The Insider’s Guide to Seattle: Where to Stay
First time visitors to Seattle often contact me with lots of questions. We’re up here in a remote corner of the country, and many people visit only for work or on their way to an Alaska cruise. Fortunately Seattle is a great place to fly to. Sea-Tac is a nice airport with new lounges, inter-terminal trains, and good signs. The light rail connects the airport to downtown, Capitol Hill, and the University of Washington with trains every 10-20 minutes.
Unfortunately, tourism in Seattle is highly seasonal, which creates complications for the hotel industry. In order to take advantage of convenient transit you’ll need to plan early to get a hotel in a central location. The good news is that there’s been lots of new construction in recent years to provide more options. I’ll share some of my tips for visitors after living in Seattle for over 10 years.
Problems with the Seattle Hotel Market
The hotel situation sucks. There are plenty of properties to handle business nine months out of the year, but for summer, they will sell out months in advance. Six months out from our wedding, the Grand Hyatt and the Olive8 were completely sold out, with rates at the Hyatt Place hovering near $300 a night. The Sheraton is sold out. The W and Westin are over $300. A few non-chains are in the $150-200 range, but you should consider yourself lucky if you can get something under $200 even using Hotwire or Priceline for a nice summer weekend.
Summer is the one time of year tourists really want to visit, and it doesn’t help that the cruise ships unload thousands more. Then you hit winter, and you can find four-star hotels for $100. Maybe they’ll throw in free breakfast, too. But even though the summers are nice, you can still visit all the coffee shops, flea markets, and many other, truly local activities if you visit when it’s cold and rainy.
Check out the map below for a summary of where to stay and where not to stay. Avoid the areas boxed in red. You want to focus on areas in green.
Downtown, Belltown, and South Lake Union
The quality of hotels is generally great downtown and in the adjacent Belltown and South Lake Union areas (the latter two have more budget-friendly properties). I love the Hyatt Olive 8 and had a great experience working with Kimpton’s Alexis Hotel for our wedding. A new Kimpton — the Palladian — just opened on the boundary of downtown along Second Ave, but it’s probably one of the most convenient hotels to Pike Place Market.
You can also find the Fairmont Olympic, the Four Seasons, and a Grand Hyatt and W Hotel. In the summer, you should expect to pay $250-350 for a quality 4-star hotel in downtown Seattle. A 3-star hotel will run you $200-250. Be skeptical of paying less than $200. There is probably a reason why it’s so cheap.
Within downtown, I usually recommend staying north of Madison (Alexis Hotel and Hotel 1000 are on this edge) and south of Olive and Stewart (Westin, Hotel Max, and Hyatt Olive 8 are on this edge). There are a few hotels up 4th and 5th Avenues in Belltown that are also pretty good, like the Hotel 5 and Hotel Andra. If you like good food, Andra is surrounded by Tom Douglas restaurants on all sides, and Lola is in the lobby.
Near Seattle Center you’ll find budget properties like Holiday Inn, Four Points by Sheraton, and Hyatt Place here. A new Hyatt House has also opened right across from the Space Needle but is adjacent to the monorail. The rates are not much cheaper than in the downtown core because tourist traps still deserve a price premium. You can also try the Silver Cloud Inn, Marriott Residence Inn, and Courtyard by Marriott on the southern edges of Lake Union.
South Lake Union has been under heavy construction and will continue to be for several years. It’s now lost almost all resemblance to its former status as a warehouse district, but it is largely full of office buildings and can be dead at night. Still, it offers some good choices if you don’t mind the commute to other parts of the city. Plans have been filed for a new Hilton at Fairview and Mercer, and other hotels may be on the horizon.
Fed up with what seem like unreasonable rates, you might find yourself considering options like Aurora (the name for Highway 99 north of Downtown). In general, Seattle doesn’t have a lot of crime, but it can go from nice to sketchy in the span of two blocks. Two decades ago the economy was collapsing. Now we don’t have enough cranes for all the new construction. So I don’t worry too much. Seattle’s bark is worse than its bite.
Still, if I convince you of anything, don’t stay on Aurora. That’s where I’d go if I ever wanted drugs or a hooker. Seattle Weekly once ran an interesting story about the seedy backgrounds of every motel on a two-mile stretch.
Actually, there is a surprising amount of smut throughout this city. Deja Vu is still located directly across from the main entrance to Pike Place Market, and another strip club down the street closed only after the new Four Seasons opened next door. It’s something you learn to ignore, so don’t get too hung up on it.
Speaking of the U District, it offers one pretty much the only reasonable compromise between price and convenience. It can still be grungy, and in the summer it gets overrun by packs of young homeless kids with their unleashed dogs. (Seriously. Packs of obnoxious kids with dogs. They leave in the winter.) But it is not so bad that I recommend against staying here. You can usually find hotels from $150-200 a night.
The Watertown was once the nices hotel in the U District, and the adjacent University Inn is next door and also good. They’re both part of the Pineapple Hospitality group, which runs the Maxwell Hotel and Hotel Five. Do not confuse the University Inn with the College Inn, which is a hostel located above one of my favorite bars.
Hotel Deca is okay, but the rooms are terribly small. A new Marriott Residence Inn just opened down the street and may be a better choice. However, the neighborhood has such bad traffic that I recommend staying here only if you plan to commute by public transit or actually want to visit the university area. Currently the best strategy is to take a short bus to the University Stadium light rail station, which will take you to Capitol Hill and downtown. Eventually the light rail will open a new station in the heart of the U District.
A second Silver Cloud Inn and a Travelodge are located on the other side of UW, near the University Village shopping mall, but these offer no public transit to the rest of the city.
Can You Stay Far Away and Commute?
In most cities you can find several cheap properties, especially airport and suburban hotels, to rack up mattress runs for easy elite status. The area around Sea-Tac is pretty grim, and once you reach Seattle proper, there are not many options outside the downtown core. The causes are the elongated geography and the small neighborhoods, which discourage an urban environment anywhere but downtown.
Some people will still want to save money by staying far away and commuting to the city. Beware the traffic. It takes 20 minutes to reach Seattle from Bellevue, Lynnwood, or Renton in the dead of night. When the traffic is heavy it can easily become 40 to 60 minutes. Assuming you are visiting during the summer, that will be often. Locals don’t go on vacation in the summer because those are the two or three months that make the rainy months bearable.
Furthermore, the money you save by commuting is not great. Parking in the city is available but not cheap, and your time has value, too. I you do it anyway, here’s my advice:
Renton is your best bet. There are cheaper motels with quick access to the light rail. Take it into the city and don’t drive. You won’t find anything fancy, but it will fit the bill. I haven’t stayed at either, but the DoubleTree and Marriott look like the nicest options.
Lynnwood is just as far from Seattle as Renton is, but north of the city instead of south. The hotels aren’t any nicer, or any cheaper, and there’s less public transit if you want to avoid driving. You will likely spend your vacation on I-5.
Bellevue is a good alternative if you have higher standards and want to stay in a Hyatt or Westin. I think the Eastside is boring, and there’s really nothing to see there except the shopping malls. I understand living in Bellevue, but you don’t want to vacation in Bellevue. Hotel rates tend to be $100 less than what you’d find in Seattle.
Making the Best of a Difficult Situation
The hotel situation is improving. A new Hilton is going up near Mercer and Fairview and much of Aurora is being razed and redeveloped. There’s even a super fancy hotel tower under construction downtown — which has been on the books for years.
But as I said at the beginning, you should make more of an effort to experience Seattle as the locals do. You can visit in the winter to save money. Or if you come in the summer, try renting a house on AirBnb. Realize that you are paying to visit a very popular destination during the summer because that is the only time most people want to come. If you are willing to wear a jacket, come in spring or fall. We have very pretty leaves and flowers, too.
Bellevue vs. Seattle: Two Neighboring Northwest Cities Compared
Kristin Kendle is a Seattle-based freelance writer who has covered the city and Tacoma for TripSavvy since 2010.
Bellevue and Seattle are neighbors, just a few miles apart and separated by a lake and a few floating bridges. Despite their proximity, the two cities are pretty unique from each other. If you’re looking to move to the area or are visiting and aren’t sure if you want to stay in the heart of Seattle (there are pros and cons), it helps to know the perks each city has over the other.
Overall, Seattle is where you’ll head for any big city experiences, from events and concerts to high-end meals; Bellevue is close to the action without being at its center. You’ll find things like free parking there, too (good luck finding that in most of Seattle’s center). But, really, it comes down to what you’re looking for as Bellevue and Seattle both are great cities, overall.
Location, Size and a Bit of History
Seattle and Bellevue are located on opposite shores of Lake Washington—Seattle to the west (sandwiched between Lake Washington and the Puget Sound) and Bellevue to the east (situated between Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish). Bellevue is often referred to as the Eastside. Both cities are close to the water, but Bellevue’s shorelines are lakeside and recreational only, whereas Seattle fronts the Puget Sound and has a major West Coast port.
Both cities were founded in the late 1800s—Seattle in 1851 and Bellevue in 1869. Bellevue remained pretty rural until the first floating bridge was built in the 1940s, and while it’s far from rural these days, it’s still a bit more relaxed than Seattle. A second floating bridge was added in 1963 and the city began to boom. Today, Seattle has about 660,000 residents to Bellevue’s approximately 120,000.
Things to Do
David Hogan/Getty Images
With big city appeal, Seattle has more events and attractions to offer than Bellevue, from tourist heavy hitters like the Space Needle to local favorites like Volunteer Park. Seattle is Western Washington’s cultural hub, with theaters and museums galore, including the Paramount and 5th Avenue, Seattle Art Museum, as well as plenty of smaller venues, like ACT Theater. Seattle gets many major headliners, concerts, and touring plays and musicals, but has a thriving local music scene, as well. It’s home to many of Western Washington’s largest events, like Seafair, Seattle International Film Festival, Bite of Seattle, Seattle Pride, and Bumbershoot.
Also, Seattle is the place to go for major sports events, as the Sounders and Seahawks play at CenturyLink Field, the Mariners at Safeco Field, and the Seattle Storm at KeyArena.
If what you seek is solely based on being near action, Seattle is it. For visitors, neighborhoods close to or in downtown are the best for avoiding traffic and having fun. For residents, stay outside of downtown to avoid the high cost of living. Granted, if you’re moving to Seattle, the cost of rent or buying a home is not low anywhere.
Bellevue is a bit quieter, but has things to do. Visit the Bellevue Botanical Gardens or Bellevue Arts Museum. Especially for families, Bellevue can be a great choice as there are many great parks and playgrounds, such as Crossroads Park Water Playground. Bellevue has a few festivals, including an annual Strawberry Festival and Bellevue Sculpture Exhibition in Downtown Park. The biggest perk of living or staying in Bellevue is that all it takes to get to all the attractions and activities in Seattle is a trip across a bridge (although, it’s an easier trip if it’s not rush hour).
Outdoors and Parks
Both cities have amazing parks that offer everything from playgrounds to seashore to forest hikes. Both cities are a short drive from mountains, forests, national parks, and ocean beaches (if urban nature is not enough). Easily drive from either city to Issaquah for hikes, Mount Si for a challenging hike, and Woodinville for walks or bike rides in the country (and plenty of wineries).
Within Seattle’s city limits, you can explore a number of stellar green spaces and parks. Walk or jog on the paved trails at Green Lake. Explore wooded trails and beaches at Discovery Park. Spend some time at the glasshouse in Volunteer Park, or relax in the grass, or go to the Seattle Asian Art Museum located within the park’s boundaries. Or enjoy the beautiful views from Gas Works Park. There are tons of parks in Seattle!
Bellevue also has no shortage of parks. Right in the heart of downtown is Downtown Park, a beautiful green space that makes a nice place for a picnic. Crossroads Park’s water playground and Bellevue Botanical Gardens are both free and excellent for families. Meydenbauer Beach Park is another place families can find a bit of everything—a playground, a small grassy area, and also a small beach perfect for kids. Explore the city’s parks and you’re sure to find one that suits what you’re looking for.
Both Seattle and Bellevue have school districts with the usual run of elementary, middle/junior high and high schools, but what sets the two cities apart is access to higher education. Seattle definitely seeks out an edge in this department, as expected from a much larger city. However, both cities do have opportunities for higher ed.
Seattle is, of course, home to the largest university in Washington—University of Washington—as well as several smaller schools, including Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University and The Art Institute of Seattle. There’s a selection of several community colleges, too.
Bellevue’s largest school is Bellevue College, which offers two and four year degrees. City University of Seattle is also technically in Bellevue.
David Ryder/Getty Images
While Seattle has a great deal of the area’s jobs, Bellevue’s employment scene is nothing to sniff at.
Seattle is home to Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Seattle’s Best Coffee, and Tullys, but Bellevue has Costco’s headquarters as well as Paccar, T-Mobile, Expedia and it’s not very far at all from Redmond. Redmond is the location of Microsoft, Nintendo, and Valve Corp.
Both cities are hubs of transplants moving to the region for their work. If you’re moving to the area to look for a job, either city works well as you can commute to several Fortune 500 companies from both Seattle and Bellevue, and there is a range of smaller companies in the area.
Joelle Sedlmeyer/Getty Images
It’s tough for Seattle to hold a candle to Bellevue’s parking situation, mainly because most parking in Seattle is paid and has time limits, while most parking in Bellevue is free. Parking is easier to find in Bellevue.
However, it’s difficult to find parking in Seattle. There is a plethora of parking garages downtown, making parking available at all times, but it is costly. Parking on evenings and weekends (especially Sundays) is much cheaper. There’s free parking around Pike Place Market. if you can find one of the coveted spots.
Cost of Living
Neither Bellevue nor Seattle are cheap places to rent or buy a home. The median Seattle home price in 2018 was $779,250, but the median home price in Bellevue is $906,500 (it’s known for its slightly upscale feel). While neither city is known for cheap real estate, both have many free things to do and more affordable neighborhoods (but do check the crime rates before choosing cheaper housing). Overall, Bellevue is known as a more upscale city, while Seattle’s neighborhoods run the gamut from sketchy to very ritzy.
14 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Bellevue, WA
Bellevue is immediately east of Seattle in Western Washington, across the waters of the massive Lake Washington. While it offers a slower and less-crowded pace than Seattle, it’s still one of the most populous cities in the state. And despite not always being the first city associated with King County, it continues to be a staple of Pacific Northwest culture.
Much of the city’s attractions center around the downtown district, including the eye-catching Bellevue Downtown Park. This charming public space offers bountiful green grass and a perpetual waterfall sculpture, all framed by the downtown skyline. Other downtown tourist attractions include shopping malls, art museums, and several options for local dining.
And Bellevue’s appeal extends beyond the downtown center, especially in the form of natural spaces. Within the city limits and nearby, the Pacific Northwest beckons to be explored at places like Bellevue Botanical Gardens and Mercer Slough. And the city is an excellent launching pad for bigger adventures, including excursions to Mount Rainier National Park.
Discover more great places to visit with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Bellevue.
1. Bellevue Downtown Park
Bellevue Downtown Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
The 21-acre Bellevue Downtown Park was first conceived in 1984, and today, it provides central open space among the urban sprawl and continues to be a central part of the Bellevue community.
Downtown Park is a great place for a casual stroll during the day or a planned picnic outside. The entire space is a beautifully landscaped circular lawn with a waterfall sculpture as its border. A wide dirt promenade circles the park next to the rushing water, interspersed with several benches. These sitting spots offer an excellent view of the downtown skyline.
The Inspiration Playground at the park is quite a sight and provides an engaging place for kids to climb and explore the art-inspired play space. The park also hosts a huge number of community events, including the annual Fourth of July fireworks and a summer series of outdoor movies.
Address: 10201 NE 4th Street, Bellevue, Washington
2. Bellevue Arts Museum
Bellevue Arts Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
Referred to simply as BAM, the Bellevue Arts Museum hosts an impressive display of artworks from regional and international artists. It’s located among the bustling streets of the Bellevue downtown district, only a few blocks away from Downtown Park.
The museum has several large permanent installations hanging from the ceiling and draped across the walls. But primarily, BAM features rotating exhibits that display masterful art pieces. The museum also gives visitors a glimpse at the artistic process with behind-the-scenes looks at how the art was created.
Self-guided tours are available Wednesday through Sunday when the BAM is open, and trained curators also offer private tours. The museum also hosts several educational workshops for kids, teens, and adults, and special lectures and presentations. On the first Friday of each month, admission is free.
Address: 510 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, Washington
3. Bellevue Botanical Garden
Bellevue Botanical Garden | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
Though Bellevue isn’t lacking in natural attractions, perhaps the most concentrated view of Pacific Northwest flora can be found in the 53 acres encompassing the Bellevue Botanical Garden. This urban display of botanical beauty is on Main Street and is open daily from dusk to dawn. Admission is always free.
Special places to visit at Bellevue Botanical Garden include the decorative Rock Garden and seasonal Dahlia Display. But the entire property is a masterpiece of landscaping and horticulture. Garden layouts ensure that something new is blooming every month of the year, offering several reasons to visit. Locals and tourists also have the opportunity to tour native plant species and learn a bit more about their environment.
Flowers in Bellevue Botanical Garden | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
Besides simply walking among the many gardens and displays, the best way to use this natural space is by participating in the classes and tours the garden provides throughout the year. The garden is home to a few events each year, including a special Garden d’ Lights that occurs every winter. This festive event features over a half-million lights carefully placed throughout the area.
Address: 12001 Main Street, Bellevue, Washington
4. Explore Mercer Slough Nature Park
Mercer Slough Nature Park
Mercer Slough Nature Park is Bellevue’s largest city park and contains over 320 acres to wander throughout the year. The park has more than seven miles of trails that explore the surrounding wetland environment. A 2.6-mile water trail also winds its way through the park, accessible via canoe.
Mercer Slough Nature Park also hosts an on-site blueberry farm, which sells seasonal produce. And the Winters House Visitor Center is a 1929 Mission-style mansion at the park and is on the National Historic Register. These two park attractions are accessible with a connecting hiking trail.
Besides the wetland scenery, perhaps Mercer Slough’s biggest tourist attraction is the collaborative Environmental Education Center hosted by the city of Bellevue and the Pacific Science Center. This hands-on facility provides classes, programs, and exhibits to enrich a Mercer Slough sightseeing experience.
Address: 1625 118th Ave. SE, Bellevue, Washington
5. Spend the Afternoon at Meydenbauer Beach Park
Meydenbauer Beach Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
The Meydenbauer Beach Park is not only a hidden gem of natural space in Bellevue, it also serves as a significant point in the city’s history. Located on Meydenbauer Bay, on the shores of Lake Washington (King County’s largest freshwater lake), this area was once the landing site for ferries running from Seattle. This historic ferry spot was pivotal in the development of Bellevue.
Nowadays, the Meydenbauer Beach Park is tucked away in a residential neighborhood. It provides a place for locals and tourists to get some sand between their toes or spread out the blanket for a picnic. Meydenbauer Beach Park is also a popular place to swim in the summer months when the water is warm enough and lifeguards are on duty.
Meydenbauer Beach Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
The park is beautifully landscaped, with a tiered walkway that leads down to the water. Here, a modern playground entices younger members of the family. The park also has a unique walkway that leads out to the middle of Meydenbauer Bay, presenting a panoramic view of Lake Washington.
Address: 419 98th Ave NE, Bellevue, Washington
6. Go for a Hike at Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park
Trail at Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park
Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park offers a wild space to explore less than 10 miles southeast of Bellevue. This wild environment encompasses over 3,000 acres and over 35 miles of maintained trails.
Mountain bikes aren’t allowed at Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, but some trails support horse riding. Many of the trails lead to stunning views of Lake Sammamish and the Cascade Mountains.
For more to explore, Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park connects to Squak Mountain State Park via Cougar-Squak Corridor Park. This narrow park and valley adjoin the two public spaces, collectively known as the Issaquah Alps, and provide more than 15,000 acres of forest to explore.
Address: 18201 SE Cougar Mountain Drive, Renton, Washington
7. KidsQuest Children’s Museum
KidsQuest Children’s Museum | Nicholas Wang / photo modified
The KidsQuest Children’s Museum is every child’s dream come true. This family-friendly play space features a two-story Atrium Climber for kids to climb in, on, and around, plus eight other interactive exhibits designed to encourage development in children.
Focusing on the key areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and math, the KidsQuest Children’s Museum isn’t about sitting down at a desk and writing on the blackboard. Instead, this educational institution focuses on hands-on interaction with the different moving parts of life.
KidsQuest is specifically designed for children ages 0-10 and features more than 650 programs offered throughout the year. Available programming includes summer camps and whole-family science workshops.
Address: 1116 108th Ave NE, Bellevue, Washington
8. Shop and Dine at The Bellevue Collection
Snowflake Lane at Bellevue Square | GoToVan / photo modified
The Bellevue Collection is three distinct shopping areas in the Bellevue downtown district. These shopping areas provide a dense concentration of shopping, dining, and overnight accommodations. Alongside unique and name-brand shopping opportunities, the Bellevue Collection also offers seasonal events that draw a crowd.
The Bellevue Collection includes the Bellevue Square shopping mall with more than 200 retail locations. Lincoln Square is another distinct area filled with several cultural dining destinations. The third shopping area, Bellevue Place has some of the best places to stay the night, including the four-star Hyatt Regency Bellevue . The Bellevue Collection hosts everything you need in a few blocks to keep yourself busy for many long weekends.
Bellevue Square shopping mall | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
This part of town is especially festive during the holiday season. The Bellevue Collection organizes Snowflake Lane throughout December. This family fun celebration is outside the Bellevue Square shopping mall, where the street is alive with glittering lights, electronic animations, and always falling snow.
Address: 575 Bellevue Square, Bellevue, Washington
9. Lake Sammamish
While Lake Sammamish may seem like a puddle compared to the far-spreading waters of Lake Washington to the west, this body of water provides important recreational opportunities for Bellevue residents and its connected communities. On the north end of Lake Sammamish, Marymoor Park is connected to the city of Redmond and provides awesome outdoor concerts throughout the year. A public water-skiing slalom course is also on the north end of the lake.
In Bellevue, on the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish, Vasa Park Resort provides picnic areas; boat launches; and a perfect spot to swim, with diving boards and waterslides. Vasa Park is also a popular spot to pitch a tent or park an RV. On the southern shore, Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah offers outdoor adventures throughout the year.
Address: 3560 W Lake Sammamish Pkwy SE, Bellevue, Washington
10. Sneak in 18 Holes of Golf
The Golf Club at Newcastle | Andy Blackledge / photo modified
Several of Western Washington’s top golf courses are in or within a short drive of Bellevue. These courses serve the region as a whole and not just Bellevue residents, so advanced tee times are always recommended.
The Golf Club at Newcastle offers arguably some of the best golf in the Pacific Northwest, less than a 12-mile drive from downtown. This club is open to the public and offers 36 holes of championship golf. The facility encompasses 350 acres perched atop the foothills of Cougar Mountain Regional Park. This high vantage point lends to incredible views of the Seattle skyline and landscapes, including Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains.
Bellevue also maintains the Bellevue Golf Course. This public course offers more affordable rates closer to town. It doesn’t skimp on scenery, though, and the course has a reputation for its well-maintained landscaping and greens. A popular driving range is also on-site.
The city also oversees the Crossroads Par-3 Course on the east side of town. This nine-hole putt-and-chip course is open from April through October. It’s a great place to visit for a quick golf outing, and caters to experienced players looking to perfect their short game or those new to the sport.
11. Bellevue Zip Tour
For a unique way to explore the natural side of Bellevue, the Bellevue Zip Tour takes visitors speeding among Douglas firs and broadleaf maples as they explore the scenery from above. This city-owned facility consists of 6.5 ziplines, ranging from 70 to 450 feet, and operates every season except the winter.
the Bellevue Zip Tour is just west of the South Bellevue Community Center. Whether looking for a fun time for the whole family or a great place for a group getaway, the Bellevue Zip Tour provides a fast-flying way to see some Pacific Northwest nature from a new perspective.
Address: 450 110th Ave. NE, Bellevue, Washington
12. Day Trip to Seattle
It’s only a 15-minute drive across Lake Washington to the Emerald City from Bellevue or a 30-minute bus ride. If you’re visiting Bellevue and have some extra time on your hands, it’s well worth the trip to check out this cultural capital of the Pacific Northwest.
Between iconic tourist spots like the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, and more off-the-beaten path adventures like Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, Seattle warrants some extended travel. For summer fun, the best beaches in Seattle are a great place to cool off. Other top attractions of the city include the Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Museum of Flight.
For an overnight trip to Seattle, our guide on where to stay in Seattle offers accommodations for every type of traveler.
13. Whale Watch from Bellevue
Orca spotted from the Puget Sound Express | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
A big appeal of visiting the Pacific Northwest and the Puget Sound region is the opportunity to spot wild whales in the water. The summer is the best time to see whales, approximately between May through October. Bellevue is a bit too inland to spot any of these massive mammals from the city, but several sightseeing options aren’t far away.
It’s possible to see whales from Seattle without boarding a boat. Public areas lining the Puget Sound shoreline, like Golden Gardens and Alki Beach Park, offer the necessary panoramic views across the water. It helps to know what to look for and to have a bit of patience when spotting whales from the land. It also helps to utilize community resources like the Orca Network.
Another popular option is booking a boat tour. This ups the chances of seeing whales tenfold, and some companies even guarantee a sighting or they’ll give out a free voucher for another trip. Puget Sound Express is a reputable and family-owned tour company, with boats that depart from Edmonds, approximately a 20-mile drive from Bellevue.
14. Weekend Trip to Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
The mighty Mount Rainier can easily be seen from Bellevue on clear days. And the massive national park surrounding this iconic mountain of Washington is accessible from the city with a 60-mile drive. The park is a great place to visit for a day trip, and the many campgrounds at Mount Rainier National Park also facilitate memorable overnight adventures.
Mount Rainier National Park features waterfalls, mountain meadows, and stunning hiking trails. The Northwest Carbon River Entrance is the closest to Bellevue, though the Southwest Nisqually Entrance tends to be the more popular route. The Nisqually entrance of the park is accessible with a two-hour drive, and features more amenities, like a visitor center, and is open throughout the year.
Where to Stay in Bellevue for Sightseeing
Bellevue has several quality hotels to choose from. Some of the best hotels in Bellevue are in the heart of downtown near Bellevue Downtown Park. Other places to stay are east of the downtown district and lining the 405. Hotels in Bellevue range from four-star accommodations oozing with style to budget-friendly options that don’t skimp on quality or service.
The Best Luxury Hotel in Bellevue:
- One of the best four-star hotels in Bellevue is the Hyatt Regency Bellevue . Connected to Bellevue Square via skywalk, and a block from Bellevue Downtown Park, this upscale establishment features stylish rooms and suites. Visitors often appreciate the resort-like amenities of the hotel, including the expansive breakfast bar and fully equipped fitness studio.
The Best Mid-Range Hotel in Bellevue:
- Popular with families and business travel, the Silver Cloud Inn features comfortable accommodations at an affordable price. Near a quiet neighborhood park, Silver Cloud Inn is also located within walking distance to restaurants and dining in downtown. The comfortable aesthetics of the lobby and common spaces of the hotel extend into the rooms, where guests are known to get a good night’s sleep.
The Best Budget Hotel in Bellevue:
- Bellevue offers several budget hotels. Not all the most affordable hotels in Bellevue offer the same quality of service. The Extended Stay America , located just east of downtown across the 405, offers both an exceptional value and a first-class stay. Great for extended vacations or one-night budget accommodations, the Extended Stay is often the first choice for a budget-friendly stay.
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More Washington Cities to Explore: For other cultural attractions on the west side of the state, the charming university city of Bellingham features waterfalls, historic districts, and great views of the San Juan Islands. The state capital of Washington, Olympia, is also on the west side of the state not far from Bellevue and provides several fun things to do. To properly explore Eastern Washington, the city of Spokane is a great place to start.
Exploring Washington’s Wonders: The state of Washington is blessed with many beautiful landscapes. The best state and national parks in Washington highlight these regions with campgrounds and hiking trails. The top hot springs in Washington have a steamy appeal and tend to help alleviate any sore muscles. For some wintertime activity, our guide to Washington ski resorts will have you tackling the black diamonds in no time.