These days Fred and George balk at the idea of weeks-long camping trips like we used to take. They’re teenagers and they’re more intrigued by urban adventures right now. With that in mind, for an end-of-summer trip we flitted off to Seattle. It’s been a few years since we were last there and they’ve both changed so much we decided to repeat some experiences as well as try new things.
Accommodating Teen Sensibilities
Fred and George are brothers. I think most parents get what I’m driving at. Sometimes they love each other aaaaaaaand sometimes they don’t. The three of us crammed into a small hotel room simply wasn’t going to fly. To maintain the peace, we needed space in our down time. Lodging in Seattle is pricey but I managed to find an affordable three-bedroom rental apartment that gave us the space we needed.
The small apartment is in the Queen Anne district which meant we could walk to a lot of interesting sights. Given the density of attractions surrounding the Space Needle, taking on several in one day was fairly easy, even with teenagers who have a propensity to sleep until noon!
After a long flight from Atlanta, tired teenagers request pizza and relaxation for our first evening in Seattle.
The Space Needle
The Space Needle is always a treat. I’m not an urban chick but I’m not immune to being amazed by the view of the city from the top. Fred and George, being the inquisitive people they are, were intent upon finding our apartment building and I took the opportunity to grab some fun infrared shots. We spent less than 90 minutes all told which was still a leisurely pace at the Space Needle. Given the price tag on tickets ($22*), the bang for the buck is fairly low but it’s something that’s worthwhile at least once simply to take in the view. The boys would do it every time if given the option.
Scanning the scene below the Space Needle to find our apartment.
The Armory at the Seattle Center next to the Space Needle is known as the “center of the center.” It contains a central food court that is a boon to folks with different food sensibilities traveling together. The boys could get what they wanted, I could get what I wanted, and we could meet back to have lunch together. It’s a win for everyone.
We were inadvertently in the Armory as they were setting up for their once-a-month game night and happy hour. We opted to go to the Great Wheel instead of staying but George would have loved to partake of all of the games.
Giant Connect Four at The Armory
The Museum of Pop Culture
MoPop, as its called, is a step back in time. If you’re at all nostalgic about rock music, Star Trek, The Princess Bride, Jim Henson and his Muppets, fantasy and science fiction culture, gaming, and things of that sort, you’ll love it. There are many interactive exhibits that will appeal to all ages. I did peg this one wrong though, thinking it would appeal to George most. He actually wasn’t impressed and that surprised me. Fred enjoyed it way more. And I enjoyed it the most. I could easily spend several hours there so the cost-to-enjoyment ratio is high for me, less so for the boys. At $22-$31* in addition to special exhibit add-on tickets, plan on taking several hours to explore to get the value from your visit.
I may have squealed just a little upon meeting Beaker and Dr. Honeydew at MoPop.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass was surprisingly intriguing. The exhibit itself doesn’t require much time to see. The works are a feast for the eyes and you could easily enjoy it quickly if you wanted to. But when you go slowly and walk through a couple of times, you begin to absorb all of the details of the pieces and they take on new life and depth. I think it’s well worth the ticket price ($24 for adults*), if you take your time.
Artistry in the collection as well as the details at Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Given our limited time frame and last-minute decision to do one of the Argosy Cruises, our only option was the Harbor Cruise. We weren’t disappointed. The live narration was excellent but not intrusive. The ride did go by very quickly but the opportunity to see the complexity and scale of the harbor operations was astounding.
The bonus with the cruise is that food and beverages are available on board so you can maximize your time enjoying the ride while having lunch. For all of us, this one was well worth the ticket price of $27* each.
Taking in the view of Seattle from the harbor while learning more about the industry beyond tourism.
The Great Wheel, Piers, and Pike Place Market
Another of Seattle’s iconic attractions, The Great Wheel was a repeat for us from our last visit. I think this is one the boys would do every time. The ride includes three revolutions on the ferris wheel so you have a few chances to take in the view and grab pictures. Bang for the buck at $14* a person? Decent. Unlike other attractions, the time is constrained so you can’t spend more time if you want but it is pretty fun. After the ride, taking the time to stroll the piers is great for people watching, sunset viewing, and good food.
The historic Pike Place Market is an eclectic collection of shopping and food. Make no mistake, it’s complete mayhem, especially on the weekend. If crowds aren’t your thing, you’ll have to pick your timing carefully. Sadly, we didn’t. This is a scenario where being loose with your plans can backfire. We ended up there on a Saturday. Big mistake. The few shops we were interested in visiting were almost inaccessible due to the crowds so we only managed to visit Metsker Maps before we were overstimulated.
Sunset, a Seattle pier, and the Great Wheel cap off a great day.
Crystal Mountain Gondola
For all of their desire for urban fun, our excursion out of the city to ride the gondola at Crystal Mountain was what resonated with the boys the most. Possibly because it was the last thing we did and they were “citied” out at that point. But it is the one place they kept asking to be able to stay longer.
We weren’t prepped for a big hike but we ended going a good ways down the trail once we were at the top. The view of Mount Rainier is spectacular. The option to have lunch at the top allowed us to maximize our time, and thus, gondola ticket prices of $23*.
After days of urban-packed adventures, retreating to the trail was a hit for Fred and George.
And the little details
The little details are what really shapes your trip, yes? While the attractions are fun, spending time together exploring is the true draw.
In addition to marquis attractions, our Seattle adventure included playing card games while waiting for meals, testing the strategy card game Fred is developing, a little geocaching, the solar eclipse, hanging out with friends from Atlanta who happened to be in Seattle at the same time, and walking through local parks.
Those details fill in the experience and allowing space in the trip for them makes for a well-rounded adventure.
Running into Atlanta geocaching friends in Seattle!
As you can imagine, this is the tip of the iceberg of adventures to have in Seattle. It’s a jam-packed city with tons of things to see and do. We managed all of this in about five days with plenty of down time. Both boys love Seattle and I know we’ll be back. What will we do differently next time?
- A little more planning. Some high-demand activities require reservations well in advance. Our free-wheeling approach to travel meant we weren’t able to do a few things that would have been really cool.
- These attractions are not an inexpensive prospect. A City Pass ticket package can help reduce the overall cost but it’s something we didn’t make use of because we weren’t certain what we’d be doing. We were winging it. Again, that can backfire. In this case, it meant we paid more than we had to for some experiences.
- We’ll try to go during off-peak times to minimize crowds, something that’s a challenge for all three of us.
- We were eyeing a float plane tour to Vancouver Island but the boys had neglected to bring their passports. (Insert mom sigh here.) With that off the table we were hoping to do a flight over Puget Sound or around Mount Rainier. Those needed reservations well in advance so it was a no-go for us.
- Take a SegWay Tour around the city. We had a couple of opportunities but the times available were less than fabulous because of that whole “winging it” thing.
- We’ll do the longer Locks Cruise on Argosy.
- Visit the Seattle Japanese Garden.
The Space Needle in infrared from the harbor. A nice way to get a different view of the city.
*Note: Ticket prices are always subject to change and can vary by season. Click through the links provided to get to the attraction websites that will always have up to date pricing.