Category Archives: Seasonal

Celebrating Daffodils

Every spring Tacoma and Pierce County pay tribute to the buttery yellow flower. Last week marked the beginning of the 81st Annual Daffodil Festival (wow, something older than me).

Sea Scout's Entry

The highlight of the event has to be the parade that goes through not just one town, but four separate towns. The traveling parade had more than 170 entries including floats, bands and mounted unit. Thousands of fresh-cut daffodils adorn the floats. As sometimes happens in the Pacific Northwest, it rained.

On Sunday, April 13, Tacoma celebrated boats and our waterways with a Marine Parade. More than 40 boats cruised in formation from the Tacoma Yacht Club to the Thea Foss Waterway.

Those are authentic mermaids on the front of the boat.

Unlike last weekend, the sun made a day-long appearance. The blue skies and white clouds framed the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Rainier. All were postcard crisp and clear.

People's Choice Winner - the pink octopus revolves and they played the Beatle's song about an octupus garden on the boat.

Explore More Holiday Activities

All the gifts have been unwrapped, the tree is starting to shed and too much fattening food calls to us from the kitchen. It’s time to get out and enjoy some holiday offerings in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a list to get you started.


Stroll down Celebration Lane at The Bellevue Collection, where live toy soldiers rove streets, music fills the air and a dazzling light show illuminates the lane, until December 31.

While in Bellevue, explore Bellevue Botanical Garden’s Garden d’Lights, a nationally recognized holiday display with more than half a million lights illuminating a winter wonderland, until January 4.

For an educational experience outside the school setting, an 1860s sewing machine is featured at a new Fort Nisqually exhibit highlighting its revolutionary impact on the daily lives of women in those times.

“Turning Drudgery into a Pastime” is on display through April 5, 2014 and is included in the price of admission to the fort. For more information, call (253) 591-5339 or go online to FortNisqually.org.

Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is a restoration of the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost on Puget Sound located in Point Defiance Park, Tacoma. Visitors experience life in Washington Territory during the Fur Trade era of the 1850s. Nine buildings are open to the public, including the Granary and the Factors House, both National Historic Landmarks, and a Visitor Center with Museum Store. Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is a facility of Metro Parks Tacoma.

How About Some Snow Play?
Squeals and laughter fill the air as people of all ages have a blast on snow trails.
Join a park ranger to learn the art of snowshoeing and discover how plants, animals, and people adapt to the challenging winter conditions at Mount Rainier.
When: Update 12/20/13. First-come, first-served guided snowshoe walks will begin on December 24, 2013. Snow conditions permitting, the walks are generally offered on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, and daily during winter break from December 24 to January 1. After early January, walks are only offered on Saturdays and Sundays, and holidays. Walks start at 11:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. and meet inside the Jackson Visitor Center (near the information desk) in Paradise. Sign-ups begin 1 hour in advance of scheduled time.
Distance & Time: Snowshoe walks cover approximately 1.5 miles in 2 hours.
Group size: Snowshoe walks are limited to 25 people, eight years old or older, on a first-come, first-served basis. A sign-up sheet is available at the Jackson Visitor Center information desk one hour before each walk. All snowshoe walk participants must be present at sign-up.

Skiers, riders and foot passengers can all take a ride to the Crystal Mountain summit for captivating mountain views, a delectable meal at the Summit House and a great run down the slopes. Dogs allowed on the gondola, but not in the Summit House.

Don’t want to venture out just yet, then download the free interactive eCookbook from Visit Seattle, that highlights a range of talented chefs and signature Pacific Northwest cuisine. Fresh From Seattle features 26 recipes from 12 noteworthy local chefs, including acclaimed hotel chefs and award winners such as Tom Douglas, Maria Hines and Thierry Rautureau.

For more family fun check with my two favorite sites: Rubyslipperguide.com for the Eastside and SoundsFunMom.com for the South Sound.

Farm Tour On Tap

Farm fresh produce and fall just seem to go together like
comfortable shoes. On October 5 and 6 thirteen Skagit Valley Farms invite you
to visit and discover where your food comes from. The Skagit Valley Festival of
Farms
runs from 10 a.m.-4p.m. each day with opportunities to  visit educational exhibits, take farm tours, view gardening demonstrations, taste mouth-watering samples, let your kids try farm activities and everyone can navigate corn mazes.
Best of all, the basic tour is FREE. Each stop may also have
prepared food or the produce, meat, dairy products, etc. that they are known
for available for purchase.

Here’s a brief preview of what you’ll discover on this tour.

At Taylor Shellfish on Chuckanut Drive in Bow, Wash.,
you’ll meet shellfish farmers, watch oyster shucking demonstrations, urge crabs
along in their own races, build a fairy house on the beach, see the world’s
only lighthouse made of oyster shells and taste steamed Manila clams or
barbequed Pacific oysters.

Stop by Samish Bay Cheese in Bow and taste the phenomenal Arugula Ladysmith cheese that Roger makes.

At Sakuma Bros. Farms in Burlington, take a tractor-pulled
wagon ride, find out what a raspberry machine is, take part in a pie eating
contest and sample fresh berries, chips and salsa made with locally grown
produce and honey from Belleville Honey Company.

Although the Tulip Festival has come and gone for this year, you can still find out all
about this beautiful flower at RoozenGaarde in Mount Vernon. Gather ideas from the experts on layouts and plantings that you can do in your own landscape. Let the
children try the scavenger hunt and before you leave, shop for bulbs and gardening tools.

Wineries, dairies, cattle ranches, produce farms and more complete the tour.

There’s so much to see you might want to spend the weekend.
I highly recommend Candlewood Suites in Burlington
as a comfortable option. Rooms have full kitchens so you can bring back your
bounty and eat it freshly cooked or store it in a full-size refrigerator.

 

Petting Farms

I drove my granddaughter, Kita, to her preschool field trip yesterday. As we made our way to Windwater Farm in Auburn, I decided to use our time together in the car as a teachable moment. I got what I deserved.

“What animals do you think you’ll see at the farm today?” I asked.

“Cows, horses, chickens and unicorns,” Kita answered confidently from the backseat. I laughed to myself and secretly wished I had her imagination.

When we first arrived at the farm, while one of the helpers was placing blanket-wrapped rabbits in the preschooler’s laps, I questioned the farm employee about the unicorns.

“Yes, we have three,” she said, expressionless. (I’m still looking for them.)

Kita feeding a guinea pig.

Kita wanted to feed the rabbits, but unfortunately when they were swaddled they didn’t have an appetite. So her bunny was replaced with a guinea pig that gnawed on the carrot she held to his mouth. She looked like she was holding a baby and wasn’t it just yesterday that she was the baby?

The kids fed goats, a pig (who was definitely not gluten-free – he preferred bread over carrots), sheep, a donkey and chickens (they ate corn). Since I’d done a cursory search of the farm’s website in the morning, I attempted to share my knowledge with Kita.

“They have chickens here that lay brown, white and green eggs,” I told her.

“Then, is their poop pink?” she asked, using her 4-year-old logic.

The highlight of the day came when Kita and her friend were lifted into the saddle of Dolly, the horse. The lady that had assured me about the unicorns led them around the pasture slowly and carefully. And Kita has now ridden her first horse. She beamed with pride over her accomplishment when she dismounted.

Kita, in pink and brown, on her first horse ride.

Unfortunately Windwater Farm is only open for field trips and private parties. But here is a list of other local farms where you can have similar experiences.

Farrel-McWhirter Park in Redmond

Fox Hollow Farm in Issaquah

Remlinger Farms in Carnation

City Goat Farm & Zoo in Spanaway

Old McDebbie’s Farm in Spanaway

Morris’s Shadow Mountain Stables in Auburn

You’ll Never Get Closer to Elk: Oak Creek Feeding Station

At the beginning of March, two other travel writers, a VisitRainier employee and I experienced the feeding of the elk at Oak Creek Feeding Station, off Highway 12 near Naches in Eastern Washington (yes, it was a press trip). We got close enough to these four-legged giants to make eye contact.

 

This supplemental feeding program, began in 1945. It was adopted so that the elk wouldn’t venture into any of the agricultural areas nearby looking for food in the winter. Depending on the weather, feedings begin sometime in December and continue until March. If you visit in January or February, you’ll have the best chance of participating.

Everything is free – you just have to sign up and put your John Henry on a disclaimer. Then you can ride out into the field in a U.S. Army truck and witness the feeding of as many as 700 elk at a time. While you patiently wait your driver dispenses facts and figures about the program and cows and bulls snuffle and shift positions anticipating the upcoming buffet of hay. Then two other vehicles roll out and automatically start dispensing the bales while the regal animals jockey for position.

 

A bull can weigh up to 600 pounds, but they have no interest in the humans staring at them. They only want the food so you’re safe.

I have never witnessed anything like this and highly recommend it as a family outing.

Here’s a story my friend Carrie Uffindall wrote about it: 

Arrive before 1 p.m. to check in, visit the small museum and watch the elk head down the hill for lunch.

White Pass Stages a Winter Carnival

This should fall under the heading, “Did you know?” Every year on the first weekend of March, at the summit of White Pass a Winter Carnival beckons snow lovers. I just experienced the 27th annual carnival and found the wealth of activities a delight.     

 

White Pass is located on US Highway 12 on the White Pass Scenic Byway. Many Washingtonians haven’t even visited this ski area and are surprised learn about what goes on there. It offers 1,500 acres of Alpine terrain, Nordic trails and lodging. Snow enthusiasts can downhill and cross country ski, snowboard and snowshoe. The lodge handles equipment rental, has child care, serves food and beverages and houses a well-stocked pro shop.

But back to the carnival. Several volunteers, many who work in the construction business, build a snow castle that becomes the showcase sculpture for the event. More than 15 people helped to create the castle this year. It is made with forms packed with snow. Each element of the structure contains a number of forms, so it’s a slow process, but it’s done that way to make it safe. Throngs of folks walk through the castle at the event, something the kids especially treasure.

    

A safe, snow structure is subject to a most unpredictable Mother Nature.

“It’s crucial that it stays cold for the castle. Rain and wind beat it up,” said David Ruby, a Packwood resident and lead volunteer.

The normal time frame to complete the castle is two weeks; that’s without any unexpected weather fronts.

Touring the castle and using the slide inside is free for everyone. Other activities may involve a fee.

During daylight hours on Saturday and Sunday, skiers and boarders race, take lessons or just tackle some runs for fun. On Saturday evening, a dinner of prime rib or spaghetti is available for purchase. As the night draws to a close, the entire ski patrol carries torches and crisscrosses on skis down the main hill. That signals the beginning of the fireworks show and the end of the evening. Sunday sees more of the same.

I urge you to mark your calendars for the first weekend in March, 2014, so you too can take part in the festivities at White Pass. Or visit anytime to play in the snow.

 For other winter activities available now, look at Visit Rainier.

Walter’s Fruit Ranch: What a Find

Outside of Spokane, in an area called Green Bluff near Mead, you can find produce, cheese, farm animals and more, at more than 40 farms. You can easily spend a day here and not see it all.

An Angeles peach - so juicy you have to tilt your head back to eat it to keep the sweet juice from dripping on your clothes.

If my experience at Walter’s Fruit Ranch in Green Bluff is typical of the other farms, you’re in for a real treat. My day started off with a yummy Greek quiche made with eggs, feta cheese, ham and green olives plus the flakiest, most buttery pastry crust I’ve ever tasted. I couldn’t get enough of the crust, so I ate a slice of apple pie for dessert. Kudos to the pie baker and co-owner Arlene Morrell. At one time or another, the café offers 32 different varieties of Arlene’s pies. Arlene or a baker she has shown the way makes them and freezes them; she says they taste better after freezing.

One of the very vocal sheep at Walter's Fruit Ranch

Fueled for the day, I hopped on the Fruit Loop Express, a tractor-train contraption, and headed for the fruit orchards where I discovered 22 varieties of apples, five varieties of peaches, three of apricots and cherries. When the fruit is in season, you can ride the Express into the orchards where the driver will deposit you in a prime spot and you pick all the fruit you want. The train continuously meanders along the same route through the orchard all day so that when you’re ready to leave, you get on and it takes you back to the farmhouse.

I visited in the fall so owner Mark Morrell who drove the Express that day let me shoot an apple out of an air gun aimed at a pumpkin. If I hit the pumpkin, I got to take another pumpkin home. No worries there – I don’t have very good aim.

 

While you’re there don’t forget to visit the gift shop, which sells some already picked produce, plus lovely home décor items.

Don’t Overlook Salem

Last week at this time I was touring Oregon’s state capital, Salem. Oftentimes, travelers concentrate on the big city of Portland, the coastal towns or the wine country of Willamette Valley when they consider Oregon as a destination. Consider Salem, also. Here’s why:

 

Just a few miles outside of town sits the lovely Bavarian town of Mount Angel. At the Glockenspiel Restaurant, local ingredients from less than a mile away, are the emphasis. That makes the entrees served taste a lot fresher and really brings something special to the table. Besides the tried and true German recipes like wienerschnitzel, I urge you to try their special cabbage, which takes the chef five hours to make. It will tantalize your palate. Then at the appointed time, go outside and watch the performance of the wooden dolls in the Glockenspiel tower alongside the restaurant.

For a healthy walk after dinner, head up to Mount Angel Abbey. Enjoy the gardens and the peacefulness.

Mount Angel’s largest claim to fame and what the townspeople put the most energy into is their Oktoberfest. This year is the 45th annual and runs from September 13-16. With all kinds of fun for the whole family, Oktoberfest celebrates the harvest and the bounty of the earth through live music, street dancing, a car show and more.

Gallon House Covered Bridge

On the way back to Salem, visit the Gallon House Covered Bridge, Oregon’s oldest covered bridge. It was named for the days when liquor was sold by the gallon or quart in a nearby house.

Gerry Frank’s Konditorei, with more than 40 flavors of cake and pastries, is a must-stop for dessert in Salem. Local favorite cakes include Barney’s Blackout, Chocolate Raspberry and Lemon Cream. I savored the seasonal Marionberry and highly recommend it.

Then for $1.50 you can’t beat the price for a ride on the old world-style carousel housed in a stately building on the banks of the Willamette River.

Salem makes a fabulous family vacation and every year right around this time it hosts the Oregon State Fair. Scones, funnel cakes, food on a stick…

Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park

Proclaimed to be the Northwest’s largest holiday drive-through event, Fantasy Lights continues through January 1, 2012. With more than 300 colorful and dazzling light displays, it’s one event that should not be missed.

Last year Fantasy Lights spawned three successful marriage proposals and lots of pay-it-forward situations where the driver in front paid for the car behind him. Because I’m recovering from foot surgery, a drive-through display from the warmth of our car made perfect sense.

When this holiday tour was first born 17 years ago, it held just 38 displays. Now with over 300, you will see everything from animated bears flying kites, snow boys kicking field goals, a sea serpent that breathes fire, frogs jumping on a lily pad and Santa and Rudolf sail a tall ship to every holiday theme imaginable. Watch out for the reindeer jumping over your car.

My personal favorites were the illuminated aliens built by Rogers High School’s Welding Class. The aliens range in height from 5-7 feet and are 3-7 feet wide. Students from Rogers High have built many of the displays in the past including the flowers, gingerbread people and candy canes.

You’ll hear lots of “awes” and “ohs” from the kids sticking their heads out of car windows and sunroof tops. And maybe a few from inside your vehicle. Take as many passengers as your car holds because you pay by the car load.

When you arrive at the park gate, tune your radio to the suggested station and you’ll hear Christmas music throughout your drive.

Polar Plaza Coming to Tacoma for the Holidays

Skate to your heart’s content. Wear an Ugly Sweater to get $1 off admission. Watch the Thunderbirds Hockey Team take the ice. Enjoy live music. Choose your Christmas tree. Shop for gifts. Do it all in one central location.

 

This holiday season Tacoma residents won’t have to trek to Bellevue or Seattle to experience an open-air outdoor ice skating rink with all the trimmings. Tacoma will have their own. The Franciscan Polar Plaza, which will be located directly across from the Tacoma Art Museum at Tollefson Plaza on Pacific Avenue, will be open from November 25 through January 2, 2012.

The skating rink will measure 40 feet by 100 feet and can accommodate 150 people. Admission will be $8 and skate rental will be $2. After paying these fees you can stay all day if you like and enjoy the music, special events, and purchase coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

I am really looking forward to this although I don’t ice skate, but I do love to watch skaters. To get there and avoid the parking crunch, I think I’ll park at the Tacoma Dome Station and take the Tacoma Link light rail to the Polar Plaza. That’s all free so I can spend more when I get to my destination.