Travels 2016: From Mickey Mouse to Lewis and Clark, trips took us beyond the Midwest

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Mickey is all smiles at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

Our 2016 travels took us to 12 states, nine of them in the Midwest. With a daughter now living in the Pacific Northwest, annual trips to the region have become the norm. And with Lisa and me attending travel conferences, opportunities to visit other states arise. Lisa found herself at Disney World this year.

Lisa loved her visit to the WDW in Orlando. She and our friend Sara Broers of Travel with Sara spent a day at Disney World, but based all they accomplished, you’d have thought they were there for a week. She learned a lot in a short span – from the Magical Express to Magic Bands. The express is a bus system that takes you from the airport to your on-property hotel. Disney has changed in the almost 20 years since were there for our honeymoon.

The one thing that never changes is that no matter your chronological age, you’re always a kid at Disney.

The Magic Band is truly magical. It does so many thigs that you can leave your wallet or purse in your room. The bands can be used to open your hotel room door, charge food and other purchases to your account and gain “FastPass” admission to the parks. Impressive.

Lisa and Sara started their “Day at the Parks” with a visit to Epcot, home of the giant golf ball-looking sphere. They were able to design their own cars for the Test Track attraction, which were loaded to their Magic Bands. They finished the Epcot trip with a stop at Spaceship Earth.

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Epcot Center at Walt Disney World.

They used their “Fast Pass” for rides at Magic Kingdom. They had a great time here, and enjoyed Splash Mountain.

They concluded their day of Disney parks with a visit to Hollywood Studios, where they met “Star Wars” character C3PO, stepped into the Twilight Zone, joined Buzz and Woody at the arcade and enjoyed a ride through the history of movies.

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An Empire walker from “Star Wars.”

They had a fun adventure at WDW, visiting all parks except Animal Kingdom.

Our other trips included visits to two Northwest Pacific states – Washington and Oregon.

Our first – in April – trip to visit Mallory included a trip to the Pacific Ocean coastline along the famous Highway 101.We stayed on the Long Beach Peninsula, which is on the Washington-Oregon border.

We stayed in Long Beach, which is a coastal community. Full of a lot of tourist attractions and great food, we wasted little time in checking out the area. From the world’s largest frying pan and razor clam to the spot where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, Long Beach Peninsula provided a fantastic three-day weekend trip.

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A view along the beach at Long Beach, Washington.

Ever see the Ocean’s Spray commercial where two guys stand in a pool of water surrounded by cranberries? We visited a cranberry bog. It was a dry bog. The water is added toward harvest season.

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Cranberry bog at Long Beach peninsula.

While in the area, we ventured across the Columbia River –over the country’s longest truss bridge – to Oregon. We checked out three cities in the area – Astoria, Seaside and Cannon Beach. Each had a connection to the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-06). Fort Clatsop National Park is near Astoria. A replica of the original fort is available at the park.

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View of Astoria, Oregon, Columbia River and Washington state from the Astoria Column.

Cannon Beach is home to Haystack Rock. The rock formation just off the beach resembles a dragon.

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Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Back in Seattle, we had a jam packed few days. With a tour of Safeco Field, we took in one of professional baseball’s coolest-looking stadiums.

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Safeco Field offers fans a great view of the game.

We, of course, visited Ground Zero – the original Starbucks location – and Pike Place. On a subsequent visit with my daughter Mallory, we checked out the gum wall in Post Alley, next to Pike Place.

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Daughter Mallory adds to the gum wall in Post Alley near Pike Place.

Lisa and I had a limited number of days to complete visits to attractions on our list. We worked with the folks at CityPass in arranging places to visit. CityPass books are affordable ($69 each) and cover several attractions.

Using our CityPass, we visited the Seattle Aquarium, Space Needle, Museum of Pop Culture (formerly known as EMP/SciFi Museum), Chihuly Garden and Glass and took an hourlong bay cruise on Argosy Cruises. CityPass offers some alternatives, but these were the attractions we really wanted to visit.

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View of the Space Needle from Chihuly Garden.

The Great Wheel has been part of the Seattle Waterfront for a few years, so we took a ride on it. It slowly revolves about three or four times, allowing riders great views of the city and Puget Sound.

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View of Seattle waterfront from the Great Wheel.

Lis and I visited a few more areas outside of Seattle. We took a trip to Olympia to visit the state capitol. Our trip included a stop in Tacoma to check out the Museum of Glass art.

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Washington’s capitol in Olympia.

Snoqualmie Falls was the inspiration for the town in the TV series “Twin Peaks.” The area has one of the best waterfalls we’ve seen. The older area of town is home to an outdoor railroad museum and some great food.

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Snoqualmie Falls is about an hour west of Seattle.

Bainbridge Island is one of the island communities you can take a state ferry to visit. We had a nice time during our trip. It was our second visit there in six years. We walked one of the nature trails and took in some great views of the area.

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Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Lisa was not feeling well, so Mallory and I ventured out to check out more of the Seattle area. Our trip included visits to Cougar Mountain Zoo and the Columbia Center. From getting close-up views of endangered animals to seeing a different view of the area from Columbia’s observation floor, we had a great father-daughter outing.

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Mt. Rainier appears to hover over Seattle despite being more than 50 miles away.

Mallory I visited Tacoma during my November visit. We had a nice time visiting Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. The zoo has a beautiful backdrop with mountains, forests and water. The zoo’s animals were interesting. We watched a walrus swimming in a small pool area. He made a noise that sounded like a train whistle. We’d never heard a walrus before. That was fun.

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An arctic fox at Tacoma’s zoo.

The aquarium includes water life found in the Northwest, including sharks that live in Puget Sound. They’re considered docile and don’t pose a real threat to humans. You can stand above the aquarium for a unique look.

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A view from the top of the aquarium.

The LeMay National Car Museum gives visitors a chance to see all types of vehicles, ranging from early cars to solar-powered vehicles. A car prop from a “Flintstones” movie is on display.

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Fred Flintstones’ car from the “Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.”

Mallory and I also took a trip to Bremerton. We checked out the Navy Museum, which highlights the history of the naval shipyard next door and the USS John Stennis, which was built at Bremerton. The USS Joy – a Destroyer –  is a floating museum.

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The USS Joy in Bremerton, Washington.

My Seattle-area travels continued with stops in Ballard and Fremont. The Nordic Museum is located in Ballard. It tracks the history of the Scandinavian countries and takes a look at their roles in Washington history.

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A lot of Scandinavians in the northwest worked in the logging and fishing industries.

Fremont is known as the “center of the universe.” It even has a rocket on a building to prove it. Fremont was an interesting town to visit. From the troll under a bridge to some good chocolate, Fremont was a fun day trip.

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The Fremont Troll.

Lisa and I enjoyed some fun trips during 2016. The Pacific Northwest and Florida were among them. As we wrap up the year, our sights are getting set on what 2017 will bring us travel wise. But, before we head off to Alabama, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Oregon and who knows where else, we enjoyed our look back at the areas that meant a lot to us this year.

Happy New Year and may 2017 be kind to you.