Washington

Where to Eat and Drink in Kent, Washington

Where to Eat and Drink in Kent, Washington

Looking for food and drink options outside of downtown Seattle? Head 19 miles south to Kent, where you'll find a diverse selection of eateries and beverage producers. From craft beer and liqueurs, to a Mexican steakhouse and Asian and Eastern European snacks, here are several places to eat and drink in Kent, Washington.

Weekend Road Trip to Kent, Washington

Weekend Road Trip to Kent, Washington

Located in the heart of the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area, the city of Kent is often overshadowed by its two larger sibling towns. Indeed, it is smack-dab in the middle of Tacoma and Seattle, which are 19 miles south and north, respectively.  However, Kent is the sixth largest city in the entire state of Washington and is growing fast.

A Weekend at Tulalip Resort Casino

A Weekend at Tulalip Resort Casino

If you've lived in Seattle long enough, odds are you've at least heard of Tulalip Resort Casino. For us, it's been the radio ads publicizing Tulalip's summer concert series that gave us awareness of the resort. We've even driven by many times during our semi-annual trips to Seattle Premium Outlets and Skagit Valley. But it wasn't until a weekend in July that we actually set foot inside of Tulalip Resort Casino.

Sampling the Pike Box by Pike Place Market

Sampling the Pike Box by Pike Place Market

In an age where meal kits and subscription meal delivery services are the norm, it seems only natural that one of the oldest public farmers markets in the United States jumps on board. Dubbed the Pike Box CSA (short for "community-supported agriculture), the program is put on by Pike Place Market to offer fresh, Washington-grown produce to subscribers.

Itinerary: Weekend Road Trip to Hood Canal & Olympic National Park

Itinerary: Weekend Road Trip to Hood Canal & Olympic National Park

Seeking a new experience, we decided to spend a weekend exploring the Olympic Peninsula instead. Although the Olympics are also relatively close to Seattle, accessing them takes long enough that most won't visit the area on a quick day trip. Instead, it's best to spend at least a long weekend here to make the most of your time. Enter, Peace Vans!

Holidays in Seattle - Gingerbread Village and Teddy Bear Suite

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When winter hits the Pacific Northwest, we tend to scatter out to the mountains of Leavenworth to get that real Christmas feel. However, winter in Seattle is also an enchanting time thanks to two annual traditions that take place downtown: Sheraton Seattle's Gingerbread Village, and the Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmont Olympic. Both hotels have been carrying on these traditions for over two decades. Even if you've seen them once before, a return visit is due as the designs vary by the year. But first, let's go into detail about each of these holiday spectacles.

Gingerbread Village

Every year, the Sheraton Seattle invites some of the top architects, master builders, and culinary teams to create the most inventive gingerbread houses they can imagine. The theme changes each year. One year it was Star Wars, and yet another was Harry Potter. This year, the 25th anniversary, the theme encourages a celebration of Seattle. The results have been jaw-dropping. Some gingerbread houses pay homage to historic Seattle, while others imagine a sci-fi version that probably isn't far from reality.

Gingerbread Village typically takes place in the Sheraton's main lobby. This year it temporarily relocated across the street at City Centre. Entry is free, but donations are encouraged as proceeds benefit JDRF Northwest.

Location: City Centre (new location) 1420 Fifth Ave. Ste 450 Seattle, WA 98101

Dates: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - Monday, January 1, 2018

Viewing Hours:

Monday through Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Teddy Bear Suite

A few blocks away, another grand Seattle hotel encourages you to swing by for holiday cheer. Every winter, the Fairmont Olympic takes one of its corner suites and fills it with teddy bears. The exact configuration changes every few years; the current iteration is a warm, cozy suite that's perfect for any teddy bear lover. Donations are encouraged as they benefit Seattle Children's Hospital.

After visiting the Teddy Bear Suite, head down to The Georgian restaurant and enjoy Holiday Tea. Or go down to the main lobby and enjoy the Fairmont's grand Christmas tree displays. Meanwhile, the ground floor has a new addition: a huge life-sized gingerbread house that you can actually walk through!

November 23 – December 26 Daily from 10am to 6pm Open on Christmas Day & Thanksgiving Day

Fall Color Road Trip in Washington State

Washington state is home to some of the best natural displays of fall color in the world. Around mid to late October, the trees begin to turn vivid shades of yellow, orange, and red. It's a photographer's paradise! While there are many places to see fall color around downtown Seattle, you can also take a day trip and see even more impressive displays of fall foliage. A few weekends ago, we took a road trip to Olympia to see their autumn trees. This past weekend, we decided to go east toward Wenatchee to see the fall colors of the mountains. Our route started in Seattle and followed Highway 2 out to Index, past Steven's Pass, and on to Leavenworth. Along the way, there were plenty of places to stop and admire the beauty, particularly at the Tumwater Dam. We then continued on to Peshastin, taking small country roads through the many apple and pear orchards and grape vineyards. On a whim, we stopped by Wedge Mountain Winery to taste some wine. We ended up taking home a bottle of their delicious 2014 Estate Lemberger wine (highly recommend!) and were delighted when owners were kind enough to let us explore their apple orchard and even take a bag of freshly picked fruits home with us. From Peshastin, we went a bit further to Dryden before heading back to Seattle via Highway 2.

We snapped many photos along the way and even created a video of our trip. Check out the photos and video below, and see our whole driving route.

If the video isn't loading, click here.

Click here to see the map in detail.

Fall Colors in Washington

Washington Fall Colors Road Trip from Seattle

Courthouse Wedding in Seattle

With its moderate climate and unique positioning between mountains and sea, it's no surprise that Seattle is a wedding hotspot. There are venues all around trendy Seattle and Bellevue, or even in the nearby wine country of Woodinville. For those considering a quick, simple wedding, there's also the Courthouse. Doesn't sound too romantic, does it? However, a courthouse wedding isn't as bad as it sounds. That's what we discovered after our August wedding at the King County courthouse. The point wasn't fanfare, it was getting the legal ceremony done so we could conduct our destination wedding in Italy with peace of mind.

How to do a Courthouse Wedding in Seattle

For those considering a courthouse wedding in Seattle, here's how to do it. First, you must visit the Marriage Licensing department to pay for and pick up your marriage certificate. After that is finalized, you then must perform your legal wedding ceremony within the specified timeframe. You can have an officiant conduct your ceremony, or you can schedule a wedding with a judge.

There's a long list of King County judges who perform weddings. Not much information is given about them, not even a photo. The list also provides a flat fee that the judge charges for the wedding. Most importantly, note that a majority of judges will only conduct weddings on certain dates at certain times. There are some judges who offer to travel to a chosen venue per your arranged date and time. But not all judges offer this flexibility, so be sure to check on that.

I literally closed my eyes and pointed to a random name on the list. Within minutes, I sent a quick email inquiry to the judge and quickly heard back from his bailiff who gave us instructions. A couple weeks later, Martin and I met our two witnesses (you can also buy witnesses through judges!) at the courthouse and were married.

Wedding Photo Spots in Seattle

As you'll see in the photos below, the King County Courthouse has quite nice architecture. It's a great backdrop for photos. Also, note that dressing up for your wedding is completely optional! At the time, there were four other weddings going on in nearby courtrooms. We were by far the nicest dressed out the other couples there. After the wedding, we walked a few blocks away to a celebratory dinner at Heartwood Provisions. The night was topped off by watching the sunset on the pier by the Seattle Great Wheel. All of these locations were very picturesque for wedding photos.

Below are photos from our courthouse wedding in Seattle. All photos were taken by our good friend Alan Alabastro. The flower leis were fresh and real, thanks to Hawaii General Store in Fremont. I was so happy to find a fragrant lei of my mother's favorite flower, the white tuberose, and a maile lei for Martin. This was our floral contribution and nod to our love of Hawaii.

After our wedding in Seattle, we then jetted off to Italy for our formal, celebratory wedding.

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

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Seattle Courthouse Wedding Photos

Seattle Courthouse Wedding Photos

Weekend Trip to Olympia - Things to See and Do

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As the state capital of Washington, Olympia is often overlooked as a travel destination. It's true that Olympia is hardly a shiny, busy city like Seattle and Bellevue. But that's actually part of the charm. Located at the southern end of Puget Sound, Olympia is just a 1-hour drive south of Seattle. It's the perfect place for a day or weekend trip, and one of our favorite destinations in Washington. If you're an outdoors enthusiast, Olympia is also a great base for exploring nearby Mount Rainier and the Olympic National Forest. Check out our itinerary below for ideas, or check out our Olympia travel photos.

Click here to see the map above in full detail.

Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide

Itinerary: Weekend Trip to Olympia

Day 1

We started our trip rather leisurely, leaving Seattle midday and arriving in Olympia in the early afternoon. Find our accommodations, The Governor Hotel was easy, as it was very centrally located. There are a handful of cozy hotels in downtown Olympia, but ours seemed among the most contemporary. If you're lucky, you might also get a room with a stunning view of Heritage Landing Park.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Olympia Parks

Speaking of parks, there are quite a few all within walking distance of The Governor Hotel. Directly across the street is Sylvester Park. Formerly the Town Square of Olympia, the park is named after the found of Olympia, Edmund Sylvester. Today, the park is a great gathering place to hang out with friends or sip a coffee with a book in hand.

Not far away are two other parks worth visiting, particularly during Golden Hour or right before sunset: Percival Landing Park and Heritage Park. Percival Landing is one of Olympia's three waterfront parks, and it includes a 0.9-mile boardwalk. From there, walk toward the Capitol Lake to Heritage Park and walk the path around the lake. There are great views of the State Capitol Dome, and even a pathway leading directly to it.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Shopping in Olympia

From Sylvester Park, pick any street and take a stroll. You'll find many eateries and shops peddling everything from vintage wear and antiques to modern children's toys. What you won't find are many big chain stores. Some of our favorite shops include Captain Little, Compass Rose, Archibald Sisters.

Food, Drinks, and Coffee

Similar to the shops in Olympia, there aren't many big chains in town when it comes to food and drinks (besides Starbucks, of course). During our first day, we stopped by Olympia Coffee Roasting for a pour over and then grabbed a late lunch at artisan-style food hall 222 Market. The 15,000 square-foot building opened in September 2016 and features an array of food and beverage producers including Broth Bar By Salt Fire & Time, Sofie's Scoops gelateria, and Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar (the city's first!). It was too cold for ice cream, but we tried our very first bone broth (Sea and Strength were our favorites). We then headed next door to slurp some oysters. Particular standouts were the Chelsea "Gem" and "Bonita" Pacific oysters, which we had never tried before.

Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide

Later on that evening, we headed to Iron Rabbit Restaurant for dinner. While it's not within walking distance of downtown, the food was worth the drive! The menu is New American with some nice twists to classic dishes. We started out with the Dungeness Crab Romanesco Dip and were particularly impressed with the difference that 100% crab meat makes (much tastier!). For our mains, we had Curry Battered Fish and Chips and the Zola Burger, the latter featuring Painted Hills grass-fed beef, hot coppa, cambozola cheese, and Chipotle spread. Somehow, we had room for dessert, which was worth it because the peach and raspberry bread pudding was one of the best we've had.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Day 2

After spending the night at The Governor Hotel, we woke up on Sunday morning and headed downstairs for the hotel's complimentary breakfast. It had all everything you would expect from a Continental breakfast including make-your-own waffles. Next, we packed up the car and headed out on the first stop of the Thurston Bountiful Byway.

What is the Thurston Bountiful Byway?

If you've never heard of it, fear not! This scenic route through Thurston County is relatively new, having only been officially designated in March 2014. The byway has over 20 suggested stops, all of which promote some form of agricultural tourism or agritourism. Perhaps the best part of the Bountiful Byway is the three ways you can see it: walking, biking, or driving.

Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide

First Stop: Olympia Farmer's Market

Our first stop on the Thurston Bountiful Byway was the Olympia Farmer's Market. As the second largest farmers market in Washington State, this market boasts a wide range of vendors. You can buy organic produce and fruits, meats, fresh flowers, and all kinds of arts and crafts. Compared to Pike Place Market, Olympia's Market is actually quite sizable. But it's much calmer and has a more open, friendly vibe as it's not stuffed with tourists.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Second stop: Tumwater Falls

Although not officially part of the Bountiful Byway, Tumwater Falls was an essential stop for us. This 0.5-mile scenic loop trail leads you on a gentle hike along the Deschutes River. Not only are you treated to three cascading waterfalls, but if you're lucky, you might also spot some salmon. From September to late October, Tumwater Falls Park is full of salmon gathering at the base of an 82-foot waterfall. They're returning to their holding ponds at the Deschutes River Hatchery, which is located in the park. It's quite a sight to see.

Can't see the video above? Click here.

Third stop: Rutledge Corn Maze

After marveling at the salmon, it was time for a traditional fall adventure through some corn mazes. Rutledge Corn Maze came about in the year 2000 when the Rutledge family turned its cornfields into an entertainment-based corn maze. It was one of the first corn mazes of its time and the first in the world to be planted in a maze pattern. Each year, the maze pattern changes and has taken the form of everything from the Statue of Liberty to a design based on the Twilight series. This year's design features the Thurston Bountiful Byway logo. Of course, the design can't be seen unless you're overhead the maze in a helicopter. But it's good fun to get lost in the corn maze and reward yourself with picking out your Halloween pumpkin in the patch afterward.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Fourth Stop: Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve

Next, we headed toward the edge of the Capitol State Forest to check out a curious natural phenomenon known as Mima Mounds. As the name suggests, this is a relatively flat natural terrain sporting series of strange lumps that span 445-acres. There are educational posters that summarize many theories as to what created Mima Mounds. But at the end of the day, no one can prove any theories. While you're here, head to the observation deck to get a good view of the mounds and walk the half-mile paved trail.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Fifth Stop: Medicine Creek Winery

At this point, we'd done quite a bit of agritourism visiting a farm, market, and natural parks. What was missing from our list was a winery, so we hightailed it to the wine region of the Bountiful Byway. We targeted what appeared to be the most photographically interesting winery of them all: Medicine Creek Winery. And it did not disappoint!

The winery is made up of a wine processing area, barrel room, tasting room, and even a dance floor. That's because the entire facility is located in a barn that's been designed to appear like a 1800's vintage New Orleans brothel. The star design feature of the winery is the Medicine Creek stagecoach, a 12-year long labor of love created by winemaker Jim Myers. But how was the wine, you might ask? Their signature 2006 Cabernet Franc and 2006 Stage Coach Reds were fantastic, but it was their brand new Riesling that really blew us away.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Sixth Stop: Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

Our very last stop on the Thurston Bountiful Byway was also our favorite: Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. This walkable scenic area is designed to protect fish and wildlife and is almost always teeming with animals. We arrived at 4:00 pm, two and a half hours before sunset. This was the perfect time of day to see many birds in their natural habitat and take advantage of the ideal lighting conditions.

There are several walking paths in the refuge including a wooden boardwalk that takes you a full mile into the delta. The elevated boardwalk lets you walk above the water and really get up close to the shorebirds. During our particular hike, we saw many Great Blue Herons and gulls, and even an owl and a small family of beavers. If you do as we didn't and bring binoculars and a birding book, you might glimpse even more bird species.

Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide

In Conclusion

As long-time Seattle residents, we discovered many areas in and around Olympia that we'd never heard of. From Olympia's hip oyster and broth bars to a world-famous corn maze and mysterious mounds, we had no trouble filling an entire weekend with activities. Best of all, we found out that areas like the Thurston Bountiful Byway have whole biking trails begging to be explored, not to mention dozens of wineries and farms that we didn't have time to visit. So we certainly will be back in Olympia, hopefully sometime soon!

Olympia Travel Video

Check out a recap video of our weekend road trip to Olympia.

Can't see the video above? Click here.

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Olympia Travel Guide Pinterest
Olympia Travel Guide Pinterest

Travel Photos to Inspire You to Visit Olympia

Looking for a great weekend trip from Seattle? Just an hour south of the Emerald City is Washington's state capital, Olympia. It's actually one of our favorite getaways in Washington state. While it has its fair share of government buildings, there's plenty more to see and do. Downtown has a good number of parks, vintage shops, and dining options, all within walking distance. Venture outside of downtown, and you'll find even more natural gems. If you're planning a trip to Seattle and wondering what else to visit in the area, consider a road trip to Olympia. Be sure to pack your camera and hiking boots, as it's a nature lover's paradise. Check out our travel guide for ideas on what to do, and scroll through the photo gallery below to get inspired to visit!

Olympia Photo Gallery

See our full photo gallery here (external link).

Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia travel photography
Olympia travel photography
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
Olympia travel photography
Olympia travel photography
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
Olympia travel photography
Olympia travel photography
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

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Olympia travel photos pinterest
Olympia travel photos pinterest

Day Trip to Orcas Island

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

Planning a trip to Seattle and wondering what else there is to do besides visiting the Space Needle and Pike Place? If you have a few days to spare, make plans to head up north to the San Juan Islands! This little enclave of Pacific Northwest Islands is a popular vacation spot among local Seattleites. But it's a lesser known region to those who haven't traveled Washington State. Below, we'll tell you how to get to the San Juans, as well as some suggested activities!

How to Get to the San Juan Islands

By Car and Ferry

Located a little over 100 miles north of Seattle, the San Juan Islands aren’t particularly far away. But they do require crossing a body of water. For many, this means driving two hours north from Seattle to Anacortes and catching a Washington State DOT ferry the rest of the way. The good news is that ferries can take passengers traveling on foot, bicycle, or motor vehicle. But the bad news is that ferries tend to sell out in high tourist season. When all is said and done, you can spend 3 or 4 hours getting the San Juans, one way. This means you’d best stay a night or two to make the most of it.

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

By Seaplane or Landplane

From Seattle, most seaplanes are run by Kenmore Air. The company runs both scheduled and chartered flights daily, and they operate both seaplanes and land planes. This last bit is important: if you want to ride a seaplane in particular, you must fly in and out of specific areas. Some cities are only accessed by landplane, and vice-versa. Seaplanes can seat up to 10 adults, plus luggage (stored in the lower floats).

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

Finding accommodations on the various San Juan Islands is relatively easy. Popular islands such as Orcas, San Juan, and Lopez Island have at least one main hotel or lodge catering to visitors. Advanced reservations are always recommended.

Kenmore Air Seaplane Orcas Island
Kenmore Air Seaplane Orcas Island

Getting Around Orcas Island

Once you arrive on Orcas Island, you will probably need transportation of some sort. If you are flying into a resort where you intend to stay overnight, such as Rosario Resort or Deer Harbor, you can probably get by without a car. But if you have plans to explore the island, you will want to reserve a taxi or a rental car in advance. Our advice is to rent a car from Orcas Island Shuttle. Simply give them a call and they'll set you up with some wheels. Orcas Island is big enough that you can't quite walk from one part to another, yet it's small enough that you'll want to see as much of the island as possible.

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

Where to Stay on Orcas Island

There are three main resorts on Orcas Island that welcome visitors. All resorts are spread out on their own corners of the island, and they can fill up fast in the summer. Reservations are recommended. Alternatively, there are also Airbnb rentals, but you will definitely want to have a car and GPS to navigate. There are also some camping sites located throughout Orcas Island. It's best to reserve your camp site in advance and make sure you bring proper camping gear.

What to Do on Orcas Island

Here at Gemini Connect, we're keen on creating the best travel experiences possible. On Orcas, there are many experiences to keep you fresh and occupied. There are several key reasons why people flock to Orcas in particular.

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1.To see Orca whales

What's a place called Orcas Island without Orca whale watching opportunities? Opt for a charter boat that will take you to sea for a few hours to find Orcas in the wild. Or simply park on the beach and look out towards the sea. It's not unusual to spot these giant killer whales from the shore.

2. To explore Eastsound

The biggest town on Orcas Island and second most populated in all of the San Juans is Eastsound. It's located smack dab in the middle of Orcas, and it even has a small airport for land planes (not seaplanes). Within Eastsound are several hotels, grocery stores, restaurants (including Hogstone and Aelder), and even a summer farmer's market.

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

3. To climb Mount Constitution

Orcas Island is home to the tallest peak in all of the San Juans: Mount Constitution. Sitting at an elevation of over 2,300 feet, this summit offers stunning views of all of the San Juans. On a clear day, you can even see the Canadian cities of Vancouver and Victoria in the distance! You can Mount Constitution summit either via a traditional hike or with a wheeled vehicle (bicycle or car).

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

4. To Hike

Besides Mount Constitution, there are a few other nature parks on Orcas Island that offer hiking trails. Moran State Park, which contains Mount Constitution, has shorter hikes near its base including a waterfall trail to Cascade Falls. Further west on the island is Turtleback Mountain Preserve, offering less populated hiking trails and equally stunning views.

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

Over To You

Have you ever visited Orcas Island or any of the San Juan Islands? How did you get there, and what did you do? Let us know in the comments below!

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orcas.jpg

Seattle Chocolates Factory Tour

Seattle's newest tourist attraction is one aimed specifically at chocolate lovers. After 25 years, Seattle Chocolates is opening the doors of their Tukwila factory for Experience Chocolate: a guided tour of their version of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. As a small yet powerful woman-owned company, the newly modernized space is awash with splashes of magenta pink throughout. The visitor's area is broken into four main rooms that comprise different sections of the 30-minute guided tour. Upon entering, you'll spend time in the retail space. Peruse the 20+ flavors of the company's famous chocolate truffles and purchase some to take home with you. When your tour commences, you'll start off in the seated Chocolate Classroom where you'll learn about the history of chocolate and the Seattle Chocolate company. Next, your guide will issue hairnets and then take you into the actual working factory. You'll walk down a magenta mezzanine where you'll get a bird's eye view of the chocolate-making process. Finally, your tour concludes in the Tasting Room where you can sample as many chocolates as your heart desires.

Seattle Chocolates offers the Experience Chocolate tour Monday through Saturday from 10am-3pm at their factory in Tukwila. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased from the Seattle Chocolates website. For safety reasons, children under six years of age are not permitted on the tour. Wondering where to buy Seattle Chocolates other than the factory? Check out their store locator, or visit Amazon.

Seattle Chocolates Factory: 1180 Andover Park West, Tukwila, WA

Seattle Chocolates Tour Photos

JF Ranch Miniature Donkeys

Here at Gemini Connect, we love donkeys, as evidenced by our donkey figurine collection below. As a result, it makes total sense that when we drove by a sign in Mount Vernon for miniature donkeys, we just had to stop and see what that was about. We collected the name of the miniature donkey business, JF Ranch Miniature Donkeys, and made plans to come back a couple weeks later to actually meet the donkeys and the owners. Miniature Donkey

JF Ranch is owned by Julie Jones and Todd Frankenfield. Their path to breeding and raising miniature donkeys began about 15 years ago when they fell in love with a friend's minis. They purchased their first jack (uncastrated male) and jennet (female) miniature donkeys from Meadowood Farms, owned by Loyal McMillian, who is part of the Nordstrom family. Today, Julie and Todd have a full host of miniature donkeys of all sizes, colors, and ages. Their miniature donkeys are bred and sold to others such as our friends at Hoehn Bend Farm .When we stopped by to visit, we found ourselves in a pen full of baby miniature donkeys and were instantly bombarded by them!

What is a miniature donkey?

In contrast to larger donkeys, miniature donkeys have a sweet, loving, and naturally curious disposition. They love attention and will vie for it every chance they get. Julie described the miniature donkeys as being more like oversized dogs, and we couldn't agree more. We spent an easy hour walking around the farm stopping to pet and play with them as Julie went on to recite their names and personality quirks.

We learned that these adorable creatures are a breed of their own and are not bred down from larger donkeys. They are native to the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia but have made their way around the world. Currently, there are over 40,000 registered miniature donkeys in the United States. To be considered a miniature donkey, it must be under 36" or less that the shoulder, with the smaller ones being more prized. They also have incredibly long life spans averaging between 25-35 years.

Why have a miniature donkey?

Given their small statures and tame personalities, miniature donkeys typically aren't treated like their larger counterparts. Many people will keep them as pets, but they do need large spaces to roam, so farms are preferable. It's also important that pet owners choose a gelding (a castrated) donkey rather than a jack (uncastrated donkey).  Miniature donkeys can also be trained to barrel race and do other sports and competitions, or they can be used as a pack donkey, as they were originally used in the Mediterranean. No matter what they are used for, one thing is for sure: these animals are incredibly cute and will steal your heart!

Miniature Donkey Photos

A Weekend in Leavenworth, Washington

Did you know there's a Bavarian village in Washington State? Located just 2.5 hours east of Seattle is the city of Leavenworth, where the town center is completely modeled in the European tradition. As a result of its design, Leavenworth is a popular year-round destination for locals and visitors to Washington. Visit in the summer to enjoy many nearby hiking trails or whitewater rafting. Venture out in the fall for the annual Oktoberfest, or wait until snowfall for the impressive Christmas decor. As Seattle residents, we have been to Leavenworth on numerous occasions and experienced it during all seasons. No matter what time of year, there's always a reason to enjoy Leavenworth. Leavenworth Washington travel guide

Getting from Seattle to Leavenworth

There are several ways to get to Leavenworth from Seattle. You can get there for pretty cheap by taking an Amtrak train or Greyhound bus. Both of these routes will take you to the heart of the faux-Bavarian village of Leavenworth. But if you intend to explore the great outdoors and hike or camp, it's recommended that you drive to Leavenworth as you will need a vehicle to reach trailheads.

If you drive, bear in mind that there are two paths to Leavenworth: one route is via Highway 2, and the other is via I-90 freeway. Both routes take about the same amount of time, but the I-90 route is arguably more scenic. For the full experience, consider driving one route on your way in, and take the other route back to Seattle.

Seattle to Leavenworth map

Where to Stay in Leavenworth

Since the town is largely a tourist attraction, Leavenworth accommodations of every kind are ample. There are standard hotels and motels, rustic lodges, bed and breakfasts, cabins, and even RV parks and campsites. With that said, it is a popular destination, so lodging fills up during peak times of year such as Christmas, summer breaks, and Oktoberfest. So plan accordingly.

For a truly Leavenworth experience, it's hard to go wrong with one of the picturesque lodges on the main drag of town. They are within walking distance of the town's main square, and many offer on-site parking and breakfast, some even with the majestic alpenhorn.

Leavenworth hotel alpenhorn breakfast

Things to Do in Leavenworth

Activities in the area depend largely on the season you visit, but there are definitely year-round attractions as well. Most of these activities in the village of Leavenworth are all within walking distance of each other on flat sidewalks.

Front Street Park

This is the heart of Leavenworth. Featuring a gazebo and lawn, Front Street Park activities vary according to the season. The centerpiece Christmas tree lives here in the winter, and children love sledding down the lawn's hill. In the summer, art festivals and performing bands fill the lawn to entertain families and travelers having picnics.

Leavenworth Washington travel guide

Eat German Fare

The town appears authentically Bavarian in every way, including its food options. From München Haus and Bavarian Bistro & Bar to King Ludwig's Restaurant, it's not hard to find an eatery that will make you feel like you're actually in Germany. There are also restaurants serving Italian, American, and even Asian options if you need more variety.

Drink Beer

What's a German town without a beer garden? All of the restaurant mentioned above have stellar German beer options. We'd also recommend the outdoor Leavenworth Sausage Garten and the indoor beer hall Der Hinterhof to the list if you're going for a rustic beer garten experience.

Leavenworth Washington travel guide

Wine Tasting

Since this town is located within the Leavenworth Valley Wine Country, it's only logical that there's a ton of local wineries. Many offer tasting rooms in the downtown area of Leavenworth. You can also hop on a guided limo wine tour or drive yourself out to the beautiful nearby wineries. Some notable Washington wineries include Bordeaux Cellars, Icicle Ridge Winery, and Baroness Cellars.

Eat Local Fruit

Within Leavenworth and alongside many roads leading to it are the bounty of local farmers. Visit a fruit stand and get some freshly picked famous Washington apples, pears, and other goodies.

Washington apples

Go Christmas Shopping

Scattered among Leavenworth's many beer gartens and restaurants are lots of specialty retail shops. Many play on the theme of the town's most popular time of year: Christmas. This is one of few places where you can buy nutcrackers and holiday ornaments at just about any time.

Waterfront Park

You don't have to wander far from downtown Leavenworth to get a taste of nature. Just look up to admire the towering nearby mountains that nestle the town. Or stroll a few blocks away from town for a leisurely stroll on a path alongside the nearby Wenatchee River.

Leavenworth Washington travel guide

Mini Golf

Located just off of Highway 2, which runs through town, is the 18-hole Icicle Junction mini golf course. Pretty much anyone who's been to Leavenworth will probably admit they've tried their hand at this course. It's a fun activity for all ages, although it's best enjoyed in the warmer summer months.

Hiking and Camping

Given the natural beauty surrounding the town, it's no surprise that many people come out this far to hike or camp. One of our favorite nearby destinations for nature is Eightmile Lake. You can do this moderate hike in a half-day trip, or spend the night camping.

Eightmile Lake Hiking Camping-3

White Water Rafting

White water rafting is one of those things we have yet to check off our bucket lists, but there are ample opportunities to do so in Leavenworth. Many outfitters cater to individual levels and even throw in a lunch. Check out Osprey Rafting, BlueSky Outfitters, or Alpine Adventures.

Snowsports

Leavenworth is popular in both the summer and winter months of the year. Snowfall is heavy in this part of the state, and it's not unusual to get snowed in. So bring your skis, snowboard, or snowshoes along and trek outdoors to enjoy the winter wonderland. Leavenworth Ski Hill is the closest to enjoy winter sports action, although it's on the small side. You can also go a bit further by car and get to nearby Stevens Pass Mountain Resort or Mission Ridge Resort for longer trails.

Leavenworth Washington travel guide

In Conclusion

If you make a trip out to Washington State, be sure to plan a visit out east to Leavenworth. The natural beauty is well worth the drive out and will give you a full taste of Northwest life.

Have you visited Leavenworth? What are some of your recommendations? Let us know in the comments below!