Mistakes people make when visiting Seattle often revolve around the city’s reputation as a rainy city. While it’s true to some degree, Washington State’s largest city has beautiful weather in spring and summer – great for outdoor dining, shopping, and sightseeing throughout your visit.

    As Seattle is the birthplace of the iconic Starbucks, you might think that’s the only thing the city has to offer for coffee lovers. Well, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. There are plenty more common misconceptions about this vibrant city, so we’ve compiled this list of things not to do in Seattle on your first visit.


    Not getting the Seattle City Pass

    Enjoy discounted rates to the city’s must-visits

    The Seattle City Pass is a discount pass to 5 of the city’s most popular landmarks. You can use this ticket for the Space Needle and Seattle Aquarium, as well as 3 attractions of your choice – Chihuly Garden and Glass, Woodland Park Zoo, Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, or the Museum of Pop Culture.

    You can use the Seattle City Pass for 9 consecutive days, starting with your first visit to an attraction. It’s a good idea to plan your sightseeing in detail as some Seattle landmarks require advanced booking.

    photo by Jay Galvin (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Only staying in Downtown Seattle

    The city has many eclectic neighbourhoods

    It’s easy to stay in Downtown Seattle throughout your vacation as the neighbourhood is home to Pike Place Market, Seattle Aquarium, and Seattle Art Museum. This part of the city can get rather touristy, so it’s worth exploring Seattle’s eclectic districts if you want to truly experience the local lifestyle.

    You can enjoy plenty of sightseeing in Pioneer Square, a historical district of cobbled streets and attractive red-brick buildings. Georgetown offers industrial museums, trendy coffeehouses, and craft breweries, while South Lake Union appeals to families with its lush parks and lakeside activities.


    Assuming it's always rainy

    But it’s always good to be prepared for a drizzle

    Seattle is notoriously known as one of the country’s rainiest cities. While there are around 150 wet days per year, rain usually comes in light sprinkles. The heaviest rainfalls occur in autumn and winter, so you can expect significantly better weather throughout the remaining seasons.

    Even if you’re in Seattle in summer or spring, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for an overcast day. Always carry a lightweight raincoat when you’re out and about. Winds are pretty strong in Seattle, so leave the umbrella in your hotel room.


    Visiting the Space Needle on a cloudy day

    Plan a night visit instead

    The Space Needle is one of Seattle’s most impressive structures. On clear days, you can see Downtown Seattle, Elliott Bay, and Mount Rainier from its 520-ft-high observation deck. However, on a rainy day, you'll be lucky to see more than a few blocks.

    It's best to check the weather forecast before making your way to the tower. On cloudy days, it's best to visit the Space Needle at night when the city lights of Seattle stretch far into the distance.


    Getting around by automobile

    Seattle is a bike-friendly city

    Avoid getting around Seattle by automobile, especially if you're basing most of your sightseeing in the Downtown area. You can easily explore the 1-square-mile district on foot or by bicycle.

    LimeBike is the city's bike-sharing system that allows you to rent a standard bicycle or electric scooter via its mobile app. There's a standard fee to unlock a bike, followed by a charge for every minute of usage.


    Visiting Pike Place Market on weekends

    It’s one of the busiest marketplaces in Seattle

    Pike Place Market is a busy place throughout the week, but it’s especially packed on weekends. The 3-floor waterfront complex hosts dozens of seafood vendors, handicraft stalls, restaurants, and bakeries.

    Even if you’re visiting Pike Place Market on a weekday, try getting there early in the morning. There’s a long queue that usually starts around 9 am.

    photo by Daniel Schwen (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Getting your coffee at the original Starbucks

    Seattle has plenty of outstanding independent roasteries

    Visiting the world’s first Starbucks is a popular thing to do in Seattle, but it’s mostly for taking photos of the brand’s original brown logo. This is actually its second outlet in Pike Place, after moving from its 2000 Western Avenue location in the late 1970s.

    Instead of queuing up for a drink (which tastes the same as any Starbucks in the world), try an independent café or roastery. Seattle has an incredible coffee culture, with over 200 venues across the city to choose from.

    photo by SilentDeath (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Skipping an underground tour of Seattle

    Explore subterranean passages dating back to the mid-19th century

    Seattle Underground is a series of subterranean basements and passages in Pioneer Square. It served as the city’s original landscape in the mid-19th century, before the 1889 Great Seattle Fire destroyed the 31-block neighbourhood.

    Today, you can join a guided tour of the Seattle Underground. Guides lead you through 3 blocks of the underground pathways, which used to host several storefronts, a salon, and a hotel.


    Expecting sandy beaches

    Not all are great for sunbathing or bathing

    Seattle has a long coastline fronting the Puget Sound and Lake Washington. Most of the city’s beaches are quite rocky, though, while others are basically waterfront parks.

    You can find a few sandy stretches like Golden Gardens and Richmond Beach Saltwater Park. Fair warning though – expect a huge crowd when the weather is fine in Seattle. Bathing is possible, but temperatures might be much lower than what you’re used to back home.


    Bathing in the Puget Sound

    Don’t underestimate its water temperature

    The Puget Sound is a natural wonder on Washington's northern coast. It’s tempting to swim in its clear water, but you’ll be in for a shock with its low temperature.

    The Puget Sound generally stays between 55°F and 67°F, even in summer. Kayaking is a nice alternate if you want to explore the water. Even better, join a wildlife-watching tour to see orcas or humpback whales bathing in the Puget Sound.

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveler

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