Having just returned from a whirlwind tour of Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, Canada, it can be reported first hand that spring has officially sprung! It only rained one day with the remainder sunny and in the low 70’s, perfect for getting outdoors. With just a couple days in each city, attractions were judiciously chosen to maximize my experience and to take advantage of the beautifully clear weather.
I had the good fortune to stay with my sister in downtown Seattle, a perfect home base and affordable to boot. Day One began with a quick trip to Ballard to see the historic Chittenden Locks. We wandered through the gardens where the rhododendrons were showing off their dinner plate-sized blooms, then watched in fascination as two small fishing boats and one smallish yacht were tied up and the water raised in the lock so the boats and passengers could motor off towards the port of Seattle. Many parents had brought their young children, and everyone was enjoying the great weather. There weren’t very many smolt in the underwater fish ladder viewing tanks, but it was interesting to watch the little guys being pushed along the flumes. Stopped in Ballard at Volterra for a delicious Tuscan-inspired lunch, then off to Snoqualmie Falls, a quick drive to the east of Seattle. Maybe not the largest of falls you’ve ever seen, but beautiful nonetheless. Ended the day with pizza and an inspired chopped salad at Belltown Pizza after watching the sunset and boats making their way back to the shore, all conveniently seen from the roof of my sister’s apartment building.
Day Two began with watching a fun-run below our windows on the streets of downtown Seattle, then an early lunch at Ivar’s Salmon House on Lake Union; they have a cool 52 foot canoe suspended from the rafters, and we even had a sighting out the huge picture windows of an upside down rainbow! Very cool! We took the obligatory ride up the Seattle Space Needle, and were rewarded with outstanding views of the entire area. You can watch seaplanes landing on Lake Union, and it’s cool to see the port’s water traffic on the Puget Sound. The buildings of downtown Seattle shimmer in the sunlight, and the homes on Queen Anne hill are beautiful as well. Even Mt. Ranier made an appearance!
We decided to walk along the waterfront to Pike Place Market. It is always fun to watch the ships coming and going, and it looks like the 175-foot Ferris Wheel construction at Pier 57 is coming along well. Walked up the Harbor Steps to get a little more exercise, then spent time perusing the marketplace which was pretty crowded. The fish market guys were having a great time flinging around their catch, and a singer with a guitar serenaded the crowd. Stopped in at Three Girls Bakery and sat at the counter, sharing a humongous beef pastrami sandwich which was absolutely delicious. You can spend as little or as much time as you like at Pike Place Market, and as summer nears the crowds are going to increase. Back to the apartment to watch the sunset (hey, when the sun is out in Seattle, you better take advantage!!!)
Day 3, off to Vancouver north on I-5. It’s a pretty drive, and the mountains were out in full view. Crossing the border into Canada, passports in hand, took literally less than 10 minutes, and we were door-to-door in about 3 hours. We stayed at a nice little boutique hotel in downtown Vancouver, Le Soleil, which was a couple blocks from Vancouver Harbour and high-end shopping on Robson Street. One of things we noticed in Vancouver was how sparkling clean the city was! No cruise ships were in port that day, but the sails and buildings at Canada Place were white and spotless. We maneuvered our way through downtown Vancouver and headed to one of the most popular attractions, Capilano Suspension Bridge. The bridge spans across the Capilano River, high above the treetops, making for an exciting crossing and beautiful views. We also walked a few of the other smaller bridges located on the property, experienced the Cliffwalk suspended walkway along granite cliffs, saw a 1,300 year old tree, inspected drawers filled with preserved artifacts such as an eagle’s talon, and learned how the local banana slugs were used in the olden days to numb your mouth before dental work.
Next stop, the incredible Grouse Mountain, probably my favorite attraction of all. We took the SkyRide to the top of the mountain – people were still skiing! Breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains and city views of Vancouver were waiting, and you could also trek over to see grizzly cubs. This amazing mountain is only a 15 minute drive from downtown! For dinner, we walked around the corner to the Cactus Club Café where I experienced my first taste of Canada’s favorite cocktail, the Caesar. I am definitely going to try to duplicate this fabulous drink at home!
Day 4 began with a walk around downtown Vancouver, then we drove to the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden. We self-toured the classical garden’s perfect harmony of rock, water, plants and architecture, marveling at how no screws or nails were used in its construction. We watched as the koi fish were called by banging a gong then gently lowering it into the water. Six beautiful fish came to eat, but there was no sign that day of the oldest fish, Madonna. Off we went to Stanley Park, just a few minutes from downtown, one of Vancouver’s most popular outdoor destinations. It should be noted that you cross a most beautiful suspension bridge here, known as Lions Gate Bridge, worthy of a photo! People were bicycling, jogging and the clip-clopping of horse-drawn tours gives the park a really nice feel. The mini-train was only open on weekends in May, and the renowned Aquarium will have to wait for another day, but the Totem Poles were definitely worth stopping for and Prospect Point offers amazing photo ops.
Our final stop in our way-too-short short stay in Vancouver was Granville Island. Again, it is quite close to downtown and there was plenty of parking available. We walked along the waterfront and admired the beautiful yachts and watched workers polishing them to perfection. The marketplace on the island is filled with fresh foods and local artists offering their works, and people sat at the tables inside and out enjoying a quick bite of the freshest seafood and tempting baked goods. There are cute local shops lining the streets of the Island and we ducked in an out of a few. One of the coolest shops featured two women weaving the most beautiful scarves and shawls from colorful silk yarns. The Emily Carr University of Art and Design is also a prominent feature on the Island.
Back to Seattle, then back to the real world. Next trip options: take the Clipper up to Victoria to visit Butchart Gardens, take the ferry over to Whidbey Island to check out a lavender farm, or visit the San Juan Islands and watch for whales. The Seattle Museum of Art in downtown offers outstanding art shows, and it would be fun to walk to a baseball game or football game. There are more restaurants than you could have time to try – the late night menu at Buckley’s is cheap and offers great bar food and prompt service. And that doesn’t even include all the cool things there are to do in Vancouver!
I'm already missing those sparkling city lights and being right on the water. Summertime is the best time to visit Seattle and Vancouver. So what are you waiting for? We have done your homework for you and have all the city attractions listed and described on our website. Check them out and start planning your next great vacation!