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Seattle Center Steps Up as Dining Destination

With so much to do at the Seattle Center, it’s hard to think about cramming in time for lunch. But when the hunger pangs do hit, you can pursue instant gratification at the Seattle Center Armory, formerly The Center House, where some mainstays of the local restaurant scene have joined forces to turn this once ho-hum food court into a storied dining destination. Designed with families in mind, it includes kid-size tables and chairs, a play area, and menu options that appeal to even the most finicky pint-size palate.

Skillet helped launch the mobile food trend in Seattle back in 2007, while Skillet:Counter led the charge that put the Armory on trend. Signature favorites, such as the burger with bacon jam, draw long-time loyalists to the new location and continually inspire new fans. Items such as cornmeal waffles, fried pork belly and caramelized grapefruit put upscale flavor in down-home cooking.

The Blue Water Taco Grill & Cantina serves Mexican food in the Coastal tradition, with fresh salsas, Baja fish tacos, pork carnitas and beef barbacoa on the menu. You can stick around to enjoy a fresh-squeezed margarita on the expansive patio, or ask the staff to pack your lunch to go for a picnic at International Fountain.

At the Plum Pantry a 100 percent vegan menu proves that business and social responsibility can go hand-in-hand. Even if you’re not a vegan, you can do your part to help save the planet one delicious plate at a time. With jerk tofu, seitan “steak” and even a spicy mock chorizo on the menu, the most committed carnivore can find something to love here.

You can also get wood-fired bagels at Eltana, sweet and savory hand-held pies at Pie, and personal thin-crust pizzas at Mod.

For a convenient lunch while you tour EMP, pop into the POP Kitchen + Bar – so named because the staff hopes you’ll do just that. This cafeteria-style eatery serves pretty standard café fare of salads, sandwiches and burgers in a bright, fun dining room where videos of Pearl Jam and Nirvana play on screens positioned for viewing from the seating area. Prices do reflect the location, and the uninspired kids menu sticks with the usual options.



No need to put the sightseeing on hold while you eat. Head over to Tilikum Place, just to the southeast of Seattle Center, where a life-size statue of Chief Seattle greets modern visitors with the raised arm he used to welcome the region’s first white settlers. You can then pop into the Tilikum Place Café for a weekday lunch or weekend brunch. Order one of the famous Dutch baby stuffed pancakes, which come in both sweet and savory versions.

For a splurge lunch on a clear day, try the SkyCity Restaurant on the revolving deck at the top of the Space Needle. At 500 feet up, the 360-degree views take in Mt. Rainier, the Elliott Bay waterfront and downtown Seattle. The menu features seasonal local ingredients, and every meal comes with a complimentary visit to the observation deck 20 feet above.

Amusement Park-Style Attractions That Aren't In Amusement Parks

Who says you have to go to an amusement park to have a heart-pounding experience (in a safely controlled environment)? For the thrill seekers and young at heart, that urge to ride a roller coaster, splash down a log flume, or take a spin on a thrill ride never leaves, no matter what the season. If you’re visiting a brand new city and taking in all of the sites each has to offer, there are plenty of opportunities to go full-throttle with amusement park-like attractions without ever having to set foot inside a park.

Here are some of our picks for fun attractions that have an amusement park ride feel to them.

Chicago’s TILT

This thrilling Chicago attraction offers an exhilarating tilt… err… twist on viewing the city skyline. Located nearly 1,000 feet above Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” – an area of the Windy City brimming with fine dining, shopping, and entertainment -- visitors have the opportunity to get a panoramic view of Chicago at an angle. Located at 360 Chicago, TILT is the world’s very first observation deck that actually allows tourists to “tilt” forward and look down and out at the city. The attraction can safely accommodate eight people at a time. As they press themselves against the glass observation pane, visitors grip the side rails, while the TILT mechanism safely pushes the panes outward and grants them a unique perspective of looking waaaaaay down on the city from a totally unique angle.

Las Vegas’s Stratosphere X-Scream

If you’ve seen the film The Last Vegas with Michael Douglas and Robert DeNiro, you probably remember the scene where two of the film’s characters get their kicks on an unusual thrill ride. This ride, the X-Scream, could best be described as a massive teeter-totter hovering several hundred stories in the air. However, the ride featured in the film was no mere trick of the camera or something concocted by Hollywood. Rather, the X-Scream attraction is perched atop the Stratosphere hotel in Las Vegas and gives visitors a glimpse of Sin City from over 800 feet in the air. The ride is firmly anchored to the roof of the hotel and “shoots out” over 27 feet from the roof, dangling harnessed riders over the ledge and allowing them to peer out. What a rush!

Toronto’s EdgeWalk at the CN Tower

Get in touch with your inner Wallenda and take a stroll across Toronto’s CN Tower… In the open air! The CN Tower is the sixth tallest standing structure in the world, standing over 1,800 feet high. The CN Tower itself features an observation deck that allows patrons to drink in Toronto from high in the air. However, the EdgeWalk feature lets tourists walk around the circular roof of the main hub’s gigantic structure, situated directly outside the walls of the building’s observation deck. Adventurous tourists are harnessed to a metal railing that secures them from falling nearly 1,200 feet below. These brave visiting souls are able to walk, hands free, around the circumference of the building. For safety reasons, the attraction is closed during the winter months, as well as during storms and periods of high winds. However, when EdgeWalk is open to Toronto tourists, it provides a thrill unlike any other!

Coming Soon? Philadelphia’s Casino Revolution SkySpire

Philadelphia may soon have a 615-foot amusement tower atop a proposed casino and entertainment center. Developers proposed a casino with a structure that resembles Seattle’s famed Space Needle. If it’s approved and the bid for the casino project accepted, the attraction would be built by U.S. Thrill Rides and feature a winding track that takes visitors from the base of the needle (which may be as tall as 1,000 feet high) to the very top. At the pinnacle of the structure, visitors can peer out from one of two glass observation decks and have a 360-degree view of the city. The view from the top will also include shopping and fine dining. Here’s hoping the City of Brotherly Love gets a thrilling attraction of its very own!

Have we missed an awesome amusement park-like attraction in our collection of adventure rides outside the confines of a theme park? Let us know in the comments below, and tell us your thoughts!

A Christmas Without Snow: Holiday Fun in Warmer Cities

Not every city experiences a “White Christmas.” Some are in a part of the country where it’s warm and sunny all year round. If you are fortunate enough to live in one of these cities, don’t think you can’t still get in the holiday spirit. It’s all a matter of knowing what events are happening in your town.

Let’s take a tour through some of the warmer cities in America and see if we can find some great activities for your friends and family come this holiday season.

Tampa, Florida

Busch Gardens: Christmas Town - Ever think you’d see a place in Tampa that has over 1 million Christmas lights? Busch Gardens' Christmas Town is a virtual Winter Wonderland where you’ll find a variety of holiday celebrations at every corner. This is an especially great destination for families. Take your children for a feast with Mrs. Claus and her elves, chill with some penguins (real ones!), or visit Santa himself in Christmas Town’s own version of the North Pole.

Holiday Happenings at the Florida Aquarium - Did you know Santa loves aquariums? Apparently! There are many activities at the Florida Aquarium throughout the year, but check out what’s on the agenda there for the holidays. It’s quite a sight to see elves don scuba diving gear and explore the Coral Reef Gallery. There will also be several exciting opportunities for children to join Santa for breakfast, or partake in activities in the different snow play areas. Hey parents, feel like “letting loose” for the new year? Be sure to make it to the Aquarium for “Aqua-Eve,” where you can enjoy a midnight fireworks display over the channel while sipping on beer, wine and champagne. Check out the various holiday happenings at the Florida Aquarium to see what other events are taking place.

Los Angeles, California

Various Ice Skating Locations - Normally, ice doesn’t exist in Los Angeles-- except in cold drinks. Well, thanks to the various skating rinks throughout L.A., this is no longer true. Next to the beach at Santa Monica, there’s 8,000 square feet of ice in the form of ICE at Santa Monica. Feel like skating alongside palm trees and skyscrapers? Check out Downtown on Ice in central Los Angeles. With LA’s variety of skating rinks, it’s never been easier to get your tan on while enjoying one of the most important activities of the holiday.

L.A. County Holiday Celebration - Los Angeles is a town of entertainment, so it better put on a big show for the holidays. The Holiday Celebration from the L.A. County Arts Commission will not disappoint. Another perfect event for families, the Holiday Celebration is largely focused on music and dance routines from all over the world. You’ll see acts from Korea, Mexico, India, and more. Out of all the attractions in Southern California, this one really showcases LA’s diverse, international community. Every year, about 5,000 people attend the L.A. County Holiday Celebration, and what’s more, they all it do it for free. That’s right, it’s first come, first serve!

Even though you enjoy the luxury of a persistently warm and pleasant climate, you may still feel like you’re missing out on something during the holiday season. Not to fear! There will always be holiday-themed events regardless of what city you live in. Now, we’ve made sure that our friends in Tampa and LA will keep up that holiday spirit.

Do you live in a city with warm weather? Tell us about some of the holiday activities in your community in the comments!

Celebrate the Season in Tampa Bay's Warmth

On the Gulf Coast of Florida, the Tampa Bay area boasts average December temperatures ranging from 54-72. Visitors at this time of year have a bevy of options, including seasonal activities and year-round attractions that truly are available year-round. Busch Gardens Tampa might have the best of both worlds: classic amusement park fun and special “Christmas Town” festivities. read more »

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons come to life

When my kids were growing up, a favorite holiday tradition on Thanksgiving Eve was a nighttime stroll along Central Park West around the American Museum of Natural History to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade balloons come to life. Laid out flat along the closed streets on either side of the American Museum of Natural History in the afternoon, the deflated balloons would slowly grow as crews worked into the night, pumping them with helium and covering them with sandbagged nets to keep them from floating away. read more »


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