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Category: traveling with kids

Downtown Adventures

Downtown Adventures

I love walking through cities. Now that Spencer is old enough to have more stamina, I can share this with him and explore more of Seattle together. Schools were closed for mid-term break a couple of weeks ago, so I took a vacation day on the Friday. On weekends, downtown Seattle is either packed (Pike Place Market, the Aquarium) or deserted (everywhere else?). Yesterday was a rare chance to go downtown during the week. At the time, we were still searching for a new family bike (more later) and I don’t care for driving and parking downtown, so we took the bus. Kids love the bus – playing fares, getting transfers and pulling the cord to signal your stop are all exciting to them. Before Spencer turned six, he could ride for free on King County Metro, but I’d always give him a coin to drop in the box. The bus drivers were typically good sports about it and would very solemnly give him a paper transfer that he would hold onto all day.
We took the bus to Pioneer Square. Spencer was fascinated by the life-size statues of firefighters.

Our first destination was [storefront] Mushroom Farm. This is a project set up in the lobby of an architectural firm as a demonstration of sustainable agriculture and how one business’s waste product can be another’s resource. The CityLab7 group collected used coffee grounds from local coffee shops over a two week period. he grounds, which are very rich in nutrients were then used as a growth medium for mushrooms.  

Examining the coffee grounds. This was before the mushroom spores were added, right? Right?

The inoculated coffee grounds were packed into bags and brought to the coolest greenhouse you’ve ever seen. Built of reclaimed wood and plastic, it’s set up in the street-level space near Pioneer Square that is owned by an architectural firm. As an aside, do you call a mushroom chamber a greenhouse? They need to be warm and humid, but don’t need light.

My friend Chris is part of the CityLab7 group and was on hand to show us the greenhouse and answer questions like “How big to they grow?” and “Are you a mushroom farmer?”. My questions were more technical, like “Hey! What’s that white stuff?”. As it turned out, the white stuff was the mycelium, the underground portion of the fungus. The mushroom part that we see (and eat) is the fruiting body, which produces spores. The mushrooms have since appeared, so it should look even cooler now. If the timing and schedules work out, I might get to go back and see it again.

Chris answers Spencer’s many, many questions.

The farm is open to the public 11:30am – 1:30pm on Tues-Fri until Mar. 23. It’s a fascinating project and looks beautiful, so if you get a chance, go see it!

Spencer is growing like a mushroom. The New York Times may have a better camera, but they don’t have a model who’s this cute.
We then walked back through Pioneer Square. A couple of blocks are pedestrian-only, which gave us more scope for activities like chasing birds.
Yes, dear – I’m sure those gulls were VERY frightened.

After we left Pioneer Square, our explorations took us to a rock & fossil shop and a lovely little pocket park with a waterfall. I would have taken more photos, but we’d been walking for a while and lunch was calling. In fact, when I tried to pull out my camera, Spencer said “Mommy! Don’t get distracted!” Our lunch at the Crab Pot and play time at the neighboring arcade are therefore undocumented.

The big attraction of the day was the Seattle Aquarium. They have touching pools, where you can touch sea anemonies, sea stars, sea cucumbers and more. Spencer is asking one of the volunteers questions. Many, many questions.

Our favorite exhibit is the octopus tank, but you never know how much you’ll see – the giant pacific octopus is nocturnal and has excellent camouflage. It can be hard to convince a little kid that a lumpy piece of red rock is actually a sleeping octopus. They’re justifiably skeptical when parents say thing like that. We lucked out that day, though, and got there just before feeding time. The octopus was very active, so everyone got a good view of it, suckers and all.

Come closer for a hug, little boy….

We had a great day downtown. It’s fun to break from our usual routine and activities and I’m going to make a conscious effort to do this more often. As much as I like my neighborhood, there’s much more out there!