Best Time to Visit Seattle, WA

Written by Brad Lane
Feb 3, 2020

A cultural capital of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is surrounded by scenic mountains and the waters of Puget Sound. Often associated with rainy weather and cloudy skies, it's not all grunge and gloom in the Emerald City, not by a long shot. Between snow-clad mountains to ski in the winter and several cultural spots to enjoy a rainy day, the weather in Seattle only adds to the experience of visiting.

July and August are some of the driest and warmest months of the year. These summer months mark the beginning of the peak tourist season and higher hotel rates. Despite the crowds and competition for places to stay, the summer is a great time to go to Seattle for the driest weather and the longest days.

September and October might be the best time to visit Seattle after the peak tourist season and before the high precipitation of winter sets in. Fall festivals like Bumbershoot also make autumn one of the best seasons to visit Seattle.

Visiting Seattle between November and February is marked with gray weather and near-constant drizzle. The winter is the cheapest time to visit Seattle in terms of hotel rates, and is a great time to visit museums, concert venues, and other indoor attractions. Winter is also the best time to visit Seattle for snow sports in the mountains that surround the city.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

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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-rated attractions like Pike Place Market and the Olympic Sculpture Park.

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.

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.

Cheapest Time to Visit Seattle

Downtown Seattle in winter
Downtown Seattle in winter

Winter can provide 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 nice enough conditions 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.

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 more manageable 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 reasons to visit. 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.

Best Season to Visit Seattle

Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square

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. Nearby outdoor spaces like Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park are perfect for summer visits. Live events also occur throughout the city every weekend this time of year.

Summer can also be a difficult time to travel to Seattle due to the high demand for hotel rooms and larger crowds of people. The spring and fall are the best seasons to avoid the worst of the crowds while still enjoying the weather. Downtown places like Pioneer Square are bustling throughout the shoulder seasons but have fewer crowds in the spring and fall.

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. Winter isn't all bad, though, if you're prepared for the forecast. The best activities to do on rainy days in Seattle include the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit at Seattle Center and the Museum of Flight.

Best Time to Visit Seattle for Whale Watching

Orca whales in Puget Sound
Orca whales in Puget Sound

Embodying the wild nature of the city, whale watching 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 season have the best chances to spot them. Whales are seen from the shore at places like Alki Beach - one of the best beaches in Seattle. 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 National Park
Mount Rainier National Park

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. Exploring the hiking trails that surround the city and swimat city beaches. These months also deliver with several cultural events.

Visiting Seattle from September to December: One of the best times to go to Seattle to enjoy nice weather and non-summer crowds, September and October in Seattle are also packed with things to do. In November and December the holidays ramp up during the beginning of the rainy season in Seattle. A chance to run off some holiday calories occurs in late November or early December with the Seattle Marathon.

Best Time to Visit Portland

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

A similar city of cultural influence, the city of Portland, Oregon 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 you want to do. The best time to see the Cities of Roses at its peak bloom, however, is June.

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imageSeattle Attractions and Places to Stay: Including iconic spots like the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, the tourist attractions of Seattle are fun to visit no matter the time of year. Other notable places to visit in Seattle include the Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Museum of Flight. For finding a place to stay in Seattle, our guide to Where to Stay in Seattle: Best Areas & Hotels covers all types of travel, including budget options, family-friendly hotels, and luxury lodging.

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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