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Victoria B.C. & Seattle

My hubby and I are taking a trip to Victoria & Seattle next month for our 30th anniversary. We are flying into Seattle and spending 2 nights in Port Orchard WA with friends, then taking the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria. There is a small possibility that we won't visit the friends, in which case we will take the ferry from Seattle. After a week in Victoria we will take the ferry back to Seattle. I've rented an apartment in the Belltown area of Seattle for 4 nights, then we fly home.

I've been to Victoria twice, but only for one night each time and the last time was in 1995. We will rent a car for the week in Victoria so we can explore the island. Any suggestions for things to do in and out of town? I've been to Butchart Gardens twice, but we will likely go again. One thing on my bucket list is to have tea at the Empress. Is it worth it? Is it necessary to dress up for that? Reservations recommended? We love having dim sum when we travel. I assume it's available in Victoria. Any recommendations for a good place? Any other restaurant recommendations are welcome.

We've been to Seattle a half dozen times, but it's been at least 10 years since our last visit. I'm looking for fun things to do and good places to eat. If time allows I'd like to take a trip to the RS headquarters in Edmonds. Can it be done without a car?

I'm looking forward to hearing from people who can help me plan this special trip. Thanks in advance!!

Posted by
567 posts

Even though I live fairly close I haven't been to Victoria in a long time. Tea at the Empress is worth it just to say you had tea at the Empress ;). I never tried it at the height of the tourist season, though, so you may want reservations. The provincial museum in Victoria is one of my favourites, and I recall some happy times spent shopping in Market Square, a place that always had interesting arts and crafts (but I don't know how it's changed over the years). Wandering the harbour is always nice, and if you need a break just head for Beacon Hill park. Here's a web site that might help you with other plans:

http://www.hellobc.com/victoria/things-to-do.aspx

Posted by
31471 posts

Andrea,

First of all, congratulations on your 30th anniversary! That's an important milestone.

I've spent a fair amount of time around Seattle over the years, although not much recently. Some of the sights you could consider......

  • Museum of Flight (been there many times, it's always interesting).
  • Pike Place Market
  • Space Needle
  • Woodland Park Zoo
  • Seattle Underground Tour

Regarding travel to ETBD headquarters in Edmonds, I've always had a car so have never looked at other options. I believe there are Buses running from Seattle as well as some type of light rail. The Buses may run along Aurora / Hwy. 99 and then to Edmonds (that's usually the route I use when driving). If you can find a light rail option, that would be an easy method as you can walk to ETBD from the station. This website should provide some answers...... http://www.edmondswa.gov/transportation-text/getting-around-edmonds.html

It's also been a few years since I've spent time in Victoria, but a few thoughts on that......

  • Royal B.C. Museum (as someone else mentioned). I always find that interesting.
  • Butchart Gardens (I realize you've been there before).
  • Take a horse drawn wagon or Trolley tour around the downtown area.
  • Take a harbour boat tour (I believe there are whale watching tours as well).
  • With a car you'll be able to explore a bit further afield. You could have a look at Duncan, Nanaimo, Parksville, Campbell River or even Tofino. Some of those would be longer trips, so not suitable for day trips.
  • As this is a "special occasion" you might also consider spending one or two nights at the Wickanninnish Inn in Tofino. Having dinner in their restaurant overlooking the ocean will be worthy of the occasion. Be aware though, it won't be inexpensive!
  • Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress..... The Dress Code states "Dress code is casually elegant. Please no torn and / or ripped jeans, short shorts, cut off pants, beach wear, flip flops or baseball caps." That won't be cheap either, but certainly a very unique experience so worthy of the cost (IMO).
Posted by
6869 posts

The best meal we had in Victoria was at the Old Spaghetti Factory down on the waterfront. The lasagna was just great and it was very inexpensive.

Why don't you take the ferry over to Vancouver rather than spend those last days in Seattle? It's an absolutely incredible city. You could ride the train back to Seattle to fly home.

Posted by
8767 posts

Thanks everyone for your responses.

I think we will have to go to The Empress for tea. I'll regret it if we cheap out and don't go. Our lodging in both Victoria and after Victoria in Seattle is locked in, so we can't make changes there. Our only uncertain time is the first 2 nights after we arrive in Seattle. There is a small possibility that my friend may move before we arrive in mid-September. If that happens we can just get a hotel for those nights. I expect that she will give me adequate notice.

I can check the light rail map to see if it goes to Edmonds.

I don't think I can bring myself to go to the Old Spahetti Factory in Victoria. We have several locations here in the Sacramento area. It certainly won't seem unique. Although now that I'm thinking about it I think my sister and I ate at one in Vancouver in 1993. I guess we will play it by ear.

Thanks again!!

Posted by
14899 posts

I visited 2 years ago in late September with a friend. We only spent a short time in Victoria, and would have liked to have had more evenings for dinners. We tried 2 restaurants that were recommended - Pagliacci and Il Terrazzo - both were excellent and we saw others that also looked very inviting. We had afternoon tea twice, once at Butchart Gardens and once at the White Heather Tea Room. The first was lovely, sitting on the balcony enjoying the gardens. The second was the best tea ever. Make a reservation. We skipped the Empress because it was so much more expensive than the others. I had tea there years before, in off-season. If you want the Empress "experience" you can walk through the public areas of the hotel (we did) and have a drink. We left Butchart for an hour for wine-tasting at Brentwood Tasting Rooms, then back for more time in the gardens.

The main sights we visited in Victoria were Craigdarroch Castle, Royal BC Museum and Miniature World, enjoyed them all. We also went to Roger's Chocolate Shop (highly recommended, but we weren't impressed) but we enjoyed the walk there.

We took the ferry from Anaconda through the San Juans - very scenic, even though we didn't encounter any whales. We came back via Port Angeles.

Areas you can explore from your base in Victoria, include Sooke (boat tours, mead-tasting, hiking on the coast) and through the Cowichan Valley to Duncan, Chemainus and even as far as Nanaimo (wineries, cideries, Canadian history and First Peoples history and traditions). One of our favorite stops was Merridale Cidery in Cobble Hill (on the way to Duncan). We had a really good lunch as well as tastings in a lovely orchard setting.

I got lots of good advice on the Trip Advisor forum when I was planning the trip.

Posted by
1068 posts

I go up to BC with a Canadian friend so generally do whatever is on the agenda for that trip. No great recommendations. However, I regularly go to Seattle. If it were me, I would not miss the Chihuly Garden and Glass. There are lots of great places to eat in Seattle too. A place which I feel has a great NW and Seattle vibe is the Icon Grill. I think that it would be difficult to get to RS headquarters without a car unless you are willing to devote a substantial amount of time to it. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
5147 posts

If you want to get to the Rick Steves Travel Center by bus from downtown Seattle it is quite easy. Take Sound Transit 512 Everett to the Lynnwood Transit Center.( Catch the 512 at the Westlake mall) Transfer to the 196 bus or the Silver Firs bus at the Lynnwood Transit Center and it will take you to downtown Edmonds. If you look on the Rick Steves website, it will show a little map of downtown Edmonds and how to find the travel center. It is just a few blocks up from the ferry terminal.

An alternate that runs only during key commuter hours is the Sounder Train. This leaves from King Street Station (Look for the special Sounder tracks) and gives a fairly scenic ride to and from Edmonds.

I don't believe it is necessary to dress up for tea at the Empress, but you certainly could if you thought that would add to your experience. Victoria has a vibrant China town community that is easily walkable in downtown.

You may want to go to the Trip Advisor Travel Forum sections on Seattle or Victoria to get more specifics about what to do at each spot. They have some great destination experts there.

Posted by
3681 posts

This is the link to the Sound Transit map: http://www.soundtransit.org/Maps. Click on the green Sounder train icon to choose the route. You can take it all the way between Lakewood, south of Tacoma, to Everett, north of Seattle (and Edmonds). Other information, including bus routes, light rail, ferry, costs, parking, etc. are accessible through the link.

Many forget that the Museum of Glass is in Tacoma: https://museumofglass.org/. It's always worth a visit if you have the time.

There are so many things to see and do and eat in Seattle and the area, you will have a great time no matter what you choose.

Posted by
110 posts

I have taken the bus from Seattle to RS headquarters. It can be done but i would recommend going during the week as there tends to be less bus service on weekends and hardly any service on sundays.

In order to get from the airport to Seattle without a car take the light rail from airport (you will see lots of signs and but its a long walk) and get off at the last stop in westlake center.
I would check the Washignton State ferry schedule for getting to and from Olympic Peninsula/Port Angeles from Seattle: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/. I do not take the ferries a lot so I do not know the route you need.

Seattle now has its own ferris wheel on the waterfront ( kinda like a mini London eye). And the Seattle Aquarium was remodeled around 2006/2007 and I have heard its really nice.
If you like chocolate, I recommend going to Theo chocolate in the Fremont neighborhood, www.theochocolate.com. They have factory tours and free samples.
Sorry I can't help with Victoria.
J

Posted by
4637 posts

Well, you have been to Seattle so you got some ideas. The best would be to go to the Visitor Center which is at the Union Street and 7th to 9t Av. In the meantime check this website: http://www.visitseattle.org . Seattle is an eye candy. One of the most beautiful cities in USA. The only competitor - San Francisco. But if we consider surroundings then no competitor at all. There is so much to see here. It would not fit on this page, that's why I provided the website. HighlIghts: consider city pass. Walk the waterfront: Ferry Terminal, Ivar's Seafood Restarant, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, Argosy Cruises, Miners Landing, Seattle Great Wheel, Seattle Aquarium, Anthony's Restaurant, Cruise Ship Terminal, Victoria Clipper Terminal, Olympic Sculpture Park, walk through Pioneer District, go up John Smith Tower, visit Pike Place Market - don't miss flying fish. Walk to Westlake Center. From there you can get to the Tunnel where there is a lot of buses to Seattle neighborhoods and also Express buses to communities around Seattle and light rail to the airport. By the way there is no light rail to Edmonds but you can get there by public transport: http://www.communitytransit.org and http://www.soundtransit.org . On the top floor of the Westlake Center you can board Monorail which takes you to Seattle Center: Space Needle, Experimental Music Project sometimes also called Jimmy Hendrix Museum, Water Fountain, Key Arena and much more. What to see in Downtown: Seattle Art Museum, Benaroya Hall, Columbia Tower for views and much more. Neighborhoods to see: Capitol Hill - walk at least on Broadway, Ballard - Ballard Locks with fish ladder, Fremont - Troll, Lenin's statue,
International District (China Town). There are of course many more neighborhoods but you can't see them all in your short time. Do Tiilicum Village on Argosy boat, Duck ride (amphibious vehicle), tour of Chateau St.Michelle Winery with tasting, go to Mt.Rainier National Park and so much more - see the first website.
From Victoria you can go to Tofino: http://tofinobc.org . It would be better overnight. Or you can drive all the way to Campbell River then west to Strathcona Provincial Park - absolutely spectacular, anywhere else it would be National Park, from there to Gold River and then to Nootka Bay where you can board a boat and go around for a day trip or overnight:
http://www.getwest.ca . You would need more days for this trip from Victoria. There are many more trips from Victoria but these two are the cream. As you can see I certainly don't regret my moving to Seattle from Pennsylvania many years ago. I also have relatives in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, that's why I know it there little bit, too.

Posted by
544 posts

I think if you want to head up Edmonds you might consider renting a car at least for the day. Then you could check out other neat places like

  • 777/787 factory
  • Woodinville wineries and Red Hook Brewery
  • Alki Beach
  • One of the Japanese gardens
  • Seattle Asian Art Museum or Burke Museum

You can probably pick up a car and drop it at Sea-Tac on your way out.

Posted by
352 posts

Chani has given you excellent advice - for restaurants Il Terrazo and Pagliaci's are my favorites. There are many craft breweries in Victoria if that's your thing - be sure to check out the best patio in Victoria (IMO) at Canoe and try a sample of their brews. Dim Sum is certainly available at a host of restaurants in Chinatown - the oldest Chinatown in Canada, I like Don Mee's. As for High Tea at the Empress, I've lived her almost 40 years and have never been. Again, Chani has steered you to White Heather - where I have been and very much enjoyed it. When we have out of town guests we visit the public areas of the Empress and then have a drink (or two) in the Bengal Room. The Harbour Ferries are good fun, and I recommend a visit to Fisherman's Wharf for lunch or a snack - often the resident seal will pop up looking for a snack of his own.

Note there are a couple of ways to visit Victoria from the mainland - the Clipper sails from Seattle direct to Victoria, passengers only, no vehicles. The Black Ball ferry line (MV Coho) connects Port Angeles on the Olympic peninsula to Victoria. Washington State ferries will get you to Sidney, BC, a short drive north of Victoria. BC Ferries sail from Tsawwassen, just south of Vancouver to Swartz Bay, just north of Victoria. These last 3 are all car/passenger ferries and reservations are advisable.

Feel free to PM me if you have specific questions.

Posted by
168 posts

In Seattle I recommend Le Pichet which is a very good French bistro near Pikes Place Market. Also while in Seattle I recommend spending time in Ballard, home to great restaurants, bars and craft breweries. Take the ferry over to Bainbridge Island for a great day trip.

Posted by
1463 posts

You've gotten some great suggestions. I would just like to add that Seattle is an excellent theatre city, so if you enjoy good theatre, you should try to see something.

You don't say when in September you'll be here, but look at Seattle Rep and ACT, and see if the dates match your schedule. Also, the national tour of Matilda is at the 5th Avenue Theatre through September 6th. And Intiman Theatre is playing "John Baxter Is a Switch Hitter" through most of September.

A favorite restaurant of mine that is fairly new and is in Belltown is Tanakasan. Other popular favorites are any of Tom Douglas' restaurants, and also Wild Ginger.

Posted by
8767 posts

Wow! So much great information!! I received news from my friend in Port Orchard last night that they won't be able to go to Victoria with us. Why does work always get in the way?!?! Now I'm looking at a some different scenarios.

1 - Fly to Seattle 9/16 (already booked) and rent a car. Go to Port Orchard for 2 nights, then ferry to Victoria from Port Angeles. Can you rent a car in WA and take it on the ferry? Something I need to look into. My friend suggested that if that's not possible I could take her car and she could use the rental. Of course that would mean that she has to be the one to rent the car. If we could take the rental to BC, we could take the ferry from there to Anacortes coming back on 9/25. That is the ferry I've used in the past. There is parking available at the apartment we have rented in Seattle from 9/25-9/29. We could just keep the car for those days.

2 - Fly to Seattle, get a hotel for 2 nights, then take the passenger ferry round trip from Seattle. Rent a car in Victoria. Only use public transportation in Seattle upon our return.

3 - Do #2, but rent a car for all or some of days when we return to Seattle. We could return it at the airport.

We've always had a car in Seattle, because we have always driven up there. We will be visiting with at least a couple of different people we know who live there, so a car might be more convenient.

Decisions, decisions...

Thanks again for all of fantastic suggestions.

Posted by
8767 posts

Yikes! I don't know how it got formatted like that. Sorry...

Posted by
1463 posts

I think you could do this entire trip easily without a car. If you take the Victoria Clipper (as Kathleen mentioned earlier), you'll get there much quicker than on a car ferry. You can visit Butchart Gardens by bus -- there are direct express buses. Victoria itself is immensely walkable. The only reason you'd need a car is if you want to go further afield. And in Seattle, you should be able to walk or take a bus (or taxi or Uber or Lyft) wherever you want to go, much cheaper than a rental car. You might also look into car2go, which I find convenient for spontaneous trips when I don't have my car handy. If you do that, you need to get registered in advance.

By the way, there's great dim sum to be had in Seattle, with many options in the International District and a few in other neighborhoods. Try a Yelp search. I like the Purple Dot.

Posted by
544 posts

You won't have any trouble taking a rental car on the ferry into Canada. It's a thing people do all the time! If you do take the car and the Sydney - Anacortes ferry, consider checking out Deception Pass if you haven't before.

Posted by
14899 posts

Andrea, I think if you do multiple keys (maybe hyphens) it comes up that way. Try to edit it using the numbers or bullets format.

Posted by
14899 posts

Can you take a rental car on the ferry? Look at one of the major rental agencies and read their conditions. Assume that if it's not forbidden, then it's okay. Assume that the conditions are the same for all the agencies.

If you don't visit your friends in Port Orchard, It may be better to rental separately in Victoria and Seattle. I would do the math. As Lane said, you'll only need a car for part of your time in Victoria and probably only part of your time in Seattle. Take into account the extra cost of taking the car on the ferries. If you do visit them, you'll want one car for the whole trip - otherwise you'll have to return to Port Angeles and then have a long drive back to Seattle. Much better to take the scenic route through the San Juans.

Know that you usually need to line up for the ferry at least an hour before departure and you may need to reserve space for the car, depending on which ferry and when.

Posted by
31471 posts

If you're planning on taking a rental car on the Ferry, be sure to check the cost as it can be expensive. The base charge normally includes car and driver, but the passenger is and additional cost.

Posted by
2318 posts

I haven't been to Seattle in years but was in Victoria recently after a 20 yr absence--much the same, charming and beautiful and perhaps more interesting shops. As someone who loves unique and hand-made items there's plenty of that to be found in shops and the outdoor markets.

A wonderful day trip is taking the ferry to Saltspring Island, gorgeous views on the way and the island has a wonderful outdoor market on Saturdays, great food and artist wares. With your car you can easily explore the island, it's fairly small.

As a book lover I took a 20 minute bus ride to Sidney by the Sea, famous for having tons of used bookstores and on a Thursday afternoon the streets are closed for a marketplace. I also spent a lot of time in Munro's Books, gorgeous old building and I happened to be in the hotel right next door.

I'm a huge fan of the artist Emily Carr and was able to visit her house that is now a museum and also an art gallery to see many of her works. The Royal BC Museum is worth a visit as well.

If you enjoy live theatre I recommend checking to see if anything interesting is on at The Belfry Theatre, a bit outside downtown Victoria in an artsy neighbourhood, in an old church.

Posted by
11450 posts

I agree with Chani and Kathleens restaurants choices. I would never go to the Spaghetti Factory.. frankly we locals think it only survives becauses its in heart of tourist land.
Will add Blue Crab ( in Coast Harbourside hotel) and Red Fish Blue Fish.
,
I would not pay for high tea at Empress.. I would enjoy walking through the lobby , but would have tea at White Heathers.

Tofino is worth a visit.. but its a longish winding drive.

Posted by
11450 posts

I agree with Chani and Kathleens restaurants choices. I would never go to the Spaghetti Factory.. frankly we locals think it only survives becauses its in heart of tourist land.
Will add Blue Crab ( in Coast Harbourside hotel) and Red Fish Blue Fish.
,
I would not pay for high tea at Empress.. I would enjoy walking through the lobby , but would have tea at White Heathers.

Tofino is worth a visit.. but its a longish winding drive.

Posted by
11450 posts

I agree with Chani and Kathleens restaurants choices. I would never go to the Spaghetti Factory.. frankly we locals think it only survives becauses its in heart of tourist land.
Will add Blue Crab ( in Coast Harbourside hotel) and Red Fish Blue Fish.
,
I would not pay for high tea at Empress.. I would enjoy walking through the lobby , but would have tea at White Heathers.

Tofino is worth a visit.. but its a longish winding drive.

Posted by
8767 posts

Thanks Pat. Although I would really like to have tea at the Empress, it's just so more expensive than the White Heather Tea Room. The White Heather is #1 on Trip Advisor for tea places. I was hoping to do that on our anniversary, but they are closed on Mondays. Maybe we will go to Buchart Gardens that day. I like to do something memorable on the actual anniversary. Last year we toured Buckingham Palace.

Finding a decent hotel that doesn't cost an arm and a leg for the 2 nights before we ferry to Victoria has been a challenge. I might just do a Priceline "Name Your Own Price" and hope for the best.

I think we will try to get by in Victoria without a car. We can always rent one for a day or so if we want to go out of town. I think I can borrow a relative's car in Seattle for a day or so too.

Posted by
8767 posts

We arrived in Seattle Wednesday and spent 2 nights at a hotel near the Seattle Center. We arrived in Victoria late yesterday on the Victoria Clipper. We've decided that we will try to spend our time here without a car. We can rent for a day or two if we really need to. Our condo is next to Fishermans Wharf. It seems reasonably close to downtown and we like to walk.

Thanks again to everyone for your suggestions. We decided that our 30th anniversary warrants afternoon tea at The Empress, so we will do that Monday. I'm eager to try other restaurant suggestions and see sights that have been recommended.

Posted by
3304 posts

Here's a belated thumbs up for tea at the Empress. We are not at all given to very touristy experiences; but we really enjoyed it as a special, admittedly pricey, treat. By the way, has anyone mentioned the Provincial Museum? It has one of the most spectacular displays of northwest coast Indian art I've seen

Posted by
5260 posts

Belated Happy Anniversary, Andrea! I'm sorry I didn't see this thread before your trip, though I don't think I could have added any better advice than you got. I think you were wise to take the Clipper instead of a car to Victoria. We've had a magnificent summer so I know you were lucky with the weather (raining buckets now). Hope you had a wonderful trip!

Posted by
8767 posts

Thank you Dick. We had a wonderful time. The Victoria Clipper was a good choice and and we got by without a car in Seattle and Victoria. We used uber a few times in Seattle and took the bus and light rail. We went to the Rick Steves headquarters by bus and had a great time testing out the products and checking out all the books. Edmonds is a cute little town.

Posted by
14899 posts

That's all well and good, but where did you have tea?

Glad you had a good time, sounds like it all worked out very well.

Posted by
8767 posts

Chani, we went to The Empress. I'm so glad we did. It was everything I had hoped it would be.