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Seattle or San Juan Island?

spokane, wa
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Seattle or San Juan Island?

My husband and I live in Spokane. Our kids, ages 13, 14 and 17 have never been to Seattle (blush). We've been many many other places all over the country, but just never been there. I was thinking of going over this spring break (first week of April) and spending a couple of nights and just messing around, going to the Pac Science Center, the underground city thing, stuff like that. However, we love the Oregon Coast and have been there many times, and I suddenly thought: "Why not go to the San Juans?" I think there's bike rentals, and we like to hike (although the 17 year old "hates" hiking and she will complain about anything super strenous) and hang out at coffee shops in the afternoon. My kids like museums and stuff, too.

I have never been there myself. Wondering about weather, what sort of things there are to do, how they compare price-wise....we are on a small budget.

Also, we have an extremely well-behaved, highly trained German Shepherd we take on most of our trips. We don't HAVE to take him, and to just go to Seattle we wouldn't, but there is more availability to take him on the SJI, right? He is fine staying behind in the hotel room also, or waiting in the car, or simply laying beside us on a street cafe.

Thoughts? I know there's whale watching and a whale museum on SJI, although I honestly don't think we can afford a whale watching tour. Is it possible to see them without going out on a boat?

Suggestions? Frankly I'm just sitting here fizzling out trying to read everything "to do" and stuff. :crazy:

Thanks

Green Valley...
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1. Re: Seattle or San Juan Island?

You might see whales from Lime Kiln Point State Park (and a few other places) on San Juan Island. This is not the best whale watch season, but there is plenty to see and to do in the islands, especially SJI. And some easy, beautiful, hikes.

The best/easiest/safest biking is on Lopez Island.

Here's an article written by TAs that might help you understand what is available (and it's a lot) in the islands. Up front, we prefer SJI, but a ferry ride, with car, to Orcas and Lopez is very nice.

San Juan Islands (Specific information on the several major islands, with key websites. Best seen with at least one overnight.) tripadvisor.com/Travel-g58727-c102104/San-Ju…

Hiking in the San Juan Islands, WA http://tinyurl.com/2furs3

San Juan Island Rental Houses http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=Vacation+Doorways+on+San+Juan+Island

Whale Museum, San Juan Island

whale-museum.org/education/…arrivals.html

Official guide to the San Juan Islands. http://www.visitsanjuans.com/

Re: Whale sightings, see the chart on this page; Gray Whales (plus porpoises) would be the best bet. Also, anytime, anywhere, Harbor Seals.

island-adventures.com/whale-watching-tours/i…

Edited: 28 February 2013, 01:06
spokane, wa
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2. Re: Seattle or San Juan Island?

Well, I did check out most of those links. :) I read some of the other threads and saw those posted.

Weather? Dog ok? More to do there than Seattle?

Green Valley...
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3. Re: Seattle or San Juan Island?

Weather? Hey, it's the Pacific NW, no guarantees. See chart, this page:

visitsanjuans.com/The-Islands/San-Juan-Islan…

Dog? I'd think it's really up to whatever lodging you find and/or whether you can find a kennel on SJI. I've traveled with dogs. I like dogs. But, a personal choice; I'd not bring your dog.

More to do there than Seattle? No, it's a different world, but you know that. Nature vs. Urban. If you like the OR coast, though not directly comparable, you probably will like SJI. I don't know how your itinerary will work out, but I hope you'll have two full days on the island, time to relax, to explore.

BTW, the hikes are easy and scenic on SJI.

Edited: 28 February 2013, 01:34
Port Angeles, WA
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4. Re: Seattle or San Juan Island?

No, there is not more to do than in Seattle. Obviously, Seattle has more museums, markets, entertainment options, restaurants and coffee shops. The islands have water sports such as kayaking, biking (which Seattle also has), and gentle hiking. Seattle is a big, interesting, lively city with great urban walks and some opportunities to enjoy nature. There are urban beaches such as Golden Gardens, for example. You can get out on the water, either on the lake or in the Puget Sound via ferry, tour boat, water taxi, or, in the case of the lake, kayak.

There is no comparison between a city destination like Seattle and a laid back, rural setting like the San Juans.

I don't know anything about how canine friendly either place would be. You would probably have to call any lodging facilities in the SJIs to see if your shepherd were welcome.

April will be cool, somewhat windy, and damp. Because the SJIs are in a rain shadow, they might be slightly drier than Seattle, but early April is early April, and that means wet.

spokane, wa
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5. Re: Seattle or San Juan Island?

Thank you. I was wondering if it were slightly warmer than the Or Coast, as those winds can be quite frigid in early April. Wet doesn't bother us, since this is the ONLY season Spokane really gets rain and it's always 40 degrees (if you're lucky).

Ok, so no dog.

Any thoughts on $$? I'm guessing the two places might actually compare, money-wise.

I guess I'm just wondering if there is as much to do in the San Juans or if we should maybe do Seattle now, and wait for some better weather (say, late summer or fall) for the SJI?

I wish I had enough money and time to do them both--first the SJI, then Seattle. :/

San Juan Island...
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6. Re: Seattle or San Juan Island?

There are a number of accommodations here on SJ island that accept pets. I know in the past Beaverton Valley Farm Bed and Breakfast,Blair House B&B,Harrison House Suites B&B,Lakedale Resort,Snug Harbor Marina Resort,The Inn At Friday Harbor and the Tucker House B&B have all been or are pet friendly. Check with them for their current pet policies to be certain....some places allow dogs but only smaller sized ones.

Things are pretty pricey out here so I doubt if you would save money coming here over going to Seattle.

We get less rain than Seattle but more wind and it certainly can be a frigid wind at times.

If you like outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking there is a lot to do out here. If you like shopping or night life then this would not be a good choice and you'd do better in Seattle. We do have a few small museums which are of interest but it's nothing like in a big city.

Poulsbo, Washington
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7. Re: Seattle or San Juan Island?

Well you got two very good responses, Yes Seattle offers far more to do, obviously because it is a city. Not a given, but I think chances are you Would find the San Juans a little warmer and drier in early April than the Oregon Coast. Bringing a dog let alone a big dog to a major city makes no sense to me. On the other hand ifnyou do not bring your dog I think you could find lots of free things to do in Seattle since money is an issue. Personally if I was visiting Seattle for the first time I would want to stay downtown. And staying downtown would be rather expensive. In the off season I would think lodging would be less expensive on the Islands. On the other hand you would have tons of options for eating places that you will find affordable in the City.

My best advise would be to decide what kind of experience you want to have as already mentioned. I would not let the month of April sway my decisoin. Summer for me is too busy for both places. I think you need to decide how your family as individuals are going to occupy their time if you choose an island.

Washington
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8. Re: Seattle or San Juan Island?

We have done many different things when our kids were young over spring break. Sometimes we just didn't want to stray too far from home, sometimes, we just didn't have the budget to do much, but no matter what we always traveled.

On one of these April breaks we rented a house on the water on Orcas Island. It was just magical. It was a beautiful property, right on the water, with plenty of area for the kids to play and roam. We kayaked, explored at low tide, played games and watched movies at night. The islands are still sleepy at that time of year, but that was fine with us. Our kids still talk about that vacation and the giant oysters we grilled one night. Unfortunately that property is no longer a rental, but there are many that would work just fine for your family. So from personal experience, I would absolutely recommend the SJIslands for a spring vacation.

Regarding whale watching, it's still early, cold and rainy. Most operators are not running yet, and consider the cost.

Seattle is great too. You know your kids, your budget, and the type of vacation that would be best for this break. With three teens, I am guessing, they would very much enjoy being in the "big city". The Seattle Center has a "Teen Tix" program which gives passes for local arts programs for just $5. Here is the info:

www.seattlecenter.com/teentix/#SignUpForm

There is so much to do that is free or low cost - just visiting local universities - ie; the U of Washington and the "Ave" is pretty cool. And your dates work great - on the First Thursday of the month, many museums in the area are free:

Museum of Flight - museumofflight.org/wells-fargo-free-first-th…

Seattle Art Museum

EMP/Sci Fi

MOHAI (Lake Union)

Pioneer Square has an art walk the first Thursday - First Thursday http://www.firstthursdayseattle.com

Here is a good list of free things to do in SEattle:

…about.com/od/…freeseattle.htm

I have loads of other suggestions...

And lastly, you may want to consider renting a house on Whidbey Island. It is not quite as remote as the San Juans, but you still would have great access to wonderful beaches, state parks, fabulous hikes, and a relaxed, low key getaway. Whidbey Island is just 45 min-1 hour from Seattle, so if the kids need a day in the city - you can do that too. You are also close to the Everet-Boeing Factory tour, a must see, even for those who are not totally into aviation. I am sure you could find a pet-friendly rental, if need be.

spokane, wa
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9. Re: Seattle or San Juan Island?

Well, I DID say in my first post that if we choose Seattle, I WON'T be bringing the dog. :) Only if it's feasible on the islands.

We don't "do" nightlife as a family really, unless you count a show or something, which we won't do in Seattle likely. The first Thursday free museums sound great. My kids are a little "old" for "playing", as in on the beach and stuff, but we do hang out and shell hunt and hike and things like that.

I kind of thought the SJI might be a tad warmer and drier than OR Coast. I thought the whale watching schedule said March/April is beginning of whale season?

I was just in Seattle on business last week; personally I don't think there's many "cheap" food options unless you either prepare yourself or you do fast food, which we don't particularly love to do.

There is some great advice in here, and I really appreciate everyone taking their time to reply. I'm still open to hearing more, although I know it really boils down to "what experience" I'd like to have this time. We are major campers and have been to many, many National Parks all over the West and Southwestern US and I guess a "city" experience might not be all that "bad" for them. My 17 year old "city girl" would probably love Seattle, heh. But we aren't really "shoppers", and we do love the tranquility of beaches and I've always heard the SJIs are gorgeous.

Sigh. I'm not helping myself!!

Poulsbo, Washington
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10. Re: Seattle or San Juan Island?

Cheap food is a relative term, but I would not be expecting a lot of cheap food on the San Juan Islands. Your choices for eating out are going to be much more limited than in Seattle. Anyway after reading your last post, my gut feeling is go to the San Juans. You are going to limit your choices obviously bringing your dog, but in April you should be able to find a place that for a little extra will allow your pet. I saw Orcas three weeks ago off of Seattle. Summer months are generally better months for viewing, but you certainly could see local pods in April. Seeing them from a place like Lime Kiln Park will certainly require being in the right place at the right time and some luck. Whale watching boats go to where the whales have been most recently reported.

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