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A Family Afar: Seattle Is So San Diego

From the far ends of the West Coast, the two cities are strikingly similar


Illustration by Daniel Zalkus

As we settled into our flight to Seattle, the kids asked why we had chosen the Emerald City for a family vacation. My response? Seattle would offer us a polar opposite weekend from our lives in San Diego.

Our city and Seattle are just about as far north and south as two West Coast metropolises can get. The crisp mountain air is heavy with pine scent. Greenery abounds, with so many trees, lakes, and mountains you feel like pulling on a Patagonia jacket to set off on a wilderness expedition. Residents are bedecked in flannels, sturdy boots, and lumberjack beards, the very roots of the hipster movement. The legendary music scene is very much alive, on trend with a turn back to vinyl. (I knew I should have held on to my once-epic record collection. They would worship it here.) You can practically hear the birds singing as they land on the outstretched fingers of Microsoft and Amazon executives.

San Diego celebrates our distinctive attributes, too­­—palm trees swaying in the ocean breeze, sunny beaches filled with tanned people in swimsuits, a gorgeous downtown bayfront dotted with an interesting collection of waterside attractions, our crown jewel Balboa Park topped by the regal California Tower, the ubiquitous smell of craft beer brewing. Our workplace heroes? The brilliant, Nobel Prize–winning scientists, chemists, biotech visionaries, and genetic researchers.

Both cities have much to be proud of, we told the kids. As we Uber’d to our plush rooms at Seattle’s Fairmont Olympic Hotel, they listened to our curious comparisons with feigned interest.

We set out to show them what’s what, walking a couple of quick blocks down from the Fairmont to Pike Place Market for a morning coffee and sticky bun. Strolling past the stalls of gorgeous fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, seafood, and crafts, Sophia mentioned how much it reminded her of the Little Italy Mercato. A few blocks later as we wound our way through the grassy slopes of Olympic Sculpture Park, we looked out at sailboats dotting Puget Sound and were instantly reminded of San Diego Bay.

Seattle’s downtown is a combination of historic buildings and sleek new towers. Its vibrant arts and culture scene is overflowing with creativity. There is a legitimate foodie culture, and celebrated restaurants abound. Seattleites are friendly, down-to-earth, and quick to smile. Neighborhoods are diverse and interesting, each with its own personality and quirks. Hmmm. Sound familiar?

As it turns out, for all the differences we can point out between Seattle and San Diego, just enough things are the same to make it all seem familiar and comfortable (weather notwithstanding). No wonder our whole family fell in love with the city and can’t wait to go back. It’s like an alternative universe to San Diego.

One thing they have over us? A football team. But that’s rich fodder for another time.

Jon Bailey writes the travel blog 2dadswithbaggage.com. 2DadsWBaggage 2dadswithbaggage

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