Though it was rainy and windy we donned our winter rain gear and piled into the car with much ado. We circled and circled until we found the elusive parking spot in downtown Seattle. We walked up to the Il Fornaio Cafe located in Pacific Place Shopping Center. And that is how we came to be officially registered for our first family Geo-caching adventure. After a quick introduction to the keeper of equipment, a how-to lesson for this particular brand of GPS unit and two signatures later we were off. Armed with GPS units, maps and extra batteries we began our journey! We had 2 hours, 12 city blocks to cover and a sheet with clues. We wore smiles and Santa hats. We marched out of the shopping center arm in arm determined to find our caches. And find we did! In a matter of minutes we were onto clue #2.
"Oh Mama it yooks yike Christmas everywhere everywhere!" My three year old gushed and gawked at the city lights. Sidewalk performers sang carols, beat plastic bucket drums and entertained passersby. While my son and husband were on the hunt for the next clue my daughter stared at a statue with a gorgeous patina. "Momma, yook at that statue I think it moves." We inched closer hand in hand when the statue came off its post and knelt at my daughter's side, bowed its head and took her hand and pretended to kiss it. An audible gasp followed by "Oh what a nice statue. He knows I'm a princess." And with that we bid our gentleman statue a fond farewell and caught up with our men on a mission. We found a gigantic star lit up on the side of a building and counted the points. We found a suite in a fancy hotel that contained hundreds of Teddy Bears. We rode escalators, elevators, climbed stairs and walked all over. We found 1,200 pounds of artfully sculpted gingerbread and we walked some more.
Final check-in point was back to the shopping center on time - where, as scheduled, it began to snow....INDOORS! We then walked one more city block to feast at Cheesecake Factory. All in all our jaunt was a feast for the senses. We saw, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted all sorts of sensory treats. We had a terrific time - great family outing!
What to know before you go: (for people thinking of taking kids on this tour)
1. If you're thinking of taking a young child on this tour remember it is a walking tour. Have your kids watered, fed and rested.
2. There are a few public restrooms in the shopping center - use those before you venture out into the holiday crowds.
3. You need to pay attention to the orientation when you register with the guide in the beginning of the tour. Do not expect help from the general public for your clues or in how to operate your machine.
4. If you're thinking of taking young children remember the holiday crowds means hustle & bustle on the sidewalks you'll be walking. For an enjoyable experience for the parents in the group - make sure your young kids are adept at holding the hand of an adult. My 3 year old was so excited about the twinkling Christmas tree lights she broke free from my grasp and nearly dashed out into the street.
5. Give yourself extra time to take kids on the carousel - or be prepared for a possible melt down. My daughter took one look at the gorgeous carousel and again (nearly) ran out into traffic. The carousel will take cash or plastic.
6. Dress in layers. 2 of the 10 stops you'll need to go inside a building. After walking around outdoors and going inside warm buildings we peeled off our coats, mittens, scarves and hats speedy quick! Dress your young ones in easy on easy off coats.
7. The Il Fornaio Cafe at Pacific Place Shopping Center is up by the piano, stage, food court area. You don't go to the street side full service Il Fornaio Restaurant. When you're up at the cafe look for a table at the cafe with a sign - that's where you meet your guide.
8. My 12 year old son handled the GPS like a pro. My 3 year old did not. Those units seem hearty but I quickly distracted my daughter so she was enchanted with holding an umbrella instead of a $125.00 GPS unit.
9. Bring your camera - but don't expect perfection. You're going to maneuver busy sidewalks, watch out for your family, read a map, and juggle a GPS along with your purse and/or anything you might pack. Say cheese - and go with the flow. Don't try to pose at every stop. Focus on a good solid photo op - I'd recommend the Teddy Bear Suite if it's not too busy. Pack light if possible. You'll be moving quite a bit.
10. Leave extra time in your schedule for a snack afterwards to reward (and potentially dangle as a reward) for your kids. Our family enjoyed Cheesecake Factory - it was within walking distance. Luckily our wait was only 20 minutes. There you have it people. I give this tour a happy two thumbs up.