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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting Seattle, Washington

Claudia enjoys traveling and sharing her travel tips with readers.

So, You're Going to Seattle

I've never been to a city that I didn't love, but after a recent trip to Seattle, I think I've finally found one that I really don't care for. And it's all because of a few simple mistakes.

Over the summer, my family took a wonderful trip that we had been planning for many years. We spent two weeks in northwest Washington where we were completely awestruck by the beauty and grandeur. We stayed for 4 days in Olympic National Park, 4 days in Mt. Rainier, and a highly anticipated grand finale of 2 days in Seattle. Unfortunately our visit to the "Emerald City" didn't go exactly as we had hoped it would.

I thought I'd let you know what we did wrong, so when you are planning your visit to Seattle, you'll have a better time than we did.

5 mistakes to avoid when planning a vacation to Seattle Washington

5 mistakes to avoid when planning a vacation to Seattle Washington

Mistake #1: Staying in the Suburbs

After spending an eternity looking around for a hotel in Seattle, we decided our best bet would be an option outside of the city. This was mainly because of the cost. Seattle hotels are expensive, and I mean really expensive, and because we didn't make our plans in time, any ones that weren't outrageous were booked.

We stayed about 10 minutes south of the airport, foolishly thinking that it would be easy to park our rental car at the train station, hop on a commuter train and be in the city in about 20 minutes. We were wrong. Commuter train stations don't have a huge number of parking spots so they were all taken long before we got there.

Having realized that the only way we were going to get into Seattle was by driving, we got on the road, I-5 northbound to be exact. My guess is that pretty much every other resident of the state of Washington was going into Seattle at the same time, so it took about 2 hours to get to a parking garage next to the Space Needle. By this time our nerves were frayed, my husband and I had gotten into a fight, and my daughter just wanted to go back to the hotel pool. We didn't even get to Seattle until 11:00 am, and we'd left around 7:30 am.

The lesson learned here is that it's worth it to spend more money and stay in the city. Check out some of the lesser-known hotels and bed and breakfast places in town, and don't wait until the last minute.

The guitar sculpture hanging from the ceiling of the EMP museum in Seattle, Washington.  I cannot begin to count how many instruments make up this amazing art piece.

The guitar sculpture hanging from the ceiling of the EMP museum in Seattle, Washington. I cannot begin to count how many instruments make up this amazing art piece.

Mistake #2: Paying for Attractions Separately

Since we were parked next to the Space Needle, that was the first stop we made. We paid our entrance fee, went up, and got a breathtaking view of the city. After we came down we decided to head over to the EMP museum. The clerk asked us if we wanted to get the Seattle City Pass which we had never heard of. The pass gave us entry to the top tourist attractions of the city at a discount. We bought them, but only after we had already spent about $100 on the space needle.

If you are planning on visiting all of the top attractions, get this pass. It will be one of the best bargains you'll get.

5 Bright Spots in Seattle

AttractionReason

Space Needle

What a view. We were lucky to have spectacular weather.

Harbor Cruise

By far our favorite attraction. The cruise provided 1 1/2 hours of relaxation and a terrific view of the city.

Pike Place Market (after the rush)

Once we went back after the crowds were gone we were able to see the traditional fish toss and buy a few souvenirs before the stalls closed. If we hadn't been flying home in 2 days I would have gotten one of the gorgeous $5 flower bouquets.

Monorail

It may only be a few minutes, but it was fun, took us through a small part of the city and got us where we wanted to go for a small price.

EMP Museum

It's a hard place to describe, but it's one of the coolest museums I've ever seen and great fun for all ages.

The city of Seattle and the Seattle Aquarium from the vantage point of our harbor cruise.

The city of Seattle and the Seattle Aquarium from the vantage point of our harbor cruise.

Mistake #3: Waiting Until the Last Minute to Make Plans

Preplanning a trip is something I usually like to do, but for some reason, all of our planning went into our visits to the national parks, not for the trip to Seattle.

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Don't think you can see all of the sites on a whim but don't over plan either. Hotel rooms are hard to find, everything is more expensive than you think it will be, and everything takes about double the time you thought it would.

By not preplanning, we lost hours of sightseeing time and a lot of money. One of my dreams was to see the Chihuly museum so we thought we would cap off our first day by visiting it. Unfortunately, it was closed that evening for a private function. Had I checked, I would have known that. I was able to peek inside the garden and see a few things, but the disappointment still stings.

The original Starbucks... bypass the wait, take a picture and head to another one close by.

The original Starbucks... bypass the wait, take a picture and head to another one close by.

Mistake #4: Visiting the Original Starbucks

I love coffee, so one of the things I really wanted to do was visit the original Starbucks. Let me say right now, don't bother.

The line was huge, the place was small (I peeked inside after giving up hope of ever getting inside) and quite honestly, there is a Starbucks on pretty much every block of the city. Seriously, there are Starbucks everywhere in Seattle.

A better idea is to take a selfie outside of the original store and buy the souvenir coffee mug at another location. Also, find a little independent coffee shop to buy a cup of coffee, or some grounds to take home. There's no line, and I think the coffee is better. I'm still enjoying the cherry toffee coffee I brought home.

Pike Place Market in Seattle is full of sights and sounds, but is completely overwhelming at lunch hour during the height of the tourist season.  Wait until the late afternoon to visit.

Pike Place Market in Seattle is full of sights and sounds, but is completely overwhelming at lunch hour during the height of the tourist season. Wait until the late afternoon to visit.

Mistake #5: Going at the Height of Tourist Season

While this one is a tough one to avoid since summer is a nice time to visit, and it's when most kids have vacation time, try not to go.

We went in late July and it was so unbelievably crowded that there were moments when we had to pause to catch our breaths. I think this surprised me more than anything since I love big cities. I've lived in New York City and Washington D.C. and I've never seen either one of those places as crowded as Seattle was on the day we visited. We asked the lovely lady at the Pike Place Market visitor booth if it was always that crowded and even she was surprised at the number of people.

Another mistake we made was visiting Pike Place Market at lunchtime. Don't do it, just don't. Go later in the day, shortly before the stalls are going to close. It's much emptier and you get a much better feel for the place.

I'd love to hear from you!

A view of the Space Needle from our harbor cruise.  What a great day to be on the water.

A view of the Space Needle from our harbor cruise. What a great day to be on the water.

Eventually I'll Give Seattle Another Chance

We had planned to cap off our two-week trip to Washington with a visit to Seattle for a couple of days. We had hoped to see the top attractions and visit parts of the city that weren't full of tourists.

After the day we had, we were left frazzled, exhausted, and sad. We never made it back into the city on the second day. Instead, we choose to drive around to the other side of the sound and visit some quaint harbor towns. In hindsight, there were a number of things we should have done differently.

Having said all of this, and having had time to look back on that day, I'd like to go to Seattle again. I wouldn't go at the end of a long trip. I'd stay in the city and I'd be more realistic in my expectations. I'd explore the lesser-known areas of the city and I wouldn't go during the summer. The only thing I wouldn't change is the weather we had: mid-seventies with a slight breeze and a few clouds scattered about a clear blue sky. That was perfect.

I bet if I go back, and do not make the same mistakes, I'll like Seattle a lot more, and I can once again say that I've never been to a city that I didn't love.

© 2015 Claudia Mitchell

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