Choo Choo Adventures

July 8, 2014 by  

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By: Trisha Henning

The Great Northern Cascade Railway and Toot Sweet Candy Shop in Skykomish, Wash.




As soon as spring rolls around I’m trying to plan fun adventures that will inspire my little girl to think, learn, be active and have fun at the same time. My guess is you are, too. Well, I’ve got the perfect day-long outing for you.

I packed my 5-year old in the car and headed for the sleepy town of Skykomish, which is located on U.S. Highway 2, about 16 miles west of Stevens Pass.

Skykomish is rich in railroad history and is a quaint little town that you’d probably drive right past if you didn’t know any better. Located just across the bridge in the town of Skykomish are two little gems sure to spur excitement for the whole family.

First stop, the Great Northern Cascade Railway — a 7 1/2-inch gauge live steam railroad that the whole family can ride on. This is a great 1/2-mile railway loop that is open every weekend (including holidays) from May through October from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. And rides are completely free! (A small donation would be gratefully accepted, since this project has been at the heart of many volunteers.)

Once you’ve had your fill of this amazing train, the old depot building and the history behind it, it’s time to head to the best little candy shop in town: Skykomish Toot Sweet. This cute train-themed candy shop, located at 108 W. Railroad Ave., is every kid’s dream! From candy to toys to his and her striped railroad hats, this little shop is way too cute to pass up. The shop is run by volunteer Debbe Koch and is open on Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m.

So plan a family trip and take a day to enjoy the scenery. Go take a ride on the rail … ALL ABOARD!

Road Trip! Leavenworth

November 27, 2013 by  

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Leavenworth's Christmas Lighting Ceremony. IMAGE COURTESY OF CITY OF LEAVENWORTH

Leavenworth’s Christmas Lighting Ceremony. IMAGE COURTESY OF CITY OF LEAVENWORTH


Relax? Before the holidays? Good luck with that if you’re a parent. It’s too cold for the kids to play outside, and the Christmas shopping and household to-do lists seem to stretch on forever. But we have a great idea for some relaxed holiday fun with the family this season: a road trip to Leavenworth. With a little advance planning, you can create new holiday traditions and carve out a little time to breathe … without spending a lot of money or time on the road.

Leavenworth is modeled after a Bavarian village, and it’s an internationally-recognized shopping destination that caters to visitors and families. The first three weekends in December, Leavenworth turns into a twinkling winter wonderland and hosts numerous holiday activities for families. Many Washington parents consider a visit to Leavenworth an essential part of their Christmas traditions.

Yakima parents with young children will appreciate the fact that the town is only an hour and 40 minutes away, and since the lighting ceremonies begin prior to the dinner hour, you can enjoy the festivities but still have your sugar plums tucked into their beds at a decent hour (even if you don’t spend the night).

Pick up a personalized family ornament to mark the occasion at Kris Kringle’s, and enjoy all kinds of snacks, brats, or even upscale Italian food at one of many local restaurants. Holiday events during the three weekends leading to Christmas are scheduled Friday through Sunday from approximately noon until the early evening hours. Enjoy sleigh rides, carolers, living Nativities, musicians, and actors strolling through the downtown shopping district. The lighting ceremonies start at 4:15 p.m. on Friday-Sunday.

The town is situated just blocks from hiking and snowshoeing trails, and skiing at Stevens Pass is close by. Bring sleds if there is snow forecast; snow sledding is allowed in the downtown park.

Check out ?for a detailed schedule of events, and remember to pack warm clothes and a Thermos of hot cocoa. Oh, and leave those to-do lists at home.

Choo Choo! Holiday trains offer fun of the railroad

November 27, 2013 by  

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Photo courtesy of Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad

Photo courtesy of Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad

See more than 40 running model trains at a “Toy Train Christmas” in Toppenish. Some are even made of Legos!
The fun kicks off on Sat., Nov. 30. The event continues each Saturday and Sunday from Dec. 7 through Dec. 22 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Take the train to the North Pole to see Santa Claus, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies with the kiddos.
Cost is $6 adults, $4 children. Photos with Santa are an extra fee. Northern Pacific Railway Museum, 10 S. Asotin Ave., Toppenish; 509-865-1911.

Nov. 30 through Dec. 22, the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad transforms into the “Santa Express!” The “North Pole” is actually Elbe Depot (About 2 1/2 hours west of Yakima). Passengers on the Santa Express enjoy a 90 minute-2 hour ride aboard a steam train, with Santa on board, too! The folks at Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad say it’s important to make reservations early.
Trains depart at 10 a.m., 12:45 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on weekends only.
Cost is $27 adults, with discounts for youth, senior, AAA and military. 54124 Mountain Highway East, Elbe; 360-492-5588.

Day Trip: Greater Goldendale area

September 19, 2013 by  

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Maryhill Museum’s Plaza-level gallery in the Mary and Bruce Stevenson Wing. PHOTO BY JOSH PARTEE.


One fun day trip is to explore some great cultural and educational spots in the greater Goldendale area. I recommend taking this day trip on a Saturday, so you can enjoy all the places on this list. Rearrange this itinerary any way you need, but pay attention to each destination’s hours of operation and how much light is left in the day.

Sample itinerary:

9 a.m.: Leave Yakima

10:10 a.m.: Arrive at St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Monastery/Bakery. Try some coffee and baklava and explore the gift shop.

10:40 a.m.: Leave St. John’s (unless you are visiting/touring the monastery — call at least a week ahead to schedule an appointment).

This telescope allows visitors to catch a glimpse of Venus or Mercury in the daytime. Photo by SCOTT KLEPACH

11 a.m.: Arrive at Goldendale Observatory State Park. Check out the telescopes inside two domes in the daytime. One telescope will allow you to look at the sun without being blinded, and another telescope under the bigger dome will give you a glimpse of Venus or Mercury. (Note: Goldendale Observatory offers nighttime viewing too!)

Noon/12:30 p.m.: Have a picnic at Maryhill State Park. Bring the bikes and get some exercise, or stroll leisurely next to trees overlooking the Columbia River. Planning a longer trip will allow you to enjoy the area’s camping and waterfront activities.

1:30 p.m.: Visit Maryhill Museum of Art. Check for “free county” days, visiting exhibits and family fun days throughout the year. Grab a snack and drink at the museum’s café before you leave.

3:30 p.m.: Visit Stonehenge Memorial. Pretend you are in England and adopt a British accent. Clap your hands inside and outside the stone pillars and compare the sounds.

4 p.m.: Head home to Yakima, to arrive around dinnertime.

Stonehenge Memorial near Maryhill Museum of Art overlooks the Columbia River. Photo by SCOTT KLEPACH

Other possible highlights:

• Enjoy another sight of the Columbia River by crossing the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge to Oregon, even if only for a few minutes.

• On the way south from Yakima to your destination points, and on the way back, see how many mountains you can spot as you’re driving on Highway 97. On a good day you should be able to spot Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier!

Note: You will need a Discovery Pass to park at the Goldendale Observatory State Park and Maryhill State Park. A Discovery Pass costs $10 per day, or $30 annually, and the pass is transferrable between two vehicles. You can obtain one at state parks and many stores in the area. For a list of Yakima vendors, visit the website of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Destinations info:

St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Monastery/Bakery
58.7 miles from Yakima (70 minutes by car)
5 Timmer Lane, Goldendale
509-773-7141 or 509-773-6650
Bakery/gift shop hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.,
Monday-Saturday (monastery hours are 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-6 p.m.)

Goldendale Observatory State Park
71.6 miles from Yakima (89 minutes by car)
1602 Observatory Drive, Goldendale
Hours: 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday (nighttime viewings begin at about 8:30 p.m.)
Free; Discovery Pass required for parking

Maryhill State Park
78.5 miles from Yakima (94 minutes by car)
50 U.S. 97, Goldendale
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-dusk (summer), and 8 a.m.-dusk (winter); open year-round
Free; Discovery Pass required for parking

Maryhill Museum of Art
80.6 miles from Yakima (99 minutes by car)
35 Maryhill Museum Drive, Goldendale
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. every day, including holidays, March 15-Nov. 15
Cost: $9 adults, $8 seniors, $3 youth (ages 7-18), $25 family (two adults with related children)

Stonehenge Memorial
81 miles from Yakima (97 minutes by car)
43-199 Stonehenge Drive, Goldendale (3 miles east of Maryhill Museum of Art)
509-773-3733 (Maryhill Museum of Art)
Hours: Dawn to dusk

Take an artsy road trip for Maryhill Museum’s Family Fun Days Aug. 17-18

July 31, 2013 by  

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Maryhill Museum of Art is holding its next Family Fun Days program, “Under the Tent,” Aug. 17-18.

The free drop-in events, designed for children and families to experience hands-on art, are set for 1 to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 17 and 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 18.

On Family Fun Days, visitors can get a bonus: Youth 18 and under receive free all-day admission to the museum with each paying adult.

Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 15-Nov. 15. Museum admission cost: $9 adults, $8 seniors (65 and older), $3 youth (ages 7-18), $25 family (two adults plus related children), and free for children 6 and under.

Maryhill Museum of Art, 35 Maryhill Museum Drive, Goldendale; 509-773-3733.

White Pass Kids’ Clinic continues January-March

January 4, 2013 by  

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The dates are set, and more kids’ clinics will be offered at White Pass January-March.

Boys and girls ages 5-12 can experience full-day skiing or snowboarding clinics with specialized children’s instructors.

The remaining sessions offered are Jan. 12-13, Jan. 26-27, Feb. 9-10, Feb. 23-24, Mar. 9-10 & Mar. 23-24.

Registration takes place from 8-9:15 a.m. on those dates in the Talus Room. Clinic participants meet at The Learning Center at White Pass at 9:30 a.m. each day. The cost is $90 single day, $130 weekend; includes lunch, snacks and lift tickets.

Register with The Learning Center at White Pass, 509-672-3101, and check out for more info.

Yakima Parks & Rec teams up with White Pass for EZ Ski/Ride program

January 4, 2013 by  

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The EZ Ski/Ride program is a great way to introduce kids to snow sports.

“Baby, it’s cold outside…”

Yep, and there’s lots of snow, too.  What are you and your family going to do about it?  Sure, snow angels can get you so far, but if you want real adventure, why not try skiing or snowboarding?

If you’re not sure how to start, especially for the little ones, Yakima Parks and Recreation and White Pass are teaming up to offer “EZ Ski/Ride 1,2,3,” a program designed to teach kids an introduction to snow sports, including skiing and snowboarding.

Three dates and times are set: Jan. 21, Feb. 15 & Feb. 21, 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.  The cost is $140 or$147, depending on residency; the fee includes transportation and three days of lift tickets. If you’d rather just tag along, a transportation only fee is $15 or $17, again depending on residency. Contact Yakima Parks and Rec for more info at 509-575-6020.

Moses Lake water park a great day trip option

June 1, 2012 by  

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Summer usually means road trips, and you don’t have to go far if you’re looking for a real water park adventure.
Moses Lake is home to Surf ‘n Slide Water Park, which attracts visitors from all over the area. There are plenty of attractions for the brave swimmers, but there’s no need to be shy; the water park offers fun options for all ages and abilities.
There are plenty of ways to make a splash at the park. Some highlights include two 200-foot water slides, a 300-foot “river,” an artificial surfing simulator, volleyball courts, pools and diving boards, and a tube slide.
This year’s early season opens May 26 until June 7, when operating hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. weekends, and 4-8 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Regular season commences June 8 until Aug. 28, when the hours expand to 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
Late season spans Aug. 29-Sept. 3, when hours go back to 11 a.m.-7 p.m. weekends, and 4-8 p.m. Monday-Friday.
It’s advised to call ahead of your trip to make sure hours haven’t changed.
Cost: $9 adult, $8 student (ages 13-17), $7 seniors and children (ages 5-12), free for children under 4. Call or check website for season and family passes.

If you go:
Surf ‘n Slide Water Park
401 W. 4th Ave.
Moses Lake

Summer at the Museum

June 1, 2012 by  

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Summer at the Museum


Sometimes you don’t have to go far to go on a long journey. That’s the beauty of museums. You can drive for a few minutes, or take a road trip to explore one of the many options in the state, and you’ll be transported to another time and place.

Here’s a roundup of fun regional museums that are worth the road trip this summer:


Yakima County

Central Washington Agricultural Museum

Museum grounds feature horse-drawn and early mechanical farm machinery, plus 3,000 antique hand tools, a steam engine, bells, a sawmill, a blacksmith shop, an apple packing line and the Lindeman Tractor. Educational programs available 9:30 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays though June 8. Other special events include various tractor runs, tractor pulls and the annual Central Washington Antique Farm Equipment Expo, scheduled for Aug. 18-19.

Fullbright Park, 4508 Main St., Union Gap

Museum grounds open every day of the year

Buildings open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Sunday through October

Free admission ($5 suggested donation per person)

509-457-8735 •


McAllister Museum of Aviation

Opened in 1926 by brothers Charles and Alister McAllister. Special event: B-17 Bomber, ground tours and rides available at 4 p.m., June 25-28.

Open all year: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays

2008 S. 16th Ave., Yakima

509-457-4933 •


Northern Pacific Railway Museum

The Northern Pacific Railway depot was in use from 1911 until 1981, and the museum was opened in 1989. Highlight: Have your birthday party in a caboose!  The 13th Annual Railroad Show is Aug. 24-25 and features art, demonstrations, caboose rides and tours.

10 Asotin Ave., Toppenish

Open through October

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 12-4 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday

$5 adults, $3 children 17 and under and seniors

Contact: Roger, 509-865-1911, or Mary (special events), 509-877-3894


Yakima Area Arboretum

Described as a “living collection of trees and plants.” Park grounds cover 46 acres, 30 of which house trees and display gardens, and 15 acres of natural area. Jewett Interpretive Center features a bell tower, Heritage of Trees display, reference library, herbarium, gift shop and courtyard.

1401 Arboretum Drive, Yakima

Park open dawn to dusk; Jewett Visitor Center open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays

Admission by donation

509-248-7337 •


Yakima Electric Railway Museum

Since 1907 this has been the home of Yakima Valley Trolleys, which its website says is “America’s last intact, early 20th century, interurban electric railroad.” A collection of trolleys for observation and weekend and holiday trolley rides available.

South Third Avenue & Pine Street, Yakima

Open through September 3

Trolley rides 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays

$4 adults, $3 children 12 and under and seniors 60 and up, children on lap are free (cash only)

509-249-5962 •


Yakama Nation Cultural Heritage Center Museum

Exhibits include life-size dwellings, a mannequin exhibit of Native American leaders and sound effects with music and oral narratives. There’s also a gift shop, restaurant and theater.

Highway 97 and Buster Road, Toppenish

Open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily

$6 adults, $4 seniors 55 & older and children 11-18, $2 children 0-10, $15 family (2 adults and 2 children under 18), $25 guided tour

509-865-2800, ext. 1 •


Yakima Valley Museum • Children’s Underground

Historical exhibits of Yakima Valley, from pioneer days to early city life. Highlights include a focus on the area’s fruit industry, horse-drawn vehicles, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas exhibit, the Children’s Underground and the adjacent Museum Soda Fountain. Gift shop and educational programs available. Other rotating exhibits throughout the year.

2105 Tieton Drive, Yakima (Franklin Park)

Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; Children’s Underground opens 1 p.m. weekdays & 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday

Museum & Children’s Underground: $5 adults, $3 students and seniors, children under 5 free, $12 family (check for special group rates)

Soda Fountain: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; summer hours 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday

509-248-0747 for museum; 509-457-9810 for Soda Fountain


Take a little road trip for these museums:


Benton County Historical Museum

Antique clothing, Pomo baskets and a Christmas toy exhibit.

Located in Prosser City Park, 1000 Paterson Road, Prosser

Open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 12-3 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday-Monday

$3 adults, $1 children under 18



Children’s Activity Museum

Since 1991, hands-on fun includes themed play areas, the vortex machine and a reading nook. Preschool program, party rentals and field trips available.

118 E. Fourth Ave., Ellensburg

Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, 12-7 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday & Saturday; closed Sunday-Tuesday

$4.25 per person, ages 1 and up; $14.50 family admission for four or more immediate family

509-925-6789 •


Columbia River Exhibition of History, Science & Technology

Highlights the scientific and technology history of Columbia Basin area, including nuclear technology, molecular science, hydroelectric power and Hanford.

95 Lee Boulevard, Richland

Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday & Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, 12-5 p.m. Sunday

$5 adults, $4 students ages 7-17 and seniors

509-943-9000 •


Fort Simcoe State Park

This 200-acre, day-use park features five original buildings, picnic areas and interpretive displays. A family weekend in June celebrates military and Fort Simcoe history.

At the end of State Route 220, located on the Yakama Reservation (45 minutes south of Yakima)

Summer hours (through September): daily, 6:30 a.m. to dusk.

Free admission and parking



Goldendale Observatory

Budding astronauts will enjoy staying up late to star gaze at this hilltop observatory housing one of the nation’s largest public telescopes. Or stop by during the afternoon for a daylight view of the countryside.

1602 Observatory Drive, Goldendale (70 miles south of Yakima)

Summer hours (through September): 2-5 p.m. & 8 p.m.-midnight Wednesday-Saturday.

Admission by Discover Pass, donations

509-773-3141 •


Kittitas County Historical Museum

A local history museum. The Exploring Kittitas County summer program offers an extensive calendar of field trips and hands-on activities for kids.

114 E. Third Ave., Ellensburg

Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday

Admission by donation

509-925-3778 •


Maryhill Museum of Art

Set in a three-story mansion overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, the Maryhill Museum of Art features European and American paintings, Native American arts and pieces from the Queen of Romania. The kid-friendly EyeSEE Resource Room features games and special exhibits. Enjoy a picnic in the large garden. Don’t forget to visit the nearby Stonehenge Memorial.

Special event: Family Fun-Draw Your Own Landscape,  1-4 p.m. Jun. 9 (free with museum admission)

35 Maryhill Museum Drive, Goldendale (Located off Highway 97, 12 miles south of Goldendale)

Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, through November 15, including holidays

$9 adults, $8 seniors 65 and up, $3 youth ages 7-18, children free 6 and under, $25 family (2 adults and all related children ages 7-18); free parking and exploration of grounds

509-773-3733 •


It’s only a couple of hours to ancient Egypt…

If you’re hitting the road for the west side, be sure not to miss something extra special at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center. (This just might be the attraction to give you an excuse to hit the road!)

That’s because the “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” exhibit will be unveiled for the last time in North America, from May 24 until Jan. 6, 2013. The attraction features more than 100 artifacts, many of them having been around for 2,000 years. Visitors will get to see 50 items that came right from King Tut’s tomb.

The exhibit is a collaboration of National Geographic and Arts & Exhibitions International and the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, and sponsored by Seattle’s Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Tickets range from $15.50-$32.50. Pacific Science Center is located at 200 Second Avenue North in Seattle.

Find out more information:

Moses Lake Water Park – Make it a day trip!

May 25, 2012 by  

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Moses Lake Water Park

Summer usually means road trips, and you don’t have to go far if you’re looking for a real water park adventure.
Moses Lake is home to Surf ‘n Slide Water Park, which attracts visitors from all over the area. There are plenty of attractions for the brave swimmers, but there’s no need to be shy; the water park offers fun options for all ages and abilities.
There are plenty of ways to make a splash at the park. Some highlights include two 200-foot water slides, a 300-foot “river,” an artificial surfing simulator, volleyball courts, pools and diving boards, and a tube slide.
This year’s early season opens May 26 until June 7, when operating hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. weekends, and 4-8 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Regular season commences June 8 until Aug. 28, when the hours expand to 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
Late season spans Aug. 29-Sept. 3, when hours go back to 11 a.m.-7 p.m. weekends, and 4-8 p.m. Monday-Friday.
It’s advised to call ahead of your trip to make sure hours haven’t changed.
Cost: $9 adult, $8 student (ages 13-17), $7 seniors and children (ages 5-12), free for children under 4. Call or check website for season and family passes.

If you go:
Surf ‘n Slide Water Park
401 W. 4th Ave.
Moses Lake

Even tots can trek Wildlife Refuge

June 24, 2009 by  

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Story and photos by Heather Caro

Looking for an excuse to take a walk on the wild side this summer? The Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge may be just what you’ve been waiting for.

refugesign_web Nestled in the lower Yakima Valley, this protective wetlands habitat has been created to enhance natural, historic settings and encourage wildlife habitation.

The tall grasses and secluded waterfowl sanctuaries make this outing perfect for budding bird watchers and nature aficionados.

More than 250 species of birds — including ducks, geese, hawks, eagles, herons, owls and songbirds — are known to reside here at varying times throughout the year. Other animals make the refuge their home as well. So, be on the lookout for river otters, badgers and beavers.

What to Expect
Though the refuge sprawls across nearly 2,000 protected acres, the most easily accessible trail ambles over a mile of mowed grass. The trailhead begins at the first parking lot and leads to the headquarters/maintenance office. The hike is flat and can be easily trekked by all age groups; however, there are no amenities available, so plan accordingly.

Getting There
The Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge is located approximately six miles south of Toppenish on U.S. Highway 97. The drive from Yakima is about 35 minutes.

The refuge entrance is located on the west side of the road. Parking is available in front of the Wildlife Observation viewing gazebo. No fees are required.

Tips for Wetland Walkers
Photo by Heather Caro For best bird watching, remind children to try to stay quiet so as not to frighten away wildlife. Binoculars are also helpful though not mandatory. The birds are most active during early morning and evening hours, and populations are most plentiful during spring and early fall. However, the refuge can be enjoyed year-round for wildlife observation, hiking and seasonal hunting in designated areas. Hours are from 5 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset.

For a quick lesson on habitats, ask your kids what they need to survive (food, water, shelter). Then talk about how the refuge is providing those same needs to the animals that live in it. They’ll learn something before they even saw it coming!

The refuge encourages discovery, but please leave all plants, animals, rocks and artifacts as you found them. Bring a camera instead, and take pictures of your discoveries to identify together later.

Watch for ticks in the spring and summer and bring plenty of sunscreen and water.

For more information, call 509-865-2405 or visit

NW railroads host Thomas rides

May 27, 2009 by  

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If you know a little Thomas fan, here’s some really “useful” info: Kids can meet Sir Topham Hatt and take a ride with Thomas the Tank Engine during upcoming “Day Out With Thomas” events at Snoqualmie’s Northwest Railway Museum and the Mount Hood Railroad in Hood River, Ore.

Both railroads make regular excursion runs throughout the year, but during these special events, they’ll offer additional entertainment and activities aimed at young Thomas fans:

• Mount Hood Railroad | June 19-22 and 26-28 in Hood River, Ore., 42 miles west of Biggs Junction on Interstate 84. Drive time from Yakima is two hours. Trains depart on the hour, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are $14-$16; advance purchase is strongly recommended. For more information, call the railroad at 800-872-4661, or visit

• Northwest Railway Museum | July 10-12 and 17-19 in Snoqualmie, three miles off I-90 at North Bend. Drive time from Yakima is just shy of two hours. Trains depart every 45 minutes, 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Tickets are $18; advance purchase is strongly recommended. For more information, call the museum at 425-888-3030, or visit

Remlinger Farms (Carnation)

April 15, 2009 by  

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For a fun and different change of scenery, take a drive over to Remlinger Farms and Country Fair Fun Park, open May through October, in Carnation, Wash. The drive from Yakima takes about two hours.

This quaint miniature theme park is a perfect day-long excursion for the entire family. In season, the farm offers U-Pick strawberries, raspberries and pumpkins. There’s also a variety of produce, baked goods and gift items in the market.

The Country Fair Fun Park has more than 25 rides and attractions, mostly aimed at young children. There are pony rides, barnyard petting pens and live entertainment by songwriter Eric Ode who puts on a fantastic interactive show that younger kids are sure to enjoy.

Most rides are suitable for children ages 2 and up, including a mini canoe ride, the Tolt River Railroad Steam Train and antique cars. Older and more adventurous kids will enjoy the roller coaster, a spinning pumpkin ride and a pint-sized Ferris Wheel.

In the Pioneer Homestead, you can visit with the pioneer woman who will explain and demonstrate some of the “olden days” ways.

Then find your way through the covered hay maze to the hay pit and try the rock climbing wall. In the fall, the farm also offers a corn maze and wagon rides to the U-pick pumpkin patch.

Admission is a bargain at $11 per person, but this varies during special festivals. There’s no admission fee for the market, restaurant or U-pick fields.

For more information, call 425-333-4135 or visit

— Melissa Paul

How to get there:
Take I-82 north toward Ellensburg, then merge onto I-90 west toward Seattle. Take Exit 22 (Preston/Fall City).

Follow the signs through Preston into Fall City. At the stop sign in Fall City, go right over the Snoqualmie River Bridge. Take an immediate left on the other side of the bridge. Traveling north on Hwy 203, continue 5 miles toward Carnation until you see the Remlinger Farms sign. Turn right onto NE 32nd Street (in front of the sign). This road dead ends at Remlinger Farms.

Elk Feeding Station (Naches)

January 2, 2009 by  

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January and February are the best months for viewing elk at the Oak Creek feeding station near Naches. Kids will enjoy bundling up for a ride on the safari-style truck tours that provide an up-close look at the animals.

Each winter, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife provides a supplementary feeding program for up to 1,500 elk — including as many as 150 branched-antler bulls — to keep them from damaging private property. (Humans, you see, have inhabited the herd’s winter range.)


• Dress warmly.

• Bring a camera.

• Make reservations if you’d like to go out on the truck: 509-698-5106.

• Be quiet. Wild animals don’t like loud noises

For families, the feeding station is a cheap and easy field trip, located about 20 miles west of Yakima on U.S. Highway 12. The elk are fed daily at 1:30 p.m., though you’ll find animals there throughout the day.

A fence separates the elk from the viewing area, but the animals are free to head up to the hills, so their numbers vary throughout the season. More will visit the feeding station when snow and extreme cold prevents them from grazing naturally.

Also worth a stop, bighorn sheep are fed mid-morning at the nearby Cleman Mountain feeding site, just a couple miles up the road. Feeding season for both the elk and bighorns is typically mid-December to early March.

There’s a visitor center at the elk’s Oak Creek Headquarters, open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily during the elk’s feeding season. The center has a video program, exhibits and a hands-on kids’ corner where children can get a feel for elk fur and antlers. There’s no charge, but donations are accepted to help support the feeding program.

Volunteers can take you for a ride into the feeding area on an old open-air Army truck. Tours typically depart at noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Tours are first-come, first-served, but reservations are accepted; call ahead at least 48 hours in advance if you’re visiting with a large group, as the trucks are limited to 14 passengers. Call 509-698-5106 for tour reservations.

During the tour, the truck will drive slowly out into the field and then kill the engine so you can quietly observe the elk. A docent provides some information and answers questions. Bring a camera, and be sure and dress warmly; the tours typically last about 30 minutes.

If you have preschoolers, please note that the volunteers prefer a 1:1 adult-child ratio for younger kids. Also, the children need to refrain from yelling or making other loud noises since the elk are easily startled.

If you’re hungry for more details, there’s a ton of information about the animals and the feeding stations on the Naches Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Web site. Or, call the Oak Creek Wildlife area at 509-653-2390.

Oak Creek Headquarters (elk): Drive west on U.S. Highway 12 and continue past Naches. At the junction with Hwy 410, turn left, continuing on Hwy 12. About two miles past the junction, the feeding station will be on the right.

Cleman Mountain feeding station (bighorn sheep): Drive west on U.S. Highway 12 and continue past Naches. At the junction with State Route 410, stay straight, heading west on SR 410 for about one block, then make a sharp right on the Old Naches Highway. The feeding station is on the left.

• Rocky Mountain Elk from Yellowstone National Park were introduced to Yakima County in 1913.
• Bulls weigh an average of 450-900 lbs.
• Cows are pregnant for 270 days (about 9 months).
• Twin calves are rare.
• Antlers (found only on the bulls) fall off in the spring and regrow by August.
• Wintering elk may eat 3 to 10 lbs of hay per day at the feeding stations.

— Source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

• Both Rocky Mountain and California bighorn sheep are native to Washington.
• Can live up to 17 years, but general life expectancy is 10-12 years.
• Rocky Mountain bighorns are larger than the California sub-species. Rocky Mountain rams weigh 160-315 lbs, while a California ram weighs about 180-205 lbs.
• The gestation period for ewes is 180 days (about 6 months).
• Twin lambs do occur.
• Both rams and ewes have horns, which never fall off and continue to grow through the sheep’s lifetime.

— Source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Leavenworth at Christmas

November 25, 2008 by  

For me, Leavenworth was love at first sight.

Half-timbered store fronts, horse-drawn carriages, quaint little bakeries, bratwurst, beer. And a whole store filled with Christmas, every season of the year.

In fact, each season offers something new to love about Leavenworth. But Washington’s little Bavarian-themed village is particularly delicious at Christmas.

Someday, my husband and I would love to take our kids to the real Christmas markets in Germany. But the kids are still young and plane tickets aren’t cheap, so those plans are on a semi-permanent pause.

However, the kids have been going to Leavenworth since they were breastfeeding (discretely, in a dimly lit booth at the restaurant mentioned a few paragraphs further down). We tend to skip most of the tchotchke shops but always find enough fun in Leavenworth to fill at least half a day. (Hint: Leave the stroller at home.) Here are some highlights:

First, check the city’s festival schedule to see what’s going on the weekend you’d like to visit. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the town lights up first for the Christkindlemarkt (the closest thing this side of the Atlantic to the previously noted Christmas markets) and, later, literally illuminates during the Christmas Lighting Festival. Both events would appeal to families.

Throughout the year, you can find holiday cheer at Kris Kringl, a two-story ornament shop at the east end of downtown. This one can be a little dicey if your kids are touchy-touchy, but the miniature villages are fun to peek at if you’re able to keep little fingers under control.

For that very reason, we avoided for several years the little sign further up the street that pointed towards a nutcracker museum upstairs. Museums and kids don’t mix, right? Wrong!

The Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum is fabulous for kids. Open weekends in the winter, the museum offers scavenger hunts for kids to search through the 5,000-piece nutcracker collection for kiddy favorites from Mickey Mouse to Darth Vader. Those who complete their task receive a prize.

On the same block, The Hat Shop and adjoining Wood Shop toy shop are perennial favorites. For Mama and Papa, however, the trip wouldn’t be complete without popping into The Cheesemonger’s Shop, where the monger is always eager to hand out a few tasty samples.

For dinner, we like to head down the nearby stairs to Andreas Keller, where the jägerschnitzel’s good and the atmosphere even better. Through the end of the year, they’ll have live accordion music every night. The rumpus is great for dining with kids, who couldn’t possibly cause a stir amidst the dining room’s healthy clamor.

Be sure to pick up some fudge for the road before you say auf wiedersehen. Then it’s time to head back home, thankfully some 4,700 miles this side of Germany.

— Sara Bristol

Leavenworth is about a 90-minute drive, north of Yakima. Take I-82 north and merge onto I-90 west to Ellensburg. Just past Ellensburg, take Exit 106 and follow U.S. Highway 97 toward Wenatchee. The highway will make a few turns, so follow the signs toward Wenatchee until you reach Highway 2. There, turn left and continue 5 miles to Leavenworth.

Andreas Keller Restaurant, 829 Front St., lower level; 509-548-6000. Dinner menu starts at $10.99. Children’s specials are $5.99 to $6.99.

The Cheesemonger’s Shop, 819 Front St.; 509-548-0778.

Hat Shop/Wood Shop, 719 Front St.; 509-548-4442.

Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce, 940 Highway 2; 509-548-5807.

Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, 735 Front St.; 509-548-4573. Admission is $2.50 for adults, $1 for students and free for children 5 and younger.

Kris Kringl, 907 Front St.; 509-548-6867.