Ah, the Emerald City. Forever battling it out with Portland to be the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is known for its bustling metropolis, natural beauty, and of course, for being the original tech haven.
After making our way west from Spokane, through the great state of Washington, we battled rush-hour traffic, construction, and various toll bridges with no actual toll booths to finally arrive at our home away from home, the Red Lion Hotel on Fifth Avenue in downtown Seattle.
The lovely people at Red Lion Hotels are a supporter of our “Fabric of America” tour. They covered our stay, and we’re writing about it in return. This journey would not be possible without them (and you). Read about their support right here.
Unlike previous posts about smaller cities we’ve visited, this city needs no justification for the masses. Everyone seems to love Seattle. If someone doesn’t or hasn’t lived there, they’ll rave on about the city and how fantastic it is to visit. On this summer jaunt, we were certainly not alone as we plunged into the urban chaos of central Seattle.
This was the first truly large city we visited during our “Fabric of America” tour, and it was honestly strange to go into such a largely populated expanse after being in small towns for so long. Honestly, it felt a bit like being punched in the face with the fist of urbanity.
Fortunately for us, the towering Red Lion property would be our solace from the madness during our stay in the city. A couple dozen floors tall, the hotel is located smack-dab in the middle of the city. It’s about a small stone’s throw from the main shopping district, theaters, restaurants – basically, all the metropolitan culture you could ask for. It’s also just around the corner from Pike Place Market and the original Starbucks, two targets on our hit list.
First of all, though, we had to check in. We were greeted by Jazmine, another Red Lion staffer who does her job so well that she could teach other hotels’ employees a thing or two about how to handle a hotel. And she could most likely do so with her eyes closed.
After getting checked in, we headed all the way up to our 15th floor spread, easily making it the highest hotel room we’ve stayed in on our journey. It also gave us a nice view of both the shiny and historic skyscrapers of downtown Seattle.
There were unfortunately no king rooms available, so we obtained a double. The downside was less space to work, the upside was another bed to cover with all of our possessions. Our stuff got a good night’s rest, as did we, as the beds are crazy plush and gave us the sleep-insies. Good for bumming around, not so good for being productive.
Fortunately, we did have a very nice desk that Ang took over.
This relegated me to the chair, but it fortunately had an ottoman, which let me kick back and handle things while occasionally staring out the window at the little baby ant people below.
In addition to the fridge that kept all of our libations ice cold, we were blessed with the following:
And that marks the first time we’ve ever been at a hotel with a Keurig machine. That is simply brilliant. We drink way more coffee than the average Joe – ha, ha, ha – so we went to the local IGA and grabbed our own stash of K-Cups. The good thing is that we didn’t have to keep asking for more. The bad thing is that we are still waiting to stumble across another hotel with a Keurig so we can use the rest!
These were also sitting on our counter in the room. Not cool, people. $3 for a bottle of water? I guess that’s okay since it’s Fiji – if you want to drink fancy Fiji water. No thanks, though. Something just feels wrong about this, but I guess that’s how you roll when you’re downtown in a big city. We didn’t have a minibar, but I’ll go ahead and class this in with that concept. At least it’s not forced on you!
On the other hand, this is Seattle, and that means the folks are into being green. This combo trash and recycling bin was in our room, and the property gets much credit for that. If you make recycling easy, more people will do it. That includes us, even after living in the green strictness of Germany for a couple of years.
We found it a bit strange that this cosmopolitan hotel has no swimming pool, but you can’t win ‘em all. And frankly, we weren’t going to swim anyway. Alas, you should be aware of that. It does, however, take its skyscraper mentality to the max with the hotel restaurant.
Frolik sits several floors up, with a trendy restaurant and bar that has a fantastic deck. It’s gotta span a couple-thousand square feet, and it was insanely packed during our stay. It’s a definite hotspot with young professionals and snazzy hotel types, and was a bit too much in that direction for our tastes. To each their own, though!
We did try to order room service to give the restaurant a shot, but no one ever answered the phone. We opted for the hotel’s lower-level restaurant and bar, Elephant & Castle. It’s not affiliated with the hotel, but provides easy access for takeout, and we enjoyed our food from there. It’s a great place to run down to if you don’t feel like going out one night.
Of course, we had to get out and try Seattle’s other offerings, such as the high-end Blueacre, famed for both its seafood offerings and expansive wine collection. We don’t usually eat this fancy, but it was worth every penny and much, much more.
If you have ever spent a decent amount of time in Europe, then you know all about döner kebab. Seattle is known to have one of the only döner spots in the entire country – The Berliner – so we just had to stop by there to get our fix. As much as they try and as popular as they are, they unfortunately cannot hold a candle to what exists on the other side of the ocean. It’s decent, but we were unimpressed and probably wouldn’t go back. Schade.
We also swung across town to eat at Krua, a family-owned Thai restaurant that serves up some of the freshest Thai food we’ve ever had.
That was after we walked by the Space Needle, but never went up. Why not? Every local we met told us not to. Plus, there are so many other things to do in Seattle. And as we always say, you can’t see it all. It was nice to see it from the ground, though!
Sitting in the park and watching skaters was way more our speed, anyway.
We also swung over to Golden Gardens and took a nice walk on the beach, stopping to chat with local vendors and watch fisherman come in after a long day.
And to make funny faces for the camera, as we’re wont to do.
But of course, we went to Pike Place Market. It’s every bit as exciting as all the stories will have you believe, but we never got to see anyone throw fish around. Unless you count diners throwing fish into their mouths at all the little, local spots inside the market.
Crossing the street, we had to check out the original Starbucks. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the entrepreneurial success story behind it. We ended up hanging out there for a while, talking to the employees and drinking plenty of espresso.
There are also plenty of interesting shops and eateries in the area, like this German one that we stumbled across, which serves up sausages and carries everything from German beer to the always-nasty Mezzo Mix.
Being that we were in Seattle, this also gave us the opportunity to swing by the home of Tom Bihn. While they are a tour supporter and luggage provider of ours, they’re also the best in the business and we wanted to see their Made in the U.S.A. action first-hand. It just so happened to be a day when Tom himself was in the office, and we were delighted that he let us steal away part of his day for a chat about the business.
Overall, we spent a lot of time walking around, going to parks, and being as calm as possible.
We’re both city folks, but after being in such stress-free areas for much of our trip, Seattle felt a bit overwhelming. Fortunately for us, it’s full of green spaces that can settle the mind a bit.
And of course, we were always able to retreat to our room at the Red Lion. It was a nice, quiet abode where we could both relax and get some work done. While we weren’t fans of the uppity restaurant scene or the downtown parking prices, it’s easily a top hotel for the center of a big city. It’s amazing to us that this is a mid-scale property, because it feels like so much more between the decor, location, dining options, and unbeatably friendly staff.
If we’re ever back in Seattle, we’ll be sure to stop by again as it provided us with everything we needed while in town, and the most insanely easy access to everything that the city has to offer.
- Location: Smack-dab in the middle of downtown.
- Clientele: Great for families, business travelers, and single.
- Technology: Fast wi-fi, free for an unlimited number of devices.
- Beds: Excellent and plush. Lots of pillows. Easy to sleep long and late.
- Rooms: Big and spacious, with expansive views of downtown Seattle.
- Amenities: Cable TV, wi-fi, telephone, desk with a proper office chair, lounge chair with ottoman, end tables, refrigerator, one-and-a-half restaurants. Valet laundry only, which is annoying since it’s always like, $5 per T-shirt. You’ll have to head to the laundromat, as we did.
- Bathroom: Plenty of soaps and lotions, good shower with plenty of hot water and fancy shower heads.
- Dining: Breakfast is only available at the hotel restaurant. Lunch and dinner are available at Frolik, which also has a massive bar. Within walking distance of thousands of restaurants.
- Staff: Wonderful. Very helpful with recommendations and putting up with us.
- Cleanliness: Rooms are very clean. Property kept clean 24/7, inside and out.
- Distractions: No distractions inside the hotel, but everything and anything you can think of is literally outside the front door.
- Attractions: Space Needle, skate park, Golden Gardens, Olympic Sculpture Park, Ballard neighborhood, views of Mount Rainier on clear days, countless and endless other local and touristy options no matter which direction you look.
- Snacks & Such: No convenience store at this property. Limited room service availability. Starbucks across the street and an IGA grocery store around the corner.
- Value: Unbelievably economical for a mid-scale hotel. The location is priceless and you will not find a better deal in downtown Seattle.
The Red Lion Hotel on Fifth Avenue in Seattle, Washington, is located here:
1415 5th Avenue.
Seattle, WA 98101
Tel: +1 (206) 971-8000
Have you ever been to Seattle, or stayed at this Red Lion? Any thoughts about Red Lion or Seattle overall? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!