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What to do When You Have a 5-Hour Layover in Seattle

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Via Facebook message, Teri asked:

Hey Deb,

I have a travel question for you. We are flying to Paris in May on Iceland Air and have a 5-hour layover in Seattle. Are we allowed to leave the airport?

Is five hours enough time to go see something in town and get back to airport? Any advice you have is appreciated we have a similar situation when flying back through Boston 5 hours again.

With a 5-hour layover in Seattle, there’s enough time to see a few things in Seattle.

You will have to go through security when you get back to the airport. If you have carry-on bags you’ll have to bring them with you or store them at the airport.

But enjoying Seattle during a brief layover is possible. Here’s what you should do.

Here's a list of things you can do during a 5-hour layover in Seattle.

5-Hour Layover in Seattle

For a short layover in Seattle, here’s a quick guide on what you need to do to see some of Seattle.

With a 5-hour layover, realistically you have 4 1/2 hours because boarding starts at minimum 30 minutes before departure.

Plus extra time to get through security (especially if you don’t have TSA Pre-Check).

So let’s say factoring everything in, you will have about 2 hours in the city, maybe a little more.

It’s better to overestimate and give yourself extra time because you don’t want to miss your flight.

However, it can be doable. Here’s what to do on a 5-hour layover in Seattle.

1.  Light Rail

Seeing Seattle in 5 hours is possible. Read travel expert Debra Schroeder's recommendations on what to do when you have a 5-hour layover in Seattle. Traveling Well For Less

Get to downtown Seattle from the airport on the Light Rail

There’s a Light Rail station at the airport. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the terminal.

You can buy an ORCA card at the station and load it with your fare. It costs $3.00 per person each way to downtown Seattle.

It takes about 45 minutes to get from the Seattle Airport to downtown Seattle (Westlake Station) on the Link light rail (train). So plan on 1 1/2 hours round-trip to get to and from downtown Seattle.

Pro-tip: Here are 7 ways to explore Seattle without a car.

2.  Pike Place Market

Seeing Seattle in 5 hours is possible. Read travel expert Debra Schroeder's recommendations on what to do when you have a 5-hour layover in Seattle. Pike Place Market. Traveling Well For Less

Check out the fresh fish at Pike Place Fish Co at the Pike Place Market

From the Westlake Station walk upstairs through Nordstroms and walk to Pike Place Market. This will take about 8 minutes.

You can watch the fishmongers from Pike Place Fish Market throw fish, shop, and explore the market.

Pike Place Market is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

3.  Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Shop

If you like cheese, a stop at the Beecher’s Handmade Cheese shop is a must.

Beecher’s is across from Pike Place Market and is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm.

They also have a store at the Seattle Airport in Concourse C.

4.  Three Girls Bakery

Seeing Seattle in 5 hours is possible. Read travel expert Debra Schroeder's recommendations on what to do when you have a 5-hour layover in Seattle. Three Girls Bakery. Traveling Well For Less

Tasty food at budget prices

You can grab lunch, a snack, or a treat from Three Girls Bakery (across from Pike Place Market).

Not only are their prices reasonable but they make great sandwiches. And their cookies. OMG!!!

Three Girls Bakery is open from 7 am to 6 pm every day. The Lunch Counter closes at 5:30 pm. (Check for holiday hours).

5.  Space Needle

Seeing Seattle in 5 hours is possible. Read travel expert Debra Schroeder's recommendations on what to do when you have a 5-hour layover in Seattle. Space Needle. Traveling Well For Less

For great views of Seattle go to the top of the Space Needle

If it’s a clear day and there’s time left, you can visit the Space Needle.

From Pike Place Market, you can take Uber from Pike Place Market to the Space Needle. Or you can walk back to the Light Rail and take the monorail to the Space Needle.

The monorail costs $3.00 per person each way and is about a 1-minute walk from the Space Needle.

Half price discounts are available for children (age 6 to 18), seniors, military members, and the disabled. Free for children 5 and younger. There is a 3.7% fee when paying by credit card.

The Space Needle is open daily but hours vary.

Get Global Entry

Global Entry. Traveling Well For Less

Skip the line and use the Global Entry kiosk

You have to go through security when you get back to the airport. So to be able to get to downtown Seattle to see some of the attractions during you 5-hour layover, you should get Global Entry.

You automatically get TSA Pre-Check with Global Entry. TSA Pre-Check is awesome! You will get to go through the shorter line when you come back from downtown Seattle.

And you can leave your shoes on, your laptop, and liquids in your bag and sail through security.

Here’s how to get TSA Pre-Check. You can either apply and pay for $85 for TSA Pre-Check.

But I’d recommend going for the better value and applying for Global Entry.

Global Entry costs $100 per person and is valid for 5 years.

The benefits of Global Entry:

  • TSA Pre-Check on all domestic flights
  • Global Entry for when you come back into the US

So when Teri comes back from Paris she won’t wait in that long US Customs and Immigration line. Nor will you when you come back from traveling internationally.

You can get your Global Entry fee refunded if you have one of these credit cards:


It is possible for you to see some of Seattle when you have a 5-hour layover during her flight.

You can take the Light Rail from the airport to downtown Seattle and visit the Pike Place Market.

Depending on how much time you spend at the Pike Place Market you can walk to some of the surrounding restaurants like Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Shop or Three Girls Bakery.

And if there’s time and it’s a clear day, you can go to the Space Needle.

But you have to go through security at the airport. So you should get Global Entry which gives you TSA Pre-Check. And lets you keep your shoes on and your liquids and laptop in your carry-on bag.

Have you gone to downtown Seattle with only a 5-hour layover? What did you do?

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Got a layover at the Seattle airport? Seeing Seattle in 5 hours is possible. Read travel expert Debra Schroeder's recommendations on what to do when you have a 5-hour layover in Seattle.

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Thursday 22nd of December 2022

Hi Debra,

My family and I (3 of us) are going to Alaska March 10th 2023 our flight lands in Seattle at 6:43am and leaves to Fairbanks at 11:55am. I read your post, and based on your experience and how long ago your post was written, do we still have time to go to Three Girls for breakfast see pikes peek in action at 9am and then head back to not miss our flight? What time do you recommend we get back on the Light Rail to have enough time for security and boarding? We do not have the TSA pre check and will not be purchasing it.

Debra Schroeder

Sunday 15th of January 2023

Hi Alecia,

Based on your flight times, you'll have just under 2 hours. Given that you don't have TSA PreCheck, get breakfast to go from Three Girls. Then walk across to Pikes Peak for a quick visit to see a few shops at the entrance such as the fish guys tossing the fish. As long as you're back on the Light Rail by 9:30 am you should have enough time.

Make sure to check the wait times for TSA, you can do this in the flySEA app.


Wednesday 20th of November 2019

Thanks for the tips. Just wondering since this is a few years old if there is any new information that I should take into consideration?

Debra Schroeder

Tuesday 26th of November 2019

Hi Kristy,

While the post was written a few years ago the information is still accurate and correct. What you're able to do during your 5-hour layover in Seattle will depend on what time your flight lands and departs.


Monday 3rd of April 2017

Since Kens Baggage is now closed, any suggestion on how to store carry on luggage while sight seeing Seattle during my layover? I have about 8 hour layover.

Debra Schroeder

Tuesday 4th of April 2017

Hi Ganesh,

I believe Smartecarte charges the same rates as Kens Baggage did. Have fun on your layover. :)


Thursday 21st of April 2016

I would definitely not try to include both Seattle Center and Pike Place Market in the same five-hour layover! Just one or the other! But you could take the elevator down to the waterfront from Pike Place Market and check out Ye Old Curiosity Shoppe, Ivars seafood, or the aquarium. Another idea would be to get off the light rail at the Pioneer Square station and do the Seattle Underground tour (only 3 min-walk away). There are lots of art galleries and cafes in this area, too. And you can go to the 35th floor of the Smith Tower for a great view of Seattle.

Debra Schroeder

Thursday 28th of April 2016

Hi Tami,

Thanks for your suggestions. :)


Friday 25th of March 2016

Snagging a sandwich and a cookie from Three Girls would totally be worth leaving the airport ... Love that place! The pre-check stuff has always been so confusing to me, you make it so easy! Thank you! From a mom with three kiddos who hasn't been brave enough to travel with ALL of them just yet :)

Debra Schroeder

Friday 25th of March 2016

Hi Jay@ReadySetGoalnet,

Thank you, that's so nice of you to say. :) Love getting a nice blog comment, such a great way to start my day. :)

Traveling with kids is possible. You can do it! Let me know if you have any questions.

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