Seattle or Portland or Vancouver?

Old Apr 22nd, 2017, 03:34 PM
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Seattle or Portland or Vancouver?

Hi all - I have read forums on here for several years but have never requested help. We are desperately in need in some advice. We are two families (total of 10) traveling from Dallas to the Pacific NW this summer in early August. A total of 6 kids and 4 adults. The youngest child is 2 and the oldest is 10. We can’t decide which city/area to narrow in on and travel to as all areas look amazing and none of us have been to the Pacific NW before. We went to Breckenridge, CO last year and the kids had a blast on Alpine slides, coaster, putt putt, etc. We enjoy the outdoors and exploring but bear in mind we still have very young ones. Any helpful suggestions out there to help us decide? TIA!
nlwtravler is offline  
Old Apr 22nd, 2017, 04:25 PM
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It really depends entirely on your interests. If you look at it from strictly a kid's perspective:

Seattle: awesome musical playground at Seattle Center, the zoo, pacific science center, Ballard Locks, the ferries, the market, gasworks park, the piers, the monorail.

Portland: Japanese garden, Omsi, the zoo, food trucks, very child friendly. Adventure stuff at mount hood, the beaches a couple hours away with both natural stuff and boardwalk stuff. The gorge, waterfalls, etc.

Vancouver: a fabulous aquarium and park, the sea wall, capilano suspension bridge, birds at bloedel, ferry to Victoria, Granville market

Additional things I would consider:

If you've been to Colorado, budget is probably not an issue for you. But Seattle is very expensive hotel wise in August. And a lot of the popular sights are going to be unpleasantly packed because of cruise ships. But out of the three, it's probably my favorite kid city. For one thing, the ferries are like cat nip for kids. For another thing, it's got stuff like the underground tour and pacific science center that really are top notch tourist draws.

Portland is one of my favorite cities, but it's a lot more laid back. It's also often unpleasantly hot in August. Unless the coast is really a draw for you, as well as the other day trips, I probably wouldn't pick it, unless you really are into breweries and food.

Vancouver: can be expensive, and less compact than the other two. But exchange rate is in our favor, fabulous weather in August, probably more options for ethnic food. Granville Market is a great place with kids, and the aquarium is amazing. I've been to most of the famous US aquariums and the only one that comes close is maybe national aquarium in Baltimore. You need passports. It's easier for me go to Vancouver over Seattle, but I go there less frequently because crossing the border can be annoying.

There's always option D...San Francisco

In seriousness, I don't think you can go wrong. All great options. I've done all with younger relatives in August. You can reach beautiful nature from all three, although I'd argue you can see gorgeous nature in Seattle.
marvelousmouse is offline  
Old Apr 22nd, 2017, 04:38 PM
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Great perspective mm. My choice would be to fly to Seattle. How many days total?
If all have their passports, take the Amtrak train or bus to Vancouver from Seattle after a couple days in Seattle.
If some do not have passports, take the Amtrak Cascades train from Seattle King St. Station to Portland.
King St. station is close to CenturyLink stadium where the Seahawks play.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2017, 07:18 AM
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How many days do you plan to be in the area?

Coming from Dallas, I doubt if you'd find the heat in the Portland area or Columbia Gorge especially off-putting, but it's worth noting that central air conditioning is quite unusual in the PNW, so if you're looking at a house rental or similar (which you definitely should do with that big a group) it might be a factor.

All three big cities are fantastic places for family vacations, but each has its limits and advantages. What's important, though, is that each has fantastic countryside at close hand. With Portland, the Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood country to the east is easily accessible and the northern Oregon coast is a couple of hours to the west. With Seattle, you've got all of Puget Sound at your doorstep - ferries, islands, villages - or three national parks in line-of-sight distance from the top of the Space Needle. In in Vancouver you've got mountains, forests, islands... right there.

In the abstract, I'd probably pick Vancouver, because it's got enough diversity to keep everybody occupied, it's very kid-friendly (more so IMO than Portland or Seattle) and with the USD-CAD exchange rate it can be good value. You've got great day-trip or longer destinations like Whistler or the BC Sunshine Coast close to hand, incredible Stanley Park with its world-class aquarium...

I would definitely look at renting a house, or, if your visit is long enough, possibly looking at a two-location period, with one close to the city and the other either on the Sunshine Coast or up at Whistler, where there are endless activities for both kids and grownups. The Sunshine Coast is not on a lot of US family radars, but it's a terrific area, with lots of little coves to explore, farmers markets, beaches that are actually swimmable... and it's fun to get to via the ferry from Horseshoe Bay. A couple of photos - , , and .

But saying how long you have will help a lot.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2017, 09:19 AM
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I live in Seattle and I love it here, but for your request I think Portland and Oregon generally speaking has the most going for it!

There is so much to do in the area - the city itself, Gorge, Willamette Valley, Oregon coast, etc.)

I think Oregon would be a little more easily manageable to plan and possibly a bit less expensive than either Vancouver or Seattle.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2017, 09:58 AM
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We live in both the Portland and Seattle areas and agree with the others that you can't go wrong with any of the cities. So much to do and see in each area!

Suze--No, Portland is just as expensive as Vancouver and Seattle, and the northern coast around Cannon Beach is as well. The popularity has come at a price
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Old Apr 23rd, 2017, 10:05 AM
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What mms said. Portland and the coast used to be our cheap vacation destination but alas no long. And also Vancouver is more fun in the summer; it's still beautiful but you don't feel like you're battling mobs of people, which I do in seattle and CB.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2017, 10:21 AM
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I would do Vancouver. So much to see and do. You don't say how many days you are planning to stay. From Vancouver you could do a side trip to Victoria or a trip to Whistler.

I have found traffic to be less of a problem in Vancouver than Seattle. A downside is that buying passports for everyone will be expensive.

If you decide on Portland, I would try to plan a couple of days in Central Oregon.
There is a great resort- Sunriver. Fun family place with paved bike paths, a marina with canoes, paddle boats, stables etc. it's a great place for kids.
Also, the area offers many unique experiences with hiking, rafting, golf. Etc.
There are some large homes for rent that would accommodate all of you.
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Old Apr 24th, 2017, 06:46 PM
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Many thanks marvelousmouse and tomfuller for advice. Great perspectives and I agree with your suggestions. I think we will scratch Portland and probably Seattle too, and focus our energy on Vancouver/Whistler areas.

We are probably leaving for vacation on July 31st and staying possibly 1 week - 10 days. We are pretty flexible and all adults and kids have passports so that is not a problem.

A few questions:
1. If we concentrate on Vancouver and Whistler, is that enough time to cover both places?

2. What must we see/do in each?

3. In what areas of each town are the best to stay?

4. What are some summer activities offered in the mountains?

Many thanks!
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Old Apr 24th, 2017, 07:06 PM
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Hm. Well, it's easily enough, depending on what you want to do. Let's say 9 nights.

I spent 3 nights in Whistler last trip and that was about right. One day to do the touristy stuff in the village and ski. 1 day to do one of the outdoor excursions in the area. In the winter, that was snowshoeing and an eagle watching float trip. In the summer, that would be river rafting or zip lining or hiking. You can ride the peak to peak in summer too, and I'd definitely do that.

If I'd had one more full day (and I kind of wanted it) I would have just lazed around a spa. But you could easily fill four nights if you're into atvs or fishing or something. Whistler adds up because a lot of the cool stuff- the excursion trips- are expensive. And food is expensive. It's a very high end resort area. It's a lot of fun though.

Summer link:

So 4 nights at whistler would leave 5 nights in Vancouver. That's about right.

Personally, if it was me, And I had 10 nights:

3 nights Vancouver Island. A day in Victoria and a day elsewhere.

3 nights in Whistler

4 nights Vancouver.

You can easily do a week in each. I try to go to each place once a year, and I still haven't don't everything I want to. But 3 days or so gives a you a good taste of each place; they're all different. Vancouver island includes ferries, Vancouver gives you a diverse city and Whistler gives you some stunning nature.

(I wouldn't leave Victoria off my list because the waterfront is quaint and it has the great royal be museum and I LOVE ferries. I enjoy whistler for what it is but it's not my kind of touristy village while Victoria is. But...your mileage may vary.)
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Old Apr 25th, 2017, 06:59 AM
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The "where to stay" question obviously becomes quite complicated given your group's size. One of the benefits of Whistler is an abundance of condos built for the winter ski crowds that are available (usually quite inexpensively) during the summer. Use VRBO or some other vacation rental service to help matters. If you want to use hotels, you'll want to look for places offering suites, and be warned that hotels in Vancouver during the summer/cruise season tend to be very expensive, although not the stratospheric prices you'll see in Seattle.

It's unlikely you'll find one place (in either Vancouver or Whistler) that will accommodate all of you, so you might have better luck looking for two units located close to one another. In Vancouver, I'd be looking at the West End (the most convenient to downtown activities like Stanley Park) or some of the lovely residential areas to the south and west of the downtown area, like Kitsilano or Kerrisdale. I'd avoid the eastern part of the city as some areas can be a little sketchy, although there are nice neighbo(u)rhoods there too.

Whether to include Victoria is a matter of personal taste. I agree the Inner Harbour is picturesque and the museum is great, but the excursion is quite time consuming and expensive, and in August Victoria can be horribly crowded and touristy.

One ferry-based and very enjoyable side trip from a Vancouver - Whistler focus is to the BC "Sunshine Coast," reached by ferry from Horseshoe Bay, the ferry terminal right on BC 99, the "Sea to Sky Highway" that goes to Whistler.

The ferry crossing is wonderfully scenic - - and the little communities on the coast are full of cute shops and art galleries, cafes and pubs, farmers markets... and there are beaches that are actually swimmable - - and hikes to hidden coves - , old growth forest, etc. - and right on Vancouver's doorstep.

I did have one last-minute brain eruption that I'll just throw out. Now that we know how long you have, it dawned on me that you might look at a cruise to Alaska. Now, I know... I can hear the mental doors slamming, but take a minute.

The cruise lines are very kid-friendly. There are kids programs and "clubhouses" on most of the ships. There are enough food options that even the fussiest of eaters will find something they'll like, even if it's pizza and chicken fingers 24/7. There are movie theaters and movies and kids programming on the TVs in the cabins.

For the parents, there are babysitting services so Mom and Dad can do adult things, and there's 24-hour room service at no additional cost.

Best of all, you unpack once, the rooms are made up every day, and the scenery comes to you. In the ports you can take the (often expensive) excursions offered by the cruise lines, or you can just walk around the cities visited, or rent a car and drive to someplace interesting - totem poles in Totem Bight State Park in Ketchikan, for example, or the Carcross Desert or Robinson Roadhouse ghost town on a short road trip from Skagway up into the Yukon...

On a per-person-per-day basis, cruises can easily be cheaper than the same days on land. No rental car, no breaking camp to relocate to some other place. There's a doctor on board, and the seas on Inside Passage routes north from Vancouver are smooth for the most part. And you get glaciers, whales, historic towns... it's pretty spectacular.

Yes, there are a lot of people on the ships and it's not an "intimate" experience. (Although, there's nothing like standing on a balcony at night watching and listening to the sea as it hisses by.) But the combination of price, convenience, and scenery is hard to beat. Might be worth checking out.
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