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Going to Seattle/Canada in October. Need advice/tips.

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by pake, Jul 13, 2016.

  1. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Finland
    Teemu
    Hi guys & girls,

    It's time to plan our annual "summer" vacation again. This time my wife and I are going to Seattle & Canada in October, and we'd like some advice. :) I believe there are quite a few people here who are from or have been to Western Canada or the state of Washington and can give us tips on where to go and what to see. Obviously we'll be taking a lot of photos.

    First we are going to stay in Seattle for 8 or 9 days (I have a conference/training there) and then head off north. We're either going to take a bus/train from Seattle to Vancouver and rent a car there, or rent a car in Seattle and take it across the border, if that's possible. Our first destination in Canada will probably be Vancouver Island, where we are at least hoping to go on a whale-watching trip, but otherwise our plans are still pretty much open. Looking at Google Maps, there don't seem to be that many roads, at least not bigger ones, except in the direction of Calgary. Is it possible to follow the coastline, or would it be better to head inland towards Kamloops or Prince George? What are the roads like - is a 4WD necessary (or at least highly recommended)?

    Our flight back to Finland departs from Seattle so we'll have to return there eventually. If we have enough time, we'd also like to spend some time visiting the many national parks/forests around Seattle. After the conference, we will have two weeks to do whatever we like, in either country.

    Hopefully we'll manage to even go and see an NHL match (finally).

    So, we'd appreciate any suggestions/tips that help us in planning our trip. I assume it's better to book (at least some) hotels/motels beforehand since we'll prefer smaller places to huge cities, am I right? This in Canada, at least - what about Northern USA, are there as many roadside motels there as in the California/Nevada region?
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2016
  2. Carbonman

    Carbonman Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2014
    Vancouver BC
    Graham
    Teemu, there are lots of highways through the mountains, all paved. October is low season for tourism, so you shouldn't worry too much about booking hotels long in advance.
    You can take a ferry up the Sunshine Coast from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. I prefer an early ferry to catch the light through the mist as the sun comes up. It's a nice trip but not as spectacular as some other areas. The drive up to Whistler is nice and you'll probably see some wildlife. There's wildlife to see along the highways heading East to Calgary.
    I think your idea to drive to Kamloops, Prince George or Kelowna is a better idea than driving to Calgary. Calgary is a long full day drive through the mountains from Vancouver.
    Vancouver has lots to see and is beautiful in the Fall. Seattle has horrific traffic along the I-5 at all times, but try to see The Music Experience, Science Fiction Museum (both in the same cool building) and the Museum of Flight.
    PM me for detailed information if you wish.
     
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  3. walter_j

    walter_j Mu-43 Veteran

    364
    Sep 10, 2013
    Hagwilget, B.C., Canada
    Walter
    I'd want to go through the Rocky mountains. If it's early October, you should see a lot of fall colours - bright yellow leaves, maybe fresh snow in higher elevations. Long beach on Vancouver Island is also a spot I want to get to - maybe Tofino. I've seen killer whales from the ferry too - never mind downtown Vancouver, which happened last month. Check out Stanley Park - walk around the sea wall in Vancouver. Maybe check out the Capilano suspension bridge. For street photography, check out Main Street between Broadway to 41. The area was ranked as the coolest street in North America. Stay away from Hastings area though.
     
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  4. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    Walter
    We visited Seattle/Vancouver/Victoria in 2011. We rented a van in Seattle, drove up to Vancouver, spent a few days, then drove to the ferry terminal (Tsawwassen) and took the ferry to Vancouver Island and spent a few more days in Victoria. Lovely visit. We drove through Stanley Park, visited the Vancouver Aquarium, Science World, and once we got to Victoria, we visited the Royal BC Museum, Miniature World, etc. I had my parents and my wife and 7 year old son with me, so we stuck to sites that were easy for them to navigate. We would have loved to see Butchart Gardens, but accessibility for my parents was a problem. Then we came back to Port Angeles on the ferry and had a delicious lunch at the fish and chips shop at the terminal. Then drove down the Olympic Peninsula back to Seattle. Not a photo oriented trip, but an enjoyable one nonetheless.
     
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  5. denniscloutier

    denniscloutier Mu-43 Veteran

    204
    Dec 24, 2011
    You can do whale watching trips from many places around here, including Vancouver and Victoria. There is a loop trip you can do that involves driving from Vancouver up the coast to Powell River (includes two ferries) and then riding a ferry across to Vancouver Island. You then drive south to Victoria and take a ferry back to Vancouver. Or, from Victoria you can also catch a ferry to the Olympic Peninsula and drive back to Seattle from there. Port Townsend is a neat town to visit.

    The farthest you can drive up the coast is just a bit north of Powell River.

    Prince George is a long boring drive. I've done it for work and I wouldn't recommend it.

    In October it will likely be grey and rainy for most of your trip. Vancouver Island is drier than either Seattle or Vancouver, but still pretty rainy in fall.

    I doubt there is any problem taking a rental across the border, but I'd check with your rental company to make sure there are no insurance issues.

    There are many hotels in all of these places and at that time of year you shouldn't really need to book ahead. I use the hotels.com app on my phone as you can make reservations on the go and frequently get better prices than you'd get showing up at the desk.
     
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  6. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    guess?
    OK from your photos I'd say get out of Seattle asap. :) Traffic is horrible as noted above. Rent a car in Seattle and either head out the North Olympic Peninsula to Pt Angeles and the ferry to Victoria. Short side trip to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park for views. Or preferably head up to Anacortes and ferry through the San Juans. (where I live) This is probably the best place to see whales without a long commute from a distant home port, i.e more on-site viewing time vs, long time just getting there. I've been seeing them daily from shore and they should still be around in Oct. but nobody knows. Ferry continues to Victoria. (if you stay in Victoria be aware that your raw sewage dumps directly into the Straits without any treatment at all) From Victoria I suggest a trip up island and out to the West Coast to Tofino. Whale-watching there too as well as possible horrible weather by October. In any event ferry over to the Sunshine Coast and back down to Vancouver or to Vancouver the long way 'round by way of Whistler. Let the weather forecast be your guide.

    In the PacNW there is a major change in the weather mid October...ish. Could vary by a few weeks either way. The weather in the San Juans, Victoria and the Gulf Islands will be better than Seattle, much better than Vancouver. And the West Coast and mountains will be horrible with snow at the higher elevations. You can escape over very scenic Hwy 20 through the N. Cascades to the drier east side in Washington and to a lesser extent in Southern BC. If you are flying in on Iceland Air you get a great view of the Canadian Rockies and Cascades. There is plenty to see and do on the east side and the return to Seatac via I90 is easy.

    I'd be happy to answer any questions.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2016
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  7. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    (With the caveat that early winter could ruin all of this)

    You might leave Seattle going west toward Montana. You could hit Coeur D'Alane and then over into Glacier National Park. From there you can head north (with a possible stop at Waterton Lakes Park on the Canada side) and you will hit Calgary. Heading back west from Calgary and you could go through Banff, and then the better part of a day from there to Vancouver. That would hit a lot of really great scenery and still leave a lot of time to explore Vancouver and the coast.

    Olympic and North Cascades National Parks are right by Seattle, so those can be hit either at the beginning or end of your trip if desired.

    October is a bit of an unpredictable month, so be prepared for any kind of weather. Be sure to check on road conditions and forecasts if heading through the mountains, especially as you move in from the coast. You are probably early enough to miss really bad weather, but it is a possibility.
     
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  8. 50orsohours

    50orsohours Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 13, 2013
    Portland Oregon
    Instead of going east, you should drive south and visit the prettiest state in the US: OREGON :)

    Either way, this part of the continent is beautiful.
     
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  9. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    You have had a number of suggestions, but you did not say what types of activities you like to do on vacation. Do you want to spend any time in Seattle proper? Do you like museums? Do you like to eat out and try new foods? Will you be doing any hiking? A bit of additional guidance and we can probably offer more tailored suggestions.

    --Ken
     
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  10. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Finland
    Teemu
    Thanks for all the tips so far! We'll have to start doing some serious Googling on the basis of these, but please keep 'em coming.:clapping:

    Maybe we should have taken the holiday before the conference rather than after (because of the possible weather issues...) but that's too late now since the flights have been booked already. :rolleyes-38:

    Ken, good questions! We are more into breathtaking landscapes (waterfalls, mountains...) and wildlife than city sightseeing and museums, but what with the conference, we will be spending a whole week in Seattle proper. My wife will be doing some work and exploring the city on her own during the days, then we'll be taking in some sights together in the evenings. I know that Pike Place Market and the waterfront are definitely on her agenda. She is into aerial sports and was even thinking of maybe taking a class at one of the aerial studios, and she'd also love to see any circus acts or similar that there might be in town. She/we might also be interested in visiting any outdoor exercise parks.

    For us both, as first-time visitors to Seattle, I guess the Space Needle is a must-see. I'd also like to visit the Aquarium. But generally, we prefer market places, activities and hidden gems to museums and artefacts. (That said, science museums, museums of natural history and similar might still be of interest.)

    While in BC, I guess we will be spending a couple of days in Vancouver proper, too. No specific plans yet. But all in all, I'm looking for the kind of route tips I've received so far rather than for tips regarding restaurants or museums!
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2016
  11. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 6, 2013
    Philly
    Steve
    Here's my $.02 on my trip to Seattle a few yrs ago. Only had a few days before going to OR. SEATAC is one of the most expensive places to rent a car in the US. Lots and lots of Taxes...Cheaper to rent off airport, but then you have limited hours. Train goes from Seatac to Downtown...can rent cars from there if need be...also UBER I'm told if you're just tooling around the city. We did rent a car and found a reasonable deal, but still higher than most cities.

    I heard the train ride to Vancouver is pretty.
    Space needle has long lines. We opted for Columbia tower instead. It's higher, faster ride up, cheaper ($12?), no crowds and zero lines! Less known...plus you can photograph the Needle, the stadium, the harbour and Mt. Raineer if it's clear skies, which I think is only visible about 40 days of the year. To or From the Columbia tower you can take a subway and then the Monorail to the Needle. It's not a far walk from the Pikes market area.
    Go see the Chuhuly museum. I was pleasantly surprised how cool it was (right below the Needle).

    There is a boat tour that goes from the inner harbor (lake Washington), through a lock into Seattle harbor and right to Downtown docks. It's like 90min. Pretty cool and great views for photography. Then a Bus brings you back across the city...or visa versa..depending how/where you start out.

    You can prob take a boat to Vancouver too, which would be scenic.

    Also there's a ferry that's just a few bucks to West Seattle....and a cool outdoor restaurant there. great views of the city. Seacrest park too.
     
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  12. longviewer

    longviewer Mu-43 Regular

    128
    Oct 22, 2015
    SW Washington (Longview area)
    Jim R
    I'd suggest renting in Seattle and taking the island-hop ferry from Anacortes to Vancouver Island. Visit the Deception Pass bridge on WA20 if you can, straight route is to use the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry then go up Whidbey Island where scenic views abound. And if the weather is nice you can drive the North Cascades highway at some point on your trip to get up into the larch trees as they go golden.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2016
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  13. TwoWheels

    TwoWheels Mu-43 Top Veteran

    679
    May 28, 2014
    British Columbia
    Evan
    I'm on Vancouver Island and will just mention a few places that would make my "Best of..." list and haven't been mentioned as much. You can google them for specifics/directions.
    - Washington - Mt. Rainier National Park - Paradise, Grove of the Patriarchs (to not visit Mt. Rainier would be a loss--it's the most beautiful, iconic place in the Pacific Northwest. I would suggest keeping your itinerary flexible and arrange it to visit there when the weather looks nice)
    - Washington - Olympic National Park - Hurricane Ridge, Hoh Rain Forest, Second Beach
    - Vancouver Island - Port Renfrew/Botanical Beach, Victoria's Inner Harbour, Tofino
    You're coming to visit a beautiful part of the world. Ultimately, it just depends how you want to allocate your time. It's also a big area--Second Beach, Botanical Beach and Tofino are all beautiful but remote. You won't have time for everything. What you'll need to decide is whether it's best to see a lot of things briefly to check them off the list or whether to pick out a few gems and really enjoy them.
     
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  14. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    The aquarium is pretty good ... iirc, it may close well before dark.
     
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  15. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Thanks, Teemu. This is very helpful for more focused suggestions. Let's start with Seattle. Unless your hotel has free parking (which most in the downtown area do not offer), I would probably not rent a car long term for getting around the city. We have good bus service and limited light rail for getting around. If you want a car for the day, rent one as needed downtown as there are a number of rental outlets throughout downtown.

    I do recommend the better part of a day at and around Pike Place Market and the waterfront. It is best to just wander through the different levels of the market as well as the many affiliated buildings along Pike Place and First Avenue. Adjacent tot he market is the Seattle Art Museum in case there is an exhibit that does interest you during your stay. Here is there exhibit calendar: Exhibitions - SAM - Seattle Art Museum . You might want to wander around Pioneer Square if you have the time. Lots of small, locally-owned shops and lately a lot of new trendy food joints.

    You could spend a day around Seattle Center which is where the Space Needle, Experience Music Project (and SciFi museum), Pacific Science Center and the Chihuly Gardens are located (among other things). This is also where Teatro Zinzanni is located: Teatro ZinZanni | Love, Chaos, and Dinner . They sometimes have aerial and/or circus shows, so you should see what is available during your stay. If you decide to do a number of these activities, then you may want to consider a CityPass: Seattle CityPASS . I would agree that the Needle is expensive and often crowded. You can go to Columbia Tower to the top for less, or the 40th floor Starbucks for free (or to the 40th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower across the street for a south facing view for free). After your visit to Seattle Center, you could walk over to lower Queen Anne for dinner and/or drinks.

    For in city parks, Discovery Park in Magnolia is the biggest and one of the best. Seward Park is also a big park. If you like climbing, there are climbing wall in Ballard near the Ballard Locks. There are many great parks outside of Seattle proper, but you will probably need a car to get there and I'll try to make some suggestions in another post on things to do outside of Seattle (as well as more specific suggestions if you wish).

    One word of note. Seattle, like Portland, San Francisco and other major metropolitan cities has experienced a large increase in homeless and transient individuals over the past few years (as well as an increase in drug users). I post this more as a notice so you are not shocked on arrival rather than as a safety warning. It is the reality of many US cities today, and for the most part, folks will leave you alone and do you no harm. If you have specific questions about this, I would be happy to answer them via PM as I do not want this thread to venture into politics (and this can be quite a political issue if people wish to make it so).

    --Ken
     
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  16. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Finland
    Teemu
    Wow, so many helpful tips already! Thank you all! I'll have to make a list and start researching these since there's no way we'll have time to see everything. I'll get back to you when we've studied these a bit. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2016
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  17. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    guess?
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  18. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Alki looking back at the downtown skyline is also nice, as is from Bell Harbor Conference Center.

    --Ken
     
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  19. jaydubstar

    jaydubstar Mu-43 Regular

    35
    Jan 16, 2014
    Bellingham, WA
    Jayme
    Hey. I would weekend trip to Portland from your base in Seattle.
    Other Seattle day trips: Leavenworth, Snoqualmie Falls, Wine Country if that interests you, Mt. Rainer or Mt. Baker (Mt. Baker's Artist Point is awesome, if you are here before the snow closes the road).
    In Seattle, check Capitol Hill for food scene/night life. This is where locals spend their time, not so much Pioneer Square.
    Heading north, maybe spend the day in Bellingham (5+ Breweries, foodie college town by the border --my home town. Mt. Baker is a short drive away, mentioned above).
    Consider taking ferry out of Anacortes (as many have mentioned). The ferry through the San Juans is much more scenic.
    Whistler is only 1-2 hours out of Vancouver, beautiful drive. You could continue north, but roads are slow, better to head south to Highway 1 (if memory serves) and head over to Rockies... Jasper area would be highly recc...
    Vancouver and Victoria are beautiful cities.
    Enjoy your stay!!
     
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  20. D7k1

    D7k1 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    682
    Nov 18, 2013
    Butchart Gardens is definitely good, but you are going later in the year so maybe not. The Sci Fi and Rock & Roll museum is great is you like/play music. Pike Street Market is very eclectic and definitely worth a visit.
     
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