Traveler: Devin Fomberg
When: March 2017
Places visited: Seattle; Union, WA; Portland, OR
Overall Experience: We planned this trip on a whim, after a search of experiences on Groupon leading us to book a cabin for a few days in Union, Washington. Tack on a day in Seattle before and a few days in Portland afterwards, and we had ourselves a vacation! If you’re from the East Coast like I am, the Pacific Northwest feels like a different country, and the three cities we visited each had their own uniqueness. It was almost like taking three mini-vacations.
Logistics: I booked our one-way flights separately using http://www.kayak.com. I snagged seats on a direct flight from BOS to SEA for $157 a pop, we rented a car to drive through Union and down to Portland, and tickets from PDX to BOS were $230 each.
• Lodging: Belltown Inn ($155/night): The Belltown Inn, so-named due to its location in the Belltown neighborhood in Seattle proper, is a perfect base camp for ultra-touristy Seattle sightseeing. The surrounding area is rife with restaurants and bars that are vibrant hangouts for 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and their cute dogs. It’s also not far from all the must-see Seattle sights. The hotel is what you make of it. Don’t expect bells and whistles, but the staff were pleasant and helpful, the beds were clean, and they have a roof top patio that goes really well with a bottle of red wine. Not to mention, the infamous Biscuit Bitch breakfast spot is right downstairs!
• Activities: We did so much in 24 hours! We started in Chinatown for lunch, then took a day-long walk back to the hotel, passing all the required spots.
After visiting various shops downtown including vintage clothing boutique Diva Dollz and classic toy store Magic Mouse Toys (because why not?!), we stopped at Copperworks Distilling Company. A spirit tasting can be a bit daunting for some, but even I, the world’s most avid gin hater, was sold on their chai cider cask finished gin! They have great twists on the classics and the staff is wonderfully accommodating. Make sure to order online rather than buy in store-the liquor taxes in Washington are a killer! We then moved on for the absolutely essential Great Wheel ride and a jaunt through Pike’s Place Market, which I found a far too crowded place to actually shop, but an epic experience nonetheless.
Later that night, we purchased combined tickets for the Chihuly Museum and the forever iconic Space Needle. If you’re not familiar with the glasswork of Dale Chihuly, you should be. His work adorns such halls as the Bellagio Hotel lobby in Las Vegas, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and various other spaces across the country and the world. Follow that up with incredible views of the Seattle skyline and you have yourself an old-fashioned romantic evening.
• Where to Eat: We got in super late to the hotel and the top staff pick for late night eats in Belltown? Rocco’s Pizza. We definitely waited our turn, but their pizza was truly incredible, particularly when you’re tired and hangry after a long day of travel. Cut to the next morning: When looking for spots to truly chow down in Chinatown, you can’t do better than Harbor City Restaurant. I was a bit apprehensive going in because I had never been to an authentic dim sum restaurant. I thought my boyfriend, having grown up in Southeast Asia, would have been some help, but fortunately we both went in blind and just ordered several dishes, regardless of not understanding a single word of their description from the server. So much amazing food, including shrimp dumplings, steamed beef buns, and delicious noodles – we were totally fueled for the day.
After Pike’s Place Market, we stumbled upon a great spot called the Whisky Bar. Fantastic snacks, lengthy whiskey list, enough said. After our romantic evening, we stopped by Mama’s Cantina for some margaritas and enchiladas. The food was so great, people were friendly, and the place has revolutionarily decided to include tips and employee benefits in the price of your meal, which I think is a great step in the right direction.
• Lodging: Robin Hood Village Resort ($275/3 nights): As previously mentioned, the Robin Hood Village Resort was the Groupon deal the entire trip hinged upon. It included a whole cabin with full kitchen, cable/internet, hot tub, parking, activities… did I mention hot tub? All this across from kayaking and camp fires on the hood canal. The people running the place are friendly and helpful, and if you want a relaxing few days away from the city like we did, you’ll be thrilled with this spot. This place is truly out in the sticks so don’t expect to be razzle dazzled.
• Activities: I’ll be very honest – not much to do in the town on Union. It’s a sleepy Washington town with genuinely nice people and views for days. The first day we went on an extensive drive to see all of the Hoodsport Winery, a small but established winery specializing in flavored wines and specialty eats. As a self-proclaimed wine snob, I really enjoyed the dry cranberry and delightful apple wines that the proprietors encourage to be used in cooking and experimental blends.
We also went on my very first kayaking expedition on the dead calm water of the sound where I met a real live harbor seal! I named him Carl and we parted on good terms. Later, we went on a short hike through the local woods and I felt like I had stepped into Jurassic Park, minus the pesky raptors. The vegetation in the area alone is enough for a true experience, but I think it was the fact that we may have been trespassing on the nearby fancy resort’s hiking lands that made it really exciting.
• Where to Eat: We mostly stayed in and cooked in our (did I mention???) full kitchen, but on our last night in the village we stopped by Robin Hood Restaurant & Pub. As an East Coast food snob, I was pleasantly surprised by this fancy but rustic tavern. We started with lemon drop prawns and moved on to smoked salmon fettucine alfredo and a half rack of ribs. Everything was amazing and I hope we can go back someday and have the exact same experience.
• Lodging: River’s Edge Hotel & Spa ($180/night): There isn’t a lot available these days in Portland for under $200 a night. The River’s Edge Hotel & Spa is a bit off the beaten path, but is a beautiful, elegant hotel with a lot of the little luxurious perqs that completely make up for location.
• Activities: We started out with the obligatory visit to the Portland Saturday Market where you can shop for anything from soaps to hats to ukuleles. Then we hooked up with some friends who took us out to McMinnville – a true stop on the Oregon Wine Trail that is basically a whole town full of wineries. The pinot is delicious and the people are lovely – a definite must-visit. We also made a quick visit to the Breakside Brewery – a great place to grab a great snack and a phenomenal brew!
• Where to Eat: Our first dinner was The Picnic House in downtown Portland. The décor alone is a reason to visit and the food and cocktails are incredible. We followed up with Spanish coffees at Huber’s – Portland’s Oldest Restaurant and Bar. It’s a true speakeasy experience once they shut down dinner service, and you walk through the dark, empty dining room to get to the packed lounge in the back. You have to get the Spanish coffee – they’re flamed up tableside and are the perfect end to a long day.
The next day, we started at a brunch spot on the East side called Tin Shed Garden Café. A favorite among locals, they have an endless array of vegan and vegetarian options, but also the usual bacon or chicken and waffles for meat lovers like me. We began our brewery tour at Deschutes Brewery. This West Coast staple has many locations around Portland and is a good spot to whet your brewery whistle and get a carbohydrate foundation in the tummy before a day of high-alcohol brews.
I could do an entire separate post about Portland breweries. If you appreciate a good craft beer, there really aren’t any bad spots in Portland. Beer is what they do. Cut to three (or four?) breweries later, we stumbled into Southland Whiskey Kitchen. If you’re looking for perfectly cooked BBQ, warm and buttery cornbread, and an excellent selection of whiskeys, look no further.