Spring Break College Tour to Seattle/Portland area
February 18, 2013 9:24 AM   Subscribe

We're going to be flying into Seattle and out of Portland the first week of April with Saturday arrival and departure. We'll be traveling in a van with two families comprised of 2 high school Juniors and an 8th grader. Both Juniors are interested in Architecture majors, though one is quite academic and the other may be looking at community college close to home for the first couple years. The goal is to combine college tours with sightseeing. A side trip to San Juan Islands for a couple days would be of interest if it's not too much to try to cram in. Suggestions for colleges/universities to explore, places to stay, things to do would be greatly appreciated!
posted by ms_rasclark to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I may be stating the super-obvious, but the library is a must-see for architecture fans.
posted by O9scar at 9:48 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seattle University has St. ignatius Church, which is some really interesting architecture. Especially if they're interested in the architecture of religious/spiritual spaces.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:01 AM on February 18, 2013

Seattle area - UW, I believe WSU has a Seattle campus now, also Univ of Puget Sound down in the Tacoma area. Not much college wise between Seattle and Portland. Portland has Portland State's main campus downtown, Univ. of Portland, outreach centers for UO and OSU, Multnomah Bible College and others.

Univ of Oregon and OSU are an easy day trip from Portland, both along I-5 and UO being the farther at about 1.5 hours.

Someone better informed than I might point out some really great architecture in both cities. the Pittock Mansion in Portland is one of my favorites and affords a great view of the city.
posted by efalk at 10:06 AM on February 18, 2013

Take the underground tour in Seattle. They have a daytime "family friendly" one where they euphemistically discuss the role of prostitution/gambling in the city's history, and a nighttime one that I assume is less euphemistic. Make reservations/buy tickets online, since I think the tours fill up pretty quick, though maybe not when you'll be there.
posted by rtha at 10:16 AM on February 18, 2013


Powell's Books. You can't leave without visiting Powell's City of Books. I'm not even a big fan of Portland, but I dream about Powells. Any book you could ever want, and a coffee shop right on site. Will give you great insight into the Pacific Northwest psyche (far more book reading going on there than in most other regions of the US).

Rose Test Garden

The Grotto - find peace, tranquility, and beauty in this quiet location. Gorgeous gardens and scenery.

Get one of the "fun" seats at the Rimsky-Korsakoffee House.

Out at the edges, in Oregon City, is an excellent museum about the trail, but as of now, it's closed and seeking funding. So if you heard about that being a great stop, alas, it's closed.

On your way to Seattle, make a pit stop off Highway 5, to road 504, and the Mount Saint Helens educational center in Toutle. Pretty mind-blowing stuff. There are many potential stops along the road, including opportunities to see the difference between the burn line and where the "old growth" was saved from damage.

The student looking at a community college - well, either of them - might want to consider Evergreen State College in Olympia, which itself is a pretty neat town.

I have never been, but I hear the Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle are amazing.
posted by mitschlag at 10:38 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

If one of the kids wants to attend a community college initially, Evergreen is not a great idea.

The only architecture programs I'm aware of in Oregon are through the UO and Portland State. The UO extension in Portland may have something for you, but the main campus in Eugene would be a better choice for a visit, if you're willing to travel that far. Otherwise, UW.
posted by infinite joy at 12:19 PM on February 18, 2013

Seattle has more interesting architecture than Portland, so if you're looking for neat sites to visit plan to spend more time there.

If liberal arts colleges are of interest, I recommend stopping at Evergreen State College in Olympia on your way from Seattle to Portland. Despite the reference to community colleges above, Evergreen is a four-year institution. And visit Reed (very selective) and Lewis & Clark colleges when you're in Portland.

Willamette University and Linfield College are both less-selective-but-still-OK schools that are within about an hour of Portland.

Don't go to Mount St. Helens unless you first check the road conditions online. In April it's not uncommon for snow to block access.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:31 PM on February 18, 2013

Also Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.
posted by Cranberry at 2:19 PM on February 18, 2013

The Portland Aerial Tram is worth a ride.
posted by megatherium at 2:56 PM on February 18, 2013

The San Juan Islands are at least one day each direction out of Seattle, and therefore not something I'd recommend on such a short trip.
However, a ferry boat ride is absolutely part of the quintessential Seattle experience, so I'd suggest either the short trip to Bainbridge Island (don't take the car, the village of Winslow is short walk from the ferry terminal), the ride is only a half-hour each way, and can be nice for lunch. The other option is Bremerton, which is an hour each way, but gorgeous on a nice day; there aren't as many shops and such in Bremerton, so some folks just ride over and back (again, save yourself the additional car fare if that's your plan).
The Washington State Ferries site has fares, schedules, and other info.
The Seattle Architecture Foundation leads a number of interesting tours, many of the downtown area, there may be something there that interests the family.
posted by dbmcd at 3:30 PM on February 18, 2013

If your junior who is looking at community college would be interested in looking at one here, I'd recommend Seattle Central Community College. I've taken a few classes at North and South as well, and I think Central is just the most interesting and wide mix of students. It would be more work than staying home, but a lot of other students would be working jobs and taking classes, so it could be fun.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:16 PM on February 18, 2013

I was not suggesting that Evergreen State was a 2 year college. It is, however, a good "second act" for a motivated student who has finished an associates degree (or 40 credits) and wants to transfer out of state, rather than locally - and that might describe the student "who may be looking at community college close to home for the first couple years".

I am not sure why infinitejoy thinks the school is not a good choice for a community college graduate. There are about 30,000 students at my 2-year institution, and they run the gamut in motivation and ability. We take the top 100% of students, it's true. But that includes thousands of smart, motivated kids who decided on community college to save Mom and Dad some bucks on a bachelor's degree. It's that population that caused our enrollment to soar by double digits each of the last three years. We also have several thousand dual-enrollment students who will graduate from high school with an associate's degree, or finish one within a year. And a lot of kids who misstepped, and find that community college is an easier place to regain missed opportunities. Some of the students in our honors program are single parents, for example.

A better choice for a community college student, thinking about transferring out of state, is a place that has good support for nontraditional, out of state students. A bad choice would probably be a school with mostly regional students, where everyone has known each other forever (e.g. Texas A&M, Penn State, UO). If they want to go to a hyperregional school, the local Big U is probably going to offer a fine education, and be easier for them to maneuver, being a local.

Evergreen is a rare state college that is comfortable both with "nontraditional" students and also attracts many students from out of state. Evergreen doesn't care if you have a traditional high school certificate, or a GED. You just need to have transferable credits, and show that you are someone who would succeed in its environment. I know lots of community college students who fit the bill.

As far as other comments, Lewis and Clark, historically, offered a strong study-abroad program. If you're open to less selective schools, you might also look at Pacific University.

OP, I also suggest you check out the rankings of colleges published by Washington Monthly, if you haven't already. Less gaming, and an emphasis on social mobility, research, and service. For example, they suggest Whitman College and the University of Puget Sound.

If you are looking for an out of state community college - which is unusual, unless a student is being recruited for a nationally or regionally ranked athletic team - a good place to look is at the Aspen Institute's Aspen Prize list. Each year they list 120 community colleges with good results. Eligible this year are Bellingham Tech, Olympic, Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom, Renton Tech, Walla Walla, and Whatcom in Washington. No Oregon colleges were eligible this year.
posted by mitschlag at 11:49 AM on February 19, 2013

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