Today, Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad stands as a bridge to the past, whisking passengers through timbered foothills, alongside mountain streams, and across wooden trestles aboard trains led by restored locomotives. But roughly 30 years ago, the company was just an idea bouncing around the head of Tom Murray Jr., who made it his mission to preserve the sights, sounds, and experiences of a bygone era.
With the help of a friend, and later, many volunteers, Tom established MRSR as a tourist train service, a title the company retains to this day. As a result, the last three decades have been filled with weekly excursions that send customers chugging around the forestry that unfurls in the shadows of Mt. Rainier. Volunteers still maintain the majority of the company, and with every ride, passengers are reminded that railroads have linked the United States in a manner that airplanes, cars, and gas-powered pogo sticks never could.
When the producers of Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home were casting for the roles of coastal marine patrollers, they didn't look to the scores of hopeful actors in Hollywood, opting instead to find boating professionals with real experience. Their search led them to Orcas Island Eclipse Charters founders Dan and Denise Wilk, whose extensive knowledge of aquatic wildlife made them a serendipitous choice for sharing the camera with Hollywood's most famous orca.
Aboard their 56-foot vessel, Dan and Denise continue to share the passion that led them to the big screen in the first place. Their enthusiasm shines through to passengers while they guide tours into the habitats of killer whales and harbor seals. Occasionally, expert guides direct passengers to look up from the water to spot deer on nearby land or bald eagles soaring through the sky above. When asked how they happen upon so many natural specimens on their trips, Dan and Denise would tell you they don't leave their tours up to chance, coordinating excursions with a whale-watching service that pinpoints where the underwater mammals are feeding.
Corks and Canvas Events, like a work of fine art, came about by pairing a good idea with a passion to create. The founders both came from the marketing world, where they spent their days devising campaigns and events to inspire their audiences to take action. A shared love for art and wine inspired them to bend their action-creating talents toward a new goal—hosting painting and wine events in area wineries and wine bars, allowing guests to "uncork their creativity" and promote the burgeoning Washington wine industry.
Their idea took the form of Corks and Canvas Events, where experienced artists lead guests step-by-step through the painting creation process. Guests re-create various paintings, everything from lush vineyard scenes to preening roosters, while sipping on glasses of local wines.
After his first time riding a Segway, 11-year-old Gregg Jantz Jr. was hooked. There weren’t Segway tours in his hometown of Edmonds, so he and his father went to the company’s headquarters in New Hampshire to learn more about the self-balancing transporters. They were excited about what they learned there, leading to the creation of Segway of Edmonds.
Today, visitors can take 90-minute tours of Puget Sound. By day, the tours take a historical angle, and educate groups about Olympic Beach and the mills that used to sit along the coast. Sunset tours create beautiful photo ops, and can be arranged to end with dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants. All tours begin with a 30-minute orientation session, and guides stop occasionally to take photos of groups and make sure no one has fused to their Segway. Visitors can also rent Segways for self-guided tours.
The Bavarian Ice Festival blends winter activities, snow sculptures, and holiday lights into two days of revelry amid Leavenworth's ivory snowflakes. Busses operated by Alki Tours depart at 8 a.m. and deliver Saturday visitors to downtown Leavenworth, where the annual Smooshing contest finds teams of four atop 8-foot wooden planks as they glide merrily down Front Street and safely away from escaped dinosaurs. Guests can relax under warm blankets and sip hot chocolate or coffee during a 40-minute horse-drawn sleigh ride. First day visitors also take in the artwork of an ice-sculpting contest, a slippery footed tug-of-war, and an ice cube scramble or frisbee sweep for the kids.
The enthusiastic tour guides at Road Dogs Tours love Journey, standup comedy, and snowboarding—but on their three tours, their love of Seattle and its signature beverages is what really shines. With a focus on creating a lasting, unique memory, the staff crafts fun and engaging tours based on tips and information gathered from locals, research, and their own personal experiences. On the company’s namesake brewery tour, a guide whisks tourists to three breweries in three hours, where they sample craft beer, learn about the brewing process, and brush up on Seattle’s brewing history since the first beer tree was tapped in 1892. Distillery tours offer a similar selection of behind-the-scenes tidbits and local history, and feature samples of vodka, gin and whiskey. Morning coffee tours, meanwhile, stop at bean roasters, cafés, and bakeries, celebrating the city’s caffeine addiction.
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