Reviews & Photos
September 22 2011
1 family found this helpful
"The perfect place for families to explore the mountains of Olympic NP "
One of the great things about Olympic National Park is it's great natural diversity. During our time in the park we explored temperate rain forests, deserted beaches and snow covered mountains- in July! As a matter of fact, Hurricane Ridge had so much snow lingering in July that much of the trail near the visitor center was still buried!
Most people come to Hurricane Ridge for the mountain scenery and incredible views. A short walk from the parking lot ends at a point which offers sprawling views of Sequim, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Canada's Victoria Island looming in the distance. On the other side of the parking lot, near the Visitor's Center, views of snow covered Olympic Mountains are stunning.
The visitor center offers dining, restrooms, a gift shop,some interpretive displays, and a viewing deck with scopes. Rangers offer suggestions for hikes in the back country as well as guided hikes of the surrounding area. We did some exploring and loved spotting tiny wildflowers emerging from the thin and fragile layer of alpine soil. Evidently, so did the deer, who were happy to munch on the delicate treats.
If you are near Port Angeles or Sequim, definitely consider a day trip to Hurricane Ridge. and don't forget to grab a Junior Ranger booklet for your kids to complete so they can be proud recipients of an Olympic National Park Junior Ranger badge.
September 05 2011
1 family found this helpful
Universal Studios Hollywood
100 Universal City Plaza,
"Perfect for teens and preteens"
Every year, my niece and nephew come out from Texas to escape the heat and enjoy some California fun. It gives us the chance to be tourists in our own neck of the woods and see travel from a teenage perspective.
This summer we headed to Universal Studios for a day of Hollywood fun. It had been a couple decades since I had last visited Universal. Just to put it in perspective, Jaws was the newest attraction... Yeah.... I'm old.
I had been told to take the studio tour first so we walked down to the trams and grabbed a complimentary pair of 3D glasses. Yes, things had definitely changed since the early 80s. The tram tour went beyond all my expectations. It was so fun to visit real sets and learn about all the movies which had been shot in that very location. While my husband and I appreciated learning about classic films and television, my niece and nephew were happy to know they were in the very spot Lady Gaga shot a video. Driving down Wisteria Lane (home of Desperate Housewives) was especially cool even though I haven't seen an episode in at least 5 years.
The special effects that we experienced on the tour were the ultimate highlight. The King Kong experience of the studio tour was incredible- true Hollywood magic. It was intense and realistic and probably not suitable for children under age 7 or 8 who scare easily.
Since Universal Studios is located on the backlot of an actual studio, the ride have to be inside to keep noise (aka: screams) down. Many of the rides are 3D or 4D simulators, not exactly ideal for those of us that are prone to motion sickness. I opted to go on the Simpson's Ride because I figured I wouldn't be able to handle very much motion and it sounded like the most fun. The ride itself was great and everyone in our party loved it. I did close my eyes a few times just to avoid too much nausea. I didn't ride The Mummy (my stomach was still sour) but my niece and nephew loved it and rode it more than once. One shouldn't ride that shouldn't be missed is Jurassic Park,The Ride. The ride does a great job of bringing the movie to life. My niece and nephew didn't know what Jurassic Park (which made me feel old) but the ride made them want to watch the movies. Be prepared to get soaked on this ride, especially in the summer when they turn the water up!
There are several shows at Universal and out of the shows we saw, we thought Water World was the best.The stunts are incredible and the actors do a great job at keep the audience involved. If you don't want to get drenched, be sure not to sit in the benches in the first several rows. We saw people get entire buckets of water thrown at them. I passed on Terminator 2:3D but the rest of our group saw it and deemed it to be just "okay". The Shrek 4D show was cute and tame as far as 3D goes.
One experience that both myself and 12 year old niece found to be too scary was the House of Horrors. Truth be told, it scared me so much that we had to duck out early! It was essentially a haunted house on steroids. Not for those of us who don't like horror or heart attacks! My husband and nephew braved the entire haunted house and admitted to jumping out of their skin a few times as well. If you love to be scared, don't miss it!
Since I was visiting Universal Studios on behalf of Trekaroo, I was given media entry which included front of the line passes. These passes are available to the general public for an additional $75 fee per person. It was incredibly nice to skip lines and get preferred seating at shows because allowed us to see and do everything that we wanted at a leisurely pace. Buying these passes would be ideal for families with the budget who might be pressed for time and hoping to pair up time at Universal with another local experience. As much as I really enjoyed the experience, I couldn't help but find it to be a bit elitist. Normally, my family wouldn't have had the budget to splurge on these passes and would have been in line with the majority of the park-goers.
Bottomline: I am glad we left our preschool aged children with grandma because while there were a couple attractions geared towards young kids, most of the park was not suitable for them. I don't plan on bringing my kids to the park until they are at least 7. However, I highly recommend the park for preteens, teens, and adults. The combination of Hollywood history, rides, and shows was nothing less than top notch!
Disclosure: My family received complimentary entry and front of the line passes so that I could complete this review and a subsequent story on the blog featuring the park. Universal did not ask that I express any particular opinion and all of those stated above are entirely my own honest thoughts.
August 23 2011
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157151 Highway 101,
"The best tide pools I have ever seen!"
We made sure to time our visit to Beach 4 to coincide with low tide because I had read that the beach offered tide pools. We parked in the sunny lot and then walked down a short 1/4 mile trail towards through the forest and towards the beach.
When we reached the beach we were met with a thick marine layer of clouds and and trail the abruptly ended a few feet above the sand. We scrambled down some rocks and onto the sand, to take in the mystic beauty of the beach. The tide left a wide expanse of sand filled strewn with polished pebbles and bits of driftwood which my aunt and two kids were delighted to explore in hopes of finding a natural treasure. I decided to head towards a huge rocky outcropping which looked like it was normally covered in water. This is where I found tide pool heaven.
I was impressed by the size and sheer number of sea anemones which had fixed themselves to the rocks. They shared the rocks with living barnacles, mussels, crabs, and tiny fish which swam in depressions filled with salt water. I climbed further through the rocky ecosystem and suddenly found myself in the midst of a starfish colony. I have never seen so many sea stars in one place!
I grabbed my kids and aunt and showed them my fantastic find. They were eager to scramble around for themselves and take a look at what I kept referring to as "starfish mecca". They were impressed and hung around for a while but were not infinitely entertained by the pools like I was. My son had rocks that needed to be thrown into the surf and my daughter had waves to numb her toes in.
As the tide came in, I decided to move back towards dry land and wandered around huge driftwood logs that had been washed up to the cliff bases by a storm. I sat on the logs and watched the sun fight furiously with the clouds for a moment of warmth to hit the sand. Ultimately, the clouds won, as the typically do on the Olympic Coast. This wasn't the beach that my Southern California kids were used to but they seemed to enjoy this version just as well.
August 22 2011
1 family found this helpful
Olympic Game Farm
1423 Ward Rd,
"Throwback fun- where else can you feed a bison?"
When I first read about the Olympic Game Farm, I was a little concerned about the ethical implications of riding around and feeding wild animals bread. It just didn't seem very politically correct. But after some more research, I learned that these animals are on this farm because they used to be the animals (or offspring of) used in Disney nature films of years past. According to their website "Olympic Game Farm’s animals are the offspring of our past animal actors. Several others are either rescues; overflow from other licensed animal facilities; retired from acting in the entertainment industry (other trainers); or we just received as gifts and donations from licensed individuals."
So since these animals were not taken out of the wild and are provided a healthy diet (including the wheat bread guests feed them), I decided to give it a go.
It was so much fun!
We headed up a hill and started by feeding the llamas, which are one of my daughter's favorite animals. Fun enough. Then we got back in the car and headed down a hill and into a crazy world filled with yaks, zebras, deer, rhinos, and bears all waiting for food. Some of the animals were a bit disinterested by the bread but others were quite eager to have a snack. It isn't every day you feed a rhino! The yaks, deer and zebra roam free but the bears and rhino are behind a fence. The bears sit up on their hind legs and seem to prefer it when you ball up the bread and throw it to them to catch on their hind legs. Most of the bears looked old and well fed. They seemed to be the most popular with visitors because cars would stop and throw their bread at the bears for extended periods of time (even though we were told not to stop), creating traffic jams. My kids found the bears to be very entertaining but I felt some guilt throwing bread balls at bears. All that National Park training was gnawing at my conscious.
The next area we entered was filled with predators in cages. Most of the predators looked old, especially the lions and tigers. You drive by their cages and don't feed them- sort of like visiting a zoo from a car. The cages weren't all that big and reminded me of enclosures in zoos of the past.
One particularly unusual aspect of this area is the large number of domesticated bunnies which hang out around the predator cages. I thought it was pretty funny that the bunnies were on the outside of the cages and imagined them sticking their tongues out at animals which would be happy to eat them in the wild. I guess the predators aren't very concerned with the bunnies because I actually saw one bunny happily sleeping inside the tiger cage!
After the predators, the real fun began. We entered a new paddock and were greeted by huge elk sticking their heads in the car, looking for some bread! It was hilarious. My aunt was in the passenger seat and didn't want to feed the animals. An elk peeked in, saw she had no food, and gave her a huge lick on the side of the face! My son loved feeding the elk and my daughter enjoyed giving bread to the deer that followed (thought she only was willing to feed the girls, no boys allowed). The real highlight from the whole experience was the bison. These guys are huge and coming eye to eye with a snot-nosed beast in search of a snack is definitely a unique experience! The bison tended to linger with their giant heads in the car, so we had to be sure to keep moving slowly which would eventually cause them to give up their begging.
In the end, the bison drool on the side of your car will wash away but the laughter and memories from that day will stick in my memory for a lifetime. While normally I wouldn't be too keen on feeding wild animals, these animals are very tame and have been taken in by the family who runs this place, which is better than the alternative that many captive animals are forced to live in. If you are in the area, give it a go.
Note: Bread is available for purchase at the ticket gate or you can bring your own loaves. Just make sure it is whole wheat. 3 to 5 loaves per car load is typical.
Disclosure: My car received complimentary entry into the Olympic Game Farm so that I could review this experience. I did not receive any compensation and was not not asked to provide anything but my honest opinion of the experience.
August 22 2011
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Quinault Rainforest Hikes
US Hwy 101,
"Temperate rainforest near a scenic lake"
We took a trail across from the south shore of Lake Quinalt which began directly across the street from the Lake Quinalt Lodge, in a popular area filled with kid-friendly trails. The day we went was quite warm, rare for this area, though the trail did provide some shade.
One thing I wasn't expecting was so many fallen trees. Evidently a huge wind storm blew through the area a couple years back, causing many of these old giants to fall. It made for an interesting hike, though it wasn't quite the rainforest experience I was expecting. I did notice that the further back from the initial slope, the less trees had fallen, probably because they didn't receive the brunt of the wind. I think that people who choose to take longer hikes will probably experience a more lush forest.
There were two small waterfalls on our hike, but I think there are several bigger and better waterfalls up the road which takes visitors deeper into the interior. I wish we had more time in this rainforest and recommend at least two days to enjoy it.