Experiencing Seattle and the Great Northwest
Bob and Terry on Tour 2013, with Kris
The Best of Seattle


Easily one of the best trips Terry and I have taken. We saw whales… visited multiple national parks… and truly got all around Seattle and portions of the northwest. Plus, we got to spend some time with my sister, Kris.

It was magical.



I remember years ago… perhaps twenty-four or twenty-five… a friend of mine and I were discussing something and the state of Washington came up. He told me at the time that if I moved there for any length of time I’d likely never come back. Having now been to the great northwest, I fully understand what he meant.

There’s something indescribably fantastic about it. Something that just immediately feels comfortable and reassuring and right.

I’m not saying it’s the greatest place on the planet. I’m not saying it’s the most exciting. However, if you were looking for a place where you could just kick back, disconnect from your worries and stresses, and fill your lungs with a great big relaxing breath of fresh air, this should be the place you look at.

Terry and I were joined throughout our journey by my sister, Kris. She was a terrific hostess, and a fantastic guide.

Let’s get to it… The Best of Seattle…

What were your favorite things from the trip?

Bob: A lot. In fact, virtually every event from every day could be considered.

The parks we visited were amazing. The incredibly diverse Olympic National Park is brilliant and stunning and a whole bunch of positive adjectives that haven’t been created yet. But you can’t just go with that…

The first trip out to Mount Rainier (which also included Mount St. Helens) introduced us to the GREATEST PIE IN THE WORLD! (That would be the blackberry pie at the Copper Creek Inn Restaurant.)

We drove along the coast one day, which pretty much meant having the Strait of Juan de Fuca immediately next to the road (and us). That same trip included staying in the area of the Makah Tribe and Cape Flattery.

San Juan Island and Friday Harbor… awesome!

Seattle was just a fantastic experience. There is a feeling… an atmosphere… that surrounds Seattle, and it is something I haven’t experienced or felt in many other places. (Perhaps only Australia in 2003.) Even the things that were so obviously tourist driven had an authenticity and genuine appeal. There are shops in Key West that sell the same Christmas ornaments you’ll find in Savanah or in San Diego. The only thing that changes between Florida and Georgia and California is the spelling of the city’s name on a surfboard being held by Santa. The same theory can be applied to most places. But not Seattle. It felt amazingly familiar, even though it was so obviously unique and new.

This whole trip was just great. And I’m not sure if any one thing wasn’t special.

Terry: Pike Place Market is a definite for me.

I also loved the mountains. Started early in our trip with Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier. The National Parks we visited were incredible.

What were your favorite things in Seattle?

Bob: Tough one.

I’ve got to give it to Pike Place Market for the overall experience. It was everything I hoped it might be and so much more. Just a terrific afternoon for our time there, and I could easily envision spending several days exploring it and still not seeing everything. There was something new and different and exciting in every direction. It was food… it was local vendors… it was street performers… it was… the list just keeps going.

Loved 5 Spot. Loved, loved, loved it. Great food. Friendly staff. And phenomenal gingerbread waffles during the time we were there.

Paseo’s. Wow. Craving one of their sandwiches just typing their name. (Bob’s note: The Paseo’s we visited… the legendary Paseo’s… is no more.)

And a tip of the cap goes to The Pink Door. Great restaurant.

Terry: Pike Place Market.

What were your favorite things in the San Juan Islands?

Bob: I’m tempted to just say “San Juan Island” and leave it as a single, overall, beginning-to-end experience. From the moment we boarded the ferry on the way out to the time we got off after returning, the entire trip was really great.

I think the afternoon boat trip… where we saw Minke whales and Steller sea lions, and had a wonderful time… is part of the confusion in answering, because we didn’t see any orcas. And what I mean by that is simply that seeing killer whales likely would have been the highlight of this part of our west coast journey. As such… not encountering them means you can bring the level of excitement down a notch or three for the boat ride (from tremendous down to really, really good)… everything we did was a lot of fun.

Friday Harbor was great. Enjoyed several shops, a few restaurants, and even took in a movie at the neighborhood theater.

Getting around the island was easy and wonderful. It featured sites like the Cattle Point and Lime Kiln lighthouses. And then there’s Pelindaba Lavender FarmKrystal Acres Alpaca Farm… and so many other small and intriguing places to check out.

Terry: The whale watch. Even though we didn’t see any orcas, it was still a great day.

What were your favorite things from the National Parks?

Bob: Another tough one. Very tough.

I’m going to go with the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park. The beauty and, simply put, stunning sights found there are breathtaking.

Terry: I was amazed and impressed by the convenience of everything at the parks. All of them. The views were spectacular. And any time we had questions or needed help, it was right there.

I also want to mention two things. First up… REI. Kris brought us there. I had heard of the company before and had visited the stores, but Kris had a membership. And the information they provided was fantastic.

Secondly… The Makah Tribe and Cape Flattery. We stopped for pizza at a place on the Makah Indian Reservation. During our meal, we were talking to a few people and they couldn’t have been friendlier or more accommodating. We were there around the time they hold their annual celebrations for Makah Days, and everyone was inviting us to be there and enjoy it. If we didn’t have plans for the Hoh Rainforest, they would have talked us into it.

After dinner that night, we went out the walking trail on Cape Flattery, which leads to the end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the start of the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful walk. I would return to the Makah Reservation and Cape Flattery in a heartbeat. Nice thought from Krissie on this one.

What were you most impressed by on the trip?

Bob: The list of what I wasn’t impressed by would be shorter.

The National Parks continue to impress. This time though… it was more than the parks… every place we went was staggeringly beautiful and vastly different. Sometimes you see things on television, like a killer whale swimming near a tree-lined coast, and if you aren’t familiar with the setting it can almost seem unreal. Well… everything is like that in the Great Northwest. Friday Harbor… the Strait of Juan de Fuca… Hoh Rainforest… and the list is seemingly endless.

Seattle was impressive. Immediately and incredibly wonderful. It was an experience I have seldom had while travelling, where things just seem perfectly fine, all the time.

Terry: Fenway! What a great dog.

Best place to eat (overall)?

Bob: Three places… The Pink Door, 5 Spot, and Paseo.

I can’t pick between them. Don’t ask me to try. Each one was brilliant.

Terry: The Pink Door.

Best place to eat (inexpensive)?

Bob: I’m going to go with Paseo as the overall answer here, because those sandwiches were just so awesome.

That said… 5 Spot was a great place too. And, I could easily see myself wandering into 5 Spot several times each week and never getting tired of it.

Terry: Paseo’s.

Biggest surprise…

Bob: This is a tough one because every time I try to think of a way to describe it, I think of an example that doesn’t work. For instance, I was thinking that the place seemed franchise-free. Kind of an “All Washington State” application of calling something all natural. Everything you encountered was uniquely a part of the northwest.

Sounded good.

And then I would read a note about stopping at a Starbucks.

Still… that concept works, especially in the old thought of the exception proving the rule.

So many times when you travel, you end up seeing the same stuff over and over and over again. I mentioned one item a moment ago… Santa as a Christmas ornament, holding a surfboard, with the name of the city in script along the board… what a great souvenir. That is, until you see the same darn ornament in Tampa, Cocoa Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Key West, San Diego… and on it goes.

Look… this doesn’t happen all the time. There are astoundingly unique shops and restaurants everywhere you travel. And, there are also times when the familiar sign of a national chain can be exactly what you need at some moment during a trip.

For me, the biggest surprise was how fantastic and free of the mass produced the region was. From what I saw, Pike Place has nothing but Washington State vendors, artisans, and crafters.

Terry: Out near Mount St. Helens they have different areas of forest marked off. Basically it involves the volcanic eruption and new growth. Well… the way these trees grew was unbelievable. It almost looked out of focus, as if you needed a special pair of 3D glasses or something to see it properly.

And sticking with that idea… the huge trees as we were approaching Mount Rainier… the moss in the Hoh River… the natural beauty was amazing.

You know, I never thought of this before, so I found it interesting when…

Bob: This is kind of a funny question, because the things that stand out to me as unique and interesting weren’t really surprising at all. Example? Coffee.

In and around Seattle they don’t just love their coffee. They don’t just treasure their coffee. To paraphrase Sheldon – People in Seattle love their mothers… their feelings for their coffee are much stronger.

Basically, their feelings about coffee are roughly fifteen stages and seven-five billion light years beyond what would reportedly set off a swarm of locusts and thunderstorm of frogs.

I knew this long before we left for Seattle.

And yet I still found it interesting that every parking lot… every corner… every space between two trees… had a four-foot by six-foot shack with a drive-thru window. Most had about a dozen coffee pots running. Many had girls in bikinis (or some other form of dress that had less material than a bikini).

Terry: I got nothin’ for this. Kris did a great job planning things for us and showing us around. Every day and every place seemed to hold new treasures. I can’t just list the entire trip.

If I had to recommend something that a person had to do, regardless of expense, I would say…

Bob: San Juan Island. Stay in Friday Harbor or Snug Harbor… do a whale watch… spend a few days.

Terry: I’ll go with San Juan Island and a whale watch. Even though they warn you it can be hit or miss, the entire day was terrific.

I remember in one of these columns… maybe it was in Las Vegas… Bob was talking about our trip to a restaurant, and he noted that when things don’t go perfectly and yet you are already anticipating a return the moment you leave the table, you know you had a fabulous meal. Same idea here.

We went out on Legacy Charters out of Snug Harbor. While waiting for the boat, we were checking out the resort and thinking about how great it would be to stay there on a future trip. And after we got off the boat, we were ready to get back on and set off again.

If I had to recommend something but expense did matter (so go cheaper), I would say…

Bob: Pike Place Market.

Just head in and you’ll find the people-watching alone is phenomenal. Beyond that though… a wide range of things to look at, and most of the items are not at all expensive.

Terry: Check out most of the daily tour entries for this trip and other answers. Most of the things we did were either free or really inexpensive for admission costs.

All of the national parks were worth the drive. The entire trip was just phenomenal natural beauty. I also enjoyed driving around San Juan Island.

Thing that impressed me the most in Seattle…

Bob: There’s a part of me that wants to say Mount Rainier. Just so visible. It was there in just about every scenic view.

More than that though… the trip itself was brilliant. Pick a day and the things we did were wonderful. So, everything was impressive. The people… the food… the shops… the sights. Everything.

If I had to pick just one thing though… I’d go with Pike Place. That is the one thing that I thoroughly enjoyed, crave visiting again, and know I didn’t fully experience.

Terry: Just everything. It was so laid back and casual.

Thing that impressed me the most outside of Seattle…

Bob: Well… how do you say everything? And I mean that because I simply cannot figure out how to separate the islands, parks, mountains, rainforest, walking trails, and on and on and on. The state of Washington is a real treasure, and we loved every corner.

If pressed… I’ll say the Makah Tribe. Out of nowhere they made a lasting impression on us. The people we met were personable and friendly. There really isn’t anything I could pinpoint that Yelp or TripAdvisor might offer about the Makah that you would find particularly useful. Oh, they likely would tell you marvelous things about the natural beauty that surrounds the tribal land. Just not sure they would cover the tribe in depth. The people we met and spoke with were simply world class.

Terry: The National Parks.

Person/people that impressed me the most…

Bob: I need to mention Kris, because we more or less just faced in a direction, set off, and found what we were looking for day after day. From visual sites to delicious food, expected landmarks to hidden treasures, she led us to anything and everything we could have hoped to find.

Beyond that, I’ll just say people in general. Everyone was friendly and patient.

Terry: Krissie wins here! What a fabulous tour guide for us. Everything was simply perfect.

Event that impressed me the most…

Bob: Not sure what to say here. From the parks to the sightseeing, it was all pretty spectacular.

I’m going to go with Pike Place though. I find myself time and again thinking about the musicians performing there, wishing we had more time to just wander around, and truly believing that I missed so much.

Here’s a funny way of thinking about it… the whale watch. I know what we missed there… killer whales. I know why I want to go back… to see killer whales. I would easily and happily do plenty of things on San Juan Island again (and again). But I can identify specifically and without doubt in one word… orcas… what I missed.

Everything about Pike Place was enjoyable, and what we missed is a mind-boggling mystery worthy of a treasure hunt.

Terry: The whale watch.

Thing I’m really glad we included…

Bob: Well… geez… all of it.

That said… I present to you… the blackberry pie at the Copper Creek Inn.


Terry: Again… the whale watch. I want to go back to Seattle, and especially include some time on San Juan Island.

Thing I wish we had done…

Bob: Seen orcas. To this day, any time I see something… say from Legacy Charters on Facebook… I remember our trip and wanting to experience that.

Terry: I’m blank on this one. We got to everything I wanted to do.

Suggestions from this experience…

Bob: There is pretty much… quite literally… no bad way to design a trip to the Pacific Northwest. And, equally, no perfect way to see everything. Leave time for wandering around aimlessly… go with a list of specifics to build on.

Terry: Seattle was impressive and I loved it. I’m going to go with San Juan Island here, and recommend that you explore the whole island. Get on a boat and go out for a whale watch… even if you don’t see orcas, the natural surroundings are incredible. We saw a bald eagle perched at the top of a tree. Drive around the island… to the alpacas and the lavender farm. Grab a takeout lunch someplace and head to one of the lighthouses for a picnic.

Sure, this will be set up as a best of column, but you should always warn people about the bad, so here is something I think we need to mention…

Bob: I got nothing.

This was a brilliant trip… end to end… thanks to the wonderful people of Seattle and all the places we went, the incredible beauty of the region, and the efforts of Krissie.

Terry: You may not see whales.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com