TripAdvisor, based on their TripIndex, released that Seattle is the number one most expensive city to visit in the U.S. followed by Honolulu, New York City, and San Francisco. They suggest a trip to the South as an alternative but don't be scared of poor Seattle. Here's how you can visit even the priciest destinations on a budget.
Seattle really hits you in the room and board department with 4-5 star hotels averaging out at $438. So long as you don't mind those *scary* 3, or God forbid even 2, star hotels, you have a much better chance of saving. Better yet, stay just outside the city and commute to knock a good chunk off your stay's bill.
Option #1: Stay in Seattle at a pretty nice hotel:
3 Star: trendy Watertown Hotel - rooms starting at $183 a night. At only a ten minute walk from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, the Watertown is amazingly trendy with modern designs and upscale amenities to match their close proximity to the University of Washington.
4 Star: Italian influenced boutique hotel, the Sorrento - rooms starting at $222 a night. In a historic 1909 building, the Sorrento has gorgeous details, was designed with comfort and style, and has an on-site delicious restaurant.
Option #2: Go a little south to Allentown:
3 Star: Wingate by Wyndham - rooms starting at $103 a night. This hotel isn't anything particularly special but it's clean, well designed, and gets you the perks of a chain hotel without the bed bugs.
As you probably know, the closer you get to an airport, the cheaper the rooms are going to be regardless of hotel classification. Also, the lower the hotel class, the cheaper. Just let your travel agent know how much you're willing to spend on your hotel stay and they'll give you great options.
When it comes to activities, you don't want to skimp and just stay in your hotel but you also don't want to shell out money everywhere you go. Admission tickets really add up, especially when you're in a travel group and paying for multiple adult tickets. Seattle's attractions can be a bit pricey, but there are ways around it. Let's say you want to do roughly three attractions a day with minor touring and shopping in between over the course of a three-day vacation. If you play your cards right, you can try and cut the 'paid' attractions down to one a day. Here's a suggested itinerary on how it might go:
Attraction #1: Space Needle ($11 for adults 13-64) - The iconic Seattle landmark is the first stop for many and offers magnificent views of the city as well as a restaurant and gift shop. It's located in the Seattle Center where you can find a bunch of free attractions like gardens, artwork, and free festivals among the other paid attractions. They offer a deal where you can, at the same time, buy a double ticket for the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass for $22 per adult.
Attraction #2: Kubota Garden
This little known wonderland is a relatively secluded jewel of gardens, Japanese design, exotic and native plants, and history dating back to the 1920s. A nice free alternative to the many gardens in the Emerald City that charge admission.
Attraction #3: Frye Art Museum - Regularly considered one of the best art collections in America, this art institute was founded by a couple of avid German art enthusiasts who later donated their estate. Now, it's completely free to enter and tour the exhibitions featuring American and German art from almost every era.
Budget Tip #1: Many Seattle museums offer free admission every first Thursday of the month including the Museum of History and Industry, the Seattle Art Museum, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, and more.
Attraction #1: Woodland Park Zoo ($19.95 for adults 13-64) - With over 1,000 animals representing 300 species, the Woodland Park Zoo is on almost everyone's list when visiting Seattle. See it all from lions and lemurs to penguins, gray wolves, tapirs, and tigers.
Attraction #2: Washington Park Arboretum - Operated by the University of Washington, this arboretum is generally considered to be one of the best woody collections with over 10,000 native plants spread around 230 acres. Free tours are offered Sundays at 1 pm but self-guided tours and general wandering through the grounds are always free.
Attraction #3: Pike Place Market
This Seattle classic is a great place for people watching and it's totally free just to come and tour. One of the country's oldest farmers markets, Pike Place is where 225 licensed craftspeople ply their trade alongside 85 local farmers, independent businesses, restaurants, specialty goods booths, totaling in at over 400 'residents.' It's free to tour and buy as you see fit. You might even get some free samples while you're here.
Attraction #1: Experience Music Project Museum (museum only admission $22 for adults, with special exhibitions $30)
Where else can you see exhibits on Jimi Hendrix, Star Wars, Indie Games, Nirvana, and horror films in the same place? The EMP is a revolutionary museum with loads of exhibits on topics you're actually interested in.
Attraction #2: Discovery Park - Located on Puget Sound, Discovery Park is the city's largest public space at over 534 acres overlooking the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges as well as the Pacific Ocean. Explore the miles of trails, have a picnic on the beach, troll the tide pools for wildlife, or pay a visit to the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center for Seattle's Native American citizens.
Attraction #3: Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park - Preserving the history of the late 19th century Klondike Gold Rush, this national park educates, inspires, and has fun with the history of the booming era. Take a guided tour with a park ranger, hike the interpretive trails, tour the Dyea townsite with your ranger, and explore the local museums.
Extra Free Stuff:
Liberty Orchards - Candy factory tours and samples every 20 minutes.
Boehm's Chocolates - Candy factory tours every July-September
Alki Beach Park
Outdoor Shakespeare troupes (there are two of them): GreenStage and Wooden O
Olympic Sculpture Park
Seattle Center - sightseeing and festivals are free including the Northwest Folklife Festival every Memorial Day weekend and Movies at the Mural on summer nights.
Tours of the University of Washington campus
Visits to the Jimi Hendrix Memorial
Budget Tip #2: Knowing how expensive it is, the city created the Seattle CityPass touring coupon books. Each book is $69 for adults, $49 for kids, but it comes with admission tickets to places like the Seattle Aquarium, Space Needle, and the option of visiting the zoo or EMP Museum and others. It comes to about a 49% discount with the free tickets and admission discounts so it's something to consider.