Giveawayyyy! 7 places to see pirrrrates of the Pacific!

Arrr, mateys. If you’ll be travelin’ around our fair region, you’ll be wantin’ to meet some scallywags of the Pacific. We’ve got plenty o’ pirates, as we’ve got the balmy climate, easy access to shippin’ routes and dozens of islands fer storin’ loot.

Read more below, then enter to win some pirate-worthy swag from three good-hearted donors: A four-pack of tickets providin’ you with admission to Science World, an awesome P is for Pirate t-shirt and a pirate hand puppet (or felt story board).

1.Science World, Vancouver.

Practicing cannon skills at Science World

On May 7, 2010, Vancouver’s Science World museum welcomes the Treasure! exhibit.  As we all know, if there’s one thing a pirate loves, it’s a chest full of gold.

Treasure! at Science World (photo courtesy Science World)

Learn more about underwater treasure, modern treasure hunts and hidden treasure at this two-story science museum. And if ye don’t care for gold, diamonds and other valuables, Science World offers two floors of awesome exhibits — move a ball with your mind (really!), lift a hippo and hide away inside a animal’s tree home. Science World is always one of my top stops in Vancouver.

2. Milagros Boutique, Portland.

A play area fer wee rascals at Milagros Boutique

This sweet little shop focuses on the natural, organic and local, from cloth diapers to Oregon-made stacking toys. My favorite things for sale? The “P is for Pirate” shirts and locally-made wooden swords.

Photo courtesy Milagros Boutique

Thoughtful owner Jennifer seeks out completely unique merchandise that you really can’t find anywhere else — and she always finds clever ways to work with local store owners, Portland-based musicians and charitable orgs. Although I don’t live in Portland anymore, I’ve been known to order online from Milagros and I almost always drop by when in town to check out the boutique’s new picks.

3. 3H Craftworks, Vancouver.

Shopping at 3H

Amidst the upscale hustle-bustle of Vancouver’s West Fourth Avenue, 3H’s modest storefront belies the creativity inside. This non-profit shop displays hand-sewn felt storyboards, dresses, finger puppets and hand puppets — all crafted by local adults with physical challenges or mental illness who cannot find work elsewhere.

A pirate hand puppet: Photo courtesy 3H Craftworks

So you’ll have your choice of cool, locally-made playthings that serve an awesome cause. Try out the pirate-themed puppets for imaginary adventures.

4. Glowing Greens Miniature Golf, Portland. A pirate-themed blacklight mini-golf with reggae tunes, glow-in-the-dark skeletons and a Caribbean theme. Great for tweens and teens.

5. Portland Pirate Festival, Portland. Swashbuckle, drink grog, and and oh yeah, watch a pirate puppet show with thousands of pirate-costumed pals. Check out the children’s events.

6. Archie McPhee, Seattle. Seattle’s favorite schlock emporium has a soft spot for the hard life of a pirate. Pick up a Blackbeard Pirate Action Figure, Pirate Bandages or a Deluxe Eye Patch.

7. The Maritime Museum of British Columbia, Victoria. If visiting Victoria’s downtown, this very small museum may interest kids gaga over ships. Climb up the ratlines and into the crow’s nest of a ship. But don’t miss the pirate’s corner, which features nasty-looking gibbet (human drowning cage). Ew! But just right for older kids.

***

Would you like to win some booty? Ai, of course ye would. No gibbets here. Leave a good, clean pirate joke down below to enter the drawing for four free tickets to Science World, a free P is for Pirate t-shirt (sizes newborn-8) and a free pirate puppet or pirate felt storyboard kit.

Of course, ye can pirate someone else’s joke, cos that’s what a high-seas rascal would do. Enter by Tuesday, May 11, 2010. The random drawing will be held next Tuesday. All prizes can be sent to pirate ships located in Canada or the U.S.

Ar. It’s hard to write like a pirate fer more than a sentence or two.

10 Things to Do with Kids in Vancouver in the Rain

Vancouver is one of my favorite cities to visit, especially with kids. There’s so much to do — whether the winds are warm or wintery.

Here are my top 10 picks for cool-weather visitors.

1. Stanley Park. Yes, even in winter, Stanley Park provides family fun. Ride your bike rental around the park’s perimeter or head for the Aquarium. On weekends, ride the miniature train.

2. Vancouver Aquarium. My favorite aquarium in Cascadia. A total of 70, 000 fish, frogs, invertebrates, mammals and other creatures gurgle, splash and blow bubbles.

View live beluga shows, enormous tropical fish, reef sharks and hand-holding sea otters. Parents of toddlers and preschoolers should make their way to the popular Clownfish Cove, a niche created just for little ones, complete with storytime, an animal hospital and eye-level tanks. Older kids will get a kick out of the new 4D Experience ride.

3. Science World. Housed in one of Vancouver’s instantly distinguishable landmarks (a big silver sphere adorne with hundreds of lights), Science World is a consistent favorite with kids. In the Eureka exhibit, kids can explore the science of sound, water, music and light through enormous hands-on contraptions. Shoot balls up into a free-flowing waterfall, power a helicopter-style device, lift a 200-kg hippo and create music with your feet.

The newer Search: The Sara Stern Gallery offers a calm respite from the exciting — and noisy — museum. Climb inside a Red Cedar dwelling, enjoy the thoughtful discovery boxes or just create a nest with pillows and read a book.

4. Granville Island. Take kids to the Public Market to graze among the stalls, booths and stands offering fresh fruits, slightly stinky cheeses and exotic breads. The diversity of options means that even picky kids don’t leave hungry.

Granville Kids’ Market, housed in a rainbow-decorated two-story building, caters exclusively to kids and their grownups. Check out the 20 stores offering puppets, books, clothing, rain gear, toy shops and a store featuring only wooden playthings.

5. Grouse Mountain. Snow is a rare sight in downtown Vancouver, but you’ll find powdery fun just 15 minutes away from your downtown hotel. Grouse Mountain’s Sky Ride whisks you up for winter wonder. Little ones too small to ski can snowshoe among quiet stands of evergreens, or ice skate on the 8,000-square-foot small pond.

Also available: Sleigh rides, sno-limo, mountain ziplines and an indoor mini-theater. Order up some good grub at the Lupins Cafe, right down to the pound of poutine. (Hey, you’ve earned that cholesterol, haven’t you?)

6. Vancouver Maritime Museum. This museum is typically quiet when we’ve visited, and it’s certainly not on the tourist circuit. But the sea-worthy attraction is also the best Cascadia maritime museum for kids. Children can explore a pirate’s life, climb inside of a slightly claustrophobic dive suit, play at being a tug captain and read about shipwrecks.

In The Children’s Maritime Discovery Center, a bright-yellow wall of drawers holds hands-on learning opportunities. Pull one open and learn about women in maritime history, Vancouver’s relationship to the seas, and more.

7. Museum of Vancouver. Who slept through history class? (me! me!) But the Museum of Vancouver is anything but a snorefest. For example, my history class never featured real mummies. And the Museum of Vancouver does. Mr. Hibbard: 0. Museum of Vancouver: 1.

Learn about the city’s founding, play with antique-style toys, page through vintage parenting magazines (alarmingly the same as today, AKA “Why Billy is a Dull Child and What You Must Do About It”), and sit in a super-groovy 60s pad. Don’t miss the fliers that point out city landmarks by era — they can come in handy as you drive, bus or bike around town.

8. Chinatown. My kids beg and plead to come here –the third-largest Chinatown in North America– on every visit. It’s not just anywhere that you can pick up enormous Totoro stuffed animals, licensed and questionably-licensed Pokemon toys, and a variety of other character-istic merchandise.

Shop in a store or two, then wander through the narrow, busy streets. Consider the health benefits of dried medicinal herbs and teas — and then follow your nose to a Chinese bakery. Each is stocked full of unusual delicacies involving tropical fruit, flour, sugar and butter. Mmm.

9. Capilano Suspension Bridge. Sure, it’s something everyone says you have to do. But it is really is pretty cool — and not just for the rockin’ and rollin’ bridge alone. Before and after the bridge, explore totem poles, kids’ activities and interpretive displays on First Nations, wildlife and the ecosystem.

A series of connected wooden bridges that takes you through the evergreen treetops, where you get a new perspective from a bird’s-eye view. We visited right at dusk — a magical time to wander in the woods.

10. Bloedel Floral Conservatory. When the sky’s a grey pea-soup and the wind slips inside my raincoat, I enjoy visiting the tropics. Not by boarding a plane, but by visiting the Bloedel Floral Conservatory in Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park. The triodetic dome wraps around a moist, steamy slice of jungle, complete with parading parrots and blooming bromeliads.

The Conservatory isn’t very big, and it only takes about 15 minutes to a half-hour to meander through the paths. But it’s a fantastic place for photos, both indoors and out; outside the Conservatory’s front doors, you’ll find amazing views of Vancouver’s skyline and surrounding mountains.

When it’s drizzling, where do you like to go in Vancouver?

Surviving and Thriving at Vancouver 2010

8:00 a.m. We drove through the Canadian border. No lineups. Yes, it was a little eerie. After years of fearing the worst, the crossing ended up being no more problematic than a Starbucks’ drive-through at 9 p.m.

8:30 a.m. We parked at the King George SkyTrain Station (on the Metro Line), easily found a space, then paid the parking kiosk with our credit card (about $10 for parking). We boarded the first car, and the kids shared a lone forward-facing seat as the train weaved through housing, over bridges, past construction, and between stands of fir and cedar. “I’m driving,” my 4-year-old son whispered. Uh oh.

9:20 a.m. We arrived at Waterfront Station after a 45-minute ride, and got a few photos with a Quatchi mannequin that lives within the station.

We wandered along W. Cordova Street to see the Olympic Flame (gated off, so bring a telephoto lens if you want an up-close shot), then visited Canada Place, where the kids picked up free maple-leaf flags and signed the digital guestbook.

10:45 a.m. We walked a few blocks to one of my favorite restaurants – Sciue — before the crowds arrived. I like the ease of eating here: Choose your pizza, pay and find a seat. The kids scarfed down their cheese and tomato pizza (authentic Italian-style, so it’s not over-cheesed), while my husband and I enjoyed the ultra-spicy olive pizza.

The television played live coverage of the events; we were able to enjoy a perfectly foamy cappuccino while watching skiers work it. The kids shared a Fentimans’ orange fizz soda, which isn’t displayed. But if you ask, they’ll pull one out of the fridge.

We people-watched out through Sciue’s large plate-glass windows : red-mittened parents holding hands with red-mittened kids, protesters, Russian athletes and college-age students. Before leaving, we bought two pastries for sudden hunger pangs.

11:00 a.m.We hiked a few blocks up toward the BC Pavilion, housed inside of the Vancouver Art Gallery. An enormous line snaked along the sidewalk, and we didn’t want to be late for our 1 p.m. appointment.

So instead, we checked out the outdoor scene. Crowds clustered around the fountain, kids ran across the wide plaza, and families lined up to get a photo in a bobsled. Downtown’s Olympic clock sits here, along with a three-story floral mural and two photogenic lions.

11:30 a.m. Another block over, at GE Plaza, one block away, for Meet the Mascots ice show. The blue-jacketed Olympic helpers can offer inside tips, like when and where to be for good seats. Based on the info, we figured we had some time to wander around.

Local performers sang, juggled and danced (the best could do all three). Kids lined up to get a photo of themselves on the Vancouver Sun’s cover, to ride the zipline or pedal a bike to Sochi.

We also made a concerted effort to find a map of the day’s Cultural Olympiad events. I hadn’t brought one with me, assuming that I’d easily be able to find one. Unfortunately, no such luck. Every kiosk worker said, “sorry, we’re out,” and the only travelers with maps appeared to have brought them from home.

Noon. Based on the advice above, we sat on the ice rink’s long stone benches by the skate rental area. We had front-row seats, right in front of the rink’s waist-high glass wall. An hour’s a long time to wait, but it’s more comfortable when you can sit.

We took out the almond-chocolate croissants for a snack, let the kids scribble in my notepad and counted cool hats. An impressive First Nations performer rapped, sang Johnny Cash and performed a hoop dance at the southwest end of the stage. We could only view him from the rear, but even that was impressive (uh, I don’t mean it THAT way). At around 12:45, ice skaters warmed up, twirling like tornados.

1:00 p.m. Meet the Mascots began. Basically, it was a big group hugfest with all of the mascots – at least for the kids in the front, along the glass wall.  A prerecorded announcement told the story of the mascots, and costumed skaters skated alongside.

The kids saw and pawed at all of their favorite Northwest-themed characters, including Quatchi (Sasquatch)and Miga (bear-orca mashup). Warning: it can be dark along the sides of the rink, so bring a flash camera or one that works in low light. For the kids, Meet the Mascots was the day’s highlight.

2:00 p.m. My son coveted a certain type of Quatchi-hat we saw on kids at the rink, so we went into Sears (701 Granville) to pick one up. My 10-year-old daughter selected a MukMuk stuffed animal.

Sears offered stuffed animals, tee shirts, a rapidly-dwindling selection of hats, pins and other tchochkes. However, they don’t carry the red mittens – a product only for sale at the Bay.

The line to enter The Bay’s Olympic themed store was an entire city-block long. Although we didn’t join the line, we enjoyed seeing all of the patriotic costumes.

2:15 p.m. We decided to walk towards Science World, roughly two miles away and home to Russky Dom, the Russian Pavilion. Along Robson Street, we passed Canadian families festooned in red, public art, gentle protestors and welcome signs in a U.N. of languages. Oh, and a Batman-costumed street performer. Guess which was my son’s favorite?

We turned south on Beatty St., stopping at the Slovakian-inspired Kolachy for a quick bite of stuffed whole-wheat goodness. Our son took his afternoon nap in the stroller.

2:45 p.m. And then he woke up to a playground!  We found the imaginative little Coopers’ Park full of climbing equipment, cup-shaped spinning rides, colorful slides, a web worthy of spider-man. While the kids played for 15 minutes, we adults enjoyed picturesque views of False Creek and chatted with a local mom. She said that she was unimpressed with most pavilions so far; to get into each one seemed to require either a 45-minute or one-hour wait, the only alternative was to arrive at 10 a.m. Once inside the pavilions, there wasn’t much for kids to do, unless they enjoy reading tourism brochures.

3:00 p.m. Further along, we saw street vendors at Plaza of Nations (noodles, hot dogs, egg rolls, donair and the like), none of which looked particularly good. We also saw a performer on the stage. He wasn’t much good either. Sorry! Maybe a slow time of day.

3:30 p.m. We stumbled upon a quiet surprise – a garden of inukshuks along False Creek’s frontage sidewalk. A man studiously balanced stone atop of stone, and kept them in place with some sort of cement or glue, I’m not sure. Passerby oohed over the spectacle and delicately entered the garden to take pics.

From this vantage point, we could take in views of Science World, the athletes’ village draped in national flags and boats ferrying across False Creek.

4:00 p.m. At Science World, we started to get into line when the line-keeper (or guard, or some sort of official-looking guy) told us that with the stroller, we didn’t need to wait in line. We went to the line’s front, where other VIPs were entering, and breezed into the pavilion. Adding Russia to the places-to-visit list!

The kids liked Sochi World’s upstairs area, which offered a virtual hockey game and spinning sphere seats. Visitors can sit and watch the games live, but no refreshments were for sale, despite a bar set up in the room’s corner.

At night, Sochi World becomes party central for adults only. But during the day, kids can score hockey goals. A warning — it took us a half-hour to reach the front of the virtual hockey’s short line. I would not wait if there were a long line.

My son said this was his second-favorite part of the day, but my 10-year-old daughter didn’t enjoy the pavilion very much. Too much waiting, she said.

5:00 p.m. We boarded the SkyTrain back to Surrey, along with half of Vancouver. It was standing-room only, and we needed to fold up the stroller for the long 45-minute trip back to King George Station. The crowds thinned considerably by New Westminster station.

5:45 p.m. We went to White Spot for dinner, a safe bet when you’re not exactly sure where to eat and everyone’s famished. It’s like an upscale U.S. Denny’s — less diner, more dining — with wooden shutters, quiet booths and an internationally influenced menu. The kids ordered their favorite item on the menu – a Pirate Pak.

Macaroni and cheese, salad (or fries) delivered in a paper pirate ship, with strawberry ice cream for dessert. I had a “heart-healthy” scallop pasta and my husband had a burger. A good note to leave on!

We arrived at the border at about 7:15 p.m., scooting right through. No lines. I’ve actually never seen the lanes so empty at that time of night. The guard said a lot of Washingtonians were staying home.

The kids watched a movie on the iPod Touch, and we arrived in Seattle by 9:30 p.m. Nice!

Things I’m glad we did: read up on events we wanted to hit beforehand, arrived early for everything, wandered through streets, saw the inukshuk garden and enjoyed the festival-like atmosphere.

Things I wish we’d done: visited the Canadian mint booth, listened to live music in the evening, bought event tickets when they were released. I’d always assumed it would be a huge hassle to reach the Olympics and enjoy sporting events, but the transportation was smooth and the crowds were manageable.

Oh well. There’s always 2012, right?

Save Money with Museum Reciprocal Memberships

Here’s one way to slice the travel-entertainment budget — join your local science center. Pacific Northwest and B.C. families have three stellar museums in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver to choose from, and even out-of-town visitors can get in on the fun.

If you’re a member of your local science museum — in the U.S. or Canada — check to see whether the museum is part of the ASTC Passport Program. Passport Program members receive free reciprocal admission to other ASTC museums.

So if your family’s members of OMSI, you get into the Pacific Science Center for free.

If you’re members of Science World, you get into OMSI for free.

See? You’ll save over $40 USD/CAD for a family of four. If you arrive in Vancouver to grey, dumpy skies, head for Science World’s engaging live shows and hands-on action, just a quick Aquabus ride away from Granville Island. If you get sunburned in Seattle (ha!), head into the Pacific Science Center and cool off among the roaring dinos and fluttering butterflies.

One important thing to remember: Bring your current card and identification. At the reciprocal museum, staff can’t look you up. Even if you beg them. Or bribe them.

Trust me. I know. Bring your card and I.D.

Do you have a favorite museum?