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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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

Now That’s a Train Ride

Mountrainierrrthumbnail_20160722_134703

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.

What’s New and Cool in July, 2016

The Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, British Columbia

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a night (hosted) at this luxury hotel. From my window I had a beautiful view of the harbor where the cruise ships dock. In fact the hotel even has an underground walkway that connects to the Cruise Ship Terminal. The room spelled comfort and caring from top to bottom.

I later learned that a recent $12 million renovation resulted in the hotel’s fresh, contemporary look. Besides going the extra mile to create 368 guestrooms fit for royalty, their eatery and lounge also benefitted from those dollars. Their buffet breakfast offers every item you’ve ever thought of eating in the morning. Look for honey and herbs that come from right on the property.

Vancouver’s Mayor, Gregor Robertson, is on a quest to make his city the “greenest” by the year 2020. The Fairmont Waterfront already has a head start with their organic rooftop herb garden and apiaries. The honey makes its way into chocolate desserts and cocktails. A Bee Butler provides complimentary tours of the bee activity and the gardens everyday. The hotel’s chef, Dana Hauser, shares a passion for sustainable culinary practices and has developed close relationships with local farmers and purveyors who support her views.

One of my all time favorites, Dungeness crab plays a signature role at the ARC restaurant. Hormone-free meat, artisan cheeses and free range eggs also appear on the menu. Kids five and under eat free, while those six to 12 are half price.

For a great central location and a pampered experience I highly recommend the Fairmont Waterfront.

My Favorite Trips of 2013

My friend and fellow travel writer, Sue Frause, wrote a summary of where she went in 2013 and what she recommended for the Examiner.com. I thought it was such a good idea that I’m doing it, too. All these trips came about because of writing assignments so most of my lodging and meals were complimentary, but that has not influenced my opinion. Here are some of the places I visited this year:

Alderbrook Resort & Spa (www.alderbrookresort.com)
Union, Washington

As I sat in the lobby by the blazing fire, I couldn’t help but think “what a great place to set a murder mystery.” Probably because I have read ones that have similar scenes. The setting in Union, Washington, is rural, yet serene. The lodge snuggles up against Hood Canal and the experience was almost surreal, it was so pleasant.

An Oregon reporter called Alderbrook the best lodge on the west side of Puget Sound. It’s outfitted with a wonderful spa, a gourmet restaurant and even has its own boat. If you want to rent a cottage, you can. They also have pet-friendly rooms. Whatever you choose to do, I hope you’ll have as memorable a time as I did.

White Pass
Washington

White Pass is one of our smaller places to engage in snow sports, but still beautiful with that crisp, clear mountain air and lots of snow. I attended the White Pass Winter Carnival with two other travel writers and wrote about it here for Northwest Travel Magazine. This event has been going on for years and even though I’m a native Washingtonian, I’d never heard of it before. The centerpiece of the event is a life-sized snow castle you can tour. At night a torchlight parade and fireworks light up the sky.

I also got to snowshoe for the first time on this trip. That’s now my new favorite snow sport. I’m not a skier or a snowboarder, but I do love just being in the mountains.

Sun Valley
Idaho

I had no idea what I’d been missing until this first visit. Sun Valley encompasses all my favorites in a compact little bundle – Lots of boutiques, many of which fall into the thrift category like the Gold Mine; all kinds of restaurants, snow and a Film Festival. Most of it is walkable, but if you’re tired or your destination seems a little far, the bus service is all free. Benches line the streets so you can sit and rest whenever you like.

I got to stay in the beautiful boutique hotel, Knob Hill Inn, a great location just on the edge of town. I woke up each morning to a panoramic view of the mountains. It was also next door to a cemetery, but Ernest Hemingway was buried there making that parcel of land another highlight of the trip.
Vancouver Island
British Columbia

Oh my gosh, I had no idea how gorgeous this locale could be. I’d only set foot in Victoria, the capitol, previously. This time, an individual press trip for a couple of stories I’d been assigned for Northwest Travel, had me taking the B.C. Ferry from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo. Those vessels don’t have far to go to become cruise-ship size. They even have a gift shop onboard.

The first night I had the rare and unique pleasure of staying in one of the Free Spirit Spheres in Qualicum Beach. These spheres, suspended between trees, literally give you a taste of heaven because you’re right up there next to it. The next day I fell in love with the small seaside town of Cowichan Bay and returned there two more times on this trip.

On my last night I got to sleep in a very well furnished yurt at Merridale Ciderworks. It had a large clawfoot tub not that far from the bed. And the restaurant at Merridale had fantastic food and of course, very tasty cider. I’d return in a heartbeat.

More on my 2013 trips next time.

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.

Sunshine Mill Now Makes Wine

A couple of months ago I had the privilege of touring the Sunshine Mill Artisan Plaza and Winery in The Dalles, Oregon. Who would have thought a flour mill could have become a luxury wine tasting room and event venue. But it has. The cave-like dining area reminded me of a place where the Bachelorette might dine with one of her chosen men.

Why is this place called the Sunshine Mill?

If you’ve ever eaten Cheez-it crackers, those salty delights came from this very site when the flour mill was operational. Constructed of concrete and rebar, the Sunshine Flour Mill extended to a height of 125 feet, making it the tallest structure in The Dalles. For the most part the exterior remains the same to this day. Eventually cracker production decreased and the mill lost its viability. After closing shop, it stood unused until James and Molly Martin purchased it and converted it to a winery.  

The Martins named their winery, Quenett, which means steelhead. In a short amount of time, it has grown to be the second largest winery in Oregon. Quenett produces 2,500 cases of bottled wine and 125,000 cases of Copa Di Vino a year.

Are you a “Shark Tank” fan? If you watch this Friday night TV show, you may have seen James Martin. On two different occasions he appeared before the millionaires (the Sharks) asking for support for his invention of wine by the glass. Each plastic glass contains a serving of wine and is sealed with foil and a plastic cap. These can be purchased at the winery and in grocery stores. I brought some home and really wish I had more. (I just noticed on the website you can put in your zip code and find the nearest place to buy Copa Di Vino). Excuse me I need to go to the store. 

Copa Di Vino

These little gems make great picnic accompaniments plus the wine tastes divine. Martin’s Copa Di Vino (the wine by the glass) has become one of the fastest growing brands in America. And he turned down the deals the sharks offered him.

The long and cavernous wine tasting room has chandeliers made entirely from wine bottles, a comfy couch or two, tables and more to look at then you’ll find in any other winery. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re near The Dalles.

Keep an eye on Sunshine because plans have been set into motion to make the grain silos into a seven-story hotel. If you think James Martin has unrealistic dreams, check out the photo gallery for the Quaker Square Hotel in Akron, Ohio. Converting grain silos into lavish lodging has already been done.

Explore the Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park

When I visited the place where Dan Klennert creates and displays his artwork, I had no idea that my husband had been there a number of times before and had taken several of his friends and a brother to see this amazing art. It turns out we even had taken some of the very same photos.

Guess who this native Northwesterner is.

Klennert recycles in the broadest definition of the word and what he makes from what most of us would think is junk turns out to be beautiful. He keeps a room full of driftwood and another with 60 tons of horseshoes in it. A larger-than-life thoroughbred he made was created almost entirely out of horseshoes. In another room, he has several piles of “stuff” and he can tell you just what each pile is going to become as soon as he has the right part to complete it or has the time to get to it. A motorcycle, a bird, a sea creature…

His love of art began when he was practicing welding for a job. That welding morphed into artworks and he’s been creating art from recyclables for the past 40 years. He’s shown them around the U.S.

Daniel Klennert, artist extraordinaire.

This amazing four-acre sculpture park is located in Ashford, Washington, on the way to Mount Rainier. Klennert is happy to have you look around, take photos and ask him questions. And he hopes his art will put a smile on your face. It did mine.

While visiting, you're welcome to use this award-winning outhouse.