24 Hours in Seattle

Six must-see lists for travelers of all stripes in the Emerald City

Seattle’s charm is only outpaced by the many ways you can enjoy it. From history to the arts, music to urban adventures, local flavor to world-class shopping, there is something for everyone in the Emerald City. We’ve created must-do lists you can use to plan a day in the city, filled with activities that are right up your alley.

For the Music Fan
Start the day with a stroll through Pike Place Market, eating breakfast from market vendors and enjoying live performances from the market’s many celebrated buskers. Next, pop into Seattle’s Hard Rock Café for an early lunch and local music memorabilia: Eddie Vedder’s acoustic guitar and Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocaster are just some of the treasures on view.

In the afternoon, pop over to Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony, for a free recital of the Symphony’s 4,490-pipe Watjen Concert Organ (12:30 pm Mon.) or a free tour of the concert hall (1 pm Mon., noon and 1 pm Fri). Then, take the Monorail from Westlake Center to the EMP Museum in Seattle Center. This music, sci-fi and pop culture museum is filled with interactive exhibits and an impressive collection of artifacts—including Lady Gaga’s meat dress from the 2010 MTV Music Video awards. After EMP, cab to Jive Time Records in Fremont. Rolling Stone deemed it one of the best record stores in the country.

Take in a show at The Triple Door. (©Claire Bloomberg)

Round out the evening by heading downtown to The Triple Door where drinks, dinner and live music await. Huge talent graces this stage, so you may want to reserve a table ahead of time. After dinner, keep the night moving with a concert at beloved local venue, Showbox at the Market.

For Making Like a (Hip) Local
Get breakfast at culture-rich Oddfellows Café. Then, pickup a reusable mug at sustainable boutique NUBE Green and grab a cup of joe at local brewery Caffe Vita. Now that you’re awake, wander the creaky wood floors of beloved Elliott Bay Bookstore. If you want to adopt authentic Seattle camouflage, pull the trigger and finally get that tattoo you’ve been thinking about at Super Genius Tattoo.

Around lunchtime, wait in line at Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream Shop (917 E Pine St) for a tasty small-batch ice cream cone (salted caramel is divine). Walk East Pine St. toward downtown and stop at the flagship local rock ‘n’ roll salon, Rudy’s Barbershop for a killer new haircut. Next, get some shopping done at the local shops at next-door Melrose Market.

Linda's Tavern (©Suzi Pratt)

Grab dinner at Sitka & Spruce (1531 Melrose Ave., 206.324.0662) where chef Matt Dillon works wonders with fresh local ingredients. Next up? Linda’s Tavern promises beer, taxidermy and pool. Finally, wander further up the hill for a prohibition era nightcap at Tavern Law. After all those cocktails, swing by Pike St. Fish Fry for some late night fare—you’ll thank yourself in the morning.

For the Seasoned Shopper
Start the day with brunch on Old Ballard Avenue. Hi-Life serves up classic brunch made from Northwest ingredients while Bastille Café and Bar serves a French menu. Once you’re fueled, wander the boutiques on offer. Highlights include: Horseshoe (fashion, gifts), Velouria (local goods and fashion), Re-Soul (footwear), Ketch (fashion), Venue (local gifts), and Blackbird (fashion).

Cab to nearby Fremont for the afternoon, where charming boutiques and quirky public art await. Shop for fashion and accessories at Show Pony and Les Amis, then pop into specialty shops like Lamb’s Ear (footwear), Bellefleur (lingerie), Essenza (perfume and gifts), Theo (chocolate), Hub and BeSpoke (bicycle and fashion) and Evo (sport and fashion). After that flurry of shopping, grab a patio seat at El Camino for a delicious Mexican lunch.

This quirky fashion spot is worth seeing. (Courtesy Ketch)

Next, you’re off to the flagship Nordstrom store (where you can rejuvenate tired shopping feet with a pedi at the spa upstairs). Stay downtown where well-known options abound (Anthropologie, J.Crew, American Apparel, Urban Outfitters) or wind your way to Pike Place Market where a handful of flagship boutiques are on offer. High points include: Watson Kennedy (gifts and décor), Fini (accessories), Sur La Table (cooking), and Boston Street Baby (kids).

For the History Buff
Obviously, you'll start your day with a coffee from the very first Starbucks in Pike Place Market. After wandering the market, which has been linking shoppers to local purveyors since 1907, head to Steinbrueck Native Gallery. The stunning collection (which marries historic artifact with modern art) brings the culture of the region’s first people to life before your eyes.

Want to spend more time focusing on regional Native American history? Take a narrated Argosy cruise to nearby Blake Island for the afternoon, where performance, food and artifacts await. Or, learn more about city history in historic Pioneer Square. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour delivers a humorous and scandalous tour of Seattle’s history, which takes place below street level and brings you face-to-face with Seattle’s past. Don’t leave this historic ‘hood without an elevator trip (complete with elevator operator) up the city’s oldest skyscraper, Smith Tower, which was the tallest building West of the Mississippi when it was completed in 1914.

The scandalously funny Underground Tour is a must on the to-do list. (Courtesy of The Underground Tour)

Next, cab over to South Lake Union where Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry awaits. Interactive exhibits, larger-than-life artifacts and an unprecedented collection of images and items communicate the rich details of the city’s story. End the day with dinner in the belly of Pike Place Market at Pike Pub and Brewery where you can enjoy beer brewed on-site and a microbrewery museum filled with artifacts.

For the Art Lover
Start the day with brunch at the Collections Café at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle Center. Then, take the Monorail downtown and walk some of the city’s most beloved galleries including: Gallery Mack in Pike Place Market and Traver Gallery on 1st Ave., or Stonington Gallery in Pioneer Square.

After a fresh local lunch at the museum’s restaurant, TASTE, spend your afternoon wandering the Seattle Art Museum. Next, pop into Pike Street Press which has an ever-changing collection of original works on display.

That evening, take in art of a different story with Seattle’s performing arts scene. You could catch a show at the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle Center, or stay downtown and watch live theatre at the gorgeous 5th Avenue Theatre or The Paramount Theatre.

The Traver Gallery (©Ben Lerman)

For the Thrill Seeker
Get your motor running in the morning with a seaplane tour of the city. Kenmore Air sightseeing tours take off and land in Lake Union—a quintessentially Northwest way to take it all in. Then, ride the South Lake Union Trolley downtown and walk to the Seattle waterfront—just head toward the skyscraping white wheel that’s anchoring the skyline. Jump aboard the Great Wheel for a thrilling experience: stunning views of the city and the Puget Sound, delivered at staggering heights.

Next, take a leap of faith at indoor aerial arts school Emerald City Trapeze Arts or learn how to fly during simulated free fall with indoor skydiving lessons at iFly Seattle.

Grab dinner atop the Space Needle in the rotating restaurant SkyCity, which delivers unparalleled views of the city from every angle—a truly unique dining experience. Afterward, sip on an absinthe cocktail in the bowels of Pike Place Market while watching a sultry stage performance at Seattle’s one-of-a-kind vaudevillian theatre, The Can Can.