Photo Friday: Pike Place Market

One of the best things about living in Seattle is watching travelers enthuse over the Pike Place Market. Visitor linger over fresh blackberries, laugh at the salmon-slinger’s antics, clap along with the buskers and marvel at the hand-made goods. Kids try fruit samples, while parents give in and buy a wind-up toy. Or three.

I took this photo about a year ago. The market, for some reason, was awash in the prairie-print dresses, somber black stockings and head-coverings of a religious community, probably Amish. In predominantly liberal, agnostic Seattle, the conservative clothing choice was more unusual than piercings and tattoos (which function as everyday work accessories here).

Vendors looked mildly surprised, then welcomed the newcomers with smiles and samples.  Although the visitors’ dress was of an era long ago — and you’d expect some gravitas to go with that style — the younger women could hardly contain their excitement over the market’s goods, as they buzzed from one stall to the next.

The market has historically been a village’s collective space, a place where populations can share ideas, food and merchandise on common ground. Shots like this remind me how lucky I am to live in a city with a thriving market culture.

This photo and post is a proud participant in DeliciousBaby’s Photo Friday.

Seattle Things To Do

High Desert, Kid Friendly: Bend, Oregon

Have you been around the Bend? Bend, Oregon’s warm, dry air is the perfect prescription for rain-inflicted doldrums. As a kid, I loved going to Bend and rubbing scented sagebrush between my fingers, riding bikes along flat (flat! really!) paths and hiking the twisted trails by the Deschutes River.

So why don’t we ask a local family for their favorite Bend locales? Bend resident Sarah Laufer and husband Justin met while they were both guiding whitewater rafting trips in Colorado. They soon moved to Bend, where they’ve been raising their two kids, 5-year-old daughter Chloe and 3-year-old son Avery.

Sarah’s also the co-founder of PlayOutdoors.com, an online store specializing in children’s adventure gear and clothing. This mom knows her great outdoors. Here are Sarah’s tips on where to eat and play in Bend, Oregon.

Where does your family like to go for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Bend? Which Bend restaurants are kid-friendly?

Breakfast: Go to Cafe Sintra. Manuel, the owner, loves kids and the food is so yummy and family friendly.  It’s breakfast with a Portuguese twist.

Lunch: Go to Croutons, which offers yummy sandwiches and salads, along with special kids meals. Locally owned, totally affordable and with great outdoor seating.

Dinner: Pastini in the Old Mill right near the river trail. What kiddo doesn’t like pasta?! There is awesome outdoor seating and food is yummy and comes out lickity split! Want Mexican instead? Try La Rosa in Northwest Crossing.

If you knew of family friends coming into town with kids, where would you take them? What are some things to do in Bend with kids?

In the winter, we would head up to the Wanoga Snow Play Area with some treats and a thermos of hot cocoa for some sledding and cross-country skiing.  There is even a warming hut with a wood stove and plenty of wood to get cozy and take a break for the next round of romping in the snow. Don’t forget your Sno-Park Permit.

In the summer, we would probably head to Shevlin Park for a picnic, rock skipping in the river and a nice walk/hike. Also fun to bring bikes and go for a ride on the pavement or trail.  there is actually a dirt road that goes all the way to Sunriver Resort, if you’re up for it.

Drake Park is a great place to take a walk around Mirror Pond. The park also hosts summertime concerts (Munch and Music) and the Bend Farmers Market. It’s right near downtown.

Bend Oregon with kids

Drake Park with kids. Photo courtesy of Play Outdoors.

But there’s just so much to do outside in Bend year round! In the spring, you can float the Deschutes River, ski Mt. Bachelor, go for a bike ride, and head out for a walk on the Deschutes River Trail all in one day.  That makes for very happy — and tired — kidlets.

And in bad weather? What would you do in the rain with kids in Bend?

The High Desert Museum is by far the best museum in Central Oregon!  They have great kids programs along with current exhibits all about the plant and animals in the high desert.

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For more family-friendly ideas on what to do on your Bend vacation with kids, see the Visit Bend’s Family Fun Page. Or order The Children’s Travel Guide to Bend, Oregon by Crystal McCage.

For more kid-friendly restaurants, read Top 5 Family Friendly Restaurants in Bend, Oregon, an article in True North, a parenting magazine for Central Oregon families. Browse True North’s calendar to discover timely activities and events.

And read this highly opinionated (and hilarious) piece from Bend Oregon Restaurants, “Family Friendly Restaurants” — with notes on where to have a not-too-annoying kid birthday party when you’re in town.

Which kid-friendly restaurants, activities, shops and hotels do you recommend in Bend, Oregon?

Daytrip: Olympia with kids

Think State capitols aren’t kid-friendly? Towns plagued by boring subcommittee meetings, too-fancy restaurants and dull plazas, right?

Olympia, Washington, may take you by surprise.

Lavender at the Olympia Farmers Market

When to go: Saturday, so you can check out the Olympia Farmers Market, the people-smorgasbord that is Olympia. You’ll see patchouli students from the nearby Evergreen State College, farmers in overalls, embroidered-denim grandmas, toddlers riding on dad’s shoulders. The market’s a nice mix of locally made items:  soaps, herbs, baked goods and of course, tie-dye shirts.

Where to eat: At the market, order honkin’ huge sandwiches from Heyday! Cafe and listen to live music on the market stage. As an alternative, go to Meconi’s Italian Subs for the best subs this side of the Mississippi.

Getting buried with (plastic) rocks at the Hands On Children's Museum

Little kids will love: The Hands On Children’s Museum, where the museum’s town allows kids to grow apples on a farm, deliver them with a truck, sell them the store, turn them into apple fritters in the bakery – and then visit the dentist for a tooth cleaning afterward. At the other end of the museum’s U-shaped layout, a kids can don lifejackets and pretend to drive a ceiling-height container ship (with a working crane!). The $7.95 per-person entry fee pays off with at least two hours of fun; one of the best children’s museum’s I’ve visited in the Northwest.

George's nose is shiny because so many people rub it for good luck.

Big kids will love: Discussing how government works in the hushed marble halls of Olympia’s Legislative Building, which sports the fourth-tallest, self-supported masonry dome in the world. Tours are offered between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekends, but it’s probably best for you to drop cool history facts on your way through the building’s three floors. Look for the giant brass bust of George Washington — and don’t forget your camera.

Where to shop: Wind Up Here keeps little hands busy with dolls, wooden toys and other playthings. Perfect for a sticker book or two to keep the kids busy in the car.

Trying a mocha-dusted hazelnut.

What to take home: Don’t leave town without picking up treats from the Olympia Farmers Market — dinosaur cookies from San Francisco Street Bakery’s stall or a blend of nuts from Jawa Gourmet Nut Roastery. Recommended: lavender walnuts with orange and mocha hazelnuts.

Find more hotels, attractions and restaurants at Visit Olympia.

10 Tips for Enjoying Farmers Markets with Kids

Wherever our family travels in Washington, Oregon and BC, we always visit a produce market. Almost every destination offers a farmers’ market, whether the big-city Pike Place Market or the tiny, thriving Cannon Beach Farmers’ Market. In fact, we find farmers’ markets so fun that we sought them out in Paris (mmm, stanky cheese!), Provence (chickpea crepes) and Italy (fresh tomatoes).

Here are my tips for enjoying farmers’ markets with kids:

  1. Check the market’s website before you head out the door. Use the site to pull together a scavenger hunt for in-season produce, print out maps, look for coupons or find out when a children’s performer will be on the stage. There may even be kids’ cooking classes offered, or special seasonal events.
  2. Give the kids their own spending money.  This is particularly fun if they’re going to use a foreign currency at a cross-border market. A dollar buys few honey sticks at our local market, and five dollars gives the kids plenty to work with. Eagle-eyed children may be able to spot a perfect, locally-made craft souvenir on a vendor’s table.
  3. Give the kids a shopping tote. They’ll grown-up and responsible. They can help carry your buys or pack their own purchases. Don’t let them fill their own bags too full, or you’ll be carrying theirs as well.
  4. Let them choose lunch from any one of the food vendors. The beauty of the NW and BC’s diverse markets? Mom orders a pesto-topped baked potato, dad dines on pierogies and the kid scarfs down pizza.
  5. Talk about seasonal and local produce with kids. Ask questions like, “Why don’t we see any bananas at this market?” If you’re at larger markets (like Pike Place or Granville Island Market), you will see tropical and out-of-season fruits. Ask the kids whether these foods grew here – and if not, how do the kids guess that they arrived? Can they help you spot the locally grown food?
  6. Involve the kids in weighing, counting and paying for purchases. These activities painlessly build math skills.
  7. Bring change for the kids to put into the buskers’ tip jars and guitar cases. Enjoy the fiddlers, guitar-strummers and singers that make the market a community event.
  8. Challenge your child to pick out the most unusual fruit or veg. Regional growers are showing an interest in heirloom produce, and local foragers bring back unusual mushrooms and plants. What will you find today — blue potatoes? Nettles? Giant mushrooms? Purple tomatoes?
  9. If you’re in a hotel or rental with a kitchen, ask your child to help you assemble a locally grown dinner from the market. Ask the vendors for cooking tips and pair-with suggestions. Make sure you choose at least one dish your child can help prep, whether chopping fruit for fruit salad or snapping off green bean tips.
  10. Keep a watchful eye on the kids, and talk about what to do if you get lost. With bustling pedestrian traffic, it’s easy to lose sight of your kids. Many parents either hold hands, put children in carriers, a stroller or a pull-wagon.

Do you have any tips that work for your family? Leave them below.

Four Family-Friendly Markets in the NW & BC

We have markets by the bushelful here in Casadia and traveling families are always welcome. Bring the kids, $30 and a sense of adventure to these farmers’ markets. It’s a cheap vacation solution and a memorable excursion, all rolled into one afternoon.

Here are my favorite four markets — indoor and outdoor, large and small. Don’t miss them when you’re visiting!

Portland Farmers Market, Portland.

This weekend, the Saturday Portland Farmers Market reopens for the growing (and grazing) season. The outdoor, downtown market features dozens of local-vendor booths, great food trucks (I like Pine State Biscuits) and musical performers.

Chefs put on cooking demos, and children’s cooking classes take center stage. This market is a great place to “meet the grower,” (if the grower isn’t too busy to chat), because most stalls are operated by the farmer who hand-raised the produce.

Tip: The market’s surrounding South Park Blocks provide a great breather during your market experience; or the small playground can serve as a place to entertain the kids while your partner does the shopping.

Pike Place Market, Seattle.

The oldest continuously-operating market in the U.S., Pike Place offers well-covered shopping for Seattle’s tempestuous weather. A mix of open-air and indoor vendors sell fresh produce, doughnuts, hot dogs, local confections, jewelery and blankets. Little kids love the free samples, bigger kids love the creepy underground corridors full of mystery and history.

There’s a veritable United Nations of food options here: culinary options include Vietnamese, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Greek and Turkish. The Market’s family-friendly events are a great way to spend an afternoon; check the market’s site beforehand to see if there’s something going on when you’ll be in town.

Tip: Play urban explorer through the market’s a-maze-ing alleys, underground arcades and adjoining buildings. Can you find Rachel the Pig, the gum wall covered with already-been-chewed gum (as disgustingly cool as it sounds) and a cow-themed shop that only sells dairy?

Granville Island Market, Vancouver.

The Granville Public Market is a covered, light-filled indoor enclosure with independent vendors: produce, hot meals, candied salmon, imported cheese, pastas and teas. Right outside, there’s a sunny patio for relaxing, eating and pigeon-chasing.

Then, head out the market’s front door. You’ll find a village of pedestrian-friendly arts and retail buildings along the island’s one-way road. Small stores populate each building, selling everything from hats to gorgeous Japanese paper to do-it-yourself jewelry options. Don’t miss the tremendous two-story Granville Kids Market and the family-friendly (read:they have toys!) Pedro’s Organic Coffee House (60-1550 Anderson Street, right outside of the Kids Market).

Tip: This island was made for wandering. Take the kids toward anywhere green, and you’ll find grassy play areas, playgrounds, bike trails and swampy marshes – a delightful verdant surprise in the middle of an urban market scene.

James Bay Community Market, Victoria.

This outdoor market attracts locals and tourists alike. It’s packed with jellies and musical jams, muffins and ragamuffins. James Bay Community Market is small in comparison to the three above, but that’s why it’s so charming. It’s also easy to walk to from the downtown Inner Harbour, where many hotels are located.

Kids chase one another beneath leafy trees, market vendors are happy to share tips on local restaurants and the hourly musical acts are low-key and accessible, with lots of room for children to dance around.

Tip: Give the kids several dollars to purchase a hand-made craft; there’s an abundance of island crafters (all pre-approved through a jury process) here.

Do you have a favorite Washington, Oregon or BC market to share? What insider tip can you provide?