Author Archives: Heather Larson

Visit Washington State Using Your 2018 Tax Refund

You’ve finally finished that dreaded tax filing task and you’ve discovered you’re getting a tax refund you didn’t expect. Why not use that money to visit WA State? We have it all here. Deserts, mountains, ocean beaches, iconic cities, just about any landscape you desire.

This year, especially, with all the new regulations and rules, you probably didn’t know whether a tax refund was in the cards or not. Now that it is, I’d like to suggest some Washington State vacations to consider for this summer and beyond.

National Parks

courtesy VisitRainier.com

If you’re trying to visit all the national parks in the U.S., we have three dynamos for you. Mt. Rainier National Park, good for hiking, camping and colorful bursts of wildflowers from May-September, and lots of snow after that. “The Mountain” is considered one of our greatest treasures. The best view of Mt. Rainier, where you can almost touch the snow-covered peak, is from the Gondola on Crystal Mountain. At the top, take time to enjoy a superb meal at the Summit House.

courtesy Visitrainier.com

Olympic National Park, known for the Hoh Rain Forest and Hurricane Ridge, also boasts some lovely lodges ideal for your stay. Lake Crescent, Lake Quinault and Kalaloch (pronounced clay-loch). Lots to see and do including touring Forks, where the “Twilight” books were set.

I love all our national parks, but North Cascades National Park may be the most rustic yet most scenic of all. With its celestial blue lakes, forested alpine landscape and the chance to learn about nature at the North Cascades Institute, this is a trip you’ll not soon forget.

The Palouse

College football fans rejoice. In Pullman, you can take in a Washington State Cougars’ game this fall and tour what is considered one of the seven wonders of Washington State. Gently undulating hills wrapped in wheat dominate the landscape. The best view from Steptoe Butte gives you glimpse into how these mounds were made thousands of years ago. While you’re there, travel the Palouse Scenic Byway to drink in all of the Palouse’s beauty.

Bellingham

Like craft beer? Want to try more? Bellingham is the place for you. Last summer this town had 15 locations to serve you brews. Plus, they have a dog-friendly tavern, Paws for a Beer, if traveling with Fido appeals to you. But you can’t drink beer all day when you visit this town because they have a ton of other attractions to see.

The Spark Museum of Electrical Invention, walkable Fairhaven District, art galleries, Chuckanut Drive with a stop for oysters and kayak adventures are only a few of the must-sees here.

That’s only a taste of Washington State vacations. If you’re interested in other regions, drop me a line at writemix@harbornet.com and I’ll pen another post like this one.

New Vancouver WA Waterfront Showcases the Columbia River

“The fourth largest city in Washington (State) has ample reason to promote their heritage, but a new waterfront project in the works will give them more cause to toot their horn. Set to open the first phase in mid-2018, this $1.5 billion development will infuse new vitality into the area along the Columbia River. The design calls for restaurants, shops, and breweries.”

I wrote the above for the 2018 Washington State Visitor Guide. hThis past week I got up close and personal with what’s been done so far. To say I was impressed is an understatement.

Now

That’s the very good news. Two restaurants have already opened in this first phase of construction. Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar opened last September, and Wild Fin welcomed its first diners around the same time. My friends and I chose Happy Hour at Twigs because we were already familiar with Wild Fin.

On my first visit (yes, I had to take a second look) to the Vancouver WA waterfrontproject the sun shone brightly causing the Columbia River sparkle. Masses of humanity and their canine companions took advantage of the newly-paved trail to get in their daily required steps. Groups of people chatted while others dined al fresco.

Photo courtesy Vancouver, WA, Waterfront Project

We made a delicious choice. I treated myself to Twigs Mezza, an appetizer with grilled pita, garlic hummus, olive tapenade and tomato confit. My compadres ordered Roasted Brussels Sprouts and the Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread. Lots of oohing and ah-ing and no complaints at all.

And Beyond

Looking forward the Vancouver WA waterfront project will encompass 3,300 homes, 32 acres of retail and restaurant space plus Hotel Indigo, a 6-floor, 138-room lodging facility set to open in 2020. The hotel (to be completed in 2019) itself will house three restaurants and a sky bar. Phase two, which includes apartments and condos, is scheduled for completion in 2020. Phase three is too far away to have an estimated finish date yet.

Photo courtesy Vancouver, WA, Waterfront Project

The centerpiece of the park is the 90-foot cable-stayed pier that mimics the hull and mast of a ship, once only an idea of artist Larry Kirkland. This connection to the river symbolizes Vancouver’s reconnection with its waterfront in the form of a stunning backdrop.

If you’ve not visited the “other” Vancouver for a few years, you’ve got a real treat in store.

Smith Tower: A Salute to the Roaring Twenties

When I was young, the Smith Tower loomed over all the other buildings on Seattle’s skyline. Built in 1914, the Tower became the first skyscraper in Seattle at 484 feet tall with 38 stories. More than a century later, it’s dwarfed by the Columbia Tower and even the Space Needle, but it remains an iconic part of the city with some changes that may surprise you.

Insider tip:  The Smith Tower is less crowded than the Space Needle.

Now, for an entrance fee, you can relive those days of yesteryear through a self-guided tour, 360-degree observation deck and speakeasy bar. While you wait for the elevator, complete with an elevator operator dressed in period garb, scan the gift shop for some super cool items like tissue paper depicting a map of downtown Seattle streets or snow globes with Seattle icons sealed inside.

Smith Tower is holding special events this year that they’ve dubbed “Smells Like Seattle Spirits.” Each event features a new bootlegger cocktail and a speaker who charms the audience with a bit of Seattle history. On April 1, you’ll hear about Fred Olmstead and his full-time bootlegging gig. May 6, on tap is “The Feds Fight Back.” Check back here for dates for the rest of this year’s series.

A little of what you’ll find in a trip to the Smith Tower is better explained in photos.

Small bites are offered in the tower. Another option is Tat’s Delicatessen across the street, which is very popular with downtown office workers. Lots of subs, hoagies, Philly steaks, soup and salads to choose from.

Local Activities After Christmas, 2018

 

The kids are still home from school, so why not try out some of our local holiday wonders – ones you may have missed while getting ready for the big day yesterday.

Here are some ideas:

  • Zoolights at Pt. Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma

I have it on good authority (my son and daughter-in-law) that this is spectacular and magical this year. It’s open from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. until January 6. Admissions ranges from $6-$12

Another electrical blowout event that takes you along Spanaway Lake for two miles. $14 per vehicle

  • Polar Bear Plunge

If you’re into ice cold water to remind you it’s a new year, this one’s for you.

What: Join the crowd and splash into Puget Sound on New Year’s Day

When: 11:30 a.m., Jan. 1

Where: Point Defiance boat launch, 5912 Waterfront Drive, in Point Defiance Park. Free

This week and early next is the best time to go to Seattle, before Viadoom takes over when the Viaduct closes and traffic is predicted to be catastrophic.

  • Enchant: New this year, Enchant Christmas is an immersive holiday experience with lights, a market, ice skating, entertainment, food and drink and more at Safeco Field. I’ve heard they have “pay what you can” days, but I don’t find that on their website, so you’ll need to ask. This event runs through December 30.
  • Wildlights at Woodland Park Zoo. We like to illuminate our zoos around here. Open from 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. through January 5. $10-$15
  • Seattle Center Winterfest, Through December 31, the Seattle Center is filled with free and affordable activities such ice sculpting and ice skating. The festival rings in the New Year with spectacular fireworks, Fountain of Light dance party and live music by premier cover band, Sway.
  • Nutcracker Ballet  Just two more days to see the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s rendition of the Nutcracker at McCaw Hall. But that means they have some screamin’ good deals.
  • Gingerbread Olympic
    Enjoy the wonder of  oversized gingerbread house made with more than 4,000 real gingerbread bricks. This is one of my all-time favorite charity events. Stop by and see what local architects can create from gingerbread. Open until January 1 in the lower lobby of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel.

If you’re ready for a short road trip, here are my suggestions for activities beyond Seattle and Tacoma.

  •  New Year’s Eve Wildlife Viewing Cruise  with the Port Townsend Marine Science Center: Leaving from Port Townsend’s Point Hudson Marina at 1 p.m., tickets cost $55 per person. Call 360.385.5582, ext. 104, to make reservations.
  • First Night Celebration in Port Townsend: This all-ages, alcohol-fee event features live music and children’s activities. From 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
  • New Year’s Eve at Taps at the Guardhouse at Fort Worden: 8 p.m. -midnight. Live music and bubbly.

 

Let’s not forget our friends to the east. Bellevue goes all out with their fun and frolic for the holidays.

 

  • Garden d’Lightsat Bellevue Botanical Gardens runs through December 30. I saw this last year for the first time and was blown away by the amount of work that goes into this more-than-magnificent lighting display. Children under 10 are free, everyone else pays just $5.
  • Ice Skating at the Bellevue Downtown Park, 100 100th NE continues through January 13. Admission is $10-$15

I highly recommend calling before going to any of these events as I just discovered one big New Year’s Eve party had been “cancelled due to unforeseen events.”

 

 

 

 

 

Will Seattle Experience a White Christmas?

By Michael Fagin

Last year the Seattle area received some light snow on Christmas Eve. What are the odds of that happening again this year or that we’ll have a blanketing of white on Christmas Day?

According to the National Weather Service the probably is 7 in 100 or 7% chance of a white Christmas.

After our two recent windstorms, the weather will settle down starting this weekend with chances of some light rain but not more windstorms.

Monday, Christmas Eve day; and Tuesday, Christmas Day, we are expecting highs in the mid 40’s and low’s in the upper 30’s with chances of some light rain. Sorry, but no snow.

There will be a similar pattern for the rest of the week (Wednesday through Friday) as weather systems move in for a chance of some light rain. But no snow nor any wind storms expected over this period.

You’ll Have to Go to the Snow

As of Thursday morning, Stevens Pass has received over 14 inches of new snow with a 48-inch base and Snoqualmie Pass has 3 inches of new snow with a 37-inch base. If you want lots of snow, Mount Baker has a 70-inch base and Paradise at Mt. Rainier boasts a 70-inch base. However, Paradise is currently closed due to the government shutdown, so be aware – you can only enter Mt. Rainier National Park through Longmire. New snowfall is expected at all of the above locations this weekend and into next week.

Want to play in the snow? Besides the aforementioned locations the state of Washington State maintains some groomed ski/snowshoe trails with a plowed parking lot. These are fee-based:  check here for more information: Winter Recreation.

Want to take a hike without snow? Here are two snow-free options near Issaquah: Hike of the Week:  West Tiger or Hike of the Week:  Holder Ridge

Michael Fagin is an Operational Meterologist with West Coast Weather.

Stay tuned for local activities you don’t want to miss during Winter Break.

Is Summer Over?

Guest post by Meteorologist Michael Fagin of West Coast Weather

Our favorite meteorologist, Michael Fagin, has good news for this holiday weekend. Whether you’re on the fence about attending Bumbershoot in Seattle, checking out the Washington State Fair in Puyallup or just having some people over for a barbecue, the weather, and even the smoke we’ve endured lately are in your favor.

Here’s what Michael predicts:

Labor Day Weekend is usually the end of summer vacation and the conclusion of temps in the upper 80’s and low 90’s the Seattle area enjoys in August.

The good news is that this upcoming weekend will bring daytime temperatures close to the seasonal normal of 74. High temperatures for Seattle should be in the 70 to 75 range for Saturday through Monday. There’s a slight chance of drizzle Saturday morning but that is mainly for north of Seattle (near Everett). Then, on Monday a chance of some light morning showers, but afternoon should be dry.  The best day will be Sunday, which will be dry and mostly sunny in the afternoon

 

What About Smoke?

Perhaps a more important question is what will the air quality be like? We have had some extended periods of poor, unhealthy air quality this August. One reason is the smoke moving into our region from the extensive wildfires on the West Coast.

Along with all those fires, the Seattle area had periods of northeast winds that brought in smoke and even some ash from the fires in Eastern Washington. The combination of that with a strong high pressure and poor air mixing, resulted in record poor air quality for the Seattle area.

The good news is we should have good air quality this weekend. Check out this website for more details and the green colors mean “good air quality.”

However, with all the wildfires in the area, we might have some very brief periods of limited smoke moving in. Mostly, the air quality should remain in the good to moderate levels.

 

 

 

July Weather, Including the Fourth, in Seattle

Guest post by Meteorologist Michael Fagin of West Coast Weather 

credit goes to Cliff Mass

Many Seattleites are not happy with the drizzle, accompanied with temperatures in the mid 60’s, that we experienced this past weekend. The normal high temperature is 75 and the common question being asked is: When do we get summer temperatures and will it come before July 4 or after?

Beginning this coming Tuesday (July 3) and Wednesday (July 4) we will have temperatures warming up to close to normal. Will it be dry on July 4? Yes, we are expecting dry conditions for July 4. For evening viewing of the fireworks it should be partly cloudy and comfortable in the upper 50’s to low 60’s.

After July 4th, through the next weekend, temperatures will be in the upper 70’s and dry.  There are still many folks wanting 80’s and 90’s. Will that happen?

Extended forecasts from July 10 to July 16 are projecting above normal temperatures and dry conditions with some temperatures in the mid 80’s can be expected.

If you are looking for long-term summer trends this is always a good site to check out: NOAA

You can also check out Michael’s hike of the week.

 

 

 

Shakespeare Comes to Whidbey Island

Did you know that April is Shakespeare’s birthday month? Or that you don’t have to travel to Ashland, Oregon, to help celebrate the occasion?

On April 7, 2018, the town of Langley on Whidbey Island will present their annual Sonnet Slam. Find out what a sonnet is from Dr. Stephanie Barbe Hammer at the Langley Library, beginning at 11 a.m. Then learn how to read a sonnet aloud, practice a few and take your newfound talents to an open mic nearby.

Explore the town during the Sonnet Treasure Hunt and see how many you can find. Collect the most sonnets and win a prize.

This is your chance to wear a Shakespearean or Elizabethan costume and win a prize for your garb, too.

 

Professionals, novices, everyone is welcome to this celebration.

Open Mic Locations and Day’s Schedule:

1 p.m. – Ott Murphy Wines

2 p.m. – Anthes Ferments (restaurant)

3 p.m. Useless Bay Coffee

4 p.m. – Bring your discoveries to Useless Bay Coffee. Prizes awarded for the best Slams, Sonnet Treasures found and Costumes.

Come join us for fun and celebration. Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!

 

Best Bets for Seattle’s International District

If you only have a short time to spend in Seattle’s downtown International District, I’ve picked four highlights you don’t want to miss.

Definitely, begin your day at the Wing Luke Museum with an added hotel tour, which is included with your admission fee. The information you’ll glean from the tour guide will serve you well for the rest of your day and maybe even longer.

One of the games played in The Freeman Hotel by Chinese men.

Even though I’ve lived in or around Seattle my entire life, only recently did I visit the Wing Luke Museum and I was delighted with what I found. The museum’s namesake was born in 1925. His family immigrated to the U.S. when he was a young child and made their home in the University District. In 1962, Luke became the first person of color elected to the Seattle City Council. He was on his way to a promising political career and an advocate for the Chinese community, until unfortunately he was killed in a small plane crash three years later, at the age of 40.

Museum exhibits change often so you never know what you’ll find, but you can bet wars will be spotlighted, famous Chinese citizens showcased, and you’ll learn a lot. Definitely, tag along on the hotel tour. You’ll go next door to the Freeman Hotel, built in 1910. This lodging mostly catered to Chinese men who had come to Seattle to work. Each room came with one window and the larger rooms rented for 25 cents a night. Four or five men shared one of these larger rooms, which by today’s standard were tiny, to save money. They needed the cash they saved to buy all their meals and send home to their families.

Chinese wedding wardrobe.

Check out the Wing Luke Museum site for other tours you might be interested in taking.

 

After your museum visit, pop across the street to Tsue Chong Company, a 100-year-old noodle factory. You can buy the same noodles there that the restaurants in the International District use in their meals. But my favorite item to purchase is their flavored fortune cookies. Flavors change, but the day I was there they had lemon, chocolate, mocha, vanilla and gingerbread. They taste great and what a conversation-starter if you serve them at your next dinner party.

 

Sometime during the day, I highly recommend you dine at Tai Tung, the oldest Chinese restaurant in Seattle. They have all the regular Chinese-American favorites like pork fried rice, chow mean, chop suey and shrimp egg foo young.

 

One more stop to complete your International District visit should be the huge Uwajimaya store on 5th Avenue. There you’ll discover most of the weird fruits and vegetables used on the “Chopped” TV show, plus lots of live, edible marine life. If you don’t want to cook, they have a plethora of restaurants where you can order already-prepared food.