In May 2011, I was given the opportunity to travel to Seattle for work. On a whim, my husband decided to accompany me along with our not-quite-two-year-old for a four day mini-vacation. The decision to accompany me on the trip was inspired by the fact that my son was still able to fly for free (two and under travel free as “lap children” on domestic flights) and we had sufficient points for my husband to fly for free on the same flight I was scheduled to travel on. Although many thought we were insane to take a trip across country for essentially a long weekend with a toddler, it ended up being one of the best family trips we’ve ever taken and I still have fond memories of it, six plus years later.
Pike Place Market
Seattle is one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever been to and my husband and I keep remarking that we need to plan a vacation wherein we rent a house near Pike Place Market and spend the week eating and drinking ourselves to oblivion. Even if you’re not planning on purchasing fresh salmon to fly home, I recommend you spend some time at the market – just soaking in the experience. There are tons of vendors selling everything from giant salmon to crafts to cheese! It’s really an experience that no trip to Seattle is complete without.
Pike Place is full of eateries, both inside and around the market and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Although we made a pilgrimage to the original Starbucks, located just around the corner from Pike Place, we stumbled across the Crumpet Shop one morning and were tickled to find that they had “Green Eggs and Ham” on the menu!
Also within walking distance to Pike Place Market is the Seattle Aquarium. I am a big fan of aquariums and make a point of visiting them whenever we’re in a city that has one, but the Seattle Aquarium was unique to me in that it was regionally focused. The adults learned a lot about Puget Sound and the local marine life and my son loved the open space to run around.
The REI Store
If you know us, you know that we spent time at the REI Flagship store in Seattle. We didn’t need anything in particular, but there was a small play area for kids and we enjoyed walking around and getting some active play.
Although I would not call it a must visit, it is a nice way to kill some time, especially when the weather is overcast and wet. It’s also a handy spot to pick up a fleece or two, if you find that you’re heading to the snow and you didn’t plan ahead for it!
In 2013, on our way home from Hawaii, we worked in a 24 hour layover in Seattle during which time we visited Ballard Locks with my then 4 year old.
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, or Ballard Locks, is a complex of locks at the west end of Salmon Bay, in Seattle, Washington‘s Lake Washington Ship Canal, between the neighborhoods of Ballard to the north and Magnolia to the south.
The Ballard Locks carry more boat traffic than any other lock in the US, and the Locks, along with the fish ladder and the surrounding Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens attract more than one million visitors annually, making it one of Seattle’s top tourist attractions.The construction of the locks profoundly reshaped the topography of Seattle and the surrounding area, lowering the water level of Lake Washington and Lake Union by 8.8 feet (2.7 m), adding miles of new waterfront land, reversing the flow of rivers, and leaving piers in the eastern half of Salmon Bay high and dry. The Locks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the American Society of Civil Engineers Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks.
I was surprised by how fascinating it was to see the locks system and to watch the salmon climb the fish ladders. This is just one of the many amazing ways in which Seattle has focused on the local ecosystem and environment and made it accessible to its residents and visitors alike. And, although our trip to Ballard Locks did not take place during the same weekend in which we visited all the other sites in this post, it is easily something that can be squeezed into (and should be squeezed into!) a long weekend visit to Seattle.
Olympic National Park
After my work obligations in Seattle, we departed for Olympic National Park. Located approximately 2.5 hours by car from Seattle, we decided to head to Olympic because I had never been, but also because we were interested in the different climate that Olympic would have to offer. Instead of driving from Seattle, though, we took the Edmonds Kingston Ferry, which was a fun experience for all of us because we got to drive our car on board and then ferry across! It ended up taking about the same amount of time that it would have taken us to drive directly from Seattle, but it was a nice break from riding in the car and a new experience for all of us.
We visited in late May, but upon arrival, found that Olympic was still definitely in the throes of winter.
The roads were well plowed so we took a short walk near the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center. The novelty of the snow packed up high along the roads was enough to entertain my son for a duration of the walk and I believe this is still the most snow he has ever seen to date!
Port Townsend/Discovery Bay
After our brief stop in Hurricane Ridge, we continued on to Port Townsend, where we had rented a cabin in Discovery Bay, through Adelma Beach Properties. Although we were surrounded by snow three hours prior, we suddenly found ourselves in a warm beach town where we took off our shoes and were able to relax for the next few days.
The house was well equipped with everything we needed and we ended up being very glad that we had rented a house instead of staying at a hotel, because it gave us the option of cooking meals and enjoying them quietly after putting our son to bed. Since there were two bedrooms, we could easily put my son down for a nap or his bedtime, but still enjoy having our own space to relax and talk, without risk of disturbing him. Luckily for us, there was a small organic grocer in Port Townsend, which was only five miles north of the house we were staying in, so we did our grocery shopping there by day and ate like kings at night.
We basically spent the next two days eating, napping, and enjoying quiet walks along the beach. We did not even spend any time, if at all, in the town of Port Townsend. My husband ventured in by day to pick up groceries and wine, but I mostly stayed close to the house with our toddler and enjoyed the peace and quiet.
Seattle is one of those cities that I will go to whenever given the opportunity. There is SO much to do in Seattle that we have not gotten to do yet, but I know we will someday. For a long weekend, however, this was a perfect way to escape from the hustle and bustle of real life and enjoy some quiet family time.
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