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  1. #1
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    Smile Trip to Seattle Area

    My wife and I are planning a trip to the Seattle area next year. We are thinking that the end of June and first week of July would be a good time. We want to avoid any park closures due to late snow.

    We go on a two week vacation every year. This year was Grand Canyon/Zion/Bryce Canyon/Sedona area.

    My wife loves to do all the research about the areas we are visiting.

    We will fly in and out of Seattle and plan to rent a car to get around. We have a GPS, which has been real helpful.

    How is the driving in Seattle? Not too crazy I hope.

    We aren't that sure about any of the trips we've seen to the San Juan Islands. Living here in the Tampa Bay area, we have seen a lot of seaside areas. Three years ago we toured Portland and the Oregon coast.

    We will be visiting Victoria, BC. Not sure if we will have enough time for Vancouver.

    As a programmer, a trip to the Microsoft campus in Redmond is planned.

    Any suggestions will be appreciated.
    Been there. Done that. Can't remember.

  2. #2
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    Parking in Seattle isn't the greatest (not as bad as Manhattan or many other places, though), but driving itself is not too bad, as cities go, around the city proper. When you do park, note that Seattle has some possibly confusing factors: 1) parking meters have been replaced, at least in most places, with pay-and-sticker machines; you print from a machine on the street a slip of paper which you then afix to the inside of your car's window, and 2) in the neighborhoods, especially (i.e., not downtown), much of the parking is zoned, such that non-residents (with no zone sticker) can park for a while, like 2 hours, but not longer. Read the signs carefully anywhere you park; the parking enforcement here is not quite as bad as in Philadelphia, but it is what can be politely deemed zealous.

    The streets can be confusing; the GPS is a good idea.

    I-5 is the main N/S corridor, and it runs near but east of downtown). Avoid I-5 as much as possible at rush hour. It is a logjam then! Some of the exits are a bit tricky, too, so watch signs and listen to your GPS. (When I use I-5, I try to do it at odd times, and have some audiobooks along.) Seattle is constrained by water, and the land is mostly lived for living on, so street throughput is tricky. There are ongoing transportation projects involving light rail, but as a visitor (if you're staying in the city proper) might make little difference to you except in adding to construction delays.

    June / July: excellent time to visit, esp. if you're put off by the thought that Seattle is a rainy place. It does rain (less in volume than many other cities!, blah blah blah, a gentle soothing mist!, blah blah blah ), but seldom in the summer -- most summers are about like this one has been: mostly glorious blue skies, sun glinting on water, good weather for biking, picnicking, walking around, admiring flowers. There are great fireworks, too -- not sure what's happening this year or next, but on the rare occasions I've been here at the right time, I've see *two* excellent displays from the same vantage point on Capitol Hill.

    This is a good town for food -- I think it's great, in fact! (I'm a fairly low-brow eater, though not 100 percent -- once in a while, I like to get delicious sushi; my favorite place -- with great vegan options, if that matters to you -- is Mashiko, on California Street in West Seattle. West Seattle's a slight pain to reach from the rest of Seattle, but not so bad with a car. It's also the home of the quite nice little in-city Alki Beach.) The Bihn factory is between West Seattle and the downtown, if you're there one of the days open to the public.

    If you are an omnivore, I recommend Pho (Vietnamese soup) as being a local favorite -- Than Bros. is my favorite (for the food, not the service), and they have several locations. The "large" bowl (I usually get a #1, or #2 from the menu, rather than the ones with beef tripe, tendon, etc) is nearly impossible for one human to comfortably finish. Vietnamese coffee is a thing unto itself -- sweet, strong, electrifying. Plus, Than Bros. serves you a cream puff as a sort of micro-dessert. Seattle also has some great Indian restaurants, and quite a few Ethiopian ones. If you like dim sum, there are many options in the International District (which everyone calls the I.D. -- and C.D. is "Central District," where many of the Ethiopian restaurants are). Korean, Thai, and other Asian cuisines in glorious profusion; besides the coffee stands, one of my favorite things to discover here is the popularity of teriyaki -- along with Pho, a local cheap-lunch staple. I don't much like eating from styrofoam containers, though, which is one reason I order less teriyaki than I otherwise would.

    And there really is coffee everywhere; since I first moved to Washington state, I have been hypnotized by the smell of coffee everywhere. Instead of kids starting lemonade stands, here it's adults starting coffee huts, most of them with punny names to put hair salons to shame. A great coffee table book would just be a collection of photos of these coffee vendors, which come in all sizes, shapes, colors. If you are a coffee drinker (even if not) there are even walking tours of the city based on visiting various coffee shops, which is an interesting lens on the city. In fact -- this is true -- many of the highway rest stations offer free coffee; I've driven several times across the U.S. and don't recall seeing that anywhere else.

    If you take a ferry to Bainbridge or Vashon Island, you can have a pleasant time walking or biking around the quaint, but real, downtowns. (Driving is fine, too -- and the ferry fee may be as cheap as most commercial parking options). It's a great little cruise for just a few bucks, too -- a windbreaker / sweater was definitely in order when I went to Vashon 2 weeks ago, though the view is good from inside the ferry, too. Great views of the Bay and of Seattle's skyline, from the water; look to the south from the deck of the ferry, and you'll see the beach at Alki. Port Townsend is a little bit farther to get to, but beautiful. I have not yet been to Bremerton or most of the other ferry destinations, but want to see more of them.

    kcee's advice (below) to see the locks is great -- be sure to watch the salmon going up the fish ladder, too!

    My personal favorite city-guide books are those of the Insight Guide series -- great photos, somewhat discursive essays, rather than just bullet-pointed lists of places to go and to see. For some friends, they like anything but the Insight Guides for the same reason -- tastes vary.

    If you get to Volunteer Park, there's a great Art Deco building that was formerly the city's main art museum, now the Asian Art Museum. Discovery Park is huge -- that's the largest of the city's parks, and (since you'll have a car) worth navigating towards.

    A few things I just sent in an email to a cousin visiting later this month, edited for clarity and slightly expanded:

    - Pike Place Market; cliche, but enjoyable. The most obvious arcade of shops (beneath the "Public Market" signs) is only one part -- there are bakeries, fruit stands, shops, etc. surrounding that part of it both at the same level and in the layers below. The number one Starbucks (well ... sort of, but close enough) is in one of these surrounding buildings; they sell merchandise specific to there, too.

    - The central library, at 4th and Madison. It's a book town This library's architecture inspires love-or-hate, but I'm in favor. Walk inside, be conveyed upwards within ... look at the high-tech book-return system. Librarians in Seattle are highly educated and well paid; there's even an action figure available of one of them (Nancy Pearl -- see nancypearl.com). Aside: the system here is a little different than in most places I've lived; people do a lot of their book "shopping" online, and have books sent out to their neighborhood branches, a bit like picking up a pizza you've called in to order. Until living here, I thought of the library more as a place to go and *browse* for books. Not that it doesn't happen here, the ratio is just different.

    - Uwajimaya: This is a giant Japanese grocery store in the International district. Worth it for the sheer scale, and a good place to buy a few snacks (there's a sort of cantina in here as well, as well as some small restaurants attached). Wander a few aisles at least. You'll want to see the I.D. anyhow.

    - Pioneer Square area, if you're staying downtown, is a fun place to wander. Notably, home of Elliot Bay Books (housed in one of the city's oldest buildings -- a fire in the 1890s wiped out much of what then existed). Though it's not scary like Detroit or New York circa 1978, this is an area I'd advise for daytime; much of the city's homeless population is here. There's a great little park, technically called Pioneer Park Place, but which everyone calls Pioneer Square anyhow. (This city is big on parks, big and little, as you can tell! Not sure about any of the others, but Volunteer Park at least was designed by the sons -- Olmstead is the last name -- of the Olmstead who designed Central Park in NYC and the Columbia Exhibition in Chicago in 1893.)

    - Great park along the waterfront, a bit north of downtown -- worth a people-, bird-, and sculpture-walking stroll. Dedicated bike vs. pedestrian lanes, which I like.

    The mass transit is mostly in the form of buses, and they're quite good (though the usual case w/ buses, transfers sometimes all seem to go through downtown -- if you're *staying* near downtown, that's not a problem at all); there's also a friendly help line who can tell you by phone which bus to take to any destination in the city.

    Great views: go up Queen Anne hill, by foot, bus, taxi, or however you want, and look down toward downtown. Likewise, Gasworks park (on Lake Union) and Volunteer Park (Capitol Hill). I'm sure other people can name other great ones. Along with San Francisco, I think this town has some of the best views in the world. Not that there aren't great things to see all over the world, but we've all got favorites.

    I know there are more I should remember and describe here, but that's my short list. Seattle is moderately hilly (it used to be *much* hillier; late in 19th century, a series of regradings made it more level -- I'd like to see bumper stickers advocating a resteepening), so walking shoes are important; a hat and UV-blocking sunglasses also advised. Since rain is rare in the summer, but cool nights are not, a light shell with some water resistance is a good compromise garment to bring.

    People tend to be polite and helpful, but may not seem overfriendly. So I've heard, at least -- in the years I've spent here, I've found them as friendly as anywhere else, but Hey, that's the reputation. Most Seattleites seem pleased to be here Since you're flying in, consider a stop at the airport information booth (on the baggage claim level). I usually take a bus from the airport, but even if you're getting your rental there, you can pick up a Washington State travel guide there; WA's is the best I've seen besides Texas's.

    Hope some of this is helpful -- it's a great city, and I've only scratched the surface.

    timothy
    Last edited by timothy; 06-26-2009 at 02:56 PM. Reason: typos, expansion. clarity

  3. #3
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    i always recommend people from out of town come to ballard and see the locks.

    http://www.seattle.gov/tour/locks.htm

    its a real cool setup lots of stuff to see.
    and at that time of the year the flowers and scenery would look really nice !

    plus you could stroll down market street and check out the shops.

  4. #4
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    if you dont mind getting out of the city and heading north, i would recommend checking out chuckanut drive.
    lot of places to pull off and check stuff out, and a very scenic drive.
    i have taken quite a few people up there for a nice trip outside of the city.

    some links :

    http://www.experiencewa.com/scenic-b...nut-drive.aspx
    http://chuckanutdrive.com/
    http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/2579/stories/67281

  5. #5
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    If you like planes, there are two must-sees up here: Boeing Everett Plant Tour, and The Museum of Flight at Boeing Field, where you can not only check out an older Air Force One but also a Concorde. There's a lot to do there.

    A note: if you are planning on spending a couple days in Seattle itself, you might decide to get your rental car only after branching out to other areas. The downtown hotels charge a steep parking fee, and the public transit is pretty good up here. Link light rail will be running into the city from the airport by that time, so instead of a day's car rental and parking fees you'll just be out $2.50 each for the rail if you plan to just check in and see the local sights your first day.

    Have fun!
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  6. #6
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    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by aiethabell View Post
    If you like planes, there are two must-sees up here: Boeing Everett Plant Tour, and The Museum of Flight at Boeing Field, where you can not only check out an older Air Force One but also a Concorde. There's a lot to do there.

    A note: if you are planning on spending a couple days in Seattle itself, you might decide to get your rental car only after branching out to other areas. The downtown hotels charge a steep parking fee, and the public transit is pretty good up here. Link light rail will be running into the city from the airport by that time, so instead of a day's car rental and parking fees you'll just be out $2.50 each for the rail if you plan to just check in and see the local sights your first day.

    Have fun!
    Thanks for the info. It's usually cheaper to rent a car for a two week period even if I have to leave it parked for a couple of days. We will most likely stay outside of Seattle since we plan to visit areas around Seattle; Microsoft Campus at Redmond for instance.

    When we went on our California trip, we stayed in San Francisco for 4 days. It was cheaper to keep the car in the hotel parking area and pay the fee ($8 a day) when renting the car for two weeks. Breaking up the rental into pieces turned out to be more money at the time.
    Been there. Done that. Can't remember.

  7. #7
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    I'm not sure a tour of MSFT will be that fun. I had a few trips to the campus for work and there wasn't much out of the ordinary. They did have a small museum that was kind of interesting but not sure what they have for the public.

    I wasn't that impressed with the music experience museum. I skipped the nearby science fiction one so I can't comment on that.

    When we did the tourist thing near the market, we had a Fodor's book that listed a few restaurants that were very hidden and hard to find but were really good. You might want to look for food reviews.

    I didn't go to a game but the stadium in the city looks impressive. If possible it might be fun.

    If you are into beer at all the area is crawling with brewpubs, probably because of the hops that grow well in that area. I had fun touring a few of these since brewpubs aren't around my area.

    Related to brewpubs, we did a trip to Snoqualmie Falls which wasn't too far away and had a nice view of the falls from the TV show Twin Peaks. There was a train museum of sorts near there too I think.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by BPritchard View Post
    Thanks for the info. It's usually cheaper to rent a car for a two week period even if I have to leave it parked for a couple of days. We will most likely stay outside of Seattle since we plan to visit areas around Seattle; Microsoft Campus at Redmond for instance.

    When we went on our California trip, we stayed in San Francisco for 4 days. It was cheaper to keep the car in the hotel parking area and pay the fee ($8 a day) when renting the car for two weeks. Breaking up the rental into pieces turned out to be more money at the time.
    My error! I just realized we picked up and returned the car at Oakland airport. Before we visited San Francisco, we toured the Wine Country.
    It was cheaper to rent the card the whole time, rather than split it up when we stayed in San Francisco.

    I think what we will do is stay first in Seattle and visit without a car. We don't mind walking and I'll have my Ego to keep light jackets, ponchos, etc.

    My wife mentioned a book called "Seattle City Walks". Requesting comments concerning the value of this book.
    Thanks.
    Been there. Done that. Can't remember.

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    Quote Originally Posted by timothy View Post
    .... Seattle is moderately hilly (it used to be *much* hillier; late in 19th century, a series of regradings made it more level ...timothy
    We will be doing walking tours so the question is: how does Seattle compare to San Francisco? I'm assuming not as extreme.
    Been there. Done that. Can't remember.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by BPritchard View Post
    My wife mentioned a book called "Seattle City Walks". Requesting comments concerning the value of this book.
    Thanks.
    I found the following at Barnes and Noble - Moon Metro Seattle.
    Laminated street map divided into city sections. We will use this to plan our city walking tours.
    Will keep the guide in my Ego for reference.
    Been there. Done that. Can't remember.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by BPritchard View Post
    We will be doing walking tours so the question is: how does Seattle compare to San Francisco? I'm assuming not as extreme.
    Some hills are about the same pitch, but not nearly as long, as those in S.F. Walking the waterfront and climbing the hill to Pike's Market is easy enough. The rest of the time you will want to either rent a car or take the local buses; the distance is far t0o great to walk comfortably.

    The Microsoft Campus in Redmond will take you maybe 30 minutes (45 minutes if you stop at the new company/public store) to tour in it's entirety. The campus looks like every other business park in America; trees, parking lots, and nondescript buildings. Several buses can take you from downtown Seattle to the Overlake Transit Center in the heart of the campus. The Sound Transit Route 545 is a nice ride across the 520 freeway's floating bridge with a scenic view of Lake Washington thrown in for good measure.

    In other words, don't rent a car just to drive to Microsoft.
    Last edited by BigMikeD.; 08-17-2009 at 01:08 PM.
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  12. #12
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    Thanks BigMikeD, very helpful.

    We probably will visit Redmond when we leave Seattle for the rest of our trip. We'll have a car by then. Touring Seattle by car would be a headache.
    Been there. Done that. Can't remember.

  13. #13
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    Question Rain gear

    What do the natives use?
    Umbrellas,ponchos,raincoats, or run like hell?

    Here in Florida, when it rains, it is torrential most of the time.
    Been there. Done that. Can't remember.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by BPritchard View Post
    What do the natives use?
    Umbrellas,ponchos,raincoats, or run like hell?

    Here in Florida, when it rains, it is torrential most of the time.
    It seems like the rain is mostly drizzly here. I prefer a raincoat to an umbrella.
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    Thanks Darcy,

    We are planning to visit around the end of June and first week of July. Shouldn't be too much rain.

    Next important question, what type of raincoat do you use? My wife and I have seen some in catalogs. Should it be as long as a trench coat?

    Should we wait until we arrive to shop around?

    We do have waterproof windbreakers. Don't know if that is enough.
    Been there. Done that. Can't remember.

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