Guest Post by the Happy Film Company for Marcie in Mommyland
When traveling with kids there’s a big pressure to come home with gorgeous photos but my oh my is it stressful to keep smiles on those little faces. At the Happy Film Company, we specialize in keeping kids happy in front of the camera. These are our top tips for capturing happy vacation memories with beautiful photography.
Learn to Avoid to people in your pictures by squatting down low, climbing up high or tilting your camera at an angle. Change the angle of your photo can creatively crop out the people and put the focus just on your kids and the cool background you want to capture. You can also use the crowds to your advantage and use people’s bodies to redirect the focus of the photo on your kids. You can shoot through gaps in the crowd to create a frame around your kids/family. You can also shoot behind/over people’s shoulders so a portion of your photo is blurry (creating ‘negative space’) so the other half of the photo is just featuring the kids.
#2 Kids are Squirmy and Not Smiling
When kids are traveling and they feel tired and grumpy, their smiles disappear and they lose interest in the camera, looking or running away. Instead of pouring energy into forcing them to smile, focus on helping them have fun. The smiles come naturally when they’re having a good time. When you force them to smile at the camera they probably feel like you’re not listening to them and what they feel like doing. We always let kids take the lead. Try asking your kids which pictures they would like to take, which backgrounds they think are they coolest, what kind of pose they think would look best. Get them involved in the creative process behind taking photos. You know how powerful your child’s creative imagination is - let THEM help you take better pictures.
#3 Photos are Becoming Stressful & Boring
If your kids are bored being photographed, you’re probably taking boring pictures. Remember, you’re adventuring through the world to create happy memories NOT to create happy-looking photos of stressful memories (that’s just silly!). Let go of the belief that you need to smile perfectly in every photo and welcome in the possibility that photography might be the most powerful tool for boosting up the level of fun that your family has when travel! I recommend playing photography games and having photography themes and challenges when you travel. This will turn your vacation into a photography project that keeps everyone interested (even the people back home who will look at your photos). These are my 3 favorite family photography games:
Have your kids choose a different animal they want to be at each attraction. The whole time you’re exploring that monument they get to pretend to be that animal and when you take pictures they can pose like the animal and make the animal sounds. When you get home, you’ll have a photo book full of the cool tourist attractions featuring all your little animals.
Take pictures from far away (with lots of scenery and people) and have your kids go hide somewhere in the photo so people will have to search for them. Of course, play safe - make sure you can see them or have one parent hiding with the kids.
How Many Faces
Challenge your kids to do a different face at every location. It’s like playing the license plate game when you’re on a roadtrip. How many different states license plates can you count? How many different faces can you collect and bring home?
#4 Hire a Local Professional Photographer
When traveling, take some pressure off your shoulders and get a pro to follow you around for a couple hours so you can be totally present and have fun with your family, all the while knowing that your memories are being captured in a gorgeous way!
The Happy Film Company is a Pacific Northwest family portrait photography and videography business located in Seattle, but happily working with families across the Pacific Northwest and down the West Coast. Our studio is located in Renton, WA and we love photographing and filming families all across Washington, sometimes even venturing to Oregon, California and Hawaii. Our goal is to create bright natural photos and videos that capture each family's love and celebrate the happiness they're feeling at this moment in their lives. Whether we're behind the computers in our studio, wandering with our cameras through the streets of Seattle, or out exploring in the wilderness of the Washington, we are a playful down-to-earth team of creative women who love connecting with people, playing with kids, and creating meaningful artwork that brings a smile to people's faces. Click here to book your shoot with us!
We saved the world-famous The Butchart Gardens for the last day of our Babymoon in Victoria so we'd end strong. We hopped on the CVS Tour bus located directly in front of the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Our guide was humorous and gave us a lot of background information about The Butchart Gardens and the Butchart family during the 40 minute drive. When we arrived, we felt like we had a solid understanding of the place, which made exploring even more fun!
When we entered the Gardens, we were transported to another time. Even the courtyard was laid out very nicely. We grabbed a map and they had a general route that we could follow. We walked toward the Sunken Garden first. As soon as we turned the corner, I was blown away! The Sunken Garden really pops out and I felt like I had entered the Secret Garden because it is so hidden. It was absolutely stunning! It had everything from water features to beautiful flowers to views from various vantage points. We weren’t sure how much time we could spend there, so we went a bit quicker than we should have and headed up to the Carousel.
The Carousel was really adorable! We learned on the CVS Tour that each animal on the carousel was from one of the family’s travels. I really loved this concept because it made it more personal. It also reminded me of the carousel at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, especially because it’s enclosed in glass, which is perfect for Northwest weather. When we come back with our toddler, we’ll be sure to take a ride!
Then we headed to the Rose Garden that smelled lovely! It reminded me a lot of my Grandma, who used to grow stunning roses in her garden. I was surprised that the roses were still in full bloom since it was a bit late in the season and many other rose bushes I’d seen elsewhere were fading fast. We liked how this garden highlighted the open space so we could see a lot of it as we were walking around.
The Japanese Garden was simply serene. It had everything we’d expect from a Japanese Garden. We had learned on our CVS Tour that the family had been given a hundred Cherry Blossom trees from the emperor of Japan when they visited more than a hundred years ago. A Japanese gardener also came back with them and created the Japanese Garden. It was through this garden where people could take a boat tour of the cove. We didn’t have time to do it this trip, but it’s a must-do for our next trip.
We ended at the Italian Garden, which was very small and was in a courtyard with a gelato shop. Darren felt compelled to taste the gelato to see how authentic it was. He thoroughly enjoyed it! Just up the hill, they had several benches for people to eat and soak in the Gardens.
We will definitely make The Butchart Gardens a stop on our next trip to Victoria, especially if we have toddler and baby with us. I'd really like to experience the boat ride and I'm sure my toddler would love a ride on the beautiful carousel. I'd say it's definitely worth the trek out there!
Tourism Victoria provided passes for CVS Tours and Butchart Gardens provided one complimentary admission for review purposes.
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You can't come to Victoria, BC and not do Afternoon Tea. I think it's basically a requirement. Like eating pasta in Rome or nibbling on a crepe in Paris. When I saw that the Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden offered an Afternoon Tea, I was immediately intrigued!
The garden offers an escape from the rush of modern life. Created in 1946 by Prince and Princess Abkhazi, it is a heritage garden famous for its majestic trees and dramatic site. As a dynamic and evolving garden, new plantings pay respect to the Abkhazi's original vision but welcome interesting new treasures that change with the seasons and enhance the sophisticated design.
Abkhazi Garden is the perfect setting for Afternoon Tea. My husband and I appreciated how quiet and intimate the setting was. We were able to sit outside with just a few other tables. The sun was shining and the gardens were so stunning that we almost felt like we should whisper. We really felt like we were personal guests of the Abkhazis. There was something nostalgic and romantic about the experience, so it was a perfect fit for our Babymoon in Victoria!
The menu was delightful and flavorful and we truly couldn't finish the entire thing. And the presentation was lovely. We enjoyed the tea so much that we purchased some to take home. Here are some of the delectable treats we tasted:
Abkhazi Garden was not a stop on our Victoria Sightseeing Tour Bus, so we got off at Craigdarroch Castle and took a taxi to the Garden. It was a very short drive and we would have gotten lost had we walked. However, if you have great navigation skills, we heard it's about a 30 minute walk. After Afternoon Tea, we called a taxi to take us to Oak Bay Marina (again just a few minutes away by car) so we could finish our Tour. This was a very additional stop and it really does warrant it's own stop even just to walk through the Garden and take a few moments to relax. But we recommend staying for tea and just living in the moment!
Tourism Victoria offered Afternoon Tea at the Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden for review purposes.
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When we saw that Victoria, BC offered a tour of a castle, we figured we should probably check it out. Thankfully, it was a stop on our Victoria Sightseeing Tour. The road to get up to the Castle is narrow, so our tour bus dropped us at the bottom of the hill and was walked up. This was cool because we really got that "Oh Wow" moment when the castle appear around the corner.
As soon as we entered, we were instructed to clean our shoes using a machine that brushes off dirt from the soles of shoes. I've never seen anything like that before but it sure beats wearing those booties over shoes! I appreciated that they asked us to do that because it means they have a lot of pride in the Castle and they are serious about preservation.
Once we entered, we were able to explore just about all the rooms. Built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir during the reign of Queen Victoria and now a National Historic Site, Craigdarroch Castle has been meticulously restored, giving visitors a glimpse of privileged life in the 1890s. As we walked around, it reminded me so much of Iolani Palace in Hawaii. Both homes had possessions sold and distributed long ago and volunteers are now painstakingly trying to locate items found in old photos. Many people in Victoria probably have something that belonged to the Castle and have no idea. Craigdarroch Castle also reminded me a lot of Downton Abbey. How could it not?
The house itself is stunning. Apparently, they had to scrape off several layers of wall paper off the ceiling to reveal the original. The wall pieces were all shipped in from Chicago and were of a quality that you just can't find any more. I appreciated all the stained glass, especially on the top floor where there is an observation room with views of Victoria.
The people of Craigdarroch Castle have done a marvelous job of posting information about the home and the Dunsmuir Family, who built it. These signs really brought each and every room to life. Robert and Joan Dunsmuir had two sons and eight daughters plus one child who died in infancy. Robert Dunsmuir gave the orders to start building Craigdarroch in 1887. There were still three Dunsmuir daughters who were not married and the mansion would be the perfect venue to launch them into married life. Unfortunately, he died in April 1889 before the house was completed. After Robert’s death, Joan spent some time travelling in Europe. Her sons oversaw the completion of the construction while she was in Europe and Joan, with her three unmarried daughters and two orphaned grandchildren, took up residence in 1890. There was a lot of family drama until Joan's death in 1908.
My favorite things to look at were the authentic clothing on display. Even though I watch a lot of period pieces in movies and television, it's so remarkable to see them so close where you can really take not of the detail. It was easy to see how someone would need assistance to properly get dressed.
Craigdarroch Castle is a great stop for people who are interested in historical homes, great architecture or who love a juicy story! Additionally, they have several volunteers stationed throughout the Castle who are extremely knowledgable about the Dunsmuir family and the restoration progress. It's easy to get to Craigdarroch Castle by tour bus or taxi from Downtown Victoria. Depending on crowds, you may want to allow yourself more than the 40 minute tour bus stop.
Tourism Victoria provided admission to Craigdarroch Castle for review purposes.
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LEGO Duplo sent us a Little Plane to test out. My 2.5 year-old son Owen was so excited to open it up once he saw it was an airplane! He's very into airplanes right now. We opened the box and he dumped out all the pieces. Without any instructions, we were easily able to build the airplane and control tower. Owen loved that the pilot could sit down or stand up in the plane while he ran around "flying" the plane. He was also a fan of the control tower and kept saying "get ready for takeout," which is from one of his favorite books.
He also played with the plane in our sand table and seemed to enjoy pouring sand inside and having the plane fly the load around and then dump it back in the sand table. I love it when toys encourage children to play with them in different ways! I mean, who says an airplane can't also be a dump truck?
Once we switched our sand table into our water table, it also became a water toy. That's the great thing about LEGO Duplo toys: they are waterproof and can easily be rinsed off when dirty. The water table instantly became an "Airplane Wash" as opposed to the ever popular Car Wash.
After we saw the Blue Angels perform at Seafair in Seattle a few weeks ago, this airplane became an honorary Blue Angel. Owen likes to tell me where the airplane is going. Lately, popular destinations have included Hawaii, California and China. I really like that he's able to tell me all the steps the plane is taking: People getting on board, plane is on the runway, plane takes off and is flying to its destination, and then finally lands at the airport.
I think eventually, we will make a LEGO Duplo table by adding a baseplate to an old nightstand. I think the radio tower and fuel can would get more play time if they were secured to a table. Right now, they usually sit on our train table. Overall, my son really enjoys this LEGO Duplo Little Plane and we look forward to stepping our foot into (and hopefully not on top of!) the LEGO Duplo world!
LEGO sent us this product for review purposes.
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As soon as I told my friends that my husband and I were spending our Babymoon in Victoria, one of their first suggestions was to check out the Royal BC Museum. I hadn't really heard of it before, so I went online to take a closer look. I saw that they had a Mammoth exhibit going on while we'd be there, which was motivation enough to visit. When I saw that it was located across the street from our hotel, it felt like a sign that we must make the visit happen.
The Royal BC Museum Corporation is one of Canada’s greatest cultural treasures. The museum was founded in 1886; the Archives, in 1894. In 2003, these two organizations joined to become British Columbia’s combined provincial museum and archives, collecting artifacts, documents and specimens of British Columbia’s natural and human history, safeguarding them for the future, and sharing them with the world.
The Museum has two exhibit floors. One focuses on Natural History (plants and animals) and another floor focuses on Human History (First Nations and early BC settlers.) The special exhibit is called Mammoths! Giants of the Ice Age and features a life-size Mammoth on display. Though we were disappointed that there was only one mammoth (rather than the plural in the exhibit title) we were really impressed with the quality of the display, which featured an entire landscape. This exhibit is in partnership with the Field Museum in Chicago. What's really cool is that the Royal BC Museum also localized it with their own dramatic update to their Natural History gallery featuring BC's own Ice Age.
We also explored the rest of the Natural History floor and enjoyed seeing BC animals.
Moving upstairs, we discovered the Human History floor. I really appreciated how well thought-out the First Peoples exhibit was. We ended up entering at the exhibit exit and didn't realize our mistake until we were halfway through. The Jonathan Hunt House was especially impressive. The house is both a museum installation and a real ceremonial house. In the potlatch system, the Chief formally presents, to an invited audience, crest images, songs, names, and other prerogatives to which he claims inherited rights. The audience’s recognition of the Chief’s claim is its legal validation. When I was in fourth grade, my school had a Potlatch and I was struck how similar the set-up was. Even though I hadn't thought about it for many years, I instantly knew it must be used for Potlatches.
There is also an extensive Modern History exhibit that featured the HMS Discovery (where we were able to walk aboard and see some of the rooms) as well as BC's history of mining. We were really intrigued by the detailed exhibits that showed what it was like to work in a mining cave and we were surprised how we could be standing, looking at the exhibit and still feel like we were underground in the claustrophobic mine. The rest of the Modern History area reminded me a lot of the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, which is a really good thing.
My husband and I tend to do museums quickly, but it felt like we were through exploring this museum quicker than usual. We looked at the map and double checked that we didn't miss any exhibits. The building seems a lot larger and it felt like we must have missed a floor. We had not, unless you count the gift shops on the main floor.
Next time, we want to enjoy an IMAX film. I was impressed with their selection and thought most of them would be appropriate for children of all ages. We were really bummed that none of the times worked with our schedule. We will be adding that to our list for next time. I think we'll wait to bring our kiddos to the Museum until they are old enough to look without touching. Some of the exhibits had fun features at toddler-height with signs saying not to touch them. We also saw several kids running through the exhibits and just don't want the added stress of making sure they don't interfere. However, when they are older, we will be bringing them here!
Tourism Victoria provided admission to the Royal BC Museum for review purposes.
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Vancouver is an awesome not-so-far-away trip from the Seattle-area. And there are so many things to do with toddlers up there! My Mom was visiting from Kauai so I thought I'd take her and Owen up to Vancouver for 3 nights. We usually come to Vancouver a few times a year. Mostly, we eat a lot of Chinese food, buy a lot of food items and then fill in the time between meals walking around Robson Street. This time, I really wanted to plan a toddler-focused trip. There were way too many fun activities to pack into our trip. I decided to focus on things we hadn't done on past trips. Here's what we did:
The tricky thing about traveling with toddlers is that their moods can be unpredictable. I had a hard time letting go of my detailed itinerary. This just stresses everyone out and in hindsight I should have gone with the flow a bit more. But, c'est la vie. So here's what we actually did everyday:
We left Seattle a bit later than I planned and Owen took a short nap in the car, waking when I stopped for gas about an hour North of Seattle. Thankfully, the border wait was just a few minutes and we headed straight to the Historic CPR 374 Locomotive that is on display in Yaletown at the corner of Davie St and Pacific Blvd, which closed at 4pm. We got there at 3:50pm and literally ran to get in to see it because my son LOVES trains! George, one of the docents there, was so nice to explain the importance of the train to Vancouver’s history. In the late 1800s this train hauled spices and silk from Vancouver to Toronto in just 7 days and 7 days after that it was in London. Talk about fast shipping for those days!
Then, we headed to the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre to check in. I reviewed the hotel in this blog post. This was a speedy process and just minutes later we were up in our room admiring the view. We dropped off our bags and decided to head to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. This was amazing and I wish we had gotten their earlier so we could have explored more. We will definitely be back. Read about our experience there in my Capilano Suspension Bridge blog post.
We returned to the hotel about 8:30pm, which was an hour and a half after my son’s bedtime. Oops. It took awhile to calm him down (especially when I told him we’d be going on a double decker bus in the morning. Double oops.)
This was our Stanley Park Day (read my detailed blog post here). With a toddler, you could easily spend a couple of days here exploring and doing all the activities. We chose to do the Horse Drawn Carriage ride first, so that we could get a layout of the park. Once we passed the sign for the Miniature Train ride, Owen decided that we needed to do that next. So, we drove over and the train ride was much cuter and special than I had envisioned. They also do themed train rides around Easter, Halloween and Christmas and I’d definitely want to do one of those to see how they change it up. After the train ride, we grabbed burgers, hot dogs and pretzels at the nearby concession stand so we could hop in the car and head back to the hotel for naptime. Owen didn’t end up napping (boo) but it was a nice quiet break before getting on the Hop-on, Hop-Off Bus Tour to explore the city and stop at the Vancouver Aquarium. I love bus tours and this was a lot of fun because it was open air and it was a gorgeous day! Owen ended up falling asleep for an hour of the bus ride. After touring around for about 1.5 hours, we made it to the Vancouver Aquarium about 2 hours before it closed. Owen was not thrilled to be there and once he saw there was ice cream, he couldn’t focus on anything else. My Mom and I enjoyed seeing the jellyfish and the large mammals. By the time we finished our dinner and ice cream at the Aquarium, we missed the last bus. Mommy fail for not grabbing a brochure to know when the last bus would come around. Fortunately, we were able to instantly hail a cab (a true rarity) and made it back to our hotel in time for bedtime.
We did a Squamish Day trip today and it was fabulous (read full post here)! We started at DeDutch in Yaletown because I heard they had a play area. They had a play kitchen and tons of toys to keep Owen occupied while we waited for breakfast. Bonus: Starbucks is right next store, which was perfect for grabbing chai tea before hitting the road. We headed straight to the West Coast Railway Heritage Park because Owen really wanted to see the trains. It was even cooler than I imagined! Lots of stuff for kids and adults and the staff were really friendly. Owen’s favorite part were the outdoor Thomas the Train Tables and the Mini Rail. We were there 2 hours and could have easily spent another hour there. We will definitely be back. We then headed to the Sea to Sky Gondola, which was absolutely breathtaking! Again, it would be easy to spend all day there. We rode the gondola up and walked the suspension bridge and checked out the view points before heading back down in the gondola (probably 20 minutes total at summit), as we were right up against naptime. We opted to eat at the base simply because we weren’t sure if we would be queasy on the ride down with full tummies. The ride was so smooth and I think we would have been fine. There are tons of play areas and fun photo ops at the summit and base. Our lunch was surprisingly delicious, for pre made sandwiches. Then, we hopped back in the car and headed to our hotel. Owen napped for half of the ride and then we relaxed a bit in the hotel before hitting up Robson Street for shopping a dinner.
For our last day in Vancouver, we opted to walk around Downtown to people watch and see what we could see. We ended up walking to the Vancouver Lookout. It was a nice walk from our hotel and Owen was excited for the elevator ride. I thought we'd be able to see more of the city from the elevator since there were glass panels, but we really couldn't see much during the ride. But, once we got up to the observation level, we had incredible views of the entire city! Then, we went back to the hotel to hop in the car and drive to the marina for our one-hour Harbour Cruise. This was amazing! Read my full blog post about the Vancouver Lookout and Harbour Cruises here. Not only was the weather beautiful, but we got to watch seaplanes take off and the narration was pretty funny. There was a lot for Owen to see and one hour was the perfect time to be on the boat. After we docked, I asked where the nearest restroom was and was directed several blocks away to a Starbucks. Being 7 months pregnant and toting a toddler, I didn't think that was a good option. So, we hopped in the car and drove a bit out of the city before being able to park in front of a Starbucks to grab lunch and use the facilities. It ended up taking us 2 hours to get from Vancouver to the border, which is the longest it's ever taken me, due to traffic. We got gas in Lynden, WA along with more drinks and drove the 3 hours back to our house. Owen ended up throwing up 10 minutes from our house. It was pretty epic. In hindsight, we should have let him run around partway through the drive, but he was napping. Oh well.
Marcie in Mommyland received an Experience Pass from Tourism Vancouver which provided complementary admission to Capilano Suspension Bridge, Westcoast Hop-on, Hop-off Tour, Stanley Park Horse Drawn Storytelling Tour, Vancouver Aquarium, Sky to Sea Gondola, Vancouver Lookout, and Vancouver Harbour Tour
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When we found out we were pregnant with Baby #2, one of my first thoughts was how to make sure to have special one-on-one time with our toddler. I started combing the Internet to see what activities other parents did to make sure their toddler transitioned well. One of the things that kept coming up was reading books. I'm a fan of children's books and our toddler Owen has quite the collection already. Many parents had told me that they always did story time with their toddler when they were feeding their baby. I thought that was a fabulous idea!
I ran across Bookroo when I was looking for new books. Bookroo is company that offers Board Book subscriptions for children ages 0-2 and Picture Book subscriptions for children ages 2-6. You can either get 3 board books or 2 picture books each month, depending on which one you sign up for. These subscriptions come in recycled (and recyclable) packaging. I chose the Board Book subscription because I like how durable they are and they will be good to read with Owen and the new Baby.
When our box arrived, Owen was so excited that the mailman brought him a package! He insisted we open it immediately! As soon as we opened the cardboard box, he saw that he had 3 wrapped packages inside tied up with a string. He exclaimed, "Presents!" I helped him pull the string so he could pick up the presents. He took his time opening each one and got excited when he saw that they were books!
Of course, we had to read them right away. The books that came in our box were Tatyana Feeney's Little Owl's Orange Scarf, Cocorette's Snap! Snap! Guess the Animal, and Il Sung Na's A Book of Babies. Owen is 2.5 years old and he LOVED each of these books! He's at an age where he likes to repeat the lines of the book back to me and these board books had the perfect amount of narrative so he could do this successfully. One of them was a lift-the-flap book and even though there wasn't much of a story, he thought it was hilarious to see the animals behind the flaps!
I really appreciated that they were books that we not only didn't already have, but I hadn't heard of them before. It's always fun to be exposed to new authors and titles. In the past, I've found a lot of children's books with really poor story lines. With Bookroo, the stories are good and the pictures are adorable! It's actually one of their goals to find "hidden gems" that families don't already own and are not easily found online or in stores. Their books are extensively reviewed by a panel of 12 families attending Stanford University and their combined 22 kids!
This Bookroo subscription is great for families with toddlers/preschoolers because they will understand that they will get a new package each month full of presents. For families with babies, it's still fun to see what you'll get because you don't choose the books. And opening up wrapped gifts is fun for people of all ages!
Bookroo sent us a board book box for review purposes.
If you'd like to try out Bookroo, use my code: MARCHE for $10 off!
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Inspired by our recent trip to the Maui Ocean Center, we thought we'd arrange a play date at the Seattle Aquarium on the beautiful Seattle Waterfront. Currently, there is a lot of construction going on to build the Sea Wall, so we left our house extra early to make sure we'd have no problem with traffic and parking. We got there at 9:45am and there was plenty of street parking (yay!) and the road construction was actually an attraction for toddlers in itself with the big machines!
We met up with our good friend and her son to explore the Seattle Aquarium together. As soon as we passed the admission desk, the first exhibit is the Window on Washington Waters, which features a large fish tank where they were offering a diving presentation. Owen is still scared of divers, so we had to quickly move past that area, but it looked great for kids who aren't scared! There are benches and plenty of room for strollers in that exhibit area.
The next area, Life of a Drifter, featured a giant Pacific octopus (which was amazing to see and there were lots of little kids excitedly pointing at it! Owen didn't want to get too close, but he enjoyed sitting on my lap to observe it. There is also a glass Ring of Life tank of jellyfish (which people were practically lined up to take photos inside.)
Next to that was Life on the Edge, which featured their hands-on area. My friend's toddler was thrilled to be able to touch a star fish. Owen was excited to just touch the water and didn't really want to touch any of the animals. I'm glad he let me know he wasn't interested so we moved through that area.
I was really impressed with how many volunteers were available at the Aquarium. They were ready to engage with visitors and tell them about specific animals. This volunteer offered Owen the opportunity to touch a sea urchin. He declined but was very happy hearing about them and looking.
However, it's perfect placement that the bathrooms are located immediately after the hands on area. There's a drinking fountain and inside the bathroom they have a step stool by the sink. And there's a baby changing station. Just outside the bathroom area is a resting spot with felt boards.
Owen had such a good time watching Finding Dory in the movie theater a few weeks ago and he told me he wanted to "Find Dory! Find Nemo!" as we looked at the exhibits. Thankfully, we were able to find lots of "Dorys" and "Nemos" while exploring.
One thing my friend and I noticed is that it's kind of difficult for toddlers to see most of the exhibits, unless they are being picked up. It would be nice if there were steps so they could stand and look at the tanks. Being 6 months pregnant, I was only able to hold my toddler a few times to see fish. The same goes for it your child is in a stroller. There are a few exhibit areas that are dead ends, so maneuvering a stroller is tricky. I'd recommend wearing babies and small toddlers so they can experience a bit more.
The boys really enjoyed the Underwater Dome and I enjoyed that there was plenty of bench seating! It was nice for us to sit down and observe the sharks, salmon and other Puget Sound fish. Kids can also walk right up to the glass for a better look, which is great. There are two sides with seating so it's fun to go back and forth and see what you can see.
The highlight for the boys was definitely seeing the Seals! We got to watch them swim underwater while we were inside (this was a great height for small kids) and then we headed up the ramp to see them outside. Note: you cannot eat outside at this exhibit. There was a Seattle Aquarium volunteer who took the boys to the front of the display and talked to them about the Seals, told them their names, and pointed them out when they swam by. They were in complete awe!
We ended our trip with a visit to the Sea Otters, which was another highlight! It was trickier, because I had to hold Owen up and kind of squeeze through visitors in front of us so he could see them. Again, it would be nice if there was a step there not only so kids could see but so that adults would leave a little room for smaller people to have a chance to enjoy the exhibit, as well.
We really enjoyed our time at the Seattle Aquarium! It's not too big or too small and it provides at least two hours of exploring time. On a sunny day, you could easily hang out upstairs watching seals in the exhibit and looking at the ferries in the Sound. They also offer story times, Toddler Tuesdays and other events and activities throughout the year.
Plan Your Visit
The Seattle Aquarium is open daily from 9:30am-5pm (with extended summer hours until 6pm) and is located at 1483 Alaskan Way, Pier 59, Seattle, WA 98101-2015. The Elliott Bay Seawall Construction is going on, but The Aquarium is open as usual. Driving routes to get there remain the same and, as always, there’s plenty of parking at Republic Parking’s Hillclimb Court and the Pike Place Market Garage.
The Seattle Aquarium is located on the iconic Seattle Waterfront and is a must-do for locals and tourists alike. If you go in the summer, there are many walk up counters serving fresh fish and chips, shellfish and yummy treats like ice cream and caramel corn. The Seattle Aquarium also has a cafe upstairs or you can bring a sack lunch and eat it outside.
Seattle Aquarium provided the tickets for review purposes.
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On our last day in Vancouver, we decided to explore the city before we needed to hit the road. We packed my toddler Owen in his stroller and went for a walk Downtown to get a feel for the city. Our first priority was to check out the Vancouver Lookout and then do a Harbour Cruise. Here's what we thought of each activity:
The Vancouver Lookout is located at the Harbour Centre near the waterfront. The ticket desk is located a floor below the main lobby, so (since we had a stroller) we had to walk around to find the elevator and figure out the name of the floor below. There was no line when we arrived and we were able to get our tickets and hop right on the elevator to head up on a 40 second glass elevator ride up to the panoramic observation deck.
Once we got up there, we got to see historic Gastown, Coal Harbour, Stanley Park, the Pacific Ocean, North Shore Mountains, Olympic Peninsula Mountains, boats, seaplanes, trains and cars! The views are absolutely stunning and they offer a complimentary guided tour that would be really interesting. It reminded me a bit of the Space Needle observation deck, but there was even more to see!
It was kind of a tricky attraction for small children because the only had one spot where the observation area was a bit closer to the ground, but kids would still need a step stool to see out on their own. I saw one step stool on the entire observation deck. Even the cool telescopes were too tall for small children. They did have a table and chairs with some coloring sheets that was a hit with Owen. And they have one of those pressed penny machines that only takes $1 Canadian coins. But, we spent most of the time holding him up so he could count the train cars and spot the seaplanes.
Our next stop was the Harbour Cruise. We walked back to the hotel to drive over so we could leave directly from the cruise. We got there just in time to pick up our tickets and wait to board the boat. The had a nice undercover waiting area with benches and great views of the boats and harbor.
When our boat was ready, everyone stood up and formed a makeshift line and boarded the boat. We headed straight up to the top deck and grabbed a seat on the right side of the boat, which is the side that features most of the sights. The seats were cushy and comfortable but they get HOT in the sun. I'd recommend putting down a sweater or jacket to sit on, especially if you're wearing a dress or shorts.
The cruise itself was fabulous! The narrator was really funny and the boat ride was smooth. Owen loved to walk around and count the seaplanes taking off. He was also very intrigued by the big red wheel that was propelling the boat. They have railings around the top deck, but you'll want to keep a close eye on small kiddos to make sure they don't climb up them or drop things overboard.
Inside they offer a bar where you can buy drinks and snacks. There are also 2 bathrooms on board. This is important to know because they do NOT have bathrooms when you dock. They suggested I go to the Westin or to Starbucks (both several blocks away) when I asked where the nearest restroom was after we docked. At 7 months pregnant toting a toddler, I knew that wouldn't be a viable option for me. I ended up driving somewhere else and still find it so strange that a tourist attraction wouldn't have restrooms. It made me glad that Owen isn't potty trained yet because we would have had to go in the bushes.
Overall, the cruise was a blast and I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling with small children or even elderly people. One hour is perfect for short attention spans. They also offer a 4-hour lunch cruise that sounds fabulous for couples traveling without small children.
Tourism Vancouver provided admission to Vancouver Lookout and the Harbour Cruises for review purposes.
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I'm a mom to a 3-year-old and a baby. We believe in traveling as a family as soon as possible and sharing our tips and tricks with other families!