Seattle may not seem as glamorous as San Francisco or New York, but it's beautiful, lively and a joy to visit. Plus, unlike some higher-profile cities, a visit to Seattle won't make your wallet weep. It's easy to visit Seattle on a small budget, as long as you do a little advanced planning on where to go and what to eat. Here are some tips for enjoying the Emerald City without spending a ton of money:
You really don't need to rent a car in Seattle, and if you do you may regret it as you futilely search for downtown parking. Skip the hassle and enjoy the fact that downtown Seattle is easily explored on foot (although be prepared for a handful of steep hills). For longer journeys take advantage of the city's extensive bus network which can get you nearly anywhere. Car services like Uber and Lyft are also very popular.
A taxi from the airport will easily run you $50, but you can avoid this by opting for the Light Rail. The journey from SeaTac International Airport to the heart of downtown takes a little over an hour and costs just $2.50.
Where to Sleep
There is a huge variety of hotels in downtown Seattle ranging from big corporate chains to tiny boutiques. Focus on the smaller, independent options for the best deals. The Ace Hotel in Belltown is a good bet with it's minimalist but stylish decor and hip bar. Another option is the colorful Hotel Maxwell, which offers complimentary Starbucks coffee and free bicycles. Around the outskirts of town you can also find small bed and breakfasts at good prices.
For those on an even smaller budget, there is the centrally located City Hostel, which is frequently voted one of the best hostels in the U.S. It features themed rooms decorated by local artists as well as a movie theater, library, and hot tub. Another stylish hostel is the Hotel Hotel in Fremont.
What to Do
Seattle has two famous attractions, one pricey and one free. They are the Space Needle and Pike's Place Market. The Space Needle can be viewed from all over the city and is really best enjoyed from the ground. Skip the $16 entry fee, and if you are really aching for a city view from above, head to the observation deck of Smith Tower instead (it costs a mere $7.50).
Pike's Place Market is the kind of tourist attraction that even locals enjoy on a regular basis. Spend a morning wandering the many small shops, produce stalls, and craft vendors that congregate here. Be sure to get a photo outside the Original Starbucks across the street. Most of the food here is pretty great so be sure to stop for a snack of donuts or piroshkys.
Where to Eat
Seattle has a terrific culinary scene, and no trip would be complete without sampling some of the city's amazing Asian and Pacific Northwest cuisine. The key to eating on the cheap is to find the right neighborhood. The International District is full of small, interesting Asian restaurants. Fill yourself up on pho, Chinese dumplings, or bubble tea, and be sure to take some time to stroll around Uwajimaya, one of the west coast's largest Asian supermarkets. The University District is another good bet for cheap ethnic food.
Seattle is also a city of happy hours, and many higher end restaurants offer discount drinks and small plates from 4-6 pm. If there is a place you are dying to eat, check to see if they offer specials.
What are some other great tips for enjoying Seattle on a budget?
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