If you were ever thinking of planning a trip to the beautiful city of Seattle, consider this a sign. I’m quite confident you won’t regret your decision. And with a big help from Katie Parra, we have your first day totally and completely planned. So I urge you to take this itinerary for a spin, and come back and thank us later!  Oh, and to see more from Katie’s incredible day in Seattle you should check out the gallery. It’s well worth a peek.

From Katie… Seattle has become my adoptive hometown over the past five years, which is the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I left home for college some years ago. My husband and I joke that we have lived in all four corners of the U.S. and as wonderful and amazing as those places are the Pacific Northwest just feels like home. I am thrilled when friends and family come to visit, not just because I love to see them, but because I love how surprised they are when they discover Seattle for themselves. We are surrounded by water and mountains and there is an endless amount of things to do and see. Being here five years I feel like I have just scratched the surface of all the incredible things to explore.

PLANNING A PERFECT DAY…
So when my friends and family come to visit I find myself planning a “perfect first day” to ensure a great start to their first time in Seattle. I’m sure you could plan many perfect first days in Seattle with the amazing diversity of sights and restaurants, but this is my version. A day filled with fabulous food, thought provoking art, and of course shopping! In my Seattle, the day begins and ends with being on the water – which to me is absolute heaven. So make yourself comfortable and follow along with me on my version of the perfect first day in Seattle.

TO START…
Our day begins in the Admiral neighborhood of West Seattle, which is where I live. I don’t like to drive and pay to park downtown so I take the water taxi. We find free parking on Harbor Ave and after a short walk catch the water taxi down by Seacrest Park. It’s only four dollars each way and the taxi drops you off right on the waterfront downtown. There is no better view of the city than from that boat. It’s absolutely breathtaking. Once downtown we walk the waterfront north towards Pike’s Place Market. Along the way there is a lot to see: the beautiful new Ferris wheel, the aquarium, street performers, and multiple ferry terminals. Try to avoid the tourist trap stores and Starbucks….trust me what’s coming is much better!

THE MARKET…
It’s about a fifteen minute walk up to the market that includes some stairs….ok lots of stairs! But there is an elevator at one point if you feel like you need one. Downtown is very hilly, almost like a little San Fran, so wear comfortable walking shoes. No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to Pikes Place Market. You feel like you are on a movie set that has flowers, produce, and seafood as far as the eye can see. I like to start off by having breakfast at Crêpe De France. Its tucked back in a quiet little corner and has the most delicious crepes. They have a huge variety consisting of sweet and savory options. I go for the classic nutella and strawberry combo….just scrumptious! Their coffee is also delicious and the staff is always friendly.

THE SHOPPING…
Next we walk through part of the market and make a detour to Post Alley to a little shop called Watson Kennedy Fine Living. It can be found adjacent to The Inn at the Market. Set in a beautiful ivy clad courtyard this store just oozes charm and beckons any passerby to enter and be dazzled by all the goodies inside. Lotions and soaps from France, classic dish ware and linens, stationary, books, jewelry, the list goes on and on. You won’t want to leave this store! They have another larger store on First Avenue which I can only imagine would take an entire day to peruse.

TO SEE…
After we have stopped drooling over all the fabulous things in Watson Kennedy, we make our purchases and head to Pine St. We will eat our way back through the market later but first we have another classic Seattle landmark to visit – the Space Needle. At the Westlake center on Pine and 5th you can catch the monorail that will take you across town to the Space Needle. The above ground monorail drops you off right in the heart of the Seattle Center and costs a mere $2.25 each way for adults. It departs each station every 10 minutes.

At the Space Needle we buy a combination ticket that will give us access to not only the top of the Space Needle but the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit. The price to get into both is $35. The Space Needle staff are very organized and efficient with how they get everyone through the line and up to the top. I think the longest I’ve ever waited in line during high season was 15 minutes. Once in the elevator it only takes 40 seconds to get the top observation deck. I find myself always holding my breath but the views are so worth it! Once at the top you are staring out over Elliot Bay, Puget Sound, downtown, South Lake Union, Rainier and both the Olympic and Cascade Mountain ranges. Downtown Seattle is one of the prettiest in the country. It truly sparkles.

Once down our 40 second elevator ride back to the ground we make a short walk next door to the Chihuly Glass exhibit. There are simply no words to describe the artistic genius that is Dale Chihuly. Once you walk in you literally hear a collective gasp as everyone around you sees what this man can do with glass. The installations are over the top and dazzling. All I can say is that I wish I had come sooner. You will soon forget about how you winced at that $35 ticket price earlier because you will…be…so…amazed. For more information on Dale Chihuly and his work click here.

TO EAT…
I don’t know about you, but at this point, I’m hungry! We catch the monorail back to Westlake center and head back down Pine St. towards Pikes Place Market. This time we are tasting incredible produce, eating the largest and freshest shrimp cocktail and tuna poke I have ever had and buying flowers. Oh the flowers…so dreamy! Flower bouquets range from only $5-$15 depending on the size. You can’t beat that price and the flowers are always fresh and beautiful. I’ve been to the market on numerous occasions and I know that I haven’t seen half of what there is to see. From the original Starbucks, to pastries from Piroshky, to handmade doughnut stands, Cheese at Beechers Handmade Cheese and the Athenian restaurant, made famous from the movie Sleepless in Seattle. You just can’t do it all in one day.

After eating everything in sight we make our way back down to the waterfront. But on the way back to the water taxi we make one last stop …for oysters! Pier 56 houses Elliott’s Oyster House which has a great happy hour but the wait can be a little long. A great alternative is the more casual complement to Elliot’s which is right next door – Cafe 56. Oysters, steamed mussels and champagne is quickly ordered and happily consumed. We then catch the water taxi back to West Seattle and take in the sweeping views once more of downtown and Elliot Bay.

LASTLY…
One last activity that I highly recommend is kayaking in Elliot Bay and the Puget Sound. Alki Kayak Tours is located right next to the water taxi dock. You can go with a tour or adventure off by yourself. For more information check out their website: www.kayakalki.com. You can’t beat the views and depending on the time of year you might even encounter some Harbor Seals! This is also a perfect way to experience a wonderful Seattle sunset.

I hope you enjoyed my version of the perfect first day in Seattle. I love this city so much and look forward to calling it my home for a very long time. I hope you will consider Seattle and the Pacific Northwest for your next family vacation. You won’t regret it!

Photography: Katie Parra | Models: Mallory McKenzie and Rachelle Dimaria