Seattle is one of the most diverse cities in the country to explore, which is why I get excited when readers tell me they’re planning a trip to the area. No matter what time of year it is, if you can spend at least 3 days in Seattle, you’ll start to see why so many people love visiting each year.
I should know – I’ve lived in the area for over 20 years, so I feel confident recommending some of the best things to do in Seattle for 3 days. It’s fun watching my friends and readers explore the city based on my recommendations, which is why I love writing these guides. While I had an itinerary for one day in Seattle, I kept getting emails asking for a longer itinerary, which is how this article was created.
In this post, I’ll give you suggestions on where to stay during your weekend in Seattle, information on Seattle transportation, and then a suggested 3 day Seattle itinerary. Feel free to make it your own to customize it based on what you want to see when you visit.
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How to Plan Your 3 Days in Seattle
This 3-day Seattle itinerary will take you through three different parts in and around the city. Here are some tips on how to plan your Seattle weekend before we get into the itinerary.
Where to Stay During a Weekend in Seattle
Included in your 3-day itinerary for Seattle are some recommendations for a few mid-range hotels in the Downtown area. While I have a complete guide on where to stay in Seattle, these hotels are close to the city center, and many Seattle attractions are within walking distance.
- CitizenM Seattle South Lake Union – This 4-star hotel is a 10-minute walk away from the Seattle Space Needle and Museum of Pop Culture. Amenities include a private bathroom, air conditioning, and a complimentary breakfast each morning. (Rates start at $104 per night)
- Mayflower Park Hotel – This historic 4-star hotel is in an excellent location and has metro access. It is in the center of the Seattle Business District, close to many popular attractions. Amenities include eateries, a fitness center, and free Wi-Fi. (Rates start at $149)
- The Alexis Royal Sonesta Hotel – This luxurious hotel is pricier, but with good reason. It is only a five-minute walk from Elliott Bay and the Seattle Great Wheel. The Bookstore Bar & Cafe is an excellent perk of the hotel. (Rates start at $188)
How to Get Around Seattle
The city is fairly easy to navigate, with many public transportation options available during your time in Seattle in three days. I recommend getting an ORCA card for the bus, train, and ferry. The card costs $5, and users can top it up with additional money for public transport services.
Link Light Rail
South Transit’s Link Light Rail makes transporting through the city easy on your Seattle vacation. There are five stations in downtown Seattle transporting you from Westlake to the International District. Fares range from $2.25 to $3.50, but it’s best to get day passes for your three days in Seattle if you’ll be taking the Light Rail more than twice in one day.
South Transit also has express busses that you can pay for with your ORCA card. You can take different busses depending on your needs and where you want to go. Busses have multiple stops a day, running from 7:30 am to 11 pm.
If you miss the bus times, there is also a Night Owl bus service for anyone who needs a ride between 12 am to 5 am.
Seattle has an excellent bike share service in the city, which is a fun service that allows you to borrow a bike when you need it. Cyclists can pick a bike-share bicycle to ride – these are parked in the designated parking spots. Once done, they park their bicycle in the designated parking spots for the next rider to use.
Make sure you know Seattle’s rules of the road when you ride in the city.
A car isn’t needed when you’re only planning on visiting Downtown. Parking is expensive, and the city is prone to traffic jams (plus driving up the huge hill isn’t fun!). However, if you’re planning on taking a day trip from Seattle during your 3 day trip to Seattle, a car would be the most convenient option.
One lane of the streetcar in the city runs from Downtown to Lake Union. A streetcar is a great way to take a leisurely trip through the city, and it provides incredible viewpoints of Seattle and people-watching. Fares start as low as $1, with the highest price being $2.50.
Visitors can ride the ferry to other neighborhoods close to the city. Ferry rides can be paid for using the ORCA card as well and don’t take very long. Visitors can climb on the ferry by foot, bicycle, or car. Just make sure to check online first to see the ferry times and to confirm there aren’t any delays.
3 Day Seattle Itinerary – What to Do & See
Now that you know what you need to know before planning a trip to Seattle, let’s look at your Seattle itinerary for 3 days of the city’s must-see neighborhoods and restaurants.
Day 1 – Explore Downtown and the Waterfront
Downtown and the waterfront is a must-see while in Seattle. The beautiful views of Puget Sound and the smell of the ocean will make you forget you’re in the big city and is personally one of my favorite parts of living here.
Start your first morning off right by ticking a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island off your Washington State bucket list. The island has lots to do, including a few museums and parks.
This ferry departs every day from Elliott Bay, just off the Alaskan Way. Ferry rides are available every 90 minutes, and it only takes 35 minutes to get to Bainbridge Island. Be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes earlier than the departure time to make the ferry you want.
While you can drive on the ferry if you feel like exploring the island, there’s no need to since the main area is only a few minutes’ walk from the ferry. You’ll also save money by walking on instead of driving.
Once on the island, stop by a nearby diner for a hearty breakfast before exploring the island’s beautiful landscapes. I recommend stopping by Streamline Diner for a traditional American breakfast with indoor or outdoor seating.
After breakfast, take a short walk over to the Bainbridge Island Museum Of Art. Admission is free, so you can enjoy exhibitions and shows from local artists at no cost. Bainbridge Island Historical Museum is also worth visiting while you’re here and is a good place to stop when looking for winter things to do in Seattle.
Bainbridge’s main business road is down the road from the museum on Winslow Way. Go shopping or stroll through the many stores while you’re there. If you’d like to go on a nature walk, head to the waterfront to visit the Waterfront Park and Trail.
When you’re done, take a ferry back to Downtown Seattle and make sure to put Pike Place Market on your 3-day itinerary in Seattle. Nearly 110 years old, this famous farmer’s market is still going strong. While it is more of a tourist trap, I still recommend everyone visits at least once.
This popular spot is a large market filled with artisans, artists, restaurants, shops, and much more. It’s open every day from 9 am to 6 pm, with some restaurants remaining open until midnight, so you have plenty of time to try famous Seattle food and get your Seattle gifts.
Try a two-hour chef-guided tour of Pike Place to get a good idea of the flavors of the Pacific Northwest. The tour is excellent for anyone who loves food tastings and trying new flavors. Afterward, you get a 10% discount voucher to use at any of the shops at the market.
The tour should fill you up a little, but if you’re still hungry, you can try out the many places Pike Place Market has to eat. My personal favorite is Pike Place Chowder, especially on a cold day (but prepare for a line).
Just a 10-minute walk from the market will take you to the Seattle Aquarium, the ninth largest aquarium in the US. It is open daily and has six major aquatic exhibits, which will teach you plenty of fun Seattle facts about sea life during your weekend in Seattle. There is a cafe and gift shop on site if you need a snack or gifts.
Right across from the aquarium is the Seattle Great Wheel, which is fun to see at night during your 3 days in Seattle. This Ferris Wheel gives riders a panoramic look over the whole of downtown Seattle. The view is even more spectacular when it is done at sunset, so you may want to come back and bring your camera at night. You can also ride this for a fee if you want a higher viewpoint.
After a long day of activities, take it slow in the evening. By now, you should be ravenous after an eventful day. The waterfront has a great selection of fresh seafood restaurants in the area. If you want to try local seafood, I recommend Elliott’s Oyster House for good food and a beautiful view of Puget Sound.
Finally, end the perfect day of sightseeing with a stop at The Nest Rooftop Bar for a nightcap. This fun bar is located in the heart of downtown Seattle, and it is well-known for its amazing nighttime views over Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountain Range, so you wouldn’t want to miss these perfect Seattle photo spots.
Day 2 – Walk Around Seattle’s Neighborhoods
The Emerald City has dozens of neighborhoods, so it would be a shame if you didn’t visit at least a few of them on your vacation to Seattle.
On day two of this weekend trip to Seattle, you will spend the most time in Fremont. There’s also time to explore Capitol Hill and Belltown in the afternoon and evening.
The easiest way to get to Fremont if you don’t have a car is by bus. You can take the 5, 26x, 28x, 40, or 62 bus routes. Travel time is only 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your chosen course. You can also take an Uber or Lyft for a quicker journey.
Start the day with breakfast and a coffee at Milstead & Co to fuel you up for the day. This rustic coffee shop brews and sells its own coffee, so here’s your chance to try local coffee beans.
After, enjoy a pleasant stroll of Fremont’s best artworks and sculptures. The first stop is the Fremont Dinosaurs Topiary and then a four-minute walk to the Fremont Rocket. Your last stop is visiting the Fremont Troll statue that lives under a bridge.
Gas Works Park is another spot worth visiting when in Seattle for 3 days. This park has a fantastic panoramic view of the whole of Fremont. You could even bring your breakfast along and have a picnic on the hill, overlooking the substantial gas tanks on display as well as Lake Union (and you may even see a hot tub boat on the lake).
Before heading back on the road, be sure to check out Fremont Brewing Co for some local beer. They have covered outdoor seating and are both kid and dog-friendly, which I love.
Before lunch, make a stop at the Space Needle and get a bird’s eye view of the beautiful city during your Seattle three day itinerary. You can use your Seattle CityPASS card to enter this famous Seattle landmark seen in almost all photos of the city. I don’t recommend spending too much time here, but if you do have 3 days in Seattle, then it is fun to go to the top for the viewpoint.
Then, satisfy your grumbling stomach and make a stop Dick’s Drive-In. This burger shop is a local favorite with several locations around the area due to its affordable burgers, fries, and shakes. You can get all three for under $10, and you’ll be plenty full after.
Now that we’ve cured the hunger, it’s time for a stop at the Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Museum of Pop Art (two perfect Seattle rainy day activities).
The Chihuly Garden is a fantastic garden filled with colorful glass art. Its founder, Dale Chihuly, has had this long-term exhibition since 2012, and it’s a highlight in most Seattle tourists’ eyes.
The Museum of Pop Art has multiple exhibitions and interactive stations covering everything in popular art today. Exhibits range from Hip Hop to Disney and then Science Fiction, and it’s sure to have something for everybody.
Buying a Seattle CityPASS is a great way to save money on ticket costs, as you’ll be able to see multiple Seattle attractions for one price!
After Belltown, we’re moving up to spend the evening in Capitol Hill. This neighborhood is east of Seattle’s Downtown, and it’s easy to reach by bus (or you can really get your steps in by walking up the hill).
This is one of the city’s most trendy neighborhoods and there are plenty of fun places to visit in Capitol Hill. The area hosts some events, including the Seattle Pride Fest in June and the Capitol Hill Block Party in July. It is also well known for its fantastic restaurant and bar options.
There are too many places to explore in just one weekend in Seattle, but here are a few recommendations. Stop at Altura for Italian cuisine with handmade pasta, red wine, and a romantic Seattle setting. They have tasting menus with wine pairings for an elevated dining experience.
NUE is a great restaurant to go to if you’re in the mood for some exotic flavors. Their dishes are inspired by Pakistani, South African, and Malaysian cuisine, and the Jumbo Chicken Wings and Pineapple Cornbread is a crowd-pleaser at this restaurant.
If you’re in the mood for a nightcap and a bar that’s a bit funky, try out Unicorn. This carnival-themed bar sells food like corn dogs and a fun mix of cocktails. They’re located in the heart of Capitol Hill, with an arcade downstairs to release your inner child.
There are also plenty of small music venues in the area, so make sure to check them out to see who’s playing. Some of my favorites include Neumo’s and Chop Suey.
Have more time? You may be interested in a Seattle itinerary for 4 days.
Day 3 – Head Outdoors to the Arboretum and Chinatown
On the last of your 3 days in Seattle, it’s time to take a fun day trip around the city. Take a nice scenic drive to the Washington Park Arboretum, which is particularly scenic during the fall in Seattle. You can rent a car and take the 10-minute drive or take the bus and Light Link Rail depending on where you’re staying.
The Washington Park Arboretum and Japanese Garden are in Madison Park and a beautiful thing to do in Seattle in the spring. The Arboretum is a popular park in Seattle that gets thousands of visitors yearly, and it’s free of charge and open to the public every day until 8 pm.
The park has many activities for the whole family to enjoy. Take the Arboretum Tram Tour to visit six continents in one hour. The tour teaches you about plant species from over 100 countries found in the park. You’ll also get to sample a beverage from the 16th century.
Tip: Pack a picnic basket to enjoy a leisurely lunch in the garden if it’s a nice day when looking for what to do in Seattle in 3 days.
The Arboretum also has a Japanese Garden in the park, one of the best Instagrammable spots in Seattle, so I recommend stopping here during your Seattle 3 day itinerary. While entry to the Arboretum is free, the Japanese Garden is not. Admission is $8, and it is open from Tuesday to Sunday.
The Japanese garden is 3.5 acres of refuge from the urban city, which provides a nice break during your visit to Seattle in 3 days. The park has beautiful bridges over Koi ponds and Japanese plants otherwise not seen in the United States.
After you visit the park, you might want to take a dip in the sea at Madison Park Beach if it’s warm out. The beach includes a bathhouse and plenty of seating. If you’re not feeling brave, you can walk around it instead.
There are plenty of places to go shopping and eating opposite the road. I recommend trying out Cactus Madison Park for its bright decor and Mexican cuisine.
After a long day of traveling, it’s back to the city center of Seattle to the International District. This part of town is also known as Chinatown, and it’s every Seattle foodie’s dream. Seattle has a high Asian population, and 15% of Seattle residents are Asian American. There are actually three southeast Asian neighborhoods in this district – Chinatown, Japantown, and Vietnam town.
We’ll start our immersion tour by admiring the Cherry Trees at Kobe Terrace during your weekend in Seattle. This area is embellished with Mt Fuji cherry trees. In spring, all of the flowers bloom for a truly enchanting sight. The trees and Yukimodoro stone lantern were gifts to the city from residents in Kobe, Japan.
While in the area, visit the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. You can take a quick two-minute drive there, but I’d suggest the five-minute walk instead. Admission is $17, and this is the only American museum that tells the history of Asian Pacific Americans.
Our final dinner stop is in Chinatown for some dim sum at Harbor City Restaurant, just a short walk from the Wing Luke Museum. This small eatery looks unsuspecting from the outside, but it has the best authentic dim sum in the city, and it won Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award in 2020.
Before you leave the beautiful city, be sure to visit Uwajimaya for some cute Japanese treats to give to your friends and family as souvenirs from your trip.
If you want to extend your time in the area, check out some of my favorite Seattle road trips to take.
While there is so much to see in the city, this post should have given you plenty of ideas about what to do during your 3 days in Seattle. If you’re unable to do it all, you’ll just have to plan another trip back!