Seattle visit in January - How to get around, where to stay, what to see
December 4, 2014 4:12 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are visiting Portland, OR for a conference in January, and decided to tack on a quick visit to Seattle afterwards. We know Portland pretty well, but neither of have been to Seattle. We were hoping to use public transit there, but my wife has trouble walking long distances or standing for long periods of time, so we'd need lines that have very frequent and predictable arrivals. More inside.

We definitely want to see the EMP Museum and the Space Needle, as touristy as they are. Other potential stops that are high on the list are the underground tour and the pinball museum. What other museums / destinations are worth visiting during a 5-night stay? We both like live music, comedy, and interesting / off-beat museums. I would also love to visit a couple of brew pubs, and Elysian tops that list, but I'd love to hear other recommendations for places that have good beer and food, and at least a couple of vegetarian items for her.

From other Seattle AskMes, I've read some comments indicating Seattle's transit system isn't great, and that people should get a car. I'd rather not if I can avoid it, but at the same time, my wife's mobility problems would probably limit us to main arterial transit lines, and because it's January, we'd really want lines that have frequent service (hopefully like every 15 minutes?) so we're not waiting out in the cold for long periods of time. We're not sure where we're staying yet -- the Westin downtown seems centrally located to some nice restaurants, and is near a monorail stop that can get us up to the stuff in Seattle Center. How many cool things can we get to from there on major transit lines? Or should we just bite the bullet and rent a car?
posted by tonycpsu to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Seattle's transit is pretty good if you are going to/from downtown on all trips. All of your listed plans are close to the city and a direct bus ride from the Westin, I believe. For instance, here are the bus options to the Pinball Museum. If you do have one or two sightseeing options that are further out then a couple of trips with Uber/Lyft/taxis should cost much less than hiring a rental car (and parking it for five nights!).

Your big risk is if it snows at any point while you are there, in which case traffic really seizes up. But since you definitely don't want to be in a rental car in that (the roads are pretty hilly, get iced over easily, and many drivers are completely unfamiliar with icy roads), I don't think that's an argument either way.

There will be a vegetarian option at most places, but you might also want to check out Plum Bistro, a vegan restaurant that has non-vegetarian fans. It's down the block from Elysian and again, you can get a bus almost directly there from the Westin.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:43 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also, check out this map of lines that run every 15 minutes or more often.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:47 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I posted a question a few years ago about Seattle-area museums that might be of use to you!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 5:38 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Monorail goes to EMP area.
posted by Freedomboy at 7:34 PM on December 4, 2014

Take a ferry ride and back to Bainbridge island. Beautiful scenery and ferries are an iconic part of the Puget Sound Area. One bus away ap is super useful.
posted by HMSSM at 9:32 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Consider this: you really could skip renting a car and still have a good Seattle visit. Take the train from Portland to Seattle, a 3 hour trip.
Stay at the Alexis Hotel, really well-located for buses and the occasional Lyft/Urber trip. It's an easy walk to Pioneer Square for the underground tour and multitudes of restaurants and shops, and also easy enough to get to Seattle Center by bus or monorail. It's a very short walk to the Bainbridge Island ferry and I completely agree with HMSSM that you should do that. It's a beautiful 35 minute ride, no waits for walk-ons and when you walk off the ferry there, it's 3 minutes to the main street. The Bainbridge Art Museum is right there (and might even be free) along with good restaurants, wine tasting, shops, bookstore and be sure to leave room for Mora ice cream (maybe the best ice cream ever). Back in Seattle, you can walk up the hill to see Rem Koolhaas' Seattle Library. I am not in any travel business but that's what I'd suggest. Happy travels. (PS: born in Pittsburgh)
posted by lois1950 at 10:37 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I also cannot walk long distances nor stand for even medium periods of time. I CANNOT walk in Seattle, as in "walk up the hill to see the Seattle library," or "a 3 min. walk from the ferry." Seattle has serious hills, and truly I never noticed how serious until I couldn't do it anymore. Even if you have to shorten your visit in order to afford it, I strongly urge you to use cabs and/or Lyft/Uber trips. Renting a car would be a nightmare, what with letting your wife off close to something, and then finding a parking place (ha!). My older friends in Seattle are taking cabs more than they used to. The intense competition from Uber seems to be making everyone in the business generally more friendly and helpful, or so my friends say.

Taking a round-trip ferry ride would be great; you don't need to get off unless she's feeling strong. Taking the monorail to the Seattle Center and the EMP will also work well; the monorail ends at the EMP. The Science Center is right there, also, and it's very very cool.

Consider going to the University of Washington; they have two outstanding and always interesting museums, within walking distance (my definition of walking distance). The Henry Art Gallery is the art museum of the University; it presents very cutting edge modern art as well as having a James Turrell .... well, it's hard to describe... an art installation, a magic room. Worth going into and sitting down for awhile. They also have an amazing permanent clothing and textile collection. There is also the Burke Museum, a very exciting ethnographic museum, lots of things from Pacific Northwest native peoples cultures. Very, very different from our usual image of "Indians." The University District, right next to the side of the UW with the museums, is full of interesting little shops and restaurants, that tend to come and go like the tide.

Seattle City Pass, which sells admission to five places at pretty decent discounts. No luck linking to the site, but will get you there.

On personal note: if you like going to the zoo, please consider skipping the Seattle Zoo. There is currently a very ugly controversy about their two remaining elephants, and those with concerns over inadequate care are calling for a boycott.
posted by kestralwing at 2:35 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We just were in Seattle this year and loved it! I was coming off a sprained ankle at the time and so had some mobility concerns as well. We stayed at the Westin one night and the Sheraton other nights due to pricing. Both were great and centrally located. Our room at the Westin had a view of the Space Needle! I think you could easily get around using the bus and the occasional Uber. We enjoyed the Underground tour, the Chihuly museum, and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Elysian was fun, and we also enjoyed Dahlia Lounge and Wild Ginger for restaurants. One of my other favorite things was getting seafood rolls from Pike Place Market and taking an Uber to the Ballard Locks, although I don't know if that would be as fun in January as it was in September.
posted by notjustthefish at 7:57 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's nothing particularly fancy about it, but I've always enjoyed eating at the Steelhead Diner. It's very close to Pike Place Market, if you're heading that way. The street it's on is a hill, and there are a few stairs up from the sidewalk.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:45 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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