Category Archives: Family Fun

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.

 

 

 

All-Around Fun at Long Beach

A couple of weeks ago, we took a short R&R to my favorite Washington beach. Long Beach has everything a beach lover could ask for – shopping, great dining, and of course, a beach to walk on or better yet, take your shoes off and dig your toes into sweet, soft sand.

When we arrived, the first order of the day was a drive through Cape Disappointment State Park, which has never been a disappointment. We enjoyed the mild wind on what was otherwise a hot day inland. Savoring the quietness, I thought the beach would be the ideal spot for meditation had I been alone.

 

Back in Ilwaco, just outside the park, we dined on Serious Pizza, a place where the food is divine and the service impeccable.

Waking up to that fresh misty breeze, the next day we couldn’t wait to take a trip to Jack’s Country Store in Ocean Park, the oldest general store in Washington State. We picked up some vintage toys for our granddaughter’s ninth birthday. Last year I needed a new Discover Pass (for entry into Washington State Parks) and a latte. Jack’s had both. In fact, I venture Jack’s has whatever you need. The ultimate in one-stop shopping.

 

Cruising through town on our way back, we stopped at Marsh’s Free Museum. What a fun place. Shells galore, weird creatures under glass, lots of souvenirs, and nonstop entertainment. Then we popped across the street for some refueling in the form of a slice of boysenberry pie at the Cottage Bakery.

 

But of course, the best part of a seaside stay is an early morning stroll along the beach while most folks are still sleeping. I was lucky enough to encounter a group of horseback riders also enjoying their time trotting along next to the surf. Sitting on the bench of a well-placed picnic table then seemed like a slice of heaven.

To look for lodging or other information about Long Beach, visit www.funbeach.com.

 

Point Ruston Just Keeps Getting Better

What used to be home to an ugly, smelly smelter plant for Asarco has magically transformed into a lovely, walkable shopping and dining district and homes for those who prefer condominiums or apartment living with views of Commencement Bay.

Point Ruston, located on Ruston Way on the Tacoma waterfront continues to add new restaurants and stores almost monthly, it seems. It’s become one of my favorite places to walk around, eat, take the dog, see a movie or just stare at the beauty of Puget Sound.

Here are a few of my preferred haunts:

Coming soon:

  • Ice Cream Social just in time for the sunny summer days we hope are coming
  • Silver Cloud Inn so you don’t have to leave
  • Purpose Boutique where you can shop with your gal pals
  • Fish Brewing Company with seating for 360, handcrafted brews, wine and food

Just when you think a place can’t get any better, Pt. Ruston recently announced their inaugural concert series beginning Saturday, June 24, 2017. Free live music for all ages, every Saturday from 5-7 p.m. until September 2. Look for these groups:  Strangely Alright, Sweet Kiss Momma, Kim Archer Band and Ted Brown Showcase.

Courtesy Travel Tacoma

Breaking News:  A new trolley, the Downtown to Defiance Trolley, goes into service on June 2, 2017. It will take passengers from downtown to the Ruston Way waterfront, Pt. Ruston and Pt. Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Leave your car at the Tacoma Dome Station and take the Tacoma Link to downtown for no charge. Then catch the trolley and you can leave all the driving to Pierce Transit.

 

Two Ferries Sold

Last October the Hiyu and the M/V Evergreen State were put up for sale. Although it took quite a while they both now have new owners. Speaking of ferries, Anacortes is known mainly as the place to catch the ferry to the San Juan Islands, but the town has so much else to offer. Later I’ll tell you how you can win Anacortes Getaway for Two that my friend at Small Town Washington and the Experience Anacortes are giving away.

The Hiyu is destined to become a floating entertainment venue on Lake Union. Yeah, for keeping it local. The M/V Evergreen State will leave us and provide active ferry service in the protected waters of the southern Caribbean.

I would love to have a ferry, but as a freelance writer my income doesn’t jibe with the cost of these vessels. Starting bid for the Hiyu was $300,000 and it eventually sold for $150,000 while the Evergreen State price was dropped from a handsome $450,000 to $300,000 when it sold. The latter measures 296.7 feet and holds 87 cars. The former was the smallest of the fleet and carried only 34 cars.

What do you do with a ferry once you buy one?

Dyer Oxley, a writer at MyNorthwest.com, did lots of research on this and came up with some factual answers. Right here in our own neighborhood the M/V Skansonia serves as a wedding an event venue on the north shore of Lake Union in Seattle.

The M/V Rhododendron currently helps out with oyster farming in Fanny Bay, British Columbia, Oxley discovered.

Another retired vessel, the M/V Enetai is docked at Pier 3 in San Francisco and serves as a ballroom with a full bar.

Here is some ferry trivia for you:

  • 2 million commuters, tourists and travelers ride Washington State Ferries (WSF) in 2016
  • Those same ferries travelled 910,610 miles
  • The Seattle-to-Bremerton route carried 2.1 million foot passengers in 2016, the most since 2004
  • The Chimacum, a new Olympic Class ferry, will join the Seattle-to-Bremerton run in the spring of 2017
  • WSF is taking advisement on how to improve service on the busy Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route from a volunteer citizen group

 

Here’s the Anacortes giveaway contest and it is full of good stuff. Hurry, the contest ends April 15th.

Sip Afternoon Tea: No Passport Required

One of my all-time favorite places in the Pacific Northwest, Salish Lodge & Spa, will be serving Holiday Tea from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. December 19 – January 2, 2017. During that time, you can enjoy the Lodge’s signature teas and savor finger sandwiches, scones and sweet treats all while gazing at the cascading Snoqualmie Falls out the window.

Credit: Salish Lodge & Spa

Credit: Salish Lodge & Spa

 

Victoria, our neighbor to the north in British Columbia, has offered afternoon tea ever since I can remember. But Salish Lodge is much closer to home, you don’t need to travel by boat and nobody will ask for your passport.

The sandwich menu includes a roast beef and Salish honey (the honey couldn’t be fresher because the lodge has their own bees) ale spread and English cucumber with watercress and cream cheese.

The pastry chef has been hard at work creating Frangipane tarts, macaroons, chocolate opera cake and more.

 

Credit: Salish Lodge & Spa

Credit: Salish Lodge & Spa

Sounds like a good way to relax and take a break during this hectic holiday season. The kids are welcome, too.

The younger set, aged 6-12, has their own menu to choose from that includes PB&J on banana bread, miniature cupcakes and hot chocolate.

Wouldn’t a visit to Snoqualmie Falls with holiday tea at Salish Lodge make a good gift to yourself this year? I’d also work in a massage at the spa and a little shopping in the gift shop.

 

 

What’s New and Cool in September, 2016

Fall is almost upon us.

 

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September 2-25:  Washington State Fair in Puyallup, A week longer than normal, but closed every Tuesday during its run. This is the most popular fair on the west side of the mountains. To see everything, it might take you two full days. Fisher scones, Clydesdales, competitions, Super Heroes, funnel cakes, dinosaurs, and more.

Lighthouse on Rocky Shore

September 9-11:  Mukilteo Lighthouse FestivalMain food court, kids food court, battle of the bands, parade, children’s activities, fireworks and a fishing derby top this community celebration.

White-Pelican

September 9-11:  Puget Sound Bird Fest in Edmonds, Bird lovers of all ages unite to learn more about their hobby. Festival includes guided nature walks, a photography exhibition and field workshop, speakers and presentations.

September 9-18:  Bellingham Beer WeekFifth annual celebration of the craft beer scene in our city to the north. Participants include Chuckanut, Boundary Bay, Kulshan, Aslan, Wander, Structures, Menace and Stones Throw. For other beer coverage across the state, check with my friends at the Washington Beer Blog.

September 23-25:  Valleyfest in the Spokane Valley, Short and long-distance bike rides, hot air balloons, bed races, fishing at the falls, a parade, and robotics and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities.

September 23-25:  Port Townsend Film Festival, 98 films at six different theatre venues, one of which is outside.

September 23-25:  Autumn Leaf Fest in Leavenworth, Parades, music, entertainment, car show, breakfast and more.

September 23-25:  Ye Merrie Greenwood Faire in Kennewick, A period Renaissance Faire, need I say more?

September 30-October 1:  Inaugural SeaFeast in Bellingham, This new event takes place in downtown and showcases the rich maritime and thriving commercial fishing there. Local seafood, competitions, entertainment, a pub crawl and salmon barbecue.

Just Plain Cool

Wings over Washington in Seattle is a new attraction on Pier 59 at Miner’s Landing in Seattle. Purchase your tickets at the same place you buy them for the Great Wheel. This flying theatre transports you over and through some of the best scenery in the state. Once you’re strapped into your seat, the chairs drop and you become a part of the landscape and seascape. It feels so real, that I ducked and lifted my feet to avoid the obstacles.

 

Courtesy Doug Walker Photography

Courtesy Doug Walker Photography

The Thurston County Bountiful Byway, is now open so anyone can travel the 60-mile loop filled with fresh food and beverages. “This new program will further the Bountiful Byway’s mission to bring visitors hungry for local produce, craft beverages and farm fresh fare straight to the source,” says Shauna Stewart, executive director of the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau.

 

 

 

Now That’s a Train Ride

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In the first half of the 1900s, cooking for loggers fell to a few women. Some of them also washed the lumbermen’s clothes and cleaned their cabins. Known collectively as “flunkies,” they lived in their own shack. At the Logging Museum in Mineral,

FlunkyCabinthumbnail_20160722_133306Washington, you can visit a re-creation of one of their cabins complete with a wood burning stove, iron, nylons hanging on a clothesline and even a period radio.

You’ll board the Mount Rainier Railroad in the small town of Elbe. The turn-off from Highway 7 is easy to miss. Watch for the restaurant in a train car and make the next possible right turn, then park behind the train car. Buy your tickets inside the designated building or better yet, get them online to ensure you and your party have a seat on the train.

On our ride, a lady came through the cars selling authentic train whistles, something you might want to give to a child who doesn’t live with you. When the engineer puts the train in gear, you can sit back and watch nature pass by outside your window. The steam train chugs along as you travel through forested land, over Mineral Creek and alongside the Upper Nisqually River. MountRainierRailroadDSCF1954

The first half of the two-hour experience stops at the Logging Museum in Mineral. Besides the flunky cabin, you’ll have time to tour other buildings where loggers lived and ate plus a restoration shop and engine room. The authorities give you plenty of opportunity to look around and talk to the staff. Then you hop on board for the return trip to Elbe.

If you’ve already made plans for the rest of summer, no worries. The steam train becomes the Wine Express on September 24th with tastings provided by three local wineries. Later in the fall, the Great Pumpkin Patch Express takes over with Snoopy and Charlie Brown aboard and for the holidays the train transforms into the Polar Express.

Have you ridden the Mt. Rainier Railroad? What did you think?  MountRainierRailroadDSCF1946

Disclaimer:  My granddaughter, daughter and I were generously hosted on this trip.