After a delightful time in Canada we crossed the boarder back into Washington. This boarder crossing was just as uneventful as the first, except the line was a bit longer and took about 20-30 minutes.
We had a deadline to get back to Seattle so that Jeff could fly to Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retail Show.
While Jeff was in Salt Lake I had my Mom fly from St. Louis to Seattle for a little Mother-Daughter time while we stayed at the Lake Pleasant RV Park in Bothell, WA.
Mom had never been to Seattle before. Though I have been here years ago, I didn’t stay long enough to really sightsee. So I booked some fun events to get a good perspective of what the city had to offer.
Day 1: Whale Watching Edmond, WA
Our first day of exploring I had scheduled a Whale Watching tour ($135/person) through Viator. The boat Ports out of Edmonds on the North side of Seattle, just 8 miles from our RV Park.
My niece Jennifer had moved from Arkansas to Seattle earlier this year, so she joined Mom and I for the 4-hour trip. The boat ride through the Puget Sound took about an hour…just enough time to get caught up with Jen on her life as a new military wife (Air Force).
We motored around for a bit looking for whale tails and water spouts. It took some time but we finally landed in a location that had a small pod of humpbacks. The rules for observation are that the boat has to stay 300yds away from the whales, so our views were not that great.
The boat lingered for about an hour until the captain asked if we wanted to stay or move on to another location to see some sea lions. The consensus was to move on so we headed over to an island where there was more marine life.We saw a speck of a bald eagle here and two sea lions duking it out for the affections of a very portly sea gal.
I wish I could say this tour was worth it, but it was a bit of a letdown. The distance to the wildlife was so far away it was hard to have that interactive experience.
What whale watching lacked in wildlife was more than offset by spending time with Mom and Jen out on the open sea on a beautiful sunny day. And the on-board $3 blueberry buckle (cake) wasn’t bad either!
Day 2: Downtown Seattle
The next day Mom and I were on our own. The plan was to avoid traffic and take public transportation to downtown Seattle.
With bus schedule and a map in hand we drove to the Kenmore Park & Ride about 4 miles away. We got there about 9:30am and could not find a single opening in the parking lot. I drove around the block and found a space in a Daycare center, hoping they didn’t tow!
We took a 40-minute bus ride (exact change required) into Seattle getting off at Union & 6th and then walked a few blocks to the Monorail ($2.25/adult, $1/senior)to take us to the Space Needle Center. The Monorail was super quick and we enjoyed the Space Needle coming into focus right out our window.
We had planned to just LOOK at the Space Needle, and then tour the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum ($27/Adult, $22/Senior).
I had not made any reservations to go up into the Space Needle at $25/person. I didn’t think it would be worth the $50 spend just to look around the observation deck. But I did read that if you went up to the Sky City Restaurant at the top and had lunch, the trip up was free. I had little hope of getting a last minute restaurant reservation but inquired at the desk at the base of the needle anyway, just for grins.
To my surprise, the friendly hostess said that she could get us in as a “walk-in” and to be at the special restaurant elevator at 11am. SCORE!
We waited behind 10 other people (rather than HUNDREDS waiting for the observation deck elevator) and zipped up 500ft in 41 seconds to the rotating restaurant.
The Space Needle was built for the 1962 World Fair and once was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River at 605ft tall. It was the space-age imagination of Edward E. Carlson who originally sketched out the design on a coffee house napkin in 1959, to fit the 21st Century futuristic theme of the Worlds Fair.
Its center of gravity is just 5ft above ground and the rotating top house was so balanced in 1962 that it was easily driven by a 1 horsepower motor. Impressive for sure!
The restaurant seating is for 90 minutes with a $25/person minimum, so you can’t just go for a cup of coffee to avoid the $25 elevator fee. At least this way you get a meal out of it.
It was such a special treat to have a nice lunch while making a 45-minute full rotation overlooking the city. Mount Rainier was visible that day and the Blue Angels were having practice nearby. We saw the Puget Sound, the Queen Anne district and Lake Union as we twirled around. It was THE HIGHLIGHT of the trip for Mom and I and I’m so glad we didn’t miss it!
Since I had a standing reservation for the Seattle Underground tour on the opposite end of town at 2pm we had to abandon our plans of seeing the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, to our disappointment.
Mom and I jumped back on the Monorail heading into Downtown. We walked a couple of blocks to the light rail that took us to Pioneer Square for our Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour ($20/Adult, $17/Senior).
This was a humorous look at the start of Seattle which was built on the back of Lumber and the Klondike gold rush.
Seattle was built on low mudflats. So the local lumberyard thought it would be a good idea to use saw dust from the mill to “pave” the streets. As rains came in the streets of sawdust began to float and Newspapers back east humorously reported that Seattle was built on what appeared to be oatmeal.
On June 6, 1889 a spilled glue pot started The Great Seattle Fire that burned down the entire city. City officials had taken note of how San Francisco was burning down every 6 months, since they continued to rebuild out of wood. So new construction laws required Seattle merchants to rebuild with stone and brick. But not until AFTER the city was going to push two stories of dirt into the mudflats to build up the streets.
As you can imagine, business owners were anxious to rebuild their places of business and couldn’t wait until the city spend months or even years to push dirt around. So they were allowed to build with the understanding that eventually the city streets would be located 3 stories above.
The underground tour took us through the catacombs of those first floor storefronts, now located underground and abandoned. We saw pieces of the original plumbing pipes made out of hollowed out logs, learned about the “seamstress” industry (code for prostitution) and secret underground bars during prohibition.
Overall this was a fascinating 90-minute tour and Mom and I really enjoyed it, though we felt rushed by later tours.
We jumped back on planes, trains and automobiles and made it back to our Park & Ride before rush hour…without being towed. Yea us!
Day 3: Bothell, WA
I had read about Country Village less than a mile from the RV Park. Country Village is made up of quaint old cottages in this small village filled with arts and crafts, restaurants, antique shops and home décor. The village also included the cutest resident roosters roaming the property making themselves known now and then.
Mom and I walked around the very affordably priced shops and the farmers market and picked up some produce, coffee, vinegars & oils and some gifts. We spent most of the day here! We had such a nice time that it was our second most favorite thing we did that week!
Day 4: Port Gamble Historic District
I thought it would be fun to take Mom on a ferry ride. Since Jeff was flying back this day and needed a ride, we had to be conscious of time. So I set our sights on Port Gamble.
We took a quick ferry from Edmonds to Kingston and a 20-30 minute drive to Port Gamble Historic District, a National Historic Landmark.
Port Gamble was the site of the longest operating sawmill in the country, shutting down in 1995 after 142 years. What remains are restored homes converted to antique shops, restaurants, museums and the original general store.
Mom and I leisurely walked the streets and shops and had a wonderful lunch at the General Store Café.
The General Store is a throw back to its origins, creaky floors in all. They now sell souvenirs, ice cream and coffee.The top floor houses an interesting shell museum touted as the largest in the world.
We walked around back of the General Store to the lower level to the Port Gamble Museum ($4/person). What a wonderful piece of history! The museum is small but very well displayed with rich local history.
The museum was the original location of the Puget Mill Company offices founded in 1853 by William Talbot, Andrew Pope, Josiah Keller and Charles Foster, all originally from East Machias, Maine.
When the mill was first started, workers were scarce. With the help of partners in Maine, experienced mill works were recruited to move west. The easterners quickly grew homesick, so homes were built in Port Gamble to resemble New England style architecture to give them a sense of home.
We spent a good 3 hours in this delightful little town and would highly recommend a look for those on their way to the more popular Port Townsend.
Our time exploring Seattle came to an end after only scratching the surface of this amazing town.
We bid farewell to Mom and the cool breezy Pacific Northwest and started a rather hot migration south.
Until next time…