I’ll admit, when I first got pregnant, I didn’t really think I would travel all that much after the baby was born. Well, at least not for the first year or so.
It’s not that I thought I would suddenly stop wanting to see new places — I just wasn’t keen on schlepping eight million baby accoutrements onto a plane or across the country.
Then I was reminded that babies fly free for only the first two years of their life (and so does their carseat and stroller and apparently all the carry-on liquids you want). And after that, we would have to start budgeting for flights for three. On one full-time salary and one work-at-home-mom salary.
Needless to say, I now don’t really think we will travel all that much (at least by plane) after the baby turns two. Well, at least not until she’s old enough to remember where we go.
The point is, we’re trying to get our free flights’ worth while we can. So as our fifth wedding anniversary approached, Joey and I started making plans to visit the place where we got engaged.
Now, those of you keeping score at home may remember that I actually got engaged in Vancouver, so WHY AM I TALKING ABOUT SEATTLE? Well, if you were a true long-time reader, you would also remember that the vacance d’engagement* began and ended with a few days in Seattle, whereupon it became one of my favorite cities. So simmer down.
*not a real French term.
The point is, we began our anniversary trip in Seattle as well. We only spent a couple of days there, but I thought it might be helpful to share our favorite spots (new and old) that are also baby friendly, in case you are considering a trip with a little one.
NOTE: I am not calling this “The most original list of things to do in Seattle.” These are simply mom-tried-and-true places where you won’t feel out-of-place or unwelcome when you stroll in wearing a Baby Bjorn. Just wanted to clear that up before someone gets all snarky and superior in the comments. It’s Seattle; I know you’re hipper than I am.
We begin our adventure with dinner on our first night after touching down around 5:30 p.m….
Get dinner at…Ba Bar.
Vietnamese street food gets an upscale twist in this cozy haunt. The food is fresh with Pacific Northwest ingredients, the drinks are fresh-as-heck versions of your favorite classics, and the atmosphere is noisy enough to accommodate a fussy, jet-lagged baby while still intimate enough to make you feel like a cool mom out with her friends.
After dinner, go to bed. It’s after midnight your time. (Probably.) The next day…
Get breakfast at…Top Pot.
I’ll be honest, this is not where we got breakfast. We got breakfast at this place called Ludi’s that Yelp told us was really good. But, I’ll be honest, Yelp and I are on tenuous terms after that recommendation. Because it was fine, but not somewhere I would recommend for a vacation breakfast. You know what I WILL recommend? Doughnuts. And maple bars. And other magical breakfast confections you can find at Top Pot. Go there. And, for the love of sucrose, get something with sprinkles and take an adorable Instagram photo with your baby.
Then wander…Pike Place Market.
Yes of COURSE it’s cliche, but hear me out: The market is a fantastic place for babies. They can be as loud as they want (a local fishmonger is guaranteed to be louder), there are tons of things to look at, and you will never find someone more fascinated by the gum wall than an ankle-biter.
Get lunch at…Matt’s in the Market.
To me, a trip to Seattle without a stop at Matt’s is sacrilege, so there’s no way it wasn’t going to end up on this list. Fortunately for you, trusting reader, it really and truly is a good place to take a baby. (Who knew??) It’s got a buzzy atmosphere that won’t be broken up by a few tiny shrieks (noticing a pattern here?), and the waitstaff is pleasantly patient with littler guests. There are also a ton of windows, which is a plus if you’ve got a baby who needs lots of things to look at or she gets bored and cries. Speaking hypothetically. The one flaw? No changing tables in the bathroom. (What’s up with that, Matt’s?) But there is a counter where they put the hand towels where you can set up shop without too much fuss.
Then visit the…Seattle Great Wheel.
Relax, I’m not recommending you take your baby on to some wobbly wheel of doom. The Great Wheel really is pretty great, with each seat actually being a little pod/room that you can get all to yourself if you want. The ride around lasts about 15 serenely quiet minutes, perfect for sneaking in a nursing session or a nap. And the views can’t be beat.
And while you’re there, head left to the…Seattle Aquarium.
Um, hi. Why did no one tell me how perfect aquariums are for babies? Here I was, all like, “Babies can’t appreciate science.” When, in reality, they don’t have to. (And, actually, they probably can.) All they have to appreciate is looking at cool stuff. And aquariums are PACKED with cool stuff. They are already designed for kids, so everything from running to touching to getting raucous is actually ENCOURAGED in most areas. The Vivster could not have been more charmed by every single creature she met. Still not convinced? Consider this: Those giant walls of fish? They look exactly like TV screens, meaning your baby’s eyes will be drawn to it like a magnet. Except your mom group isn’t going to secretly judge you for letting your kid stare at one for an hour. Everyone wins.
Get coffee (and charge your phone) at…Seattle Coffee Works.
Honestly, you can get coffee anywhere. This is Seattle — it’s all pretty decent. I’m only including this particular spot because it also had outlets and bench seating where, if you spread a blanket, a particularly obliging baby could spread our and catch a few Z’s. This is not true of every coffee outlet. (Lookin’ at you, Starbucks across the street.) And if your baby won’t sleep here, grab a latte, plop the kiddo in a baby sling or carrier, and hit up a few shops on 5th avenue (Seattle-version). If your kid is anything like mine, she’ll be out like a light in no time.
Then grab dinner at…Local 360 Cafe & Bar.
When you first walk into this place, it won’t scream “baby-friendly” to you. (That would wake the babies. YUK YUK YUK.) The main floor is all bar and tiny tables packed pretty close to their neighbors. But never fear! There’s a whole second story, where somehow all the noise seems to blend into a pleasant hum of conversation (even if your baby’s contribution to that hum is just a lot of whining). Plus, the wait staff LOVES babies. At least, everyone we encountered did — and nothing makes you feel more comfortable than that. Plus, the actual food? To. Die. Do not skip dessert.
Now, go home and put that baby to bed. You’re both jet lagged, remember?
The next morning, get brunch at…Six Seven Restaurant at the Edgewater Hotel.
I know you probably didn’t actually sleep in (you have a baby), but let’s call this breakfast “brunch” just so you feel like a semblance of your pre-baby self, shall we? This gorgeous hotel might feel a bit formal for an infant, but if you book an earlier reservation (we started around 9:30 a.m.) you’ll avoid a rush of people looking for an adults-only meal in favor for a mostly empty dining room and spectacular views you can enjoy sans judgy eyes. Tip: Order any egg specialty with crab in it, feed your kid a squeezy pack, and high-five your fellow adult for scoring a grown-up meal. After breakfast, take a jaunt along the coast to work off the food and get you all some fresh air before you head out.
So, technically that’s two days, right? Feel free to mix and match the recommendations to fit your own timeline.
Did I miss your favorite baby-friendly place? Share it in the comments. And happy trails!
You guys, this has been a doozy of a week.
First, we made a somewhat big announcement last Thursday. Also, today is my last day at my current job. (I know, I know, Justine changes jobs like most people change their Brita filters…moving on.) ALSO, we’re getting the keys for our new apartment this week.
All of that would have been enough to solidify a super busy week. And then two days ago my new job called and asked if I would be okay with them sending me to Belgium for job training. Sunday. As in, six days later. HA! Um…sure?
So now I can add “visit new country” to my March to-do list. Who knew?
SO anyway…have any of you ever been to Brussels? What should I do while I’m there?
I tell you what: There’s something about seeing how the other half lives.
This week, I’m working in my company’s San Francisco office. Instead of shelling out a zillion dollars on a hotel, I took a friend’s suggestion and opted for a much more affordable airbnb. I had never done airbnb before, but so far, I’m a fan. (As is my company’s finance department, I’m sure.)
Let me tell you a little bit about the apartment. It’s a one-bedroom in San Fran’s South of Market neighborhood. The entire south wall is windows. The living room is HUGE and opens up to the kitchen and a dining area, plus a desk nook. It has two gigantic closets. (The bedroom closet is a walk-in.) There’s a washer and dryer in the unit. It has a dishwasher and a sink disposal. The bathroom has the world’s largest tub.
Basically, I’m never leaving.
Because I dare to dream, last night I decided to look up the building to see if it was even in the realm of possibility that I could live there some day.
Spoiler alert: It’s not.
A 1-bedroom runs at least $3,700. And the most devastating part? This isn’t even the owner’s primary home.
They actually live in Palo Alto, but the wife works a couple of days a month in the city designing stores for Anthropologie, and traffic is such a bother. So they bought a little pied-à-terre that they can let their kids use or stay in when they want to go to a restaurant in the city and not worry about driving home.
Life is hard, right?
So, bad news, I will never live here. Good news: I DO FOR NOW.
The California trip continues!
I’ll be the first to say that you should spend as much time in Big Sur as you can. As the name implies, it’s big. There are several state parks, plenty of places to camp or stay overnight, and so many incredible vistas that you could probably fill a week at least with to-dos. Our schedule, though, only had time for one day in Big Sur, so we did our best to make the most of it.
Tip: Print out paper directions to anything definitely want to see. Cell service is nonexistent through most of the drive, so you won’t be able to rely on a GPS.
Tuesday night, we drove from San Francisco to the Mariposa Inn & Suites in Monterey. The hotel was simple and clean, with a pool and a free breakfast in the morning. The next morning, we set out early to begin our trek.
Tip: Make sure you start out with a full tank of gas. There are loooong stretches on Highway 1 with exactly zero gas stations — the last thing you want is to get stuck with an empty tank. One full tank should get you the whole way through Big Sur, though.
First stop was Big Sur Bakery, which had been recommended to me by pretty much every person I told I was going to Big Sur. We got breakfast (eggs and greens on toast), but I’ve been told the dinner is also excellent.
Tip: This is also the last place to get good espresso before you get lost in the wilderness, so take advantage of the bustling coffee bar. I would also recommend getting a few baked goods for the road. (We opted for a pumpkin scone and a maple baon bowtie.)
After fueling up, we started our drive. There were a couple of things we wanted to see for sure (included below), but the main thing I would like to impress upon you is the importance of just stopping a lot and taking in your surroundings. This place? It is BEAUTIFUL. Like, stupid beautiful. You won’t even be able to believe it. It helped that we had the world’s most perfect weather, of course, but regardless, I truly believe California is the most gorgeous place on earth. Get OUT of the car and take it IN. Be the corny tourist on the side of the road taking deep breaths of the morning air and snapping a photo or two. It’s worth it.
Ok, now for the specifics. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park was one of my favorite stops. There are two must-see hikes here, both starting from the parking lot.
Tip: Do not park in the parking lot unless you like paying $20 for no reason. Park on the main road with everyone else who is not a tourist (for free) and walk down to the trail.
First up, McWay Falls. You’ve probably seen this shot a billion times from either movies or your West Coast friends’ Instagram feeds, but it is still 100 percent worth seeing in person. I mean, LOOK AT THAT WATER.
The trail also barely qualifies as a hike — it’s short, totally flat, and can be done in flip flops. For something a bit more adventurous, hit up the Ewoldsen Trail on the opposite end of the parking lot. This will take you through redwood groves, over streams, and up some serious height if you feel industrious. The full trail is a little over five miles, but you can go as far as you like. If you’re in for the long haul, I’d recommend legitimate hiking boots and a backpack with water and snacks.
One thing that we were not expecting but LOVED? An elephant seal rookery. Hundreds of these animals flock to this beach to sun themselves, sleep, and mate every year, and it was pretty incredible to see in person. And not just because they reminded us an awful lot of a certain lazy dog we adore. Definitely worth joining the crowd ooh-ing and ah-ing over the seals.
After the seals, we started to head inland to Paso Robles where our hotel was. The downside was that we couldn’t see the water anymore. The upside is that we accidentally found ourselves in wine country! And, you guys. This country was so beautiful we almost couldn’t take it. The rolling hills and golden vineyards literally look painted on. We may have made a few more stops for photos. (And, okay, a wine tasting at Zenaida Cellars. We’re only human!)
We ended the night with dinner in nearby San Luis Obispo at a place called Novo with a really pretty back deck.
All in all, this was our favorite day of the trip. (Not counting time spent with family, of course!) And even though it feels like we packed a lot into the day, I love knowing that we could go back again and do completely different things.
Here are a few things we could have done but didn’t have time to do:
My dad had actually mentioned this place when I was first soliciting for activity ideas, but I didn’t look into it enough at the time. Basically, William Randolph Hearst was a SUPER rich man who wanted to build an American castle that would rival the European versions. And, I’ve only seen pictures, but I think it’s safe to say he succeeded. You can tour the estate, but reservations are highly recommended. If I went again, I would book the night tour when docents dress in period clothing and you get to see the most of the castle.
Tip: Hearst also collected a pretty impressive menagerie of animals that he kept in a personal zoo and allowed to roam the grounds. Most of the animals were sent to zoos when the fortune dried up, but you can still see a small herd of zebras grazing along the highway — keep a sharp eye out!
I had actually planned to stop here for lunch, but I got my directions mixed up and it ended up being right by Big Sur Bakery. If you’ve done the bakery before, though, this place looks pretty awesome. The lunch seating is arranged stadium style next to this huge overlook so you can take in the view while you eat, and it has been run by the same family for three generations.
Have any of you been to Big Sur? Did you do something we didn’t? Give me ideas for our next trip in the comments!
Since our California Adventure spanned nine days and basically the entire state, I figured it would be easier to break down the trip into areas. It will also make it more useful for anyone who is not exploring the entire state at once. (Thought I do recommend that if you have the opportunity.)
We spent the first day and a half of our trip with my brother and his family. They live near Sacramento, so we saw a bit of their ‘hood as well as the Berkeley area. The highlight was a lunch at Easy Creole, where the kind folks will let you sample six of their menu selections before you make your final choice.
Tip: Spring the extra $2 for the corn bread. It’s gluten-free, and oh-so worth it.
Monday morning, we kissed the fam goodbye and headed into the city.
Tip: Give yourself an hour longer than you think you will need when traveling on a week day. It took us an hour JUST to get through the tolls into the city. AN HOUR. I was climbing the walls of the car by the time we got through.
Joey had never been to SF, so I had planned out a day of the finest touristy options the city has to offer. First up, Sears Fine Food for the “world-famous” Swedish silver-dollar pancakes. We also split the veggie omelet so we’d have enough energy to get through our busy day. Both were delicious.
Next up, we popped into Walgreens to purchase a visitor one-day pass, which you can use on almost all of the public transportation (cable cars included). Then we grabbed a cable car heading toward Ghirardelli Square.
Tip: Try to get on at one of the first stops on the line. These little cars fill up very quickly, and people WILL cut the line. You have to be New Yorker aggressive.
We hopped off the cable car at Lombard Street to see the crookedest street in the world. You’re also treated to a pretty spectacular view of the city.
From there, it was time to head to the Golden Gate bridge.
Tip: Take the bus. There is very little parking by the bridge, and the bus is actually pretty simple. Plus, it’s covered by your visitor’s pass.
I wasn’t truly aware of how spectacular the weather was until we got to the bridge. The water looks so blue next to the bridge (which is actually red, fun fact). We took a million pictures in the nearby park and then walked about halfway across. (We wanted to get back to the city before sunset.)
A quick bus trip back brought us to Ghirardelli Square, where we just strolled along the coast making our way to Pier 39 because the ONE thing Joey really wanted to do was see the sea lions. Fisherman’s Wharf was predictably crowded, but the weather was great, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. We split a crab sandwich and enjoyed the views. And the sea lions did not disappoint.
Finally, we took the bus back to our hotel (the cable cars are impossible to get on from that end unless you want to wait an hour and a half), freshened up, and then went to dinner at Lolinda, an Argentinian steakhouse. Several people had recommended it to me as their favorite restaurant in SF, so we were excited to try it. And, you guys? So. Good. The food is served tapas-style, and we had four small plates, a large plate, and steak between the two of us. Plus two desserts because when they have banana bread pudding and peanut butter mousse, THAT IS THE RIGHT DECISION.
The second day, I worked in my company’s San Francisco office. (After a workout at Barry’s Bootcamp through my ClassPass, of course! The instructor was basically Barry’s Bootcamp Barbie, complete with anecdotes about her modeling gigs and her impending nose job. Oh, California!) Joey met up with me and my boss for lunch at Marlowe, which was SO GOOD. I highly recommend the brussel sprouts chips, baked cauliflower (it’s basically mac and cheese with cauliflower instead of mac), and gingerbread cake. That cake. I will dream about that cake.
After work, Joey and I went to dinner at The House near Chinatown. Do not be fooled by that sad little website — this place is boss. I highly recommend the coconut creme brûlée. And the take-home cookies, of course. (This was basically the vacation of desserts, as you can tell.)
So that’s how we spent two days in San Fran! It was pretty awesome, and the perfect weather didn’t hurt one bit. Post-dinner, we headed to our hotel in Monterey to begin our day in Big Sur. More on that later.
So did I miss your favorite San Francisco treat? Share with the group in a comment below.
I’m not going to lie — there are a lot of days when I give Joey a lot of credit for staying married to me.
I mean, I’m annoying. Like, roll-your-eyes, is-she-serious annoying. I actually care about how things are arranged in the pantry, and I throw things out with wild abandon because the clutter gives me hives. But the man sticks around, God love ‘im.
Case in point? I am very annoying to go on vacation with. Because I like to plan. But not just, like, plan-to-go-on-a-trip. PLAN.
Not only have I been working on a Google doc itinerary for our upcoming California trip for the last couple of months, not only do I plan to put together a binder of confirmations and maps (like I did for our Paris trip), but today I spent about an hour outfit planning. And then turning those plans into detailed packing lists.
Don’t believe me?
Like I said. Annoying.
The one thing Joey can be grateful for? I am generally much more rational in person when I feel like I have my life together. AND these plans make it much less likely that I will overpack.
See, babe? Everyone wins!!
…please don’t leave me.