Seattle’s Space Needle

The most famous attraction in Seattle, and possibly in the entire Pacific Northwest, is the Space Needle. This amazing structure stands 605 feet tall and dominates the city’s skyline. When you go to Seattle as a vacationer, there are a few things that you seriously just must do, and one of them is go to the top of the Space Needle.

The needle is located at Seattle Center, adjacent to the city’s downtown section, and as part of a larger complex of attractions it is very easy to find parking. When you approach it, you can’t help but start to photograph it. It appeals to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. I like the Space Needle because of the angles of it and how it contrasts with the straight edges of the rest of the buildings that make up Seattle’s skyline. The needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and I guess I also like it for the sense of nostalgia that surround it.

The ride up to the top in one of the elevators can be a lot of fun. You will usually be accompanied by a guide who will tell you some details about the Space Needle and about Seattle. Feel free to ask questions, anything you’re curious about, these are very well trained and well informed people. Enjoy the view as you rise up. Keep taking photos too out the glass elevator windows because the scenery changes the higher you get.

Up at the top you will get the big payoff as you get to take your time to walk around the entire circular observation deck and enjoy the entire view that includes the city of Seattle, the mountains off in the distance, and the water of Puget Sound.

While the main purpose of the Space Needle is that of an observation tower, if you have the time, make use of the other purpose it has. At the top of this landmark is SkyCity, a revolving restaurant. Dining out at the top of the Space Needle is a special treat. One touch that I really appreciated was that the specialty at SkyCity is food of the Pacific Northwest. This adds to the experience of being in Seattle and dining high in the sky with the city far under your feet.

Our visit to the Space Needle was a hit, not just with me, but with the adults and kids I was with. Everybody had a good time, going up and down, and dining at the top. One of the nice things was as our visit to Seattle continued, every once in awhile each of us would look up at the Space Needle from different points in the city below and recall our visit up to the top.

Space Needle

Ancient Lakes Near Quincy, Washington

Ancient Lakes

Ancient Lakes is the name given to a hiking area located just west of Quincy, Washington and just off of Highway 28. This area was carved by the ancient Missoula floods. The coulee left behind was scarred with small depressions and these fill up with water to form several “ancient” lakes.

I showed up at Ancient Lakes for the first time recently and was looking forward to a classic Eastern Washington hiking experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking in the Cascades and on the Olympic Peninsula, surrounded by high mountain peaks and lush green forests, but sometimes a change can be nice too. A hike like the one to Ancient Lakes is relatively easy over flat ground and allows you to see up close and personal a land of sagebrush and rock walls.

After hiking in on an old 4×4 road that now only allows horseback riding and hiking, we took a left and headed east into a canyon. After a quarter mile or so we reached the top of a small rise and were treated to one of the best views ever. As you look further into the closed off canyon you can see that you are almost completely surrounded by rock walls. We counted two waterfalls spilling over the edge and five small lakes. We hiked between the lakes to a wide open spot that was obviously a favorite to some overnight campers, then skirted one canyon wall south before following the trail up to a small saddle that provided us with a view into the next canyon and Dusty Lake.

The hike out was pain free too and we left with some nice photos and a great experience of being out on the trail in Eastern Washington. I appreciated the opportunity of getting a glimpse of what this land must have looked like to the first pioneers that went through it.

My hike through Ancient Lakes was a bit like stepping back in time. It was yet another reminder of how lucky I am to live in the Pacific Northwest.

Rocky Reach Dam Near Wenatchee

Rocky Reach Dam

RRdam1

When you think about it, the construction of a dam across a major river is pretty amazing. To stop the flow of water, or at least alter it significantly, so large crews can build a concrete structure on dry riverbed is something incredibly impressive. As roadtrippers, we pass by dams all the time. Some of them are small and some quite large. If you’re driving along the Columbia River, you are guaranteed to see one.

Just north of Wenatchee and spanning the Columbia River is Rocky Reach Dam. Construction began on this dam in 1956 and all these years later it stands as one of the more important pieces of the hydroelectric production grid in Eastern Washington. Rocky Reach Dam has 11 turbines and sits 473 river miles above where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. When built, it was a very important project for the region. It still is too.

You can access Rocky Reach Dam on the west side of the river from Highway 97A. There are climbing toys for kids as well as a picnic area and large playground available for anyone just after driving through the main gate. The visitor center is where all the really good stuff is and that is further north.

Once inside the visitor center you will see an information booth, a seating area, and a snack bar. Take the stairs down a level and you will find yourself able to view some exhibits as well as enter a small theater where some documentaries are usually playing detailing the construction of the dam, as well as how it works. When you go down one more flight of stairs (there is also an elevator), you will come to the fish viewing windows and during high volume times of the year this can be a fun place for kids and adults alike.

Rocky Reach Dam is also home to the Museum of the Columbia. Walk out onto the dam itself and gain entrance to this fascinating series of exhibits that detail the early days of the river and the inhabitants that lived along it. There are also some very cool displays of equipment used during the time of the dam’s construction. Continue on past the museum and come to a viewing window overlooking the generators that produce the electricity. At the end of that hallway is the large viewing window that gives you a close up look at the spillways. If you’re lucky, they’ll be open and white water will be raging through it on its way downstream.

RRdamMuseum

I love stopping at dams and seeing the history on display as well as marveling at these manmade contraptions that briefly harnessed mother nature and got it working for them. Rocky Reach Dam is a great place to visit on your way north or south through the North Central Washington region.

RRdam3

5 Fun Facts: British Columbia – Kelowna

Kelowna sits on the shores of Okanagan Lake in southern British Columbia. This is an important community in the region and can be a fun town to visit during a road trip through the area. Here are five fun facts about Kelowna, BC.

The Original Name
When originally settled, the area that would later become Kelowna was known as L’anse au Sable (Bay of Sand).

Roooaaaarrrr!
The name “Kelowna” comes from the Okanagan language and is a term that means Grizzly Bear.

The Early 1900s
Kelowna was oficcially incorporated on May 4th, 1905.

The Shattering
In 1969, during exercises being done in preparation of an air show, an American pilot with the Blue Angels broke the sound barrier at low altitude and shattered a quarter of a million dollars worth of glass.

Number Three
Kelowna is the third largest metropolitan area in British Columbia. It is the 22nd largest in all of Canada.

5 Fun Facts: Oregon – Multnomah Falls

If you’ve driven down Interstate 84 in the Columbia River Gorge, you probably have stopped off at Multnomah Falls. It seems like even when you’re pressed for time, there’s always time for a chance to view the dramatic plunge of water over the gorge and on its way to the Columbia River. Here are five fun facts about this favorite stop.

Multnomah Falls

1. When asked to describe the location of Multnomah Falls, many people respond that it is “near Portland”. This is true, but there are two towns the falls are closer to. Multnomah sits between the towns of Corbett and Dodson, Oregon. You may be forgiven for not recognizing those town names, recent estimates had Corbett’s population at 3,951 and Dodson’s at 1,298.

2. Multnomah Falls measures in at 620 feet tall. It first has a drop of 542 feet, then the water descends gradually for nine feet before its final plunge of 69 feet.

3. The famous bridge above the lower falls that you can stand on and gaze at this scenic spot is named Benson Footbridge. It was built in 1914 and was named for Simon Benson. Benson once owned the land that Multnomah Falls fell on before donating it for use as a park. He also financed the building of the bridge.

4. Multnomah Falls is listed as the tallest waterfall in all of Oregon. It is also listed as the 434th tallest waterfall in the world.

5. The source of the water running over Multnomah Falls is from underground springs on Larch Mountain. This is supplemented early in the year by spring runoff from snowmelt.

An Excellent Experience at Bend, Oregon’s McKay Cottage Restaurant

Recently, I found myself making yet another return visit to Bend, Oregon.

Bend is a small vacation community in Central Oregon that sits right at the edge of the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains. Bend’s location gives it its two biggest strengths, scenery and recreational opportunities. While going to Bend to see or experience either of those is a great idea, don’t forget to experience the city of Bend itself too.

Bend features some great eating establishments, and as we all know, a good place to eat can make any destination that much better.

Bend - McKayCottageRestaurant

We finally got to try out one of the most recommended places in Bend, a place we’d been pointed towards the last time we were in town but didn’t have time for, the McKay Cottage Restaurant.

Upon walking in, my first though was how could we have not made time for this place last time we were in town? The atmosphere is awesome with its detailed woodwork and welcoming decor. The service was top notch as well with every single employee we encountered being very friendly. We had the option of eating inside or outside that day. We chose outdoors to experience that awesome Bend weather.

Having shown up for lunch, and being in the mood for some beef, I decided to go with the McKay Burger. I mean, if you’re proud enough of your burger to put your restaurant’s name right in the name of it, it should be good, right?

It was outstanding. It was a generous petty with plenty of fixin’s on it, including perfectly melted cheddar cheese. The minute it was delivered to the table I knew just from the smell alone that it was going to be good. Others at our table had the Three Sisters Club Sandwich and a classic Monte Cristo sandwich. Everyone left happy, not only with the taste, but with the noticeable high level of quality ingredients too.

I think I definitely have a new favorite eating spot in Bend. Next time we’re in town we’re going to do our best to hit the McKay Cottage Restaurant. Maybe for breakfast then… I can almost taste it.

The Oregon Zoo in Portland

I love a good zoo and one of the better parts about roadtripping is getting the opportunity to stop at a zoo or wildlife attraction whenever one pops up along your route. Whenever I find myself going through the Portland area, I count myself lucky that I have the option to stop off at The Oregon Zoo.

I can spend hours at The Oregon Zoo. This very cool zoo features wonderful walking trails that guide you past displays that very much make you feel like you are looking at wild animals out in their own habitat. With over 200 different species of animals, including 22 endangered, it is easy to stay entertained just knowing that there is something else very cool just around the next corner. In addition to the enclosures, I also like watching the different public feedings and animal exhibitions that are put on there.

If you are roadtripping with kids, your experience there will be even better. There is nothing quite like seeing animals like these for the first time through the eyes of a child.

The Oregon Zoo is nationally known for presenting a great exhibition of wild animals in a way that the public can appreciate them, learn from them, and go away knowing they have seen animals they had never seen before. You are a very lucky person when you get to go and check out The Oregon Zoo.

Visit The Oregon Zoo

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in Vancouver, BC

Experiencing the unusual and the rare is some of what attracts people to taking road trips. By getting outside your home area in a free and independent way, you can stop and visit whatever you want, stay virtually as long as you want, and then move on to the next attraction that catches your eye.

CapilanoSuspensionBridge

It was exactly this type of reasoning that led me to visiting Capilano Suspension Bridge Park on a recent trip through Vancouver, British Columbia. I remembered hearing about a suspension bridge in the Vancouver area before, there are actually two, but had never had the time or inclination to go check it out. This time was different though so upon entering the city, it was the first thing I headed for.

There has been a suspension bridge at the site of the Capilano Suspension Bridge since the early 1900s. Over the years it has been updated and improved and other attractions have been added, making the site a true destination attraction more than the roadside stop that it once was. Today, in addition to the hugely popular suspension bridge, the park also offers a Treetops Adventure and Cliffwalk attraction. The suspension bridge though is still the key attraction in the park and is the main reason so many people head there all year long.

I loved pretty much everything about my visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. The bridge is incredible, especially the view downto the river and canyon below. The Treetops Adventure was very cool, seeing the thick forest from such a high vantage point. The Cliffwalk portion of the park, one of the newest features, was incredible. Seeing nature from this kind of perspective just doesn’t happen anywhere else.

Why did I wait so long to check out this very cool place in Vancouver? Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is top notch in terms of attractions worth visiting when road tripping through the area.