Located between the saltwater Puget Sound to the west and Lake Washington to the east, Seattle, Washington is almost entirely surrounded by water. It’s full of hills, which provide amazing views of Mt. Rainier on a clear day and the seafood is the freshest you’ll find in the country. If you’re planning a trip and wondering what to do in Seattle, there are a few things you must eat, drink, and see. Luckily for you, we’ve outlined them all right here so you can spend less time planning and more time enjoying with our Seattle Travel Guide.
According to Scandinavian folklore, ferocious, ugly trolls are known for living in clans in caves, forests or under bridges. So when the Fremont neighborhood arts council was approached in 1989 with a request to create something imaginative under Seattle’s Aurora Bridge, it makes sense that the winning idea was a massive sculpture of this type of creature. And so the Fremont Troll was born, designed with rebar steel, wire and about two tons of ferroconcrete. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and snap a photo with the troll—it’s an impressive sight to see.
Located about 90 minutes south of Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park is worth a visit if your view from the city isn’t enough. There you can bike, climb or hike to take in the nature around you, and there are opportunities for boating and fishing if that strikes your fancy. If you visit in winter, activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and ranger-guided snowshoe walks are all on the menu.
What would Seattle be without its easy access to the deep waters of Puget Sound? The water is the city’s lifeblood, with its port hosting merchant vessels, container ships, cruise ships, and fishing boat. But, that water also happens to separate large swaths of the Olympic Peninsula from easily reaching Seattle by road. That’s where Seattle’s Bainbridge Ferry comes in. Leaving from Seattle’s downtown docks, the Brainbridge ferry crosses the sound and lands in the small eponymous shopping village on Bainbridge Island. The ferry journey takes approximately 35 minutes and offers sweeping views of downtown Seattle, the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains, and the many boats and ships plying the waters of the harbor. At only $8.20, this is one of the cheapest ways to take in some time on the water. To top it all off, the ferries offer beer and light snacks in their galleys, have ample outdoor and indoor seating, and are almost always on time.
Just like catching a glimpse of the Space Needle, when you see the Pike Place Market sign, you know you’re in Seattle. Established in 1907, Pike Place stretches across nine acres and is undoubtedly one of the largest and most famous urban markets in the world. There you’ll find everything from local produce to fresh pasta stands to the flying fish stand where you can watch fishmongers toss the day’s fresh catch back and forth across the counter. With the recently opened addition of 30,000 square feet of new retail and commercial space, you’ll need to set aside a couple hours so you can take your time checking out all of the stalls Pike Place has to offer. If Pike Place is a little too much for you, check out Filson’s flagship store for some truly great outdoor gear.
Eat & Drink
Chef Renee Erickson has a good thing going. She’s opened six successful Seattle eateries and just won the 2016 James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest for The Whale Wins. And deserving of the title she is, as it was one of the most thoughtful meals we’ve had in awhile. The menu changes daily and focuses on vegetables with highlights of local meat and seafood. Plates are meant for sharing, so no one at the table gets fomo. We started with the Sea Wolf Bakery bread and butter, moved on to shrimp with pickled green strawberries, and finished with a salt-roasted half-chicken with smoked grape and spicy cashews, a next-level poultry dish we couldn’t stop eating until bursting at the seams.
Located in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, Percy’s & Co. offers up apothecary-inspired cocktails and a food based on a foundation of southern and Creole cooking. The interior sports rich, dark paneling, plenty of indoor plants to add to the eclectic apothecary-esque vibe, along with semi-circular booths and tables that provide intimacy without being stuck in a corner. The back-patio provides ample opportunity to sit under the (rare) Seattle Sunshine and take in a Bloody Mary or Peach Mimosa, since Percy’s and Co. is known as an excellent brunch location. We had the delectable whiskey french toast with maple butter and a the daily scramble with crispy potatoes. If you’re only there for the drinks, you can’t miss their Cilantro G & T, a refreshing and herbal take on the old classic.
As a primary West Coast destination for Asian immigrants for decades, it should comes as no surprise that Seattle is rife with amazing Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian foods. None, however, can beat newly opened Japanese kaiseke restaurant, Adana in the city’s downtown neighborhood. With a three-course, prix fixe menu for $37, featuring nine separate dishes for you to choose from, Adana offers up traditional Japanese dishes made with seasonal Pacific Northwestern ingredients. From deceptively simple and delicious tempura green beans, to a modern twist on a classic-grilled octopus, Adana welcomes diners with robust flavors one wouldn’t expect from such delicate-looking dishes. Adana also has a lounge menu for happy hour featuring small bites and plates one would typically find in Japanese street food stalls or carts. And we’re not even going to get into Adana’s sake menu, because believe us, it’s huge, and you’ll want to take your time perusing it.
Now a famous seafood chain in the Pacific Northwest, Ivar’s Restaurants and Fish Bar was not always that way. Founded in 1938 by Ivar Haglund as a fish and chips bar built to feed visitors to his newly developed aquarium, the bar now boasts 26 different locations, but the best is still located downtown in Seattle near the piers and docks. We recommend skipping the restaurant itself (the price for fish and chips are much higher when you sit down) and instead opted for the fish bar near the Bainbridge Island Ferry terminal. You can’t go wrong with a classic fish and chips, drenched in vinegar, and eating while watching the sun set over the sound.
Trust us when we say that Filipino food is going to be the next big ethnic food craze in the US. So, get out in front of the trend yourself by stopping by Hood Famous, in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood for some decidedly delicious sweet treats in the form of ube (purple sweet potato) cheesecake and more. Their cheesecake flavors are: ube, coconut pandan, mango calamansi, white chocolate guava, Vietnamese coffee, and matcha. They also make cookies and marshmallows in the same flavors.
Tucked away on the Pike Street Hill Climb, Zig Zag might be a bit difficult to find depending on which direction you’re coming from—but we kind of like it that way. The cocktails here are expertly crafted and utilize spirits from all around the world. Take the Trident for example–a potion of Cynar, aquavit, manzanilla sherry and peach bitters–a complex cousin of the Negroni that hits Italy, Scandinavia and Spain in one sip. If you’re more in the mood for straight spirit, the staff can help you choose something to imbibe neat or on the rocks. Zig Zag serves food late from a Greek leaning menu so you can enjoy bites like ouzo steamed mussels and lamb meatballs in a spiced tomato sauce.
With more than 3,500 labels and counting, Canon Whiskey and Bitters Emporium has the largest spirits collection in the Western Hemisphere. The setup reminds us of an elegant home library, complete with a sliding ladder that allows bartenders to reach spirits that almost touch the ceiling. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by their large logs of spirits and cocktails, but the bartenders are there to help you choose the perfect libation. Go for an original like the Campfire in Georgia (mezcal peach-habanero shrub, fresh OJ, cinnamon French oak, bitters) or stick with a classic like the Golden Dawn (apple brandy, gin, apricot, orange, bitters). Whatever you choose, know you’re getting one of the best cocktail experiences in the world when you step into Canon.
As Seattle’s only waterfront hotel, The Edgewater is a pretty special place. It’s located within walking distance of the city’s downtown attractions, but you just might decide not to leave the hotel’s warm, cozy fireplaces and grand lodge-like surroundings. Each room is furnished with a plush bed, pine furniture and a gas fireplace to make you feel at home. The Edgewater is pet friendly and has a 24-hour fitness center, so you’ll feel at home even if you’ve traveled hundreds of miles. Onsite restaurant Six Seven is one of our favorites in Seattle (see above), which means a great meal awaits you an elevator ride away.
But perhaps our favorite part of The Edgewater is The Beatles Suite. The band stayed in this very room back in the day, and there’s a photo of them fishing out the window in Elliott Bay to prove it. A grand king bed and huge European spa-style bathroom will make you feel like royalty. Get cozy by the fire in a large living room with library or dine on a room service breakfast below the contemporary chandelier. Sweeping views and Beatles memorabilia make the experience extra fanciful.
Built in 1928, the Executive Pacific is a historic hotel that has many glamorous Seattle tales to tell. But just because it has a history doesn’t mean it needs to look old—in fact, the hotel just went through a multi-million dollar renovation to bring in all of the modern amenities we look for in a world-class property. The comfortable rooms are just what you need after a long day of eating, drinking and sightseeing in Seattle. Throw on a robe and cozy up to watch a movie on the flat screen TV or take a hot shower—with Pharmacopeia organic bath products—in the sleek tiled bathroom.
The best part about the Executive Pacific is the staff.
You don’t have to go far for a good meal either. We had breakfast every day at Vovito where the pastries are delicious and the coffee is strong. If you want to catch a game and drink a cold brew, The Lodge Sports Grill has 50 beers on tap and a killer burger to soak it all up. Being properly groomed, even on vacation, is important to us, so we love that Executive Pacific has European barbershop M Room on site. It’s a boy’s club of sorts where you can play ping pong and throw back a beer while you wait for a haircut or beard trim.
Before you step out for the evening, the hotel hosts a complimentary wine reception from 5 to 6 pm. But the best part about the Executive Pacific is the staff. They are more than happy to help with any questions or requests and always do so in the friendliest possible way. They made it feel like home every time we stepped through the lobby doors. If you’re looking for a classic and comfortable hotel in a convenient location, Executive Pacific is your best bet.
Since Seattle is so full of restaurants, bars, activities, and events, you’ll hardly spend any time in your hotel during your visit. We were only in ours after waking up, before going to bed, and while we were sleeping. If you’re the type of traveler who wants to make the most of every minute in a new city, then the Courtyard Marriott Pioneer Square is the place to hang your hat. Less expensive than the two above hotels and housed in a brilliant downtown location just steps from Pioneer Square and the waterfront and minutes from Pike Place Market. This hotel is the perfect post for couples or single travelers looking to make the most of their time in the city without breaking the bank. But, just because the prices is right doesn’t mean the Marriott skimps on quality or service. With a pool and full-sized gym in the basement you’ll be able to get your sweat on (even if you’re in for just a day), the rooms are well-appointed with Paul Mitchell bath products, and the beds and pillows are extremely comfortable. The views of the harbor and the rest of downtown Seattle are also amazing, so ask for a room on a higher floor. The Marriott is also just around the corner from Seattle’s Link light rail system, which will allow you to get most places in the city without having to order an Uber.
Original photography by Max Schwartz and Chase McPeak. Article updated July 13, 2017 by Chase McPeak.