I’ve always enjoyed gifting experiences over things, so when my mom turned 60, I treated her to a trip to the Pacific Northwest. I lived in Seattle for 3 years in the early 2000’s (or noughties, as the Brits say!) and we had a lot of fun exploring the Pacific Northwest. My mom hadn’t ever visited Vancouver, though, so I thought it would be a great “International” destination that we could reach with fairly reasonable airfare. Now, before you nominate me for daughter of the year, I did spread this gift out over Christmas, Mother’s Day and a Birthday 😉
Here’s our Pacific Northwest vacation itinerary.
Day 1 – Chicago to Seattle
With a direct flight from O’Hare to Sea-Tac, we landed in Seattle on a Sunday afternoon and took a car service to the Crowne Plaza, where I’d gotten a really great government rate for 1 night. (My mom retired from the Army, so it’s legit, we weren’t scamming the hotel!) While we waited for our room to be ready, we walked around the downtown area, grabbed a salmon pierogi at Piroshky Piroshky and browsed through Pike Place Market. We had dinner at my new favorite Seattle restaurant, the Steelhead Diner. I have dreams about their Dungeness Crab Cakes!
Day 2 – Seattle to Vancouver
The next morning, we were up bright and early at the Amtrak station, where we took the train to Vancouver. This was my first Amtrak trip and it was awesome! The ocean and mountain scenery of the Pacific Northwest certainly helped! We arrived in Vancouver and took a cab to the Sheraton Wall Center, where I’d gotten another great rate for 3 nights. This was a great location in walking distance of everything, including Robson Street. Our room had a nice view of the harbor, too!
After unpacking and grabbing a crepe lunch on Robson, we took a taxi over to Chinatown for a walking tour of the Dr Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden.
We then had a birthday dinner at Francesco’s near the hotel, and it was an early night as we were signed up for a full day of whale watching the next day.
Day 3 – Vancouver Whale Watching
I chose Vancouver Whale Watch for our tour, mostly because they would pick us up right at the hotel, which was super convenient. It was quite a drive out to their offices and dock, but we made it and after signing a bunch of paperwork, we were loaded onto the boat. The ride out of the harbor was so scenic, with the mountains in the background. We immediately saw eagles, sea lions, and eventually, tons of orcas! Success!
We saw up to 5 whales at a time swimming together, and our guides were incredible! They could identify each orca just by the notches on their dorsal fin, or markings on their backs. They had books with family trees showing how each orca was related to others in it’s pod. You could tell the guide really loved her job and loved talking about the orcas!
After a long day on the water, we were returned to our hotel, where we then walked down to the ferry dock to head over to Granville Island for dinner under the bridge at the Sandbar, with a unique view of Vancouver!
Day 4 – Vancouver / Stanley Park
The next day we took the bus into Stanley Park and started out at the Vancouver Aquarium. We spent a full day in Stanley Park, visiting the aquarium, exploring the trails and also eating at a lodge in the park. This is such a great urban park, I highly recommend adding it to your Vancouver itinerary! The seawall offers so many great views of Vancouver.
Day 5 & 6- Whistler
After 3 nights in Vancouver, we took take the train out to the airport and picked up a rental car for our drive up to Whistler. It was a beautiful drive on the Sea to Sky highway! The scenery on this trip was just breathtaking! We checked in to the Westin Whistler, and set out to check out this cute little ski town. We also took a drive out to the Olympic village, and got a treat along the way when we saw a bear ambling around near the road.
We spent two nights in Whistler, enjoying the scenery and since it was cold and rainy, spent a lot of time enjoying the outdoor hot tub. I love hot tubbing in the mountains!
Day 7 – Whistler to Seattle
The Amtrak schedule was kind of odd for a return trip, so I booked a shuttle bus instead. So, it was back to the airport to return our car, then on the bus to Seattle. Our last night of vacation was spent at the Marriott Waterfront hotel. After a final evening of strolling the waterfront and enjoying fresh seafood at Elliott’s, it was time to fly home the next day.
For a 7-day trip, I think this was the perfect Pacific Northwest vacation itinerary. We skipped a lot of touristy stuff that I might recommend for a first time visit, but it was nice to come back to a place I lived for a few years. With an extra week, I would recommend squeezing in some of the island areas around Seattle or Vancouver!
To see all of my pictures from this trip, click here!