Argosy Cruises Visitor Center

Seattle TourSaver is available at Argosy Cruises Visitor Center at Pier 56 on Alaskan Way between Seneca and University. From their prime Seattle waterfront location, Argosy’s friendly, professional staff can help with your Seattle tour options.


Seattle Vacations – Things to do in Seattle

When you are planning your vacation to Seattle, it’s important to remember three things: Places to go, shopping bargains and delicious meals. Naturally, there are variations on all three themes, but let’s start with the basics.

PLACES TO GO. Sometimes it’s fun to head in a new direction every day. In Seattle–you can do that! On the first day, wander through Pike Place Market, then take a stroll through Pioneer Square. The shops are unique–and really give you a taste of the great Northwest!

Seattle Vacations - Things to do in Seattle
Panorama view of Seattle downtown skyline and Mt. Rainier, Washington.

The next day, plan a getaway from Seattle’s waterfront. Choose a cruise to Victoria on the Victoria Clipper or take a scenic cruise with Argosy Cruises. Bring your camera, since it’s a great way to see the Seattle skyline! Plus, you’re likely to see some critters in the ocean. Whether it’s a seal, a sea otter, a porpoise or a wild orca–keep your camera handy!

Learn more about the Northwest the next day. Check out the Museum of Flight–then head to Tacoma’s exciting Museum District. There’s the Museum of Glass, the Tacoma Art Museum and the Washington Museum of History.

SHOPPING BARGAINS. The center of the shopping universe is in downtown Seattle at Nordstrom’s. This is the Mother Ship. Take a stroll around. It’s fun! It’s connected by a skybridge to Pacific Place. This four-story shopping mall has all kinds of specialty shops. Dozens and dozens of brand-name stores branch off in every direction, including Eddie Bauer, Coldwater Creek, Nike and Macy’s. Did I mention Starbucks? Heck, there are only about a dozen shops in a two-block area. Be sure and see the FIRST Starbucks at Pike Place Market. The market, of course, is a great place to buy fresh fish, produce and flowers from the surrounding areas. This year is the market’s 101st anniversary!

DELICIOUS MEALS. This is one of my favorite areas. Local restauranteur Tom Douglas has several eateries in downtown Seattle, including Lola, the Palace Kitchen, the Dahlia Lounge and Etta’s. Splurge on a meal there! But there are a jillion other great places to eat! Try the Smash Wine Bar and Bistro in Wallingford. Or, the Union Bay Cafe in the University District. In Belltown you can always get a good meal and great wine at Queen City Grill . Take a drive over to Woodinville and explore the wineries, including Columbia Winery and Brian Carter Cellars–you can get lunch at the Redhook Ale Brewery and take a tour.
ORDER A PLANNING GUIDE. The Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau produces a great travel guide. Order it. It’s free. Check it out here: Seattle Convention & Visitors Bureau

Seattle Cruises – San Juan Islands Whale Watching

“Get out on the water!” Anyone who lives in Seattle or visits often will tell you the same thing: take a cruise! This city is built on the water. There is a busy port and a vibrant waterfront. There are lakes and rivers scattered throughout the countryside–and a big ocean right at your doorstep in downtown Seattle.

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San Juan Safaris Whale Watching

Take a cruise on Lake Washington and Lake Union with Argosy Cruises. These two lakes are connected by locks to Puget Sound. Over on the Puget Sound waterfront, take a super-fast catamaran up to Victoria with the Victoria Clipper. You can go for the day–or spend the night with a number of creative getaway options.

Sail from the waterfront to Blake Island. There, you can enjoy an interesting demonstration of Native American culture at Tillicum Village. You’ll feast on delicious Pacific Salmon–and learn how salmon played an integral role in native life.

Several cruises depart Seattle’s waterfront for the San Juan Islands to watch for whales. This is a fun trip–and you’re likely to see other wildlife, including sea otters and porpoise, so be sure and bring your camera!

The Washington State Ferry also sails from the Seattle waterfront. Commuters take the ferry over to Bainbridge Island. You can drive your car on board for the 15-minute journey. It’s a quick way to reach the Olympic Peninsula. Drive up to Port Townsend–or plan a longer trip to Olympic National Park!

You also can cruise in the San Juan Islands by driving north from Seattle to Bellingham. From there, you can sail with Victoria-San Juan Cruises over to Vancouver Island, with a stop in Friday Harbor. Chances are good you’ll see whales along the way!

Seattle Attractions – Top Travel Picks

We love Seattle. You will, too. Here are some tips and picks for the Emerald City.

Stop by the Concierge desk at the new Washington State Convention Center on Pike Street near Seventh Avenue. It’s right downtown. The folks there do a great job of giving recommendations on where to eat, where to shop, what’s going on in town and so forth. Also, you can pick up a free copy of the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau guide. It’s comprehensive–and easy-to-read.

Seattle Attractions - Top Travel Picks
Seattle Attractions – Top Travel Picks

Make time to visit Kenmore Air for a Seattle Seaplane flightseeing trip. Take off from the scenic Lake Union seaplane dock. See spectacular views of the Emerald City: Lake Union, University of Washington, Seattle Skyline, Space Needle, Ship Canal, Mt. Rainier, Qwest Field, Safeco Field, and stunning views of the waterfront!

This year is the 101st anniversary of the Pike Place Market. What started in 1907 as a simple Farmer’s Market has blossomed into a city-within-a-city, replete with restaurants, the traditional farmer’s market, gift shops, souvenir stands, apartments, microbreweries and–of course–coffee stands. In fact, the original Starbuck’s cafe is located in the Pike Place Market.

Plan on spending at least one day on the water. Choose a cruise of the harbor–or maybe a day-long adventure up to Victoria, B.C. A Victoria Clipper high-speed ferry will land you in Victoria’s Inner Harbour – in the heart of downtown Victoria. There are a number of sightseeing opportunities andactivities for Victoria B.C. in the Seattle TourSaver.

There is also a dinner cruise to Tillicum Village, which features a wonderful salmon bake and an interesting presentation on Native American culture. MUST SEE!

Shop ’til you drop at the mother of all department stores: Nordstrom. It started out as a shoe store–and they still have a great shoe department. That’s good, since you spend a lot of time on your feet when you’re in Seattle! Choose from several top-notch shopping malls downtown, including Westlake Village and Pacific Place. The good news is there are great restaurants in each venue, so you don’t have to stop shopping for too long!

What’s that needle in the sky? Ohhh, the Space Needle. Catch the monorail from Westlake Village and cruise over traffic to the Seattle Center. Go ahead: pay the extra money and take the elevator ride up to the “O” deck for a 360-degree view. It’s a Seattle Landmark! While you’re there, check out the exhibits at the Seattle Center, including Pacific Science Center and their IMAX theater!

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San Juan Safaris Whale Watching

The Seattle Art Museum downtown is a place you have to go check out. There are wild contemporary art exhibits, in addition to permanent exhibits from around the world. If the museum is too stuffy, or if you just like fresh air, choose the Olympic Sculpture Park. It’s the Seattle Art Museum’s free outdoor museum at the north end of the waterfront. World-famous sculptors have decorated this oceanfront setting–with the beautiful Olympic Mountains as a backdrop!

If you are a wine lover, drive over to Woodinville for the day. It’s a 30-minute drive–and many of Washington’s best wineries have tasting rooms set up so you can sample some of the best grapes. In fact, they’ll ship some back home for you! Our favorites include Columbia Winery and Brian Carter Cellars . Oh, don’t forget about the micro-breweries. The Red Hook Ale tour is a must-see!

Take your time exploring Seattle. There is the famous Elliott Bay Bookstore in historic Pioneer Square. There are the incredible Tom Douglas restaurants strategically placed around downtown. There is a vibrant arts scene, with an unending parade of live music-including jazz, classical and all sorts of ethnic strains!

You’ll love Seattle. And it’s our hope that you’ll return again and again!

Seattle Adventures

Seattle Adventures – Seattle & Washington State

Seattle Adventures
Seattle Adventures

Ready for an adventure? Seattle is ready for you! First get a kayak from Northwest Outdoor Center and paddle around Lake Union. It’s the quickest way to get out on the water under your own power. You choose how fast you go–and how long you want to paddle! If you don’t know what you’re doing, fear not. Take a lesson!

Drive your car on the ferry down on the waterfront. Head across Puget Sound to the Olympic Peninsula. First, drive north to Port Townsend. We love this little town. Take a whale-watching excursion with Puget Sound Express. They’ve been showing off the San Juan Islands for 20 years–so you don’t want to miss it. If you take the early-morning ferry, it includes a 2.5-hour stop in Friday Harbor. That’s in the heart of the San Juan Islands. You can get out and stretch your legs. In fact, you may want to bookmark this little slice of Heaven for a return visit. Many folks just bring their bikes (and their rain gear) and cycle around from island to island. Ferries link several of the islands, including Orcas Island and San Juan Island.

Back on the Olympic Peninsula, head over to Lake Quinault Lodge in the heart of the Olympic National Forest. From here, you can hike and explore to your heart’s content. Since the lodge is right on the lake, you can take a variety of watercraft out on the lake for some fishing–or sightseeing.

Head down to the coast for some beachcombing. This is a wild coast–so be prepared for some brisk winds, fog and some rain. After all, it is a rain forest. But it’s worth the trip!

Southeast of Seattle are two national parks worth exploring: Mt. St. Helen’s and Mt. Rainier. Gray Line offers day tours to both parks–or you can drive on your own if you want to spend more time exploring.

Another popular adventure east of Seattle is Snoqualmie Falls. It’s an easy hike from the parking lot to the base of the falls. Take the whole family–everyone will have a great time!

Up in the Skagit River Valley there are several whitewater raft trips. Seattle residents love going east of the mountains to Lake Chelan, too.

Victoria B.C.

Travel to Victoria B.C.

Visit Victoria today! There are 101 things to do, and 2 ways to get there with the Seattle TourSaver: From Seattle on the Victoria Clipper, and from Bellingham on Victoria-San Juan Cruises. From Seattle, getting to Victoria’s inner harbor takes 2.5 hours aboard the very smooth and comfortable Victoria Clipper.

On a sunny summer afternoon you’ll immediately see a beehive of activity around the yachts and fishing boats as you make your way to the terminal. The Fairmont Empress Hotel and the Parliament buildings form a picturesque frame as you embark into British Columbia’s charming and attractive capital city. If your lucky enough to have a room over at the Best Western Inner Harbor, it’s just a 3 minute walk from the Clipper’s Belleville Terminal–after you clear Canadian immigration and customs.

Victoria B.C.
Victoria B.C.

Things to do in Victoria B.C.

If you can find your way over to the Tourism Victoria visitor info center at 812 Wharf Street you’ll be miles ahead on planning your activity schedule. Pick-up one of their walking tour maps and get your feet on the street. You can hoof it alone or with a guide but after half a day around the city on foot you will be impressed by historic architecture and charmed by Canadian hospitality and random acts of kindness.

The best way to get a perspective of Victoria’s busy harbor is to jump aboard the Victoria Harbour Ferry. The captain is your tour guide on these twelve-person water shuttles and there are no reservations required. Another way to see Victoria is on the Big Bus City Tour. You can hop on the Big Bus tour at any of their stops. Most guests like to do the full tour first, then hop on and off at the attractions. With a 2-day ticket you can see everything the city has to offer at your own pace!

Two anchor attractions, right next to the harbor, are the Royal BC Museum and The Empress (for its gardens and traditional British afternoon tea). But just a short bus ride away you’ll find Butchart Gardens–certainly world famous by now and great for a stroll and casual lunch. Run by descendants of the Butchart family, the 55-acre gardens starting taking roots a hundred years ago. A favorable climate on Vancouver Island allows the garden to stay open year-round. There are arts and entertainment programs in the summer including live music and fireworks and tens of thousands of colored lights on display in December.

Bicycle touring is very popular in B.C. and a good way to cover more ground and Victoria is the known as the “Cycling Capital of Canada”. Stop by and rent a bike from Island Boat Rentals. The Galloping Goose trail, built on abandoned rail beds and trestles, takes you through the many diverse landscapes of Vancouver Island. Ride north from Victoria up to Swartz Bay and you’ll get and eyeful of quaint countryside coastal plains and fir forests. Heading west on “The Goose” will take you to Leechtown–once the site of an an old mining community. Stop at Sooke Potholes Regional Park to see a wonderful series of deep, polished rock pools and potholes, carved naturally into the sandstone bedrock of the Sooke River.

Check out Great Pacific Adventures and embark on a 3-hour whale watching adventure on the “King Salmon.” See killer “Orca” whales in the emerald waters of southern Vancouver Island. Watch for whales with dorsal fins of up to six feet–weighing up to 18,000 pounds! Also, watch for gray and humpback whales, porpoises, sea lions and more! Depart from Victoria’s inner harbor aboard the “King Salmon”, a 45-foot ocean cruiser, featuring both indoor and outdoor viewing. Bring your camera!

If you take to the water kayaking opportunities are aplenty. Rent a single or double kayak from Island Boat Rentals and get out in the harbor. Victoria and its surrounding area have some of the best kayaking and canoeing in the world. Vancouver Island has approximately 3,500 kilometers of ocean coastline, 700 lakes, 160 rivers and 890 streams for your paddling pleasure. Located amid spectacular West Coast scenery, these waterways are shared by an abundance of marine creatures and wildlife.

If you want to see Victoria by air, take a floatplane tour at Hyack Air in front of the Victoria Regent Hotel.

Don’t forget about the 101 other things to do and see while visiting Victora!

Victoria B.C.

Where to stay in Victoria B.C.

At the high-end of the hotel chain, you’ll likely sleep well at the Fairmont Empress. Throughout its history, The Fairmont Empress has played host to kings, queens, movie stars and many famous people. In 1919, Edward, Prince of Wales, waltzed until dawn in the Crystal Ballroom. In 1989 a $45 million renovation restored the grand hotel to its original glory and then some. If you don’t stay there at least walk the grounds and stop by for afternoon tea.

The Best Western Inner Harbor is a bit more modest but very comfortable with views of the harbor and is bordered by a small Belleville Street park where you can relax in the shade after walking the streets of this beautiful city.

Where to eat in Victoria:

For a late lunch on a harbor patio, Canoe is a busy bistro on the waterfront that will please your palate. They brew beer and serve up lagers, bitter, brown ale and pale ale in a historic building that dates back to 1894. The service is good and the atmosphere is rustic and casual. The menu covers the gamut from seafood to steak, pasta and potpie. This place should be on your dining list–for at least one meal.

If you are looking for a good cup of coffee, try a new place called “Habit” at 552 Pandora Ave. Habit Coffee and Culture hosts weekly coffee tasting (cupping to be precise) on Tuesday afternoons.

The best French restaurant in this Canadian capital city is in Chinatown. L’Ecole, a brasserie, (1715 Government Street) is an award-winning local favorite run by people that love the restaurant business and aim to please. Sommelier and co-owner Marc Morrison knows how to run a dining room and chef Sean Brennan can dish it out. Start with a couple of apps like Chicken Liver & Cognac Mousse or Cowichan Valley Chanterelles with bacon, cream and toast, then move on to Sooke Trout with Spanish chorizo, almonds, smoked paprika and brown butter. The menu changes daily and the room is usually full of satisfied diners–so make reservations.

Nightlife in Victoria:

Victoria is still open after dinner and there’s a variety of venues to catch some live music and sample the BC nightlife. The Mint on Douglas Street can be relaxing or lively depending on the day of the week and they host live music or DJ’s in a low light, dark wood atmosphere. The Irish Times is mainstay on Government Street & Bastion Square where performances by acoustic guitar crooners, fiddlers or Celtic jam sessions can be heard every night. The setting and the food are authentic Irish pub and the patrons sport a happy look of satisfaction. The Strathcona Hotel has five bars and restaurants. A brand new club, Jellyfish Lounge opened recently at 1140 Government Street (Lower Level of the Bedford Regency Hotel) with a very “Miami Vice” white leather feel and house music, high-end martinis plus a decent late menu.

San Juan Island Excursion

Summer in the San Juan Islands

Summer in the San Juan Islands
Summer in the San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands are the place to be in the summer. Enjoy the outdoors and get out on the water with San Juan Excursions. Temperatures often hit the mid-80’s, but whale watching on the Odyssey will keep you cool. You’ll see orca’s splash and dive in search of salmon, lingcod, halibut, and greenling. There’s no better way to see San Juan Island then from the water!

San Juan Excursions launches from the pier at Friday Harbor at 1:00 pm each day and the skipper always guides you to the best whale viewing hot spots. Guests are never disappointed. Don’t forget your camera! After you return, stop by The Whale Museum on First Street to learn even more about these local summer guests.

At 55 square miles, the island of San Juan is the largest in the three primary islands that include Lopez and Orcas islands. Tour the island on your own–rent a bike for 24 hours from Island Bicycleson Argyle Street or visit Susie’s Mopeds on Nichols Street and ride in style with a one or two person scooter. The full island tour is about a 48-mile trip but you’ll want to stop and take a look at the spectacular scenery.

On the East side of the island, stop at Lime Kiln Whale Watch Park and take a short walk down the trail to the whale watching lookout. This is one of the few places you are likely to see whales from shore. Up the road, stop at British Camp, the companion to American Camp on the south side of the island. There are historic buildings, old barracks and an exhibit demonstrating the conflict over the island between the Brits and Americans in the 1860’s.

To see more of San Juan from the water, go on a 3-hour guided kayak trek with San Juan Safaris. Observe bald eagles, seals, porpoise, otter, great blue heron, seabirds, sea stars, kelp forests, wild mink, etc. and enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in the Pacific Northwest.

Stop for lunch at Roche Harbor on the North end. Visit the historic Hotel de Haroand have lunch at the Madrona Grill—the halibut sandwich is delicious. While dining, you can watch the kayakers from San Juan Safaris carve their way toward open water through the multi-million dollar yachts parked in the harbor.

While you’re in the area, check out San Juan Vineyards for a testing of some award-winning wine with Colleen—tasting room manager and hostess. Just across the road from the vineyard you are likely to see a curious camel named Mona watching you leave the winery—it is not an indigenous species. Back in Friday Harbor you’ll want to visit Stan–local wine guru– at Brazenly Lucid Wines for some of the best selection and deals on Washington wines and more.

Summer in the San Juan Islands
Summer in the San Juan Islands


Traveling to Friday Harbor

The quickest way to get to Friday Harbor from Seattle is to board a Kenmore Air Seaplane from Lake Union or Cessna Caravan from Boeing Field. Both are scenic thirty-minute trips.

The Victoria Clipper can take you by water from the Pier 69 off Alaskan Way & the Washington State Ferry has regular scheduled trips from Anacortes.

Once you’re there, lodging choices are plentiful. The newly remodeled Elements Hotel & Spa offers comfortable accommodations on Spring Street. Next door is Lavendera Day Spa where countless treatments are available to take you far away from the stress of the city and soothe your sore muscles after a long excursion around the island.

Friday Harbor Suites offers a little more room for great rates. On the water, with a view of the harbor, the place to stay is Friday Harbor House.

Eating in Friday Harbor

For eclectic dining in an upscale setting try Steps Wine Bar & Cafe on First Street. One of the appetizers is Roasted Unagi—which is roasted fresh water eel w/ locally grown kohlrabi, cucumber & grapefruit ponzu glaze–a true delight. Small and large plates include salmon with carrot risotto, halibut with artichoke potato puree and house smoked pork country rib. For more informal dining try the Friday’s Crabhouse with open deck seating overlooking the harbor–fresh seafood with a view!

The best espresso in town is at an unusually named place called The Doctor’s Office, near the Washington Ferry Terminal. They also have a variety of breakfast treats.

For more information about the San Juan Islands go to: San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau