Weekend Getaways

Weekend Getaway: Victoria, B.C.

If you’re looking for an easy weekend get-away, Victoria on Vancouver Island is just a short jaunt from Seattle, and offers a wide variety of options for filling your weekend. Of course, if you’re going in the winter, you’ll still probably be greeted with rain, but sometimes rain in a new city is just less annoying. Sometimes.

Victoria, B.C

Getting There

You have a few options for getting to Victoria, and it depends entirely on if you want your car or not. If you do not need a car, you can take the Victoria Clipper, which is a passenger only ferry leaving 3 times daily from downtown Seattle. It drops you off in downtown Victoria, so it is actually possible to rely solely on your feet and cabs if you want to ditch the car. The ride takes around three hours.

If you want your car, you’ll need to take one of the car ferries. You can either leave on the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes, which will drop you off in Sidney B.C. (about 20 minutes away from Victoria) or you can take the Black Ball ferry from Port Angeles, which will drop you off in the heart of Victoria’s downtown.

If you want to splurge on fancy (and beautiful) transportation, you can always catch a Kenmore Air float plane straight to Victoria’s Inner Harbor.

What to Do

Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf

Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf – This tiny and colorful dock village is a cute place to check out! There are food and drink options, including seafood at Barb’s Fish and Chips and tacos from Puerto Vallarta Amigos. There are also a few souvenir shops, kayak and SUP rentals, fishing boats, and the coolest houseboats. You are allowed to walk around and admire the floating houses, but a sign reminds you that real residents live there and to keep things quiet so try to keep your commentary on the down low. Please note, Fisherman’s Wharf becomes a bit sleepy in the winter with a lot of the businesses closing down.

The sleeping moss lady at Beacon Hill Park

The sleeping moss lady at Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park – This place is by far the best of the best when it comes to city parks. The park is huge and located on the shores of the Juan de Fuca straight. It’s COVERED with numerous ponds and fountains and a pride of peacocks. Yes, real peacocks ambushing your picnic! It’s the best. There is also some pretty incredible art at the park including the sleeping moss lady, who might win for best park art of all time. Can this place be any cooler?

Inner Harbor – The harbor is where the ferry boats dock when dropping off passengers, and it includes many streets that lead into the downtown area. This part of downtown is littered with restaurants and bars, and is a perfect place for afternoon shopping and souvenir buying. You can easily stroll it on foot and make sure to plan plenty of time for shopping and pub crawling.

It might be small, but Victoria is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown

It might be small, but Victoria is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown

Chinatown – Also located downtown, this Chinatown is extremely tiny (really just one street!), but a fun place to checkout and take a stroll down. There is a large red arch that welcomes you to the area and an ornate and beautiful Chinese public school in addition to groceries, shops, and restaurants. Despite it’s small size, it is the oldest one in all of Canada!

Eat & Drink

Bao – Located in Chinatown next to the public school, Boa is a delicious Asian fusion restaurant with a warm vibe. Everything on the menu is amazing, so we recommend getting the truffle ramen and a mix and match of all the boa. Wash it all down with some sake and bring a friend to help you split more dishes!

La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop

La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop - It might lure you in because it has the most instagramable floor in the city, but once you taste the tacos, you’ll forget all about your Instagram feed. All of their meat tacos have delicious flavor, but they also have an awesome selection of vegetarian tacos. We loved the hongos and the rajas con cream. And for the love of God, please order one of their fantastic margaritas with the spicy rim.

Pagliacci’s – Not to be confused with Seattle’s pizza chain of the same name, Victoria’s Pagliacci’s is a cozy and fun Italian joint that has been around since 1979. They have a large menu featuring a variety of pasta dishes plus seafood and steaks and soft focaccia bread! They also have free music from 8-10pm nightly.

Victoria Public Market – While pretty small, the public market is a great place downtown to stop in for some light shopping and a snack. There are currently around 13 vendors that make up this little market, and you can get your fill on tacos, teriyaki, sandwiches, waffles, pie and more!

Big Bad John's

Big Bad John’s - No city is complete without a bonafide dive bar, and Big Bad John’s has Victoria covered. It’s a self-declared “hillbilly” bar that opened in 1962 where country music is played, stiff drinks are poured, and you can throw peanut shells on the floor. The walls are covered in dollar bills, interesting art, and the occasional bra or two. It has everything you want in a dive bar and is a great place to get your night started, people watch, or drown your sorrows in a dark corner.

What else do you love about Victoria? We feel like we have barely scratched the surface, and we can’t wait to go back and explore more!

36 Hours on Lopez Island

Sunset Bay

Sunset Bay

“Don’t change Lopez Island,” one cheerily hand-penned sign read in the window of a village shop. “Let Lopez Island change you.”

There is something magical about crossing water to reach a destination. Even when that location is only roughly 90 miles from home, I could not believe how different Lopez Island felt.

As the honorary contributing beverage writer for Rain or Shine Guides I wanted to pick a destination not too difficult to reach, but still within a day’s drive. One of the San Juan Islands seemed ideal, and after reading about a blazing newish restaurant (more on that soon), I booked a full weekend on Lopez Island to explore.

Spoiler alert: Do not travel to Lopez Island just for the beverages. Lopez Island Brewing Company may have a website and a physical address, but neither yielded tangible results. As for Lopez Island Vineyards, tastings are held as “pop ups” or at Summer Farmers Markets — neither of which we located on a November weekend. Our beverage scouting will have to wait for further developments.

Having said that, DO visit Lopez Island for everything else. Here are the top hitters.

The Scenic Calm

Lopez Island is quiet and dark with very few cars and unpolluted skies flush with stars. As my husband and I lay in the bed of our garden cottage next to a warm wood stove, we fell asleep watching The Milky Way tilt and slide above us through the skylights. If you need a place with 63 miles of stark, hushed coastline, you could do worse than Lopez Island.

TIP: Many businesses, and even Spencer Spit State Park, are fully closed during the offseason, (shhhhh! we hiked to the spit anyway). However, if solitude is what you seek, consider the lower cost and non bustle of booking a Lopez trip in the offseason.

Driftwood at Spencer Spit

Driftwood at Spencer Spit

The Wildlife

Stepping out of our cottage I was surrounded by friendly jackrabbits. Just by walking 300 feet to the coastline, I spotted a lazy seal turning somersaults in Fisherman Bay.  A clear day yielded to a stunning salmon and terracotta-streaked sunset featuring a lone, gliding bald eagle. Nature envelopes you at every turn on Lopez Island, from quaint farms filled with braying goats to fish leaping from brackish ponds.

TIP: For an unadulterated coastal vista filled with sea birds, seals, and sometimes orcas and porpoises, visit Shark Reef Sanctuary on the south-western end of the island. Leave your car in the tiny pullout and hike a half mile to the cliff edges along a well-marked and maintained trail. Nature favors those who wait, so bring a sandwich, perch on a rock, and see who decides to pass by.

Vista at Shark Reef Sanctuary

Vista at Shark Reef Sanctuary

The Charm

Famously nicknamed “Slowpez,” nothing moves quickly on Lopez Island. Being open to adventure will serve you well. Cafe closed for the winter? No worries! Just a few miles down the road at Sunnyfield Farm we encountered the Lopez Island Little Winter Market. Crowded with local vendors peddling fresh bread, herbed cheeses made right on the property, and spiced cider, you can support the thriving local farm trade while enjoying a string band playing in the hay rafters.

TIP: Don’t be alarmed when everyone on Lopez waves at you from their cars. It’s polite, customary, and becomes completely natural within an hour or two. It’s just another piece of local charm that solidified Lopez Island’s place in my heart.

Little Winter Market inspired lunch

Little Winter Market inspired lunch


But the number one reason to visit Lopez is to try Ursa Minor, a creative agrarian Northwest restaurant right in the heart of the village. Recently featured in Edible Seattle, this rustic and imaginative dining experience did not disappoint and ranked as highly with us as our recent experiences at Michelin-starred restaurants in France. This is the closest to food terroir I’ve had yet in the northwest.

Ursa Minor

Make Ursa Minor the star of the evening and stay late to share plates like the burnt cabbage, sunflower seeds, wild onion & chestnut dish or tide-tumbled fresh oysters topped with frozen kimchi. Our entree of chicken, potatoes, chanterelles & black garlic was artfully presented and quickly devoured. And for a lady who doesn’t like dessert, I struggled to share the hay ice cream, poached quince, malt, and honey crumbles with my date. I will seriously dream of those honey crumbles for weeks to come.

A fairly priced and solid wine list made pairing easy with glasses of sparkling Fruili to start and a 2013 bottle of Crozes-Hermitage to take us the rest of the way through the meal.

TIP: While there’s no tasting menu (YET) at Ursa Minor, do talk to co-owners Chef, Nick Coffey and Front-of-House, Nova Askue to hear what’s good right now. Most items are sourced on the island so they will know what’s showing best when. Reservations are recommended, so book ahead.

Lamb leg, roasted koji, daikon & mustard greens at Ursa Minor

Lamb leg, roasted koji, daikon & mustard greens at Ursa Minor

So close to home, yet so very different, try Lopez Island. Do reserve your space on the outbound ferry as passage is never a guarantee. Bring binoculars for the amazing sights you will see far and wide. And let me know if that brewery ever opens its doors to visitors. Salud!

Amy L. Dickson is a communications professional, freelance writer, Level 1 sommelier, and a contributor to Rain or Shine Guides. Follow her at @amyldickson75

Seattle Day Trips: The Best of Bainbridge Island

Do you ever just want to get on a ferry and sail away to a quiet island full of super beautiful houses, nice parks, friendly people, and great little small businesses to explore? We do! Guess what? Bainbridge Island checks off all those boxes and is only a short 30 minute trip from Seattle. 

Getting there

To get to Bainbridge Island you will need to take a Washington State Ferry out of the ferry terminal in Downtown Seattle. You can get on the ferry on foot/bike or drive on. Both have their benefits. Walking on is eight dollars round trip. Even if you just ride to Bainbridge, and then turn around and come back it is worth eight dollars! Walking on does limit you a bit once you are on the island though, while the quaint downtown is all within walking distance some of the parks and businesses require a car/bike to get to. 

Ferry to Bainbridge Island

If you drive on it is usually around $15 - $25 (depending on how many people you have in the car) and then you can access whatever you'd like once you arrive. This is the route we normally go. Make sure to check the scheduled departures before you head there to time it right! 

Food and Drink

Streamliner Diner - Believe us when we say there is no other spot to get breakfast on Bainbridge Island. First off, if we ever had a breakfast joint, we would want it to have this exact vibe. It's so authentic and homey. A cup of coffee and some of their jam, it just makes you feel at home. We love their Citrus French Toast, A.B.C.T (I mean who actually wants the lettuce on a BLT? Really...you might not have ever minded it, but when we ask would you rather have cheese over lettuce...you think cheese obviously), Eggs Benedict, Biscuits and Gravy and probably anything on the specials board. 

Streamliner Diner Breakfast

Hitchcock Deli - This spot has a cult following in the PNW. They have several locations now, but the O.G. is on Bainbridge. People rave about the Pastrami, but we love the Cuban! Their quirky sign and unique locations are a joy to visit, with friendly staff and ethical food, it's a great lunch spot. 

Via Rosa 11 - This little Italian grocery store is a killer place to grab a bite. They make all their pasta and desserts in house. It's expensive, we but could eat their delicious handmade pasta until we POP. If they have meatballs on the menu, drop everything and order them all. No, we mean it, just ask how many meatballs they have back there and order every last meatball.

Blackbird Bakery - Is there any day that can’t be made great with a wonderful cup of coffee and sweet treat? Blackbird Bakery is a local bakery with a small town feel, and we love popping in for a slice of lemon tart or cinnamon roll. Good luck choosing what you want from the pastry cases though - we usually walk away with something for later as well!

Blackbird Bakery Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Brewing - This brewery has one of our favorite logos in the Pacific Northwest. We love their tribute to the ferry boats we enjoy so much living up here. Bonus: They also have amazing beer AND some really awesome locations. Their alehouse is in downtown Winslow and is a new and more modern space to hang out with some friends over a beer (and maybe a game or two). Their brewery is a short drive outside of town, but it is worth a trip if you have a car. We are big fans of their Kolsch and Grapefruit IPA.

Bainbridge Island Brewing

Eleven Winery - Eleven Winery is a great spot to break up your exploring and grab a tasting, poured by friendly staff. They have two locations, a tasting room within walking distance from the ferry in downtown, and their winery is just a short 5-mile drive up the road. Both are small spaces that provide an intimate setting to taste their variety of wines. Note the winery location is only open on the weekends and often has events, so make sure to check out their calendar when planning a visit to see what they have going on.

Things to do

Eagle Harbor Book Co. - As huge lovers of books, we always seek out the local bookstore in small towns like Bainbridge Island. Eagle Harbor won’t disappoint. They sell both used and new books and have a wonderful set up and selection to keep you browsing for days. The staff is incredibly kind, and they are right on the main street in Downtown.

Eagle Harbor Book Company Bainbridge Island

Bloedel Reserve - This 150 acre public garden and forest preserve was created by Mr. and Mrs. Bloedel when they purchased the private property in the 1950s to build their home. Over the years they worked to create a haven they would open to the public in the late 1980s and locals and visitors have been enjoying the grounds ever since. You can easily spend a few hours here exploring the trails, forest, and the beautiful home of the Bloedel’s. It’s open and wonderful to visit year round.

Bainbridge Island Museum of Art - This museum might not be incredibly big, but it is packed full of great art, including a ton of local artists and PNW culture. It’s also a beautiful building to be admired and only a short walk from the ferry terminal. Definitely worth a visit if you are a lover of art and culture.

Fort Ward State Park - If you want to take a quiet stroll along the waterfront, we recommend heading over to Fort Ward State Park. It has some old forts for the history buffs in the group and beautiful views of the Puget Sound for everyone. There are a few different trails to explore to get some exercise, great views, and fresh air.

Cute shop right off the ferry - stop in to shop for clothes, candles, and home goods.

Cute shop right off the ferry - stop in to shop for clothes, candles, and home goods.

This is our short list of the best of Bainbridge - did we leave anything out? Let us know in the comments if you have other favorite spots to visit!

McMenamins Edgefield

McMenamins Edgefield

McMenamins Edgefield

There are plenty of amazing hotels to stay at throughout Washington and Oregon, but you will never find a hotel group quite like McMenamins. Maybe that's because they are so much more than just a place to stay. It's not very often that, in addition to your room for the night, you also get a brewery, distillery, winery, coffee roastery, spa, music venue, movie theater, golf course, and history lesson all in one. It's like your favorite resort only with edge! Let us explain....

McMenamins has been transforming historic buildings into hotel resorts since the early 90s and now have 12 lodging locations throughout Oregon and Washington and more pubs and eateries than we care to count. Each location has it's own unique attributes and personality which make them wonderful. Today we are going to focus on McMenamins Edgefield, which we like to consider the motherload. It was the first hotel that the McMenamins family opened, and it's by far our favorite. Located just 20 minutes from downtown Portland, it makes a great weekend getaway!

The private king room

The private king room

The first thing you notice when you arrive to a McMenamins is all the crazy art work. Edgefield is decorated in this wacky wonderful way, honestly the decor is an attraction of it's own. You can forget your purpose as you walk around and get distracted by the crazy art and stories illustrated on the walls everywhere. For example, they are known for pipe art and one fun aspect of the pipe art is hidden faces; you can treat it as a scavenger hunt and walk around trying to locate them all.

Funny little pipe art.

Funny little pipe art.

Interesting art is all over the property.

Interesting art is all over the property.

The property has multiple restaurants including the delicious Black Rabbit restaurant (we got the ribeye and the bolognese and both were incredible) as well as a more casual Power Station Pub (pizza, burgers) and the seasonal Loading Dock Grill. Since McMenamins makes their own beer, spirits, and wine on site, they really encourage drinking of all kinds (and now you know why we love these places so much). You can grab a glass of wine at the winery, head to the Little Red Shed for spirits and cigars, or play some pool and darts with a beer at the Lucky Staehly's Pool Hall. And this is just a few of the places to grab a drink and they allow you to walk around the resort with your drinks, so no need to finish it before heading to hang out on the deck or at the gardens! Our personal favorite drinking spot was Jerry's Ice House, which was the cold storage of the farm (before refrigeration) that is now filled with posters and memorabilia dedicated to Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. They have Grateful Dead themed drinks and play music videos and documentaries, which sucks you in longer than you intended! 

There are more spots then just Jerry's Ice House that pay homage to the great performer, here is a Jerry Garcia statue found on the grounds.

There are more spots then just Jerry's Ice House that pay homage to the great performer, here is a Jerry Garcia statue found on the grounds.

Ok real talk, the options for eating and drinking are great, but the best part about Edgefield is the soaking pool. This thing is incredible. It's a large outdoor, saltwater pool that they keep exceptionally hot, so you can use it year round. And because no place on the property would deny you a drink, there is a cute little tea house right by the pool where you can get tea-infused cocktails, wines, beer, and even sandwiches. And if you feel like really going all out, they have a full-service spa for massages, facials, and the usual star treatment. The pool is a little walk from the main lodge, but luckily you get these giant, plush, amazing robes in your room that you can wear all over the property, so throw on your swimsuit and flip flops, wrap up in that robe and head over to relaxation station. 

A complimentary mason jar in your room acts as a growler.

A complimentary mason jar in your room acts as a growler.

We spent two days at the resort and didn't even manage to get to all of the places. It feels like you could spend a week here especially in the summer when you can sit outside and enjoy the nice weather or catch a show at the amphitheater (they get some big names like Wilco and the Decemberists!). The property also has golf and tons of outdoor fire pits, perfect for day drinking.

There is fun artwork to find in all sorts of different places!

There is fun artwork to find in all sorts of different places!

A few other things to note:

  • Some of the rooms use communal bathrooms. If you want your own private bathrooms make sure you select the private room option when booking.

  • There are many artists who sell their work throughout the property including blown glass and ceramics. Make sure you check them out!

  • While the Black Rabbit restaurant does serve breakfast, we didn't find it easy to grab something light for breakfast that didn't require a sit-down meal. You might want to consider bringing something on your own or opting for room service where you can get a simple bagel. If you hang the nifty room service menu card on your door before 10pm the night before, they'll bring you your items at the time of your choosing the next morning.

  • You can fill your beer growler in the main lodge gift shop, and if you forget your growler they give you a large mason jar in your room to use and take home for free. You can also buy McMenamins wines and spirits (and pipe art!) at the gift shop too.