July 2022 Adventure Date 5: Seattle Underground Tour

When we were talking to some of our friends about our trip to Seattle, they told us that we HAD to get tickets for the Seattle Underground Tour. We didn’t really understand what that meant, but we obediently booked that tour for the last day of our trip. It wasn’t until our first walking tour, where we heard the story of the Great Seattle Fire that we understood just what the Underground Tour would entail. The story goes like this (the photos are from the Seattle Free Walking Tour and the Seattle Underground Tour. We saw different parts of this through both tours). In 1889, a carpentry apprentice was melting down some wood glue to be used in the shop. He got distracted and the glue overflowed into the fire, and a series of events that would burn down 33 blocks in Seattle was put into motion. Today, you can see the original site of the fire and the memorial they constructed to the fire.

After the fire, which miraculously killed no one, the people of Seattle realized that rebuilding with wood was a really bad idea. They were also really keen to do something about all of the plumbing and sewer issues they were having because the city was so close to sea level. So, they decided to build all of the buildings so that the second floor would become the entry floor eventually. They raised the streets first to install new plumbing that would flow down and not back up with the tide. They knocked down 2 of the original hills of Seattle for the fill dirt to raise the streets. While this was happening, there were ladders at each corner so people could climb up to cross the street and down to get to the entrances of shops. Here is a drawing of what that looked like along with a photo of the building our tour started in and photos of the underground first floor of that building today. I am also including a photo of a building that was constructed at that time to have the entrance on the second level, but then they ran out of hill to knock down, so the street was only raised about a foot, making the door on the bottom floor very short and the intended main entrance very high.

After the roads were all raised, the sidewalks were built over to the main entrances of the buildings. The underground remained – and sometimes still remains – intact underneath, which was actually quite convenient if it happened to be raining – you could go to several stores on the same block without going outside. They used manganese glass to make skylights to light the underground space. After a few years of sun exposure, the glass turned purple, so you will still see some purple glass in the sidewalks as you walk around Seattle.

It was really cool to walk around under the sidewalks. There were lots of stories, but I don’t want to ruin the tour. I did find it really fascinating that businesses could use their underground spaces for whatever they like. Some use it for retail or restaurant/bar space while some use it to store things leftover from renovations. One of my favorite things we saw underground was this elevator gear.

The tour ends at a little Seattle history museum with lots of photos of Seattle founders and important people. It was really interesting and I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone that wants to get a unique perspective on Seattle’s history. Our tour guide also had a really great sense of humor, so he made it super enjoyable to learn about plumbing and construction.

Have you ever taken an Underground Tour in Seattle? What did you think? Let us know in the comments. πŸ™‚

July 2022 Adventure Date 4: Customized Tours Mount Rainier Day Tour

I have to be honest, I had picked out a day tour to Olympic National Park when I was planning the trip – it sounded amazing with waterfalls and mountains and so much more. However, by the time I could book our tours in May, that particular excursion was sold out. So, a Mount Rainier Day Trip was booked instead. I have very few regrets about this tour – it was breathtakingly beautiful to be in Mount Rainier National Park, and it was really nice to have someone that knew all the history and the best vistas to show us around.

The tour started bright and early when Customized Tours picked us up at our hotel – they also dropped us off at the end of the day which was perfect since we decided not to rent a car. About 45 minutes into the trip, we stopped at a grocery store to get lunch and drinks for the day – it was nice to be able to save a little money on lunch, and it was also the ONLY time we had Starbucks the whole time we were in Washington. (Not for lack of trying, but they were either closed or prohibitively busy the whole time in Seattle.) The bus driver even provided a cooler with ice and some waters for us to grab throughout the day, and he allowed us to keep some of our lunch and drink items in it as well.

Shortly after we stopped for food, we stopped for our first views of Mount Rainier at a very small community park. It was a quick on and off stop, but got us pretty excited to get closer looks.

As you can see, we dressed in layers in anticipation of some cooler temperatures up on the mountain. We were to be sorely mistaken, though, as it was 85 degrees at the highest elevations we reached. Even with the snow still on the ground. Alas, our trip did not end up being the cooler temps we had heard about and longed for…

We kept traveling through a few more small towns and finally made it into the National Park. Our first stop in the park was in Longmire to hike a short trail, see our first in park views of the mountain, and shop at the gift shop. Oh, and use the restrooms, a necessity if you are busy hydrating all day. The short trail was through some forest – the trees were tall and beautiful. It was a lovely walk, although we felt rushed when we realized we were only halfway through the hike and had 5 minutes before our bus was supposed to leave…

Our next stop was at a scenic overlook. We had to practically drag Charlotte back to the bus at this stop – she kept wandering further down the road to take photos.

A little further up the road we made the next stop – Narada Falls. It is a 188 foot drop, so it actually towers over Niagara Falls, and it has a beautiful rainbow from most angles. It also gave us a lovely misting when we went to the view area – very welcome in the unexpected heat.

How gorgeous is that?!? We were also supposed to see Christine Falls, but that parking lot was under construction, so we were unable to stop. No worries, our next stop was Paradise (no really, that is what it is called) and we got to hike up to another waterfall called Myrtle Falls. The views were gorgeous, we were able to make snowballs, and there was once again a gift shop and bathrooms. Practically perfect in every way.

After leaving Paradise, a sharp-eyed passenger on our bus spotted a momma bear and 2 cubs in the distance. If you look closely at this photo, they are the black spot that looks like a dog and the slightly smaller black spots in the distance. It was really cool to watch them from afar.

Our last stop in the park was at the reflection lakes area. It is a series of 4-5 different lakes that could be really reflective on a calm day. Our day the water was a bit rough, so this is what we saw – still gorgeous!

After the reflection lakes, we made 2 quick stops at a suspension bridge over the Nisqually River and then a stop at a Ukranian bakery on the way home for some amazing pastries. It was so good that I didn’t even pause to take a photo.

I mentioned above that I have very few regrets, but I did have 3. The first regret is that we did not wear shorts – it was so hot, but the forecast had not really predicted that when we left. The second is that I wish we had a little more time at a few of the stops – nothing that could be helped, it was a group tour that had promised some set things and needed to deliver. Those regrets I can 100% live with and take responsibility for. The third regret is that I did not have noise canceling headphones like the rest of my family for the trip home. On the way home, a German grad student (studying history with a focus on war) asked our tour guide for war stories because he had served in the special forces in the Middle East. The guide used the bus’s PA system to start with a story that then quickly went off the rails into conspiracy theories. I have no problem with people believing differently than I do, but I do not think that this was the proper use of the PA system on a bus with a wide variety of people on it. So, in summary, dress for the actual weather, be ready to cut things a little short sometimes, and take noise canceling headphones and you will have a marvelous time on this tour.

Have you ever been to Mount Rainier? Did you go with a tour or on your own? What was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments.

July 2022 Adventure Date 3: Seattle Terrors Extended Tour

I have always loved ghost stories and watching ghost shows on television – Haunted Travels Week was my Shark Week before all the streaming services. I do not like horror movies, but tell me about a ghost that might be in a hotel and I am all ears. So, when I was booking our tours for Seattle, I knew I wanted to find a ghost tour of some sort. Seattle Terrors Extended Tour was exactly what I was looking for!

Our tour guide met us by the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle (spoiler alert – the Four Seasons is not part of the tour), and they were fantastic. They knew a lot of history and made it just spooky enough to be interesting, but not spooky enough to give my nightmares. There were serial killer stories, information about the first elevator west of the Mississippi – which was not used for the living, lots of spooky ghost stories, and ties to a couple of cults. We thoroughly enjoyed it! The tour was largely centered around Pike Place Market, but there were several other stops as well. I do not want to give too much away, but here are some photos from that evening – the market signs are amazing when it is dark!

Overall, I would definitely recommend this tour. We enjoyed the whole thing, including the extended tour stops. I would warn anyone wanting to do the tour that you will go up and down a lot of steps and hills – it is not for the faint of heart. Even the girls really enjoyed it, though, which is saying something.

Have you ever done a ghost or haunted tour? Where were you? Would you recommend it to others? Let me know in the comments! πŸ™‚

July 2022 Adventure Date 2: FRS Clipper Whale Watching Cruise

When we decided to travel to the Pacific Northwest for our vacation, I knew there were 2 things that I wanted to do above everything else. The first was to go on a whale watching tour. I have always loved dolphins and whales. I wanted to be a Marine Biologist (until I found out how few get to work with dolphins and whales) and I even adopted a humpback whale named Pepper when I was in college. I found the FRS Clipper Whale Watching Tour and immediately knew that it was the one. They have a guarantee on their site that you will see whales on their tour (with an asterisk, because really, whales are wild creatures and can’t be controlled or completely predicted). Anyway, it was the first of our activities that I booked after we had our flights and hotel.

We arrived at the pier for our tour and had not problems getting aboard and seated. I sprung for the first class deck to give us each a little more room, and I made sure we all had forward facing seats. It was a beautiful day – you could even see the mountains, which I’m told is often not the case. Mount Rainier was on one side and the Olympic Mountains were on the other, and it was just gorgeous to be out on the water and see so much green on the shore. Here are some scenic shots of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and some cool suspension bridges we went under (you have probably seen video of one of the bridges twisting and turning in the wind – that is why there are 2 right next to each other).

We hadn’t been traveling very long when Charlotte and I decided to get spots on the top deck. I am so glad we did, because pretty soon we were told that a humpback whale had been spotted. It was so exciting to see it come to the surface a few times in a row to breathe and then do a full dive with its tail coming up. We got to watch this cycle twice before we left in search of the Orcas. I was also really excited when I went through the photos at home and saw I captured the tail twice. πŸ™‚

We traveled about another hour to get to the area the Orcas had been spotted. I do want to point out that I know that Orcas are actually related to dolphins and not whales, but they repeatedly called them Killer Whales, and I am fine with it. It was amazing to watch the pod of Orcas interact. We got to see them traveling and hunting something. There was one mature male and several females and juveniles. You can tell the mature male because his dorsal fin sticks straight up and much higher than the others. We were also a little amazed at how close people on jet skis were to the Orcas – I would not have been comfortable with that. Here are my favorite Orca shots.

I could have watched them for hours – it was so cool! I am completely thrilled with our tour and have no regrets. Having said that, I do have 2 things I would suggest to others looking to book this cruise.

First of all, I think that the people on the lower deck had better views of seal life. Our seats were well above the water, so we did not see the porpoises and other sea life that those in the lower deck were able to see. It also got extremely hot and stuffy on the second deck on the way back to the pier. If I did it again, I would get seats on the first deck. They also had better access to the front of the boat view area, the galley, and the bathrooms.

My second advice directly relates to this obstructed view. As you can probably see in my photos of the humpback whale, there were towers and bars and equipment on the front of the boat which obstructed the view from the top of the boat at times. We chose spots with a clear view almost everywhere except 11 o’clock (if straight ahead was 12 o’clock and straight behind was 6 o’clock). I figured that we would be able to see almost everything with a clear view. I was wrong, of course. The boat pretty consistently turned to keep the whales at 11 o’clock. I don’t know if it was because of some track equipment or what, but it was definitely a theme. So, choose your spots on the top deck with care so you can see at 11 o’clock.

I would 1000x do this again. It was exciting and the good far outweighed the bad for me. Have you ever been on a whale watching tour? Where were you? Would you recommend it? Let me know in the comments below! πŸ™‚

July 2022 Adventure Date 1: Seattle Center

In July our family was able to go on our first big family vacation in about 5 years, although it has been 10 years since we have flown anywhere. Our oldest daughter graduated in 2020 and we were supposed to take a trip to Disney and Universal at that time, but we all know how that story went. When we started to plan a trip for this summer, we asked her if she still wanted to go to Florida and she said she would rather go to Seattle and potentially meet up with a friend of hers. So, Seattle it was. And it was a marvelous trip full of many, many new experiences. I am happy to report she also got to meet her friend, although I will not really be covering that in the blog. πŸ˜‰

Our first day there we did a walking tour and got our bearings, but our second day started our first real adventure: Seattle Center. Seattle has this really cool area which was originally created for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. In fact, we got to ride there on a monorail that was created for that fair. It was pretty cool – not quite as smooth of a ride as you get at the Disney Parks, but still fun.

We had bought timed tickets to the Space Needle (also from the Seattle World’s Fair) and Chihuly Gardens and Glass, so we had time to walk around and explore before that. We did not realize that we would be sharing Seattle Center with the Pokemon Go Fest 2022 crowd, which was mostly fascinating and only a little bit annoying. Mainly because the number of people caused places to run out of things quickly and close hours early. The people were very nice and we actually downloaded the app again to get a few things from the Pokestops – you know, as souvenirs. We also had awesome strawberry shortcake from a little stand by the Space Needle – so yummy! Here are some photos of other things in Seattle Center – Museum of Pop Culture, Olympic Iliad Sculpture, and Pokemon Go Oasis area,

We were very excited when it was our turn to go up in the Space Needle in the glass elevators. On the way up, we got a nice view of Seattle Center and on the way down we got to look out over Puget Sound. We enjoyed seeing Seattle and it’s surrounding area from up so high – we even got our first views of Mount Rainier. We were very brave and even stood on a bench in front of the glass for photos. And looked straight town through the glass floor in the rotating lower floor (there are only three pairs of feet because our oldest is not a fan of heights). It was a pretty cool experience.

After a brief stop in the gift shop, we headed to the Chihuly Gardens and Glass. It is the 4th place we have seen Chihuly’s work on display, so we knew that we are going to love it. And we did! I think my favorite is the ceiling sculpture in the glass house. We also loved the large blue sculpture that looks like water and the boats. Here are some favorite shots.

After another gift shop visit, we were on our way to dinner. Our tour guide on our first day had recommended a sushi place, so we headed to Umi Sake House for the best happy hour in Seattle. We really did enjoy it immensely – we also had some dumplings and tempura shrimp and veggies, but we were really hungry…

After that, we just did some walking back to our hotel. I am going to leave you with a few photos from around Seattle – it really has some beautiful views. Here is the view of the city from the ferry pier, the ferry arriving with our daughter’s friend, Pike Place Market, Daily Dozen Donuts (so yummy!!), Chief Seattle (not really his name, but as close as the early settlers could get), and the sunset from the ferry pier.

I have 5 more Seattle adventures to write about here, so stay tuned! Have you ever been to Seattle Center? Which museums/sites did you visit? Let me know in the comments. πŸ™‚

June 2022 Adventure Date – Schnormeier Gardens Tour

Last June, I kept seeing posts from friends about visiting Schnormeier Gardens. When I tracked down their website to try to buy tickets, though, I found that they are only open for weekends (and Thursdays) in the month of June. So, I found their Facebook page and signed up for notifications so that I could be alerted when their tickets went on sale. Very early in April this year, I was able to snag a ticket for Keith and I to visit this month – tickets are sold by carload, so it really was just one ticket for the both of us.

We went into the tour not really knowing anything about it except that all of our friends that had gone had really liked it. We found it to be a beautiful and relaxing setting and may have spent more time if it had not been so very hot. The gardens have a definite Asian influence, which we really liked a lot. There was plenty of shade and a bit of a breeze, which helped with the heat. We entered next to the waterfall garden, one of my personal favorites, and continued around the property in a clockwise fashion to see all of the garden areas. Here are some of my favorite photos from the day.

While I don’t know that we will visit again, it was a really nice stroll with lovely scenery. I might have paused a bit in the shady hosta garden or sat beneath a tree by the waterfall, but it really was miserably hot. I give it a 4/5 stars and definitely recommend, especially if you are an avid gardener. We did find that we prefer a little more natural settings that don’t feel quite so man-made if we are going to be hiking through nature, or a little more of a public space if we are going on a tour. Keith said it was like touring someone’s private stuff – a little uncomfortable – and I think I agree.

Have you every visited Schnormeier Gardens? What did you think? What was your favorite garden? Let us know in the comments. πŸ™‚

May 2022 Adventure Date – Wicked at Ohio Theatre

We have had a rough month in our house in a lot of ways. Our youngest daughter is involved in theatre at her high school, and we are heavily involved in volunteering for the theatre program. The musical this year had some hiccups that resulted in 2 weekends of shows 2 weeks apart. In between, we had COVID in our household (I am still fighting a cough and fatigue). Add in all the regular end of school year celebrations and events and you can see how we didn’t get a lot of time for dates. On top of that, both dates that I had scheduled for this month got postponed by the event coordinators. So, we are making lemonade and counting our Wicked experience as our adventure. We have been to the Ohio Theatre for many shows the past few years – we’ve had season tickets since the 2018-2019 season that included Hamilton. We also saw a couple of shows and a few symphony concerts in this beautiful space. These tickets were different, however, as we were able to get seats in the second row! We were one row away from the pit and it was a totally different experience.

We are used to being in the balcony and not being able to see any details. From the second row, we could see the stage details so much better – it was amazing. I loved being close to the special effects, makeup, and costumes. However, we were in front of the speakers and next to the pit, so there were times when we couldn’t clearly hear the actors on stage. And we did see a lot of spit sitting that close.

Overall, I am really glad we had this experience, but we will be trying to move our season tickets to the Loge, not the Orchestra section. We prefer to be a little above the action and have a clear view of the whole stage. I would definitely recommend trying it at least once to anyone, though. Especially for anyone interested in theatre tech of any kind.

Have you ever been to a show in the Ohio Theatre? Have you ever seen Wicked? Let me know in the comments what you thought of either one.

April 2022 Adventure Date – Hanami (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

This is the inaugural year for the Columbus Cherry Blossom Festival, but the history of the cherry blossoms in Franklin Park dates back 10 years to a the gift from Japan – 20 cherry trees to celebrate the Bicentennial of Columbus. It echoed the 1912 gift from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo, Japan to our nation’s capital. Over the last 10 years, the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department (CRPD) and the International Voluntary Organizations (IVO) have worked to obtain 82 additional trees to bring to Franklin Park.

When I heard there was going to be Hanami, I was a little bummed that we had other plans during the actual festivity times last weekend and this coming Sunday. We LOVE cherry blossoms, and they are actually something we got to experience a little bit the first time we went to Japan together. I was completely thrilled when we were able to sneak over at lunchtime today. The weather was less than ideal, so the color is not as pretty as it would be against a blue sky, but it was still really beautiful. I would say, as long as the rain and wind don’t take them, the blossoms will actually peak sometime in the next week, so you still have time to check them out. We started by walking around the lower pond, but I do have to warn you that there was a bit of a stench at one end of that pond. It cleared up as we walked around towards the upper ponds, though, and you could smell blossoms in the air. Here are a few of the photos I took.

I also dug out a couple of photos from our trip to Japan in 2001 to show the beautiful cherry tree at the temple on our friends’ wedding day. It was such a gorgeous and joyous day!

Of course, as any good mid-day date does, our time end at Starbucks for a very Japanese combo of a pink drink and a matcha latte. Definitely highly recommended to enhance your hanami pleasure. πŸ™‚

Someday we will make it to Washington DC or even back to Japan for hanami, but this year we are content with this experience. Have you ever been anywhere for cherry blossom viewing? Let us know in the comments!

March 2022 Family Game Night – Deadbolt Mystery Society Box

One of my favorite things, something that actually helped me stay slightly sane during quarantine, is subscription boxes. Getting surprises in the mail is the best! So, I had a wish list on Crate Joy (a subscription box website) for Christmas 2020, and we were very lucky to be gifted a subscription to The Deadbolt Mystery Society. Keith and I have been doing the boxes for a little over a year at this point, and we really enjoy them. We even have a system of solving them so that we can pass the box on to someone else – minus the collectible sticker that comes in each one. (I LOVE stickers – that is my other subscription box obsession….)

This month, we did not get a family game night. It felt like we were just really busy, but I really don’t recall what we were doing… Anyway, Keith and I did do the Blackout box from Deadbolt Mystery Society. I am not going to give away any of the clues or anything, but I will show you a little about the boxes. We always use a separate notebook or my reusable Rocketbook Notecards to keep all of our notes and ideas in one place. This is what we see when we first open the box:

The Start Here page has all sorts of helpful information, including a link to make sure that you have everything you are supposed to have in your box. We have never been missing anything, but you never know. When we spread everything out, it usually looks like this:

There is always a Beginning Brief, at least 1 large envelope to be opened at a specified time in the mystery, and then there are usually suspect cards of some sort. The rest varies wildly. We look through everything to try to figure out what we should be doing. There are always QR codes, so we like to use an iPad because we are older and so are our eyes. You could also use a phone or anything else that you can use to read QR codes. Sometimes there are audio clues, there was a virtual room once, and there are often pictures and cyphers when you scan QR codes. We have been pretty happy with the different types of clues – there is truly something new in each box. There are also hints available, but I think we have only used that one time.

Overall, we would definitely recommend The Deadbolt Mystery Society. We would not recommend all boxes for all ages – some can be pretty dark, so be aware of that if you are wanting to do these with kids. Have you ever done any mystery boxes? Do you have any that you recommend? Let us know in the comments!

March 2022 Adventure Date – German Village Mystery Picnic

Last weekend we had a chance to do a double date with some friends of ours. We had been talking about doing a Mystery Picnic since last summer, so we were really excited that it finally worked out. We booked the experience through a company called AmazingCo and we chose the German Village option. We were hopeful that booking the end of March would be warm – you know, March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb and all? Well, it ended up being super chilly. Like in the 20s. But, we persevered and took advantage of the warm businesses we got to patronize.

To start the adventure, we were emailed a link to the clues the night before our adventure. We separately solved the first clue and compared notes to find out where we would be meeting the following morning. I am not going to ruin any surprises because we do recommend this experience to others. I can tell you that we were happy to be given hot drinks at our first stop.

When you book, they tell you to bring plates, cups, a cooler bag, and a knife with you. We had all of that, but because of the weather, we really only needed the bags. We were allowed to “picnic” inside our last stop, so that worked out really nicely for us. Here is a shot of our “picnic” set up.

We had clues that led to 4 different destinations in German Village to pick up food. Everything was pre-arranged and all we had to do was tell the people at the businesses that we were doing a mystery picnic with AmazingCo and they had our orders ready pretty quickly. We would then solve our next clue and we were off. If the weather had been warmer, I am sure we would have explored some more. We did find a few interesting things along the way, though, so I will include those photos below.

Overall, it was a great experience. We enjoyed a variety of foods, tried some new places, and got to spend time with our friends. I would give this 4.5 out of 5 stars – there was a little confusion at the last stop about where we would be able to eat, but once that was solved, we were very well taken care of. I think this is because of a little miscommunication on the part of AmazingCo, but it was very minor.

Have you ever done a food adventure? This is our second – you can read about our first here. So far, our food adventures have been double dates, and we have very much enjoyed that. We are definitely on the look out for the next food adventure – tell us your ideas below! πŸ™‚