USA, Washington

Seattle: What to Do With One Day in the Emerald City

The Smith Tower in downtown Seattle

The first time I went to Seattle, I was sixteen and visiting a friend from the neighborhood who had moved a few years before. She lived in Silverdale, on the other side of Puget Sound from Seattle. I spent most of the trip there, with her, and on the day that I flew home we went Pike Place Market and the Space Needle.

On my most recent trip to Seattle, I again only had a day to explore so after consulting with the internet and several friends, I came up with a pretty full itinerary of fun stuff to see during our few hours there. 

The Underground Tour in Pioneer Square

This tour was hands down one of the coolest experiences I’ve done in any city. If you are the least bit interested in history (especially weird history), abandoned places, or puns – this is the tour for you. Seattle has had a pretty crazy past with a bunch of people and city officials who pretty much had no idea what the heck they were doing so the oldest part of the city is basically run out of the second story of what existed in the late 1800s. There are still several parts of the original first level in use, but most of it is closed to the public.

The tour starts with a little bit of history about Seattle’s beginnings and the crooked people who started the city. Then your guide takes you into the underground where you can see the where the buildings once had entrances on the bottom level. The story of how Seattle ended up on the second floor is really crazy. They built up the street first leaving the sidewalks on the first floor. Eventually the people tired of going up and down ladders to cross the street so they added sidewalks at the new street level that were basically ceilings to the first floor sidewalks. There’s still a lot of stuff left underground, old signs and disintegrating doors. Along the way your guide will tell you all about the crazy pioneers who settled Seattle and their misadventures. Like exploding toilets. Yep, that happened.

The Underground Tour is about 75 minutes long and they have tours throughout the day. While you’re in Pioneer Square check out the hidden waterfall garden built to celebrate 100 years of the United Parcel Service on 2nd Street.

Pike Place Market


Pike Place Market is the coolest spot in the city. An outdoor market with stalls selling all kinds of food, flowers, souvenirs, and other homemade items. One of the most famous stalls is Pike Place Fish Market is basically free entertainment – when someone orders a fish, the mongers throw it to each other before wrapping it. Many of the stalls offer samples of their product and overall it’s a fun experience even if you don’t buy anything. The first ever Starbucks is also there (on opposite end from the Fish Market) and there’s a gum wall (downstairs behind the Fish Market) if you’re into that kind of thing.

Fish monger at Pike Place Fish Market

Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Speaking of Starbucks, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery or “Gold Star Store” is a mecca if you are a coffee lover like I am. They take roasting to a whole different level here. The building is absolutely beautiful, you can see the entire roasting process going on starting with the green beans and ending with a delicious cup of special Reserve coffee that you can only buy at that store.  The only trouble is parking, there is no designated parking place for the store and all parking in the area (like most areas in downtown) is metered.  Pay for more time than you were anticipating, it’s a great place to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea or a sandwich and you don’t want to be super rushed.

The Freemont Troll

I saved my favorite thing for last, even though we went here first. If you’ve ever picked up one of those “Weird USA” books in Barnes and Noble you may have come across the Fremont Troll before. This concrete behemoth is one of those roadside attractions worth stopping for. He fills the entire area below the Aurora Avenue Bridge. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to check him out and take a few pictures so it’s a perfect way to start your day out before exploring the rest of Seattle.  



While Seattle is a great city with plenty of things to see and do, Washington is a big state with so much else to offer!  If you are planning a trip be sure to check out my other post about western Washington.



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Ice Cream Party (14)

4 thoughts on “Seattle: What to Do With One Day in the Emerald City”

  1. Even your non coffee drinking friends will like the Starbucks roasters. Plenty of tea and snacks to meet your caffeine needs. And the underground tour really was the best deal going.


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