Our bank accounts decided that we weren't going to have a sunny vacation this spring, so we decided to do the next best thing and find fun without sun close to home. The plan was to make this a kid-friendly trip without sacrificing food quality (too much), being jailed to a hotel room, or spending copious amounts of time in stores.
Our mantra for the trip was:
"One person's mood does not affect the mood of the others."
Day #1 - Vancouver to Seattle
We got off to a somewhat reasonable start and except for a lengthy and poorly planned gas and Starbucks detour, made it to the border (Sumas) in good time. The kids and I took out eight movies from the library for the car rides, and they were super content to dig right in to an early morning one. Note: I must admit, I originally thought Rob's car choice was so over the top, but I now absolutely love the "luxury features" including the dvd player. It makes road trips oh.so.easy.
First stop: our very favorite taco truck, and no, I have no idea where it is except it's outside of Bellingham somewhere on Meridian.
We took down about 15 of those babies. They are so good, and the kids always love kicking around the fields around the truck. The truck also sells the spicy Mexican candies we love. Mmmmmmm....
With bellies full we headed back on the highway without stopping until the dreaded Tulalip Outlet Mall. As much as the kids wanted to complain, they ended up loving the hour there as they picked out crazy sweatshirts, bathing suits and new undies. Rob and I were a little disappointed at the selection at the Restoration Hardware store (our purpose for the stop) but pleased with not spending any money.
As we rolled into Seattle we decided that stopping for an early dinner might be the best thing and hit a pizza joint we had always wondered about. After circling the block for parking (it was 5) we were starting to wonder what was going on, but soon realized that we had stumbled upon a kid-friendly gem. Tutta Bella was absolutely buzzing with families. Its open kitchen was great entertainment for the kids, the waiters were incredibly patient, and best of all, the happy hour menu was amazing. Everything was $5 or less. We ordered three pizzas (they're small) a salad and a salumi platter. Rob had beer and I had wine (also on the happy hour menu.) Everybody ate really well and had a great time. I would definitely do it again.
We made it into our Seattle Sheraton hotel with plenty of time to enjoy the pool and hot tub and everybody hit the hay for the night.
The day was bright when we woke, but without a lot of sun in the forecast. Nonetheless we all agreed it was a perfect day to hit the zoo. But first, we were off to Capitol Hill to try a brunch spot that came highly recommended. The wait was a bit daunting at first, but we went outside to play some Crazy Cubes and soon enough we were tucked into a comfy corner table with a view. And man was I glad we waited! The Skillet Diner has an eclectic menu to be sure, but everybody found something they loved. Rob chose the chilaquiles to stay on his Mexican theme. Mia had a grilled peanut butter and jam sandwich with fries. Lucas ordered a cinnamon role that was the size of his head, no joke. I had the L'il Rob; a delectable sandwich of egg and bacon between flapjacks, drizzled with balsamic syrup with a side salad. Great meal. (My favorite of the whole weekend actually.)
If you've never been to the Woodland Zoo and you've got kids, you should go. This was our third or fourth trip, and it didn't disappoint. The highlights of this visit were twofold. The first was feeding the penguins. For an extra price and a bit of a wait, the kids got to go with a staff member and drop wee fishies to the hungry penguins. Last time we had fed the giraffes and we still talk about it, so we knew that feeding the penguins would be good.
There were also four new lion cubs to be viewed, but we caught the end of it and the kids were rather done by then.
Our dinner choice left a little to be desired, but the intention was good. We had been to the happy hour at Rockbottom before and really enjoyed the tasting beers and sliders. So we thought we were being clever doing the same thing; until we realized that the tasting menu was only on weekdays. Nonetheless, a good kids menu, great beer and delicious blue-cheese topped burgers.
Day #3 and 4
This was the day the kids were waiting for, so the day began with a lot of excitement. But we weren't to be bullied into diverging from our plans, so we walked down to Pike Place Market to watch some flying fish, eat some crab bennys, check out the magic shop, purchase stuffed snakes and drool over bouquets of gorgeous flowers. All good, but no photos!
And then, it was back into the car and off we went to find Great Wolf Lodge; the kids' treat for family day.
This turned into the day of the side trip.
The first, was to surprise Lucas with a trip over the Sturdy Gertie, which he had been telling us all about. Seriously, the kid's an encyclopedia. He had been studying structures and this bridge was in the unit. He sounded like Wikipedia talking about it, so we just had to have a drive over. (And pay the toll - that was a surprise too!)
Side trip number two saw us driving down to Point Defiance Park to surprise the kids with go-cart driving. I had my camera with me, but took no photos because my hands were gripping the steering wheel so tightly, and I was laughing so, so hard. I had seriously sore teeth from the freezing cold air hitting my gigantic gaping, snorting mouth, but it was worth it. Rob and Lucas drove together. (Rob was way too big for the car!) And Mia went back and forth between screaming an laughing in mine. So fun.
After those little diversions, we hunkered down to hit the water park.
So, if you've never been, you can take my words with a grain of salt. I'm sure that everyone's experience at this kid-crazy place is slightly different. We had riddled our friends who had been with questions and gotten a few tips on how best to navigate the mayhem but still felt rather unprepared.
When I opened the doors to check in, the noise hit me like a wave of nausea; sudden and surprising, but manageable if I set my mind to it. It was as though every possible noise from every emotion of a child's spectrum of possibilities was resonating through the timber structure. Nonetheless, I set my jaw and joined the long line-up to check in.
Check-in, except for the fact that I needed an ear-horn to hear the directions, went smoothly.
We piled our stuff onto the airport style luggage trolleys and off we went to find our room. (By the way, I would bitterly complain if our room were anywhere near the elevators at this place. There were THRONGS of children running willy-nilly through the halls, but especially near where the Magiquest stations are set up.
Ok, I have just realized that this is going to get pretty rambly at the rate I'm going, so here's the low down:
The Drive: Really not bad if you've got it broken up a bit and have something for the kids to be entertained with in the car
The Food: Better than we were expecting, and fair prices, but still standard kid-food. The pizza places looked awful so we ate one meal in the restaurant. Honestly, the kids were satisfied (Lucas said the fried rice was the best ever?!) and we managed. Taking lots of healthy snacks for the room kept us well-nourished and we made do with everything else. I think if it were a longer trip we would have had to do some driving to get decent food.
On site Starbucks: One hour wait ... just saying...
The "Extras" : There were a lot of things for the kids to want to spend money on despite the "all-inclusiveness" of the water park. The Magicquest looked really cool , but when we were there the line-ups for each station were so long that you could just stand behind and watch the other kids wave their wands and get the clue. Even though Lucas and Mia were keen to try, they saw the reasoning behind it when we offered them each a card for the arcade instead. Haha. The arcade, as much as I detest the concept (almost more than the germs?) was a blast. Both kids found plenty of things to play and earned quite a few tickets. Lucas hit it big on one game and won a thousand tickets, much to Mia's distress. Luckily you can load the points onto your game card and not carry the tickets around! The kids both learned a lesson when they went to buy things with their points and realized their money would have gone further in the gift shop. (Which, by the way, is HUGE and unavoidable.)
The sleep: We slept some.
The water park: Worth the money. Lots to do, very manageable line-ups considering how packed the rest of the lodge seemed, well staffed, clean and most importantly; fun. I would have enjoyed slightly warmer water, but nobody else in our crew seemed to care.
The verdict: It was for the kids, and the kids loved it. All of it. The noise, the food, the entertainment and the time together. We will do it again for sure.
That's all for now. Seattle with the kids was a blast. Do it. :)