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A few years ago, I was living in Seattle and my best friend was living in LA. He came up for a super fast visit over the 4th of July weekend and had never been to Washington before, so I wanted to show him as much of the state as I could while still giving him a feel for Seattle. So I took him on a two-day road trip and then spent one day in the city.
What was your Itinerary?
DAY 3: Coffee at the Starbucks Reserve Store, the Harbor Steps to the Seattle Waterfront, Pike Place Market, Post Alley, bagels from the Seattle Bagel Bakery, rode Ebikes to the Seattle Center, the Amazon Spheres, the Amazon Go Store, visited the Museum of Pop Culture MoPOP, Monorail ride to the Westlake Center, dinner at Kizuki (miso ramen) in Capitol Hill.
Give us all the details! Tell us where you went and what you did on your trip.
We only had three days to see as much of Washington and Seattle as we could, so on day one, we got up extra early, ate a quick breakfast, and hit the road. Our first stop was Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island, 2 hours north of downtown Seattle. You can get onto Whidbey Island from a ferry south of the island, or you can drive up and back down through the northern bridge connecting the island to the mainland, which is what we did. This was the perfect beach to check off the giant hilled beach from Steven’s “Things to see in Washington” list. The landscape of this beach is unique for the area. There are mostly rocky beaches surrounding Puget Sound (the body of water connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Eastern section of the Olympic Peninsula and Seattle), but this one has a giant hill jutting up from just past the shoreline. There is an easy 5.2-mile hiking trail that loops up the hill and then downhill and around the beach back to the parking lot. When the loop turns back around, the shoreline turns into a split beach with ponds of water on the inland side and the Sound on the other. It’s rocky and has a very interesting bio culture.
On the hike back to the car, we saw a bald eagle perched on a piece of driftwood which was amazing. That’s when we realized we needed to keep our eyes peeled for wildlife and later down the beach we saw a sea lion swimming around in the water. Conveniently, 10 minutes down the road is the ferry dock that takes you right over to Port Townsend, stop number 2. Something about riding the ferry always fill me with joy. Maybe it’s the big open windows, the flood of natural light, or the ability to safely float over the surface of the water… whatever it is, ferries are a great way to experience the beauty and wonders that the water has to offer. They can be costly when you bring your car with you, but worth it every time. In Port Townsend, you can find plenty of beautiful beaches and high-end restaurants, similar to many of the semi-secluded, small towns surrounding Puget Sound. This area has a strong mix of Native American roots and military history, so there is plenty to explore in this corner of the state. Our only stop in this town was Fort Worden, a military base from the early 1900s at the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Here we found visited the lighthouse. This section of the base sitting on the beach is protected by giant boulders, we climbed around on them and looked out at the perfect view of the water and surrounding hills. On Saturday afternoons you can tour the lighthouse, but only during a small window of time. There are bald eagles here too that live on top of the old buildings. As it was 4th of the July when we went on this adventure, it felt quite patriotic to see so many bald eagles in one day.
Moving along our quick timeline, we drove over to Port Angeles, a main hub on the Northern Coast of the Olympic Peninsula. Our main goal here was to eat lunch and stop at the Wilderness Information Center (WIC) to grab our camping permit and raccoon can for camping on the beach later that night. I suggest you stop at the WIC first, just in case it is busy. It is required to obtain your permit in person so if you go on a weekend or especially a holiday, expect to see quite a few people. It will save you a lot of time if you fill out and buy the permit online in advance and then simply pick it up in person. If you happen to get stuck in line for too long, as we did, send a member of your group to grab some lunch you can enjoy while standing up. We grabbed some BBQ from Little Devil’s Lunchbox. It was delicious and filling and the perfect to-go order. We got stuck in line a little too long so we skipped the Ediz Hook Reservation for Native Birds and set out straight to Forks. If you have the time, this is a long strip of land that hooks out from Port Angeles. You can drive out and then walk the 1-mile section of beach on this tiny peninsula to see some neat beaches, wildlife, and a great view of Port Angeles. As we drove along Highway 101, we saw so many amazing sights. There are countless beaches, lakes, and forests, all with knock-your-socks-off kinds of views. From as small as a pull-off to actual parking lots, you can stop all along the highways and I highly suggest doing this. Take the time to stop and look around you. There is nothing quite like being in the middle of “nowhere” and breathing in the forest air. It’s refreshing and cool, even on the hottest days. The end goal of the day was to end up at Second Beach with enough time to hike in, set up camp, make dinner, and take some time to enjoy the experience of camping on the beach. We drove to Forks, had a quick stop in the town to grab some sparklers and extra snacks, and then made it to the parking lot of the Second Beach trailhead with plenty of time for activities.
The parking lot is just a 20-minute drive down the road. We parked and got ready to hike in with all our camping gear. If you only ever get to go on one hike in the PNW, this is a great one. I have hiked all over the Pacific Northwest, and every one of them is unique, but the short 1-mile hike out to Second Beach is a great representation of the area. The underbrush that is taller than you, containing huge ferns and moss-covered trees, easily puts you in Jurassic Park feels without the fear of being eaten by a dinosaur. When you pop out of the forest you immediately get to climb around and over huge driftwood trees that have been weaved together and smoothed out over time. You make it passed the trees and all of a sudden there’s the Pacific Ocean in all its glory.
From the beach, you look inland and see an entire forest. You look the other way and see giant rocks protruding out of the water and the entire Pacific Ocean behind it. Sitting here in the cool sand next to a fire, drinking a glass of red wine absolutely feels like a dream. Using my jet boil stove and the fire, I made tacos for dinner: easy to put together, inexpensive to buy ingredients, filling, and delicious. We sipped on red wine, lit our 4th of July sparklers, and reflected on how incredible the day had been. On the second morning, we opted for getting up early to enjoy a quick walk along the beach, then, as quickly as we could manage, head straight back to Forks for breakfast. We found a warm, wholesome American breakfast at a diner called In Place. We dined on classic fried eggs, hash browns, and toast. The restaurant even has hot apple cider on its daily menu, could you get any more classic American than that? After our second visit to Fork, we drove down towards Aberdeen, WA. This is the longest stretch of driving we did over the weekend but we broke it up by stopping in Quinalt to return the raccoon canister and use the restroom.
Then we drove down a random county road for a bit just to take in the density of the forest and snap some photos. In Aberdeen, we stopped for a quick coffee break and a little traffic. This town is neat to see because even from the main town roads you see where water from all over the state feeds into the North Bay (which feeds into the Pacific). From Aberdeen, we continued on to find the Mima Mounds, just west of Olympia, WA. This area of land is covered in conspicuous dirt mounds in a grid-like pattern. This hidden treasure is a place you have to see to believe. There’s a perfect walking trail that takes you through the mounds and into a little forest. There are many theories as to how the mounds came to be, but none have been given the stamp of approval, though the two main ideas are permafrost and gophers I don’t believe either of them. It was definitely aliens… 😉 We spent a lot of time here to fully take in the magic of the land. After we visited the Mima Mounds, we drove the 2 hours back to Seattle. We didn’t make any stops along the way as we wanted to make it back to Seattle with enough time for dinner and early to bed. Olympia, Washington’s capital, has a lot of things to do and see.
Tacoma also has some cool things like a glass museum and a bridge with a wonderful Chihuly tribute, but we just didn’t have time for this. Once back in Seattle, we went to dinner at Lil’ Woodies, a hamburger chain in Capital Hill. They have vegetarian options as well as the best queso fries I’ve ever had. If you’re looking for a staple Seattle stop, Dicks is also a great option due to the extremely low cost and apparent tastiness of the quick burger (but I don’t eat meat so I can’t tell you for sure). Our last stop of the day was Fremont Brewery, a neighborhood north of Seattle called Fremont. This half-in-door-half-out-door brewery is the perfect place to grab a flight of beer and relax after a busy two days of driving. You can bring in your own food from one of the awesome restaurants around Fremont, or eat the free pretzels if you just need a snack. They have long communal tables and board games sprinkled around for added good times.
On our last day, we did as much of the Seattle tourism as we could fit in. Because we only had 1 day to fit in as much of Seattle as we could, we stuck to the essentials: Pike Place Market, the Water Front, and Seattle Center. This is my interpretation of Seattle tourist essentials after living in the city for 2.5 years. We started off the morning by getting coffee from the Starbucks Reserve Store downtown at 1st and University, across from the Seattle Art Museum and 2 blocks from the Pike Place Market. The famous coffee company has a small number of high-end Reserve locations. They carry a small lot of coffee and fresh pastries from an Italian baker and they even have a cocktail bar. I recommend the cold brew malt. The Harbor Steps, right next to Starbucks Reserve, take you straight down to the waterfront. There is plenty to see here like the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, the famous Seattle Ferris Wheel, and of course the Seattle Aquarium. We had a nice walk around the piers, grabbed some souvenirs from the Curiosity Shop, and then found our way to the Pike Place Market. We went through Post Alley just north of the bottom of the Harbor Steps to see the Gum Wall on our way in. This sweet-smelling, bubble gum-covered, brick alleyway is a sight for strong stomachs The Market is always busy but it’s fun to be a part of the mass of crowds buying fresh fish and veggies and meandering around the local artists’ booths. There is a little bagel stand called Seattle Bagel Bakery (located next to the best tiny doughnut stand, Daily Dozens) where we got some schmeared bagels. We ate them in the Secret Garden— if you’re standing at the bagel stand (which is also in front of DiLaurenti) head inside toward the rest of the market but turn left towards The Hands of the World shop and turn right down the hallway just in front of the shop. Follow this and it’ll take you right outside to the cutest garden with a wonderful view of the piers and waterfront. After the market, we grabbed some e-bikes and road all the way up to the Seattle Center, stopping first at Amazon Spheres. These are giant glass domes full of lush greenery, used as a co-working space for Amazon employees. If you’re not an Amazon employee you can visit inside on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month. It wasn’t one of those days so we didn’t go inside. Instead, we grabbed a snack from the first-ever Amazon GO store around the corner and then jumped back on the bikes and rode up to the Seattle Center.
The Seattle Center is home to many of Seattle’s tourist attractions. Even if you don’t go into any of the attractions, you can see a lot just by walking around the Center. It is very well structured with beautiful architecture and plenty of space. Festivals and events are constantly held inside its vicinity. Other than the Space Needle, the Seattle Center is home to the Pacific Science Center, the Children’s Museum, the Key Arena, the Armory (food court), and the Museum of Pop Culture (plus more). One of my favorite spots to sit and eat (especially for a cheap date night) is at the Mod Pizza in the Armory- get a cheap pitcher of beer and sit outside on the patio. You get good food, a great view of the Space Needle and Center, and usually, there is someone playing live music. We dropped our bikes right at the entrance next to the Space Needle. The Space Needle was reconstructed in 2019 and now the entire top viewing floors and it is now covered in glass (including a rotating glass floor). It provides a great 360-degree view of the city and Puget Sound and being the iconic Space Needle, it is an awesome place to visit. But we decided to skip it and instead opted for the Pop Culture Museum (MoPOP). MoPOP was a perfect choice. This modern museum has incredible architecture and art on every wall. Even the building itself is a magnificent art piece. The museum exhibits all things pop culture like movies, music, fashion, and video games. You can easily get lost in here for hours.
After a visit to the museum, we took the Monorail system back to downtown Seattle. The rail system only has two stops, the Seattle Center and Westlake Center, in the heart of downtown. Whenever I meet someone visiting Seattle, I always recommend the Monorail. It’s like a roller coaster. The futuristic transportation system is 3 stories high and follows along 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle. The chairs face out big windows, it’s like flying through the Seattle skyline. Plus, it’s the same price as a bus ride, there’s no traffic, and you get a sneak peek inside the MoPOP (the building was built around the monorail), so it’s definitely my top choice for transportation between the two spots. Once at the Westlake Center, we walked all the way up to Capitol Hill and had dinner at Kizuki, the best miso ramen in Seattle. This trip around the Pacific North West was a dream. It was the perfect way to see a huge chunk of what this area of the US has to offer in such a short time frame. Summer is the perfect time frame for an outdoor, sightseeing adventure like this one, and great for all ages.
Would you recommend this trip to a friend?
What was the highlight of your trip?
The highlight of the trip for me was camping on the beach. It was a little cold even though it was summertime and nice and warm around the state, but it was amazing. Sleeping on a beach between the forest and the ocean is so serene and calming. Eating camp food and relaxing by a fire is just the perfect way to spend a summer evening. Plus, the Washington coast is just so moody and beautiful with giant rocks and huge driftwood. My second highlight was the Mima Mounds. It’s a place of pure amazement and contemplation, yet nobody seems to talk about it or know much about it. I only found it on the map while trying to plan out the route. The views were super cool and it was the perfect place to stretch our legs.
If you were to take this trip again, is there anything you would add or do differently?
For the amount of time we had, I think this was the perfect trip. It would have been nice to see Ediz Hook Reservation, though. The line was just way too long at the WIC and took up a lot of time.
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