San Diego to New York via Vancouver Island and US2
We're planning a 'trip of a lifetime' this summer (downsized our house, 50th birthdays!!)
We've travelled a little in the US (including Grand Canyon, New York, Las Vegas, Joshua NP, Arizona) and are not really city fans. We plan to stay in relatively cheap hotels/motels for most of the journey and have relatives in San Diego for the start.
Plan at the moment is to drive up the Pacific Coast, then Seattle, Vancouver Island (and whale watching!), then Glacier National Park and across mainly using US2 back to Maine then down to New York. We will have from mid-June to the beginning of September.
One question is where would be the best place to stay for 4th July weekend - at the moment we're leaving San Diego on 16 June, with the aim of being in the Seattle area (where we will change cars for an SUV type on 7th July). Do places get really booked up? Is there somewhere that would be good for that weekend?
I've got lots of guidebooks, and am a bit worried about how busy places will be (mind you, having lived in London and the Southwest of England, which can seem like permanent car parks, I'm not sure if I need to worry!!)
Any help appreciated.
That is quite a trip you are planning. I hope someone can advise you on what to expect in terms of crowds in the Seattle area on the July 4th holiday weekend. I will speculate crowds will be somewhat greater on July 4, 2008 than on other Independence Days inasmuch as that's a holiday which is observed on the actual date, unlike Labor Day and Memorial Day which always fall on a Monday. My calendar shows July 4, 2008 being a Friday, so the chances of accomodations booking would seem to be somewhat greater.
I am somewhat familiar with the territory along US 2 from the east side of Glacier NP all the way across Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP). I suppose you know there is little worry about crowds once you leave Glacier NP, thence at least as far east as Minnesota. Within Montana, US 2 is referred to as the High Line, after the railway corridor it more or less parallels. Immediately east of Glacier is Browning, MT, where the Museum of the Plains Indian is a good, if somber, stop. From Browning, the terrain is isolated high plains with a few very small towns all the way into and across North Dakota. If you're willing to venture off of US 2, the town of Medora, ND is home base for the Theodore Roosevelt National Grassland and is very much worth a visit. Further on, in the UP of Michigan, I spent two full summers in Crystal Falls, in the heart of the UP's boreal forests, rivers, and lakes. It's a beautiful area and home to some of the friendliest people you could ever want to meet. East of Crystal Falls, US 2 dips back into Wisconsin, thence back into Michigan, and the stretch from about Escanaba all the way to the Mackinaw Straits bridge provides many views of Lake Michigan. If, however, you venture off of US 2, you might consider going up through Marquette to Munising and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, thence a short distance south back to US 2.
I hope this helps and have a great trip.
Thanks for that - it's great to hear from someone who's really familiar with some of the areas we plan to travel through. Only problem is that - which I'm sure is everybody's problem - we keep wanting to go further and further afield as there seem to be so many fabulous places to go.
One thing I am a little concerned about is the ease with which we will be able to cross into and out of Canada. We have experienced a little of the difficulties that non-US citizens now face entering the country with the hugely increased security since 9/11 and wonder whether it will be a problem crossing the border a few times into and out of the USA. Would appreciate any advice on this.
Not a clue
Unfortunately, I am unable to comment on border crossings. I haven't left the US since I was 13 years old, and that was 39 years ago! I'm sure someone else can help you on that issue.
Not a clue either
As a US resident, I have no idea how border crossings work for international visitors. However, I can help you with other stuff!
Don't sweat the fact that your must-see wants seems to be growing. It happens to all of us. You couldn't see everything in the US in two years, much less two months. Just do your best to choose the things that appeal to you the most and don't sweat what you're missing. You will always be missing something. Feel free to share your itinerary with us and we can help you tweak things, offer suggestions, etc.
As for Seattle on 4th of July....YES, get hotel reservations! I usually suggest that people wing it so they're not too tied down to schedules but this is definitely an exception. Here's an article with a bit of info about what to expect in Seattle during the Independence Celebrations. There are two fireworks shows in Seattle. Both are cool and I've seen articles telling you where you be so you can see both displays. Unfortunately, I'm not finding that information right now. If I find it, I'll come back and post it. Anyway, one is over Elliott Bay (the Seattle waterfront area on Puget Sound) and the other over Lake Union. Both are amazing. Big crowds. Oh, here's a post that talks about a boat cruise you can take to watch the fireworks from the water. Cool. I checked out the link for the Argosy Cruises (in that post) and a 4th of July cruise isn't currently listed but maybe it will be later in the spring? Worth checking out.
Here's a map that might help you figure out the area of Seattle you want to be in for the fireworks. I basically drew a circle around the general area. To the left where you see the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry route is Elliott Bay where one group of fireworks is. To the north is Lake Union where the other fireworks are.
Now, Seattle traffic is horrid at the best of times. During special events like this, I wouldn't even want to think about driving out of town that night after the shows are over. You might want to get a hotel either facing Elliott Bay or near Lake Union and spend the night there. Someplace within walking distance of where you will be watching the fireworks from.
There are far less hotels in the Lake Union area as much of that is more residential. So, if I were you and I had to choose, I watch the show over Puget Sound/Elliott Bay and stay near the waterfront. Some worth checking out are:
The Edgewater - right on Elliott Bay
Inn at the Market - right above the waterfront at Seattle's famous Public Market
Basically, anything along the waterfront or on 1st-6th street, no farther north than Virginia Street and no farther south than Seneca would make a good area to be able to watch near the waterfront and walk back to your hotel.
These hotels won't be cheap due to their location and the holiday but it will be worth it not to deal with traffic. Trust me. And Seattle on a holiday is really quite a cool place to be.
Oh, and if you stay overnight in downtown Seattle, one of the coolest things to do is the Public Market. Very cool place. Interesting shops, restaurants, fresh produce, fresh flowers, baked goods, crafts, fresh seafood, etc. And watch out for flying fish!
If I can help you further, let me know.
Thanks for all that.
Looked at the hotels you suggested and I think to be frank they're out of our budget!! I know we will have to be prepared to spend a bit more for the holiday period etc, and in some cases we won't have a choice, but since we are in the US from 9 June to 3 September staying in hotels/motels we are trying to keep costs as reasonable as possible.
We won't have an RV (in fact we're hiring a Corvette for the first two weeks - husband's mid-life crisis!!) but we're not averse to walking and don't want anything too luxurious. Thoughts are maybe we could book something like Best Western or Holiday Inn Express, where at least the bookings can be changed until nearly the last minute. Was having a look at the BW on Bainbridge Island and thought that looked ok?
My husband has driven quite a bit in the States, I'm pretty good with maps (and satnav!) so we're not uncomfortable driving or getting round big cities etc.
Anyway, I'm looking through all your links and making more plans! Thanks again,
Yeah, for me too
The tightwad in me would have a very hard time paying those hotel prices myself so I understand. When we go to Seattle, it's usually a day trip for those very reasons. Or we drive a bit and stay near Sea-Tac Airport where you can find much lower rates. But I fear the traffic would be too thick and crazy to do that on the 4th. I've actually never been to the Seattle fireworks shows because of these very reasons....traffic and the hotels are too expensive.
This article talks about watching from Bainbridge Island and taking the ferry which was going to be grossing the Sound from Bainbridge Island to Seattle at the time the fireworks are going off. I think it would be a hoot to go over to Bainbridge Island, get checked into your hotel, and park your car, then go on the ferry as a walk-on so you don't have to get into your car to board/debark and miss some of the display. You could walk on, watch the fireworks overhead on the crossing, and then take the next ferry back. Passenger-only fees, with no car, are very reasonably-priced. Even if you don't do the ferry and just watch from shore, I think your plan is a good one. I suggest asking locals where the good viewing spots are and getting there fairly early to stake out your spot.
Out here on the coast, we have a terrific fireworks show on the beach. Not as big as Seattle's...not even close...but it's still a great smaller show in a beautiful place. When we go, we get there early to find a tall dune from which we can actually watch two fireworks displays. The one over the beach and another down the coast, across a harbor, that we can watch in the background. These spots go quickly so we'll take our chairs, a few blankets, some wine and munchies, and people watch until the fireworks. It's a hoot. You could do the same.
Bainbridge Island is beautiful. If you have time while you're there, head west about 30 minutes to the town of Poulsbo.
Anyway, I'm glad this discussion came up because I've learned something myself. And I'm thinking that I might very well want to do what you're doing and watch from Bainbridge Island sometime myself.
Can I help you with any other planning questions. I especially know Oregon and Washington.
Seattle - and NASCAR!
Thanks for that Judy. We have decided to stay on Bainbridge for 4/5 July, going as foot passengers to Seattle. Then we plan to go on to Olympic NP, maybe staying at Kalaloch Lodge?
Having looked at other threads, we've realised that we will be well placed to go to the NASCAR event at Sonoma on the weekend of 21/22 June. Although not real fans (well, I'm not!) and since we won't really be following the results, but would just like the experience, I'm assuming that - for the cost - the Saturday event will be just as much fun?
So our plan then would be to go to the San Francisco area after that and then up to Seattle for 4 July via the Oregon coast. Plans taking shape!!
Thanks for the advice!
Saturday, 21 June at Sonoma, CA
Hello again Patti,
For the casual observer, Saturday's events at the Sonoma track would likely be a very interesting and affordable way to spend a day. From the track's website (www.infineonraceway.com) it appears that a racing series generally known as NASCAR West will be running a race on Saturday. The West series is at least 3 levels below the "big boys", where Cup, Grand National, and Craftsman Trucks) make up the top 3. Still, I would assume the Western guys run large displacement V-8 engines in large stock cars, so for a first-timer, it will look and sound much the same as the Cup series that will run on Sunday. Plus, there is generally a Cup practice session on the Saturday before the race and that practice will have many if not all of the Cup regulars on the track fine-tuning their cars for the Sunday event. Normally the track schedules, right down to the practice schedule, can be found on the track's website. Oh, and I did see that Cup qualifying will be on Friday, 20 June. There are normally practice sessions preceding qualifying, as well.
A NASCAR race weekend is nothing if not a slice of Americana you just can't get anywhere else. It is a spectacle enjoyable by most anyone, be they auto buffs or not.
I can't speak from any experience, but I don't think you would have any serious issues. I would probably limit your crossings as much as possible, because even if things go smoothly, they do take time.
Originally Posted by Pattik
Make sure you know exactly what paperwork you'll need, and have it ready to go at the border, if you have what you need and have it ready to go, your odds of things going smoothly should increase significantly.