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The Ultimate Guide To Having Fun In Seattle On A Budget

It has been a while since the last Cities for Less feature because we have been pretty busy hosting the #From Miles To Smiles 90 day challenge but given that Seattle is a city in the States I have yet to visit, this was too good an opportunity to miss. I am desperate to find out if it is possible to visit Seattle on a budget.

Seattle cityscape
Seattle cityscape

Written by a Seattle native, Danielle of Snaps, Scribbles and Suitcases has spent time living in New York City and travelling to over 15 countries. She and her husband are planning a round the world trip starting in early 2017 and are super excited for the adventure that lies ahead!

I will pass you over to Danielle so she can tell you a little more about herself and her beloved hometown.

Introducing Danielle

I was born in Seattle  a few *cough* decades ago, and have seen this city take on so many changes. While not all changes have been good in my opinion, I absolutely love my city and enjoy showing people the best it has.

Currently my husband and I are getting ready to pack our bags for a life of travel and will be leaving Seattle behind. I have to admit, it’s allowing me to see my hometown in a new light knowing that we won’t be back here for a long while.

We have a list of must-dos before we go and hope to take the opportunity to explore parts of Seattle we haven’t seen.

Seattle by night
Source: Pixabay

Welcome to Seattle 

Seattle, Washington is located in the upper northwest corner of the continental United States. Known for its rainy weather, coffee consumption (hey, Starbucks HQ) and software/ tech industries (Microsoft, Amazon, Nintendo, Expedia, Google, and Boeing are all based here).

Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the US. You can tell just by counting the number of construction cranes that dot our downtown horizon. Amidst the boom that Seattle is experiencing, it’s still a wonderful city to visit! However, as with any developing city, things are getting more expensive. Here are some great ways to get the most out of this gem of the Pacific Northwest without breaking the bank.


Accommodation is more expensive the closer you get to downtown but there are some really wonderful condos on AirBnB that are worth considering if you want to stay right in the city center.

If you want something a little more hotel like, but still want to embrace all of the hipness that Seattle has to offer, check out the Ace Hotel. While it is a hotel chain with locations in Portland, New York, and Palm Springs, the Seattle location is still very uniquely Seattle.

The Ace Hotel explains their style as “unfussy luxury and intentional design ethos that drive the Pacific Northwest”. It’s hipster and glorious. Rooms start around $119 in the historic building.

A slightly more affordable option, is Hotel Hotel, located in Seattle’s artsy neighborhood of Fremont. Rates start around $30 for a shared dorm room like a traditional hostel, but they also have private rooms available for $85 and up depending on the season.

Flying to Seattle
Source: Pixabay

Getting there 

Flights to Seattle land at Seattle’s international airport, SeaTac, about 40 minutes south of the city. Cabs and shuttles are available, but I would recommend hopping onto our new Link Light Rail. It’s SeaTac stop opened in 2009, and the route continues to expand, opening up two new stops north of downtown earlier this year (2016).

A light rail ticket will only set you back $3.00 and will get you right to the heart of downtown Seattle from SeaTac airport.

Anne: wow this is a fantastic tip and what value, especially if you are travelling solo. I find airport transfers in the US bank breaking so this is a definite travel the globe 4 less result.

Getting Around

Once you arrive in town, public transportation is very easy in the downtown area. You can pick up an Orca card so you won’t have to worry about carrying exact change with you. The Orca card will cover you on all busses as well as the light rail you arrived on!

For later in the evening, Uber and Lyft’s are plentiful and a cost effective way to get around.

Food and Drink


While you are visiting Seattle, I challenge you to enjoy coffee that is not Starbucks. Yes, go to the original location if you must, but Seattle has so many local roasters worth trying out, save the bulk of your caffeine intake for one of them!

Here are a few worth checking out:

Milstead and Co.  – Located in the heart of Fremont, Milstead provides excellent coffee well crafted coffee.  While they don’t roast their own, they source the best that’s around!

Cafe Vita  – Cafe Vita is a roaster that also has 6 locations located in Seattle. While they are branching out to New York and LA, Seattle is still home and their roasts are worth trying and maybe even buying to take home with you!

drinking coffee
Enjoying a coffee in Seattle

Other Food and Drink 

One of the best happy hours in the nation (or so they say, and I’m not one to argue) is found at Toulouse Petit. High class New Orleans style dishes all for under $9! The cocktails is where they’ll fleece you on price, but plan for it, and save big on their amazing dishes. Try the jambalaya, fried green tomatoes, and whatever else your server recommends. Seriously, they’re never wrong.

Another spot that will be sure to delight your senses and not break the bank is the tapas bar Ocho, in Ballard, just north of downtown. Deviled quail eggs, prosciutto wrapped dates, and expertly crafted cocktails make this a wonderful spot to enjoy.

If you’re really on the cheap or just want to see what the fuss is all about, check out Dick’s Drive In. Five locations with burgers they’ve been making the same way since the 50’s. All are take out only, with the exception of the Queen Anne location, that has a dining area.

Things to do

Time Travel

Take a literal step into the past with the Seattle Underground Tour . Seattle used to be at sea level, which works for cities not built on tide flats, unlike Seattle. When Seattle had it’s great fire, they took the opportunity to fix the “twice a day toilet back up” problem that plagued downtown in the late 1800’s.  What’s left are old store fronts and streets right below the modern ones. $20 per person. The history lesson and experience are well worth it.

Get on a boat!

Seattle by boat
Source: Pixabay

Seattle is surrounded by water. Lakes and a Sound make boating a popular activity or mode of transportation. You can rent a canoe or kayak at the University of Washington and take a paddle though the arboretum or hop on a Washington State Ferry from downtown to Bainbridge Island for a nice day trip.

Other Seattle things not to miss

Pike Place Market is the United States longest running farmers market. Along with the famous “tossing fish”, the market has sights and smells to behold. If you’ll be in town for longer than a few days, pick up an amazing bouquet of flowers outrageously cheap!

Pikes Place Market, Seattle
Pikes Place Market, Seattle

*Note about the market, get there early! This photo taken an hour later has a sea of people.

Olympic Sculpture Park – This park created by The Seattle Art Museum allows you to wander through outdoor exhibits on display in a park that overlooks the Puget Sound. On a clear day you can see the Olympic Mountains. The park is free to visit during it’s open hours.

Your Best Splurge

Chihuly Garden and Glass – This is a museum that I personally haven’t been to yet.. because honestly, how exciting can glass be? But every single person I know who’s visited has loved the experience and said that the visit was well worth it.

Located in the shadow of the recognizable Space Needle, this museum features both indoor and outdoor hand blown glass exhibits. It will be my next Seattle splurge for sure!

You can also check out Unique Things to do in Seattle for more inspiration.

Musings from Anne

So there you have it, lots of great advice from Danielle. If you want to follow her on her upcoming travels be sure to connect on Instagram.

Postcard of Seattle scenes
Source: pixabay

What do you think of Seattle?

In the meantime, what do you think of this city? Do you have other top tips (especially if they involve a good beer or wine in my case!) that you can share with us below?

Top Travel Hack tips for a Seattle visit

  1. Take advantage of free museums
  2. Take the light rail from the airport and save mega bucks
  3. Search for Seattle hotels on Hotels.com to earn one free night in ten
  4. Use the Curve card to cut out international card fees.
  5. Book flights using a search engine such as Skypicker to search all airlines in one easy enquiry!
  6. Book extras such as car parking through the companies offered through Top Cashback so you can use your cashback as holiday spend or convert to air miles.

Pin this:

The tower in Seattle
Scenes of seattle

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips

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  1. Great tips on the Orca card. I remember visiting Seattle a few years ago and it is so easy with the buses and light rail. Pike place market is a must visit!

    • I’ve yet to visit Seattle (this was a guest post) but I’ve got flights booked to Vancouver and am really hoping to spend a day or two there when we go. Need to catch up with my pals at No Mas Coach too

  2. I want to visit Seattle one day. Coming from the UK, it generally needs to be part of a bigger trip and a good two weeks of exploring the US. I think I’d like this city. I had no idea that there is a whole other city under the modern one. That is my kind of tour! The food sounds great too. Thanks for sharing

  3. I might actually visit my brother who is living in Seattle next summer! I will bookmark this guide if the trip pursue. I hate over spending and he told me that it is a very expensive city so thanks for sharing these tips (I’ll forward this to him as well!)

  4. I love that you mentioned taking advantage of free museums. Many people seem to overlook this but it cools be very beneficial! Great guide on Seattle, lots of tips and ideas I gotta pencil down 🙂

  5. This is so great because I’m heading to Seattle this week for a few days!! Thanks for the great tips! I didn’t realize there were so many free things to do in Seattle!

  6. I used to work for a company that had its head office in Seattle. I used to visit two or three times a year and loved it. The tossing of the fish at Pike Place Market is fun to watch.

  7. Seattle looks so cool. I would definitely be heading straight for those coffee shops. Starbucks is for extreme coffee emergencies only

  8. Love coffee and visit Starbucks to every destination I go to and grab the starbucks mug for my collection. I also visit the local coffee shops to get the local feel and sample their local brew. Its one way to get a taste of the local culture. Thanks for sharing this article!

  9. Seattle is one of my favorite US cities. I just love Pike Place Market. We have not been back in quite a long time but I have read that there is quite a craft beer scene and lots of taprooms. Next time we are back in the US we might have to visit Seattle again!

  10. As soon as I saw this post was about Seattle I knew I was going to love it. I went to Seattle back in 2014 and had the most amazing time. Although I always knew I wanted to go back I was slightly reluctant due to the cost. However this post has been really useful at breaking up the trip into bite size affordable pieces.

    I’ve added the underground tour to my bucket list!

    Thanks for sharing this!

  11. LOVE the Chihuly glass museum. Anytime I hear someone talking about Seattle I have to mention it. One of my favorite art galleries I’ve been to.

    • We have a ton of glass museums in the UK and I have never been to one but would love to try glass blowing so definitely think this would be fun. Feel free to share a picture!

  12. Or, you could just come hang out with us here in Seattle and we’ll make sure you’re well taken care of, Anne!

    • Well that goes without saying of course! Funnily enough I was talking to a couple from Seattle last night. Definitely on my list although I prefer to avoid rainy places, after all I live in one!!!

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