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Travel: Seattle, WA & Vancouver, BC


I had an amazing time visiting Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC over 9 days! This was my first time in both cities, so I had a lot to explore on this unique trip where I didn't plan anything! 


This was a surprise trip for me! My boyfriend had a work trip to Seattle so with "paid hotel stay" I couldn't say no. Luckily, he has family in Vancouver so adding this stop was an easy choice. Our trip was for 9 days, we flew into Seattle on Saturday, stayed all week then left on Friday to see Vancouver via the 4-hour train (OMG the scenery) then left to come back to Tampa that Sunday. 

I decided to test the bounds of my travel comfort level by not planning an itinerary for this trip. I knew I was going to be working for 1/2 the week BUT the time difference would give me an advantage of finishing work at 2pm PST (5pm EST) so I'd still have plenty of time to explore! I did use 2 1/2 days of PTO to be done by 10am PST.

Instead of an itinerary I made an Apple Map list of everything I wanted to do so I could still hit my "must-dos" and see where everything was relative to our hotel downtown Seattle. I understood that since we'd be working AND traveling with family it was best to have flexible options. 

But don't worry I still kept track of everything I spent and did, you can find this in a neat itinerary at the end of this blog for reference. Just keep in mind that I did not have to pay for the hotel in Seattle (thank goodness) and some meals on our trip, but I still spent about $1500 on this trip. My spend review is at the end of my blog as well! Spoiler Alert - the food in Seattle is expensive! 

So, let's jump in! Here's Everything I Did: 

✨️In Seattle✨️

  • Space Needle 
  • Seattle Aquarium 
  • Ferry Day Trip to Bainbridge Island
  • Pike Place Market
  • University of Washington
  • Native American Art Gallery
  • Seattle Waterfront Tour & Restaurants
🚉Train Ride From Seattle to Vancouver🚉 - via Amtrak (used the Amtrak Bus to get back) 

✨️In Vancouver✨️

  • Vancouver Aquarium 
  • Granville Island & Public Market
  • Vancouver Art Museum 
  • Plus some Amazing Vancouver Restaurants

Tips for When You Visit

I had a good trip, but I'd be a terrible person if I didn't share a little about our challenges staying downtown Seattle. I'll cover the basics but if you want a more detailed (and opinionated) perspective check out my quarterly newsletter. 

I like to keep my blog post's objective (here are the facts, here's what I did and spent, to focus on the tips you need). You can subscribe to my newsletter here, if you'd like a more personal view and the opinions I discover on my travels. 

So... the facts... I didn't feel like downtown was accessible when looking for food, grocery and restaurant options. Accessible via location or price point, if you were to find a restaurant open after 5pm, the food priciest were double what I'd expect for lunch and dinner. For breakfast or lunch, I'd easily spend $30-$50 on a meal for myself.

When you visit Seattle downtown, plan for:

  • Restaurants closing at 5pm, being card-only (no cash accepted) - should out to friends who gave me vetted restaurant recommendations by sharing their Apple and Google Guides.  they helped us sort through little options we had. 
  • Many areas downtown have a large homeless presence. You will often see the police corralling them in alleys during the day
  • Many businesses having private security, even the Target and Walgreens
  • Private areas like the Waterfront and Pike Place Market have less homeless presence but expect high food prices
  • Subway system was nice for to-from airport and around town - Cars were clean (with ticket check attendants) and rides were a few dollars each way
    • A rideshare from the airport to downtown was $70, a taxi was $50 and subway was $4, we took the subway and it was perfect. Here's what the tickets look like. 
  • Downtown has a lot of hills and steps, keep this in mind for your accessibility, when you walk around keep an eye our for brass markers on the ground telling of local history and showing Pacific North West (PNW) Native American art. I loved these little gems. 
Here's how I saved money in Seattle: 
  • City Pass - buy access to many city attractions for a lower flat rate - I got access to 5 activities for 1/2 price, I'll definitely use this more in other cities 
    • I paid $129 dollars for access to 5 different (pre-set) attractions in Seattle, this was definitely a deal
    • Here is a link to the details for the Seattle City Pass
  • Too Good To Go - food waste app - pickup overstock food from bakeries and restaurants - I used this 2 times for a nice $5 breakfast and snacks


Let's Jump Into What I did in Seattle

Space Needle - Built for the 1962 World's Fair, the Space Needle is 605 feet tall! It is amazing because of its height, and it rotates!! This is a must see when you visit Seattle. Tickets are about $50 but the City Pass came in with the win here, getting us ticket for about 1/2 price. You'll used the City Pass kiosk outside the Space Needle to redeem for your ticket. 


    

They had a super cute block version of the Space Needle in the lobby.  Once inside the Lobby, you'll loop around the lobby, past some history plaques on the needle then up the Elevator to the top! There is a bar and glass observation decks for a 360 view of Seattle. It's even beautiful on the gloomy days! 


Once you are done on the observation deck, take the stairs down (past the elevators) to the lower level to see the rotating platform with a glass floor! Still more awesome view but with an added level of anxiety if you are brave enough to step on the moving glass floor! I recommend it :)


Don't forget to grab a picture outside too! It's really cool to see the Space Needle from this angle and see its scale! 

Seattle Aquarium: I always love to visit the local aquarium when I travel. It's a great view of the local sea and wildlife. (I'm so happy we did 2 on this trip!).  This is another attraction included in the City Pass! 



They had a beautiful touch tank tidal pool exhibit and fish tanks showing the Salmon life cycle! 

The aquarium is on the pier and I am so happy they used the opportunity to place a viewing space under the pier! This is a great view of the local fish and even a sturgeon! 


Don't forget to head outside and see the seals, sea lions and otters. This sea loin was very photogenic. There are many animal, interactive and experience exhibits outside. My favorite was the aquarium staff showing you how to "hear" like a killer whale. By placing a tuning fork on your chin you can "hear" the tuning fork with your ears closed!! just like how a killer whale hears without ears! 


Ferry Day Trip to Bainbridge Island: We also took the Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge! We went in at 12:30 and left around 5pm. Here's a few things to keep in mind when you go. 

  • We bought tickets at the station about 30 minutes before the ferry was scheduled to leave. Our tickets were $10 per person for round trip ride to Bainbridge. 
  • The ferry can be weather dependent or have delays, so ask the ticket booth when you purchase your tickets if there are any known issues today.  Since Seattle Notes - Bainbridge boats can have issues 
  • I took with me a water bottle, sunscreen, charger, lite snacks, battery bank, normal day trip toiletries and a cardigan. 


Look for the signage for Bainbridge above the ticket scan entry ways. The ferry will have indoor and outdoor seating, indoor seating will have multiple levels. You'll have a lot of time to enjoy the views around the ship, from Mt Rainer, the sound and the skyline so sit tight and enjoy! 

   



 

Once inside Bainbridge, you'll take the main road (just follow the crowd) to the town main street. There you can enjoy shops and restaurants.  Do you love pickleball? well then, keep an eye out for plaques because you are where it started! 

I loved the coffee shops and large variety of shopping. There are also many dining options, that had some wait but not too much even on a busy Saturday. We went to Docs Marina to eat because it was a little further from the main street so there were less crowds. 


 

Doc's Marina had great service and we even got lucky with the furthest table in the sun! Food was delicious, I had the Salmon with a spritz to drink and Matthew had the roast beef sandwich (I may have enjoyed his more...). Food was good quality and portions but was a bit pricey at $60 per person for our meal. This place is Definity on my list for when we'd come back, I'd love to do a short-term rental on Bainbridge Island, even just to see it when the "day tourists" go home. 



When you leave to go back to downtown Seattle there will be a long line to board the ferry. No ticket scan was needed for us to re-board. On our ride back we sat in the lower level of the ferry to have a booth. Lookout for the puzzle booths! They set puzzles out for riders to do while they ride. The puzzle will slowly be completed as the riders pass through, I loved this nice touch and activity. 


Pike Place Market: I was so happy to go to this Seattle staple. There are multiple floors and over 300 businesses in this building and in the surrounding streets! Local vendors, seafood, produce, bakeries, tea shops and more!



This time of year, the market was packed with fresh and local flowers! It was beautiful to see person after person with beautiful bouquets as we were walking to the Market. There were many options, even build your own bouquets, for a good price of $20-$30.


The market also has many seating areas to enjoy views of the sound with your lunch. 


We also visited the famous Beechers Cheese for their mac and cheese. The building was under construction when we visited but it was delicious and would be a regular stop for me if I was a local. 



The "first" Starbucks: Seattle has amazing coffee and is known for Starbucks. Though the actual first Starbucks burned down, you can visit its replacement close to Pike Place Market. I didn't visit but I walked past and saw the 2-hour line to get the same exact menu as any Starbucks across the United States. 


I loved seeing all of the artist shops in the Market and surrounding streets. I found this amazing Mexican art store named Milagros. They had wonderful Alebrije (are brightly colored Mexican folk-art sculptures of fantastical (fantasy/mythical) creatures.) and beaded animal artwork.


There are not many shops open past 5 but the visit is worth it at night to see the sign lit up and sparkly in the rain. 


University of Washington: A short metro ride gets you to the University of Washington! We went to see the cherry blossoms and building framed view of Mt Rainer. 

 


Taste of Xi'an Restaurant: The University area had an authentic Xi'an regional Chinese restaurant. Everything we ate was packed with spice and flavor! 

I tried a tea egg and plum juice for the first time and loved them! Hot and Sour soup is a favorite of mine and theirs was pack with veggies and had a nice thick broth. We also got hot and spicy dumplings with Bok choy and General Taos chicken. This was some of the best chinse food I've had in my life. 



Native American Art Galleries: The Pacific Northwest is known for its Native American culture and arts. I love enjoying art when traveling and local shops are an amazing place to do this. Even if I am unable to purchase a large art piece, they often have prints for purchase. I got these 6x9 inch print cards for about $6-$8 each to frame at home.


Seattle Waterfront & Ferris Wheel: The Seattle Waterfront has many piers packed with many businesses and history! Take your time enjoying the shops and history plaques while you restaurant hop. 


Seattle Argosy Boat Tour: The City Pass also included a waterfront tour of Seattle on Argosy boat tours! I did the one that does a ~1-hour loop around the sound and through the shipping lanes. I'd highly recommend the tour; they gave an amazing history of the buildings and businesses in the skyline plus fun facts like "Seattle has the wastewater system with the highest levels of caffeine". 




Eats in Seattle 

Alaskan Sourdough Bakery: I love the history of sourdough on the West Coast. Sourdough is my favorite type of bread, so I had to try some in Seattle. This business has been making sourdough since 1897! It was delicious!


Ivars Seafood Restaurant: Ivars is a restaurant and dockside food both for fresh and fried seafood. I went to the restaurant for lunch to try their famous fish and chips. The inside of the restaurant was beautiful, with many fireplaces and beautiful views.


If you eat outside, beware the seagull tax. It's a local tradition that they get your leftover fries. I even found a cute tote on this in Bainbridge! 


 

My food was fresh and a great portion. I also had a Creme Brule and local apple cider for lunch. My total was about $60 for my meal.  This was a beautiful stop for a weekday lunch without the crowds. I could have watched the water, next to that fireplace for hours. 

Shugs: We found this traditional ice cream parlor while searching for something to eat in the evening. They had many ice cream parlor classics all made in house! I went with their seasonal pistachio milkshake, it was delicious with their homemade marshmallows. 


Skalka: This is a Georgian and Russian restaurant famous for its Khachapuri, a delicious boat-shaped pizza-like cheese bread we had for breakfast. 



Tiger Sugar for Boba: This was my go-to boba spot downtown, it had so many options and the cheese and coffee boba I have been searching for! I had too many of these while I was in Seattle. 

DoughZone Dumplings: This is a famous dumpling chain in Seattle. We had dumplings, garlic noodles, pork soup dumplings, hot and spicy dumplings, gyoza and scallion pancakes (pictured in that order). 




Cheap Eats: The average meal price was higher than I expected in Seattle, so I was definitely on the lookout for some cheaper eats. I tried Too Good to Go, a food waste app that allows you to reserve overstock food items for a great price. I got 5 pastries and 6 bagels in my $5 orders to get me through a week of breakfast. I also visited the Amazon Banana Cart that gives free bananas to anyone!




Here are a few things I missed unfortunately: 

  • Modernist Cuisine Gallery - a hyper detail food photography artist, closed a week or so before my arrival. 
  • African American Museum - ran out of time to visit as they were closed Mon and Tue during my weeklong trip. 
  • Chinatown International District - I want to learn more about Asian American History on the West coast so I am searching for a food and history tour of this part of town. I will find one by the next time I visit! 
  • The Science Center is doing a toy block mini-city Seattle display. I love miniature town displays, not sure why but I can enjoy all of the details on them for hours! 

🚉Train Ride From Seattle to Vancouver🚉 

I love train travel, so I was so excited to take the 4-hour train to Vancouver for a 1-day visit. The historic train station was beautiful, and the train ride was very comfortable. 

The crossing the US-Canada border customs checks were quick and easy too! We took the Amtrak train there. Their customs process was a pre-boarding passport check, full train check of passports then a specific customs entry at the train station. This can take some time and trains are often delayed so I'd recommend an early train with minimal things planned on your travel day.

We then took the Amtrak booked coach bus back. This included a pre-boarding passport check, then at the road US-Canada border we had to get off the bus with our luggage, walk through customs then re-board the bus mid-way through the 3-4-hour bus ride. 



I rode the train for the beautiful views of the coast and we got them! From seeing old towns to otters playing on the shore, the ride was awe inspiring. 



I have never been disappointed by the food on the Amtrak trains. Reasonable items for a great price! We got coffee, 2 sandwiches and 2 sweet treats for about $20. 


✨️In Vancouver✨️

I love visiting Canada for its slight European feel, rich history, diverse food and strong conversion rate from US-Canadian dollars. Canada is an amazing international trip, so I was very happy to tack Vancouver onto our Seattle trip. 

We only had about a day of time there, but we packed in so much. 

Vancouver Aquarium:  The aquariums are a must visit for me to see the local sea life! They had many large aquariums plus trained otters and sea lions! I liked their pre-historic dinosaur exhibit too! 




Granville Island & Public Market: You know I love food so of course I love local food markets! I want to live across the street from this market to enjoy this place every day. I enjoyed the tea store (I got a ginger turmeric tea), fresh pasta and olive vendors, fresh crisp eggrolls and my second favorite French pastry caneles! (pictured in this order) These are a small French pastry flavored with rum and vanilla with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust. 

 



Mister Nitrogen Ice Cream: I had the famous Creme Brule ice cream sandwich. Not only was this good as a whole but the cookie really stood out to me with its rich cocoa flavor and crisp texture!

Miku: My boyfriend and I were treated to a beautiful sushi dinner by his cousins at the awarded restaurant Miku! The sushi was the freshest I've had in my life and the flavors were so clean and simple. We had the homemade cardamon-chai and apple sorbets, these were packed with so much fresh flavor and were an amazing end to our meal.


Thank You! Seattle & Vancouver

I saw some amazing views in Seattle, but Vancouver was my favorite visit on this trip! I'd definitely go back to Settle to see more! Keep reading to see what I spent and the details of my "itinerary" day by day. 

Thanks for reading!! - Lydia


What I Spent & My "Itinerary" 

Like I mentioned, I didn't do my normal blocked planning on this trip. I planned a list of activities instead which was a better fit with traveling with friends/family while working as well. 

Here's how I feel I did on spending:

  • I went over my average daily food budget of about $40 day even with being treated to a few meals. I heavily underestimated how expensive food would be in Seattle.
  • This was my first "free" hotel stay trip this year and I remembered how much hotels can eat up your travel budget. I'll be looking for ways to earn more hotel points and free/discounted nights to keep my travel costs lower.
  • I used so little rideshare this trip! I walked so much instead of using them (taking advantage of the rare, good weather in Seattle), I usually spend over $100 per trip on rideshare so I'm pretty proud of myself. 

Spend Summary

Itemized Itinerary 

Seattle WA and Vancouver, BCDays of Travel9
Hotel StaysCategoryCost
Hotel SeattleHotelPaid For
Hotel VancouverHotel$ 167.90
SaturdayCategoryCost
Flight from Tampa to SeattleMain Transport$ 153.00
Alaskan Sourdough BakeryFood$ 20.51
WalgreensShopping$ 5.25
World SpiceShopping$ 18.99
Brannch - Mac & CheeseFood
Kitchen MarketShopping$ 18.00
Pike Place MarketShopping$ 19.57
Seattle City PassActivity$ 129.00
Sunday
Breakfast at SkalkaFood$ 25.08
Fonte CafeFood$ 6.07
Seattle AquariumActivityCity Pass
Ferry to BainbridgeLocal Transport$ 9.85
Pegasus Coffee - BainbridgeFood$ 11.79
Docs Marina Grill - BainbridgeFood$ 65.89
Shirvan Rug - BainbridgeShopping$ 13.10
Danas GiftshopShopping$ 16.34
Seattle Best Tea - ChinatownFood$ 6.10
Dough Zone DumplingsFoodPaid For
Monday
Too Good to Go PickupFood$ 4.50
Work Until 2PM
Fairmont HotelFood$ 29.77
Pike Place MarketFood$ 9.89
Metro to University of Washington - RoundtripLocal Transport$ 5.00
Taste of Xi'ianFoodPaid For
Tuesday
Work Until 2PM
TargetFood$ 4.41
NYC 7th Ave DeliFood$ 29.15
Tiger Sugar BobaFood
Rest DayActivity$ -
Wednesday
Work 6am to 10am
Native American Art GalleryShopping$ 13.23
Ivars RestaurantFood$ 44.68
Pike Place MarketFood$ 7.00
Argosy Boat ToursActivityCity Pass
Argosy Boat Tours - Snack BarFood$ 4.41
Thursday
Work 6am to 10am
Kizuki Ramen & IzakayaFood$ 23.41
Tiger Sugar BobaFood
Space NeedleActivityCity Pass
Shug's Soda Fountain & Ice CreamFood$ 12.13
Friday
Ride Share to Train StationLocal TransportPaid For
Train from Seattle to VancouverMain Transport$ 85.00
Amtrak Snack CarFood$ 11.00
Metro to from Train station to HotelLocal Transport$ 3.15
Elysian CoffeeFood$ 4.69
Vancouver Art MuseumActivity$ 22.53
Museum Gift ShopShopping$ 9.04
Vancouver Fairmont BarFood$ 13.03
Miku SushiFoodPaid For
Convenience StoreShopping$ 4.99
Saturday
Rideshare to AquariumLocal TransportPaid For
Vancouver AquariumActivity$ 39.92
Aquarium Snack BarFood$ 6.22
Rideshare to Granville MarketLocal TransportPaid For
Inukshuk GalleryShopping$ 32.23
Granville Soap GalleryShopping$ 11.62
Granville Island MarketFood$ 54.89
Granville Island MarketShopping$ 32.44
Rideshare to The Rec RoomLocal Transport$ 8.84
The Rec RoomActivity$ 21.76
Rideshare to Tasty Indian BistroLocal TransportPaid For
Tasty Indian BistroFood$ 45.78
Mister Ice CreamFood$ 5.55
Sunday
Rideshare to Train StationLocal Transport$ 7.35
Bus From Vancouver to SeattleMain Transport$ 50.00
Seattle Metro to AirportLocal Transport$ 3.00
Seattle Airport Restaurant - Rel'lish BurgerFood$ 38.00
Flight from Seattle to TampaMain Transport$ 153.00