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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Alohamora! Seattle Unlocks The Harry Potter Vault 1.12.11

This past weekend I enjoyed a quick trip up north to Seattle, Washington. My husband and I specifically went to see Harry Potter: The Exhibition on Saturday evening, but we also took in the downtown scene, did some shopping and, of course, did some eating. We stayed in one of Worldmark/Wyndam’s timeshare locations called the Camlin, which was beautiful, with old-fashioned elegance. It’s one of those places where they open the door for you, there are marble floors and you feel like you should be dressed to the nines anytime you enter the lobby. We did not bring evening attire, though, so they got us (and most of the other guests) in jeans and sneakers. The other great thing was that the location was stellar and allowed us to keep up on one of our New Year’s resolutions: to get more exercise. We walked 90% of the places we went. Everything was easy to get to and we were right across the street from the Paramount Theater, should we have wanted to try to get tickets to see Grease live. While it was a bit spendy on our timeshare points, we didn’t plan to use any this year with the free week we earned last year, which we plan to use for our big vacation in later in 2011.
So, where did we eat? With so many options to choose from only blocks from our accommodations, it wasn’t hard to find a place to dine, but hard to choose from all the different choices! Considering we were only in town from late Friday night to early Sunday afternoon, we did have to pick and choose.

  • One of those meals was reserved for the Hard Rock Café, as that is one of our favorites and always has great food and service and we enjoy looking at the different memorabilia. Don’t let the Icons booklet fool you though, since what they show in there is not necessarily what they actually have in the restaurant. Disappointment set in when we discovered that the red zipper jacket Michael Jackson wore in the video Beat It was actually located in Philadelphia. Bummer. I am now the proud owner of a HR shirt number 6 (or 7) and a member of their All-Access Pass, which gets me discounts on store purchases, priority seating, late check-out, room upgrades and more. Not bad for $25, which actually is put right back on your card when you register it and take a short survey to reuse in the store, hotels, online or café, so with as many times as we visit different locations, it was virtually free and gives me perks that I will actually use. Bonus!
  • On Friday night, we got in late and asked the front desk what was close and yummy. They recommended Dragonfish Café, which is attached to the Paramount Hotel (a block away) and is the sister hotel/restaurant to the one we have here in Portland. We’ve never stayed there or eaten there, so we decided to give it a shot with the 20% off coupon provided by the hotel. Because it was 10pm, happy hour had set in and we chose to order off that menu and save our coupon and some money. We had 5 different dishes and drinks and it only cost us $30. I can’t speak for the rest of the menu, but what we had was delcious and included: Tofu pillows, California Roll, Dragonfish Salad, Caramel Ginger Chicken, Calamari and Pike Place Roll. And of the small plates was enough to make a small meal or fun for two to share and then get more!
  • On Saturday night we had more time to choose something that we wanted to eat, but that proved to be a downside, since we couldn’t make up our minds. After nixing Cheesecake Factory, Gordon Biersch, Fox Sports Grill and another trip to Dragonfish, we decided to go one more block and check out The Daily Grill. I believe the one we had in Portland moved to a new location. We probably even ate there on a birthday of mine! We did have a coupon for a free appetizer, but skipped it, since they gave us unlimited bread and we weren’t starving. They had a really good pomegranate iced tea and amazing service. This could be a wonderful place to celebrate a special occasion, and some people were. Eric chose the Cajun Tilapia that came with spinach-garlic mashed potatoes and veggies and I got the Tuscan Brick Chicken that came with garlic risotto, creamed spinach and mushrooms. This was, honestly, one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever ordered anywhere and would totally recommend it. We each only ate half and got the rest boxed up so we could get the brownie sundae. Heavy on the caramel and made different by the presence of candied pecans. It was super good and the perfect ending to our dinner.
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As mentioned above, you can get some outstanding deals on dining by just asking if your hotel offers any discounts for nearby establishments. Chances are the answer will be yes. We were greeted with a nice welcome packet that included a map of the downtown area, a discount booklet and a magazine on the events going on around town. Not only for dining, but you can get discounts on shopping, entertainment and attractions. In the one book we received, we had a 2-for-1 admission to the aquarium. If we’d had more time, we would have used it.

So, in short, Harry Potter: The Exhibition was amazing. Here’s a longer version of what you can expect to see and how much time it’ll take you to view it all.

  • You can’t bring your camera or phone into the exhibit. Well, you can, but you’ll get in trouble for using either. You also can’t bring food or drink in, so get that all out of the way before you get in line.
  • When you walk in, you’ll have the chance to be sorted into a house if you want to volunteer (or have your kids volunteer). After that, you’re off to explore the exhibition at your own pace from the Hogwarts Express through the Yule Ball, there are plenty of props and clothes to examine as you go through. You aren’t allowed to touch anything, except three designated things, so if you are dying to touch anything, you’ll get your chance at different points in the exhibit.
  • What is on display? Well, there’s outfits from various actors from the various movies, like the robes Neville wears in Order of the Phoenix, to the clothes the trio wear in Prisoner of Azkaban and Umbridge’s pink suit in Order of the Phoenix to Hagrids attire in all the movies. You’ll also get a chance to see everyone’s different wands. I was surprised by the coolness of Professor Lupin’s compared to the narcissistic Professor Lockhart’s very basic looking wand. Fred and George have totally different wand styles, too, even though they sometimes appear to be very similar. If quiddich is your game, you’ll see the various outfits of each of the teams participating in the World Cup, the box of quiddich balls used in Sorcerer’s Stone, try your hand at tossing a ball through a goal, see many different trophies and even banners from the game.
  • What else is on display? Food props from the Great Hall, Hagrid’s pink umbrella, school books, bulletin boards from the Gryffindor common room, a dragon from Goblet of Fire, a giant spider (not Aragog) from Chamber of Secrets, petrified Colin Creevy (and his camera) also from Chamber of Secrets, Gilderoy Lockhart’s dueling outfit, Umbridge’s ministry office (oh so pink!), Fleur Delacour’s school uniform, Hagrid’s dining table, Viktor Krum’s and Hermione’s Yule Ball attire, a decoy detonator from Deathly Hallows Part 1, Tom Riddle’s suit from Chamber of Secrets, the actual Triwizard Cup, Hermione’s time-turner from Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry and Ron’s dormitory beds and side tables, house banners, that unicorn tapestry, framed ministry decrees, Deatheater wanted posters, Harry’s parchment on which he wrote “I must not tell lies”, Bellatrix’s Azkaban uniform and black patchwork gown, the box of chocolate’s Ron ate that were filled with love potion for Harry from Romelda,  Snape’s high-collared robes and on and on. By the time you get to the end, you’ll be so overwhelmed with Potter-abilia that you’ll want everything in the gift shop. If, like me, you aren’t willing to pay $40 for a scarf after coughing up $21-30 per person to see the exhibition, wait a bit and then order some souvenirs online at Universal’s Harry Potter Store.
  • How long will it take. We only had about an hour in the exhibit, but found it more than enough time to view everything. An hour and a half would be ideal if you want to read all the plaques and dawdle over some things and marvel at others. It was exhilarating to be so close to some of the items they had, such as the robes that Alan Rickman wears as Snape. They almost had to drag me out of the exhibit for climbing over the ropes to get closer to them, but I restrained myself. In fact, most things are super close to where you are standing, making it feel like you aren’t separated at all. They do have security on hand though, so trying to get up close and personal with things is probably not a great idea, even if you really want to. There’s nothing more embarassing than being escorted from a building by armed guards.
  • How do I get there? If you’re planning to make a trip to Seattle to see the exhibit, which  has been extended through February 13, and you’re staying at one of the hotels in the downtown area, you can take the bus or, even more fun, the monorail. It gets you there in no time and if you go during the day, you can visit the Space Needle, EMP, the Sci-Fi museum and the Pacific Science Center. You don’t need tickets into the Science Center to see Harry Potter: The Exhibition, just your Harry Potter tickets. If you purchased online, you can pick up your tickets at the will-call kiosks or the will-call window with an actual person. The kiosk was really easy. You swipe the credit card you used to buy your tickets and they find your tickets and print them immediately. If you were to go to any of the other attractions around the exhibition, consider getting a CityPASS, which will get you into all the attractions for one low price without waiting in ticket lines.

Saving money in Seattle can be difficult, but there are things you can do to make your money go further. Besides the ideas I’ve already given you:
  • You can order an Entertainment book for the Seattle area. Or, if you already own one for your city, go online and print out coupons for Seattle.
  • Check out Groupon Seattle for great discounts on dining out, entertaintment, personal services and more.
  • Restaurant.com has wonderful discounts on Seattle restaurants. Buy a $25 gift certificate for only $10, or even less if you find a promo code. Check Spoofee.com for active ones. If you purchase your certificates through the Ebates link, you’ll also get 15% cash back on all your certificate purchases.
  • Staying for a while? Rent an apartment, condo or house. This way you save on accommodations, as these rentals can be much cheaper than a hotel if you stay a week or longer, and you can make some of your own meals and stretch your dining budget.
  • Walk. Seattle is very walkable, so save money on public transportation or a rental car if you can and do everything on foot.
  • Visit Pike Place Market. Sure, it’s a market, but it’s also great for strolling and people watching. You don’t have to buy anything, but still get a feel of Seattle and its people with a visit. It’s free and fun! Even if you make a few purchases, it can take hours to see all of this market, which is one of the most popular in the world. You’ll get souvenirs, probably save money, get exercise and sightsee all at once! 

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While we didn't really do anything touristy while in Seattle, unless you count a visit to the Space Needle gift shop, we still had a good time exploring downtown and taking in some sites while getting in our walking. Here are some of my photos taken while walking around and driving from my brother-in-law’s place in NW Seattle.

The Living Area of our Room
Downtown Streets at Night

The Hard Rock Marquee

The Paramount Theater

Seattle Monorail

Seattle Skyline

Space Needle at 
Vending Machine with books!

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