Seattle with Teenagers

Midlife Sentence | Seattle Space Needle

“I’m a weed detector,” Jack said as a distinctive acrid aroma filled the foyer. From the living room we heard the front door open and then close not one second later, followed by a chorus of giggles.

Apparently our Weed Detector had been successful in locating the enjoyer of said aromatic herb, standing in her own little fog on the front porch about five feet away from our entry.

I don’t know if most towns would appreciate a travel blog starting out with an anecdote about pot, but if you’re planning a trip to Seattle with adolescents, it’s probably helpful to come to grips from the outset with the fact that that Seattle is one of the most weed friendly towns in the US. If you happen to hail from a conservative state like ours, and you’re traveling with a small gaggle of teens, you can probably expect a little fascination with the topic, as well as someone pointing out the head shop on just about every single corner.

Midlife Sentence | SeattleIf nothing else, we established right off the bat this weekend that our sophisticated older kid is quite the bloodhound, able to suss out cannabis smoke within a radius of little more than arms length. Nothing gets by that guy.

One of the things I love about using Airbnb or VRBO when we travel as opposed to staying in hotels is the chance to experience local neighborhoods. For this trip we rented a townhome in Squire Park, one of Seattle’s oldest residential areas, with easy access to downtown, and apparently a thriving Ethiopian population, judging by the ethnic restaurants and grocery stores.

The first night the weather cleared up for a pleasant walk, so we wandered around the neighborhood looking for a place we could all agree on for dinner. Feed Co. Burgers on 24th was not on the list of recommended restaurants our Airbnb host posted, but really should be. It was a good compromise for all of us, and for a Friday night, surprisingly uncrowded. The gal behind the counter asked how we found them, which was completely by accident (if we can sniff out a fog of pot from five feet away, we can also see a glowing “burger” sign from down the street), so I thought I’d share a little love here …

I’ve joked about Seattle’s reputation for gloomy weather being something Seattleites just talk about to keep tourists away. Every time I’ve visited the sun’s been out and the weather beautiful. This weekend, though, after the first pleasant evening, we had a taste of pretty much every kind of weather. From gale-force winds, to rain, to bright sunshine, to snow. Mother Nature threw it all at us over the course of three days.


But we’re a hearty crew, and our exchange student Marine’s exclamations of delight over everything we saw kept the mood pretty light over the weekend, no matter how blustery it got.

We’ve seen all these same sights before with the boys, but it’s been close to a decade since the last time we visited with them. They have short memories and Seattle never gets old.

Space Needle – This was to have been our first stop, but when we arrived it was closed due to wind. I’m not sure what kind of wind forces a closure, since the thing was built to withstand gusts of up to 200 mph, but since the structure sways about an inch for every 10 mph of wind, I was perfectly happy to remain on the ground for a while in such blustery conditions. We eventually did make it to the top (just after sunset, dangit), and made one or two chilly passes on the outside observation deck. The revolving restaurant and half the deck were closed for a $100 million renovation which will replace the walls of the observation area with floor to ceiling glass windows, and replace the floor in the rotating restaurant with glass panels.

Museum of Pop Culture – The last time we visited, this was the Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. It’s a part of the last trip both boys remembered well and they requested a return visit.

From MoPop we took the two-minute monorail ride from Seattle Center to Westlake Center. Mike wanted to see the flying fish at Pike Place Fish Market, and Marine wanted to say she’d had coffee in the first Starbucks store.

Midlife Sentence | Seattle Pike Place Fish MarketThe first was easy, the second, not so much. The Starbucks website lists its store at 1st and Pike as “the original Starbucks.” But the homeless guy on the corner with the fake penis nose and cardboard sign told us this wasn’t the first store, so we did some more sleuthing. Turns out the “original” Starbucks is apparently not the same as the FIRST Starbucks, which is located at 1912 Pike Place, but Marine and the boys were just fine with their mocha-choka-froofy drinks from the former, as well as a few moments out of the weather, and as we’re not ones to encourage unsolicited advice from people who wear prosthetic face genitals, we decided to call it good.

… And that paragraph up there literally doubles the amount of time in my life I’ve spent thinking about Starbucks (or any time on the subject of prosthetic face genitals for that matter).

Across the street, we browsed at Left Bank Books, which was refreshing. I feel like every minute spent in an indy book store, especially one that specializes in anti-authoritarian, radical and small-press titles, karmically wipes the slate clean of about twenty minutes spent in line for overpriced coffee. We declined Colin’s request to purchase the Anarchist’s Cookbook, however. We didn’t want to wipe the slate that clean.

At the end of the day, we were able to head back to the Space Needle to enjoy not-quite-gale-force-winds for about two seconds on their observation deck before heading back down.

The next day we headed out into less blustery but decidedly cooler weather for the Seattle Aquarium, from which we thought Colin with his love for fish and all things aquatic would get the biggest kick, but Marine was the most excited to see each new tank.

“It’s like I’m a kid on Christmas morning!” She said. Her enthusiasm made the huge crowds a little more bearable. Seriously, it seemed like every person with a kid under the age of 10 decided to visit the Aquarium that morning.

From there we headed back into Westlake center so the kids could shop. I’m about as big into malls as I am into froofy coffee drinks, so Mike and I opted to stop somewhere for a beer instead. On the way we happened to pass by the gum wall, which is in an alley off of Pike Place Market, and is as goofy and gross as it sounds.

Midlife Sentence | Seattle Gum Wall
Free Candy! … No. Just … ew … and I just noticed those kids in the background. What the hell are THEY doing?

I was hoping for a harbor tour sometime over the weekend, but the winds made that sound particularly uninviting. Instead we headed back on the Monorail to Seattle Center, where we had time for either the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit or the Pacific Science Center. The kids voted for the later, with its laser show and butterfly exhibit (in a luxuriously tropical room).

Oh, and remember those crowds of little people at the Aquarium? They had apparently all decided against the Chihuly exhibit in favor of the Pacific Science Center as well. It didn’t take long before I was feeling mildly claustrophobic and grateful for the opportunity to head back out, even if it was into the chill.

I should mention, although the subject of pot seemed at first like it was going to dominate our trip, it didn’t. Nor did Jack have much more opportunity to hone his olfactory skills, I guess somewhat to his chagrin and our relief.

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  1. You were just three hours to the south of me! I have developed a real fondness for Seattle over the years and am delighted to read about the reno to the Space Needle. The pic of the gum wall made me grin and yes, what are those kids doing? Too funny. I’d say Marine is having the time of her life with you guys and she sounds lovely. Hope she’s with you for a bit longer.

    1. I love British Columbia! We used to visit Victoria and Vancouver when I was in high school. Yes, Marine was a delight to have along. She’s with us for another couple of months and then moves on to a new host family.