Category Archives: Museums

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.

Mary Olson Farm, updated May 2016

When I bought tickets for “Outlaw Days,” I wasn’t sure what it was. But the tickets were only $5 each and I’d heard so much about the Mary Olson Farm in Auburn and the activities there, I thought I couldn’t miss. Although “Outlaw Days” aren’t on the Farm’s calendar this summer, plenty of other activities are.

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Every Saturday and Sunday, from noon ’til 5 p.m., June 25-August 28, you can tour the farmhouse, meet up-close-and personal with the cows, chickens and donkeys and even bring your picnic basket full of goodies to eat on the grounds. That’s all free.

Also, at no cost, let the kiddos, ages 3-12, participate in a themed activity hour any Wednesday in July at 10:30 a.m.

But the piece de resistance must be the overnight stay, July 15 and 16, for those 7-12 years of age. Visit Overnight for details and to register.

The Farm holds numerous events throughout the summer including summer camps for kids, group tours, concerts and special events like “Outlaw Days.” A project of the White River Valley Museum, the Farm originally operated as a subsistence farm. In 2011 it was restored to its current state and opened to the general public. The interior of the house is furnished just like an old farm house.

“Outlaw Days” at Mary Olson Farm

When I bought tickets for “Outlaw Days,” I wasn’t sure what it was. But the tickets were only $5 each and I’d heard so much about the Mary Olson Farm in Auburn and the activities there, I thought I couldn’t miss.

You even get music with this interactive play.

Lo and behold, I stumbled onto a real gem. “Outlaw Days” turned out to be a play, but not in the usual sense of the word. Instead, when the scene changed in the production so did the audience and the actors. We followed the play around to different places on the farm and ended up inside the barn for the final act. I’m not sure what they call that kind of play or even if it has a name, but it sure was a fun experience.

The interactive theatre experience centered on a time in 1902 when the Olson family was taken hostage by the notorious outlaw Harry Tracy. I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but the actors make you think it could have been. The acting was stellar and must have been difficult because almost all of them played multiple roles. So there were lots of quick costume and character changes.

 

The play continues this weekend and I urge anyone interested in history or dramatic arts to attend.

The Farm holds numerous events including overnight camping, summer camps for kids, group tours and special events like “Outlaw Days.” A project of the White River Valley Museum, the Farm originally operated as a subsistence farm. In 2011 it was restored to its current state and opened to the general public. The interior of the house is furnished just like an old farm house.

 

Boise’s World Center for Birds of Prey: An Awe-Inspiring Experience

Lately I’ve been traveling quite a bit in the Northwest for travel writing assignments and my most recent journey took me to Boise, Idaho.

Who I slept with at Hotel 43 in Boise.

Boise is home to the World Center for Birds of Prey, a place like no other I’ve experienced and unique in the world. Birds of prey portray grace and confidence to the extent that it reminds us all that nature is in charge. Daily tours and live bird presentations here provide visitors an up close and unforgettable encounter with birds of prey. The facility showcases a California Condor exhibit, an interpretive trail with a stunning panoramic view of Boise, interactive exhibits (lots for children) and outdoor flight shows in the fall.

The Peregrine Fund, headquartered here, is a non-profit dedicated to saving birds of prey from extinction. Throughout the world these birds are threatened by shooting, poisoning and loss of habitat. A 30-year effort successfully removed the Peregrine Falcons from the endangered list. Now they are trying to help other birds of prey.

This is Wally, an Eurasian Eagle Owl in training. Notice his markings resember that of a tiger.

 

Endangered birds are raised here and released to their natural habitats.

The Falconry Archives, in a separate building, honors falcons through art. Of special note is the Arab Wing, paid for by the United Arab Emirates. Since the 1200’s Arabs have hunted with falcons. An exhibit highlights bird hoods so ornate you wonder how many hours of work it took to make them. My guide likened them to fishing flies.  

The Center is very accessible and all on one level. Plan to bring a lunch and use one of the courtyard picnic tables. You’ll not find a better view.

Kids can try on different birds of prey' wings like this one.

I highly recommend this as a must see on your bucket list. I didn’t know about it until I visited Boise, but I’m sure glad that I did.

LeMay — America’s Car Museum

Row upon row of shiny, gleaming cars await your visit.

Courtesy LeMay Car Museum

A project that’s been talked about and in the works for more than ten years opened earlier this month. LeMay – America’s Car Museum (it’s official name) is a four-story, 165,000 square-foot venue, located in Tacoma across from the Tacoma Dome complete with a preservation shop, galleries, banquet hall, meeting space, car storage, a gift shop and a café.

LeMay is the largest auto museum in North America and should boost Tacoma’s economy with an estimated 425,000 visitors and $32 million in visitor spending and employment locally.

Courtesy LeMay Car Museum

Rotating exhibits tell the story of the automobile. The museum houses 15 display spaces, which include three galleries six ramps (which can hold 12 cars each) three viewable storage galleries and three primary end galleries.

Museum’s Namesake

The museum was named for Harold LeMay who was an “extreme” car collector. His collection made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Some might call him a car rescuer because according to his wife, Nancy, he bought cars so they wouldn’t be destroyed. So he had a huge variety of makes, models, shapes and sizes. And it was his dream to share them with everyone. Although LeMay won’t see the finished museum, because he died in 2000 at the age of 81, his dream lives on through Nancy and a host of workers and volunteers.

“Harold had a lifelong passion for autos,” says Scott Keller, chief marketing and communications officer for the museum. “What’s unique about this collection is that it’s eclectic and offers something for everyone.”

Courtesy LeMay Car Museum

 

From the 1930 red Duesenberg Model J which sold for a minimum of $13,000 new to the 1983 Mercury Marquis Station Wagon, the collection focuses on America’s timeless love affair with the automobile. Keller says many of the cars have a very colorful history.

Lemay traveled throughout the United States buying cars.

“Harold would see a car he wanted to maintain and buy it,” says Keller. “Part of preserving the autos was caring for them and driving them, although not all of the vehicles in his collection are drivable.”

He was able to buy so many cars because of the very successful waste management business he started, says Keller. At the time of LeMay’s passing Harold LeMay Enterprises was the 10th largest refuse business in the United States.

Heather Larson writes about the Pacific Northwest from her office in Tacoma, Washington hoping she can entice you to visit or share your own memories of the region.

King Tut Exhibit Opens in Seattle

Tomorrow, May 24, 2012, the Pacific Science Center welcomes visitors to view Tutankhamun: The Golden King and The Great Pharaohs’. Today, I had the privilege of seeing this phenomenon as a member of the press. I love my job. Go if you can. It won’t be shown again anywhere else after January 6, 2013 and the Science Center expects to sell out.

Seattle hosted a similar exhibit in 1978, but the current one contains twice as many artifacts. People who attended in 1978 recall waiting in long lines. This year that problem has been solved – you buy tickets for a certain day and timed entry. So far 90,000 of those tickets have been sold.

Possibly the first flip flops. Photo credit to Sandro Vannini, National Geographic.

King Tut became a king at 9 years of age and forensic analysis says he died at age 19, probably from an infection in a fractured leg. Even at this young age, he had everything he could possibly need in his tomb.

More than 100 remarkable objects discovered in King Tut’s tomb are on display. I found the complexity and intricacy of the jewelry fascinating. Small beads and miniature cornflowers make up a necklace called the Gold Collar. A Necklace and Pectoral of Mereret looked unlike anything I’ve ever seen, but could almost be described as a pendant that was also a very intricately-crafted picture. Twenty-five amulets were found around the neck of the mummy.

Much of what was found in King Tut’s tomb was created specifically for the afterlife. A gold Pair of Sandals adorned his feet while finger protectors were worn over his rings and toe protectors covered his toes – all to protect him in the afterlife. You’ll find a model of a boat in the exhibit because the Nile River was the main source of transportation in Ancient Egypt. Thirty-five ship models accompanied the boy King in the tomb so he could boat wherever he needed to go after death.

You can tour the exhibit with an audio accompaniment, which I highly recommend. Different music, composed for each of the galleries, transports you back in time and helps you experience 2,000 years of Egyptian history. These ancient treasures remain one of the world’s greatest legacies. The beauty, preservation and stories behind each item evokes all kinds of emotions. Reserve your ticket as soon as you can.

King Tut's finger and toe coverings

Pacific Science Center members receive a substantial discount. Non-member adults pay $27.50 for Mon.-Thur. or $32.50 for Fri.-Sun. Youth (6-15) are $16.50 for Mon.-Thurs. and $21.50 for Fri.-Sun and children (3-5) pay $15.50 during the week and $20.50 for Fri.-Sun. Admission gets you into the Pacific Science Center for the day and if you can take advantage of that as they know how to entertain there.

Bellevue’s KidsQuest Children’s Museum Fun for Adults

When I visited KidsQuest, I had to wear a sticker that said, “Unaccompanied Adult…and wishing I were a kid again!

How true. I just wanted to dig right in and play alongside the kids.

Kids Quest Children's Museum

The first area you come to contains “Waterways.” Our guide reminded us, “There is no wrong way to play with water.” The kids there at the time seemed to agree as they splashed and guided boats through the channels. Then I was distracted by a staff member playing with green slime.

Water play is fun at any age

The museum staff makes their own slime, which takes on some very elastic properties.

So many play areas, so little time. I ventured into the Hard Hats Area without a hard hat, where I became mesmerized by this special green sand called Moon Sand that stuck together so you could make balls out of it. On to fiddling with nuts and bolts.

Unfortunately I couldn’t drive the semi-truck in the Large Science area as the driver’s seat was occupied. But I heard the driver turn the key and the sound the truck made.

When you go, don’t forget to try the scarf shooter. The scarf wends its way through all kinds of tubes and comes back to you, usually behind where you’re standing.

Currently the museum is located in the Factoria Square Mall, but it has outgrown the space and will soon be moving to downtown Bellevue.

KidsQuest is free the first Friday of the month between 5 p.m.-8 p.m.

I can’t wait to take my granddaughter there so I don’t have to wear the “unaccompanied adult” sticker and can play to my heart’s content.

The Tree Bike: Fact or Fiction

There’s currently a story circulating on Facebook about the bicycle in the tree on Vashon Island. It’s a made-up story of a boy who left his bike by the tree, went off to war in 1914 and never came back.

I intend to set the record straight. In actuality there is a bicycle that a tree grew around on Vashon Island. But the true story of how it got there is quite different.

In 1954 Helen Puz (who is now 99 years old) moved to Center with her five children. At that time she had been recently widowed.

“People were very sympathetic and generous,” writes Puz in a document on display at the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum. “We were given a girl’s bike and my 8-year-old son, Don, seemed the natural one to ride it.”

Don was none too happy having a girls bike, said Puz, but it was better than none.

The neighborhood boys, including Don, liked to play behind a local restaurant called, “The Den.” (This restaurant is now called Sound Food.)

One day Don told his mother that he had lost his bike and he wasn’t sure where he’d left it. They both let it go because Don was a little embarrassed to be riding a girl’s bike anyway.

 This is a photo of the bike in the tree before someone attached the front wheel. Courtesy of the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum

Forty years later Puz read in the Beachcomber, Vashon’s newspaper, that someone had discovered a bike up in a tree near Sound Food. The bike was five feet off the ground and the tree had grown around it. News of the tree bike even carried to Japan where they made a film about it.

The mystery of where Don Puz left his bike had finally been solved.

If you’d like to see the bike in the tree, directions on how to get there can be found at roadsideamerica.com.

San Juan Island Museum of Art and Sculpture Park: A Must-See

I visited the Sculpture Park for a close-up look for the first time this past weekend and found I was intrigued. My grandson also enjoyed this adventure. Sculptures created in various media by a number of artists are artfully placed throughout the landscape giving off splashes of color, reflections and hints of pieces that make you want to come closer and study them.

The Sculpture Park was first created in 2001. Each year the installations are added. To fully enjoy all the Sculpture Park has to offer, you can go to their next event on Saturday and Sunday, September 3 and 4, 2011, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. where performance artists interpret their sculptures and the theme of the day is art, food and music.

 

To find the Sculpture Park, head to the west side of San Juan Island from Friday Harbor. It overlooks Westcott Bay and is a stone’s throw from Roche Harbor.

The mission of both the Museum of Art and the Sculpture Park is to connect people with art that inspires, challenges, enlightens and educates. The Museum is located in the town of Friday Harbor at 285 Spring Street.

 

Carr’s One-of-a-Kind Museum: What a Gem

This past weekend we had the pleasure of visiting a museum like no other in the Hillyard district of Spokane. That’s why it’s called the “One-of-a-Kind Museum.” Marvin Carr is the owner.

Carr's Museum Sign

A little background about how Carr’s collection got started:  He worked for the railroad, but was forced to retire due to an injury. That’s when he decided to put his energy into building a museum. He collects what he likes and has many “firsts” and several that are the “only one in the world.”

What I found amazing is he doesn’t have a computer or a cell phone, yet he still buys one piece a month to add to his collection. People call and ask if he wants what they have to offer. When he does buy a piece, he researches it extensively at the library so he knows the history behind it.

That’s why when he gives museum visitors a personalized tour, which he does for everyone; you come away with a wealth of knowledge. At 84 years of age, Carr is very sharp and tells some fascinating stories.

When you enter the museum, you’re greeted with life-size lady mannequins that seem so real you want to introduce yourself to them. Then there’s a powder blue limo owned by Jackie Gleason, an 1800 carousel horse, and life/death masks of several movie stars on the wall. Carr showcases the ship, Royal Louis, built out of matchsticks, the oldest typewriter in the world and German nutcrackers that go through 130 different processes before they are declared, “finished.”

One of the many squirrels exhibited throughout the museum

Carr has even made some of the exhibits. I suspect some of those might be the many different character squirrels spread throughout the museum.

What really impressed me about the museum was how clean and organized it is. All the exhibits and the floor are spotless. Although there’s no common theme for what’s there, other than they are items Carr likes, it’s not cluttered or in chaos.

I’d tell you more, but I really want you to visit the museum and see for yourself this hidden treasure in Spokane.

Carr’s One-of-a-Kind Museum is located at 5225 N. Freya, Spokane, WA  99217. Phone:  800-350-6469.