[Seattle Sights] An Afternoon Immersed in the Aquarium

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“The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.”

Big city life – there’s simply nothing like it! Between the hustle and bustle to the personalities that fill the room, museums of some sort or other around each turn, and enough live entertainment to submerse yourself in a different type of extrasensory experience every single night; one can lose and discover themselves, often multiple times in a day. Moving to Los Angeles a decade ago, I was immediately enamored with the neon lights and vibrant personalities. And now, moving up to Seattle, I’ve reawakened the wanderlust spirit inside me, and she’s been hungry for adventure. For as many museums, art galleries, botanical gardens, parks and music venues that Los Angeles has to offer – the one thing I always wished was a mere stones throw away: an aquarium. Well, low and behold – Seattle has an incredible one and I literally jumped at my chance to go as fast as I could.

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From the second you enter the Aquarium, you’re greeted with an expansive view thanks to the ‘Window on Washington Waters’. Boasting a 120,000 gallon tank, the Window encompasses the entire 20′ by 40′ wall and includes over 800 different types of fish, and ecological features created to replicate the seascape around Neah Bay, which sits directly across from the US-Canadian border of British Columbia in Northern Washington.

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As you wind your way around the corridors, you’re greeted with touch tide pools galore and exquisite views of Moon Jellies glowing under a color-changing black light. And then, a coup de grâce of the waters – the Giant Pacific Octopus. Clocking in around 150 lbs with a tentacles that span over 20′, they can change color and texture in a heartbeat; along with having eight arms that can act independently of each other and the main brain these blue blooded beauties have nine brains and three hearts. Last but not least for the main hall, you’ll reach the Pacific Coral Reef and Tropical Pacific viewing stations with an array of luminescent biodiversity, including varieties of fluorescent coral and fish with vivid colors to match!

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As you exit the double doors and head outside towards the pier and a stellar view of Elliot Bay, Puget Sound and the mountains of Olympic National Park, you’ll be greeted another one of my favorite exhibits, that I unfortunately for you but great for me spent too much time enjoying to take photos of, the marine mammals! Featuring a full menagerie of river otters, sea otters, harbor seals and northern fur seals – come on and get your fill of adorable animals dashing and diving through the water from the outside – and then shimmy your way indoors for an underwater view; and, a visit to the fabled underwater dome, boasting an inspired 360º  view of Puget Sound marine life in a 400,000 gallon tank.

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One of my favorite things about the Seattle Aquarium – how incredibly knowledgeable and helpful every single docent and volunteer was! There’s nearly no signage throughout the venue, which means interaction (or, improvisation!) is necessary to figure out how to get around, or simply what gorgeous creatures you were spying on.

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If you’re not on the spontaneous side and are planning your visit to the aquarium, snag your tickets online and save yourself a little bit of money. Or if you’re ocean obsessed like me and already have the intention of returning – make sure you get a year long pass; it can pay for itself in two visits – and it comes with a ton of snazzy perks, like early admission, special members only (read: 21+) nights, and discounts in the gift shop as well as the restaurant.

Open daily from 9:30 to 5pm, there are plenty of exhibits to get lost in and plenty of sea creatures to discover. Whether it’s for an afternoon outing, or an all day adventure – the Seattle Aquarium is a perfect way to spend some time under the sea.

For more on the Seattle Aquarium and their humanitarian ecological efforts, head to their social media channels; or just dive on in for an afternoon under the sea!

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[Traveling Tales] Bounding Through Bellevue Botanical Garden

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Moving up to Seattle, one thing that I wasn’t prepared for is the mammoth amount of biodiversity that the entire state has to offer. On a Macro Level, Washington State has an incredibly unique and diverse ecological footprint. The West Coast oscillates between a Mediterranean Climate over the Summer and a blustery, Marine West Coast Climate over the Winter. Nestled on the top North West corner, the Olympic National Forest is home to 4 distinct rain forests, the Hoh, Queets, Bobchiel and Quinault; the Hoh Rain Forest ranks as one of the largest temperate rain forests in the United States, let alone the North West. On the flip side of the Cascade Mountains, which act as a rainshadow, Eastern Washington boasts a vast high desert featuring a dry, arid climate that includes the Juniper Dunes Wilderness and Channeled Scablands, both carved out of land that acted as a flood basin during the last Ice Age until multiple cataclysmic floods washed through the region. All things this girl is excited to explore!

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Dropping into a micro level, Seattle proper is an oceanic seaport city that sits comfortably between Elliot Bay, Lake Washington and the Puget Sound which provide some sanctity from extreme heat and cold, while the geoclimate features a wonderful range of local flora and fauna. Moving at the end of the Winter Season means that we’re prepping for the glorious weeks of Spring then Summer, and you best believe this California Kitten is ready to frolic in the succulent sunshine. But, rain, shine or clouds – every second I can, I’ve been exploring nooks and crannies of the area with a sense of childlike wonder and amazement: the weather has ensured everything is lush and lavish, with parks on literally every corner. Not to mention, the myriad of bays, cuts, rivers, sounds and lakes give way to infinite amounts of waterway views. Every day, you could explore a new partition of the area – and lookup parks, or gardens, and find you’re surrounded by enough to have to make a game time decision; and that’s exactly how we happened upon the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

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Just a hop, skip and a jump over the freeway from Seattle proper by bridge sits an urban oasis sprawling over 53 acres of gorgeous landscaping; complete with both restored and natural wetlands and woodlands, alongside expertly cultivated and curated gardens. We came across it quite by accident and in the middle of Winter, the landscape gave way to vibrant flowers, and buds just itching for the right amount of sunlight to get their bloom on; and I can’t wait to visit again on purpose and revel in the flowers’ maturation.

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Back in 1981, a couple by the name of Cal and Harriet Shorts deeded over seven acres of land, as well as their home, to the city of Bellevue in hopes of creating an arboretum and public park in the heart of the city. A little over three years later, the Jewett family were inspired to create a Botanical Garden on the property; with the city, and the Shorts, approval, the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society was launched to create the Garden itself, while the city added ten additional acres to the already blossoming landscape. Fast forward to 1989, and Bellevue managed to incorporate 19 more acres of land surrounding the Shorts estate – bringing the acreage up to 36; and finally, in 2006, the Botanical Gardens reached their current 56 acres with assistance of the city.

Now one of Bellevue’s most popular destinations, the Botanical Gardens has a menagerie of habitats, from woodlands and meadows, to natural wetlands and gorgeous display gardens, like the Japanese inspired Yao Garden, the Lost Meadow Trail and fuchsia, dahlia and rock gardens. With ample space to stroll, and lose yourself in this delicious slice of nature.

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This garden is such a hidden gem, that even though we were there to gallivant through it on a Sunday, it felt like we were the only ones there; it was glorious! What are your favorite hidden gems in your city?

For more on the Bellevue Botanical Garden, head to their social channels or simply pay them a visit – I promise, it’s a worthy afternoon and you will not be disappointed.

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[Seattle Sights] A Pleasant Post-Apocalyptic Walk Through Gas Works Park

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“All of us humans have myriad other species to thank. Without them, we couldn’t exist. It’s that simple, and we can’t afford to ignore them, anymore than I can afford to neglect my precious wife–nor the sweet mother Earth that births and holds us all. Without us, Earth will abide and endure; without her, however, we could not even be.” 
― Alan Weisman, The World Without Us

Ever since moving to Seattle just a few weeks ago, it’s as if someone has toggled a switch in my personality; or maybe, it’s simply been unswitched. Much like a piece of electronics that you have to turn off to get working again, it feels as though my brain, soul and heart desperately needed the peace and quiet of Corvallis to get back into a roaring, working mode. After ten years of a go-go-go lifestyle in Los Angeles, it felt not just good – but necessary – to get back to basics; to remove the external noise and exorbitant amount of influences and return to my personal baseline. It’s a baseline that’s devoid of self-doubt and low-esteem, yet eager for adventure with an open mind and wide eyes, ready to swallow scenery and waft in wanderlust from each and every corner of this beautiful, new state – both figuratively and literally.

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After falling head over heels for the city during the week of new years eve, it took us less than two months to get a job in the city and find a new place to call home. And now after two weeks of living here, it truly feels like home. There’s a natural ebb and flow to the world around, and instead of fighting against the current we’re giving into the ride; so far, it’s been a beautiful one. The weather has been in our favor with the sun shining down and barely any clouds in the sky; it’s a brisk Spring, but it’s clear and lovely. Now that I’ve gotten to know the area a bit better, I’ve made a point of gallivanting around and exploring the greenery the city has to offer; one of my first stops – the post-apocalyptic looking Gas Works Park located in near the Fremont area, on the North Shore of Lake Union.

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A former coal gasification plant from Seattle’s Gas Light Company from 1906-56, Gas Works Park has seen a splendid second life as a refurbished public play area – and is possibly best known as the location of the glorious paintball fight with Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You (because, childhood). Both a Seattle and Washington State landmark, Gas Works Park spans well over 20 acres, the park boasts a stunning landscape featuring f rolling, green hills – culminating in Kite Hill, which – you guessed it – is great for flying kites, ample shoreline and a panoramic view of Downtown Seattle.

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Now that the coal aspect is defunct, the industrial pieces have been preserved, as well as “taken back”, by nature. Once you can look past the chain-link fence, pieces of metal that once roared into animate life all their own now feature vines, shrubs and trees weaving and winding their way through what’s left of the plant, and various amounts of graffiti art tagged around every corner. As the sunlight shifts and shines through the complex, the air breathes life into a scene that at one time was anything but truly living; making it easy to fathom that plenty of post-apocalyptic entertainment, ranging from TV shows like Incorporated and movies ranging from Divergent  to The Hunger Games, garnered their inspiration from scenes such as this. With ample room for roaming, running and recreation, Gas Works Park is a wonderful romp of urban decay sprawled in the midst of a booming tech economy.

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Though the water’s chemical makeup doesn’t bode well for swimmers, you can kayak or paddle board your way through Lake Union and take the area in, in all it’s splendor.

What are some of your favorite haunts in Seattle? Let me know in the comments below! For more on Gas Works Park, head to their website and socials:

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