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!

Add to My AOL