• Park Visits for Pennies

    November 15, 2018

    Living in Washington, we’re lucky to have an abundance of natural areas to visit, including 125 state parks and 15 national park areas. To avoid spending a fortune on entrance fees, take advantage of these programs that encourage families to get outdoors.

    Washington State Parks
    Visiting Washington State Parks requires a “Discover Pass” for entrance. The most economical option is to purchase an annual pass for $30 if you anticipate visiting parks more than three times each year, as the daily pass is $10. Even better, there are some ways to get into our state parks for free.

    Volunteer! IF you work 24 hours or more on approved parks projects, you are eligible for a free Discover Pass. Click here to find out more. 

    Free days: The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission designates specific “free days” each year which do not require a Discover Pass for entrance. The following are the remaining 2018 State Parks Free Days:

    • Nov. 23 — Autumn day

    2019 State Parks Free Days:

    • Jan. 1 — First Day Hikes; New Year’s Day
    • Jan. 21— Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
    • March 19 — State Park’s 105th birthday
    • April 20— Spring day
    • April 22 — Earth Day
    • June 1 — National Trails Day
    • June 8 — National Get Outdoors Day (State Parks and Fish & Wildlife free day)
    • June 9 — Fishing Day (State Parks and Fish & Wildlife free day)
    • Aug. 25 — National Park Service 102nd Birthday
    • Sept. 28— National Public Lands Day
    • Nov. 11 — Veterans Day
    • Nov. 29— Autumn day

    National Parks
    Washington is home to 15 impressive national parks, including a few that might surprise you. An annual America the Beautiful Pass ($80) gets you into all of the National Parks in the U.S. – good for the passholder and his or her passengers in a non-commercial vehicle, or passholder and 3 adults at areas where per-person fees are charged. U.S. military service members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass. National Parks also offer an annual 4th Grade Pass, which allows children to visit national parks for free throughout their 4th grade school year and through the summer between 4th and 5th grade.

    If you don’t want to invest in an annual pass, daily entrance to our state’s National Parks is currently $25 for a non-commercial vehicle or $10 per person (without a vehicle – hikers and cyclists). Children under 16 are always free.  Certain National Parks throughout the country also offer “fee-free days” – a great opportunity to check out a park you have not yet explored! Mt. Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, Lewis and Clark National Historic Park and Fort Vancouver National Historic Site all participate in fee-free days.

    Ski Free (or At Least Get a Deal)

    Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding are a great way to stay active throughout the winter, especially with so many ski areas nearby. But the cost of equipment and lift tickets can be prohibitive for many families. To make snow sports a little bit more affordable, take advantage of these deals:

    Stevens Pass
    At Stevens Pass, thanks to a partnership with Carter Subaru, 5th graders can get a free season pass. Just provide proof of 5th grade enrollment (report card, school ID, teacher note, or certified letter of intent) and email it to guestrelations@stevenspass.com or bring it with you to Guest Relations at Stevens Pass.

    Mt. Baker
    5th graders can ride or ski for free at Mt. Baker as well, which offers a free season pass for 5th graders as long as the child is accompanied by an adult who has purchased a lift ticket or season pass. Families with kids ages 4-6 can participate in the Powder Pups program, which provides half-price lift tickets for up to two adults starting at 11:00am when accompanying a Powder Pup kid.  There is a limit of 10 total Powder Pup Adult tickets per kid per year.

    White Pass
    At White Pass, they start early by offering a free season pass for 3rd graders who enroll in the 3rd Grade Skier/Snowboarder Safety First class. Season passes for younger kids are affordable at White Pass as well – just $20 for kids age 8 and under.

    More discounts

    • Most lesson packages come with gear rentals included. If you are ready to buy, save money on gear by looking for used skis, snowboards, boots and bindings at end-of-season ski swaps.
    • Crystal Mountain offers steep lift ticket and season pass discounts for children under age 10.
    • At Snoqualmie Pass kids enrolled in multi-week ski school get a discounted season lift pass.
    • Leavenworth’s ski hill offers a family season pass good for two adults and their dependents (under age 22) for $415 – a good deal for families that plan to ski together all season!
  • Rain or Shine! Get outside with the Whole Family!

    November 7, 2018

    Rainy weather doesn’t mean the end of outside activities. Physical activity is important for everyone but it is even more important for kids. Getting time in the outdoors is vital to everyone’s health. Heading outside helps keep up Vitamin D levels which are important for growing bones and brain development. Just 20 minutes outside gives everyone their essential dose of Vitamin D.

    Put on some warm gear, pull on the rain boots and get ready to get outside, rain- or shine. Here is a list of fun activities to do as a family, in any kind of weather.

    By Rebecca Mongrain

  • Behind the Scenes at the Zoo

    November 1, 2018

    What Happens Behind the Scenes at the Zoo?

    A trip to the zoo is a fantastic way to spend a day with kids. The animals are fun to watch, there is usually plenty of space to roam and some zoos offer special play areas or exhibits. There is so much more happening behind the scenes though.

    Zoo are expensive to run and require long hours with challenging animal requirements but those who do it, wouldn’t trade their jobs for anything. Zoos have changed over the years and now feature more naturalistic exhibits with nationwide captive breeding program.

    A zookeeper’s day starts early before visitors show up. There are exhibits to clean, animals to feed and medical care to provide. Most zoos actually provide round-the-clock care for their animals with new Moms and aging animals in need of extra care. In recent years, zoos have begun to standardize feeding practices across the country. This means the Cleveland Zoo feeds their animals the same diet as the Woodland Park Zoo. This is important as animals are often transferred to other zoos for breeding programs. Many of the animals in zoos are endangered so zoos spend a lot of time on breeding programs to help boost the animals population and prevent them from going extinct.

    One thing that will surprise a lot of zoo visitors is that a lot of animals are not on display. There are many reasons for animals to live behind the scenes. Some animals are too young to be on display. Newborns might be kept behind the scenes to increase bonding with their parent or there just might be too many of them. Other animals are used for educational purposes from public shows or parties. By using off-exhibit creatures, staff can put together a live animal presentation without emptying the displays.

    Food and space keep captive animals alive but they need enrichment activities to keep from getting bored. Zookeepers come up with enrichment activities to keep animals engaged and to help them display behaviors they’d exhibit in the wild. These activities can range from changing their scenery to adding items to their exhibits. Disney World’s Animal Kingdom places perfumes and spices around the tiger paddock to encourage their natural behavior of scenting.

    Nocturnal animals often have to adjust when they arrive at a zoo. Zoos have designated nocturnal house with thick walls and dim lights. They leave the dim red, blue, green and yellow lights on during the day so guests can observe the animals when they are awake. At night, they turn on bright fluorescent bulbs to imitate daytime hours and reverse the animals’ normal sleep cycles.

    Educational programs advance the zoo’s mission by inspiring and cultivating an informed community of conservation stewards. For example, Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) in Seattle is the Washington hub for excellence in conservation education, WPZ programs are guided by a robust, science and outcomes-based framework for inspiring conservation:

    • Connecting children to nature
    • Developing ecological literacy
    • Providing pathways to conservation

    From early learners to senior learners, and on and off grounds, WPZ’s developmental approach to lifelong learning is to foster empathy for nature, build conservation knowledge and skills, and increase people’s personal ownership for action that benefits wildlife and habitats.

    Running a zoo takes more than a love for animals (though that certainly helps). There are hours of paperwork needed to transfer animals to another zoo, knowledge of endangered animals and a willingness to work hard.

    By Rebecca Mongrain