Okay, I’m finally getting around to a full recap of our seven-day road trip in the Pacific Northwest. We had a lovely time and did A LOT in the seven days. I did a lot of research before leaving and figure that having the full outline in one place may be helpful to someone. With that said, this is pretty darn long. I won’t blame you if you get bored or just want to skip it.
Yes I will.
No I won’t.
Regardless, it’s a good way to remember all the great experiences we had in a week.
We flew into Seattle, Wash., and rented a car to drive down to the coast. We departed from San Francisco, Calif., seven days later.
A few overall tips and thoughts if you plan to make the same or a similar trip:
- One-way car rentals can be EXPENSIVE. I waited too long to book and we took a hit because the prices went up even more. Book early, if you can.
- Plan, plan, plan. Road trips really do take some planning. I made a basic schedule and booked all our hotels with points in advance. Book early in the summer. August is the busy time for this entire area. You certainly don’t have to book all rooms ahead, but I found it helpful to know where we needed to be that night. And using all points kept our budget in check. For all nights, we spent a total of $40 and $72 in parking. That’s not too shabby.
- Don’t overplan. We had lots of things we wanted to see and do, but we also were open to changes in plans. We took in our surroundings and pulled over for attractions, viewpoints and restaurants when we were interested. And if something on our list didn’t sound great on the day of, we skipped it. A little flexibility is key on road trips.
- Use electronic resources. I found Yelp to be very helpful for finding restaurants. We had great luck by checking out reviews. And I put all my notes and directions on Dropbox so I could access it quickly from my phone.
So, with that out of the way, here’s the overview of our first three days in Washington state!
Day One – Seattle
We arrived in Seattle early in the afternoon, after a nail-biting flight change at O’Hare. Remember that scene in Home Alone when the family was running through the airport? That was Ryan and I, with all our luggage. We had two terminals to cover and it was already final boarding when our flight landed. Thank goodness they held the flight for us. We ran on and they closed the plane door behind us.
But, once in Seattle, it was a simple experience to get our car rental (Ryan’s a Gold Club member so we just got to go into the garage and take off. No lines. No wait.) Then, it was off to lunch.
We just decided to pick something from Yelp on the way out, and chose The Shanty Cafe. It is nothing fancy and has the feel of an old-time diner. In other words, just Ryan’s style. The food was quick, yummy and inexpensive. With our tummies full, we decided to check out the EMP museum.
EMP (Experience Music Project) – This was $18/person plus $12 parking, which we both thought was really pricey. Ryan’s a big Hendrix fan, which is why we wanted to stop in and see his exhibit. It had some history about Jimi and some of his clothing and guitars.
But it was incredibly small, and little of the rest of the museum appealed to us. (It also had Sci-Fi exhibits, and we aren’t really Sci-Fi folks.) For that reason, we felt a little underwhelmed. It’s a well-designed and maintained space, and perhaps others would like it (there were also exhibits on Nirvana, Avatar, Battlestar Gallactica…). But, it really wasn’t the best way to begin the trip
After the museum, we walked around the Seattle Center and saw the Space Needle. We didn’t go up, because there was at least a 2 hour wait and it was another $18/person. We couldn’t stand to have another disappointment and neither of us were in the mood for long lines. We didn’t go to Disney World for a reason.
Since it was still early at this point and Ryan and I both wanted to see the Puget Sound, so we ended up at Richmond Beach, a Seattle city park with great views of the Sound. It was packed on a Saturday night, but we eventually found a parking spot and hung out in the sand for a while.
After beaching, we drove around a some of the neighborhoods, where I oohed and ahhed over the Craftsman-style homes.
The homes in Seattle have tons of charm and character, and certainly aren’t McMansions. I loved them.
And the views weren’t so shabby either.
We ended up eating at The Wing Dome for supper in Greenwood. It was a really cute area of town and the food was good. Plus we got to eat outside. Not a very adventurous day for eating, but it worked for us.
At the end of the day, our hotel upgraded us to a suite, so that was a pleasant surprise. We ended up crashing relatively early after a nice first day in Seattle.
Day Two – Seattle
On the second day in Seattle, we started out the day early by heading downtown. We parked in a central location (and the parking was FREE on Sunday) and walked all over Seattle. I think walking is the way to go to see the city.
We first walked down to the waterfront and strolled through several of the piers (including Pier 54).
It was around 8 or 8:30, so it was still pretty calm. And it was cold. Felt like autumn, which was a refreshing change from the 110 degree heat we’ve been having in the Midwest.
Next, we hit Pike Place Market. We really lucked out and got there right as the vendors were setting up. It wasn’t yet crowded and we got to walk around in peace.
We didn’t want to solely eat at restaurants, so we picked up sourdough bread, cheese curds from Beecher’s and some fresh fruit and corn.
And of course we saw the fish throwing.
As we were finishing up, the market was definitely picking up. It is such a fun place, but I’m happy we got to see it before it got super busy.
After Pike Place, we walked around the city, walking up to some more stores, the Art Museum and the Columbia Center. We got a workout on the hills.
We had planned to check out the Columbia Center Observation Deck for $5 since we were avoiding the Space Needle crowds, but it was closed Sunday.
So, we headed back down to Pioneer Square and paid $15 for the two of us to go to the top of the Smith Tower Observation Deck. The observation deck is really pretty and it’s open air so it’s a neat way to see the city. You can actually spot the Space Needle from the building, along with lots of other views.
The building itself is also stunning, and it’s fun to ride the old-fashioned elevator.
The Pioneer Square area is really cool. Lots of historic buildings. And some of the trees had knitted warmers, which I thought was the cutest thing ever.
After the tower, we quickly walked through the Klondike Gold Rush Historical Park. It’s in Pioneer Square and it’s free. The museum was actually pretty cool and had a really well put-together exhibits. It follows four real people through the Gold Rush. I learned a lot. Who knew that Seattle was kind of the hub to purchase supplies for the Alaskan gold rush? Not me.
For lunch, we had the chance to meet up with Keri from The Ronk’s and her sister Kimberly at Ristorante Picolinos. Keri and her family are just as lovely, sweet and kind as they appear on the blog. It was fun to meet up with another blog friend on the trip. (Let’s just pretend that I don’t look like a giant in this photo, okay?)
After lunch, Ryan headed to a few different parks recommended by Kimberly and Keri. It’s like having your own tour guides.
But before that, we had to stop at this crazy yogurt place Kimbe recommended – Menchie’s. You pay by the ounce and add whatever you like to it. It was kinda different, but fun. I learned that I have no will power and put a little of everything on mine. Not my best idea, for future reference.
Golden Gardens was a lovely park. I just have to say that I was really impressed with the state of the city parks. Just lovely places and well-maintained. Way to go, Seattle.
Golden Gardens had tons of beach volleyball players and it was more of a “beach” beach. People were swimming, but you wouldn’t have caught me dead in that freezing water. 😉
Then, we headed to Kerry Park. The city view from this location is truly magical. And it feels kind of private, which is neat. You can see the entire skyline and the Space Needle. Just like a postcard.
After all that excitement, we headed back to the hotel. What a fun day! But we were totally beat and the next day was our first big driving day.
Day Three – Snoqualmie Falls and Mount Rainier
First thing in the morning, we checked out of our Seattle-area hotel and started our drive. First, we hit Snoqualmie Falls. When I got out of the car, I couldn’t believe it was raining. Ryan quickly reminded me that we were at a waterfall. Duh.
It was a lovely view. The deck was open, but the hiking paths had closed for some work.
But, it was still a neat stop and worth the time.
After the falls, we swung by the Northwest Railway Museum, which is right outside the area of the park. It wasn’t open, but the Depot was really pretty and it was neat to check out all the trains.
Our next stop was Mount Rainier National Park. This was not on our original plan, but there were so many people on the blog that told us we must see it that we changed plans. There are three things that are important to know about Mount Rainier.
- It is gorgeous.
- This park is HUGE.
- It doesn’t have any cell reception.
I thought we could swing in and swing out, but that wasn’t the case. It took a while to even get all the way into the park to the Visitor’s Center.
Then, we got out and walked around, checking everything out. It was kind of neat to see all the snow still on the ground. And fun to explore.
You could stay at Mt. Rainier for days and not see it all. It’s truly a breath-taking place.
When all was said and done, it was too late to see Mt. St. Helen’s (which was in our original plan) and still keep our sanity. So we packed up and headed to Portland, Ore., where we were staying the night.
Over the course of the day, we drove more than 300 miles. But we stopped a lot so it didn’t seem like quite that much. Lots of beautiful scenery on the way, and much more to come.
Are any of you still there? No…. well, I understand. That was a lot to take in. But lots of pretties, right?
I’m going to try to cover the Oregon leg of our trip tomorrow. See you then!