Exploring Seattle and beyond

What a view for a paddle boarder.

Having traveled to Seattle three times in the past year, I’ve seen quite a bit of the city. My recent trip took me beyond the tourist attractions of the Waterfront. I ventured out to new cities, while still checking out a few Seattle favorites, as I explored more of the Pacific Northwest.

Pike Place

Kicking off my adventure was a stop at a family fave – Pike Place. After grabbing a latte for me and an iced tea for daughter Mallory at “Ground Zero” – aka the original Starbucks – we walked through Pike Place. This is one of the best farmers markets in the United States. Regardless of the season, you can always find fresh fruit and flowers available to take home.

Fresh flowers at the Pike Place farmers market.

We were on a mission, however. My eldest daughter Steph had requested a couple of jars of some of the best honey jelly this side of the Pacific Ocean. So, we found the vendor and ordered a couple of jars to be sent to her.

Fortunately, the vendor was located next to my favorite place at Pike Place – Chukar Cherries. This is a must-stop for all family members when in town. We don’t come home without at least a bag of chocolate-covered cherries. The place has a variety of flavors. I may have overdone it a bit – I grabbed a bag featuring Cherry Bings, dried bings and a chipotle-flavored option.

One of our family’s favorite souvenir stops.

What is a Chukar? Mallory and I have wondered for at least a year. So, my inquisitive daughter asked. It is a partridge native to Asian countries, including India and Pakistan. It’s the national bird of Iraq and Pakistan. The Chukar has been found in Europe, North America and New Zealand. It can adapt to its climate. With that new knowledge and a bag of goodies, we continued our way around Pike Place.

Mallory introduced me to “geek heaven” – Golden Age Collectables. This store has it all for the fan boy or girl in the family. Customers are greeted at the door by large cutouts of Marvel, Star Wars and other pop culture characters. I am partial to Marvel, so seeing Captain America, Black Widow and Iron Man together melted my heart. It also made me wonder I could fit all three in my carry-on luggage for the trip home. The store has books, action figures, large bobble heads, key chains, clothes and other collectibles for almost everyone in the family. We had to force ourselves out of the store.

Cutouts are among the collectibles at a Pike place store.

Last year, during my first visit following Mal’s move to Seattle, I missed getting to see the Gum Wall. The gum had been removed from the walls in post Alley for health reasons. However, almost as soon as workers finished cleaning off the wall, people started putting gum back on it. We were given a couple of pieces of gum by a retailer to add to the wall.

Daughter Mallory makes her contribution to the Gum Wall.

Pioneer Square

Moving along, Pioneer Square awaited. The square is considered the original downtown of Seattle. A totem pole and bust honoring Chief Sealth, whom the city was named after. He was of Suquamish descent. The area is home to the famous “Underground Seattle” tour. We took this tour previously with friends a few years ago. It was an interesting tour of underground tunnels and rooms.

Pioneer Square.

Mallory and I checked out Klondike Gold Rush National Park. The site is a museum which traces the history of the Canadian gold rush in the Yukon Territory. The gold rush basically rebuilt Seattle following a massive fire and economic depression. Seattle became the launching pad for the trip north. Stores, hotels, transportation, bars and a few other side businesses grew during the gold rush, which lasted a little more than a year.

Fake gold bars at the Klondike Gold Rush National Park.

A short walk away is the Last Resort Fire Museum. It’s located inside the headquarters of the Seattle Fire Department. About 15 trucks and old fire wagons are available for viewing. They trace the city’s fire fighting history. The museum has limited hours, so it’s a good idea to check its website beforehand (http://www.lastresortfd.org).

Most of the antique fire trucks are still operational.

Did you know UPS was founded in Seattle more than a century ago? You do now. The United Parcel Service celebrates its original location with a beautiful corner park, featuring a waterfall and garden.

UPS celebrates its heritage with Waterfall Garden Park at its original site.

International District

The International District (aka Chinatown) is about a 15-minute walk from Pioneer Square. The area is home to some excellent dining and shopping opportunities. I got a kick of all the sake brands available at a store. It was like looking at a beer aisle in Omaha.

Checking out a store in the International District.

The Asian influence is well-represented in the district. A marker recognizes the Asian-American service of men and women in military campaigns through history.


The Seattle area is a melting pot of ethnic groups. The Ballard area is home to the Nordic Museum. The museum traces the history of immigrants from the five Scandinavian countries. Currently located in an old school building, the museum has a variety of exhibits covering two floors. The museum will relocate to a new facility in 2018.

A display depicting a Scandinavian family aboard a ship looking at their new country.


Did you know that Vladimir Lenin shares a neighborhood with a troll? Fremont is home to the troll under the bridge. The troll has lived under the bridge since 1989.

The Fremont Troll.

Lenin joined the troll in Fremont during the early 1990s. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a local resident bought the statue remains after it had been torn down in celebration. It was moved to the Fremont area, where Lenin spends his days looking out at the center of the universe.

Lenin statue greets passers-by in Fremont.

Museum of Pop Culture

Speaking of the universe, the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the EMP Museum) is hosting a special exhibit marking 50 years of “Star Trek.” Props, costumes and other items of interest are on display at the MoPop through the end of February. It was an impressive exhibit, covering each of the television and movie series.

A look at the console, captain’s chair and uniforms from the original “Star Trek” series on display at the Museum of Pop Culture.

Woodland Park Zoo

A return visit to the Woodland Park Zoo was on my itinerary. Mallory joined me as we ventured to check out the animals. Our family has a love of penguins and otters, so they’re high on the list to visit. The otters were very active during our stop and they entertained us.

Otters at Woodland Park Zoo.

As we were walking along to the next exhibit, a gray squirrel presented itself for a photo op. The squirrels in the area don’t stay still for long, so while this guy was enjoying a meal, I finally got the shot I wanted.

Gray squirrel!

My Seattle visit included a couple of road trips. We spent most of a day in Tacoma, visiting the zoo and a classic car museum. Tacoma is about a 45-minute drive south of the city.


The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is a nice zoo. We enjoyed our visit. Mallory and I fell in love with the arctic foxes. Their thick white coats and small frame made them look like puppies, but a zookeeper told us they were much older. I believe they were both older than seven years. Regardless of age, they were fun to watch.

Arctic fox at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

The aquarium gave me a look at an animal I wouldn’t suspect you’d find in the Pacific Northwest – a shark. The area has up to 11 species swimming its waters. The Puget Sound sharks are considered docile and don’t pose a real threat to humans. In fact, they swim in deeper waters, so shark sightings are rare. The sharks we saw were sharing a large tank with other fish. We liked the aquarium because you can stand above the water and watch the animals moving about.

A view from above at the zoo’s aquarium.

Tacoma is home to an outstanding classic car collection. The LeMay National Car Museum offers visitors a look at the history of the automobile – from the earliest car to solar-powered vehicles. We enjoyed checking out the classic cars.

Can’t you see Bonnie and Clyde sitting in one of these cars, making their get-away?

One car that caught our attention dates back to the dinosaur ages. In fact, the guy who drove the car actually owned a small dinosaur. You may remember Fred Flintstone, and his wife Wilma. How about their friends – the Rubble? A vehicle prop from the second “Flintstones” movie is on display at the museum.

Meet the Flintstones.


Another day trip took us to the edge of the water and a look at the region’s military history. The Navy Museum in Bremerton (about a 90-minute drive south of Seattle of an hour ferry ride) explores the impact the local Navy shipyard has had on building the United States sea vessels.

A model of the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier.

It also provides a look at the aircraft carrier, the John C. Stennis. The Stennis was commissioned in 1995 in Bremerton. The museum’s second floor consists of exhibits depicting life aboard the Stennis, from enjoying a meal in the mess hall to watching the air crew launch a jet into the sky.

A replica of the Stennis bridge.

A living history museum is anchored nearby. The USS Turner Joy was a destroyer commissioned in 1959. It saw duty during the Vietnam Conflict. Visitors can tour the boat from the deck to the belly.

The USS Turner Joy.

I enjoyed my visit to Seattle and loved that our daughter Mallory could join me on many of the adventures. I thought she was putting up with her old man’s whims, but she said she actually enjoyed the spots we visited. We’ve already started discussing possible destinations for our next visit there in 2017.