Archive for the ‘tourist’ Category

The PAX Pox


video games ruined my life by poopoorama [flickr] via our group pool [#].

In case you missed it, Seattle’s premier gaming expo was ground zero for an outbreak of swine flu (or what Wired is calling H1Nerd1).

Penny Arcade, the organization that hosts the event, has a list of outgoing flights that had passengers with confirmed cases of the flu.

In addition, the University of Washington just issued an e-mail that two probable cases of H1N1 have been reported to the campus health center, originating from a particular sorority house. The University will be monitoring the flu outbreaks on campus, but officials are encouraging students and staff to take necessary precautions.

And since this flu is hitting everyone from gamers to sorority girls, be sure to wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, and keep up to date with new info on the swine flu from King County.

Let Your Inner Child Out at Camp Woodmark, a “Summer Camp” for Adults

I have to admit to being somebody who rarely considers the Eastside of our Metro Area when it comes to planning social engagements and local excursions.  Like many, I tend to think of it more as a hub for commerce and fine dining than I do as someplace I’d want to spend my weekend.  As I recently discovered, the best part of such misconceptions is how easily they’re replaced once the reality of a situation becomes clear.

Last week I was given the opportunity to take part in the “Camp Woodmark” experience at The Woodmark Hotel, Yacht Club & Spa in  Kirkland, which just so happens to be the only hotel located on the shores of Lake Washington.  Camp Woodmark was designed with adults in mind, meaning they offer a grown-up kind of fun without any of the awkward moments or pre-teen angst from the summer camps of our youth.

Upon my arrival at The Woodmark I was cordially greeted by Brandon, one of the “camp counselors” entrusted with making each campers stay as relaxing and hassle-free as possible, who presented me with a welcome package that included several Woodmark t-shirts and reusable aluminum water bottles.  Not long after that I was on the balcony of my amazing fourth floor lakeside room, enjoying a cool breeze and feeling that there may just be some merit to escaping into your own city after all.

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Walking the Talk

Walking Green Lake by Seattle Daily Photo - from our Flickr pool

Walking Green Lake by Seattle Daily Photo - from our Flickr pool

The Seattle City Council is reviewing a draft plan to make Seattle a more pedestrian-friendly town. Appropriately enough, the measure is called the Pedestrian Master Plan. Very grand sounding, ain’t it?

I’ve lived in Seattle long enough to remember when Westlake Plaza was closed to traffic, and I’m still outraged that the city opened it. Westlake Center has never regained the vibrancy and foot traffic that it had when the Plaza was closed. And does anyone think that closing Pike Place Market to through traffic would detract from its appeal? There is no bad there.

The new plan, currently in draft and public comment stage, purports to focus on “safety, equity, vibrancy, and health,” through six stated objectives:

1. Complete and maintain the pedestrian system identified in the Pedestrian Master Plan
2. Improve walkability on all streets
3. Increase pedestrian safety
4. Plan, design, and build complete streets to move more people and goods
5. Create vibrant public spaces that encourage walking
6. Get more people walking for transportation, recreation, and health

These are great goals, and the plan (read it HERE or download as a PDF –low res or high res) does an admirable job of outlining strategies and tactics to meet them. The city has a funding levy of $60 million to fund pedestrian improvements over the next six years. Based on current programs, the plan projects that $47 million will go towards new improvements, such as sidewalks, curb ramps, and signals, while $19 million would pay for maintenance. The plan would require other funding to fully support all of the objectives, such as private investment.

And it’s this last part that has me worried: private investment.

The draft Plan includes stated strategies for meeting the objectives. Among the strategies for #5– “Create vibrant public spaces that encourage walking”– the single most important strategy is missing: car-free streets. Instead, “develop guidelines for car-free and shared space streets,” is the last item in the sidebar, under “sample of actions” that could possibly, perhaps, be considered to encourage walking.

Private investment does not like car-free streets. Private investment likes lots of convenient parking, preferably on-site parking. Pedestrians buy only as much as they can conveniently carry home or back to the office. Drivers buy as much as can fill up their SUV for the drive home to the suburbs. Car-free streets favor small businesses that serve local residents and employees. Parking lots favor ‘shopping destinations’ that serve tourists and visitors. National chain stores and big retailers wield the political clout and investment dollars that result in parking lots, narrow sidewalks, and through traffic. Neighborhood business owners, residents, and employees get screwed. Again.

It doesn’t have to be that way. As residents and business owners, we have a say in this process. The public comment period for the draft Pedestrian Master Plan has been extended to Friday, June 26th. You can read it at http://www.seattle.gov/mostwalkablecity.htm, or download a PDF from the same site.

Also, the Transportation Committee and the Special Committee on Pedestrian Safety will host a public hearing on the draft plan on Tuesday, July 21st, from 5:00-6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall (600 Fourth Ave.). This is your chance to be heard. Don’t blow it!

Other ways to comment:

Online webform: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pedestrian_masterplan/contact.htm
E mail: mostwalkablecity@seattle.gov
Telephone: 206-733-9970
Mail: Pedestrian Master Plan Comments
Seattle Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 34996
Seattle, WA 98124-4996

Touring the city with food and drink

A friend told me a few years ago that one of the most surprisingly fun things to do in your own hometown is take a guided city tour. Being the sort of person who doesn’t like to take guided tours of other people’s cities let alone mine, I scoffed–at least until I got roped into offering the friend of a friend a customized tour of Seattle and in doing research on our destinations discovered that there are a lot of places to go and things to do and see in this city that it’s impossible for any one person to keep track of them all.

If you look hard enough, you can probably find a tour that fits your personal taste; if taste is on your menu, though, you should seriously consider the Seattle Food Tours. One takes you through Belltown, sampling along the way such tasty treats as artisan breads, BBQ pork, handmade chocolates and more. The other guides you through the Pike Place Market, pointing out all the hidden treasures that the Market’s often-confusing layout can hide away from the casual eye. In addition to learning more about some of the food that Seattle has to offer, you’ll be introduced to the city’s history, architecture and public art–not a bad deal at all while you’re being introduced to great restaurants you might otherwise never have known.

Savor Seattle offers a tour of the Pike Place Market as well, guiding you through the Market that includes tastes of salmon, coffee, Washington artisan cheese and fresh season fruit and they also offer a three-hour tour of downtown Seattle that presents local Washington wine and microbrew beers, seafood, cheeses, pizza, tapas, and more.

Follow up any of these tours with a stop by the Burke for their “The World in Your Cup” exhibit on coffee which includes free tastings every weekend through June.

Free Tip of the Day: Visitors Edition

We have guests in town, and as much as we want to show them a good time, we also don’t want to spend crazy money. So we concocted a bunch of free activities that are free, touristy, not touristy, and maybe even a little fun.

Monday:
Sunset Tavern hosts Kung Fu Grindhouse. Sure, the food and beer aren’t free, but the gory bloodbash is. Happens every Monday, once a month.

Tuesday:
Try to find Bruce Lee’s Grave. I’ve attempted to do this a handful of times with no success. Today is the day!

Wednesday:
Green Lake and Gas Works. Nothing says free like a man-made lake and a park that shares its space with an old refinery.

Thursday: Henry Art Museum is free every Thursday and who doesn’t like trying to find a parking spot in the middle of UW to see something for free?

Friday: Pike Place Market. Duh.

Pike Place Market / Henry Art Museum / Kung Fu Grindhouse / Bruce Lee’s Grave / Green Lake and Gas Works

Shortened Seattle Itinerary with Infants


Firemen – Pioneer Square by litratro at larawan via our group pool [#]

As mentioned previously, my goal for the weekend was to show four of my good friends around Seattle, along with two of their children- one six months old, and the other just over two months.

My original itinerary was scrapped early on, because of the flooding that shut down I-5 and delayed my friends in Portland for a day or so. But with six adults and two children on different schedules and with different interests, the only plan I had originally was to be as flexible as possible, and with the transportation difficulties, that’s really all I could do.

So, what do you do with six adults, two babies, and a day and a half to visit? Be flexible :)

In the end, we got Pike Place Market, good coffee (and cool coffee art!), the Troll and, most importantly, we satisfied a Jimmy John’s craving. You never know what your guests will enjoy the most, and sometimes it will surprise you, but if you’re flexible, even Jimmy John’s can be a memorable highlight.

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seattle, blue scholars style

Picture 2.png

Blue Scholars show Current_TV around Seattle in this seven-minute documentary directed by Zia Mohajerjasbi (Sabzi’s little brother). In it, they visit Othello Station’s mixed-income housing developments, Laced Up in First Hill, Hidmo in the Central District, and sing the praises of the Ave and the UW campus in the University District. It’s lovingly curated and a totally different vision of the city than you’d typically see in a whirlwind tour.

Now, can someone please help these guys fix their windshield wipers? Sunny days like today won’t last forever.

(via erik [lj])

Exploring Seattle: Leavenworth


Leavenworth’s Autumn Festival

Like Wesa, I also took the opportunity this weekend to do something that had been on my Seattle to-do list: Visiting Leavenworth.

Leavenworth is a small town on the other side of the Cascades who re-invented themselves in the 1960s as a mock Bavarian village. The town is most famous for its Oktoberfest, a three-weekend long festival that is supposedly one of the most well-attended in the world outside of Germany.

One thing we didn’t realize about Leavenworth was just how much of a tourist town it was- granted, it is a town devoted entirely to tourism, but this weekend was their Autumn Leaf Festival. The next three weeks are Oktoberfest. After that there’s a Christkindelmarkt, then the Christmas Lighting Festival, then the Ice Festival, then the… you get the idea. It makes you wonder when the 2,000+ residents of the town ever get any sleep. They have pottery festivals, choral festivals, ale festivals, accordion festivals, bird festivals… it’s a bit overwhelming.

The town itself, with all its activities is a little overwhelming, but the drive there is gorgeous. And besides, where else can you see pirates jesting with leaf-bedecked cheerleaders or Bavarian-themed Chinese restaurants? Even the McDonald’s looks like it dropped straight out of Munich.

Fremont Oktoberfest This Weekend





carnage by poopoorama [flickr] via our group pool [#]

Only two more days until Fremont’s annual Oktoberfest, once hailed by USA Today as one of the top 10 Oktoberfests in the world. Fremont has added some funky additions to the traditional celebration of beer, beer and more beer. While The Stranger’s Microbrew garden will indeed include 70+ beers, the festival will also include musical acts, a 5k run/walk (with a ‘beer-belly’ division!), and the Texas Chainsaw Pumpkin Carving Contest, pictured above.

A list of what’s on tap includes Beck’s Oktoberfest, Late Harvest Autumn Ale from Redhook (formerly located very, very close to Oktoberfest’s current location) and Giddy Up! from New Belgium, a coffee/beer concoction. Their schedule of events includes a brand new comedy show, and the pumpkin carving contest will be held at 1:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are on sale now, online or offline for $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

PAX 2008: Sunday


Booth Babe, courtesy of ECityBlues

I won’t lie- my Sunday morning at PAX was a religious experience (and no, not because of the booth babes).

I got to meet Metblogs Employee #3 (*cough* Wil Wheaton), and discovered an enduring love for Battlefield: Heroes, a new game from the folks who created Battlefield 1942.

Since the vast majority of my day was spent in front of a computer trying to learn how to drive tanks and shoot bazookas, I neglected to attend the Omegathon Final Round, which was VS Excitebike for the Famicon. Having seen the Jenga-fueled intensity that was the previous round of the Omegathon, I wasn’t sure I could handle the excitement of ExciteBike. But I can tell you that Joey Geko won an epic competition on a game that was only released in Japan.

Before getting sucked in to PC Freeplay, I slid into the Wil Wheaton panel by the skin of my teeth (lesson learned: take early bus, and don’t leave your program at home). I was just in time to hear him recite a lyrical bit of spoken word poetry. He followed up by reading an excerpt from his book, The Happiest Days of Our Lives, and answer the burning question: How can a panel consist of a single man?

Wil’s answer: “Like this, baby.”

I intended to ask all the geek superstars the same question, but, as I mentioned before, Battlefield: Heroes ate up my day, and so I was only able to ask Wheaton what his weirdest moment at PAX 2008 was. His answer?

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