As a former Seattle resident of 16 years, I say this with confidence: Seattle is awesome.
First, a primer on the lay of the land.
Seattle is surrounded by water on two sides: Puget Sound (aka—the ocean) to the west and mega-huge Lake Washington to the east. Anything east of Lake Washington is locally referred to as ‘the east side’: Bellevue, Redmond (home of Microsoft), and the like.
There are only two bridges that will allow you to cross the lake without driving all the way around (generally a pain): 520 on the north end of Seattle (toll bridge) and I-90 on the south end near downtown (not a toll bridge). Hordes of tech employees commute back and forth to Microsoft daily, and traffic can be quite painful. Avoid morning and afternoon/evening rush hour wherever possible. With no traffic, it can take 15 minutes or less to get from downtown Seattle to Bellevue. In rush hour traffic, it’s often more than an hour.
If you are staying for an extended period (7+ days) and plan any day trips or side trips, I highly recommend renting a car. Note that rental cars can be expensive. I have found good deals on Hotwire and Priceline, and sometimes by adding a rental car onto a plane ticket itinerary. Always check the rental car site, as well.
If you’d prefer to stay right in the core of the action in downtown Seattle, DO NOT rent a car. You will pay $30 or more per night to park in any downtown Seattle hotel.
Frankly, the public transportation sucks. I’m a big fan of walking. There is a bus system that operates downtown (and elsewhere in the city, of course), but it can be a little scary, especially for visitors unaccustomed to the usual Seattle bus characters. Uber and cabs are plentiful. If you want a quick ride from the shopping district to the Seattle Center, hop on the Monorail—it’s a rite of passage, especially if it breaks down on your ride. There is a light rail that will take you to and from the airport to downtown. There is also the South Lake Union Streetcar, which travels between downtown and south lake union, which is limited but can be helpful if you’re going that way.
We really like the Silver Cloud Inn on Lake Union—just south of downtown in an up and coming neighborhood. Our family stayed at the Silver Cloud during our wedding weekend. It’s a nice hotel that is family friendly. They offer daily free breakfast and free secure parking—both are very rare for Seattle hotels. Book early—it’s more of a medium sized boutique property. While the hotel is a few miles from downtown (not easily walkable), the hotel offers a free shuttle service and can drop you off downtown and nearby. The Southlake Union Streetcar is not far. You pay much less here than any downtown Seattle hotel.
If you’d like to stay downtown, we are fans of the Pan Pacific (pricey) and the Hyatt Olive 8 (sometimes pricey), and have stayed in both. Pan Pacific is convenient because there is an enormous Whole Foods (complete with a full bar and row upon row of buffet stations) in the same complex, as well as a few other restaurants. We love Tutta Bella for delicious Italian Neapolitan style pizza (I would order the Gioia—fresh egg, olive oil, parmesan, arugula, prosciutto—not on the menu). Seastar is a wonderful, high-end seafood restaurant (order the Thai mussels to start). Pan Pacific does not have a pool. The Hyatt Olive 8 is located closer to the downtown shopping neighborhood and walkable to Pike Place Market, as well. They have an amazing spa, Elaia, (my fave) and a lovely salt water pool and hot tub, in addition to a gym. They also have a restaurant on site, Urbane, which is tasty but geared toward business clients. The Silver Cloud Inn on Lake Union and the Pan Pacific do not have restaurants on site (but technically at Pan Pacific they do offer room service).
Airbnb is also great if you are looking for more space and amenities than the average hotel room. Keep in mind that many condos, apartments and houses in Seattle do NOT have air conditioning or central air—this is important in the months of June, July, and August. If it’s important to you, make sure it’s one of your search filters.
Family friendly neighborhoods for your stay
Eastlake (on Lake Union), Queen Anne (just north of downtown), Greenlake (a few miles north of downtown), Greenwood (near Greenlake), Phinney Ridge (near Greenlake), South Lake Union. These neighborhoods are all within a few miles of the city core. If you want to avoid partying and/or noise, be wary of Capitol Hill and central Belltown (we used to live near the Seattle Center on the north side of Belltown, and it was quiet).
*Author’s note: these opinions are my own based on my personal experiences. I have not been paid to endorse any businesses, products or services in this blog
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