Travel Northwest

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Although these past few days in the Northwest have been gloriously sunny and the flowers are already starting to bloom, there’s a chance there may be a few more winter-y days before it is officially springtime. Even if it does happen to be cold, gray and drizzly out (or all of the above) there are a variety of fun and interesting locations to explore around the Northwest. In fact, one of the best ways to beat those rainy day blues by heading to a nearby museum and learning something new!

Victoria

Robert Bateman Centre

Robert Bateman Centre

Robert Bateman Centre

If you love animals and nature, make sure to check out the Robert Bateman Centre, which features over 100 works of art created by this famous wildlife artist. In case this wasn’t enough of a reason to visit, the museum is offering free admission on Wednesday evenings from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in March as part of their Winter Wednesday program.

Royal British Museum

Discover the history of Victoria and British Columbia at the Royal British Museum by exploring the First People’s, Modern History and Natural History galleries. The most recent traveling exhibit, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014, runs until April and showcases award-winning images of nature taken by some of the world’s most respected photographers.

Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre

View the marine life of the Salish Sea at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. The Centre houses over 3,500 animals, such as fish, eels, octopuses, jelly fish, anemones, crabs and more! Besides getting to see these creatures up close and personal, you will also learn what you can do at home to protect local waters so these wonderful animals are here for generations to come.

Parliament Tours

Pay a visit to Victoria’s Parliament Buildings to learn about British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly and view the beautiful architecture and stained glass windows of the buildings. There are daily guided tour or you can explore on our own. With Parliament in session for much of March, April and May you may even have the chance to sit in on a meeting.

Seattle

Experience Music Project

Experience Music Project

Experience Music Project (EMP)

Indulge in everything music, the history, the culture and play around with the instruments themselves in this eye-catching museum. In addition to music, the Experience Music Project often features special pop culture showcases such as the We are 12 featuring Seahawks memorabilia or the Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic that includes costumes and props from movies and shows like The Princess Bride, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter.

Boeing Future of Flight Tour and Museum of Flight

Explore where many of the planes you travel on are assembled, manufactured and flight tested on the Boeing Future of Flight Tour in Everett. You can then travel down to the Museum of Flight in South Seattle to see the finished product, as the Museum has more than 150 air and spacecraft related artifacts.

Chihuly Garden of Glass and Museum of Glass

Visit what seems like a different world entirely at to the Chihuly Garden of Glass, which is filled with local artist Dale Chihuly’s beautiful glass sculptures. You can also head down to Tacoma to see more of Chihuly’s work, exhibitions and collections by other artists and watch live glassmaking in the Hot Shop.

Seattle Pinball Museum

Pinball wizards rejoice! The Seattle Pinball Museum features over 30 different pinball machines that were created as early as 1930 and as recently as 2010. Of course, the best part is that for a flat fee you can play on all of them for as long as you want!

Seattle Aquarium

One of the city’s much loved attractions for visitors of all ages, the Seattle Aquarium has a variety of Puget Sound animals on display, such as tide pool life, octopuses, sharks, fish and marine mammals and shore birds. You will also get a chance to experience sea life you might not normally see from the tropical Pacific.

Vancouver

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium

A trip to Vancouver is not complete without a visit to the Vancouver Aquarium, which is the largest in Canada and one of the five largest in North America. In addition to viewing impressive displays of jelly fish, local and exotic fish, and even reptiles and amphibians, you can check out live shows featuring beluga whales, dolphins and sea lions.

Vancouver Maritime Museum

Designed to educate people about the maritime history of the Pacific Northwest and the Arctic, the main exhibit in the Vancouver Maritime Museum is the St. Roch a historic arctic exploration vessel. However, the Museum also houses extensive galleries of model ships and maritime art. Outdoors, visitors can look on as craftsman build model boats.

Science World

Find out everything you ever wanted to know related technology and science at Science World. The Museum’s many galleries offer hands on exhibits to educate you about the power of the human body, allow you to create experiments of your own, explore the wonders of nature, discover how to help establish a more sustainable future for all of us and more.

Vancouver Police Museum

Ever wonder what it is like to be a part of the police department? If so, make sure to pay a visit to the Vancouver Police Museum to see the city’s old police office, coroner’s courtroom, morgue and autopsy facilities, discover the history of Vancouver Police Department and learn about the science of policing.

HR Macmillan Space Centre

Explore space without even leaving the ground at the H.R. Macmillan Space Centre. Educate yourself all about the universe, our planets and space exploration and enjoy shows in the planetarium star theatre.

Portland

Pittock Mansion. Creative Commons Licensed by Chrismiceli

Pittock Mansion. Creative Commons Licensed by Chrismiceli

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

Ranked as one of the top science centers in the United States, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has five exhibit halls, eight hands-on science labs, the USS Blueback submarine, Kendall Planetarium and the Empirical Theater, providing people of all ages plenty of opportunities to learn.

Powell’s Books

Founded in 1971, Powell’s City of Books is one of the largest independent new and used bookstores in the world. The store covers about 68,000 square feet and has an inventory of over four million new, used, rare and out of print books. Rated by CNN as “one of the ten coolest bookstores in the world,” Powell’s is a must for anyone who reads.

Hat Museum

Immerse yourself in the world of hats at the Portland Hat Museum, which has over 1,000 hats that have been carefully chosen in styles of past eras. As such, visitors will get a lesson in history as well as in fashion. Make sure to contact the museum before you visit to arrange a private tour or you will not be able to get in.

Portland Art Museum

The oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest, the Portland Art Museum is well known for allocating most of its space to permanent exhibitions. As much, the Museum has an extensive collection of European and American art as well as galleries of English silver and graphic arts.

Pittock Mansion

Peek into the past at Pittock Mansion. Home to Portland pioneers Henry and Georgiana Pittock from 1914 to 1919, this mansion overlooking the city has an eclectic design and a rich history, making a must see for Northwest history buffs.

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.

Dusk at Paradise, Mt. Rainier. Credit Lauren Riker

Dusk at Paradise, Mt. Rainier. Credit Lauren Riker

Since the winter months are colder in many parts of the world, often necessitating finding indoor activities to enjoy, they provide the perfect opportunity to cozy up to a fireplace with a good book. Not sure what to read? Why not dive into some historical fiction to experience life through the lenses of the many communities in the Northwest or grab a non-fiction title to learn more about the background of your own town. Whether you are you dreaming of a Pacific Northwest getaway or want to learn more about your own “backyard.” You may even discover more fun and interesting, things to do in Victoria, Seattle and other cities throughout the region. Here are a few books to inspire you and get you in a Northwest state of mind.

1) The Good Rain by Timothy Egan:

A native of the Pacific Northwest himself, Timothy Egan dives deep into the history, culture, geography and flora and fauna of the region. He travels through Washington, Oregon and Victoria on Vancouver Island, exploring salmon fisheries, redwood forests, Okanagan Valley, the Columbia River and the volcanoes of the Cascades. The book contains an abundance of information and is great for lovers of the Pacific and newbies alike.

2) Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey:

Although “Sometimes a Great Notion” is purely fictional, the book provides a look at what life would be like as a logger in the 1950s working in a small lumber town on the Oregon coast. The book is incredibly well written and depicts the rainy season in Oregon perfectly, causing many critics to describe it as “the quintessential Northwest novel.”

3) Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer:

Nature lovers and adventures alike will be drawn into this book as Krakauer retraces the tragic journey of Christopher McCandless through the West in order to determine what caused the young man with such a bright future to give up everything. While Krakauer is unable to provide an answer about McCandless’s demise with absolute certainty, the book serves as an excellent example of what it is like to venture into the northern wilderness and is a good reminder about the power of nature.

4) Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle by Murray Morgan:

Ever wonder what Seattle was like before grunge, coffee, tech companies and professional sports put it on the map? “Skid Road” provides a narrative history of Seattle’s first 100 years. The book’s compilation of short stories discussing Seattle’s pioneers, towns, landmarks and community, gives you an informative and engaging look at how Seattle developed into the city it is today.

5) The Weather of the Pacific Northwest by Cliff Mass:

Not just for scientifically-oriented (although they are sure to geek out over the graphs and denser sections of this book) this book offers a breakdown of the weather in the Northwest that a layperson can understand. In it, popular radio commentator, blogger and University of Washington Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Mass explains how our geology effects the weather, includes history on sever weather events and even offers tips on how to predict the weather yourself.

6) The Jump Off Creek by Molly Gloss:

While some people may have learned how tough it was to survive as a pioneer playing the computer game “Oregon Trail” from the ‘70s to the ‘90s, this book provides a more in-depth look at what the experience would have been like if you were a women doing it on your own. Such is the story of the fictional Lydia Sanderson, a widow who sells everything in her home town of Pennsylvania to travel to Oregon and homestead on a mountain. Author Molly Gloss draws from pioneer diaries, journals and stories from her own family to exemplify the hard physical conditions and rituals of frontier life.

7) A History of Pacific Northwest Cuisine: Mastodons to Molecular Gastronomy by Marc Hinton:

Those of who live in the Pacific Northwest, and even those who do not, know one thing is for certain – our food Is delicious! Our lush landscape provides an array of tasty edibles from fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood and even wine and beer! In this book, Hinton studies the history of food in Washington and Oregon (from potlatches to five-star restaurants) and how it has shaped our meals today. Of course, there are also delicious recipes thrown in!

8) Natural Grace by William Dietrich:

When people often think of Seattle, Portland and the rest of the Pacific Northwest, they often think of city life and culture. However, animals and nature still play important roles in the Northwest life. Dietrich explores what we can learn from these plants and animals, and encourages others to do the same, in this collection of natural history essays adapted from articles he wrote for Pacific Northwest Magazine.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with one of our frequent Clipper ferry travelers, Liana Bugslag, who has made an impressive 35 round trip visits between Victoria and Seattle in the past year and a half. Liana explained much of the inspiration for her travel is to visit her university sweetheart and partner, Jessie, who she has been dating since her senior year at the University of Arkansas. Following graduation, and a year of living in Arkansas while Jessie finished his Master’s degree, Liana and Jessie made the trek up to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Liana moved back to her hometown of Victoria, BC and Jessie settled in Seattle, WA. Ever since Liana and Jessie have established themselves in their respective cities, the Victoria Clipper has been the gateway for their cross-border relationship.

Of course, all the trips have made Liana a bit of an expert on riding the Clipper ferry. Liana states, “As someone who is a frequent ‘Clipper-er’ and Commodore member, I have gained some valuable insight for travelers making the three-hour voyage.” Luckily, Liana was kind enough to share a few of her tips, so when you travel on the Victoria Clipper you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride and scenic views.

Have travel tips of your own? We love hearing your feedback. Whether it is your favorite restaurant, a trendy place to shop or secrets for exploring the Pacific Northwest, please share in the comments below. See you aboard soon!

Jessie and Liana

Jessie and Liana

Tips for Traveling on the Victoria Clipper Ferry

By Liana Bugslag

1) Reserve Early. You receive your boarding number based on when you made your reservation, not when you get to the ferry terminal. Book earlier to take advantage of a low boarding number, and lower fares!

2) Pick up your boarding pass prior to your trip. The Clipper Vacations allows you to pick up your boarding pass the entire week prior to your travel date. Not only will this save you significant time on your day of travel but it a will also allow you to avoid the line at the ticket counter (unless you need to check in luggage the day of).

3) Bring a sweater. Sometimes the temperatures in the Clipper ferry run a little cooler, to prevent people from getting overheated. Therefore, even in the summer, a small sweater will keep you comfortable. You can also borrow a blanket, if needed, from the Clipper’s service counter onboard.

4) Turn your phone off, or on to airplane mode, once on the ferry. Remember that you are crossing the border while still on the boat, so unless you have an international plan, you will likely be charged unexpected roaming costs if you are using your phone to browse the web or sending messages.

5) Sit near the back of the ferry to get off first. The ferry unloads from the back. If your goal is to get off as soon as possible, sit as close to the opposite back corner as you can. The Clipper ferry also unloads in two groups, first for people who don’t have checked luggage, and then for those who do have checked luggage, so keep this in mind if you have somewhere you need to be upon docking.

6) Talk with the people around you. I have met the most fascinating people from not only all over Canada, and the United States, but also from multiple areas around the world. You never know the story of the person who is sitting next to you! I have met everyone from a couple who was celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary, to a young couple from Australia traveling the west coast of North America. The Clipper ferry really does offer a great opportunity to learn about different cultures, as well as learn local favorite restaurants and activities in and around Victoria and Seattle.

In my experience, Clipper Vacations has been the most convenient, and pleasant way to travel between downtown Seattle, and downtown Victoria. With no unexpected lines at the border, smooth sailing and a knowledgeable staff, I highly recommend their service to anyone traveling or thinking about making a trip to visit our friendly neighbors across the border.

Don’t forget to enjoy the view!

In case you haven’t heard, there recently has been a resurgence in popularity of tea in the beverage industry. Most cafes are adding tea to their menus if it wasn’t featured before, and Starbucks has even gotten into the tea business by expanding the Teavana chain by opening up tea bars in several cities. Besides being a great way to warm up on cold winter days, grabbing a cup of tea with your friends, family and even kids is a cozy and fun activity you can start during the holidays. Not only does it give you a moment to relax, but it also provides you with time to catch up, exchange gifts and perhaps even visit Santa.

Victoria

Tea at The Fairmont Empress. Courtesy of The Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Tea at The Fairmont Empress. Courtesy of The Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

When it comes to tea, quaint Victoria, with its British-style charm, is one of the first places people think of going. One of the more popular options for tea is the afternoon tea at The Fairmont Empress, which is served year round. However, during the month of December, The Empress celebrates the holidays with their annual Festive Tea with special Christmastime themed food and tea. If you fall in love with the tea or the tea ware, you can pick some up in the Empress’ gift shop to take home with you.

Venus Sophia also hosts a holiday afternoon tea from November 28 to January 5. Here, you can sip on tasty tea and snack on holiday themed petit fours, star shaped scones, Christmas cookies and creative tea sandwiches while jazz and holiday music play in the background. To top it all off, the tea room is decorated with Christmas trees and elegant ornaments to provide a truly festive experience.

Seattle

Holiday Tea at Queen Mary Tea Room. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

Holiday Tea at Queen Mary Tea Room. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

If you can’t make it to Victoria for tea, the Queen Mary Tea Room in Ravenna will make you feel if as if you were there. The shop is accented with English bone china, delicate lace and rich wainscoting, and becomes even more festive with the addition of holiday decorations during Christmastime. On your table will find miniature Christmas trees as well as a bowl full of sparkling red, green and white sugar. Not to be out done by the decorations, there are over 80 different teas (and a wide variety of snacks) you can order from the menu, including a couple of limited edition teas are specially blended each for the holidays.

Travelers who are staying downtown during the holidays or even locals who need to take a break from shopping, should consider stopping for afternoon tea at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel. While the hotel serves afternoon tea year round, it is truly magical during the holiday season with the Christmas tree and gingerbread display in the lobby. Guests who are luckily enough to reserve a table on December 20 will even get to meet and take pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus when they stop by for a visit.

Vancouver

Festive Tea. Courtesy of The Urban Tea Merchant

Festive Tea. Courtesy of The Urban Tea Merchant

If you are looking to escape back to a simpler time, try visiting the cozy Secret Garden Tea Company for their December Holiday High Tea. This festive tea features sandwiches with holiday flavors such as turkey and cranberry, and cakes that are almost too cute to eat as they are topped with miniature Christmas trees and poinsettias.

The Festive Tea Service at The Urban Tea Merchant offers a slightly different take on the traditional holiday tea. In addition to having a variety of TWG Tea to choose from, you also get to sample several more helpings of tea during the meal itself. That’s right, all the sandwiches and sweets in this service are infused with tea for a special treat!

Portland

A nighttime view of the Heathman Hotel, Creative Commons Licensed by Visitor7

A nighttime view of the Heathman Hotel, Creative Commons Licensed by Visitor7

Celebrate the winter season with one of the older traditions in Portland, Holiday Tea at The Heathman. Relax in an elegant and wintery atmosphere while sipping teas from Fonte Coffee & Tea Co., and enjoying treats that combine Northwest and holiday flavors. If you have kids, they can partake in the Peter Rabbit Tea, which features Ants on a Log, snickerdoodle and a peanut butter and honey sandwich among other delicious sweets.

If your kids have penchant for flair, give them the opportunity to dress up in their holiday finest and take them to visit the Dollhouse Tea Room. Of course, this means you have to dress up too! This teahouse is typically open by reservation only, but is open to the public for select events. Fortunately, one of these occasions is coming up soon on Saturday, December 21 with the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” Christmas Storybook Tea. With pre-paid tickets, you and your kids can enjoy this classic tale and your tea at the same time.

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.

Apples and Apple Cider Creative Commons Licensed by Phongnguyen1410

Apples and Apple Cider Creative Commons Licensed by Phongnguyen1410

Around the Pacific Northwest, apple picking has become a popular October and November activity. In fact, apples have almost gotten as synonymous with fall as pumpkins, with a number of orchards in the area offering u-pick options and festivals. Instead of eating or baking all of these tasty apples, why not try drinking them? An interesting and fun alternative to craft beer, hard cider is increasing in popularity and is popping up all over around the Pacific Northwest. You can even order a dry hard cider off the Victoria Clipper on board menu. This tasty beverage is made with apples grown in Oregon and Washington, and produced by Square Mile Cider Co in Portland. Eager to taste other local brews? Why not visit some of these cideries in person and relax with a new drink or two, or even a sampler, in front of cozy fireplace and soak in the ambiance? To make your search easier, we thought we would help narrow down the selection by providing some of our top choices in each city.

Seattle

Seattle Cider Company

In the state known for its wonderful apples, cideries are surprisingly rare in Seattle. Perhaps it is because Seattle is one of America’s best beer cities, and it can be challenging to compete with fun activities like the Seattle Brews & Views Tour. Or maybe, it is because we would rather eat our apples than drink them, even though are they are mighty good either way. Luckily,Seattle Cider Co remedied this problem last year by opening the Woods tasting room, which serves two ciders year around and four to six seasonal and specialty handcrafted ciders. Be advised that at this cidery the focus is mainly on the cider so don’t expect to find much food, but you are welcome to bring your own.

Schilling & Company

Recently joining the Seattle cider scene is Schilling & Company. While the company has been brewing cider for a few years, they just opened their first cider house, located in Fremont, in September 2014. Future plans for the cider house include educational events and tasting sessions as well as cider making classes, so guests can become well-versed in the cider producing process.

Pacific Northwest Cideries

Mixed Apples for Cider Pressing Creative Commons Licensed by Anne Dirkse

Victoria

Merridale Ciderworks

If you love cider, Merridale Ciderworks is the place for you. All seven of Merridale’s ciders are produced right there in Victoria, so while you are at Merridale you can see and learn about every step involved in the cider making process. Tour the neighboring orchards where the apples are grown, see the cidery where the cider is pressed, fermented and bottled, and of course, sample a few of these delicious beverages at the Ciderbar when your tour is over.

Sea Cider

A farm-based cidery, Sea Cider grows their cider apples right next to their ciderhouse on the 10 acre property. When you visit, make sure to check out the orchard, which contains over 1,000 trees that produce over 60 varietals of cider apples. After your tour, grab a snack and enjoy a short (three samples) or long (all current ciders, which is at least nine, plus featured cocktails) flight of cider while enjoying the view of the water.

Portland

Portland Cider Company

The story of Portland Cider Company is similar to that of many other cideries. Frustrated by the quality of commercial ciders, founders Jeff and Lynda Parrish decided to start producing their own cider made from Northwest apples. In their taproom you can taste flights of all their widely available ciders, as well as sample a couple of unreleased and limited availability ciders them before they hit the stands. Portland Cider Company has a variety of unique and flavorful brews, and even a pear cider, so it is definitely worth stopping by.

Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider

What began as a project to help rid a friend of excess apples by making them in to cider, quickly turned into the company now known as Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider. The story goes that once Rev. Nat started making cider, he realized he really enjoyed the process, practiced his brewing technique and became popular enough to open his own taproom. Stop by to experience Rev. Nat’s creative and tasty flavor combinations. You may even get to sample a taproom-only special that never leaves the building.

This time of year haunted houses, pumpkin festivals and every other type of Halloween festivity you can imagine abound. However, if you want to give yourself a real scare this October, try visiting one of the many old buildings, parks and cemeteries in Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver or Portland. All of these cities have a rich history and many of the popular attractions in these towns are rumored to be some of the haunted places in the Pacific Northwest. Don’t believe in ghost stories? You’ll just have to check out these locations yourself. A few of our tours, such as the Haunted Victoria Tour and the Haunted Halloween Trolley Tour in Vancouver, stop at a some of these spots and the other areas mentioned are also centrally located so you can easily add them on to create a tour of your own. Even if you aren’t spooked, you may learn some new facts and history about your city.

Seattle

West Seattle High School Creative Commons Licensed by Joe Mabel

West Seattle High School Creative Commons Licensed by Joe Mabel

Pike Place Market

The Market is one of Seattle’s busiest attractions. Visitors travel from far and wide to see the teamwork of the fishmongers as they toss fish to patrons or grab a coffee at the original Starbucks. However, CBS Seattle explains that long before these establishments were created, the land belonged to the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes and were used as a burial ancient burial ground. As result, ghostly apparitions are often seen in the lower market.

Harvard Exit Theatre

Built in 1925, the Harvard Exit Theatre was originally used as a meeting place for the Women’s Century Club. Apparently, a few of these ladies still attempt to attend meetings, as a shadowy person can sometimes be seen haunting the lobby. On the third floor women dressed in flapper’s clothing can often be seen and heard laughing.

West Seattle High School

Rumor has it that one of the school’s former students, Rose Higginbotham, who died at the school in 1924 now haunts its halls. People also often catch glimpses of Rose and other former students at the nearby Hiawatha Playfield.

Victoria, BC

The Parliament at Night. Credit: Darius Wong

The Parliament at Night. Credit: Darius Wong

The Maritime Museum of BC

According to the organizers of the Ghosts of Victoria Festival, the Maritime Museum is the most haunted location in all of Western Canada. The Museum is built on the site of the city’s first gallows, and many men who were hanged there still lie buried beneath the building and still haunt it is halls. In addition, the “hanging judge” Matthew Baillie Begbie is said to still “hold court” over his old chambers on the third floor.

Parliament Buildings

The Parliament buildings have long been haunted by many ghosts, but the most famous of them all is the man who designed the buildings (and several others throughout Victoria, such as the Empress Hotel), Francis Mawson Rattenbury. Francis was bludgeoned to death by his wife’s lover, who was also his own chauffeur, and then buried in an unmarked grave. According to local superstition, Rattenbury now roams the buildings in order to seek the recognition he deserves.

Roger’s Chocolates

If you think ghosts stay away from “sweet” locations, then you would be mistaken. Not only is this shop a National Historic site, and oldest and most famous chocolate shop in Victoria, but it is also haunted. Founders Charles and Leah Rogers used to sleep in the kitchen of the store, and their spirits have never left. There have also been claims of a mysterious handprint that has shown up repeatedly in the store.

Vancouver, BC

The Vogue Theatre Creative Commons Licensed by Joe Mabel

The Vogue Theatre Creative Commons Licensed by Joe Mabel

Mountain View Cemetery

If you are looking for ghosts, a cemetery is certainly a good place to find them. The occupants of the gravesites at Mountain View are particularly tragic, as a number of them were unfortunate to be part of some of the worst disasters in Vancouver’s history. These accidents include the 1909 Lakeview BCER streetcar wreck, 1910 Rogers Pass slide disaster and the 1918 sinking of the SS Princess Sophia. With 108 victims buried in this cemetery from these catastrophes alone, you are sure to find a ghost or two bemoaning their untimely departure.

University Boulevard at UBC

As with Mountain View Cemetery, tragedy caused this UBC street to become haunted. The Postmedia News states that during the 1960’s, a couple got into an argument while driving to the campus library. The woman got out of the car to walk, and was hit by another car and killed. The young woman has been haunting the road ever since, asking young men for rides, handing them a piece of paper with library’s address on it and then disappearing.

The Vogue Theatre

The ghosts at Granville’s Vogue Theatre are more spiteful than spooky. One ghost can be heard walking around the downstairs dressing room, and surprising people by opening doors. The other ghost often appears in the seating area, dressed for the evening’s performance in a suit and tie.

Portland

The Shanghai Tunnels Creative Commons Licensed by Unknown

The Shanghai Tunnels Creative Commons Licensed by Unknown

The Shanghai Tunnels

These tunnels run underneath Old Town/Chinatown to the central downtown area of Portland. The tunnels connect the basements of a number of downtown hotels and bars, and were passages for many unsavory characters over the years. As a result, it is said that people who died in the Shanghai tunnels haunt them to this day.

The Roseland Theater

Named the “Best Haunted Venue” by Willamette Week, the theatre is haunted by publicity agent, Timothy Moreau. Moreau was killed by his boss Larry Hurwitz in 1990 after confronting Hurwitz about a counterfeit-ticket scam, but his body wasn’t discovered in the Columbia River Gorge until 2000. The building has been haunted ever since.

Cathedral Park

This popular park is said to be haunted by 15 year old Thelma Taylor, who was abducted and held captive under St. Johns Bridge before being killed in August 1949. Locals have told KOIN6 that Taylor haunts the park and that every summer they still hear her screams for help.

The Victoria Flower Count ended with a tally of 1,392,393,203 blooms for 2014! Every year, The Butchart Gardens and Tourism Victoria team up with Victoria residents to count how many blooms are in their community. This year, the City of Colwood won the title of “Bloomingest Community” with more than a billion blooms!

Victoria is known as the City of Gardens because the climate is ideal for growing flowers, so naturally their world famous The Butchart Gardens has been nominated as one of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice awards for Best Public Garden. In addition to The Butchart Gardens, the list also includes other northwest favorites The Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island and the Portland Japanese Gardens as well as the Huntington Botanical Gardens, one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited! You have until March 31 to vote for your favorite public garden.

Victoria Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat in front of Victoria Clipper
Photo: Victoria Dragon Boat Festival Society

August is one of the months in the Pacific Northwest where you can usually count on nice weather and for those looking to make the most of the end of summer, there are plenty of options to keep you busy until the start of the school year and the return to cooler temperatures.

The Seattle Opera is performing its last cycle of “The Ring” under Speight Jenkins, retiring after 30 years working to make the Seattle Opera a Wagnerian center. In Victoria, the Dragon Boat Festival is a race and festival many enjoy every year. Labor Day weekend has many options this year including Bumbershoot music festival in Seattle, Art in the Pearl in Portland, and is a great weekend to head up to Victoria where you can take in the Vancouver Island Blues Bash and the Victoria Classic Boat Festival. For fans of the outdoors, Whistler has several mountain bike and racing events.

Here is our rundown of Things to Do in August:

Seattle:

Victoria:

Portland:

Vancouver:

San Juan Island:

Whistler:

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