We rolled the dice a few months ago and booked a flight and hotel in Seattle for June. I was just playing around with flight prices and saw some great deals. Not knowing if things were going to be open or not we booked the flight anyway. It paid off.
We stayed at the Courtyard Marriot Seattle Downtown. It was nice. I asked for a view when we checked in and the front desk clerk said she couldn’t change our room because we booked the room with Expedia. I do recommend booking hotel rooms directly through the hotel itself. Best way is to pick up the phone and call them. I should have done that.
Oh well, our room was on the 12th floor and we did have a nice view of the Columbia Center building. There was a building that provided services for the homeless next to our building and I saw some interesting things in the alley below. Interesting things!
I’ll mention this, Seattle has a homeless problem just like every other city on the West Coast. If these cities were to realize that a little tough love would go a long way in solving this issue they could easily restore their tarnished images once again.
Day 1- Our Arrival
I messed up again with our plane tickets. The fares were such good deals that I opted for a little pricier ticket and took Southwest. I have always had pretty decent luck with Southwest, with exception of flying into SFO. I forgot how their check-in process works. They allow you to check-in 24 hours in advance and the sooner you check in within that 24 hour window the higher up the food chain your ticket becomes. Meaning, you’ll be able to board the plane sooner. So, we were literally last on the plane in Las Vegas and had to sit in single seats. No biggie as it’s only a 2 hour flight. I scored a window seat!
Our hotel was right next to the Pioneer Square station that serviced Seattle’s light rail train, the Link. There was a connection at the airport and after a 30 minute train ride we were dropped off a few steps from our hotel. It cost $13 dollars for 3 one way tickets. However, there were no turnstiles to go through and no other means to collect the tickets. We didn’t pay for another ticket the entire time we were in Seattle, including the trip back to the airport.
We did ride the bus and I paid for bus fare on the first trip and the bus driver allowed me to use the transfer tickets for the return trip. Overall, Seattle’s public transportation was easy to navigate and very inexpensive. I’d say better than San Francisco. San Francisco makes to pay for their light rail systems including street cars, but is laxed when it comes to bus fares.
Our hotel was only one stop from Seattle’s Chinatown. So, that was the first place we explored. One of our goals was to eat as much great Asian food as we could. We hit a homerun our very first meal! We ate an extraordinarily good meal at A + Hong Kong Kitchen. It was so good that we made a return trip before we left!
We spent a lot time in Chinatown during our trip. There was a modern Asian supermarket that had many imported Asian foods. They also had a very good produce department. We shopped there twice, loading up on snacks for the hotel room. We also had to make a few stops for boba tea. Feiya is a boba tea fanatic. We had a couple of hit’s a misses with both the restaurant meals and boba tea shops. We should have done better research.
Day 2- Seattle’s Pike Place Market and The Museum of Flight
Seattle still had a lot of COVID-19 restrictions in place. We had to wear a mask virtually everywhere we went. Many places still had limited attendance and social distancing was still required. The downtown area was mostly deserted, as many of the office workers were still working from home.
I had a conversation with a local pizza business owner and he said during the pre-pandemic he had a line out of his door at lunchtime. He had several employees and business was great. Now, there’s only trickle of people coming in. I’m not going to say if the restrictions are right or wrong, because I don’t know. But, I do know that things are always going to be different. Many of those office workers will never come back. Many have learned that it’s ok to work remotely. What does that mean for local business? Adapt. Change. Move forward. My 2 cents.
Pike Place Market
One train stop in the other direction after a short walk was the Pike Place Market. I suppose it’s a must see if you ever visit Seattle. It was very crowded. It was basically a farmer’s market/flea market/tourist trap. Worth the visit, but wouldn’t be disappointed if I never went back.
We ate lunch at Noi Thai Cuisine. It was a little pricey, but we were on a mission. I had the grilled salmon on fried rice something another. The salmon was dry. Like it had been left under a heat lamp too long. It was good nevertheless. Dana had the yellow curry dish. It was good, but the sauce was like water. I like a little thicker curry sauce. Feiya had the pad Thai with seafood. They did that dish very well. Overall it was ok.
Museum of Flight
With the restrictions we couldn’t get into see any of the attractions near Pike Place Market such as, the Seattle Art Museum. Major bummer. However, us budget travelers can’t complain. We instead took a bus ride through the rainy streets of Seattle to the Boing Aviation Complex to visit the The Museum of Flight.
I’m not a huge aviation buff, neither is Dana nor Feiya. The museum was interesting, however. It displayed a nice history lesson of aviation. It had passenger planes and many war plane exhibits. Many of the exhibits and attractions were closed, but it was a nice 2 hour walk through.
The bus ride to and from to the museum was fun. I love riding on public transportation for some reason. I guess it’s because it’s a novelty to me and I drive so much for work. I’ve never had to solely rely on public transportation and never had to deal with the inconveniences of using it daily. That being said, I’ve rode on many systems from Chicago to Denver to San Francisco, and even in China, Seattle’s Sound Transit is a top notch public transportation system. Kudos!
Day 3- Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and MoPop
Museum of Pop Culture
I’ll just say it– the Museum of Pop Culture was a disappointment. Sure, there was limitations due to COVID. However, I was looking forward to the Pearl Jam and Nirvana exhibits. I was hoping to take a step back in time to the heady days of the 90’s. I was hoping to share a little bit of the “glory days” of my youth with Dana and Feiya.
Instead, we were subjected to dueling documentaries in each exhibit. They had a lot of really interesting memorabilia and photos. With these displays they also had placards with a lot of great information inscribed on them. Then, there was a large screen TV prominently displayed with a looping documentary of the bands on it. Why didn’t they just play the music videos? Or concert footage? That’s all I have to say about that place, except it was a cool building.
I’ve been Seattle a couple of times when I was a kid and a couple of times when I was an adult. Among all of those trips I had never visited the Space Needle. Definitely worth the COVID protocols to get up to the top of this landmark. The sky wasn’t the best the day we went, but we still had some beautiful views of Seattle and Puget Sound. There’s 2 decks you can explore. The top deck is ‘en plein air with thick plexi-glass separating you and the sky. It’s not scary at all, but a unique experience. The 2nd lower deck has a translucent floor that rotates. Very cool.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Next to the Space Needle is the Chihuly Garden and Glass. This is a must see if you’ve never been. We bought tickets to the garden with our Space Needle tickets. It’s an incredible museum/garden dedicated to Seattle artist, Dale Chihuly. It’s beautiful, unique and mesmerizing. I’m glad I was able to experience this attraction.
We were limited for places to eat this day due to logistics and time. We opted for an American meal at the The 5 Point Cafe. We had to wait in line to get in as they were the only decent place open. The other choices were Subway and McDonalds. So we waited. The food was well worth the wait. I had the Jalapeno Curd Burger and it was pretty damn good. Feiya and Dana had sandwiches from the menu and both were really happy. We were served by a pleasant gay man wearing a Fuck Trump t-shirt. So, just a heads up if that would make you little uneasy.
Day 4- Leavenworth, WA
We wanted an opportunity to travel outside of Seattle while visiting the area. There was snow forecasted for Mt. Rainer and Olympic National Park didn’t look much better weather wise. We went with plan C.
We rented a car and took a drive to Leavenworth. It’s a small city with Bavarian roots. The buildings and restaurants were Bavarian/German style. The drive was nice and the town was unique and picturesque.
The town was quite busy for a Wednesday and parking was hard to find. We ate at one of several restaurants that specialized in bratwursts. It was ok, at best. I’m from the Midwest and was raised on bratwurst. What we ate were ordinary bratwurst at best. We had desert at a Bavarian “bakery”. I put bakery in quotations, because the proprietors used the term loosely. You’re not a bakery if you’re pulling your ready-made pastries from a frozen box and heating them up in an oven. Just saying.
After our lunch we took a stroll along the Wenatchee River via the many paths of the city’s river front park. That was very pleasant. Overall the city was beautiful as it was nestled among the mountains and rain forests. However, it felt more like a Disneyesque tourist trap full of faux buildings and culture.
Day 5- Washington Park Abortorium and Gas Works Park
Washington Park Abortorium and Japanese Garden
We still had the car rental from the previous day and decided to venture outside of what Seattle’s public transportation could do for us. Our first stop was the Washington Park Arboretum. This really wasn’t the botanic garden we were expecting. It was a really nice park and was a pleasant walk to the Japanese Garden. However, the photo ops we like just weren’t there.
We held out hope that the Seattle Japanese Garden would have created some nice photographs. It didn’t. There was a large quoi pond with some paths around it. Some Japanese inspired motifs were present throughout the garden, but overall, it was a disappointment. I only say this because it cost us $20 to enter the garden. This is about as much as we paid at the Japanese garden in Rockford, Illinois. I can’t say much about Rockford, but they do have one of the best Japanese gardens I’ve ever visited.
Gas Works Park
The highlight of the day was the Gas Works Park. It appears the city of Seattle built a park around an abandoned refinery. Yes, I should do better research. The park produced some of the best photos of the trip and overlooked the Seattle skyline across Lake Union. It was a true gem that we were glad to have found.
Goodwill and Boba Tea
We also visited a local Goodwill store to see what treasures we could find. Feiya and myself found nothing. Dana, however, found some really cool dresses. She wore them to work the week after we arrived. Her office is small, but I know she’s the best dressed in it!
We also stumbled upon a unique boba tea shop near the University of Washington campus. It was a self serve boba tea shop! You purchased a cup for around $10 and had a choice of several slushes and milk teas. For the true boba connoisseurs like Feiya and myself it more of a novelty than true boba inspired tea. They had a great selection, but all the slushes and teas were derived from powder mixes. Cool enough for the college kids I suppose. In fact, Feiya is moving away from boba tea and into actual Asian teas. More on that at another time.
Our Last Seattle Lunch
We returned the rental car and to our hotel in the afternoon hungry for a good meal. We opted to take the train to Chinatown and eat at A+ Hong Kong Kitchen one last time. It was very good the 2nd time around.
Just About Sums it Up
Sure there were some hits and misses on our trip. That was to be expected. We all had a very nice time and would revisit Seattle again. We missed the Northwest heatwave and the weather was mainly in the 60’s-70’s and rained most of the time. Even the rain was a welcome change from the Vegas desert. The food was really good and next time we’ll do even more research. We love adventures and this trip was a true adventure!
I took both my Ricoh GRII and Sony a6000 cameras, as I usually do. Normally, my Ricoh does the heavy lifting as it’s so small and compact. I forgot to pack the batteries and charger for the Ricoh! I had to use the a6000 for the entire trip. It performed almost flawlessly. And those times that it didn’t perform all that great the dynamic range more than compensated. It performed so well that for our upcoming trip to LA, I will only have one camera. The Sony a6000.