Ideas for enjoying the real life of Seattle (that often cost little or nothing).

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Finding Events in Seattle and Surrounding Towns

Here is a great search site that seems to have just about every little and big community event in the area: Seattle City! Encore. You can search by dates, and the greatest thing is that it shows all the little events happening in the little towns in the area! For instance, it shows the New Year's dance on Orcas Island, the "Ski for Health" event in Leavenworth, and the "Kids n Critters Naturefest" in Eatonville. A great resource for finding truly local events.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Living, and working, on an Organic Farm in the Pacific Northwest (or anywhere for that matter!)

One interesting way to experience life in Cascadia is to volunteer on an organic farm in the area. The international nonprofit organization World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms acts as a matchmaker between organic farmers and volunteers willing to work on the farm in exchange for housing, food, and a hands-on education in sustainable agriculture. Generally, volunteers work 1/2 a day, each day, in exchange for their meals and accommodation.

They are clear that it is a volunteer program, so neither WWOOF nor the farms are able to assist with work visas. Most international volunteers come on a tourist or student visa. By the way, there are other organic farm volunteer opportunities as well, such as academic/internship programs.

More on the organic farm movement in the Pacific Northwest can be found on Cascadia Song, under the December 29th post.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Riding the Ferries

The Washington State Ferry System is the largest in the US. These lovely old (and some new) boats service 20 destinations throughout the Puget Sound, including two routes to Vancouver Island in BC.

To drive onto the ferry can be spendy. So, if you are traveling by car, you may want to plan your route to avoid the boats. However, as a walk-on passenger, the ride is very inexpensive and is a comfortable, fun, and very authentic way to see one of the most beautiful parts of Washington State.

If you are in Seattle, the easiest rides to take are from pier 52 at the downtown waterfront. There is a marvelous ride from
Seattle to Bremerton that takes 1 hour each way. The fare is $6.50 for the round trip. The route takes you from the city west out of Elliott Bay into Puget Sound and past Bainbridge Island and parts of the Olympic Peninsula. On a sunny day, you will also have stunning view of the Olympic Mountains. Departing and arriving Seattle, you get amazing views of the city. Once on the water, you have beautiful vistas of the Sound, the islands and the Peninsula. Although Bremerton itself is not a real tourist destination, the journey there is worth the trip. When you disembark, you can just get right back in line for the return boat.

The boat is large and has two car decks and passenger levels. Although there is a café, I would recommend bringing a picnic meal (which you can gather at the
Pike Place Market, which is about 10 blocks away). I recommend timing the trip so that on your return voyage, you are arriving back at the Seattle dock just after sunset, as the view of the city from the water at night is spectacular.

My other favorite route the ride through the
San Juan Islands from Anacortes, although once in the San Juans, you will not want to leave. So, you might want to plan for an overnight or two on one of the islands. Friday Harbor, the largest town in the islands, sits right at the bay where the ferry arrives. You would be able to walk to your hotel from the ferry landing. On Orcas Island, there is a lovely, old hotel right at that landing as well.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice

For a true taste of the local Seattle culture in the holiday season, try to secure a seat at the Fremont Arts Council's Feast of the Winter Solstice. It shows a very intimate and locally-flavored side of Seattle's arts and activist community. It is a potluck dinner for all the volunteers of the FAC that includes amazing art installations, drumming and dancing, and a sun effigy to which you tie notes of what you wish to let go of in the coming year. At the end of the evening, it is burned. This is a wild, druidic affair that is also a great time to meet some of the most community-oriented Seattlites in the city.

You bring your favorite food and whatever you wish to imbibe. They are also now asking that if you are not a FAC member, that you join ($25) and contribute a donation to cover costs ($10). This is voluntary, however. If you are strapped on cash you can always, in the spirit of community, volunteer to help with the set up or clean up... another great way to meet the locals!

If you are coming in the summer, then the MUST SEE is the Summer Solstice Festival Parade, on the weekend closest to June 21st.... costumes galore, belly dancers, men in kilts, and naked bicyclists (and that's just the AUDIENCE!!) But, more on that later.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Going to the movies

During the dark, stormy months of winter (and fall and spring), when Northwesterners are tired of reading and are itching to get out of the house, movie houses are the place you will find them. (That is, when they are not at book stores, or coffee houses, or the theatre... but I digress....)

One of the best bangs for your cinema buck is the Fremont Outdoor Cinema. $5 suggested donation gets you into one of the funnest movie social scenes in the city. Bring your own low-back folding chair and watch great old movies in the great outdoors. There are food vendors and pre-show entertainment. And, being in Fremont, one of the most interesting audiences in town as well.

Just next door, in the Wallingford neighborhood, you can join the "Wallingford Neighbors for Peace and Justice" for a free "Friday Night at the Meaningful Movies". These are documentaries in the social justice vein. They are usually followed by a facilitated group discussion.

Another cinematic bargain is the Crest. This funky, old 4-screen theater shows 2nd run films for only $3 each!

For a more "full meal deal", try the Central Cinema. Admission to 2nd run films here is generally a whole $5, BUT it is also a restaurant, where you can munch pizza and swill beer while you gaze at the silver screen. These guys also will show more experimental, new cinema such as new animation and shorts.

Seattle is also a hotbed of independent filmmaking. One of the centers of this zeitgeist is the Northwest Film Forum. The Forum also has a cinema where you can find some of the new, more experimental and hard-to-find films. Many of thier screenings and events are free.

Then, there are the festivals. The Seattle International Film Festival, which occurs throughout the city in the spring, is the largest film festival in the US. In fact, although the largest by far, SIFF is only one of several film festivals in Seattle. If you are a film buff, the festivals often present a good value for your movie dollar, if you want to see several flicks and are willing to purchase a pass or package deal.

There are many more interesting events and venues in town, but this is a good springboard to start your cinematic adventures.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006 on Seattle

Wikitravel has a very useful and user-friendly overview article on Seattle with lots and lots of info for visiting the city. It drills down on many of the neighborhoods, and provides ideas for things to see & do, places to eat & stay, and how to get around. I highly recommend this as a primer to the city.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Coffee & WiFi (no cigarettes)

In Seattle, people regularly use coffee houses as office space. You'll find folks ensconced at cafe tables and arm chairs, surrounded by personal electronics. They will be either on the phone or crackberry or tapping away on their laptops. Coffee houses encourage this community by providing free WiFi service. Here is a great Wiki-powered site that lists not only coffee shops and restaruants, but libraries and other public sites that provide this service. Wifimug. It also indexes them by neighborhood. Great resource!

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The Taco Truck Scene

I have it on the best authority that some of the tastiest (and cheapest) Mexican food in Seattle can be found at some of the many taco trucks around town. I have not yet tried any of these, but here is a blog that lists some of the author's favorites: Los Taco Trucks.

The one I have tried and LOVE is in Walla Walla (land of fabulous onions and wine) on 13th and Rose... just FYI.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

A world of food in Bellevue

Earlier I spoke of how, in Seattle, mall food breaks the Cinnabon/PronoPup/McYuck mold by offering a wide variety of locally owned, ethnic eateries. One of the best is on the eastside of Lake Washington, in the Crossroads neighborhood of Bellevue: Crossroads Mall. My favorites include Ebru Mediterranean, Papaya Vietnamese, and Torero's Mexican (where you will always find a gathering of the local Latino commuity watching a soccer match on Univision). There are options for the less adventuresome as well including pizza and BBQ.

Crossroads Mall is truly a community gathering place, where you will always find chess games going on and often live music of all kinds. As this is in the heart of Microsoft land (the campus is only a couple miles away), the mall also provides free wireless service.

Check it out... you'll be surprised.... I was. I detest malls, but I love these aspects of Crossroads as well as the great 2nd hand bookstore there.

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