No one in my immediate family got knocked down by the thirty pound salmon hurtling through the air at Pike Place Fish, so in that sense, at least, our trip to Seattle was uneventful.
On the other hand, we gawked at aquatic mammals in the aquarium, sat in the cockpit of an F/A-18 Hornet at the Museum of Flight, and watched newly transformed butterflies emerging from row upon row of cocoons in the Butterfly House of the Pacific Science Center, so “uneventful” might not be the right word after all.
If you ever visit Seattle, I suggest that you bring good walking shoes. We walked all over that place, from our hotel in the shadow of the Space Needle to the docks at the heart of downtown. The ride-free buses that operate within the downtown area might have shaved off a few blocks here and there, but we still put some miles on our tennis shoes with all the running around we did on Saturday. By the time we got out of our IMAX movie (a special showing of “Happy Feet”; ironic, since mine were covered with blisters) at nine-thirty, we were all exhausted. There were no bedtime protests that night!
As a parent, I was so impressed with the Pacific Science Center. Almost all of the exhibits offered some kind of hands-on experience for young scientists. The kids experimented with liquids, learned how a toilet works, and played tic-tac-toe with a giant robotic arm. Katie loved the microscopes where you could get up close and personal with germs, tissue samples, and plant cells. We finally had to tear her away, but her reluctance was forgotten when we entered the bug village and discovered her favorite place of all: the Butterfly House! A controlled tropical climate inside this greenhouse-like structure sustains the thousands of butterflies fluttering around, on, and under the jungle plants inside. Plates of fruit and nectar attract dozens of these multicolored denizens for convenient viewing, and laminated information cards allow visitors to identify the various species of butterflies based on their markings. Guests must be careful where they’re stepping and sitting, since butterflies alight upon every surface, and before each person leaves the exhibit, a science center associate carefully checks to make sure there are no fluttery stowaways on his hair or clothing.
Caleb’s favorite part of our trip, by far, was the one hour, narrated Argosy boat tour around Elliot Bay and the Seattle Harbor. From the moment we told the kids about the trip, Caleb was fixated on “the boat ride.” “When are we going on the boat ride?” “Is it time for the boat ride?” “I want to do the boat ride now!” It did not disappoint. For Paul and me, it was a chance to give our overworked feet a rest and to enjoy learning a little about the sights along the harbor. For the kids, it was a thrill just to feel the wind (and rain) sweeping through their hair as they looked out over the railing and watched the passing seabirds. We had an unexpected treat when the captain sighted a cluster of napping sea lions piled precariously on top of one of the big buoys off shore. The tour guide’s hilarious sea lion impersonation through the ship’s megaphone earned us a few inquisitive, but fearless, stares from the hairy beasts.
One place I’d like to return to, without the kids, is the Museum of Flight. While the kids enjoyed trying out the WWII flight simulator and climbing into the pilot’s seat of decommissioned military planes, I was intrigued by the vast riches of historical material to be absorbed as we walked through the timeline of flight and witnessed its impact–on war, on transportation, on the modern world. There were so many fascinating stories to be read on the displays and watched on the numerous documentary films being played throughout the museum, but the kids didn’t have much patience for that. I would love to be able to come back some Saturday and really spend the time to take it all in.
We certainly packed a lot into one weekend. Thanks to the City Pass, we were able to enjoy the science center, the aquarium, the boat ride, the museum of flight, and an IMAX movie for half the price of paying at the door. Unfortunately (or maybe “fortunately,” since I have no idea how we would have fit it into the schedule), we decided to give the zoo a miss when the rain showed no signs of letting up.
I would highly recommend Seattle to anyone planning a quick family getaway in the Pacific Northwest. It offers so much to do and to see without breaking the bank. After three delightful days, we counted it up: nine hours in the car, tons of memories, minimal sibling rivalry, zero injuries (if you don’t count blisters), and a handful of change still jingling around in our pockets. Not too shabby!
We just might have to do this again.
If you know of any other fun family destinations within easy driving distance of Northern Idaho, we’d love to hear about them!