Seattle: a city of hippies and hipsters, technology and nature, craft beer and coffee...and rain. Lots and lots of rain. Or is it?

Yes, Seattle gets more rainy days than most other cities in the United States, but it’s actually drier than, say, New York or Miami.

When to visit depends on what you want to do in Seattle. If you want to explore the parks and gardens that gave the Emerald City its name or catch incredible views from the Space Needle, you’ll want sunny skies – which come with crowds of tourists.  If you'd rather pay less for accommodation and avoid the crowds in the low season, you'll need to pack an umbrella.

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Despite the association with inclement weather, Seattle has something for every type of traveler, whatever time of year you decide to visit. Whether you're looking to explore iconic architecture or dive into a thriving craft beer scene, here's our guide on when to visit Seattle.

A rocky coastline with fall colors in the trees
If you visit Seattle in the fall, take a sunset stroll at Golden Gardens Park © Mona Makela Photography / Getty Images

April to May and September to October are ideal for exploring museums and farmers' markets 

Spring and fall see lower temperatures than the short summer and fewer crowds while still escaping the heavy rain showers of winter.  Budget travelers can find good deals on accommodation and car rental rates at this time. Even during the shoulder season, the best time to drive through Seattle is between 9am and 4:30pm, and later between 7pm and 6:30am, in order to avoid rush hour. 

April is usually the month where you’ll find the center of the “nice weather” and “cheaper hotel rates” Venn diagram. It’s not always sunny, but there are plenty of stunning days. Enjoy a celebration of the beauty of Japan at the Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival or raise a glass to the end of winter at the Seattle Scotch and Beer Fest.

May brings big business for waterside attractions. Visit before Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) – this could be your last chance for an affordable hotel rate for a while. Get a taste of the local culture of the Pacific Northwest at the Northwest Folklife Festival but be careful – you may run out of reasons to ever leave the area!

Genessa Gariano, Lydia Night, and Sage Chavis of The Regrettes performs at the 2018 Bumbershoot Festival at Seattle Center
Since the 1970s, the Bumbershoot festival has promoted Seattle's vibrant music and arts scene © Timothy Hiatt / Getty Images

September has one of the highlights of the cultural calendar: Bumbershoota multi-day arts festival that began in the 1970s. This is also one of the best times to go whale watching in Seattle. Once Bumbershoot’s over, the tourists go home, and hotel prices deflate. But the weather usually remains sunny and relatively warm until early October, making this the perfect time for spotting whales without the crowds.

There’s always the chance of a prolonged summer early in October, while the start of the shoulder season brings lower prices. The best time to visit Seattle in the fall comes as the clouds roll in and people get out to celebrate Halloween and the Seattle Queer Film Festival.

Average highs are in the 50s and 60s (Fahrenheit) during the spring and fall, so you’ll want to bring a warm layer for the evenings. Rainfall is characteristically a persistent yet light drizzle rather than a deluge, and more than half of these months are completely dry days. Still, an umbrella is a sensible precaution.

Tourists and shoppers inside the famous Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle
Popular attractions like Pike Place Market are packed in the summertime – for good reason © aimintang / iStockphoto

June to August is the perfect time for outdoor parks and festivals 

Although blistering sunny weather is infrequent in Seattle, overcast but not rainy days are not unusual. The record number of consecutive dry days is 55, set in 2017, and your best chance for a clear forecast falls between June and September. 

Summer is on the way in June and when the mercury rises, you can feel the city loosen up and sigh contentedly. It’s also Pride month, and celebrations are abundant in Seattle.

The ever-improving weather in July means bigger crowds and the high season sees peak demand for flights, transport and hotel prices. Expect crowds at famous Seattle sights like Pike Place Market and the Museum of Pop CultureThe best time to visit the Seattle Space Needle is on clearer days, either early in the morning before the crowds arrive or at sunset, so you can get daytime and nighttime views in one visit. Book ahead for popular events in July such as the 4th of July celebrations at Seafair.

Salmon bakes, neighborhood street fairs and lazy beach afternoons give August a laid-back feel. But school’s out, so expect ubiquitous cries of excited kids. BrasilFest brings the party atmosphere to town with a huge celebration of all things Brazilian at the Seattle Center.

Skiers climbing snowy slope
When prices drop during the low season, it's time to break out your skis © Jakob Helbig / Getty Images

November to March is the best time to get cozy in a coffee shop and explore the music scene

November can be a dismal month for weather in Seattle but don’t let anyone convince you that this is the worst time to visit. Most sights stay open and, with the low season kicking in, some hotels slash their prices to half the summer rates. Indoor spaces such as theaters and music venues come into their own during the low season; the soggy weather is partly responsible for Seattle’s famously creative music scene and its vibrant coffee shop culture.

Seattle’s surrounding ski resorts open up in December, making the city an ideal urban base for snow-related activities. Hotel prices continue to drop along with the temperatures. The festive season ramps up with Winterfest, the Christmas Ship Parade of Boats and New Year’s Eve fireworks at the Space Needle.

January shuffles in with a hangover and occasional flurries of snow. Plan indoor activities, or bring your skis and head to the nearby mountains. Of all the months in the year,  January historically sees the most discounted prices on plane tickets. Brave souls can start the new year with a splash as part of the Polar Bear Plunge and dive into the new year invigorated if a little chilly. Plunges happen at multiple bodies of water all over the city and are a wonderfully positive start to the new year. Food trucks with hot beverages await you once you run for cover.

The dark, dreary days of February and occasional bouts of genuine cold keep most in figurative hibernation. Scour the internet for hotel deals and book a night at the theater – super low prices mean this a great time to nab a bargain if you don't mind wrapping up. The odd warm day in March can see restaurants opening up their patios, but more often than not, the rain persists. Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations provided a good excuse to shrug off the long, hard winter and turn your face toward the warm light of Spring.


This article was first published Feb 16, 2021 and updated Jun 28, 2023.

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