Welcoming the Special Olympics USA Games to Seattle

The Special Olympics USA Games is a premier, national sports competition that showcases the power and joy of sports at the highest levels. From July 1-6, 2018 more than 4,000 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the District of Columbia arrived in Seattle and the surrounding region along with 10,000 family members and friends. 

In addition to showcasing the awe-inspiring abilities of thousands of athletes with intellectual disabilities, the 2018 USA Games in Seattle models the ideals of inclusion and celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics movement.

The USA Games take place every four years with previous host cities being: Ames, Iowa (2006); Lincoln, Nebraska (2010); and Lawrenceville, New Jersey (2014). Now, in its fourth running, the Special Olympics USA Games is in Seattle.

I was one of the 10,000+ volunteers working to help support the Games. I loved having the opportunity to welcome the families and athletes to Seattle by volunteering the first 2 days of the event at the Family Welcoming Center.  I was part of a volunteer group that greeted all the families fresh from the airport and worked to get them settled in the Seattle area.

It was so fun to meet families from across the U.S. and provide them information on family activities, demonstrate how to use light rail and the bus system, recommend restaurants and must see Seattle sights. Almost everyone wanted to ride the elevator to the top of the newly renovated Space Needle, attend a Mariners baseball game and get a peak at Mt. Rainier.  The athletes stay with their coaches in the dorms on the University of Washington campus and their families wanted to make the best of their "down time' to see the area.  

The games offer 14 sports including swimming, flag football and soccer. With the exception of the Opening Ceremony, all events are free and local families are encourage to come cheer, wave signs and make some noise.  Venues include the University of Washington, King County Aquatic Center, Seattle University and Celebration Park.

The Special Olympics USA Games is the biggest sporting event to hit the Seattle area in more than 25 years and I am so glad that I was able to volunteer, use my knowledge of Seattle and the area to introduce so many families to Seattle!  

 

KidsQuest Children's Museum - Now Open!

The newly expanded interactive children's museum reopened this week.  The completely new KidsQuest museum is now located in downtown Bellevue by the Bellevue Public Library.  It is geared for infants to age 8 with plenty of exhibits to suit all personalities and interests. I stopped by for a quick tour and wish my teens weren't aged out of all this fun! 

There are many STEM related exhibits plus great art space too.  There is still the very popular and busy play area for kids age 3 and under. Bigger kids can spend a lot of time on the 2 story climbing structure, exploring the outdoor play space appropriately named "Sticks and Stones" and getting wet - as the museum brings some of our Pacific Northwest rain inside with a Water and Splash Zone.

I love the new Bellevue Mercantile themed store and barnyard play space. Set in the year 1915  - the space brings us back to when the Bellevue area was populated with farms. Try your hand at washing a cow complete with blow dryer, check out what is happening at the chicken coop and gather eggs to sell at the country store. So fun - with lots of make believe opportunities.
 
Here is their website link for more information and to confirm hours and pricing. The museum also has party rooms, class room space and an art studio. KidsQuest is also now offering several Early Childhood classes with parent & child classes and drop off options. 

Remember there are other great Children's Museums in and around the Seattle area too:

Seattle Children's Museum
Imagine Children's Museum in Everett (North of Seattle)
Hands On Children's Museum in Olympia (South of Seattle - near the State Capitol)

Holiday Fun Around Seattle

There are so many - almost too many - holiday fun activities around Seattle during the month of December.  I am dedicating this blog to free or low cost activities and sights to celebrate the season.

Winterfest at the Seattle Center

Winterfest at Seattle Center is the perfect spot to get into the festive spirit.  A favorite of families with toddlers and young children - enjoy the elaborate train set with village scenes, stay for a performance of local student groups and even catch an ice sculpting demonstration - all free.  All of this takes place inside the warm and dry Amory building and you can make it a real adventure and take a roundtrip ride on the monorail.  A seasonal ice rink is on site and offers ice walkers for new skaters - with skate rentals and a fee for each skating sessions. 

Downtown Seattle Delights

Downtown Seattle offers so many choices for you family to celebrate the season besides shopping. 

A long time tradition for many families is a visit to the Fairmont Hotel's Teddy Bear Suite. Step into this hotel suite (donations encouraged for Seattle Children's Hospital) to find the suite taken over by teddy bears of all shapes and sizes.  Plenty of bears available to hug and even spots to curl up and read one of their teddy bear themed books. The hotel is beautifully decorated and has a giant Christmas tree in the lobby - perfect for a family photo.  

Stop by the atrium of Pacific Place where it snows nightly along with a laser - Light up the Night - 3D laser show. 

The Holiday Carousel is ready for riders and is located in Westlake Park. Proceeds benefit Treehouse, a local charity providing foster children school supplies, birthday presents and other important childhood resources.

Gingerbread and Harry Potter delight at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel. The 24th annual holiday gingerbread display is Harry Potter themed and will make even your teens get into the holiday spirit.  Local architecture firms partner with the hotel bakers to create this over the top tribute to the wizarding world. 

Bellevue - Shines and Snows

Not to be outdone by Seattle, Bellevue has become a fun family holiday destination too.  Bundle up and enjoy the nightly Snowflake Lane family show along Bellevue Way.  Be entertained by dancers, drummers, polar bears and reindeer characters along with holiday music, light show and snow! 

Another part of Bellevue's Magic Season is Family Ice Skating  at  Ashwood Park by the main library. This temporary ice rink hosts "Learn How to Skate" nights and offers skating for the entire family - all with paid admission.

Holiday Garden Delights

Swanson's Nursery - Seattle - Not only does this nursery have beautiful pre-cut Christmas trees, garland and plenty of decorations for the tree, they also host two of Santa's reindeer. Stop by an visit and pose for pictures with one of Santa's reindeer resting up for the big night.  See the How the Grinch Stole Christmas themed model train village and you might even get a glimpse at another special visitor - Curley the camel !  Free

Bellevue Botanical Garden - Garden d'Lights features over half a million tiny colorful lights that transform the Bellevue Botanical Garden into a blossoming nighttime winter wonderland.  Dress warm and wander along the garden paths enjoying this amazing light display and appreciate the 1000's of volunteer hours it takes each year to plan and design.  Pick up a treasure map at the front booth and help your child spot the slug, spider and other light critters hidden throughout the garden. Admittance Fee - Free on select evenings

Molbaks Poinsettia Festival - Woodinville - For our family, a holiday tradition is a walk through this Woodinville nursery to enjoy everything holiday - trees, decorations, carolers strolling the aisles, Danish kringle samples and, of course, the huge display of poinsettias.  This year there are 22 different varieties of poinsettias from jingle bell rock, classic Christmas beauty to princettia pink and premium ice crystals -plus a 10' tall Christmas tree made entirely of poinsettias - a classic spot for family photo.  Free

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Tourist Time - Seattle Style

The Seattle Times recently published an article on the top 5 tourist attractions in the Seattle area.  I know when we moved with our elementary age children to Singapore, the first thing we did was "pretend" like we were tourists and spent a couple days with guidebook in hand exploring all the popular tourist destinations.  When we relocated back to Seattle, we did it all again - this time with preteens in tow - but they loved getting to know Seattle again, eye rolls not withstanding.  Enjoy Seattle and get ready to do these things over and over again when family and friends come to visit. 

 http://www.seattletimes.com/life/travel/seattles-space-needle-and-4-other-top-tourist-magnets/

Row, Row, and Sail your boat

Here is another link from the Seattle Times "Summer Guide."  My kids vote for Wild Waves Park but I plan to put that one off for as long as I can in the hope that another family invites them!  My vote is for a paddle around Lake Washington into Lake Union starting and ending with time at the Agua Verde Café near the University of Washington. 

http://www.seattletimes.com/life/travel/where-to-paddle-row-sail-in-the-seattle-area/

Free Fun in Seattle

Another great link from The Seattle Times:

http://www.seattletimes.com/life/travel/10-free-things-to-do-in-seattle/

I find myself no longer reading a hard-copy paper and spend more and more time getting my news on my laptap and iPhone.  I do worry, however, that I am missing out on a lot of local happenings and so I love these pieces put together by The Seattle Times.  Just added a few of these to our summer bucket list - even as a native, I have a lot more new places to explore around Seattle.