympic Sculpture Park along the Seattle waterfront, call the Emerald City home. The three facilities house well over 25,000 works of art. Also of note are two museums at Seattle Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the EMP Museum, which showcases popular culture.
Did you know that Seattle was home to the first American team to win the Stanley Cup, the Seattle Metropolitans in 1917? But while Seattle is no longer home to an NHL team, they are home to several other professional sports teams who are making a name for themselves. NFL’s Seattle Seahawks have called Seattle home since 1975, winning seven division titles and appearing in the Super Bowl in 2006. They play at CenturyLink Field, located in South of Downtown, which is a short walk or cab ride from downtown Seattle hotels. CenturyLink Field also plays host to the Seattle Sounders, the city’s MLS soccer team.
Next to CenturyLink Field is Safeco Field, which hosts MLB’s Seattle Mariners. Calling Seattle home since 1977, the Mariners have won three division titles, although they have yet to win a World Series. Other professional sports of note in Seattle includes the new Seattle Reign, members of the National Women's Soccer League, who began to play in the league2012, and the Seattle Storm, of the WNBA, who play at Key Arena at Seattle Center. It’s the icing on the cake for a Seattle vacation.
What better place to go inside when those clouds cast a shadow on Seattle than one of the many local bars offering happy hour specials. Seattle has established itself as one of the best happy hour towns in the U.S., with locales in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, some of which are considered one of the top restaurants in the nation. Most Seattle bars offer some type of happy hour special (often food and drinks specials) during the late afternoons and early evenings.
Beyond happy hour, you’ll find an array of nightlife options, with some of the best neighborhoods for nightlife being Ballard, Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, Belltown, and Pioneer Square, many of which are a short walk or cab ride from your downtown Seattle hotel. Capitol Hill is considered a livelier, eclectic neighborhood for nightlife, while nearby Belltown is considered a little more sophisticated, for those looking for more trendy nightclubs and bars. Belltown is also home to Big Picture, which was Washington’s first movie theater to offer a full-service bar. If it’s live music you’re after, Ballard has numerous small live music bars, such as Tractor Tavern, which has live music nightly.
Seattle is a foodie city. Its location on the west coast in the Pacific Northwest puts it at an intersection of seafood, international fare, and locally sourced fresh cuisine. It’s even home to renowned chefs like Tom Douglas and Ethan Stowell. You can find a plethora of restaurants from each chef around Seattle.
As you might expect, you’ll find no shortage of seafood restaurants in Seattle either, with many of which featuring fresh oysters and seafood from Pacific Northwest waters. In and around Pike Place Market alone you’ll find over 30 restaurants, many featuring a seafood-heavy menu. If you just want something on the go, then there’s plenty to choose from at Pike Place Market, including seafood, sandwiches, and pastries from merchants or small storefronts. You’ll also find plenty of sushi options in Seattle, many of which are within walking distance of downtown Seattle hotels. For more international fare, head to the Chinatown/International District, which has restaurants from around Asia, including Thai, Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese food.
One of the best things about shopping in the Emerald City is that so much of it is convenient to downtown Seattle hotels. While Pike Place Market has shopping, what you’ll find here is more in the way of unique artisan crafts, such as fashion accessories, jewelry, toys, and pottery. However, you will find boutique shops that sell bath and body products, home furnishings, books, local chocolate, and more. Just a few blocks up from Pike Place Market you’ll find a concentration of boutique, designer, and department stores. There are also shopping centers, Westlake Center and Pacific Place, both of which are a few blocks from one another.
For a more traditional shopping mall, you’ll have to get out of downtown Seattle, where you’ll find a handful of shopping malls in the Greater Seattle area, including Northgate Mall, which is just north of downtown and features over 125 stores.
Personalities & Culture
Don’t let any cloudy weather dampen your spirits. Clouds may often cast a shadow over Seattle, but it says more about the nature of the Pacific Northwest, than the personality of Seattle. Seattle in fact is a very warm and welcoming, but laid-back city that captures the essence of the Pacific Northwest. If you really want to fit in like a local, ditch the umbrella, and instead don a waterproof jacket and hat. It rarely downpours, with few locals walking around with an umbrella in hand.
When those rain showers do come though, duck into a local coffee shop. It’s hard for any U.S. city to compete with Seattle for coffee shops, as you’ll typically find one on every corner (with a bar serving happy hour on every corner too). Starbucks, originating in Seattle, has been fueling Seattle locals for over three decades.
But Seattle residents don’t let the rain damper their spirits. Seattle is a very free-spirited, yet very involved community with a lot of pride. Some of Seattle’s more unique festivals and events are some of the largest of their kind, including the Seattle Hempfest, Bite of Seattle, Bumbershoot (an arts and entertainment festival), and one of the largest gay pride festivals in the U.S.
If there’s one thing that can be unpredictable in Seattle, Washington, it’s the weather. No matter what season, what starts as a clear, sunny day, could end with clouds and rain. When going out for the day in Seattle, be it winter or summer, at the minimum have a waterproof jacket with a hood. Most locals will tell you that that’s all you need, since Seattle doesn’t see too many downpours. Some Seattle hotels may even supply you with an umbrella. Be wise and always have a pair of shades and a hat on you as well, since a day that begins with clouds in Seattle, may end with clear skies and sunshine. You’re not likely to see any snow on your trip, save for the snow atop the peaks surrounding Seattle.
Leave your flip flops and open-toed shoes at home for a trip to Seattle, partly because of the climate, but mainly because it’s such a great walking city. However, while Seattle is a waterfront city, many of the streets near downtown hotels in Seattle have steep hills, requiring good footwear. If a downpour does suddenly occur, consider popping into the downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, which makes multiple stops between South of Downtown and Westlake Center.