Creepy Collections: Discover summer scares in area attractions

You won’t need air conditioning to get the chills, this summer. It seems almost every city in our area is offering something a little spooky and freaky, from the Pacific Science Center’s “Science of Fear” in Seattle to The Oregon Zoo’s animatronic dinos to surrealist bird-people at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Here’s your guide to the best summer exhibits in our area.

Seattle

Goose Bumps! The Science Of Fear at the Pacific Science Center. June 11 – September 5, 2011

This freaky fun at Pacific Science Center focuses on why and how we feel afraid. See what spooks you – and discover the science behind your scare. Give yourself a workout in the Fear Challenge Course, learn how animals use fear to survive and discover ways to cope with your worries.

Dinosaurs. Real Close at the Woodland Park Zoo and Dinosaurs! at the Oregon Zoo. Both run until September 5.

Both the Woodland Park Zoo and the Oregon Zoo are going dino-riffic for the summer. Jump into the dino train (well, your car) and travel back in time to over a million years ago into a prehistoric forest. There, you’ll meet real-sized animatronic dinos that roar, move, and spit. Kids will also learn about dino habitat, how dinosaurs evolved into modern-day birds and how archaeologists work – but they’ll mostly remember that ferocious T. rex. These outdoor dinosaurs aren’t as terrifying as the marketing materials might make them sound, but sensitive children may be spooked.

AVATAR: The Exhibition at the EMP/SFM. Through September 3, 2012.

Tweens and teens who enjoyed Avatar will enjoy this exhibit’s behind-the-scenes look at the movie’s production. Gawk at the full-size AMP (Armored Mobility Platform) suit, wonder over Na’vi character models and their wardrobes, learn more about the world of Pandora and play with interactive exhibits demonstrating how 3D technologies work.

Beauty and Bounty at the Seattle Art Museum. Until September 11.

OK, this one isn’t scary. Older kids and teens who’ve learned a little about The Oregon Trail will appreciate SAM’s cool summer display featuring over 100 works of westward expansion. Never-before-exhibited landscape paintings and photos demonstrate 19th an 20th century artist’s awestruck responses to mountains, plains and coast. Kids are often impressed (but no, won’t be terrified) by the oversized paintings that captured the scale and grandeur.

Portland

Narnia, The Exhibition at OMSI, in Portland. Until September 25.

Step through the wardrobe and into Narnia, The Exhibition. Explore C.S. Lewis’s creatures alongside props and costumes from the popular film series. But the exhibit doesn’t just focus on movie magic and fantasy – real-world science includes geography, archaeology and engineering quandaries and solutions.

Dinosaurs! at the Oregon Zoo. See listing above.

Vancouver, BC

The Colour of My Dreams:
 The Surrealist Revolution in Art, in Vancouver, BC. Until September 25, 2011

Vancouver offers a summer escape into a bizarre, unsettling world. This exhibit is a grand exploration of over 350 pieces of surreal art from around the world, including works by Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Joan Miró, Man Ray, Dorothea Tanning and other leading figures of Surrealism. Themes include desire, androgyny, violence and transmutation, so the exhibit is best for teens or very mature tweens.

5 Reasons to Travel in Fall

Fall’s official, folks. The leaves are drifting, the winds are blowing and besides, the calendar says so. Autumn’s a fabulous time to travel in the Pacific Northwest and Canada with kids, and here’s why:

1. Value. Prices in the “shoulder season” tend to be about 25-30% less than in summer. Look for discounts in popular, expensive summer destinations — Washington’s islands, Oregon’s coast and Vancouver Island. Whistler, in BC, is between ski and summer seasons and hotel prices reflect that reality. City prices drop, too. Even if it’s raining, there are always scores of kid-friendly indoor museums and attractions to keep you warm and dry.

2. Leaf-peeping. Much of Cascadia’s western half is covered by firs and other evergreens. But if you move a little east, you’ll encounter spectacular displays of vivid, multihued maples, aspens and cottonwoods. For a showcase of color, head to the Columbia Gorge along the Washington/Oregon border, Washington State’s North Cascades country roads and into BC’s Fraser Valley. Let the kids pick out a few favorite leaves to press at home, or play ID-the-tree with a guidebook.

3. Seclusion. Midweek getaways reveal another side of popular tourist destinations. Yes, you’ll have to take the kids out of school for a day or two — but on a sun-filled fall day, you may feel like you’re the only souls at the coast. Locals have more time to chat, prices are lower and you’ll get better service in fall, particularly when you head out mid-week.

4. Harvest time. Apples and pears (east of the big cities) are in full swing and farmstands are overflowing with pumpkins, corn and tomatoes. There’s an Oktoberfest here, a lantern-festival there, and a Greek festival everywhere. It’s a time of celebration and sustenance, and a lovely time to visit rural Washington, Oregon and BC. Visit the close-in farming communities of Skagit County (near Seattle), Fraser Valley (near Vancouver) and Sauvie Island (near Portland).

5. Thanksgiving deals. Canada’s Thanksgiving falls on October 11 this year, while the U.S. waits until November 25 to celebrate. But here’s a cool secret — you can typically find bargain-basement rates and open attractions at the neighboring nation. So Canadians can head to the U.S. to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with shopping (and Trader Joe’s, of course). U.S. residents can traipse north for U.S. Thanksgiving and enjoy the holiday decorations, open attractions and low hotel prices.

Why do you like traveling in fall? Does your family have a favorite farm or leaf-peeping drive?

13 iPhone Apps for Your NW Trip

Need ferry fares, Oregon traffic maps or the Spokane weather forecast? There’s an app for that. Need the kids to chill on the long I-5 drive? There’s a nap for that. Here are 13 apps to consider for your trip in and around Washington, Oregon and BC. You’ll find all in the iTunes Store.

A caveat: If you plan to use a web-boosted app in a country not included in your iPhone coverage, find out how much it’ll cost you to use your data plan.

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1.  BorderWait by RBJZ Post Industries | $0.99

This app displays times at the American/Canadian border, so you can decide which crossing to take. Locals often choose the crossing with the least wait time, not necessarily the easiest one (Peace Arch). Crossing points are lined up vertically, in order, from Vancouver to New Brunswick. But you’ll need a map to navigate to nearby border stations, if you’re not already familiar with the crossings.

2.  Pacific Northwest US by Steve Parker | $0.99

Pacific Northwest weather can be undependable. Rain one minute, brilliant sun the next. This app offers expected temperatures, wind conditions and precipitation on color-coded maps. You’ll find weather from Astoria to Zillah, covering all of Washington and Oregon. The downside? No BC weather.  The upside – kids seem to love playing with weather maps.

3.  Atmospherique by Quadrant Newmedia | Free

So, because there’s no BC weather in the previous app, you’ll need this one, which lists the latest temps (Celsius, Fahrenheit or Kelvin), plus a 7-day forecast. You choose the location(s) that you’ll be in, or let the GPS tell Atmospherique where you are. Should you bring a jacket for your walk through Victoria? The app tells you the chance of precipitation.

4.  Twilight: Movie Tour by Audama Software Inc | $2.99

If you share your home with a Twilight fan, check out this app. It shows various Washington and Oregon filming locations, along with maps so you can find the exact destination. It even outlines the movie’s run time in the Twilight for each locale. I’m not a huge Twilight fan, so I’m not the best person to fact-check this one. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

5.  Olympic National Park Field Guide by Nadistra, LLC | $4.99

Identify the Olympic National Park’s animals, trees, flowers and plants with gorgeous full-color photographs. Download details on all of the above, plus info about local towns, campgrounds and special points of interest. I do wish that the Google Map displayed all 900,000 acres with push-pins for towns, campgrounds and points of interest. It can be difficult to understand the lay of the land, unless you’re already familiar with the park.

6.  Woodland Park Zoo by AVAI Ventures Inc. | $0.99

Why does a certain snake’s Latin name translate to “silent fate?” Find out this fascinating fact – plus dozens more – from the Woodland Park Zoo’s fantastic app. I really like the valuable daily schedule: when the giraffes are fed, when zookeepers give talks and when the puppet show begins. Find your travel companions on the grounds with the GPS-enabled app, or use the map to make your way around the 188-acre zoo.  A fabulous use of technology.

7.  Visit Victoria by Jordan Mann | Free

This app functions like a simple, selective tourism guide. You’ll see Victoria’s 30 main attractions listed with a brief description of each, the hours, website, phone number and address. Tap on the address, and your web browser opens to the attraction’s exact location on Google maps.  It’s a great, basic app for anyone Victoria-bound for the day or a weekend.

8.  iFerry by Web X.0 Media | $1.99

This app makes quick work of the Washington State Ferry System, and it’s a necessary asset for anyone traveling through the Pacific Northwest during the crowded summer season. Real-time info on schedules, crossing times, fares, alerts and delays throughout the Pacific Northwest’s most popular destinations, including the San Juan Islands, Friday Harbor, West Seattle and Sidney, BC.

9.  Portland Art Museum by Spotlight Mobile | Free

The Portland Art Museum offers awesome, ongoing family programming. But if you’re not at the museum on a family programming day, this app offers streaming podcasts from experienced curators, who explain the PAM’s collection to you (and then you can explain that ultra-modern piece to the kids, perhaps). Some teens may also enjoy the podcasts. Bring earphones – and be aware that some explanations can be rather lengthy. The app’s map is solid and useful.

10.  The Oregon Trail by Gameloft | $4.99

Many children played a simpler, green-screen version of this game in elementary school. Now your children can round up the wagons, cattle and kids for a journey out west. Learn to hunt, fish and pan for gold – while avoiding dysentery, bandits and bad weather. The game presents one-line history trivia on the Oregon Trail, so kids get a dose of pain-free learning. Advancing levels ensure that there’s always a new challenge, and the graphics are simply adorable.

11.  Tourism British Columbia by Near Me BC | Free

A phonebook-like app pointing out over 4,000 of BC’s popular attractions, restaurants, visitor centres and towns. The app interacts with your phone’s GPS to point out great options by distance, in kilometers and miles from your current location. The attractions aren’t organized, so you’ll find spas mixed in with whale watching and casinos next to military museums. However, the app is extremely comprehensive. There are phone number and website for each listing, plus links to additional information on HelloBC.com.

12.  Parks Envi NW by Open Door Networks, Inc. | $1.99

An image-heavy app of Pacific Northwest National and State parks. View Oregon and Washington mountains, lakes, parks and historic sites. The web icon on each takes you directly to the online National Park sites for more information. But basically, it’s a slideshow of travel possibilities, with photos of varying quality. Try the “Ken Burns effect” for fun.

13.  Oregon by Moonshadow Ecommerce, Inc. | Free

In this app, you’ll find traffic cams throughout the state, the speed of traffic in the Portland area, and events categorized by Oregon region. All information is sourced from the Oregon Department of Transportation and Travel Oregon.  I wish that more non-event activities were listed in “Things to Do,” and that more lodging options were listed (only two?!). But the statewide traffic information is handy.

What did I miss? E-mail me your suggestions.