When choosing a vacation destination, one might shy away from the Northwest for logical reasons. Seattle has given way to the grey-and-rainy stigma, where people afflicted with seasonal affect disorder (SAD) place themselves in front of full-spectrum lighting to quell their depression.
And let’s face it. No one wants to hide under an umbrella or get stuck indoors during your coveted holiday time. But whether it’s global warming or a fluke, I can honestly say that Seattle and Washington state is mild and sunny, most of the time. Even after speaking with locals, sunshine is the prevailing weather pattern that abounds, so start planning now.
Seattle is a wonderful combination of old and new, antique to high tech, historical to the innovative all rolled into one. In other words, it’s a darn fun place to be. For foodies, there’s a plethora of culinary delights. For sports fans, you’ve got the Mariners and Seahawks and for art and culture and good old fashioned industry, the place is booming, so let’s get started.
Most Seattle hotels run $300 and up a night during peak season, so I recommend staying a few miles outside the city limits where prices are more reasonable and the commute into town takes only 15 minutes. That will also save you plenty on daily parking at the pricier hotels. We stayed at the Best Western Alderwood in Lynnwood, which is 17 miles outside of the city and features a full breakfast for around $130 in July. It is also a mile from the high end Alderwood Mall for shopping and dining.
Chihuly Garden and Glass is a must see museum, showcasing Seattle’s own, pre-eminent glass artist, Dale Chihuly. When you have an entire museum dedicated to your work, you know you’ve arrived. And for good reason. The museum encompasses Chihuly’s long and hallowed love affair with glass and how, over the years, his art has evolved. The museum highlights his many different styles and inspirations (both indoor and outdoor installations), a wonderfully colorful café with killer clam chowder as well as a gift shop where you can actually buy an art piece by Mr. Chihuly.
The Museum of Pop culture, founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is another bucket list attraction, but it’s massive, so plan on spending most of the day there. If you’re into musical superstars, they feature Jimi Hendrix’s guitar, his outfits and jewelry to a whole section devoted to Washington State native, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. For movie memorabilia, you can enjoy Judy Garland’s dress and the wicked witch’s hat from the Wizard of Oz as well as space aliens, a whole collection of Star Wars guns, creepy displays from horror movies and the World Premiere exhibition of Marvel’s Universe of Super Heroes.
Bill Speidel’s underground tour is an often comic trek into the underbelly of Seattle’s, sometimes dubious history and its subterranean remnants. From sewage history to brothels, bootlegging to bank robbers, the tour is always interesting and told by some very talented orators. Throughout the tour, you’ll also get a glance at historic Pioneer square and its environs but be sure and get a souvenir at their massive, two-room gift shop.
Second only to the Smithsonian, the Museum of Flight is worth the short trip, just south of Seattle. It’s an eye opening air and space museum covering everything from the Wright brothers to the history and heroics of World War I and II fighter planes to the Apollo exhibit and subsequent trip to the moon. They also have a 3D movie theater, interactive exhibits, flight simulators, a café and children’s playground overlooking Mt. Rainier.
DAY TRIP TO WOODINVILLE’S WINE COUNTRY AND HERITAGE RESTAURANT
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, take a short drive to Woodinville, home of over 100 wineries and tasting rooms. Having a small-town-Americana feel, Woodinville is quaint and quiet with a host of great wineries from Chateau Ste. Michelle to JM Cellars. At the end of the day, treat yourself to Chef Breanna Beike’s Heritage restaurant, which is bright and airy with indoor and outdoor seating featuring great guitar and vocals. Starting with sweet corn and Dungeness crab fritters, to their delicious wedge salad, we graduated to a pan roasted, Idaho trout (the unique side of quinoa was as tasty as the main course) and finished with Chef Bre’s “Jar of Pie” (key lime curd, buttered graham crackers and toasted marshmallow). Wine selection is vast and Heritage is open for lunch, happy hour, dinner and weekend brunch.
While staying in the suburbs of Seattle, we discovered the Taproot Theatre, which houses a talented company performing on a thrust stage (audience on three sides) sans balcony. The house is intimate, the productions first rate and the seats unobstructed. But before the theatre, check out the Flint Creek Cattle Co. restaurant across the street, run by executive chef Eric Donnelly. The restaurant has a chic, trendy Soho feel with an upper balcony and copious bar. The prosciutto, buffalo milk burrata and warm plum starter was to die for, somehow eclipsed by the bone-in pork chop with creole red eye gravy and heirloom grits. Capped off with a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate ganache cake with caramel-peanut ice cream and voila! Check out Chef Donnelly’s other gem, RockCreek for brunch, nearby.
Book the Victoria Clipper, a high-speed, luxury catamaran from downtown Seattle to Victoria, B.C., Canada. The trip is relaxing and scenic, and takes you to the heart of downtown Victoria. From there, a bus takes you on an informative tour of the city, then whisks you off to Butchart Gardens where botanical wonders abound. In addition to extreme photo-ops, there are multiple places to grab a bite or enjoy a soothing ice cream in the afternoon sun. While in Victoria, I recommend the Royal BC Museum which is currently featuring their ancient Egyptian exhibit. At the end of the day, the Clipper Victoria takes you back to Seattle in style and comfort. Clipper vacations also have overnight packages and other excursions in and around Victoria for your ultimate enjoyment. Passports required and no DUI violations for admittance.
LAKE QUINAULT LODGE AND OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
In the heart of the Olympic National Forest, Lake Quinault Lodge was miraculously built in 56 days, yet stands as proud today as it did in 1926. A prime example of rustic wilderness lodging, suited to its woodland environment, it wreaks of history, reminiscent of “The Shining” but in a good way. You can book a rain forest tour that departs right from the lodge which is both fascinating and educational. Overlooking Lake Quinault (named and owned by the Quinault Indian tribe), the area is a hiker’s paradise, but don’t get lost, as cell service is spotty. In addition, biking, boating, fishing and taking a dip in the lake are the order of the day. Our room was lakeside and very plush with all the comforts of home. If you get hungry, the Roosevelt dining room at the Lodge features excellent food with views of the lake. Nearby, you can partake in the Lake Quinault museum, get info from the Ranger station, grab a sandwich at the Mercantile or make a reservation at the Salmon House Restaurant down the road.
A slideshow with music to accompany this story is online here
Richard Atkins is a travel writer, photographer, playwright, actor and pianist and can be reached at [email protected].
IF YOU GO
Other attractions in Seattle, visitseattle.org/things-to-do/
Buy your City Pass, citypass.com/seattle
Best Western Alderwood, 19331 36thAvenue, W. Lynnwood, WA 98036. Best prices are through Priceline.com
Chihuly Garden and Glass, 305 Harrison St., Seattle, 98109, 206.753.4940 chihulygardenandglass.com
Museum of Pop Culture, 325 5thAve. N, Seattle, 98109, 855.409.9531, mopop.org
Bill Speidel’s Underground tour, 614 1stAve., Seattle, 98104, 206.682.4646, undergroundtour.com
Clipper Vacations, 2701 Alaskan Way, Pier 69, Seattle, 98121, 206.443.2560, clippervacations.com
Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville St., Victoria, BC V8W 9W2, Canada, 888.447.7977, royalbcmuseum.bc.ca
FlintCreek Cattle Company Restaurant, 8421 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle, 98103, 206.457.5656, flintcreekseattle.com
Sister Restaurant – RockCreek, 4300 Freemont Ave. N, Seattle, 206.557.7532, rockcreekseattle.com
Taproot Theatre Company, 204 N. 85thSt., Seattle, 98103, 206.781.9707, taproottheatre.org
Woodinville and Wine Country woodinvillewinecountry.com
Heritage Restaurant, 14450 Redmond-Woodinville Rd. NE, #3101b, Woodinville, WA 98072, 425.419.4760, heritagewoodinville.com
Lake Quinault Lodge, 345 S. Shore Rd., Quinault, WA, 98575, 360.288.2900, olympicnationalparks.com/lodging/lake-quinault-lodge
Lake Quinault Museum, 354 S. Shore Rd., Quinault, WA, 98575, 360.288.2361, lakequinaultmuseum.org
Salmon House Restaurant and Lounge, 516 S. Lake Shore Rd., Quinault, WA 98575, 360.288.2535, rainforestresort.com/salmon-house-restaurant.htm