To the untrained eye, the iconic rain makes Seattle seem a little sleepy. Quite the contrary, there’s a thriving community of artists and performers, venues exploring the strange and beautiful, and year-round events that tantalize the senses. 

When wondering how to spend a day in Seattle, it’s easy to settle on visiting the go-to tourist destinations — but having an authentic Seattle experience means going beyond your Seattle day use room and the city center. 

How else are you going to turn the corner and find a row of yarn-bombed trees, or an independent glass-blowing studio?

Here’s how to spend a day in Seattle like a Seattleite. 

Enjoy the Pacific Northwest’s Version of a Beach

Seattle may not be known for its breathtaking beaches, but picturesque coastlines abound. Alki Beach Park is a magnet for sunbathers in the summer, and you can take scuba diving lessons to see actual shipwrecks in the sound.

A creamsicle sky looking out from the pedestrian bridge at Carkeek Park in Seattle.
Carkeek Park | Photo: Seattle Parks

Aptly named Golden Gardens showcases golden sand and is a hub for bonfires and locals playing beach-themed sports. The 216-acre Carkeek Park offers a nice slice of coastline, along with a bridge to watch passenger and freight trains glide up and down the BNSF Railway. 

Other notable beaches include the expansive views and running/biking trails of Lincoln Park in West Seattle, the quaint town vibe of Madison Park Beach, and the largest freshwater bathing beach in Matthews Beach Park. 

Yes, Coffee is Totally a Thing Here

You can’t ponder a Seattle daycation without sampling some local coffee. Many Seattle cafes elevate the coffee experience with local coffee roasters and passionate baristas. Capitol Hill is home to Victrola Coffee Roasters, where they freshly roast their beans at their 15th Ave. location—and the University District has Café Allegro, AKA “Seattle’s Oldest Espresso Bar,” which has been a staple since 1975. 

For something photo-worthy, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Pike St awes with its giant copper kettle and coils that wind around the ceiling. Follow the overwhelming aroma to the Scoop Bar to grab coffee beans by the pound or enjoy samples from the Cold Brew Bar and expansive tasting room.

Giant copper coils wind down from the ceiling in coffee roastery.
This isn’t your everyday Starbucks, obviously. | Photo: T.T. Seng

Learn Something Profound in a Museum

If you’re a museum enthusiast, the Seattle Art Museum is only the beginning of your whirlwind museum tour. If the weather calls for it, the Olympic Sculpture Park features outdoor sculptures by artists such as renowned sculpture artists, Alexander Cander and conceptual visual artist, Teresita Fernández

History buff? The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) provides an interactive look at the history and future of Seattle with the permanent Maritime exhibit, along with the Bezos Center for Innovation.

Other awe-inspiring museums include Wing Luke Museum, (a museum dedicated to the Asian Pacific American community), Living Computers (an interactive technology museum) and The Museum of Flight.

Indulge in Seattle Neighborhood’s Best Eats 

If you live in Seattle, you likely love brunch, and there are many delicious restaurants to prove it. Sample what’s in season at Coastal Kitchen, devour global street food at Nue, indulge in Glo’s and Beth’s Cafe for classic diner/greasy spoon cuisine, and endless of other brunchtime options. 

Hungry after all that sightseeing? Opened in 1954, Dick’s Drive-In is a Seattle staple, doing all-American burgers, fries and rootbeer floats to perfection. 

Looking for a noodle fix? Each neighborhood has its own favorite ramen place (try Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya if you’re in Northgate, or Yoroshiku in Wallingford). Then there are inventive pizza joints like the Ballard Pizza Company, where you can get “The Moses,” aka, the chef makes you whatever the hell kind of pizza they want!

After relaxing and getting ready in your Seattle dayroom, get reservations for an exquisite evening at the iconic Canlis. Built in 1950, the modernist architectural wonder serves small-dish fresh seafood, giving patrons the ultimate gastronomic experience. 

Shop Til You Drop

Seattle offers shopping options for all types of shoppers. If you’re looking for brand-name goods, head downtown. For something one of a kind, look no further than local neighborhood gems. Walk down both NW Market St. And Ballard Ave NW in Ballard and find yourself overwhelmed with quaint boutiques. 

If you’re a vintage hound, head over to Capitol Hill for some fantastic bohemian or 80’s finds. A genuinely unique experience exists at the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall, where eight trailers showcase unique art, ’70s and ‘80s vintage finds, as well as strange antiques.

Architecture That Will Blow Your Mind

Want to feel like you’re living in the future? Stroll into the downtown library. Each level has its own unique features and feels like a space-age fever dream. Designed by famous architect Frank Gehry, the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) has waves of undulating metal that are a feast for the eyes. 

View of Museum of Pop (MoPop) in
Museum of Pop Culture | Photo: Kyle Blasco

There’s also Amazon’s biosphere downtown, which looks like it should be in a sci-fi movie. Both architectural wonders in their own right —the Space Needle and Smith Tower offer picturesque views of the city.

Stimulating Watering Holes 

Seattleites love their themed drinking establishments. Check out the Unicorn & Narwhal in Capitol Hill (complete with upgraded carnival food) for an afternoon snack, Shorty’s (Coney Island-themed hot dogs and nachos) and The Octopus Bar in Wallingford (nautical-themed with portholes and captains quarters) for happy hour. Bonus: These bars are all open for lunch! 

Also check out Teacher’s Lounge in Greenwood (school-themed bar with blackboards, school chairs and a variety of beer) and Needle & Thread (prohibition-and-bank vault-themed cocktail bar) are open late afternoon and beyond for a fun night on the town.

Tour of the Strange

Up for the quirkier side of Seattle? Did the Underground Tour in Pioneer Square pique your interest when looking up top tourist attractions? Satisfy your appetite for oddities by paying your respects to the Fremont Troll, scope out not one, but two Official Bad Art Museums at the Rendezvous and Cafe Racer, and top it off with some delicious nachos at the Cha Cha Lounge, a Mexican wrestling-themed dive bar.

A look at various displays of "bad art" at the Rendezvous in Seattle.
Just a sampling of the myriad “bad art” at The Rendezvous. | Photo: Sarah E. Miller

Entertainment for the Kids, Too

Have kids with you? Start the day at the Woodland Park Zoo, which has a tropical bird exhibit, energetic penguins and animated orangutans. The Science Center is hands-on, hosting year-round traveling exhibits along with a permanent dinosaur exhibit and planetarium. 

Park the car, and get into the Duck, an amphibious vehicle that merrily honks at pedestrians while cruising through downtown Pioneer Square up to Fremont before diving into Lake Union!

Bike Life

If you love riding your bicycle, Seattle has some excellent bikeways. The Burke Gilman Trail is a local favorite. The 27-mile path offers a perfect blend of urban and nature as it winds through both downtown and scenic routes. Up north, the Interurban Trail is nicely paved and lets you ride seamlessly between Everett and Lynnwood. For a beginner-friendly ride, the Sammamish River Trail is mostly flat without sacrificing serene views. 

Mileage signs on the Burke Gilman Trail with people walking along the water in the background.
Seattle’s endless hills make bicycling intimidating, but the Burke-Gilman offers relatively flat and accessible pedaling. | Photo: Matthew Rutledge

For a more casual ride around the city, you’ll notice stations with several bright green bikes available to rent via Lime Bikes. 

In downtown, the Bicycle Repair Shop answers your questions and lets you rent high-quality bicycles, from mountain bikes to electric rides. 

Greenlake, Gas Works Park, and Volunteer Park offer more green getaway options within city limits. 

Large industrial gas pipelines surrounded by greenery and grey-blue sky.
Gas Works Park is uniquely Seattle. | Photo: Incredibly Numing

The City of Ferries

Ferries are a huge part of Seattle infrastructure. Some locals commute by ferry to work, while others use it as a weekend getaway. Off West Seattle is the Fauntleroy ferry, which can take you to Vashon Island, home to old-school hippies and retreats. 

Accessible from Pier 52 along the Alaskan Way Viaduct, Bainbridge Island is a quaint town, as well as the home of the 150-acre Bloedel Reserve and the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. 

Ferry cruising the Washington Sound with snow-capped mountains in background.
The Wenatchee heading to Bainbridge Island. | Photo: Tobias Eigen

Up north, there are the San Juans, a group of islands that have breathtaking views, farmlands, and rustic accommodations. Whatever you end up doing, as long as you’re out and about, you’re bound to find stimuli that suit you. Seattle’s contrast between historical and modern architecture completes a unique urban environment, while stunning natural parks are conveniently within city limits. What more can one ask for? 

Get your trip off to the right start. Book a Seattle dayroom to suit your pre- or post-flight needs!

Photo Credits:

Featured Image: “Seattle Skyline” by MILKOVÍ via Unsplash

“Carkeek Park” by Seattle Parks via(CC BY 2.0)

“Coffee Contraption” by T.Tseng via (CC BY 2.0)

“Burke-Gilman Trail” by Matthew Rutledge via (CC BY 2.0)

“Gas Works Park” by Incredibly Numing via (CC BY 2.0)

“Wenatchee enroute to Bainbridge Island” by Tobias Eigen via (CC BY 2.0)