Mrs. Pained has a business shutdown from Dec. 22 through Jan. 4 this upcoming Holiday season. We've decided to head to the Great Northwest for the first time. This is a bucket list trip for us. We've already snagged the two RT (1st Class!!) seats on USAir from PHL to SEA. We'll be leaving Christmas night, after the festivities all settle down, and return on Jan.2. I've set up a one nighter at the SEA TownePlace Suites Seattle Southcenter since the plane lands after 9PM and they have an airport shuttle. I also set up a stay at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront for a five night stay from Dec 28-Jan 2. That leaves a two night window for Dec 26-Dec 28. We could certainly stay in Seattle, but 8 nights in one city almost sounds like a wasted opportunity. So, the question is, do we head south to Portland or north to Vancouver. Keeping in mind that this is at the end of the year, what do my Insider friends have to say? Logistically, both cities appear to be a 2H 40M drive or so from Seattle....an easy ride for the Pained's.
What would you do and see in late December in either Portland or Vancouver for two days?
Any hotel recommendations?
I'd probably suggest Portland. When I lived in the Seattle area, I made the drive both north and south several times. Crossing the border into Canada takes a little longer than most people anticipate. I don't know how it might be in December having never done it that time of year, but factor in extra time if you opt for Vancouver.
Consider (for either Portland or Vancouver) taking the Amtrak Cascades. There are at least 4 trains to Portland each day and 2 to Vancouver. The Tukwila trains station (about 3 miles from TPS) is actually the first stop between Portland and Seattle, so you wouldn't have to get into the city to catch the train if you head south by rail.
Something you could also consider is the ferry from Seattle to Victoria complete with the holiday lights tour of Butchart Gardens (The Butchart Gardens Holiday Lights Tour & Victoria BC Hotel Package). Not sure if that is your thing, but it's supposed to be pretty amazing.
There is really no bad choice here. Portland is great. So is Vancouver.
I loved the ferry to Victoria. I took it in early spring, but the city would be great any time of year.
The Amtrak Cascades is one of the most successful routes outside of the east coast. Plus the scenery between Tacoma and Olympia is spectacular as you go along Puget Sound and under the Tacoma Narrows bridges.
The only bad part is that you'll have to choose one or the other for the couple nights not already spoken for.
I think bejacob had good suggestions. While I find Portland, Seattle and Vancouver to be wonderful towns to visit, to my wife and I they are "outside" towns. December/January is probably not the best time to be "outside". (But, I am from Phoenix and don't relate to cold and wet.) If the weather is what I would expect, you should plan to have a hot bowl of the clam chowder at the Marriott Waterfront. Best on the harbor as far as I am concerned, and we tried them all at the annual chowder competition. If you make it to Portland I would recommend the Courtyard downtown. Several food truck lots sprinkled all over the downtown and near the Courtyard. If you take the Amtrak down to Portland, I would expect that there would be light rail or bus service available to the downtown area. Portland has great public transportation. Enjoy your trip!
Not to completely disagree with what curiousone wrote, but there is an excellent place for chowder and even though I've not had chowder at the Seattle Waterfront I'm fairly certain just across the street at Anthony's Pier 66 | Anthony's Home Port (Marriott is in the background) will be much better than any you'll get at the Hook & Plow in the hotel. There are just far to many excellent places to eat in the Market and Belltown area.
bejacob is on the money with the time you may spend getting across the border into Canada particularly on I-5. There is a parallel road east of I-5 that has much less crossing time on Highway 543 (IIRC).
And don't miss out on a snowy day at Snoqualmie Pass Ski Lodge about 45 minutes east of Seattle for a nice beverage as well!!!
Congrats on getting the FC tickets and here is hoping you love the great Northwest as much as we do.
Wow, these folks are really on the money! I love bejacob's and IAHFLYR's ideas! Leave the car at home, and take the AMTRAK to Portland, or the ferry to Victoria! Let the weather help you make up you mind! You will have plenty to see/do from a wonderful hotel.
Victoria, is a lovely day trip, and the gardens are stunning!
Congratulations! You will have a wonderful time!
Oh wow. Love love love the northwest. In fact, I will be there in 2 weeks. Yay! Can't wait.
If you only have a 2 night window, I'd go with the ferry to Victoria. The Marriott Victoria Inner Harbour is fabulous. You can catch a water taxi over to Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub then walk back. If you love art galleries then you'll love Victoria. And, as the others say, Butchart Gardens is fabulous.
I'd recommend the ferry through the San Juan Islands, to get there, but you might want to keep that one for a summer visit. lol
If you're looking for some down time and fantastic food, then travel a little further and you're at Sooke Harbour House. Book a room with a hot tub and a fireplace, order in a couples massage, and you're all set for the most relaxing time ever. Just what the doctor ordered.
There is ample information posted on Insiders, but here's a couple of mine if you haven't seen these:
Also, if you have time in Seattle area here's a unique experience: Book a night at the Salish Lodge in Snolqualmie Falls (not cheap!), and/or make reservations for the 7-course Sunday brunch (ain't cheap either!), but one you'll never forget. No need for lunch or dinner that day! If you happen to be there at Christmas time, as we were several years ago, just relaxing in the upstairs lounge is quite refreshing. We also had a room (with hot tub) overlooking the falls, and the mist from the falls froze on our patio door. That night we had a glass of wine in the downstairs library listening to Dickens' Christmas carolers.
Message was edited by: Fred Schumpert
Pardon me, first congratulations to the Pained's on your decision to head west, cross country.. and on your first class tickets... and a nice two week holiday break... Fabulous!
Actually, I would second all the way MissGee's suggestion of Victoria (love Victoria and the fact of having to travel by water to get there), but during that time of year, the ferry (from Seattle) only goes over once/day, 8am (arriving Victoria 10:45am), then departing Victoria 5pm (arriving Seattle 7:45pm). 8am may be a bit early if you are jetlagged, and I wouldn't do it for just the day (10:45am - 5pm), as I think you will feel short changed. But if 8am is not too early coming off of a flight, then by all means, Victoria. If Victoria, everything that Missgee said - stay at either the Marriott Inner Harbour or the lovely Empress Hotel. Butchart Gardens has something for every season. Good restaurants, lovely art (and glass) studios and galleries, shopping, museums, neighborhoods, scenery. Otherwise, if the getting there feels too rushed, then (and why I suggested) - beautiful Vancouver.
Now, go get that suite upgrade at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront. We must keep our Insiders upgrade streak with this property intact!
If it is shared with everyone what happens when a random Insider such as erc (LOL) steals the room and keeps you from getting it? I want my suite on that floor in that exact location of the hotel.
Sure, we don't own the room!
Hope others can enjoy wonderful rooms as we have!
Still think about how KH B732 @ HNL, made my trip to Rome so special by providing me the room number at the wonderful Grand Flora!
I thought we owned it, now you tell me Jerry.
Not that everyone would like the room, but for the wife and myself we simply find 704 to be the best in the joint. Right below it pluto77 was upgraded to recently (604) and it is just as wonderful on the northwest corner of the hotel.
Wrap around balcony is the bomb for enjoying the views and just see Mt. Rainer far to the south.
If you love oysters then Seatown, one of the Tom Douglas - Home restaurants is right across from the north end of the Market is the place.....phenomenal.
Yep, those are the ones. I'm really not making a shameless plug here , but Pained, if you look at the first photo in this album - Seattle Hidden Gems, the two wrap around balconies at the upper left are the ones, just to give you an idea of where they are located. This was the nicest suite I have ever stayed in (but then I am rarely upgraded to a suite; even so, I believe it would be considered very nice by any standard.)
Well, I am happy to report that my mom and her best friend will be staying at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront beginning this Friday for three nights - and they've been upgraded to one of "our" suites! She inquired, and Voilà! They were available for upgrade. (At $549/night, I should hope she'd be upgraded, Wowie Kazowie.) And boy, I guess I reeeally got the deal of the century at $125/night. Which reminds me, painedplatinum, keep an eye on rates, if they drop to a stellar deal, might want to save your points for use at a more expensive Cat. 8/9 property (unless you've got points coming out of your ears , well then...)
Our Insider streak remains intact!
pluto77, Congrats to your Mom!! I had no idea you came from the $549/night crowd! La De Da! Just kidding, I'm with you, if you're going to pay that per night, they should usher you in like a Queen and close off an entire floor for you and your party.
I've been keeping an eye on prices. Right now the best is at $183 for the Holiday period. As we get closer and they find out the Pained's are the only family traveling that week, perhaps they'll drop it down below the $140 level..then I swoop in!
Those are some decent rates, Pained.
Well, I'm a bit confused. I don't see any $549 rates (but still, $419/$489). She told me earlier, don't text or call me unless it's an emergency, I'm in Canada, don't want to pay the roaming rates. (Funny thing about rich people... they pay ridiculous prices for rooms, and then complain about a little phone bill. )
She's spending my inheritance!
And good for her!!!
(We spoke and she is going to work on a better deal.)
I like your Mother.....watch out for those roaming rates! Every once in a while, I pat myself on the back for being thrifty. AND, every once in a while I kick myself in hindsight for being cheap.
By the way, my daughter has assured me that texting to her friend, who visits Canada regularly, doesn't cost her anything extra. Your Mom may want to check with her mobile carrier.
IAHFLYR, don't have the exact room number! However, it was the room seen here, in the corner, on the 4th floor! A wonderful room, with three balconies!
If anyone or you can get the room number, any of them in this section are very special. I think the CL was just down the hall!
Wow, what a place!
I made a trip to Seattle and used a 7 night certificate some years ago. I found that I ran out of time before I ran out of things to do. I had to go back and used a 5 night certificate and was able to finish. There is a lot to do in Seattle although the weather may be wet for you. I like the suggestion to go to Victoria for a day that way you don't have to pack, check out, check in, unpack, pack, check in somewhere if you get the drift if you choose to spend the night. Victoria is small and you could see a lot in a day. Years ago, I did go and spent about 3 nights and that was nice too.
As for the PNW winter wet, just pop open an umbrella and you won't miss a beat. When we went in early March, it rained most of the time, but no problem. I brought my own bumpershoot with me. The hotel has a stack of complimentary umbrellas available to guests also (if you like walking around with red and white umbrellas that have Marriott written on them. Okay, actually they're a nice size as well as sturdy.)
Also, I don't know if this was mentioned, if at any given point you don't feel like dealing with the cold and wet, taxi service from the hotel to anywhere downtown is very reasonably priced, only $6-7. And the light rail to/from SeaTac is inexpensive and easy, 38 minutes, $2.75/person each way. The walk from Westlake Station to the Seattle Marriott Waterfront is also easy. About a half mile and all down hill (but of course up hill on departure).
Again, if you decide Victoria with no car or car ferry, because of the Victoria Clipper winter timetable, which only gives you about a 4-5 hour play date for a winter day trip, my vote would definitely be for overnight. bejacob is right, public transportation is good there. Sometimes the Empress has good rates. The Marriott too has good reviews, but the Empress is a classic (We stayed there once. It's nice.) The same if you choose Vancouver. Go and stay long enough to see and enjoy some of it. If you're doing this part first, you could drop some of your stuff off at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront for lighter travel (if using ferry).
This is a popular thread. We Insiders are apparently quite fond of our PNW! (Or else just enjoy living vicariously through one another's planning.)
pluto77, Yes, yes, yes.....I'm really liking Fred's idea of high tea at the Empress. AND thank you, my friend for the reconnaissance data for walking about town. Eating is one of our favorite things to do...when one likes to eat, one must also walk or one will balloon up quickly!
Seattle is a walking town. Each time, I didn't rent a car and so didn't have to pay huge parking costs. The light rail is great. Bus service is good. The first time, I rented a car for a day and did the Boeing tour, amongst others. Picked it up in the morning and dropped it off in the evening. As I remember, it had a night drop. I like to walk and feel that it is the way to get the feel of your surroundings.
pluto77 I hope to see you at the end of August and if you are still in trouble, I can give you some pointers. I have had this off and on for years. it seems that it never goes away but I have learned to keep it under control so I can hike and walk distances.
You can take a fast shuttle, the Victoria Clipper, - no cars - from waterfront in Seattle to Victoria, but then you would be on foot in the city. I've taken the Victoria Express, car ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, stayed in the city overnight, and driven to Butchart Gardens (45 minutes North) for the day, walked through the Empress Hotel (couldn't afford the afternoon 4:00 PM "high tea", with English crumpets, fresh berries and Devon cream, that most tourists take), and taken photos on the bay and about the city. If you have time you can take in whale watching on the NW coast of Vancouver Island, take the scenic, coastal drive from Victoria to Oak Bay, and/or if your schedule permits, take the car ferry from Swartz Bay (NE coast near Victoria Airport) over to Tsawwassen, south of Vancouver (city) for enjoyable visit there. Another worthwhile Victoria experience is to take the E&N Railiner day excursions to explore Vancouver Island's beauty - http://www.viarail.ca
Public transit is very good in Victoria (http://www.transitbc.com/regions/vic/) No need for a car. The area around the Inner Harbor is very walkable and reaching other places is easy by bus (some are double-decker). Instead of tea at the Empress Hotel (worth walking through the lobby and greenhouse) hop a bus to Oak Bay and have tea at the Blethering Place Tea Room. Of if a pub is more your style, try the Penny Farthing. Either place will make you think you're in the UK than western Canada (I can recommend both ).
We've gone a bit of the Seattle topic, but hopefully not too far.
Sadly, there is no longer any rail service on the island.
Pained, if you decide not to do high tea at The Empress, you can always sit in the lounge with cocktails and appies and listen to the piano player. They even have a drink selection from the long ago era when the hotel was first built.
Or hop on board Harbour Air, just steps from The Empress, and take a day trip to the mainland. It's quite an experience taking off and landing on the water.
If you decide to opt out of a car rental (Seattle has a great transit system), Amtrak has really great AAA fares to Vancouver if you book early enough, and then Vancouver also has a great transit system for when you get there.
We fly out on Monday to Seattle; then taking the scenic San Juan Islands ferry over to Vancouver Island and Victoria on Friday; then the Nanaimo ferry over to the mainland/Vancouver on Monday. SO excited.
You have some great options. I recently stayed overnight in Portland on a layover between Empire Builder and Coast Starlight/, We stayed at the Courtyard City Center which is a few blocks from Amtrak station. I usually avoid Courtyards, but this was a nice property and staff treated me very well as a platinum. There is a private restaurant on site (Diner?) which had great breakfast. There are several food trucks within easy walking distance, and we had an excellent meal at Huber's, which is a few blocks and the oldest restaurant in Portland. There is also a good Italian restaurant nearbye. We took the light rail from the station to the hotel, and returned by taxi due to heavy rain. The taxi fair was only slightly more than the light rail fare for two, and the light rail stop is a couple blocks from Amtrak station and a little hard to find.
I also recently visted Seattle for a brief business trip. I stayed at the Sea Tac Marriott near the airport and took light rail into the city. This was a nice hotel and the station was at the bottom of the hill a short walk from the hotel. When I was there, the Marriott rate was actually lower than the Springhill nearby. The hotel has a shuttle, but there is now a $10 charge per room to use the shuttle.
The scenery in the Pacific Northwest is beautiful, so I highly recommend taking Amtrak regardless of where you travel from Seattle. Enjoy your trip.
Wonderful advice and thank-you for sharing your experiences. That Amtrak really sounds like the way to go, and your advice in Portland really makes sense. That's interesting that the taxi fare was similar to the light rail expense! Would have never thought that, but that is good to know.
Taking the light rail in from Sea Tac, is also something I did not know you could do, but it sure sounds like the way to go, especially on a tight budget, and during a short stay in Seattle.
As I recall, the light rail ticket for 2 was about $5, and the taxi was $7 including a generous tip. The Courtyard is not very far from the Amtrak station. I think it was only 2 stops and the station is next to the hotel. You have to be carefult about the stops you use because they are different for north vs southbound.