This was my third visit to Seattle, and on each visit my impression has been consistent: wow. I’m sure it hasn’t hurt that every visit has been free of the notorious drizzle, but even grey skies couldn’t obscure how beautiful this city is.
We were lucky to get to spend two nights in Seattle a little while back as part of Coast Hotel’s “Great Coast Road Trip.” Essentially, I was asked if I’d like to do a three-city leg of a multi-blogger road trip, write about for their website, and bring my family along. I’ve been invited for some press travel before, but rarely with Aron and the kids, so I usually decline. This was such a treat! You can of course read my posts about the trip on their site—and I’m under no obligation to say more—but we had such a great time (even as we were so daunted by the prospect of a road trip with an infant) that I still wanted to share a travelogue here, too.
Anyway, the plan was this: fly to Seattle and spend two nights there before picking up a Zipcar and driving part of the Cascades loop to Wenatchee, and then on to Portland, before passing along the car to someone else and flying home. We had never been to Portland or Wenatchee (and I’ll talk about those stops next week), and it had been 8 years since our last visit to Seattle… when we almost moved there! We were excited to go back.
The flight from Sacramento to Seattle passed so quickly! Aron and I started hatching plans for return trips before we even left the airport. For his part, Hudson would have been happy to never leave the airport tram.
On that note, public transportation into the city center is supposed to be simple and efficient, but we opted for a taxi as neither Hudson nor Skyler are carrying their own things yet—and they seem to require so much!
We arrived in Seattle right around nap time, so after checking in at the Roosevelt (our first Coast hotel), we took a little break before heading back out. We were downtown and, I noted, just off of the main shopping strip and blocks from the original Nordstrom. I briefly considered bidding the weary crew adieu for some afternoon shopping, but we had a fairly full itinerary.
The way it worked was this: Each hotel we stayed at had come up with an incredibly (wonderfully) detailed itinerary, tailored to us with breaks for naps and the like, but we were totally free to deviate. Still, I realized I sort of liked taking a break from the planning! (I’m usually the itinerary-maker, you recall.)
We were on our way to our first destination—Pike Place Market and, eventually, the ferry terminals along the water—when we spotted Cupcake Royale. We recalled visiting their original location on both of our trips back in 2006, so we felt obligated to revisit the selection. Twist my arm.
Is any visit to Seattle really complete without some fish monger photos from the Public Market? I heard a story on NPR the other day that suggested all the tossing is really not best for the fish (bruising and whatnot), but it is fun to watch!
Sure, Pike Place Market is highly touristed, but it’s also awesome. You’ll see incredible produce and seafood, taste samples directly from producers, and find all kinds of vintage-looking restaurants and take-outs to pause at—many with a great view of Elliot Bay. It opened back in 1907.
First & Pike News is the only stand left in Seattle that sells nothing but publications. It’s also just around the corner from the notorious gum wall (ew!) in Post Alley.
From Pike Place Market, it’s a long way down to the Bay. There are various shortcuts (stairs or elevators), so be sure to ask someone for directions. We made our way along the waterfront to the ferry terminal, where we would catch a water taxi to Alki Beach (West Seattle, Seacrest Dock).
Perhaps this is not typically the first thing one does when arriving in Seattle, but the trip—especially in the gorgeous weather—was so lovely. Crossing Elliot Bay, one looks back and sees the entire Seattle Skyline. I highly recommend it, particularly on a sunny day, when you can enjoy the upper deck.
Once we arrived, we saw pedi-cabs whisking rollerbladers away, and kayakers heading out onto the water. Our destination was just off the dock, however: Marination Mai Kai. The restaurant started as a food truck and their Hawaiian-Korean fare led them to have, clearly, a big success story.
We tried more items than we needed to, and everything was SO delicious! I was especially partial to the tacos, but the sliders—SPAM, a hawaiian staple, included—were awesome, too.
And those views! Oh my goodness.
We had just ordered some shave ice and cocktails when we looked again at the ferry schedule and realized it was then… or in an hour. The late sunlight had deceived us, and we didn’t want to get the kids to bed too late, so we rushed back down the dock and brought our dessert along for the ride.
The timing was just right, really: even though we were sorry to leave Alki beach, we returned just in time to catch the sun’s last glow along the waterfront before ascending back through Pike Place to our hotel.
That was our first night with all four of us in a single hotel room and I’ll admit it was a little bit of a challenge: Aron and I lay in the dark looking at our phones for quite some time before both were asleep (knowing that Skyler would probably sleep about three hours max before being up again), but I snuck out to get us coffee and dessert (round two) from the Barnes & Noble across the street for some Netflix. The next night, they were nice enough to move us to a room with a different layout—one that allowed us to stay out of the kids’ view, even with the lights on. It was a reminder to always ask… just in case.
The next morning, we drove into the South Lake Union to go to Portage Bay Cafe for breakfast. Aron and I both used to be on crew teams (he more seriously than I), so we felt right at home with all of the rowing paraphernalia. We’d been warned that they get quite busy, but fortunately we had reservations. Their concept is brilliant: in addition to a local, sustainable, organic focus (with daily specials on a blog), they have an all-you-can-eat topping bar. Who wouldn’t be happy about heaping bowls of blueberries?
It’s a very kid-friendly spot, with mouse-eared pancakes on the menu and box full of children’s books in the corner. (Sidenote: why don’t more restaurants have a box of kids’ books by the high chairs? So appreciated. By everyone.)
Our next stop was the 110-year-old Woodland Park Zoo—which was so beautiful! You could forget you were in the middle of the city. It’s very green, with lovely meandering paths and naturalistic exhibits.
We didn’t stay as long as we could have, however, noting that we wanted to be sure to see more of the city than of the animals—and we spent most of our time in the Northern Trail section, where we saw animals from the Pacific Northwest that aren’t found in our local zoo.
The huge elk, grey wolves, and the bears, in particular, were incredible.
This big fella decided to take a swim just as we walked to an interior viewing window. Hudson was so grateful that, next thing we knew, he was kissing the bear’s rear end through the glass.
He was awfully cute. Cute with really, really huge claws.
We recalled from previous visits that our favorite neighborhood was Ballard, so we headed that way for lunch rather than staying at the zoo. We landed at Hot Cakes, and were so glad we did. We really struggled with restraint, wishing we could order everything. We didn’t order one, but their namesake is their chocolate molten cake. Instead I opted for a boozy milkshake. Yummmm. One should be warned, however, that it’s very dangerous to order a liquored-up ice cream treat with a toddler sitting beside you. I wasn’t thinking ahead and you can imagine what happened when I said I wouldn’t share.
Thankfully, there was plenty more goodness to go around. Samples of caramel sauces and alder-wood smoked chocolate chips (they love their alder wood up there!) held us over through savory quiche and cheese sandwiches until we could return to more dessert.
To say it was decadent lunch break might be understating it.
When it came time to go, Aron and the kids walked back to pick up the car (in hopes that the bouncy walk would put Skyler to sleep before the car ride, during which she was likely to scream bloody murder), and I walked through the weekend farmer’s market and wished we had more time to spend!
Tiny, perfect strawberries!
Ballard is a great neighborhood to visit, if you’re coming to the city and looking for a stop outside of the main downtown sights.
But alas, we had more fun things planned!
Coast hotels had arranged for all of us to go on a Ride the Ducks tour. Aron ultimately bowed out and stayed with Skyler, who we deemed would not be a good companion for the 90 minute ride without adequate space for standing and bouncing (she’s over that now, but at the time…). So Hudson and I hopped aboard the water-bound road-safe vessel with some quackers (noise-makers, for the uninitiated) and an open-mind.
And it was great! It was such a fun way to get a tour of the city with an almost-three-year-old. He loved the quacking, the open-air driving, all of the music and silly clapping, and he loved driving into the water. Seattle is a city surrounded by water, so it only makes sense to spend some time enjoying it. This ride takes you onto Lake Union, a 580 acre freshwater lake that I still associate with the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat, oh, 21 years later. (21 years! What!?)
The gorgeous weekend weather meant that everyone (or so it seemed) was out on the lake that day. It was like a giant party.
Hudson sat still for the entire 90 minutes, only getting slightly bored as we rounded out our time on the lake. Even then, there were always the quackers…
These guys were really riding the duck, eh?
The tour wrapped up by driving through downtown, past the spot where the Seattle Underground Tours begin (something we loved doing on a previous trip to Seattle), and we all sang along to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” with synchronized hand-symbols. I couldn’t tell you what it had to do with downtown Seattle, but I won’t soon forget Hudson trying to sing along while fake-dialing a telephone. We had a lot of fun, acting very silly, and I thought it gave a perfect overview of the city’s main attractions.
Funny thing: nearly a month later, we were talking about how one can get to islands. For simplicity’s sake, I was saying you can’t drive to one (we didn’t need to go into exceptions like bridges). Hudson replied: “unless you have a duck.” “Right, mommy?” It took me a minute before I had to agree… “right.”
The park we looked out to from the tour was Gasworks Park, the former site of the Seattle Gas Light Company (and a historic landmark since 2013). Since Aron missed out on the tour, we all went back to the park together so that he could see those same views of Lake Union and so we could give Hudson some run-it-off time before dinner at nearby Ivar’s Salmon House.
We had walked by Ivar’s on our last trip, marveling at the idea of a kayak-up restaurant on Lake Union. Sort of an institution, Ivar’s is known for serving classic Northwest fare (and “acres of Clams” at its original location off the Sound). I am sure there are more innovative spots to eat in the city, but it’s a classic—with a stunning setting.
Though this is what your bread dish may look like if your dinner companion is two.
Actually, the dining scene in Seattle sounds incredible. I would love to return (with a babysitter) and really explore more.
Until then, I was content (more than) to end our culinary tour of Seattle at Top Pot Doughnuts. So many choices! Thank goodness Hudson was all about the pink frosting and sprinkles, because I didn’t want to share one bite of my salted caramel chocolate.
And with that, the road trip portion of our great Coast Hotel road trip truly began. To say we were daunted by the prospect of Skyler… four months… confined in a car seat would be another understatement.
Next week: Wenatchee and Portland, one night apiece.