Last month I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to travel all over both domestically and internationally. My month started out with my first ever trip to the upper Pacific Northwest on my annual family vacation. Our first stop…Seattle. It was my family’s first time in Seattle, and it did not disappoint. As soon as you step foot outside the airport, you can feel the culture change in the air as if it were a tangible being. The lackadaisical attitude was a shock from the hustle and bustle I’m used to in Chicago. The tall pine trees, winding roads and mountain views also boasted a paradoxical shift in my mind. Knowing I was going to be spending the next 7 days up here, I needed to adapt. It was a different way of living that I wasn’t used to but kind of sort of liked for vacation mode.
It was always in our plan to spend only one day in Seattle as a pit stop before making our way even further north to Vancouver, Canada. Before I go into our one-day itinerary in the Emerald City, I wanted to cover off on a few housekeeping notes first. First and foremost, if you are not used to seeing this, there are a lot of people facing homelessness in the Pacific Northwest. I actually heard on my trip up there and since have read articles that cities up in that corner of the US like San Francisco are the worst they’ve ever been. Now I’m used to seeing people who face homelessness as I work in Chicago every day, but Seattle was definitely worse, and I was not prepared for that reality going into it. No harm or danger was present any of the time I was in Seattle, but there was more of an uncomfortable factor when walking the downtown streets. I wanted to give this warning upfront in case this is not something you are accustomed to wherever you are from. Another note on the city is that one of the landmarks synonymous with Seattle is the first ever Starbucks…skip it. The line to get in was a mile long and it looks exactly like any other Joe Shmo Starbucks down the street from your house. I do not think your time should be spent waiting in this never-ending line. The last note for my fellow Midwesterners thinking of traveling to Seattle is that the streets are VERY hilly, some can even be described as extremely steep. In the Midwest, we are so used to flat lands, so walking long distances here can be difficult. Seattle does have Uber and Lyft though, so if walking the streets is a concern, just order a rideshare.
Okay, now that those pieces are out of the way, below you can find everything we did with the 24 hours we had in Seattle. If you have any questions on any of the places we visited, please leave a comment and I’ll answer in my most honest opinion!
- Arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport around 9:30am PST and got a Lyft to the downtown area, which was about a 10-minute drive.
- At this point we had been up since 3am CST and were starving, so we had the Lyft driver drop us off at a restaurant right down the street from where we were staying.
- Ate an early lunch at Nate’s Wings and Waffles. Nate’s is a relaxed, order at the counter spot dishing up wings, waffles and sliders and co-owned by former NBA star Nate Robinson. I got the waffle sliders and they were easily some of the best sliders I’ve ever had in my entire life. Get them!
- After lunch, we walked a couple blocks to our Air BnB to drop off our luggage before exploring the rest of the city. Pro tip: I would stay in an Air BnB in a nearby downtown neighborhood versus staying in a hotel right in the heart of downtown because the international food scene is just incredible in the outer parts. We stayed about 5 minutes from the downtown area (on the corner of 12th and Fir Street) and our condo was near the hidden gems of Ethiopian, Caribbean, Japanese and French restaurants. I wish we had more time in Seattle just to indulge in the outstanding food scene.
- One of the first landmarks we wanted to see was obviously the Space Needle. We took a 5-minute Lyft ride from our condo to the observation tower and bought $35 tickets to take a glass elevator all the way to the top. The views were to die for!! Sprawling views of Seattle can be seen from a 360-degree angle. I could have walked in circles for hours. What I didn’t know was that there is a full bar and restaurant at the top. You could sit and enjoy a nice cocktail and dinner up there if you wished and I thought that was awesome. Aside from the very top where you can walk outside to enjoy the views, you can also take a staircase one floor down to a fully enclosed area with a glass floor that rotates. If you stood in one spot, you would make an entire rotation in about one hour. Now I’m terrified of heights, I was having a mini panic attack from the moment I purchased my ticket to when I was actually outside on the top floor, but I’m so happy I pushed myself because in my opinion the Space Needle is totally worth it.
- When we left the Space Needle, the other Seattle specialty we wanted to see was Pike Place Market. We took the Monorail (almost like an airport shuttle train) for $2.50 a ticket from the Space Needle to the stop nearest the market. After a couple block walk, we made it to the famous Pike Place sign and entrance, also near the first ever Starbucks. My advice is to start at one end and walk the entire way through the marketplace. I’ve never seen anything like this. Every station and every vendor had something new and interesting to look at. There were bouquets of flowers, nice flowers, for $10 and the food was so fresh they were literally throwing fish from the ocean onto ice right in front of your eyes. Nowhere has made me want to cook more. Fresh pastas and CBD lotions also lined the walkway. Again, this was one of those “worth it” kind of places.
- While in the marketplace, we stopped at a small restaurant for seaside views, a glass of rose and a dozen oysters before we left.
- My uncle was on the family trip with us this year and his cousin lives in Washington, so after Pike Place, he picked all of us up from the market and drove us about 25 minutes out of Seattle to Bellevue where we arrived at his gorgeous home greeted by his beautiful family.
- We spent the rest of the night here, as we enjoyed stimulating conversation, a fabulous boat ride around Lake Washington (where we saw Bill Gates house) and a delicious backyard barbecue. It was the perfect ending to a long travel day and the best way to get us prepared for the next week of vacation ahead.
- A short ride back to the Air BnB and we were all fast asleep, preparing for our train ride into Canada the next morning.
I know we didn’t spend a ton of time or do a ton of touristy things while in Seattle, but I had an absolute blast and would love to go back for a long weekend. There is so much more to see and so many more places I want to eat. In my honest opinion, I wouldn’t rush back to Seattle for my next vacation, but I will definitely be back! I hope this helps at least a little if you are planning a trip to this culturally-rich city soon. I think it was the perfect place to land and spend a day in to break up the travel in our journey further up to Canada. If you too are going up to our northern neighbor on the west coast side, my recommendation is to make a stop in Seattle first. The plane ride is faster and cheaper, and the city offers up amazing opportunities to see what the PNW is all about.