Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Seattle 2011

Not long after our trip to Disney World, we packed up our things again to head to Seattle for my sister's graduation. This time, instead of packing for the heat and humidity of Florida, we packed for the rain and mild weather of Washington. Andrew had driven through Washington before. He went to Seattle for a day with his friends back in high school, but I had never been there before. We knew to expect rain and temperatures in the high 60s/ low 70s, however, we lucked out and the weather was absolutely perfect for the majority of our stay. It was sunny and warm for most of the time, except the last full day we were there which happened to be the day of graduation and of course it poured throughout the ceremony.

We managed to arrive in Washington in the late afternoon so we were able to head over to Selina's house after checking into our hotel to do some sightseeing. We went over to Point Defiance to do a little hiking and exploring. My first impression of Washington was of how pretty the scenery was. I've heard from many people that there are trees everywhere there and they were right. I'm not a huge fan of scenery, but I instantly fell in love with the atmosphere of Washington upon arrival. Point Defiance was no exception. It is on a tip of a small peninsula that juts out into the Puget Sound. (FYI, a "sound" is another word for a type of body of water.) It's a huge forest basically surrounded by water and it was extremely pretty. Even though the beach was basically full of rocks, it was nice to see the water all around us. It was extremely windy and cold there though so we retreated to the forest to explore. Jadon had fun running around the trail and almost instantly found a hiking stick to use.

We were only in Washington for three full days. One and a half of those days was spent attending events related to Selina's graduation. That left us with only a day and a half to "do" Seattle. If you were wondering if you could really go through Seattle in one day without feeling like you've missed too much, I think I can say that you really can. Although I would've liked to have another full day in Seattle, the days we had there were adequate enough for us to absorb most of what Seattle had to offer. Here's a breakdown of how we did it.

First of all, I once again borrowed a Seattle travel book from our local library. Because of how much I loved the Frommer's Disney World guide, I was glad to see that our library had the Frommer's Seattle 2011 guide available. I cannot recommend getting a travel book enough. Without this, we wouldn't have done some of the best things we did in Seattle.

Since Seattle is a pretty compact city, and upon recommendation from our book, we decided to drive over to Seattle Center (which is the location of the Space Needle as well as many other amazing buildings) to find a place to park our car for the day. We parked at our first destination and went inside to buy the Seattle CityPASS. Because most of what we wanted to do was available on this pass, it was the most economical way of doing things and it was a nice motivator that we had to get at least some of these things done in order for the pass to be worth it.

Pacific Science Center
Our first destination was the Pacific Science Center. None of us (Andrew, Selina, or myself) had much knowledge of this place. It has a pretty unassuming exterior and could easily be missed had it not been for our passes and my book. Inside, we found a plethora of science-related interactive displays. Jadon and Isabelle had fun going around playing with everything and it was equally fun for the adults to explore. We could have stayed there for many hours more than we did. As a bunch of science geeks, it was seriously amazing how cool they presented science in these fun, interactive ways. They even had a butterfly house which we had to wait in line to get into. Once inside, we were surrounded by butterflies. It was one of the coolest things we did there. Probably the best thing we did here was see Born To Be Wild in 3-D. It was such an inspiration story and is definitely worth a watch.

Space Needle
A short walk away was the Space Needle. Built for the World's Fair in 1962, this attraction was a pretty short one for us. There was virtually no line for the super fast elevator to the top so we were able to get through this easily. The views from the top were magnificent and reaffirmed my love for Seattle. With the coldness and the huge gusts of wind up there, we made our way back down after a couple of laps around the top and a bunch of pictures later.

Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum
The Experience Music Project (EMP) was probably one of the things I looked forward to the most this entire trip. It was built by the co-founder of Microsoft to house his vast music collection. The Science Fiction Museum was built afterward and connects directly to the EMP. This was the one place that I absolutely had to go to. It was really cool to see the Nirvana exhibit with all the memorabilia from Dave Grohl and Kurt Cobain. We also got to see other really cool memorabilia from other amazing musicians, like a diary from Jimmi Hendrix where we got to see his handwriting and his documentation of several days.

One of the things Selina and I really wanted to do was make our own music video at On Stage. Basically, they take us into a room where it's suppose to simulate what it's like to perform in front of an audience. We played "I Love Rock 'n Roll" with Selina on the keyboard, Jadon on the drums, and me on the guitar. After we finished our song, we got to watch ourselves on TV performing with a bunch of screaming fans. We bought a picture of us rocking out and were also presented with a couple of ticket stubs of from our sold-out concert. Our band name was "The Blue Lips" because Jadon had blue lips from some candy he was eating. It was definitely a fun experience, especially with Jadon being able to play with his all-time favorite instrument.

Another thing that I really wanted to do here was go to the Sound Lab and play around with some of the instruments there. I got a lesson in the drums and learned a basic drum beat, which was amazing because I've always wanted to learn how to play the drums. We went into some of the soundproof rooms and tried our hand at singing and playing the guitar too. These rooms were cool because they time you so everyone gets a chance to try out the rooms and you get uninterrupted time without feeling like you're hogging it. This would have been a fun place to stay longer at too. It was kind of hard with the kids, but they were pretty content trying to play the guitar in one of the soundproof rooms for awhile.

I really looked forward to the Science Fiction Museum where they have props from movies like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but they only had one exhibit open (Battlestar Gallactica) while the rest was under construction for the Avatar exhibit. Too bad we missed out on that one.

Seattle Aquarium
Andrew's must-see was the Seattle Aquarium. We took the monorail from Seattle Center over to the mall in downtown Seattle. It was a quick ride and it put us just north of the aquarium. We had to walk several short blocks to get to Pike Place and then find a way through the market to the aquarium. It involved some long flights of stairs to get down to the level where the aquarium was which was a pain with Isabelle in the stroller, but we did it and were able to make it to the aquarium before they stopped letting in visitors at 5 pm with a closing time of 6 pm. I was a bit skeptical we'd make it there and still have time to go through everything, but we did and we there was lots of time for us to enjoy everything we wanted to see. The coolest thing here was the huge touch pool and the seals/otters.

Pike Place Market
By the time we got out of the aquarium, the Pike Place Market was also shutting down. We knew going into the aquarium that we'd only be able to do one or the other so it wasn't a surprise to us to see vendors closing up, which wasn't too much of a letdown because we weren't really going to purchase much anyway. We wandered through it for a little while. Andrew purchased some fresh fruit and I got to see all the iconic marketplace things like the huge array of flowers you can purchase for super cheap as well as the place they do the flying fish tosses. And of course we stopped at the world's first Starbucks to get ourselves a frappacino. We also stopped to eat dinner at a little place right there too before heading back.

Our day was very full, but it was a pretty good way for us to take in Seattle in a day. We accomplished everything we wanted to do that day without too much rushing around. I remember thinking that I was cutting down on the picture taking that I would have normally done since we went from place to place without much resting, but as I go through the pictures now, I don't feel like I'm missing too much in the picture department from that day.

The first part of the next day was spent going to Selina's departmental receptions. It was nice to see the campus and to visit with her friends and teachers. The campus was super pretty with all the trees and old buildings too and it was a nice experience. After we went through all the receptions, we went off again to complete our last schedule of events. On the way onto the freeway, we unintentionally passed by Stadium High School where 10 Things I Hate About You was filmed and I was able to catch a glimpse of the spires of the school. A fun surprise to me since I didn't actually plan on ever being able to see it and, although I didn't get to see all of it, it was still cool to be in the same proximity.

Woodland Park Zoo
Another of Andrew's must-see things, the Woodland Park Zoo was just north of downtown Seattle which meant a further drive than we had done before. It wasn't too hard finding the zoo, but finding parking was a trip in itself. We circled the parking lot we found for ages hoping someone would leave and we would be lucky enough to fill their spot. We learned later that there were several different parking lots around the park. This zoo was one of the best zoos we've ever been to. It was huge and each of the habitats were amazing. The habitats were made to resemble the animal's actual habitat and it didn't feel like a zoo at all. It was more like a safari with the animals roaming on large pieces of land. It reminded us a lot like the Animal Kingdom in Disney World and their safari ride. They had a small petting zoo area where we able to pet the animals. The best part by far was the bird room where we purchased sticks with food on the ends. We held up the sticks and birds would fly onto our hands to eat off the sticks. It was a lot of fun for everyone trying to get the birds to come eat.

When we were leaving the zoo, we unintentionally passed by another 10 Things I Hate About You landmark: The Fremont Troll. We were able to drive right by it, but I didn't take any pictures. Andrew had no idea what it was, but I was pretty excited to see it up close and personal, albeit from our car.

Ivar's Salmon House
We didn't do a lot of fancy eating out while we were here, but we did do one nice seafood restaurant dinner after the zoo. We chose Ivar's Salmon House because it was a family friendly recommendation from our book. It had good reviews and was right on the water. We were able to get a window table and we got to see some of the Space Needle before it started raining. There was an abundance of salmon and it was very good, but Selina's fried oysters were absolutely amazing and I wish I had ordered them too. There's always next time I suppose.

The rain lasted all that night through the next day. Selina's graduation took place in the rain and we were lucky enough to get seating on the uncovered lawn. The school provided ponchos thankfully. Jadon fell asleep under his poncho in the middle of the ceremony, but he was a trooper throughout. Thank goodness Andrew had taken Isabelle back to the hotel to nap, because the rest of us were freezing by the time the ceremony was over. After the graduation festivities, we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner before going back to the hotel to pack for our morning departure.

Seattle was an amazing city and I really loved visiting. I'm glad we made the trip and that Andrew got to see that there really are a lot of kid friendly activities to do in Seattle. So can you really do Seattle in a day? Sure you can, but you're definitely going to yearn for more days in the end.
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