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My main motivation for traveling to the rainy city of Seattle was geocaching. The geocaching headquarters is located in Fremont, an eccentric neighborhood known by its inhabitants as the “Center of the Universe.” Its numerous creative sculptures and artwork (a troll, a rocket ship, a statue of Vladimir Lenin, etc.) corroborate Fremont’s unofficial motto “De Libertas Quirkas,” or the “Freedom to be Peculiar.”

Geocaching HQ should be on any geocacher’s bucket list, as it has its own cache, special merchandise available for sale, a photo booth (making for an interesting log book), and lots of trackables items to trade and discover. There is also an HQ GeoTour, which highlights 9 unique caches all within walking distance of HQ, and it is highly enjoyable.

When I wasn’t geocaching, I also visited the famous Pike Place Market, one of the oldest farmers’ markets in the USA, and home to the original Starbucks. The market boasts fresh fish, fruit, and flowers, as well as artisanal products like wooden cutting boards, homemade jewelry, and hand-dyed shirts. I absolutely loved visiting Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, where I could watch the cheesemaking process and sample some absolutely delectable cubes of cheese. I also enjoyed Pike Place Chowder so much that I had to go back for another meal later in the trip.

Tulip time at the market

Beecher’s cheese samples

Chai from the original Starbucks location

Down an alley near the marketplace is another strange attraction, the Gum Wall. Its name is quite literal, as it is simply a brick wall covered in discarded chewing gum. Disgusting? Maybe. Unique? Definitely.

Other Essential Stops in Seattle

1. Bill Spiedel’s Underground Tour

The energetic tour guide kept me laughing the whole time and piqued my interest in strangely sordid Seattle history. Plus, the tour leads participants on a walking adventure under the city through dark corridors that used to be the street level sidewalks.

The purple tiles in historic Pioneer Square sidewalks are actually skylights for the underground walkways.

2. Chihuly Garden and Glass

This was an absolute highlight of the trip. It was a beautifully curated collection, and exploring the boldly vibrant glasswork was a great way to escape the dreary weather outside.


3. Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream

Inventive flavors, fresh waffle cones made in store, and excellent customer service. My two favorite flavors were Earl Grey and Honey Lavender.

Traveling to the National Parks

In the final planning stages of my trip, I realized that the National Parks I planned on visiting, Olympic National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park, were still very much in the throes of winter. As such, they were only open Fri-Sun and required all vehicles to carry tire chains. I planned on visiting Olympic National Park first on Saturday for a ranger-lead snowshoe hike, and then heading to Mt. Rainier on Sunday.

Unfortunately, an avalanche on Hurricane Ridge Road left the mountainous area inaccessible and the snowshoe hike was cancelled, foiling my plans for Olympic NP. Instead, I was able to stop at the visitor’s center in Port Angeles and hike for a bit surrounded by trees coated in lushly green moss.

Luckily, Mt. Rainier more than made up for my disappointing experience in Olympic NP. We were able to get a fantastic view of Mt. Rainier, which apparently was hidden in fog for two weeks before we got there. According to the NPS, Mt. Rainier National Park, specifically the Paradise Visitor Center, is the snowiest place on Earth where snowfall is regularly recorded. When we were there, there was about 14 feet of snowpack on the ground.

14′ of snowpack

To top it off, the night before visiting Mt. Rainier, I stayed in a tree house I found on Airbnb in Olympia, WA. Airbnb definitely offers more unique lodging than hotels, and I was so thrilled with the tree house. It was right above a little pond and I left the windows cracked so I could hear the frogs croaking.


I definitely don’t know Disneyland as well as Walt Disney World, given that I worked at WDW and visited the parks there more times than I could possibly count. However, I deeply appreciated visiting the original Disney park earlier this year. There was something especially magical about being in the place that Walt Disney himself saw from inception to completion.

Disneyland v. Walt Disney World

The biggest difference in the two locations is the size. WDW is comprised of four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios) and is absolutely enormous in scale, comparable to the size of San Francisco. While Disneyland Resort does have two parks, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, it is nowhere near as big as WDW. When I worked on the ferryboats at Magic Kingdom, we used to tell guests that the entirety of Disneyland could fit in Magic Kingdom’s parking lot.

There is something nice about Disneyland being smaller though, as it makes park hopping (visiting more than one Disney theme park in one day) much easier. It’s possible to walk from Disneyland to California Adventure and have plenty of time to explore both in one day. I wouldn’t say visiting all four WDW parks in one day is impossible (because I have done it), but it required planning, seriously limiting myself to only a few attractions in each location, and then hastily finding Disney transportation or driving to the next park.

Paradise Pier at dusk

With regards to transportation, Disneyland is far more accessible just by walking. We stayed at a hotel off Disney property and found it very manageable to walk right from our hotel into the theme parks each day. On the other hand, at WDW, I would have to drive between parks or utilize the various transportation systems (watercraft, monorail, buses). There is a monorail at Disneyland, but it is an attraction, not a transportation system.

Riding the Disneyland monorail (watercraft > monorail, for the record)

While there are a lot of similar attractions on both coasts, Disneyland does have plenty of unique offerings, like the Indiana Jones Adventure and the Matterhorn Bobsleds, as well as different themed areas, like New Orleans Square in Disneyland, and Cars Land in California Adventure. It has a certain nostalgic feel to it as well, as the park still uses paper entry tickets instead of WDW’s magic bands, and paper Fast Pass tickets.

The Haunted Mansion is my favorite Disney attraction

Disneyland Bucket List

1. Cars Land

Cars Land is most exciting at dusk, when all of the neon signs first start to illuminate.

2. Hyperspace Mountain

3. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

4. Indiana Jones Adventure

5. It’s a Small World

… and if you are familiar with Disneyland, and are wondering why Matterhorn Bobsleds and Mickey’s Fun Wheel aren’t on here, it’s because they were closed when I was there, so I’m sure they’re deserving, but I didn’t experience them myself.

Can’t Miss Food/Drink Items

1. Hand Dipped Ice Cream Bar from Clarabelle’s in Disney’s California Adventure

If you can’t decide on which toppings you’d like, the “full herd” includes all of them

2. Jungle Skewers from Bengal Barbeque in Adventureland, Disneyland

3. Beignets from New Orleans Square, Disneyland

Mickey-shaped food always seems to taste better

4. Creamy Corn Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl from French Market Restaurant, New Orleans Square, Disneyland

5. Matterhorn Macaroon from the Jolly Holiday Bakeshop on Main Street, Disneyland

Macaroon with its namesake attraction