Tag Archives: Washington State

Signs, Signs, Wherefore Art Thou?

I rarely speak derogatorily about my state, but what is the deal with not having signs so people can find area attractions?

 

Besides directional signs to attractions, the powers that be let the bushes and greenery grow over speed limit signs and stop signs so they are completely hidden. The better to give you tickets, I guess.

Yet when I drive south to Oregon, their signs are designed with very large fonts and easily visible – not hiding behind bushes.

My latest sign fiasco was last week when I needed to find a wildlife refuge in Ridgefield, Washington. People told me it was huge. Still I couldn’t find it. One sign embellished the highway and told me where to exit. After the exit, I had four choices of roads, but that was the end of the signs. I tried driving a couple miles down each of my choices and tried the web site directions and the GPS on my phone. Still didn’t find the refuge.

I think the people who host garage or yard sales should be in charge of our signs. They have signs everywhere and certainly know how to direct people to their yards so they can spend money.

 

How is the signage in your state? Any suggestions on how to get Washington to come to the sign party?

Flower photos for your viewing pleasure because I couldn’t find those gosh darn signs.

Crystal Mountain Gondola Ride: A Slice of Paradise

Our friends, Dan and Cheryl with Mount Rainier in the background

This past Saturday evening I experienced the true meaning of breathtaking. After riding up 2,500 vertical feet in the brand new gondola at Crystal Mountain, you’re as up close and personal with Mount Rainier as you’ll ever get without climbing her. It’s only 12 miles away here, but looks much closer. Since you’ve already climbed some while driving up to the resort, now you’re at 6,872 feet. You can feel the crisp chill she sheds off her slopes even on an 80 degree day.

At the top you can hike, sit in the chairs provided and just marvel at Mother Nature’s creations, picnic or dine at the Summit House. Since it only seats 65, and word has gotten out about this must-do activity, the dinners, which are served on Fridays and Saturdays, have been sold out through the end of the season. Sunday brunch and lunches should still be an option, though.

Scrumptious lemon cake

The food served is world class and dinner at the highest restaurant in Washington State should definitely be on your bucket list. Try the lemon cake dessert and the halibut – I recommend both.

Guess what? Dogs are welcome on the gondola and love to hike and chase squirrels at the top. For more ideas on what to do on Crystal, log onto Visit Rainier or Crystal Mountain Resort.

The gondola will run daily through Sept. 11 and then switch to Saturday-Sunday only through Oct. 2. Then it closes until ski season begins.

More Top Travel Trends for 2011: The Washington State Version

More of Thomas Stanley’s predictions and the Washington State destination that matches.

Train display at Freighthouse Square made completely out of Legos

  • Ride the Rails:  We have train travel covered here – from short 45-minute excursions to crossing the country on Amtrak – it’s all available for travelers in Washington State. My favorite short rides include a stop at the train museum and a jaunt from Snoqualmie to North Bend (www.trainmuseum.org) and the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad (www.mrsr.com) that departs from Mineral.

 

Longer excursions are available on Amtrak (Amtrak.com) going north/south or east/west. But the best news of all is Amtrak opened a new stop at the Icicle Station in the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth last year. Daily service is now available.

  • Experiential Family Travel:  A simple definition of experiential travel says it is travel we live through, instead of look at. That can mean dining where the locals eat like Downrigger’s in Friday Harbor (www.downriggerssanjuan.com) or drinking coffee at Undertown in Port Townsend. Staying at a Bed and Breakfast also qualifies. States Inn and Ranch (www.statesinn.com), also in Friday Harbor, ranks as one of my all time favorites. The locally cooked breakfast from scratch was so delectable, I couldn’t eat regular food for a week afterwards.

Hurricane Ridge, courtesy of the Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau

If you want an all-inclusive experience, try hiring a Native American Guide to tour the Olympic Peninsula (www.nativeamericanfootprints.com). Highlights of these tours include dining on salmon cooked the Indian way, which is by far the most delicious way of cooking salmon, speaking with the elders of the tribe and hearing their stories, making your own hand drum and much more. This tour has now taken a spot on my Bucket List.

  • Bucket List:  Just a few suggestions here – The Space Needle, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, snowshoeing, winery touring and The Museum of Flight.

 

  • Top Picks for 2011:  These are my choices. Whether they turn out to be trends or not, you can’t miss with visits to the San Juan Islands, Whidbey Island, Lake Chelan or taking the North Cascades Scenic Drive.

Top Travel Trends for 2011: The Washington State Version

Happy New Year to you all.

View of Mt. Rainier

Thomas Stanley, COO of Cox & Kings laid out his top predictions for the kinds of travel people want to take in Luxury Travel Magazine recently. Lo and behold, I discovered that every one of his trends can easily be experienced right here in Washington.

Here’s how:

  1. Travelers will be taking Multi-destination Vacations to basically get more bang for their buck or their time off. Since we have almost every kind of terrain from mountains to forests to desserts to the Pacific Ocean and you can easily drive from one to another in less than a day, this is ideal. One way to do this would be to start in Seattle (www.visitseattle.org) for city activities, drive to Mt. Rainier (www.visitrainier.com) and stay overnight and then go to Tri-Cities in eastern Washington (www.visittri-cities.com) to experience wine country.

 

  1. Group Tours will increase in popularity. I can easily recommend the eco-friendly Evergreen Escapes tours (www.evergreenescapes.com). This winter you can choose from the Woodinville Wine Trail, Olympic National Park, Mt. Rainier and more. Or tour Seattle by land and water with Ride the Ducks of Seattle (www.ridetheducksofseattle.com), a laugh-a-minute tour.

 

  1. Then there’s Contemporary Cultural Travel. We’ve got this one more than covered with the Seattle Art Museum (www.seattleartmuseum.org), the free Frye Art Museum (fryemuseum.org) in Seattle, Tacoma’s Art Museum (www.tacomaartmuseum.org) and Museum of Glass (www.museumofglass.org); and if you’re on the far side of the mountains take a gander at the Northwest Museum of Art and Culture (www.northwestmuseum.org) in Spokane.

 

  1. Resurgence of Tour Guides and Travel Agents. I don’t know any tour guides personally, but what about checking out some of the tours offering guidance via a CD at www.washingtonfolkarts.com. There’s Othello to Omak, Leavenworth to Maryhill, the Cascade Loop and several more.

 

  1. Learning Vacations rank high on the charts.  This February you can learn how to make cheese over a three-day period in Lynden (www.wsu.edu/creamery/basicplus.htm). Roadscholar.org (formerly Elderhostel) offers many learning opportunities for seniors including the study of  “Seabirds and Shorebirds of Coastal Washington in Port Townsend. We also have the Stonerose Interpretive Center (www.stonerosefossil.org) in Republic where you can dig your own fossils.

 

More to come on top travel trends for 2011.

Port Townsend for a Day or Three

An artisan latte from Undertown Coffee & Wine Bar

On a recent trip, Christina Pivarnik, the marketing director for the City of Port Townsend, showed three of us travel writers around and uncovered places I didn’t even know existed. Even though I’ve spent my entire life in Washington State, until recently I’ve not spent much time in Port Townsend. And it seems like every time I go there I find something new. It’s like uncovering treasures in your own backyard.

Secret Port Townsend

I seriously doubt that I would have ever found the Undertown Coffee & Wine Bar on my own. It’s, well, underground. When you discover the stairs to this coffee shop on Water Street, you’ll see the sign for it.

We walked through a tunnel underneath the street and sidewalk. Then you go through a tunnel until you find the door and while you’re enjoying the Stumptown Coffee they serve, you’ll forget that you’re below street level. The fresh pastries, baked on site in a small convection oven by the lady with a bow in here hair, are to die for.

The Clam Cannery lodging facility remains unmarked and inconspicuous when you drive by, but take a look at the rooms on their web site, www.clamcannery.com. Each suite offers an unobstructed view of Port Townsend Bay and they are pet-friendly. This is definitely a place I want to see from the inside.

Dining

I highly recommend T’s Restaurant, located on the waterfront. Tim, the chef, has worked at Spago’s and trained with Wolfgang Puck. T’s has been designated as a stop on the Olympic Culinary Loop.

Menu items include local Manila clams, a cheese plate featuring Mt. Townsend cheeses, fresh sea scallops, Black Angus Flat Iron Steak and my personal favorite, Ginger & Scallion Crusted Cape Cleare Wild King Salmon with artichoke hearts, roasted fennel and edamame succotash, garnished with a pomegranate port gastrique. My compliments to the chef.

Actually the food scene here gets rave reviews so the town prints a “Menu Guide” every year which you can pick up at the Visitor’s Center, 2437 East Sims Way or you can get the basics at www.ptguide.com/restaurants-and-dining.

My grandson recommends the crab shooters in Sambuca cream at Silverwater Café, 237 Taylor Street. For Italian fare, the locals like Lanza’s Ristorante, 1020 Lawrence Street.

For walking off some of those calories, request a room on the third floor of the Bishop Victoria Hotel – you’ll negotiate 44 fairly steep stairs getting to your room. An elevator is not an option. But the room décor as well as the common areas brings back the authentic Victorian era. The Bishop also allows dogs, gives you towels for them and has a stash of treats behind the desk.

For more information, visit:  www.ptguide.com or www.enjoypt.com.

Dog-Centered Events

This "stay" was a bit long for a dalmation.

We are all about dogs here in Washington State -lots of super-dog friendly hotels, off-leash parks galore and lots of places that let dogs inside. In addition, we celebrate dogs with fairs and festivals just for them.

Over the weekend I went to Dog Daze & Feline Fantasies in Kent Station shopping center in Kent. Way more canines than felines attended the event. Trainers, dog food companies and even the Missing Pet Partnership had booths and handed out information, treats or just let you get a dog fix by petting theirs if you didn’t bring one with you.

This dog was looking for the toy that his owner had touched.

 

Dogs paraded in costume and showed off their obedience, agility and scent-detection skills. Fun was had by all and visiting dogs went home tired, which is the best way to keep them well-behaved, by the way.

Even though Dog Daze has past, there are plenty more dog-centered events coming up in Western Washington. Perhaps you and your dog will find one here that’s perfect for you.

All events are subject to change or cancellation. I recommend calling first to confirm and making advance reservations whenever possible.

October 3:  Walk for Hope in Magnuson Park, Seattle.      http://tiny.cc/s7b7o

October 10:  Northwest Wiener Races, Puyallup. www.wienerraces.com

Volunteer Orientation for Missing Pet Partnership; find out how you can help find lost pets, Kent Senior Center. www.missingpetpartnership.org/seattle-events.php

October 23:  Woof Woof Walk in Spanaway Park, Spanaway. http://tiny.cc/8c3je

October 24:  Pug-o-War, Pugs in costume, Seattle. http://seattlepugs.com/events.html

Dawg Dash, Husky Stadium in Seattle. http://www.promotionevents.com/dawgdash/

November 13:  Toasts for Tales, Thurston County Fairgrounds.  www.concernforanimals.com

November 14:  Barksgiving at Dining Dog Café & Bakery in Edmonds. http://tiny.cc/9p9le

Wine and Dog Lovers Unite in Tri-Cities

A typical vineyard in the fall in Eastern Washington

So far on this blog, I’ve not taken you to Eastern Washington, which is the home of some of our most famous wines. A section of Eastern Washington shares the same latitude as the Burgundy and Bordeaux wine regions of France and averages two more hours of sunlight a day than California during prime grape growing season.

And lots of our wineries in the Tri-Cities area, which includes Richland, Kennewick and Pasco, plus some in nearby areas, love dogs almost as much as they love their wine. If you want to take man’s best friend along with you on a self-guided winery tour, you’ll both be rewarded.

Bung, the Wonder Dog, at Bonair Winery.

Bung, the Wonder Dog, hangs out at Bonair Winery in Zillah. While you’re outside enjoying wine and tapas by the duck pond, Bung will hop in an empty chair and appear to have a conversation with you. Although he’d like to sample your appetizers, he’s not at all forceful or aggressive about it.

He’ll gladly show your dog around, too. Bung’s likeness, although it was a previous Bung who lived at the winery for 12 years, appears on Bonair’s Bung Dog Red wine.

Dogs are often seen hanging out on the patio at Kiona Vineyards in Benton City. Located on Red Mountain, Kiona’s tasting room was named the Best in Washington State in 2009 by Seattle Magazine, probably because of the breathtaking panoramic view of the estate.

Aurora, a loveable shepherd mix, who graces the label on Sleeping Dog Wines’ Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, can also be found in Benton City welcoming all, both human and canine, to the Sleeping Dog Wines tasting room. Here the vineyards give pups a place to stretch their legs. Water and peanut butter treats are almost always on hand.

You’ll find Riley at Hightower Cellars, also in Benton City, where dogs are allowed to play off-leash outside or partake of the water bowl in the tasting room.

In Richland, Barnard Griffin Winery welcomes canines and also supports them through a partnership with the local Humane Society. Their 2009 Rose of Sangiovese just brought home its fifth gold medal in a row from the San Francisco Chronicle Competition.

I’m sure there are many more wineries that are dog-friendly as there are more than 160 wineries within a 50-mile radius of Tri-Cities. Just call and ask if you find one you’d like to visit.

For more information on what to do and see in the Tri-Cities area, head over to www.visittri-cities.com.

Ferry Around the Islands

From one ferry you see another, courtesy of the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

I love riding on a ferry. One of my past e-mail addresses was ferryprincess. I even have a collection of ferry boat memorabilia. My husband and I even got married on a Washington State Ferry.

This all stems from my childhood. When we went to visit my grandparents in Port Angeles, we took two different ferries because the Hood Canal Bridge hadn’t been built yet, so I associate those big vessels with the wonderful times grandparents show their grandchildren.

This past week-end we attended a Ukulele Fest on Vashon Island and I had the pleasure of riding the ferry from Pt. Defiance to Tahlequah. Although it was only a 15-minute crossing those fond memories quickly came back. My grandfather always had black licorice for me and Nehi soda.

Should you want to take advantage of one of the largest ferry systems in the world, here are some ideas of where you can go in Washington State.

With no traffic to worry about, visitors can leave their stress at the ferry dock, relax, enjoy a cup of coffee and scan the waterways for marine life during the length of the vessel’s cruise.

Although only 12 miles long, Vashon offers a wide variety of scenic countryside and outdoor activities like squid jigging (a method used to catch squid), clamming and beachcombing.

Also accessible by car-ferry from Vashon Island is Port Orchard, a city that celebrates the Kitsap Harbor Festival and a Seagull-Calling Festival.

Situated north of Vashon and just a short ferry crossing from Seattle is Bainbridge Island.  Anchored by Winslow, a quaint town filled with boutique gift shops and restaurants, this island also features 17-acre Fay Bainbridge State Park, a park ideal for camping and picnicking and the Bloedel Reserve, a beautiful 150-acre nature preserve and garden.

Two highways, 20 and 525, serve as the main roads on Whidbey Island. Rural historic areas rule most of Whidbey, with Oak Harbor offering more of a city feel. Langley, on the southern end of the island, captures spectacular views of Saratoga Passage and bountiful shopping opportunities. Coupeville lies in the north central portion and exudes small-town charm.

The Keystone ferry (reservations suggested) on Whidbey sails to Port Townsend, one of only three registered Victorian seaports. The town’s film festival held in September warrants a visit and who wouldn’t want to see where “An Officer and a Gentleman” was filmed.

Last, but definitely not least, the San Juan Islands are Washington’s northernmost islands and reachable by a ferry from the town of Anacortes. Travelers can also start their island journey here and work their way south. Filled with shops and galleries offering art made by locals, Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is known for its whale watching.

Just a short ferry hop from Friday Harbor is Orcas Island, a picturesque framework for Mount Constitution, the highest peak in the islands. While driving up the mountain, vistas include the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, the rest of the islands and the recreational opportunities below like kayaking, hiking and photography.

For Washington State Ferry information, visit:  www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries

Meet David Williams: He Has Visited Every City in Washington

David had his photo taken in front of the post office at every city in Washington he visited.

Although Washington’s scenery is splendid and our attractions can be awe-inspiring, when you get right down to what makes our state special, it’s the people who make our region spectacular. I recently heard about a gentleman who realized his goal of visiting every city in Washington State in a little over four years and wanted to hear more about how he accomplished this. David Williams, marketing analyst by day and Washington State explorer by night and on week-ends, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

 How did you strategize your travels in order to achieve your goal of visiting all 493 cities in four years?

David:  In order not to miss any cities, I spent several weeks studying road maps, zip code boundaries and Washington State’s incorporated cities table. In the end I decided that the best method would be to visit the cities county by county. I would pick a county, invite my friends or family members who were interested in going with me, make sure we had a place to spend the night, and then hit the road.

 What knowledge did you gain about Washington by visiting every city?

David:  Being a Washington State history buff, I have read many books on the subject and figured nothing would surprise me. Driving the highways and byways of Washington State gave me first-hand experience into the state’s natural regions. Understanding that Washington State is broken into five natural regions, it wasn’t until I physically immersed myself in them that I truly appreciated the beauty of Washington State.

 I also met people I wouldn’t have otherwise. In the small town of Starbuck (nothing to do with the coffee), in Columbia County, I met the Mayor. When I purchased some snacks from her at the general store, and asked a few questions she told me she was the Mayor. She also pointed out the highlights of the 143-resident town. You never know who you are going to meet when you take the time to talk to people.

 What city or town surprised you the most?

David:  Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. Before I started this project I’d never set foot on San Juan Island. Because Roche Harbor has a post office, I knew I had to visit that town. Roche Harbor is unlike any other place in Washington. Once a company town for the Tacoma and Roche Harbor Lime Company, which was run by John McMillin, Roche Harbor now has a mausoleum where the entire McMillin family is buried. After asking a few questions about the community, I decided I should spend the night and check things out. With a nineteen-acre art walk park, marina, general store, the Hotel de Haro, and a great seafood restaurant, I was quite surprised by how much I fell in love with Roche Harbor. I know it sounds like it, but I do not work for the Roche Harbor Tourism office.

 What town has the strangest name?

David:  Humptulips in Grays Harbor County. Even though it is a Native-American term meaning “chilly region,” it sounds strange when you say it.

How much time did you devote to this goal of visiting every city?

I gave myself five years (January 2001 to December 2005) to visit all of the cities on my list, but managed to complete the project in four years, eight months. At the end of the project, to say thank you to everyone that traveled with me, I had a lunch party and awards ceremony at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. Along with a video presentation, I gave personalized awards to all of my friends and family members who supported me on the project. At the lunch party I announced my decision to continue my project by creating a Phase Two (completed in June 2008) and a Phase Three; which I am currently involved with now. I have already decided to add a Phase Four which will start sometime in 2015.

To read more about David’s other projects, visit www.visiteverycityinwashingtonstate.com