rediscovering seattle: cherry blossom and japanese cultural festival

this past weekend, we decided to head over to the seattle center to check out the 40th annual cherry blossom and japanese cultural festival. the cherry blossom festival is part of seattle center's festal, which is a year-long series of cultural festivals all held at the seattle center.  there's quite a variety, and it's a great opportunity for the kids to get a taste of different cultures without necessarily having to travel the world (at least not yet, right?? *sigh* someday...). plus, an added bonus: i can totally count this for school!  can you say geography + social studies + history + art + music + science + whatever else you want to add?  oh yeah!

so, i was a little apprehensive about going at first, because festival type events that we've experienced in seattle before have always been packed.  i remember going to bite of seattle years ago, and feeling SO crowded, i wasn't really sure i wanted to deal with that.  but we decided to give it a go anyway.  we've never been to this festival, and wouldn't know how crowded it would be until we tried.  if it didn't end up turning out well, then we'll know for next year.

as it turned out, it wasn't overly crowded at all. parking was a little more full than usual around the seattle center, but not so bad that we had to park blocks and blocks away.  we also got there around 11 a.m., which was an hour after they started, so there weren't too many people there yet.  we noticed that when we left at around 1 p.m., there was quite a bit more people, but it was still a manageable crowd to navigate through.

the festival was held in three locations at the seattle center: the seattle center pavillion, the armory, and the fisher pavillion (along with the outdoor space right outside). the event itself is free, and the only thing you have to pay for is parking and food. i can't believe that this event has been around for 40 years, and we've just now heard about it?? where have i been (besides the 8 years we were out of state...ha!)?

we really liked getting there on the earlier end of the festival, because it allowed us to explore and try things out without having to deal with much of a line.  there were a few booths/stations set up in each of the buildings, with the bulk of the booths set up in the fisher pavillion. the older kids also picked up a "passport" shortly after we arrived, which they took around to various spots to get stamps.  while they didn't get all their boxes stamped, it was a great way for them (and us) to participate in some of the activities and learn new things about japan.  you can check out this year's schedule here to get an idea of what events and activities were offered.

we discovered the seattle kobe sister city association booth on the second floor of the armory, which hosted a kimono/yukata dress up. the girls were immediately drawn to it, and got a chance to try one on.  they had some for men and boys too, but our boys didn't seem too keen on trying one on.

after dress up time was over, emma was set on getting her first stamp so we stopped over at the seattle go center station, where she learned (and mommy and daddy too) how to play the ancient game of go and got a stamp in her passport. i've never heard of the game, but we thought it was very interesting, despite its seemingly simple appearance.  there's quite a bit of strategy involved once you really get the hang of playing, but the game itself is simple enough to learn that the kids would enjoy playing it.  i can see this being a fun family game night.  we just have to get the boards and stones (or make some temporary ones in the interim).  if you are interested in finding out more about go, you can check out the american go association.

using our handy-dandy festival map, we decided to head over to the fisher pavillion to check out the goings on there, and get more stamps of course.  by this time, there were more people at the event, so it was starting to get a little tricky to navigate through with all four kids.  side note: typically, i would wear the youngest kid (backpack style) for events like this one, but i spaced out on bringing my mei-tai for some reason.  i hate taking strollers to any event that draws a crowd, because it makes it so much more difficult to get around, so i've always worn the littlest. add on 2 or 3 additional kids to keep an eye on, and wearing the youngest really does simplify things (i think lani has ridden in a stroller twice in her lifetime just because it was always easier to wear her). anyway, back to the cherry blossom festival and the fisher pavillion...we made our way there and were taken by the outdoor bujutsu demonstration.  there were swords involved, and this particularly had gibson quite captivated.  especially since he's currently taking tae kwon do. i think watching the demo gave him a little inspiration.

more stamps were needed in the kids' passports, so we finally made it inside the fisher pavillion for a stop at the origami booth.  emma has recently taken an interest in origami, so having the origami booth at the festival was perfect timing.  and mommy also enjoys doing a little origami so that was a bonus for me!

as it neared the lunch hour (as indicated by the mass of little hands digging in the bag for snacks and any form of edible yummies), our plan was to make our way outside to finish the snacks we packed, and let the kids kind of run around in the grass before heading home. but we couldn't just head straight outside, because there still many things going on inside that drew our attention.  so, the next stop as we tried to make our way out of the building was a booth on traditional japanese toys. this one was a fun one for all the kids, and the people at the booth were so sweet and patient with them. i love that the toys were all wooden and simply designed but engaging at the same time...my favorite kinds of toys.

after prying our kids away from the toy booth, we tried to re-direct everyone (including the parents) towards the exit, but another activity caught our eye.  there was a sword sharpening demonstration right across from the toy booth, and we spent some time observing the gentleman as he began the process.

and once we made it outside, we were entertained by some awesome music by a taiko performing group.  this group was unique (at least to me), because i noticed a couple of its members were quite young, close to emma's age it seems. i thought that was pretty neat, and loved that the kids got to observe other kids participating in unique activities (and not just sports...nothing against sports, mind you).

we had a great experience at this festival, even though we only stayed for 2 hours (the parking meter said it was time to go, and we kinda didn't want to pay $10 for parking), and the whole thing was very budget friendly for our family of 6. there were a few other booths and stations we stopped at that were not mentioned here.  and certainly more things we wanted to try out but didn't have time for like the kite making, the paper airplane contest, and i kind of wanted to try the japanese calligraphy. but it's a good thing they have this event every year, because i think this is one we'll probably come back to again next year.


rediscovering seattle: olympic sculpture park

since moving back to seattle over a year ago, we have had fun exploring and rediscovering the city. while there are many aspects of seattle that have remained the same, there have also been plenty of changes in the 7.5 years we were gone. and of course, this time we are back with a whole crew, so our experience of the emerald city feels new.

much like we did in cleveland, we enjoy spending our weekends going out and about as a family, and experiencing what the city has to offer (and it has to offer so much!). tourists in your own town, so to speak. i've noticed that there is a sense of appreciation and love that comes from really getting to know the city when we take the time to explore, whether it's a place we've been to many times, or a place we visit only a few times a year. familiar sights bring a taste of nostalgia, new discoveries bring excitement, but they all bring delight and a time to reconnect as a family.

we've had plenty of local adventures since we've moved back, and it's hard to pick just one, but i'm gonna have to so I can avoid an obscenely long post. I guess this means i'll have to do multiple posts for our other local adventures...maybe this will get me back to posting on a more regular basis!

i'll start with one we just went to today.

the olympic sculpture park is an outdoor art "museum" of sorts, and is part of the seattle art museum. it is one of our family's favorite, go-to outdoor spaces in the city. it's easy to get to from our house, free (except for parking), outside, and offers some amazing views.  we've been here a lot since we've moved back (you'll notice some of the pictures are from a while ago). the park has quite a few permanent outdoor art displays that our kids have learned to recognize and remember by name.

occasionally, the park has also had temporary art installations. i think the temporary ones we've seen have all encouraged participation from people as part of the art itself.  those ones are our favorite.

on sunny days, we like to pack a lunch so that we can hang out for a good chunk of the day. there's a quiet, little pocket beach that's kind of tucked away from the main part of the park, and that's been our lunch spot lately. plus the kids have some time to play by the water (which the always love).

we have our usual route when we go here, mostly because we always park on the same street (sometimes we'll score free parking if we go early enough on a weekday, but we pretty much always pay for parking if we go on a weekend). i love that the kids easily settle into our regular route through the park. the familiarity and routine of the visit feels kind of comforting.

another reason we like this park is that we can still be down by the pier during tourist season, but avoid most of the crowd since many of the tourists stay closer to the piers offering the aquarium, the great wheel, and other more tourist-like attractions.  we kind of avoid that area for most of the summer, but it's not really a big deal since we live here.

we really appreciate finding outdoor spaces in the city that are fun and engaging for the whole family, and love the freedom this park has to offer for us.

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