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Friday, January 3, 2020

Shared Experiences -- My Favorite Kind of Gift

When my daughters ask me what I'd like for a birthday or Christmas present, I almost always say that I just want to spend time with them. So, for the past couple of years, they've each given me just what I've wanted, a girlfriend date. This year, as I mentioned yesterday, one daughter arranged for tickets to a special exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum in the downtown area, along with lunch out. If you live in a major metropolitan area you know how expensive it can be to visit the downtown  of the city. Seattle is no exception. 

My daughter is somewhat frugal by necessity, which means finding a way to do this sort of outing inexpensively was a must. This is how we achieved that goal.

  • We took the bus into the city instead of driving and finding parking. The other daughter gave us a ride to a nearby park and ride so we didn't have to take multiple buses. Parking in the city for for 4 hours would have cost about $20. Gas to drive to the city and back would run about $5, for a total of $25. Our bus fare for both of us came to $16, not super-duper cheap, but a savings of $9. The bonus is we didn't have to do the driving, but instead rode in a nice double-decker bus on the top level with great views. The museum was a 5-7 minute walk from the bus stop downtown.
  • We brought some trail mix to snack on during the bus ride, so we weren't ravenous once we got downtown or while at the museum. No cost and likely saved us about $5 over buying some sort of pastry or treat before even seeing the exhibit.
  • My daughter bought tickets for a "first Thursday," meaning the cost of the ticket was reduced by $20 each. Viewing this exhibit on any other day of the month (besides the first Thursday) would have cost $29.99 each. Instead, my daughter paid $9.99 each. This is really the smart way to go. We went during a week when there were a lot of holiday crowds in the city and yet I never felt overly crowded in the museum, despite the cost savings for all of us attending this exhibit. If you've been in any art museums in major European cities, any day of the month is super crowded. With that in mind, the SAM on a first Thursday actually seemed pleasantly crowded. So, on the tickets, my daughter saved $40. And, we stayed for our full allotment of time of 2 hours, so I feel we got our money's worth and don't need to come back another day to finish the exhibit.
  • I wanted some sort of souvenir from this visit. The brochure actually makes a lovely souvenir and didn't cost a penny. In addition, I brought a camera and took several nice photos of works that I particularly enjoyed. For 39 cents, I can take my USB stick to FedEx and print out a 4 X 6 of my favorite photo from the exhibit, if I am so inclined, for an additional souvenir. The gift shop on the premises offers lots of wonderful books, which of course, as an art history buff, I would love to own. However, I think I'll check my local library for similar books first. Then if I find one I especially enjoy, I can add it to my birthday wish list and hopefully anyone shopping for me will order the book off of Amazon, a used copy hopefully, and save about $10 off of the publisher's price.
  • After we viewed all of the works, my daughter treated me to lunch in the cafe on the premises. They offer bowls of soup with bread for $6 and small cups of coffee for $1.75. Considering this is downtown in a major city, I thought this a pretty good deal. The cafe is artistically-appointed down to some of the small details, including some sculpture-worthy seats near the window and the boldly-colored cutlery. As a bonus, they offer complementary lemon-cucumber water. We each had a bowl of hearty Moroccan lentil soup with sourdough bread and I had a cup of their drip coffee, for a total of just over $15. Eating in any other cafe in the area would have cost us about $25 for the two of us. If we had wanted to eat at the McDonald's that is a couple of blocks away, we likely would have spent that same $15 (with their inflated inner-city price structure) and not enjoyed pleasant surroundings, service, or unique dishes. Also, I ordered the least expensive coffee on their menu, the drip. I could have ordered one of the pricier espresso-based beverages for double or triple the cost. The drip was quite tasty, I thought. (You may know this already -- Seattleites are coffee-snobs.)
  • When we finished our lunches, we headed back to the bus stop, which happens to be right next to a See's Chocolates shop. In case you don't know this, when you enter a See's shop, the candy attendants offer a free chocolate to each person in your group, even if you're "just looking." We got to our bus stop 5 minutes early, so we hopped into See's and each received a full-sized chocolate candy, which served as our dessert.

So, that's how two of us enjoyed a very delightful winter day in downtown Seattle while keeping to a budget. It wasn't free or even near-free, but it was an affordable treat and nicer than any other gift my daughter might have bought for me this Christmas. 

Seattle is gaining notoriety as being a very expensive urban center. It's expensive to get into the city, park, attend events, dine out, or shop, let alone find housing in the city. And yet, aside from the software engineers and other highly-paid tech employees, many people here don't earn enough to regularly enjoy the offerings of the city. My family has always sought ways to minimize the cost of our pleasure-excursions into the city, yet still make a day trip special. We utilize public transportation when it makes sense, visit free or reduced-cost venues, pack lunches, snacks, and even beverages then find public park areas to picnic, and mostly window-shop. If this is how you regularly enjoy your nearby city's attractions, just know that you are not alone. There are many of us who maintain our frugal lifestyle while savoring moments in the big city.


  1. Sounds like a great day. I am not an art history buff, but I always enjoy art museums. I learn so much by reading the descriptions of the art works.

    City centers are expensive. We usually take public transportation because finding parking is next to impossible. However, we are very lucky because we are just an hour or so from downtown Washington with all of the free Smithsonian museums. However, the politics and protesting has turned me off from visiting Washington (and I've never felt quite the same after 9/11). Although we still visit Washington sometimes, we look for other small venues to explore.

  2. I'm glad you had a fun day with your daughter! You did the kinds of things that I do to make fun experiences more affordable. Our closest really big city is Chicago. We took the kids a few years ago. It's about 3 or 4 hours away. We took Amtrak, which can be pricey, but by the time you factor in parking and gas, we were about even when it came to cost and didn't have the hassle of driving. The train arrives in the city at about 10:30 a.m. local time and leaves the city at 5 p.m. so we were able to get 2 full days while only spending 1 night on a hotel. If we had been willing to drive farther, we could have picked up the commuter train in Indiana, which many people from our area do. It's good to hear other's ideas of how to make trips manageable on a budget.

  3. Lili,

    Wow that sounded like you had a fun day. I'm not much of an art fan but my daughter is and studied in Italy for a semester. She loves that kind of art like you!

    Glad you had fun with your daughter. I enjoy my daughter's as well!


  4. Last week, our local thrift stores had a 50% off everything sale, and I was fortunate to find many arts and crafts books. Especially art and fashion history, there is no other way than in book form to gain a historical perspective.

    Tfs...sounds like a very fun and relaxing day with your daughter. The last time I spent a day with my daughter at the museum was when she was 10 yo. I still remember the dress she wore, one that I sewed, and her stannding in front of each painting with long pauses, as she noted how everyone does that in a museum. I regret not majoring in art, and taking courses in art history. What an interesting major! Your art appreciation shines in your creative savv blog. In the past few years, watching so many other crafters on YouTube, I've concluded that crafters who have a background in art take their craft to a higher level. There is so much debate whether a work is art or craft. I have read it is about the intention, more than skill. This is where being schooled in art helps I'm guessing...learning art principles and using it to refine the message and fexpression. I'm trying to understand this process. Thank goodness art books are timeless and always a bargain at thrift stores.

    Have a great day,


  5. What a lovely day in the city with your daughter and such a thoughtful gift! I don't know a whole lot about art, but have always enjoyed visiting museums. (Was beyond thrilled to get to visit the Louvre a few years back! Amazing to view the masterpieces that are so beautiful and so old!!) Your strategies showed ways to make the art show financially feasible.

    I no longer live near a big city but love the energy and "vibe" that one gets when visiting one. When I lived in a bigger city (Charlotte) I dragged my children to all of the cultural events and places there, including the local art museum. They often had "free" days. My children weren't always willing participants, but as young adults now, they seem to have an appreciation for such experiences. Happy 2020!

  6. What a great outing with your daughter. We actually saw this exhibition today too, and also took the bus into Seattle (from Redmond). Really enjoyed it. I am a member of the Seattle Art Museum, and we go several times a year, which ends up being less expensive than individual tickets.

    Happy New Year to you as well! Wishing you all the best for 2020.

    - Tina

  7. Sounds like such a lovely experience with your daughter. We miss Seattle, and the prices are much higher, sadly, in the bay area.

  8. Hi Live and Learn,
    I think you are so very fortunate to have the Smithsonian within traveling distance as you do.
    I understand being turned off a bit, by the protesting/politics. Our downtown area sees its share of protests and they do muck up the commute on those days. My daughters had to travel through the downtown area, daily, for school for 5 years, sometimes getting stuck for a couple of hours, due to a protest. My husband works downtown and is used to these events. I'm glad you find lots of other interesting places to visit near your home.

  9. Hi Kris,
    The train sounds like a really good option for you and your family for a visit to Chicago. The bonus is the train ride itself can feel more like an adventure than driving. I'm sure this made fun memories for your kids.

  10. Hi Alice,
    We did have a lot of fun. I'm glad that you and your daughters enjoy a good relationship, too!

  11. Hi YHF,
    Thank you for your comments on defining art vs craft. That really helps me in a couple of areas.
    I love books about art. What a deal you found at your thrift store! In addition to books, museum websites have a lot of good information about various artworks and their creators, as well as periods, style, and principles of design. And there are a few really good art education websites that are free to view, too. When I find a work of art that I really enjoy, I become a bit obsessive and search all I can online about that work and its creator. Right now, I'm on to Artemisia Gentileschi -- an Italian Female from the Baroque period. Not only do I enjoy her work, but the story of her life is fascinating considering the time she lived in. Anyway, I digress. I get excited about art.
    Have a great day, YHF.

  12. Hi Lynn,
    I understand what you mean about the vibe in a big city. It does feel exciting to be a part of it, even if only for a day.
    You know, my parents took us to art museums when we were growing up and I was not always thrilled to be there. But as an adult, I can reflect on those experiences and find myself grateful for them. In the end, the museum experiences led me to want to study art. I'm sure my parents never would have thought that would happen, after all of the whining I'm sure I did when we visited museums and galleries.

    When we were in one of the rooms, there was a father and his two children, about ages 4 and 7-ish. The girl, about 7, was so excited to be there and told her father that she really wanted to go and look at one of the larger paintings at the other end of the room. She was tugging at her father's hand, excitedly. I think she is more the exception than the rule when it comes to children and art museums.

    Best wishes in the new year to you, too, Lynn!

  13. Hi Tina,
    What a coincidence! I have considered, seriously, becoming a member of the SAM. It wouldn't take very many visits to return my investment. I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibit. I saw so many works that I had previously studied in books. I'm so glad for you that you were able to see this exhibit, too!

    Do the buses work out well for you? My son and wife live in Kirkland and his bus experience into Seattle for work each day sounds better than what it takes for us to get to Seattle from Edmonds. It seems to me that there are more bus/light rail options coming from the Eastside than from my area (So. Snohomish county).

    Wishing you a wonderful new year, Tina!

  14. Hi Hawaii Planner,
    We did really enjoy our day together. I am so grateful that my daughter would gift me this experience and plan everything.
    Wishing you a happy New Year!

  15. Artemisia Gentileschi - her Judith and Holofernes painting in SAM exhibit was so interesting! One can see the influence of Caravaggio... Oh my, the determination and no nonsense depicted on those two women’s faces as they were beheading Holofernes were so striking, very different to Caravaggio’s Judith. I took a picture of this Gentileschi painting, and was going to research more on her paintings and story. However, I was sidetracked when a friend recommended that I read “The Lost Painting” by Jonathan Harr, which I enjoyed greatly. Caravaggio did not have a happy life and died quite young...

    I wish I had taken an art history class in college. I recognized few paintings in SAM exhibit from my visit to Capodimonte Museo in Naples couple years back. It brought back good memories of that trip.

    Long time lurker, first time commenting... I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. Keep writing!


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