Argosy Cruises is known for their harbor tours and themed dining cruises, but it’s their Tillicum Village Sightseeing Cruise and Native American Salmon Bake that keeps families coming back every summer. If your crew is itching to escape the city for the day, consider a cruise to historic Blake Island—legendary birthplace of Chief Seattle. It’s the perfect way to introduce your little first mate to the Puget Sound region’s rich Native American Heritage.
Cruise to the Island
When you board the Goodtime II you will find two enclosed decks and exterior deck space on the bow. If you’re looking for a true (wind in your hair) boat experience, grab a seat on the bow. Otherwise, the second floor deck offers a great sightseeing experience and is where you will find the snack bar and the boat’s narrator. During your 45-minute live, narrated cruise to Blake Island, feel free to walk around the boat, take in the stunning views of the Seattle waterfront, West Seattle, Mount Rainier and Vashon and Bainbridge islands and grab a snack and a beverage at the boat’s full-service bar.
A Warm Island Welcome
Upon arriving at Tillicum Village, you will be greeted by a local tribe member and given a mug of steamed clams in nectar. Surprisingly, many kids like manila clams so don’t be shy about encouraging your little one to give ‘em a try. Regardless of whether your kiddo likes the clams or not, he or she will enjoy picking the shells out of their mugs and smashing them on the clamshell pathway to the longhouse. This is one place where kids are encouraged to play with their food, so go ahead and smash away!
Inside the Longhouse
After you enjoy your clams, you will get to venture into the traditional cedar longhouse. Inside, you will find a gift shop with Native American trinkets, totem poles, Blake Island-themed gifts, candies and stuffed animals as well as a small café that serves coffee, assorted beverages and snacks. You will also have the opportunity to watch your salmon being cooked on cedar stakes around a roaring alder-wood fire—just as the coastal Native Americans have done for centuries.
What’s on the Menu?
In addition to traditional alder baked salmon, the buffet menu includes a Signature Northwest Stew which consists of bison, beef and venison married together in a rich veal stock and combined with root vegetables and potatoes, Wild Grain Harvest Rice, Whole Grain Tillicum Bread (a rich, dark, slightly-sweet bread made with a hint of molasses and so good you can purchase loafs to take home), Field Greens Salad, Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout, Fresh Fruit Salad and a Blackberry Crisp made with local berries from Remlinger Farms. All meals are served with complimentary tea, coffee and soda; wine and other beverages are available for a fee.
Entertainment with High-Tech Effects
Following the delicious buffet meal, you will be treated to a 23-minute performance highlighting the myth, magic and dances of the native Coast Salish tribes. The show combines holograms projected onto the stage, live dancing, and narration by local native storyteller Roger Fernandes of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. This is the only place in the world where you can see the show’s dancers, dressed in authentic clothing and masks, teach their dances and songs from their families who have owned them for generations. Your kiddos will especially love the story of “Pushing Up the Sky” (Hint: It requires audience participation) and learning how the Duwamish, the Suquamish and the Snohomish gathered to work together to lift the sky and lift themselves out of darkness, a symbol of their strength in unity. And both you and your crew will love the costumes and the awesome masks used during the dances. Psst! You can take a close-up look at the masks after the show.
Time to Explore
After the show, you will have about 45 minutes to explore the island’s beaches and forest trails, talk with the show’s performers, explore the longhouse or enjoy a narrated tour of the totems and art. If the Littles need to burn off some energy before boarding the boat back to Seattle, there is a nice playground located between the longhouse and the beach. During your exploration, expect to see lots of wildlife on and off shore. Tillicum Village is located on Blake Island State Park, a 475-acre marine camping park and home to many creatures.
Good to Know
1. There is stroller parking on the boat’s lower deck if you must bring one along. The trails around the island are gravel so we suggest bringing along a baby carrier as well.
2. No outside food or drink is allowed on the boat, however we did see sippy cups and refillable water bottles. Snacks, ice cream and beverages (both the kid and adult kind) are available for purchase on the boat’s upper deck.
3. Don’t forget your camera or iPhone; the photo opps are endless here! If you are lucky, you might even get a family pic worthy of your next Christmas card.
4. Dress for the weather! If you are planning on hiking around the island (which we highly recommend), wear sturdy, comfortable shoes. If you’re planning on playing on the beach or in the water, a change of clothes would be a good idea.
5. Plan to pay for parking. There are a number of garages near Pier 55 and 56. Check downtownseattleparking.com for a list of garages and rates.
6. There is no kids’ menu so be sure to review the menu before you go. If your little one isn’t fond of the menu items, pack along snacks to enjoy during your exploration time. There are plenty of picnic tables and shelters as well as grassy space to throw down a blanket
7. Vegan meals are available with advance request.
8. The last dance in the show is when the dancers clack the mouths of their large masks together so prepare sensitive ears for the loud noise. Nothing is scary though.
9. If you want to stay and play on Blake Island longer than the allotted time, ask the crew if you can catch a later boat back to Seattle. Just make sure you don’t miss the last scheduled boat.
10. After you disembark the boat, be sure to look for your boarding photo located on the upper dock. For $15, you can purchase a 5×7 photo keepsake to remember your day. If you want to purchase additional copies or a digital image, you can do so online.
1101 Alaskan Way
Pier 55, Suite 201
Seattle, Wa 98101
Youth (4-12): $30
3 and Under: Free
July 5 – September 1, 2014
Mon.-Fri. & Sun.: 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Saturday: 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.
September 2 – October 26, 2014
Saturday: 11:15 a.m.-3:15 p.m. & 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday: 11:15 a.m.-3:15 p.m.
Will you be visiting Tillicum Village this summer? Let us know in a comment below.
Kristina Moy, words and photos
Photo of dancers courtesy of Argosy Cruises