Packed Suitcase | Itinerary: 2 Days in Seattle
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Itinerary: 2 Days in Seattle

Itinerary: 2 Days in Seattle

August 21, 2012. My plane lands and I practically stumble off, exhausted from a very early DC departure. The moment I enter the bustling airport, I am immediately invigorated by the glorious, rich smell of coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. I have arrived. My 2 days in Seattle have begun!

The next two days are a whirlwind of sightseeing, delicious food and exploration.

So let’s get right to it! Here are my top must-see Seattle spots for any 2 day whirlwind tour.


Space Needle

The Space Needle is Seattle’s most recognizable icon. This 605-foot tall tower, with a UFO-like saucer perched high atop a tripod of steel, is located right in the heart of  the downtown Seattle Center complex. A speedy 40 second elevator ride takes you to the top observation deck, which offers stunning views of the whole city, the sparkling Elliott Bay and, if you’re lucky, a view of the neighboring Mt. Rainier. Whether you visit day or night (or both!), seeing Seattle from up above is not to be missed.





EMP Museum

Judging from the colorful exterior, the EMP Museum just oozes fun. Thankfully, the inside doesn’t disappoint. Melding Sci Fi, Music and Pop Culture themes in some of the most cutting edge, interactive and flat-out entertaining exhibits I’ve ever experienced, the EMP Museum effectively demonstrates how all modern museums should be. My favorite was the featured Avatar exhibit, which let me embrace my inner audio designer with sound effects in a movie scene, film my own scene with a handheld virtual camera and digitally create flowers for the Pandora landscape.





Pike Place Market

Picture yourself meandering through a bustling market. It’s fragrant, full of people and delectable morsels are readily available at every stall. This is Pike’s Place Market, where fishmongers throw huge salmon above unaware passersby, where the infamous (and slightly disgusting) “Gum Wall” continues to fascinate, where ginormous bouquets of freshly cut flowers are still only $5 a bunch. If that’s not enough… the very first Starbucks in the world (and my personal mecca) is located here, too. Arrive hungry, because this foodie’s paradise is a spectacle that must not be missed.


Seattle Waterfront

As you leave Pike Place Market, walk down, down, down the steep sloping streets and you’ll discover the waterfront along Alaskan Way, a happening destination since the 1850’s. Offering snapshot-worthy views of Elliott Bay and a salty sea breeze to boot, it’s just begging for an afternoon stroll. Make sure your meandering leads you into Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, a souvenir shop slash bizarre museum filled with mummies, shrunken heads and other oddities. And don’t forget to bring quarters to play with the multitude of vintage machines (everything from fortune tellers to dioramas to “naughty” old filmstrip peep shows.) If you can, try to end up at the Waterfront in the late afternoon – Elliott’s Oyster House has an incredible happy hour featuring the freshest local oysters in town!



Seattle Aquarium

While you’re walking down on the waterfront, you’ll know you’re getting close to the Seattle Aquarium when you see lots of children running around with fish-y stuffed animals. The Aquarium is a sophisticated and interactive oceanographic playground that will ignite your inner kid while you learn all about the wildlife in the neighboring Puget Sound. There are tide-pools where the curious can touch the starfish and anemones, and there’s an extensive outdoor area where birds, otters and seals play. (Check out the Otter-Cams for some instant cuteness.) 


Get Out on the Water

To see the Emerald City skyline from a new angle, head out on the water. While you’re down on the waterfront, head over to Pier 55/56 and stop by the Argosy Cruise counter, where you can book one of their Elliott Bay cruises. Their most popular option is the 1- hour narrated “Harbor Cruise” ($23.25/ roundtrip) which gives you a brief overview and enough time to take all the beauty shots you’d like. Or, a cheaper option is to take the King County Water Taxi ($4.00/ oneway) across the Bay to West Seattle for equally awesome views.




Tip: if you’re looking to experience some of the best tourist-y sites on your 2 day jaunt, you should consider picking up a Seattle CityPASS to aid your adventuring. At $69, it’s a solid deal. The best part? Not only does it cover all of the top attractions (such as the Aquarium, EMP Museum, Pacific Science Center, an Argosy harbor cruise and 2 visits (!) to the top of the Space Needle) but waving your CityPASS at attraction ticket collectors lets you skip ahead to the front of the lines. No waiting in lines = more time to sightsee. And for the 2 day traveler, that is invaluable.


A Few Random Observations:

Despite the caffeine that must be coursing through the veins of every resident at all times, Seattle is a city that is unfailingly polite. People here wait for the walk sign to cross the street — even if the coast is completely clear. They respect right-of-way and don’t look at their cell phones when walking around (DC could take some lessons on that…) And, if two people are trying to go to the same place, as my friend Jill said, it’s common to hear “You go.” “No, you go.” “No, you go.” It’s just that kind of place.

On the flip side, there are scores of homeless residents that frequent the tourist areas. According to Wikipedia, there’s an average of 8,000 individuals without homes each night. Perhaps they’re nomadic drifters enamored with the laid-back lifestyle or maybe they’re simply drawn to the generous social programs, but I will admit that it was a little unexpected. I was often asked for money, but never felt unsafe. (But I definitely was mindful of avoiding quiet areas when planning my nighttime routes…)


The Bottom Line:

Whether you’re a culture-seeker, foodie or nature-lover, the great thing about Seattle is that it’s compact, with a centralized and walkable city center. This allows for easy access to Seattle’s top museums and attractions, bustling waterfront and the pristine Puget Sound, making this seaside city an ideal “2 day” destination.


For more information about Seattle, visit


  • Claire Kulyk
    Posted at 17:04h, 19 September Reply

    Thanks for the ‘must sees’ my next trip to the US will def include Seattle and I look forward to checking out the above suggestions.

  • Chris
    Posted at 21:21h, 19 September Reply

    Thanks, Claire! I think you’d have a great time. Seattle’s a really fun and vibrant city. Hope you make it there soon!! 🙂

  • D.J. - The World of Deej
    Posted at 09:35h, 20 September Reply

    Sounds like a great day…Seattle is high on my list of cities still to see in the US

    • Chris
      Posted at 07:30h, 21 September Reply

      I hope you make it there! But be prepared… come hungry. (Yum!)

  • Mandy
    Posted at 23:36h, 24 September Reply

    Great post! Thanks so much – we’re headed to see Seattle & Portland this weekend and weren’t sure where to start!

    • Chris
      Posted at 22:58h, 26 September Reply

      @Mandy, let me know how you like it! Hopefully you’ll get some ideas from my post 🙂

  • Adela @ FourJandals
    Posted at 13:26h, 26 September Reply

    Sounds Like a good 2 days! Mmmmmm Pike Place Markets look good, I love going to food markets everywhere I travel.

    • Chris
      Posted at 22:59h, 26 September Reply

      @Adela- me too! I feel like food is one of the best ways to really “get” a destination and I search out food markets wherever I go. Pike Place is really something (it’s huge!) and Borough Market in London is another favorite of mine.

  • Pretraveller
    Posted at 00:25h, 14 October Reply

    I visited Seattle last year and also only had two days to explore – you have touched on may of the places I visited. My favourite place was Pike St Market – my husband back home in Australia watched the credit card bill quickly ratchet up – but there were so many beautiful things!!

    I also managed to get out of town to visit the Boeing Aircraft Factory just north of the city where you can do the tour to see B747, B777 and B787 aircraft being constructed.

    Thanks for helping me to remember the highlights!!

    • Chris
      Posted at 21:24h, 14 October Reply

      Ooh, I didn’t know about the Boeing Factory. What a cool thing to do!

  • Sandy St George
    Posted at 11:14h, 20 February Reply

    Hi Chris,
    We are going on a cruise out of Seattle at the end of August. We are heading out a few days early so we can check out Seattle. Your itinerary looks great!

    Question….do we need a car to do all this? I would prefer not to get one, but don’t want to miss out on any fun.


    • Christina Ricchiuti-Dubin
      Posted at 16:43h, 22 February Reply

      Hi Sandy!
      I didn’t have a car when I visited and you can do all of these with some solid walking shoes or brief uber rides, depending on where you will be staying. But all of those attractions are fairly close to each other, and taking the ferry across the water really is a nice activity, too. Enjoy!! — C.

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