What is the Best Time to Visit Seattle? A Complete Guide

The nickname “The Emerald City” suggests that Seattle is colorful, green, and full of promise. Indeed, Seattle encompasses these characteristics, alongside echoing many other personalities. Even when it’s not summer—arguably the best time to visit Seattle—and when the city is instead enveloped in a dreary rain cloud, views of the Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, Lake Washington, and evergreen trees shrouded in mist are still ever present. 

The constant connection with nature offsets the days on end of bleak weather. And when it comes to local culture, Seattle is innovative, progressive, and eclectic. Art, music, and social justice are at the core of Seattle’s ethos, while there is never a shortage of phenomenal restaurants, breweries, and coffee shops to sample. 

Although I’ve spent much of my life outside of the U.S., I have been fortunate to call Seattle my North American home base. I was born here, returned for high school and university, and have been exploring the corners of the Emerald City and its surroundings for the past 15 years whenever I am home. 

Seattle encompasses some of my very favorite things: mountains and lakes, music and art, and an incredible local food and wine scene. An explosion of creativity drives this forward-thinking city that never stops inspiring exploration whenever I have the opportunity to return. 

So, you’re sold on the Emerald City but are wondering when to visit Seattle? Check out this comprehensive guide breaking Seattle down by seasons and learn about some of the city and surrounding region’s best events. 

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When to Visit Seattle: A Complete Guide to Seattle by Season

More often than not, when non-Seattleites ask me about Seattle, they say something along the lines of, “But doesn’t it rain all the time there?” 

While it may be true that the Emerald City has its fair share of rain—a necessity for the lush vegetation that has helped inspire the nickname the Emerald City, after all—Seattle certainly does not rain all the time. 

In fact, there are glorious months when the city hardly sees a single raindrop, which is arguably the best time to visit Seattle. 

And the fantastic news? When it does rain, the city is equipped with plenty of cozy coffee shops, bookstores, and breweries to duck into and stay warm and dry. 

Summer in Seattle

Summer in Seattle is glorious and, in many respects, is the best time to go to Seattle. It is certainly the most popular season to visit. I am a sucker for the long summer days filled with hiking, lake swims, picnics, and sailing. Neighborhoods are buzzing with food, music, and art festivals.

You can take advantage of the extended hours of daylight, lingering over a late dinner and cocktail from a rooftop while catching the sunset over the Puget Sound and city skyline. Or, escape the city in any direction you choose, where you’ll find small seaside towns, log cabins in the mountains, and hikes through forests to alpine lakes. 

True summer weather in Seattle doesn’t start until after the 4th of July most years. “June gloom” here is a very real thing.

As the name implies, June weather in Seattle is unpredictable. Temperatures can often dip into the 50’s. Days are consistently gray and drizzly, interspersed with occasional sunshine and an average of 1.5 inches of rain.

Due to the late arrival of summer, many trails in Mount Rainier National Park and the North Cascades National Park will still be covered in snow and inaccessible through June.

As soon as July hits, the splendid summer season takes off, launching the city into a few blissful months of blue skies and long, sun-soaked days. July rarely sees rainfall (less than an inch of rain) and temperatures are almost always pleasant, typically ranging between the mid-70’s and the mid-80’s during the day and dipping into the low-60’s or high-50’s at night. 

The warm, dry weather stays through August, which sees just over an inch of rain on average. Towards the middle or end of the month, however, Washington is often hit by forest fires, which can engulf the city in a hazy smog. The smoke may blow over in a few days to a week, or cling in the air longer depending on the year. Fires may also shut down hiking trails and mountain roads. 

The Best Summer Activities in Seattle

During summer, everything is possible in Seattle and you’ll be spoiled for choice of activities both in the city and in the surrounding areas. 

Summer Hiking: From Mount Rainier National Park to the Enchantments in the Central Cascades, Washington offers a splendid spread of hikes featuring old growth forests, alpine lakes, and cascading waterfalls (PS: we have an entire guide to the best hikes in Washington State for you!). From short, minimal elevation hikes, to more challenging multi-day hikes, there are hiking options for all fitness levels. Trails can get very crowded this time of the year so consider arriving at the trailhead bright and early in the morning or hiking mid-week. 

Wildflowers at Mount Rainier: While most wildflowers bloom during spring, due to the late arriving summer in Rainier, wildflowers in this national park start blooming mid-July and typically last through much of August. Admire the purple, pink, and yellow hues of subalpine wildflowers on a hike through the meadows of Mount Rainier, such as through Skyline Trail, Pinnacle Peak, and Tolmie Peak.

Camping: Looking for an inexpensive getaway from the city? Set up camp for a night or two in one of Washington’s national parks. From Mount Rainier to the Olympic Peninsula, your options are vast, though you will need to book a permit. Pop up your tent, sink into the peace and quiet, and admire the spectacular display of stars illuminating the night sky. 

Rafting: Paddling down the Sammamish River is one of my favorite summer adventures. Head to Gold Bar and choose to rent blow up rafts, canoes, or kayaks and float down this river surrounded by trees. You can also book a rafting tour with a trusted company like Triad River Tours. The water is extremely refreshing on a warm summer afternoon. 

Paddle Boarding or Kayaking: Experience Seattle from the water for an entirely new perspective of the city and fantastic views of the skyline. There are a number of spots to rent kayaks and paddle boards, including Alki Kayak Tours in West Seattle, Ballard Kayak at Shilshole Marina, University of Washington’s Waterfront Activities Center (WAC), or Northwest Outdoor Center on Lake Union. 

Summer Concerts: Seattle thrives on its local music scene and summer is the time when it comes outside. Attend one of the city’s outdoor summer music festivals like Capitol Hill Block Party and South Lake Union Block Party, or catch a show at an outdoor venue just out of town at Marymoor Park or Chateau Ste Michelle

Beer Garden: The greater Seattle area is famous for its breweries, which typically feature an impressive selection of IPAs as well as other creative craft brews. Sit on the outside deck of popular spots like Fremont Brewing, Cloudburst Brewing on Shilshole, and Smarty Pants in Georgetown.

Take a Dip in a Lake: Many of Seattle’s parks sit on the shores of one of the city’s lakes and are the perfect way to pass a lazy afternoon without leaving the city. Grab a picnic blanket and a few snacks and set up on the grassy slopes of Madison Park, Matthew’s Beach, or Green Lake Park. Once you’ve soaked up enough sun, take the plunge into the chilly lake waters.

Visit a Coastal Town: Western Washington has no shortage of charming seaside towns that are at their most spectacular in summer. Spend a day exploring Port Townsend, Gig Harbor, Sequim, or West Port where you can walk through historic harbor towns, admire sailboats gliding across the Puget Sound, stroll along wind-swept coastline, and fill up on a tasty seafood lunch. 

Fall in Seattle

Fall in Seattle is a glorious time when you can enjoy mild, crisp weather and rich autumn hues that bring the forests and mountains to life. One of my favorite seasons in the city, fall offers distinct advantages to summer, as well as a few downsides, particularly the less predictable weather.

Sunshine and summer weather typically linger through early-to-mid September with cooler evenings as the sun starts to set earlier. Average rainfall in September hovers just below two inches. The greater Seattle area is still buzzing through early fall. From concerts and festivals, to nature and culinary-inspired adventures, there is an abundance to experience in the national parks, surrounding coastal towns, and in the city itself. 

By the end of October through November, temperatures are dropping, rainfall is becoming frequent again, and the city slowly returns to hibernation mode.

In October, Seattle experiences nearly four inches of rain on average, and in November, average rainfall is nearly six inches. In the mountains, the first snowfall ranges anytime from middle of October to middle of November, which shuts down roads and trails in major parks like Mount Rainier and North Cascades until the following summer. 

Best Fall Activities in Seattle

As summer is winding down, there is still an abundance to do in the fall months, particularly in September and October.

Apple Picking: From September through October, you can take advantage of one of Washington’s most prized products: apples. Go apple picking across the mountains in Yakima or Wenatchee. You can also visit apple farms up north in Lynden, or even closer to Seattle, go picking in Snohomish. Make sure to try more niche apple varieties only found in Washington, like the incredibly delicious Cosmic Crisp. 

Fall Hiking: The cooler temperatures are absolutely perfect for hiking in the mountains. And the bonus is that you’ll catch fall colors in Mount Rainier or can even adventure further in search of the infamous golden larches in the North Cascades. Heather-Maple Pass Loop in the North Cascades, Colchuck Lake in the Enchantments, and the Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier are among my favorite hikes for fall colors. 

Cider Tasting: Although open year-round, in the spirit of apple season, fall is the perfect time to visit cideries like Finn River Farm in Port Townsend or Mill Haus Cider in Eatonville. The cideries are decked out for fall and feel extra special around September and October. If you don’t want to leave the city, check out spots like Schilling Cider House in Fremont and Locust Cider in Ballard. In early September, you can also taste artisanal ciders at Seattle’s Cider Summit NW.

Wine Tasting: I find fall wine tasting to be even more rewarding than summer wine tasting. Washington’s wine regions, including Yakima Valley and Lake Chelan, are extremely hot during the summer. In September and October, the temperatures are warm and sunny, but much milder than the summer. Plus, it’s harvest season, so you may have the opportunity to experience grape harvesting. Tsillan Cellars and Siren Song Wines are two of my favorite Chelan wineries, both offering phenomenal views and delicious wines. 

Husky Football Game: The Huskies—University of Washington’s mascot—are the pride and glory of many Seattleites. As someone who went to UW, admittedly, the football games, which land on several Saturdays in late summer through fall, are quite fun. Join a sea of purple and gold cheering on their beloved team. Even if you aren’t a fan of the game, the views from the new stadium overlook Lake Washington and are worth going for alone. 

Winter in Seattle 

A beautiful winter evening in Seattle at Kerry Park

Much of Seattle is in a slumber through the winter months, which start by the end of November and last through March.

Days grow shorter as the sun sets earlier and earlier, temperatures drop, and rainfall rises. Luckily, winter temperatures tend to be pretty mild in Seattle, with temperatures hovering around the high 30’s to mid 40’s. However, the extended periods of gray days and steady drizzle can be, well, gloomy. 

December’s average rainfall is just over six inches, January is around five to five-and-a-half inches, while February typically sees around four inches of rain. The rare winter sunny day and blue skies brings the majority of the city out to celebrate. 

Winter moods compliment Seattle’s grungier side. These months are perfect for tasting your way through the city’s breweries, coffee shops, cocktail bars, and filling your belly with a steamy bowl of ramen or pho. Explore Seattle’s music scene at a live show, tap into the eclectic art scene at one of the city’s galleries, and browse your way through vintage vinyl and clothing shops.

The skies are typically bluer and clear across the mountains, and temperatures are also much colder. Escaping the city to the mountains can be a fantastic winter break, though keep in mind that you’ll have to drive across the Snoqualmie Pass, which can be tedious depending on weather conditions.

Stay up to date on winter weather warnings before crossing the Pass, which may even be shut down depending on severity of the storm. 

Best Winter Activities in Seattle

Winter is the perfect time to explore Seattle’s grungier side, taking refuge in cozy coffee shops or art galleries, or heading east into the mountains for a snowy escape. 

Winter Festivities in Leavenworth: If you’re in town around the holidays, head to the Bavarian-inspired mountain town of Leavenworth, where you can walk through fields buried deep in snow, admire the town’s impressive light display, and warm up with a filling meal. Beyond Christmas festivities in December, the town also hosts a German winter festival in January and wine and chocolate pairings in February. Leavenworth is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Seattle and can be done as a long day trip or weekend getaway. 

Winter Sports: For winter sports enthusiasts, there are a number of ski and snowboarding spots in Snoqualmie (the Summit at Snoqualmie), Stevens Pass Resort, Crystal Mountain, or for advanced skiers and boarders looked for a more under-the-radar destination, check out Mission Ridge. Sledding and snowshoeing are also options in some of these areas. 

Coffee Shop Hopping: Known for its coffee, what better way to stay warm on a damp winter’s day than checking out a couple of Seattle’s famous coffee shops? And no, I’m not talking about Starbucks. Sound & Fog in West Seattle, Wunderground Coffee and Analog in Capitol Hill, and Miir in Fremont are a few of my favorite spots to get cozy with a steaming mug of my favorite warm drink and settle into a good book. Or, duck into Elliot Bay Book Company, where you can find a new read while grabbing a cup of coffee from Little Oddfellow’s Café.  

Cozy Cabin Getaway: A winter getaway in Washington’s mountains is hard to beat. Rent a cabin for a couple of nights in the mountains and cozy up with games, hot chocolate, and a feast. Go for wintry walks amidst evergreen trees draped in snow—a truly magical winter wonderland. 

Museums: The rainy, cooler months are the perfect time to check out a couple of the city’s museums, from the Jimi Hendrix exhibit at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), to the rotating art exhibits at Seattle Art Museum (SAM).

Woodinville Wine Tasting: When you’ll no longer be able to cross into Washington wine country, warm up with a tasting or two at tasting rooms in Woodinville, less than half an hour drive northeast of Seattle. JM Cellars and Milbrandt Vineyards are two of my favorites in Woodinville. 

Spring in Seattle 

Seattle is slowly waking up as spring arrives in late March. Despite the fact that western Washington is thawing, March and April still tend to be rainy, chilly months with intermittent sunshine. March has on average just under four inches of rain and April has about two-and-a-half to three inches of rain.

By mid-late spring, flowers like rhododendrons, tulips, and daffodils are beginning to bloom, reviving the city with fresh color and life. 

By May, Seattle is starting to warm up as the rain is also slowing, experiencing typically about two inches of rain. May is a fantastic time to visit the city and enjoy its outdoor attractions. Picnics at parks like Gas Works and Volunteer Park, as well as paddling and kayaking on the Puget Sound or any of the lakes are great ways to take in the greener side to the city during springtime.

By mid-late May, outdoor events and festivals are beginning to take place. Weather will continue to fluctuate but is mostly very pleasant and less damp than March and April. 

It is important to note that many hikes are still inaccessible this time of the year as the roads and trails are still deep in snow through most, if not all, of June. If you’re looking to get out of the city, day trips to the coast, a weekend in the San Juan Islands, hikes through lower elevation trails, and a road trip across the mountains to the arid Columbia River Gorge area are all great options. 

Best Spring Activities in Seattle

It’s not quite hiking season yet, but you’ll slowly be able to enjoy more of the city and outdoor activities as Seattle is coming to life again in spring and flowers and trees are beginning to blossom. 

  • Pike Place Market: Although the market is open year-round, spring is a fantastic season to pay a visit. The weather is typically nice enough that you can comfortably walk through the market and adjacent shops and food spots, while crowds won’t be as bad as in the summer season. Wander through the artisan, flower, and food stands, which will be abundant with seasonal picks. 

  • Mariners Game: Looking for a taste of Seattle sports? Head to T-Mobile Park for a Mariners baseball game, starting in the spring. From the park, you’re also lucky to have fantastic views over the Puget Sound and city skyline. 

  • Discovery Park: A quintessential urban nature escape, Discovery Park is accessible all year-round but is a perfect option if you want a taste of nature without having to leave the city. Walk through forest groves and meadows blooming with spring flowers, while catching views over the Puget Sound from rocky bluffs. 

  • Island Day Trip: Hop on one of Seattle’s infamous ferries and head to one of the nearby islands like Bainbridge or Vashon Island for a daytrip! Explore downtown, go for a walk on the beach, and perhaps do a wine tasting at a boutique island winery. 

  • Cherry Blossoms at University of Washington: In mid-March, pay a visit to the University of Washington’s campus and marvel at the sea of pale pink as the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

  • Arboretum: The Arboretum near the University of Washington has trails through beautiful gardens throughout every season of the year, though they are at their most spectacular in spring. April and May are peak rhododendron season, showering Azalea Way in color. 

  • Olympic National Park: For a great long weekend getaway from Seattle, take a ferry or drive to the Olympic Peninsula, where you can visit Olympic National Park. Unlike some of the other national parks in Washington, Olympic NP will be free from snow and thanks to the abundance of spring rain, vegetation will be growing wild. Hike in the mountains, take a walk through the temperate, old-growth rainforests, and explore the rugged coastline. 
Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park

So, What is the Best Time to Visit Seattle? 

The best time of year to visit Seattle depends on a number of factors, really!

Whether you’re looking for the best time to visit so you can experience the outdoors of Washington State, to the best time to visit while avoiding crowds and finding reasonably priced accommodation, your priorities and the experiences you’re hoping for all go into determining when you choose to pay Seattle a visit. 

The Best Overall Time to Visit Seattle 

While it is subjective, early fall is probably the best time to travel to Seattle. Think post-Labor Day through the start of October.

The summer crowds will have died down and the smoke from the forest fires will be cleared up. While the days won’t be quite as long, you’ll still have plenty of daylight to maximize time outside. 

A crispness lingers in the air, which makes for perfect hiking weather, where you can also find golden and orange hues coming through in the forests and mountains.

Apples are a staple of Washington and you’ll be able to enjoy the state’s delicious selection of apples this time of year. The evenings are cool enough that you can curl up by a fire at the end of a day of adventures. 

The Best Time to Visit Seattle to Experience the Outdoors 

Summer to early fall (July through the start of October) is the prime time of the year to experience the amazing outdoors of Seattle and Western Washington.

The skies are clear, and the weather is warm enough to be out on the water, whether you choose to kayak, paddleboard, sail, or take a swim in one of the lakes or in the Puget Sound. 

The trails will also be clear from snow during these months. Snow is typically gone by late June or early July, opening up hiking in the national parks. This time of the year is fantastic for backpacking and camping as well.

Popular places like Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park are mostly, if not entirely, inaccessible for a significant part of the year, so this window from summer through early fall (when the first snow falls) will be your only opportunity to visit them. 

Key Seattle Festivals & Events by Month

Regardless of the time of year you visit the greater Seattle area, there are exciting festivals and events to partake in.

Here’s a calendar rounding up my favorite Seattle events each month. January through March tend to be quiet for events due to the cold, gray weather but the city livens up come April. 

Seattle in April 

  • Skagit Valley Tulip Festival: Throughout the month of April, marvel at fields of tulips scattered across Skagit Valley blooming in varying colors of the rainbow. Beyond the tulip fields, there are tulip gardens on display and various events throughout the month.  

  • Seattle International Film Festival: Held each year in mid-April for about 10 days, SIFF presents the best of independent and international films from around the world in theaters around the city. 

  • Seattle Restaurant Week: Taking place in April, as well as in the fall, Seattle Restaurant Week is an opportunity to sample the best of Seattle’s restaurants and bars featuring fixed menus at a range of prices. From locally sourced menus, to Black-owned businesses, you can curate the experience to your choosing. 

Seattle in May

  • U-District Street Fair: For over 50 years, the U-District Street Fair has kicked off Seattle summer season in mid-late May. Stretching over “The Ave” in Seattle’s University District, the fair includes a full weekend of food trucks, beer gardens, live music, and street performers. 

  • Northwest Folklife Festival: For 50 years Northwest Folklife Festival has been taking place in Seattle every Memorial Day Weekend. The festival celebrates the culture, traditions, and history of the Pacific Northwest, with an emphasis on indigenous cultures. Explore art and cultural showcases, attend educational workshops, and celebrate the best of the Pacific Northwest through music and dance. 

Seattle in June

  • Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade: A signature Seattle event that falls around the summer solstice every June, the Fremont Fair is one of my favorite festivals in Seattle. A weekend-long affair taking place in the eclectic Fremont neighborhood, explore vendors selling arts, crafts, delicious foods, and much more. The weekend features a rather infamous event known as the naked bike ride, where Seattleites (and visitors, should they wish!) paint their bodies in elaborate designs and ride bikes through the neighborhood. 

Seattle in July

  • Capitol Hill Block Party: A popular music festival happening late July each year, Capitol Hill Block Party, or “Block Party,” shuts down the streets of central Capitol Hill for three days of music and dancing. Expect a mix of national and regional artists taking to the stage in some of Capitol Hill’s favorite venues, as well as on their streets.

  • Seattle Street Food Fest: Seattle Street Food Fest brings together Seattle’s street food and beer in food trucks spanning four blocks of South Lake Union. Come hungry so you can sample your way through tacos, Jamaican, Uzbek, Afghan, and Fijian cuisine, and top it off with ice cream. 

  • Bite of Seattle: Held over a weekend in July at Seattle Center, Bite of Seattle showcases the best of Seattle’s food and beverage scene. Taste your way through over 200 food stands and quench your thirst with craft beers and ciders while enjoying live music, cooking demos, and more!

Seattle in August

  • Seafair Festival: Taking place in early August, Seafair blends boating, air shows, and festival activities. From pirates to navy sailors, expect to spot all sorts of seafarers wandering the streets of Seattle leading up to this weekend. Catch Blue Angels flying high above Lake Washington from a boat, as you join the rest of the city in celebrating from the water. 

  • Day In Day Out Festival: One of Seattle’s newer music festivals, Day In Day Out takes place in mid-August. Head to Seattle Center for a more boutique festival experience featuring a niche lineup.

Seattle in September

  • Bumbershoot: Each Labor Day Weekend, Seattle Center becomes the grounds for Bumbershoot, a music, arts, and food festival showcasing the diversity and innovation of the city. 

  • Washington State Fair: The Washington State Fair is the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, taking place in Puyallup (half an hour south of Seattle) during the month of September. Indulge in fair food, watch live music, go on rides, and explore the animals and produce raised by farmers across the state. 

  • Cider Summit NW: Come and sample artisanal ciders from around the world during this event in early September celebrating the amazing apples of Washington.  

  • Fremont Oktoberfest: Taking place in mid-September, Fremont hosts Seattle’s largest outdoor beer festival. From the day through the night, the neighborhood’s main streets are shut down as Seattleites don their best dirndls and lederhosen and can sample from over 100 beers and ciders while snacking on pretzels and bratwursts. 

Seattle in October

  • Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival: Head to Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula for a weekend in early October celebrating the bounties of the sea. Indulge in a seafood feast (featuring the incredibly delicious Dungeness crab), listen to live music, and explore an extensive range of craft and food booths. 

Seattle in November

  • Julefest: In November, Ballard’s Nordic Museum transforms into Julefest, a Nordic Christmas celebration that pays homage to the neighborhood’s Scandinavian roots. 

  • WildLanterns: From mid-November through January, Woodland Park Zoo offers an immersive experience featuring animal and nature lanterns from around the world. 

 Seattle in December

  • Village of Lights Christmastown: Throughout the month of December, the town of Leavenworth on the eastern slopes of the Cascades comes to life with twinkling lights, music, carolers, roasted chestnuts, and a whole offering of festivities during this Bavarian mountain town’s winter festival. Weekends are particularly lively for festivities. 


If you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, we’ve got you covered with all sorts of super detailed travel guides to our favorite places in Washington and Oregon.

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