Author Archives: Heather Larson

Family Fun Center Rocks

Outdoor play for kids is kind of limited by our weather in Western Washington. We do have the Wild Waves theme park, but it’s only open during the summer.

Family Fun Center in Tukwila

In the last few years, a Family Fun Center opened in Tukwila, and it looks to be doing a roaring business. At least it was on the when we visited on a school holiday.

There are attractions that appeal to the very young on up to teens. Kidopolis offers four stories of soft play with cushioned “rock” walls, slides, rotating barrels, balls, a horse and a ride with Mr. Potato Head. After going through the gate, the toddler generation eagerly whisks off their socks and gets right down to serious play. My three-year-old granddaughter loved climbing up to the top of the “big” slides and then sitting there until we asked a bigger child to give her a gentle push down.

 

For bigger kids, Laser Tag, Max Flight and Bumper Cars have their appeal. When the outdoor attractions are available, they also have their choice of Go Karts, Sling Shot, Miniature Golf, Bumper Boats, Batting Cages, Traffic School and more. Of course, the wide array of video games inside interest almost any child.

If you or the gang are hungry, there’s a snack bar available plus Bullwinkle’s Restaurant which offers the usual fun center fare like pizza, burgers, salads, fries and my favorite – a “Build-your-own Sundae” for $2.

I spied one mom with older children who was studying in the restaurant. Others sat and watched the tots from the metal benches.

Safety regulations seem to be enough to keep the children from getting hurt, but not too much to stifle their play creativity. There are minimum and maximum heights for some of the play areas and rides plus lots of employees milling around.

Everything, except the food, runs on a point system. For example, you buy a 100-point card for $25 and that can be used for Bumper Cars (22 points), Bumper Boats (22 points), Laser X-Treme (28 points) and Miniature Golf (28 points).

For more information, visit www.fun-center.com.

The Tacoma Waterfront Beckons

Tacoma waterfront from Ruston Way

Yesterday we got a break from the grayness and a tiny taste of spring. Boy was it ever yummy – kind of like a big dollop of plain hot fudge or a juicy Dungeness crab leg. We grabbed the chance to take advantage of the sun shining down on us Tacomans and walked the waterfront along Ruston Way. Mother Nature made a mighty beautiful landscape there and others have helped it along with parks, sidewalks, restaurants and a hotel.

The Silver Cloud Inn, the hotel at one end of the popular walk, offers 90 waterfront rooms. Talk about a perfect place for a Staycation. Rooms come with breakfast, high-speed internet and complimentary parking. No more than three miles from most of Tacoma’s attractions, the Inn is definitely centrally located. But you wouldn’t have to leave the waterfront if you didn’t want to.

Silver Cloud Inn

If you’re not able to spend the night on the waterfront, at least eat. Restaurants about along Ruston Way and there’s not a bad one in the bunch. The Lobster Shop, Duke’s, Katy Downs, The Ram, Shenanigan’s and Harbor Lights all serve lunch or dinner or both.

If you’re walking along the waterfront with a dog or two, you’ll fit right in. Joggers, roller bladders and bicyclists also share the path with pedestrians.

The weather didn’t last, but the sunlit waters of yesterday still shine vividly in my memory. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait long for another sunny day and a walk along the shore of Commencement Bay.

C.I. Shenanigans on Ruston Way.

W. W. Seymour Conservatory Saved the Day

In an attempt to recover from the perpetual grayness that seems to have enveloped Western Washington for the past few months, I visited a garden in Tacoma – the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park in downtown Tacoma to be exact.

It worked. The beautiful, bountiful colors and textures of the flowers blooming in this indoor fantasy served to boost my mood dramatically. Surrounded by the yellows, oranges, apricot shades, pinks and magentas amidst lots of lush greenery, I wanted to stay all day and continue to drink it all in.

 

More than 200 species of exotic tropical plants make their home at the Conservatory, including the bird of paradise, ornamental figs, tropical fruit trees, orchids, ferns and bromeliads. Azaleas, Easter lilies, hydrangeas, begonias, tulips, cyclamen and chrysanthemums make the perfect backdrop for photo opps. or just for personal enjoyment. You, too, can escape into this soothing, fragrant exhibit any day, but Monday, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and it’s totally free, although the suggested donation is $5. We do want to keep it going.

The Conservatory and nearby Gazebo can be rented for small weddings or other events.

On the second Sunday of each month, you’ll be treated to live music – so not only will the experience be a treat for your eyes and nose, but also your ears.

 

You may not be alone when you go because the readers of the Tacoma Weekly voted the Conservatory ad the “best place to relax.”

For more information, visit www.metroparkstacoma.org and click on “Parks & Facilities.”

Book Winner and Roundup of Events

Congratulations to Bahiya S. who won a brand new copy of “The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle” by David Volk.

Bahiya – please send your mailing address to my e-mail, writemix@harbornet.com, and I’ll get the book mailed right out.

Thank you for all who entered and stay tuned for another book giveaway soon.

Events in and around Seattle you won’t want to miss:                       

Craving a Pick-Quick burger? You’re in luck, the Fife location at 4306 Pacific Highway East, has reopened after their winter hiatus.        

                        

What goes better with wine than the right food? You guessed it – chocolate. The 2011 Enumclaw Chocolate Festival, with a host of chocolatiers and wineries represented, runs this Friday (February 4) and Saturday (February 5). Visit www.enumclawchocolatefestival.com for the location and times.

Although a bit on the last minute side, you might want to cancel tonight’s plans for this:

The Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador, Mitch Bechard, is holding a preview tasting of the new limited Snow Phoenix tonight at 7:30 at El Gaucho (2505 First Ave., Seattle).

This 15 year-old malt Scotch whiskey will be featured in signature cocktails along with tasty appetizers.

Win a Book: The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle

Hot off the press, The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle by David Volk reveals all kinds of secrets for living the good life – for less – in Seattle.

 

Did you know you can get free passes to advance movie screenings by signing up for the JW Film Club, www.janetwainwright.com/filmclub.htm?

Or that selected appetizers are free at Oliver’s at Mayflower Park, www.mayflowerpark.com/olivers.asp, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday?

Or you can take a free beginning yoga class on Saturdays at Samadhi Yoga, www.samadhi-yoga.com?

Okay, that’s all the info I’m giving away. The book’s pages are packed with deals and discounts, plus it’s an entertaining read because David is a very funny guy.

David says, “Even though the book is all about free and cheap stuff you can do in Seattle, it isn’t about badgering merchants to save 5 or 10 cents on a purchase. Instead, it’s all about quality of life and finding ways to do things you would already do, for less.”

If you win the book, David will be happy to sign it at his next reading at Third Place Books in Ravenna, 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 15th.

At his readings he always offers a prize to the person who brings in the best cheap bastard deal (as determined by the audience). You could be the proud owner of a screaming monkey doll, a carabener calculator, a mooing cow flashlight/key ring or something else.

Lastly he mentions deals almost daily on his Facebook fan page, The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle. You can also subscribe to a daily deal e-mail list at david@davidvolk.com or go to his blog at cheapbastardseattle.com. If there’s more than one good deal a day, you’ll find the additional deals only on his blog.

To win a copy of The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle, make a comment on this post and the winner will be announced on Thursday, February 3, 2011.

Award-Winning Hotel in Unlikely Place

Guest room at Cedarbrook Lodge, courtesy Richmond Public Relations.

If you were dropped onto the property by helicopter, you wouldn’t know it was only five minutes from the bustling SeaTac Airport. Nestled in a woodsy setting (18 acres of restored wetlands), Cedarbrook Lodge offers guests serenity and luxury at an affordable price. They also get top-of-the-line amenities like terry-lined spa robes, soaking tubs, contemporary art work and a spacious, modern lobby. Plus it’s dog-friendly.

Canine guests receive a welcome amenity that includes a bed, bed sheet, food bowl and a tasty treat. For Fido’s other dining needs, he can order off the “Puppy Pantry” menu and have it delivered to the room.

TripAdvisor readers have found this gem because they gave it four top ratings in the 2011 Travelers’ Choice Awards. Cedarbrook was rated No. 1 Hotel in the United States, No. 2 Bargain Hotel in the U.S., No. 6 Best Service in the U.S. and No. 17 Hotel in the World.

Outdoor seating at Cedarbrook Lodge, courtesy Richmond Public Relations.

That’s not too shabby considering these awards come from real people who really travel, not paid PR people.

One guest from Idaho said, “Cedarbrook is one of those places that is so wonderfully unexpected you can hardly wait to return.”

A favorite amenity of mine is their 24-hour grab ‘n’ go snacks. You can go down the hall anytime of the day or night and grab some malt balls or Haagen-Dazs to cure the munchies. No getting in the car and driving to a convenience store.

Let’s not forget the Copperleaf Restaurant where Executive Chef Mark Bodinet prepares farm-to-table local and regional treats. Bodinet spent five years working at the French Laundry Restaurant in Napa Valley.

Unbelievable that this is just around the corner from the airport, courtesy of Richmond Public Relations.

If you’re not into quiet and relaxing there’s plenty to do just around the corner including shopping at Southcenter Mall.

This just in:  (And you don’t have to wait until the 11 o’clock news to find out what it is.) Copperleaf, a 30-seat quintessentially Northwest restaurant at Cedarbrook Lodge in Seattle, has been recognized as one of the 2011 Top 10 New Restaurants in the U.S. by Gayot for its farm-to-table cuisine and commitment to locally sourced ingredients.

New Pick-Quick Opens Soon

Have you ever eaten a Pick-Quick hamburger from the iconic drive-in in Fife? People say that should be on your bucket list. I know, firsthand, just how yummy they are. 

Rendering of the Auburn location, courtesy of Richmond Public Relations.

In USA Today, Jay Friedman, a freelance food writer and gastronaut, named the Pick-Quick burger the very best in the whole state of Washington. I would have to agree. The food sends waves of delight from my tongue to my brain. But, there’s one problem with the Fife location – I don’t really like sitting outside in the rain to enjoy my meal.

In three weeks that problem will be solved. After 49 years of having only a single location, Pick-Quick will open a restaurant in Auburn.

“The time was right and we found the right people to oversee the new facility,” said Greg Burgi, one of the owners.

Not only will the Auburn location be larger and also have a drive-through window, but it will also have both indoor seating and covered outdoor seating.

What makes Pick-Quick’s burgers better than the rest? 

Burgi says they make 2-ounce patties and you can have up to four of those on a bun.

“You get more flavor from multiple patties. Everything is fresh, from the hand-cut tomatoes to the onions and we don’t have frozen meat,” said Burgi. “Adding cheddar or American Cheese and bacon to the burgers and hot dogs is an option.” 

Fife location of Pick-Quick, courtesy Richmond Public Relations.

Hungry yet?

The menu also includes: hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, garden burgers, chili, twenty flavors of milkshakes made with fresh fruit (when in season) like blueberries and strawberries, and of course, fresh-cut fries and onion rings.

Currently the Fife location is closed through the end of January for their usual maintenance, where they refinish and paint their picnic tables. The Auburn Pick-Quick will be open year round.

Okay – I’ll tell you where the new place is:  1132 Auburn Way North.

Sign up to “like” their FaceBook page at www.Facebook.com/#1/PickQuick and check out their weekly contests.

More Top Travel Trends for 2011: The Washington State Version

More of Thomas Stanley’s predictions and the Washington State destination that matches.

Train display at Freighthouse Square made completely out of Legos

  • Ride the Rails:  We have train travel covered here – from short 45-minute excursions to crossing the country on Amtrak – it’s all available for travelers in Washington State. My favorite short rides include a stop at the train museum and a jaunt from Snoqualmie to North Bend (www.trainmuseum.org) and the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad (www.mrsr.com) that departs from Mineral.

 

Longer excursions are available on Amtrak (Amtrak.com) going north/south or east/west. But the best news of all is Amtrak opened a new stop at the Icicle Station in the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth last year. Daily service is now available.

  • Experiential Family Travel:  A simple definition of experiential travel says it is travel we live through, instead of look at. That can mean dining where the locals eat like Downrigger’s in Friday Harbor (www.downriggerssanjuan.com) or drinking coffee at Undertown in Port Townsend. Staying at a Bed and Breakfast also qualifies. States Inn and Ranch (www.statesinn.com), also in Friday Harbor, ranks as one of my all time favorites. The locally cooked breakfast from scratch was so delectable, I couldn’t eat regular food for a week afterwards.

Hurricane Ridge, courtesy of the Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau

If you want an all-inclusive experience, try hiring a Native American Guide to tour the Olympic Peninsula (www.nativeamericanfootprints.com). Highlights of these tours include dining on salmon cooked the Indian way, which is by far the most delicious way of cooking salmon, speaking with the elders of the tribe and hearing their stories, making your own hand drum and much more. This tour has now taken a spot on my Bucket List.

  • Bucket List:  Just a few suggestions here – The Space Needle, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, snowshoeing, winery touring and The Museum of Flight.

 

  • Top Picks for 2011:  These are my choices. Whether they turn out to be trends or not, you can’t miss with visits to the San Juan Islands, Whidbey Island, Lake Chelan or taking the North Cascades Scenic Drive.

Top Travel Trends for 2011: The Washington State Version

Happy New Year to you all.

View of Mt. Rainier

Thomas Stanley, COO of Cox & Kings laid out his top predictions for the kinds of travel people want to take in Luxury Travel Magazine recently. Lo and behold, I discovered that every one of his trends can easily be experienced right here in Washington.

Here’s how:

  1. Travelers will be taking Multi-destination Vacations to basically get more bang for their buck or their time off. Since we have almost every kind of terrain from mountains to forests to desserts to the Pacific Ocean and you can easily drive from one to another in less than a day, this is ideal. One way to do this would be to start in Seattle (www.visitseattle.org) for city activities, drive to Mt. Rainier (www.visitrainier.com) and stay overnight and then go to Tri-Cities in eastern Washington (www.visittri-cities.com) to experience wine country.

 

  1. Group Tours will increase in popularity. I can easily recommend the eco-friendly Evergreen Escapes tours (www.evergreenescapes.com). This winter you can choose from the Woodinville Wine Trail, Olympic National Park, Mt. Rainier and more. Or tour Seattle by land and water with Ride the Ducks of Seattle (www.ridetheducksofseattle.com), a laugh-a-minute tour.

 

  1. Then there’s Contemporary Cultural Travel. We’ve got this one more than covered with the Seattle Art Museum (www.seattleartmuseum.org), the free Frye Art Museum (fryemuseum.org) in Seattle, Tacoma’s Art Museum (www.tacomaartmuseum.org) and Museum of Glass (www.museumofglass.org); and if you’re on the far side of the mountains take a gander at the Northwest Museum of Art and Culture (www.northwestmuseum.org) in Spokane.

 

  1. Resurgence of Tour Guides and Travel Agents. I don’t know any tour guides personally, but what about checking out some of the tours offering guidance via a CD at www.washingtonfolkarts.com. There’s Othello to Omak, Leavenworth to Maryhill, the Cascade Loop and several more.

 

  1. Learning Vacations rank high on the charts.  This February you can learn how to make cheese over a three-day period in Lynden (www.wsu.edu/creamery/basicplus.htm). Roadscholar.org (formerly Elderhostel) offers many learning opportunities for seniors including the study of  “Seabirds and Shorebirds of Coastal Washington in Port Townsend. We also have the Stonerose Interpretive Center (www.stonerosefossil.org) in Republic where you can dig your own fossils.

 

More to come on top travel trends for 2011.

Couldn’t Find Big Foot

I’m back from the land of BigFoot sightings – Lewis County in Southwest Washington. We didn’t see any thing, but our nephew’s size 14’s. Nothing of the legendary BigFoot variety.

Yard Bird statue in Chehalis

BigFoot, also known as Sasquatch, a giant ape-like creature, has been seen, heard and smelled in places like Mossyrock and Rainbow Falls in Lewis County. The BigFoot Field Researcher’s Organization (BFRO, www.bfro.net), a real scientific entity, has investigated many of these reports.

The sighting I find most odd was one I saw on TV. A woman who lived in a cabin in Tennessee (yes, he gets around) claimed Sasquatch knocked on her door and asked to borrow some garlic. I guess he was cooking Italian that night.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not Sasquatch is real or imagined. But since I didn’t find any evidence either way, I went on to take in some roadside attractions. I love the concept of people erecting things to attract travelers’ attention. Remember the old Burma Shave signs?

On this trip I was able to find the Yard Bird’s statues and the world’s largest egg.

World's largest egg in Winlock, Washington

In Chehalis two of the statues remain at the Yard Bird’s home improvement store. There used to be many more. One, a gawky cartoon bird, 30 feet tall and at least 50 feet long; faces a main road. On a dark, dreary day this one didn’t photograph well, but its smaller counterpart at the front entrance did.

Currently the “World’s Largest Egg” (I’m sure there are probably larger eggs) is painted white, but at Easter it resembles an Easter egg and on the Fourth of July, it bears the stars and stripes of the American Flag. This town used to be a major producer of eggs, hence the mascot egg that is twelve feet long and weighs 1,200 pounds.

Winlock also has an annual Egg Day celebration where egg salad sandwiches are given away.  The town is located about three miles west of Interstate 5 off Exit 63 and on State Route 505.

What is your favorite roadside attraction?