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Seattle has a few iconic destinations for tourists, including the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, but those two photogenic spots are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what this city offers to its visitors. Whether you’re planning a longer stay with weekend trips from Seattle to rugged destinations or you want to spend a few days in the Emerald City taking in the local sights and culture, you’re bound to have a great time.

Learn more about what activities await so you can start planning your ideal vacation and find a vacation rental in the right part of town for your travel style. VacationRenter wants you to be happy so we wrote this epic blog for visiting the Emerald City in order for you to be able to understand local tips, find epic things to do, and book a great place to stay. Read on for the only Seattle Travel Guide you’ll ever need!

Where to Book Your Seattle Rental

So where should you rent a vacation home in Seattle? That depends on what you want. Looking for sweeping views of Puget Sound and easy access to public transit? Apartments in Belltown, lower Queen Anne and Downtown Seattle may suit your needs perfectly. If you’d rather stay in one of the funkier, more bohemian parts of town, Fremont and Wallingford may have just the vacation condo or house you need.

For even quieter, laid-back vacation rentals, consider renting a house on Bainbridge Island or Bremerton. Seattle has a good inventory of both high-rise apartment buildings and single-family houses, including some vintage mansions and modern homes that are worth a visit all on their own. Just make sure your vacation rental home offers access to the activities that matter most to you. For info on Seattle house boats, check out our other article!

Know before You Go

  • Rain or Shine: Most people who know a little about the Pacific Northwest know that it rains a lot in Seattle and its surrounding environs. Locals respond to rain differently here. It’s a fact of life, so people mostly just get on with what they want to do without worrying about whether precipitation is falling from the sky. There are some exceptions — this isn’t a city that’s really ready to deal with heavy snowfall, but in general, events and activities aren’t likely to get “rained out” in Seattle.That means you should count on bringing some rain gear (a raincoat with a hood and waterproof shoes are most locals’ go-to choices). Summer is generally drier than other seasons, so that’s the best time to visit Seattle for most people, but there aren’t really any guarantees. Sun breaks do happen year round, and you may end up getting lucky. If you really want to try to avoid the rain, though, avoid traveling between October and March.

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  • Emerald City Glamour – Seattle is beautiful not only for its gorgeous setting between mountains and coastline but also because it’s managed to stay lush and green in spite of its ever-growing population and development. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for a luxe good time.Most locals are pretty laid-back, favoring raincoats and jeans over suits and ties, but with cultural opportunities, a thriving culinary scene and a sense of urban sophistication, there are places to go when you want to get glammed up. If you want to enjoy the local culture, your Seattle vacation ideas should focus on museums, theater events, food, bar hopping and shopping. Seattle’s Belltown and Capitol Hill neighborhoods are your best bets for something hip and sophisticated.

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  • Water and Wildlife – One great thing about Seattle is that it’s perfectly located for a variety of spectacular outdoor activities. Sticking with the cultural destinations within the city itself is a great idea, but if you want to see some of the unique, rugged beauty that makes this part of the world special, you should get out of Seattle and head on an aquatic adventure. Beaches here aren’t the tropical kind, and that means that most of the water-based activities that appeal to vacationers are on the water itself. Kayaking, boat rentals and ferry trips are all good ideas based on the level of activity and responsibility you want to take on.Seattle’s ferry system provides an easy way of hopping to some of the small islands that neighbor the city on the mainland, including Bainbridge. The San Juan islands in particular, which you can reach on a seasonal clipper ferry, are known for their rugged beauty and access to nature, including the possibility of spotting some killer whales in the wild.

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  • Mountains and Volcanoes – If you’d rather stick to land-based outdoor activities, Seattle has plenty to offer in that department as well. The Olympic Peninsula, which includes Olympic National Park, is a ferry ride away, and it offers tourists the opportunity to immerse themselves in the foggy majesty of an old-growth rainforest. People from other parts of the country may find themselves entranced by how different this area is, and there are plenty of hiking and camping opportunities to keep everyone entertained.Mount St. Helens, which famously blew its top in 1980, is another interesting inland destination that’s a day trip away from Seattle by rental car or charter bus. The Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument offers an excellent educational opportunity for visitors to learn more about the eruption and the volcano itself. Though the volcano is active, it’s considered safe for visitors and is carefully monitored to keep everyone safe. Those who want a more intense experience can actually summit the volcano with the proper permits.
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All the Activities to Check Out

This waterfront city boasts plenty of natural beauty, world-class architecture, amazing food and plenty of entertainment options. Pack your walking shoes — this city has plenty of opportunities to explore by foot.

Museum of Pop Culture

Housed in one of Frank Gehry’s impressive designs, this museum is packed with pop culture paraphernalia from the exciting worlds of music, movies, TV, video games and sports. Get up close and personal with Jimi Hendrix’s guitars or brush up on your science fiction trivia.

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Pike Place Market

One of the best parts of staying in a vacation home is the ability to cook for yourself. Pike Place Market offers fresh produce and other foods from local farmers and fisheries that you can take home and transform into a delicious meal. If you’re on the hunt for some local souvenirs, there are plenty of arts, crafts and collectibles as well. Store all the goodies you collect at your rental home.

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Post Alley Gum Wall in Pike Place

To find this creative marvel, go down a flight of stairs at the end of Union Street and look for the Post Alley sign. The walls surrounding this brick-paved alley are covered in a colorful layer of chewing gum. Be sure to take your camera for some unique photo opportunities in front of this unexpected art wall.

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Green Lake Park

When you’re planning out your Seattle vacation ideas, don’t forget to work in a break here and there. All that sightseeing can get exhausting, and you’ll appreciate an opportunity to rest your feet for a bit. Green Lake Park is an oasis tucked away in North Seattle. Pack a picnic and look for lots of local wildlife.

Pacific Science Center

Pacific Science Center provides plenty to see and do for the whole family. From living exhibits featuring plants, insects and animals to hands-on design spaces, playgrounds and interactive features, this museum is fun for all ages. If the weather is nice, check out the outdoor exhibits, where you can walk on water in a giant water wheel or have fun with water cannons.

Try a Water Taxi

Treat yourself to another view of the city with a ride on the water taxi to West Seattle. You can take great pictures of the skyline from the harbor and enjoy some fresh air from the deck. When the ride is over, you can explore the beaches and boutiques of West Seattle.

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Catch a Game at Safeco Field

If you want a true local Seattle experience, you can’t go wrong with cheering for the Mariners. The food will fill you up and the tickets are reasonable, so it doesn’t really matter who wins the game. You can also cheer on the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

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Chihuly Garden and Glass

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Dale Chihuly is a legend in the local arts scene, and this space is a reflection of his talent. His glass creations and sculptures show off the creative, artistic side of glassblowing, and you can work your way through indoor galleries and outdoor exhibits.

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Fremont

Fremont is one of the places to visit to experience the freedom of artistic expression. A year-round Sunday Market on 34th Street has a variety of items to purchase from talented artisans and the opportunity to chat with locals. Go see the Fremont Troll, which is a steel sculpture created by sculptor Steve Badanes. As legend would have it, trolls have been sighted under the Aurora Bridge. This 18-foot troll is an artistic rendering of the legendary trolls that live under the bridge.

The sculpture has become a popular landmark and is a great photo-op location. While in Fremont, taste the variety of ethnic food, including Russian, Korean, Sicilian and Irish. There’s also some from fresh, local seafood fare. Hike off the calories at the Burke-Gilman Trail to get in touch with Mother Nature’s bounty.

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Fremont Troll Under Fremont Bridge

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Anyone who grew up reading stories about trolls under bridges will enjoy the humor of this unique Seattle sculpture. The Fremont Troll holds an actual VW Beetle in his hand, and people are encouraged to interact with this piece of art by posing on it for photos.

West Seattle Perks

West Seattle has a beach area that’s a popular draw for tourists and the locals. It’s an ideal spot to look into Seattle vacation rentals for lodging because it has so much to offer. In addition to the pristine beach, the area includes three blocks of entertainment. You can shop at West Seattle Junction. Watch the streetcars go by. Throw back a few beers at West Seattle Brewery overlooking the scenic beach. Walk around Alki Beach Park, paddleboard or take a kayak tour. Dining options offer fresh seafood, Hawaiian and Korean fusion, fried chicken, piping hot Seattle coffee and sushi so you won’t go hungry or thirsty.

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Capitol Hill

Visit Capitol Hill, Seattle’s LGBTQ hub, that welcomes visitors of all kinds. Rainbow Crosswalk is a bright multi-colored crosswalk that stands out like an iconic rainbow on the ground. Stroll around some of the 48 acres at Volunteer Park, and climb the water tower to get a panoramic view of downtown Seattle. This bustling Capitol Hill area is great during the day, but it comes alive at night with karaoke, cocktails and dancing. Like so many areas of Seattle, the restaurants serve all types of food from around the world including Middle Eastern, French, Vietnamese and Northern Italian. You can shop for eccentric jewelry, wall art, books and vintage furniture in the unique stores. It’s a good place to stock up on holiday and birthday gifts because they’re so extraordinary.

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Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square is a part of Seattle that’s loaded with history dating back to 1852. You can see the history in the older architecture of the buildings, the vintage items in stores and an underground tour that takes you back to the early days of the city. It is considered to be the first neighborhood in Seattle which gives it plenty of bragging rights. Indulge in sweet pastries, decadent chocolates and select meats and cheeses from local butcher shops.

Inside Pioneer Square, you’ll find Waterfall Garden Park which lets you see why Seattle is known as the Emerald City with its abundance of greenery. Guests relax and enjoy the beauty of nature while in the city. A 22-foot waterfall welcomes guests to this soothing setting.

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The Ballard Neighborhood

Seattle vacation ideas have to include a stop in the Ballard neighborhood. If you enjoy food, you’ll want to spend some time here. This place is like a gastronomic paradise. The types of foods range from tacos, grits and barbecue to pizza and oysters. Aside from food, check out the shops that offer home decor, trendy clothing and art deco. Spend some time at a 30,000-square-foot consignment shop, and be sure to catch the Ballard Market. After shopping, absorb the beauty at Golden Gardens that has natural wetlands and a beach on the gorgeous Puget Sound. Close out the day by grabbing a beer at one of the charming pubs or taverns where you might hear a story or two from one of the friendly locals.

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Seattle is oftentimes referred to as the “Emerald City,” most likely due to the impressive greenery and foliage that the rain allows. Or it could be associated with the valuable emerald cut of a diamond. It’s such a beautiful green place to visit that you’ll want to be sure to capture its vacation value on video or in photos to carry the memories back home.

The Olympic Sculpture Park

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The Olympic Sculpture Park is an outdoor extension of the Seattle Art Museum. Visitors can bike or cycle through the park to enjoy over 20 outdoor art attractions. You can even bring your dog (just don’t forget a leash). A free 60-minute tour is a necessity if you want to learn more about the park’s history and its sculptures.

The Washington State Ferries

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Looking for a budget-conscious way to see the top sights in Seattle? Hitch a ride on one of the 22 Washington State ferries and see the Emerald City and all that it has to offer from the water. Stop at Bremerton or Bainbridge Island for a little lunch and shopping before you re-board the ferry.

The Museum of History and Industry

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The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) contains a remarkable collection of artifacts and a full research library to help you better understand the history of Seattle. This expansive museum also houses temporary exhibits that regularly rotate. Check the calendar to see what programs or lectures MOHAI currently offers.

The Sky View Observatory

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Travel to the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center to see the amazing views offered by the Sky View Observatory. Its 360-degree panoramic view offers unhindered observation of some of Seattle’s most famous spots, including the Cascade Mountains and the Space Needle.

The Seattle Art Museum

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Nestled in the heart of the city’s downtown region, the Seattle Art Museum houses over 25,000 pieces of art from a variety of cultures and countries. The pieces also span thousands of years. Take a step back in time as you examine ancient Mediterranean pieces, or embrace more current artwork by visiting the gallery for modern and contemporary art.

Japanese Garden in Madison Park

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If you want a chance to experience Seattle at a gentle pace, the Japanese Garden in Seattle offers a quiet escape from the bustle of the city. Guests stroll through the park at a casual pace or attend educational and cultural festivals.

Seattle Pinball Museum in Chinatown

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All 54 of the classic pinball machines in this interactive museum are working and available for visitors to play. Guests pay an admission fee and then game-play is free of charge, which is great if you’re psyched up for a marathon gaming session with your favorite vintage game.

Tips for a Stress-Free Trip

Staying stress-free is a breeze when you take a little time to plan your Seattle trip. Explore eight awesome tips for a stress-free (hopefully) trip to the Emerald City.

Spectacular Views from the Space Needle

No trip to Seattle would be complete without a visit to the famed Space Needle. Even though it’s impressive enough from the ground, it’s worth taking a trip to the top. The panoramic views are breathtaking, giving you an excellent glimpse of the Cascades and Elliott Bay.

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Getting to Seattle

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A quick flight from home to your Seattle vacation saves the bulk of your vacation days for fun. Choose your mode of transportation to suit your budget and your vacation plan. Driving to your Seattle trip means that you have your car available to get from your vacation home rental to the Seattle Space Needle without taking public transportation. Take a train up the coast, and make your time spent traveling a part of the fun.

  • Pick A Date: Travel dates that include holidays mean higher prices and more crowds at the attractions. Many airlines and vacation rental services offer lower rates during the slower seasons. Visit Seattle in September and October for great weather, whale watching and less wait time for the best attractions.
  • Trip Planners Make It Easy: Pick a Seattle trip planner to help you to get the best rates and a great idea of what lodging and sight-seeing choices are available during your vacation dates. Trip planners provide everything from driving directions to reservations and even trip tickets. Working with a Seattle trip planner means having someone who knows the city helping you see the best that it offers.
  • Make A House Your Home: Seattle vacation planning requires setting up a home base. Rent a vacation home, and settle in with home-cooked meals that save you cash. Keep in mind that resorts, home rentals and hotels tend to have the best prices outside of the holiday seasons.

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  • Plan For Everything: Make a list of the things you want to do during your Seattle vacation. Whale watching, plenty of shopping, world class restaurants, exciting museums and unique Seattle attractions are just a few of the reasons to visit the Emerald City. Decide which day trips are most important to you, and make a list of “must see” landmarks.
  • Dress For Success: Once you determine the dates for your Seattle trip, be sure to pack clothing and shoes that suit the season. Cold and rainy winters mean adding a raincoat to the suitcase to stay cozy. While the summers require less coverage. At the same time, comfortable walking shoes make all the difference when you’re spending time studying the city streets.

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  • Pick Up A Seattle CityPASS: Whether you’re spending a single weekend in the city or taking a month-long sabbatical, some sights are just begging to be seen. The Seattle CityPASS allows you to visit five of the top Seattle attractions for a single ticket price.

Seattle is calling

As you can see, Seattle has a ton going on. There is no right or wrong way to visit. With endless things to do, your vacation will be as action packed or relaxing as you want it to be! VacationRenter loves the PNW with all of our heart and this major Washington city has a ton to do with that statement.