Do you want to challenge yourself or try something new, and can’t fit in a grand getaway (at least not yet)?  Us too.

Here’s one way to fill in the gaps between adventures:

Groupon and Living Social vouchers!

Like many, we’ve purchased vouchers for places we frequent (yoga, gym membership, family photos) and for products we thought we would use (iPhone chargers, gym clothes). That’s been fine, but we’ve found they are also a great way to try new things; things that you might not have tried because they were too expensive or you just plain never thought about.  Using these vouchers, you can try new things while minimizing buyers’ remorse.

When we are perusing these deals, part of our (OK, mostly my) goal is to find an activity that will make us uncomfortable. Not the “these pants don’t fit right” kind of discomfort; more the “I’m outside my bubble, butterflies in my stomach, slowly open your eyes and try to stay calm” discomfort.  While everyone should do this regularly, it’s been especially rewarding to have the kids experience this with us. It gets them out of their own bubbles, and provides some insight into their personalities.

Here is a sampling of things we’ve done as a family in the past year.

Our Brave Boy!

Our Brave Boy!

Trapeze: A two-hour introductory course with the goal of completing a “catch hands” – you swing out facing forward and, grasping the bar with your hands, kick your legs up and over the bar so you are hanging upside down from your legs with the bar behind your knees. At the height of your backward swing, extend your arms, straighten your legs releasing the bar, and hope the instructor meeting you in midair catches your arms and carries you through.  Simple, right?

E, our oldest, took advantage of his impulsive nature and confidently volunteered to go first on the trapeze.  Unfortunately, the kids were too young to do the “catch”.  He was able to do a modified move – and did great.  His brother, A, was a bit more nervous, but conquered his fear and did great as well.  To our credit, both Ben and I were old enough to attempt the catch – and did it! I would do this again in a heartbeat! I love watching the videos of our catches and get flutters in my tummy every time.

Hang in there!

Hang in there!

Stand-up Paddleboarding:  This was a great experience, despite a “fine print” fail.  Apparently, the boys were too young for the “class and tour”.  After a brief chat with the owner, however, he agreed to take the boys provided they did not slow down the majority of the group.  The boys stayed on their knees in the Puget Sound waters until they developed the confidence to stand up. It was hard work, especially with the tides and the wakes from large boats passing by.  Amazingly, we were able to stay dry and enjoy a great day on (instead of in) the Sound.


Ropes course: Picture ten to fifteen large wooden posts stuck in the ground vertically, like telephone poles.  Near the top, forty feet above the ground, the posts are connected through a variety of ropes and cables.  Our job was to get from post to post.  Even though we were wearing harnesses attached to a guide cable above our heads, this was one of those “uncomfortable” experiences.

For example, one ropes course challenge required standing on a platform high up on a post, leaping from the platform and grabbing a hanging rope “Indiana Jones” style, and using your momentum to swing across to the other side.  Simply leaning over and grabbing the rope wouldn’t work (I tried).  You had to jump.  While I knew I wouldn’t DIE…it still seemed like I could.  It was terrifying and awesome at the same time.

Zipline Dismount!

Zipline Dismount!

Don't Look Down!

Don’t Look Down!

"Indiana Jones" style!

“Indiana Jones” style!

The ropes course was a great mental and physical challenge – we’d try another one for sure. Much of the course you could choose your own obstacle, and we (including the boys) often chose the most challenging ones available. The boys were also the youngest (by about 6 years!) of the 12 people in our group, making it tougher for us adults to shy away from the challenge. When we were done, there were some sore hands and tired arms, but we all felt proud of what we accomplished.

Here are some other excursions we’ve enjoyed at a discount:

Smith Tower

Smith Tower

Stray Boots / city scavenger hunt: This was a fun activity to see the SAM – Seattle Art Museum. While touring the museum, we received clues and answered questions about the exhibits using our smartphones. We earned points along the way, but it was simply a fun and interactive way to see the museum. We also have scavenger hunt credits for two other areas of Seattle, and can’t wait to use them.

Smith Tower: It took us six years of living in the Seattle area to finally venture up the Space Needle. First we got to see the views from this classic tower which, back in its day, was considered extremely tall – now its just a building with a pointy top.

Ice Skating: The first time for Ben and A. We used this one on the expiration date of 12/31/12. Ice is slippery, but we all survived. “Close call” on all counts!

Museum of Glass: Great deal on a family membership. Worked out great too – a young friend had a drawing made into a blown glass piece of art, and we got to see the whole thing.  Those furnaces are hot, even from a distance (stand back kids!). We have a new appreciation for the working conditions and talent of glass blowers.  True artists!

The View From Above Smith Tower

The View From Above Smith Tower

Melting Pot restaurant: This was a wonderful “trip” to Switzerland for fondue. Very pricey, but the four of us got to experience four courses for about 30% off.  The boys loved dipping raw meat into boiling broth, almost as much as the strawberries and chocolate; a unique dining experience.

Leavenworth: A great little Bavarian town in the Cascade Mountains of Washington that is a year round destination, but gets extra dressed-up each Christmas. We’ve wanted to go, but hadn’t – until last Christmas. With the voucher we got motor coach transportation, a snack, fun on the bus, and NO driving ourselves on the icy roads. It wasn’t necessarily a great deal, but worth the laid-back experience.

The Yin and the Yang of Chocolate

The Yin and the Yang of Chocolate

Our Own Little Bavaria!

Our Own Little Bavaria!


Still to come!:

– Fencing (On guard! Not around the yard.)

– Rowing (in January…on the Puget Sound…can’t wait!)

– Painting (canvas, not a house)

– Mystery Dinner Party (hopefully the mystery will not be what we are eating)

– Private music lessons for the boys (they’re not ready for the public, or vice-versa)


What’s been your best discount adventure?


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