Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

A visit from dear old dad always brings the inevitable panic of what the hell you’re going to do with him. If he’s anything like mine, he’s only happy when his wallet remains securely in his pocket. That’s why the totally free Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard is a sure bet. What is it about dads and locks? You’d think Jesus himself was out there raising the water. Invariably, you’ll find Moms smiling politely and nodding along while dads crowd around the wandering Locks workers pumping them for information before calling excitedly over their shoulders, “I’m going to go over here and get a better look!” Cap it off with a walk by the underwater viewing window of the salmon ladder and you’ve just scored yourself a seriously good Christmas present or at least, dinner at a pretty nice restaurant. SUZIE RUGH

Starts: Sept. 16. Daily, 7 a.m.-9 p.m., 2009

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