Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Seattle Public Library

Not that I'm partial to library visits while on vacation, but this one is an exception. In 1998, Seattle passed the largest library bond measure in U.S. history and built one funky library. It was built by Dutch architect Rem Koolhas and was recently awarded architecture's highest award, The Pritzker Prize. It's also rapidly becoming one of Seattle's most popular tourist attractions. If you dig books and blue funky pyramid spire-type libraries, you might want to check it out. Click on the title above for more details from their web site.

Seattle Mariners Games

Spring training is nearly upon us. If you're traveling to Seattle during baseball season you really have to check out a game or two. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your gameday experience.

1-Try using mass trasit. Parking/traffic is a nightmare on gameday. Plus, it's expensive. Many lots charge $20-$30 to park for the game. Shuttles, buses, taxis, and ferries can get you very close to the ballpark.

2-If you're going to drive allow a lot of time. You will have traffic to/from the game. I recommend having some food and drink around Safeco Field after the game and wait for the traffic to break.

3-Splurge on good seats. Relative to other professional sports, baseball tickets are relatively affordable. Buy your tickets early and sit behind the dugout (or wherever your favorite sections may be). There are a ton of great seats at Safeco. I'm pretty happy with anything on the first level.

4-Enjoy the area before or after the game. SODO (South of Downtown) and Pioneer Square have many fine pubs and restaurants. Pyramid Brewery is right across the street if you are looking for a place close. It's pretty busy on game day, but if you get there early you should be alright. Most of the restaurants and pubs are located in Pioneer Square a few blocks North.

5-Save some $$$ and pack your own food. If you have a pack of kids and are doing the math of 4 kids x ($7.99 nachos + $2.99 drink + 4.99 hotdog) have no worries. Safeco field has a very liberal food admission policy for families. Pack your own food and save some dough.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How much does it really rain in Seattle?

Personally, I like the rain. But some folk don't care much for it. As you can see, Seattle doesn't really get much rain compared to other cities. However, it can be dark and damp for weeks at a time in the Winter. Here are some tips to staying dry.

1-Travel May-September. It's especially dry in July and August, but most of the summer is actually very pleasant and dry. Seattle is really one of the more beautiful places on the planet in the summer. Don't be afraid of the periodic rain shower.
2-Pack a variety of clothes. You could have a 40 degree temperature variation the week you're here. Dress appropriately and plan ahead.
3-November-March is pretty darn wet. That's just the way it is. It doesn't really snow or get that cold, but it's wet alright.

Do I need a rental car for my trip to Seattle?

That depends. If you are staying downtown and have no plans of traveling outside the city then I would say no, you don't need to rent a car. There are plenty of transportation options at Sea/Tac Airport as well as downtown. Once downtown, you can walk or take a taxi to most areas of interest. However, if you are planning on making any short trips (which I highly recommend), you really do need a car. Many great destinations are just a short drive from the city. I've had my best experiences renting from Enterprise and Budget at the airport location (if you are looking for a recommendation). All car rental desks are next to baggage claim and the rental car shuttles are across the skyway next to the parking area.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Seattle's Underground Tour

The Underground tour really surprised me. I was not expecting to like it at all. However, it proved to be a very entertaining way to spend an hour or so learning about Seattle's history while walking under the city streets. And at $11/person it's pretty cost effective as well. It's located in Pioneer Square, which is the historic part of downtown. While you are in the area I also recommend checking out Elliot Bay Bookstore, the best bookstore in Seattle, located at 101 S. Main Street and Mae Phim's Thai food (corner of 1st & Columbia), the best $5 lunch ever.

Mount St. Helen's (A Visitor's Guide)

The Mt. St. Helen's eruption was a big part of our local history. I actually heard it from the other side of the state. This is really an amazing place to visit. I hear that many of our guests have taken the trek to see the volcano. Here's a brief guide to getting the most out of your visit from those that have gone before you. Also, please click on this link for complete information from the USDA Forest Service. They have a wealth of information on their web site! That said, here are my tips for a trip to the volcano.

1-Allow a lot of time! It's an all day affair. I'm not kidding. It might look like a short trip on the map, but it's absolutely an all day activity. It takes about two hours to get to the first museum from Seattle/Tacoma. From the first museum (which is really cool, by the way) it's still another 90 minutes of mountain roads to reach The Johnson Observatory near the mountain (which also has a fine museum. It's a long winding road, folks. Be prepared. Go really early if you want to get some hiking or take photos. It really worth it, but I can't stress enough how tired you'll be at the end of the day.

2-Check the weather. Overcast conditions are common in this area. Make sure the visibility is good before you go. Check the realtime Mt. Saint Helen's Volcano cam to see weather conditions and visibility. I went once on a cloudy day and couldn't see a dang thing. That's a whole lotta driving for not getting a peek.

3-Bring your hiking shoes. There are many great day hikes in the area. The USDA Forest Service web site has them mapped out. They also list distances and times (driving) between the points of interest. Their site really is a wealth of information. If you are going to see the volcano, read their site thoroughly.

4-Pack plenty of food and water. Though a few travel services do exist in the area, they are few and far between. Pack a full cooler of goodies to make sure you don't go hungry. Seriously, there is nothing here to eat. It's an active volcano with zero 7-11's. If you go hiking, bring emergency food/water/safety equipment. It's a very remote area with little help available if something goes wrong. I don't mean to alarm you, but please prepare accordingly if you are planning a long hike.

5-Bring plenty of layers. You'll be going to a pretty high elevation in the pass and then dropping thousands of feet in elevation in the valleys . It could drop 40 degrees over the course of a few miles. Dress appropriately and be prepared for a wide variety of conditions.

6-Bug Spray. Bring it. Nuff said.

7-Cameras. If you have a panoramic camera/lens, bring it with your other gear. There are amazing photographic opportunities here.

That said,... have a great time! It's really an amazing landscape to witness first hand. With the right time allotment and preparation, this is a great day trip.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Seattle Area Traffic Guide

I hate to be the bearer of bad news to excited travelers to the Seattle area. But, I think this just might help stop some road rage and keep the peace on our roadways. Here's my 7 step program to survive the Seattle streets:

1- Chill. It takes about five years of local status to learn how to navigate these clogged on-ramps and unnamed city streets. Everything is crooked here and bends around/over a bridge, river, stadium, or volcano and nothing is really marked all that well. Take the easy route, but allow for extra time to get there. This is especially true in the Summer.

2- Check the traffic reports. They're pretty good here. If they say the bridge traffic is bad, it's really bad. Pull over and get some lunch. I've been stuck on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge for several hours more than a few times.

3-Check the game day calendar. The Seattle Mariners, Seahawks and Supersonics all create major gridlock downtown. I don't even attempt to drive on gameday. Look out for UW Husky football games, too. They can be pretty bad as well.

4-Take public transportation if you can. The ferry system is great and there are many cab companies servicing the area. You really don't need a car if you are just heading downtown. The core of Seattle is small and easy to walk. It takes about 30 minutes to walk from one end of town to the other.

5-Do not even attempt to drive anywhere between 4-6pm. If you must travel across anything that includes 520, bridge, Tacoma Narrows, or 1-5 in the description this is especially true. Really, just get some dinner and a drink wherever you are and relax, because you aren't going anywhere until after 7pm anyway.

6-Get to the ferry lines early on Fridays and weekdays between 3-6pm. The weekend traffic is pretty tame, but Friday afternoon is pretty darn impossible to get out of town. Easy to get into town, a nightmare to leave.

7-Rain. If it's raining leave much earlier. You'd think we would be used to it by now, but it really does slow down the commute. Fortunately, it really doesn't rain much during the Summer.

I hope this helps lower your blood pressure during your visit. Cheers.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Washington State Ferry System

Riding the ferry system in Washington a truly unique part of the transportation system in Washington State and a great way to experience part of our way of life if you're traveling to the area. Don't be intimidated by traveling by ferry. The Washington State Ferry System has a great web site that posts current ferry schedules, explains costs/reservation procedures and answers general questions.

Check out their site at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries

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