Destinations, North America, Top Posts, Washington

Four Days Exploring Seattle and Vashon Island

In April, I booked a trip to Seattle to celebrate my sister Alys’s birthday and to get away from the silence of my apartment after being laid off from my corporate job (read more about that here). This trip wasn’t about sightseeing, it was about healing and doing something on a whim — something I rarely do thanks to my type-A personality. 

Washington is a great place to get away from your worries. The people are friendly, the wine is great and the views are remarkable. Here are a few highlights from my trip northwest, as well as some advice for people traveling to the area.

Link Light Rail from Sea-Tac Airport to Downtown Seattle

I arrived in Seattle on Wednesday afternoon and took the Link Light Rail to the Westlake Station in downtown Seattle. The light rail can be easily found by following the signs that say, “Link” through the airport parking garage. For only a few bucks, I was able to get to downtown Seattle to meet Alys at her work. 

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Pike Place Market

On my first full day, I took the ferry with Alys from Vashon Island (where she lives) to downtown Seattle.

Usually, I try to avoid visiting the same place twice when I travel, but Pike Place Market is an exception. I’ve visited Pike Place several times and each time I love it a little bit more. The market is full of flowers, seafood and souvenirs. On this trip, I started my day at Pike Place Market at 7:30 a.m. on a Thursday. I beat the crowds and the merchants. 

Have you ever been to a tourist destination early in the morning? If you haven’t, I recommend it. It was pretty magical to witness it while it was still so quiet. 

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While waiting for the merchants to set up shop, I explored the west side of the market and took in views of Elliott Bay. For awhile, I was one of the only people exploring the market and had the views all to myself. When traveling solo, it’s nice to sit and just watch life happen. I spent a good 30 minutes out on the ridge enjoying the crisp breeze and the city noise. 

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Breakfast at Pike Place Market

I stopped for breakfast at a (not so) little place called Lowell’s located inside of Pike Place Market. This was definitely a hunger based decision; had I planned ahead I might have gone somewhere a little more off-the-beaten-path. Nevertheless, the food was incredible and the views of the water were remarkable. I was thrilled to have found a spot with unlimited coffee.

Visitors tip: Head up to the 3rd floor for some peace and quiet, and the best views.

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At around 9 a.m., the market began to fill up as the crowds poured in. The fresh flowers are always a favorite of mine so I took a shameless selfie. I looked like a total tourist, but hey — that’s what I was! 

Wandering through the market and checking out all of the merchant stands may take anywhere from 30 min to two hours, depending on how much actual shopping you plan on doing. I didn’t buy anything here, although I have in the past. I recommend bringing cash for easier transactions. 

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The Gum Wall

While it was still early, I decided to go search for this incredible “gum wall” I had heard so much about. It wasn’t my first time in Seattle, but it would be my first time at the famous wall! If it wasn’t for this handwritten sign, it may have been tricky to find; it’s literally just an alley wall below the market — not usually a spot for top tourist attractions.

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I must admit, this was the first time I felt a little nervous being alone in the city — even though it was early morning. The Gum Wall is in a dark alley and there were only a couple of people in the alley with me. I asked the only other female in the alley to take my photo, and I took hers as well. Solidarity, sister! 

Side note: The Gum Wall is just a gross wall covered in gum — who would’ve thought! Not worth a stop, in my opinion. 

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Wine Tasting in Woodinville

Before visiting Seattle, I didn’t know much about wine or wine tasting. I just knew I liked wine and I wanted to drink more of it.

Enter: Jennifer, a dear friend from high school. She picked me up from Pike Place Market and whisked me off for some late morning wine tasting. Now that’s a good friend!  

Columbia Winery

We started at Columbia Winery, a beautiful place in Woodinville about 30 minutes northeast of Seattle. After a brief tour of the barrel room, we began our tasting in the VIP lounge. This is where I learned how to properly sample wine.

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Chateau Ste Michelle

Our second stop was at Chateau Ste Michelle, just down the road from Columbia. Here we had a proper tour with a guide and I put my new wine-swirling skills to the test. The tour guide laughed and asked if I was left handed — I am. Apparently my swirling skills weren’t as impressive as I thought they were! The tour was free and beyond worth it. Chateau Ste Michelle is pretty breathtaking.

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Vivi Pizzeria and Gorman Winery

After touring the wineries, we stopped for lunch at Vivi Pizzeria less than a mile east of Chateau Ste Michelle. While we couldn’t bring our wine from the nearby Gorman Winery into the restaurant, we could bring our pizza to the winery. We sat on the porch split a bottle of wine and a pizza and got sufficiently tipsy. 

After an afternoon of reminiscing about middle and high school, Jennifer brought me to the Fauntleroy Ferry so I could head back to Vashon Island to meet my sister.

The ferry system is a little confusing, and after only four days I wouldn’t say I was an expert, but here are a few things I learned:

  1. The lines are long. If you need to get to Seattle from an island or from the island to Seattle, plan on getting in line 30 minutes before your ferry leaves (even earlier on the weekends).
  2. Not sure which ferry to get on? Don’t hesitate to ask, the ferry staff are incredibly helpful.
  3. Ferry first timers — get outside on the deck and enjoy it!

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Vashon Island Bike Tree

When I booked my trip, I had very little on my agenda. I just wanted to spend quality time with people who I knew could feed my soul and make this layoff mess feel a little less terrifying. But there was one thing I really wanted to see on Vashon Island — the famous bike tree.

The Vashon Island Bike Tree is an Atlas Obscura attraction because it remains a mystery in the community. How did the bike get in the tree? Who put it there? How long has it been there? According to Atlas Obscura, “Artist, cartoonist and author Berkeley Breathed, who grew up on Vashon Island, wrote his version of what happened in a children’s book called “Red Ranger Came Calling”, weaving it into an elaborate Christmas story.”

Unfortunately, people have been stealing bits and pieces of the bike over the years so not much is left of it, but it’s still cool to see.

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Tramp Harbor Dock

On my sister’s daily commute, she passes Tramp Harbor Dock. It’s a striking spot, and was one of the places we stopped on a self-guided tour of the island. If I lived on Vashon Island, I would probably stop here everyday to take in the views of the water, Normandy Park and Des Moines.

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Hiking Vashon Island

On Saturday morning we went for a hike and arrived at this incredible view. I was pleasantly surprised by how challenging the hike was for being on an island with little elevation! There are several trails on the Vashon-Maury Islands, for more information, click here.

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Farm Stands on Vashon Island

One of my favorite things about Vashon Island is the true sense of community. In the city, this farm stand would never stand — simply because the residents would take advantage of it! On Vashon Island, Pacific Crest Farm is a small farm stand that provides organic fruits and vegetables for island residents and visitors. It’s based on a trust system; you take your goods and leave behind cash for the farmer. It looks like something out a movie, I loved the innocence of it.

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I had a wonderful (sunny) visit in Seattle and I wouldn’t have changed a thing! If you plan on visiting Washington, I suggest getting out to an island to witness a unique area of the state.

Thanks for reading,

Emma

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