Seattle, Washington may be one of the best cities in the United States, but it’s main tourist attractions are all centrally located, making it an easy city to explore in a day.
As the starting point for many cruises to Alaska, a lot of visitors to Seattle have only a day to spend before they board their cruise ship or head out to visit some of Washington state’s nearby national parks.
If you find yourself with just one day in Seattle to soak in the sights and experiences of this remarkable Pacific Northwest gem, there are plenty of things to do.
Our one day Seattle itinerary takes you on a whirlwind journey through the Emerald City.
Whether you’re taking a day trip from Vancouver, Canada or just passing through Seattle to visit Olympic National Park or check out one of the great hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, there is plenty to keep you entertained for one day in Seattle or more.
This Seattle travel itinerary gives you an hour by hour look at how to best spend one day in Seattle, plus provides necessary information on how to get around, where to stay, and where to eat.
About Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington is often referred to as the Emerald City, and it truly is a gem in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
Nestled between the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges and surrounded by the waters of Puget Sound, Seattle boasts breathtaking natural scenery all around it.
It’s also a city that is celebrated for its tech innovation, being home to industry giants like Amazon and Microsoft, yet it maintains a deep-rooted appreciation for art, music, and coffee culture.
Garage bands were practically invented in Seattle, and while they didn’t invent coffee, they definitely perfected it and made coffee shops a household name – thanks, Starbucks.
With its iconic landmarks like the Space Needle and Pike Place Market it is a great family vacation destination in the northwest.
Where to stay in Seattle
If you only have one day in Seattle, you will want to splurge on a centrally located hotel to maximize your time.
We stayed at the Hyatt House Seattle Downtown, which is located directly across from the Space Needle and even offers views of the towering structure from some of the rooms.
An alternative with water views, The Mediterranean Inn is located just a 10 minute walk away from the Space Needle.
Quick Overview of our 1 Day Seattle Itinerary
- 8:00 a.m. – Visit the first ever Starbucks
- 9:00 a.m. – Wander through Pikes Place Market
- 11:00 a.m. – Have lunch along the waterfront
- 12:00 p.m. – See the Seattle Gum Wall
- 12:30 p.m. – Explore Olympic Sculpture Park
- 1:30 p.m. – Visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum
- 3:00 p.m. – Let kids play at the Artists Play
- 4:00 p.m. – Tour the MoPop
- 6:00 p.m. – Have a Relaxing Dinner
- 8:00 p.m. – Enjoy the view of Seattle from atop the Space Needle
Detailed Breakdown of What to Do During One Day in Seattle
OK, so now that you have a general idea of what you’ll see and how long you can spend there if you nly have one day in Seattle, let’s dive deeper into each hour or so during your 24 hours in Seattle.
8am – Visit the First Starbucks
Seattle is practically synonymous with coffee, and we probably have one well known brand name to thank for that association.
Starbucks is not only headquartered in Seattle, the coffee giant was founded there, and you can still visit the first Starbucks location at 1912 Pike Place.
Located directly across from Pike Place Market, the original Starbucks, holds a special place in coffee history as the birthplace of a global coffee phenomenon.
Established in 1971, this humble store was where Starbucks first began its journey into the world of specialty coffee. The store retains a charming, vintage ambiance with its original wooden floors, antique coffee grinders, and rustic decor.
Today, the store is a popular pilgrimage site for coffee enthusiasts from around the world who want to experience the authenticity of where it all started, so expect a line when you visit. This is the main reason we recommend hitting up the OG Starbucks first thing in the morning.
9am – Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market embodies the farm-to-table and sea-to-table essence of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. With various market stalls selling everything from fresh fish set on ice to stunning flower bouquets and handmade soaps, this open-air market is the oldest continuously operating public market in the United States.
Be sure to stop by the Pike Place Fish Market to watch as fishmongers toss giant fish from behind the counter to set up in the ice displays.
Vendors selling cheese, oils, jams, fruits and fresh bread, also line the narrow walkways. You can sample many of the food products or join one of the Pike Place Market food tours to try out local delicacies from some of the most popular stalls.
11am – Lunch along the water
Pike Place Market is a great place to grab lunch as your one day in Seattle approaches the mid-day point.
Pike Place Chowder is a popular establishment where you can grab a seafood sandwich or a bowl of chowder to warm up on a dreary or cool day.
There are several restaurants within the market that offer dining with a view overlooking the scenic waterfront.
12pm Seattle Gum Wall
This next stop on this one day in Seattle itinerary is probably a bit much to chew for some visitors to Seattle. It is the germiest tourist attraction in the world!
Of course, we are talking about the Seattle Gum Wall. This peculiar and somewhat quirky attraction is located in the alleyway beneath Pike Place Market.
This unique piece of urban art is a colorful and sticky spectacle. For years, people have been placing their wadded up, chewed gum to the walls of the narrow alley, creating a vibrant and ever-evolving mosaic of colors and shapes.
While it may be unconventional and admittedly gross, the Gum Wall has become a symbol of Seattle’s eclectic and creative spirit.
You or your kids can add your own piece of gum – if you have no fear of the germs that are inevitably covering the walls, or you can simply marvel at this strange attraction and walk on by.
12:30 pm Olympic Sculpture Park
After seeing Seattle’s grossest form of public “art”, head to Olympic Sculpture Park where you can take in some true art installations. You can easily walk along Western Avenue to the sculpture park or rent Lime scooters for an even quicker trip. You’ll find plenty of Lime scooters throughout downtown Seattle.
Located along the scenic waterfront of Seattle, Olympic Sculpture Park boasts a diverse collection of art installations and sculptures created by renowned artists, including Alexander Calder, Richard Serra, and Louise Bourgeois.
This open-air museum-like exhibit invites visitors to wander through the park’s paths surrounded by beautiful landscape and striking contemporary sculptures.
The nine-acre park is Seattle’s largest greenspace, making it a great place to relax and let children run and explore while you take in the unique art set among a backdrop of Elliot Bay and the Olympic Mountains in the distance.
If you’re visiting Seattle with kids or it’s a cold or rainy day, head to the Seattle Aquarium instead. If you plan to visit the Seattle Aquarium plus the other paid attractions on this list, it is worth getting the Seattle City Pass, which will save you money and covers admission to all the paid attractions on this Seattle one day itinerary.
1:30pm – Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum
Perhaps the coolest and most colorful museum in Seattle, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum is a mesmerizing testament to the creative genius of renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly.
Conveniently located at the base of the iconic Space Needle, this museum transports visitors into a world of vibrant colors, intricate and massive glass sculptures, and lush botanical beauty. The museum showcases a massive collection of Chihuly’s glass art, from delicate blown glass vessels to towering, gravity-defying installations that seem to defy the laws of physics.
The garden is a harmonious blend of glass art and nature, with Chihuly’s creations seamlessly integrated among meticulously landscaped flora.
Adults and children alike will love this museum! It’s a sensory journey – the colors alone make the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum a memorable experience for kids, but it is truly unforgettable for art lovers who will be baffled by the skill it takes to create such brilliant pieces and works from glass.
3pm – Artists Play
If you are visiting Seattle with kids, chances are you will not be able to walk past Artists Play playground without your child begging you to let them play for a few minutes.
This imaginative jungle gym will instantly inspire a sense of wonder in children. At the center of the playground is a massive climbing structure that sprawls intimidatingly upward toward towering tube slides.
Surrounding the jungle gym, which resembles a treehouse, there are giant musical instruments and other play areas that teach physics and will ignite your child’s imagination.
4pm – Museum of Pop Culture
Aside from its coffee culture, Seattle is perhaps best known for its contributions to pop culture. Musical greats from across different genres, like Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam all originally hailed from Seattle. So, naturally, Seattle is the perfect place for a museum like MoPop, or the Museum of Pop Culture.
This one-of-a-kind museum celebrates the fusion of creativity, technology, and popular culture. Even the building itself is a work of art! Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the building is a striking, undulating, shiny metal structure that stands prominently in Seattle Center.
MoPOP houses an extensive collection of pop culture memorabilia that spans the music, science fiction, and gaming industries.
While this museum is fun for kids, adults will be the ones who will really appreciate the nostalgia. You can explore interactive exhibits, see iconic artifacts, like Jimi Hendrix guitars, and take in immersive experiences that pay homage to the influential figures and phenomena that have shaped our contemporary culture.
6pm – Dinner Time
After visiting a couple of Seattle’s famous museums, it is time to indulge in more incredible Seattle cuisine. A great little corner plaza near the Space Needle, Tilikum Place has a variety of restaurants from Vietnamese and Thai cuisine to pizzarias and cafe style sandwiches and burgers.
It is a pleasant place to have a relaxing dinner in Seattle in the heart of downtown.
8pm Seattle Space Needle
The Space Needle is not only the most recognizable landmark in Seattle, this architectural icon is also one of the most popular things to do in the city.
Standing at 605 feet tall and designed for the 1962 World’s Fair, this symbol of the city offers panoramic views of Seattle’s skyline from its saucer-shaped viewing deck at the top of the towering spire.
Beyond its awe-inspiring vistas, the Space Needle also has a revolving glass floor located 500-feet above the ground. It is the world’s first and only revolving glass floor.
We saved this attraction for last so you can see the city aglow after the sun sets.
Frequently Asked Questions about Seattle Travel
If you’re traveling to the Pacific Northwest and only have one day in Seattle, here are a few of the most frequently asked questions to help you maximize our time in Washington’s largest city.
Is Seattle Worth Visiting?
Seattle is one of the best cities to visit in the United States! It not only boasts lots of incredible museums like the Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Pop Culture, and the Chihuly Garden and Glass, but it also has one of the most distinctive cultures in the US.
Known for its coffee, craft beers, and a culinary scene that puts an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, Seattle is a place where you will want to spend some time eating and drinking.
The area surrounding Seattle is equally worth visiting.
The Pacific Northwest has so many great places to explore the outdoors, from hikes like Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier to the dreamy Olympic National Forest, nearby lavender fields and coastal experiences like whale watching, Seattle makes for one of the most memorable family vacations in the United States.
Is Seattle Safe to Visit?
This is, surprisingly, the question we have gotten asked the most about Seattle.
The city, in recent years, has gotten a lot of flack from some media outlets for its homeless and transient population. While undoubtedly there is a high homeless population, Seattle still remains one of the safest large cities in the US.
It’s important anytime you visit a new city to be aware of your surroundings and use common sense.
Do You Need a Car for 1 Day in Seattle?
Seattle is an easy city to explore on foot. You generally do not need a car for just one day in Seattle. So, if you are flying into Seattle a day early to embark on an Alaskan cruise that departs from there, you can get by without renting a car.
From Seattle Tacoma International Airport, you can either use a ridesharing app like Uber or Lyft, take a cab, or ride the Light Rail, which connects the city center to the airport.
If you are staying at a hotel in Downtown Seattle, many of the attractions on our one day in Seattle itinerary are within walking distance.
Additionally, there is the Seattle Center Monorail which connects Seattle Center, where the Space Needle is located, to Westlake Center, just a block or so from Pike Place Market.
Having a car in Seattle can be convenient if you plan to venture outside the city to road trip and explore the surrounding natural beauty or if you have specific destinations in mind that are not easily accessible by public transit.
However, for a one-day visit focused on the city’s main attractions, relying on public transportation and other forms of transit is often more practical and cost-effective.
Is One Day in Seattle Enough?
Seattle is a fun, quirky city with a lot to offer. One day in Seattle is enough time to see the main highlights in the downtown area and have a memorable experience.
However, if you are wanting to get a feel for the city’s unique culture and enjoy its diverse culinary scene to its fullest, you’ll want to give yourself at least a long weekend in Seattle.
Do you have a question or comment about how to spend one day in Seattle? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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