Saturday, August 28, 2010

Girls' Day Out in Tacoma

As a military spouse, I have the advantage this summer of getting into a number of museums for free with my military ID, including the Museum of Glass and the Tacoma Art Museum. So my friend Erin tagged along with me today and we had a great time.

To make things easy, I parked at the Tacoma Dome Station, which is free. From there, you can take the Tacoma Link Light Rail (also free) to Union Station - a ride of approximately 5 minutes (which puts you just a stone's throw from the Museum of Glass).

But we didn't hop on the rail immediately. Historic Freighthouse Square is right across the street from the Tacoma Dome Station. It's filled with shops and restaurants. So we poked around in there, got coffee (made for us by a very chatty and hilarious barista), visited an art gallery, and then hopped on the rail.

Five minutes later, we were at Union Station, and making our way toward the Museum of Glass (MOG). We headed to the hot shop first, where artist Ed Archie Noisecat was working with his crew. We hung out in there for awhile and watched before exploring the galleries. The highlight for me was the "Kids Design Glass" exhibit, where the MOG hot shop team created glass sculptures based on drawings that were submitted by kids from ages 5-12. They were adorable, weird, remarkable, and hilarious (I'm jealous of the imagination of children).

After browsing the museum shop, we decided it was time for lunch. Sitting out on the patio at Woody's on the Water sounded like a good option (it's right next door to the MOG and you have a stunning view of the reflecting pool, MOG, and the Thea Foss Waterway). We had a nice lunch. I ordered a crab melt with coleslaw. Tasty.

Once we finished lunch, we leisurely made our way to the Tacoma Art Museum, stopping to check out anything that was of interest on the way. Overall, I liked the Tacoma Art Museum quite a bit. They have a pretty small collection and it only took us about half an hour to get through the exhibitions that were open (they are currently preparing for another one), but they have a nice Impressionism collection. I liked their Dale Chihuly collection and the current landscape exhibit. The highlight for me was Leroy. I love Leroy.

And judging by the fact that Leroy's image appeared on half the stuff in the gift shop, I would say that I'm not the only one who loves Leroy.

After the art museum, we just walked around and explored shops. We went into Hello, Cupcake because well...HELLO! CUPCAKES! I had a raspberry lemonade cupcake - lemon cupcake with raspberry buttercream frosting. Delicious. I'm honestly not much of a cake person, but the frosting was fluffy, light and not too sweet.

After a stop at the UW-Tacoma bookstore (where I got Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential for the bargain price of $4 + tax), we headed back toward the Tacoma Dome Station.

I had one stop to make before leaving...the Tacoma Book Center, right across the street from the Tacoma Dome. This unassuming building hides the fact that an enormous book mecca lies within. You are spoiled for choice here. You could easily spend an entire day in this store and probably wouldn't cover all of it. I sold some books and stayed near the door because I was trying to resist temptation. After all, I have enough books here at home already that I haven't even had the chance to read yet.

Today was a fun day. Erin and I had a great time and the more I see of Tacoma, the more I like it. It's sad how many tourists overlook this city because it didn't always have the best reputation. But if you get the chance, visit. You won't be sorry.

And I have the photos to prove it.

- Tacoma Dome Station (better than on-street parking, I promise)
- Tacoma Link Light Rail map and schedule
- Freighthouse Square
- Museum of Glass
- Woody's on the Water
- Tacoma Art Museum
- Hello, Cupcake
- Tacoma Book Center

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Columbus, Ohio Tourism

Click here for my latest article on and read about my hometown!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do stuff. Eat stuff. Travel. Cheaper.

I've become a huge fan of websites like Groupon and Local Twist. They're especially great for people who live in a large metropolitan area or those who are traveling to a large city and want to find good deals while they're there.

(Please note - these links are my personal referral links. I get $10 credit every time someone signs up from these links. But if you sign up, then you can refer your friends and get $10 credit from each referral too. Everybody's happy!)

These sites are FREE to join. Let me reiterate - THEY ARE FREE. And when you join, you are offered at least one deal a day (for Groupon, since I live between Seattle and Tacoma, I can take advantage of the daily deal for both cities). You can have deals sent to you via email, or you can follow them on Facebook or Twitter and get your deals that way.

So...if you're not already a member, you're probably wondering how this works.

A deal is offered - say, $10 for $20 worth of food at a local restaurant. (They do plenty of entertainment, travel, adventure/sports and spa deals too.) If enough people take the deal, then the deal is on. You sign up to take the deal. You pay your $10. If the deal is on, you get a coupon to print out for $20 worth of food. If not enough people sign up for the deal (I have never seen this happen), you don't get charged and you don't get the deal. Simple as that. Typically, you have about a year or so to use your coupon, although this can vary depending upon the deal being offered.

So...if you're planning to travel around any major American or Canadian cities in the near future, I would highly recommend that you check out these sites and sign up. You can save yourself a lot of money. My friends and I love these sites and have taken advantage of a lot of the local deals already.

Also note: Groupon is available for several different countries. Definitely worth checking out if you do a lot of traveling!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Island Escape

Vashon Island is so near, and yet so far. A 20-minute ferry ride from West Seattle, it seems like a world away. The pace of life is slower. "Civilization" is the town of Vashon with its quaint, old-timey downtown. Outside of Vashon, you see farmland, wildflowers, and a lot of nature areas.

Lisa and I took the ferry today so that we could visit some of the lavender farms. The town of Sequim in the Olympic Peninsula usually gets all the glory - with its lavender festival being a large summer attraction. But Vashon offers lavender too, and it's just right for a day trip from Seattle or Tacoma or anywhere in-between.

Our first stop on the island was at Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie. Housed in a century-old building, this is a popular local spot. Not only do they have excellent coffee (I also rather enjoyed one of their huge, chewy molasses cookies), but they have a coffee museum and coffee-related antiques throughout the interior. This isn't one of your stale, identical-looking coffee shops that sit on every corner in Seattle. This place is special.

Fortified with caffeine and sugar, we started driving around Vashon Island with a horrible map and the GPS from our cellphones to guide us along. We kind of got lost. But that's actually ok. Vashon Island is good-sized, but it's not huge. You can only go so far, and eventually, you'll find your way back to where you were before.

We stopped at two of the island's three lavender farms - Fox Farm Lavender and Lavender Sisters - before heading back into the main drag in Vashon, where we ate lunch at The Hardware Store (which, as you can probably guess, isn't actually a hardware store). Fish and chips for me and a cheeseburger for Lisa, and we browsed some of the shops before heading back toward the ferry terminal.

Just a mile or two from the ferry terminal is Palouse Winery, where we stopped for some tastings before heading back. We were greeted by the owners' dogs, and as we were kicking back with some wine, Lisa happened to mention that her turn signals were no longer working on her VW Bug. So the owner actually came out to look at her car and check the fuse to see if that was the problem. So darned nice! And excellent wine too! I definitely want to stop back there if I'm on Vashon Island again.

A short while later, we were back on the ferry heading toward West Seattle, where we stopped to walk around Lincoln Park before heading back to our respective homes.

Want pictures? I have them.

How about some links?

- Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie
- Fox Farm Lavender
- The Hardware Store
- Palouse Winery