Seattle Downtown Tour, Coad Style

Copy of Seattle Tour - DSC03276 (Small)Want to get the most popular Seattle experience in just a few hours?  Want that insiders budget tour?  Interested in seeing in person all the places mentioned on the Travel channel?  Here’s the tour you’ve been waiting for!  This little route has the cream of the crop stops.  You’d find much more along the trail to see & do, but these highlights will take you to the best places.

This is the route I take with all my family and friends when they come into town, and I personally enjoy it and find new things every time.  It can be done in the morning, afternoon, or all day if you really take your time.  10am is a good, comfortable time to start if you go at a steady pace.

Walk the Tour
Downtown Seattle is a walking town, if you know where to go.  The only way to really enjoy it is to do a little walking.  This is some of the best sights and is only a few miles total roundtrip with tons to see ever step of the way.  Of course you could drive it, but it would take far longer to pop in & out and find parking than just walking.


==[ Visual Tour Map of Seattle ]==!281
Use this map for these places below.  The numbers on the map match to the numbers here.


#0. Starting Off (not on the map)
If you’re coming from Microsoft, head west into Seattle via 520.  Go south on I-5.  Immediately get into the far right lane and exit Mercer Street.  Follow the Mercer St / Space Needle signs and you’ll end up right at the Needle.  There is plenty of parking around here.  The big lots cost about $10 for the day.


#1. Space Needle / Experience Music Project (EMP)
Park here.  On the weekends this area is teaming with life, street performers, and more.  The view from the Space Needle is good, but expensive and can be skipped if on a budget.  The EMP is essentially a shrine by Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) to Jimi Hendrix.  The paid tour of the EMP is cool, but you can see a lot of it for free too.  The SciFi museum is small and pricy, but cool for die-hard sci-fi history fans.  Hop on the Monorail (or a cheap free bus that’s provided if the monorail is down) and get the 2–way ticket since you’ll be back.  It will drop you off at point #2, the Westlake Center Mall.

The EMP as Viewed from the Space Needle
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The Monorail in the Sky
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#2. Westlake Center Mall
This is the heart of the area.  A small beautiful glass mall, fountains, and you can hop a bus here to just about anywhere downtown for free.  There is a food court that’s decent, but if you can wait till later, there’s a great restaurant at pier 57, The Fisherman’s.  As you exit the mall, head to the left down Pine St towards the market & water.  You can ask anyone to point the direction.

Westlake Center Mall
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#3. Pike Place Market
Aside from the very visible Space Needle landmark, this is the most popular place to visit in Seattle and is shown in all Travel Channel types of features.  There are tons of fresh flowers and fruits.  At one end works at in a fish vendor are famous for the way they yell and throw fish.  The place is at least 3 stories high with all sorts of old fashioned stores and oddities.

Pike St Entrance to Pike Place Market
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Inside the Market, Multi-Levels (at least 3?)
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Lots of Produce (and flowers, fish, trinkets, etc)
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Exit in the back of the market, down lots of stairs and head straight to the water.  Head to the left (south) along the Alaskan St board-walk as there is just so much to see along the water.


#4. Ye Olde Curiosity Shop @ Pier 53
Yes, there is still one!  This is the famous, oddity shop with trinkets and weirdness.  Not for the feint of heart.  It is free to see everything and the trinkets aren’t too much.  Seeing Seattle wouldn't be the same without a stop here.

Outside the Shop
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A Display Inside the Shop
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#5. The Bay Pavilion @ Pier 57
So much here!  The Pirate’s Plunder is a cool store.  The Quarter’s Arcade at the end of the pier is a lot of fun!  The Fisherman’s Restaurant is my favourite seafood around.  I get back here whenever I can.  The Fisherman’s is overlooking the bay, has upstairs and outside seating, and the Crab Feast is an experience.  There are other places to eat here, but nothing quite beats the Fisherman’s.

The Pirate Store
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The Carousel @ Quarter’s Arcade
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#6. Pioneer Square
A very popular place of Seattle!  There are a bunch of bars around and this is a key spot to Seattle night life.  The Pergola is a landmark bus stop here.  This area is a good place to get some great northwest brews.

The Pergola
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#7. Seattle Underground Tour
In the Doc Maynard’s bar at Pioneer Square is my #1 favourite tourist activity in Seattle.  The comedic guides of the Underground Tour tell you some surprising (and embarrassing) history of the town and take you through a few of the old preserved ‘tunnels’ that used to be Seattle.  Very cool.  Cost is $11 / person.

An Underground Brothel
(Seattle’s original primary source of income)
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#8. Walking Down 1st Street
This is where you’ll get the typical big city stores and little cafes.  Just walk down 1st St and make a right on Pine St back to Westlake Center where the Monorail or free bus will take you back to the Space Needle.  If you’re beat tired, you could take a Taxi here for just a few bucks. 

There is a LOT along this route that I haven’t mentioned including an Auquarium, the Seattle Art Musuem, IMAX Theater, some very cool stores, and much more.  Something for everyone of all ages. 

So, if you try out the tour, please post a comment!  I’d like to add pictures to this post when I can get to my photo collection at home.  Enjoy…

(this post was revised on 7/7/06 to include photos and easier to read formatting)

Comments (9)

  1. Great post and some equally great suggestions for seeing Seattle.

    I visited Seattle for the first time in September 2004 and fell in love with the city. I will be back again in November for the SQL-PASS conference.

    The Underground Tour is definitely a must-see!  I loved it. The Aquarium is also excellent.

  2. Sara h says:

    Hey Noah, I just printed this info off to do because Mary actually is coming for the weekend and we want to spend time in Seattle! Thanks for having this all put together

  3. Vien says:

    seattle is really nice place to live 🙂 I am in love with this city and I have plan to go to university in Seattle…the cafes are awesome

  4. ruth says:

    What a charming tour! My sisters and I are going to be

    in Seattle and although we already had some of the

    attractions which are on your list on OUR list, your tour

    lines them up neatly and gives information about the

    transportation.  I would like to have had a little more

    specific information about the free buses- what do they

    look like, where they pick up passengers, etc.


  5. Devin says:

    @ruth: Downtown is a "Ride-Free Zone" for buses in Seattle, so you can take a any bus virtually anywhere downtown for free, and there are stops everywhere. If you’re at Westlake Center, try the stop beside the waterfall if you’re going North or the one on the other side of Macy’s (on 3rd) if you’re going South. Like Noah, though, I recommend walking to wherever it is you want to go. It’s way cooler than riding the bus and you get to see a lot more of downtown.

  6. Susan says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for this post.  My friends and I are spending a few short days there and this will really help us cover the sights. 🙂

  7. Nicole says:

     I love Seattle; it’s amazing!  This tour is lovely, and I think that just walking through the streets will cover the music scene and unique community and culture of the city.    And that brothel is hauntingly full of stories, isn’t it?

  8. Erin says:

    Hi!  I’m the Community Manager of  We’re building a website to highlight some of the most interesting places travelers around the world have discovered.  We’ve read hundreds of blogs about Seattle, and we think that this post is awesome!  We’d love to highlight excerpts from blogs like yours (assuming it’s OK with you of course) and to discuss other ways of tapping into your expertise if you are interested.  I’m at

    Thanks! 🙂

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