Mini City Break Across The Border To Artsy Seattle
|Our first glimpse of Seattle|
A very great thing about being in Vancouver is the proximity to the United States (the US used from now on in this post for ease!) A mere hours drive from us and you can reach the States border, it's a great placement for enabling us to explore the US.
We had some urgent paperwork that needed to be updated and coupled with the relaxing of travel rules for Covid, we decided to hop (I say hop but don't let that fool you into thinking it was a quick process!) over the border to have a nosy at America.
Our destination was a 3-night break in Seattle, which we found to be a very artsy city with an interestingly quirky vibe. I imagine being a fashion/art/music student here would be phenomenal as the city has a great source of inspiration, with its mass of architecture, museums, and artwork.
As it was only a dashing visit we had to really cherry pick the things we wanted to see after much deliberation prior here's where we ended up:
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop)
|Lovely architecture of the MoPop museum|
This place is a real gem of a museum if you love all things pop culture (giveaway's the name right!). When we visited the exhibits were Pearl Jam, Sci-Fi, Nirvana, Horror, Fantasy, Indie Games, and Hip Hop. It felt like it had been made especially for my husband in particular as these are all his jam! The kids loved being able to sample lots of indie games and see props from Harry Potter and various other films they've watched, I loved the zombie room in the horror exhibit and well, my husband just loved all of it!
|Enjoying the fantasy exhibits at MoPop|
|Interesting interior at Pike Place|
Miss L's must see whilst we were there was the Great Wheel on the seafront, lovely comfy booths complete with air con gently swung us over the ocean and gave us magnificent views. We got 4 rotations before descending down to the dock to enjoy a sweat inducing uphill walk back to our hotel. Some of those streets are steep, be warned.
|The Seattle Great Wheel|
|Awesome views from inside the wheel|
We loved this unassuming store, a fairly modern prefab-looking exterior housed this interesting, bizarre place that is part store, part museum. It contains all kinds of oddities, including a Fijian mermaid. If you want to visit a store with some unusual exhibits, skeletons, shrunken heads, novelty gifts, and candy then this place is a must-visit.
|Downtown Seattle from the Waterfront|
A chain store but it does the most divine sipping chocolate, it's the first place I've found that can match the beauty of ChoccoBar in the Lake district for its immensely indulgent and silky smooth hot chocolate. They had an aztec spiced offering which was flavoured with cayenne and clove and it was utterly delicious.
If you have kids then you need to visit this playpark, it really is fabulous. Perfect for a mix of ages but especially awesome for older kids it provides challenging climbs, ropes, swings and two swirly slides. We could have easily whiled away a day there, with the music from the Museum playing, picnic benches and sunshine it was a very pleasant park to spend time at.
A short novelty ride, but we all loved the monorail. A simple one stop line that connects downtown with the Space Needle complex and is very cheap. It's a great way to see the city, lessen the walking miles and feel like you're part of the city.
I'll be honest we just looked at it from the outside, it's an interesting building but we were happy to just watch the lift go up the sides and stare up at it from below. It's nice to see the iconic building in real life though.
This is such a weird fixture. A cobbled alleyway and tunnel covered in gross chewed gum. It's certainly a sight to behold and is also pretty disgusting when you think about it. It honestly sums up the city in its quirkiness and how things of beauty and art can be found in many places!
|View towards the seafront, surprisingly steep|
We stopped off here on the way back to the border and sat outside with the dogs. The food was great and it was the best cinnamon roll I've tried so far, the warm icing was a winner.
Probably the only place we ate at in Seattle where I felt the food was worth the price we paid. Simple but well done pub grub; the fried chicken and tater tots were tasty, fresh, crispy, and most importantly not greasy. They did a great selection on the kid's menu and excitingly for my husband were round the corner from Linda's Tavern (which apparently is the last place Kurt Cobain from Nirvana was seen alive.) My husband was very excited to get the chance to have a drink there whilst he waited for our takeout to be ready.
|Exploring the stores|
Interesting Things we discovered in the US
- Kids menus were available at all the restaurants we went to, even the high end fancy one! Unlike Canada where we end up having to make the kids share an adult portion. They much preferred having a choice.
- Dog friendly at lots of places, In Canada dogs aren't even allowed in sniffing distance of a lot of parks, we noticed that we were allowed to happily sit closer here, dogs were also very welcome at a lot of places to eat, although not all inside.
- A steaming street vent, it's only something I've ever seen in films so I was very excited to see this! (Simple things I know!)
- Border officers are serious! There are not a lot of pleasantries, I know it's an important job but as someone who smiles and nods to everyone I meet I always find it a little unnecessary to be so stern, I mean c'mon we're all human right???
- Seattle is expensive. I thought Vancouver prices were high until we rocked up to Seattle restaurants and paid the exact same price for a main meal/dessert/drink as we do in Canadian $ (which to clarify are worth less!) The true Northern England miser in me was released as I grudgingly paid US$9 for a 'gourmet' sausage roll; the cheapest thing on the menu and not really worthy of the premium label except for the price, knowing the same thing from the local deli market next to our apartment is a humble CAD$3.
- The guns that the border guards were packing upon entry to the US are serious! We also saw them using a sniffer dog to go around the cars, which one of our dogs was rather displeased about.
Tips for Land Border Crossing (With pets and children)
- Make sure you've downloaded audiobooks etc beforehand!
- Data and phone plans from Canada don't work in the US unless you have an international/US package, it might be worth purchasing a US SIM
- The land border crossing is not quick, they thoroughly check your documents and are very serious, plan in a good 45 mins wait, ours took 90 mins to the US and 40 mins returning to Canada and that was off-peak.
- Make sure your car insurance from Canada covers driving in the US
- You will require travel insurance, make sure you get it in plenty of time as not all insurers in Canada issue insurance instantly unlike the UK, if you have pets some policies include emergency pet care on them which is useful
- You must complete the ArriveCan app on return to Canada, this crashed on us prior to our return so we couldn't complete it, it seems we weren't the only ones and it had caused some issues. You must complete it within 72 hours of arrival so I would recommend doing it as soon as possible within that deadline just in case you have any problems with it loading.
- You must complete an ESTA to enter America as well as an I-94. Ideally do both of these in advance to save much eye rolling and exasperation from the guards at the border.
- Also on your way in, don't closely follow the car in front of you. When you reach the booth you are supposed to leave a space, this seemed much more obvious on the return to Canada as they had a traffic light system, but the American side was a little harder to spot, we got a little too close which was followed by more dramatic eye rolling.
- Unlike the EU, where I realise we have been spoilt all these years, you cannot pay for everything in the US with your Canadian debit/credit card without it costing you a fee. Some banks do a fee-free card with some travel insurance built in which looks like it would be worth getting. Anyway, long story short, check your bank fees otherwise they can really add up.
- Don't forget a coat when you pack (yeah we ended up at North Face buying an emergency hoodie!)
- Make sure your audiobooks are downloaded to your devices as once we lost connection they realised they couldn't listen to them (this resulted in a very boring Mum lecture on how Wi-Fi works and costs of using data outside of a plan and why I was heavily sweating when they mentioned they were connected outside of our apartment)
- We ventured to the Cheesecake Factory, now I would rate this as highly overpriced, average food but the kids seemed to really enjoy it and wanted it adding as part of their tips!
- Make sure you visit the MoPop museum, but give the horror exhibit a miss for the younger kids.
- The artists' playground is amazing, and great for all ages but Miss L says to "not go on the high ropes if your kid is afraid of heights as there are gaps in the ropes that join the two slides"