Northwest Washington weekend

Spending time in Northwest Washington, even in winter, will make your weekend or weekday a good one.  It’s March and at this time of year you’ll see budding trees and flowers as you make your way from one city (or town) to another.  You just might experience a rain and wind storm too.

Start the weekend off right with a wine tasting at Hellams Vineyard in La Conner and go in search of daffodil fields.  Enjoy a tasty dinner at A’Town Bistro in Anacortes. End the weekend with a day in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.

While in Friday Harbor, stop in at San Juan Island Cheese for sparkling wine and the World Board.  The cheeseboards and lunch plates  are delicious at this small family-owned local cheese counter and lunch bistro.  Sip wine, taste cheese, eat lunch, eat in or take it to go.

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So Satisfied.

2015 Favorites

On this last day of 2015 and you look back on the year, what was your favorite part of it?  Was it a vacation or trip?  A new person (or pet) in your life?  A chance at a new career path?  Did you run your first half marathon?  Spent more time outdoors in nature?

As I update my 2016 calendar for the new year ~ Question: what was my favorite experience of 2015?  Answer: in May… a 5-night trip to Las Vegas.  We did it up VERY well!!!

My Top 16 list of other 2015 outings (in no particular order) are:

  1. Spending the final day of the US Open at Chambers Bay golf course with my dad and husband
  2. Drinking some very fine wine
  3. Enjoying theater.  Favorite: Phantom of the Opera or Mamma Mia
  4. Enjoying concerts.  Favorite Indoor Concert: Candlebox or Muse. Favorite Outdoor Concert: Afrodisiacs at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park
  5. Taking the Victoria Clipper for a weekend to Oak Bay/Victoria BC to catch up with friends
  6. Road trip to Ocean Shores
  7. Road trip to Leavenworth
  8. Flight to Dallas, TX for the Seahawks/Cowboys game and to meet up with my brother/family.  AT&T Stadium is amazing. Pecan Lodge. Iron Cactus.
  9. A dinner boat cruise on the waters of the Anacortes/San Juan Islands area via Mystic Sea Charters and Hellam’s Vineyard
  10. Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square … finding new shops (like Watson Kennedy, Clementines, Fleurt, Timothy De Clue) and restaurants (like London Plane) nearby
  11. Snoqualmie Falls #optoutside adventure
  12. Visiting Chihuly Garden and Glass along with dinner at Sky City and taking in the Puget Sound views via the Space Needle
  13. Tailgating and attending Seattle Seahawks games.  Go Hawks!
  14. Attending a day full of action of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament at Key Arena
  15. Road trip in a Mercedes-Benz convertible to get a pedicure at Tip Top Nails in North Bend
  16. Taste ~ Road trip to visit a friend and check out Dirty Oscar’s Annex and Corina in Tacoma. Honorable mention: Vista Lago Restaurant in Kirkland

And being thankful for other places and people not mentioned here.

What is on your list for 2016?

100 things to do in Washington before You Go

I could write 10 books about all that Washington State has to offer.  But here on  www.within4hoursreach.com, based on my own experience, I’ll give you my take on ‘100 things to do in Washington State before You Go’ – some may be popular and others a bit unique.  Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Snoqualmie Falls – just about my favorite place on earth
  2. Salish Lodge – stay here and enjoy a fireside couple’s massage, enjoy the spa and in the morning, have their Country Breakfast…since 1916.  Check out their Country Store too – great items to take home with you or purchase as gifts
  3. Go river rafting on one of the many rivers – particularly one out of the Leavenworth/Cashmere area on the Wenatchee River
  4. Cougar Mountain Zoo for their Reindeer Festival during the holiday season – I especially liked the variety of options in their gift shop
  5. La Conner – perfect for shopping the boutique stores or purchase wine from Hellams Vineyard.  In the summer, check out Hellams Vineyard schedule for wine cruises.  Don’t forget to stop by the Berry Barn just down the road in Mount Vernon – you can’t go wrong with the delicious Marionberry pie
  6. Bellevue Festival of the Arts and Anacortes Arts Festival – typically in July and August respectively, a nice variety of vendors and craftsman await
  7. Whale Watching – explore the beauty of our waterways
  8. San Juan Island – makes for a fabulous Pacific Northwest long weekend.  Lime Kiln Point State Park, Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor, American Camp, English Camp, Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm, and more…
  9. Roche Harbor – this deserves a separate San Juan Island listing as it is a bit magical.  Sculpture Park, Roche Harbor Resort (Hotel de Haro built in 1886), good restaurants, gardens, a few shops and a marina.  It makes a perfect romantic long weekend for two.
  10. Other San Juan Islands are Orcas, Lopez and Shaw. Orcas Island is known for its pottery, galleries, Rosario Resort & Spa, Moran State Park.
  11. Maltby Cafe, located in Maltby, is known for having the Best Breakfast in Seattle, homemade fare with a country flair, and huge portions
  12. Visit local nurseries during the holiday season to take in the holiday décor and cheer – Wight’s, Molbak’s, Squak, and Swansons Nursery to name a few.
  13. Snowflake Lane in Bellevue during the holiday season
  14. Des Moines – have you been Scotch & Vine yet?  Great selection of hard to find Bourbons and Scotches and a tasty menu.  Take a walk around the marina or Beach Park while you are there.
  15. March is Washington Wine Month – check out a wine event like the Poverty Bay Wine Festival or Taste Washington.  Shop your local wine shop to purchase a bottle of Washington Wine.
  16. Snowshoeing – take a tour or head out on your own
  17. Pike Place Market and buy something from a local vendor as well as local cuisine
  18. Chihuly Garden and Glass at the Seattle Center
  19. Visit one of the many Puget Sound area beaches such as Alki Beach and Golden Gardens
  20. Walla Walla – stay – Marcus Whitman Hotel, eat – you won’t be without good restaurants here – see past posts in this blog, play – wine tasting galore.  Definitely book a 3-day weekend or longer, but you won’t hit even a third of the wineries located here. Walla Walla Valley has some of the best grapes/fruit around.  Fly in or take the 4.5 hour drive from Seattle – it’s great to stop by other wine regions, the fruit stands that showcase the goods from this area of the State and a varied landscape.
  21. Go on a wine tour of the various wine regions in our state – Yakima, Red Mountain/Benton City, Horse Heaven Hills/Prosser, Walla Walla, Spokane, Woodinville, Olympic Peninsula… and more
  22. Mount St. Helens – visit the visitor centers, observatory, and learning center.  Stop in at the Ape Caves too. Where were you when it erupted on May 18, 1980?
  23. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Mount Vernon is a must-see every April
  24. Cape Disappointment State Park ~beachcombing, hiking, two lighthouses, abound with history
  25. Hike the Alpine Lakes Wilderness
  26. the Washington Coast –  visit Washington State beaches and towns like Ocean Shores, Westport, Long Beach, Kalaloch, Ruby, Rialto beaches, First beach and more.  Stay at the Kalaloch Lodge or camp nearby to really soak it in.  Don’t forget to stop at Lake Quinault Lodge too.
  27. Olympic Peninsula – visit the Hoh Rain Forest and hike the nearby beaches, stay at the historic Crescent Lake Lodge (President Roosevelt stayed here).
  28. In October, visit the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival in Port Angeles
  29. Sip the spirits at a local distillery in Seattle, Gig Harbor, Woodinville, Spokane, and more… search for these options
  30. Tulalip Resort and Casino – you’ll have an overall good experience here – play, attend an event (like Taste of Tulalip in November), eat at one of the great restaurant options (known for their gourmet fare and foodie likability), check out the nice gift shops and if you have a chance, stay.  The resort is well-appointed.
  31. Space Needle – especially in the summer.  Enjoy the beautiful view from the observation deck (hope that Mt. Rainier makes an appearance) and have dinner at SkyCity
  32. Get out your platform shoes and boogie with the Afrodisiacs – regularly perform at Tulalip Casino and Clearwater Casino
  33. Hibulb Cultural Center ~ see an exhibit, experience, enjoy
  34. Pick your Festival, any Festival
  35. Whidbey Island – Langley, South Whidbey State Park (with views of the Puget Sound), Fort Casey State Park, Fort Ebey State Park, Ebey’s Landing, lighthouses, Coupeville, Greenbank Farm, and the beautiful Deception Pass State Park
  36. Deception Pass State Park – check out Bowman Bay and don’t miss my favorite park, Rosario Beach.  See tide pools, walk, picnic, enjoy the beach.  This area is deep in Native American history.
  37. Ride a Washington State Ferry
  38. Port Townsend – Take in the old time spirit of this Port city
  39. Vashon Island is a rural gem that showcases island cheese, local wine, beach walks, the famous Vashon Strawberry Festival, and a great farmers market.  A bicyclist will feel right at home here. Stay weird.
  40. Bainbridge Island – visit the public Bloedel Reserve garden.  Continue on to Poulsbo to shop and take in the Scandinavian flavor.
  41. See a summer concert at Chateau Ste. Michelle – bring a picnic and some friends
  42. Jazz Alley in Seattle ~ especially a Bobby Caldwell show
  43. Walk the Cedar River Trail in Renton or the 27 mile multi-use Burke Gilman Trail
  44. Edmonds ~ a favorite for the boutiques, variety of dining options, access to beaches and the ferry, farmers market, festivals, and more.  A city for all seasons.
  45. Walk Greenlake – a vibrant Seattle community lives here
  46. Go crabbing out of Anacortes – this is great fun if you haven’t tried it before
  47. Woodland Park Zoo – check out the exhibits or attend a summer concert on the lawn here
  48. Seafair and the Blue Angels – since the 1950’s – what a treat!
  49. Kayak Lake Union and then kayak up to Aqua Verde or Ivar’s Salmon House for an afternoon meal
  50. See a show at Showbox (at the Market or Sodo) – a few of my favorites seen here include Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, Candlebox, Paul Stanley and Daugherty  🙂
  51. Take a drive along Chuckanut Drive in Bow, WA and stop in at Taylor Shellfish Farms for some of the best oysters and other shellfish that come straight from tidelands across Western Washington and British Columbia.
  52. Stop in at the historic Fairhaven District of Bellingham.  Walk the cobblestone streets for a bite and shopping.
  53. Attend a Bellingham Bells or Everett Aquasox game
  54. See the Everett Silvertips play vs. the Seattle Thunderbirds.  Buy a raffle ticket.
  55. Go to a Seattle Seahawks football game and be a part of the 12th Man/Woman
  56. Try a new craft brew from the brewery itself in the Georgetown area of Seattle (or other, like Black Raven Brewing in Redmond or Redhook Brewery in Woodinville)
  57. In University Place, walk along the trail and park near Chambers Bay Golf Course – grab lunch there and check out the beautiful views
  58. Like to shop? Don’t miss out on University Village, Pacific Place or the Bellevue Collection
  59. Ride The Big Wheel – go during the day and at night
  60. Visit the North Cascades Visitor Center in Newhalem
  61. Take I-20 through the North Cascades National Park – hike Ladder Creek Falls (and more), see the views of Diablo and Ross Lake, the Washington Pass Overlook, walk the paved trail at Rainy Lake – it will not disappoint!  It’s one of the most beautiful areas of the USA.
  62. Maryhill Museum and winery – located on the bank above the Columbia River, see the museum and a replica of Stonehenge.  During the summer, there are outdoor concerts and car shows here.
  63. Mazama, Winthrop (has a feeling of the Old West), Twisp (and the entire Methow Valley) – shop, cross country ski, attend a festival or farmers market.  Try a brew at Twisp River Pub or breakfast at Cinnamon Twisp Bakery.  This would be my favorite road trip as you can go I-20 or Hwy 2/Blewett Pass via Seattle – it takes you through a varied landscape and much beauty.
  64. Boat on the Columbia River
  65. Lake Chelan Valley – create your own wine tasting tour, stop in at Campbell’s for their fish & chips, golf, water ski, hike, camp.  Nefarious Cellars has a beautiful view of Lake Chelan and also has outstanding wine.
  66. Take the Lady of the Lake from Chelan to Steheiken – rent a bicycle to discover additional parts of the area
  67. Leavenworth – stay, eat, sport.  Festivals are plenty year-round, including Oktoberfest, Autumn Leaf Festival, Tree Lighting at Christmas.  Summer and Winter activities galore.  I got engaged here while taking a horse drawn sleigh ride. A favorite place to stay is Run of the River.
  68. Suncadia in Roslyn- makes for a great retreat – golf, spa, and have a bite (or wine tasting) at Swiftwater Cellars which sits on Coal Mine No. 9 and has a great view of Rope Rider Golf Course.  Check out the Harvest Festival in October for some family fun.  Also, drive up the road to Roslyn and you’ll find what was home to the popular TV series Northern Exposure.
  69. Toppenish – walk through downtown to view 70+  murals created to reflect Native American and Western history.  It’s also home to the American Hop Museum and the Yakima Nation Cultural Center.
  70. Spokane – stay at the Davenport Hotel during the holiday season – check out the Festival of Trees; visit Barrister Winery for wine tasting (and the Friday night art walk).
  71. As you drive by the wheat covered fields, make your way to Waitsburg for small town life and enjoy the grub at Whoopemup Hollow Cafe (call for reservations) or Jimgermanbar
  72. Stay at a Lighthouse and be a Lighthouse Keeper – possibilities include New Dungeness, Point No Point, Point Robinson, North Head, Browns Point
  73. Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-in, in Issaquah, this historic XXX hosts car shows
  74. Take in a show at the Village Theater in Issaquah or Everett.  There isn’t a bad seat in the house.
  75. Hike Wallace Falls
  76. Mount Rainier – experience the boundless natural beauty and things to do
  77. See a concert at the Gorge.  The views are beautiful and it’s fun to hang on the lawn in the sun with friends.
  78. Grand Coulee Dam – as part of the Coulee Corridor, it’s the third largest producer of electricity in the world. Hike a desert plateau, see wildlife and wildflowers, boat on the Columbia River, drive through Colville Indian Reservation to Omak.
  79. Eat at one of the various Anthony’s Homeport locations where you’ll get a view of the water and a Pacific Northwest meal
  80. Attend the Olympic Music Festival in Quilcene ~ concerts in a barn (weekends during the summer).
  81. See the Seattle Mariners play at Safeco Field.  This stadium is like no other. Rain or shine
  82. Seattle Sounders represent the MLS well.  Seattle has some top names in the world of soccer that play here.  There is quite a rivalry between the Sounders and our neighbors to the south – the Portland Timbers.
  83. Enjoy a world-class meal at The Herbfarm in Woodinville or Canlis in Seattle
  84. Spend a Sunday at the Ballard Farmers Market.  A great variety of vendors of organic, handmade and locally grown foods.  There is a plethora of great places to eat and shop nearby.  I especially like the boozy shakes at Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery.
  85. Mercer Slough Nature Park and Environmental Education Center in Bellevue.  This is a true gem on the outskirts of a vibrant city.  You’ll experience nature walking on boardwalks among the wetlands and hiking through wooded trails.
  86. Bellevue Botanical Garden – enjoy the variety of gardens and trails throughout – the newly built Ravine Experience is especially nice.
  87. See Sequim.  The annual Lavender Festival each July brings in a crowd. And for beautiful water views, walk along the rocky beach to the lighthouse on Dungeness Spit – this is five miles which takes you into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The spit is part of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.
  88. Palouse Falls  – one of the state’s most beautiful waterfalls, with the heaviest volumes of water flow in spring and early summer.  The area surrounding is made of rolling hills and farmland, and buttes that showcase magnificent views.
  89. For the bird/eagle lover, visit Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, take a float trip on the Skagit River, or see the Snow Geese in the La Conner area
  90. Gig Harbor – visit this maritime city for culture, shopping, take in a tasty meal at JW, and drive down the road to Kopachuck State Park for beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains
  91. Just to experience it ~ go to the Capital Hill area of Seattle for great people watching, restaurants that a foodie will love, clubs to take in a concert (or festival)
  92. Visit Tillicum Village and Ride the Ducks  – these are known as tourist attractions but it is fun for the local too – great to experience the city, Puget Sound waterways, culture and history
  93. Washington State Fair (formerly known as the Puyallup Fair) and Evergreen State Fair (we still call it the Monroe Fair) – animals, concerts, crafts
  94. Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (the Ballard Locks) – picnic on the lawn above, see the fish ladder, boats and kayakers alike are transported between Salmon Bay and Lake Washington/Union and the tidal waters of Puget Sound
  95. If you’re at SeaTac Airport (Seattle Tacoma International Airport)  – visit the Sub Pop store in Concourse C
  96. In Arlington, reserve a table and enjoy a meal at Bistro San Martin
  97. Go Sailing
  98. Enjoy the views of or play in the International Fountain at Seattle Center
  99. Stay in a Yurt or camp at one of the many Washington State Parks
  100. Stop in at Berliner Pub in Renton ~ it has the best Brätzel (warm soft pretzel) ever!  Served with two different mustards and add a side of cream cheese.
  101. I could go on…

What would you add to this list?

It’s a photographer’s dream, season to season, Washington State is abound in beauty.  Experience Washington State.

 

August 2nd – Summer Winemaker Dinner Cruise

Looking for an ideal Pacific Northwest experience?  After a visit to the Anacortes Arts Festival http://www.anacortesartsfestival.com, cap off the day with a winemaker dinner cruise on Saturday, August 2nd.

A chartered bus will pick you up at Hellams Vineyard in La Conner at 5 p.m. (please check in to the shop no later than 4:15 p.m.).  You’ll head over to Mystic Sea Charters in Anacortes http://mysticseacharters.com/, boarding and departing at 6 p.m.  The boat will return to dock at 9 p.m. and you’ll then be chartered back to La Conner.

The cruise will take you through the San Juan Islands, heading from Anacortes northbound to the mystical Mermaid Rocks and the Cone Islands, venturing on to Toehead Pass and Obstruction Pass off of Orcas Island, continuing onward to Thatcher Pass, Lopez Spit, Decatur Island and Lopez Pass, and the Marine Sanctuary off of Bird Rocks – then homeward bound.  This is a fantastic scenic cruise abundant with eagles, seals, and spectacular scenery.

The cruise will feature three Walla Walla wineries – Five Star Cellars, Bunchgrass and Kontos.  The winemakers/owners will be able to answer any questions and offer tastings of great Washington State wine celebrating the season and their work – what a treat!   The cruise will also feature a fully catered dinner of appetizers, salmon, prime rib, side dishes and dessert.  Cost is $130 per person (+tax).  To reserve  your spot, call Hellams Vineyard at 360-466-1758.  http://hellamsvineyard.com/  It just may be the highlight of your summer!

 

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Saturday, July 19th – Winemaker Cruise

Looking for an ideal Pacific Northwest experience?  Postpone whatever you might have planned and take a winemaker dinner cruise this coming Saturday, July 19th.

A chartered bus will pick you up at Hellams Vineyard in La Conner at 5 p.m. (please check in to the shop no later than 4:15 p.m.).  You’ll head over to Mystic Sea Charters in Anacortes http://mysticseacharters.com/, boarding and departing at 6 p.m.  The boat will return to dock at 9 p.m. and you’ll then be chartered back to La Conner.

The cruise will take you through the San Juan Islands, heading from Anacortes northbound to the mystical Mermaid Rocks and the Cone Islands, venturing on to Toehead Pass and Obstruction Pass off of Orcas Island, continuing onward to Thatcher Pass, Lopez Spit, Decatur Island and Lopez Pass, and the Marine Sanctuary off of Bird Rocks – then homeward bound.  This is a fantastic scenic cruise abundant with eagles, seals, and spectacular scenery.

The cruise this Saturday will feature Barrister Winery  http://barristerwinery.com/, with owner/winemakers Greg and Mike on board pouring their special wines and a couple winery only wines.  The cruise is also a Dungeness Crab Feed which also includes several side dishes and dessert. Cost is $140 per person (+tax).  To reserve  your spot, call Hellams Vineyard at 360-466-1758.  http://hellamsvineyard.com/  It just may be the highlight of your summer!

 

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Seattle International Beerfest (and La Conner)

The Seattle International Beerfest was held July 6 – 8th at the Seattle Center. Over 200 beers from 16 countries were served, including some from right here in the Pacific Northwest.  Do you have a favorite style of beer?  I typically like an Amber, Red or ESB….which was hard to find at the SIB.  I did find that I liked Hopworks DOA, Chimay Red, and a few others.  If you like a Belgian style or IPA beer… then you are in luck!!!  Check out the Beers list (and an interesting Glossary) at  http://www.seattlebeerfest.com/   Did you miss it this year?  If so, how about a road trip?  The Portland International Beerfest is July 20-22, 2012.

The SIB was located at the Fisher Pavilion and lawn area (and yeh, there were indoor restrooms!).  Bottles were inside and drafts were outside (in tents) on the lawn.  This turned out to be a good spot for the festival.   Also, there were a number of “beer gardens” that served $3 pints of Pilsner Urquell.  I put quotes around the beer garden because they were open and you could take the pint anywhere within the festival.  Additional tickets were $1 each.  Bring your own lawn chair (or blanket) if  you are interested in sitting OR get there early so that a table is found.  It seemed that those that got the seating early, typically stayed there for long periods.  Food/snacks were aplenty… Skillet, Pagliacci Pizza, Dante’s Inferno Dogs, Pretzelwagen, Rancho Bravo Tacos & BBQ, and more.  Mt. Townsend Creamery was serving a pickle on a stick and cheese on a stick (olives, salami too).  Music played.  There was also jerky, kettle corn, and nuts to buy.

Would I go again?  More than likely.  Although, I must admit I am partial to the Western U.S. craft beers.

La Conner – see July 2010 and 2011 postings for info!  I think they are accurate and will not expand this time on the always all-around fabulous Hellams Vineyard and La Conner Channel Lodge.  This visit… happy with my purchases – a necklace at Cottons http://cottonslaconner.com/  and the moose and bear ornaments at Red Door Gifts.  Not so excited about the mussels from a “pub” in town. I found a few new stores, visited the tried and true, and am sorry to see that some are no longer there.   Always enjoyed is a stop at Snow Goose Produce for bread, jam, and whatever else strikes my fancy.

La Conner in July… and Rosario Beach

A good time was had in La Conner this July as the sun was shining, a nice breeze, blue skies, and a glistening channel was experienced.   I was able to walk through town and check out the shops…which doesn’t take too long.

Stay La Conner Channel Lodge – a very nice stay!  Most rooms in this hotel are located on the Swinomish Channel.  Enjoy your veranda on a summer day.  Read a book or magazine with your favorite beverage.  A nice spread is served for breakfast…cereals, breads with spreads, cheese and ham, fruit, and top it off with coffee or juice.  Complimentary wine tasting takes place on Friday and Saturday afternoons accompanied by a piano.  And now, the Lodge Retreat, spa services!  http://www.laconnerlodging.com/  Great service.

EatSeeds Bistro and Bar –  Yum.  The seating options abound…the front deck, at the bar, in the dining room or on the patio out back.  The fare consists of burgers, salads, soup, starters, sandwiches and comfort foods too!   Much of the quality products are purchased from Skagit Valley farms and Northwest growers whenever possible.  I enjoyed the Retro Iceberg Wedge – iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, gorgonzola crumbles, peppered bacon, and served with gorgonzola dressing on the side…and I ask for it to be cut up for me, instead of it being served as a wedge.  Oh, and the homemade bread, my goodness…delicious, soft, and warm.  The Two Beers Brewery Immulsion Amber hit the spot too.  Seeds serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.   http://www.seedsbistro.com/    Note: the pictures located on the site doesn’t do the food justice…check out the pic here instead.  🙂

La Conner Thai Restaurant  –  if you like Thai, you should like this.  The Phad Thai (with Chicken) was satisfying as was the cashew stir fry.

Enjoy – A stop at the Berry Barn is a must…love the Marionberry pie, and on a 4th of July weekend, it makes the meal extra special.  They of course have old-fashioned apple too.  http://www.funattheberrybarn.com/info.php   Although Roozengarde isn’t blooming with tulips, we made a stop and enjoyed visiting the gift shop and walking the grounds.  http://www.tulipfestival.org/   I was not able to make it to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival this year, but was happy to see that the official print for this year was created by local Camano Island artist John Ebner.  Really nice.  http://www.johnebner.com/  Snow Goose Produce Market, always a must-see.  This time, we purchased rustic Northwest bread.  A bit cool this morning for ice cream.  http://snowgooseproducemarket.com/  Stop by Plug Ugly for antique and other maritime and fishing gear – available for purchase!   Hellams Vineyard is the place to go for a great selection of wine and a good time.  A quality experience…a great place to gather with friends and family.  A plate of fine cheese, meat and olives can be purchased.  And if you would like to enjoy the deck with the view of the Channel, purchase a glass of wine (or a bottle) or beer and enjoy the afternoon.  The sun broke through and blue skies were in view.   I had the utmost fortune of meeting up with family friends that I had not seen since I was a child, and it was a perfect meeting spot for this.  Good food, wine, and conversation (with Frank Sinatra heard overhead).  http://www.hellamsvineyard.com/

Rosario Beach – lovely!  A great place for a picnic and for enjoying Northwest beauty.  Volunteers were on hand to teach us about the  rocky shores of Rosario Beach… the plants and animals that live within the tide pools here.  To protect the inhabitants of certain areas, it was suggested that we follow a rope trail and yes, we were still able to see the treasures that abound…hermit crabs, red rock crab, kelp, rockweed, chitons, and more.

See July 2010 post for more on La Conner and Deception Pass area.

Fireworks in La Conner

La Conner, WA (see April 2010 posting as well) – did not fail to impress once again.  Did you know that La Conner has great viewing for fireworks?  It does!  Every 4th of July, it has a small local parade…over in about five minutes mind you 🙂 and starting at 10 pm (officially), fireworks can be seen along the waterfront in La Conner which is across the channel from the tribal land where the fireworks display originates.  We were entertained for a couple hours with a variety of differing “unofficial” displays of fireworks from a number of different spots across the channel.  We purchased wine and a cheese tray from Hellams Vineyard (which has an extensive selection of  great Washington wines) and brought our own picnic which we shared with friends at a waterfront location…even better if you have a friend who can dock their boat along the pier.

Snow Goose Produce – Whether it be on your way into town, out of town, or a detour off of I-5…this is a destination spot!  Wow!  This is the place to go for good quality…specialty cheese, landjaegers and specialty meats, salmon, produce, plants, “immodest” ice cream cones, fresh berries, cherries, bread, crackers, jewelry (at certain times during the year), woven baskets, fresh fish market, worldly goods and a wine section (mostly less expensive).  We enjoyed the specialty marionberry lemon and berry drinks.  Suggestion: Stop!

DiningLa Conner Brewing Company – locally owned brewpub.  Enjoy the open air feel, cozy fireplace or outside terrace.  Colorful acrylic art adornes the walls from artist, Ben Mann, so it really brings the decor and atmosphere together.   Oh – and the art is for sale too!   The menu consists of wood-fired pizza and other local pub fare.  As an example: salads, quesadillas, panini sandwiches, etc…  along with their homemade brews (seasonal as well).  I watched the World Cup game while there.  What was had today?  Chicken Gorgonzola Pizza – to die for!  Chicken, crisp bacon, gorgonzola, green onions – fabulous!  The base and crust is made of a nice blend of various cheeses.  The seasonal brew had was Dopplebock (an amber lager style).  Other items in the past have also been enjoyed…whether it be a quesadilla or Thai Chicken Wood-Fired Pizza.  Check out the site for photos:  http://www.insidelaconner.com/LaBrew.html

Nell Thorn Restaurant & Pub – definitely a meeting place…whether it be a romantic dinner, family reunions, or maybe a gathering of old friends.   A nice menu selection – the dining room and pub offer separate menus.  The burger in the pub is worth a try.  This trip…dinner was had in the dining room – entrees recommended are:  1) Grilled Steak Salad – Crisp Organic Romaine and Grilled Coullate Beef Steak served with a Creamy Gorgonzola dressing.  This was the favorite as the salads at Nell Thorn are nicely presented (as is the side salad served with Nell’s Burger).  The steak is presented separately on the plate so it is a dish that you can almost create yourself.   2)  Clam Toscano Pasta – clams, olive oil, cheese, pepper (too much pepper but was still satisfying)   3) Braised Lamb Shank – a New Zealand Lamb Shank braised in red wine until tender, served with glazed Veggies, Buttermilk Whipped Potatoes & Lamb Jus.  The staff starts you off with crackers with herb butter and then a bread basket.  The bread is served with a plate of oil and vinegar and coarse salt on the side which is always appreciated.  The Washington Apple cocktail and bottle of Five Star Cellars Merlot rounded out the meal – and definitely recommended.  http://www.nellthorn.com/

Calico Cupboard Cafe – Hefty portions, homestyle food.  Boasts bakery items all day.  Breakfast included the Fisherman’s Breakfast and Breakfast Sampler.  http://www.calicocupboardcafe.com/laconner.cfm  A breakfast sandwich (sourdough bread, canadian bacon, one egg, and cheese…definitely satisfying) was had at La Conner Fruit and Produce Market – located on First Street as well.

LodgingHotel Planter – Hotel Planter is located right on First Street in downtown La Conner.  The original building was built in 1907, used for a variety of purposes throughout the years, remodeled and then re-opened in 1989.  The decor is a victorian style 12 room inn.  A sculpture garden is in back (as part of Earthenworks Gallery) and after hours, a hot tub is available for use from 6 pm – 10 pm.   I was originally concerned with the thin walls/doors, but the guests were considerate, so I found that it was a relaxing experience.  Good service, enjoyed the ceiling fan and it was nice that extra pillows and towels were available.  http://hotelplanter.com/

Pictures were taken of hay bales and other while on a road trip to Deception Pass (see post).  On the way back, we stopped by the Berry Barn and purchased the best Marionberry pie EVER!  and gift for a friend.  The Berry Barn has a nice mixture of snacks, antiques, and country-inspired crafts.  Berry Barn offers whole pies and petite/half pies – strawberry-rhubarb, bumbleberry, apple, marionberry, and others.  All I can say is DELICIOUS!  It is certainly worth the trip no matter where you are coming from.  http://www.lingonberry.com/  We also stopped by the Prime Outlets in Burlington and Skagit Valley Produce.

Shopping around La Conner is also fun as a sampling is available.  I usually like to make a stop in the slightly upscale Go Outside.  Culture and local art can be found here…many galleries and specialty shops.  The Northwest Museum of Art is really a must-see – the museum is recommended, but just stopping my the Museum Store is well worth it.  http://www.museumofnwart.org/  It is open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day).  You will most certainly find a gift here!  I know I did.

Located at Smokey Point in Marysville, just off of I-5, exit 206, visit The Plant Farm.  It has a wide range of plants, herbs, shrubs, trees, and a variety of garden supplies to make your yard, deck, or property look just right whatever the season.  http://www.theplantfarm.com/  Join their Garden Club and be rewarded. Oh…and their hanging baskets – love ’em!!!

La Conner and Tulips

La Conner, WA is a good example of a Northwest spirited town.  At approximately an hour and a half from Seattle, it is a perfect trip for a romantic getaway, a shopping trip with friends, or your own private excursion. La Conner has a variety of specialty shops – clothing, art, kitchen, antiques, jewelry, a fabulous wine shop, and a variety of pubs and restaurants.

It’s a good day trip or you can make it an overnight stay. My favorite place for lodging is the Channel Lodge but have also had a good experience at the Heron Inn (and friend Julie liked the Watergrass Day Spa). Others have received good reviews as well.  http://www.laconnerlodging.com/

A couple weeks ago I enjoyed the best Soup of the Day at The Next Chapter bookstore and coffeehouse…an Adobe Chicken Chipolte Corn Chowder – fabulous! The Next Chapter bookstore is cozy and offers a nice variety of books, cards, and treats.

Also, I can’t say enough about Hellams Vineyard. This wine shop offers a great selection of wine (and beer). A bottle or glass can be purchased to enjoy out on the deck on the Swinomish Channel. Hellams also offers specialty cheese and meat plates and other wine pairing foods. A must see is the beautiful African hardwood tasting bar.  http://hellamsvineyard.com/

Other experiences include the La Conner Brewing Company, Palmers, Seed’s Bistro & Bar, Nell Thorn Pub, and the Cascade Candy Company (hard to pass up a scoop of Moose Tracks ice cream…a once a year treat). I still haven’t tried the Calico Old Town Cafe & Bakery but see that there is often a wait (the location in Mount Vernon is really good).

Meandering through the tulip fields is a must-do event while visiting the Skagit Valley during late March through April.  A stop at Christianson’s Nursery is always enjoyed and certain times during the festival, the Stanwood Camano Arts Guild show art in the old schoolhouse located on the property.  I purchased a number of note cards.  A stop was made at the Country at Heart Gift Shop  for my favorite…Marionberry pie.  So many other events and activities to explore.  http://www.tulipfestival.org/

To finish the day, my husband and I saw a local production of Back to the 80’s at McIntyre Hall Performing Arts Center…a very nice venue for a show.  Other performances are booked year-round.  http://www.mcintyrehall.org/

P.S. The picture being used as the header for this blog currently is that of the Channel Lodge, taken from the deck outside of Hellams Vineyard