Six months ago, I had this crazy idea to plan a trip to a city I’ve never been to before and document every moment of it, capturing the essence of the city through the eyes of a newcomer.
I teamed up with my good friend and talented photographer Jessica Steddom to plan a trip. We talked about Bali, Iceland, New York City, and then Seattle came up one day in conversation, and it stuck.
So we planned, partnered with incredible brands and people, took off work, and booked our flights. The travel guide below is a combination of dreams, hard work, inspiration, and experiments.
From me to you, welcome to Seattle.
Day 1: Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill
I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. Months of planning were about to take place in just 5 full days. We packed our bags (we both had two full bags haha) filled with styles from Vinnie Louise and Abednego. Trust me, we could’ve packed more but Southwest only let’s you check two free bags so we had to limit ourselves!
After a 5 hour flight and an overflowing amount of snacks from our sweet Southwest Flight attendant (he even gave us an extra can of Ginger Ale!) we landed in Seattle. The view from my little plane window, looking at the snow capped mountains with the city glistening in the background, took my breath away. I hadn’t ever seen anything quite so beautiful.
Our first Airbnb included a free pick-up from the airport, which really helped because that 30 minute drive would’ve been a hefty Uber bill!
While checking into our Airbnb, the sweet host told us about the rooftop patio and said it was a must see. We threw down our heavy luggage, changed into warmer clothes, and made our way up to the top of the apartment building. Wow, she wasn’t kidding about the view. It was like Seattle was waving us a big hello saying, “Hey! You’re finally here! Now come explore!”
So we did.
After exploring Pioneer Square, we ducked into the tallest building in Seattle (Columbia Center), made our way up to the 40th floor Starbucks and ordered espresso of course! At this point, it had been a long day and we were now running on PST time, we needed a boost of energy! We told the barista, give us something strong and crazy. He said, “I know just the thing.” He made us this incredible concoction called an Undertow, cold milk on the bottom, two pumps of vanilla, and then two shots of espresso on the top in a small cup. This is on the Secret Starbucks Menu. Next time your at the bucks, make sure to ask for one, it will rock your world.
With espresso rushing through our veins, we called a Lyft and headed to Capitol Hill. This is the hip, young neighborhood just east of Downtown. Our Lyft driver told us a few different places to try out and by the end of the trip, we were swapping Instagram handles! Yeah, for real. Follow our Lyft driver Chris @intellectuallumberjack. Hopping out of the car into the rain, we scanned our dinning options and quickly settled on Poquitos!
Poquitos – Talk about some of the most authentic Mexican cuisine I’ve ever had…. it was incredible. The vibe is warm, buzzing, and made you want to sit back and stay for a while. And we did! We were there for almost three hours, eating, drinking their house margaritas and talking about life. I ordered the Chicken Enchilada Suiza and Jessica ordered the Baja Tacos. We both left full and happy!
Right across the street is the notorious Comet Tavern. It was quite the experience. If you’re in Seattle, stop by for a $4 pint and enjoy the people watching 🙂
Day 2: Pike Place Market + Ballard + Kerry Park
Waking up in Seattle felt like a dream. Plus it was pouring rain outside, which made it even more of a true Seattle experience. Pike Place Market was first on our agenda. From the recommendation of our Lyft driver, we took shelter from the rain in the most adorable french bakery.
Le Panier – You haven’t truly eaten a chocolate croissant until you have one from Le Panier. We sipped our vanilla lattes and slowly ate our fluffy pastries filled with yummy goodness. The atmosphere, the rain, the warm drink in my hand made it the one of the most delightful breakfasts I’ve had in a long time.
Pike Place Market – I’m generally skeptical of tourist traps. I heard Pike Place Market was well worth the hype, but I was intrigued to see how authentic and entertaining it was. It immediately lived up to the hype. We walked across the street from Le Panier into the sheltered market. The first thing that caught my eye was the bright flowers and smell of fresh fish. It was magical. We talked to the market vendors and took our time stopping at each stand. Pike Place isn’t something you want to rush. It’s an experience you should give proper time and appreciation. It’s worth the crowd too.
Market Must Sees: Every single flower stand, exotic fruit stands, the Ellenos authentic greek yogurt shop, the throwing of fresh fish, and the Seattle Gum Wall (it’s down an alley just south of the market).
The market exceeded my expectations. At this point, our stomachs were calling out begging to be filled with yummy food. One of my colleagues, Nicole, lives in Seattle (here is her killer blog – she’s incredible) so we met her for lunch at Bitterroot in the adorable northern suburb of Ballard.
The food was something special. I had BBQ Mac and Cheese with English Peas. Yes I might be 5 years-old, but it was just the comfort food I was craving. After a delightful lunch with Nicole, we headed back downtown to check into our second Airbnb.
Y’all. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with our second Airbnb. Our host Miranda even left us a bottle of Pinot Noir! What a gem! In the heart of downtown, our tenth story city oasis was perfect.
How incredible is this apartment?!
We quickly changed clothes (cracked open the bottle of wine) and set off on our next adventure. After asking every single Lyft driver, they all said the Space Needle was overrated and they wouldn’t recommend it. I thought, well if a local wouldn’t do it, I’m not going to waste my money! But we wanted to find the best view of the city. Kerry Park was the local suggestion, so that’s were we went.
Kerry Park – The view didn’t disappoint. The park however was very small at just over an acre. With little crowd and a clear sky, this is exactly what we were looking for. The best part? It was free! The park is in the Queen Anne neighborhood, filled with beautiful homes. So with no destination we walked around until we stumbled upon a coffee shop. Still running on central time, we were a bit tired. You know what that means. More espresso! We quickly drank our coffee and took off to meet up with a Seattle Blogger for dinner at Bar Harbor.
Traveling to a new city, I didn’t just want to see the sights, I wanted to meet it’s people – specifically it’s bloggers. So naturally I emailed a few Seattle Bloggers to meet up with us for dinner and that’s where Jess and I met Brittany of Pumps and Plaid. What a breath of fresh air. Brittany is so down to earth as she shared her journey to LA and back to Seattle, now a full time blogger. I was so inspired by her authenticity and passion.
Bar Harbor – This urban take on Atlantic Northwest cuisine was unforgettable. I tried a lobster roll for the very first time. Fresh lobster stuffed in buttery bread? YES PLEASE! The manager surprised us with a delicious plate of their Dungeness Crab Stuffed Eggs. One word – yum. I’m also a big fan of deviled eggs and these were like Pacific Northwest deviled eggs (see their full menu here).
After dinner and a few glasses of wine, Brittany took us a to a local speakeasy called Bathtub Gin. It was a two story speakeasy with limited seating and cozy nooks to get lost in conversation. And that’s exactly what we did. I ordered two drinks named “Atticus Finch” and we talked for hours.
If you’re ever traveling to a new city, I recommend doing a little research and inviting people to dinner. You never know, they could turn out to be incredible like Brittany!
Day 3: Oddfellows + Bainbridge
Meeting up with fellow bloggers is a big passion of mine, so when Megan Little couldn’t make it to dinner, we made breakfast plans in stead! She recommended a local place and we met her there first thing in the morning.
Oddfellows – Urban. Hipster. Eclectic. Everything you could dream of in a cafe. With high ceilings and mix matched chairs, you immediately felt at home here. The service was hilarious and so personable. I had the Homemade Biscuit and Eggs with a Vanilla Latte. YUM. (click here to see the full menu)
Conversation flowed as we shared social media tips and talked about the struggle of knowing your brand and personal pricing. Megan is a gem. Her style is so classy and chic. After breakfast we walked around Capitol Hill and did what we bloggers do best, take pictures!
Next stop?! Bainbridge Island!
This was another local suggestion. For only $8.70 round trip, we boarded a ferry and made our way across the sound to Bainbridge, a 28 square mile island just west of Seattle.
Bainbridge – Crisp air, bright trees, and calming view of the city getting smaller in the distance. Riding the ferry was a dream. If you have a car, you can drive onto the ferry too. Since we were just on foot, we walked off the ferry and into the downtown area. I immediately felt like I was in a different country. It was so quaint and quiet with a stunning charm.
First stop, soup and wine at Cafe Nola. This was a suggestion from another local. Apparently this is Rachel Ray’s favorite eatery on the island! Their New England Clam Chowder was a show stopper. Definitely recommend it. Next door was a home goods store that would aesthetically blow your mind called Salt House Mercantile. Next stop, ice cream at Mora Iced Creamery. How can you say no to ice cream?
Walking down the street, ice cream in hand, we stopped in different shops taking in the art and culture of this small island. It was refreshing to take a step away from the city to see what life was like just across the water. Once back from Bainbridge, we headed to West Seattle to our third Airbnb, ordered Chinese, and crashed early while watching Greys Anatomy. How fitting?
Day 4: Day Trip to North Bend + Alki Beach
Can we talk about this living room? Staying with Kellie and Matt in West Seattle might have been my absolute favorite. They were wonderful Airbnb hosts and even made us espresso in the morning! Matt roasts his own coffee beans and everything. If you are looking for a quaint, yet stylish stay in Seattle, I would highly recommend Kellie and Matt’s home!
With this being our last full day in Seattle, we wanted to explore the pacific northwest beauty. After asking basically every single local where we should take a day trip to, we settle on Snoqualmie Falls, North Bend, and Rattlesnake Lake because they were all within 10 miles of each other and offered such different landscapes.
One Budget Rental car, a few donuts, and two cups of strong coffee later, we were on the road and headed east into the mountains.
This was hands down the largest waterfall I have ever seen. You could feel the midst from a great distance. The hint of yellow in the changing trees at the top of the falls would catch the sun just right, making you squint a little. People were everywhere. We didn’t know this landmark would be lined with tourists. And as tourists, of course we took pictures like everyone else. Even though I’m not big on touristy destinations, this was worth every moment of dodging through the crowd. Jessica snapped this photo and it’s hands down one of my favorite images from the trip.
Driving along roads we’d never been before, we scouted a breathtaking place for photos filled with freedom and laughter. As we were headed out of the small town of Snoqualmie, the trees alongside of the road broke away and off to the left stood this glorious mountain. Our jaws dropped a bit as we drove by. The open valley, leading to the wide range of cliffs and steep outcrops – it was exactly what we were looking for.
So I pulled a U-turn and headed back. It was like our entire trip, our dreams and creativity, was building up to this moment. I can’t explain how giddy I felt just frolicking through this field. I know it sounds insane, and maybe it is. I remember thinking, I will never let this memory fade.
This range is smack dab in between the two small towns of Snoqualmie and North Bend. Trust me. You can’t miss it.
Coming off that creative high, we needed food. Greasy food to be exact. Scott’s Dairy Freeze in North Bend did the trick and let me tell you, the burgers will melt in your mouth. There’s nothing like a good burger after a photoshoot, right?
Not only was the scenic drive to this lake truly amazing, but so was lake itself. At this point in the day we might have been a little tired. The bright sun and glistening water was just what we needed to give us an energy boost. Walking around the lake, children were skipping rocks with their parents and we even saw a man pull a big fish from the glassy water.
There was a short .75 mile hiking trail up to the top of Rattlesnake Ridge that overlooks the water. Neither of us were quite up for a 45 minute hike. Plus, if you look closely enough in the photos I’m wearing heels. Oops!
Once the lake was fully explored, we hopped back in the car, cranked the tunes and began our 45 minute drive back to the city.
It had been a long day of adventuring to unknown places. We were exhausted and craving a night of Netflix and Chinese take out. Before we could do that, there was one more place we had to stop.
We quickly checked into our fourth Airbnb in West Seattle, changed clothes, and headed to the famous Alki Beach. The sun was setting causing a chill to air. The beach wasn’t too crowded for a Saturday evening, which made it easy to relax and take in the view of the sound with downtown Seattle off in the distance.
It was the perfect ending to the perfect day. Oh, and we really did stay in, watch Netflix, and eat Chinese take out!
Day 5: Mornings in West Seattle
Waking up with this view was so fitting for our last morning in Seattle. The sun didn’t rise until about 7-7:30 so we woke up early enough to watch the sun emerge from the night sky bringing in a new day.
Packing up our bags, loading up our car, we had just enough time for breakfast before our flight back to Nashville. Our Airbnb hosts, Kellie and Matt, suggested we go to Bakery Nouveau. Since listening to the locals was a big theme of our trip, we went! I ordered the Twice Baked Almond and Chocolate-Almond Croissant. Yeah – it was as good as it sounds (and looks).
Coffee in hand, Jess and I strolled through the Sunday Farmers Market in downtown West Seattle. They shut main street down every Sunday to host a community market of fresh produce and other goods. How cute?!
West Seattle is quaint and much slower paced than downtown. It was a relaxing way to end our unforgettable trip to Seattle.
Thank you for allowing me to be your tour guide through Seattle. I hope you fell in love with it like I did. If there is a place you’ve always wanted to go, go! You won’t regret it. Traveling to new, unseen places is good for the soul and it awakens your creativity.
“Life is meant for spectacular adventures. Let your feet wander,
your eyes marvel, and your soul ignite.” – Unknown
Photography | Jessica Steddom