3 Harvest Festivals and a Truck (What’s on this Weekend)

This weekend will be full of fall!  From Harvest Celebrations and corn mazes to pumpkin patches and trucks, there’s a little bit of Autumn for everyone.

Fall Pumpkin Festival @ Remlinger Farms

The mother of all kid-friendly farms, Remlinger, is kicking off its Fall Pumpkin Festival, running now through the last weekend in October.  If you’ve already checked off the pony rides, steam train, farm animals and mini carnival rides, head on over (hayride-style) to the U-Pick Pumpkin Field and pick your perfect pumpkin (say that fast 5 times).  The always-lovely farm market will be featuring fall delights like caramel apples, pies, and turnovers, so come hungry!

 September 29-October 28
$13 entry fee (under 1 free)


Pumpkins @ Dr. Maze’s 2011.

Fall Harvest Celebration & Sunflower Field Maze @ Dr. Maze’s Farmyard

Where can you find a Singing Chicken Show, Pumpkin Checkers, hayrides and Rubber Duck Races all in one place?  Dr. Maze’s Farmyard, of course!  Along with continuing the Fall Harvest Celebration, this weekend marks the opening of the Farm’s Rooster in the Sunflowers Field Maze.  Be sure to visit the farm animals and taste Dr. Maze’s famous fresh kettle corn.

Dr. Maze’s Farmyard in Redmond
September 28-30 from 10a-6p
$9 entry fee (under 3-yrs old FREE)


Corn fields at Dr. Maze’s 2011.

Fall Harvest Celebration Festival @ Magnuson Park

Take part in an orchard maze and scavenger hunt, ride kid-sized tractors and get up-close and personal with farm animals!  Kids from the Magnuson Nature Program will be hosting garden and P-patch tours, and there will be live music from Harmonica Pocket and the Smalltime String Band.  Other activities include a pumpkin walk, harvest parade and scarecrow-making.  Need I say more?

Magnuson Park Children’s Garden
Saturday, September 29 from 11:30a-2:30p
Free (for scarecrow-making, bring old clothes plus $5 for straw and wood)

Kids love hay stacks.

Touch-a-Truck @ Northgate Mall

This very popular event is making its way to Northgate Mall.  Kids get a hands-on opportunity to “touch a truck” or, more precisely, climb aboard, sit in and explore dozens of vehicles from ice cream trucks to semi trucks.  Field personnel are there to explain the equipment and discuss their careers so that the little folk of Seattle can gain a bigger and better understanding of those who serve and protect our city.  Plus, it’s pretty darn fun to honk the horns.

 Northgate Mall
Saturday, September 29 from 11a-3p


A New Twist

I’ve been brainstorming a way to give Seattle Travel Mom a little bit of a unique twist- call it a niche or a specialty- and I think I’ve figured it out.  One of the reasons why I began Seattle Travel Mom was to give parents some ideas of what to do with their kids; reasons to get out and discover their city through the eyes of a child.  I’ve only just scratched the surface, and am having a great time doing so.

But if I really think about it, the question that I want to tackle is the ever-looming “What should we do today?”  At times it’s a light question, full of excitement and expectation (especially on the warm, sunny days).  Check out a new park?  Go to the Zoo?  Find a new farmers market or try a different ice cream shop?  But more often than not, we may find ourselves scratching our heads and wondering, “What are we going to do for the entire morning/afternoon/day?”  

Parks, zoos, farms and all the other kid-loved venues are just a part of it.  There’s only so many places you can hit in one day without the kids, yourself, or a combination of both having a “major meltdown.”

So I’ve come up with a solution set in 3’s.  Somewhere to go, something to craft, something to make/bake…all sharing a theme.  I’ll help parents to not only get out there with their kids, but to also inspire creativity within them.  For now I’ll call these types of posts “All About” Days.  All About Animals Day.  All About Trains Day.  All About Rain Day.  You get the point.

Here’s an example of what I’m thinking:

All About Pumpkins Day

Place:  Pumpkin Patch

(I’ll include review here)


Create: Jack-O-Lantern lanterns

(I’ll include instructions here)

Cute lanterns made with jars, orange tissue paper and modge podge.

From Ordinary Life Magic


Bake: Pumpkin Spice roll-out sugar cookies

(I’ll include recipe here)

Mini Pumpkin cookies.

From Life’s A Batch

So you’ve go a bit of travel, a bit of Martha Stewart and a cool idea for a snack.  You could do one idea or all three…whatever you have the time and desire for.  And I won’t be doing “All About” posts all the time, but rather in addition to my other Seattle reviews.

So…what do you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Emerald Downs Racetrack

Today marked the closing day of live racing at Emerald Downs.

The Thoroughbred racetrack set in the shadow of Mount Rainier is not all big hats and bigger bets; there’s a ton of kid-friendly activities to be had.  Besides chowing down on huge servings of soft serve ice cream, hot dogs and caramel corn, it’s fun for kids to get up close and personal with the stars of the attraction.  Head down to the paddock before each race and watch the horses and jockeys do their rounds or check out the gift shop for a race day souvenir.  The track offers both indoor and outdoor seating, and on gorgeous summer days, you can’t beat the view.  The best part:  Every Sunday during the summer is deemed Family Fun Day.  Kids are treated to stage shows, face painting, pony rides and bouncy houses (all FREE)!  If you didn’t get a chance to make it out to Emerald Downs this year, be sure to put it on your to-do list for next season!

And they’re off!

6 Waterfront (and stroller-friendly) Jogging Routes

One thing I love to do (almost) as much as travel is to run.  Before kids, all I needed was a good pair of running shoes and a trail.  After kids all I need is (deep breath) jogging stroller water bottle sippy cup snacks extra blanket emergency diapers extra clothes extra shoes toys sunscreen bribery treat so that I can get one last mile in and….a stroller-friendly jogging route.

That said, I have found ways to simplify, and I’ve discovered that the most successful way to get a good run in without your kiddo getting bored and antsy is to a). find a route that offers great scenery and distractions and b). find a route that includes pit stops (parks, beaches) to include during or after a run. 

Lastly:  I love to run near water.  Wherever I’ve traveled, if there’s water nearby, I’ll run there.  From Chicago to Barcelona or Charleston to LA, I’ll take the water view.  Here are six of my favorite jogging routes (I’m not including Greenlake here, since I’m fairly sure we’ve all done it.  Many, many times 🙂 )

This is the run I did this morning:

Juanita Bay Park boardwalk.

Juanita Beach/Juanita Park

Juanita Beach has made a new name for itself.  After a huge renovation, it reopened last summer and has since then been attracting families and beachgoers alike.  The shallow water is great for wading and there’s plenty of white sand and green grass for playing.  A boardwalk leads to Juanita Bay Park, a wetlands habitat with paved trails and two additional boardwalks that offer superb wildlife viewing.  On any given day we’ll see ducklings, turtles or eagles.  The park is never crowded but you’ll most likely be in the company of other parents with their kids and at least one serious bird-watcher.

Boardwalk heading to Juanita Bay Park

This morning I turned around and ran back through Juanita Beach, stopping at the playground so Graham could get some swing time in.

Other days I extend run through the Market neighborhood of Kirkland and, if I’m feeling especially amped up on coffee, I’ll run to the…

Kirkland Waterfront

About 3 miles round-trip from the Kirkland Marina to Carillon Point, this waterfront route is one of the prettiest in all of the Eastside.  Make a pit stop at Houghton Beach Park or have the kids do a little jogging of their own along the grassy lakeshores or at the Marina.

Lake Union

An awesome city jog.  Start at Gas Works Park and make your way around the 6-mile route.  You’ll pass over two bridges so there’s plenty of opportunity to watch boats go by.  Stop in and take a peek at the Center for Wooden Boats at the southern part of the lake before heading back to Gas Works Park for playtime or a picnic.

Sail boats in Lake Union

Seward Park

This lovely 2.4-mile loop circles around the Bailey Peninsula while presenting some of the best views you could hope for during a morning jog.  Seward Park has over 300 square miles of old growth forest, providing lots of opportunity for spotting wildlife, and the playground is always a hit.

Just some lily pads.

Alki Beach

Five miles of paved walkway makes for a great beachside stroller jog.  There’s lots of people-watching to be had at Alki Beach, and after your run, dig out some sand toys or make a snack stop.

Myrtle Edwards Park

For anyone living close to downtown Seattle, Myrtle Edwards can be a pretty jog and an unlikely escape from the city.  Stretching from the Olympic Sculpture Park and right along Elliott Bay, it’s got great views, a charming little rose garden and a small beach for the kiddos to stop and stretch their legs.

These are just a handful of the many wonderful jogging routes you can find in and around Seattle.  I’d love to hear your favorites!

Happy Jogging!

Seattle’s Sunset Beaches: 3 of the best places to watch the sun go down**

We’ve been enjoying some pretty spectacular sunsets lately here in the Pacific Northwest.  Before cooler weather sets in, get out there with the kids and enjoy one and, better yet, do it at a beach!  Here are 3 great spots to watch the sun go down with the sand between your toes:

Alki Beach

Here’s a place where postcards come from.  There’s a photo opportunity from anywhere you stand, and a ferry boat or two will most likely make it into one of your shots.  This long stretch of sandy beach boasts magnificent views, from the Olympics to the glittering Seattle skyline.  Take a stroll along the pedestrian path or pack a picnic and some sand toys.  When the sun goes down, pop in to the award-winning Bakery Nouveau on California Ave and treat the kids to something sweet.  Choose from rich mousse, delectable tarts and the best twice-baked almond croissant outside of Paris.

As I did not have any sunset photos from Alki, I’m using this one. It’s from the San Juans. It’s the same sun.

Golden Gardens

Here’s another Seattle shoreline worthy of California beach status.  Along with perfect conditions for sand-castle building, Golden Gardens is home to wetlands and some great hiking trails.  The views aren’t bad either 😉

For a delectable treat, head over to Hot Cakes on Ballard Avenue.  This molten chocolate cakery (I love those words) features specialty cookies that have been featured in Bon Appetit and Wall Street Journal (think bacon-oatmeal-raisin cookies and pocket pies).  Cinnamon rolls and milk shakes are big hits as well as, of course, molten chocolate cakes (baked to order)!  You can even get a take-and-bake molten cake, packaged in a mason jar.  

This is not a molten chocolate cake from Hot Cakes. I don’t have a photo of that. But this is what I imagine it would look like being eaten.

 Kirkland Park Marina

This Eastside marina beach is a magnet for kids.  On any given day you’re sure to see the little ones feeding ducks, watching boats and chucking rocks into the water.  The beach is large enough to enjoy but small enough not to have to spend your day or evening chasing toddlers.  A grassy lawn and covered cabana set the scene for a sunset picnic, and if you didn’t have time to whip up sandwiches, grab some to-go at Jimmy John’s (just across the street).  For dessert, try Sirena Gelato on Park Lane.  Nothing tops a beautiful sunset like stracciatella!

 **While writing this post I realized this could also describe a great date night.  So, if you are in need of a night off from the kids, just take this post and replace “kids” with “new dress,” “heels,” “blow-dried hair,” “actual makeup” or “wine.”  

Monster Search

We made it to Redmond Town Center’s Good Fest this weekend and, as promised, I figured out what that Monster Search was all about.  Kids could grab a monster map at the entrance and go on a scavenger hunt through select stores all around the center, searching for six monsters.  The prize?  A goody bag filled with treats, crayons and a puzzle.

Key to the Monster Search

A large scale football toss and free face-painting were the highlights for my son.  The train ride looked fun too but we opted not to stand in the long line.  There was also a craft table and game station where kids were deeply enthralled in a few games of chess.  I would have loved to get my son in at the Regis Salon Mini Makeover booth but graham wasn’t too keen on pink spray painted hair.


Becoming an alien via face paint.

Shark Cages, Pirate Caves and Ring Bearers

This past August, preceding our trip to Disneyland, we attended my brother and his wife’s beautiful wedding in La Jolla.  We stayed right in La Jolla Cove with views of sparkling waters, rugged cliffs and a large grassy park where, if we’d had more time, I would have loved to picnic.  The paved pedestrian path that runs along the cliff was perfect for morning jogs, and we were walking distance to a number of delectable eateries, stunning art galleries and high-end shops, each worthy of their own visit.  There’s so much to be said for this informally upscale gem of Southern California, and I’m looking forward to returning there soon.

This is Coronado Beach, as I didn’t have a photo of La Jolla. Hey, they’re both in San Diego.

Here are a couple of things we did in our short stay that are worth noting:

The Children’s Pool:  This small, sheltered beach is protected by a concrete breakwater wall that was originally constructed to keep the area safe for young swimmers, but has ended up creating a safe haven for sea lions and seals.  It’s a wonderful place to watch these animals up-close, though warnings suggest to refrain from interacting directly with the protected creatures.  Tell that to my son who was yelling for a basking sea lion to “wake up!!”

Pirate Caves:  Grandpa and Nana took Graham to see the Pirate Caves, which he wouldn’t stop talking about for the rest of the trip.  Sunny Jim Cave opens to a set of stairs that venture down towards a sea cave where you can stand on a platform and overlook the water and cliffs.  Don’t forget to grab a pirate souvenir at the Cave Store.

We also made a stop at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, which I have to say is a pretty cool aquarium.  It couldn’t be situated in a better spot, atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Along with 60+ habitat exhibits, it’s also got a shark reef, an outdoor play/educational area for kids, and an exhibit of the strangest, most awesome sea horses I’ve ever seen or have known to exist.

I’ve always wanted to go into a shark cage! Never thought I’d bring my son along with me though.

Now comes the part about the ring bearer.  This was the first of two weddings Graham will make an appearance in; he will also hold duty as the ring bearer in my other brother’s wedding this winter.  Let’s talk about the tux.  This was not some three-piece Marshall’s special; this was the real deal with all the trimmings, from a bow tie and cuff links to the shiniest shoes he’ll probably ever wear.  We even used some of dad’s hair pomade.  I had to tell Graham the tux was a “Batman Tuxedo Costume” (those exact words in that exact order) otherwise I knew we’d end up having to pin him down and stuff him into the tux, bribing him with lollipops and M and Ms, sending him off down the aisle in a raging sugar-high frenzy.

Batman Tuxedo Costume

But since I started the whole exchange off on the right Batman Tuxedo foot, it all went smoothly.  Then comes the big moment.  I told Graham that Grandma Gigi had a “cookie treat” for him up in the front row, thinking he’d head down the aisle on his own.  But instead he dug his Batman Tuxedo shoes firmly into the grass and started calling out “Cookie treat?!  Cookie treat?!” for all to hear.  I figured it was time for me to step in, so I took his little hand and led him to Gigi, who indeed did have the cookie treat.

Walking toward that cookie treat, and bringing the rings along with us.

After that cookie went down he persistently asked for more more more so eventually my husband had to exit the ceremony with him, and the next time I saw Sean, he had that look in his eye.  The look of a parent who just spent the past 30 minutes dealing with a full-blown tantrum.  I traded with my husband:  Graham for a beer.

Martinelli’s with the Boys.

3 Days in The Happiest Place on Earth

At times it can be the hottest place on earth, the most crowded place on earth and the most expensive place on earth, but for the most part it always ends up keeping its reputation as the happiest place on earth.

We took our (nearly) 3-year-old son to Disneyland for the first time this past August.  It was hot as heck but the crowds seemed less suffocating than I’d remembered.  Maybe this was because school had just started, or maybe it was because everyone had already done their Disneyland visit.  Either way, it was nice.

The beautiful Ferris Wheel in California Adventure

We were ambitious and tackled both Disneyland and California Adventure over a 3-day visit.  We packed enough in to last us for the next 5 years at least.  Disney “experts” claim that the best ages for kids to visit the Park is between 8-12 years old but I’m here to contest that there is in fact still lots of good stuff to do with toddlers and preschoolers.  Here’s a brief lowdown on a handful of rides (through the eyes of my 3-year-old, Graham):

Dumbo:  Still and forever always a hit.

It’s a Small World:  Ehhh…Graham was on the fence and I still think it’s creepy.

Jungle Cruise:  Total winner.

Tarzan’s Treehouse:  Loved it, and no line.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride:  Graham could’ve done without it but I still remember it as being one of my childhood favorites.

*Peter Pan:  Scary.  He was also nearing naptime, may have been pushing it.

*Pirates of the Caribbean:  “I want to hide!” (under the seat)- Graham.

*Finding Nemo’s Submarine Voyage:  “Never Again!” –text from my mom, who accompanied Graham on the ride.

Tom Sawyer’s Island and Pirate Lair:  We could’ve stayed there for half the day.  Graham loved exploring the winding trails, rope bridges, pirate caves and treehouses.

Mickey’s Toon Town:  Again, could spend half the day here.

Cars Land (California Adventure):  Awesome.

Bug’s Life Land (California Adventure):  Awesome.

 * These rides were deemed (again by the experts) “preschooler-friendly,” and since on any regular day, Graham adores aliens, finds monsters intriguing and insists on wearing a Batman costume to bed, I thought he would love the rides.  But for him, it was the idea of riding in a dark space that he didn’t like (even Nemo has a storm sequence).  But other kiddos may love the rides.  Hit or miss.  Always fun to find out 😉

Collecting Character Autographs

The Disneyland railroad is a great way to break up the day.  When the kids start hitting the wall, hop on the train for a circuit or two.  It travels the perimeter of the Park and is a great way to scout out any more “lands” you’d like to check out before leaving.  Take heed however:  there’s a dinosaur scene that has scare potential, although my son loved them (Friendly orange clownfish: Scary.  Flesh-eating T-Rex: Fun).

One thing I can’t recommend enough:  Get your child an “autograph book” (they sell them at any souvenir store).  Graham loved spotting all the big Disney characters and walking up to them, book and pen in hand, and watching them sign away.  He still likes to go through all his autographs, and it’s a cute souvenir you can keep for a long time.  I think I may still have mine somewhere.

The ever-popular Mickey Mouse

A tip on planning:

Per advice from the Disneyland Guidebook I studied before our trip, it’s a great idea to map out the attractions that you hope to see, rather than aimlessly wander the Park.  There’re about 11 or so “touring plans” in the book (field-tested and created to avoid the longest lines), each geared toward one or two-days trips, and some specifically written for families with small children.   The clip-out touring plans rip right out of the book and, though I didn’t follow them to a T, they were extremely helpful.

A tip on lodging: 

If you can, try to stay as close to the Park as possible.  (You can opt to stay at one of the Disney Hotels in the actual Park, such as the Grand Californian, but that can get pricey).  If you’d rather save your money for souvenirs, then book at one of the many accommodations surrounding the perimeter of the Park.  It was so nice to be able to walk across the street to get to Disneyland.  You avoid the trams (which seem like a good idea until you have one or more fussy, overtired and screaming toddlers), and just walk back to the hotel for a nap.  We were also able to see the nightly Downtown Disney fireworks from our deck.

Whew!  That said, we had a wonderful trip and, although after travelling with a toddler, you always come home feeling like you need a vacation after your vacation, it was so fun and we can’t wait to go back!

Me and my little guy in Minnie’s House

What’s on this Weekend?

Here are a couple of events worth checking out this Saturday, September 15th.  Both are fun and, better yet, both are free!

Good Fest at Redmond Town Center (noon-5pm)

Bring the whole family along to Good Fest, Redmond Town Center’s annual children’s festival and largest kid-geared event of the year.   Kiddos big and small can try their hand at mini-golf, score a balloon animal or two and jump aboard a (free!) train ride.  There’s also live music throughout the day, featuring popular kids’ groups:  Brian Vogan & His Good Buddies (noon), The Not-Its (2pm) and Recess Monkey (4pm).  There’s also a Monster Search.  I’m not completely sure what this is, but I’m determined to find out, and I’ll let you know next week. 😉

While you’re at Redmond Town Center, check out the Redmond Saturday Farmers Market.  This Saturday the Seattle Humane Society’s Max Mobile will be setting up camp.  This bright yellow custom-built adoption bus visits local events and is full of loveable dogs and cats ready for on–the-spot-adoption.  How about grabbing a kitten to go with your market produce?

Pirate Day at Country Village (noon-4pm)

Country Village is a charming little treasure in Bothell, great for window shopping, rooster watching and just plain exploring.  Antique stores, quaint wooden walkways and old-fashioned carousels adorn the Village, adding to its ambiance.  There’s a playground with an old pirate ship and a little train ($3.50/ride), but the best part about the place are the ponds, tiny gardens and bridges where ducks, geese and roosters roam freely.  Grab a coffee and a treat (kid-sized lunches also available) at the Village Bean, a cozy little coffee house complete with a train table, mini play kitchen and an outside playhouse.  Check out Toys that Teach, and spend some time wandering around the grounds watching for ducklings and the occasional bunny rabbit.

This Saturday is Pirate Day at Country Village!  Stop by from noon to 4pm and take part in a Village-wide scavenger hunt with lots of giveaways and Pirate booty for the little buccaneers.  There will also be “real” pirates visiting the Village and lots of photo-ops!  Don’t forget your eye patch and wooden leg!

Locks, Fish and Boats, Oh My!

Lucky Graham got to spend the afternoon at the Ballard Locks with his grandparents.  Quintessentially Seattle, the officially named Hiram M. Chittenden Locks are home to blooming botanical gardens, lush hills perfect for rolling down, and all kinds of boats.  The grounds are perfect for picnicking when weather permits.

It’s fun for kids to watch the water rise and lower as everything from little tug boats to massive fishing trawlers travel through the locks.  Make sure to check out the fish ladder, where salmon travel upstream to Lake Washington.  Under the water level there’s a fish viewing room where kids can get a closer look into the lives of salmon as they pass between fresh and salt water.  September offers the best salmon viewing:  check out more info here.

After Graham got his fill of boats for the day, Grandpa and Nana treated him to fish ‘n chips at the Red Mill Totem House, just across the street from the locks.  Red Mill Burgers took over the lease of the Ballard landmark Totem House last year.  Keeping with tradition, the new owners have added fish ‘n chips to the menu.