Monday, August 21, 2017

Seattle, Washington

We've been to Seattle a few times, mostly as a jumping off point to other destinations (Vancouver, Alaska). At this point I'm able to piece together a pretty good itinerary for families based on the time we've spent  one day here, two days there. Here are the places we liked visiting each time we found ourselves in the Emerald City.

What to Do

Pike Place Market is always our No. 1 stop in Seattle. My kids love getting iced teas at our local Starbucks, so it was fun for them to see the very first location here. The Fish Market, where the fishmongers famously toss their daily catch around for fun, is always worth a stop. And it's mesmerizing to watch cheese being made in a huge vat at Beecher's, then taste a sample afterwards.

On our recent visit, we also checked out the gum wall, an alleyway below the market that's completely covered with chewed gum. I thought my kids would get a kick out of it and want to add their own gum to the collection, but they were actually completely repulsed by the concept. I could barely get them to take a picture there!

Seattle is, of course, well known for its Space Needle, but of the few times we've visited the city, we've never made it to the top. We've just never felt like paying the steep price, although if you do want to go all the way up, there's an early bird special  just get there before 9:30. For us, it's been fun to catch glimpses of the needle peeking out over buildings while we traveled around town.

For a much more off-the-beaten-path place to visit, check out the Living Computer Museum, a 10-minutes cab ride from the tourist center. We planned to spend just an hour there, but there was so much for the kids to do and see that we ended up staying longer. Friendly docents showed my kids how to build working robots out of cubes and pilot a rolling robot with their faces on the screens. They took several test drives in the self-driving car simulator. My favorite part was getting to test out a virtual reality game (the exhibit is limited to those 13 and older).

The upper levels feature video game sections that range from a retro space blaster game to Minecraft (you can touch and play with everything). Want to feel old? Show your kids the "latest technology" of years past, including two of my favorites, the electric typewriter and the rotary phone  both were complete novelties to my kids.

Where to Eat

A few doors down from the first Starbucks at Pike Place Market is Le Panier, a pastry shop that sells literally the best puff pastries I've ever had in my life (Paris included). Sweet or savory, you just can't go wrong with this place.

For donuts, pop into Daily Dozen. Here's a photo of my daughter from eight years ago, enjoying the first donut of her life. She's been a donut fiend ever since.

And just for fun, we tried the world's largest bowl of pho at Dong Thap Noodles in Chinatown. The "Super Bowl" size contained enough pho for four adults and four kids, and we managed to devour the whole thing. The noodles are handmade and a thicker consistency than most pho noodles, but tasty nonetheless.

We also enjoyed the pizza with blistered crusts and artisan cheeses at Serious Pie; here's another flashback photo.

Where to Stay

On our most recent visit we chose The Maxwell Hotel for its proximity to Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, and also for its free shuttle to those attractions, but it ended up being a super-cute place to stay as well. The theme is pineapple!, and it's found everywhere from the elevator walls to the pillows in the room. Free bikes are available to guests (but alas, no child-size ones). Service was great, and I wouldn't hesitate to stay there again.

What's Nearby

The one thing I always feel I need to do more of in Seattle is go hiking  but we never seem to have the time for it. The one hike we did do eight years ago was at Snoqualmie Falls, about half an hour outside of Seattle. Getting to the waterfall viewpoint wasn't difficult at all, even with a baby, and there are longer paths in the area if you're looking for more of a challenge with older kids.

After a long afternoon of hiking, head up to the Salish Lodge restaurant called The Attic for a cozy dining experience with an awesome view of the falls.