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Seattle Great Wheel | © N i c o l a / Flickr
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A Solo-Traveler’s Guide to Washington

Picture of Samantha Ladwig
Updated: 11 April 2018
Washington State is both the 18th largest state in the country and the 13th most populated. Visitors flock to experience everything from the dense forestry of the Pacific Northwest to the music history of Seattle to the marine life off the shores of the San Juan Islands. Discover our guide on how to travel solo in the Evergreen State.

Stick to Seattle

While Spokane—the second largest city in Washington State—is both vibrant in culture and rich in history, it lies on the easternmost corner of the entire state. And when it comes to traveling alone, density and accessibility are essential.

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The Gum Wall in Seattle | © N i c o l a / Flickr

Seattle offers every type of accommodation and method of transportation, and it happens to sit right alongside Interstate 5. The highway runs from the state’s border with Canada to its border with Oregon and passes through day-trip destinations such as Bellingham, Tacoma, and Olympia—not to mention the fact that off the shores of Seattle is Elliott Bay, which is home to a number of ferries shuttling between Bainbridge, Bremerton, and the Emerald City. It’s these ferries that give tourists access to the beautiful Olympic Mountains and the Olympic Peninsula.

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Market sign at sunset, 2000 | © Seattle Municipal Archives / Flickr

Accommodations

Whether Airbnb, hostels, or hotels—whatever the budget will allow—Seattle’s got it covered. Like most hostels around the world, Seattle’s are all housed in prime locations, making it easy for those traveling without a car. The Green Tortoise Hostel sits in the center of Pike Place Market, the American Hotel in the International District near the Wing Luke Museum, and the City Hostel in the Belltown neighborhood next to the Cinerama. But for those looking for quieter, independent accommodations, try one of Seattle’s dreamy Airbnb rentals scattered throughout some of the city’s most hip neighborhoods like Fremont, Ballard, and Capitol Hill.

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Puget Sound, Seattle | © alans1948 / Flickr

Transportation

Ferries, buses, Free-Floating Bike Shares, Uber, the Link light rail—Seattle may be a little more inconvenient than other major cities because it’s surrounded by water, making some of its neighborhoods only accessible via a bridge. However, it has every mode of transportation a solo traveler could ask for. The BoltBus, which runs up and down Interstate 5, is a perfect option for any scheduled overnight trips to Bellingham, Olympia, or maybe even Portland, Oregon. As for the Peninsula, hop on the Washington State Ferry headed to Bainbridge, and from there, journey to Port Townsend, Port Angeles, or the coast.

As for moving around within the city, don’t hesitate to go by foot. Seattle is known for its walkability. For example, visitors can start at the Washington Park Arboretum, journey 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) to Capitol Hill, walk one mile (1.6 kilometers) down to the famous Pike Place Market, and then north another mile to Seattle’s iconic Space Needle. That’s four major tourist sites and neighborhoods in less than five miles (eight kilometers).

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Elliott Bay Book Company: Seattle’s legendary independent bookstore | © N i c o l a / Flickr

Must-See Tourism

Whether it’s a quiet activity like strolling through Seattle’s Discovery Park or a group-centered outing like whale watching, Washington offers some of the most unique and easily accessible experiences. But not every Pacific Northwest tourist destination is worth the effort. While the iconic Space Needle is a great spot for Emerald City views, it’s often packed with tourists. Solo travelers can enjoy this Seattle landmark better from afar. Opt for Kerry Park, the Sky View Observatory, or the speakeasy-themed Smith Tower Observation Deck, where visitors can delight in the islands over a cocktail.

More importantly is outdoor recreation; whether it’s taking a hike in the Cascade Mountains or kayaking off the shores of Seattle, experiencing the Pacific Northwest is a must in Washington State. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the city or outside, Western Washington provides access to deep blue water and dense, mossy forestry just about anywhere.

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An aerial view of the San Juan Islands | © kurt / Flickr

Day Trips

Staying in Seattle means having access to some of the state’s best cities like Olympia and Bellingham as well as the Olympic Peninsula and San Juan Islands. This prime location makes overnight and day trips a reasonable possibility, and when it comes to Washington State, totally essential. Visit the Victorian town of Port Townsend, and catch a ferry from there over to Whidbey Island where visitors can hike, whale watch, and relax. Or travel north by BoltBus from Seattle to Bellingham where locals tightrope walk at Boulevard Park and enjoy a drink or two at the delicious Boundary Bay Brewery. No matter the destination, it’s only an hour or two from the Emerald City.