what to do in Seattle and Portland?
January 31, 2012 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Things to do and Places to eat in Seattle, Portland and in between? More info inside.

We'll be in Seattle for few days staying in downtown (at Madison St and 5'th Ave)
Don't have access to a car and got a 1 year old with us.

1) What are somethings to do within walking distnace or easily accessible through public transportation?
2) inexpensive places to eat (preferebally not more than $15 per entree) within walking distnace or easily accessible through public transportation?
3) We are ok with taking the bus to some place (ex: University district) and spending there day there and coming back to the hotel at night. Any suggestions on places like that are welcome.

After few days we are planning on renting a car and heading to Portland.
4) What to do/see in Portland
5) Good resturents in Portland?

We are adventerous in terms of food. Open to trying pretty much anything.

6) Planning on renting the car from Seattle-Tacoma Airport as we'll be flying out from there after Portland. If anyone has any additional tips on that please share.
7) Does a toddler need a car seat to ride in a Taxi?
8) I downloaded OneBusAway app. anyother suggetions?

posted by WizKid to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (11 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
4/5. Portland:

Waffle Window.
Stumptown, if you like coffee.
Powell's, if you like books.

6. I generally prefer National as a chain since you can pick your car. I recommend a minivan, as getting a 1-year-old in and out of a seat is MUCH easier in such a vehicle.
posted by hijinx at 7:10 AM on January 31, 2012

You didn't say anything about what sorts of things you'd be interested in seeing, but here's some highlights from when I was in Portland:

The Portland Japanese Gardens (photos) is one of the only things that you'll probably want to drive to rather than taking public transit. The gardens are beautiful, and have never been very crowded when I was there.

The Portland Classical Chinese Gardens (photos) is also really great. It's much smaller and in the city, so it's quite easy to get to on public transit. It's in Chinatown (surprise!) so there's a lot of restaurants around the area. There's also a teahouse in the gardens which is worth visiting.

If you're food-oriented travelers, there's also a culinary walking tour of Portland. The restaurants visited are different every time, and it was a lot of fun when I went.

If you like books (even a little) you should definitely go to Powells, but you probably already know that. It's centrally located, there's a truly amazing number of books, and there's a nice little coffee shop inside where you can relax for a while. There's also a great gelato place around the corner.

In terms of good, cheap eats, you should definitely hit the food trucks in Portland. The food is great, and it's very convenient. If you're eating at the trucks near Stark St. downtown, there's a great mezzanine at the Ace hotel where you can grab a seat and eat in comfort and dryness.
posted by duien at 7:23 AM on January 31, 2012

Lunchboxlaboratory! 1253 Thomas St. Seattle WA. I didn't take this picture, but that looks delicious to me and I don't even eat hamburgers and bacon any more.
posted by cashman at 8:12 AM on January 31, 2012

I lived in PDX for several years before moving away for graduate school. Putting together this list makes me want to start planning a trip out there for a visit.

Pok Pok for Thai food (not at all vegetarian friendly, if that is a concern)

Food trucks! They are everywhere and cater to all interests.

There are several sushi conveyor belt places - I like Sushi Land by Powells at NW 10th and Davis.

Breakfast places are everywhere, a few of my favorite: Utopia I love their potato cakes, Pine State Biscuits for delicious biscuits and gravy - get it to go and eat some place else though, the space is super small, Bridges, Vita Cafe (all vegetarian and gluten free friendly).
posted by source.decay at 8:36 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Steelhead Diner at the Pike Place Market for lunch -- I've always had a great meal at this place, prices are reasonable. If you like fried oysters, go for the Po' Boy.

Actually, there are a lot of great, cheap places to eat at the Market. Go to Mee Sum pastry if you want a good BBQ pork humbow, Piroshky Piroshky for buttery, flaky pockets of amazingness, or Lowell's for a hearty, old-fashioned breakfast with a view.

And then there's Lecosho, if you're a pork lover. I've heard great things about this place, but as I've moved to North Seattle I haven't has much of a chance to eat out in the Downtown area anymore.
posted by lotus-eater at 8:51 AM on January 31, 2012

Brief portland overview - divided in to 5 quadrants - Downtown is generally the NW and SW, east of the river is N, NE, and SE. Burnside divides north and south. East and west is mostly divided by the river, until you're talking about the North, which is actually north of the river on the east side.

One word on the Japanese gardens in PDX, much of it is off limits to strollers, so prepare for carrying.

there are basically a ton of options in Portland. If you are staying downtown it's probably easiest to stick around there. Pok Pok for thai was already mentioned. Mothers for more of a sit down joint, serving food your prototypical mom would make. It's awesome. There is VooDoo donuts, which is sort of a thing, lines can be long though (I recommend the old dirty bastard). Food carts are everywhere, sample them. Pine State Biscuits mentioned above is great. If you go to the one in NE, it's on Alberta and that's a whole other world of options opening up as well. It's fairly walkable with a stroller.

Lastly, you should try to hit up Tasty n Sons, great tapas style food, but they aren't tapas - in the NE, in a district called the Mississippi.

Also on the east side I've also become incredibly partial to Killer Burger off of Sandy (I suggest the Black Molly), don't plan on eating again for about 6 hours.

Back to the NW, there are plenty of places in the Pearl district, they tend to be slightly popular but you can hit up Powells for the books, then some of the local brew pubs (Deschutes, Rogue, etc). Take advantage of the light rail downtown. You don't need a cab at all if you are staying downtown and don't mind a little walking. Trimet MAX will get you basically everywhere then connect up by bus and across the river. It's a rather well ordered system.

Car seats - Toddler needs a car seat anywhere in Oregon that is not a bus, train. Some people will let you get away with it, don't. It's rainy, and if we have a freeze people will slide all over the goddamn place. Toddlerish activities abound, if you want to get out of the rain check out OMSI, there is enough shiny to entertain the kid and it can be reached by bus. If it's not raining, try the Zoo. Zoo lights is over sadly, so that's kind of a bummer.

If the weather is fair, you will be doing yourself an incredible disservice by not taking 3 hours and driving up the gorge to see the falls. As long as it's not freezing or snowing or hinting at snowing I'd be driving up the gorge, taking the scenic highway, looking at all the falls and then stopping at the big one - Multnomah falls, and eating lunch there in the big glass room watching the falls.

We have a 15 month old, holler if you need a hand or have any questions and I'll run them through the wife filter.
posted by iamabot at 9:22 AM on January 31, 2012

You might also consider taking the Amtrak Cascades between Seattle and Portland. It's a really pleasant train ride, and goes from downtown to downtown. It'd save you an extra trip through Seatac, which I'd count as a net win. King Street station in Seattle is also right across the street from the Link light rail to the airport. Both cities are pretty compact and have decent transit systems as long as you're heading from the core outwards and back, and especially in the downtown area having a car can be an outright hassle.

In Seattle, the University District and Capitol Hill are both trivial to reach by bus and have a wide variety of cheap eats - pho and Thai are Seattle staples. Downtown has the Pike market and the International District but other than that is kind of bleak. If you want the iconic Seattle experience, you can do the monorail from Westlake to Seattle Center and the Space Needle. If the weather is decent and your legs are feeling strong, you can head from there up to Kerry Park, which is where they take all the pictures of Seattle that make it look like Mt. Rainier is just behind it and that the Space Needle is actually in downtown.
posted by lantius at 9:37 AM on January 31, 2012

5th and Madison in Seattle is about a mile away from the International District, which is a mecca for great inexpensive food:
Green Leaf in the ID is one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the city--lots of dishes that go beyond the typical Vietnamese standards, and all well executed.
Huong Binh is also excellent Vietnamese, but a smaller menu than Green Leaf.
Malay Satay Hut does yummy Malaysian food. There are usually specials there in addition to the listed menu items. Salt and pepper lamb (one of the specials) is terrific--spicy, and the curry leaves are a perfect foil for the lamb. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, the fish head curry soup is fantastic.
Phnom Penh Noodle House does interesting and delicious Cambodian food.

If you decide to go to the ID, the Wing Luke Asian Museum is worth a visit as well.
posted by creepygirl at 9:59 AM on January 31, 2012

Kid-friendly stuff:

Central Library is a block away from where you're staying and is fun to explore.
Take the Monorail from Westlake Center to Seattle Center and go to the Children's Museum and/or the Pacific Science Center

And walk down through the Pike Place Market to the waterfront and eat at Ivar's!

Someone already mentioned the Zoo, but the Children's Museum is just across the parking lot and also worth the trip (and the food in their cafe is surprisingly decent). And the Japanese Garden already mentioned is also in that same park, so lots of options there.

For food with our kid (13 months) we like McMenamin's (locations all over the Portland area), they're pretty laid back and have a decent menu and good beers for the adults.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:30 PM on January 31, 2012

If money isn't a concern, I suggest SlappyCakes for food. You purchase little bottles of pancake batter and little tureens of filling (fruit, chocolate, lemon curd, etc.) and cook your own awesome pancakes on the tabletop. It's great for kids, as long as you can keep them from touching the griddle part of the table.

OMSI is great for all ages. The Children's Museum is decent, but my older kids get pretty bored there. I'd say it is best for kids between 3 and 7 years old. My older kids actually like to get on the MAX and ride around, which is safe enough in the daytime (although I've been verbally harassed after dark multiple times for no reason, and wouldn't take my kids on it at night) - if there's something going on at the Expo Center, you can ride the MAX all the way out to it for a fun afternoon. Or just ride from downtown to the Lloyd Center mall and walk around...
posted by tacodave at 2:14 PM on January 31, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies so far
keep em coming :-)
posted by WizKid at 2:24 PM on January 31, 2012

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