Expect the best, prepare for the worst — our mantra as we overpack our bags for our five and two-year-old children, triple check passports and quadruple check for motion sickness meds, barf bags and fully charged iPads.
With my better half in her third trimester, we are exceptionally grateful to have the in-laws eager to jump in on this adventure. It takes three hours before we are safely strapped into our VW Altas 7-seater and aim our wheels for the Peace Arch Canada/US border. Another three hours and two pitstops later, we pull up to Loews1000 Hotel in downtown Seattle.
An approachable looking red-bearded concierge zeroes in on our car and greets us heartily. He has our bags headed to our room and our vehicle whisked away by the time we spin through the revolving lobby door. The gentleman at reception somehow knows to recommend an upgrade to the Executive Suite. I briefly wonder if the recommendation is due to our five-year-old yell-talking about his matchbox car to anyone in the modern, marble stone laden lobby who will listen — or because his sister is dancing to music only she can hear?
We take the elevator to the sixth floor and walk into a large suite that looks and feels like a New York City luxury penthouse. To the left, is a sprawling living room with an inviting wrap-around dark green velvet couch (that doubles as a hide-a-bed and a family size dining table) steps from the minibar/fridge. To the right, is an equally large master bedroom with a king sized bed, workstation and a floor-to-ceiling glass wall between the bedroom and master bathroom. The master bathroom is provisioned with a gigantic soaker tub that features a laser beam of water that shoots down from the ceiling, a separate walk-in shower and an enclosed toilet. It takes a while to convince the children to climb out of the tub in search of a late lunch.
The All Water Seafood Bar is an easy choice as it is in the lobby of Loews1000 and has good reviews (we checked). Named after the 1800s 'all-water' fishing route that took gold rush era prospectors across the northern Pacific to the Alaskan coast, the design of the space is inspired by a 1936 tackle & bait shop that was once located on site. Lunch is the bouillabaisse (a clam, mussel and potato stew) with fresh baguette, burgers for the kids and truffle fries to share.
With the sun cruising towards the horizon, we hand the kids scooters and head down 1st ave towards the Seattle Space Needle with our Seattle City Passes in hand, which gives us access to dozens of Seattle's best attractions. A twelve minute commute brings us to the base of the Space Needle. A busking violinist provides a fitting soundtrack as we enter the 'Jetsons' inspired structure. In 2017, an ambitious $100 million renovation began and, as of our visit, was nearly complete with the exception of the restaurant (due to open this summer). The glass floors and large observation windows catch our attention long enough to soak in a breathtaking sunset. Thoroughly worn out from a day of travel, we retreat to our room for baths and bed. We have a busy day tomorrow.
The next morning, we are up early and off to Pike Place Market. A five minute stroll from home base and we have coffee and homemade non-alcoholic cider in hand. As food is always on the mind, we pop into Beechers Handmade Cheese Shop, order some legendary mac and cheese and two kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches (turkey and a spicy cheese) and take our hot cheesy treats across the street to the Pike Place Market patio.
We can see the entire Seattle harbour from our picnic spot. Sea planes buzz by while ferries bobble past the iconic Seattle Great Wheel. My son makes sure I agree to a verbal contract guaranteeing him a ride on the ferris wheel before we head back to home base to summon our car from the Loews1000 valet. We need the VW to get to the next stop.
Next stop: MoPop aka Music Pop Culture Museum. We find parking easily and are immediately sidelined by the huge children's playground just outside the MoPop entrance. I am talked into climbing a 60-foot high spiderweb-like structure that leads to a series of tubular slides. Scared half to death, I wonder how the mobs of wee children work up the courage to climb this thing. After a few close calls, we escape with our lives and use our Seattle City Passes to gain entrance into the gigantic purple domed MoPop Museum. We roll through a guitar greats exhibit and stop to admire Dave Grohl's (Foo Fighter frontman) guitar. Moments later, we find ourselves rocking out in a recording studio complete with guitars, basses and drums. Nobody considers quitting their day job.
Thoroughly rocked out, we walk four minutes to the Chihuly Glass Garden exhibit. Visiting a blown glass exhibit is a risky endeavour with children in tow and we are surprised to find our children deeply engrossed as they pretend to be transported to an alternate universe populated with colourful motionless alien creatures. It is a surreal experience and one not to be missed.
We have 6 pm dinner reservation at Le Messe and its 4 pm so we take some time to bask in the unseasonable warm, sunny spring weather. We enjoy sharing food cart smokies and take in an outdoor DeLorean Motors exhibit (you know, the "Back To The Future" car).
Le Messe, located in the Eastlake neighbourhood, is one of four General Harvest Restaurants peppered across Seattle. Once inside, two locals see us taking photos and tell us to try squid ink pasta and about how happy they are to have the two-year-old establishment as a dining option, as good spots are few and far between in the 'hood'.
We are taken to our seats in the modern contemporary space steps from the open concept kitchen and enjoy passing around beautifully plated seafood, pasta and veggie dishes created by Chef Brian Clevenger. The tagliatelle reggiano is a hit with the kids and rigatoni with pork shank, red onion and oregano lights up the adults. If you are looking for recommendations, try the ahi crudo, fennel dungeness crab with avocado and chive for starters, ease into the marble potatoes with whipped bottarga, foie fras mousse crostini (very rich flavour) and round the meal out with Mary's chicken parsnip, cauliflower and radicchio.
The kids fall asleep on the short drive home as we reminisce about the studio rock performance and our amazement at the beauty of the Chihuly Glass Garden. My son has a good memory and reminds me about the Seattle Great Wheel deal we had made the day before. Too exhausted to say no, we sprint a few blocks to the harbour and catch a ride before the Great Wheel closes down for the night. The views are spectacular and there is no doubt the experience is deposited into the life long 'good-times' memory bank.
Final day: Up early again, we have our Pike Place Market coffee and croissant game on point. Out of respect for Seattle’s history with coffee, we pop into the original Starbucks location before walking to the Seattle Aquarium. Once inside, we see a woman scuba diving with a 6-foot long moray eel. She waves at us while gingerly feeding the cavernous jaws of the eel. The kids giggle, and are content to watch the scuba diver, until my daughter spots a suction cup covered orange octopus, also in the process of being fed by an aquarium staff. We spend the better part of our two-hour stay at the aquarium with spiny sea urchins and molluscs at the ‘touch pool,' wishing we could take an otter or two home with us.
Next up, we continue to make good use of our Seattle City Pass by launching down the I-5 for 15 minutes and pull up at The Museum of Flight. We dash passed the flight simulator and 3-D movie theater in search of the aviation pavilion, home to the world's only presentation of the first Boeing 727, 737 and 747 jets. Have you every dreamed of stepping foot in the super sonic British Airways Concorde? You can do that here. We were amazed by the sheer scale and size of the Boeing 747 Dreamliner and spend a solid hour boarding each and every aeroplane possible. Put aside two hours to fully appreciate the collections of massive iron birds at The Museum of Flight and be sure to bring snacks as navigating the sprawling hangers can be tiring for little legs. Before we run out of snacks completely, we know to make our way to our early dinner reservation at Flint Creek Cattle Co.
Flint Creek Cattle Co does family friendly dining right. With an upscale yet inviting atmosphere, walking into the open concept space your attention is drawn to the bar situated in front of a floor to ceiling tile back drop. We make our way to our table on the second floor and dive into the menu. We ask the server for recommendations from the meat forward menu populated with antibiotic and hormone free, grass fed fare sourced from responsibly raised small-scale farms, and agree on some exciting dishes.
From the small plates we order up the lamb and marjoram sausage and crisp pickled vegetables and for mains we agree to share lamb, duck and pork chops. Our children enjoy the colouring sheets provided by the knowledgeable and attentive server which gives us some time to enjoy a local pint before the food arrives. The pricing at Flint Creek Cattle Co. makes the it more of a special occasion experience, but very much worth every dollar as the food is beautifully plated with ample portions and is exceptionally delicious. We will be back.
We spend our last night at Loews1000 enjoying a family movie, more playtime in the bath and fall sleep the moment our heads sink into the oversized soft pillows.
Before heading home, we enjoy hearty breakfast —ok, brunch, we slept in— at Rider Seattle. We get out the scooters one last time and weave our way through downtown Seattle to Hotel Theodore, where the recently renovated restaurant resides. The design looks and feels mature and textured with a modern layout. Rich dark tiled floors, bulky substantial wooden tables and chairs with on trend views of the kitchen and bar. It's a big space, yet still manages an upscale, welcoming vibe. Chef Dan Mallahan pops out to say hello—a welcome surprise—and share with us his passion for bringing the bounty of the Pacific ocean to his customers. We share in-house made donuts holes and are compelled to order another round to avoid a fight over the last one. Our mains are smoked steelhead and poached egg benny and crab and egg on toast. My wife and I quietly agree to come back sans children for cocktails and a romantic dinner the next time we are in the Emerald City.
If the idea of traveling with your loved ones to a world class city minutes from endless family friendly activities, incredible food and luxurious accommodations sounds like a fine plan, then Seattle truly is your next family long weekend destination.
Photo Credit: Garry Kan, Visit Seattle, Tyler Summers