Seattle, with its mountain and water views and its 10pm summer sunsets, is close on the heels of San Francisco as a West Coast summer-in-the-city destination. During those few short months when the city's notoriously gloomy skies turn blue, conventioneers, cruise-ship passengers, and summer vacationers all vie for rooms. For this reason, hotels stay pretty much booked solid for July and August. Plan far in advance for a summer visit, and, if you can afford a splurge, get a room with a view.
As one of the high-tech capitals of North America, Seattle is packed with high-end corporate business hotels. These hotels tend to be quite expensive, and often, despite being packed with high-tech features, the rooms can be depressingly small. Likewise, the city's few historic hotels, situated around downtown and the Pioneer Square neighborhood, also tend to have small rooms. In other words, unless you plan to pay top dollar (and sometimes even if you do pay top dollar), you're going to be a bit cramped. If you need plenty of space and don't want to pay a fortune for it, head out from downtown to some of the outlying neighborhoods.
Despite all the water in and around Seattle, the city has only a handful of waterfront hotels, and of these, only two are right on the water. The Edgewater is in Seattle proper, while the Woodmark is on the east side of Lake Washington in Kirkland. For the quintessential Seattle experience, I highly recommend staying at one of the hotels. Just be sure to plan far in advance; these places tend to be very popular, especially in the summer.
Seattle is a city of diverse neighborhoods, many of which have fine B&Bs. Often less expensive than downtown hotels, B&Bs provide an opportunity to see what life is like for the locals. I've listed some of my favorites, but to find other good options, contact the Seattle Bed & Breakfast Association (tel. 206/547-1020; www.lodginginseattle.com). Capitol Hill has the largest concentration of B&Bs and among my favorite neighborhood inns are the Gaslight Inn, Bacon Mansion, and the Shafer Baillie Mansion. These inns offer both historic settings and proximity to some of the city's best restaurants.
A few hotels include breakfast in their rates; others provide complimentary breakfast only on certain deluxe floors. All Seattle hotels offer nonsmoking rooms, while most bed-and-breakfast inns and many new business hotels are exclusively nonsmoking. The majority of hotels, but few inns, offer wheelchair-accessible rooms.
Seattle offers a wide range of hotel choices. If your time is limited, I’d suggest that you opt for lodgings in downtown or in adjacent Belltown or Pioneer Square areas. From those locations, you can walk or easily access public transportation to all of the major attractions and feel close to the city’s urban, bayside heartbeat. I’ve selected and spread my hotel choices over a wide range of hotel types and prices, the goal being to present you with the best and most interesting options in all price ranges within the central part of the city. Book in advance, and online, and you’ll usually pay far less. In the winter, especially, it’s sometimes possible to get the price of a luxury hotel down to a more affordable mid-range level. The rates quoted here include taxes (around 16%). If you are driving to Seattle, expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $55 dollars per night for valet parking at your hotel.
And don’t forget to check out Airbnb (www.airbnb.com), HomeAway (www.homeaway.com), VRBO (www.vrbo.com) and other vacation rental entities. These websites, offering either rooms in private homes or entire apartments, are legal to use in Seattle. A random check on Airbnb showed low-season rooms in Capitol Hill for $77 and $81 per night. HomeAway, for the same period, offered a small, centrally located condo and a cottage for $79 and $125 a night. These prices were approximately $50 to $75 less than you’d pay for a hotel room in central Seattle.
Be sure to make reservations as far in advance as possible, especially if you plan to visit during Seafair or another major festival.
What You'll Really Pay
In the following listings, price categories are based on the high season, which generally runs from June through September (most hotels charge the same for single and double rooms). Keep in mind that the rates listed do not include taxes, which add up to 15.6% in Seattle. Also be sure to factor in hotel parking fees--around $40 per day in downtown Seattle.
For comparison purposes, I list what hotels call "rack rates," or walk-in rates -- but you should never have to pay these highly inflated prices. Various discounts and specials are often available, so make it a point to check, either online or over the phone, whether any discounts are being offered during your stay. At inexpensive chain motels, discounted rates are almost always available for AAA members and seniors. During slow times, you can usually obtain a room at an expensive property for the same rate as a more moderate one.
You can sometimes find discounted room rates when booking through websites such as www.hotels.com or www.expedia.com. However, I've also found that hotel websites sometimes have lower rates than are available on any of the online reservation sites. It pays to check different sites, and the best way to do this is by going to www.kayak.com.
If you're the gambling type, you can bid for a room on Priceline (which also offers set rates that might tempt you). In May of 2011, travelers got rooms at the Grand Hyatt for $100 and the Sheraton for $79. These rates are as much as $100 less than published rates. To find out how much you'll need to bid to get a Seattle hotel room through Priceline, first go to http://biddingfortravel.yuku.com.
Very Expensive $275 and up
Inexpensive Under $125
Getting the Best Deal -- If you're looking to save money, you're likely going to have to visit in the rainy season (Oct-Apr), when rates are sometimes half of what they are in summer; or book a room somewhere other than downtown Seattle. If you must stay downtown, or prefer to visit during the glorious summer weather instead of during the dreary gray of the rainy season, be sure to compare weekend rates (Fri, Sat, Sun) with weekday rates. Downtown hotels often charge less on weekends. Budget hotels, on the other hand, generally charge more on weekends.
My favorite places to look for good values are near Seattle Center, on the shores of Lake Union, and in the University District. Seattle Center-area hotels have the convenience of being connected to downtown Seattle by the monorail, while Lake Union hotels have access to downtown via streetcar. The University District is a bit less convenient to downtown but is accessible by bus. If you long for that quintessential waterview room but don't want to blow your vacation budget, consider Lake Union's Courtyard, Residence Inn, or Silver Cloud Inn.
When planning your trip, you might also want to check with Seattle Super Saver (tel. 866/285-2535; www.seattlesupersaver.com), a reservations service operated by Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau. Rates are comparable to what you might find at such sites as Orbitz, Expedia, Hotwire, or Priceline.
If you want to get a great deal on a great hotel (don't we all?), get in touch with Sheri Doyle at Pacific Northwest Journeys (tel. 800/935-9730 or 206/935-9730; www.pnwjourneys.com). This company specializes in itinerary planning and also offers a reservations service. The charge is $45 per reservation, but you can usually make that up in savings on just a 2-night stay; if you're going to be in town for longer than that, you'll definitely save money. Last-minute reservations are often possible, too. A consultation service is also available for people who would like assistance with itinerary planning. A Pacific Reservation Service (tel. 800/684-2932 or 206/439-7677; www.seattlebedandbreakfast.com) is a reservations service that books rooms at dozens of accommodations in the Seattle area. A wide range of rates is available.
Turning to the internet or apps for a hotel discount
Before going online, it’s important that you know what “flavor” of discount you’re seeking. Currently, there are three types of online reductions:
1. Extreme discounts on sites where you bid for lodgings without knowing which hotel you’ll get. You’ll find these on such sites as Priceline.com and Hotwire.com, and they can be money-savers, particularly if you’re booking within a week of travel (that’s when the hotels resort to deep discounts to get beds filled). As these companies use only major chains, you can rest assured that you won’t be put up in a dump. For more reassurance, visit the website BiddingTraveler.com. On it, actual travelers spill the beans about what they bid on Priceline.com and which hotels they got. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the quality of many of the hotels that are offering these “secret” discounts.
2. Discounts on chain hotel websites. In 2016, all of the major chains announced they’d be reserving special discounts for travelers who booked directly through the hotels’ websites (usually in the portion of the site reserved for loyalty members). They weren’t lying: these are always the lowest rates at the hotels in question, though discounts can range widely, from as little as $1 to as much as $50. Our advice: search for a hotel that’s in your price range and ideal location (see below for where to do that) and then, if it is a chain property, book directly through the online loyalty portal.
3. Use the right hotel search engine. They’re not all equal, as we at Frommers.com learned in the spring of 2017 after putting the top 20 sites to the test in 20 cities (including NYC) around the globe. We discovered that Booking.com listed the lowest rates for hotels in the city center, and in the under $200 range, 16 out of 20 times—the best record, by far, of all the sites we tested. And Booking.com includes all taxes and fees in its results (not all do, which can make for a frustrating shopping experience). For top-end properties, again in the city center only, both Priceline.com and HotelsCombined.com came up with the best rates, tying at 14 wins each.
4. Last-minute discounts. Booking last minute can be a great savings strategy, as prices sometimes drop in the week before travel as hoteliers scramble to fill their rooms. But you won’t necessarily find the best savings through companies that claim to specialize in last-minute bookings. Instead, use the sites recommended in point 3 of this list.
5. Or skip hotels altogether. See above for our discussion of the savings you can get with online vacation rental sites.
It’s a lot of surfing, but in the hothouse world of accommodation pricing, this sort of diligence can pay off.
* The Arctic Club Hotel: A former men’s club founded by guys who struck it rich either in or because of the Yukon Gold Rush, the Arctic Club celebrates its history by giving its large, big-windowed rooms and public spaces the Art Deco look of the club’s heyday.
* The Edgewater: Built atop a pier on the Seattle waterfront, this boutique hotel is the only hotel in Seattle to have rooms directly on the water. In fact, guests, including the Beatles, used to fish from their windows. It has a very good restaurant with views to the Olympic Mountains.
* Executive Hotel Pacific: Built in the 1920s, the hotel has the compact rooms of that era to prove it. But they’ve all been upgraded to boutique hotel standards but happily, NOT boutique hotel prices. A great value.
* Hotel Ändra: Its design and furnishings are coolly Scandinavian, and its comfort level is Seattle all the way. Vibrant colors, natural fabrics, and beautiful materials and detailing make this boutique hotel in Belltown a real treat.
* Sorrento Hotel: It may be one of Seattle’s great historic hotels, but there’s nothing fusty or outdated at the Sorrento. Period charm and character shine through in the guestrooms and public spaces that are loaded with original detailing but also full of color and cool comfort—and more amenities than you’d find at hotels costing twice as much.
* Inn at the Market: For sheer romantic appeal, this cozy boutique hotel can’t be beat. Its secretive little courtyard entrance makes it feel hidden from the world, and yet it’s directly beside Pike Street Market, one of the busiest spots in Seattle. Some of the rooms have big views out over Elliott Bay to the Olympics.
* Inn at Virginia Mason & The Baroness Hotel: Up on First Hill, within easy walking distance of downtown and not far from the Frye Art Museum, the two buildings operated as hotels by Virginia Mason Hospital are heritage gems built as apartment buildings in the 1920s and 1930s. There’s a wealth of authentic, unchanged period detail in both of these meticulously cared-for buildings, where you will stay in a former apartment for a fraction of the cost of a downtown hotel.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.