Three Perfect Days in Seattle: The first-timer's version

Seattle Skyline

We've just returned from a whirlwind 3-day trip to Seattle! The kids had never been to Seattle before, and the only other time I had visited was a half-day stop, 20 years ago, so it was essentially everyone's first time. As with all our trips, we left the city wanting to spend more time there, but for a first visit I feel like we hit everything Must-Do list (well, the top half, at least!)-- namely Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, Puget Sound, and Chittenden Locks.

I'll be writing separate posts about some of the attractions we visited, but for now I wanted to list down what we saw and did (with a few suggestions for alternatives, aka the stuff on our list that we didn't have time for). Here's what our perfect 3-day Intro-To-Seattle itinerary looked like:

Day 1

Pike Place Market, Seattle
Travel to Seattle
We got an early start to our weekend jaunt with a 8:30 flight to Seattle... but thanks to the inefficiencies of the airport shuttle I booked, we didn't get to our hotel until after noon! Lesson learned: if reliable public transportation isn't available, skip the shared shuttle and get a taxi or a private car.

Pike Place Market
Everyone we spoke to about Seattle said we had to visit Pike Place Market, so that was our first stop. Now that I've been there, I agree. There is so much to see and do at Pike Place Market that it deserves its own post -- we could explore the area for days!  It's full of cafes and food stalls and craft stalls and stores. Yes, it's touristy, but it's also a farmer's market that sells fish and meat and other things that tourist would never buy, so locals must frequent the area as well. And strangely enough, I didn't see a single store devoted to touristy t-shirts and snowglobes like they have at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf and other tourist sites.

Watch a sports event
The catalyst for our trip was actually Alfie's desire to watch the Seattle Sounders play at home. Their fans are some of the most passionate in the US -- a fan parade marches to the stadium for each and every home game, and they actually watch the entire game instead of hanging around by the beer stands and food stalls like half the soccer fans in the US seem to do. The entire stadium erupted in cheers or jeers, with every great move or bad call! It was an amazing experience. (Note: if you don't like soccer, there's always the Seattle Seahawks or the Seattle Mariners).   

Day 2

Bainbridge Island and Puget Sound, Seattle

Bainbridge Island
After a late start, we boarded a ferry for Bainbridge Island from Dock 52 (aka Colman Dock) on the Seattle Waterfront. The ferry crossing only takes 35 minutes, and you get a great view of the city skyline and of Puget Sound. Once on the island, the town of Winslow is only a 10-minute walk from the docks. We had lunch in one of the quaint cafes in the town center (the whole place feels so British, it really ought to be called town centre) and spent a few hours browsing through stores.

Pike Place Market
By the time we docked back in Seattle, we were famished; fortunately, Pike Place Market is the perfect place to grab a snack! We braved the crowds at Piroshky Piroshky Bakery for some freshly baked pies. We had to wait in line for 30 minutes, but the smells were irresistible. While the others waited in line, Jammy and I made a final sweep of the market to buy some of goodies to take home (Note: if you're done with Pike Place Market, check out the Seattle Art Museum).

Artists at Play Playground (aka the attraction we never got to to visit)
We got to the Space Needle at around 5:00 pm, but to our irritation, the next available entrance time was 7:30 pm (I had thought about making advanced reservations but didn't want to commit to a time). We didn't think it would be a big deal because the boys were dying to check out the Artists At Play Playground -- but thanks to the annual Bumbershoot Festival going on, only festival-goers could access the playground. (Note: there are other options to kill 2 hours -- the Chihuly Glass Gardens and the Experience Music Project are right beside the needle, but they are expensive options for just a 2-hour visit). 

Space Needle
As it turned out, our 7:30 "launch time" was the perfect time to visit the Space Needle because we got to the top before sunset and left after dark. We got to see all of Seattle in the daylight (okay, dusk), and at night -- two completely different, both awesome views!  Had I actually thought about it, I would have made a reservation at the tower's revolving restaurant so we could have had a nice dinner on our last night. But when you've got such a pretty view, even clam chowder and croissants from the cafe can become the perfect way to cap off a perfect day.

Day 3

Chittenden Locks, Seattle

Chittenden Locks
We spent the morning at The Hiram Chittenden Locks, aka Ballard Locks, the third most visited attraction in Seattle and one of the busiest canal lock systems in the world. We strolled through the complex's botanical gardens, watched several boats sail through the lock system, and saw some Pacific Salmon swim their way up a salmon ladder on their way to their freshwater spawning grounds.

Travel back to San Francisco
After a late lunch (fish and chips, of course!), we made our way back to our hotel, gathered our belongings, caught a 5:45 flight to San Francisco and made it back home in time for dinner. It was an exhausting 3 days, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

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