With funky décor and family-friendly amenities, the cheerful University Inn is just four blocks from the University of Washington campus. The 102-room property features an outdoor seasonal pool, lemon-yellow bikes to borrow, an afternoon reception with coffee and pineapple cupcakes, and a complimentary local shuttle service to many Seattle attractions.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Hotels in the U District tend to attract guests visiting the nearby university and medical centers, though the relatively cheap parking and complimentary shuttle make University Inn a good home base for leisure travelers who don't mind staying outside the thick of things.
Light wood furniture, vivid pops of orange and turquoise, and fun artwork give guestrooms a youthful, slightly retro vibe. Options range from a standard single queen bed to deluxe rooms with large workspaces, seating areas, and a fridge and microwave. Premier rooms come with a sleeper sofa, making it perfect for parents with kids in tow. All rooms include a Keurig coffeemaker.
You can’t go wrong with clean and basic. The standard queen room features a small bathroom with a shower or tub combo and an eye-popping orange wall. Larger rooms include a granite vanity, a separate toilet and a bathtub.
Colorful, comfy, and filled with plants, the lobby has plenty of spots to kick back and enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast in the morning and cupcakes in the afternoon.
An amoeba-shaped seasonal pool is surrounded by bright outdoor furniture and a few plastic pink flamingoes.
While the University Inn doesn’t have a gym, guests have access to the one at Watertown Inn, a sister property a block away.
The on-site Portage Bay Cafe, a local favorite with three other locations in the city, was hip to organic before the masses, serving up wholesome fare made from local ingredients for brunch (daily) and lunch (weekdays). The extensive brunch menu features everything from fancy omelets to breakfast burritos, and the cafe is especially known for The Breakfast Bar, a station offering a bounty of nuts, seasonal fresh fruit, and whipped cream to top pancakes and French toast. Lunch features an all-day breakfast menu alongside salads and sandwiches.
Portage Bay takes reservations, which can save you a long wait on busy days.
Having a car is the easiest way to see Seattle. The $15 plus tax overnight parking at the University Inn is a bargain compared to Downtown hotels, which charge up to $50 per day. The hotel offers complimentary shuttle service to Downtown Seattle and a few area attractions. Intrepid travelers can get around on public transit. The best way is to take the #43 or #44 bus to 45th and Roosevelt, then walk 2.5 blocks to the Link light rail station near Husky Stadium; it connects to Downtown and Capitol Hill (and to Sea-Tac airport as well).
Affordable ethnic restaurants abound in the U District, including the cleverly named and very tasty Pho Shizzle (7-minute walk) for Vietnamese, and Arepa Venezuelan Kitchen (15-minute walk), which serves up mouth-watering arepas--cornmeal flatbreads topped with veggies or meat alongside deep-fried plantains. The darling Thai dessert spot Wann Yen (7-minute walk) features a tempting spread of sweet treats. You won't find many upscale spots in the area, but for cheap eats, the U District definitely satisfies.
This isn’t a neighborhood for fancy cocktail lounges, but happening dives and sports bars abound. Some of the better spots require a walk (skip the drive as parking can be problematic), but there’s always plenty of people watching on the way. Fans of funny should hit up Jet City Improv (20-minute walk), which has a bar in the theater, or Laughs Comedy Club (15-minute walk), while karaoke aficionados can belt it out at Star Karaoke (15-minute walk). Also fun: Kraken Bar & Lounge (20-minute walk), which features live punk bands and pinball, and favorite local dive Blue Moon Tavern (8-minute walk).
WHY WE LIKE IT
Part of the hip Staypineapple hotel brand, University Inn has a playful vibe, from the cheerful retro-inflected decor to the yellow beach cruisers available to borrow. The pool is a big perk, and while the room price isn't significantly lower than hotels of comparable quality Downtown, the inn's relatively cheap parking and the complimentary shuttle can save travelers money. During the school year, the neighborhood is packed with college kids, and the area caters to the cash-strapped with great budget eats, cafes, and dive bars.