I spent a long weekend in Seattle, WA, back in August 2013. It was my last trip before starting law school (I had no idea I would travel so much during school). My fiance and I went for his birthday. Miraculously, it only rained the day we arrived. The weather for the remainder of our stay was beautiful.
As you start planning your trip to Puget Sound, check out Seattle’s tourist website.
Here’s some highlights from our short stay in Seattle.
(1) Pike’s Market Place
No trip to Seattle would be complete without a stroll through Pike Place Market. If you make itineraries for your travels, plan to go to the Market in the morning. For those early birds, bakeries open at 6 AM. If you want to watch any throwing fish or purchase seafood, you’ll want to arrive around 7 AM. To be first in line for fresh produce, you’ll want to arrive around 8 AM. Otherwise, the official opening time for the market is 9 AM. The market closes at 6 PM (earlier on Sundays). We didn’t make our way to the market under the late afternoon, so there wasn’t a whole lot to see by then.
Located at 1st Ave and Pike St., the Market is located along the wharf (if you walk past the gum wall, you’ll end up at the Market). There is a plaza along the waterfront, behind the market, where you can hang out or eat your purchases. If you’re a coffee fanatic, Pike Place Market is where the original Starbucks is located. I love coffee, but i don’t necessarily love Starbucks coffee, so we just walked passed to say we’ve seen the original. It wasn’t as crowded as I had expected, but enough people to dissuade me from going inside. The Lower Level of the market center is where you’ll find retail shopping. Under the Clock is a large piggy bank. You can rub its snout for good luck and make a donation to Pike Place’s social services.
To help with your visit, check out Pike Place’s Walking Guide 101.
(2) Space Needle
It may be a touristy spot, but it just didn’t feel right to go to Seattle and not make a stop at the famous Space Needle. Since we were staying on the south side of downtown, it was too far to walk over there. It gave us another excuse to use the light rail system, Light Link. Living in San Antonio, Texas, we don’t get to use public transportation very often. Whenever we’re in a city with decent buses or rail systems, we use it! There were two Light Link stations near our hotel: Pioneer Square and University Street (a few blocks away). For information about the Light Link, check out this website.
The Light Link will not take you all the way to the Space Needle. We got off at 5th Ave & Pike (Westlake Station). Then we hopped onto the Monorail. The monorail has only two stations: Westlake and Seattle Center. We purchased round trip tickets (and luckily had enough cash on us-you purchase on board and its cash only).
For other transportation options, check out this link.
We went to the Space Needle in the morning in August, so there wasn’t a crowd. We only had a slight wait for the elevator to the top. Less crowds also meant not having to shove our way for a view (like I’ve done at other places). I could walk all the way around and take as many pictures as I liked without waiting for other people to move (or feeling pressure to move myself).
It was a hazy day, but we could still see Mount Rainier in the distance.
Although tickets are about $17 per person, you get a “free” photo from your visit. My fiance found it really cheesy but I loved it. You get a code (if I remember correctly) and you can download it online later that day.
There is a restaurant in the Space Needle (SkyCity) but we didn’t stay long enough to eat. It’s good to know its there, though. You never know when you’ll need coffee or something to eat.
(3) Post Alley
The Gum Wall. Personally, I found it disgusting, but we decided to pass by on our way to Pike Place and see what all the hub-bub was about. We didn’t have any gum on us so we couldn’t add to the wall. (Not that I would have anyways. I’m not germaphobic, but still, ew.) The wall belongs to the Market Theatre building. The section of the alley where the gum wall is located is just that, an alley. Not much else to see besides used gum on a wall. But if you keep walking towards Pike Place (pictured above with a pretty sign), you’ll find restaurants, cafes, and shopping. We didn’t stop in anywhere on way to Pike Place Market.
(4) Mount Rainier
We decided to rent a car from the airport when we first arrived in Seattle and drive to the park the next day. At the end of the day, we dropped the car off at the airport and took the Light Rail back to our hotel. When it was time to leave Seattle, we hopped on the light rail again, with our luggage this time (one more reason to pack light), and rode all the way back to the airport.
Its quite a drive once you enter the park to where you can actually park. Then its a short trek to the visitor’s center before you actually start the hike.
We hiked in the Paradise region of the park. The hike consists of paved roads, man-made steps, and naturally paved paths. For those reasons it’s not too difficult of a hike.
Just make sure to pack water, snacks, sunscreen, sunglasses/hat, and appropriate clothing. The weather is not too warm, even in August, because of the elevation. There was still snow on the mountain top, and some patches remained on the paths.
Since you’re likely to encounter snow and rocky paths, be sure to pack appropriate footwear and clothing for the terrain. We both packed light outerwear for the higher elevation points, and wore hiking pants (flexible, lots of pockets, comfortable).
The trail we took is known as Skyline Trail / Panorama Point. You’ll pass through forests, fields of wildflowers, and rubble of glaciers on this hike, which is why it’s highly recommended.
We chose this trail because my fiance summited Mt. Rainier earlier that year and this was part of the trail he took. Once you reach the base of the Nisqually glacier, you can see people on their way to the base camp (or who are at base camp and acclimating before their climb to the summit).
It’s at this point where the path becomes a little more difficult.
But it is all worth it for the views.
Don’t forget to keep and eye out for wildlife, too! We only saw smaller animals on our trail, but you’re likely to encounter more on other trails within the park.
On our way out of the park, we took a slight detour to eat dinner at Copper Creek Inn & Restaurant outside of Ashford. Its was a great spot to stop for a lot of food after hiking all day.
(5) Fremont Neighborhood
You can get to Fremont pretty easily by taking the bus from downtown Seattle.
I only had one thing on my list of things to see in Fremont, so I didn’t look up ahead of time what else there was to do in Fremont. All I wanted to do was see the Troll (which I only knew about because of the movie 10 Things I Hate About You). My fiance was a little reluctant to make the journey but he agreed it was pretty cool. We had to wait our turn while a few other people took photos with the Troll (or while kids climbed all over it). But there weren’t too many people there, so we had the Troll to ourselves after a while.
Down the street from the Troll, on the corner of 36th Street and Evanston Ave, is the famous statue of Lenin. Its the only known depiction of Lenin surrounded by guns and flames rather than books. It was the author, Emil Venkov’s, way of portraying Lenin as a violent revolutionary. During the 1989 Slovakia revolution, an American found it toppled. He brought it back to the states and, though his family owns it, the statue remains on display for the public.
The coffee shop where we stopped after seeing the Troll doesn’t seem to exist anymore. But if you’re looking for some coffee, check out Fremont Coffee Company. It’s located a few blocks from the troll and nearby Theo Chocolate. We didn’t have time to tour Theo Chocolate. If you’d like to book a tour, click here.
We walked around the neighborhood, window shopping and admiring different art work, then went down to the river where we were greeted with hedges shaped like dinosaurs!
We finished our time in Fremont at the Red Door for a late lunch. Had a nice meal, some beer, and enjoyed the beautiful warm weather on their patio facing the river.
If you visit on a Sunday, head to 400 N 34th Street for Fremont’s Sunday Market. Its a large flea market with around 200 vendors.
(6) Public Library
We passed by the Central Library when we were out walking around downtown. If we were in Seattle for a longer time, I probably would have convinced my fiance to check out the inside. But, since we didn’t have the time, we made sure to pass by and admire the architecture. I wasn’t able to capture the entire building with my camera. I suggest walking past the library (if you can’t go inside) to marvel at the design.
(7) Baseball Game
We spent one of our evenings at a Seattle Mariner’s game. The stadium (Safeco Field) is located down the road from China Town, so we grabbed an early dinner in China Town before the game.
To get there from downtown, you can take the light link to King Street Station. Its about a 15 minute walk from the station to the stadium.
After the game, we chose to walk back to our hotel. There was a good crowd of people who did the same. We passed through Pioneer Square on our way. If we didn’t have to wake up early the next day we probably would have stopped for a drink like many of the baseball fans. Its Seattle’s “original neighborhood” (established 1852).
Before the baseball game, we stopped in Seattle’s Chinatown. My fiance studied abroad in China during undergrad and one of his classmates was living in Seattle at the time we visited. It seemed appropriate to meet up with him here.
Since all we did was eat at a small restaurant at the back of a tiny market, I can’t really describe what to do and see in the Chinatown-International District.
Check out Seattle’s website for more information.
(9) Ferry to Victoria
We took the Clipper Ferry from Seattle to Victoria. The Ferry Terminal is located at 2701 Alaskan Way, Pier 69 Seattle, WA 98121. The boat departs at 8 AM. Since we left the hotel really early because we walked to the terminal, we had to grab coffee and a breakfast snack at the dock while waiting to board.
The Ferry Ride is almost 3 hours long so we also packed some snacks (I brought nuts which was a bad choice because you can’t bring them into Canada). There’s only so many departure times from Victoria back to Seattle so plan your stay accordingly. We had to be back to the ferry by 7 pm. That meant we either had to eat a very early or very late dinner (we ended up doing the latter).
You’ll arrive at the Clipper Terminal in the Inner Harbour, down the street from the British Columbia Legislature, Empress Hotel, and the Royal BC Museum.
British Columbia Legislature
If you want to see inside, you can arrange for a guided tour by contacting the Tourism Victoria’s Visitor Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 250-953-2033 (or toll-free 800-663-3883).
The Fairmont Empress Hotel
Enjoy a cup of tea at the Empress Hotel. The hotel has been serving tea to royalty and celebrities since 1908. You can be one, too. You’ll need to make reservations and dress appropriately (“sophisticated, smart casual”). I’m more of a coffee person so we skipped tea time.
Instead, we started our walk to the Craigdarroch Castle, which was a much farther walk than originally thought.
But, first we stopped at Dog Gone It for lunch. There’s probably better restaurants in the area, but we were hungry and it was the first place we saw. We both got a hot dog and I got a milkshake.
The Castle is located at 1050 Joan Crescent. Although only a 30 minute walk from the Fairmont Empress Hotel, the walk was uphill (and living in South Texas meant we weren’t used to it..and were still a little tired from our Mt. Rainier hike) and a little tiresome.
Craigdarroch Castle was the home of a wealthy coal baron, Robert Dunsmuir. The home was built 1887 and 1890. This quintessential Victorian home was meant to show Dunsmuir’s status to the world. Sadly, he never got to live in it. He died in 1889. His wife lived here with their daughters for 18 years. She had tumultuous relationships with her sons. To learn about the family before taking a tour, check out the website.
The home includes interesting architecture, artifacts, and great views of the city (which were probably even better in 1900). I’m a history buff, so touring the Castle was worth the visit.
The Government House and Gardens
On our walk back towards the marina, we stumbled upon the Government House, only 5 minutes from the Castle.
If you plan your visit to Victoria ahead of time, you can schedule your stay to align with the available tour dates for the interior of the house. They only provide tours one Saturday a month. The website announces the upcoming tour dates. Only 100 guests are allowed on each tour (9:30 and 11 am). We stumbled upon the house on our walk back towards the marina, so we didn’t know about the tours. Instead we walked the gardens.
If you missed out on tea at the Empress, you can enjoy a cup at the Cary Mews Tea Room, located in the Butterworth Cottage.
Realizing we had more time to kill before our ferry ride, we headed towards Downtown and the Market Square.
Market Square is a group of buildings located between Johnson St and Pandora Ave. Its also a few minutes from the wharf and Chinatown. There’s several boutiques and restaurants located at the square. Its a beautiful and lively part of Downtown. Walk down Johnson Street for a snack at Wannawafel.
Check out the Market Square website for a list of shops and restaurants.
Towards the harbour, you’ll see murals and statues. The Homecoming statue captures the moment when a sailor comes home to his family.
Before our ferry departed, we enjoyed the amazing weather and took a stroll down the Laurel Point Path.
The Butchart Gardens is comprised of a Sunken Garden, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, a concrete garden, and a rose garden. To familiarize yourself with the layout before your visit you can look at the Garden’s interactive map.
I wasn’t able to visit these gardens on our visit. I knew I could spend our entire day walking around and taking photos, so I had to resist the temptation and not go at all. At least I managed to see some gardens while in Victoria, though.
Places I Remember Eating:
(1) Top Pot Donuts
(2) The Pike Brewing Company
(3) Umi Sake House
(4) Red Door, Fremont
(5) Wannawafel, Victoria, BC
Where We Stayed:
The Arctic Club, Seattle, WA
Here’s a Google Map of places we saw and where we ate in Seattle.