Border Crossing: a weekend in Seattle, by train

pike place
Local color at Pike's Place Market in downtown Seattle. Montana Living photo

BY DAVID REESE/Montana Living

A cold fog blanketed us as we boarded the Amtrak train in Whitefish.
Stepping into the darkness of the train car at 9 p.m. we began to leave Whitefish and our cares behind on a ‘get out of town’ trip to Seattle.

Our private cabin swayed gently and we drifted into soft slumber and awoke as our car crawled around Puget Sound early the next morning. King Street Station is located in downtown Seattle, making it the perfect place to begin exploring Seattle. With our hotel only a few blocks away, we trudged, suitcases in tow, up the hill toward the Hotel Alexis. Stepping through the front doors of the Alexis we quickly discovered we were in a unique, upscale hotel.

Original artwork hung throughout the hallways and lobbies, with ample, plush sofas and divans from which to enjoy it. All of the artwork is curated by the Seattle Art Museum, and it’s all local.

Missoula native Jennie Neptune has made a name for herself in the Seattle hotel industry. Neptune is the general manager at the Alexis, a position fairly unique for a person of her age — 31.

After graduating from the University of Montana, Neptune began her career at the front desk of the Hotel Monaco. “I just fell in love with the industry,” said Neptune, a bright, energetic woman. “It’s been a quick rise for me, but the company is growing so quickly.”


Contemporary luxury at the Alexis Hotel in downtown Seattle. Montana Living photo by David Reese

The Hotel Monaco, the Hotel Vintage Park and the Alexis Hotel — all in downtown Seattle — are owned by the Kimpton hotel group, a small boutique hotel chain with properties in each major market of the United States. Each of the Kimpton hotels in Seattle tells a different story. While the Alexis is a contemporary, artsy boutique hotel, the Hotel Monaco braces with a Middle Eastern flair, and the Vintage Park is classic Seattle with an intimate European flair. Each room there features a winery theme, reflecting the state’s viticulture.

Just next to the lobby is the Library Bistro, a funky, upscale eatery that buzzes with an artsy library vibe, even at lunchtime. Sculpted banquettes invite you to nestle in with a date, or for an intimate lunch or dinner.

Neptune, the youngest general manager in the Kimpton hotel group, admits she has a dream job. “Seattle gives me the best of both worlds,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a better city.”

Just a few blocks up from the Hotel Alexis is the Hotel Vintage Park. While the Alexis has a brisk, contemporary feel, the Vintage Park has an intimate, cozy fireplace ambience in an 80-year-old building just across the street from the Seattle library.

Tucked away in a cozy corner of the ground floor of the vintage Park is Tulio, one of Seattle’s most popular Italian restaurants.

With Washington being America’s second-largest wine producer, Vintage Park manager Jonathan Bartlett said, “This was an opportunity for us to showcase those wines.” Most people recognize the Tulio brand before they arrive at the Vintage Park, but once they’re here they see the special kind of place that the Vintage Park is.

“We want people to feel like they’re walking into someone’s living room,” Bartlett said.

The hotels are within easy walking distance to all of what downtown Seattle has to offer, from professional sports at Safeco field to the popular but touristy Pike’s Place Market. After a few hours enjoying the waterfront of downtown Seattle we stop in at the Athenian Inn, a funky eatery overlooking Puget Sound.

Built in 1907, the Athenian is a good place to relax for lunch and watch the ferry boats coming and going. The Inn boasts the “coldest beer on the market” and we found this to be true in several of our samplings of the local microbrews, many of which are brewed in nearby Ballard, Wash.


Here are a few must-sees while in the downtown Seattle area:

For great dining, try ANY of the Tom Douglas restaurants, including Lola, Etta's, Dahlia Lounge, Palace Kitchen

Seattle Art Museum

Underground city tour

Fremont Arts District

pike  place market
Pike's Place Market in downtown Seattle is touristy, but a must-see for the Seattle visitor. (Montana Living photo)
Jenne Neptune
Missoula native Jenne Neptune manages the Hotel Monaco in downtown Seattle.
Hotel Monaco
The Hotel Monaco in downtown Seattle combines European flair with contemporary style.