Seven fun things to do with kids in downtown Spokane

We are re-publishing this post on the interesting downtown area of Spokane since many Lady Vol fans are headed to Spokane, Washington, for the weekend.  The Lady Vols Basketball Team will play Gonzaga in the NCAA Regionals on Saturday, March 28th at 7:00 PM ET.  Go, Vols!  (For more information:  Lady Vols Basketball.) And enjoy Spokane!

Sculpture, Spokane

The Joy of Running Together, Spokane

If you’re lucky enough to be in downtown Spokane, Washington, (to paraphrase an old saying), then you’re lucky enough.  And indeed you are.  Because if you have kids in tow, there’s more than enough to see and do — all in Riverfront Park downtown.

1.  Slide down the Red Wagon.

Who wouldn’t want to climb this 27-foot tall Radio Flyer and slide down the handle? Kids love it, but some grown-ups have been known to take the challenge, too! Designed by Ken Spiering, this Radio Flyer wagon is nine times the size of the original little one you may have owned as a kid — and way more fun.

   2.  Feed the ducks.

When you’ve had enough of the Red Wagon, go to water’s edge to feed the ducks.  Don’t be surprised if they come “atcha” all at once.  Ducks love food from kids and adults , and some of us love “honkin” back at those quackers! Be sure to take a look at the sculpture across the way and admire the bridge.  It’s just part of the prettiness of Riverfront Park. Feeding ducks -- Riverfront Park

3.  Ride the Looff Carousel.

In operation since 1909, the Looff Carousel has offered adults and kids the opportunity to ride colorfully painted horses, fierce tigers, and proud lions (oh, my), while a recording of the original Ruth & Sohn Band Organ plays in the background.  If you’re a teen or adult with long arms, try reaching out to grab the gold ring as you go by.  And maybe you’ll win a prize for that little one who wanted to ride this thing in the first place!

4.  Take pictures in City Hall Plaza

OK.  So your kid looks great today.  Having fun.  Happy and contented after a ride on the Carousel.  So what could be a better time than now to snap pics on the steps of City Hall Plaza?  Nice background, pretty flowers, lovely setting — don’t you agree? Taking pictures on City Hall Plaza

5.  Stare at the falls.  (Or be daring — ride a gondola!)

Keep walking down the steps to Huntington Park where staring at the falls is all you’ll want to do.  Get close but not too close that the spray messes with your camera lens.  If you’ve got audio to put with your video, turn it on.  You don’t want to miss the roar of the falls and the joy of being right there with the action.  Or, if you dare, take a Gondola Ride lasting about 15 minutes for only seven bucks or so.  It’s a thrill your kids will write about in their back-to-school essay, “What I Did Last Summer” — for real!!

6.  Act like a kid in The Joy of Running Together

If you come back up through City Hall Plaza and look right, you just might see The Joy of Running Together, a sculpture of 40 life-size runners by David Govedare commemorating the annual Spokane Bloomsday Run.  (Click here for a previous post.) And if you look closely, you’ll see a kid or two lining up among the runners in imitation of their swing-arm, foot-raising action.  Oh, wait a minute.  Is that an adult doing that, too?  Wait another minute.  I want in.

The Joy of Running Together

An adult mimics the form of The Joy of Running Together

7.  Get wet in the Riverfront Park Rotary Fountain!

If you’ve waited this long to get wet, you may have waited too long.  No matter how hard you try to resist, you just may have to let your kids go.  Didn’t bring a towel you say?  Well, save this treat for last and just let ‘em run dripping to the car.   Kids of all ages love toe-dipping, arm-waving, and full-fledged, body-soaking action in the Rotary Fountain!

Have fun in Spokane — either with kids or as a kid yourself.  What a great place to visit! For more information: Visit Spokane: http://www.visitspokane.com/ Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/visitspokane For more on our travels through Idaho and Washington, click on the Inland Northwest page at the top of this blog.  Thanks!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

Shower gift from Oregon

The gift was unexpected.  A thank-you gift for hosting a shower from a bride-to-be who now lives in Portland:  this lovely bamboo cutting board in the shape of Oregon.

Thank-you note

And a sweet little box with a thank-you note attached.

Fresh eggs

Fresh eggs

And inside?  The freshest of eggs from her mom’s Rhode Island Reds.

Doesn’t get any better — or fresher — or nicer — than this.

For more entries in the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh, click here.

 

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Travel theme: Spring

Taken at face value as seen from my kitchen window, this White Star White Magnolia looks lacy, delicate, and pretty, especially when viewed with bright yellow forsythia in the background. It’s OK, lovely in fact, as it is — seen from a distance.

Outside my back door, a White Star White Magnolia is the first sign of spring.

Outside my back door, a White Star White Magnolia is the first sign of spring.

But it’s not until we get a close-up view that we know spring is here.  This treasured tree blooms for a week at most, and sometimes it has a hard time holding on even for that long. It’s easily buffeted by spring winds and weighed down by the gentlest rains, so blooms have little staying power given nature’s whims.

Early morning rain on a White Star White Magnolia

Early morning rain on a White Star White Magnolia

No matter.  Sometimes the fleeting nature of this tree makes it even more endearing.  The delicate while blossoms.  Subtle pink markings.  Pale yellow stamen.  Fuzzy gray calyx. We love it all, but have to get close to see its true beauty.

Just opening.

Just opening.

A hint of pink

A hint of pink

The inside story

The inside story

Spring officially arrives with the blooming of our White Star White Magnolia.  And its gentle Hello is one of the most welcome signs around.

For more entries in Ailsa’s Where’s My Backpack challenge this week — Travel theme: Springclick here.

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Inside Whole Foods Knoxville: New store offers sneak peeks to eager guests

Getting ready for the opening of the new Whole Foods Market, Knoxville

Getting ready for the opening of the new Whole Foods Market, Knoxville

It’s finally happening, Knoxville!  Our much-anticipated new Whole Foods Market will be open for business on March 24th, and many folks — at least in West Knoxville — are ready!  In fact, the question around here is What took you so long?

Serving lunch during pre-opening tour days:  Whole Foods Knoxville

Serving lunch during pre-opening tour days: Whole Foods Knoxville

When I pulled into the parking lot in front of the new store,  a man directing traffic said, Are you here for the tour?  I replied, I don’t have a reservation.  But he assured me:  No problem.  Just go inside and see what’s up.  And that’s how I lined up for a tour with Caitie from Asheville, North Carolina — here for guiding pre-opening tours of Knoxville’s new store.

Caitie from the Asheville, NC store leads a pre-opening tour at Whole Foods Knoxville

Caitie from the Asheville, NC store leads a pre-opening tour at Whole Foods Knoxville

We turned on our listening devices and began at the beginning — the Health and Beauty aisle where fragrant soaps were already piled high.

Colorful hand-made soap piled high at Whole Foods Knoxville

Colorful hand-made soap piled high at Whole Foods Knoxville

Mural of Tennessee in Whole Foods Knoxville

Mural of Tennessee in Whole Foods Knoxville

Caitie invited us to sniff while she talked to us about the uniquely Knoxville touches in this particular
Whole Foods Market — like murals of Tennessee on the walls, antique heart pine flooring framing the spaces, and products made locally.  (Check out this article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel for more on how Whole Foods supports local companies like Cruze Farm, Blackberry Farms, etc.)

Not only that, said Caitie.  This Knoxville store has something no other store has:  The Rocky.  We peered in to this not-finished-yet space that, upon opening, will be a place to order a craft beer, glass of wine, and slice of pizza all while listening to live music.  You can come here on Friday evening, added Caitie, order a beer and pizza, do your weekly shopping, and make a night of it.  (Smile.)

The Rocky -- where you can order beer, wine, pizza and listen to live music!

The Rocky — where you can order beer, wine, pizza and listen to live music!

We walked onward, and Caitie added, Many of our teams are just meeting for the first time today.  Noted: lots of huddles, group t-shirts, and people talking and shaking hands.  Like these girls in the coffee area. (See that pretty heart pine decor?)

Coffee bar, Whole Foods Knoxville

Coffee bar, Whole Foods Knoxville

And the girls passing out gelato from a revolving case.

Getting a free sample of gelato from the new Whole Foods Knoxville.

Getting a free sample of gelato from the new Whole Foods Knoxville.

And the guys proud to be on the cutting edge of this new Knoxville venue.

I was already mentally mapping out my upcoming shopping strategy:  Get a cup of that freshly ground coffee and then head to the Biscuit Basket for a breakfast sandwich on a fresh-made doughy treat.  When one lady asked if they would have gravy for those biscuits, Caitie just rolled her eyes.  Well, duh.  Yeah.  This IS the South. (And the official home of the International Biscuit Festival, too.)

Biscuit Basket -- where you can do some serious carb-loading!

Biscuit Basket — where you can do some serious carb-loading!

Free sample:  Tennessee pulled pork at Whole Foods Knoxville

Free sample: Tennessee pulled pork at Whole Foods Knoxville

All that walking could take its toll, but not if you’re doing a pre-opening tour of Whole Foods.  They were ready for us with free samples all along the way — salad, sliced cheese, and pulled pork with a Tennessee sauce on the side!

One demo team talked about the 365 line of products, like this creamy peanut butter generously spread on freshly sliced apples.  Affordable, tasty, and one of many products bearing the store label.

Want a free sample of our peanut butter on a crisp apple slice?  I do.  I do.

Want a free sample of our peanut butter on a crisp apple slice? I do. I do.

Caitie noted the corporate emphasis on maintaining high standards — and not just the ones that were posted. Ratings systems were also in place: Whole Foods rates their meat with an Animal Welfare Rating and fresh produce with a Responsibly Grown Rating System.

Responsibly Grown Rating System for Whole Foods Markets

Responsibly Grown Rating System for Whole Foods Markets

Filling the bags with spices at Whole Foods Knoxville

Filling the bags with spices at Whole Foods Knoxville

Although shelves were only partially stocked the day of the tour, we suspected that elves will finish the job the weekend prior to the Tuesday opening.  Already, however, we could see busy employees filling bags of buy-in-bulk spices.

At the end of the tour, we were each handed a sack filled with sample foods and coupons for our first visits. Overall reactions from my tour group?  All good.  We loved the layout, the samples, and the emphasis on fresh and local.  And most said they’d shop here — maybe on opening day.  After all, Knoxville, the wait is almost over.  And soon, very soon, we’ll be cookin’!

Cooking sign, Whole Foods Knoxville

 

For more information: 

Whole Foods Knoxville, 6730 Papermill Drive, Knoxville, TN 37919; wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/knoxville

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/WholeFoodsKnoxville

Twitter:  @WFMKnoxville

Articles on Whole Foods Knoxville:

Campbell, Chuck. “Whole foods serving lunch before opening date.” Knoxville News-Sentinel (March 16, 2015). http://www.knoxnews.com/knoxville/food-and-dining/whole-foods-serving-lunch-before-opening-date

Constantine, Mary. “A Sneak Peak at Knoxville’s Whole Food Market.” Knoxville News-Sentinel (March 19, 2015). http://www.knoxnews.com/knoxville/food-and-dining/a-sneak-peek-at-knoxvilles-whole-foods-market_91200586

 

 

 

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Five tips to make your Coasting trip even better!

 

St. Augustine waterfront

St. Augustine waterfront

At the end of our Coasting adventure, we drove home talking about our best takeaways — from our favorite foodie places to the best beaches along the Atlantic.  Mostly we differed when talking about “besties,” but we agreed on one thing:  Travel involves choices if you’re going to make the most of the time and money you have.  No matter how few the days or the dollars you have, a trip through coasting towns in Georgia and Florida is about as good as it gets.  Here are our five ideas to maximize your next trip.

1.  Take the trolley first.  Then hit the pavement on foot.

Trolley, St. Augustine

Trolley, St. Augustine

We always recommend those hop-on, hop-off trolleys in any city for a first-time, all-around view of the best sites to see.  With knowledgeable — sometimes humorous — locals on the microphone (and sometimes at the wheel), you’re sure to get the background on the best spots as well as some insider information.  Go early in the day if you can.  You’ll not only see more spots but have time to get something from that great ice cream shop the dude on the bus will point out to you.

Architecture, St. Augustine

Close-up – home in St. Augustine

But don’t limit yourself to motorized transportation.  Old-fashioned walking — especially on side streets, in courtyards, and down alleyways — can net you an up-close-and-personal travel experience.  Like this one:  In getting to the Oldest House in America in St. Augustine, we meandered through a residential section where architectural details brought the Old South to life.

2. Savor the old, but save room for new.

Fort Frederica

Fort Frederica

If you like old buildings, old forts, old historical anything, good for you.  Read up on it. Dog-ear the page of your tour book.  And do it.  Like reading markers at Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.  Or learning about tabby at Fort Frederica. We love it, too.

But be prepared to revel in new places, new things, new ideas. Like Ice Plant Bar, an upscale venue in St. Augustine housed in a renovated 1927 ice plant.  Innovative cities take old places and make ‘em new, hip, and packed even on a weeknight. So, look for old if you love history; search out new if you’re interested in something fresh and out of the ordinary.  Or do both and find the best along the coast.

3.  Spend a little or spend a lot.

Turret at Jekyll Island Club

Turret at Jekyll Island Club

Your heart may tell you that only the finest will do.  Like accommodations at The Cloister at Sea Island.  Or fine dining at the Jekyll Island Club.  And who wouldn’t want to be pampered at the coast?

But remember that the ocean belongs to everyone, so you can have a great “vacay” even on a budget.  Stay in a 50s tourist court at Tybee Island?  Why not?  Same seagulls.  Same seafood down the street.  Same shops with seaglass necklaces and shell mirrors no matter where you spend the night.  Just check your budget and travel as you can.  You can see the best on a budget or luxuriate in the finest — but fall in love with the beach no matter what.

Sundown on the beach at Tybee Island

Sundown on the beach at Tybee Island

4.  Do your homework on restaurants; then eat like a local.

We’re in the habit of checking the Internet frequently for “best” places to eat wherever we’re traveling. Sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Open Table have honored places among our phone apps for the info they share.

But our best tip for finding good food is just ask the locals. Best bet?  Ask the folks who run the shops you like — antique dealers, art aficionados, tour guides, or B&B owners. All know the area.  All eat out themselves.  So where would they go?  Just ask.

Barbara Jean's at St. Simons Island

Moderately priced but loved by the locals: crab cakes at Barbara Jean’s, St. Simons Island

5.  Plan your day down to the minute if you must, but we say,

“Save time for serendipity.”

Fort Clinch at Fernandina Beach

Fort Clinch at Fernandina Beach

Yes, we read lots of articles like the ones in the New York Times on what to do if you just have 36 hours in a certain place.  They help you maximize your time. And squeeze in all the must-see sites. Like museums, state parks, monuments, and other places to check off your list.

But what fun it can be if you let yourself stumble upon a place that you’ve never heard of! Like Gould’s Inlet on St. Simons Island recommended by fellow blogger, James Vance (Gallivance) where we had a lovely conversation with a local resident about Johnson rocks (Who knew?), making our trip to St. Simons even more delightful. J. R. R. Tolkien was on to something when he said not all who wander are lost. So roam a little.  Or a lot.  It’s your vacation!

Looking for a great vacation?  Head to the coast!

Looking for a great vacation? Head to the coast!

Here’s hoping you plan a Coasting trip soon — East, West, South, or North.  Enjoy the old and the new, the scheduled and the not-so-scheduled — at any price. There’s not much in life better than sea, surf, and sand.

Let us know where you like Coasting and what we need to see and do on our next trip. Thanks for traveling with us!

Rusha and Bert Sams

 

To see all the posts in the Coasting series, click here.

For Twitter feeds on what’s happening in Georgia and Florida, follow these folks:  @ExploreGeorgia, @FLHistoricCoast, and @VISITFLORIDA.

 

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Travel theme: Fantastic

IMG_8430

At almost any point of any given day, Zion National Park offers fantastic views.  On the afternoon of our visit, ever-lengthening shadows crept across this imposing juncture, causing minute-by-minute color changes while adding a sparkle to the stream below.

For more fantastic photos on Ailsa’s site, Where’s My Backpack for Travel theme: Fantastic, click here.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Wall

Ancient wall, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

One of many ancient walls in Acoma Pueblo Sky City, a village located on a mesa approximately 60 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and continuously inhabited since the 1200s.

 

This special place, Acoma Pueblo, is known as “Haaku,” a spiritual homeland for an eternal dwelling. One of the oldest continually inhabited communities in the U. S. where almost 100 people live year-round with no running water or electricity, New Mexico’a Acoma Pueblo Sky City is open for tours on which you can take pictures of the spectacular view from the mesa and touch the ancient walls of the original buildings.

For more entries in this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Wall, click here.

For more information on Acoma Pueblo along with visitation days and times, click here.

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Coasting: Happening at 5:30 — Amelia Island waterfront!

Sunset, Amelia Island

Sunset on the waterfront, Amelia Island, Florida

After walking the broad Fernandina Beach and touring Fort Clinch, we longed for one last coastal sunset before heading back to Tennessee the following morning.  Ah, yes.  This will do: the waterfront at Amelia Island.

As we arrived, a man standing on a ramp was ending what he later told us was a nightly ritual: pitching fish into the water at sundown.

Feeding the fish at 5:30, Amelia Island, waterfront

Feeding the fish at 5:30, Amelia Island, waterfront

The birds (mostly pelicans) loved it as they flew, swam, darted, and pushed — eager to get in there and get fish at any cost!

Seagulls, brown birds, pelicans, and more.  Didn’t matter — all wanted a piece of the action.  And here they came, flapping wings, splashing water, honking and screeching.  We scrambled to focus our cameras to take it all in.

Perched on a post at Amelia Island waterfront

Perched on a post at Amelia Island waterfront

And just as we started taking pictures, one singular bird — a rather large, pensive pelican — perched atop a green post.  And sat there.  Watching.  Waiting.  Taking us in, or so we thought.  He’s harmless, right? But with that stern look, we weren’t so sure.

He looked left and right.  He stared forward and back.  But he always seemed to have one eye squarely focused on us.  And then, just like that, he was gone.

Taking flight.

Taking flight.

By this time the feeding frenzy had ended, the man was walking back up the ramp, and birds began paddling around, content. We looked past the marina into the sunset once more as we heard the man, now behind us, say softly, It happens every night about 5:30.  Come back tomorrow.  It’s fun every time.  

Looking into the distance at the Amelia Island waterfront

Looking into the distance at the Amelia Island waterfront

And we wished we could, of course.

Sunset, Amelia Island.

Sunset, Amelia Island.

For more information:

Check out this post on Kate Harris’s blog:  “Fifteen Things to Do on Amelia Island in 2015″

And also take a look at the site Welcome to Amelia Island full of suggestions for what to do and what to see on Amelia Island.

Here’s hoping you’ll have more time than we did to see this lovely coastal area!

For more on the Coasting series, click here.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Orange you glad it’s photo challenge time?

Well, of course we’re glad it’s photo challenge time.  Especially with this theme.  As they say around Knoxville, we bleed orange around here.  And not just any ol’ orange.  This is gen-u-wine University of Tennessee orange. Go Vols!

For more entries in this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Orange, click here.

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Travel theme: Graceful

Arched branches leading to Fort Clinch State Park

The graceful arches of stately Southern trees form a suitable canopy over the road leading to Fort Clinch State Park on Fernandina Beach, Florida.  The icing, so to speak, on all this Southern graciousness are the touches of green along the branches and wisps of Spanish moss that move delicately with the wind.

For more entries in Ailsa’s Where’s My Backpack? photo challenge — Travel theme: Graceful — click here.

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