Greyhound is where you turn when flights seem like a month’s rent flushed down the toilet. There is a very, very small chance you will get beheaded, and the new express lines rarely stop — but there’s an easier way. If you are feeling cabin fever from too many extended stays at Irving, perhaps it’s time for you to start planning a reading week getaway. While buses seem less than ideal on vacation when your U-Pass is in hand every waking minute, they really aren’t so bad — especially if you would rather head to Portland or Seattle than Abbotsford or Kamloops.
Greyhound’s newest offering is the Bolt Bus, introduced on the West Coast in 2012. Departing from Central Station, the Bolt Bus heads to Bellingham, Seattle and Portland. It’s the first-class of Greyhound buses at an economy-class price. The Bolt Bus has even more legroom than your run-of-the-mill Greyhound, and you can find yourself seated on leather rather than ’80s-patterned upholstery. There is also Wi-Fi and power outlets in case you can’t completely escape from looming papers and midterms. It even has its own Twitter (@BoltBus), where “Whitney is chatting with you about all things Bolt” and you can “tag your tweets with #bolting so we can tweet with you on the road!” It’s like the cool aunt of Greyhounds.
While a standard one-way fare for a Greyhound trip from Vancouver to Kelowna might cost you upwards of $78, the Bolt Bus can cost you as little as $1 to your American destination. According to the FAQ on the company’s website, there is a $1 ticket on every bus which is chosen at random. So how do you snag that elusive ticket? Plan early. The earlier you book, the cheaper your trip will be. Schedules are usually released at least four weeks ahead of time, so you are well on your way to planning a fun, budget-friendly reading break to the Evergreen or Beaver State. Otherwise, a normal ticket runs in the $20 range.
Seattle: The Emerald City
With all of the songs Macklemore has written about this city, it must be “fucking awesome.” It’s quite the lively coastal city with tons to do. Neighborhoods to check out: Downtown District, Capitol Hill, Ballard, Fremont.
Where to stay
City Hostel Seattle, 2327 Second Ave.
A 20-seat movie theatre and a ping-pong table make this hostel more than just a rest stop. The best part of this place is the dozens of murals that cover the walls; if you stay in room 318, for example, you will be in the company of a giant squid in an atmospheric diving suit. $28–$35/night for dorm-style rooms.
Where to eat
Piroshky Piroshky, 1908 Pike Pl.
Start the day off with a cinnamon cardamom braid in this delicious Russian bakery at Pike Place and feel oh so bourgeoisie. Then, head over to the Lenin statue in Fremont and you’ve got a day of history!
One of Seattle’s oldest food trucks, where tacos are $1.45 and fish tacos are $2.00. This place is student budget friendly. Wash it down with a glass of horchata and hit the road.
HoneyHole, 703 E Pike St.
Everyone loves a good sandwich — especially one dedicated to the Dude. The “BuiLT to Satisfy” sandwich defines this little joint, dedicated to local ingredients and great service.
What to do
Bill Speidel’s Underground City Tour in Pioneer Square, 608 First Ave.
The Great Seattle Fire of 1889 destroyed the old town, and what came after is a little bit unorthodox. Learn how the city was rebuilt and tour the underground with a hilarious tour guide. $14 for students.
Bruce Lee Gravesite, 1554 15th Ave.
Visit your favourite action star at Lot 276 of Lakeview Cemetery and bring out your inner martial artist. Free (at the cost of a legend).
The Gum Wall at Pike Place Market, First Ave. and Pike St.
After exploring Pike Place Market and treating yourself to something nice, take a stroll past the famous Gum Wall. Just don’t get too close! Free (…unless you catch some kind of viral influenza).
Seattle Pinball Museum, 508 Maynard Ave.
Sip on your vintage-style soda while trying out seven decades of pinball machines. $10 admission.
Danny Lyon: The Bikeriders at Henry Art Gallery, 15th Ave. and 41st St.
Head over to the Henry Art Gallery to see Danny Lyon’s amazing photographs capturing motorcycle gang life in the 1960s. $10 admission.
Jet City Improv at the Seattle Festival of Improv Theatre, 5510 University Way
Prepare to laugh. Groups from all around North America — including our very own Vancouver — will be performing Feb. 19 to 23. Pick any show you like and burn some of those taco calories. $15 for students.
Portland: The City of Roses
No sales tax. Does that entice you? Portland is green, creative and wacky. It’s like a kale Caesar. Neighborhoods to check out: Clinton-Richmond, Concordia, Sunnyside-Hawthorne, Alberta (no, not B.C.), the Pearl District.
Where to stay
HI-Portland-Northwest, 425 NW 18th Ave.
This hostel is contained within two historic buildings — the main building was established in 1889. There are plenty of amenities, including outdoor gardens and free artisan bread (just bring some PB and J and call it free breakfast). This place is walking distance to the Amtrak/Greyhound station and to a number of spots like Powell’s City of Books. $21–$34 a night for dorm-style rooms.
Where to eat
Voodoo Doughnut, 22 SW 3rd Ave.
You’ve probably heard of it — maybe from a friend, maybe from the scavenger hunt in the IFC show Portlandia, maybe from an enemy. Good thing the hostel is close — you can get a doughnut a day. I mean, how can you choose between the “Triple Chocolate Penetration Doughnut” and the “Maple Blazer Blunt Doughnut”?
Little Big Burger, 122 NW 10th Ave.
This place boasts floats for $3.75 and cute little burgers for $4.00. You can satisfy your fast food burger craving without the mystery ingredients; Little Big Burger only serves natural beef and local cheese and veggies.
Pok Pok Restaurant, 3226 SE Division St.
Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, this Thai food-truck-turned-restaurant is authentic and delicious. It has quite the cult following, too.
What to do
Pittock Mansion, 3229 NW Pittock Dr.
Completed in 1914, this mansion is a testament to the Pittock family’s contribution to Portland and its transformation from a small town to a thriving city in the early 1900s. Walk through this historic site and dream about owning a mansion of your own — sorry, not in Vancouver. $9.50 admission.
Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St.
Just like Voodoo Doughnut, you have probably heard of this place. Covering a whole city block, this bookstore has its own map. It is also the largest privately run bookstore in the USA. Grab a cup of Stumptown coffee and navigate the aisles in hopes of finding a signed copy of Fight Club — or hope to run into Mr. Palahniuk himself at the grocery store. It’s always free to browse.
Living Room Theatre, 341 SW 10th Ave.
See a matinee at a place you could almost call home. The best part? They serve a lunch menu of comfort food. Even better? The meals are only $6 or $8. $6 admission.
Japanese Gardens, 611 SW Kingston Ave.
According to the website, this is “the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan.” De-stress with 5.5 acres of beauty. $7.75 for students.
Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave.
Check out the “Feast and Famine” exhibit, showing how artists have depicted food since 1850. Both Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol are featured. Browse, contemplate, work up an appetite and head to one of Portland’s great restaurants. $12 for students.
Portland International Film Festival, various locations
The 37th annual Portland International Film Festival just happens to fall during UBC’s reading week. Why not travel around the world through cinema? $11 per film.