We set out on the open road between Seattle and Portland as part of a partnership with Hilton to celebrate the return of travel.

A Pacific Northwest Journey with Hilton Kicked off Our Road Trip Renaissance

J.D. Simkins

Sunset from Embassy Suites by Hilton Seattle Downtown Pioneer Square

There are few feelings more gratifying than following up a day of (fully vaccinated) cross-country flying, extensive baggage-claim waits, and rental car lines with a head-first collapse into a cozy bed in agreeable environs that yield that feeling of home away from home. All of this—and more—was achieved upon checking in at the Seattle Embassy Suites Pioneer Square following my flight from Washington, D.C., the commencement of a four-day road trip between the Emerald City and Portland as part of a partnership between Sunset and Hilton to celebrate the return of travel in a post-pandemic world.

After a breezy 1 p.m. check-in and comprehensive front desk instructions on breakfast, gym, and pool availability—the latter two arranged via reservation due to pandemic safety protocols—I ventured up to the 23rd floor to a presidential suite with a private balcony overlooking downtown Seattle.

From the lobby and elevators, which were adorned with beautiful vintage brass rotary dials signaling comings and goings between floors, to the two-bedroom suite itself, immaculate was the word of the day thanks to the Hilton CleanStay program, which includes partnerships with brands like Lysol and offers guests the option to schedule room cleanings during the stay to mesh with personal preferences.

With sparkling attention to detail at every turn of the 225-key property assured, I was ready to get this trip going.

Vintage elevator dials.

J.D. Simkins

Day 1: A Soft Landing

My arrival just happened to coincide with a historic heat wave that unleashed temperatures as high as 108 degrees in a city where businesses seldom need, or even employ, air conditioning. The resulting mass closures of restaurants and shops made it an easy decision to shower and bask in the air conditioning of the presidential suite. No shower has ever been better equipped to cleanse the unique grime of all-day travel than the three-headed spout variant—one rain and two horizontal heads—featured in my bathroom. The heated floor and pillow-soft towels and robe only added to the tranquility of the experience.

Fortunately, in spite of closures to adjacent restaurants, the property’s restaurant 13 Coins was welcoming patrons. Across the open kitchen, I took a seat in a leather bar seat with a full back that would make even the most luxurious executive suite office chair blush. The chair, the restaurant’s rustic chic ambiance, and my blackened cod fish tacos and cranberry spritz cocktails made for a relaxation recipe unlike any other.

The Presidential Suite.

J.D. Simkins

Back on the top floor, high above the cars and people weaving like ants on the ground below, I watched as the fiery sunset slowly relented to the coming night. The skyline’s lights came to life like shimmering ornaments on a Christmas tree, a spectacular show and impeccable cap to a long day.

Day 2: Beating the Heat in Seattle

Morning temperatures dropped adequately enough to make exploration feasible. I set out for Zeitgeist Coffee, just blocks from the hotel, picked up a mocha coffee and titanic blueberry fritter, and oriented myself to the neighborhood with a walk around Pioneer Square, meandering between the Seahawks and Mariners stadiums and along the harbor before returning to the hotel for a much-needed workout. The property’s gym was significantly nicer than many of the actual gyms I’ve held memberships to. Brand new equipment filled two spacious rooms that, due to meticulous cleaning, showed virtually no signs of having ever been used.

Zeitgeist Coffee.

J.D. Simkins

My appetite came roaring back after the gym, and fortunately for me, options in now sub-100-degree Seattle were abundant. One block over from the hotel is Cookie’s Country Chicken, where I ordered a workout-balancing lunch of chicken tenders—aka “tendies”—mashed potatoes, and mac ‘n’ cheese.

After a nap back at the hotel, I made my way toward Pike Place Market for an evening of bar hopping. A cider sampler at Locust Cider followed, as did cocktails at Old Stove Brewing and a stop to see the popular Fog Room, a beautiful rooftop bar and lounge located atop Seattle’s stunning Charter Hotel with sweeping views of downtown.

I wouldn’t have been doing the Seattle food scene justice had I not indulged in at least one sushi dinner. Leaving the third and final watering hole, it was Japonessa Sushi Cocina that beckoned. I ordered two rolls to take back to the hotel, with a quick detour to acquire some PNW-produced red wine along the way.

Back at the hotel, I rode the elevator with Milton, an adorable robotic delivery butler who politely excused himself on the 7th floor before hurriedly disappearing down the hallway with a guest’s food in tow. I could hear a collective “awww” elicited by Milton from a group of guests out of view.

The relentlessly polite droid Milton.

J.D. Simkins

Day 3: Portland Bound

Bright and early I cashed in my Embassy Suites breakfast vouchers for a hearty egg scramble with potatoes, sausage links, and toast. Like the check-in procedure, the check-out was a breeze, and I was on the road for a three-plus-hour drive toward Portland, where I would spend my final two nights of the trip.

The road from Seattle to Portland quickly trades in views of impressive architecture for sights and aromas of evergreen spruce, pine, and fir forests. Quintessential Pacific Northwest. By mid-afternoon I was pulling into the hotel.

The lobby in Embassy Suites Portland Downtown.

J.D. Simkins

Walking into Embassy Suites Portland Downtown is like entering a time capsule. Vaulted ceilings and intricate trimming on pillars, balconies, and fixtures date back to 1912, when the building was constructed. The original building was called The Multnomah Hotel, named for the tribe of Chinook Native Americans who inhabited the region. Throughout its storied existence, the hotel played host to guests with names like Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, Elvis Presley, and Queen Marie of Romania, among others. And, keeping with Portland’s history as a haven of progressive influence, the hotel also boasted the first women’s-only smoking room. Today, that past can be felt in the building’s vintage architecture and unmistakable Neo-Classical charm the moment guests enter. The room itself was no different, a mixture of modern amenities and vintage appeal accentuated by the staff’s thoughtful and vigilant cleaning.

The long drive and heat had robbed me of energy, and lingering closures from the heat wave limited some options in downtown Portland (where it reached 116 degrees the day before!), so I picked up a meal from Dixie’s, a local karaoke bar with enough food options to satisfy any ravenous patron, before slipping off back to the hotel and into a dreamscape.

Day 4: The Coast with the Most

The last full day of the road trip was an ideal combination of culture and nature. After a stop at the nearby Good Coffee—it lived up to its moniker—for a latte and Nutella pastry (to hell with my perpetual sweet tooth), I took a jaunt over to Powell’s Books, one of the most impressive selections of used books I’ve ever seen. So abundant is its collection that the store provides grocery-style hand baskets.

Delicacies at Portland’s Good Coffee.

J.D. Simkins

After making my way back to the hotel to grab the rental car, I set a course for the Oregon coastline, a region I’ve long wanted to explore. It only took an hour and a half of navigating winding roads through gorgeous, dense forest to reach the small surf town of Oceanside—a minor detour from the famous Three Capes Scenic Route that includes Meares, Lookout, and Kiwanda capes. Sitting on the beach I watched as remarkable rock formations resting in the ocean’s shallows braced against rough waves, shepherding currents this way and that.

A stop at Cape Meares came next, its famous lighthouse looking out over a domain seemingly unaffected by time. Copious wildflowers, plant and bird life blanket the ledges of towering cliffs. Inland, the botanist’s dream only grows more abundant. About a mile from the lighthouse is Oregon’s largest spruce tree. Estimated to be about 800 years old, the aptly-named “Big Spruce” stands 144 feet tall, boasting a circumference of 48 feet. Greenery, birdsong, and fragrant aromas combined to provide the best kind of sensory overload. After leaving Cape Meares, I made the short 28-mile drive south to Cape Kiwanda, where a stunning sunset eventually gave way to stomach rumblings. A quick stop at Sportsman’s Pub and Grub in Pacific City for deep-fried fish and chips and cold beer put the finishing touches on an unforgettable day.

Cliffs at the Cape Meares lighthouse.

J.D. Simkins

Day 5: Farewell Feast

I couldn’t leave the comfortable confines of my downtown residence without indulging in one of its prized features: Mother’s Bistro & Bar. I ventured into Mother’s hoping to enjoy a good breakfast before departing for home, but Mother’s doesn’t do “good.” Everything, from start to finish, was exquisite. One of the best mimosas I’ve ever had was then supplemented by a platter of savory buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy, a plate of crunchy challah French toast, and a wild salmon hash.

And the kicker? I was joined by my good friend Shan, who I’d road-tripped with to Portland from Washington, D.C. eight years ago after he was hired by a local company.

In our booth, Shan and I feasted and reminisced about old times. So much had changed since that 2013 trip. Relationships, professional developments, a pandemic. And yet, sitting across from my good friend in the warmth of Mother’s bistro, there was only familiar, only comfort. 

A long road trip had taken me to Portland all those years ago. A road trip brought me there once again. I can’t wait to go back.