Woodland Park Zoo

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Most people would assume a zoo is a zoo is a zoo the world over, but having visited a handful of them from Seattle to Dublin, I can tell you that that is simply not the case.  Zoos can be as varied as the animals within their walls.

Founded in 1899 with elk, bears, deer and ostriches as its main attractions, the Woodland Park Zoo has evolved into a meneragie of animals with over 1 million visitors a year.   The first zoo in Seattle was a small collection of animals owned by the Lake Washington Cable Railway who gifted the beasts to the city after the Woodland Park property was bought from local lumber barron Guy Phinney.  Building onto the traditional English style park layout of the Phinney estate, the Woodland Park Zoo occupied the upper level of the property while Lower Woodland was left as undeveloped woods until Aurora Avenue was built in 1933 dividing the property indefinitely.

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Over the years as the exhibits and the animals have evolved, the zoo has gravitated toward an ecological and naturalistic approach with exhibits reflecting the animals’ natural environment as much as possible.  Known as a world-class zoo, Woodland Park provides not only an informative & educational day out but also packs in lots of extra fun for the littles.  There’s a natural habitat themed playground complete with a giant spider’s web and an iron bird’s nest.  For those inevitable PNW rainy days,  there is also the indoor Zoomazium with a two-story treehouse and a toddler play area.

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We sprung for an annual membership which pretty much pays for itself in 3 visits or less and it allows us the freedom to spend all day looking at snakes and bugs should we so desire without the pressure of trying to see everything in one day.  London and I literally spent an entire hour once watching a Komodo dragon grub down on his macerated lunch and aside from watching chunks of flesh being chomped between giant reptile jaws; it was quite relaxing because there was no where else we needed to be at that moment and we just sat there & enjoyed it.

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So if you’ve been putting it off, make a plan this year to go to the Woodland Park Zoo.  Fostering an awe of nature and animal admiration can never start early enough in my opinion.  For us, yearly visits to the zoo help me to teach my boys that it is a big ‘ol world out there, full of all sorts of amazing creatures and that it is up to us to keep it that way and anything that helps me simultaneously teach them this vital lesson & keeps them entertained, that’s a win in my book.

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Woodland Park Zoo

750 North 50th Street Seattle, WA 98103

206-548-2500

Fall & Winter Hours: 9:30am-4pm~Spring & Summer Hours: 9:30am-6pm

Prices: Adults $22.95 and Kids 3-12 $13.95~Ages 2 and under are FREE

 

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The Farm at Swan’s Trail

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There is something so productive about Fall.  It’s full of firewood chopping, apple harvesting, leaf raking; in short, it’s a time to get shit done.  This is probably the big reason why Fall is my favorite season.  I love the busyness of it, the subtle urgency before winter truly sets in.  And then there’s the pumpkins right? I mean, who doesn’t love pumpkin themed shit? There’s pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin air freshener, pumpkin creamer; it seems as if the flavor combos are never-ending.  My sister Sammi is the exception to this pumpkin loving rule, she doesn’t even like pumpkin scones shockingly enough, but I believe she is some sort of freakish anomaly.  I mean..she dips her broccoli in mayo, so maybe she’s not the best judge of taste…just saying.

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Anyway, one of my favorite places to experience Fall in all it’s glory is at The Farm at Swan’s Trail in Snohomish.  It has everything you could ask for in a fall centric farm; wagon rides, endless fields of pumpkins, corn mazes, good food, tractors to sit on for those Instagram worthy shots, and a petting zoo.

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The boys and I happened to go on the busiest day ever, which in hindsight, might not have been the best idea on my part and I apologize again to all those parents who heard the screeches of Huck and thought for a brief moment that I was waterboarding him in the car.

Prior to that epic meltdown though, we had a great time navigating ourselves through the Washington State corn maze, ate some tasty, farm-fresh corn chowder and wandered thru the seemingly endless pumpkin patch searching for the elusive perfect pumpkin.  Miraculously, we found four of them, and had it been up to London and Huck, we would have come home with closer to four thousand of them.  Who knew there were so many perfect pumpkins in just one little patch of earth?

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Once we made it back to our car and after I had finally managed to wrestle Huck into his car seat, we drove away, laden down with pumpkins and smelling like dirt & corn.  The carving would take place later that evening after said toddler had got some much-needed sleep, but for the moment, Fall had been savored, searched for and enjoyed. Memories had been made, at least one of the kids had a good time and no one got lost in the corn maze.  That’s a pretty perfect day in my book.

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The Farm At Swan’s Trail

7301 Rivershore Road

Snohomish, WA 98290

425-334-4124

*Free Parking*

Open Fall Season~ Weekdays open 12-6 and Weekends 10-6

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Mercer Slough Nature Park

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Anyone who has ever driven over I-90 near Mercer Island has probably caught a glimmer of the Mercer Slough far below the tangled ribbons of concrete freeway. As motorized humanity hums above it, the Mercer Slough Nature Park meanders its’ way thru 320 green acres and serenely offers visitors a peaceful escape just mere steps away from the urban hub of Bellevue.  It always amazes me that places like this still exist in the march of constant urbanization, yet some still do and Mercer Slough is one of the better ones.

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With over seven miles of trails and a 2.4 mile long canoe route, the Slough is the largest of Lake Washington’s remaining fresh water wetlands.  There is also an Environmental Education Center that focuses primary on freshwater wetland ecology and which offers classes for both adults and children throughout the year.  On the day that my buddy Jillian and I went, we had the park pretty much to ourselves which was ideal since we had four wild children in tow.  Being a wetland, the trails traverse mostly flat terrain which makes it nice for those wobbling toddler legs and letting them run free without fear of a nearby cliff edge was an added bonus.

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After London and Lucia discovered an abandoned pump house leftover from the park’s bygone agricultural days, I attempted to convince them that we were indeed spending the night inside.  Seeing as they are observant little things, they quickly pointed out all the reasons that just wasn’t true from our lack of proper sleepover material to the two feet of algae covered sludge which carpeted the floor of the building.  I decided then that should I want to trick my children with a lie in the future, I had better bring my A game.

Leaving the floating pump house behind us, we stumbled into the Slough’s picturesque Blueberry Farm.  Established in the 1940’s, the farm is run by Bellevue Parks and provides an inexpensive & tasty place to pick local blueberries.  The children, of course, could not be contained and I am almost certain that they nearly ate their weight in berries.  Jillian and I cautiously looked around for lurking farm police, but none appeared and the kids joyously went on stuffing themselves.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, it turns out that the blueberry farm is actually currently closed due to the nearby sound transit construction, so all our harried, sideways glances were unneeded.

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Feeling buoyed by the fact that, should a natural disaster occur, our children would be excellent foragers, we headed back towards the car with full bellies and late summer tans.  The Mercer Slough had been explored, harvested and enjoyed & since it is so close to all things urban, I could still hit up Whole Foods on our way home.  Does a Seattle summer day get much better than that? I’d be hard pressed to say yes.

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Mercer Slough Nature Park

2102 Bellevue Way SE

Bellevue, WA 98005

425-452-6885

Open everyday 7am-4pm

 

Carkeek Park

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Hidden in Greenlake’s backyard & mere blocks away from bustling highway 99, Carcreek Park is as quintessentially Seattle as a park can get.  From Puget Sound beach access, to hiking trails and a plethora of picturesque picnic spots, there literally is something for everyone in this park.

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Named after Morgan J. Carkeek, an English building contractor who was also an accomplished stone mason who built many of Seattle’s early stone buildings, the park is 220 acres of green space with over 6 miles of hiking trails.  There are plenty of climbable trees and salmon berries galore, so a jaunt through these moss covered woods is never a bad idea.  London delighted in showing off his green ninja forest elf skills every time there was a gnarly root or stump that caught his eye.  Needless to say our jaunt turned into a rather long one hour snail hike but there was plenty of time to eat those salmon berries.

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Speaking of salmon, the single coolest thing about this park is that it does in fact have a salmon slide.  I mean, can you get any more Northwest than that!? Kids literally climb into the salmon’s mouth, speed their way down it’s concrete belly and shoot out like a pile of roe in a stream bed! It’s fun and vaguely educational; playgrounds really don’t get better than that.

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There is a nautical theme to most of the playground, including mosaic “tide pools” and sea caves.  While you absent-mindedly push your kid on the swings, you’ll be rewarded with great views of Puget Sound and on a clear day, you might even spot the Olympics. There is also a historic apple orchard somewhere in the park, which was planted by the Piper family near the turn of the century and which lay forgotten under sticker bushes and brambles for years until it was rediscovered in the 1980’s.  A volunteer group was put together and now it hosts a yearly Festival of Fruit celebration complete with apple pie contests and homemade cider made from apples grown in Piper’s orchard itself.

Northwest views, a salmon slide and heirloom apples? Sounds like Washington at its best and Carkeek Park has it all.

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Carkeek Park

950 NW Carkeek Park Road

Seattle, WA 98177

206-684-0877

Open Daily from 6AM-10PM

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North Creek Park

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My favorite thing about this park is undoubtably the fact that it refers to itself as Earth’s kidneys.  I’ve heard the saying “heart of the Earth” & “soul of the planet” but Earth’s kidney’s?  Not to serve kidneys an injustice; they are an incredibly important and vital organ after all, but what an unglamorous body part to liken something after. Whomever decided to reference the functions of the human body’s built in filtration system to the parks environmental standing was of course referring to the role wetlands play in cleansing surrounding eco systems.  Just as kidneys filter blood, cleaning it of impurities before sending it back out on its pulsating journey, wetlands distill water of all the crap that we people let seep into the environment.  Its a clever little comparison, and if lacking in romantic prestige, it makes up for it in pure nonchalant functionality.

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My second favorite thing about this park is the mile long floating boardwalk which allows for an up close wetland experience without getting all soggy & wet.  These boardwalks literally float atop the grassy marshes, and though smack daub in the middle of suburbia, once out on the path, it feels as if you are miles away from humanity.  Its quiet and full of animal life, with everything from snakes to birds and weasels making an appearance.

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Its perfect for London to cruise around on atop his little ripper of a bike, as long as he doesn’t braff off the edge into the murky water.  So far he hasn’t but I suppose that’s what a helmet and a washing machine are for.

20160609_113920The 81 acre park was once owned by the Bailey family, an early prominent dairy farm family in the Bothell area. Besides the floating boardwalk, North Creek also boasts a pretty killer playground, complete with a climbing wall and triple decker slides.  There are plenty of picnic areas, both covered and uncovered, which can be a welcome respite in our fickle Northwest weather.  Though the entrance is a bit tricky to find; a tiny little numbered road off the bustling Bothell-Everett Highway, it is well worth the trip.  Earth’s kidneys will thank you.

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20160609_1112571011 183rd Street SE

Mill Creek, WA 98012

Open 7 days a week 7am~Dusk

Contact: 425-388-6608

Deming Logging Show

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Growing up in Washington, it was hard not to know at least one logging family.  We’re surrounded by towering evergreens up here and the logging blood runs deep.  It’s not easy work however and every year loggers become injured or even die while on the job~a sad reality of many labor intensive careers.  Established in 1963, the Deming Logging Show is a non-profit event put on every 2nd full weekend in June for “the Benefit of Busted Up Loggers”.  After watching some of the events put on during the show, such as pole falling or speed climbing, it’s really no wonder that loggers get “busted up”.  That’s some hard-ass work and from the looks of it, can be are scary as hell.

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London of course, being the red blooded boy that he is, loved all the logging truck demonstrations and the axe throwing event was pretty manly as well.  He also dug all the vintage logging trucks set up outside the show, including some ancient beast of a machine that made me glad, at least for the modern day loggers, that they no longer had to utilize that metal monster.

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Besides the competitive events and truck show, there was also a pretty tasty BBQ for purchase which included up to three different kinds of meat; a worthy calorie racking meal for all those axe swingin’ flanneled men.  I had not been nearly that active and the giant plate of food put in front of me could have fed a small family yet that didn’t stop me from eating it all.  I was at a logging show and I wasn’t about to lose my mountain creed over whether I needed a few 1000 measly calories.  Besides, I was supporting those “busted up loggers” and eating my weight in baked potato & cornbread was the least that I could do.

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IMG_2747Deming Logging Show

360-592-3051

3295 Cedarville Road Bellingham, WA 98226

2nd full weekend in June

$7.00 for adults

$4.00 for kids 6-12

Free Parking

Happy Faces FacePainting

My little man recently turned two and being the wild thing he is, we, of course, had a monster themed shindig; complete with a monster piñata, eyeball cookies, and one monsterifically messy cake.  The highlight of the days festivities though was most definitely watching all the hordes of kids take their turn at the face painting table.  Happy Faces Face Painting truly lives up to its name~face after face was transformed into hairy little beasts and the kids could not have been happier.

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The magic behind the brush is Rebecca Dickinson, a children’s book author & illustrator who has extended her many talents into the world of face painting.  Having spent a large part of her career in the kid teaching realm while simultaneously raising a small brood of her own, Rebecca is very comfortable around children.  A skill which most definitely comes in handy with a posse of squirming, wiggly kids to paint.

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10847370_1783738341850274_8153294922766803080_oI’ve been fortunate enough to witness her work quite a few times, whether for a birthday party, a business’s grand opening or even just for some Seahawks game day spirit.  It’s a fun, bright way to bring a little extra festive cheer to any event.  At our monster party, while the kids jostled for a turn to be next, Happy Faces Face Painting delivered.   Face after darling face, whether covered in delicate pink lines or bold green stripes, they all came away happy and truly monsteriffic.

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Rebecca Dickinson

360-568-6245

rebeccadickinson@msn.com

Rates start @ $50 an hour for private party

$75 an hour for corporate events

https://www.facebook.com/FacePainting4SeattleArea

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