Planning a trip to Seattle? Here’s what to see and do if you have anywhere from three to five days in this vibrant city. Explore top attractions like the Space Needle and Pike Place Market. Find recommendations on where to stay and what to eat in this ultimate Seattle itinerary guide. You might also like our guide on the Best Things to do in Seattle

Seattle is famous for 3 things: coffee, rain, and the Space Needle! And when you are in Seattle, expect to get all three. 

The city is the undoubted gem of the Pacific Northwest. The city has a beautiful location in Puget Sound and stunning natural scenery all around. It is a popular cultural and foodie destination. It is the tech hub of the country and rivals the Bay area in ingenious innovations. Whether you are visiting Seattle on your way to Alaska or traveling here for a weekend getaway, Seattle will keep you busy and happy – unless it rains. 

Oh yes, the downpour that you keep hearing about is for real. But it’s the same rain that nurtures the surrounding evergreen forest and earns Seattle its nickname of the Emerald City. The city has plenty of outdoor attractions and many national parks within easy reach. You should definitely visit some of them during your visit to Seattle.

Ultimate Seattle Itinerary Ideas

To explore everything that Seattle has to offer at a leisurely pace we recommend spending at least 3 to 5 days in the city. And that’s why in this post we cover a range of itineraries from 3 days in Seattle, Seattle 4 day itinerary, and even a 5 day Seattle itinerary. Wherever we have mentioned optional attractions you can pick and customize your itinerary as per your interests. Explore the best things to do in Seattle based on our recommendations and enjoy your time in the Emerald City.

3 Days in Seattle

If you have 3 days in Seattle then you have a couple of options. You can either spend 2 days in the city and use your last day to explore the outdoors or you can spend all 3 days exploring Seattle’s most popular attractions as well as hidden gems. We have tried to cover both these options in this post. 

Day 1 – Seattle Center, Chihuly Garden & Glass, Space Needle, Museum of Pop Culture, Olympic Sculpture Park

Start your day in Seattle at the Seattle Center. Admire the beautiful blown glass ornaments and artwork at Chihuly Garden and Glass. Then see the 360 views from the top of the Space Needle. See movie props and costumes and experience pop trivia at the Museum of Pop Culture. End your day at the Olympic Sculpture Park by the Elliott Bay waterfront.

Seattle Center

Seattle Center is the primary attraction in the city and must-visit for first-timers. The Seattle Center is home to many of the city’s top attractions. Along with the museums, theaters, and paid attractions, the Seattle Center also has hiking trails, public artwork, children’s play areas, street performers, and food trucks. The Seattle Center is fun for the whole family and makes for a memorable day in the city.

International Fountain

The International Fountain is a large water fountain designed by Japanese architects for the 1961 World’s Fair. The fountain was renovated in 1995 and is one of the main attractions of the Seattle Center. There is a 12 minutes long light and sound show throughout the day when the fountain shoots water 120 ft up into the air – it is gorgeous to see. 

The surrounding area is also great for people watching. Kids, as well as adults, enjoy getting wet and splashing about in the water during summer. If you have kids, then we recommend bringing along bathing suits so they can enjoy playing in the International Fountain.

Optional: Seattle Children’s Museum

The Seattle Children’s Museum is a great place to take your babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and preteens for a fun interactive day of learning. This is also a great indoor attraction for kids on rainy days. The museum has many play areas and there is a lot of room for open-ended play and exercising creativity. 

The museum has an art station, a theater where kids can dress up in costumes, and a play town. This last one has a play grocery store, a play fire station, a cafe, a post office, and more making it a favorite with kids. They can easily spend three to four hours at the museum playing with the different toys and sections.

Optional: Museum of Pop Culture

The Museum of Pop Culture is one of a kind attraction in Seattle. This is a must for pop culture fans and includes exhibits from popular movies, musicians, and TV shows. Entire sections are dedicated to genres like sci-fi, horror, grunge, etc. The museum also holds traveling exhibitions. Some of the previous and current ones include Minecraft, Pearl Jam, the Tattoo Culture, and the Seattle based music band Nirvana.

The permanent exhibits are equally amazing. In the guitar gallery, you can find guitars belonging to iconic musicians. You can understand how an electric guitar works and hear popular music clips. In the sound lab, you can record your own songs and learn to play drums, keyboards, guitars, and other instruments. In the fantasy section, visitors can see movie props, costumes, and rare artifacts of classics like The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter films, Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Science fiction fans will love photographs, props, and more from the Star Trek franchise, the Battlestar Galactica TV series, and movies like Back to the future and Men in Black. The exhibition is especially popular with teens and older kids but visitors of all ages will equally enjoy the unique experience of seeing the pop culture artifacts in person.

Optional: Pacific Science Center

The Pacific Science Center is an interactive science museum and a great option if you are visiting Seattle with the kids. They have a variety of exhibits about dinosaurs – and seriously who doesn’t love dinosaurs – the Planet Earth, human body and medicine, etc. 

The butterfly house has many colorful butterflies fluttering all around you. In the IMAX Theater kids can experience stunning movies and documentaries. Inside the Laser Dome at the Pacific Science Center, you can see beautiful laser music shows. The Sonic Boom exhibit outside the center is also amazing. 

Chihuly Garden & Glass

Dale Chihuly is a world-famous glass sculptor, and he was born right here in nearby Tacoma. He now lives in Seattle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass is a museum dedicated to his stunning blown glass artwork. We had previously seen some of his glass work at the Bellagio in Las Vegas but the Seattle Museum is much more vast. Entry to the museum is expensive but worth it. 

The exhibits are inspired by a variety of themes including Native American culture, Navajo textiles and weaving traditions, the marine life of the Pacific Northwest, colorful flowers and plants, chandeliers, Japanese artwork, etc. Some of the sculptures are also located in the outdoor garden and perfectly blend with the surrounding landscape. 

The highlight of Chihuly Garden and Glass is definitely the suspended floating flower sculpture located in the greenhouse. This sculpture is also one of the most Instagrammable spots in Seattle. The museum also has a small cafe and a souvenir shop where you can actually buy small glass sculptures. We recommend keeping aside at least an hour or two to see the entire museum collection. Inside, you will find an incredible array of glass sculptures. 

Space Needle

The Space Needle is the most distinguishing landmark of the Seattle skyline. The building was originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair which was held in Seattle. The tower has a unique flying saucer-shaped rotating restaurant and observation deck located at a height of 520 ft. Visitors can take an elevator up to the top of the tower and see panoramic views of the area from the deck. 

On a clear day, you can easily see the islands of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, the Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, and the Seattle skyline below you. Visiting the Space Needle is pretty high up on any Seattle Bucket List and we would encourage you not to skip this attraction. 

Travel Tip: Entry to both the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass is expensive but if you plan to visit both – and we recommend that you do – you can purchase combo tickets which are much cheaper than the individual attractions. 

Totem Pole

Outside the Space Needle on the Broad Street Green, you will find the Williams Memorial Totem Pole. It is erected in the honor of a Native American woodcarver and a talented artist who was unjustly killed by a Seattle police officer in 2010. The totem pole is iconic to the Northwest Coast and dedicated as a public work of art. The pool has beautiful wood carvings of an eagle, a raven, a First Nation woodcarver, and other symbols. It is a very thought-provoking piece of art and a fitting memorial for the artist.

Beyond these attractions, the Seattle Center has many other things to do including the Bill and Melinda Gates Visitor Center, the Pacific Northwest Ballet performances, and the Seattle Center Armory which is a food court with over a dozen restaurants serving various cuisines. We recommend dining here or trying out one of the food trucks at the center between your sightseeing.

Olympic Sculpture Park

And your first day in Seattle at the Olympics Sculpture Park. This park is part of the Seattle Art Museum and is free to enter. Located by the Elliott Bay Waterfront, the park has beautiful views of the city and Puget Sound. You would be surprised to know that it is built over a former train yard. 

But even more beautiful than the views are the stunning sculptures inside the park. You will find sculptures by talented artists such as Richard Sierra and Alexander Calder. The park has a network of trails that you can follow to see all the sculptures. The park also has a vivarium which can be seen by appointment only. This is an excellent place to enjoy the sunset views before heading to one of Seattle’s popular dining spots.

That’s it! You have completed Day 1 of our awesome Seattle itinerary. Now it’s time to go back to the hotel and rest for an equally awesome Day 2 at the city’s other popular attractions.

Day 2 – Pike Place Market, Historic Pioneer Square, Chinatown-International District, Waterfront Park

If you are a foodie then Day 2 in Seattle is for you. Today you will be visiting attractions such as the Pike Place Market and the Chinatown International District. Here you will find many eateries, cafes, and restaurants serving a variety of cuisines. Seattle is famous for its fresh seafood and refreshing coffee and on Day 2 you can have both of them. You will also be understanding the history of Seattle in Pioneer Square and taking a stroll by the beautiful Waterfront Park.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is one of the oldest farmers’ markets in the country. It was established in 1907 and is an iconic attraction. Inside the market, you can find fresh produce, seafood, eateries, grocery stores as well as stores selling books, antiques, and collectibles. The market is spread over 9 acres, 13 buildings, and 6 levels, and navigating it is almost an art form. Here are some of the things you should watch out for while exploring the Pike Place Market.

Original Starbucks

Of course, you have to visit the first Starbucks store inside the historic market. It is located at 1912 Pike Place and usually has long crowds of tourists waiting for their cup of coffee. This is where Starbucks began in 1971. Everything in the store is original right from the Starbucks sign on the top of the store to the furniture and the counters. Ordering a hot or cold cup of coffee at the counter is sure to give you goosebumps! 

Pike Place Fish Co.

These are the guys that began the famous fish throwing tradition at the market. To save time during peak hours and make sales more efficient, these fishmongers throw fish from the display cases to the sales counter. Once in a while, they may also throw a fish directly to a customer. It is fascinating to watch the whole large fishes fly over the market and should be on the top of your Pike Place bucket list.

Rachel the Pig

Meet the mascot of the Pike Place Market – Rachel the Pig – located at the corner of Pike Place and Pike Street. This life-size bronze sculpture is actually a piggy bank that weighs over 550 lbs. Visitors from all over the world enjoy stuffing world currencies into the piggy bank. This is also a popular photo opportunity in Seattle

The Gum Wall

This notorious attraction is similar to the Bubblegum Alley of San Luis Obispo. It basically has pieces of gum stuck to the wall. You will find visitors adding their own pieces of gum to the wall but we would not really recommend this for an obvious reason: It’s yucky! Instead, just view the wall from a safe distance, take a photo for the ‘gram, and be done with it!

Optional: Pike Place Market Food Tour

The market is famous for its dining scene. You can eat popular Seattle dishes such as salmon and chips, chowder soup at Pike Place Chowder, Rachel’s ginger beer, chocolate-covered cherries, piroshki – which is a Russian bun filled with meat or cheese, and more. The best way to visit the most popular eateries without getting lost in the market is by taking a food tour.

Other things to do at the market include the Giant Shoe Store museum on the 4th level, buying comics at the Golden Age Collectibles also on the 4th level, seeing magic tricks at the Market Magic shop, thrifting at the Rummage Hall, buying pots and pans at the first Sur La Table store, etc. The market also has a variety of buskers from acrobats, magicians, musicians, painters, artists, and living statues and is great for people watching. Last but not the least, take a stroll along the Pike Place Market Front and enjoy the waterfront views of Seattle.

Optional: Seattle Aquarium

If you have kids who love fishes and marine life, then take them to see the Seattle Aquarium. The aquarium is conveniently located near the Pike Place Market and is small enough to be easily seen in an hour or two. The aquarium has a variety of exhibits including fish from Puget Sound, marine mammals such as seals and otters, coral reefs, Pacific Northwest shorebirds, etc. But the real highlight of the aquarium is the underwater dome from where you can see marine life from the Puget Sound such as salmon and rockfish. 

Historic Pioneer Square

Historic Pioneer Square is where Seattle began. This was the original downtown built in 1851 and has many historic buildings in the Romanesque style of urban architecture which was prevalent in the time period. Take a stroll around the square to appreciate the architecture and the historic vibe of the area. 

Admire the beautiful Iron Pergola, which was once the waiting station for a cable car route. The wrought-iron decoration and the Victorian-style architecture make the pergola one of Seattle’s top photo spots. The street lights here are also beautiful. Adjacent to the pergola is the Pioneer Place Park. The park has a bust of the Suquamish chief, Chief Seattle, after whom the city is named. Here are some of the top attractions in Pioneer Square. 

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is the primary attraction of Historic Pioneer Square. It is located in the Cadillac Hotel building. The park actually consists of a free museum that traces the city’s history. It narrates how the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s and the subsequent migration of prospectors to Canada’s Yukon territory shaped the fortunes of Seattle. At the museum, visitors can understand how the Gold Rush was instrumental in making Seattle the city that it is today. The exhibits are informative and very well arranged while the staff is helpful with queries. Expect to spend about an hour to see the film and the exhibits.

Waterfall Garden Park

Located in the center of Pioneer Square, this small garden goes almost unnoticed. It is a charming little garden with a 22-foot artificial waterfall that cascades down the rocks. A patio with tables and chairs overlooks the waterfall. The garden has an interesting history as the birthplace of UPS. The park is constructed in place of the original UPS building where the company began in 1907.  The park also has a memorial dedicated to UPS and the landscape is full of Japanese plants. We recommend visiting this hidden gem of Seattle while in Pioneer Square. 

Optional: Underground Seattle Tour

When Pioneer Square was initially built, the streets were one to two stories below what you see today. When the entire area was rebuilt after the Seattle Fire, the street height was significantly raised to prevent flooding. The old streets were turned into unused passageways of the Seattle Underground. Visitors can tour these streets on a guided tour of the area. You can also participate in ghost tours of this historic neighborhood. 

Other things to see and do in Pioneer Square include the open-air Smith Tower Observatory, the Fire Department Museum, the Tlingit Indian Totem Pole, etc. The neighborhood also has many art galleries, bars, cafes, and restaurants in the renovated buildings and is a great place to spend an afternoon. 

Chinatown-International District

The Chinatown-International District is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Seattle. This area is home to Seattle’s Asian American communities and has unique stores, famous restaurants, and historic landmarks. It started out as Chinatown but grew to comprise Japantown, Little Saigon, Filipinotown, and the Korean community. 

Some of the must-visit attractions in the area include the Historic Chinatown Gate, the Wing Luke Museum which has a great collection of Asian American artifacts, Kobe Terrace Japanese park, the Hing Hay Park, and the vast Japanese grocery store Uwajimaya which has everything from a manga comic book section to a food court. 

The neighborhood is a delight for foodies. You can try noodles, dim sum, pho, and more in this area. To know the best restaurant in the area, check here.

Waterfront Park

Seattle’s Waterfront Park stretches from Pier 57 to Pier 59 and is the perfect place to spend an evening. In the park, you will find benches, lamp posts, viewing platforms, picnic tables, trees, and the Waterfront Fountain sculpture. The park has stunning views of the Seattle skyline and the waterfront. You can see as far as the Magnolia Bluffs and Discovery Park as well as the Olympic mountains. 

Kids especially love this place as they can see the activity on the water including ferries, sailboats, docked ships, shipping containers, cranes, etc. The waterfront also has coin-operated telescopes to see the islands and marine life in Puget Sound. You can spot seals and islands like Bainbridge Island and Blake Island. 

Optional: Seattle Harbor Cruises or Ferry Rides

You can take a variety of harbor cruises from the Seattle waterfront. The most popular option is the narrated hour-long harbor cruises by Argosy cruises. You can also go on a whale-watching cruise during the migration season or charter a sailboat for the day. Ferries to islands such as the Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound also depart from here. For a cheap option to see the Seattle skyline from the water, take a passenger ferry to West Seattle and back. The skyline looks pretty awesome from the water and is a great way to spend time in Seattle. 

Optional: Seattle Great Wheel

A great option for couples and families is a ride on the Great Seattle Wheel. This Ferris Wheel is located right on the waterfront and during the ride, you have beautiful views of the city skyline and the iconic Space Needle. The individual gondolas are climate controlled, so the wheel is a good attraction even in adverse weather. The Ferris wheel also has a special VIP gondola with push red leather seats and a glass floor, and it is perfect to propose or for a date night. 

Optional: Seattle Art Museum

The Seattle Art Museum in Downtown is housed in an architecturally stunning building and has a vast collection of Native American, African, and European art. The museum foyer also has interesting sculptures and is beautiful to see. If you love art, then we recommend visiting this museum while in downtown. The 48 feet high Hammering Man sculpture outside the museum is also must-see. 

Optional: Benaroya Hall

The Seattle Symphony performs at the Benaroya Hall and watching the orchestra perform is a great experience. If you love classical music and are planning a visit to Seattle, then purchase the tickets in advance and plan a trip around the performance. The Benaroya Hall also hosts lectures and exhibitions which are worth seeing. 

We hope you enjoy our itinerary for day two in Seattle. We recommend picking one or two paid attractions such as a tour, a museum, or a kid’s attraction and customizing the day as per your interests.

Day 3 – Ballard, Discovery Park, Capitol Hill

Spend your day three in Seattle exploring the often overlooked areas of the city. Visit the Ballard neighborhood and see the Ballard locks in action. Hike along the Magnolia Bluff at Discovery Park and see the lighthouse. End your day exploring the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Take a stroll in Washington Park and dine at the area’s restaurants.

Ballard Locks

A highlight of the Seattle area is the Ballard Locks. Also known as Hiram M Chittenden Locks, these locks were constructed in 1911. Locks are built to facilitate the transport of ships and other watercraft between two water bodies of differing levels. It is not often that visitors get a chance to view locks in action and the Ballard Locks is one of the best places to see them in the country. At the locks, the freshwater of Lake Washington empties into Puget Sound which is 22 ft below. Walkways about the locks allow visitors to see the activity in the canal. 

Fish Ladder

A fish ladder was built in 1976 near the locks to allow Salman to migrate from the Puget Sound to the Sammamish River during the spawning season. The spawning season is from June to September and during this time visitors can see the migrating fish through glass windows in one of the weirs of the fish ladder. It is fascinating to see the swimming fish while the sea lions chase and try to catch them. Visitors can see a variety of salmon and other fish of Puget Sound. 

Carl English Jr Botanical Gardens

Also located in the same complex is the Carl English Jr Botanical Garden. Located to the north of the locks the garden is filled with beautiful plants, flowers, and trees. There are trails located inside the park which visitors can use to see the different species. The park also has an arboretum and a specimen garden. The Ballard Locks Visitor Center is located near the garden and has a small museum with exhibits about the construction of the locks.

In short, the Ballard Locks area is a great place to spend a couple of hours outdoors in Seattle. This is especially great for families, as kids have many educational opportunities to see the working locks and the migrating fish.

Ballard Sunday Farmers Market

If you’re visiting the Ballard Locks on a Sunday, then make sure to stop by the Ballard Sunday Farmers Market. It is a good farmers market and has a lot of fruits and vegetable produce, prepared foods, local artisans, and fresh salmon. The market is quite popular so expect a lot of crowds. You can get items like pasta, pies, cheese, meats, bread, and cider. The year-round market takes place rain or shine and is a great way to spend a Sunday. 

Discovery Park

Located on Magnolia Bluff, Discovery Park is the largest city park in Seattle. The park has amazing coastal trails, beaches, and stunning views of the Puget Sound. The park is located on the site of the former Fort Lawton and has many unused military buildings. Fort Lawton helped to defend Seattle and the Puget Sound against enemies. The fork is now decommissioned. 

Along with the beaches, the park also has meadows and forests and is a great place to spot wildlife in the Seattle area. The Discovery Park environmental learning visitor center is a great place to pick up maps, learn information about the commonly spotted birds, and enjoy hands-on learning experiences for the kids. 

West Point Lighthouse

Also located in Discovery Park, is the West Point Lighthouse. It juts out into the water and is surrounded by the beach on three sides. The recently restored lighthouse marks the northern end of Elliott Bay and helps ships navigate the Puget Sound. The charming whitewashed lighthouse is one of the most photogenic lighthouses in Washington State. 

The lighthouse is 23 ft high and on the National Register of Historic Places. At the visitor center, you can pick up maps showing marked trails to the lighthouse and nearby beach. The round trip trail is about 3 miles but has uneven terrain. It easily takes up to an hour for the one-way hike. Families with kids and those who can’t work can take a park shuttle to the lighthouse during summer or obtain a special permit at the visitor center which allows them to drive to the lighthouse. 

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill neighborhood is one of the most laid-back and trendy neighborhoods in Seattle. It has hip cafes, bars, eateries, boutique stores, live music venues, etc. and is great to explore on foot. It is a haven for coffee lovers as you can spend hours trying out the different coffee houses in the area. A must visit while in Capitol Hill is the Volunteer Park which has many attractions including a museum, a conservatory, a wading pool, and a free observation deck. 

Optional: Volunteer Park Conservatory

The Volunteer Park Conservatory is housed in a beautiful glass building. It has a Victorian-style architecture and a vast collection of plants changing from ferns, cacti, succulents, and palms. The green conservatory looks especially inviting in the winter when the surrounding landscape is cold and bare. The conservatory has a very tropical feel and is a great place to take photographs. 

Optional: Seattle Asian Art Museum

The Seattle Asian Art Museum is located inside the Volunteer Park. While the museum is on the smaller side it has many beautiful exhibits including paintings, sculptures, vases, etc. The collection ranges from ancient to contemporary art and covers many countries. This is a great place to spend an hour or so for art lovers. The museum is free for children under 14 and also on certain days of the month. From the museum, you can also get good views of Volunteer Park. 

Water Tower

Volunteer Park is also home to the historic red brick structure of the Water Tower. The tower was built in 1906 and it is over a hundred years old. Entry to the tower is free. There is an observation deck at the top of the water tower which can be accessed by climbing the spiral staircase. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower from where you can see stunning views of Seattle. 

Seattle Japanese Garden & Washington Park Arboretum

The Seattle Japanese Garden is located in Washington Park in Capitol Hill. It is a part of the Washington Park Arboretum and has a small entry fee but worth the visit. The park has beautiful Japanese maple and cherry blossom trees as well as traditional Zen garden decor including water features, bridges, and a tea house. In the autumn you will see trees covered in gold, red, and purple while a variety of blossoms bloom all over the garden in spring. You can also participate in a traditional tea ceremony at the Japanese Garden.

The Washington Park Arboretum has many other attractions besides the Seattle Japanese Garden. Covering an area of 230 acres, the arboretum is simply huge and home to a variety of plants and trees from different parts of the Pacific Rim including New Zealand, Australia, and China. The Arboretum has nice trails along well-labeled plant species and provides a fun, educational experience. This is also a good place to bike, jog, or run.

Elliott Bay Book Company

If you love books and independent bookstores then you must visit the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. This bookstore was originally located in Pike Place Market and had a beautiful exposed brick interior. It is said to be the inspiration for Cafe Nervosa in Frasier. The new location in Capitol Hill is equally inviting. It has a great selection of books – both old and new – and a cafe located inside that serves steaming hot cups for Seattle’s dreary days. 

End your day by enjoying the nightlife and dining scene of Capitol Hill. We hope you liked our recommendation for 3 days in Seattle. 

Alternative Day 3 Seattle Itinerary – Day trip to Mount Rainier National park

If you’re looking to explore beyond the city limits, then you will love our option for day three that includes a trip to Mount Rainier National Park. The drive to the national park is spectacular. You will experience mountain vistas, wildlife, and charming mountain communities. The park itself is at its most colorful summer through fall.

Mount Rainier is the peak that towers over the Seattle City skyline and provides a panoramic background to the downtown buildings. It is an active stratovolcano located in the Cascade Mountain ranges. Mount Rainier and the surrounding areas are protected by Mount Rainier National Park. This is one of the country’s most visited national parks and sees millions of visitors every year. The park is located two and a half hours (~95 miles) away from Seattle and can be easily seen as a day trip from the city. 

Mount Rainier is the tallest peak in Washington State. The national park has glaciers, miles over miles of hiking trails, viewpoints, and scenic drives. The foothills of Mount Rainier are covered with old-growth forests and alpine tundras. The peaks are covered in snow throughout the year but in summer you will find a profusion of wildflowers on the slopes. You can even forage for berries in the national park, including huckleberries, blueberries, salmonberries, etc. Here are some of the things that you can do if you have just one day at Mount Rainier National Park.

Jackson Visitor Center, Paradise

The Henry M Jackson Memorial Visitor Center located at Paradise is the most popular visitor center of Mount Rainier National Park. This side of the park is partially open year-round. Inside the visitor center, you will find many exhibits and videos explaining the national park’s wildlife and geology. This is also a good place to get park maps, buy souvenirs and water bottles as well as use the restrooms. The Paradise Camp Deli is your one-stop for all food needs. The nearby historic Paradise Inn is a great place to stay and is worth a quick look for its beauty. 

Paradise area

The Paradise area of Mount Rainier is situated at a height of 5400 feet. The region has a lot of subalpine meadows and is popular in the summer for wildflower viewing. The hikes in Paradise are also great for foraging for wild berries towards the end of the summer. The Paradise area remains open in winter and is the center for all snow activities. The views of Mount Rainier from Paradise are breathtaking, making this one of the most popular areas of the park. If you are coming on busy summer weekends, we recommend reaching paradise as early as you can to avoid the crowds.

Nisqually Vista Trail

At just under a mile long, Nisqually Vista Trail is a popular short paved loop trail near Paradise Inn. It is accessible and stroller friendly so a favorite with all types of visitors. From the trail, visitors have good views of the Nisqually glacier and wildflowers in summer. The trail is also popular in winter for snowshoeing. A walk along this trail is one of the easiest ways to see Mt. Rainier. 

Narada Falls

Located on the route from Paradise to Longmire area, the Narada Falls is one of the most visited waterfalls in the park. The falls are a mile to the west of Paradise Visitor Center. The two-tiered falls are 176 feet tall. The upper tier has multiple streams cascading down the rocks face while the lower tier is a single fall that plunges 17 feet below. Visitors can see the waterfall from the road as well as take a short trail to get closer to the falls. 

Skyline Trail

At 5 and 1/2 miles, the Skyline Trail is not an easy one. In spite of that, it is one of the most popular trails in the Paradise area. The trail has amazing views of the subalpine wildflowers and the mountains. If you can’t complete this trail, you can always walk on it partway and then return. A great stopping point is the Panorama Viewpoint which is located 2 miles into the hike. 

Sunrise Visitor Center

The Sunrise Visitor Center is located near the northeast side of the park and hence is closest to the city at 2 hrs 20 mins or 95 miles. It is located at an altitude of 6400 ft – quite higher than the Paradise region. Sunrise is also the highest point in Mount Rainier that you can reach by car. The road to Sunrise is open from July to September end. Due to the unique location of the Sunrise area, visitors can have panoramic views of the National Park. The views from this aptly named visitor center look best during the earlier part of the day. Sunrise is the second most visited area of the park and also gets quite crowded on holiday weekends. 

Sunrise Rim Trail

After checking the visitor center and getting park maps, experienced hikers can hike the entire Sunrise Rim Trail. This trail is 5 miles long and will lead you to incredible views of the Emmons Glacier 3000 ft below in the valley. If you still want to see the views but want an easier hike then follow the Sunrise Rim Trail up to Shadow Lake which is 1.3 miles into the hike. This small alpine lake is beautiful and is the perfect place to picnic. Many trails run around the lake and you can head back after exploring the area. Avid hikers can continue past Shadow Lake to Glacier Overlook and the Burrough mountain tundras where the hike ends.  

Sunrise Nature Trail

Start hiking the sunrise nature trail from the picnic area. This loop trail is 1.5 miles long and goes through the mountain meadows. On the trail, you will have stunning views of Mount Rainier and other peaks of the Cascade ranges. This trail is good for all skill levels. If you can do only one hike in the Sunrise area, then do this for the beautiful views. 

Other popular things to do in Mount Rainier – if you have more time – include the famous Groove of the Patriarchs hike through huge old-growth trees, the Longmire homestead and museum, Christine falls, etc. 

During winter Mount Rainier National Park is a paradise for outdoor lovers. While some areas of the park are closed during this season many others are open for activities such as snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling.

Seattle Itinerary 4 days

If you have 4 days in Seattle, then you have quite a few options. Here are some ideas to customize your Seattle 4 day itinerary:

Day 3 and Day 4 in Seattle – Option 1

On Day 3 in Seattle explore the Ballard Locks region followed by Discovery Park and West Point Lighthouse. Then spend the day exploring Capitol Hill as mentioned above. 

On Day 4, Make the scenic road trip out to Mount Rainier National Park from Seattle. See the park’s highlights including Paradise Visitor Center. Hike in the national park and see some of the beautiful waterfalls. Then visit the sunrise area if it’s open. Take photos of the stunning beauty of Mount Rainier, understand the geology and natural resources of the park at the visitor centers, have a picnic by the alpine lakes, and enjoy the day out in nature before returning to Seattle.

Day 3 and Day 4 in Seattle – Option 2

You can spend day three in Seattle exploring the beautiful neighborhoods of Ballard (Ballard Locks and Farmers Market), Magnolia (Discovery Park and West Point Lighthouse), and Capitol Hill (Volunteer Park Conservancy, Water Tower, and Washington Park Japanese Garden and Arboretum). 

To spend your day four in Seattle, consider a day trip to one of the islands in Puget Sound. Bainbridge Island is a popular favorite with tourists. You can easily reach the island by a ferry from Seattle. There are many things to do on Bainbridge Island including museums, stores, boutique shopping, restaurants, etc. 

Day 3 and Day 4 in Seattle – Option 3

Spend your day three making the day trip out to Mount Rainier National Park and doing one of the strenuous hikes to explore the beauty of the park. See the beautiful wildflowers bloom in summer, go foraging for berries, swim in the cold mountain lakes, enjoy the glacier views, and spot wildlife like mountain goats and marmots. 

The next day, enjoy a relaxing day on Bainbridge Island. This is the perfect escape from the city life of Seattle and a chance to relax your feet after the tiring day spent hiking on Mount Rainier. Relax on the beach, see the museum of art, go shopping on the island, and eat fresh seafood. 

Here’s what you need to know about Bainbridge Island:

Day trip to Bainbridge Island

There is no better way to spend a day in Seattle than take a ferry to the many islands in Puget Sound. Bainbridge Island is a great option as it is easily accessible by ferry and has plenty of things to do. The island has stunning natural beauty, lots of beaches as it is surrounded by saltwater on all sides, and an ‘away from it all’ vibe. Here are some ideas to spend your day on Bainbridge Island.

Ferry to Bainbridge

To reach Bainbridge Island take the Washington State ferry from Pier 52. The ferry ride is short and lasts for just about 35 minutes. The ferry terminal has a visitor’s kiosk where the friendly staff can hand you maps and guide you to things to do on Bainbridge Island.

Bainbridge Museum of Art

The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art is a small free museum that has a great variety of artwork by local artists from the Puget Sound. The artwork features a variety of themes from the Pacific Northwest. The museum building itself is also beautiful and it is an easy walk from the ferry terminal on Bainbridge Island. The museum is good to visit for art and culture lovers. 

Biodel Reserve

The Biodel Reserve is a public park located on the northeast tip of Bainbridge Island. On the reserve, you will find meadows, ponds, gardens including a beautiful Japanese garden. You can also see a variety of wildlife at the reserve. 

Bainbridge Island Historical Museum

You can discover the history of Bainbridge Island at this museum. The museum exhibits narrate the story of the island from its discovery to the tall shipbuilding industry to other events that significantly impacted the island. The museum has a variety of public records, films, videos, newspaper clippings, and artifacts related to past events. 

Bainbridge Island beaches

The island has a total of 32 miles long coastline which is full of beautiful beaches, coves, and rocky bluffs. Many of the beaches feature coastal trails and are great for hikers. Some of the best beaches for sunning and swimming are found in Rockaway Beach Park, Fort Ward Park, and Fay Bainbridge Park. 

Other things to do on Bainbridge Island include the Saturday Farmers Market, Bainbridge Garden, Kids Discovery Museum which has great play areas for children, the Bainbridge Performing Arts Center, and The Bainbridge Island Japanese American exclusion memorial. The memorial honors those islanders who were wrongfully placed in internment camps during World War II.

Seattle Itinerary 5 days

If you have 5 days in Seattle, then you have a lot of options. Here are some of our recommendations: 

One of the simplest itineraries is as follows: You can easily spend 3 days in Seattle followed by a day trip to Mount Rainier and then a relaxing day at Bainbridge Island. 

You can also visit Mt Rainier on Day 1 followed by 3 days exploring Seattle. Then spend a day on Bainbridge island followed by a whale-watching cruise. 

Alternatively, you can also cover Seattle City, Mt Rainier, and a scenic coastal day trip out to the Olympic peninsula. To plan a day trip to Olympic National Park, read our post on the Olympic peninsula loop trip here. 

We hope you enjoyed our post to planning the Ultimate Seattle Itinerary. Let us know if you have any trip planning questions or want to share any new attractions through the comments. 

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