Last minute trip to Portland and Seattle!
December 20, 2013 9:25 AM   Subscribe

We just decided to drive from SF to Seattle via Portland for about a week. What are some fun family things to do?  Places to eat?  Places to stay?  Snowflake details inside.

I'm pretty excited to get out of SF and go somewhere exciting (to my family)! I have today to plan and prepare. Starting now!

We know it's going to be cold and rainy -- and it's snowing in Seattle.  That's all okay with us.

We are mid-budget for spending: inexpensive is great and high end is out.

Our daughters are almost-9 and 10.  We are vegetarians and my younger kid has a new-ish milk protein allergy (another story for another day).  She carries an EpiPen and has had to use it once.  Basically, we are vegan with occasional eggs.  I plan to bring a lot of our own food.

Any special recommendations for vegan places to eat, stay, or shop?  There are so many resources online, but if there's a place you love, please suggest!  Being open on Christmas is a bonus, but I'm prepared to have food ready to fill any gaps. 

Any places/neighborhoods to stay or visit that would be better than others?

We love KEXP, aquariums and museums, maker-type shops and experiences, walking/outdoor urban activities, quirky things to see and do.  We walk and bike a lot in SF. Public transport is absolutely okay. We are Jewish and any suggestions for Jewish community activities around Christmas are welcome. We aren't late-night types.

Here's our very preliminary itinerary starting tomorrow:

Saturday: Drive dog to stay in Acampo, CA. Head back to 101 and start driving north (sound okay?). Push through to Portland.

Sunday, Monday: Portland (want to visit Beverley Cleary landmarks but are otherwise open to suggestion)

Tuesday-Friday: Seattle (all open to suggestion)

Saturday: Drive I-5 to Acampo, get dog, come home

Hope that's enough information!  Any and all suggestions are helpful. Thanks everyone!
posted by mamabear to Travel & Transportation (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Don't miss the Beverly Cleary statues in Grant Park at NE 33rd Ave and Grant Place - Ramona, Henry, and Ribsy. Great photo ops!
posted by skycrashesdown at 9:28 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

In Portland, you might want to visit OMSI (science museum, like the Exploratorium but less funky). There are also the Zoo Lights at the Portland Zoo -- dress warmly and it may rain. The MAX system (mass transit) and streetcars are pretty convenient for many destinations. If you like books, Powells is the biggest bookstore (on Earth? in the US? definitely in Portland :)). They have used books shelved alongside new ones, so a bit more economical than other bookstores.
posted by elmay at 9:30 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

For snacks, there's a little vegan strip mall on SE 12th and stark in Portland; sweet pea is deliciousness, even by omnivore standards, and food fight is known to have a particularly extensive collection of vegan grocery style treats.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:34 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Crafty Wonderland's show was last weekend but they have a retail shop downtown Portland.

Across from Crafty Wonderland is the central branch of the Multnomah County Library. They always have a free exhibit on the third floor. Starting tomorrow and running through January 31, they have an exhibition about children's book illustrators.

And seconding furnace.heart's suggestion, Food Fight and Sweet Pea are great!

Have fun and drive safe!
posted by Beti at 9:41 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Blossoming Lotus should be checked out at least once in the life of every vegetarian/vegan. Just across the Broadway Bridge, out Weidler (Broadway's twin boulevard going east to Broadway's west), left on NE 15th.

And as a bonus, most of the Beverley Cleary landmarks are around there also, further north.

The tram up to OHSU (the hospital on the hill) would be fun for kids. That is down by the Ross Island Bridge.

Mt. Tabor, to stand on a real volcano (the crater is where the basketball court is).

Powells on Hawthorne is still huge, albeit less huge than the one on Burnside. But still a great stop for books of all kinds for all ages, without the hassle of the flagship store (although the big one should be seen also, just to have done it).
posted by Danf at 9:42 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

acampo, ca to portland on the coast with kids in one day is not a vacation it's torture. most folks would take 3 or 4 days, stop to see the redwoods and any of the scores of pullouts along the coastal road.
If you're more interested in getting north than seeing the epicness of the coast, just bomb up I-5, but be aware that the area near Mt Shasta might be closed due to snow.
As you've said, there's weather in seattle, which means a storm has pushed in from the coast, which can mean high winds, which will mean slower going.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:43 AM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

For vegetarian/vegan options in Seattle I suggest Plum or Café Flora. Brunch at Flora is great, but very busy. Also Bamboo Garden (Chinese) and Moonlight Café (Vietnamese). The last two are probably open Christmas.
posted by O9scar at 9:44 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you go up 101, it will seem like a sample of infinity. Go up there on Interstate 5. Not scenic, but I would not like to be in a car with kids for as long as it will take to go up on 101 and then cross over to Portland, however you would do it.

On 5, you are looking at 10-12 hours from the Bay Area, at the very least. On 101, who knows, but considerably longer. The only glitch might be snow going over the Siskiyous at the Oregon border. OHenryPacey is correct.
posted by Danf at 9:53 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Exactly what elmay said. Zoolights, OMSI, and Powell's.

Ditto on the "don't go up the coast unless you 1) have plans to stop somewhere, and 2) want to spend a lot more time in the car than necessary, for 3) not much payoff this time of year. The coast is almost guaranteed to be foggy, windy, cold, and possibly raining. The only reason to go that way would be if your family was avid beachcombers and were dressed for and didn't mind nasty windchill.

If you want to make a run over to the coast, do it for a few hours one day, or wait til a trip when the weather will be more kid-friendly. (That said, I *love* the coast - but the only reason to let it make me physical miserable is the potential for some really excellent beachcombing finds - and I've still got a pretty low tolerance for it.)
posted by stormyteal at 10:12 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh! And I haven't been to either of the personally yet, but the toy stores Finnegan's and Spielwerk's have been very highly recommended to me.
posted by stormyteal at 10:15 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's my breakdown of three good walking tours in Portland.

Here's my all-food considered breakdown for Portland.

Tons, if not most, of non-vegan places in Portland will offer vegan options. But for vegan specific food, some of my favorite places are:
-Blossoming Lotus
-Hungry Tiger Too (great for breakfast but gets rowdy at night. Delicious vegan scrambles and biscuits and gravy).
-Bye and Bye (vegan soul food. Also a bar, so no minors at night).
-Brass Tacks (offers delicious vegan sandwiches, adorable little shop, all vegan meat substitutes made in house)
-Sweet Pea (delicious vegan bakery. Also has sandwiches, bagels)
-Red and Black (a sort of communist/collective cafe with an eclectic crowd, but really good vegan sandwiches)
Proper Eats - grocery store/vegan cafe. Delicious, but in St Johns.

Two great standbys for family friendly, vegan options, delicious, reasonably priced lunch and dinner are Laughing Planet and Cafe Yumm. Each have multiple locations.

Nthing OMSI and Powells. If you're looking for a cool family-friendly show to see, I'll plug the holiday show at Do Jump! which is Tess on an Alien Planet (its acrobatic theatre stuff. Super cool).
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:19 AM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yeah, as a ten year resident of Oregon and formerly from SF, I have to say the 101 from SF to Portland is a long one. I've done it a couple times, taking 2-3 days to do the whole trip (stopping to see the amazing Redwoods in far north CA, seeing the sand dunes in S. Oregon, playing in the tidepools of Florence, OR). Given the weather, you might want to go up 101 past the OR border, then cut over as soon as you can (maybe via the Rogue River or Umpqua valleys?) to 5 to get around any Shasta area snow shutdown. It'll still be an atrociously long day, you might want to stay overnight around Eugene just to give everyone a break from the drive.

In Portland, I'd suggest the "vegan strip mall" at 12th and SE Stark mentioned above. There are good Indian and Ethiopian places around town that offer vegan stuff. OMSI is fun for kids, but I hear there's a museum in Ashland called ScienceWorks! that is supposed to be good too.
posted by mathowie at 10:19 AM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

A few fun family things to do in Seattle include riding the ferry (bring your own food as I don't think you'll like the options onboard), Northwest Trek, either Boeing's Museum of Flight or its Future of Flight assembly plant tour, the Seattle aquarium, and the Woodland Park zoo. Plenty of vegan eating options in Seattle, too -- check out these happy cow and Veg Seattle and Yelp listings. If you like grocery stores that serve food, you'd probably enjoy visiting the PCC in Edmonds too. And here's the page for the calendar of events in the Jewish community, starting next Tuesday.
posted by bearwife at 10:19 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Excellent points about the drive -- the faster the better. We are also of the carsick persuasion :-)
posted by mamabear at 10:21 AM on December 20, 2013

Response by poster: (Thanks so much for the wonderful answers! Car trip ameneded! I'll take a step back now.)
posted by mamabear at 10:22 AM on December 20, 2013

Oh, I forgot to mention Portobello in Portland. It's a nice Italian restaurant, but all vegan. I've eaten a couple dinners there and they use some nut-based stuff in place of cheeses but I was really impressed with the hors d'oeuvres, pizza, and pasta they offered there. I could barely tell the stuff was vegan and I say that as a half-Italian omnivore that has eaten every type of Italian cuisine including visits to Italy.
posted by mathowie at 10:23 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

They actually have one of the best Nutcracker performances from the Seattle Ballet of any production of the holiday show. This is mainly because the sets were designed by Maurice Sendak, the guy who wrote 'Where the Wild Things Are". Well worth doing if you can afford it.
posted by BearClaw6 at 10:36 AM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) is doing a Fiddler on the Roof sing-along on Christmas Day, with Chinese food buffet (though probably not vegan).
posted by brookeb at 10:39 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seattle has a pretty good science center, and if it's not raining, look for the outdoor sculpture park at the north end of the waterfront and/or Freeway Park (but not if the waterfalls are turned off for the winter).

Your kids may enjoy a quick visit to the Fremont Troll (ask for location), and a longer visit to the fabulous Archie McFee store. I like the zoo, too, but haven't been this time of year before.

Also, though it makes no sense as a library, the downtown Seattle library is amazing to walk through and explore. There's a climbing wall inside the REI, if that's your thing.

Capitol Hill has long been my favorite part of town.
posted by baseballpajamas at 11:05 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I want to second the Pacific Science Cente in Seattle. I took my niece there this past summer and it was amazing! We spent almost six hours there.. I would recommend taking sack lunches since the food options are terrbile. Worse than fast food bad. Yech..
posted by loquat at 11:12 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I recommend (in no special order):
* Powells Books (the worlds largest new and used bookstore)

* Cartopia or other street cart food vendor locations. (Portland has more than 25 food cart locations with more than 700 vendors)

* Go shopping (no sales tax in Oregon)

* OMSI, Zoo Lights, Japanese Gardens, Chinese Gardens, ride the Tram

* Voodoo Doughnuts. I know you said Vegan, so this may not work for you.

* Portland has many...odd...museums. Try one of these of look for others:
Bathtub Art Museum / Cal Skate Museum / Kidd's Toy Museum / Mike's Movie Memorabilia Collection / Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center / Oregon Rail Heritage Center / Stark's Vacuum Museum

* Take a side trip to the 620 foot Multnomah Falls, 30 miles East of town, and other waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge.

* Mill Ends Park. The smallest park in the world at 452 square inches.

* Try some habanero cheese fritters in the Great Balls of Fire challenge at Salvador Molly's. If you can do it, your pic goes on the wall.

Have a great time.
posted by Leenie at 12:14 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Bring chains for your car. If you go up I-5 you may need them at the Oregon-California border and then an hour or so north at Sexton Pass.

I like mathowie's suggestion of going up the coast past the Oregon-California border and then cutting over when you're a little bit north. Be sure to take a big east-west road though, and I'd suggest scheduling your drive so you do the east-west part in the daylight -- those east-west roads connecting 101 and I-5 can be windy.

I didn't read everyone's suggestions but Portland has some really nice vegan options at the food carts downtown.

Have fun!
posted by feets at 1:02 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

I've reserved a night in Ashland on the way north -- why kill ourselves driving when we are supposed to have fun? Will definitely bring chains.

I told the kids about our trip and this askmefi when they came home from school. Super excited!

Happy holidays to all!
posted by mamabear at 3:23 PM on December 20, 2013

A note: voodoo has vegan donuts. They are okay. But really voodoo is maybe the most overrated thing in this town, which I don't say lightly because I love this city so.

Also I just ate at Harlow, which is a vegan place. It's amazing if you're into kind of hippy food (lots of bowls with quinoa and avocado and seaweed). Friendly place though and like $9 a person. Highly recommended.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:44 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to go to OMSI, know they are closed on Mondays in the winter.
posted by lilnublet at 9:50 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

It doesn't sound like you'll have a ton of time in Portland. Have you figured out where you are staying yet? Somewhat near the Beverly Cleary stuff is McMenamin's Kennedy School, a hotel in an old school. That might be a quirky, Portland-y place to stay.

Also, you might go explore the Saturday Market, which is actually open every day through Dec 24 (i.e. not just Saturdays). I went there a few weeks ago with my 11 year old son, and he loved seeing all the fun stuff they were selling. Plus it's near downtown, on the river, under a bridge.

More generally I'll also add that this is an awful lot of driving for a week. I don't know how set you all are on Seattle, but you could easily fill your week just in Oregon. Have fun!
posted by bluedaisy at 10:47 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

In Seattle, there is a block in the University District (5200 and 5300 blocks of University Way NE) that has FOUR vegan shops: Wayward Vegan Café (breakfast lunch and dinner), Pizza Pi (open only for dinner), Araya Vegan Thai restaurant (has a super lunch-only buffet, also open for dinner), and Vegan Haven, a small vegan grocery (10am to 8pm).
posted by QuakerMel at 12:55 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just wanted to post an update for future information.

We had a fantastic time! We ate well *and* not a hive on anyone.

We enjoyed most of the above suggestions. Stopping in Ashland, OR overnight was really helpful. The library downtown was a great stop.

In Portland, Red and Black Cafe was the runaway winner. Loved Harlow too. We ate so well! We stayed at Cherokee Rose Inn, a vegan B&B, which was just wonderful. We stopped at the Hollywood Branch library and got Ramona walking tour maps. High recommend!

In Seattle, we ate at Loving Hut and this place which were both family friendly and delicious. Plum Bistro was great too! We also ate at PCC Natural Market.

Our kids loved visiting the Chihuly Garden/Museum and the Space Needle. The main branch of the library is pretty awesome and had Seattle Children's Film Festival shorts showing.

Thanks again everyone! Honestly, we are so in love with both cities. We couldn't have gotten a start on our trip without your ideas!
posted by mamabear at 7:25 PM on December 27, 2013

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