Hello, blog! We’ve been gone for a few weeks exploring Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle, as well as the surrounding national parks in the Pacific Northwest. Plus, we managed to squeeze in our annual summer trip to NYC and Philadelphia. We are so grateful to have enjoyed this vacation with numerous friends and family members and truly had a fantastic time. Work and school start up again for us tomorrow so we made the most of it!
You’ll find our tips for exploring the cities mentioned above listed down below, along with a few pics of the journey. We could write about any of these places in much more detail – they were rich with yummy food, breathtaking natural wonders and unique cultural experiences. However, since this is technically a Triangle-focused site, we figured we’d give you the highlights.
Day 1: Portland arrival
Expert travel tip: Do not stay in an airport hotel, even if it makes some logistical sense and you are desperate to crash as close by as possible. You will be woken up by planes taking off outside your window and should probably have thought of that earlier! If you must, the Sheraton at PDX was perfectly adequate and a great deal on Priceline.
Day 2: Off to the city of going green!
In Portland, we got another sweet Priceline deal (thanks to some pre-research on Better Bidding and Tripadvisor) to stay at the Hotel Monaco downtown. Kimpton hotels tend to have good character and style, along with beautiful lobbies and free happy hours. This one also sported dog-friendly accommodations, popsicles & lemonade, an impressive coffee bar that included Oregon Chai, bicycle rentals, and pet fish that you could take to your room for the duration of your stay. While there, we hit up the following in just 24 hours:
- Mother’s Bistro: the salmon hash and comfortable elegance made for a more-than-good breakfast; we heard that Brunch Box is also popular
- Chinese Garden: neat pagodas, great teahouse
- Voodoo Doughnut: home to quirky baked goods with varieties like maple bacon & bubblegum; in our opinion, kind of excessive and not that tasty
- International Rose Test Garden: beautiful views, dozens of hybrid flower experiments
- Waterfront: easy access to the World’s Smallest Park, a splash-filled fountain, views of Mt. Hood, and the Portlandia statue
- Food carts: several parking lots were full of dozens of delicious, cheap lunch options that included every type of ethnic food ever
- Powell’s Books: West Coast equivalent of the Strand; I bought Twilight and was rightfully mocked – but hey, we were headed for Forks, WA!
- First Thursday Art Walk: a little tricky to locate many of the galleries; didn’t love a lot of what we saw, but exhibits change regularly
- Clyde Common: hipster hangout straight out of Brooklyn housed in the Ace Hotel; decent prices and a fun-looking drink list
Day 3: Tacoma-bound
Day 4: Mt. Rainier
Expert travel tip:If you are afraid of taking strenuous hikes, arrange for an unusually cold spring to leave plenty of snow on the ground in August. The hardest trails will be snowed out and you can have a snowball fight in shorts and tank tops! Despite the record-setting conditions, we were still able to stop by Narada Falls and hike to Snow Lake, which had a great view of the mountain. There were so many amazing looking trails and overlooks, it would definitely be worth a repeat visit. Post-hiking, we hit up Elliot’s Oyster House down by the water in Seattle for excellent fish, including several different ways of preparing salmon (our dining was taking on a certain theme, as you can tell).
Day 5: Seattle & Salmon
Semi-expert tip: Seattle is much more than the tourist attractions downtown – get out in the other neighborhoods to get a true flavor of what life is like there. Next time we’d like to explore Ballard and take the ferry to relatively nearby Victoria, B.C.
Day 6: Whales, Where Art Thou?
Yet another expert tip: Zipcar can be an economical alternative to a standard rental when you consider that it includes gas – and several were conveniently located next to our hotel, so we could grab one for an hourly rate as needed. Just keep in mind that there’s a mileage limit of 180 miles a day before you start getting charged extra.
Day 7 & 8: Olympic National Park
Expert travel tip: Plan on taking a vacation from your vacation!