April 24, 2012

Questions About Seattle

Do you remember when you guys helped my parents with their Yellowstone plans? That was VERY HELPFUL. Would you be willing to do it again for my friend (since we were little kids!) Heather? She and her husband and two small children are going to Seattle the second week of May, and here's what she's wondering:
The research I have done so far... looked at hotels downtown. Fairly expensive and you have to pay an additional $30-40 just for one night of parking. So, would rather not rent a car. But I am worried about public transportation (scary metro at night, kids riding on bus without car seats, waiting hours for bus to come). Staying in the suburbs would be an option (free parking) but then we have to lug carseats and we are not right in downtown. And then would still have to pay to park in city for the days when site seeing. Does this make sense?? Just don't know how big of a city Seattle is!!! Boston... I could handle/explore without car... LA, not so much! :-)



Lawyerish said...

I traveled to Seattle a year and a half ago with our daughter, who was about seven months old at the time, and we met up there with my brother and his kids, who were 4.5 and 18 months.

We stayed at a hotel downtown, right by Pike Place Market. We *did* rent a car, because we needed to drive out to the suburbs a couple of times, but the stuff we did within Seattle was very easy to do without a car. We hardly even used public transportation because so much is within walking distance of that area -- in addition to the market, we walked down to the waterfront, where the Aquarium is, and where the tour boats leave from (we did a 2-hour cruise of the Sound, which was very cool); to Pioneer Square; to the monorail, which we took to Seattle Center (the Space Needle et al). The art museum and library were also right close by. We stayed at the Four Seasons, but I know there are a whole bunch of hotels right around there that would also be walkable to these same sights. My understanding is that the bus system is also very good, easy to use, and would take you to the places that are a little further out like Ballard or whatever. So I am sure you would do fine without a car.

I also want to mention that you absolutely don't need car seats on the bus/train/monorail. I live in NYC, and I wouldn't even think of bringing a car seat onto public transportation. If your kids are still stroller-age, then those are fine to bring onto public transportation (I'd recommend more of an umbrella stroller rather than, say, a giant UppaBaby, for these purposes). Many cities have baby gear rental places where you could rent a stroller for a daily rate if you don't want to bring one on the plane with you. I've done this on a number of trips.

Good luck and have a great time!

Stacie said...

OK, here is my advice. I love Seattle...I travel there as often as i can (probably twice a year), and it is a great place to explore and take the kiddos. If you are planning on just exploring downtown and staying out of the surrounding area, I would recommend finding a hotel downtown and not renting a car. The Seattle roads are congested and tricky to maneuver. There are streets that turn into a one-way street at a certain time of day (I KNOW!), and honestly, most everything is within walking distance. If you decide to catch a ball game or travel a little farther than you feel comfortable waling, there are buses on every street corner, and they aren't that bad.

There is SO MUCH to do in Seattle; I just know you will have a great time :)

Anyabeth said...

I live in Seattle and honestly stay downtown. Don't rent a car. The traffic and streets here are confusing. Most things are easily accessible by walking. Take the light rail from the airport. If you need a bus they are easy and safe here. And no, you definitely do not need carseats on the bus.

Mary said...

I live here too, and I agree, I wouldn't want to drive downtown. As long as you stay downtown, you can walk everywhere. One of the ferries leaves from downtown, so you can go across the water and explore there too, for something different, if you want to get out of downtown. If you decide you want to do some driving once you get here, you can take the light rail back to the airport to rent a car (cheapest option). I love it here, and hope you have a great time!

Louisa said...

I recommend the 11th Avenue Inn which is a bed and breakfast in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. It is near parks, restaurants, museums, shops and bus stops. The homemade breakfasts are quite memorable. We enjoyed chatting every morning with the other travelers and the lady running the Inn. We had no problems taking the bus. We also had a rental car and the Inn provided free onsite parking.

Shalini said...

I live in Seattle, about ten minutes north of downtown. My advice is probably depressing.

Stay downtown if you're only traveling around the city. BUT if you're going to Mt. Rainier or Mt. Hood or the Cascades or the peninsula, then obvs you'll need a car. And also, downtown Seattle is kind of meh compared to other big cities. It's a small big city. All the cool stuff is outdoorsy--mountains, tulip festival, ferry rides where you see Orcas, beaches, etc. There are also fun, kid-friendly neighborhoods to explore (Ballard, Fremont, West Seattle) but are almost impossible to get to by bus.

It is a sticky situation.

But driving in downtown is scary, especially if you have a stick shift. The hills are SCARY. Like, I say a prayer I don't backslide into the Bay every single time I drive in downtown (which is several times a month). But the buses suck too, expensive, depressing, always late.

We're a super tourist unfriendly city, blarg. If your friend wants to email me for kid-friendly stuff, send her my email.

Betsy said...

I agree with the previous commenters: stay downtown. We stayed there and were able to walk to much of we wanted to see. We did rent a car just for one day because we wanted to drive out to some wineries, and we were able to walk to the car rental, too.

PS: so excited for you! We LOVED Seattle!

Angela said...

Another Seattleite here and I agree with everyone that recommends staying downtown. Seattle is quite compact and you will not need a car for the majority of touristy things you will be doing (aquarium, Pike Place, ferries, Art Museum, Sculpture Park). The zoo is a bit further out but you could take a bus or taxi if needed. Bus service is far more frequent and varied from the downtown core outwards than the reverse.

Not only are carseats not needed on the bus, there is no way to install them. Also, you should know that Seattle does not have a subway. There is the light rail that connects downtown to the airport, and there's the monorail that connects downtown to Seattle Center where the Space Needle is. That's it. Everything else is buses. But buses are generally clean and reliable.

Stefanie said...

Another Seattle native chiming in to recommend you stay downtown and skip the car rental. Light rail from the airport is a great option. Once you're settled the bus system is extensive, safe, and easy to navigate. There's a monorail that services parts of downtown, a trolley car in South Lake Union, and so forth. Unless you are coming out here to meet local friends, I would not stay in the suburbs. Yes, you save on parking, but there isn't a lot to do in the 'burbs so you'll still have to get into the city, which means carseats, parking once you're here, navigating unfamiliar and congested streets, etc.

Kara said...

I'm so happy to see this post! My husband and I are going to Seattle the last weekend in June. We're staying somewhere in the downtown area, and won't be renting a car- no interest in driving at all in the city.

Kalendi said...

A former native of Seattle here! Yes stay in or close to downtown and you won't need a car. If you do want to take an excursion outside of Seattle they are plenty of car rental places downtown that are cheaper than the airport because you don't pay the airport taxes. If you stay a little bit on the edge of downtown you can easily get around. Seattle Metro is a great bus system and the ferry rides are also fun! I disagree with the poster that Seattle tourism is blargh! There is the aquarium, Seattle Center (with rides etc), Space Needle (don't eat dinner there, just go to the observation deck), the monorail, Pike's Place market etc. I have lots of ideas for tourists. If you want more information (don't want to fill up comment space) then e-mail me. gwssandra@gmail.com

kalendi said...

P.S. I'm pretty sure the buses are still free in the downtown core for everyone and you can get family passes if you're going anywhere else. You really can get practically anywhere from downtown.


Heather said...

WOW!!! You guys are awesome! I am super glad I emailed Swistle asking her advice! And in return got great information from so many additional people! I now feel confident enough to make our reservations for a hotel in the downtown area and forget about renting a car! We really feel like there is enough for us to do in the city without venturing out to the mountains, suburbs, etc. Thank you so much for the info on the carseats, bus, monorail, and airport transportation! It is so helpful!

A couple of additional questions... has anyone every purchased the CityPass? Is it worth it? Could we take our kids (ages 4 and 2) to a Mariners night game? Is safe to leave the stadium at night and bus back to downtown? Has anyone ever taken the Duck Tour and if so is that worth it?

Thank you all again SO much!! It is very helpful to hear from people with real life Seattle experience!

:-) Heather

Stefanie said...

To respond to Heather's questions, I don't know about the City Pass--not sure what it includes. A Mariner's night game should be fine. You'll probably need to walk a little ways to get to the bus tunnel, so plan for tired kids, but safety-wise you should be fine. It's not a super-long walk, just a few long city blocks, but since it will be late you might want to think through how you want to wrangle the little ones. I wouldn't walk through Pioneer Square with kids at night (lots of bars and such--not necessarily dangerous, but not a place I'm eager to take my kids), but you don't have to--just follow the crowds heading toward the King Street Station entrance to the bus tunnel and you'll be all set. Safeco Field is super kid-friendly. I've not done the Ducks, but I've heard good things. Hope that helps!

Annie said...

Hi there! Another Seattleite weighing in! The City Pass is a great deal, especially if you're planning on doing 2-3 or more of the things it covers (I think it covers the Science Center, aquarium, Space Needle, a cruise around the Puget Sound, the Experience Music Project (highly recommend!) and one or two other things). Economically, it's definitely a good choice.

Also, the Duck is fun (in a cheesy/corny kind of way). A couple of caution points, though. Mid-May is not at all guaranteed to be nice weather, and they are open air vehicles. Also, it is sometimes difficult to hear the tour guide in the busier traffic areas downtown, which can be mildly annoying. The two times I've ridden the duck, the toddlers on board were D.O.N.E. with it after about 45 minutes, and I think it's an hour and a half or two hour tour.

Have Fun!

Siera said...

Not a Seattleite, BUT I have been there often and live 75 miles to the north in Canada. I got there lot, I have never taken my son there for a weekend, but want to soon. I have no problem driving a stick shift downtown there (I usually drive to it) and grew up driving in Vancouver so I am used to the one way streets. But you really DO NOT need a car if you stick to downtown. I have heard fabulous things about the Everett Children's Museum, but can't say from experience and when I do take my son (soon I hope) I will be buying the city pass!

The Curmudgeon said...

Have spent lots of time in Seattle - amazing city! You definitely don't need a car - take public transportation and walk. You'll love it!

Alexicographer said...

Just a quick scan of the comments suggests this info. may not be needed here ... but ... I have been *very* happy with the Ride Safer Travel Vest (you can search at Amazon, or Google, i will pop right up) as an alternative to car seats. As long as your kid is at least 30 lb. and 3 years old, it will fit (obviously at some point they will outgrow it; check specs -- but I'm assuming the younger your kids are, the more you worry about carting carseats on trips). I consulted with a car seat tech and was told this is just as good as a car seat; it fits around the kid and then can be used with any regular back seat (to avoid airbags) shoulder-belted seat. We don't use ours regularly, but took it as our only car safety device when we traveled by plane last year (with a 4-year old) and got a rental car and drove to, and around in, rural Maine. We were very happy with it (I also used it when he was 3, though on a trip involving less driving). It's small enough you can easily stash it in a carry-on. So if cars (including cabs) will be any part of your trip and you don't want to fool with a carseat but do want something, I'd recommend this. Also useful if you sometimes carpool, need to fit multiple kids in a small car and can't squish all the carseats in, or use a blend of public transport + car transport and don't want to cart the carseat.

Guinevere said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kalendi said...

Hi again,
Yes the duck is fun, but not sure if 2 year old would enjoy it. Also, I believe that if your children are under 5 and you do venture out of the downtown core on Metro they will ride for free! Enjoy Seattle, I loved living there and miss it!!

Anonymous said...

I too, live in Seattle. Stay downtown. Yes, the nicer hotels are quite expensive. Don't rent anything on Aurora!

There are cabs to be found on the streets & your hotel will call one for you (or they'll have them waiting out front).

You can order a car service (Atlas http://atlastowncar.com/) that will be there when you step off the plane (they're great) for $45 (cheaper than a cab). Have fun!

Nil Zed said...

Seattle is more Boston than LA. If Boston without a car is not stressful, Seattle should be even less so.

We were there last summer with a just turned 4 year old. The mass transit options were the cheapest entertainment for a vehicularly obsessed kid.

Plane to seattle, train into town, walk to hotel. (too long a walk: downtown is wedges, like DC, not blocks! So going down a road to then up the street our hotel was on was a longer trip than going up a parallel street and going over. look at a MAP not a tiny googlemap on your phone!)

The tram ticket is good for a time frame, you can get on and off, or just stay on and go back and forth. My son loved riding, so ride we did. There is a park out by the lake, with a redwood 1970's era playground that he enjoyed though I was a bit stressed about splinter possibilities.

Arrange your Space Needle (or as our son called it: Jetson House) plans around the monorail. We stayed near the Needle, but twice used the monorail to get into downtown for the day.

We also walked downtown. We walked all over.

our hotel had a microwave and minifridge. Within a block either direction was a wholefoods and a CVS with a mini-grocery. My husband was often eating at the conference we'd come for but the little guy and I did all right with quite a few meals in the hotel room. Fresh fruit, baby carrots, bread, peanut butter, juice and milk. Just like home. We'd usually eat a more substantial lunch at a restaurant and have PB sandwiches and finger foods for bfast and supper.

Later in the week, we took the Ferry boat out to stay the rest of the time with my brother. And back in to have a touristy day with my husband. The pedestrian prices aren't bad if you are considering it as entertainment.

I really can't say anything about being on transit or the streets after dark with a kid, because we kept to our normal schedule and had him in bed by 8.