We’ve learned a lot of useful life lessons in the past 6+ years of full-time RVing. Things like learning how to adjust expectations, go with the flow, be true to ourselves, and so on. But one of the things I didn’t expect was that we have learned how to experience and enjoy cities. I have never lived in a city and Tim spent only a few years in Boston way back when he was in college. In the past, this lack of city savvy has left us feeling overwhelmed and not quite sure how to make the most of our urban visits. But I think I can confidently say after this last round of city time that we have it figured out. Our recipe for success is pretty basic. We pick a few specific things to do (museums, restaurants, events) and then spend the rest of the time wandering around on foot. I guess it’s similar to how we approach exploring nature — have a destination in mind, but don’t be afraid to stray from the path.
The other thing that made our Seattle exploration a success? Inviting a family member to come and experience it with us! Over the years, Tim’s mom Carol has visited us in many places and we always enjoy discovering new places with her.
Similar to most larger cities, there are no RV parks in Seattle proper. There are, however, a variety of options in the surrounding communities. Our criteria when choosing a park was proximity to both the airport and downtown Seattle. We also wanted a place with full hook-ups for our two-week stay. While Carol doesn’t stay with us (imagining the 3 of us trying to sleep in our 25 x 8′ home is comical) it’s still nice to have the resources to cook and use the bathroom in the RV without trying to manage our meager tank space.
After scouring the reviews, we settled on Issaquah Village RV Park. Offering full hook-up sites only 25 minutes from the airport and about the same to downtown, it met all our needs. Also, when I called mid-summer to make a two-week reservation starting on Labor Day weekend they had an open spot, which, let’s face it, is the ultimate deciding factor when it comes to choosing a park. It turned out to be a perfectly acceptable place to call home. The grounds were clean, the office staff friendly and helpful, the laundry room spotless (and cheap), and the location convenient to almost everything. The downside was the deafening traffic noise from I-90. The only way I can think to describe it is intense. Even at 3 in the morning, there was a steady stream of cars and trucks roaring past. Not sure I could ever get used to that. No pictures of our site because even though we spent two weeks at there I neglected to take a single photo. Not sure that has ever happened before.
We drove into the city twice and found it to be fairly easy with no significant traffic issues. After dealing with the traffic in the LA area this spring we joke that anywhere else in comparison is a piece of cake. We did have the option of leaving the truck at a nearby park and ride and taking the express bus into the city but decided to try driving in just to see how it went. I was a little worried about finding parking in the city because even without the kayaks, the roof rack on our truck prohibits us from entering most parking garages. Tim is a fearless city driver though, and the gamble paid off when we easily found a spot in an open air lot right near the main tourist section of the city. It was not cheap at $30 for the day – we were there for six hours – but sometimes we’re okay with paying for convenience.
We spent hours simply walking around taking in the sites. First was a quick trip through the famous Pike Place Market where we admired the rows of produce, stalls filled with fresh seafood, and the most amazing fresh bouquets of late summer flowers. My one tip for visiting this market is to come early. We first strolled through around 10 am and found it to be only mildly crowded. Later, we swung back through to get a bouquet of flowers before leaving the city and it was a mob scene! Early is definitely better here.
We also made out way over the business district of the city where tall buildings, constructions cranes, and everything Amazon dominates the landscape. We visited the new Amazon Go Store just for the novelty of it. As someone who often complains that it takes me twice as long to check as it does to shop, I like the concept of a grocery store where you simply pick out your purchases and leave. It’s hard to imagine this ever working in a full-size grocery store (particularly when it comes to loose produce), but Amazon does have a way of making things happen, so who knows. The small test store currently only carries a limited selection of snacks and packed prepared foods. We bought a giant cookie to share because we were there…and who can resist a giant cookie?
Our second trip into the city was for the purpose of visiting a couple museums. Once again, we drove in, and once again we had no problems finding parking. In fact, we easily found a metered on-street spot only a block away from the main museum area. First up was Chihuly Garden & Glass. It’s located right next to the Space Needle so we stopped to watch the exterior elevator make its way to the top. Carol is not at ALL a fan of heights so we’re saving things like the Needle and Wheel for our next visit :)
In this day and age, the work of Dale Chihuly needs no introduction so I will spare you the details about his life and work. I will say though that while we have seen his glass sculptures everywhere from the Makers Mark Distillery in Kentucky to a random art museum in Virginia, this was our first time seeing so much of it concentrated in one place and it was incredible!
Next up was the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). It was an interesting museum and we ended up spending two hours wandering through the exhibits, but in retrospect, a museum featuring science fiction, horror films, and fantasy (think nerdy fantasy like Dungeons & Dragons) might not have been the best choice for any of us. Overall, I think my favorites were the exhibits about Nirvana and Pearl Jam simply because they evoked some 90s nostalgia.
Speaking of things not quite up my alley, we also went to a baseball game. This is my third time seeing an MLB game and I still find it boring to the point where I can’t fully pay attention to the game until the crowd makes noise and then I am left wondering what I just missed. But as usual, it was good people watching and overall not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
We also spent some time exploring outside of the city. Issaquah turned out to be a great location for us because there are a number of state forests only minutes away with some really great forested hiking trails. It’s also easy to hop on I-90 and drive east into the Cascades to find even more hiking. Before Carol arrived Tim and I tackled a few trails including a steep 8-miler on Labor Day weekend that took us past two mountain lakes and offered views of a distant Mount Rainer along the way.
The famous mountain was on our list of things to do with Carol, but unfortunately, crappy weather foiled that plan. We were all set to make the two-hour each way drive to the Sunrise Visitor Center, but when I looked at the weather it was calling for rain and highs in the 40s. No thanks. Instead, we drove north of the city to Snohomish County for some early season apple picking, brewery visiting, and hiking at a small state park.
Overall, I think we did a great job of exploring the city and surrounding area. Even though the majority of our two-week stay was spent doing normal life and work things at the RV park, and even though it rained at least half of those days, we still left feeling like we got a good taste of this unique city. Until next time Seattle!