Outer Space Adventure in Our Backyard

In the winter months, we’re much more likely to curl up with some consumable media than spread out to catch some sun on a beach blanket. But as 2011 slowly marches on and the next statutory holiday is but a faint glimmer on the horizon, why not turn that favourite book, movie or TV show into a theme for a weekend getaway? Sci-Fi and fantasy nerds, rejoice! You needn’t look any further than Seattle, where exhibits featuring Battlestar Galactica and the Harry Potter series are on now.

Seattle woos Sci-Fi / Fantasy buffs with Battlestar Galactica & Harry Potter

In the winter months, we’re much more likely to curl up with some consumable media than spread out to catch some sun on a beach blanket. But as 2011 slowly marches on and the next statutory holiday is but a faint glimmer on the horizon, why not turn that favourite book, movie or TV show into a theme for a weekend getaway? Sci-Fi and fantasy nerds, rejoice! You needn’t look any further than Seattle, where exhibits featuring Battlestar Galactica and the Harry Potter series are on now.

As huge fans of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series, my husband and I decided to head down to the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum (EMP|SFM) for opening weekend of Battlestar Galactica: The Exhibition this past October. With a panel discussion featuring series creator Ronald D. Moore, Edward James Olmos and several other cast members, and the exhibit promising not one, not two, but three ships from the series, it was a welcome excuse to visit one of our favourite cities. And with the Canadian dollar doing well and off-season rates in full effect, now is an even better time to take a mini-vacation.

As per our usual modus operandi when we pop down to Seattle for a quick weekend jaunt, we opted to take the Victoria Clipper (clippervacations.com). The two-and-a-half hour crossing time, low-hassle border crossing and harbour-to-harbour service seriously cuts down on travel time, and it’s cheaper than you think; not only do they offer rates as low as $55 round-trip for midweek crossings (or $75 for weekends if you buy at least a week ahead), they also have some decent hotel packages, too — and their duty-free shop on board is one of the cheapest I’ve seen.

For the more budget-conscious, City Hostel Seattle (hostelseattle.com) is a fun and funky hostel centrally located in Belltown, just a couple of blocks from Pike Place Market. Branding itself as “the only art hostel of its kind in the United States,” each room has been painted by a local Seattle artist. While we splurged for a private room ($73/night), dorm beds are available for as low as $28. Throw in a free breakfast, a comfy bed, a 20-seat in-house movie theatre and a hot tub and you’ve got a great place to stay.

We checked into City Hostel after our late Friday arrival and immediately headed to one of our favourite watering holes, Shorty’s (shortydog.com). It boasts dozens of pinball machines, retro arcade games and a menu that includes everything from Chicago-style hot dogs to chili cheese nachos. All that plus more Pabst Blue Ribbon than you can shake a stick at makes this a great place to quaff a few brews, waste a few quarters and play hipster bingo.

After spending Saturday morning wandering Pike Place Market, we headed up to the EMP|SFM to take in the Battlestar exhibit. Located on the top floor of the building, the exhibit features various items from both the original and re-imagined series, ranging from Colonel Tigh’s eye patch to flight suits and other props, as well as an interactive component where you’re asked to weigh in on some of the tough dilemmas the Galactica crew faced. The crown jewel of the exhibit, however, is the three life-sized ships from the new series; two Vipers and a Cylon raider, which they had to cut a hole in the side of the famed Frank Gehry building to bring inside. The exhibit itself is small, but paired with our panel discussion and some time in the remaining exhibits in the building, it easily ate up our whole afternoon. Check the EMP|SFM’s website (empsfm.org) and pair a trip with one of the special events going on to make it a bigger experience, such as the upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival.

Our Saturday night accommodation was decidedly more posh than Friday’s. Best known as the digs the Beatles stayed in during their 1964 North American tour, the Edgewater Hotel (edgewaterhotel.com) has a great blend of class and attitude. It has a ski-lodge-chic decor — think log bedposts, big fireplaces and a chandelier in the A-frame-styled lobby made entirely of antlers — that sets it apart but avoids being tacky. And it literally is on the edge of the water; its location on Pier 67 not only ensures its waterfront rooms have unobstructed, spectacular views, but also makes it a great choice for Victoria folks catching an early morning sailing on the Clipper, which is located right next door. We topped off our evening with some high-calibre dining at the hotel’s restaurant, Six Seven, which once again showcased the hotel’s penchant for classy with a twist; specialty dishes included a rich-enough-to-share lobster macaroni, and their pineapple-infused vodka — made in-house — makes for a delicious martini. Plus, once again, the view can’t be beat. If you’re not in for the full meal deal, the adjoining lounge is a fabulous place to sip a cocktail.

While we spent our rainy Sunday exploring the Picasso show at the Seattle Art Museum — which closed this past week — Harry Potter fans may want to spend their time at the Pacific Science Center (pacsci.org), with over 200 costumes and props from the films on display until Feb. 13. With the exhibit occupying 15,000 square feet, there’s sure to be something in here for every Muggle to enjoy, whether they want to toss a Quaffle or explore Hagrid’s hut.

While not quite as easy to get to as the DVD shelf in your living room, Seattle is closer than you think — so make the winter a little bit brighter and experience some sci fi or fantasy in true 3D. M

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