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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

February 27, 2009 at 7:30 AM

Kid stuff: How to entertain a visiting 9-year-old. Ideas?

Eater Dee Parypa’s in a quandary. Here’s her problem:

“Help! In lieu of a birthday party, our 9-year-old grandniece has opted to visit Seattle and her old aunt and uncle. Her only requests are a visit to the aquarium and a ferry boat ride. Fine! Now how to fill up the rest of the Friday afternoon to Monday afternoon schedule? Lion King tickets are only available in the $185 range, so that’s not going to happen! Any suggestions? (it usually helps to ask busy young moms ‘cuz they juggle multiple roles and crises routinely!).”

Dee, you living doll! I’ve got a kid in grade school, and I’m certainly busy — but young? I don’t think so. But I do have some ideas. Here goes:

Take her straight to the nation’s oldest continuously operated farmers market, where there are plenty of sights to capture a child’s attention — as Nate makes perfectly clear during his “kid’s tour” of Pike Place Market:

Next, I insist you put on some warm clothes and Ride the Ducks! — offering a more interesting and interactive view of the city than that other Seattle Center attraction. The Natester (and his friends) took that land-and-sea tour of the city for both his 9th and 10th birthday. Here’s my chip-off-the-old-block, quacking up the crowd on Lake Union:

Seeing as the Ducks are headquartered right there at Seattle Center, you should take advantage of your proximity to the Pacific Science Center. You might want to buy tickets to view the extraordinarily well-preserved remains of our famous Ethiopian ancestor, Lucy — and delight in her legacy. But if the remains of ancient decendents are not your niece’s idea of fun, I’ll bet she’ll love the butterfly exhibit. Don’t miss the planetarium, either. Nate and I enjoy those (complimentary) star-spangled shows — though you’ll have to check show times once you arrive and (briefly) wait in line to get in. Hungry? You can grab pizza at Zeek’s or better yet, Bambino’s — a short walk away.

Any chance she’s a bookworm? Take her to Pioneer Square and the Elliott Bay Book Company, then lunch downstairs at the new Elliott Bay Cafe (run by Tamara Murphy of Brasa). Your niece can sample some local pastries and you can say “Whoa! This place sure looks a whole lot better!” P.S. If she needs something to read, might I suggest Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline.” And if she’s already read it, take her to see the movie which is getting stellar reviews and playing, as they always say, at theaters everywhere!

Though some consider it pricey, I’m convinced it’s still “cheap at twice the price” for a 9-year-old girl to have an elegant afternoon tea in the Georgian at the glorious Fairmont Olympic. Years ago, when Mac’s goddaughter Kendall flew here (alone!) from Chicago as a 10-year-old, we took her for tea. We all had great fun in that fancy dining room holding up our pinkies and eating tiny sandwiches, and even though these days Kendall’s a card-carrying adult, hard at work in a Florida art gallery, still recalls tea at the Georgian.

If, like you, your niece has an interest in world cuisines, introduce her to Seattle’s Chinatown/International District, in particular to Uwajimaya, where her eyes will pop out of her head given everything she’ll see, smell and taste there, including Beard Papa’s addictive cream puffs, made right on the premises.

Be sure to stop into Kinokuniya Bookstore adjacent to the food court, and have her check out the display of Mamegoma — among the many adorable tchotckes that are all the rage among her age-group. What? You never heard of Mamegoma? No, they’re not related to The Mamas & the Papas:

Does she have a fish tank at home and a spirit of adventure? Then seek out the funky-though-fascinating confines of Nate’s favorite exotic fish shop, owned by old Mr. Liem — whose back-alley Chinatown hangout is a far cry from the aquarium visit you promised her, but worth seeking out if only so she can go home and say, “I’ve never been in a pet shop like that one before!”

What about a tour of Fremont? But first: a tour of Fremont’s Theo Chocolate factory, offered daily for only $6 (call in advance for reservations). Later, you can window shop and introduce her to the Fremont Troll followed by sushi at the kid-friendly conveyor-belt sushi place, Blue C. And if she’s not full of Theo chocolate, stop in for gelato at Royal Grinders behind the statue of Lenin (have fun explaining that one!), where you can try the panna cotta-flavored gelato and she can try her first free “Lenny Scoop.”

If the weather prevails you can take a walk on the beach at Golden Gardens followed by a visit to the Ballard Locks, where she can see the fish ladder (and if you’re lucky, some salmon) and buy a Seattle postcard at the gift shop to send home to her folks. After, it’s off to Archie McPhee, where she can ogle goofball novelties like the Smoking Baby and the Hopping Lederhosen (and you can buy yourself “Greatest great-aunt” status as well as a swell new tote bag. Especially if you treat her to some cupcake bandages). Breakfast at Senor Moose first, or lunch at Totem House Seafood & Chowder.

Or, if she’s game, it’s nice out and she likes dogs, how about a stroll around Green Lake where she can see (and pet) a million pooches, tell you all about — what is it, 4th or 5th grade? You might stop along the way for a cup of “real” cocoa at Chocolati Cafe.

So, which ferry do you plan to take? I suggest a trip to Bainbridge Island. You can tool around Winslow and have a treat at the Blackbird Bakery, or stay for dinner at any number of great restaurants (I’m a big fan of Madoka and Cafe Nola), then show her how pretty the city looks on the ride back “home.”

OK, that’s my two-cents-worth. So, anybody else have any niceties for the niece-of-Dee?

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