Friday, April 15, 2011

Green Getaway: Seattle

Eco friendly travel does not necessarily mean camping or picking grapes on an organic farm (though that sounds fun too).  An eco friendly retreat in an urban setting is completely doable.   If you don't have time for a week,  I think a weekend escape can be every bit as satisfying if you use your time wisely and stay at the right hotel.   You can have a luxurious kid friendly green getaway in the city. 

Seattle is wonderful for this sort of thing.  Green options abound, the geography is gorgeous, and the food is fantastic.  My favorite thing to do when I visit the city is walk around, meet up with friends, and eat.  If you're traveling with a child, it's a good idea to have a couple of kid specific activities planned as well and Seattle has plenty to choose from.
Here's what you do.  You take the train or bus, everybody brings a stainless water bottle to refill and reuse, try to stick to vegetarian and organic local foods where available, take your non toxic toiletries in their reusable bottles, turn the lights off when you leave---all the things you do at home.  Only now, there are hotels that are on board with eco friendly thinking making it much easier to maintain your green lifestyle.  We took the beautiful Amtrak Cascades train into Seattle for a green mini vacation during Spring break and we stayed at the perfect hotel.     
Hotel Monaco is an eco friendly four star hotel brimming with individuality and charm.   It's Green Seal certified and complies with a list of green initiatives to make your stay healthier for the planet and for you.  I was grateful to walk into a room that didn't smell of cleaning supplies (they use eco friendly products) or fragrance.  Recycling, water and energy conservation, and organic food and beverage options are all part of their EarthCare Program.

Entering the lobby, the first thing I noticed was all the color.  We were lucky enough to visit during April, while they are celebrating Earth Day with some beautiful lamps created by artist Russ Morgan, using colorful upcycled glass.  They're funky, fun, and bohemain, and added to the ambiance.  On the ceiling there is a lovely sea creature mural lending an air of enchantment.  The style is eclectic and the vibe is playful and relaxed.  I immediately felt transported.  The folks at the front desk were welcoming and efficient and had us checked in an on our way very quickly.

The Monaco is incredibly kid friendly, catering big time to the little ones.  The staff were especially attentive and jovial with my six year old, looking him in the eye and speaking directly to him.  They made him feel comfortable and excited to be there.  There's even  a zebra patterned secret toy box with complimentary toys.
Once in the room, my son was elated to find a bright orange goldfish waiting for us, available to all guests upon request.  Rivaling the goldfish was a gigantic Japanese bath, that for a six year old, was like a pool, and it became a major focal point of our time in the room.  There are some fun animal print robes for your use at the hotel (if you get too attached, they're available for purchase).  Vibrant colors and spaciousness are both soothing and revitalizing,  and a welcome antidote to typical beige hotel rooms.  Our room reminded me very much of a room I stayed in once in Venice, Italy.
The hotel is in a great location for Seattle attractions like Pikes Place Market and shopping (hello Anthropologie), Pioneer Square, and the waterfront.  Just a few blocks away, you can hop on the Monorail and head for the Pacific Science Center, Experience Music Project, and the Space Needle.  My son is obsessed with Star Wars and dinosaurs, so we opted for the Science Center.  There he got to touch a replica of a T-Rex foot, understand fossils, and spy a Tara dactyl overhead.  But the real thrill for him was the Star Wars exhibit.
Though it's not exactly my cup of tea, I must admit I got chills looking at the iconic costumes and standing next to Yoda and R2-D2.  They have some key memorabilia from the movies including Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder (surprisingly small in person).

You get to see Darth Vader's costume, C-3PO, Wookies, and Stormtroopers.  Whatever your favorite Star War's character may be, it's apt to be there.  It's a very stimulating atmosphere with interactive displays and lots of variety.  I'd love to go back for the Butterfly and insect exhibit and look forward to see what else they have in store for future attractions.  The Science Center is a wonderful place to get kids excited about science and the world we live in, and there is something for everyone. 
When we got back to the Monaco, we were offered Star Wars dvds, so my son could keep riding that wave.  Seriously, they think of everything.  At 5:00 there is complimentary wine hour in the lobby,  featuring local wines and beverages to unwind from your day and get you energized for the evening.  Since the hotel is pet friendly, we spotted a few dogs of various sizes walking around, which we really enjoyed.  The atmosphere is relaxing and somewhat festive.  On Wednesdays they have a fortune teller at the wine hour, and on Fridays they play Guitar Hero, how fun is that?
We ate dinner at Sazerac, the Monaco's restaurant which is next door and connected to the hotel.  They utilize local, seasonal and organic foods.  If you are visiting with children, I highly recommend sitting at the Chef's counter where you can get in on the action.  The chefs were super friendly and eager to please, engaging my son and treating him like a little king.  We were there on a Thursday evening and it was packed, so be sure to make reservations.  Everything we tasted was delicious, but the house Artisan Greens Salad knocked my socks off, and since returning, my Cuisinart has been ablaze as I try (and try) to recreate the dressing.  They are happy to accommodate any sort of dietary needs and will make whatever you'd like.

I've stayed in some very nice hotels, but not many have this much personality.   So often a hotel is just a place to sleep,  and normally I can't wait to get out the door and on to the adventure.  But the Monaco is a destination in and of itself.  If you like some character along with your luxury, check them out.  They even offer discounts for those who take the train, as well as special packages.    I highly recommend Hotel Monaco as part of a green getaway in Seattle, you won't want to leave.


HiHoRosie said...

Fun post! And of course, I am a little biased because I live here. :) What's funny is we've stayed at the Hotel Monaco in Portland many times. Love the funky yet classy vibe. Your review though makes me want to spend a weekend at my own Hotel Monaco!

bitt said...

Glad you had fun in my city! I've always thought the Monaco was cool because they allowed dogs.

Eco Mama said...

You do live in a beautiful city guys. I am looking forward to visiting the Monaco in Portland one of these days myself.
Eco Mama