a view of downtown seattle at sunset with mt. rainier in the background and the space need to the left

The Worst Time to Visit Seattle + Things to do while you’re here (From a Local)

Seattle is an amazing city. It’s vibrant. Culturally diverse. The food is pretty damn good. And the weather, in the summer that is, absolutely perfect. 

It’s also one of the best places to have as a home base if you enjoy adventuring into the nearby mountains. 

With all the good, there’s always the bad. In winter, it is the worst time to visit Seattle. The days are short, the weather cruddy (cloudy, rainy, and cold), and you just hope to get to the summer months. 

So, when is the worst time to visit Seattle? We’re diving into it all below. 

A view of downtown seattle with the olympics in the background. While december and january are the worst time to visit Seattle, you still get clear days like this.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Worst Time To Visit Seattle

The worst time to visit Seattle is mid-November through through February.

The days are extremely short – think sunset at 4:20pm – and cloudy, meaning you hardly see the sun. I mean, some people go to work in the dark and return in the dark. It’s an unfortunate time of the year. 

Furthermore, everyone seems to be on edge because the summer’s gone, and some people are in a crappy mood.

Worst Time For Weather

The worst weather months are usually January and February, as these are the coldest times in Seattle. However, they’re not frigid, thanks to the ocean effect. Our days in Seattle range from the upper 30s to the upper 40s, depending on various storms and weather patterns. 

Seattle gets around 15 inches of rain over the winter months, though it is not typically a heavy downpour but a consistent misting that never seems to end.

the snowy peaks of the olympic range

Worst time to visit Seattle for Crowds

If you don’t like crowds, then you probably don’t want to visit Seattle in the summer months. This is the worst time to visit Seattle because everyone is coming up to soak in the long sunny days, stretch their legs on the hiking trails, and simply see the majestic mountains and vistas we have.

Looking out on Mt. Baker above Lake Sammamish near Seattle. Even though we get good days like this winter is still the worst time to visit seattle

Which Month Is Not Good To Visit Seattle?

Specifically, December is the worst month to visit Seattle. This is when the days are the absolute shortest, and there’s some snow in the mountains but not a lot, so everything is blah. This would be a terribly depressing month if it weren’t for the holidays. 

I would encourage everyone to not visit Seattle during December and to come back at a later date, haha.

mount rainier in the background with layers of ridge lines and trees before it.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

The Best Time To Visit Seattle

However, on the flip side, to give people optimism reading this, we do have good months! From May through October, the weather is generally decent. The best, best months are July through September. These offer long days to hike, soak in the sun, and get as much fresh air as possible. 

As a hiker and backpacker, few places rival the beauty we offer in the Pacific Northwest. 

Things To Do During Winter Near Seattle

Even in the less-than-ideal months, there are still plenty of things to do in and around Seattle. 

Snowshoe at Mt. Rainier

Three skiers move on the snow in Mt rainier national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Winter at Mt. Rainier is an absolutely fantastic place to experience. First off, it’s beautiful. The untouched snow on a 14,000-foot volcano, snowdrifts, and gorgeous snowcapped trees make your heart sing. Then, there’s fantastic snowshoeing available, with dozens of miles of trails in the area. 

Some of my fondest memories at Mt. Rainier have come in winter. 

Check out Snoqualmie Falls

Thirty minutes outside Seattle, Snoqualmie is the best “easy” place to see a massive waterfall. The walk from the parking lot is five minutes, and it’s a sight to see. Even during the worst time to visit Seattle, you can still check out this magnificent waterfall. 

Read all about the closest waterfalls to Seattle.

Drive into Olympic National Park

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

One place that improves when wet is wet is Olympic National Park. Getting to see the Hoh Rainforest when it’s wet makes the leaves and mosses way more vibrant. Walking around in the puddles will give you all the feels. 

Furthermore, hardly anyone visits during this time of the year, so you won’t have crowds. 

Watch Sunset at Kerry Park

If you have clear skies, go to Kerry Park and watch the sunset and lights flicker on throughout downtown Seattle. It’s one of the best places to be, and it requires no effort to reach.

Just know you will have lots of other people in the area with you.

Go Skiing or Snowboarding

There are four major places to hit the slopes around Seattle. Going north to south: Mt. Baker Ski Area, Stevens Pass, Snoqualmie Pass, and Cyrstal Mountain Resort. Removing Mt. Baker, all of them are between 90 minutes and two hours to drive to. 

How To Spend Your Time In Seattle?

Go to the Seattle Aquarium

You might as well have a good time even if it’s cruddy weather, right? And everyone loves seeing sea animals. Go spend a day downtown and explore the Seattle Aquarium. 

The Seattle Aquarium, located on Pier 59 on the Elliott Bay waterfront in Seattle, Washington, is a public aquarium that opened in 1977. It primarily focuses on the marine life of the Puget Sound region. The facility includes a wide range of exhibits, including a large tank replicating the Washington coastal waters, a tide pool exhibit for hands-on learning, and a conservation-focused marine mammal exhibit.

Fish swim amongst the kelp in an aquarium

It also operates as a center for marine research and education, aiming to raise awareness about marine conservation. The aquarium is open year-round, offering both educational and recreational opportunities to its visitors.

Book a trip to the Seattle Aquarium

Go Whale Watching

an orca blows air in front of the seattle skyline
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

For whatever reason, Orcas love to visit Puget Sound during the cold winter months. So, plan to hop on a Seattle whale-watching boat, get a tour of the area, and see some wildlife! 

I’ve done two trips so far and have found it to be simply perfect. And yes, we saw Orcas both times and a grey whale, too! 

Book a trip to go whale watching

Take the Underground Tour

Embark on a journey through Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square on this expert-led walking tour. Uncover the hidden underground passageways in the city’s southwest corner, a network over 120 years old.

Delve into the rich history of Seattle, from its early days as a modest Indigenous settlement to its evolution into a bustling, major U.S. city. Each tour, conducted in a small-group setting, offers a unique experience with insights and tips from a knowledgeable local guide.

Book a tour

Chef Guided Tour of Seattle

Join a chef-led culinary exploration of Pike Place Market, Seattle’s iconic landmark, during this immersive 2-hour food tour. Discover where local chefs shop and residents mingle. Sample a variety of delectable treats at almost a dozen stops, including Beecher’s famous mac and cheese, the vibrant Local Color coffee shop, Britt’s Pickles, and Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt, among others.

This tour offers an exclusive glimpse behind the scenes, allowing you to experience the market’s rich flavors, sights, and sounds like a true insider.

Book a chef-guided tour

Take a Cooking Class

Everyone enjoys some food. So, grab some friends and learn something new while in Seattle! 

Book a cooking class

Go to a Seattle Kraken Hockey Game

Enjoy sporting events? This is a great activity to do while in the city. And because it’s indoors, you can still do it even if you come during the worst time to visit Seattle.

Grab tickets to a Kraken game

a view of downtown seattle at dusk. The space need is in the center with sky scrapers around it

Where To Stay In Seattle

Here are some places to stay while visiting Seattle. 

📍Hotel 1000, LXR Hotels & Resorts
📍Mediterranean Inn
📍The Paramount Hotel

Visiting Seattle: FAQs

What is the rainy season in Seattle?

The rainy season is predominately between November and April. However, it can rain literally any day of the year up here (though less likely during the summer months).

What are the cheapest months to go to Seattle?

I would say the cheapest months to visit Seattle would be January and February. No significant holidays or sporting events are happening that could drive up ticket prices. December is not expensive either, but obviously, if you plan to visit around the holidays, you’ll see an increase in prices. 

a paddleboarder sets off on lake washington in front of mt. rainier.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Is December a bad time to visit Seattle?

It’s not a great month to visit Seattle, that’s for sure. I do think it is the worst time to visit Seattle, but if you enjoy snow sports, you should have a good time. Just know this is the month with the shortest days and gloomiest conditions. 

What month is good to visit Seattle?

The best month to visit Seattle is July. This is when summer is just beginning, the trails have melted out, and the weather is fantastic. It’s too early for wildfires, so our skies and air will be crystal clear!

two lakes far below with dozens of mountain peaks in the distance.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Do you need a car in Seattle?

No, you do not. Plenty of public transportation includes the ferry, light rail, the MonoRail, buses, and Uber/Lyft services. And if it’s not wet, you can always walk places. 

Is there an unhoused issue in Seattle?

Short answer, yes. Now, I don’t mean that in a dangerous way, but Seattle does have an unhoused issue, and it stems from a lot of things, including the high cost of living, mental health issues, and being a large metro area.

I don’t live in downtown Seattle, but we still have plenty of tents up in some areas.

If you walk around downtown Seattle, you’ll likely see people living on the streets. But for the most part, they shouldn’t pose any issue to you. Just be smart and stay in groups if you can.

The Wrap-Up: Worst Time To Visit Seattle

Now you knwo when the worst time to visit Seattle is and how to plan accordingly. Block out a week over the summer and come enjoy the North Cascades, Mt. Rainier, and Olympic National Park, plus all the other amazing hiking, sightseeing, and culinary experiences this wonderful city offers! 

See you in the warmer months! 

Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Bio:

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside