Atlanta in a day

  
The perfect day in Atlanta starts off with Sublime donuts!  This are the best donuts I’ve ever, ever had. I did not get paid to say that, in fact I paid them, for their amazing donuts. Nutella and strawberries and cream are my favorites.  They are the softest and most amazing donuts I’ve ever had and I’ve tried many places including Voodoo in Portland (those were good, these are better!)
  
Next we headed to the beautiful Piedmont Park. With walking trails, several playgrounds, a dog in park and public pool, there’s something for everyone at this amazing park!

  
After working up an appetite we headed to The Varsity for lunch.  Their burgers, hotdogs, fries, onion rings and shakes are an Atlanta staple and a must for anyone visiting The ATL.

  
Our next stop was the High Museum of Art. They had a cool kids installation and the kiddos loved playing there.  The grown ups got a chance to check out some art too.  This was perfect way to cool off and get in a little culture too.

  Next, we headed to Centennial Olympic Park to let the kids run through the fountains. This is always a big hit for the kiddos and it’s close to so many fun tourist stops along with having a great playground and restaurants within walking distance. The only downside: finding parking. 
 Our last stop of the day was at Stone Mountain park for their laser show.  For $15 a car, this is a pretty good deal.  Watching a laser show on the side of the mountain, mixed in with a little history lesson and fireworks, this was the perfect way to end our day in Atlanta!

Advertisements

Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands

I love traveling but I have to admit, ferries give me a little anxiety, what time does it leave?  How much will it cost? Will I have to wait hours to get on (like some of the horror stories I’ve heard)?  So when I found out there are some nearby islands I could drive to, I was excited to say the least.  The first chance I got, I talked my husband into taking a trip to Fidalgo and Whidbey islands and I’m so glad I did!  This trip is another to put on your Washington bucket list for sure!  The first major spot we decided to visit was Deception Pass. Check out my more detailed blog about it here.  Definitely one of the highlights of our trip.  We then just kind of wandered around and went back to our hotel room (not a great hotel, it was kind of grungy and overpriced so I will not be recommending it here.)  We woke up the next morning and planned to be at Eerie Mountain (on Fidalgo Island) at sunrise but we got there just a little after, which turned out to be a good thing, the ride up would probably have been dangerous in the dark.  It turned out to be the perfect time to go and the views were magnificent!

Next, we headed up to the quaint town of Anacortes.  We stopped and got snacks at the grocery store and it began to rain.  Luckily we were rewarded with a rainbow.  We chased it through the town and suddenly we saw where it ended, over the Puget Sound!

10922375_10152521674801400_8584601884344195442_o

We didn’t do much exploring around Anacortes, but I hear it’s a charming town and plan to go back.  Check out more info here http://www.cityofanacortes.org/.

Next we drove down to Whidbey Island.  We didn’t really have much of a plan, which could have turned out badly but luckily we happened upon a beautiful lighthouse next to the beach. Check out the website for the Admiralty Head Lighthouse for more information.

It would have been great to drive back up through the islands and go back the way we came, but we ended up next to a Ferry and decided to check when the next one was leaving.  We happened to be able to make the next one that was about a 30 minute wait.  It ended up being less expensive than I thought (around $16 I believe for our truck, 2 adults and 2 kids) and saved a lot of time.  We also were able to drive through the amazing town of Port Townsend and get home a little before schedule. These beautiful islands are less than 2 hours from my house and I had no idea they existed!  Washington is amazing, and you never know what you’ll find when you get out and explore. So get out of the house, explore, and capture adventure!

The Mystical Mount Rainier

IMG_0684

Standing 14,410 feet tall and located about 2 hours South of Seattle, Mount Rainier stands like a giant in the sky-line. It’s the 5th highest peak and tallest volcano in the lower 48 states and I’m lucky enough to be able to see it everyday that the weather is clear.  I love how majestic and mysterious it is.  You can be riding a long on a nice day, look over and suddenly you see a very large, breathtaking mountain in the distance, then just as suddenly it appeared, it disappears behind the trees as you’re driving. I love to watch the way it changes through the year, from bare spots showing to almost completely white, the landscape is ever evolving. The only thing better than seeing the mountain from afar is seeing it up close and in person. Mount Rainier has 5 regions, Paradise, Longmire, Sunrise, Ohanapecosh and Carbon River.  We’ve always entered from the Snoqualmie entrance to Longmire. It takes a little while before we come across an interesting spot to stop on our drive but the landscape on the way up is beautiful and momentarily changing as you catch glimpses at peaks, valleys and cliffs.

Some of the best photo ops on “The Mountain” are the waterfalls. Christine Falls is always the first spot we come to on our trip up to Paradise.  It’s a beautiful 69 foot tiered waterfall with parking nearby so you can get out and take a photo. Next is the beautiful Narada Falls, a 188 foot waterfall.  There’s a little bit of a trek to get down to a good picture taking spot but we’ve taken our children along with us down the path and they did fine.  Also, remember to bring a water bottle or empty gallon jugs to fill up with fresh water from the spout in the parking lot.

The aptly named Paradise at Mt. Rainier has a new welcome center with clean restrooms, a gift shop, a limited (and pricey) cafeteria along with general information.  The Paradise Inn that offers lodging, but closes for the Winter.  Also located at Paradise are is a ranger station and the Climbing Information Center where you can obtain climbing permits and hiking and backcountry camping information.

It took a little exploring before we found some of the lakes, the mirror lakes are beautiful and although I haven’t made the hike to Snow Lake, I hear it is spectacular. We didn’t come across Tipsoo lake in our adventures yet but it’s top on my list for next visit.  Also be warned that there is no cell signal around the mountain so having a map is a good idea! There are all kinds of hikes and sights if you have time to explore.  Every trip to Rainier is different, every day brings different weather and views and snow accumulation, but every trip is spectacular.  I would advise to avoid high traffic times like weekends during the Summer and to try to arrive in the morning to avoid afternoon crowds.  Whether you live in the Northwest, or just plan on visiting it, you must put Mt. Rainier National Park on your bucket list!

Need help planning your trip to the Mystical Mountain?  Check out the official Mt. Rainier site.

Snoqualmie Falls

Located about 35 minutes East of Seattle, Snoqualmie Falls is a must-see for anyone in the Pacific Northwest. A great part about visiting the falls is the gorgeous drive there and the beauty of the mountains and lush green forests that surround you.  Make sure to check the weather ahead of time, we were lucky enough to go on a warm sunny day. There’s a lot of hiking and fun things to do in the area but we wanted a short trip with the kiddos so we pretty much stuck to the falls.  We got there around 10:30 on a Sunday and the parking lot was filling quickly.  We had to park in the lot across the street but luckily there is a small bridge over the road so you don’t have to worry about dodging cars and it’s pretty entertaining for the kids.

IMG_0277

The Salish Lodge is located to the left of the park.  I’ve heard it’s a great (but pricey) place to stay.  To the right are restrooms and the gift shop with t-shirts, trinkets and coffee. Head up a set of stairs to get to the falls. There are 3 viewing points at the upper falls.  It got a little crowded but there were plenty of chances to get good pictures.  There is also a trail where you can hike down to the lower falls but the little ones weren’t very cooperative so we didn’t chance it. You are also able to drive to and park at the lower falls but we were told there are about 20 spots and they fill rather quickly.

After gazing at the beauty of the falls, we stopped off at the Snoqualmie Brewery for some pizza and then let the kids loose at the nearby Sandy Cove Park.  Located along the river, Sandy Cove is a small, natural spot with an open grassy area, perfect for picnics and letting the kids run around.  Apparently there are 35 parks in Snoqualmie so check out The city of Snoqualmie parks site before going, to plan your picnic.

How to Spend a Day in Tacoma

We started our day in Tacoma by going to Shake Shake Shake.  I’ve had it on my list of “restaurants to visit” for a while and it came highly recommended by several friends.  We walked in and I instantly loved the decor of this retro-themed restaurant.  After perusing the menu, I decided on the Nutella shake (I obviously had to order a milkshake) and it was love at first sip.  We arrived as they were switching over to lunch, around 11, so we were able to order from the breakfast and lunch menu. The burgers were good, the breakfast was awesome and their shake was fantastic. My daughter ordered the waffles and they tasted like a yummy and crispy donut/waffle hybrid.  From their friendly service to their crispy shoe-string fries, I loved everything about this place and so did my kiddos.  I can’t wait to go back. I totally get what all the hype is about.

Stadium High School was our next stop.  Just around the corner from Shake Shake Shake, this Tacoma landmark looks more like a castle than a high school. You might recognize it from the movie “10 Things I hate about you”. It has a huge stadium (hence the name) with lots and lots of stairs.  There is a nice big parking garage with plenty of parking (as long as school’s out) and a good view for taking pictures.  There were a lot of people working out, going up and down the stairs and running around the track/football field.  My kids had a blast racing around the track, just be careful on the stairs, you wouldn’t want to fall down those!

After our workout at the stadium, we took a drive down Ruston Way and found a little store on the waterfront called Northern Fish http://northernfish.com/retail-locations.  They have fresh fish to take home or you can order a hot meal like fish and chips, to eat at one of the nearby picnic tables.  If you take a left as you are walking out of the building, you will quickly find a nice beach and a little further down is the Chinese Reconciliation Park http://www.tacomachinesepark.org/.  This is a great area to explore, whether you’re walking hand in hand on a date or with your kids who insist on playing in the sand and throwing rocks in the water.  It was a perfect way to end our day.  Have you been to Tacoma recently?  What places would you recommend?  

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

I was talking to a friend, telling her how excited I was about going to the Tulip Festival.  “So what’s the deal with the tulip festival anyway? Do you get to pick flowers?” Well, no. “Do you do anything besides look at flowers?” Not exactly.  I understood her lack of enthusiasm.  I had just moved to Washington when the Tulip Festival started last year.  I had no intentions of going and didn’t understand what the fuss was about, then I rode through the Skagit Valley when there weren’t beautiful fields of blooming tulips and I got it.  It’s a beautiful area that would be nice to visit any time of year. The tulips are the icing on the cake.

tulip fields

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival lasts about a month and brings in over a million visitors each year. It typically starts the beginning of April, but started a little earlier this year due to weather.

According to the Skagit Tulip Festival site  “Our festival is designed as a driving tour for the visitor as there is no one “site” that you go to for your visit. The fields of tulips are scattered throughout the Skagit Valley as are the many events and activities that comprise the festival. The tulip fields are the crops of RoozenGaarde/Washington Bulb Co., Inc. and Tulip Town and the fields are different each year due to crop rotation. Both RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town also have displays of tulips in gardens for visitors to view and photograph.”  Get more info here: http://www.tulipfestival.org/

We chose to visit Roozengarde. It is located in the town of Mt. Vernon and has over 100 tulip varieties along with daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, iris, & specialty flowers. They have a beautiful dispaly garden, a 25 acre tulip field along with a 15 acre daffodil field (The daffodil field was done blooming by the time we visited but I imagine it’s beautiful.) The cost to get in is $5 per person, children 6 and under are free. Parking is also free.  Typically the fields are pretty muddy, rain boots are highly suggested although we were lucky to go when there were several warm, dry days in a row and didn’t really need them.  Also, because of the large crowds, it’s good to show up early or late afternoon.  Make sure to check the hours of operation ahead of time.

More info for Roozengaarde: http://www.tulips.com/tulip-festival-information

15867 Beaver Marsh Rd. Mount Vernon, WA 98273 1-866-488-5477

Unfortunately, because of the strange weather this year, the fields are finished blooming and are being plowed, but the display garden blooms awhile longer and is worth checking out all on it’s own.  Although I was skeptical before, I plan on attending the festival as long as I live in Washington, and might consider a trip even if I don’t.

Top 6 Things to do in Portland

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Powell’s City of Books

Powell’s has several locations but the original is located at 1005 W Burnside St. between 10th and 11th Ave. in Portland. Their site describes it as “A book lover’s paradise, the largest used and new bookstore in the world, open 365 days a year. Located in downtown Portland, Oregon, and occupying an entire city block, the City stocks more than a million new and used books. Nine color-coded rooms house over 3,500 different sections, offering something for every interest, including an incredible selection of out-of-print and hard-to-find titles”

It’s a great place to go with or without the kids.  They have an extensive kid’s section with a really cool local section that features books like “Three Bears in The Pacific Northwest” and “Larry gets lost in Portland”.  I had a tough time getting my daughter to narrow it down to 3.

more info about Powell’s

• 68,000 square feet packed with books.
• They buy 3,000 used books over the counter every day.
• Approximately 3,000 people walk in and buy something every day.
• Another 3,000 people just browse and drink coffee.
• They stock 122 major subject areas and more than 3,500 subsections.
• You’ll find more than 1,000,000 volumes on the shelves.
• Approximately 80,000 book lovers browse the shelves every day in Portland and via the Internet.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Portland’s Aerial tram 

http://www.gobytram.com/

Designed as transportation to Oregon’s Health and Science University, this amazing aerial tram travels 500 feet in 3 minutes and gives you incredible views of Portland. The fare is $4.35 with children 6 and under being free.  When you get to the top, exit the the terminal and take a right to enter an outdoor patio with seating and views of the terminal, the surrounding region and, on a clear day, Mount Hood and Mount St Helens. Also, Summit Espresso is located a short distance away inside OHSU.

The tram is located at 303 SW Bond Ave, Portland, OR 97239
(503) 494-8283

It operates weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m          It is closed on Sundays.

Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) http://hopworksbeer.com/

2944 SE Powell Blvd, Portland, OR 97202

Located at 2944 SE Powell Blvd, Portland, OR 97202, Hopworks is a family friendly eco-brewery that happens to also have amazing food.  Great for a date night or family outing, they use fresh, local ingredients and keep 15 of their organic beers on tap at all times.  They have a separate section for family dining with a huge chalkboard wall, and tables of toys to keep the kids occupied while the grown ups drink and dine.  This is our go to restaurant.

11169898_10152688413186400_4180057094528541666_n

Washington Park  http://washingtonparkpdx.org/

This park has it all, besides a great playground, it also houses Japanese and rose gardens, the Oregon Children’s Musem, the Oregon Zoo, an Arboretum, and the Forestry Discovery Center.  To get a general idea of where to go, the rose garden address is 400 SW Kingston Ave.  The playground is not far from there.

Voodoo Doughnuts http://voodoodoughnut.com/

I had heard about Voodoo Doughnuts several times before moving to the Pacific Northwest and then every time someone mentioned Portland, someone would say “You have to go to Voodoo Doughnuts!” which actually made me not want to go, along with the fact that I knew there was always a crazy long line.  Such a trendy and popular thing can typically lead to disappointment for me so I had just kind of written it off. Then, one day I was in Portland and someone told me that the 2nd location doesn’t have the crazy line and that was enough nudge to get me to check it out.  We picked out several doughnuts, my favorite ended up being the Old Dirty Bastard doughnut, which you can call the ODB if ordering while your children are present 🙂 it is described as “raised yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting, Oreo’s™ and peanut butter!” and it was Ah-mazing.  I guess some things are worth the hype. But millenials beware, they are Cash Only

Here’s the info:

Voodoo Doughnut Too (TWO)
1501 N.E. Davis St. in Portland Oregon, U.S.A.
phone 503.235.2666

OPEN: 24 hours 7 days a week.
CLOSED: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Years Day & Groundhogs Day.

And if you HAVE to go to the original and stand in a line:

Voodoo Doughnut ONE (original location)
22 SW 3rd Avenue Portland Oregon, U.S.A.
phone 503.241.4704

Open same hours and cash only also

Multnomah Falls http://www.oregon.com/attractions/multnomah_falls

Last but certainly not least is Multnomah Falls.  While not exactly in Portland (it’s actually about 30 minutes away) Multnomah Falls is very much worth the drive. Described as “a 611-foot-tall roaring, awe-inspiring cascade of icy water”, this is Oregon’s tallest waterfall.  This two-drop cascade attracts visitors of all types and ages, the parking lot is right off the highway and a short distance to wheelchair-accessible viewing platforms.  There are also steep hiking trails that lead all the way to the top. Fed by rainwater and snowmelt, the falls’ steady stream runs year-round, so anytime is a good time to visit the falls (except maybe a weekend in the Summer when it is sure to be a lot of people!).  Directions can be found here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/crgnsa/home/?cid=stelprdb5139466