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Where to see in Seattle?

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Vienna, Virginia
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Where to see in Seattle?

We are a family of 4 including 2 boys age at 7 and 10. We have booked an Alask cruise from Seattle on June 27, and would like to spend a few days (up to 6 days) to visit Seattle. We have in our mind the boeing flight museum. Other than that, we would like to visit national parks, Mt. Ranier, Olympia National Part, Mt. Helen, North Cascade. We have never been to these places before, and would like to know how should we allocate our time among these places. If it's not realistic to visit all, we can drop one or two, but would like to know what are the ones that we should absolutely go. Thank you,

Port Angeles, WA
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1. Re: Where to see in Seattle?

Olympic National park is very wild and very beautiful, and your boys are a good age to hike. However, ONP is far from Seattle. Visiting will require at least one over night stay, preferably two, either in Port Angeles or in Lake Quinault. If your family enjoys hiking, and if you can spare the time, ONP is truly magnificent. If you are interested in visiting, write back in, and I will try to help you plan an itinerary. If you are interested in seeing pictures of the park, look at www.kaleberg.com. There is a lot of information about ONP there.

Poulsbo, Washington
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2. Re: Where to see in Seattle?

First I am assuming you realize you will need to rent a car to see our National Parks. Mt. Rainier is the closest to Seattle and easiest to visit. Greyline Tours takes people up there for the day, but I would rather go on my own. Keep in mind in June there will still be plenty of snow at Rainier, although driving is not a problem. It could be combined with Mt. St. Helens, as both are south of Seattle, but you would need to stay overnite in that area.

The North Cascades is a very long daytrip. Olympic to do it any justice at all also requires at least one overnite. Two would be better. After Rainier and or St. Helens, you could visit the SW section of Olympic by staying at Lake Quinault. That way you could take in the Quinault Rainforest and beautiful Ruby Beach on the Ocean. Again you really need to rent a car and stay overnight for these places, with the exception of Mt. Rainier. I would eliminate one destination. This is a lot of driving. I would head South of Seattle and skip the North Cascades to make this more feasible.

Vienna, Virginia
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3. Re: Where to see in Seattle?

Thank you! I am now planning to stay 3 nights in ONP. For the rest 2 and half days, we can either go to mt. Rainier and St. Helen's, or to North Cascade. What would you suggest? Would also appreciate if you suggest an itinerary and where we should stay. Thanks again!

Vienna, Virginia
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4. Re: Where to see in Seattle?

Thank you! Yes, we will for sure rent a car. For tour within Seattle city, do we need a car? Is the public transportation good for getting around in the city?

Port Angeles, WA
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5. Re: Where to see in Seattle?

You don't need a car in Seattle. The city is quite walkable, and the buses are good. In fact, a car might even be a hindrance as parking is expensive.

In ONP you will want to spend time in each of the three ecosystems: alpine, marine, and rain forest. In late June there will still be snow on Hurricane Ridge, but, with luck, much of the easy and beautiful Hurricane Hill Trail will be open. You should be able to see early wildflowers like glacier lilies, avalanche lilies, and the incredibly fragrant alpine phlox. Hurricane Ridge Rd. starts in Port Angeles, a good place to base yourself for at least part of the trip. It takes 45 minutes to reach the top, and it's and easy, safe drive.

30 minutes west of Port Angeles is Lake Crescent, a large, exquisitely clear blue lake. There are several trails here, and there is a park lodge, Lake Crescent Lodge. If they have a room, this would be a great place to stay either 2 or 3 nights.

Farther west is the Sol Duc Valley. Here there is a .9 mile easy but beautiful trail through old growth rain forest to Sol Duc Falls. There is a rustic "resort" nearby called Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. They pipe the waters of the hot springs into a swimming pool, so it's not a wild pool, but the children might enjoy a swim here. The resort serves three fairly good meals a day, so you could have lunch here if you wished.

There are two gorgeous, wild beaches in the LaPush area that you should visit. These are Rialto Beach and Second Beach. They are both beautiful but quite different from each other. It takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach them from Port Angeles. From Lake Crescent Lodge it takes roughly 40 minutes. If you go to Second Beach, time your arrival for about 1 hour before low tide. My website has tide tables.

This covers two out of the three ecosystems. In some ways, the third is the most beautiful of all. This is the rain forest, and there are two great rain forests in the park. The first is the Hoh Rain Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is about 2 hours west of Port Angeles. It is worth spending a lot of time here. If you can take an easy 10 mile round trip hike, bring sandwiches and water and hike to 5 Mile Island on the Hoh River. Eat a picnic on the banks of the river and explore the sandbars. It's gorgeous. If you can't quite manage 10 miles, hike to Tom's Creek and have lunch there. This is a 6 mile easy round trip. Do not rush your visit to the Hoh.

For the last day, stay at Lake Quinault Lodge and explore the Quinault Rain Forest. Glaciermeadow is the expert about this area and will suggest trails.

This should be a start at an itinerary for you. Keep writing in with questions.

Poulsbo, Washington
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6. Re: Where to see in Seattle?

Austria is one of my favorite countries to visit so feel free to ask all of the questions you want. Here are a couple of things to consider. Since you have access to the Alps I would make the emphasis on our wild coastline and rainforests. As Kaleberg has said the mountains will still have plenty of snow. I would skip the North Cascades due to snow leval and the fact that it is more out of the way. Rainier is a beautiful Park, but again it will still have snow in many places. You can still drive up there with no snow on the road though. I would try and be a little flexible with Mt. Rainier untill you get here. It really is best to visit when you can see the summit. If you avoid the weekends you should not have a problem getting a room in the area. I will send you some links.The Park does not get very crowded untill later in summer.

St. Helens would be a unique experience for you. I have to admit I have not been there since about two years after the eruption. Things will have changed a bit since then, with all of the new growth. You will get a good idea of the power of nature though. I heard the initial blast even though I was camping next to the Quinault River on the Coast. We could see the plume towering into the sky on our way back to Seattle. What a day! Anyway You and your children should find it quite interesting.

To maximize your time I would stay at Lake Quinault for two nights. They have several places to stay, but Lake Quinault Lodge is a great place to sleep. The Lakeside Rooms have large modern rooms with two Queen size beds. They are a short walk to the lovely lodge and its large fireplace and comfey leather furniture. The food is quite good, for a federal lodge. There is a lovely hike to Pony Bridge through the rainforest above the river and then back down to the South Fork of the river. All of the lodging at the lake will give you handhouts for nature hikes and record old growth trees. This part of the Park has a few world record holders. Google Quinault Rainforest. There is good info on that site. From Quinault you can easily visit Ruby Beach 30 miles north. Your Second night could be either in Port Angeles, or if you can get a room Lake Crescent Lodge. Get an early start and stop for a walk along the Hoh River. This trail is dominated by Giant Spruce and Hemlock. Then visit Rialto Beach west of the town of Forks. Food is limited, but you can get American burgers at the Three Rivers Resort near Rialto Beach.

Then head towards Lake Crescent. Before you get to the lake drive to the end of the Sol Duc River Road. There is a lovely 1 mile walk to a great waterfall. If the weather is good you can head up to Hurricane Ridge. Keep in mind after visiting Mt. St. Helens you could head for Lake Quinault and possibly squeek out another night in Olympic National Park.

Vienna, Virginia
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7. Re: Where to see in Seattle?

Thank you both so much! We have now booked our flights to Seattle. Here is the itinerary I have on mind. Would appreicate if you can comment/make suggestions:

Arriving in Seattle on Saturday 6/23. Stay in a hotel near the airport;

Sunday: drive to St. Helens. Stay at St. Helens Sunday night (ideally, we would like to leave St. Helens Sunday night and stay at Lake Quinault or near OMP. But the map says that it's an over 3 hr drive from St. Helens to Lake Quinault, so I don't think we will enough time on Sunday to get to OMP. Rights?)

Monday &Tuesday: Stay at Lake Quinault (or Tuesday night stay at Folk?)

Wed. & Thurs.: Stay at Lake Crescent.

Friday morning: Drive to Seattle. Our cruise leaves at 4pm on Friday. Do you think we will have enough time drive back to the city on Friday morning from Lake Crescent, return the car, take a taxi or shuttle to the port? Do you know if any car rental company that can rent us a car for pick up at the airport, but return it at the cruise terminal? Thanks again!

Seattle, Washington
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8. Re: Where to see in Seattle?

It's been an exceptionally snowy winter in the Cascades, and, although the weather is now (finally!) beginning to warm, there's still a very good chance that you'll be in snowy conditions at the Johnston Ridge Visitors Center on Mt. St. Helens even in late June. Plus, June is not necessarily the best time to visit the Cascades - it's too early for wildflowers, and there are often a great many days where fog and cloud (and rain) obscure the views at higher elevations. Late July, August and September are far more reliable, but of course you're not here then.

If the conditions are poor, the drive from Seattle to Mt. St. Helens, which is very long and quite boring in the first place, really becomes unsatisfactory if you can't see anything once you're there.

In your original post you talked about visiting the Museum of Flight and/or the Boeing factory tour. I don't see that in the revised plan above. I do think that both (they're different) would be of great interest to the boys, in sharp contrast with the marvelous national parks and with all the scenery they'll experience in Alaska. The Museum of Flight (in Seattle) is a world-class institution, and the Boeing factory in Everett, in addition to being the biggest building in the world, is an eye-opening glimpse into larger-than-life industry. Both would be well worth the time in my view.

So frankly I'd suggest dropping Mt. St. Helens and revising the itinerary like this:

Saturday - Overnight at the airport (I assume you're arriving late?)

Sunday - Pick up the car and drive into Seattle for breakfast at the Pike Place Market. If you're early enough you can park on the street nearby (free on Sundays) or else in a car park for an hour or two.

Then drive north out of the city to the Boeing factory/Future of Flight center in south Everett. Do the factory tour (you should book online in advance if possible - http://www.futureofflight.org/fof_Visit.html

Following the Boeing tour, drive (5 min.) to the Mukilteo ferry dock, and take the ferry (20 min) to Whidbey Island. Drive north on Whidbey Island to the Coupeville - Port Townsend ferry, and cross to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. On Whidbey, near the Coupeville ferry dock (and note the dock is not actually in the town of Coupeville, but some distance to the south) is Fort Casey State Park, which is full of interesting old coastal defense installations, and a great place to stretch one's legs.

Have a look around Port Townsend, then continue west through Port Angeles to Lake Crescent.

Mon/Tues - Lake Crescent, Hurricane Ridge, etc. as previously planned

Wed - Drive around the Peninsula to Quinault, stopping at the Hoh Rainforest visitor center, and at either (or both) Rialto Beach (near La Push) or Ruby Beach (near Kalaloch.) Don't worry about the length of the drive - it's not as bad as it looks on paper, and in late June the days will be very long. Spend the night at Lake Quinault.

Thurs - Spend the day around Lake Quinault, then drive back to Seattle in the early evening. You could drop the car at one of the downtown rental offices if time allows.

Friday - Visit the Museum of Flight in the morning, then board your ship when it's available (usually around noon.) Note there are two cruise terminals, one that's downtown and easily walkable from the Pike Place market, and the other that's several miles/km north of downtown. There are no provisions for dropping rental cars at the docks; however a couple of car hire companies (National and Alamo) have shuttles that will take you to the boats from their downtown rental agency offices. But you should check on which terminal you're using.

So this basically reverses your route, but in my view gives you more time to see things, including some of the great variety on offer in the Puget Sound region. Of course this is just for your consideration.

Edited: 11:09 am, May 04, 2012
Vienna, Virginia
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9. Re: Where to see in Seattle?

Thank you. This is very helpful. I didn't mention in my ealier posting that I also reserved 1.5 days after the cruise for the city. My cruise will return on Friday (7/6) morning, and our flight leaving Seattle is Sat. (7/7) 11pm. Thus I will have the full Sat. and rest of Friday after the ship returns to see Seattle. I am very excited about the Boeing factory, and my boys will not want to miss it. Does it require driving? My plan is that we won't rent a car after we return from the Cruise. If the Boeing factory requires us to drive, we will go as you suggested, to visit there on Sunday. We will skip Mt. St. Helen then. But will probably spend a bit more time at ONP, driving back on Friday morning for the cruise. We will be able to see the museum of flight on the Friday when we returns from the cruise trip.

We are taking the Celebrity cruise. Do you if their terminal is the downtown one? I will check on the web as well.

Seattle, Washington
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10. Re: Where to see in Seattle?

It's possible to take a bus tour to the Boeing factory, but with your group I think a car would be more useful and considerably cheaper.

A lot of people urge car-free stays in Seattle, and of course if you're just in the downtown area that makes a lot of sense, particularly if you're staying at a hotel in the center that charges a lot for parking. And certainly, some of the main downtown attractions are anything but car-friendly, such as the Pike Place market, Seattle Center and the Space Needle, Pioneer Square, etc.

However, I will say this: there are perfectly nice places to stay in central Seattle (maybe not right in the business/retail core but not too far) that offer free or reasonable parking. The bus is free in the downtown area, but as soon as you need to take the bus outside of downtown, for a group of 4 you're spending almost $20 per return trip. Taxis generally can't accommodate four persons, so using taxis becomes very expensive indeed.

Seattle and its region is very much a city of neighborhoods and lakes, with numerous places to see and things to do that aren't downtown. For example, there's a really lovely drive along the shore of Lake Washington to the east of the city center. You can't do it on the bus. Near the University of Washington in northeast Seattle is marvelous nature reserve, where you can rent canoes or kayaks from the University's aquatic center and paddle among the ducks, see some of the resident bald eagles, and feel like you're a million kilometers from the world.

With a car you can visit Snoqualmie Falls, 40 min. east of the city but very difficult to reach with public transport. Or you can tour Vashon Island, an idyllic rural island accessed from Seattle in the north and Tacoma in the south.

The point is, while having a car can be a nuisance in some circumstances, it can also give you access to things not otherwise available, and save time and money in the process.

Edited to add: Yes, Celebrity uses Pier 66 on the central waterfront downtown.

Edited: 1:45 pm, May 04, 2012