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Bellevue offers practical option for Seattle stay

By CARY ORDWAY

Downtown Seattle’s the bomb for most travelers trying out the Emerald City for a vacation or getaway. But sometimes it’s good to set up your base of operations just a little bit away from the city – less traffic, less congestion, lower prices for lodging all figure into this line of thinking.

So, you ask, what Seattle suburb has close proximity to the must-see Seattle attractions, yet is far enough away to see some financial benefits. What city has everything you need right there for your stay – good hotels, restaurants and great shopping – yet will be only 10 to 15 minutes away from any given Seattle tourist attraction?

May we nominate Bellevue for your consideration?

The East Side is what the locals call the area east of Lake Washington and just a drive across one of the floating bridges from downtown Seattle. Bellevue is the largest of the East Side cities and was one of the first areas to develop as a bedroom community for people working in downtown Seattle. Over the years, Bellevue has built modern, gleaming office buildings of its own with a restaurant and retail infrastructure to match – to the point that now folks are sleeping in Sammamish to go work in Bellevue.

But for the purposes of our discussion, Bellevue is nicely situated and sufficiently built-up to be the ideal Seattle suburb to plant those weary tourist bodies after a day of sightseeing in Seattle. There are big-name hotels as well as family hotels, upscale restaurants as well as the suburban chain restaurants you know back home. And, for those with an eye toward glitz and glamor, the shopping in Bellevue is definitely high-end, no doubt created to take advantage of the hordes of high-income earners living in Bellevue or other sophisticated bedroom communities like Medina or Mercer Island.

The shopping might be where it all begins and ends for many visitors to Bellevue. It’s really easy shopping, if you know what we mean – the kind where the finest brands in the country have shops in a series of shopping destinations that view themselves as much more than shopping malls. No, shopping malls are those places where teen-agers go to kill time, or young suburbanites go to catch the latest movie. Bellevue shopping is where a shirt won’t feel at home unless it has a designer label. Bellevue shopping is where you the foyers and entryways feel like cathedrals with modern architecture and thrill-ride escalators feel more like Disney’s Epcot Center than a garden-variety shopping mall. Bellevue shopping complexes like the Bellevue Collection or the Shops at the Bravern or even Bellevue Square don’t even want the words s-h-o-p-p-i-n-g and m-a-l-l used in the same sentence with their names.

So, base of operations for Seattle, yes, but Bellevue also is an excellent destination of its own. If you want to pay a little more, you can choose one of the upscale hotels right in the heart of the action or perhaps do as we did and choose a more family-friendly hotel just a couple of miles away from downtown Bellevue but right on the Interstate 90 corridor that heads straight into downtown Seattle. The Embassy Suites brand has never disappointed us, and the Embassy Suites in Bellevue was no exception.

We like to think of Embassy Suites as a practical hotel brand. It’s especially practical for families because all the rooms have the extra sitting room with a couch and second television that you can easily close off from the bedroom. It’s also practical because they serve a breakfast buffet that is much more than the continental breakfast you get at many hotels – it’s a full hot meal with sausage, bacon, eggs, potatoes, waffles, fruit, pastries and much more. The breakfast comes with your room and is a quick and easy way to stock up on calories for a busy day of sightseeing. With a big breakfast like this, you only have to spring for a light lunch while out and about and then can choose to come back and dine at the hotel’s excellent Cascades Grille or dine elsewhere on your way back. There also is a manager’s reception each afternoon – essentially a happy hour that is free for guests.

As it happens, there is still more shopping available close to the Embassy Suites – The MarketPlace at Factoria with its discount retail outlets. So, as you can see, there is no end to the shopping choices if your aim is to get a hotel room for the weekend and just shop until you drop. We’ve also determined that it’s a great base of operations for your excursions into Seattle. But what about other attractions nearby?

Since its on Lake Washington, swim beaches and public parks are nearby and you’ll find no shortage of nature trails. Since it’s an upscale community in general, you’ll also find not shortage of museums and art exhibitions. Close by is Kirkland with its galleries and waterfront parks and for those who love wine, the trip from here to Woodinville’s Wine Country is just minutes. Tour Chateau Ste. Michelle or visit one of 80 different wineries that have popped up over the last several years.

There’s a nightlife in Bellevue as well – there are hundreds of restaurants to choose from, including many that offer live music. Yes, the Seattle nightlife in Pioneer Square is one of those must-do’s, but if you want convenience, it’s easy to navigate Bellevue’s street system and downtown Bellevue is relatively compact.

So there you go – we hope we have made our case for Bellevue as a potential base of operations for your next Seattle visit. Even if you don’t stay there, be sure and take a day and see all that this city has to offer.

For more information on visiting Bellevue, go to www.visitbellevue.com or phone 425-450-3777. For more information on Embassy Suites Bellevue, visit www.embassysuitesbellevue.com or phone 425-644-2500.

Photos, from top: Bellevue is across Lake Washington from Seattle; An escalator at one of Bellevue's modern shopping complexes; A skybridge connects Bellevue shopping complexes; Embassy Suites courtyard

Photos by CARY ORDWAY; Bellevue-Lake Washington photo courtesy www.visitbellevuewashington.com

OTHER DESTINATIONS: If you're looking for other Northwest travel ideas, be sure to check out other Northwest Travel Advisor articles on Northwest zoos, Northwest water vacations, Port Townsend and Seattle attractions.





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