It's been more than three decades since Andrew Drake rode his first wave, but his passion for surfing stays strong. Washington Surf Academy is the embodiment of his passion and has grown to include instruction not just for surfing but for paddleboards as well. Unlike a gingerbread man's enemies, Mr. Drake's classes don't take a cookie-cutter approach. "Every person is a unique case," he says. The diversity of his clientele is one of the things Mr. Drake finds most rewarding. "Some people will have huge fears, and it is nice to see them get over them. This one time, this lady was freaking out, but I talked her into it, and she loved it so much that she bought a board from us on the first day."
By helping them to float out of their comfort zones, Mr. Drake and his team open people up to the hidden world off Seattle's coast. With snow-capped peaks in the distance, surfers can conquer waves and paddleboarders can float beneath bald eagles flying to their next college history lecture.
The woods are full of hazards, from prickly bushes to wild animals. But all’s safe in the Woods at the Children's Museum of Tacoma, where a log pile leads to a play area where kids can build forts and send supplies to and fro with pulleys. The Woods is one of the museum’s five playscapes, which encourage children and their adult guardians to learn through self-directed play.
Youngsters can unleash their inner architects with blocks and tubes at the Invention station, and paint, clay, and other artistic tools at Becka’s Studio allow kids to tap into their creative sides. Aboard the Voyager, children can pretend to fly to the moon or parallel-park between two asteroids. Back on earth, the interactive Water playspace presents a world of tranquil waterfalls and streams.
Afterward, there’s more to explore through the museum’s programs. They range from summer camps to Play to Learn, where kids 6 and younger take part in group activities, sing-alongs, and group circle time.
It's pitch black inside Purple Haze, one of two inner-tube slides at Slidewaters Lake Chelan Waterpark. The enclosed tube takes riders through 400 feet of darkness, where they twist and turn before dropping back into sunlight and a heated splash pool?the epitome of an adrenaline rush.
Yet for a few moments at the top of the slide?just before the attendant says "go"?it's easy for riders to forget they're inside a water park. The setting could easily come from a postcard. Slidewaters sits just off the shores of Lake Chelan, with national forests and the rolling hills of the Chelan Butte visible in the distance. Luckily, the park makes it easy to relax and soak in the view. A lazy river takes inner tubes and their passengers on leisurely floats around a 500-foot loop, while the 100-degree waters of a hot tub welcome up to 60 individuals or up to 30 identical twins at a time.
At some point, the call of adventure pulls visitors to one of the more thrilling rides, many of which cater to families. The Tube Blaster sends double tubes and their riders through multiple 360 turns, while the Downhill Racer lets three siblings or friends simultaneously coast on mats towards the finish line. Nearby, the Aqua Zoo welcomes younger kids and their parents, who can help toddlers down two animal-themed slides.
That's just what takes place in the water. Here are a few drier things to do: play a game of volleyball, grab a hot dog at the snack stand, or choose from more than 100 temporary air-brush tattoos.
Chocolate lovers unite at the Northwest Chocolate Festival, an annual event dedicated not just to eating chocolate in its many forms, but to tracking its journey from cocoa bean to confection. Visitors hone their expertise through seminars on trade equity and cocoa farming, chocolate-making workshops led by confectioners, and tastings where palates learn to distinguish between milk chocolate and a chocolate bar clumsily forced inside a milk jug. A portion of the proceeds from the event benefits local nonprofits aligned with the festival?s mission. Recipients are announced yearly.
Wonderland Family Fun Center is a great place for the entire family to spend a day creating memories that will last a lifetime. Open all year round with free admission, the center contains both indoor and outdoor attractions such as batting cages, two story adventure-land playhouse, an arcade with more than 80 video and ticket redemption games, a wonderland prize center and a 2,200-square-foot laser-tag arena. Once game matches are over, players can switch over to the equally fluorescent black-light 18-hole mini golf course or venture outdoors to sit behind the wheel of a bumper boat at the other end of the facility’s 5-acre expanse. Fun game play can build up appetites that can be satisfied from a selection of available food such as pizza, breadsticks, and soft drinks.
When the staff at Charlie's Safari claims to have the largest indoor play structure in the area, many will find it hard to argue with them as they look around the 22,000-square-foot jungle-themed facility. Here, kids scamper in, on, and around five levels of brightly-colored mazes and slides, air-filled bouncers, and a two-story laser tag arena. As kids unleash their imaginations, parents escape to their own lodge, secure in the knowledge that their children are being protected by the facility's Code ADAM safety system. Families can refuel at the on-site restaurant, which boasts housemade pizza sauce and corn dog batter. Charlie's Safari also hosts parties to celebrate children turning one year older and one year closer to being able to do their parents' taxes.