Join in the Great Backyard Bird Count

Here’s an event that will help your children explore math, science, and the environment right in your own backyard. It’s the Great Backyard Bird Count, an annual event where citizens take 15 minutes to count birds. This year’s count is going on February 13th-16th. It would be a great activity during some of your time off school, and I know my teacher and homeschooler readers will think of a clever way to incorporate this into your lessons!

The official website has printable sheets to help you identify the flying friends who visit you. When you’re finished, you can upload your results, which will be used by scientists and researchers around the world. What a cool way to be part of something big without leaving home!

Backyard Bird Count

I know you’re thinking it must be more complicated, but it’s really not: Count, Tally, Submit! [Read more…]

A Visit to the Puyallup Historical Fish Hatchery

Have you ever taken your kids to find salmon coming in to spawn? It’s a uniquely Northwest adventure great for your outdoor explorers.

I have a link to a whole post about that at the end of this one, but first I want to highlight a salmon homecoming event you can check out this weekend, and tell you about a very special place you can have fishy fun with your kids in Puyallup all year round.

The Puyallup Historical Fish Hatchery is a hidden treasure tucked away on a residential street just a few streets away from the fairgrounds.

It’s been part of the community for generations now, but it was almost closed and turned into a private, commercial facility.  Luckily, an amazing group of community members came together to make sure that didn’t happen. Founding Director Patty Carter told me how their group went from sitting around a table at Denny’s to lobbying in the halls of Olympia. It’s one fish story that’s no tall tale!  You can read a bit more about it here. The hatchery is now on the historical registry, which means it will be preserved permanently, and thanks to the generosity of still more community groups and volunteers, there is an awesome educational facility just waiting for your field trips.

Patty and some of her team gave Henry and me a little tour. The fish in these ponds are trout, and there are thousands of them. Henry was thrilled to get to toss them some food. Can you see them all going wild for it? It was crazy!

Feeding fish at the Puyallup hatchery


The educational center is open by appointment. If you have a class or homeschool group or other bunch that would like to come visit, just get in touch. Field trips can be tailored around your units of study, and they’re free! The center is super cute, and Henry loved the little film (naturally). [Read more…]

Deal to Ziemke’s in Buckley-Corn Maze & Hay Ride! Plus, Reader Reviews of Other Area Pumpkin Patches!

I’ve been keeping my eyes open for deals to area pumpkin patches and corn mazes, and honestly, there haven’t been a lot, so I was excited to spot one this morning!

I  do think many area patches are now hosting offers on their own sites, so be sure to take a look at ’em before you head out.

pumpkin patches

I DID find you this fun offer on Amazon Local to local pumpkin patch and produce stand, Ziemke’s, in Buckley.

I’d never heard of this one, but right on cue, my friend Lisa posted some adorable pictures on Facebook of her girls at Ziemke’s!

I asked her for a little review and she said, “ We really liked it! Lots to do and very reasonably priced.”

Sounds like a good bet to me! This deal gets you corn maze admission and a hay ride for four for 14.00. Not bad.  Of course, you’ll want to figure the add on costs for some pumpkins.

Readers have also shared some great reviews about other area spots I thought you’d enjoy. [Read more…]

Places to See Fall Color Around Here

I get lots of requests this time of year from readers wanting to see leaves changing color around the greater South Puget Sound. I have a feeling a lot of them are homesick transplants from somewhere else. Let’s face it-We are the Evergreen State! But, never fear! There is leaf peeping to be had if you know where to look. Here is a list of favorite spots for fall color straight from the SFM Facebook team. I also have a link to an article I did for our friends at Parent Map on South Sound fall hikes and walks. I think you’ll love it! Pierce County area Fall color hikes or walks Great Spots to See Fall Color and Changing Leaves Around the South Sound [Read more…]

South Sound Harvest Festivals 2014

Get your fresh on at South Sound area harvest festivals and celebrations. I know this picture is Crazy, but I promise he had the teeth for it. I don’t like to brag, but my kid was very advanced in teeth!


There is  again no Harvest Fest Farm Tour in Pierce County or King County for 2014-at least there isn’t the one that used to be organized in conjunction with the WSU extensions.

There are still many harvest celebrations and farm tours all around the South Sound. These are great opportunities to introduce the kids to animals, check out real working farms, or just enjoy some fall fun as a family.

Read on for the full list. You’ll note that a few of these are out of my usual, “Territory,” but I did try to stick to the South Sound as much as possible. Also note that I tried to keep the list to harvest events-more Halloween/pumpkin oriented events will be in a different list.

Saturdays and Sundays-September 27th-October 26th Remlinger Farms Harvest Pumpkin Fall Festival  kiddie rides, u-pick pumpkins, market with items for sale  This one is a day trip/almost road trip, and it’s not a bargain,  but it’s a super fun day with younger children.

September 27th, Duvall Heritage Festival cider making, Pioneer era job/craft demonstrations

September 28th Pumpkin Festival at Oxbow Farm in Carnation 12-4 5.00 in advance/7.00 at the gate hay rides, farm games, crafts, produce for sale. Working, organic farm-dress for mud

October 4th-Fife Harvest Festival   We’ve been to this with the boys several times. Carnival games, kids’ entertainment-all kinds of fun. In the past, I didn’t think it had much of a, “Harvest,” flavor, but the organizers told me they were adding more of those elements. We didn’t make it last year, so if you did, leave a review! There will be vendors on hand, but admission is FREE. [Read more…]

South Sound Apple Picking and Cider Making



If finally feels like fall! If the cool air has you thinking about apple picking and cider making, you’re not along! Sadly, there just aren’t many places for u pick apples in the South Sound, and Terry’s Berries, which offered organic u pick apples, isn’t open for public picking this year. The good news is there are several local apple festivals and cider events where you can get something that tastes fresh picked, even if you can’t do it yourself! If you don’t mind a road trip, I also have links for the closest u pick apple orchards to the greater Seattle area at the bottom.

[Read more…]

Playground Report: The Playground at Point Ruston on the Waterwalk

UPDATE:It’s open again for your strolling or triking pleasure! 


The playground at  Point Ruston’s Waterwalk is a little playground with  two big bonuses-an eye popping view and a smooth stretch of pavement perfect for beginning bike riders.

Waterwalk Point Ruston Tacoma

The playground itself is a small, ferryboat themed structure and a nice set of swings. My boys both enjoyed it briefly. Kids who are into imaginative play will want to stay longer. I saw several young cuties who looked like they could easily spend an hour playing, “Captain.”

Playground on ruston way

The best thing about this playground? As the saying goes, “Location, location, location!” If you’ve lived in the Tacoma area as long as I have, you’ll remember this as the spot where the Asarco smokestack used to be (Yes, they’ve done LOTS of environmental clean-up, and more is ongoing).

The Waterwalk is at the end of Ruston Way that’s closest to the zoo. The condos and apartments are private, but the rest of the area is fully open to the public. For now that includes one pub style restaurant in the bottom (Yes, kids are welcome), and the lovely stretch of pavement by the baby called the Waterwalk. It’s wider than Ruston Way, and it’s been recently paved, so it’s nice and smooth-just great for strollers, bikers, and skaters.

View from waterwalk on Ruston Way

Oh, and the view isn’t too shabby either! We even saw a baby seal on our visit. There are also some interesting art pieces and picnic tables. At least on our visits it’s been much less crowded than Ruston Way proper, maybe because it looks private to folks, or maybe because of all the ongoing condo construction around it.  In any case, it’s a bit of an undiscovered gem at the moment.

Now, I didn’t write about this one for a while because I thought the parking was very confusing. Happily, you can now pull right into the Point Ruston lot, and you will see spaces clearly signed as public parking for Waterwalk use.

One thing there aren’t? Bathrooms. They are planning on constructing some, but as of now the main door to the Point Ruston complex isn’t open to the public. If you’re having an emergency, it might be worth it to get a smoothie at the little restaurant on the bottom floor to have access to the potty. It’s called Two Towns, and we’ve eaten here a couple of times. Everyone working there seems really, really new to service, but they’re trying hard. Food wise-stick to burgers and pub grub. They serve drinks, but it’s kid friendly.

If that option doesn’t appeal,  you can trek back on Ruston Way ton find restrooms. Your best bet is probably to go before you go!

I’m working on an update to my series on Ruston Way. It’s one of those places that makes me love Tacoma. I’m also planning a round up of spots around the South Sound great for new bike riders. If you know one, I’d LOVE for you to leave a comment!


Beach Report: Narrows Park in Gig Harbor

We’re rerunning some favorite warm weather outings this week.

Summer may be wrapping up, but there’s still too much of it to waste.

Here’s a great South Sound beach my Tacoma and Gig Harbor area friends will want to find!  At one time, I would have called it a hidden treasure, but judging by the crowd there on our last visit, word is out.

It’s at Narrows Park in Gig Harbor, and it’s just a minute or two from the bridge itself, which makes it a nice destination for those of you in the West End of Tacoma and University Place, as well as my Gig Harbor friends.

The parking lot is just steps from the beach, and there is a nice, paved path with a telescope for checking out the bridge up close.

Look through the telescope to see the Narrows Bridge up close.

The beach itself is pretty standard for the Northwest, although if you look closely, you can find a bit-just a bit-of sand. Once you’ve plunked your chair down, you can try to spot seals or check out the passing boat traffic.

Beach at Narrows Park in Gig Harbor

Plenty of beach for play and exploration, water for splashing, and a view with wow factor!

The water is as cold as any you’ll find out here, and it has a decent bit of wave most every day. Your kids will still want to splash around; just watch them closely.

If the tide isn’t up, you can get more privacy by walking a bit in either direction. It was quite high when we were there, so it didn’t feel like a spot for quiet. On the other hand, it was very much a family atmosphere. No party crowd-just families and dogs (Lots of dogs). [Read more…]

Day Trip: Paddling the Arboretum in Seattle

During August, we venture out of the South Sound (just a bit) to share some of our favorite day trip ideas.

Whether you’re looking for ideas for your Puget Sound area, “Staycation,” or just working on squeezing in all the fun you can, we’re here to help!

Today’s post takes you to the waters of the Arboretum in Seattle, where you can paddle right under the busy freeway and into a world of gentle water and lily pad covered coves your explorers will love. We spotted great blue herons, a beaver, and all manner of ducks. The water is totally placid, making it an easy paddle for even a first time boater.

If you have your own canoe or kayak you can find a put in spot on this map (link opens pdf).

If you need to rent a boat, there are a couple options. The cheapest (and therefore the best, if you ask me), is to get one from the waterfront activities center at the UW. It’s in the same parking lot as Husky Stadium if you go to the bottom right, just past the rock climbing wall. You’ll need to pay a small fee to park. The parking lot does fill up, especially on weekends, and boat rental is a popular activity. Go early on a weekend or you may have to wait. [Read more…]

Day Trip Idea: Riding the Gondola at Crystal Mountain

While we’re All About the South Sound here, in August we also like to run some ideas for those of you doing staycations or looking for day trips or even short road trips.

A ride on the Crystal Mountain gondola is a great South Sound area day trip with some major, “Wow!” factor.

Riding the Gondola at Crystal Mountain with children


While Crystal is known as a place to ski and snowboard, this time of year you can take a gondola ride to the top and enjoy mountain views and blooming wildflowers.  No reservations are needed, and it operates weekdays from 10AM-5:30, and on Fridays and Saturdays from 10AM-7PM through September 21st.

A few things to know before you go: [Read more…]