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Best Time to Visit Seattle, WA

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Oct 21, 2021

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As the cultural capital of the Pacific Northwest, the best time to visit Seattle is as soon as you can. But for those who like to plan ahead, and plan for the best travel conditions, the easy answer for the best time to visit Seattle is the summer, specifically mid-July through August. This is the time of year when a consistent sunny forecast turns the city into something of a paradise.

And despite Seattle's association with rainy forecasts the other half of the year, which is true, it's not all grunge and gloom in the Emerald City outside of summer, not by a long shot. Rain in Seattle is rarely a nonstop downpour, but rather a constant drizzle, making the wetter seasons an enjoyable time to visit with the right clothing choices. Seattle also has plenty of culture and indoor activities to enjoy on a gray day.

Winter in Seattle is the time to go for the cheapest hotel rates and fewest crowds. The city is still very much abuzz this time of year with concerts, coffee shops, and less-crowded museums. Winter is also the best time to visit Seattle for snow sports in the mountains surrounding the city.

With plenty of things to do throughout the year, the best time to visit Seattle really depends on the type of vacation desired. Each season brings a balance of crowds, degrees of sunlight, and always memorable experiences. Figure out the best time for you to visit Seattle with this helpful guide.

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Best Time of Year to Visit Seattle

Seattle Space Needle and skyline
Seattle Space Needle and skyline

The best time to go to Seattle is in the drier season between mid-June and mid-October. The city comes to life this time of year, with sunny skies, outdoor festivals, and blooming mountain landscapes. Seattle is in full swing in the summer, with millions of tourists checking out top attractions like Pike Place Market and the Space Needle.

Some say that summer in Seattle starts on July 5th, just in time for fireworks to dry out from the 4th of July. The truth is that rain can extend well into the first couple of weeks of July. The summer season in Seattle really begins any time after the clouds break in July. Everyone in the city tries to take full advantage of the sunny weather this time of year after a wet winter and spring.

Seattle skyline from Gas Works Park in August
Seattle skyline from Gas Works Park in August | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

To avoid the biggest summer rush, the autumn months are the best time to travel to Seattle. Hotel availability tends to go up after Labor Day Weekend, and the weather remains warm throughout the beginning of the season. Increased precipitation should be expected later into October. Cultural events like the Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival occur throughout the fall.

A small caveat to summer travel in Seattle is wildfire smoke that blows in from across the American West and British Columbia. A few smoky days are nearly guaranteed during the Seattle summer, and how many depends on several variable conditions. While it's hard to predict months in advance when wildfire smoke will blow through, it's worth monitoring a week or so prior to traveling. If the wildfire smoke is heavy enough, it's ill-advised to engage in rigorous outdoor activity.

Cheapest Time to Visit Seattle

Downtown Seattle in winter
Downtown Seattle in winter

Winter typically provides better deals on hotels in Seattle. The summer, though, tends to have the best deals for flying into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Deals can also be found for attractions and things to do in Seattle during the winter, although certain activities are potentially hampered by the dismal gray weather (like the view from atop the Space Needle).

The shoulder seasons provide the best value, with more affordable places to stay and plenty of viable attractions to fully enjoy the city. While downtown hotel prices don't fluctuate much between the spring, fall, and summer months, hotels on the coast and in the mountains surrounding Seattle offer steep reductions in the shoulder seasons. The cheapest time to visit Seattle in the spring and fall are the months of May and October.

For those visiting in the summer and interested in saving money on the city's top attractions, consider investing in the Seattle CityPASS. This combined admission ticket includes entry into five Seattle attractions, including the Space Needle and Seattle Aquarium.

Best Month to Visit Seattle

Seattle Japanese Garden in September
Seattle Japanese Garden in September

The driest and sunniest weather in Seattle occurs in July and August, as well as the largest crowds. May, June, September, and October are sprinkled with occasional rain but are the best times to go for fewer crowds and still pleasant weather. Crowds are still very much existent throughout May, June, September, and October, but are less overwhelming compared to the summer.

To be specific, September in Seattle is one of the best months to visit. A crisp air adds to the aroma of coffee shops on the streets, and annual events like Bumbershoot add extra culture to explore. Whales are spotted in September, and the surrounding mountains still have snow-free hiking trails to explore. Hotel prices don't decrease much in September, but a general increase in availability occurs after Labor Day.

The Seasons in Seattle

Ballard Locks in August
Ballard Locks in August | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Summer in Seattle

The best season to visit Seattle for nice weather is the summer season starting in July. Sunny, 70-degree weather is common throughout July and August, and everyone seems to be in the mood to get outside. Swimsuits and bathing towels punctuate all of Seattle's best beaches during the summer. Live events also occur throughout the city every weekend this time of year.

Nearby outdoor spaces like Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park are perfect for summer visits. These stunning landscapes really blossom in the summer with high-alpine hiking routes melting out from underneath the snow. These popular national parks also tend to receive quite the crowds during this time of year.

Fall in Seattle

The fall is the best season to avoid the worst of the crowds while still enjoying the weather. Starting in September, hotels and city attractions become noticeably less busy as the days grow shorter. Summer weather tends to linger throughout September, although visitors should pack warm layers for crisp mornings and evenings.

October ushers in colder and drizzly weather toward the end of the month. The first couple of weeks of October, however, offer a real potential sweet spot for travel.

Winter in Seattle

The winter is rarely regarded as the best time to visit Seattle. The city receives the most precipitation this time of year in the form of either rain or snow, and a constant gray drizzle can last for days at a time. This dark season spans October through March. Typically, the wettest weather comes in December and January.

But it's not a downpour in Seattle, it's more of a drizzle. And with the Pacific Ocean regulating temperatures, it's rarely below freezing (although that does happen). This means that with the right rain gear and warm socks, it can be comfortable exploring outside.

This wetter weather drives tourism down, making the winter the best time to travel to Seattle for the cheapest rates. And Seattle has several indoor attractions to escape the drizzle, including a long list of museums, restaurants, and concert venues.

Seattle Skyline in the spring
Seattle Skyline in the spring

Spring in Seattle

The weather in Seattle starts to get warmer in March and April, and the sun makes a few successful stabs through the storm clouds. The weather gets better as the season progresses, but if visiting between March and June, be sure to pack a rain jacket.

The wetter weather also makes spring a viable time to travel. The crowds at hotels and popular attractions aren't as big in the spring. For this reason, it's an excellent time to see Seattle's indoor attractions. And with the right rain gear, you can explore outside.

Best Time to Visit Seattle for Whale Watching

Orca whales in Puget Sound
Orca whales in Puget Sound

Whale watching embodies the wild nature of the city and is one of the most popular tourist activities in Seattle. Whales inhabit the waters of Puget Sound throughout the year, but the spring and summer seasons have the best chances to spot them.

Whales can be seen from the shore at places like Alki Beach – one of the best beaches in Seattle. Spotting whales from dry land does require some patience and knowing what to look for. More guaranteed sightings occur on commercial whale watching tours that depart from Seattle.

The black and white orca whale has come to symbolize the city and the region, and they are spotted in the water just about year-round. The months between June and September tend to have more sightings, as the whale's food source brings them closer to the shore. Other whales commonly spotted in Puget Sound include grey whales, humpback whales, and minke whales.

Best Time to Visit Seattle for Outdoor Adventure

Mount Rainier in summer, approximately 60 miles southeast of Seattle
Mount Rainier in summer, approximately 60 miles southeast of Seattle | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Every season offers adventure in Seattle. For the sunniest weather, driest trails, and greenest landscapes, the summer is the best time to go to Seattle for adventure. Many of the best hiking trails near Seattle are accessible in July and August. Other iconic places like Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park define summer adventure in Seattle.

The spring is a good time to visit Seattle for adventure if you are looking for waterfalls. Spring snowmelt really adds some extra surge to waterfalls, as does the precipitation that requires you to bring a rain jacket. Autumn adventure in Seattle features extra color, cooler temperatures, and less crowded trailheads.

Winter is also a great time to travel to Seattle for skiing and snow sports. Groomed cross-country ski trails are east of the city at Snoqualmie Pass, as well as downhill skiing at the Summit at Snoqualmie Pass. Another popular recreation destination is north of the city at Mount Baker Ski Area.

Events & Things to Do in Seattle Month by Month

Seattle Street Fair
Seattle Street Fair

Visiting Seattle in January & February: In the middle of Seattle's rainy season, the months of January and February encourage indoor events. Pike Place Market is a popular place to stay dry in January and February. The city's array of restaurants also provide entertainment that doesn't need a rain jacket.

Visiting Seattle in March & April: Signs of spring start to appear in Seattle in March and April. Cherry blossoms begin to pop in March, if not February, and one of the best places to see the burst of color is the Washington Park Arboretum. Visitors should expect some rain this time of year interspersed with sunny days.

Visiting Seattle in May & June: May and June begin the most popular times to visit Seattle with warmer weather and frequent festival events. Folklife, film, and maritime festivals occur throughout May. Every weekend in June is triple booked with similar celebrations.

Visiting Seattle in July & August: The prime summer months in Seattle, July and August tend to slip by too quickly for most residents. Explore the hiking trails that surround the city and swim at the city beaches. These months also deliver with several cultural events.

Visiting Seattle in September & October: September and October are some of the best times to go to Seattle to enjoy nice weather without the summer crowds. Enjoy the crisp air at uncrowded public parks, and take part in the autumn festivals in the city.

Visiting in November & December: The holidays ramp up during the beginning of the rainy season in Seattle. This includes winter markets and festive storefronts. The Seattle Marathon takes place in late November or early December, offering a chance to run off some holiday calories.

Best Time to Visit Portland

Portland and Mount Hood at dawn
Portland and Mount Hood at dawn

Portland, Oregon is a similar city of cultural influence that delivers its own unique taste of things to do throughout the year. Much like Seattle, Portland has stunning weather throughout the summer and long spouts of rainy weather during the winter. The best time to visit Portland depends on what type of adventure you want to have. The best time to see the city at its peak bloom, however, is June.

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imageDay Trips and Weekend Excursions from Seattle: One of the best things about Emerald City is the many fun things that surround it. Some of the best day trips from Seattle include the glistening waters of Puget Sound and the mountain majesty of Mount Rainier National Park. These areas also deserve a weekend visit, and other top-rated weekend getaways from Seattle include the San Juan Islands and the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth.

imageExploring the Outdoors near Seattle: Seattle and the entire Pacific Northwest are made for adventure. From ocean vistas to rattlesnake ledges, the best hiking trails near Seattle offer a great view of what makes Seattle great for those that love the outdoors. Overnight adventures are easily accomplished with some of the top-rated campgrounds near Seattle. For swimming, suntanning, and relaxing near some sand, the best beaches in the Seattle area make for an easy escape from the city.

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