If you're flying into Seattle (or taking the train or bus) and plan to stay in a downtown hotel, we strongly recommend that you not rent a car for the entire time. It's nice to have a car for a day, but parking and traffic can be a real impediment to enjoyment in the middle of the city.
If you're driving in from outside of the city, you might consider using our parking tips a few days early while you enjoy your break in the downtown area.
If you're flying into Seattle you'll arrive at Sea-Tac airport, approximately 15 miles south of the city center. There is no public transportation that is convenient, but Grayline offers service into the city:
Seattle Downtown Airporter
Rates: $18 one way or $31 roundtrip (Children 17 years and under ride free, one for each paying adult in the party.)
All major car rental agencies are represented in the baggage claim area. Taxis are readily available and cost between $30 and $40 from the airport to downtown.
Driving into Seattle is a snap from any direction since it's bisected by Interstate 5 running north and south. To get to the waterfront area of downtown, just follow these handy directions:
From the North:
Southbound into Seattle from I-5 take the Mercer St. exit. Right on Fairview, left on Valley Street. Take Valley to Broad Street. Broad to Alaskan Way.
From the South:
Northbound into Seattle from I-5 take the Madison St. exit. Head west on Madison until you get to the waterfront (Alaskan Way).
From the East:
From SR-520, head west to I-5 South. Once on 1-5 South, follow the above directions "From the North".
From I-90, head west to I-5 North. Take the Madison St. exit and head west to the Waterfront (Alaskan Way).
Caution! Seattle is filled with one-way streets, so try to know in advance where you are headed. The downtown area is pretty much on a grid system, with the north-south streets being numbered and the east-west streets being named; i.e. the corner of Madison St. (east-west) and First St. (north-south). Of course there are always exceptions, so be vigilant.
Seat belt usage is mandatory, you can turn right on a red light if it's safe, and you can be ticketed for blocking an intersection if you go through a light but can't make it all the way across before it changes.
Seattle is very protective of its pedestrians and bicycle riders, so remember, they almost always have the right of way. On the other hand, you can be ticketed for jaywalking, so make sure to cross the street only at intersections (or in marked crosswalks).
Street parking is a real problem in downtown Seattle; not only is it nearly impossible to find, but it's also most often metered, and it requires moving the vehicle several times to make way for rush-hour traffic.
While most hotels offer parking, it's costly -- typically $30 or more a night, not to mention tips for the valets.
Using the port facilities and public transportation is a much more cost-effective solution, since both the Bell Street Pier (66) and Pier 91 offer parking.
The following is provided by the Port of Seattle:
Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91
Seattle's cruise terminal at Pier 91 is located at the north end of Seattle's waterfront, 10 minutes from the city's retail core and Space Needle. Smith Cove is home to Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean. The associated parking lot has 1,000 spaces. Get directions.
General parking is available for $26 a day. Rate includes tax. All customers will receive a $1 per day discount if they book parking online.
RV and car with trailer parking is available for $36 per day. Rate includes tax. All customers will receive a $1 per day discount if they book parking online. RV parking must be reserved and prepaid online to guarantee a space.
Passengers departing from the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal at Pier 66 (see below) can obtain a complimentary taxi voucher for service back to Pier 66. Please allow 15-20 minutes for the taxi ride back to Pier 66.
Parking at Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal
The Bell Street Pier garage is available to all cruise passengers. Conveniently located directly across Alaskan Way from terminal 66 (typically used by Oceania, NCL), it offers 1,700 spaces of covered, secure parking. Friends and family who pick up or drop off cruise passengers also are encouraged to use the garage while visiting the cruise terminal. Get directions.
Fee: $26 per day
You may prepay for parking online through Republic Parking at www.rpnw.com. (When you prepay, parking is guaranteed; no reservations needed.)
25 handicap parking stalls.
No oversize or RV parking is available in the garage. Vehicles must be less than 6'6" high.
Republic Parking operates the garage. Questions? Call the garage staff at (206) 783-4144.
Pick-up service to and from both cruise terminals is available. Taxi service to the airport ranges from $30 - $40 for the approximate 20- to 30-minute drive.