Pacific Northwest Seattle, Washington

Thank you for visiting my family vacations on a budget blog. My family loves to travel! However my husband & I are both teachers making a budget all the more important.  We have one child, our son is 13. I want to show him as much of this wonderful world as I can before he is grown. This summer we visited the Pacific Northwest for our family vacation.  We traveled July 11th-20th throughout this beautiful area of the United States. July & August are known for dry & moderate temperatures, it only rained on us once & that was on the way to the airport at the end of our trip!  In this blog post I will tell you about our day spent in Seattle, Washington: where we stayed, things we did, & travel tips to help you as you plan your next vacation. In the coming weeks I will feature a different destination or travel tip from our Pacific Northwest journey. Subscribe to my blog so you don't miss any of my posts from this fantastic family vacation (on a budget). 

Where did we stay?
We spent the night before going to Seattle at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Burlington, Washington.  This quiet hotel located just off I-5 was in a good location & offered a comfortable stay for our family for 3 nights preceding our day in Seattle.  The hotel is about an hour north of Seattle. You can read my review of Fairfield Inn & Suites Burlington, Washington from my previous blog post here.  
Fairfield Inn & Suites Burlington, Washington

What can a family on a budget do in Seattle with just one day to visit?
Of all the places we visited on our Pacific Northwest family vacation, I believe I agonized the most over what to do in Seattle with only a day. My son had some online friends he wanted to meet in person that were from Seattle. We planned to meet with them at a coffee house in northern Seattle during the morning giving us only the afternoon to see the sights. I spent a great deal of time researching the Seattle iconic tourist destinations: Seattle Space Needle & Pike Place Market. 

I started with the Seattle Space Needle. I was a bit taken aback by the $22 per person cost.  Then you have to add parking to the cost which runs around $30.  Okay so doing the math I am at $100 for the 3 of us to go up in the Space Needle to see the skyline of Seattle.  I know we are on a budget & this is pretty expensive but I was still game.  Until I read you have to wait in line during July between 1 & 2 hours just to take the elevator to the top.  So I had the cost of $100 & the time factor weighing heavily on my decision. I ultimately decided the Seattle Space Needle was not worth my money (which was limited) OR my time (which was even more limited). 

I next began looking into Pike Place Market. Who wouldn't like to see fish being thrown? THAT'S something we have never done before!  I was excited at the prospect of this new adventure. Then I started reading the blogs about Pike Place Market.  The workers at Pike Place Market are often too busy with the hoards of customers they rarely put on a good show anymore.  Parking is around $20 IF you can find a spot. The city of Seattle is bombarded with homeless people. During July's high tourist season, the market is literally packed with people trying to visit this Seattle icon. I decided since the fish shows were few in number, the parking was a nightmare, and we would not be purchasing any of the goods that would be sold at the market it was futile for us to waste what little time we had visiting this destination.  I suppose if I were staying in Seattle for a few days I would see this iconic destination but since I was limited on time, I chose not to visit Pike Market Place.

Now that I told you what I didn't do, I guess I should let you in on what I did do while visiting Seattle, Washington. 

Cafe Appassionato - The Bounty 
Located on North 45th street Seattle, Washington
We arrived in Seattle around 10 AM & met my son's friends at Cafe Appassionato The Bounty on north 45th street in Seattle. When you are in Seattle you HAVE to visit a coffee house right? Cafe Appassionato was a quaint coffee house offering a variety of beverages. I am not a coffee drinker but I enjoyed my Italian soda the barista suggested for me.  My son had hot chocolate that was quite tasty.  My husband ordered a cappuccino that he liked. Cafe Appassionato was a good place to meet my son's friends for the first time. We sat at a table in the corner & the boys got to know each other in person as opposed to online.  It was a memorable experience I know my son will not soon forget. 
Cafe Appassionato is a great place to meet with friends.
The most unique shopping experience of my life!  My 13 year old son loved it!
After Cafe Appassionato we walked across the street to the most unique store I have ever experienced!  Archie McPhee is a one of a kind store that has everything you never knew you needed. Archie McPhee is a Seattle based store that ships its unique offerings world-wide.  Their slogan is "We make weird."  I think that pretty much sums it up.  
Archie McPhee merchandise.
My 13 year old son & his friends had a blast shopping in the store.  We were able to bring home some pretty interesting souvenirs. If you are looking for a unique stop while you are in Seattle stop by Archie McPhee on 45th street. 
Archie McPhee has everything you did not know you needed or that it existed!
The food at The Lockspot Cafe was mediocre.
After enjoying the unique shopping experience that is Archie McPhee we drove 3 miles to the Hiram Chittenden Locks in the Ballard area of Seattle. We were planning to catch the 1 PM tour of the locks & fish ladder so we decided to eat lunch before our tour.  There are several restaurants in the vicinity of the locks, we selected The Lockspot Cafe. The waitstaff was friendly.  The food was mediocre. If I were to visit this area again I would take a picnic lunch to eat in the botanical gardens adjacent to the locks & skip this restaurant.  
The Lockspot Cafe near Hiram Chittendan Locks
This FREE attraction is a great way to spend 1/2 day in Seattle!
The locks are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This FREE attraction is definitely worth your time to visit. It was fun watching as boats used the locks to move between the lake waters of Lake Union & Lake Washington to the waters of Puget Sound & vice versa. Adjacent to the locks you will find a beautiful botanical garden.  In addition to viewing the locks there is also a fish ladder where you can watch as fish make their journey over the dam.  There are tours offered from March to November each year.  Check out the website to find out more information about times for the tour.  We took the 1 PM tour offered in July. The tour takes you from the museum, past the botanical gardens, to the locks, & ends at the fish hatchery.  The tour gives you and your family more information than would be available if you were on a self-guided tour.  Our tour guide was knowledgeable & a great story teller. 
Tours of the locks are offered March - November.  We highly recommend taking the tour of the locks.
Bring a picnic to enjoy in the botanical gardens adjacent to the locks.
It was fun to watch the boats use the locks to move from lakes to Puget Sound.
I had read you could park for free in the neighborhood near the locks. However, you will have to pay for parking (like we did - we paid $8) if you cannot find a free parking spot in the neighborhood surrounding the locks.  I read several reviews saying you will get a parking ticket if you have not paid the fee to park in the pay lots. When you visit the locks make sure you pay if you are parking in a paid lot. 

Driving tour through Seattle:
We headed south from the locks into Seattle for our next destination of the day. We did not stop in downtown Seattle but we did drive by Pier 56 & Safeco Field.  We were able to get a couple of pictures of these famous locations.  

Traffic in and around (within a 20 mile radius) Seattle is nothing short of a nightmare. We traveled all around Seattle - the north side, east side, south side, & west side & I can honestly say it was the worst driving experience I have ever been in. There are too many cars for the highway system.  We saw countless wrecks on each side of the city.  

Microsoft Headquarters Redmond, Washington
The Microsoft Visitor Center is FREE & we highly recommend it for those who are techies like us!
The Microsoft Visitor Center is located in the heart of the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington in building 92. This FREE attraction offers visitors access to a small museum filled with all things Microsoft.  The museum has hands on activities with everything from Xbox to Paint 3D. 
The Microsoft Visitor Center is great for the techie in your family. 
There is also a Microsoft store where visitors can purchase t shirts and other Microsoft souvenirs. If you or someone in your family are techies as we are this is a must stop while in the area.  If you are not techies you probably will not enjoy visiting this museum. As of the summer of 2017 the museum is only open Monday - Friday. To learn more about the museum visit the Microsoft Visitor Center website.
The Microsoft Museum offers hands on activities featuring Microsoft products.
Nintendo of America Headquarters
The American headquarters for one of the largest gaming companies in the world is located in Redmond, Washington within a mile of Microsoft headquarters.  HOWEVER, unlike Microsoft there is no visitor center, no tours, nothing but a sign at Nintendo of America. We tried to see more of the building but were stopped at the desk at the main entrance. So, sadly all we have to show you is our picture in front of the Nintendo of America headquarters sign.
Nintendo of America Headquarters - if you are in the area stop and get a photo.
Dinner at Bahama Breeze Tukwila, Washington

After our afternoon at Microsoft & Nintendo we headed south on I-5 toward Olympia, Washington where our hotel was for the night.  The traffic was terrible to say the least. What should have taken 30 minutes took us closer to an hour to get to Tukwila, Washington for dinner at Bahama Breeze. Bahama Breeze is a chain of restaurants with locations across the United States. I first experienced Bahama Breeze in Orlando, Florida. I loved the Caribbean food so much that when I saw there was one near Seattle I made plans to eat there. It had been a couple of years since my last dining experience at a Bahama Breeze but I remember liking the food better in Orlando than the one we went to in Tukwila, Washington.  The food was mediocre but the waitstaff was fantastic at the Tukwila restaurant.  Maybe the kitchen was having an off night but I cannot recommend this restaurant based on our experience.
 My husband had the Taste of Jamaica & I had the Jerk Chicken Pasta. The food was mediocre.

Where did we spend the night after our day in Seattle?
Hampton Inn & Suites Olympia/Lacey was a great hotel at a great rate!
We were headed south on our Pacific Northwest vacation so I needed a hotel that was south of Seattle as close to the southern side of Olympic National Park as I could get.  I chose the brand new Hampton Inn & Suites in Olympia Lacey, Washington.  Wow! This was the best Hampton Inn we have ever stayed in.  It was quite possibly the best hotel we have ever stayed in.  I do not have a single complaint. The room was bigger than any room we had stayed in our our trip.  The beds were exceptionally comfortable.  The room arrangement was built for the modern day traveler with plenty of charging ports.  The bathroom was spacious & the shower had fantastic water pressure.  The staff were friendly and accommodating. The breakfast offered eggs, sausage, waffles, fruit, yogurt, pastries, oatmeal, cereal, etc.  Everything we had was tasty.  The hotel was quiet as we did not hear any of our neighbors even though the hotel was full for the night. We highly recommend staying at the Hampton Inn & Suites Olympia Lacey, Washington. 
Breakfast area of Hampton Inn & Suites Olympia/Lacey
Subscribe to my blog so you do not miss my posts in the coming weeks about Olympic National Park, Astoria, Oregon, & Seaside, Oregon.

May God bless you each mile of your journey.

Below is a map of the places we visited in the order in which we visited them.  I hope the map helps you in planning your trip to Seattle, Washington.