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Archive for the ‘Outside Seattle’ Category

It’s the end of January and we’ve reached that mid-winter lull when we’re no longer motivated by the joy of the holidays to power through the chilly days with a smile. We find ourselves wanting for Spring rather than being satisfied with a cozy fire and a winter warmer in hand. But the PNW has had many a rainless day lately and countless breathtaking sunsets, so don’t wait for Spring’s distant arrival to embrace the outdoors. Here are 4 reasons you should get off your couch and get outside:

1. Because the views downtown offers are too majestic to miss. And while you’re there, be a tourist in your own city. Have a cocktail at the Alibi Room, use the Gum Wall as a photo backdrop, and don’t forget to head downstairs to Orange Dracula, an eccentric little shop that houses one of the best black and white photo booths in the city (trust me on this one, the exposure and white balance are flawless).

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2. Because houseboats. Take a stroll through the unchartered corners of Gasworks Park and you’ll find darling houseboats that gently rock on Lake Union’s wake. It may seem a little peeping-Tom-ish—obviously you should respect the residents—but it doesn’t hurt to daydream a little.

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3. Because the Bainbridge Island ferry guarantees lovely views of both the city and nature, but also because the 30 minute ride gives you just enough time to plan upcoming adventures—like where you’ll journey on the first warm day of Spring.

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And, since you’ll be visiting the Island, stop in at Island Vitners for an $8 wine flight and an ever-welcoming atmosphere. If vino just isn’t your thing, head down the main drag to the beloved Mora Iced Creamery; your taste buds will thank you.

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4. Because hiking to Twin Falls at Olallie State Park makes you feel like you’ve stepped into an enchanted forest. Bring your camera and your endurance, guys, this place is gorgeous. Olallie is about 45 miles east of Seattle and boasts six miles of hiking trails. Winter just happens to be the best time to see the waterfalls. So, couch or roaring falls hedged in an old growth forest? I think we both know the correct answer.

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Sometimes life is better spent outdoors, so go have your adventure!

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I love the holidays because it gives adults perfectly good excuses to build houses out of cookies and candy. On Sunday I got to experience some of that childlike joy helping families build gingerbread houses as part of a Kids Quest Children’s Museum program at the Bellevue Hilton with about 15 other volunteers.

After volunteers arrived in the event room, the Kids Quest representative explained our duties and passed out elf hats and reindeer antlers. Most of us were wearing red or green to promote maximum festivity. Oodles of gumdrops, cookies, chocolate chips, mini marshmallow, starbursts and skittles were laid out like an enormous feast fit for Buddy the Elf. We manned our stations and prepared for the hungry hoards.

Some of the building materials at Gingerbread Lane

Some of the building materials at Gingerbread Lane

It was as fun as can be. Kids and their parents filed in and one by one us volunteers led them to their tables and helped them get set up. Some of us snipped the tops off frosting bags so the kids could get started piping. Others procured handy wipes (those things live up to their name when copious frosting is around). Still others questioned children about their architectural plans.  I saw several pretty impressive pieces of architecture. Check ‘em out.

One of the awesome gingerbread houses at GB Lane

One of the awesome gingerbread houses at GB Lane

Pretty impressive

Pretty impressive

All that bright candy and mounds of shaved coconut had me hankering for a carb-filled repast of my own. I was glad to hear that, post-cleanup, us volunteers were each entitled to an unfrosted gingerbread house and as much candy as we  could stuff into a ziplock bag. Ah, the spoils of gingerbread construction.

I plan to create something amazing.  Something that would make Buddy proud.

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T294What could be sweeter than a brightly colored holiday gingerbread house? Helping little ones make the cookie abode of their dreams! Sign up now to help kids build gingerbread houses on December 15 at the Bellevue Hilton. The tasty brick (gingerbread) and mortar (frosting) will all be provided by the Hilton, and all proceeds will go to the Kids Quest Children’s Museum.

The Kids Quest Children’s Museum creates learning through the power of play and exploration that connects children to their community and the world. Their Gingerbread Workshops encourage imagination, cooperation, divergent thinking, narration, and socialization, all through whole-family learning! Be part of this cool project. And act soon, because there’s only one volunteer spot left!

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It’s the second week of October and social media is abuzz with leaf-peeping photos and Autumn pie inspirations, so why not jump on the Fall-is-my-favorite-season bandwagon by heading to one of the Pacific Northwest’s many pumpkin patches?

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Bob’s Corn and Pumpkin Farm is one of Western Washington’s largest because it offers more than just a pumpkin patch. Located about thirty miles northeast of Seattle in the farmlands of Snohomish, Bob’s is an autumn wonderland, boasting a corn maze, country store, booths with warm treats, and, of course, a patch plentiful with future jack-o’-lanterns.

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After you walk through the rustic country store and munch on buttery roasted corn (and you will, if you know what’s good for you), hop on the hayride shuttle that takes you across the street to the corn maze and pumpkin patch.

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There, you’ll find pumpkin shapes, sizes, and colors that might surprise you. As you trail through this sprawling squash garden, take time to observe lumpy squash with witchy warts and ghoulishly white gourds that wait lonesomely for someone who prefers the underdog variety. The pumpkins range from picture perfect to downright strange, so there is something for everyone!

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The 10-acre corn maze will hearken your inner child; however, it’s recommended that only the adventurous of spirit brave the night-maze, where you’re given just a flashlight to guide you through the dark and seemingly endless rows of corn (if Stephen King’s harrowing short story just came to mind, you’re spot on, friend). Prices range from $6 to $12, but can we really put a price on an adrenaline rush of this spooky caliber?

During the month of October, Bob’s Corn and Pumpkin Farm is open daily from 10am until 7pm. The night maze is open until 10pm. Entry to the farm is free.

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This is a Fall experience you don’t want to miss, and your Instagram followers will thank you for it. #fallisfun

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It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and you want to do something fun and outside. What to do?

Well, when it’s the weekend of the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire, then the choice is obvious. Now to the horror (or disappointment) of many ren-faire goers (and you, dear reader) we did not dress up, so put away hopes of seeing pictures of me dressed up as a pirate by the end of this away.  We ended up going on a whim with some friends who live in Bonney Lake, where the festival was being held.

Now, dressing up or not the faire is well worth checking out if you’ve never been (in fact, if it helps lower the pressure, many more people than I was expecting were not dressed up). It’s a great day outside!

The first ren-faire spectacle that we witnessed was the Cirque du Sewer, the world’s only rat circus (probably). This show, put on by a very funny Melissa Arleth, had jumps, tightrope walks, one liners and fire. Everything you’d expect from a great circus show. You can check out more on that here.

We also got to see some horse acrobatics (someone balancing on someone’s shoulders ON a horse. WHAT?)

Between that, a turkey leg for lunch (gotta rock it like it’s the 15th century, amirite?) some great local craft booths, this is a great event to add to your Washington bucket list.

And if that didn’t convince you, we got to close the night in a beer garden with an Irish band and a Pirate band.

Written by Cassandra Gallagher, Newsletter Editor, TWIF

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This Sunday I went to Kirkland to pour wine for all the wine-lovers on the eastside. The weather: gorgeous. The crowds: formidable. The event: Kirkland Uncorked. This popular and classy wine tasting event is also a fundraiser for the Hope Heart foundation and brings together beloved food trucks, local artisans and oh yeah—a whole selection of different wines from Washington. Although I’ve been to Napa Valley once, I’ve never considered myself a wine snob, although I have been tutored in the whole swirl and slurp routine.

At the Silverlake Wines table. Photo taken by Marit Zimmerman.

At the Silver Lake Wine table. Photo taken by Marit Zimmerman.

When I arrived at Marina Park for my shift at 11:30, I grabbed a grape-colored Kirkland Uncorked t-shirt and joined the other TWIF volunteers at tent #1. I helped pour wine from the Silver Lake winery, based in Zillah, Washington near Rattlesnake Hills. We had a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Red Blend (Merlot, Syrah, Cab Sauv and Cab Franc), a Riesling and a Chardonnay. The Riesling was by far the most popular and we ran out an hour into our shift. Red wine drinkers favored the Red Blend. Although I didn’t sample those particular wines myself, I was told the blend was “smooth and drinkable.” Sounds legit to me.

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Red wine.

Once my shift was over I figured I would be amiss if I didn’t sample some of the vino myself. I tried a Malbec that was a tad too intense for my taste, a nice Merlot and some solid Rieslings. My favorite was Vin du Lac’s Les Amis Riesling.

It was a day well spent indeed. What with the beautiful weather, live music and tasty wines, I would encourage you to try Kirkland Uncorked next year if you haven’t yet. Whether you’re a novice or a Napa-level connoisseur, there’s bound to be something you’ll enjoy along the beautiful shores of Lake Washington.

Photo taken by Marit Zimmerman.

At the Balboa wine table. Photo taken by Marit Zimmerman.

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Have you ever been to Mercer Island? You might think of it as just one of the bus stops along your commute to work or somewhere your elderly relative lives. One episode of Frasier apparently mentioned a Mercer Island Zoo (thanks Wikipedia, although, of course, there is no Mercer Island Zoo). Although known as a somewhat non-descript, large stepping stone between Seattle and the Eastside, Mercer Island does have several places worth checking out. My personal picks are The Roanoke Inn, Island Books and Stopsky’s Deli.

First, a bit of history (I promise it’s relevant). Mercer Island was settled in the 1870s by brothers Thomas and Asa Shinn Mercer (the latter, inventor of the “Mercer Girls” project). The island originally was a sort of natural oasis away from the “bustling metropolis” that was Seattle. The brothers Mercer apparently used it to hunt and fish.

Although it wasn’t much more than a frontier town in the 19th century, things started to pick up a bit in 1914 when the Roanoke Inn was built. Originally constructed to attract tourists coming in from the nearby ferry dock, this small establishment was, over the course of several decades, a chicken-dinner inn, a hotel and a place of “ill-repute” as well as a speak easy during prohibition.

The Roanoke Inn, Mercer Island, WA

The Roanoke Inn, Mercer Island, WA

Today the Roanoke looks similar to its 1914 incarnation and serves some truly legit brews (think cult beer Pliny the Younger).  The décor is rustic-chic, a bit reminiscent of Northern Exposure. There’s a jukebox and a few old-timey video games (e.g.“Big Buck Hunter”).

Another place of note on MI is Island Books. This establishment has been around since 1973, so that makes it one of the oldest businesses on the island besides the Roanoke. Small but mighty, Island Books stocks a surprising variety of titles. And generally, what they don’t carry they’re willing to order for you. They also have an amazing kids’ section with a cool house you can crawl around in.

If you’re hungry after an afternoon of book shopping, Stopsky’s Deli is right next door to Island Books. They have Stumptown coffee and quality pastries. The Reuben and borscht is good too, though somewhat un-traditional.

So there you have it. While Mercer Island may not have all the attractions of Seattle (and no zoo), it does have a few worthwhile spots to get a book or a beer. Hope you can cross the water one of these days to look around.

Maggie Tarnawa is a contributing blogger for The World is Fun.

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