In fact there is so much to do in Seattle it can get a little overwhelming. I know during our assignment we felt like there would be no way we could hit everything we wanted to see or do in three months. If you need to narrow your list down to a more manageable amount of “musts”, here are my top suggestions to hit up on your travel nurse assignment.
Shopping for housing in Seattle can be more than intimidating. There are tons of fun areas and because of traffic I highly recommend living as close to your assignment as you can afford. Also consider leaving your car at home and utilizing public transportation if possible because a lot of neighborhoods only have paid parking options or the free parking opportunities will be few and far between.
We were actually lucky enough to score a cute little furnished apartment on Furnished Finder in the heart of this neighborhood. After coming highly recommended by my travel nurse recruiter, we found Ballard to have a little bit of everything. The traffic within Ballard is minimal, there is ample street parking if your apartment doesn’t include a spot, and there are tons of bars, restaurants, and shops to explore on days off. In addition be sure to stop by the Ballard Farmers Market on a Sunday and check out everything from Washington wine to fresh meats and produce.
Not only does Fremont house one of the most recommended breweries in Seattle--the easy-to-remember Fremont Brewery--it is nestled next to the best park in Seattle. Gas Works Park overlooks Lake Union and downtown Seattle and is the perfect place to enjoy a book or a picnic. Also be sure to check out the Solstice Parade that originates in Fremont if you are in Seattle during the Summer Solstice. But be warned this is not the most PG parade you will attend.
While it would be nearly impossible to rank all of the wonderful waterfront parks in Seattle, Alki Beach is another great place to spend the day. This neighborhood has the feel of a California coastal town. You can spend the day at the beach (which was dog friendly if you travel with a pup) and then walk across the street to grab some coffee or a meal. There were also a lot of cute looking condos in this area if you are working on the western side of Seattle and needing short term housing.
Many Instagram junkies will notice that the area surrounding Washington has recently been dubbed the PNWWonderland, and for good reason. From lakes to mountains the views outside the city are incredible. While the city of Seattle is fun, I highly recommend taking the 45 minute drive to one of the trails surrounding the metropolitan area to truly enjoy the beauty Washington has to offer.
A quick note on Washington trails: The Washington Trails Association maintains the majority of the trails outside of the national parks and does require parking passes at their trailheads. In the more remote areas parking may be limited to only lots run by the WTA, so I’d definitely consider purchasing a pass if you plan on hiking frequently.
- The Mount Si trail is one of those hikes that my husband and I still look back on 18 months later and remember fondly. This nearly eight mile trail is not easy but the views at the top are absolutely incredible. On a clear day you can get a great view of Rainier at the top, but regardless it makes you appreciate the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Definitely pack snacks and lots of water as it will take several hours to hit the top of the trail, and I’d recommend planning some time to just sit and enjoy the beauty at the top.
- One of the most famous peaks in the United States, Mount Rainier’s beauty can be seen from most of Seattle on a clear day. A lot of people don’t realize this but the “mountain” is actually an active volcano, although its last eruption was over 100 years ago. Mt. Rainier can be explored in a multitude of ways from day hikes to backpacking trips to gondola rides. Regardless of your physical ability visiting Mt. Rainier should definitely be on your Seattle must-see list.
- Another great view of Seattle and the surrounding areas, Mailbox Peak is known for the mailbox perched at the very top of the trail. This is another strenuous hike that requires bringing adequate food and water. Also be sure to check trail conditions ahead of time as it can be snowy depending on the time of year!
Hole In the Wall Dining
I’m sure this list alone could go on for days as there are tons of little cafes, delis, and burger joints all around Seattle. These are a couple of our favorites that we found ourselves frequenting several times in the three months we lived in Seattle.
- If I could send you to eat at one place in Seattle, Un Bien would be it. This restaurant was recommended to me by several people as the “must try” place and with good reason. Their Cuban food menu has some of the best meat I have ever eaten and everything they create is incredibly fresh. From salads to rice bowls to sandwiches, we tried a good portion of this menu and still talk about how if we go back to Seattle this is the first place we would head for a meal.
The Cheese Wizards
- The first time we tried to track down the food truck connected with this restaurant was during a pub crawl and we were sorely disappointed to find out they were so popular they had run out of food. Luckily they also have a storefront so we stopped in to try the food before a Sounders game. Their menu is fun and creative and makes a ton of references to fantasy games and novels but also delivers on flavor. We thoroughly enjoyed not only the grilled cheese sandwiches but the sides that came along with them. Their seating area is tiny though, so be ready to wait or take your food to go if needed.
A stay in Seattle just wouldn’t be complete without ample amounts of fantastic seafood. We ate at every type of place from upscale to tourist trap and found that no matter where we ate the seafood delivered. There are also tons of fish markets if you prefer to cook your own, but if you’re lazy like me, here are some great places to get a good fresh fish meal.
Walrus and the Carpenter
- We ended up at this restaurant looking for a respectable place to try raw oysters for the first time. While these salty treats weren’t my favorite way to enjoy seafood, the bartender was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable explaining what would be best for first timers. We also ordered a few things off of their small plate menu and everything was fantastic. They take great care to source locally, and you could tell the care that was put into the entire menu--from the bread basket to the house cocktails to the dishes themselves.
The Crab Pot
- On the pier next to Pike’s Place Market, this restaurant seemed a little too touristy to be good, but I was pleasantly surprised. They specialize in old fashioned crab boils and the whole meal was an experience. Go hungry and be sure to wear the bib--the whole pot gets dumped directly on the table and comes with plenty of butter sauce for dipping. My husband and I really enjoyed this meal and followed it up with a walk along the pier on one of the nights we were out exploring downtown Seattle.
Ballard Annex Oyster House
- If you are looking for a straightforward seafood menu, Ballard Annex is a great place to visit. They have basic seafood entrees and pastas, or you can order daily fish specials prepared by their chef. This place had a great ambiance and hit the spot on our first night when we were looking to jump head first into our Seattle seafood experience.
After all of the great food you will experience during an assignment in Seattle, I highly encourage you to save room for a special dessert (or five). I can honestly say I have never been stressed about making time to try so many restaurants based strictly around sweets but these Seattle spots really set the bar high for dessert and make the extra indulgence worth it.
- After my recruiter told me this was one of her favorite places that she frequents at least once a week I knew I had to add it to my Seattle foodie bucket list. And it did not disappoint. Pie Bar has two locations and offers not only savory and sweet pies, but a huge cocktail menu to help you pair the perfect drink with your dessert. I cannot speak for the savory pies, but we went twice and all of the dessert we tried was phenomenal. Definitely plan a stop here on a day you are needing a treat.
Salt and Straw
- I am always a little wary of over-hyped ice cream shops but this Pacific Northwest staple stands up to their reputation. The shop has tons of unique flavors that makes choosing just one or two for your cone seem impossible. Be aware though, the line will likely be wrapped around the building or down the street on weekends, so I would try to go during off-hours if possible.
- This little dessert shop sources everything locally and clearly takes pride in the product they put out. We enjoyed a spiked coffee and their signature molten chocolate cakes one night out in Ballard and if I could go out for dessert every night I’d make this spot a staple. They also take great care in their presentation and I loved how adorable their plating was for the treats.
The term “tourist trap” comes to mind when you do a basic search for activities in most big cities. I do truly believe that there are some places that need to be experienced in each big city. If you really hate dealing with lines or crowds, try to hit up the most popular places on days off, or do a “tourist” day to hit all the big name spots at once! Out of the handful of tourist spots we hit in Seattle, I truly enjoyed these places and would consider them a bucket list item for any traveler new to the area.
- While visiting the original Starbucks in Pike’s Place Market was a little disappointing (it was literally the same menu and experience as the Starbucks at the mall) I really enjoyed visiting the reserve. The menu here was fascinating for a coffee nerd, and they had a lot of unique ways to enjoy whatever their signature brew is at that time. The reserve was crowded every time we went, but the service was great and there is plenty of space to mill around and learn about the Starbucks brand or shop for some souvenirs.
Pike’s Place Market
- The market is a great place for people watching, to grab a drink, or to enjoy a delicious bite of food. I love that they have managed to keep big name stores out and everything in the market is Washington-based. Be sure to look out for fish being thrown, and stop by Rachel’s Ginger beer to grab some ice cold caramelized pineapple ginger beer (vodka or not this was absolutely delicious).
- The Space Needle is easily the most recognized building in the Seattle skyline and definitely worth a trip while you are there. While the lines can be a little long, I think we only waited about 45 minutes before heading up in the elevator. We purchased a City Pass which included a trip to the top of the needle, but even if you just buy a day pass make sure you get to the top at some point. The lookout deck is completely glass except for the floor, so it can be a little terrifying if you don’t enjoy heights but the view of the city can’t be beat. They also serve drinks and food at the top if you want to sit and soak in the city a bit more!
Chihuly Garden and Glass
- We honestly wouldn’t have looked twice at the glass garden but the tickets came as part of our City Pass and it is right next to the Space Needle so we decided to check it out. Turns out it is a really neat place! Dale Chihuly has an awesome life story and the glass art he has created is breathtaking. Walking through the museum only took about an hour, so I’d definitely recommend the stop when you go to visit the Space Needle.
Bill Speidel's Underground Tour
- I learned about this tour from a coworker who wanted to go and am so glad she invited me. This tour goes behind the scenes into Seattle’s history including the fact that it was originally built below sea level, leading to all sorts of problems until the Great Seattle Fire in 1889. On the tour you get to see the old parts of the city that the current city is built on top of. Not only was it super interesting, but the guides are fantastic and almost mix a bit of stand up comedy into the history to keep you engaged the whole time.
Moving to a new city and trying to figure out exactly where to start exploring can be overwhelming to say the least. When it comes to a big city like Seattle, it’s even easier to get caught in the concerns of “What if I miss something?” or “What if I choose wrong?”.
My best advice is to check out a few must-do lists, make your own list based on that, and Google search a few reviews before heading out on any adventures. Three months is both long and short when it comes to fitting all the fun things in, but by making a list prioritizing what looks most fun to you you can help narrow down the decisions! And hey, even if you don’t manage to hit every single thing you wanted to do, there’s always a chance to extend or circle back for a follow-up assignment!