Seattle Day Trip – Things to See and Photograph

Dave and I had the opportunity for a Seattle Day Trip the first part of January.

Neither of us had ever been to Seattle, and we had a list of places we wanted to visit and photograph.

It was hard to narrow the list of things to see and do to create our One Day Itinerary in Seattle.

We share our Seattle Day Trip Guide to help anyone else who may also only have one day to explore Seattle.

The list includes things to see and places to photograph in Seattle that include iconic sites and unique art.

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Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is a must-see for a Day Trip in Seattle, Washington.

Pike Place Market Sign Seattle, Washington

Founded in 1907, Pike Place Market is the oldest continually operating farmers’ market in the United States. This nine-acre Market overlooks Elliott Bay.

We were only able to spend a short time here, but in that hour or so, we could feel the eclectic vibe and energy of the place.

Pike Place Market stalls in Seattle, Washington

Here’s a list of fun things to see and photograph at Pike Place Market:

  • Pike Place Market Sign
  • The Oldest Starbucks
  • Rachel the Piggy Bank
  • Pike Place Fish Market
  • Post Alley
  • Food & Dining
  • Street Performers
  • Street Art

We knew Pike Place Market gets crowded so we arrived early.

One tip for a crowded day is to venture to the lower levels and discover all the fun below street level.


Photo credit: Seattle Monorail Services

If you only have one day in Seattle, you want to make the best of it! Check out our One Day Seattle Itinerary to capture amazing photographs of a fun, eclectic city; iconic sites and colorful and unique art. This guide also includes things to see and do in Seattle. Don't forget to save this Seattle guide to your travel board.

Riding the Seattle Monorail is a fun activity. We used public transit and the monorail to get around Seattle for the day. 

Built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair to provide a link between the fairgrounds and downtown Seattle, the once futuristic mode of transport has become a major tourist attraction and a convenient way for locals to get to major festivals and events.

Space Needle

The Space Needle is an icon. It was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair.

Space Needle in Seattle, Washington

No Seattle itinerary is complete without a visit to the Space Needle.

View the downtown Seattle skyline, Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay and surrounding islands from the top of the Needle.

Seattle skyline with Mt. Rainier in the background as seen from the Space Needle.

The NEW Space Needle provides an all-glass floor on the lower level and floor-to-ceiling glass on the upper level.

The Loupe is the world’s first and only rotating glass floor.

Seattle pier with ferris wheel.

Yes, this is a busy tourist attraction, especially with the new renovations. But it’s busy for a reason: the views are stunning!

To avoid the crowds, start your Seattle Day Trip to visit the Space Needle when it opens. Many say the Sky View Observatory at the Columbia Center even affords you better views of the city that includes the Space Needle in your photos.

Space Needle in Seattle, Washington

PHOTO TIP: Walk around to find interesting and unique views of the Space Needle from the ground looking up.

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Chihuly Garden and Glass

Dale Chihuly was born in Tacoma, Washington. While studying interior design at the University of Washington, he was introduced to glass. This began his lifetime obsession with glass.

Chihuly glass sculptures in Seattle, Washington

His work is included in more than 200 museums worldwide, and he has created many glass art installations in Venice, England, Paris, and more.

A few years ago, Dale Chihuly was invited to present a comprehensive exhibit of his work at the Seattle Center, the site of the 1962 World’s Fair, and next to the Space Needle. The Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit includes a garden, an exhibition hall, and a glasshouse.

Words cannot describe the glass works of art here. Adding this exhibit to our Seattle One Day Itinerary was the best decision we made!

Chihuly Exhibition Hall

Note the Photography Guidelines found on the Chihuly Garden and Glass website:  Still photography and video is allowed from a handheld device. Photography of objects in the exhibition is permitted for personal, non-distributional, non-commercial use. Flashes, tripods monopods or video cameras in the galleries are prohibited. No photographs or videotapes may be reproduced, published, distributed, sold, transferred or otherwise commercially exploited.

Chihuly glass sculptures in Seattle, Washington
Chihuly glass sculptures in Seattle, Washington
Chihuly glass sculptures in Seattle, Washington
Chihuly glass sculptures in Seattle, Washington

PHOTO TIPS (while inside the Exhibition Hall):

  • Try to keep the overhead lights and their reflections out of the frame of your shot as much as possible. 
  • Make use of the reflections on the black glass platforms the art work is mounted on.
  • Zoom in on interesting small sections.

Chihuly Glasshouse

PHOTO TIP: Photograph the Space Needle through the windows in the glasshouse.

Chihuly Glasshouse sculpture with the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington

Be creative with angles and composition.

Chihuly Garden

PHOTO TIP: Photograph the Space Needle reflection in the many spheres in the garden section of the Chihuly Exhibit.

Chihuly Garden sphere with the Space Needle reflection in Seattle, Washington

This is truly a photographer’s playground for creativity.

TICKETS for Seattle, Washington Tours and Activities


Transportation in Seattle

If you aren’t staying in the downtown area, use public transportation

Traffic in and out of the city combined with the cost of parking downtown make driving your own car just not worth the hassle and expense. 

We were staying near the SeaTac Airport so we rode the Link light rail train. It took us within blocks of our first stop downtown.


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  1. Such a great post, I love the pictures I have never been to Seattle so this is a great post to add to my list. Thanks for sharing

  2. There are certainly some great photo spots in Seattle. As always you captured the best of the area. Your skyline shots are my favorites!

  3. Being an avid follower of Grey’s Anatomy, Seattle has always caught my interest, and your amazing photos took me on a visual tour.Really love the photography tips you mentioned.

    1. I was hoping to see Meredith and gang while we were there 🙂 We like to give photo tips to help others capture the most amazing images they can!

  4. You got some really great shots of the Space Needle. I would have had no idea what to see or do in Seattle so thanks for sharing these ideas. The gardens look awesome, I would love to go there

  5. Could not agree more about using the public transport! We love photography and the photo from the glasshouse to the space needle is a great idea. One day is definitely too short in that lovely city but you have captured it perfectly.

    1. Seattle is definitely a place you MUST use public transit. And yes, one day is not enough. We can’t wait to go back and explore more of the city.

  6. So glad to see this post! I live in Seattle and we LOVE the Link Light Rail! Traffic and parking here is INSANE. The Chihuly Museum is definitely a must-see attraction, especially for photographers. Glad you got to experience Pike Place Market. They have been doing construction for a long time and they are finally opening up their big expansion in a few weeks. Hopefully you can return in the summer or fall!

    1. I’ll need to contact you when we plan a future trip. There was SO MUCH MORE we wanted to see/do. We were lucky to get the weather we did and experience the popular sites with few crowds. I can imagine summer and fall is a wonderful time to visit.

  7. I just love your photography and ideas for creating great images. The reflection of the space needle in the sphere looks so cool! The shots you took from the top of the space needle showed the landscape so well and the color of the images you took in the exhibition hall were just stunning.

  8. When I visited Seattle I stayed closeby to the SeaTac Airport and took the Link light rail train into the center and I agree this is very convenient way to get to the center of the city. The weather you had was perfect for visiting the points of interest of Seattle. The photo you took of the skyline with Mount Rainier in the background from the Space Needle is stunning.

    1. We were happy to have the good weather for one day and to be able to see Mt. Rainier! The next day, trying to fly home, not so lucky…

  9. We drive past Seattle sometimes, and traffic in this area really is the worst. I love the look of the Chihuly Garden. We will definitely have to check out these glass sculptures next time we go to Seattle!

    1. Use their transit system. Driving and parking in Seattle is horrible! And we found going in January wasn’t as crowded at the ‘tourist’ stops either.

  10. Sweet sweet Seattle – what a great city and so close to so many amazing outdoor escapes too! I also was lucky when I was in the area and didn’t have any rain.

    Xx, Eleonore

    1. We were lucky to get good weather for most of our trip – until the day we were to leave and our flight got cancelled due to bad weather. We had to stay an extra day, but didn’t venture out due to very cold rain.

  11. Definitely saving this for later! I’ll be in Seattle this summer, but only for a day, so I need to map out what I’m doing. I really want to visit the Chihuly gardens!

  12. Oh wow, you were able to see the mountains!! I’ve been to Seattle quite a few times, and while I’ve had sun sometimes, Rainier has always been swathed in cloud. Hopefully one day I’ll get to see it behind the city skyline!

    1. We were lucky to get a clear shot of Mt. Rainier for sure! We had clear skies and no rain, just a bit cold. It was also nice to visit in the off season so not many tourists to compete with at the sites!

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