Monday, February 26, 2007

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Visit Seattle's Freemont Troll

The Freemont Troll is debatably the best example in the sculpure world of a troll seizing a Volkswagon Bug. The piece was commissioned by The Freemont Arts Council in 1989, and built in 1990. The Troll was sculpted by four local artists: Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter and Ross Whitehead. He is interactive—visitors are encouraged to clamber on him or try to poke out his one good eye (a hubcap). The Troll is 18 feet (5.5 m) high, weighs two tons (1814 kg), and is made of steel rebar, wire and ferroconcrete. If you're up for visiting some neighborhoods outside of the immediate downtown Seattle area, it's a truly unique photo op. The Freemont neighborhood is just north of downtown and has great restaurants, bars, and shopping options as well. It's about an hour from our Seattle vacation rentals. Check it out!

Where is that postcard view of Seattle?

The view that "Frasier," countless movies, and national news anchors use to highlight Seattle is found at Kerry Park. This small park has the best urban skyline view of any city I've ever seen. Just take a look at the positive reviews of Kerry Park from Yelp to see why. As many Yelpers commented, it's one of the best make-out spots in the Northwest. Even though it's only a few minutes from downtown, it's a bit tough to find. Here's a Mapquest link from Pike Place Market to Kerry Park to help you find it. The park can be crowded at times during the Summer, but usually not overwhelmingly so. It's definitely worth the trek. Bring a date, picnic lunch, and your camera. If you have a spotting scope, look SW past Blake Island and you'll catch a glimpse of The Harper House vacation home.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Salmon Fishing Season

Salmon fishing has arrived! Though we have four runs of salmon each year (Spring Chinook, Summer Chinook/King, Coho, and Chum), we are only allowed to fish the Chum this close to the hatchery. If you like fishing, it's a lot of fun. If you're staying at The Salish or Minter house, you have the added bonus of being able to fish right from the deck. Though the Chum aren't the most desirable of the local varieties, it's still a good time. And as a recent guest from Texas said, "The only salmon we get come in a can, so they'll do just fine." If you'd like to take part in the action, be sure to visit before the last day of the season, December 31st. Check out the video I shot this August of some of the Summer Kings heading upstream. They are amazing fish!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hello Comcast Digital Cable!

Our two properties in Gig Harbor have been outside of Comcast Cable TV service until now. I am proud to announce that we have happily thrown away the dish and are now providing Comcast On-Demand Digital Cable Service in High Definition. What does this mean to you? It means that you can watch all of your favorite shows while on vacation at our properties. For those who haven't used on-demand before, it's a great way to catch up on your favorite shows. Feel like watching 24 consecutive hours of "24"? Not a problem. I got really excited about the new service so I added two premium movie channels as well (HBO and Showtime). I have what Comcast calls their "Digital Gold" package. Check out our local channel list to see if we carry your favorite program. We're very happy that we can finally include this service for our guests. It'll be a great option for rainy days this Winter.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

15 Years and 30 Pounds Ago

I was a tour guide for Holland America/Westours in my early 20's. For three seasons I drove a big bus through much of South Central Alaska with a microphone in front of my face (let's not even get started with the uniform and highwater pants). It was an amazing experience that I wouldn't trade for the world. In fact, the experience has helped me quite a bit. Just last Summer, I planned a two week vacation through Alaska that my wife hailed as "the vacation of a lifetime." I also get a lot of feedback from guests saying that my recommendations really helped their travel experience. I'm happy to assist in any way that I can. In fact, I don't know how anyone is able to plan a vacation without first hand knowledge of their destination in the first place. It's tough. So I'd like to cast out an open invitation for any travel questions related to the great Pacific Northwest. I've tried to address as many questions as possible in my blog posts. However, there are always more topics to cover. I look forward to receiving your questions, comments, and suggestions. If you prefer email to adding a public comment please send your comments to

The Space Needle Revisited

Earlier this year I wrote a post about Seattle's signature elevator, The Space Needle. Though it was far from scathing, it was not exactly a glowing review. A few weeks ago I went back to The Space Needle for the first time in 10 years with my wife and our friends Mike and Cindy from D.C. They had never been to Seattle before, so it didn't take a mindreader to know that we were getting to the top of that thing. Well, we did. And you know what,... it was awesome! So with a fresh perspective, here is my revised overview of The Space Needle experience.

1) It's still really expensive! Fresh perspective is great, but it doesn't put money in your pocket. The tickets, photos, souveniers, and food really add up. For a family of six this is easily a $100+ outing. Adult tickets are $14 (14 and up) and $7 for children. Granted, you don't have to buy the food, photos, or souveniers... but you're on vacation, so you probably will. Like most tourist areas, they have an extensive (and I do mean extensive) gift shop, food selection, and photo options. They do this all very well I might add. It's top notch tourist stuff. Just be ready for the cost.

2) Pick a clear day. While we were there it was absolutely beautiful. We saw the Seattle skyline, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, The San Juan Islands, The Harper House, and pretty much everything within 200 miles. It was amazing! They also have spotting scopes (which were actually free) and placcards about every 30 feet to show and explain all that you see. It was pretty darn cool. I just don't see how an overcast or rainy day would do it justice, though.

3) Start early. There's a lot to do in that general area. Unfortunately, we got there too late to catch the other attractions before they closed. Some of the good ones are The Pacific Science Center and The Experience Music Project.

I hope that helps prepare you a bit for our world famous elevator.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Winter Weather in Seattle

There are many misconceptions regarding the weather in Seattle. The most common questions regarding visiting our Seattle vacation rentals are actually about the rainfall rather that the houses themselves. Seattle actually gets less rain than most US cities and much of Western Washington. In fact, the weather from June through September (and even into most of October) is just about the best weather in the country as far as I'm concerned. But this post is about the weather in the Winter now isn't it? Well, let's not beat around the bush, it's pretty crappy. But let me explain. There's crappy and then there is truly horrible. Since most of the country is experiencing really painful Winter weather, kinda crappy really isn't half bad. What can you expect on your trip? Be ready for darkness, drizzle, rain, overcast skies, and temperatures in the 40's and 50's (occassionaly dipping below freezing). Snow is rare, but we typically get a day or two of the white stuff that almost always melts the same day. I hope this helps you decide what type of clothing to pack for your trip. Just make sure you bring a waterproof jacket and a good pair of waterproof boots. Heavy flannel shirts weren't a fashion choice for 90's era Grunge bands. Them rockers were cold!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Seattle Beaches

I was asked the other day about our beaches in Seattle. Since our Washington vacation homes (and many others) are listed as waterfront/beachfront, I thought it would be a good idea to describe them as the definition of "beach" seems to vary from place to place. As one for accurate and descriptive titles, I'm calling this post "Rocks, gravel, mud, and a little bit of sand." Boy, kinda makes you want to grab the ol' sun screen and hit the beach, huh? Let me break down our Seattle waterfront situation for you...

Tides/waves. We have about an 8-20 foot tidal variation in the Puget Sound (depending on the time of year and lunar cycle) with very limited wave action. Thus, sand gets formed at a very slow rate and much surface area is exposed during low tide exposing (your guessed it) rocks, gravel, mud, and sea critters.

Rocks/Gravel/Mud. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sure, burrying each other in rocks, gravel, and mud isn't as much fun as using sand, but there are positives. It's fun to check out all of the marine life at low tide in the rocky or muddy pools. It also has a rustic beauty that is pretty unique to the Pacific Northwest.

Water Temperature. A balmy 56 degrees in August. Yep, 56 degrees.

Sandy Beaches. Yes, there are a few sandy beaches in the Seattle area. They occur in areas where the land mass has the perfect storm of location, currents, and silt/sand sources. Two of the most popular beaches in Seattle are Alki Beach and Golden Gardens Park (pictured above). Both of these beaches are amazing! Alki Beach (pictured right) is basically Venice Beach North. It's very popular with the locals for beach volleyball, rollerblading, sunbathing, and pretty much any other beach activity. It's a big party in the Summer, with beach fires, music, and bustling cafes, restaurants, and pubs. Golden Gardens Park is more low key, but a tad more picturesque. If you are looking for more of a romantic beach getaway, this is a great choice. The sun sets directly behind the Olympic Mountains. It's an absolutely beautiful way to end the day.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Gig Harbor Rocks!

There are only a few places that actually live up to the hype and Gig Harbor is one of them. This picturesque community is only five miles from The Minter House/Salish House and a twenty minute drive from The Harper House. It's a great little community with an absolutely amazing view of Mt. Rainier. It also has a number of great restaurants, shops and pubs. It's really a great place to visit. I highly recommend it. The Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce has a great collection of travel information for you. The views are unbelievable! Fine dining, shopping, boat and kayak rentals, and many other activities abound in the small downtown Gig Harbor area.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Swimming in the Puget Sound

I get a lot of questions regarding swimming in Seattle. People just can't wait to jump into the Puget Sound to get cooled off. While I find it quite refreshing, most people find the 56 degree water a bit on the chilly side. That's right, folks, I said 56 degrees. The average water temperature in August is a bone chilling 56 degrees. Mind you, that's about 10 degrees warmer than the Winter temps, but still a bit on the frigid side. So, what's a speedo-wearin' Euro to do? Not to worry, Frenchy. Just head to one of the many lakes in the area. There is no shortage of lakefront beaches with swimming areas. I'll post a review of some of my favorites in a future post. There are so many, though, that I just don't feel like tackling it tonight.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Seattle Shopping Options

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not much for shopping. However, I'll happily point you in the right direction. Fortunately, downtown Seattle is a pretty small downtown area, so it's pretty easy to take it all in. Here's a simple, down-n-dirty guide.

Pike Place Market
The Good
-Great market. Many, many, choices. Unique items and hand made goods.
-Location. It's right in the heart of downtown Seattle.
-It's fun. Flying fish, the pig, street performers, great food, unique offerings, art. It's tourism done really well. It's not just for tourists, either. You'll see many locals as well.
The Bad
-Crowds. Insanely crowded in the Summer. Don't even attempt to drive through the market.
-Cost. Not that it's expensive. It's just that many people think that they are going to get a great deal here. Like I said, I don't think it's expensive, just don't expect huge bargains.

Pacific Place Mall
The Good
-Location. It's right downtown and walking distance to most hotels and restaurants.
-Quality. It's a really nice mall. Many shopping, dining, and theatre options.
-Shopping abounds. Most of the shopping options downtown are either in the mall or within a few blocks of it.
The Bad
-It's a mall. Do you really want to go to a mall on your vacation? It has the same stuff as your hometown mall.
-No Sports Bar. It would be sweet if it had one.

Capital Hill
The Good
-Location. The shopping is on Broadway Avenue. Very close to downtown. It's either a long walk or very short drive.
-Options. Many unique shopping choices. It has an alternative, hip vibe to it. Many indie record stores, book stores, and hip alterna clothing shops and jewelry stores.
-Coffee Shops. Absolutely the best coffee shops in Seattle.
-Food/Drink. Great dining choices. Really cool restaurants and bars.
The Bad
Nothing really comes to mind. I'm a big fan of Capital Hill.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Big Ed's take on The Space Needle

The way I see it, you are going to the Space Needle for one of three reasons:

A)You've never been to the top of it.
B)You have screaming kids that want to go to there.
C)You're a sucker for old World Fair Structures.

It's our Mt. Rushmore. Our Arch. Our Wharf. That said, here's the down-low.

The Good:
-It has an absolutely insane view. Yes, it's that good.
-It's a landmark and does the "tourist" thing really well.
-It does actually spin around.

The Bad:
-Cost. Bigfoot does not like paying $14 to ride an elevator. They have created many ticket options to give you choices, like $17 for an all day pass. But it's Rushmore. Once is plenty. They have a "deal" that offers a free elevator pass if your order a meal at the restaurant on top. Problem is... the food is approximately $17 more expensive than what you could get at any number of fine dining establishments in Seattle. The entrees range from $20-$35 while brunch is $42.50. I did the brunch thing about ten years ago and remembering it being pretty darn good. I hear the most positive comments about the brunch as well. It's also pretty popular so you may want to purchase your tickets in advance. If you feel like having a meal and take in the best view in the city, their restaurant is quite nice and I think you'll probably enjoy yourself. It's just a bit on the expensive side.

Summary: It really is a sweet view and a big part of Seattle history. If you are going to go just be ready for the cost. Take a deep breath, reach for your wallet and accept the fact that it's gonna cost you. Kids tickets (age 7-14) are only $7, so that helps out a bit for you families out there. You can reach the Space Needle by car or from the other end of the Monorail at Westlake Center.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Big Ed's guide to the Olympic Penninsula

"Ah, Olympic National Park." It is one of the last untouched places in the United States. If you are into natural beauty, pristine forests, and backcountry hiking, you really should check it out. However, it's also HUGE. Let me give break it down for you.

1) The least driving/most bang for the buck tour:
This is a good one if you have kids or want an easy day of it. Use this guide to head to Port Angeles and then head to the main enterance of the park. Hurricane Ridge is well marked and easy to find. You'll have great views and hiking options. Ask them how to get to the nearby hotsprings while you're there. It is about a 90 minute drive from Bremerton/Port Orchard to the Northern entrance to the park (a little over two hours from Seattle-Take the Bainbridge Island Ferry). Use the park service web site for directions and detailed advice. It's a great site.

2) You have some time and want to see some serious rainforest moss:
Most of the precipitation (around 140 inches/year) comes down on the west
side of the park. It's a pretty healthy drive from the Seattle area (about 3-4 hours) as you have to drive completely around the park to get there. However, it's one magical place to experience. I'd recommend heading for Lake Quinalt or The Hoh Rain Forest. Both are amazing! If you'd like to stay overnight The Lake Quinalt Lodge is very nice. There are also many camping options in the area. Most of the hikes have great markers and information about the trees and wildlife. If you have the time, it's great. My wife and I camped there two years ago and it was one of the highlights of our two week trek. It's pretty secluded out there. Bring a cooler with all your favorites. Not a lot of dining options out here.

I've been scanning for the best sites for summarizing Olympic National Park and I think Winkipedia does it best. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

How to get to Victoria, British Columbia

"Ahhhhhhhhhh, Victoria, Victoria, Victoria!" Love ya, baby!
Victoria is an amazing city. Romantic, beautiful, charming, and quaint. It's worth the trip. The big attraction is Butchart Gardens, but there is much more to experience. The City of Victoria's web site does a pretty good job of providing the information that you'll need for your trip. Let me break down your travel options.

1) The Victoria Clipper. This high speed hydrofoil will take you from downtown Seattle to Victoria in about 2 hour and 45 minutes. It costs just over $100/person for a round trip ticket. It will drop you off right downtown in the harbor. From there, it's easy to get a bus to Butchart Gardens or wherever you need to go. The downtown area is small and very walkable. Coffee shops, restaurants and shopping options abound. I'd really recommend staying overnight if you can. The round trip is nearly six hours out of your day.

2) Sea Plane. No way around it, this is the most fun way to get there.
Kenmore Air flies out of Lake Union (in Seattle). I haven't flown into Victoria with them, but I took a flight to Orcas Island once and it was awesome! It looks like the flight time is just under an hour. Their prices vary quite a bit depending on season and availability. I saw a one-way price of $80, but have no idea if that's realistic in the summer. However, I will guarentee amazing views of the San Juan Islands, The Olympic Mountains, Mt. Baker and possibly a pod of Orcas. This is a sweet way to make the trek!

3) Ferry Crossing at Port Angeles. This is a nice option as well. It's also quite a bit less expensive. The Victoria Express foot ferry makes the crossing in just under 3 hours for $12.50 one-way. If you want to take your car, The MV Coho is your ride. They charge $40 each way for a five hour crossing. In my opinion, it's not really worth it to bring your car unless you are planning on traveling outside of the Victoria area. I absolutely recommend this if you have time. Vancouver Island is absolutely amazing. To all ferry travelers... Show up/call early!!! These tickets sell out. It's absolutely worth is to make a reservation in advance.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Fishing in the Seattle Area

Here's a pic of two King Salmon swimming upstream right in front of The Minter House. There are several seasons for salmon and other varieties of fish in the area. The seasons change every year, but the best way to find out is to contact a local guide or check out the department of fish and game or the Visitors and Conventions Bureau to see what's available this year. Good luck!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Seattle Public Library

Not that I'm partial to library visits while on vacation, but this one is an exception. In 1998, Seattle passed the largest library bond measure in U.S. history and built one funky library. It was built by Dutch architect Rem Koolhas and was recently awarded architecture's highest award, The Pritzker Prize. It's also rapidly becoming one of Seattle's most popular tourist attractions. If you dig books and blue funky pyramid spire-type libraries, you might want to check it out. Click on the title above for more details from their web site.

Seattle Mariners Games

Spring training is nearly upon us. If you're traveling to Seattle during baseball season you really have to check out a game or two. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your gameday experience.

1-Try using mass trasit. Parking/traffic is a nightmare on gameday. Plus, it's expensive. Many lots charge $20-$30 to park for the game. Shuttles, buses, taxis, and ferries can get you very close to the ballpark.

2-If you're going to drive allow a lot of time. You will have traffic to/from the game. I recommend having some food and drink around Safeco Field after the game and wait for the traffic to break.

3-Splurge on good seats. Relative to other professional sports, baseball tickets are relatively affordable. Buy your tickets early and sit behind the dugout (or wherever your favorite sections may be). There are a ton of great seats at Safeco. I'm pretty happy with anything on the first level.

4-Enjoy the area before or after the game. SODO (South of Downtown) and Pioneer Square have many fine pubs and restaurants. Pyramid Brewery is right across the street if you are looking for a place close. It's pretty busy on game day, but if you get there early you should be alright. Most of the restaurants and pubs are located in Pioneer Square a few blocks North.

5-Save some $$$ and pack your own food. If you have a pack of kids and are doing the math of 4 kids x ($7.99 nachos + $2.99 drink + 4.99 hotdog) have no worries. Safeco field has a very liberal food admission policy for families. Pack your own food and save some dough.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How much does it really rain in Seattle?

Personally, I like the rain. But some folk don't care much for it. As you can see, Seattle doesn't really get much rain compared to other cities. However, it can be dark and damp for weeks at a time in the Winter. Here are some tips to staying dry.

1-Travel May-September. It's especially dry in July and August, but most of the summer is actually very pleasant and dry. Seattle is really one of the more beautiful places on the planet in the summer. Don't be afraid of the periodic rain shower.
2-Pack a variety of clothes. You could have a 40 degree temperature variation the week you're here. Dress appropriately and plan ahead.
3-November-March is pretty darn wet. That's just the way it is. It doesn't really snow or get that cold, but it's wet alright.

Do I need a rental car for my trip to Seattle?

That depends. If you are staying downtown and have no plans of traveling outside the city then I would say no, you don't need to rent a car. There are plenty of transportation options at Sea/Tac Airport as well as downtown. Once downtown, you can walk or take a taxi to most areas of interest. However, if you are planning on making any short trips (which I highly recommend), you really do need a car. Many great destinations are just a short drive from the city. I've had my best experiences renting from Enterprise and Budget at the airport location (if you are looking for a recommendation). All car rental desks are next to baggage claim and the rental car shuttles are across the skyway next to the parking area.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Seattle's Underground Tour

The Underground tour really surprised me. I was not expecting to like it at all. However, it proved to be a very entertaining way to spend an hour or so learning about Seattle's history while walking under the city streets. And at $11/person it's pretty cost effective as well. It's located in Pioneer Square, which is the historic part of downtown. While you are in the area I also recommend checking out Elliot Bay Bookstore, the best bookstore in Seattle, located at 101 S. Main Street and Mae Phim's Thai food (corner of 1st & Columbia), the best $5 lunch ever.

Mount St. Helen's (A Visitor's Guide)

The Mt. St. Helen's eruption was a big part of our local history. I actually heard it from the other side of the state. This is really an amazing place to visit. I hear that many of our guests have taken the trek to see the volcano. Here's a brief guide to getting the most out of your visit from those that have gone before you. Also, please click on this link for complete information from the USDA Forest Service. They have a wealth of information on their web site! That said, here are my tips for a trip to the volcano.

1-Allow a lot of time! It's an all day affair. I'm not kidding. It might look like a short trip on the map, but it's absolutely an all day activity. It takes about two hours to get to the first museum from Seattle/Tacoma. From the first museum (which is really cool, by the way) it's still another 90 minutes of mountain roads to reach The Johnson Observatory near the mountain (which also has a fine museum. It's a long winding road, folks. Be prepared. Go really early if you want to get some hiking or take photos. It really worth it, but I can't stress enough how tired you'll be at the end of the day.

2-Check the weather. Overcast conditions are common in this area. Make sure the visibility is good before you go. Check the realtime Mt. Saint Helen's Volcano cam to see weather conditions and visibility. I went once on a cloudy day and couldn't see a dang thing. That's a whole lotta driving for not getting a peek.

3-Bring your hiking shoes. There are many great day hikes in the area. The USDA Forest Service web site has them mapped out. They also list distances and times (driving) between the points of interest. Their site really is a wealth of information. If you are going to see the volcano, read their site thoroughly.

4-Pack plenty of food and water. Though a few travel services do exist in the area, they are few and far between. Pack a full cooler of goodies to make sure you don't go hungry. Seriously, there is nothing here to eat. It's an active volcano with zero 7-11's. If you go hiking, bring emergency food/water/safety equipment. It's a very remote area with little help available if something goes wrong. I don't mean to alarm you, but please prepare accordingly if you are planning a long hike.

5-Bring plenty of layers. You'll be going to a pretty high elevation in the pass and then dropping thousands of feet in elevation in the valleys . It could drop 40 degrees over the course of a few miles. Dress appropriately and be prepared for a wide variety of conditions.

6-Bug Spray. Bring it. Nuff said.

7-Cameras. If you have a panoramic camera/lens, bring it with your other gear. There are amazing photographic opportunities here.

That said,... have a great time! It's really an amazing landscape to witness first hand. With the right time allotment and preparation, this is a great day trip.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Seattle Area Traffic Guide

I hate to be the bearer of bad news to excited travelers to the Seattle area. But, I think this just might help stop some road rage and keep the peace on our roadways. Here's my 7 step program to survive the Seattle streets:

1- Chill. It takes about five years of local status to learn how to navigate these clogged on-ramps and unnamed city streets. Everything is crooked here and bends around/over a bridge, river, stadium, or volcano and nothing is really marked all that well. Take the easy route, but allow for extra time to get there. This is especially true in the Summer.

2- Check the traffic reports. They're pretty good here. If they say the bridge traffic is bad, it's really bad. Pull over and get some lunch. I've been stuck on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge for several hours more than a few times.

3-Check the game day calendar. The Seattle Mariners, Seahawks and Supersonics all create major gridlock downtown. I don't even attempt to drive on gameday. Look out for UW Husky football games, too. They can be pretty bad as well.

4-Take public transportation if you can. The ferry system is great and there are many cab companies servicing the area. You really don't need a car if you are just heading downtown. The core of Seattle is small and easy to walk. It takes about 30 minutes to walk from one end of town to the other.

5-Do not even attempt to drive anywhere between 4-6pm. If you must travel across anything that includes 520, bridge, Tacoma Narrows, or 1-5 in the description this is especially true. Really, just get some dinner and a drink wherever you are and relax, because you aren't going anywhere until after 7pm anyway.

6-Get to the ferry lines early on Fridays and weekdays between 3-6pm. The weekend traffic is pretty tame, but Friday afternoon is pretty darn impossible to get out of town. Easy to get into town, a nightmare to leave.

7-Rain. If it's raining leave much earlier. You'd think we would be used to it by now, but it really does slow down the commute. Fortunately, it really doesn't rain much during the Summer.

I hope this helps lower your blood pressure during your visit. Cheers.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Washington State Ferry System

Riding the ferry system in Washington a truly unique part of the transportation system in Washington State and a great way to experience part of our way of life if you're traveling to the area. Don't be intimidated by traveling by ferry. The Washington State Ferry System has a great web site that posts current ferry schedules, explains costs/reservation procedures and answers general questions.

Check out their site at

Add to My AOL