If you’re coming from the airport, whether you’re driving or traveling by light rail (a great way to avoid high gas and parking prices), stop in Tukwila (the Duwamish word for hazelnuts, which grow wild in this area) and bring your appetite to Spice Bridge (14200 Tukwila International Blvd, Tukwila). At this modest cafe operated by the Food Innovation Network, you can choose from several different cuisines for lunch; the selection changes regularly as this is an incubation project for immigrant businesses, but recent options have included Cambodian, Congolese, and Afghan fare. Here, new arrivals to America share authentic foods from their homelands as they learn the ins and outs of operating a business in the United States. Eat well and support a great cause!
As you head north into the Emerald City, stop in West Seattle, driving north along the water and parking by Alki Beach (2665 Alki Ave SW) to wiggle your toes in the sand. In the winter, this beach is cool and serene. As the summer months roll in, there’s a dramatic transformation—Alki throws off California vibes.
Navigate up through the hills to Admiral Way, stopping at Admiral Viewpoint (3600 SW Admiral Way) to watch ferries ply Puget Sound and jets fly overhead. Snap a few selfies with the gorgeous Seattle skyline as your backdrop. For dinner, you have some great options in West Seattle. Il Nido (2717 61st Ave SW) is a favorite for delicious pastas—reservations are advised. Or head on over to The Junction and pop into Supreme Pizza (4521 California Ave SW). There are lots of unique shops in this neck of the woods. If it’s still light out, take a postprandial stroll through Lincoln Park (8011 Fauntleroy Way SW).
It would be a shame not to experience the region’s beautiful surrounding forests. King County Metro operates Trailhead Direct bus service to popular hiking trails in the Cascades, which are also an easy drive. Start early to find a good parking spot. My favorite hikes are along the Snoqualmie River—they’re shorter and not too strenuous, perfect for a half-day in the woods. And at the end, it’s such a treat to dip my toes in the icy cold river.
Before setting out on your hike, pick up an urbane backpack lunch at DeLaurenti’s (1435 First Ave) in Pike Place Market. Ogle the (seemingly) 5 million types of cheese and charcuterie, and marvel at the myriad chocolate bars and cookies.
Keep in mind, we love our outdoor gear shops here—consider Patagonia, Filson, Arc’teryx, and REI. Bonus points for high-quality outerwear being a perfect Seattle souvenir.
Back in town, if any of the city’s pro sports teams have a home game, get tickets and go! Spring is a great time to catch the Mariners at T-Mobile Park (1250 First Ave), which not only has awesome views from every seat but also fantastic food concessions. You can get Chinese dumplings, garlic fries, Hawaiian plate lunches, and even fried grasshoppers.
For dinner, wander around Capitol Hill. Osteria La Spiga (1429 12th Ave) serves wonderful prosciutto. You may think the half portion is enough, but go ahead and splurge for the whole plate. You won’t regret it! With an exceptional wine list and delicious Italian food, it’s one of my favorites in Seattle. Another seriously good taste bud delight is Mamnoon (1508 Melrose Ave). My husband and I are often tempted to order one of everything on the menu. After dinner, get a scoop of pickled blueberry or mint brownie ice cream from Frankie & Jo’s (1010 E Union St)—you won’t believe it’s plant-based.
Get up early and head to Pike Place Market (85 Pike St) ahead of the crowds. There’s something magical about watching the Market wake up. Stop for a smooth coffee drink at Ghost Alley Espresso (1499 Post Alley) before wending your way downstairs to explore all the interesting little shops. Then check out the picturesque waterfront and take a spin on The Seattle Great Wheel (H1301 Alaskan Way) or walk beneath the sea creatures in the unique Underwater Dome exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium (1483 Alaskan Way). When you’re ready for brunch, return to the Market and hop in line at Pasta Casalinga (93 Pike St). The owner, Michaela, is from Italy, and her pasta reflects this. The line moves quickly, and people here are happy to scoot over and share their table with you. It’s a fantastico way to end 48 hours in this wonderful city.
Start your afternoon in bustling Ballard. With its chill garden cafe vibe, Red Arrow (425 NW Market St) serves delicious coffees and house-made scones. And the glorious local pizza chain, Pagliacci (3058 NW 54th St) is great for slices. Their seasonal pies always feature fresh and unique local ingredients.
Relatively flat, Ballard is great for exploring on foot. Head to the Ballard Locks (3015 NW 54th St) to watch boats being raised and lowered as the locks’ water levels are adjusted. The grounds are lovely for a picnic. At the National Nordic Museum (2655 NW Market St), learn the history of the region’s Nordic immigrants. Then head to Golden Gardens Park (8498 Seaview Pl NW) for sea air, sandy beaches, and kite surfing.
You’ll find every possible kind of restaurant on Ballard Avenue. For our anniversary this year, we enjoyed an intimate Italian dinner at San Fermo (5341 Ballard Ave NW). The agnolotti with morel mushrooms with a nicely balanced Montepulciano hit all the right notes.
Ballard also has plenty of great late-night spots. You can count on the Sunset Tavern (5433 Ballard Ave NW) or Tractor Tavern (5213 Ballard Ave NW) to help you tune in to Seattle’s iconic music scene. We also love sitting outside at Kangaroo and Kiwi (2026 NW Market St) for drinks and people watching. And Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet (5335 Ballard Ave NW) is down-to-earth and fun. The Koi Fish, served in a massive fish-bowl glass, is a cocktail must!
Kick off the day at Bakery Nouveau (137 15th Ave E) in Capitol Hill. From rum-bathed kugelhopf to ratatouille on toasted focaccia, fending off indulgence isn’t easy. Head west with your food to the waterfront for a picnic at Elliott Bay Park (off Alaskan Way). Continue south to Olympic Sculpture Park (H2901 Western Way), enjoying the views of the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier. Nearby, Pike Place Market (85 Pine St) has something for everyone, including the most beautiful (and affordable) floral bouquets. Rub the nose of Rachel the Piggy Bank for good luck. And The Gum Wall (1428 Post Alley) is one of those tourist experiences everyone should do once. Old Stove Brewing (1901 Western Ave) has fine views and top-notch beers. Try the Hama Hama oysters and fish and chips.
Next, rent a Hot Tub Boat (2520 Westlake Ave N) on Lake Union. Set out with up to six passengers, soaking up amazing views (including the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat). The boats have temperature control, LED lighting, Bluetooth speakers, and easy joystick navigation.
Two of our favorite dinner spots are just steps from each other back at Pike Place Market. For fine Italian-American dining and incredible entertainment, check out the Pink Door (1919 Post Alley). Musicians and aerial artists perform most nights. Or consider Place Pigalle (81 Pike St), which boasts bay views and fabulous French fare.
Capitol Hill is great for socializing, dancing, and playing pub games—it’s the heart of Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community. We love the divey and retro Pony (1221 E Madison St), where DJs spin punk rock, new wave, and disco, and the welcoming, come-as-you-are Madison Pub (1315 E Madison St), where you can throw darts and play pool.
On Ballard’s waterfront, Ray’s (6049 Seaview Ave NW) serves stiff drinks and satisfying fare. Whether from a table inside or on the seasonal sundeck, take in panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound while enjoying a Bloody Mary, mojito, fresh seafood, or a burger.
Kick things off at South Lake Union with a late breakfast or early lunch at Portage Bay Cafe (391 Terry Ave N). My top faves include the French toast on challah bread and Uli’s Spicy Scramble—the pork sausage is amazing. Take a journey through the story of Seattle by checking out the engaging exhibits at MOHAI (860 Terry Ave N), the Museum of History and Industry, which also has a great cafe, Gourmondo. My kids love all of the exhibits on the main floor—they’re interactive and perfect for even the littlest visitors, who can use their hands to explore and make things move and light up. And the museum shop is filled with fun kid-friendly books.
Afterward, rent an Electric Boat (2046 Westlake Ave N) on Lake Union and take in the stunning Seattle skyline panorama. Then finish up your afternoon outside playing or strolling among the industrial structures at iconic Gas Works Park (2101 N Northlake Way). When dinner beckons, grab burgers and fries at Fremont’s roadhouse-style Uneeda Burger (4302 Fremont Ave N). My kids are fans of the sweet potato tater tots and all the fun local sodas. I love the Big Bison with red onion jam, bacon, and Beecher’s cheddar; don’t forget to add in a side of fried cheese curds!
After dinner, pop into the Original Selfie Museum (92 Union St) at Pike Place Market. My kids love moving from vignette to vignette, coming up with creative ideas for portraits, and we enjoy looking back at the pictures we took of our family (there were just four of us then) on our first visit. Make sure your phone is charged! Then walk to the waterfront and get tickets to Wings Over Washington (H1301 Alaskan Way), a cool interactive ride (my daughter Wisdom loves this one!) that gives a great sense of what makes the Evergreen State so special.
Once you’re up and out the door, return to Pike Place Market and grab breakfast from Kitchen & Market (1926 Pike Pl), a woman-owned standalone establishment that sells delicious grab-and-go fare that you can eat while picnicking next door at Victor Steinbrueck Park. Also check out Storyville Coffee (H94 Pike St). Try the espresso, made with hints of toffee and chocolate, and don’t leave without grabbing one of their super cinnamon rolls.
Then walk or take the monorail to the outstanding Pacific Science Center (200 2nd Ave N). Catch a laser show and hang out under the stars in the planetarium. My kids absolutely adore exploring the Tropical Butterfly House, and their favorite thing to do afterward is spend time on the playground outside MoPOP. Next, you can zoom up to the top of the remodeled Space Needle (400 Broad St) and take in the spectacular 360-degree views. If I visit later in the day, I like to sip futuristic cocktails in the Loupe Lounge, watching the bartenders make them with dry ice.
Walk back downtown for a delicious lunch at Cafe Campagne (1600 Post Alley), a stylish, Black-owned French bistro run by the fantastic chef Daisley Gordon. Order the crispy pomme frites and sit by a window to watch folks going in and out of Pike Place Market.
Then make your way up to Capitol Hill’s Hothouse Spa & Sauna (1019 E Pike St), where you can take a dip in the Jacuzzi or decompress in the sauna or steam room. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon browsing among the one-of-a-kind shops in the Central District’s Madrona neighborhood. Valerie Madison Jewelry (1411 34th Ave) carries stunning handcrafted jewelry. You can have one of the Eternity Bracelets custom-made as a memorable keepsake. Walk across the street for dinner at Bottlehouse (1416 34th Ave), a cute, plant-filled bungalow specializing in well-chosen wines, microbrews, artisan cheeses, and cured meats. Then stop by Molly Moon’s (1408 34th Ave) for fantastic local ice cream. I highly recommend getting any of their delightful flavors—like mocha chip and honey-lavender—in a sugar cone.
For brunch, drive to Cedar + Elm (14477 Juanita Dr NE), on the east shore of Lake Washington, in Kenmore’s Lodge at St. Edward Park. The restaurant takes a holistic approach to farm-and-sea-to-table Pacific Northwest cuisine. Afterward, walk off your meal as you meander around the lovely grounds of St. Edward Park.
Where do I even start? My own neighborhood of Ballard, naturally! One of my favorite places for lunch or a late brunch is Sabine (5307 Ballard Ave NW), a gorgeous bistro on charming Ballard Avenue. My hot tip: bypass the queue and go straight to the long zinc bar, where you can almost always grab a stool. I highly encourage you to order the breakfast salad, no matter the time of day, and a golden milk latte. Or head to Cloudburst Brewing’s (5456 Shilshoe Ave NW) beer garden and grab some Sichuan dumplings at the Plenty of Clouds food truck. Afterward, order the flavor of the month at Salt & Straw (5420 Ballard Ave NW). If they have goat cheese–marionberry–habanero in the freezer, consider yourself blessed.
I can’t leave Ballard without a skosh of shopping. I love searching for all things vintage—combing through the racks at Lucky Dry Goods (5424 Ballard Ave NW) in search of a 1970s Mrs. Roper caftan, looking for rando oddities and crystals at Ballyhoo (5445 Ballard Ave NW), and scoping out mid-century modern barware at Ballard Consignment (5459 Leary Ave NW). And I have to give a shoutout to Secret Garden Books (2214 NW Market St) for feeding my book “problem” and Annie’s Art and Frame (2212 NW Market St) for their perfect gifts, like clever jigsaw puzzles and cool art prints.
In the evening, order the grilled bread and select your own bottle from the wine shop at Halfseas (425 NW Market St). And there’s really no place more quintessentially Seattle than a Renée Erickson restaurant—eat briny oysters at the Walrus and the Carpenter (4743 Ballard Ave NW) or halibut at The Whale Wins (3506 Stone Way N) in Fremont. It shares a building with Joule (3506 Stone Way N), home to Rachel Yang’s elevated Korean food. Afterward, sip a craft cocktail nearby at The Backdoor (462 N 36th St), or live out your Voice fantasies with a karaoke tune at The Rickshaw (322 N 105th St) in Greenwood.
I love me some morning pastries. Favorites include the Crunchy Cream Malasada at Fuji Bakery (526 S King St) in the International District, and the cream scone at Coyle’s Bakeshop (8300 Greenwood Ave N) in Greenwood.
Get some serious PNW bang for your buck by driving onto the Fauntleroy ferry and heading to Vashon Island for the morning. Pick up a java at Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie (19529 Vashon Hwy SW) and peruse some rare books down the road at Vashon Island Books (22100 Vashon Hwy SW). Feeling sporty? Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard at Jensen Point (8900 SW Harbor Dr)—keep an eye out for seals.
Back on the mainland, stop in West Seattle at Marination Ma Kai (1660 Harbor Ave SW) to snack on Spam sliders while taking in the amazing views of the downtown skyline across Elliott Bay. Continue to Capitol Hill to peruse the stacks at Elliott Bay Book Company (1521 10th Ave). Grab coffee at Volunteer Park Café (1501 17th Ave E) and commune with hothouse flowers at the Volunteer Park Conservatory (1400 E Galer St), then stroll among the headstones at adjacent Lake View Cemetery (1554 15th Ave E), Bruce and Brandon Lee’s final resting place.
If you love antiquing, continue south to Georgetown to admire the wares at Lander Street Vintage (241 S Lander St). Nearby at the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall (5805 Airport Way S), you can pick up a vintage or handmade treasure. For dinner, dig into inventive Pacific Northwestern fare at The Corson Building (H5609 Corson Ave S), zip up to Beacon Hill for wood-fired pizza at Bar del Corso (3057 Beacon Ave S), or feast on glorious fresh salads and Sicilian pasta at Columbia City’s La Medusa (4857 Rainier Ave S).
Depending on your mood, First Hill has some worthy nightlife options: Admire the art and your date at The Hideout (1005 Boren Ave), or grab a whiskey and chill in the Fireside Room at the Hotel Sorrento (900 Madison St); twice a month, they host a silent reading party—complete with relaxing piano music—that’s not to be missed.
Enjoy a delicious vegetarian brunch at Cafe Flora (2901 E Madison St) in Madison Valley. Then walk off your waffle and Mango Passionfruit Nog (it’s a thing; order it) on the delightful paths at Seward Park (5900 Lake Washington Blvd S), on picturesque Lake Washington.
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