Seattle/Victoria/Vancouver

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Feb 2nd, 2003, 01:02 PM
  #1
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Seattle/Victoria/Vancouver

My wife and I are flying into Seattle at the end of June for one week. We are trying to come up with an itinerary and would appreciate suggestions.

We were thinking 2 nights Seattle, 2 nights Victoria and 2 nights Vancouver with one day for outdoor activity on Vancover Island, Mt. Ranier, or Olympic National Park.

Should we steal a day from Seattle and Vancouver?

How would you rank the following attractions?
Starlight Dinner Train (VAN)
Experience Music Project
Pioneer Sq
Tillicum Village Tour
Snoqualmi Falls/Salish Lodge
Pike's Place
Seattle Center
Lynn Canyon Park
Harbor Cruise in any of the 3 cities
Chinatown in any of 3 cities
Stanley Park (VAN)
Space Needle
Seattle Aquarium or Vancouver Aquarium?
Beacon Hill Park (VIC)
Butchart Gardens

Thanks for any input!
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Feb 2nd, 2003, 02:45 PM
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I suspect many of us "locals" would agree that your itinerary is quite cramped, especially given that during the summer you need to allow half a day for travel between any/all of these towns, or more depending on how you want to travel to and from Vancouver Island. Still, it's your call so I'll opine on some of your attractions -

Starlight dinner train, Vancouver - don't know. The one in Seattle has a terrible record of hitting cars and people.

EMP - pricey Frank Gehry blob, some interesting exhibits, only worth the time/money if you're really into music. If you're an architecture fan, compare this thing with Moshe Safdie's lovely central library complex in Vancouver.

Pioneer Square - plenty to see, better than Gastown (Van.) IMO.

Tillicum Village - fun once, pricey, hokey, a good view of the Seattle skyline. Gorbachev liked it.

Snoqualmie Falls/Salish Lodge - falls great, lodge way overpriced.

Pike (NOT "Pike's") Place - the main "don't miss" destination in Seattle. Granville Island market (Van.) isn't bad either.

Lynn Canyon - certainly a better use of time than Capilano.

Harbor cruises - haven't taken any; the ferry in Seattle is a better deal anyway.

Chinatowns - Vancouver's is enormous, spread out, needs time to explore. The International District in Seattle is tiny by comparison, but quite diverse. Victoria's is wee.

Stanley Park - worth the trip by itself.

Space Needle - save your money.

Aquaria - Vancouver by a mile.

Beacon Hill Park - okay, nothing to rave about IMO.

Butchart Gardens - touristy but lovely. If you don't get to the island the Queen Elizabeth Park Botanical Gardens in Vancouver is cheaper and almost as lovely, with the added benefit of views of downtown Vancouver in the mix.

To be frank, with just six days I'd be tempted to nix Victoria. Getting there to or from Seattle is time consuming and/or quite expensive in the summer, and the highlights that you can see in a limited time are all within a half mile of each other downtown, plus a schlep to Butchart Gardens if they're to be included. Seeing more of Vancouver Island simply needs more time than you have available. If you're set on it, I might suggest a day trip from either Vancouver or Seattle by float plane - see www.kenmoreair.com or www.harbour-air.com for possibilities.
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Feb 2nd, 2003, 03:24 PM
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Pike Place is great and you shouldn't miss it while you're there. There are also a couple of great restaurants in the vicinity.

I had dinner at the top of the needle and loved it. Good food and great view.
I took the boat over to Victoria and enjoyed high tea at the main hotel there known for it (Olympia or something like that?) that was fun, but other than that I found the whole place very pretty and quaint but BORING. I did not make it to Vancouver and wish that I did that instead b/c I have heard great things about it.
Sorry but I don't know about the rest.
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Feb 2nd, 2003, 03:24 PM
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Good advice from Gardyloo. I just did this trip last year - though it didn't include all that you mention.

Of what I have seen I'd say skip EMP (unless you are a devoted music fan who is especially interested in Seattle's music scene). Avoid Vancouver's Chinatown - from the excursion I took it seems to be filled with very sketchy types (picture heroine addicts hitting you up for money).

Don't miss Stanley Park or Butchart Gardens. I'd also reccomend stopping into the Fairmont in Vancouver and enjoying a "Purple Haze" cocktail while taking in some of the bar's free jazz.

You really won't need a harbor cruise in any of these destinations as you'll more than likely have to ferry between them (at least if you keep Victoria in your list). Do be prepared for what could be quite a wait trying to re-enter the USA - Customs is much lengthier than it once was.
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Feb 2nd, 2003, 03:26 PM
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How you spend your time depends on your interests. My husband and I completely skipped Seattle and instead went to Buchart Gardens and Olympic National Park. If you do not like hiking at all, then you should probably skip Olympic National Park. We spent about 5-6 days in Olympic National Park. We also stayed overnight at Mt. Ranier since we wanted to do a day hike (a couple of hours) over there.
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Feb 2nd, 2003, 03:44 PM
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Misspoke - it wasn't Gorbachev, it was Boris Y. He especially enjoyed the happy hour by all accounts. But Clinton was hosting, so all the hours were happy I suppose.
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Feb 2nd, 2003, 06:45 PM
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I live here, and have most of my life, when we weren't in the mid-east, New Mexico, New Orleans, and Philidelphia...One thing I have learned is not to try to see too much. There is enough to see in Seattle,and I would wait til I see what the weather is like. A day trip to Mr. Rainer is wonderful, unless it is pouring rain, Pike Street Market and environs is worth a day. Walk on to a ferry (Vashon, for example), walk off and see the little quaint town that is there, go to Seattle Center and look at the fountain, etc. Vancouer is 3 hours away, and a beautiful city, Stanley Park is a wonderful way to spend a day. Whatever you do, don't spend your entire holiday 'getting' there, and leaving no time to 'be' there. We have made that mistake more than once, to our great regret. Hope you have a wonderful time.
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Feb 2nd, 2003, 06:46 PM
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1. Am planning a similar trip for May -- arriving in Vancouver and then moving to Seattle (not sure we're going to get Victoria into the week). Wondering what the most efficient way to get from Vancouver to Seattle would be, given increased security at the frontiers -- would prefer to avoid renting a car for one-way (if that's even possible), so...?

2. "Gardyloo" -- I'm tickled to read your name, wonder how many other Fodorites know its reference (let's just say, if you heard someone yelling that out the window, you'd want to duck into a door way). How did you come to choose that particular nom de e-plume?
 
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Feb 2nd, 2003, 07:22 PM
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Easiest way to get from Vancouver BC to seattle is on the train, especially for tourists. Expect very long waits at the border both way if going by car.
As others have said I think for 6 nights you are cramming in too much with these 3 cities which are not close together (esp. considering the border).
Myself of the 3 I prefer Victoria, but then I don't like big cities with the massive traffic and street crime possibilities. Victoria is far more approachable for the tourist IMO. I just dread Seattle traffic, it's really quite bad.
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Feb 2nd, 2003, 07:47 PM
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My mom and I did this trip two years ago. We arrived in Seattle early on a Saturday morning and spent the day downtown and at Pike Market (great dinner, nice hotel) and headed out via Amtrak Sunday morning to Vancouver (delighful Sunday brunch on the train). Spent three nights in Vancouver then took the ferry to Victoria. Two nights in Victoria was just enough and then we took the Clipper back to Seattle. Spent Friday evening at an airport hotel and took an early flight home on Saturday. Couldn't have spent our time more wisely.
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Feb 3rd, 2003, 12:27 AM
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Hi..we live in Victoria,and travel to Seattle and Vancouver alot. Victoria is a must...the waterfront here,is truly unique,quaint...and butchart gardens,is also a great experience. Beacon Hill Park is free..which is good..also walking through it to Dallas rd and the waterfront is ideal to get a taste of the ocean and view of the Olympic mtns on a clear day.m The ferry ride for people not living here,is a great experience as well. Also.Victoria tends to be very greeen ..even greener than seattle and van for some reason...beautiful!!...as for seattle...Pikes place market and the space needle are musts. to sit and have a drink and just view the seattle skyline in the tower is amazing and relaxing after walking through the market area and the pier.also,even the not so great sports fan would love to see a seattle mariners game..unbelievable night at safeco field..one of a kind...My own opinion...i would spend more time in seattle and victoria and skip vancouver...my opinion,i know it will draw heat from others...but Victoria is amazing and so is Seattle
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Feb 3rd, 2003, 01:59 AM
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I've lived in all three of those cities over the last 17 years. Boy, what a tough choice you have to make! It sounds from your original post that you like mixing in some nature-type activities along with sightseeing, so my recommendation is to skip Vancouver totally and just do Seattle and Victoria. Vancouver is a fantastic place, but it's so big and so traffic-logged that you could easily waste most of your time just getting to your hotel, etc. It's definitely worth a separate trip of it's own; perhaps combining it with a trip up the coast to Whistler. If you're flying into Seattle I'd suggest you spend 2-3 nights there, and if the weather's good, include a trip to Mt. Rainier. We live in Germany temporarily, but our house is halfway between Rainier and Seattle and I can tell you that one of the first things I'm doing when we get back home is go visit that mountain!

Victoria is beautiful and probably my favorite city. It can be comfortably seen with only one night's stay, but only if you arrive fairly early in the morning and leave late the next day. The Victoria Clipper service from Seattle to Victoria is wonderful and a fun way to go between the two. If you wanted to rent a car for a day, a really nice drive is to go west from Victoria and drive along the coast of the Island to some of the beaches. Sooke Harbour House is a world-renowned restauraunt/hotel and is out that way. In Victoria, absolutely don't miss the Royal British Columbia museum! I'm not a huge fan of museums in general, but I try to go to this one at least once every year or two. http://rbcm1.rbcm.gov.bc.ca/

Basically, there is so much to see and do throughout that whole area that you're going to have a great time! Definitely see: Seattle- Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, Space Needle (if you're near there), just wander and see what you find!. Victoria - RBCMuseum, walk through Beacon Hill Park and along the waterfront, Butchart Gardens if you're into flowers, I think June is good whale-watching time and Victoria has some wonderful tours for that, walk up Government Street to Market Square. Sorry, but Victoria's chinatown in only about a block long and very unimpressive.

Hope some of this helps, and have a fantastic trip!
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Feb 3rd, 2003, 02:06 AM
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I realized when I read over my post that I only accounted for about 4 nights. I meant to say that you could spend your last couple of nights in Seattle and rent a car for a daytrip over to the Olympic Peninsula and Port Townsend. Also, some of that might be able to be combined with your Victoria trip through Victoria Clipper. They have many different tours and I highly recommend them. I've used them for Victoria-Seattle transport at least a dozen times and they have fantastic customer service.
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Feb 4th, 2003, 09:46 AM
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wow! thanks for all the responses. I think we will have a great time regardless of where we end up. It seems most of you have advised to skip one town either Van or Vic. Have any of you visited Charleston, SC? We are big fans of Charleston and I'm wondering if you could compare the charm of Victoria with that of Charleston? It seems the Exp. Music Project gets a thumbs down from all who've been there and mixed reviews on the Space Needle.

I suppose the Victoria/Vancouver decision would boil down to old world charm vs. cosmopolitan appeal. We would save $100 in ferry costs skipping Victoria but then that could be an adventure in itself.

Thanks again for your input. If you had to rank the top 5 tourist attractions among the 3 cities...what would you choose in order of #1-#5?

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Feb 4th, 2003, 10:11 AM
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Victoria is very charming. I'd say if you go to Victoria then you should not miss the Royal Museum. If you see nothing else at the museum you should defintely see the "First Peoples" exhibit. It has a great assortment of native art and one can get a sense of the cultures before "contact". You have a jam packed trip planned. You can also take the clipper to Victoria from Seattle if you decide to opt out of Vancouver proper. I'd say in Seattle Pike Market is a must. Pioneer Square is nice for walking around in and there are several galleries as well as Elliot Bay Books. While in Pioneer Square check out Salumi for lunch. You can read about it probably in rants and raves. The Seattle Art Museum is a good one and easily reached on a walk between Pike Market and Pioneer Square. IMHO Salish Lodge although nice to look at is overrated for the food. I can't speak to Vancouver proper as we are going there for the first time this fall. However, from the reading I've done so far Stanley Park and the sewall seem to be must do's. Also..check out what you can about the Granville Market and Granville Island. These are easily reached from Vancouver and seem quite interesting. If you are still considering one day at Mt Ranier, Olympic Park or on Vancouver Island you have alot of driving in your 7 days. Consider the ferries as a means to get around on your trip. They are a wonderful way to see the region and certainly a great deal less stressful than driving. It's a beautiful region..enjoy!
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Feb 8th, 2003, 06:13 AM
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Another thing to consider is that you won't necessarily need a car if you go to Victoria from Seattle. You can go directly from Seattle and stay around the downtown area of Victoria. Lots to see and short distances if you do want to leave the center.

That said, if you have a car for the week, I'd spend the extra ferry money and drive over to Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula. You can spend a night there and drive up to Hurricane Ridge and maybe down to some of the beaches on the west coast. Then, the next morning take the Coho ferry (Black Ball Ferries)to Victoria, not forgetting to fill up on gas first. On your way back, drive from Victoria to Swartz Bay (half hour north) and take the British Columbia Ferries ship from there to Tsawassen (I can never get the spelling right). That trip takes 1 1/2 hours, is absolutely beautiful and is usually a highlight for visitors. From there go to either Vancouver or drive south back to Seattle. The biggest drawback to this plan is that you'll have to cross the border into the States by driving, but if you don't do it on a weekend it shouldn't be too bad. The trip from Victoria back to Seattle this way is about 5-6 hours.

Hope some of this helps!

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Feb 8th, 2003, 09:59 AM
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The short hiking trail at Hurricane Ridge is incredible, but I am not sure about the trail conditions when you will be visiting that area.
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Feb 8th, 2003, 12:09 PM
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We did this trip as well, arriving in Seattle, taking Amtrak to Vancouver, a float plane to Victoria and the clipper ferry back to Seattle. IMO, the different modes of transportation were part of the fun, and it was GREAT not having to worry about a car or parking.

If you need to be convinced about the clipper at least, let me tell you that the captain of the clipper slowed down and cut the engines in the middle of the water, and when the passengers began to look at each other in alarm, the captain announced on the loudspeaker, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a pod of Orcas!" the whole boat whooped and ran to the windows. Sure enough there were Orcas, including a baby, and even though the captain maintained a respectful distance from them, they put on quite a show, leaping from the water. Seeing Orcas in the wild was actually the highlight of that trip.

IMO, if I had to do it again, I would skip Seattle and Vancouver all together and spend my time in Victoria and explore the rest of Vancouver Island. But I'm glad we saw everything the first time. As far as your list goes:

SEATTLE:
EMP - don't waste your time or $$$
Pioneer Square - O.K.
Museum of Flight - O.K.
Pike Place - a little seedy, nice gourmet grocery shop with little restaurant for lunch there -- Italian name, can't remember
Space Needle - fun to do once
Seattle Aquarium - tiny, dank and sad

Lots of homeless in Seattle, they seemed to be everywhere and in large groups. We later learned that there is a needle exchange program near Pike Place, which seemed to explain a lot.

(Continued...)





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Feb 8th, 2003, 12:19 PM
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(Continued)

VANCOUVER:

Stanley Park & Aquarium - very nice
Granville Island Market - good picnic fare for Stanley Island trip

Also saw the World Figure Skating championships while we were there AND a movie was being filmed all over the downtown area. It was supposedly a martial arts film, seem to recall the title as "Unchained" although have never seen movie by that name. At any rate, check out the main venues for any activities in Vancouver, there always seems to be something going on.

VANCOUVER:

Butchart Gardens - very nice, beautiful location

Wildlife Viewing Boat trip - fun, informative, nice to be on the water

Pub Crawl - Victoria has some great pubs, favorites being Harbor Canoe Club, The Swan and Spinnakers. You can take scenic walks and/or take the little harbor tug boats.

High Tea - fun teahouses all over.

We visited in early March, but if we traveled during the summer I think I'd want to visit the San Juan Islands as well.
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Feb 8th, 2003, 07:50 PM
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This has been a great post for me as I'm taking a five day weekend in early March and planning on part of it in Seattle and the balance in Vancouver or Vic. Based on my GF's tastes and passions, I think Vic will be the better choice for us.

I must be one of the few people who truly enjoyed the EMP. You MUST be a serious music fan to appreciate it but if you are it's wonderful. The exhibits trace the history of development of various genres ver thoroughly and the handheld PC/audio guide that's used to guide you through is a bit unwieldy at first but has a wealth of info. MOst intriguing to me was the gallery of guitars. It had acoustic, electric and bass guitars from the 1500's all the way through concept guitars of the current day. Many of the prototype models of famous instruments such as the Fender Stratocaster, Les Paul, Les Paul Jr. etc were all on display as well as vintage amps. The audipo guide actually allowed you to hear instrumental passages that had been played and recorded on all the instruments. Not for the casual fan but as a music fan (I do NOT play an instrument!) I was fascinated. The temporary exhibit traced the history of reggae music from its earliest days and was also quite informative. Admittedly it's a bit pricey but if you're really into contemporary music it's worth a half day visit.
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