Seattle, Washington is known for its rainy weather, but that doesn’t scare away tourists. The city has long attracted visitors with its impressive art scene, delicious seafood and amazing mountain views.
But those who travel to the Emerald City for the first time tend to get a few things wrong. We asked locals to share some of the most common faux pas they’ve observed.
From going to the wrong coffee shop to missing the best experiences, here are 10 mistakes tourists often make while visiting Seattle ― and some advice for avoiding these errors during your Pacific Northwest travels.
Getting coffee from the original Starbucks
“Many tourists love visiting the iconic original Starbucks location, but I have some news for you: It’s just a Starbucks with additional paraphernalia. If you want to wait in line for your Hazelnut Latte you normally would get at home, by all means. Seattle is known as the coffee capital of America, so visit one of the many local coffee shops around Seattle. If you’re in Pike Place Market, head to the second level to Storyville Coffee or walk a block for latte art at Moore Coffee Shop. If you’re not near Pike Place Market, there are local coffee shops that make excellent coffee a stone’s throw away from where you’re staying.” ― Nelson Lau, co-host of “Seattle Foodie Podcast”
“Don’t bother going to the Starbucks in Pike Place Market. The insanely long lines aren’t worth it. Take a picture outside of it, and then go to the Starbucks Reserve Seattle Roastery in Capitol Hill. It’s about nine blocks away and offers tourists a better in-store experience with food, coffee, merch, and seeing the coffee production process. You’ll also be able to explore the rest of what Cap Hill has to offer since it’s a very walkable neighborhood.” ― Ishea Brown, digital creator and associate producer
Missing Alki Beach
“One mistake I see people make is not going to Alki beach in West Seattle for one of the best unobstructed views of the Seattle skyline. It’s very easy to get there from downtown Seattle by catching the water taxi on Pier 50. It’s less than a 10-minute scenic ride which is also a fun experience on its own. Once you get to West Seattle, you will be greeted with a beautiful view. And while you’re already there and should the weather be good, I highly suggest walking along the beach and exploring the restaurants in the area, before heading back to downtown via water taxi.” ― Erika Diama, content creator
“Aliki Beach is a slept on beach in West Seattle, but worth a visit. Grab a bite to eat at Marination Ma Kai, and rent a bike to ride along the path. You’ll get great views of the Seattle skyline, water, mountains, and can enjoy the shops along Alki Beach. If it’s a sunny day, you can play beach volleyball, or end your night with a beach bonfire. If you’re looking to enjoy some local favs, you can get ice cream at Homefront Smoothies and Ice Cream, get burgers from Pepperdock, or grab fish and chips from Spuds.” ― Brown
Planning to only stay indoors
“It’s not always raining in Seattle. Seattle is one of the best places to visit in the summer due to the mild temperatures, which make for great outdoor dining and evening picnics. Do what the locals do and head out to Gas Works Park for a picnic. Grab a poke bowl from 45th Stop N Shop & Poke Bar and then walk a couple doors over to Tres Lecheria for some of the best tres leches cake in Seattle. Not into poke? Wallingford also has Dick’s Drive In, home of Seattle’s burger. Grab a Dick’s Deluxe, fries and a strawberry milkshake, and you’ll be all set for the sunset at Gas Works Park.” ― Lau
Waiting in line for attraction tickets
“Tourists wait in line to buy tickets for the Needle or other attractions when they could easily buy them online.” ― Karla Ilicic, yoga teacher and freelance writer
“Don’t wait in line for every little attraction and shell out your money to pay for each separately. The Seattle Pass is the move for hitting them all in a short time for less.” ― Lauren Baker, student
Not anticipating crowds
“Something to know about traveling to Seattle in the summer is that, unlike a lot of other cities, locals don’t leave here in the warmer months! We love our summers, which means not only is it a bit crowded from June to August, you’re vying with locals for everything from ferry traffic to dinner reservations ― so keep that in mind when making plans. My favorite month here happens to be September when the weather is still cooperating but the crowds die down a bit.” ― Cassandra LaValle, interior stylist
Sticking to downtown
“Tourists love to visit Pike Place Market and the Space Needle while they’re in town, but the truth is, our downtown core is pretty generic when it comes to dining and shopping. While I’d recommend a visit to the Seattle Art Museum, I’d focus your daily agendas on other neighborhoods in the city. Ballard is one of the most fun and full of things to do ― visit the Locks, do some shopping, explore the Nordic Museum, and make a reservation at any one of the delicious restaurants on Ballard Ave (San Fermo is my favorite!). Pioneer Square, Fremont and Capitol Hill also offer plenty of dining and activities.” ― LaValle
“Downtown Seattle is NOT a hot spot for dining. Unlike other metropolitan cities, most locals don’t go into downtown Seattle for a meal. Instead, tourists should take a rideshare or the Sound Transit Link Light Rail to foodie neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Ballard, Belltown or the International District/Chinatown. Whether it’s sushi, seafood, ramen, steaks, pasta or steaks, you’ll find better options in all these neighborhoods than in downtown.” ― Lau
Not planning nature activities
“I see a lot of visitors come to Seattle who never take a day to get out into one of the best things our city has to offer ― nature! As a city surrounded by mountains, water and lush national parks, I’d highly recommend a quick day trip that allows you to experience one of these. Take a ferry to Whidbey Island and explore Ebey’s Landing or Deception Pass, rent a car for a day and drive out to Mt. Si, or stay local and check out Discovery Park where the trails lead you down to a picturesque beach and lighthouse.” ― LaValle
“If you have a rental car, head out of the city for more fun activities. 30 minutes east of Seattle is home to many hikes in the city of Snoqualmie with spectacular views.” ― Lau
Missing new restaurants
“As far as what I can tell, tourists make the mistake of going to the same hyped-up restaurants when there’s been a boom of incredible restaurants all over the city. Definitely worth visiting.” ― Ilicic
Prioritizing the Space Needle
“Do not visit crowded tourist landmarks, especially during the weekends. The top of the Space Needle can be underwhelming and Pike Place Market can be extremely crowded during the weekend. Don’t wait in lines. Many tourists love to visit the Space Needle, but locals love going to the Smith Tower instead for drinks and bites. The Smith Tower is located in Pioneer Square and is Seattle’s original skyscraper. Take the elevator to the Observatory and Bar and be rewarded with a 360 degree view of Seattle without the crowds. Afterwards, enjoy crafted cocktails and snacks while you enjoy the view. This is the perfect spot before heading out to dinner or after for a nightcap.” ― Lau
Not going on excursions
“If you’re not a hiking fan, head to Woodinville and visit one of the many wineries in this city. Chateau St. Michelle is the largest winery in Woodinville, but you can visit one of the many smaller wineries around town. If you don’t have a rental car, take a ride down to the Seattle waterfront and walk onto the ferry to Bainbridge Island. From the ferry terminal, it’s a short walk on to Main Street to shop and eat. Enjoy this cute little town with some of the best restaurants in Seattle including Ba Sa, Café Hitchcock, Bruciato and Mora Iced Creamery.” ― Lau
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