Pacific Northwest Trip - Mother/Daughter

Old Aug 22nd, 2016, 09:08 PM
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Pacific Northwest Trip - Mother/Daughter

My daughter and I are thinking of traveling to the Pacific Northwest during the first week of October this year. We are not outdoorsy people and were hoping for suggestions on what to do and how long to stay in each city. We’re thinking our total time would be a week, is that sufficient? We would not be hiking, kayaking, or doing anything adventurous, but we love to explore, experience the culture, try new foods, and meet new people. We are thinking of Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria and/or possibly Portland, though really don’t think we’ll be able to get all done in a week’s time. What would others suggest who know the area? We've heard Victoria is even nicer to visit than Vancouver and we're not sure what we would do in Portland.

Any help/advice would be much appreciated!
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Old Aug 23rd, 2016, 07:36 AM
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Welcome to Fodor's!

Trying to see more than two of these cities in a week will subject you to some complicated and potentially expensive logistics, so in my view you need to do some hasty research to determine what you'd like to do in that limited time.

All four cities have plenty of things to experience, and all four are located in some of the most beautiful surroundings in North America - mountains, forests, islands, waterfalls, great rivers... so one of the first things you should decide is how much time, if any, you want to spend outside the cities experiencing these treasures. In the event you DO want to explore the countryside a little, it's best done with a rental car. Are you willing to rent a car for some of the time (or all of it?)

Vancouver, Seattle and Portland are tied to one another by an inexpensive and, in parts, quite scenic rail system. Victoria is on Vancouver Island, and getting there poses its own logistics challenges; it requires several hours at least to get from Seattle or Vancouver to Victoria, involving buses, ferries or planes.

So my suggestion would be to examine your traveling aims and style - do you want to be in go-go mode? Or do you want to go someplace and hang out while you get familiar with your surroundings and take the time to dig a little deeper than just skimming the surface?
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Old Aug 23rd, 2016, 09:33 AM
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In a week, you really can't cover these four cities. I'd suggest you choose two cities. Gardyloo is right, Victoria is the outlier and requires more time and effort and multiple modes of transport to get to. The first week of October might be marvelous weather, or we may have moved into our many months long grey and rainy period. You could spend your week in any one of these cities and find plenty to keep you interested and occupied.

If you add in scenic areas - the San Juans, Mt. Rainier or the Olympic National Park, you would require much more time. You could combine a trip through the San Juans with Victoria, for instance, which would make a lovely week.

Do some more research, decide what is most important for you to see/do/experience, and we'll be able to be more helpful when you have narrowed down your destinations.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2016, 11:50 AM
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Last September, we spent 10 days in the NW. We flew to Seattle (cause it was cheaper than to fly into Vancouver) and caught the late train to Vancouver. It was a really nice way to ease into the trip since we had been crazed finishing up work and getting things ready to leave.

We spent 5 nights, 4 days in Vancouver which was not enough IMO. We then rented a car and drove to Tofino on Vancouver Island for 2 nights. Thought about going to Victoria, but the drive was just too long. We returned to Vancouver for a night and then caught a flight to Seattle and spent 3 nights...again, not long enough IMO.

If I had it to do over again, I would have just spent time in Vancouver and Seattle. I felt we short changed both locations and the trip to Tofino was much longer than I thought it would be...lots of 2 lane curvy roads.

If you wanted to spend some outdoor time and experience the ferries, go to the San Juans. I haven't done that in years, but it's much easier than getting to Victoria.

There's no way you can have a restful trip trying to cover all 4 places. I love the rose garden and Japanese garden in Portland.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2016, 01:37 PM
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"...we're not sure what we would do in Portland."

Portland has long been known for Powell's Books, and beautiful parks and gardens, and more recently for world class pinot noir, food, and craft beer. But the best reason to visit remains the natural beauty that surrounds it - Mt. St. Helens, Columbia River gorge, Mt. Hood, and the dramatic Oregon coastline - all of which are within a 90 minute drive from the city. You could easily spend a week in the area and still only scratch the surface. So I agree you'll need to prioritize, and recommend that whatever you decide, allow yourselves time to get out of the city(s) and enjoy the natural beauty that the PNW is best known for.
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Old Aug 24th, 2016, 06:12 AM
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We made reservations to fly Nonstop into Seattle from the Northeast but are now having second thoughts that we should take a flight that has a layover in Seattle and then goes into Vancouver so we don’t have to worry about making plans of how to get to Vancouver from Seattle (we can change our flights if this seems best)

We were planning on staying in Vancouver 3 nights and 3 nights in Seattle and then an additional day for traveling. Regarding what Topeater said about 5 nights and 4 days not being enough time in Vancouver, what did you not get to do that you wanted to?

Also we had seen that there is a jazz festival called Earshot in Seattle while we would be there…worth it?
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Old Aug 24th, 2016, 06:52 AM
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You should rent your car in Seattle and just drive up to Vancouver... its a few hours and make sure you have your passports...
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Old Aug 24th, 2016, 08:09 AM
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Why should we rent car in Seattle? I had heard that parking can be very difficult in Vancouver so wasn't sure if we needed car there and to pick up in Seattle and drop off in Vancouver I heard was very expensive, no?
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Old Aug 24th, 2016, 08:17 AM
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We recently spent 5 days and 4 nights in Vancouver and found it to be a good amount of time there. We are also not super outdoorsy people and found plenty to do there. I'd definitely recommend at least one visit to Granville Island - we went twice and still felt like there were so many more food vendors we wanted to try! We also really liked walking along the seawall in Stanley Park and visiting the totem poles and aquarium there. The Vancouver Art Gallery has a really interesting Picasso exhibit, but I'm not sure if it will still be there when you are visiting.
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Old Aug 24th, 2016, 08:21 AM
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If you like Jazz, Earshot is well worth your time. Rather than renting a car and driving to Vancouver, I would take the train.

You have very little time - 3 nights is just two days in each city - but you will get a taste and perhaps have a better idea of what you want to do/see/experience next trip.
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Old Aug 24th, 2016, 09:20 AM
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I agree with Kathie to take the train rather than driving. You don't have to wait at the border and the train is just so relaxing.

We rented a car in Vancouver to drive over to Vancouver Island. When we came back to Vancouver, driving was very difficult with lots of traffic and the added partial closed streets due to all the new building. Couldn't wait to get rid of it!
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Old Aug 24th, 2016, 02:13 PM
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OK, so, you're coming from the northeast, so, far away, and you should likely cover the area as if you can't easily make another trip here on a random whim.


3 nights in each of Seattle and Vancouver is FINE, but just the thought of it assures that you don't want to include a 3rd destination outside of a possible day trip from somewhere.


IF one were to pick one significant day trip from either place, it would probably be to Mount Rainier, from Seattle. But arguably one could get a useful mountain experience from just the short hop from Vancouver to Grouse Mountain and then taking the expensive sky ride to the top for a few hours.


Nothing says you have to rent a car, but not renting a car would be much more simple if you were flying into one of the cities and then home from the other. The money saved on car rentals could be used to assure centrally located accommodations in both cities, to save time and allow a central base where you can return your purchased items and rest-up during hectic days of shopping and sightseeing.

A one-way train ride is one thing, but putting two of them together on an international vacation is (just begging for something to go amiss). With a car, you come and go when you want to, and NOT by somebody else's schedule. Plus, you have a place to store your goods and belongings, and it is generally nearby all the time.

By the end of such a trip, you are likely lugging around purchased goods that will bog you down additionally as you get your affairs in order for your return home.



But IF one were to plan such a vacation with no car, he/she would probably do well to fly into Seattle, then spend the first night or two in central Seattle, before plotting the 3-day Vancouver trip in the middle of the vacation, allowing some wiggle room on either end for Seattle touring.

So perhaps you leave EAR-ly on the 2nd morning, on a northbound train to Vancouver... IF you land a very central hotel there, you'll have more than you could ever need, of sights and conveniences, without really needing to ever leave the downtown core.

(though the trip to Grouse Mountain would be worth it - and you can take a city bus right to the foot of the mountain, and ride the Gondola 3000 feet to the top)


1st night: Seattle
2nd night: Seattle
3rd night: Vancouver
4th night: Vancouver
5th night: Vancouver
6th night: Seattle
7th day fly home


The Link Light Rail between central Seattle and SeaTac airport makes flying to and from Seattle fairly easy, but depending upon your flight time, you might even get back to Seattle via train, and then maybe have some time downtown, before booking an airport hotel very near to the airport itself, making for a much more convenient morning of your flight.
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Old Aug 24th, 2016, 03:09 PM
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No, 1-week is not near enough time to visit all 4 cities imo
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Old Sep 5th, 2016, 04:39 PM
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Thank you all so much for all of the responses. This has been so helpful!

NorthwestMale - you're right in that a trip out to the West coast from being on the East coast is a bit of a trek, so we definitely want to take advantage of our time there. However, we can definitely come back another time to explore though.

We booked our flights based on what most of you wrote above and will have 7 full days in the area. I just had surgery on my knee earlier this year, so we may be ubering/taking cabs in between the hotel and sites in the big cities if need be. We thought we were settled on our plan for the area, until a friend kept bringing up Whistler to us.

Our current plan:

Fly into Vancouver
Days 1-2: Vancouver
Day 3: Sea to Sky Highway for the day
Day 4: Vancouver
Day 5: Take the train to Seattle in the early morning
Day 5-7: Seattle
Fly home from Seattle

Do you think we need to spend more than a day trip in Whistler with Sea to Sky Highway? Should we spend one night there? We really want to take in the beautiful views along Sea to Sky Highway and were going to have lunch in Whistler when we do this drive, but our friend is now making us question if we should spend more time there.

Like we said, we're not outdoorsy people, so we'll take in the views, enjoy the culture, try new foods, explore, shop, but not sure what's worthwhile for us to do if we stayed for a night in Whistler in October.
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Old Sep 6th, 2016, 08:35 AM
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Whistler is very touristy... souvenirs everywhere.

Though given your alternatives (as much of Vancouver as you can get), it makes the most sense to keep Whistler a day trip, and get back to the city to continue to soak it all in.

It still amazes me after decades of going to Vancouver that so many 'normal' people are roaming the streets there at any hour of the night.

There is just so much to see and do while randomly meandering around the downtown streets on just about any day of the week.

Be sure to go to Granville Island.

And strongly consider going to Grouse Mountain... despite the pricey tickets... I would suggest timing such a trip so that you straddle sunset, so as to see it during day and at night.


So far I love the blueprint you've laid-out here... and you simply do not need to have every hour planned right to the minute.

That amount of time in either city will just about plan itself, considering the obvious tourist spots in either city which you can read about well in advance.

I like the fact that you have only the ONE (train trip) to worry about, and it should be scenic, and fairly simple, bringing you from the fringes of mid-town Vancouver to the fringes of central Seattle.

I'm glad you have things lined-up for your journey.
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Old Sep 6th, 2016, 05:54 PM
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Thanks for the insight! That makes me feel better. I thought Whistler would be filled with souvenirs too and would be a spot for hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter, but not necessarily worth another day in the town for a shopping trip.

Also, what do you mean by -
"It still amazes me after decades of going to Vancouver that so many 'normal' people are roaming the streets there at any hour of the night."
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Old Sep 7th, 2016, 01:50 PM
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Just... the streets of Vancouver seem SO relatively safe, when compared with similar sized U.S. cities. (particularly Seattle)


While Seattle is "safe" downtown at night by large U.S. city standards, Vancouver just has considerable foot traffic of normal people going to and fro, seemingly all night long.

There are few other places in North America which have sooooooooo many high-rise apartment/condo buildings clustered in the downtown area as in Vancouver. Furthermore, central Vancouver is nearly surrounded by water, so the only way to grow is UP. More and more people moving in, and having reason to be wandering around at night, makes for safer areas.
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Old Sep 7th, 2016, 02:09 PM
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Um... there are definitely parts of central Vancouver that are downright scary at night, just as in any big North American city. The area just east of Gastown is particularly a dicey zone. https://www.osac.gov/pages/ContentRe...aspx?cid=18847
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Old Sep 7th, 2016, 02:15 PM
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I disagree with that observation about Vancouver being filled with "normal" people, but that Seattle is not. Strongly disagree.

Suze, in Seattle
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Old Sep 7th, 2016, 02:27 PM
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ROFL


The foot traffic in central Vancouver late at night dwarfs that of central Seattle... and in Seattle it is largely drug addicts and dealers, along with the homeless.


In Vancouver, it is the NORMAL people, heading to and from their high rise condos in the sky, who are filling up most of the sidewalks there at night.
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