Archive | May, 2012

Ballard – Seattle, Wash.

30 May

You have got to go here…Ballard – Seattle, Wash.

Everyone visits the Space Needle and The Pike Place Market when in Seattle, but how many of you have set out to explore the neighborhoods around downtown?  I am here to tell you that there are treasures to be found, especially in the neighborhood of Ballard.

Located just minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city, Ballard is an eclectic and artsy neighborhood that is a great place to eat, shop and see (in my opinion) one of the coolest sites in the city of Seattle – The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Carl S. English Botanical Garden.

Since 1917 the Ballard Locks (built by the Army Corps of Engineers) have been helping boats travel between Puget Sound and Lake Union/Lake Washington.  Now, I am sure you are asking yourself why this is so interesting.  Let me tell you…where else can you see water literally raised and lowered?   It was so fascinating to see the way that the water was moved to allow ships to travel from one place to another.  I had never seen anything like it before…it was truly a modern marvel.

You can view the locks in action from the banks of the water, but don’t do that…take a walk out on the bridge and see everything first hand!

The locks aren’t the only thing of interest here.  You can also take a stroll over to the fish ladder to watch salmon spawn (unfortunately there wasn’t a lot happening when we were there) or relax on the grounds of the beautiful botanical garden.

Oh, I forgot to mention the cost…you can get all this fun for FREE!!!!  I highly suggest you bring a picnic, blanket and relax while watching something unique.

Don’t stop reading yet – there is still plenty more to do in Ballard…

After you are done at the boat locks, head over to Ballard Ave N.W. and take a stroll through the many diverse restaurants and shops.

Unfortunately I only had limited time to explore, but here is just a small sampling of the yummy food and cool shops that are to be found:

Miro Tea: Tasty drinks and a serene place to relax!

Damasalfly: Super cute boutique with awesome prices – this is a for sure must shop!

***For more shopping check out Venue (goods from local artists) and Monster (funky socks, clothing and bags).

Are you hungry from all that walking and shopping?  May I recommend Senor Moose?

From the friendly service to the made-to-order chips with five different salsas, this is one restaurant you do not want to miss!

Being from Southern California I was really skeptical that I would find authentic Mexican food in Seattle, but it did exist!  Try the potato tacos for sure!!!

The above is just a minuscule sampling of all the things to see and do in Ballard, so do yourself a favor and take a day to step away from the touristy Seattle and immerse yourself with the locals in the quaint neighborhood of Ballard.

P.S. – Do you love music?  I will leave it up to you to do some homework as Ballard is a hot spot for wonderful tunes…

Happy Ballarding,



Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden – Long Beach, Calif.

10 May

You have got to go here…Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden – Long Beach, Calif.

Not many people would think about going to a college campus to relax and get some peace and quiet, but I did!  Located on the campus of California State University, Long Beach  is a hidden hide-a-way that many locals don’t even know about.  The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden resides on the north side of campus and is FREE for visitors (there is a fee for parking) to enjoy.

I am a huge fan of Japanese gardens and this one did not disappoint.  From the time you enter the gates until you leave, the details are beautiful.  Be sure to look around at everything from the light fixtures to the hand rails.

So, I am just going to jump right into the good stuff…the first thing you will probably spot is a beautiful serene lake and colorful Koi fish.  I can not tell a lie, this was my absolute favorite part.  Don’t be afraid…go right down to the shore to view these beautiful creatures.  For a mere quarter you can feed them – the big kid in me HIGHLY recommends this!

Andrea loves Koi!


If you can pull yourself away from the lake take some time and follow the curvy path around the rest of the garden.  There are cool things to see at every turn…

Another highlight of the garden is the perfectly manicured Zen Garden.  This is a great place to stop, reflect, meditate or just take a much needed deep breath.

There are several other sights to delight your eyes, but I will leave them for you to see in real time.

I have always heard how romantic the garden was and on my visit I found a couple who thought so too.  With camera in hand I was lucky enough to witness the surprise engagement of Wyatt and Kayla – Best wishes to you both!  You just never know what you may discover when you get outside and start exploring!

Not only is the garden good for romantics, they are  perfect for children or just for some time by yourself.

Although the garden does not allow food inside, there are plenty of grassy hills to relax on and have a picnic outside of the gates.  I found that eating under a shady tree after my tour was a great way to end the day.

Don’t be sad when your day is over, if you didn’t get enough…don’t forget to take part in some of the many events through out the year!

One last note, check the hours before you go as the garden is not open every day!

Who knew that behind dorms and classrooms there was a fantastic getaway  It left me wondering what other wonderful surprises are hidden on college campuses.  I task you with finding out!

Happy Gardening,