Well, we just finished up another long weekend here in British Columbia and it was supposed to be the final leg of our North, South, East and West themed mini vacations. We went east to the Okanagan back in October, south to Great Wolf Lodge in Washington state in November and west to Victoria in February. So, what happened to North? Well, prices, mostly. I was hoping to go to Whistler, BC for the weekend, but I have an upper limit on what I’ll spend on a hotel for a short trip and I just couldn’t find any really good rates for the weekend, not even at the last minute.
But just when I had resigned myself to a long weekend at home my searching did bring about a good deal on a hotel just north of Seattle, so we decided that we might as well put off North for another time and take a second shot at South. This ended up working really well since we had been through Seattle many times in the past couple of years to go to the airport or somewhere else south of the city, but we actually hadn’t spent any time in the city in over two years.
We headed out Sunday morning for the easy two hour drive to Seattle and made our first stop at the Seattle Center near the Space Needle. This area just north of the city has several great museums and cultural venues as well as the famous space needle. When we arrived it looked like a large charity event was just wrapping up on the grounds and we enjoyed the live music and street performers scattered around as we walked in from the parking area.
The Seattle Center area has attractions for all ages including the pricey, but great to do once, Space Needle, the Seattle Children’s Museum, which my kids loved as toddlers and the flashy, modern Experience Music Project, which would be a great stop for older kids and teens who were interested in music and pop culture. But for our visit we decided to focus on the Pacific Science Center.
The Pacific Science Center is about the same vintage as the Space Needle and while it was probably once quite a cutting edge attraction, the architecture and exhibits are certainly showing their age a bit. But my kids don’t mind the dated, 1960’s exterior or details like the footnote that was added to Pluto in the exhibit of the planets after it lost it’s planetary status. They just see lots of levers to pull and blocks to build with and enthusiastic staff willing to answer their endless questions.
The Science Center has a great collection of butterflies housed in a walk through butterfly house as well as lots of other bugs and other creepy crawlies. My daughter spent about half an hour in total at the small tidal pool touch tank handling starfish, anemones and hermit crabs while chatting with the extremely patient young staff member about the various creatures on exhibit. My son, on the other hand, touched each creature once and ran off to go back to building with the blocks.
After the Science Center we headed about 20 minutes north to our hotel, the Hampton Inn and Suites in Lynnwood. I think we may have found a new favourite hotel for our future Seattle trips. We stayed in a lovely one bedroom suite with a full kitchen and enjoyed a great, hot breakfast in the morning. It was close to some great shopping and even had a “manager’s reception” in the evening with free wine, beer and light snacks. We’ve noticed more and more chain hotels having receptions like this for guests and it’s a trend we support wholeheartedly.
On Monday morning we headed back towards the city to visit the Woodland Park Zoo, which is on the north end of the city. We had been once before when the kids were toddlers and we were looking forward to taking them back when they were old enough to remember it. The zoo is quite large and spread out and the weather was just about perfect for enjoying a day out of doors. The paths were nice and shady and there weren’t a lot of hills, either.
We got to the zoo just after it opened at 9:30 and ended up staying until almost 3:00 and we still could have stayed a bit longer. We put on quite a few miles going from one end of the zoo to the other and back again. The kids also spent quite a bit of time in a sort of indoor play area/learning centre that was geared towards kids aged eight and under. One tip for Canadians, though is to bring a bit of American cash. I was using only cards and there were a few places that took only cash. My kids were very disappointed when we visited the aviary and discovered that the seed sticks that everyone around them had to feed the birds could only be purchased with cash. I will forever be grateful to the Italian family that saw my daughter’s disappointment and gave her one of theirs. Thank you, wherever you are, your generosity made my kids’ day!
Since the Monday was a workday in Seattle we were expecting traffic to be bad going out of town, but despite the fact that we left the zoo at 3:00 we still managed to hit about 30 miles of stop and go traffic on the way out. Then suddenly it cleared up and everyone started moving again. I always wonder when that happens. There was no accident, no change in the number of lanes, nothing that would explain the traffic jam suddenly disappearing. Did the one guy who was holding everyone up exit or something? So strange.
And that was our South take two long weekend in Seattle. We always enjoyed our Seattle trips when the kids were toddlers, but it was even more fun with a five and a six year old. I’m sure we’ll be back there sometime soon.