Last week my daughter began telling me about the restaurant she wanted to open some day. It would serve macaroni and cheese and chocolate milk, and there would be blue tables for the boys and pink tables for the girls. “And where would you put your restaurant?” I asked her. “In Seattle,” she said, “so I could live in a hotel!” Of course, I thought, Seattle is the place where you go to stay in a hotel. Everyone knows that.
When we first started traveling with kids, Seattle was an obvious destination. Although we technically live in the Vancouver area, Seattle is almost as close; two hours driving time vs one hour for Vancouver. It’s a huge advantage to have two major cities within driving distance because it doubles the number of shows and events that we can experience and the number of interesting sites to visit. It is quite possible for us to visit Seattle as a long day trip, but most of the time we prefer to book a hotel and stay a night or two. That way it really feels like we’re on an adventure. And that is probably why my daughter just assumes that everyone who is in Seattle is staying in a hotel, too.
So when my husband came home from work yesterday and out of the blue said, “We haven’t been anywhere in a while, lets go somewhere the next weekend you’re not working”, Seattle was the obvious choice. (And it also proves that I’m not the only one in the family who likes to get away as often as possible!)
Seattle is a fun place to visit, but I have found that it can be expensive and it takes a bit of planning to get a good deal. The downtown area is compact and hotel rates tend to be quite high. Parking is also expensive and most hotels charge $30-$40 or more per day. Hotel pools are also rare in the downtown area. We can often find good deals in fall and winter, but in summer we have often found that the only way to get hotel rates that we’re willing to pay is by staying outside of downtown. There are many chain hotels with good rates in the suburbs north and south of the city. One weekend we stayed in Lynnwood, about 20 minutes north of Seattle and were quite pleased with the easy access to the city. Unfortunately, we tried to do the same thing a few months later for a mid-week stay and found ourselves fighting rush hour traffic for nearly an hour to get into town. Lesson learned.
We have also gone to Seattle a few times without the kids, leaving them with their grandparents for a night while we caught a show and spent the night. For a trip without kids, we really liked the Hotel 1000, which is right downtown. It is modern and stylish with free sparkling wine at check in and cool bathtubs that fill from the ceiling. We did try spending a night there with the kids once and found the hotel to be very welcoming to kids, with free activity books and even personalized rubber duckies for them. Unfortunately my normally even tempered son, who was two at the time, completely freaked out at the water pouring down from the ceiling into the tub at bath time and refused to go anywhere near the bathroom for the rest of our stay. And of course, the usual complications of staying with small kids in a standard hotel room still applied.
For family trips, our favourite is the Homewood Suites in Seattle. We have stayed in the one on the north side of downtown, near the Space Needle before and we really like it, but this time we’ve booked the Pike Street location. The full kitchen is a huge advantage here since I’m hoping to do a bit of shopping at the Pike Place Market. Some fresh pasta and veggies and maybe some seafood from the market should make a nice easy dinner. They also have a huge, hot breakfast every morning that easily serves as an early lunch as well.
In the last few years we’ve had the chance to check out most of the kid-friendly sites in Seattle. We actually bought a family membership to the Pacific Science Center one year and we got great value for it, visiting three times that year as well as using the membership at the Science Centre in Edmonton and several science museums in California. Our kids love the butterfly house there. The Seattle Children’s museum is also great for preschoolers with room after room of hands on fun. We did lunch at the restaurant on the top level of the Space Needle once and really enjoyed the view although the restaurant is really a bit too fancy to be considered toddler friendly. Woodland Park Zoo on the north side of the city is also excellent, much better than the Vancouver Zoo near us. My son also loved the Museum of Flight on the south side of the city, which has a huge display of aircraft and spacecraft including a full sized space shuttle training module.
We also try to get some shopping in whenever we go down, even though we aren’t really huge shoppers. We often find great deals on brand name clothes at the outlets near Tulalip and the kids love visiting the Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood which has an American Girl Doll store and restaurant, a large Lego store, a Disney store and several other kid-friendly shops. The fact that the mall also has an Apple store usually helps convince my husband to make the stop. We don’t always buy much, but it is a lot more fun to go shopping on an overnight trip knowing we can bring our full duty allowance across the border if we want to.
So that’s what we have to look forward to in a few weeks. I still haven’t decided what we want to do that weekend but I’ll probably play it by ear and decide at the last minute based on the weather. And it’s never too early to start the Christmas shopping. Of course the kids are always happy to go any place where they get to stay in a hotel. Maybe my daughter will even find the perfect place to put her restaurant!