City Guide: 48 Hours in Seattle

Inside this city guide we show you how to maximize your precious 48 hours in Seattle. We teach you some history, recommend restaurants, provide transportation and lodging advice, and ultimately show you how to have an amazing time in Seattle.

The Skinny on Seattle

Seattle is often associated with amazing American coffee, rainy skies, and big business like Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing. Its Pike Place Public Market is the birthplace of Starbucks Coffee and home to a seemingly endless number of local vendors. The city prides itself in fresh and sustainable seafood and, let us tell you, its legit. The city has an earthy-crunchy vibe and there are some amazing outdoor adventures just outside city limits. Spending 48 hours in Seattle gives you just enough time to experience most of these things using our jam-packed Seattle city guide.

Seattle may not make it on many people’s top cities to visit list, but why? For those of you who love seafood, coffee, shopping, aviation, or nature Seattle is a must. We can’t say enough great things about this city. It’s the perfect west coast weekend getaway.

Our 10 Can’t-Miss Items

  1. Starbucks Reserve Roastery
  2. Savor Seattle Tour of Pike Place Public Market
  3. The Original Starbucks – Pike Place
  4. Space Needle
  5. Chihuly Garden and Glass
  6. Boeing Museum of Flight
  7. Fran’s Chocolates
  8. Blueacre Seafood
  9. Steelhead Diner
  10. Original Nordstrom

Why 48 Hours in Seattle?

Seattle was a city that we always wanted to visit and as the year-end approached we needed a few extra sky miles to lock down our Delta SkyMiles status, so we said “why the heck not? – let’s go!” Flying out of Boston it was about a 6-hour flight there and 5.5 hours coming back. If you’re traveling from the east coast you’ve got to be OK with a red eye flight home if you plan to work on Monday morning. We did it this way and, honestly, it wasn’t that bad. Prior to the trip, we were seriously stressing about our efficacy at work after a red eye but neither of us felt that bad. That said – we crashed hard on Monday night due to some minor sleep deprivation. Spending 48 hours in Seattle definitely requires some commitment but we promise, it’s so worth it.

We booked on a whim using Google Flights and, as we do with every trip, immediately started making hotel reservations on Hotels.com and dinner reservations on Opentable. Another common occurrence you’ll find about our trips is the use of food tours to explore the city. We believe a city’s cuisine and culture are deeply linked. This linkage is what makes food tours our number one method for maximizing our experience on shorter duration trips. We’ve always had knowledgeable and entertaining guides and our Seattle experience was no different (more on the tours below).

On To The Good Stuff – 48 Hours in Seattle Itinerary

48 Hours in Seattle: Day 1

Arrival: 10:30 – 11:30 AM

Our flight arrived around 10:30 AM and we were in our Lyft by 11 AM. The airport isn’t huge and definitely wasn’t overwhelming. As we deplaned and entered the airport we were immediately greeted by airport employees spreading Christmas cheer. They were dressed as Santa and riding around in a golf cart playing Christmas music. What a great start to the trip!

If you book your hotel in the theatre district, as we recommend, you should expect to arrive at your hotel around 11:30 AM. We were able to check in early at the Hyatt at Olive 8 but in case you can’t they offer bag storage until your room is ready.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery: 12:00 – 1:00 PM

After a long flight, you’re going to need a pick me up so head over to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. You can walk there from the hotels in theatre district in about 10 minutes. The second you walk up to the doors you can tell this Starbucks isn’t your run of the mill coffee shop. The gigantic wooden doors embossed with a Starbucks Reserve Logo embody the level of craft and detail put into the roasting of their reserve coffee. Walking into the shop feels like you’re walking into a coffee version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. There are copper tubes twisting and turning their way around the shop, wild looking cold brewing tanks, and a stunning roasting machine actively pumping out fresh batches of Starbucks Reserve coffee.

You can sample specialty coffee that you can’t get anywhere else and observe eight different coffee prep methods that you probably didn’t even know existed. When in doubt order the flight of coffee. The flight provides you with three 8oz pours of Starbucks Reserve coffee made on the Clover brewer. Treat this like a fine wine flight and enjoy the different aromas and flavor profiles of each coffee and its origin’s terroir.

Gourmet Food Tour: 1:30 – 4:00 PM

Next up is the Gourmet Food Tour with Savor Seattle. Our tour left at 1:30 PM from ORFEO restaurant near the public market. It’s a little bit of trek from the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, so plan on about 20 minutes to walk (leave around 1 PM). We can’t say enough great things about this tour. We went to six different foodie hot spots and enjoyed everything from salmon mac’n cheese with sourdough pasta to truffle pizza.

At the end you will stop at Fran’s Chocolates and enjoy former President and First Lady Obama’s favorite chocolate. The sea salt caramels were on point!  If you don’t buy extras to take home you won’t be able to live with yourself. Trust us, this is our biggest regret from our trip. The tour takes about 2.5 hours and you won’t leave with an empty stomach.

Public Library: 4:00 – 5:00 PM

Take a 10 minute stroll over to the public library to get some pictures of the amazing architecture and enjoy the smell of leather bound books. Not much else to say on this one other than it’s a truly amazing building worth checking out.

Flagship Nordstrom and Shopping: 5:00 – 7:00 PM

Once you’ve filled up on knowledge from the library head over to the shopping district and get a glimpse of the Flagship Nordstrom store. Nordstrom is located in the heart of busy shopping area so we chose to bop around for a couple of hours grabbing cocktails and window shopping.

We recommend making late dinner reservations for a couple of reasons. First it gives you time to digest all of the delicious food from the gourmet food tour. Lastly because it helps maximize your 48 hours in Seattle. By eating a late dinner you have more time to stroll around the shopping district and still clean up before dinner.

Dinner: 8:00 PM

Blueacre Seafood for dinner. Another highlight from our trip. We live in a city known for it’s seafood and let us tell you – Blueacre in Seattle rivals any great seafood restaurant in Boston. We dare say it may even be better (Gasp).  Normally service isn’t included in our reviews of restaurants because we mainly care about good food. However, this service was worth noting. Our waiter was hands down the best we’ve ever had. He accommodated special requests and even poured us a complimentary glass of Washington wine for no apparent reason.

You have to order the mussels and black cod if they have it on special. The mussels were the moistest (hate that word) and most plump we’ve ever tasted. Apparently, the high temp they are cooked at locks in the moisture and that’s what keeps them nice and big and juicy. The black cod was served in a broth that, even after eating all day, left us longing for more.

That’s it for the first half of your 48 hours in Seattle. Rest up for the second half of your weekend adventure.

48 Hours in Seattle: Day 2

Check Out and Coffee: 7:30 – 8:30 AM

Day 2 of your 48 hours in Seattle starts off with checking out of your hotel, storing bags, and heading across the street for a hot cup of joe at Caffé Ladro. The Gibraltar was picture perfect and paired nicely with a cinnamon scone. The scone had a gooey center with a nice crisp icing covered exterior. We’ve never had a scone quite like this one. In case you’re wondering, the scone is not pictured below – that’s just a cookie. Make sure to leave by 8:30 AM so you can walk down to Pike Place Public Market for your morning tour. Again, it’s a little bit of a trek.

Early Access VIP Food Tour at Pike Place Market: 9:00 – 11:00 AM

We loved our Gourmet Food Tour with Savor Seattle so much that we decided to book the Early Access VIP Food Tour of Pike Place Market with them as well. The tour started before the crowds arrived and was the ideal way to experience the market. Our tour guide was on a first name basis with all of the major vendors so we felt like locals as we strolled around Pike Place. Since it was an early morning tour it was a little cold so we recommend bundling up as the majority of the tour is outside or in an open-air market.

This tour had a few more stops than our gourmet tour but the tastings were definitely smaller in size. There were a couple of stops that included more filling food like the cheddar cheese biscuit at Honest Biscuit and the salmon burger from the Rub With Love Shack. In addition to the food we learned all about the history of the Pike Place Market and how it was nearly forced to close at one point. Thankfully the people of Seattle voted against an urban development plan and saved this national treasure. We highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting Seattle regardless of whether you follow our 48 hours in Seattle guide.

Space Needle: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Next, take a Lyft over to the Space Needle. During our visit, it was a pretty cloudy day and the needle was undergoing renovation so we decided to stay on the ground. On a nice day, you get amazing panoramic views of the city and Mt. Rainier in the distance so we hope the weather works out better for you!

Chihuly Garden and Glass: 12:00 – 2:00 PM

Don’t fear if the weather isn’t great because there is a Plan B that definitely is not a compromise. The Chihuly Garden and Glass museum is now proudly on our 48 hours in Seattle city guide. We know what you’re probably thinking – ”a glass museum, people go to those?” – or at least that’s what we were thinking. We decided to pony up the $25 per person and see what the fuss was all about.

This guy Chihuly can blow some serious glass. The level of detail and intricacy of his art made the glass literally come to life (not literally, but you know). When walking through the garden it often becomes difficult to distinguish a real plant from a glass sculpture. You get the opportunity to watch a live demo of glass blowing and could get lost in the museum for hours. This alternative option turned us into believers and we wouldn’t recommend bypassing this on your trip.

Museum of Flight: 2:30 – 4:30 PM

Now that your mind has been blown by blown glass it’s time to head back to the hotel and grab your bags. After that, head to the Museum of Flight at Boeing’s airfield and manufacturing facility. Upon arrival they have a spot where you can check your bags so there’s no need to worry about lugging them around a museum. If you’re an aviation geek or just enjoy seeing cool planes then this will be a highlight of your trip. This museum rivals the Smithsonian when it comes to legendary aircraft.

They have everything from a replica of the Wright Brothers 1903 Flyer to their latest commercial aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner. You get go on board the Concord, the iconic supersonic jet, as well as many other aircraft. Finally, they have production and mock up versions of many of the spacecraft that took us to the moon and back. You’ve got to make time for this museum before heading back to the airport for your flight home.

Head Home: ~ 5:00 PM

Well guys, we hate to break it you. The fun is over. Time to head back to the airport because your 48 hours in Seattle are up.

If you’re not coming from the East Coast and have extra time to spend or decide to fly in the night before we recommend trying to squeeze in the Seattle Art Museum and/or Olympic Sculpture Park. These places came highly recommended by our good friends who live in Seattle. If you enjoyed our 48 hours in Seattle city guide please share this with all of your friends! Don’t be an information hoarder.

48 Hours in Seattle: Transportation

Because of work and flight cost we decided to take the early flight out on Saturday morning. An added benefit of this approach was the money saved by reducing the number of nights in a hotel. Ultimately it worked out really well since we landed at 10:30 AM and didn’t lose much of the day. If you also land in the AM and want to maximize your 48 hours in Seattle you should grab a Lyft from the airport to downtown. The trip to our hotel downtown at this time of day took 25 minutes. The cost was about around $35 and as far as we can remember there wasn’t any surge pricing.

Once you’re in the city it’s super easy to get around. If you aren’t into walking or need to get somewhere in a hurry then you’ll find Lyft and Uber everywhere you go. We found the city to be quite walkable from our downtown hotel (see lodging section for more). We visited in December and it wasn’t bitterly cold, which was a nice break from our lives in Boston.

As mentioned above – in order to balance vacation days from work and spending maximum time in the city, we chose to take the red eye home. The trip back to the airport on Sunday night was nearly identical to our trip into the city in terms of cost and time. We did make a pit stop at the Museum of Flight on our way back which you can read more about in Day 2 of our itinerary.

48 Hours in Seattle: Weather

We visited in December and found the climate to be quite temperate. The days were in the low 50 degrees Fahrenheit and nights cooled off to the low 40’s. We experienced overcast skies for essentially the entire trip and it only rained briefly on Saturday night. For those visiting this time of year we definitely recommend a waterproof winter jacket but wouldn’t expect you to have to bust out your Canada Goose Parka. Check out this site to learn more about what the weather looks like during your expected travel dates.

48 Hours in Seattle: Lodging

We stayed at the Hyatt at Olive 8 in the theatre district of Seattle. This was a prime location as it was walking distance to nearly every attraction we wanted to visit. There are a bunch of other hotel options near the Hyatt at Olive 8 including a Sheraton, Grand Hyatt, Westin, Paramount, and others. We only stayed one night so price wasn’t that big of an issue but it was about $200 for the night. We booked on Hotels.com and took advantage of the awesome 10th night free program!

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