Festivals & Events

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Love is in the air in Portland! With Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, there are a number of options for fun and romantic dates. However, Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only event on your radar this month, there is also Chinese New Year, which falls on February 19 and is the biggest Chinese holiday of the year. In addition, this month there several chances to whet your taste buds on the craft beer and cuisine Portland has become famous for with the variety of culinary festivals taking place from the middle to the end of the month. Whether you enjoy, food, the arts, the outdoors or all of the above, there are plenty February things to do in Portland.

Verbena. Creative Commons Licensed by Patty Myrick

Verbena. Creative Commons Licensed by Patty Myrick

Spend This Valentine’s Day Enjoying Everything Portland Has to Offer

There is nothing sweeter than spending Valentine’s Day weekend sampling Oregon’s world-class wines at Valentine’s Wine & Chocolate Weekend or beers at Zwickelmania. Or if you are up for something a bit more adventurous, take your friends or significant other on the at My Muddy Valentine 5k Mud Run that features tons of dirt and mud, obstacles, beer, food, hot showers, mimosas and music. Top the day or night off with a tasty dinner at one of Portland’s restaurants followed by theater, dancing or music. Whichever option you choose will certainly be a nice change of pace from the typical dinner and a movie.

Lan Su Garden. Creative Commons Licensed by M.O. Stevens

Lan Su Garden. Creative Commons Licensed by M.O. Stevens

The Fun and Festivities Continue All February Long

As mentioned previously, the fun does not end with Valentine’s Day on the 14th. Stop by Lan Su Garden, which was created by Chinese artisan’s from Portland’s sister city of Suzhou, for Chinese New Year. You will get experience cultural activities like “Rolling in the Wealth,” a traditional activity of rolling oranges and gold coins through Lan Su’s front door, which is thought to bring good fortune and prosperity. There will also be lion dances, performances and activities for kids, and calligraphy and martial arts demonstrations.

If you don’t get to sample enough tasty cuisine during Valentine’s Day or Chinese New Year, there are still opportunities to sample other fare before the month ends. There is the ever popular Newport Seafood & Wine Festival , a bright spot that many Northwesterner’s look forward to during the otherwise drizzly winter as well the Chowder Challenge, a fun blind-tasting competition that allows you to sample chowders from at least 12 restaurants. If you would rather listen to something sweet, you can enjoy over 80 different performances at the Portland Jazz Festival. After this concert, you definitely won’t be singing the Blues.

More February Things to Do in Portland

Tennis Pro

Tennis Pro

Last week we had the pleasure of meeting Seattle indie band Tennis Pro before they hopped on the Victoria Clipper to travel up to Victoria for a show at the Copper Owl. Before Tennis Pro left on their journey they explored our boat and I spoke with band members Sean Lowry (drums), Phillip Peterson (bass) and David Drury (guitar) about their music, their film Big in Japan as well as their future plans. Speaking of the future, if you want to see Tennis Pro yourself, you can fairly soon as Big in Japan will be playing at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) from February 20-26, with performances by the band on February 20 and 21.

Where are you from? How did you get into music? Had you recorded with other groups before forming Tennis Pro?

Sean: I’m a Western Washington native and I have been in Tennis Pro for 12 years. Phil and I played in some bands before Tennis Pro and I’ve always played music, I played music in elementary school, so I just kept doing it.

Phil: I’m a Northgate native, and I still live in Northgate in the same house. I have been doing music my whole life, I have played the cello since I was three and I’ve recorded with many, many other people locally and internationally. Nada Surf, Maroon 5, Pink, Owl City, as well as many local arts over a series of a couple of decades. Now Tennis Pro has been together for quite a while and we are continuing to make music.

David: I did grow up in Snohomish, but my family moved to California when I was a kid. I was a fan of one of the bands that these guys [Sean and Phil] were in and they had a guitarist that was leaving the band, so I made sure to get chance to jam with these guys, and instantly was the new thing after that. That was 12 years ago.

What are your musical inspirations for the sound of Tennis Pro

Phil: We get a lot of water here in Seattle, so I like to pretend that it is nice water that could be swam in or surfed in, so I think the environment, nature and definitely a coastal vibe [influence our music]. I like to influence other people’s music, I don’t usually like them to influence mine.

David: I think bands that we have liked to listen to and bands that people have liked to talk about when they talk about Tennis Pro are Weezer, the Pixies, Nirvana, They Might Be Giants and Fountains of Wayne.

Sean: Violent Femmes.

Phil: The Sonics are a local Seattle-Tacoma band. The Ventures and the Sonics I would say are a big influence.

David: So we like to have fun, and we like to play rock ‘n’ roll. Sometimes it is kind of surfy.

What song of yours are you most proud of?

David: I like “We Put the Punc in Punctuation.” I feel like that became sort of little of who we are and what we are about, so I’m proud of that.

Sean: I like a lot of our songs off of our last album “Shimokita is Dead?” because a lot of them were written and inspired by our touring of Japan. To me like the newest and coolest and kind of represents some of the funner times for us.

Phil: We have a song called “Dance Hit Number One,” which is about how much you want to dance to the song, so it is kind of like a funny, like dog chasing its own tail kind of concept.

Tennis Pro in the wheelhouse

Tennis Pro in the wheelhouse

Can you tell us a little bit about your movie, Big in Japan and what inspired you to make it?

Sean: I think we all felt like we wanted to go to Japan, I think we felt like maybe our music would resonate with the people in Japan better than here in Seattle. I think we had experienced a little bit of success locally and nationally our music always charted in the college charts but we had never really kind of broke out. I think we sort of hatched this desperate plan that if we could buy some plane tickets and get over there, maybe we could get them to notice us and have a camera on us. At probably 2009, Phil and I had done some very peripheral work with MTV for their web series, $5 Cover. On a drive to Portland to play a show, I was like “oh my god, we could get MTV to film us over there, unscripted trying to make it and everything.” Phil knew a producer and we told her the idea and really liked it, so she put me on the phone with MTV.

Phil: MTV gave us their blessing, saying to go forward with the project, and then we were able to procure John Jeffcoat, who did Outsourced, as our director. Then the MTV thing fell away as it was kind of seasonal a thing for MTV at the time anyway.

Sean: We pitched it to MTV as an unscripted reality series. So, when they walked away we were left with John Jeffcoat as a director and John was like “let’s make a movie” and we were like “okay” and that’s now it started. So it is a [scripted] narrative feature film. We advertise it as semi-fictitious, but it fairly closely follows reality. [However,] it is scripted so we are playing a caricature of ourselves.

Phil: With the exception of all of the music, which is real and not scripted per say.

Sean: All the musical performances in the movie are actual performance. In that way, it has a bit of a documentary element to it a little bit.

What part of creating the movie did you enjoy the most?

Sean: I think touring Japan, playing shows in Japan. I think, for me anyway, coming out of it with all our friends that we made over there and locally too. We made some friends for life, and I think all of us really miss being over there and miss all the people we got to know through this experience.

Phil: The culture of playing music in Japan is extremely attractive. All the bands, after the shows they all hang out. Here, everyone has their own gear and their own stuff so after the show you have to go find your vehicle, load out and sort of take care of your own thing. In Japan, everyone shares gear and most of it is owned by the club. So, after you have played your show, and shows tend to be a little an earlier too, then all the bands just go out and party out together. I think that was my favorite part, there is a lot of comradery that happened after the shows. You sort have all put your music out there and the crowd enjoyed it and just every night there is this sort of after party environment. There is something a little bit deeper having performed with these other bands than just an after party. There’s a connection there.

David: I think we fell in love with Japan and Tokyo more than maybe we thought we would and we felt like that was reciprocated, and our shows were really great and people really responded to the music. That was my favorite part was connecting on a bigger scale than we even thought that we were going to.

Phil tried his hand at captaining the vessel.

Phil tried his hand at captaining the vessel.

Do you have plans to go back to Japan or do more touring this year?

Sean: We don’t have immediate plans, but we are trying to procure distribution for the film right now in Japan. We have been in talks with some record labels in Japan as well, so if we were to get that record deal we have been talking about, then they would bring us over and hopefully that would be this year.

Phil: Short story, yes, we are working on it, but there is nothing definite yet.

Are you going to tour in the U.S.??

Sean: We have some potential management companies that might work with us, so if that happens, we would love to tour the U.S., or any country where we are well received. I think for us to just to plan our own tour in the U.S., you know geographically it is such a big space and so much of the time in the U.S. is spent driving between cities, it would have to be well planned and funded by people other than Tennis Pro.

Phil: It would have to be more of a professional type of tour, where the supply and the demand match each other. Not just going out, beating the streets and playing wherever, just hoping that something [would work out]. It would have to be something that was booked and seats sold.

David: We’ve all done our fair share of touring in vans and I think we decided we were going to do it a different way, which is spend a lot of time on the writing and the recording. That might be why we’re still together.

Phil: Not beating each other up in a van somewhere in Minnesota.

You guys have a show tonight up in Victoria, that’s why you’re here. Have you ever been up there before?

David: I lived in Canada for two years but I never went to Victoria, I was always in Vancouver.

Phil: I have been several times and I absolutely love it.

You guys have a show at the SIFF too right?

Sean: Starting February 20th for one week, Northwest Film Forum will be doing a theatrical run of Big in Japan. On Friday the 20th and Saturday the 21st, the film screens at 8:00PM and we will perform afterwards. The film can be seen from Friday to Thursday of that week. Hopefully the will extend the run, so it might play up to two weeks, but right now it is just guaranteed for a week.

Happy February! With Valentine’s Day, Family Day and Chinese New Year happening this month there are plenty of events to attend. Enjoy the great outdoors, or if it happens to be too rainy, a museum with your family. Treat your sweetheart to a special day or night on the town and then continue the fun until the end of the month with Chinese New Year’s celebrations. All of these February things to do in Vancouver are sure to help keep your calendar full during these last days of winter.

Spend Time with the People You Love

Tourism Vancouver Aerial. Credit Albert-Normandin

Tourism Vancouver Aerial. Credit Albert-Normandin

February is all about doing things for people you care about the most. The month kicks off with Family Day on February 9th. In honor of this statutory holiday, get out and do something fun with your whole family, after all, that is what the day is about. View the city from above with the Vancouver Aerial Flightseeing Tour or take a BC Ferry cruise on a scenic day trip from Vancouver to Victoria and explore The Butchart Gardens.

Likewise, many organizations like the Vancouver Aquarium, Vancouver Art Gallery and Grouse Mountain have discounted rates and special events throughout the day. Even the Vancouver Giants hockey team gets in on the action, with Telus Family special festivities as they take on the Seattle Thunderbirds (we are going to have a hard time choosing a side!). You can expect fun activities like face painting, clowns and more during the game, and a chance to play a street hockey game or get autographs from the players afterwards. Top the day off by stopping by the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival and get a creamy, rich, chocolaty beverage in unique flavor like coconut, Bailey’s or Oreo cookie to sip on.

Family Day is closely followed by Valentine’s Day, so it is a good time to start thinking about what you would like to do with your sweetie. Take them to Valentine’s Day at L’abattoir for a fancy three course dinner in the restaurant’s private dining room or romantic lunch with the Vandusen Botanical Garden: Valentine’s Picnic. Besides splendid views, there will even be classic music playing.

Celebrate Spring Festival in Vancouver’s Chinatown

Lunarfest. Courtesy of Tourism Victoria

Lunarfest. Courtesy of Tourism Victoria

One of the things that draws many people to Vancouver is the vibrant Chinese community. As such, the celebration of Chinese New Year is a significant event and the city of Vancouver will be going all out for the Year of the Sheep. Many of the festivities take place in or around Chinatown, which is one of the largest in North America with plenty of options for shopping, dining and entertainment. Make sure to visit Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, with its manicured grounds and ornate buildings, the garden is beautiful to explore and it is also hosting a special shadow puppet show and temple fair for the new year. You can also view an elaborate display of traditional scenes from China at the Chinese New Year Heritage Village or for check out the modern side of Chinese arts culture and cuisine at LunarFest.

In addition, the River Rock Theatre is featuring World Champion Lion Dance Show with an acrobatic team from Malaysia, Kung Fu demonstrations and of course the Lion Dance itself. There will also ne over $5,000 in prize giveaways, so if you are lucky you may even win a special gift to take home with you. Finish off your celebrations with the Chinese New Year Parade at Millennium Gate in Chinatown with thousands of performers.

More February Things to Do in Vancouver

February is the month for romance and celebration. Of course, this is not too surprising, as Valentine’s Day is the main holiday in February people tend to think of. However, Valentine’s Day does not have to be just a day for couples, it is a great time to do something nice for anyone in your life that you care for, whether that is your significant other, your friends, your siblings, your parents, your grandparents or even your pet. When it comes to treating your loved ones, the sky is the limit. Take them to a show or out to dinner, send flowers or a card or simply just give them a call to let them know you are thinking of them. Conversely, Valentine’s Day is not the only cause to celebrate this month. The Chinese New Year is a few short days later on February 19th and is another great opportunity to spend time with family and enjoy the variety of February things to do in Victoria.

Do Something Sweet for Your Sweetie

Rose. Credit Victoria Clipper.

Rose. Credit Victoria Clipper.

Voted as the third “Most Romantic North American City” by a USA Today Reader’s Choice Award contest in February 2014, Victoria is definitely a great destination for a Valentine’s Day getaway. To begin with, there are a number of romance and spa packages at Victoria hotels, allowing you and your sweetheart to get pampered with champagne, chocolates, breakfast, late checkouts and relaxing spa treatments. Besides fine accommodations, you can enjoy sumptuous, multi-course dinners at Church & State Wines and Merridale Ciderworks. Of course, you cannot forget dessert, especially on the day when chocolate is de rigueur. Make sure to stop by the Death by Chocolate Buffet at the Empress’ Bengal Lounge to delight your senses with the amazing chocolate confections created by their award-winning pastry team.

Finally, there activities available for all interests throughout Valentine’s Day weekend. Nature lovers can take a romantic stroll through The Butchart Gardens or take their romance on the water with Victoria Harbour Kayak Tour. The tour makes a couple of stops at popular landmarks along the way, so you may want make a date of the excursion and pack a picnic lunch or bring along your wallet to taste some of Victoria’s famous seafood. Likewise, those who enjoy the arts can listen to music from a variety of genres at the Valentine’s Special Traveling Roadshow or those with four legged friends can have their pooch join in on the Valentine’s Day fun by bringing him or her to the Valentine’s Day Dog Party, costumes for you and your pet are encouraged and there are opportunities to win prizes!

Spend Lunar New Year Exploring and Celebrating in Chinatown

Chinatown Gate. Credit Benjamin Madison.

Chinatown Gate. Credit Benjamin Madison.

Another big event happening this month is Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, which marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar Calendar and is a time to celebrate the new year and spend time with loved ones. As such, why not celebrate the Year of the Sheep in Victoria’s historic Chinatown, which is the oldest in Canada and second in age to San Francisco’s in North America. Make a weekend getaway out of your visit with the Victoria Overnight Chinese New Year Package, featuring a round trip Victoria Clipper cruise, accommodations at the Hotel Grand Pacific, a welcome gift upon your arrival at the hotel a special Chinese New Year afternoon tea service, featuring Asian inspired treats handmade by Chef Rick Choy and limited edition Chinese loose leaf teas.

Once you have settled in, explore Victoria’s Chinatown, which remains an active place and there are a several cultural events that have been planned to help ring in the new year as well as opportunities for shopping and dining. The Victoria Chinese Commerce Association kicks off the celebrations on February 11, with their special Gala Dinner and Live Auction, including a tasty dinner at Don Mee Seafood Restaurant, delightful auction items and fun. During the week of Chinese New Year, the Royal BC Museum will be offering three 30 minute guided spotlight tours of the Chinatown exhibit in their Modern History Gallery. Called “The Chinese Community in British Columbia,” the tours explore the contributions that the Chinese community has made to BC.

If you are into tea, you can learn even more about several of the Silk Road teas you enjoyed at Grand Hotel Pacific during the free Chinese Tea Ceremonies and tastings on February 21 and 22 at Silk Road’s Chinatown location. The Chinese New Year festivities culminate on February 22 with a parade, lion dance, Kung Fu and Tao demonstrations and dragon performances. However, before you leave Chinatown, you should also make sure to visit the famously narrow Fan Tan Alley and the “Gate of Harmonious Interest,” which was created in Victoria’s sister city of Suzhou, China.

More February Things to Do in Victoria

This February, Seattle is all about romance, food and events. If one of your goals for the year is to improve any aspect of your life, you are in luck as a variety of conferences come to Seattle this month, providing you with the opportunity to pick up the tools and knowledge for a variety of projects. Likewise, Valentine’s Day is coming up, making it a great time to take your sweetie or even your friends out for a night on the town to explore Seattle’s culinary and arts scene. Or enjoy tasty Asian food, dancing and fireworks as the Chinese New Year begins on February 19. With all the February things to do in Seattle, you are sure to find something that suits your fancy.

Visit Seattle to Learn Something New

Wights display garden. Courtesy of the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

Wight’s display garden. Courtesy of the Northwest Flower & Garden Show

Kicking off the series of events in town this month is the Seattle Boat Show, which features more than 1,000 recreational watercraft and is the largest boat show on the West Coast. In addition to boats indoors, there are a whole slew of boats afloat on South Lake Union, with a free shuttle running every 30 minutes to transport you between the two locations. However, there is more to do than simply admire your dream boat. There are more than 225 boating and fishing seminars so you can learn all about how to maintain, travel and have fun on your boat as well as the latest fishing and boating accessories to ensure you stay on trend.

The other popular show coming to town this month is the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. In honor of the show falling on Valentine’s Day weekend, this year’s theme is “Romance Blossoms,” and you are sure to fall in love with the thousands of flowers found in beautiful summer colors. Explore the impressive and creative Show Gardens (don’t forget to vote for your favorite) and check out the patio gardens created for small spaces in the City Living Exhibit. You can also learn to create stunning designs through a number of seminars at the show and then shop the 300 booths in the marketplace to bring home the supplies you need to do so. You are sure to leave blossoming with ideas for your next garden project. Don’t forget to bring a camera!

Enjoy Sweet Celebrations all Month Long

Valentine's Day Chocolates. Creative Commons Licensed by John Hritz.

Valentine’s Day Chocolates. Creative Commons Licensed by John Hritz

While being surrounded by flowers is a potentially romantic way to spend your Valentine’s Day, there are other options for date ideas around the city. Partake in the city’s outstanding culinary scene by taking your sweetie on either Savor Seattle’s Gourmet Food Tour where you will enjoy a progressive meal at Seattle’s best restaurants or their Chocolate Indulgence Tour to sample the city’s sweet side through desserts. For more chocolate, as well as brews and other savory snacks, head over to the 7th Annual Pike Chocofest.

After you fuel up, listen to the sweet sounds of the Northwest Symphony Orchestra at their special Valentine’s Day Concert. Or, if you would rather your date be on the lighter side, give the gift of laughter by taking them to the Comedy of Love, where you can enjoy stories about an awkward first kiss or outrageous wedding day.

Seattle Chinese New Year. Creative Commons Licensed by Joe Mabel.

Seattle Chinese New Year. Creative Commons Licensed by Joe Mabel

Not long after Valentine’s Day is the Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year Celebration, the most important festivity in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Ring in the Year of the Sheep by stopping by the Chinatown-International District for a parade, cultural activities (like calligraphy drawing and origami), Lion and Dragon dances, and fireworks. Many of the restaurants in the area will also be participating in the Annual Lunar New Year Food Walk, offering $2 tastes and a great opportunity to sample food from around the globe.

Finally, don’t forget to cheer on the city’s beloved Seattle Seahawks on February 1, as they take on the New England Patriots at Super Bowl 49. While the event is not actually in Seattle (it is being hosted in Glendale, Arizona) it is one of the biggest events happening for sports fans this year, drawing the community of Seattle together. Besides, if the Seahawks are lucky enough to claim another victory, the city will treated to a parade in the following weeks.

More February Things to Do in Seattle

Portland City Lights at Night. Credit: Brandon-Godfrey

Portland City Lights at Night. Credit: Brandon Godfrey

It is one week into 2015, and many of us are well on our way to setting goals and creating long term plans for the year. However, now that the holidays are over, this is often the time that the winter doldrums start to hit. The best way to combat these slower days is by taking advantage of this freer time to relax and check out events and activities taking place within no more than a couple of hours journey from you. Luckily, you are sure to find plenty of January things to do in Portland that will keep you busy well into the month.

Explore Portland’s Culinary Scene and Feast Throughout the Month

Truffle. Creative Commons Licensed by Moi-Meme

Truffle. Creative Commons Licensed by Moi-Meme

If you made it through the holiday season without getting tired of food, you can look forward to sampling even more tasty delicacies this month. In fact, if you schedule your activities right, you can practically have a three course meal. First, there is the Oregon Truffle Festival, where you can taste small plates created with Oregon black and white truffles accompanied by beer, wine and spirits. You can also go on a real truffle hunt, sample truffles and other artisan foods at the Oregon Truffle Marketplace or watch dogs compete to determine who is the best at sniffing out truffles. This event often sells out, so make sure to get your tickets soon. Next up is First Taste Oregon, which features some of the best culinary masters, winemakers, craft brewers and even artists. Most exhibitors will offer bites of their specialty food or drink for free and you can also purchase additional “tastes” at the event. With over 50 food and beverage vendors, you are sure to find something you love, and likely some food or art to take home.

The third culinary-related event of the month allows you to stray from the course of the traditional meal and eat dessert first! At ChocolateFest, you can sample local and international chocolates (there are over 60 vendors, so you are guaranteed a lot of chocolate to sample) and wine, view chocolate presentations and cooking demonstrations and gain in-person knowledge from chocolatiers about how their treats are created. Finally, a tour of Portland cuisine would not be complete without seafood. Stop by the 10th Annual Seafood and Wine Festival at the end of the month and enjoy fresh coastal seafood and other snacks. There will even be face painter and balloon artists for kids, making the event something your whole family will love.

Learn More About Arts and Animals

Rose City Classic. Creative Commons Licensed by Ron Armstrong

Rose City Classic. Creative Commons Licensed by Ron Armstrong

If you need a break from food, never fear, there are other events to keep you entertained. Animal lovers will delight in seeing their favorite dogs or cats on display at the Rose City Classic or the International Cat Show. The Rose City Classic is the biggest dog show in the West, with over 175 breeds, while the International Cat Show features over 250 cats, providing plenty of opportunities for furry cuddles. At the cat show you may even find a new friend to adopt and take home.

If you prefer the arts, you can enjoy some of the greatest musical works ever written during the Winter Festival of Chamber Music. This week long festival will provide you with five amazing performances throughout the week, covering works created by musicians such as Beethoven, Bartok, Schumann and Stravinsky. Similarly, you can geek out at the Wizard World Portland Comic Con. Expect to see a variety of specials guests from popular TV shows such as Game of Thrones, Burn Notice, The Walking Dead and more! With a variety of January things to do in Portland, you certainly will not be bored. Before you know it, the only blues you will be facing will be the sunny blue skies.

More January 2015 Things to do in Portland

Happy New Year! As we begin 2015 it is time to work on creating those New Year’s resolutions. While you may dread this activity, making a to-do list for the year is not all bad as it often does inspire you to tackle that project or trip that you have not gotten around to doing. If one of your goals for the year is to get out and travel more, there is no better place to do so than Vancouver, BC and no time better than the present to get started. Throughout the month of January there are a variety of fun events that will allow you to explore either the culinary and artistic sides (or perhaps a mix of both) of Vancouver, as well as learn about the city’s history. Start 2015 off on the right track and begin exploring the city.

Kick Off 2015 with Food, Art, Adventure and Fun

Canadian Coast Guard Diver In Pacific Canada. Courtesy of Vancouver Aquarium.

Canadian Coast Guard Diver In Pacific Canada. Courtesy of Vancouver Aquarium

Although the year has just begun, there are enough January 2015 things to do in Vancouver to please every type of enthusiast, from foodies to history buffs. If you are an adventurist who enjoys exploring our oceans locally or worldwide, you will enjoy the 16th annual Diver’s Weekend at the Vancouver Aquarium. This exhibit will feature diving demonstrations, displays created by diving clubs and organizations, talks and fun activities for kids. Of course, you don’t have to be a driver to appreciate this exhibit, it is great for people who are considering getting into diving or who are just interested in learning more about the topic.

Dine Out Vancouver Festival. Courtesy of Tourism Vancouver.

Dine Out Vancouver Festival. Courtesy of Tourism Vancouver

Foodies will relish the variety of food and beverage options available to them during Dine Out Vancouver Festival. Dine Out Vancouver is the largest culinary festival in all of Canada, and provides a multitude of ways to enjoy the flavors of the city. Over 250 restaurants around town offer three (or more) course prix-fix meals at reduced rates, so you have the ability to check out some of the hottest new restaurants. However, the opportunities to tickle your taste buds do not end there. Over the course of the 17 day festival you can attend culinary and cocktail tours, cooking classes, dinner and film pairings, debates, guest lectures, BC wine and craft beer tastings, street food markets and more! While you are out exploring the local food scene, make sure to check out some of the other fantastic events in town. One great option is the PuSh International Performing Art Festival, which celebrates the performing arts. During the PuSh Festival you can watch acts of all kinds, including magic shows, dance, theater and even acrobatics. With these two festivals occurring nearly simultaneously, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect date night or girls or guys night out.

Le Grand Continental® at the PuSh Festival. Credit: Robert Torres

Le Grand Continental® at the PuSh Festival. Credit: Robert Torres

Discover the History of Vancouver

Musqueam Happy Face Carving. Courtesy of Museum of Vancouver

Musqueam Happy Face Carving. Courtesy of Museum of Vancouver

With all the culture-filled events taking place in Vancouver this month, it is a great time to take a moment to celebrate the people of the Musqueam First Nation, who have helped shape the City of Vancouver. Together, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), the Museum Vancouver (MOV) and the Musqueam First Nation have collaborated to develop a series of three exhibits, called the “c̓əsnaʔəm, the city before the city”, which explores one of the largest ancient villages and burial sites, c̓əsnaʔəm (also known as the Marpole Midden), and how its ongoing significance to the Musqueam people has influenced Vancouver’s culture. These exhibits also provide a more in-depth look at the knowledge, culture and history of the Musqueam community that has often been overlooked in the past. The hope is that through this exhibit, locals and visitors alike will discover and reflect upon the history of Vancouver. As such, if you do not know the full the background of this wonderful city, the new year provides the perfect opportunity to learn.

Now that the December holidays are mostly over, it is time to start preparing for 2015. One of the best parts of the upcoming new year is the chance to begin again with a fresh start. As such, why not get out, explore and try something new? Instead of merely putting up with cooler weather, embrace it and do something fun involving the outdoors or perhaps even the snow. Or if you really are dreaming of traveling somewhere new, start planning your vacation now to ensure you accomplish your travel goals this year. After all, there is no time like the present!

Enjoy Frosty Fun in the New Year

Polar Bear Plunge. Creative Commons Licensed by Joe Mabel

Polar Bear Plunge. Creative Commons Licensed by Joe Mabel

If you really want to start the year off with bang, take part in a Seattle New Year’s tradition of braving the frigid waters of Lake Washington off of Matthews Beach Park for the Polar Bear Plunge on January 1. Not only is the plunge fun, as participants are encouraged to come dressed in festive costumes, but it is also a great way to wash off the past year so you can begin the new year renewed and rejuvenated.

The frosty fun continues throughout the month of January with the Bavarian Icefest in Leavenworth. Throughout the festival the town is still all decked out in lights, so if you didn’t get to see the town lit up during the holidays this is your chance. During Icefest you can also compete (or just watch) in the snow sculpture contest or show off you skiing and snowboarding skills in the Rail Jam hosted by Stevens Pass. In addition, there will be opportunities to ride on either a dog sled or (if you are feeling more adventurous) on a sled pulled by a snowmobile, live ice carving, a chili crawl and fireworks to cap off the event on Sunday evening. If you don’t get your fill of beer while you are in Leavenworth, make sure to check out Belgianfest on Seattle’s waterfront. You will get to learn about another European culture, Belgium, and sample over 80 beers crafted by Washington state. Thus, you can learn something new, while going local at the same time, that’s definitely a win-win.

Explore Your Adventurous Side and Try Something New

The Seattle Boat Show

The Seattle Boat Show

Since the new year is all about transforming yourself, get inspired by watching a show with the same theme. In “KURIOUS – Cabinet of Curiosities” from Cirque du Soleil, you will be transported to world that disorients your senses and challenges your perceptions as a determined inventor tries to reinvent everything around him. As a result, you will get to view a number of stunning curiosity and acrobatic acts that will leave you wondering what is real and what is just your imagination. Speaking of imagining things, if you are like a lot of people, the cooler winter months may have you dreaming of sailing away to warmer climes. However, turning those dreams into reality may be easier than you think. At the Seattle Boat Show there are more than 1,000 recreational watercraft to explore as well as a variety of seminars that will teach you all about owning, maintaining and traveling with watercraft. You may be sailing off to explore new waters before you know it!

More January 2015 Things to Do in Seattle

The past year has been wonderful, but now it is time to look forward to and celebrate all the opportunities that 2015 will bring. Ring in the new year at one of many New Year’s Eve parties in downtown Victoria or spend your post-holiday downtime by getting out and exploring local museums or festivals. However you choose to end 2014, make sure to do something that allows you to rejuvenate so you can take full advantage of the new year.

The Empress at Twilight. Credit: Anne McKinnell

The Empress at Twilight. Credit: Anne McKinnell

Toast to the New Year in Parties Around Town

If you want to go out on the town for New Year’s Eve, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate. Sip on only the finest brews and cocktails at the Lighthouse Brewery’s “Happy Brew Year” extravaganza. In addition to sweet drinks, you will also be treated to dessert bites, savory treats and a tour of the brewery conducted by the resident brewmaster. There is also the option of dancing the night away at four of the hottest clubs and parties during the Victoria NYE Club Crawl or rocking through the ages at the Decades of Rock New Year’s Celebration featuring music of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

If you are looking for a swanky affair, consider attending either The Empress’ New Year’s Eve Gala Buffet or The Empress Room New Year’s Eve Dinner and then spend the rest of the evening dancing.

If you are not partied out after your night out, you can continue the celebration on New Year’s Day. The Inn at Laurel Point is hosting a Morning After Brunch so you can get your day off to a great (and tasty) a start. Then, spend the rest of the day relaxing with music, song and dance as the Victoria Symphony presents a Viennese New Year’s.

Whisky Tasting. Creative Commons Licensed by Paul Joseph.

Whisky Tasting. Creative Commons Licensed by Paul Joseph.

Discover Another Side of Victoria with Cozy Indoor Activities

January may not be one of the sunniest months in Victoria, but there are still plenty of fun things to do can that can be done indoors. For instance, from January 15 to March 15, the former family residence at The Butchart Gardens is opened up for visitors to explore and see how the family lived. You’ll be able to walk through a few of the rooms and view original furnishings, letters, photographs and memorabilia the Butchart family collected.

If you prefer wildlife over plant life, make sure to check out the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 exhibit at the Royal BC Museum. More than 42,000 stunning, award-wining photos from 96 countries are on display to remind us of the beauty and magnificence of the world we live in. Many of these photos are taken by some of the world’s most respected nature photographers and wildlife experts and are sure to take your breath away.

Finally, if you need another way to warm up on a blustery day, stop by the 10th Annual Victoria Whisky Festival at the Hotel Grand Pacific. In addition to getting to sample some of the best whisky around at the Consumer Tasting, you can attend classes taught by leaders in the industry, enjoy a dinner that combines great food with exceptional single malts and even learn how to pair whisky and chocolate.

More January 2015 Things to Do in Victoria

When it comes to the holidays, nothing is more festive than the beautiful light displays. Some of my fondest memories involve watching the Macy’s star light up in downtown Seattle, walking around parks and zoos to see their light displays and driving around local neighborhoods taking in the lights. Most Christmas tree and town lightings are over before the holiday season, but there are still plenty of light displays open around the area. Likewise, now is the perfect time to explore local neighborhoods for lights as people have had time to put up their decorations. Some houses are decorated so elaborately you would think they have been done by professionals. Here is our list of the best places to get your holiday light fix for 2014, whether you want to see some of the more popular displays or avoid the crowds by checking out some secret hot spots that are off the beaten path.

Holiday lights at Pike Place Market

Holiday lights at Pike Place Market

Seattle

With half a million colored lights shaped to flowers and critters, you will feel like you have entered a magical, sparkling forest or garden at Garden d’Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Garden. To view even more animals, there is also the ZooLights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, which features their famous green and purple tree as well as a new 15.5 foot Mount Rainier display and a 12th man Seahawk tree. Meanwhile, fans of traditional displays will love seeing lights, while also sampling some local brews, around the city of Seattle on the Holiday Brews and Bulbs Tour. They might also enjoy the Lights of Christmas at Warm Beach in Stanwood. In addition to millions of lights, there are enough activities (from live music to Washington state’s only talking Christmas tree) that you could spend a whole weekend exploring them.

While there are plenty of commercial displays in the Seattle area worth visiting, there are also a number of outstanding neighborhood displays that are completely free for your whole family to visit. The community on N.E. Park Road has been putting on Candy Cane Lane for six decades, which features 23 houses decked out in classic holiday decor that visitors can drive or walk through. The Zembruski family on the eastside also goes all out for Christmas, combining traditional and technical elements to create a Woodinville Wonderland in their own backyard. If you and your neighbors are still looking for inspiration for creating your own holiday displays, make sure to stop by Kirkland to see the ultimate sports fan’s display.

Christmas lights and snow in the Sunken Garden. Courtesy of The Bucthart Gardens

Christmas lights and snow in the Sunken Garden. Courtesy of The Bucthart Gardens

Victoria

As soon as you enter Victoria, you are greeted by the festive green and red lights decorating the Parliament Buildings downtown. However, Parliament are not the only ones who go all out for the holidays — a lot of neighborhoods do as well. If you plan on doing a driving tour of lights, make sure to stop by the communities of Saanich and the Saanich Peninsula, there is even a handy 2014 Christmas Lights Map created by the Times Colonist to help you find the best houses to visit.

Of course, the biggest, and likely the brightest, Christmas lights display in Victoria is at The Butchart Gardens during their Magic of Christmas season. All fifty acres of The Gardens are covered in dazzling lights and there are special “Twelve Days of Christmas” displays interspersed throughout. In fact, you may want to sing the song as you go along to make sure you find them all. Speaking of singing, there are also nightly carolers, an ice skating rink and free hot chocolate for kids under 12 years of age who bring a paper snowflake. If you want to skip driving this time around, The Butchart Gardens Holiday Lights Tour will take you and your friends or family up to gardens to see the lights, driving through many of the festively decorated towns along the way.

Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge. Courtesy of The Listel Hotel Vancouver

Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge. Courtesy of The Listel Hotel Vancouver

Vancouver

See two of Vancouver’s most of famous Christmas lights displays during one easy trip on the Karaoke Christmas Lights Tour. First you’ll visit the Bright Nights of Stanley Park where you can either walk or ride the Christmas train through the park’s grounds to discover of all of the displays filling the park. Second, you’ll stop at the VanDusen Festival of Lights, where you can watch dancing lights on Livingstone Lake, themed lights arrangements and more. While in town you might also want to check out the Carol Ships Parade of Lights, as lighted boats travel through Vancouver’s waterways. Likewise, there is also the Canyon Lights event at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, where the bridge (and the surrounding trees) is covered is glittering lights making it appear as though it is a strand of diamonds. Finally, don’t forget the Vancouver neighborhoods. Swing by the Trinity Street Christmas Lights Festival where residents compete with their neighbors to have the most decorated house, many of which would put the Griswolds to shame.

Decorated houses on Peacock Lane. Creative Commons Licensed by Visitor7

Decorated houses on Peacock Lane. Creative Commons Licensed by Visitor7

Portland

Hop on the Portland Christmas Tour to view the city’s houses and mansions at their finest. Visit Peacock Lane and enjoy a tradition that has been around since the 1920s. The owners of the Tudor houses go all out to cover them in lights and also create a variety of nativity and wintertime scenes on their yards. You will also stop by both Pittock and Victorian mansions, which have lights on the outside as well as on the inside in addition to rooms decorated in different themes. Next, enjoy lights, singing and peaceful reflection as the tour makes its way to the Christmas Lights at the Grotto, where there are five indoor concerts each night and outdoor caroling. Finally, take in the “largest holiday light show west of the Mississippi” with the Winter Wonderland at Portland Race Track. This drive through exhibit is fun for the whole family and features over 250 colorful lights arrangements and animated scenes, ensuring this attraction will end up on your list of places to visit during the holidays for years to come.

Although the Portland Christmas Tour does cover most of the popular light displays in Portland, it does miss a few. Animal lovers will want to make a trip to ZooLights to view holiday displays featuring both animatronic and live wildlife, while those who enjoy nautical activities may want to take a ride on of the lighted Christmas Ships (or watch from some place warm) as they travel up the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.

With so many fascinating and beautiful lights displays around the Pacific Northwest, you could easily spend days visiting them. However, if you want to discover more even more displays or seasonal activities happening in your part of town, check out our December Things to Do posts. Another option is to simply drive around and explore the lights in your town, you might be surprised how creative your neighbors can be.

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