2 Days in Seattle: How to Spend a Weekend in Seattle for the First Time

2 Days in Seattle: How to Spend a Weekend in Seattle for the First Time

Spending 2 days or a weekend in Seattle? This ultimate Seattle 2 day itinerary shows you what to do and what to see in Seattle especially if it’s your first time there. You will also find practical travel information and tips from this Seattle itinerary.

Seattle is a city I often wish I lived in; it is beautiful, has amazing restaurants and bars, is surrounded by amazing nature and endless hiking trails and it is close to Canada! Seriously what is there not to love about Seattle?

I had the opportunity to visit Seattle a few times so I thought I’d put together a quick and easy Seattle weekend guide and itinerary in case you want to spend one to 2 days in Seattle.

This Seattle 2 day itinerary also includes practical information like day trip ideas, where to eat and stay to help you plan a perfect Seattle weekend trip.

This blog contains occasional affiliate links, where I receive a small commission on sales of the products/hotels that are linked at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Who This Two Day Seattle Itinerary is For

This 2 day Seattle itinerary is perfect if you are visiting Seattle for the weekend. It’s also perfect if you have never been to Seattle since I will cover most of the touristy spots you would want to visit in Seattle for your first time there.

In this Seattle 2 day itinerary I will also recommend a couple of day trips outside/ near the Seattle area when you spend more than a day in Seattle, so it’s best if you have a car. You can Uber to most of the places Seattle that I will mention in this post but having a car in Seattle is definitely more convenient.

Seattle Cherry Blossom

How to Get to Seattle

Most people either fly to Seattle or drive to Seattle, depending on where you are coming from.

Fly into Seattle

Most likely you will be flying into Seattle. The main airport in Seattle is the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The airport is not too far from downtown Seattle (about a 15-30 minute drive). You can also take the Link light rail from the airport, it takes about 40- 50 minutes.

Driving to Seattle

If you live in Vancouver, you can easily drive down to Seattle in 3 hours. This is why a lot of people do weekend road trip to Seattle from Vancouver and vice versa. Similarly if you live in Oregon, such as Portland, you can easily drive up to Seattle in slightly over 3 hours.

Travel to Seattle by Rail

If road trip is not your thing and you prefer to travel by rail, you can take the Amtrak to Seattle’s King Street Station from various cities, such as Vancouver, Portland, Salem, or even as far as Chicago, Minneapolis and the Canadian Rockies.

Travel to Seattle by Bus

Greyhound is always an option for travels within the US and Canada if you are a budget traveler with a lot of time to spend on the road or if you don’t have a car. The most popular routes to Seattle by Greyhound include from cities such as Portland, Vancouver, Spokane, etc. But you can pretty much travel from most cities in the US on Greyhound to Seattle (with transfers).

Travel by Ferry to Seattle

Ferry is another option to get to Seattle but only if you are traveling from nearby locations such as Vancouver Island, San Juan Island, Bremerton, etc. For more information on ferries in Seattle, check out this site.

Driving and Parking in Seattle

We had a car in Seattle so we could drive from place to place (we also had 5 people so it’s hard to fit in one Uber).

After living in California and New York, I found driving in Seattle very relaxing and easy. People are much nicer and will actually let you in if you need to switch lanes. I was also surprised at the lack of honking compare to New York (I guess I have pretty low standards now when it comes to politeness).

For the most part we didn’t have an issue finding parking even on the weekend. Most areas we visited either had free parking (like at parks) or 2 hour street parking.

This is not to say you don’t need to circle around to find parking, especially at the most popular and touristy areas in Seattle but overall it wasn’t too bad of an experience. You will definitely need to know how to parallel park in Seattle if you decide to rent a car.

Map of Seattle Attractions for 2 Days

I will break up this Seattle itinerary into one day in Seattle and two days in Seattle and recommend activities based on your time frame.

I am a super visual person and like to visually know where everything is on a map. Therefore I pinned all the places I am mentioned in this Seattle itinerary on the map above:

  • Yellow pins are for your first day in Seattle
  • Black pins are for 2 days in Seattle
  • Orange pins are restaurants I would recommend in Seattle

2 Days in Seattle: Itinerary in a Nutshell

This is an overview of your weekend in Seattle.

Day 1 in Seattle: Kerry Park -> Space Needle -> Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum -> Pike Place -> Lunch in Chinatown -> Library -> Starbucks Reserve Roastery -> Dinner in Capital Hill

Day 2 in Seattle: Gas Works Park -> Seattle Great Wheel -> Olympic Sculpture Park -> The Sphere -> Optional Afternoon Trip

Day 2 in Seattle (alternatives): Day hike, waterfall, island visit and other day trips

2 Days in Seattle: Itinerary in Details

Know that you know roughly how you will be spending a weekend in Seattle, let’s get into the detailed itinerary!

Day 1 in Seattle

On your first day in Seattle, you will visit the most iconic places in Seattle. We rented a car so we were able to go around the city easily, but you can always Uber around to get to these iconic spots in Seattle. Some of the places I mention below are also within walking distance from each other (or you can take the Light Rail to get around).

Kerry Park

view from Kerry Park in Seattle

Start your day bright and early in Kerry Park.

Kerry Park is more of a neighborhood park and view point. Located in the Queen Anne neighborhood, Kerry Park is a quick stop for an amazing view of Space Needle and downtown Seattle. Some of the most popular photos of the Seattle skyline is taken from Kerry Park.

You will need to park on the streets to visit Kerry Park. Sometimes it takes some circling around to find a spot. Kerry Park is generally not super crowded so it’s pretty easy to get a nice photo of downtown Seattle from here.

Space Needle

Space Needle is the symbol of Seattle and a visit to Seattle is simply not compete without a visit to the Space Needle. Build in 1962 for the World’s Fair, Space Needle now draws over 2 million visitors to its observation deck. 

You can purchase a ticket to go up the Space Needle or have a meal in its rotating restaurant while enjoying the view of Seattle from above. I had a meal there before and the experience was pretty awesome.

The high speed elevator in Space Needle can reach the observation deck (520ft or 160m) in 41 seconds on non-windy day’s (it’s slower when it’s windy). From the top you have an amazing 360 degree panoramic view of Seattle and on a clear day you can see Mount Rainier!

Space needle from Below, Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum

Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum Seattle

Opened since 2012, Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum is a display of Dale Chihuly’s most significant work. As the name implies, you will see a lot of beautiful glasswork by Chihuly.

If you are visiting Space Needle (which is right above), you can get the combo tickets for both and save money.

Inside Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, there are 8 galleries, an outdoors space and the Instagram worthy Glasshouse.

The best thing is that you will be able to see the Space Needle from the glass museum. Most people who visit are thoroughly amazed by the exhibitions. It is no wonder Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum is listed as the best thing to do in Seattle on TripAdvisor.

View of Space Needle from Chihuly Garden during 2 days in Seattle

Pike Place Market & Gum Wall

Pike Place Market is a public market at the Elliott Bay waterfront. It is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Seattle.

Pike Place Market in Seattle for 2 days in Seattle

The market opened back in 1907 and now is a market full of florists, fresh produce, food and seafood vendors, souvenirs, collectibles, crafts, etc. There are different levels in the main complex of Pike Place Market and there are also stores, coffee shops and restaurants outside of the main market complex.

The first ever Starbucks was opened in Pike Place market so check it out if you love Starbucks. If you don’t care for Starbucks but still want some good coffee, check out Storyville Coffee or Ghost Alley Espresso.

Pike-Place-Market-inside

Pike-Place-Market-Flowers

If you really want to eat at Pike Market Place, some of the most famous places include Biscuit Bitch or Lowell’s for some nice breakfast food, Pike Place Chowder for the famous New England Clam Chowder, Oriental Mart for traditional Filipino food, etc.

If you are craving sweets then check out Daily Dozen Doughnut Company for donuts and Piroshky Piroshky, one of the most famous bakeries at Pike Place Market.

Piroshky Piroshky Pike Place Market

Near Pike Place Market is the infamous gum wall, literally walls full of chewed gums. It’s gross and fascinating at the same time so worth a quick stop.

Gum Wall Seattle at Pike Place Market for your Seattle itinerary

Lunch in Chinatown/ International District

Seattle’s Chinatown/ International District is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Seattle and it is still one that is rich in culture and history. The international district is an area that is made up of Chinatown, Japan town and Little Saigon.

The International District is one of the best places to eat in Seattle in my opinion so I highly recommend that you stop by here for lunch.

Some of the spots I recommend to eat include Dough Zone Dumpling House for soup dumplings and Pho Bac Sup Shop for Pho. I also liked Phnom Penh Noodle House for their noodles. If you are craving Taiwanese milk tea you can also find a number of stores here in Chinatown.

Unlike Chinatown in many other cities, the Seattle Chinatown is clean and orderly yet still has the cultural and historical vibe.

You can always pop inside a tea shop, herbs shop or acupuncture clinic or check out the Wing Luke Museum to do a tour to learn more of Seattle’s immigrant experience. Another cool museum to check out is the Seattle Pinball Museum to bring back your childhood memories.

Seattle Public Library’s Central Library

Seattle's Public library architecture

It may seem strange that I’m recommending you visit the library on your day in Seattle. But in reality the Seattle Central Library is a master piece of architecture.

At 11 stories high, the library is made of glass and steel and many people come here to check out the building and take those Instagram worthy photos. You don’t need to stay long but you will be impressed by how beautiful this library is.

Seattle-Public-Library

Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Dubbed as “temple to coffee education”, the “Willy Wonka factory of coffee” and the “mother church to coffee lovers”, Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Capitol Hill is a 15,000 square foot of roasting facility, cafe and restaurant.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room

Originally opened in December 2014, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is where all the Starbucks coffee beans are roasted and packaged before shipped to all the Starbucks stores worldwide.

You can watch coffee beans get roasted, buy beans, order coffee that’s not served in the main area/ store, learn about the coffee roasting and coffee making process, get ice cream floats, etc at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery

It’s an experience that both adults and kids will enjoy and people often spend at least 1-2 hours in the Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.

One word of caution: it is very difficult to find parking in Capitol Hill right outside of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. So you may need to circle around the area a few times or park a little further away.

Evening: Dinner in Capitol Hill & Bar Hopping

If you still have some time after visiting Starbucks Reserve Roastery and want a snack instead of full on dinner, then head next door to Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar for a snack.

If you are already parked in Capitol Hill I suggest you eat dinner and check out some of the bars in Capitol Hill since it’s a very lively area with good restaurants and bars. Some of the bars that are popular in this area include Canon, Knee High Stocking Co, and Pie Bar.

Canon usually has a long line to get in and even when we went around 9 it was a 45 minute wait. So we walked around the area and ended up at Knee High Stocking, which is a speakeasy in an old building.

Drinks from Knee High Stocking
Knee High Stocking

Across the street from Knee high Stocking is Pie Bar, another popular bar with yummy pie (the line was also really long around 9 so we didn’t wait).

You will end the night in Capitol Hill after an eventful first day in Seattle.

Day 2 in Seattle

If you are spending 48 hours in Seattle, you have a lot of options on what you want to do during your 2nd day. You can potentially do some day trip or day hikes or just relax in Seattle and visit the following places.

Gas Works Park

Gas-Works-Park

Start your day 2 in Seattle grabbing coffee and pastry at a local cafe before driving to Gas Works Park, located on the north shore of Lake Union in Wallingford Neighborhood. We stayed in Ballard so it wasn’t too far to visit Gas Works Park.

view of Seattle from Gas Works Park

Built in 1906, gas works park used to be the Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant, it is now a public park. It has a nice view of the Seattle Skyline over Union Lake and you will see a lot of people there especially in the summer.

Gas Works Park also hosts fireworks show for July 4th and concerts. There is a hill in Gas Works Park where many people would chill to enjoy the view of Seattle.

There is free parking at Gas Works Park and on a regular day especially in the morning it’s generally not super crowded (we went on a Friday morning and there was basically nobody).

Seattle Great Wheel

The Seattle Great Wheel is a giant Ferris wheel at Pier 57 on Elliott Bay, not too far from Pike Place Market. If you like Ferris wheels then you can probably visit this on your Day 1 in Seattle after you visit Pike Place Market.

Built in 2012, the Seattle Great Wheel is 175 feet (53.3m) tall with 42 climate-controlled gondola (fits 8 person in each one). It’s a 12 minute ride that’s good for the entire family to enjoy.

Children under 2 years old can ride for free, adults pay $15 dollars and kids from age 3 to 11 pay $10. You can buy tickets online. If you want a little extra, you can pay for the VIP gondola which features leather bucket seats, stereo system, and a glass floor.

You can also get champagne toast at Fisherman’s restaurant, VIP t-shirt, photo booth photos with the VIP gondola ticket. The VIP gondola is on first-come first-served basis.

Olympic Sculpture Park

The Olympic Sculpture Park is an outdoor public free park featuring sculptures and beach that is perfect for art lovers. It opened in 2007 by the Seattle Art Museum.

Olympic Sculpture Park

There are both permanent and visiting exhibitions in the park and there are also tours if you want to know the meaning and story behind each sculpture. The park is actually the winning design of an international competition, with a continuous Z-shaped platform.

Olympic-Sculpture-Par

A lot of families with this park as well as Instagrammers who try to take artsy photos.

The Spheres

The Spheres are 3 conservatories at the Amazon headquarter in Seattle. There are over 40,000 plants from 50 countries in the 3 conservatories.

Although the Spheres are generally open to Amazon employees only, but it is open 2 Saturdays a month to the public if you are interested in visiting. You will need to reserve online (reservation opens 30 days in advance) in order to visit.

Woodland Park Zoo

If you are visiting Seattle with kids, then you may want to take a day trip to Woodland Park Zoo.

The zoo has 92 acres of exhibits and more than 1000 animals from around the world. You will be able to see giraffes, lions, rhinos, snow leopard, wallaroo, penguins, bears, tigers, orangutans, etc.

You can buy tickets online or at the door for Woodland Park Zoo. And toddlers under 2 are free.

Boeing Tour

If you are an airplane/ aviation lover then you would not want to miss the Future of Flight tour at Boeing.

Located about 25 miles north of Seattle, the Boeing Tour takes you to view the assembly line of 747, 767, 777 and Dreamliners. The tours are inside a working assembly plant so you will see first hand how planes are made!

The tours are about 90 minutes long and you will learn a lot about how planes are designed, assembled, etc. I’ve done it once before when I visited Seattle and loved it (even though I’m scared of flying).

Other Ways to Spend Day 2 in Seattle

Below are a number of day trip ideas, hikes and other things you can do from Seattle on the last day of your 2 day itinerary. This is only if you want something different, rather than staying in Seattle proper.

Option 1. Skagit Valley Tulips Festival (If you are visiting Seattle in April)

About an hour drive from Seattle is Skagit Valley, which is known for its beautiful tulip fields. If you happen to visit Seattle mid to end of April then you simply cannot miss the massive tulips festival.

Skagit-Valley-Tulips-Festival-fields

I visited Roozengaarde Display Garden which has a $10 weekend admission fee during the festival. But while driving around, I also saw people parked on the side of random roads next to random tulip fields to take photos. Another place that is popular for tulip viewing is Tulip Town.

If you plan to go to Roozengaarde Display Garden then I highly recommend that you get there by 8:30am in the morning on the weekends.

RoozenGaarde
RoozenGaarde Display Garden

We got there around 8:30am and half of the parking lot was already full. Even though the garden itself doesn’t officially open till 9, we were already waiting in line to buy tickets at the door (they take cash and credit cards). When we left around 11am, there were lines of cars down the road trying to get in so going early is key.

Option 2. Take The Ferry to Brainbridge Island

Brainbridge Island is a small city island west of Seattle which you can reach by ferry. The island is known for its historical and cultural heritage, nature, and views. If you like the outdoors or are looking for family friendly activities then you may want to consider Brainbridge Island.

There are beaches, museums, gardens, and trails that you can explore. If you are into art then check out the Brainbridge island Museum, which has an emphasis on local artists.

If you want to learn more about the history of the island, then check out the Brainbridge Island Historical Museum. If you are looking for beach, water and hiking, then check out Blake Island State Park, which is off the main Brainbridge Island.

Option 3. Take the Ferry to San Juan Island

If you want to get away from the busy Seattle and enjoy some nature time, take the ferry to San Juan Island (or Lopez Island or Orcas Island). You can kayak, hike, bike, do zip lining, horseback riding or whale watching on San Juan Island.

Option 4. Do a Day Hike For Your Day 2 in Seattle

If you are into hiking then Seattle is the right place to visit especially in the summer and early fall. There are so many beautiful hikes near the city. So if you want to get out of the city on your 2nd day in Seattle, you may be interested in some of these day hikes.

Rattlesnake Ledge Trail is one of the most popular and easy hikes near Seattle that offers an amazing view with minimal effort. The hike only takes about 2 hours round trip with moderate incline and is the ultimate day hike for families. You can even bring your dog to the hike.

Rattlesnake-Ledge-Hike

Rattlesnake Ledge Hike from Seattle

Lake Serene Hike is another popular but much longer and harder hike near Seattle. The hike itself is around 8 miles but if you want to visit Bridal Veil Falls while you are there, that adds another 2 miles to the round trip trail.

Barclay Lake is a short and easy hike from Seattle. The hike is only slightly over 2 miles with minimal elevation gain, but you get to see a beautiful lake at the end.

Heybrook Lookout is another popular day hike from Seattle. Located only about an hour away, this short but steep hike takes you through a moss forest to a lookout tower with nice views of the surrounding mountain.

Besides these day hikes, other alternative options to add to your Seattle 2 day itinerary include:

  • Franklin Falls: a short and easy waterfall hike

  • Snoqualmie Falls: an easy walk to a viewing platform of the powerful waterfall

Option 5. Mount Rainier Day Trip

Mount Rainier is one of the most popular day trip and weekend trips from Seattle. Since it is not too far from Seattle, even within one day, you can see some of the best viewpoints, waterfalls and maybe even do a hike or two at Mount Rainier.

For more details, read my complete Mount Rainier Day Trip Guide.

Option 6. Day Trip to North Cascades National Park

If you are willing to drive, you can also do a day trip to North Cascades National Park, a super underrated park in my opinion. You can either do a hike (or a series of easy mini hikes), or you can just check out some viewpoints.

Read my complete North Cascades Day Trip guide for details.

Where to Stay in Seattle

Seattle is a pretty big city and there are different neighborhoods you can check out. However if you only have one day or max two days in Seattle I recommend you stay where it’s convenient (especially if you plan to take public transportation).

Pike Place Market/ Waterfront

Pike Place Market and Waterfront area is perhaps one of the most touristy areas in Seattle. The reason I put this on the list is because if you are staying in Seattle only for one day, it’s better to just stay at the center of it all. Hotels in this area are also generally not cheap since it’s a popular place for tourists to stay at.

Hotels/ Serviced Apartments near Pike Place Market:

Hotel Ändra: Hotel Ändra is a luxury boutique hotel 6 minutes walk from Pike Place Market. You can also walk to Space Needle in 15 minutes and there are a lot of restaurants and bars near the hotel.

Westlake Luxe Apartments by Barsala: If you are looking for more of a serviced apartments then consider Westlake Luxe Apartments by Barsala. It’s only 0.2 miles from Pike Place Market and the Original Starbucks and not too far from the Seattle Great Wheel and Seattle Aquarium.

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Seattle because it is lively and fun. There are so many cafes, restaurants and bars in Capitol Hill and the area is very diverse and is the heart of Seattle’s LGBT community. There are a lot of younger people in Capitol Hill which makes it lively and hip.

There aren’t many hotels actually located in Capitol Hill. If you are looking for luxury serviced apartments, then consider this apartment and this other one. Otherwise you may have better luck finding a cheaper accommodation on Airbnb.

Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square was the first neighborhood of Seattle and was once the heart of the city. Now Pioneer Square has many art galleries, coffee shops and bars. There are also guided underground tours at Pioneer Square and it is not too far from Chinatown/ International District if you are craving some good Asian food.

Hotels Near Pioneer Square:

Best Western: if you are looking for good value with a reliable brand then the Best Western is a good bet. It’s close to Pioneer Square Station and King Street Station which make it very convenient to travel to other parts of Seattle (and other cities like Vancouver).

Courtyard Seattle Downtown / Pioneer Square: Located in the center of historical downtown Seattle, Courtyard Seattle Downtown has a pool, fitness center, bar, free wifi, and is close to the Seattle Aquarium.

Fremont

Fremont is a trendy bohemian neighborhood that are known for its local and independent shops, cafes, and restaurants. There is a Theo Chocolate factory which has tours if you are a fan of chocolate. There are also whiskey tasting and tours at Fremont Mischief Distillery.

The two famous attractions in Fremont is the Fremont Troll and Gas Works Park. As with Capitol Hill, there aren’t as many hotels in Fremont. I’ll list one below but you can also try your luck on Airbnb.

Hotels in Fremont:

Staybridge Suites Seattle: The hotel features a heated indoor pool and full breakfast buffet. Each room also has a full kitchen and free WiFi is included.

Ballard

Ballard is an older neighborhood that is being transformed into a neighborhood with greater density. There are excellent bars, restaurants, pubs in Ballard and it’s home to the largest brewery district in Seattle. There are a lot of breweries in Ballard such as NW Peaks, Peddler, Locust Cider & Brewing Co, etc.

I personally stayed in Ballard when I was in Seattle and really liked the area. There aren’t many hotels in Ballard so you may need to look for Airbnb.

Best Time to Visit Seattle

Summer and early fall are the best months to visit Seattle. Most people may have the impression that Seattle rains all the time, which is not true. Although it does rain and occasionally snow, Seattle actually is quite sunny and dry in the summer and early fall.

Visiting Seattle during shoulder season of May, September and October will also give you pleasant weather room rates at hotels will be much lower than the peak summer season from June to August.

When to visit Seattle - Seattle Weather and Precipitation

If you are visiting Seattle during one of the rainier seasons, be sure to pack a light rain jacket (it never really pours in Seattle, but it might rain all day long). The winters in Seattle can be quite chilly and it may even snow sometimes.

Read My Other Washington State Blogs

I love going to Washington and using Seattle as a base for my hiking adventures. If you are interested in hiking, then check out my hiking guides for Washington State.

Mount Rainier Blogs

North Cascades National Park Blogs

Seattle Area Articles

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how to spend 1 day to 2 days in seattle
Seattle Itinerary: 1 day to 2 days in Seattle
Spending a weekend in Seattle