Family vacations can be exciting, exhilarating and sometimes exhausting. But, with lots of planning, a spirit for adventure and a sense of humor – the family vacation can be a success. I am writing this blog as our family completed the first part of our “vacay” and is about to journey on to “part 2” – a cruise through the inside passage of Alaska. I hope that my chronicles helps other families learn how to plan a successful trip and give insight to those who may need special accommodations when they travel. By all means add your “pearls of wisdom” in the comment section, too!
First stops: Seattle and Vancouver.
I was expecting rain. Doesn’t everyone talk about the Pacific Northwest, especially Seattle, as being nothing but rain, rain, and more rain? Isn’t the reason Starbucks got its’ start in Seattle was to keep people warm when they were cold and wet from the damp weather? Well, let me tell you – after nearly a week in Seattle and then Vancouver our family didn’t see ANY rain. We did experience glorious sunshine, lots of delicious coffee shops, restaurants galore and a ton of fun!
Seattle is a bustling city that one can experience largely on foot or with the assistance of a very efficient rail system. To get to our hotel (Hyatt Olive 8) from the airport meant an easy train ride and then walking about four blocks. The staff was extremely accommodating, especially since we originally were sandwiched between two rooms with screaming babies. They moved us quickly to a quiet floor and all was good!
Seattle is a fun city and there is no shortage of excellent restaurants (My favorite was a small French bistro on 1st Street – Le Pichet.) We ordered a number of dishes and found all of them to be excellent! In addition to the culinary scene, be sure to check out these places if you find yourself in Seattle:
1. Go to the Space Needle but spend much more of your time at Chihuly Gardens and Glass. The glass works by Dale Chihuly took my breath away. His story can be found on his website. As an accomplished artist, the state of Washington shows their native son’s prolific works of art proudly! Moreover, his glass sculptures are exhibited in more than 200 museums and gardens worldwide. The glassworks are so colorful that they seemed to dance in place when the light hits them “just right.” Below are just some of the many photos I captured from this amazing place!
Special note for travelers: You can purchase a combo- ticket for both the Space Needle and the gardens. It is worth it, but GO EARLY to BOTH. The wait in line for the Space Needle for our 2pm ticket was an hour. While the view was spectacular, it was crowded and people were not “at their best”. Plus, they are still “under construction” and that meant less room for all the people sandwiched in the viewing area. My advice – make your trip to the “needle” during a weekday.
The Chilhuly Gardens, however, was an exhibit that offered lots of room to meander. It also was wheelchair friendly. With that said it probably would be a challenge for young children and those that need to “touch”. This is definitely not a place that welcomes people, especially little ones, who are accustomed to a museum that allows for a tactile experience.
2. Next to see in Seattle… Pikes Place Market. This is just a huge hoot! From flying fish to the gum wall. Yes, I said a GUM WALL. Apparently people have put thousands of pieces of gum on to a wall under the market. While it is interesting, it also is gross. (Have a germ phobia? Stay away!) There is a Ferris wheel and plenty to keep kids occupied. The walking is fairly easy except for a few rough hills from the seaport to the Space Needle. Don’t fret! There is Lyft, Uber and taxis to drive you. Plus, a monorail. Most of all – there is a ton of food vendors with reasonably priced meals.
3. Travel from Seattle to Vancouver is great via AMTRAK! The seats were very generously sized with power outlets. And there was WiFi on the train for those who needed to be “plugged in”. Food and beverages are served on board, although I would bring your own coffee. There is ample room for luggage (big bags are taken from you and given back at the end of the trip.) Have your camera ready as the ride passes through areas that make for great photos and video! Below is a snippet of video of the ride through Bellingham Bay. BRING YOUR PASSPORT!
3. Now let’s chat Vancouver! Ah… this city has intrigued me for years as it is the place where so many TV shows and movies are filmed. The CW channel has made Vancouver their flagship “set”. Again, we we visited when the weather was clear and temperate. The people are super friendly and this town gets an A+ for walkability. If you are tired of going up and down some of the hills – hail a cab – there are plenty of them! The only downfall – like Seattle, this city is not cheap. Even with the exchange rate favoring the US dollar, Vancouver is an expensive place to vacation. We spent quite a bit of time visiting quaint shops and eateries trying to stay away from the expensive restaurants. Our stay at The Burrard Hotel was very good and the prices were reasonable. The staff was superb! Our stay would have been “rated” excellent had there been a pool or hot tub/ spa on the premises.
The waterfront area (where the cruise ships dock) is filled with fun little shops, but true finds are on the side streets and at the Granville Island Public Market. The cute Aqua Bus takes you from Vancouver “proper” to Granville Island in two minutes (no exaggeration!) You also are able to ride a bike across a bridge, but it would appear that cars are not welcome unless there was a distinct purpose – such as dropping off shop owners and their wares. The Aqua Bus also can take you to other points around Vancouver. While there is a ramp to get from the Aqua Bus to the dock, it does not appear to be accessible for those in a wheelchair. You can obtain much more information regarding accessibility here.
Special Note to travelers: The Burrard has an elevator but not sure it is wheelchair sized. Laundry is at the hotel and there is parking.
Coming up next in this series… Discovering Alaska… the cruising experience.