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Let’s face it; it’s time to finally take that summer vacation. Vacation hours are racking up, and you’re Googling travel destinations when you should be working. If you’re feeling the travel itch, it’s best to just give in and scratch it.
The world is your playground, but planning that perfect final summer vacation can be overwhelming. The U.S. is a big place to explore and every region has its differences — different food, different landscapes, different personalities, and different attractions.
Not sure what area of the country to explore next? Choose your own adventure and take the stress out of your search with the flowchart challenge. Tell us where you’re headed in the comments below!
A Seattle must-do during the summer and early fall involves a short boat ride across the Puget Sound with Argosy Cruises Tillicum Excursion to Blake Island. Guests are treated to a traditionally prepared dinner, Northwest Native American storytelling, a live performance, and handcrafted art—all inside a cedar longhouse surrounded by lush forest and rocky beaches. From an infamously bold population of photogenic raccoons to knowing what to call the clothing worn by Native Americans, read on for more on this unique experience from a couple of insiders.
Cameron Quinn and Christopher Frank are cruise directors for the Tillicum Excursion, each with a unique background well-suited for the job. Quinn was born and raised around the shores of the Salish Sea (the body of water that encompasses Puget Sound and two other straits, as well as their connecting channels and adjoining waters) He studied a combination of creative writing, music, theater and anthropology at Western Washington University.
“I feel a close kinship with the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest and have worked for nearly a decade as an environmental and cultural educator in the Pacific Northwest,” he said.
Frank has been with Argosy for eight years, starting as a dancer in the program before moving over to cruise directing three years ago. He’s of Native American heritage, being a member of the Haida tribe.
“My great-great-grandfather was a carver of some renown: John Wallace, or Saaduuts. Although I do not carve myself, I have a great appreciation for the role the arts play in the indigenous communities of the area,” said Frank.
What They Do
Quinn: Argosy invites each Tillicum "Cruise Director" to shape the narrations based on our personal research and expertise, as well as the dynamic experience the waters provide; every journey offers something new to discover. Tours tend to emphasize the unique ecology of the area and how intricately intertwined it is with the cultures that have developed here for well over ten thousand years. The first nations to live along the shores predated the growth of towering cedars and the abundant runs of salmon that worked their way north on the tail of the last ice age, so the cultures that personify this region today literally grew alongside the resources that define them.
Frank: As a cruise director, I am focused on the guest experience. As the guests board, I will make my way around the boat and greet guests as I can. I am always interested to find out where they are from, and answer any questions. Once we leave the dock, I provide a narration on the 45-minute cruise to Blake Island. I try to focus on the anthropology/archeology, history and mythology of the local area, as it relates to the native communities. I hope to provide a framework with which to better appreciate the Tillicum Village experience.
The Boat Ride
Quinn: In addition to the potential wildlife sightings, a clear day will offer the opportunity to see our two mountain ranges—the Olympics and the Cascades—and up to three of Washington's five active volcanoes: Mt Baker, Glacier Peak and Mt Rainier. The route also offers an ideal photo opportunity of the Alki Point Lighthouse and picturesque panoramas of the downtown Seattle skyline.
Frank: As we depart, you get to see the hustle and bustle of Elliott Bay and the Port of Seattle. Tugboats, fireboats, Washington State ferries, and some of the largest cargo vessels in the world can be seen, along with the cruise ships and other vessels that work in and around Puget Sound. Once underway, we pass by the Alki neighborhood, which is historically significant to the founding of Seattle. I also like to point out the location of some village sites and other locations important to the Coast Salish tribes from the area. As we pass Alki point, there is an inland class lighthouse that lines up beautifully with Mount Rainier for an iconic photo opportunity to represent our beautiful area. After we cross into the shipping lanes, the beauty of Blake Island comes into view as we approach Tillicum Village.
Quinn: The Salish Sea is brimming with impressive biodiversity, and it's not too uncommon to see bald eagles, harbor porpoises, or the world's largest species of jellyfish—the lion's mane—on the cruise. We are occasionally lucky enough to cross paths with larger cetaceans on the journey; I've seen resident and transient orcas, pacific white-sided dolphins, gray whales and a mink in this stretch of Puget Sound. The island itself is a great place for bird watching, thanks in large part to the efforts of Cannie Trimble in the late nineteen-teens. Bald eagles, osprey, king fishers, pileated woodpeckers and great blue heron are just a few of the larger birds. There's also a herd of black-tailed deer, minks, and an infamously bold population of photogenic raccoons.
Frank: Blake Island is a 475-sqare-acre state park. A vast array of plant life is to be found on the island. Huckleberries, thimbleberries, and Salmon berries are always fun to find. We also have an interpretive trail with placards to identify species and how they were important to the native people in the area. It is also believed to be the birthplace of Chief Seattle, the man who gave his name to a beautiful city, loved by so many. Also, you can find the remains of the historical Trimble mansion on the island as well.
Frank: Ah, the food. Where should I begin? From the minute you step foot on the island, you are greeted with a steamed clam appetizer. Once you enter the longhouse, you get to witness the fish being pulled off the fires. One of those fish you see will be occupying your plate soon enough! The method of preparation is about 1500 years old. It is a tried and true method that is sure to be one of the best fish you have eaten, no matter where you call home. [It’s] cooked over an alder fire to perfection. On our buffet line, we have a number of other options available to you. Salads, fruits, polenta with a mushroom ragu, rice and of course our stew made with venison, bison and beef. If you have been to Tillicum Village before, you are sure to remember our bread. Made especially for the island, with just a touch of molasses to render a slight hint of sweetness. Save room for dessert! An amazing Blackberry crisp rounds out the meal, just as the show begins.
Frank: Blake Island's original name is recorded as "Tah-tsoh." It means bullhead fish. The island was never home to any permanent village sites, but was part of the seasonal rounds that were made during the warmer months to gather supplies for the winter. It is believed that in 1786, during these seasonal rounds, the boy who would grow to be Chief Seattle first drew breath upon the beaches just south of Tillicum Village. Chief Seattle was a member of 2 tribes. His mother was from The Duwamish tribe located in and around the area where modern day Seattle now sits. His father was from The Suquamish tribe. The island is found just to the south of the Suquamish reservation at Port Gamble, and in their territorial waters.
The Live Performance
Frank: The show consists of 5 songs and dances from tribes in the area. My favorites are the Ancestral dance from the David family and the Parade of masks. The ancestral dance is an important dance to me, because it beautifully signifies our relationship to our past and obligation to the future with beautiful imagery. The parade of masks is quite stunning due to the use of some of the largest masks from the region. My favorite mask is 6 feet long and weighs 40 pounds.
Do’s and Don’ts
Quinn: Don't try to make it the entire way around the island in one trip! Luckily you can mix-and-match our public tours to spend more time exploring, or even camping on, beautiful Blake Island State Park.
Frank: I think most people know the basics. Please don't call anyone chief, none of us on the island hold that title. Also, costume is not correct to describe the clothing worn. The accepted terminology is "regalia." During the show, flash photography is prohibited. We try to encourage guests not to open the doors of the longitude while the performance is occurring. The Do's are easy! Please feel free to applaud for our performers. Please feel free to ask questions, and please have a good time.
Quinn: Longhouses have traditionally been home to winter ceremonials, gathering communities together in the darkest months to share stories, songs, and dances around the warmth of family and firelight.
How to Take Something Home
Quinn: There is a fantastic variety of artists from Washington and the broader Pacific Northwest represented in the gift gallery—find something that speaks to you! Nancy Burgess is a master weaver in the Haida tradition; her awe-inspiring baskets and ceremonial hats are available for purchase, and you may have the opportunity to meet her as she demonstrates this ancient art form.
Frank: I have to admit, I am addicted to books. We have a good selection of books pertaining to the cultures in the area. You can choose anything from children's books all the way up to some pretty academic approaches to the topics. Just a few types of topics covered are cookbooks, art, canoes, the cedar tree and its uses, and mythological stories. I do have to say I also like the t-shirts and sweatshirts adorned with artwork from the tribes. These are pretty fun souvenirs for people to remember their time here with us.
The Tillicum Village Experience is run on a seasonal basis. Please check the schedule here. It is offered to CityPASS holders at a discounted rate. Adults and seniors, $60 (regularly $89); ages 4-12, $23 (regularly $32); ages 3 and under, free.
When the hot summer rays hit New York City, endless summer entertainment opportunities both indoors and outdoors arise. Whether you’re a local looking to escape the skyscraper maze in exchange for some outdoor festivities, or a tourist seeking electric New York summer fun, there are plenty of things to do in New York City during the warm summer months. With a New York CityPASS booklet, you not only get to see the city's best attractions, but you get to see them at your own pace, which means more room for in-between free summer concerts and refreshing ice cream.
1. American Museum of Natural History
This wondrous museum makes for a memorable visit at any time of the year, filled with curious and awe-inspiring fossils, ceiling-high models of sea creatures, and the extraordinary story of human evolution. With world-class exhibits, spaces shows and films, there’s something for everyone.
For a taste of the great outdoors, check out the immersive cinematic experience of National Parks Adventure, filmed in more than 30 national parks across the country in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service. Robert Redford narrates as world-class mountaineer Conrad Anker, adventure photographer Max Lowe, and artist Rachel Pohl hike, climb, and explore their way across America’s spectacular wilderness vistas.
Another must-see at AMNH: the new Titanosaur, added to the museum’s collection in January 2016 and so new that it has not yet been formally named by paleontologists. It’s an astounding 122 feet long—so long that its neck and head extend out towards the elevator banks, welcoming you to the "dinosaur" floor.
2. Jazz Age Lawn Party at Governors Island
We humans may not have figured out time travel yet, but summer in New York offers the second best thing: a time-hop into the 20’s with a Jazz Age Lawn Party. Talk about a swingin’ summer! Join thousands of others as you dress in your best 20’s getup and dance the night away with classic jazz from Michael Arenalla and the Dreamland Orchestra.
The nostalgic festival takes place August 13th and 14th, and will host several era-appropriate vendors so you can purchase a fedora, derby, or flapper dress and dance in themed garb. Experience New York in a time where extravagant parties were the norm at this fun and fabulous event. Get your tickets here.
3. Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
No matter what time of year it is, you can’t say you’ve been to New York unless you’ve had a first-hand look at the Statue of Liberty. No photograph can capture the beauty of one of the country’s most iconic landmarks. In the summer, you can see the waters and skyline more clearly than ever, and you won’t want to pass up the opportunity to see the historic Ellis Island, where between the years of 1892 and 1924, more than 25 million immigrants passed through on the way to making the the United States their new home.
This is an experience best reserved for the warm summer months, and the beauty of the islands and the Statue of Liberty alone will be well worth the trip.
4. Rooftop Films and Fun Galore
If you’re a movie buff but don’t want to spend the refreshing summer months cramped inside an over-air-conditioned theatre, then see a film high in the sky on the roofs of New York City’s most prominent buildings. Rooftop Films hosts a summer series full of unique independent films, documentaries, director Q&A’s, and awesome after-parties. Events travel from roof to roof, so buy your ticket today at www.rooftopfilms.com.
5. Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum
You don’t have to be a Top Gun pilot to see remarkable aircraft up close, nor do you have to be a deep sea explorer to maneuver through an interactive submarine. At the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum, you’ll learn about some of history’s most remarkable adventures into the sea, sky, and space as you explore some of the world’s most innovative and action-worthy machines.
And in the summer months, the museum has a calendar chock-full of amazing and family-friendly activities that are free to join and only require advanced registration. On August 6th and 7th, the museum will host Splashdown!, a workshop that teaches attendees about Intrepid’s role in the Space Race. Or, join Intrepid for a family astronomy night and learn about space travel while you gaze at the bright stars above.
6. Shakespeare in the Park
To be in New York for Shakespeare in the Park, or not to be in New York for Shakespeare in the Park? That is the question. We say, why not see a classic tale of Shakespeare in the heart of New York City, and better yet, why not see it if the tickets are free? Running from July 19 through August 14, this summer's Shakespeare in the Park will cast a contemporary light on Troilus and Cressida, the funny and dramatic story of war, love, and revenge. Join the crowd in this entertaining performance that will give you a whole new perspective on the Shakespeare you read in high school.
7. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York’s Met is recognized across the globe, but the summer events make this classic attraction even more attractive. Melt into art appreciation with the Manus X Machina fashion exhibition, which showcases 170 ensembles from the beginning of the 20th century. Infusing timeless design with evolving technology, it compares and contrasts the fashions made by human hands with those made possible by the invention and continuing innovation of the sewing machine. Spend part of your summer with your artistic side--and don’t forget to see the rest of the Met’s wonderful exhibits!
If your plans are pointing to New York this summer, make the most of your trip by taking a long a New York CityPASS. Experience the city’s most popular attractions, and set the pace for your own NYC adventure with the city’s limitless supply of summer concerts, plays, films, dance parties, and more—there’s never a dull moment in New York.