It’s been over six months since my family’s vacation to Seattle and Vancouver, but, in typical Nnenna fashion, I’m just getting around to recapping the trip now. You know, I edited the pictures and wrote a couple posts months ago, but I never actually put them together until now. I was going to do several recap posts, but in the end, I decided to streamline everything into one post for Seattle and another for Vancouver. We spent five days in Seattle last summer, so there’s a lot of ground to cover in this post. Grab your beverage of choice and get cozy, because this is going to be a long one!
Since we were planning such a long trip and since five of us were going, I knew right away that I wanted to find an Airbnb. Last summer was my first time using Airbnb and I had a really good experience. We chose a home in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle and we loved it. The hosts were friendly and communicative and the house was cozy and well-equipped. Also, Ballard is a great neighborhood. There’s lots to see and do in that area alone, and then it’s only about a 15-minute drive to downtown. We rented a car for our trip to make it easier to get around Seattle and because we intended to drive to Vancouver (things didn’t go quite as planned for the Vancouver portion, but I’ll save that story for tomorrow!).
My parents are not big on eating out, even when we’re traveling. It’s certainly a good way to save money! This means that I didn’t get to try many Seattle restaurants on this trip, but I do have a few food/beverage recommendations:
– Daily Dozen Doughnuts: There are lots of good places to eat in and around Pike Place, but you know I’m going to head straight to the donut shop first. These were hot, fresh, and yummy, and there were even some donuts topped with maple and bacon bits (!!!).
– Rachel’s Ginger Beer: This place was recommended to me by a friend who lived in Seattle. There are lots of good flavor choices and a refreshing drink was just what I needed after walking around Pike Place for a few hours.
– The Monkey Bridge: On our first night in Seattle, we were tired from traveling and wanted to grab food from somewhere in the neighborhood, which is how we ended up at The Monkey Bridge. We picked up a variety of Vietnamese dishes to go and everything we ate was great.
– Cupcake Royale: This cupcake shop was freakin’ adorable- I wanted to move right in. The cupcakes were pretty tasty too and next time I want to try their ice cream.
– Mighty-O Donuts: You’ve probably noticed by now that my food recs are heavy on the sweets, but what can I say?? I have a major sweet tooth and I’m pretty much always craving some type of sweet treat. Plus, I had to do a sample of Seattle’s donut offerings so I could report back, right? There was a Mighty-O location in Ballard, so we walked over from our Airbnb one morning. If I’m remembering correctly, they had fairly classic flavor combinations. I tried a couple of their cake donuts and gave them a thumbs up.
– Top Pot Doughnuts: This is the last donut shop on the list, I swear! But since we’re on the subject, what’s your preferred spelling- donut or doughnut? I prefer the former! Anyway, I think Top Pot is Seattle’s most famous donut shop, so I had to give it a try. We were able to go once, but it was kind of late in the day, so they only had glazed donuts left. Although the glazed donut was very tasty, I would have picked something a bit more exciting if I had the choice, so I feel like I can’t give my final verdict yet. I guess this means that I have to make another trip to Seattle for research purposes…
– Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream: I met my friend one night in Capitol Hill and this place had a line down the block when I spotted it. Still, I wanted to give it a try and I didn’t mind waiting a bit. The line actually moved pretty quickly and soon I was walking out the door with a massive two-scoop cone. I picked the Stumptown Coffee and Salted Caramel flavors- both of these were A++.
– Canon: After ice cream, my friend took me to this cocktail bar. The whole place had very cool vibes and they have an impressive bar. The coolest part is that they do cocktail roulette: you tell the bartender what liquor you want and some notes about what you want it to taste like, and they surprise you with a drink. I think my drink had whiskey and some orange element- I can’t quite remember all the ingredients, but I do remember that it was delicious.
– Oddfellow’s Cafe: Oddfellow’s was on my list of coffee shops to visit, but I actually stumbled on to the offshoot inside Elliott Bay Book Company, which I didn’t know about beforehand. First of all, having a café inside a bookstore is the best and secondly, it was the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee and catch up with my friend. I loved the decor, the coffee was good, and I had an excellent pastry with my coffee. If I lived in the area, I could see it becoming my go-to coffee spot.
– Elliott Bay Book Company: I will go to a bookstore any chance I get and I especially love visiting ones in other cities. Elliott Bay is awesome. There was a great couch section in the middle where you could get nice and cozy with a good book and as I mentioned above, there’s a café in the back. I also flipped through their program of upcoming events and they had some pretty great authors on the list.
– Moorea Seal: I’ve followed Moorea’s blog for years. It was pretty exciting when I heard about her plans to open a store, and even more exciting to be able to visit that store years later. They had so many cute products in stock, including clothes, shoes, jewelry, and more. The jewelry caught my eye the most and I purchased a dainty silver necklace for myself while I was there.
– Paper Hammer: I love stationery and was glad that we were able to drop by this paper store. I believe most of their goods are made locally, which is pretty awesome.
– Kinokuniya: A bookstore that specializes in Japanese books and also carries English and Chinese books. In addition to books, they had a lot of Japanese stationery products, so as you can imagine, I was in heaven.
Olympic Sculpture Park
Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens
Chihuly Garden and Glass
I asked around quite a bit for recommendations and the one place on everybody’s list was Pike Place Market. I wrote all about our first visit in this post and after Pike Place, we did quite a few more activities:
– Olympic Sculpture Park: It’s 100% free and was a nice low-key activity to do after the market. The weather was perfect that day and my mom, brother, and I just strolled around for a bit. We saw the famous red sculpture and there were gorgeous views of the water. It was pretty peaceful and would be a nice spot to unwind with a book for a couple hours.
– Ballard Locks: I don’t think I really understood what the locks were for until we got there. The water changes from freshwater to saltwater (or vice versa depending on which way you’re headed) and the locks help guide boats through the changing water levels. We did get to see a few boats pass through the locks and it was pretty interesting to see how the process works. One regret, though, is that we didn’t get to see the salmon jumping. I wanted to walk over the locks to the other side to see the fish ladder and Commodore Park, but by that time, the family was pretty tired and wanted to take it easy. Next time I’m back there, I’m going to make a point of seeing the salmon.
– Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens: The gardens adjacent to the locks were lovely, as gardens tend to be, and we saw an old timey folk band playing in one area. I was chuckling a bit at the music, and then my mom started to do this funny jig, and it was hilarious (my mom is a lot of fun, in case you didn’t know!). On our way back from the locks, we spotted a rose garden section and strolled over there to have a look. There were several varieties of roses and my dad was in heaven because he loves to garden and learn about plants.
– Space Needle: I was a bit wary about going up in the Space Needle. Years ago, when I visited Paris for the first time, we did the Eiffel Tower. We waited in line for hours, it was so crowded, we couldn’t go all the way to the top, and we couldn’t see that much when we actually got up there. I think the Eiffel Tower is lovely and very pretty, but the experience of climbing inside it was not the best. I don’t think I’d do it again and I was a bit worried that the Space Needle would be similar. Happily, it wasn’t! We bought joint tickets for the Space Needle and Chihuly Museum online the day before, and you’re allowed to selected a designated time. You’re supposed to arrive 30 minutes early, which didn’t quite happen for us, but we were still ushered right in with our tickets. Then, we did have to wait in line for about 30-40 minutes to ride the elevator to the top, but it didn’t feel like a long time (and I was glad that we didn’t have to wait in the long ticket line, and then wait in a second line). There were fun facts and interactive pieces about the construction of the Space Needle on the walls of the waiting section and you also get a family photo right before you go up. The ride to the top is brief, and because the top of the needle is circular, you really do get a great view from any side. On one side, you have city views, and on the other, there are bodies of water, islands, and mountains, and it’s all pretty grand. We walked around the top of the needle, snapped a bunch of family photos, and then headed back down. It’s nice to experience that kind of bird’s-eye view every once in a while!
– Chihuly Garden and Glass: The Chihuly museum is just a short walk away from the Space Needle. I’d seen some Chihuly pieces before in Vegas, so I was excited to see whole rooms dedicated to his work. I thought the exhibits were so interesting and loved the bright, colorful, and whimsical glass sculptures. I can’t decide if my favorite part was the greenhouse structure with one large installation hanging from the ceiling, or the actual gardens themselves where the sculptures were sprinkled throughout the gardens and integrated with the flora and fauna. All of it was eye-catching and beautiful and the rest of my family really enjoyed it too.
– Bainbridge Island: I used to work with a woman who was from Bainbridge Island, which is how it first came onto my radar. Since we had several days in Seattle, I really wanted to ride the ferry over. I like ferries and it was an easy trip to make, plus you get great views of Seattle as the ferry pulls away from the pier. It only rained one day while we were in Seattle, which was the morning we took the ferry. By the time we returned in the afternoon though, the clouds had completely cleared and the sun was out. While on Bainbridge, we had excellent ice cream at Mora Iced Creamery, I picked up some tea from Churchmouse Yarns & Teas, which is just a delightful shop, bought several pastries at Blackbird Bakery, and some fudge from Bon Bon Confections to take home with me. Basically, I ate my way around the downtown portion of Bainbridge Island and it was wonderful.
– Gasworks Park: This is a cool park that was built on the site of a former gas plant. Some of the machinery is still in place and it’s an interesting juxtaposition with the surrounding greenery and lake. If you walk to the top of one of the hills, there’s a very nice view of Lake Union. I remember the weather being absolutely perfect this day and there is something so pleasant about being in a park on a beautiful, summer day.
Well, well, well, you made it to the end! Thank you so much for reading this lengthy post and I hope it gives you a few ideas if you’re planning a trip to Seattle anytime soon!