Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Good, The Bad, And The Undone

We start our road trip back to Iowa this Sunday. I can't believe how quickly the summer rushed by!! And I can't believe how busy we've kept ourselves, I barely even blogged at all! Both kids will be in school this year so I may have a couple extra hours to myself, hopefully that will translate into more frequent blogging.

We got to explore a lot of Seattle, some sites we enjoyed, others not so much. Some of our list never even got crossed off! Keep in mind, we were living downtown so a lot of what we did was in that area. Also, Benny was in camp for the entire month of July, so while it may seem like I only take pictures of Bella, a lot of these outings were just me and her! {Please excuse the picture quality. I found myself walking everywhere this summer and in order to keep things light and easy, very rarely pulled out my actual camera.}

Quick Tip: Anyone with a short trip planned to Seattle, strongly consider grabbing a City Pass! A bundle of discounted tickets for 6 attractions in Seattle!

The Good
{{In no specific order}}
Seattle Aquarium - {Prices: Adults - $21.95, Kids 4-12 - $14.95; expect to pay a lot for parking unless you use public transportation, or come on a Sunday when meters are free!}
We loved this so much that we bought a membership at the end of our first visit. That has paid for itself many times over, as we frequented this adorable aquarium countless times throughout the summer!! This is great for when you have a quick two hours to kill, and we had plenty of those opportunities! Check their calendar before going, sometimes they have cool special events going on!

There is a jellyfish ring that the kids sit and watch for a while. You can stand in the middle of the ring and watch them float around you, with some background lighting that changes color every few seconds. 

Plenty of cute photo ops!

Every so often, some volunteer high schoolers set up a face painting booth for donations.

 Pacific Science Center - {Adults - $18, Youth (6-15) - $13, Child (3-5) $10, extra charges for IMAX shows; expect to pay a lot for parking here, this is located at the Seattle City Center right next to the Space Needle}
Another spot we loved enough to grab a membership to! Unfortunately, I forgot to do it at the end of the first visit and ended up paying for two visits before buying the membership. With that in mind, we still went enough times to make it worthwhile! The variety of exhibits really kept both kids well entertained and busy. Shuky and I always enjoyed ourselves as well! We loved hopping on the monorail to get there, which was all part of the experience! I really don't have a lot of pictures to share from here. This is a very hands on place and both kids really kept me on my feet while visiting each time! Check their site to see if they have any exciting pop-up exhibits.

Riding the monorail on a grey and wet day

We enjoyed a few of their cool IMAX showings

By far their favorite little thing. A space capsule, tilted at an angle. You can push buttons and flick switches. There is a sound bit that does the countdown and then you hear the sound of the thrusters. On busy days, there is a line of kids waiting for a turn to sit in this!

Seattle Childrens' Museum - {Adults and children over 1 - $8.25, Grandparents $7.25, adults not allowed in without a child; this is also located at the city center so be prepared to deal with parking or a bit of a walk}
This was the final membership we invested in. I would say the aquarium and this museum were tied for how many times we came. While the Pacific Center would go higher on the list for being more enjoyable, this spot is a bit easier to keep an eye on the kids. They have really cute rooms and themes. There is a play area (called the Discovery Bay) intended only for kids three and under. There is a reading/story room, a craft studio, a program room, and so many themed rooms! There is this 'mountain' that you can go bird watching in with a camping spot at the end. The staff are great here, a lot of volunteers (the museum is a non-profit) who will literally get on the floor and crawl around with the kids to make their games better. The offer random events that are awesome! We've had a private bird watching tour, no one else joined. Bella and I got to get an exclusive tour of the monorail, see the underbelly of it's station, meet an engineer that works on it, sit in the driver's seat, and a round trip ride with guaranteed front seating! I definitely recommend signing up for their emails so you can sign up for events as soon as they open!

A little cave to explore on the 'mountain'

A volunteer once saw me and Bella here and brought a pile of magnetic fish and literally spent ten minutes (at least) fishing with Bella off the side of the boat!

They have a little restaurant for the kids, it's a copy of a real restaurant they have upstairs in the food court
The construction room is amazing!

After a long day of work, he clocked out and headed home for a hot meal.
One of the awesome stations

Beautiful projects come home from the art studio.

Bella told me this is an Orca whale. I totally see it! 

Story time, adorable book about Seattle 

Coloring sheets before going to see the monorail

Sitting in the driver's seat on the monorail

Front row seat

Looking out on the town

Green Lake Park {Wading Pool is free, boat rentals vary in price; pretty easy to find free street parking}
This is a park that keeps on going! There is an awesome playground, an amazing wading pool, a great trail that goes around the lake, a swimming area in the lake itself, boat rentals, sports fields, and more! We always had a good time here!

Lake Union Park {Prices vary depending on activity; there is a small parking lot that is not expensive at all, otherwise the street car stops right here!}
This is a block away from Shuky's office and we found ourselves here pretty often. We packed lunches or snacks, sat and watched the sea planes take off and land, harbor cruises come and go, docked ships, went on our own little harbor excursion (definitely read about our experience!). We enjoyed the splash park countless times! There is also a small swimming area in this lake and a model boat pond. Make sure to check out the Center for Wooden Boats!

Woodland Park Zoo {Adult - $12.75, Child (3-12) - $8.75, check here for a special offer; parking is $5.25 in their lot}
Bella and I went to the zoo while Benny was in camp. It is a nice zoo, we were able to see most of it in two hours but that is because a two year old's attention span is quite short! We didn't see everything, there were certain things I didn't think she would have any interest in so I just skipped them. Shuky and Benny went together on Benny's birthday and had a great time as well!

Up close and personal with this swimming bear

This woman sat in front of the window blowing bubbles and this orangutan was completely interacting with her, it was so cute!

Rose Garden at Woodland Park {Free entry; parking is the same as the zoo, or find street parking nearby}
This is a cute little garden on the same property as the zoo. They have some nice water features (not for playing in, just for viewing) and a great sensory garden! Pretty gazebos make for great photo ops. Bella and I were there for a little over an hour, we only left because it was a hot day, we could have stayed longer otherwise!

Washington Ferries {Fees vary depending on the destination, our 35 minute ferry to Bainbridge Island cost us about $40 round trip, and we had the car with us. Walk ons are MUCH less!}
I highly recommend taking a ferry somewhere. We loved the ferry even more than the island we went to! The views were gorgeous and the kids had a blast! I do recommend utilizing the website's live cam function and to see how long the current line is and check the schedules. On the way there, we checked it and sat for 15-20 minutes. On the way back, we didn't check it and sat for about an hour waiting for the next ferry. Good news was, on the way back we were one of the first cars to get in the line so we got a really cool parking spot on the ferry and were able to drive off right away! We didn't plan our trip very well, it was a cloudy day. The weather radars were saying it would clear up earlier in the day. The sun came out as soon as we got out of our car on the returning ferry.

Waiting to get on the ferry.

The sunny view of the downtown skyline as we were getting back.

Ride The Ducks {Adults - $28, Kids (3-12) - $17, Babies (0-2) - $1, quackers are not included in those ticket prices, check their FB page for random discounts, book online for a slightly discounted price; parking is typically expensive of downtown area, we walked to avoid that issue}
I wasn't sure which list I wanted to put this on. I read a lot about these rides before booking our trip and the general consensus was that people seemed to have an AWESOME time on this tour!! Shuky went a couple days before us with an intern event hosted by Amazon and had a blast. Because I personally know someone that had a great time on it, I will leave this in my good list. Our driver was not the best, didn't really engage the crowd and most of what reviewers said did not happen in our tour. Read the yelp reviews before making your decision. Benny had a great time, Bella got bored halfway through and had to be otherwise entertained. I would strongly recommend hiding the whistles as soon as you walk off the van if you value your sanity!!

The driver had a plethora of silly hats for each silly joke he made!

Pike's Place Market {no fee for entry; parking in their specific lots is outrageously expensive, definitely search for meter parking!}
We did this many times, and each time was just as good as the last! Different vendors show up and you can find some really beautiful things there. The singing fish-throwing guys are awesome and always collect a crowd. The market goes on and on, with hidden twists and turns and treasures uncovered wherever you look!

Seattle Great Wheel {Adult (12+) $13, Children (4-11) $8.50, kids 3 and under are free but still require a ticket so don't forget to ask for one!}
This was great. Definitely a tourist attraction so be ready to stand in a line, but it is totally worth it! The views are amazing and there is an emergency button in the air conditioned gondola so if you freak out from heights, there is a way out! If no one pushes the button, you could go around about 4-5 times. I think they said they guarantee 3 times at least. It is slow moving, both kids LOVED it!

We had a bike taxi drive us back to our car for fun :)

University Village {local shopping center with free parking}
There are a few reasons I am putting a shopping center:
1. Village Playdays - Every Tuesday, from 10-11, another shop hosts an hour long kids event for free. Sometimes there is face painting, sometimes there are balloons given out, sometimes they offer crafts, story times, and other fun activities. For instance, this past week Microsoft hosted what they called 'Tech Tots' and they had a big screen set up in the back. They had snacks, drinks, sanitizing wipes, and little first aid kits set up alongside for moms to stock up. They played video games with the kids and read a story. 

2. There is an awesome covered playground that is fenced in. There are cars for the kids to ride in, benches for parents to sit on, and heat lamps surrounding the area for colder days.

3. QFC is a big market in the shopping center. This market has a large kosher section that includes, but is DEFINITELY not limited to: fresh sushi made daily, hot deli, baked goods, great variety of meats and poultry options with an on location butcher, a starbucks in the store, a KOSHER Einsteins Bros, oh did I forget to mention the FREE BABYSITTING ROOM!?!?!?! They give you an hour to shop without the kids and if they aren't busy they'll usually let you keep the kids in there longer. Every time I let them know I'm walking my bags out to the car (so they know they can't reach me through the store's intercom system) they tell me to go get a coffee or bagel afterward. I love them. My kids actually get excited when I tell them we are going to QFC. Win win!!!

The Bad
I use the word 'bad' loosely here. We didn't find these to be as awesome as tour books touted them to be. You might have a different experience.

Space Needle {Adult - $21, Youth (4-12) - $12}
There is definitely a beautiful view from the Observation Deck but for the price you are paying, you will be disappointed. We ran out of things to do very quickly and left within the hour. There are supposedly other buildings you can go up in for MUCH less! Mind you, we were warned this before going but felt that we couldn't live in downtown Seattle without experiencing it on our own.

Cameras that you can control and zoom in on surrounding areas

EMP Museum {Adults - $20, Youth (5-17) - $14, buy tickets online for a discount}
This was not such a great family outing. If we had gone as a couple we might have enjoyed this more. The only things the kids actually enjoyed was the Sound Lab, where we got to play with alot of different instruments. Honestly, we didn't even make it to the SciFi side. The kids were done before we even figured out where in the building it was.

Fremont Troll {Just need to find parking for this one, good luck on that!}
This was impossible to find parking for so we did a drive-by and the kids really could not care less. It's cute but way overrated.

The Undone
These are things we wanted to do but never had a good opportunity. They will remain on the list, if we end up back in Seattle next summer I would like to try making it to these places!

This is an active volcano. Case closed.

This volcano erupted on May 18, 1980. We have a volcano loving guy who would be thrilled for a chance to visit this site!! (are you noticing the volcano trend on our wish list?)

Not the cheapest getaway but I really want to make it out there for a weekend. Get some whale watching and beach combing done!

An indoor play space in Downtown Seattle. Opened recently, we just never made it there. Always good to have indoor backup options!

Aside from the amazing architectural appeal, this library has a reputation of having an amazing children's department.

Supposed to be awesome! Check out some of the yelp reviews as well.

I've heard this museum is great and surprisingly enough, with all the times we found ourselves at Lake Union Park, we never made it in.

I want to do something a little more in depth than the Ice Cream tour we did.

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