Seattle...rent a car, or is public transit good?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by clscholes, Sep 23, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. clscholes

    clscholes Silver Member

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    So the wife and I are taking a short trip to Seattle in November...looking for advice on whether we should rent a car or rely on public transportation to get us where we want to go. Any other pieces of travel advice about Seattle? Should we take a day in Vancouver? Cheapest way to get there? Open for anything!
     
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  2. Gardyloo
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    Gardyloo Gold Member

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    Downtown is relatively compact (but quite hilly) and hotels charge a lot for parking. On the other hand, there are many places one could visit from Seattle where (especially in rainy November) a car would be far more convenient than public transport. Can public transport get you where you want to go? Um... depends.

    There are plenty of hotels outside the downtown area with free parking and/or cheap parking rates.

    IMO Vancouver is too far for a day trip, especially in short-daylight November. As for cheapest way, if you already have a car, driving is the cheapest, around 2 1/2 hours plus border (you'll need passports.) Other options include two trains a day and numerous buses, all of which bump the trip to 4+ hours.

    How long is your stay?
     
  3. clscholes

    clscholes Silver Member

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    We will be staying Sunday-Wednesday, so not a real long trip. Just trying to feel out options on what part to stay in, whether to rent, etc., so any info I can provide, just ask, and I will try to answer! I also have a few thousand points (enough for Cat 3) and one MegaBonus night saved up to help through Marriott.
     
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  4. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    If you plan to stay in the downtown area, don't rent a car. There's now a light rail line from the airport and everything is walkable if you're energetic. However, if you plan to go to places like Boeing, the flight museum, the salmon ladder, wine tasting at the vineyard tasting rooms in Woodenville (spelling?), Bellevue, the coast and islands, the U of Washington campus area, etc., it would be frustrating not to have a car. Also, a car in Seattle is fun in that there are some scenic and distinctive roads if you enjoy driving.

    Unfortunately Sunday through Wednesday is likely to be an expensive rental period in that it's not a week and it's not a weekend. Note also that the major rental car agencies are co-located in a new rental car facility near the airport but not within walking distance of the terminals, so that picking up and returning airport rental cars takes some time.
     
  5. okrogius

    okrogius Silver Member

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    You might consider taking the light rail into town to start and picking up a rental car a day or two into your trip once you see the entire downtown. You'll save extra day of parking costs and less taxes by renting from a nonairport facility.
     
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  6. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    It depends on where you want to go. Many people who visit Seattle, sadly, only go to downtown and maybe Seattle Center and Capitol Hill. You can walk to all of those places, or take a quick bus ride. Public transit is very good in those areas. Parking for a car can run up to $50++ a day at some hotels downtown.

    Finding a taxi is harder. But again, downtown is easier.

    If you want to venture to some of the more interesting neighborhoods like Ballard, Queen Anne, and Fremont, you might want to get a taxi. Buses are available but don't take the fastest routes. If you want to go further afield as MSPEconomist suggests, ZipCar for a day is an option if you have a membership. I know of an Audi Q5 with navigation downtown for ~$90.

    As for taking a day trip to Vancouver, I thought you said this was a short trip to Seattle? Do you typically take a day trip to Boston when you visit New York for the weekend? There's plenty to do in Seattle.
     
  7. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    I'm up there every year--most recent trip was back around March and will probably be back this fall.

    There's quite a few day trips you could do out with tour companies. Mount Rainier and the Boeing Factory tour in Everett come to mind. You can make your way with local transit out to the Museum of Flight (PHOTOS) not far from SEATAC.

    [​IMG]


    I always do the short ferry trip over to Bainbridge Island and have lunch over there. Impressive city views from the ferry as you look back towards Seattle:

    [​IMG]

    More Seattle photos:
    http://tom911.smugmug.com/Travel-USA/Seattle

    Victoria Clipper ferry to Victoria would be an option if you want to visit Canada. Could easily overnight there and come back the next day. Think I'd do that ahead of Vancouver.

    Empress Hotel:
    [​IMG]

    More Victoria photos:
    http://tom911.smugmug.com/Travel-Br...olumbia/9060524_DxNDhw#!i=605665854&k=r64ZfpH
     
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  8. DTWBOB

    DTWBOB Silver Member

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    One easy way to get from Seattle to Vancouver is to take Amtrak --- they have a Skyrail system up there, a system of water taxis, and a rail ferry to North Van. There's also a ferry from Seattle to Victoria.

    DTWBOB
     
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  9. clscholes

    clscholes Silver Member

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    Thanks to everyone for their input! I definitely have some great advice to go with, and keep it coming...
     
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  10. Gardyloo
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    Gardyloo Gold Member

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    Okay, so here’s a suggested itinerary that would address things I might like to do as a visitor, but (still) have no idea if they’d appeal to you.

    Arrive on Sunday at Sea-Tac and pick up a car. Drive through Seattle on I-5 and continue around 25 min. north of the city to the junction of WA 526, aka the Boeing Freeway, signposted “Mukilteo/Whidbey Island Ferry.”

    Follow SR 526 west to Mukilteo. You’ll pass the Boeing widebody assembly building, biggest building in the world, and the Future of Flight Center, where you can tour the assembly building and the delivery flightline.

    Book one night at the Silver Cloud Inn in Mukilteo. The hotel is built on piling over the beach, next to a good local seafood restaurant (Ivar’s) and a block or so from a superb brewpub. Silver Cloud is a regional hotel chain that offers really good value. Splurge for a suite if you can; if you’re lucky you’ll get the Olympic Mountains silhouetted in the sunset. Have a meal (remember the time change) and walk down to the cute little lighthouse before crashing.

    My feeling is that rather than flying into a big downtown area, which, on a Sunday night, will be very dead, you might enjoy more seeing some of the countryside and local environment before diving into city stuff later.

    Anyway, Monday morning, take the Whidbey Island ferry (two doors from the hotel) over to the island, then drive 10 min. to the very cute waterfront town of Langley, for a real (non-hotel) breakfast or coffee, whatever. In November Langley will be pretty dead on a weekday morning, but it’s still very picturesque.

    Continue driving north on Whidbey, with a possible stop at Fort Casey State Park (cool coastal gun emplacements) but aiming for Deception Pass State Park, at the extreme north end of Whidbey Island.

    Deception Pass is a very narrow channel between Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands. When the tide changes the water rushing through the passage is awesome. Explore Deception Pass both from the bridges that span it, but also from the beach way below it – it’s a terrific experience.

    Continue back to the mainland on SR 20 (no ferry this time, just a bridge) and stop if interested at the equally cute waterfront town of La Conner, maybe for a late lunch. Then make your way back to I-5 and drive to Seattle, around an hour.

    Again, not knowing your tastes, I’d personally book into the Silver Cloud (same chain) at their Lake Union branch. This hotel is located across the street from Lake Union just north of downtown Seattle. In addition to offering free parking, the hotel is 100 yards from the Lake Union trolley stop, where the streetcar (originally named the “South Lake Union Trolley” until someone looked at the initials) can take you into the heart of downtown. So you can keep the car for exploring Seattle’s neighborhoods and for getting back to the airport, but for excursions downtown just ride the tram. There are several decent restaurants across the street from the hotel on the lakeshore, and the big South Lake Union development zone (aka Amazonia after its main occupant) is easily walkable.

    Tuesday and whatever part of Wednesday you have, spend in Seattle and/or areas nearby. For example, in November the water flowing over Snoqualmie Falls (around 45 min. east of downtown) will make for a huge spectacle. Or you can ride the ferry over to Bainbridge Island for a meal and one of the best views of the Seattle skyline you can get. Or visit the various museums, Chihuly Self-Aggrandizement Center; have margaritas and good Mexican food at Agua Verde, feed the ducks (don’t, really) in the wetlands on Union Bay near the UW Arboretum; visit the Fremont Troll or say hello to Comrade Vladimir as he guards the Taco del Mar shop; go see if you can figure out what the hell Frank Gehry was smoking when he designed the EMP plane crash. See giant typewriter erasers and chrome trees in the sculpture garden, visit the houseboats along Lake Union (a 10 min. walk from the Silver Cloud) … lots of weirdness.

    Drink coffee. Eat crab. Visit Theo Chocolate for a legal high (oh wait, this is Washington State, never mind.) Go watch them fling those poor fish around at the Pike Place Market. Visit Uwajimaya for a real immersion in Seattle’s Pacific Rim legacy. Enjoy.

    But that’s just me. YMMV.

    Map.
     
  11. iolaire
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    iolaire Gold Member

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    This is a very good itinerary. It will give you a great overview of the San Juan Islands areas.
     
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  12. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    skip a trip to Canada then, concentrate on the Seattle & surrounding area.
     
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  13. clscholes

    clscholes Silver Member

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    ...And this is why Milepoint's members are awesome!
     
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  14. wombat18
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    wombat18 Silver Member

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    Much has been said that I agree with. Particularly the Fremont Troll!

    But, let me emphasize ... Finding parking in Seattle is a nightmare, particularly downtown, Capitol Hill, and University Ave. Even Fremont, Ballard and Lake Union are tough.
     
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  15. Gardyloo
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    Gardyloo Gold Member

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    Living here, I have to find parking in all these areas all the time, and I just don't see it that way. Yes, it's a big city, so you have to pay for parking in most areas; however parking rates aren't especially high, and if the alternative is waiting for the bus - in November, in the rain - or taking a taxi places, then to me parking is an acceptable ancillary cost. The tradeoff is that you have unlimited freedom of movement across a very big and very diverse metropolitan area, not to mention areas outside the metropolis where public transit is nonexistent and taxis unrealistic. On weekdays in November I don't think the OP would have any troubles to speak of parking in any of those areas - in garages downtown or on the street in the neighborhoods; however if the hotel has free parking and public transit is close by, then fine.
     
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  16. Captain Oveur
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    Captain Oveur Gold Member

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    If you do rent a car, what I would do is not rent one from the airport or the lots near the airport. There is a HUGE tax bill (tourist, airport fees) that are tacked on to all cars from Sea-Tac.

    What I usually do is rent from the Avis location at 5th & Stewart, across from the Westin (location code SE2), then drop it off at Sea-Tac when leaving. This way, you escape the huge taxes at Seatac and get a cheaper rate. And there are no drop fees for this.

    Also, the light rail from the airport goes right to this Avis location, a couple of blocks away.

    But if you're parking downtown, I'd forget a rental car. Parking, as mentioned earlier is EXPENSIVE. You may be better off with ZipCar or car2Go.
     
  17. 365RoadWarrior

    365RoadWarrior Silver Member

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    Great advice already provided. I would echo the (general) sentiment: worst option is to rent at the airport. The light rail to downtown really couldn't be easier or cheaper, if you're up for a 100 meter walk (100 yards, roughly). Busses have always gotten me everywhere I need to go in the city. From downtown there are bus local terminals, below street for convenient connections. Vancouver, frankly, I'd go by "Chinatown" bus or Bolt (boltbus.com). $15, city center to city center. Four departures a day. Four hours, but with no "overhead" (time spent getting to points at either end, security checks, car rental hassles and expense).
     
  18. StevenGerrard

    StevenGerrard Silver Member

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    its depend on you pocket but if you want to use money smartly then some time public transport is good and some time rent a car.
     
  19. clscholes

    clscholes Silver Member

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    Thank you all for your input...I will report on our trip. We leave Sunday, will get there late, and we are going to rent from inside Seattle the next day...we are excited!
     

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