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Seattle and Vancouver for six days in June with kids

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I am planning our summer vacation and need help with the same. Basically after spending a week in San Francisco area we will be flying into Seattle on 6/18 @ 2:00 PM and plan to fly back to South Florida on 6/24. Since this will be my first trip to the area, I would like to explore Seattle, Mt Rainier, Vancouver and other recommended areas. We will be a party of six, wife & I, two kids (3 and 6) and my parents and plan to rent a minivan for the duration of the trip. Being from South Florida, we are not looking for a lot of water and beach stuff but mostly mountains, waterfalls, outdoor natural beauty and kids friendly stuff. I haven't really researched this a lot yet so any and all input will be welcome.. Thanks.

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    I wouldn't take the rental vehicle into Canada. Take the Amtrak train or Amtrak bus to Vancouver BC Canada. Passports?
    If you're looking for waterfalls, come down to the Oregon side of the Columbia River.
    In the city of Vancouver you don't really need a vehicle. Enjoy Stanley Park.

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    I would absolutely keep the rental for this trip.

    With just 6 days, you will still be rushing to see Seattle, Mt Rainier and Vancouver. I would not try to fit anything else in.

    Check out Snoqualmie Falls (outside of Seattle) for waterfalls.

    Check out the Ballard Locks in Seattle. Kids and adults love it.

    Gasworks Park is great for views of downtown and for letting the kids run and explore.

    The usuals like a ferry ride, Pike Place Market and the Space Needle.

    Some people like the Ride The Ducks.

    There is so much more. Do you have a guidebook or have you looked into things to do?

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    Frankly I would skip Vancouver on this trip and, based on your interests and group, limit yourselves to Seattle, Portland, and a couple of areas in between.

    First, June isn't really "summer" in this area most years. We joke that summer starts on the 5th of July, right after the fireworks have back-lit the clouds the night before.

    Visit Seattle - ride the Ducks, take the West Seattle water taxi, visit the Pike market (early morning before the mobs hit) and take a day trip to Whidbey Island and Deception Pass (ferry, cute towns, amazing natural views.)

    Then drive to Portland, stopping en route at Mount St. Helens. I wouldn't stay in Portland itself (wonderful city but you really don't have time to comb the depths) but instead stay in Hood River, around an hour east of the city.

    From Hood River you can explore the Columbia Gorge - waterfalls, amazing vistas, let the kids visit Herman the Sturgeon at the Bonneville hatchery, and spend a day driving up the (drop dead gorgeous) Hood River Valley to Timberline Lodge on the side of Mount Hood. There will still be snow for the kids to play in, the comfortable and historic lodge, and the drive to and from (around an hour from Hood River) is impressively scenic, going both directions.

    Columbia Gorge - http://gardyloo.us/20100509_5a.JPG
    Mt. Hood from Hood River Valley - http://gardyloo.us/20100509_85a.JPG

    I think given your priorities, this would work better than trying to squeeze Vancouver into the itinerary, especially given how congested the border can be during peak tourist and cruise season.

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    I enjoyed an Argosy Cruise in Seattle- they have several available- we did a harbor cruise and we did the Tillicum Village cruise- Tillicum Village was very fun, great meal- the cruise includes a bit of a harbor tour as well. The planked salmon was delicious!

    http://www.argosycruises.com/tillicum-village/

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    You have 5 full days, really. The first night you could do the Space Needle and Pike Market, or other things in downtown Seattle. If you want to see Victoria or Vancouver, maybe look into a Victoria Clipper (ferry) overnight package from downtown Seattle.
    http://www.clippervacations.com/ Or take the train from Seatle to Vancouver. Either would be much more pleasant than driving up there, but everyone has a different tolerance for things like waiting at the border, and fighting traffic around Vancouver, so maybe you don't mind.

    You could do BC on the first two full days. Then on the next few days, do the drive to Rainier (Paradise), Mount St. Helen's and/or Columbia Gorge, returning to Seattle the night before your flight home. Snoqualmie Falls is the closest large waterfall to Seattle. You might also like Leavenworth, WA (in the Cascades) as a day trip, or overnight.

    Definitely bring layers, including a light rain jacket. It could be beautiful, but June is unpredictable. And our friends from Florida find it chilly, while Northwesterners are running around in shorts and t-shirts.

    Have a great trip!

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    Because you are from Florida, you really should cover lots of ground while you're out here - never know when you'll get another chance.

    You MIGHT plug-in the minivan rental rates for a rental location in downtown Seattle, just in case the savings afforded for an off-airport rental, are significant enough to matter.

    The Link Light Rail is a general cinch for getting from SeaTac Airport to central Seattle. And yes, I know there are bags, and kids, and S.F. souvenirs too... but at least run the numbers just to see.

    (first try it if picking-up downtown, and returning at the airport {just in case}... and then try it picking-up and returning downtown) (you COULD even finesse a final night right NEAR the airport, for everybody, and then YOU return the van downtown, and then take the rail to the airport to join everybody (after you first dropped them and the bags off at the hotel))

    Even run the costs as if perhaps NOT getting the van until you've done the central Seattle attractions (Pike Place Market, Space Needle, Waterfront, Ferry?, etc.), saving both rental costs AND OVERNIGHT PARKING costs.

    (and yeah, yeah, I read the part about kids)

    While Vancouver is surely more impressive than Seattle, even I too think you might do well to skip it... Maybe instead consider a loop of a drive, from Seattle, north to Mount Vernon/Burlington... then EAST on Hwy #20 (Google North Cascades Highway)... seeing all sorts of impressive sights... then to the town of Winthrop and then perhaps via Wenatchee... Leavenworth... Ellensburg... then take the Yakima Canyon Road (Hwy #821) for about 30 miles before joining up with the main freeway into Yakima... WHICH is unimportant beyond your path westward from there, toward Mount Rainier, where a visit to either Sunrise or Paradise is in order.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmph... IF forced to select two spots for nights along such a pathway, I'd (wish) for Leavenworth... and then maybe accept Yakima, ONLY for its semi-convenience to a westward journey via Mount Rainier the next day. (more ideal would be some small area in the hinter lands, even nearer to Mount Rainier)

    The concern with this picture is that Leavenworth is 314 miles and 6 hours of driving time from Seattle, going via Mount Vernon, and Winthrop.

    If it were me, just racing around there, yeah, I'd be very comfortable with that, but with kids, parents, and sightseeing, it could slow that considerably.

    SO, a person might STRATEGIZE by leaving Seattle late on one evening, spending a night in/near Mount Vernon, and then setting out fresh the next morning and jumping right into the best part - the North Cascades Highway.

    This would help not only in the way of timing, but also reduce potential overnight costs in central Seattle, vs. a smaller place in Mount Vernon (60-ish miles north). (potentially saving the difference in room rate, AND any parking cost)


    Now Leavenworth to Yakima is only 94 miles... so from Leavenworth you could easily target, say, a near-to-Mt. Rainier spot like Packwood or the like, for your next overnight. Oh, and Leavenworth is definitely worth exploring before and after the one night there, so to linger there would be wise.

    Such a 2-night & 3-day side trip may fit well into your 6-day plan, and greatly complement your Seattle-area touring as well.

    So just Google "North Cascades Highway"... and then google "Leavenworth"... and see if it intrigues you.

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    You are going to have a blast in the beautiful state of Washington. In Seattle, do not miss the Space Needle, EMP, Pacific Science Center, Pike Place Market, Ride the Ducks, Pier 51, Woodland Park Zoo and the Aquarium. You could drive up to NW Washington and see Solduc falls and go to Forks. If not you can drive to Mt. Rainier and the Columbia Gorge. Also visit Snoqualmie falls. Drive to Leavenworth, a nice Bavarian town. Mt. Saint Helens is worth a few hours.

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    Thanks everyone for your input... Now i need to sit down and finalize the trip. One thing is for sure.... we need to see Vancouver :)

    May be skip Mr. Rainier since it is in the opposite direction?

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    OK... (and this is whyyyyyyyyy we like to have parameters offered by the OP on this forum - it makes it easier)

    Vancouver it is

    SO, you're arriving on a Wednesday, and leaving on a Tuesday... SO just how do you optimize Vancouver in a case like that??

    Things I know are that you don't want to be heading north from Seattle after 3pm on Friday, or soon after 3pm on any weekday! You don't want to sit in border traffic coming back (into the U.S.) on Sunday unless you do it waaaaaaaay late.

    Be aware that you'll be in the far north for the longest day of the year... so why don't you maximize the use of your daylight and schedule your path back to Seattle for very late on Sunday evening?

    You could leave central Vancouver as late as 9pm (Sunday June 22) and still have about an hour of daylight as you head toward what will finally be reduced border lines/delays. (clarity: I wholeheartedly endorse NOT leaving central Vancouver UNTIL 9pm on that night)

    Your path back to Seattle would be 110 freeway miles from the border on a path that you don't have to think about. (30-ish more from Vancouver TO that border, and you WILL have to navigate a bit between Vancouver and the border)

    Yeah, you'd arrive late at some Seattle area hotel/motel... or heck, nothing says you even need to drive all the way into Seattle. How about Bellingham, WA for awakening on Monday June 23?? From there it is 90-ish freeway miles straight into Seattle, where you'll do last-minute activities before flying home the following day, perhaps with an airport-area hotel lined-up for yourselves.

    (MIGHT even arrange to drop the van off near to wherever you got it - if at an off-airport site {aka downtown} after dropping the troops at said airport area hotel)

    SO, if you envisioned a late return to the U.S. for Sunday night... then you'd have to decide just how much time to allocate to Vancouver. You could easily fill a weekend there, just in the central area, and thus you should consider setting sail for central Vancouver by MID-DAY (beFORE 2pm) on Friday.

    That would give you just... Wednesday evening (depending upon your arrival time) and a full Thursday for your first hint of Seattle... and then a bit of Friday morning... and you could spend some of the travel time pondering what tiny things to catch in Seattle on Monday, that you heard/read about, perhaps more so while you were (here).

    Mount Rainier is only 60-ish miles from Seattle, and you could still wedge it in if you had to, but if you want to give Vancouver anything near to its just due, then you'd do well to optimize your time traffic-wise with regard to getting to and from Vancouver.

    As for lodging... it's getting toward crunch time... but hopefully, as your trip is so early in the summer, you can still find suitable lodging in central Vancouver.

    With TWO parents AND TWO grandparents, (with the two young kids) is it possible/reasonable to use Priceline.com and book TWO ROOMS and then improvise depending upon what you get???

    (the rooms are guaranteed to house two adults... and with the kids so young, and everybody related, maybe it would work to use Priceline for central Vancouver??) Vancouver really is a m-m-m-m-mostly flat, and very walkable city, with interesting things all around... and normal people walking the streets all night, as in few other places of its size. So landing rooms in the central Vancouver area can be very advantageous.

    (****note: Priceline lodging so often comes with the need/necessity to pay through the nose for parking... but with one vehicle, and two rooms ideally landed at deeply discounted rates, it seems more acceptable than when I go there alone, and think I've landed a great rate on Priceline only to have to either pay $40 for overnight parking OR go an feed a meter early in the morning)


    By the way, had you lived in, say San Francisco, it would be perhaps unwise to target Vancouver with such a serious effort, for the reasonable proximity and chance to get back there again... but in your case, it does make sense.

    I hope it all "fits" reasonably well into your visions. Oh, and, with regard to Seattle Friday traffic... you need only get the first 35 or 40 miles NORTH of Seattle before rush hour crunch time, when en route to Vancouver. (you could stop and do something in the U.S. on Friday evening on the path north)

    Oh, I know... take the detour/path that is Chuckanut Drive from about EXIT #231 as you head north on Interstate 5, roughly 65 miles due north of central Seattle. (very scenic, and you can't get lost... as water barriers demand that you get back to the freeway eventually)

    Hope this helps.

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