10 Mistakes Tourists Make When Visiting Seattle

Seattle, Washington is known for its rainy weather, but that doesn’t deter tourists. The city has long attracted visitors with its impressive arts scene, delicious seafood, and stunning mountain views.

But those who travel to the Emerald City for the first time are often mistaken. We asked local residents to share some of the most common gaffes they have observed.

Here are 10 mistakes travelers often make when visiting Seattle, from going to the wrong coffee shop to missing out on the best experience, and a few tips to avoid those mistakes on your travels in the Pacific Northwest.

Getting coffee from the original Starbucks

“Many tourists love to visit the legendary original Starbucks location, but I have news for you: it’s just a Starbucks with extras. If you want to stand in line for your hazelnut latte, you’ll usually make it home no matter what. 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 up to the second level at the Storyville Cafe, or walk up the block for some latte art at Moore Coffee Shop. If you’re not near Pike Place Market, there are local coffee shops around the corner from where you live that make great coffee. ― Nelson Lauco-host “Seattle Gourmet Podcast”

Don’t bother going to Starbucks at Pike Place Market. The insanely long lines are not worth it. Take a picture outside of it and then go to Starbucks Reserve Seattle Roastery on Capitol Hill. It is about nine blocks away and offers tourists the best in-store experience with food, coffee, merchandise and the chance to see the coffee production process. You will also be able to explore everything else Cap Hill has to offer as it is a very walkable area.” ― Ishi Browndigital creator and associate producer

The Lost Beach of Alki

“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. Getting there from downtown Seattle is very easy by catching a water taxi at Pier 50. It’s less than a 10 minute scenic ride, which is a fun experience in itself. Once you get to West Seattle, you’ll be greeted with a great view. And while you’re there, and if the weather is good, I highly recommend walking along the beach and visiting the restaurants in the area before heading back to the city center in a water taxi.” ― Erika Diamacontent creator

“Aliki Beach is an overnight stay on the beach in West Seattle, but well worth a visit. Grab a bite to eat at Ma Cai Marina and rent a bike to ride the trail. You’ll get great views of the Seattle skyline, water, mountains, and enjoy shopping along Alki Beach. If it’s a sunny day, you can play beach volleyball or end the evening around a campfire on the beach. If you want to indulge in local favorites, you can get ice cream at Homefront Smoothies and Ice Cream, get burgers at Pepperdock, or get fish and chips at Spuds.” ― Brown

Planning to stay indoors only

“It doesn’t always rain in Seattle. Seattle is one of the best places to visit during the summer because of its mild temperatures, perfect for al fresco dining and evening picnics. Do what the locals do and go for a picnic in the gasworks park. Grab a poke bowl at the 45th Stop N Shop & Poke Bar and then walk through a couple of doors to Tres Lecheria for some of the best tres leches cakes in Seattle. Not in peace? Wallingford also has a restaurant, Dick’s Drive In, which serves Seattle burgers. Grab a Dick’s Deluxe, fries and a strawberry milkshake and you’ll be ready for sunset at Gasworks Park.” ― Lau

Tourists don’t always realize that Seattle also has sunny seasons.

Waiting in line for ride tickets

“Tourists are queuing to buy tickets for the Igloo or other attractions when they can easily buy them online.” ― Karla Ilicicyoga teacher and freelance writer

“Don’t wait in line for every little ride and pay for each one separately. The Seattle Pass is a way to hit them all in less time and for less money.” ― Lauren Baker, student

Anticipating the crowd

“What you need to know about traveling to Seattle in the summer is that, unlike many other cities, the locals don’t leave during the warmer months! We love our summer, which means not only is it not crowded here from June to August, but you compete with the locals for everything from ferry rides to restaurant reservations, so keep that in mind when planning. My favorite month here is September, when the weather is still nice, but the crowds are a little quieter.” ― Cassandra LaValleinterior stylist

Stick to the city center

“Tourists love to visit Pike Place Market and the Space Needle while they are in town, but the truth is that our downtown area is pretty typical when it comes to restaurants and shopping. While I would recommend visiting the Seattle Art Museum, I would focus your daily plans on other areas of the city. Ballard is one of the most fun and exciting places to visit: visit the Castles, go shopping, check out the Northern Museum and book a table at any of the amazing restaurants on Ballard Avenue (my favorite is San Fermo!). Pioneer Square, Fremont and Capitol Hill also offer a variety of restaurants and activities.” ― Laval

“Downtown Seattle is NOT a popular place for dinner. Unlike other metropolitan areas, most locals don’t go to downtown Seattle to dine. Instead, tourists must take taxi or Sound Transit Link light rail services to gourmet neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill, Ballard, Belltown, or the International District/Chinatown. Whether it’s sushi, seafood, ramen, steaks, pasta or steaks, in all these areas you will find better options than in the city center.” ― Lau

Do not plan outdoor activities

“I see a lot of visitors coming to Seattle who never take a day to experience one of the best things our city has to offer, nature! As a city surrounded by mountains, water, and lush national parks, I highly recommend a short day trip that allows you to experience one of them. Take the ferry to Whidbey Island and explore Ebay Wharf or Deception Pass, rent a car for the day and drive up Mount Sea, or stay put and head to Discovery Park, where trails lead to a scenic beach and lighthouse.” ― Laval

“If you have a rental car, go out of town to do more interesting things. 30 minutes east of Seattle, there are many hiking trails in the city of Snoqualmie with breathtaking views.” ― Lau

Lack of new restaurants

“As far as I can tell, tourists make the mistake of going to the same hyped restaurants when there is a boom of incredible restaurants all over the city. Definitely worth a visit.” ― Ilicic

Space Needle Priority

“Do not visit crowded tourist places, especially on weekends. The top of the Space Needle can be underwhelming, and Pike Place Market can get very crowded on weekends. Don’t wait in lines. Many tourists love to visit the Space Needle, but locals prefer to go to the Smith Tower for a drink and a bite to eat. The Smith Tower is located in Pioneer Square and is Seattle’s original skyscraper. Ride the elevator to the observatory and bar and be rewarded with a 360-degree view of Seattle without the crowds. Afterwards, enjoy prepared cocktails and snacks while admiring the view. It’s the perfect spot before heading out for dinner or after you’ve had a drink before bed.” ― Lau

Don’t go on excursions

“If you’re not a hiker, head to Woodinville and visit one of the many wineries in the city. Chateau St. Michelle is the largest winery in Woodinville, but you can visit one of the many smaller wineries in town. If you don’t have a rental car, drive to the Seattle waterfront and catch the ferry to Bainbridge Island. From the ferry terminal you can walk to the main street where you can buy and eat. Enjoy this cute little town with some of Seattle’s best restaurants including Ba Sa, Café Hitchcock, Bruciato and Mora Iced Creamery.” ― Lau


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