Weekend Getaways

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

The FOOD!

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.

On the Road: Bend, Oregon

Bend Oregon

When you live in the PNW the opportunities for bad-ass vacations in your backyard are endless. Leavenworth, San Juan Islands, Astoria, Vashon Island, Tofino, Crater Lake, Olympic Peninsula; the list really is endless. This month we decided a trip to Bend with a good group of friends was in order. A friend's weekend needs a few key things to be successful: good food, good bars, good activities, and good people. Luckily, Bend can give you all of this in one adorable Oregon mountain town. If you don't have cool friends, well.. Bend could probably help you with that one if you like hippies or skiing...if not, then you're on your own. 

So, now let's get into how to do Bend right. You're going to need to pack your drinking pants and possibly your snow gear (in winter) or hiking gear (in summer) if you want to work off the many calories you are about to consume. 

Where to Stay

McMenamins - Old St. Francis School

McMenamins are an all-time favorite of Rain or Shine Guides. These incredibly unique and transformed hotels are always a treat to spend the night in. No rooms are the same and they have incredible detail and flare that you can't find anywhere else. McMenamins are often referred to as the adult resorts of the PNW. Old St. Francis School in Bend is no different. They offer a beautiful soaking pool, movie theater, several bars on site with live music on most nights, and of course enough art on the walls to keep you busy perusing for days. 

Airbnb

We are huge fans of Airbnb - especially when traveling with a group. There are great Airbnb's all over Bend. We would recommend staying in Bend's Westside neighborhood or Downtown because Bend is a great town to walk and bike! In the summer scout out homes that come with bikes and in the winter definitely prioritize a hot tub with your rental. 

Camp

If you aren't coming to Bend for the food and beer (primary reason for us), then you are probably coming for the outdoors. This is a spectacular part of Oregon, with Mt. Bachelor looming in the distance and so much to see and do in the area surrounding town. If you like to camp we would recommend Bend-Sunriver RV Campground. It's clean, has good prices, and additional things on site to keep everyone entertained. 

Where to Eat 

Spork

Spork Bowl Bend

Alright, so Spork is the number one place to eat in Bend on Yelp, which means it isn't revolutionary of us to recommend this spot, but holy S$^@%-balls, it's just so damn good that you can't even understand how life existed before you ate here. This quaint Mexican-Asian fusion restaurant is full of so much amazing flavor and spice you will wonder how Asia and Mexico didn't figure out their cuisines went together sooner. It's one of those places that once you take your first bite you think, "I don't need to eat anything else the rest of my life. If I had nothing but this pork all day every day, I would be completely happy." The vibe in the restaurant is modern meets boho (yes, you should absolutely sit in the egg shaped booths carved out into the walls). 

Our favorite: Shredded Pork Rice Bowl

The Brown Owl

The Brown Owl chili

The Brown Owl was recommended to us by our kombucha-tender at Humm (This what you call the person who serves you kombucha instead of beer, right? No? Oh, just go with it). What's great is this food truck/bar is located right by Atlas, Crux, and Immersion, so you can drink a bunch of beer and cider, get good and hungry for some comfort food, and then go demolish everything on the menu at Brown Owl...which is absolutely what we did. The homemade corndogs were the main attraction, having had only the state fair variety we obviously had to see what this was all about. But beyond that, everything we tried just tasted better then the last. Mac n cheese loaded with onions and peppers? Fire. Fire roasted tomato and beef chili with a side of deep-fried cornbread? Bomb. Beer pretzel made by someone who studied pretzel-making in Germany? Do we even need to say it? Ok we will - it was damn delicious people. 

The bar you can take your food porn into is also super cool. Beautiful log walls with decor that brings the outdoors in, canoes hanging above the bar, taxidermy animals (wearing sombreros), and long wood tables fill the space for you too relax in after a long, hard day of day-drinking.

Our favorite: Homemade Corndog

Drake

Drake is where you go to get your nice dinner in Downtown Bend. This spot is trendy, but not pretentious, with a stacked menu that will please just about anyone in your party, from the vegetarian to the steak eater who can't avoid the filet mignon on any menu. First, head to the bar for a drink. Their bartenders are fun to watch as they expertly craft creative drinks. Things are set on fire and transformed into unique drinks you can only find at the Drake Bar. Once you're finished at the bar, head to a table and start on the small plates - don't miss out on the roasted cauliflower! From there the entrees are waiting for you. Beware - they are big. Prepare yourself for half of a chicken when you order the fried chicken or a bone-in pork chop as big as your face. We respect anyone with the self-control to not eat it all and lick the plate - it's so good it's worth feeling a little miserable after. 

Our favorite: Mac n Cheese (be bad and add the bacon)

The Dough Nut

The Dough Nut Bend

Prepare for sugar overload because it's impossible not to over order when you visit The Dough Nut. They have everything from your staple Maple Bars and Apple Fritters all the way to Mayan Chocolate Cream Cheese and Banana-Rum Buttermilk Bars. Also not to be missed are their breakfast sandwiches. They sandwich your fixings (we recommend going for something with pesto on it) in between two doughnuts, they aren't sweet, just fried dough, but holy crap it's freaking amazing. 

Where to Drink

Crux Fermentation Project

This is kind of the place to visit when you come to Bend. The brewery is a little off the beaten path but patrons are rewarded with over 20 unique beers on tap and an amazing tasting room. They plan their happy hour specials around the sunset, hippies (and lovers of beauty) rejoice! Come enjoy a pint and watch the sun sink below the mountains. 

Our favorite: Crux Farmhouse

Atlas Cider Co. 

Atlas Cider Co.

Atlas is a great break from beers. Come to their tasting room to have some refreshing, crisp/tart/unique ciders. It's a perfect spot to go with a group - they have just about everything you need for a fun afternoon: pool, arcade games, tons of cider to work your way through, dogs running around eating popcorn that was accidentally dropped on the floor (the popcorns free (wee!) but drop in some dollars to support local charities), and don't miss their apple cider donuts, made with their apple cider - YUM. 

Our favorite: Blackberry cider

Deschutes Brewery

This is one of the big ones in town (10 Barrel is another big name you can visit). If you are in Bend to experience small-time craft brewing, then you can skip Deschutes, but we think they have good beer and their Public House in Downtown Bend also has a full menu of yummy food, which is needed when you're drinking all day, every day. There are several beers on their menu that you can only get at this location - so we would recommend sticking with those (they are clearly labeled) and get the elk burger or fried chicken sandwich if you have room in your stomach - they are both delish! 

Our favorite: Fresh squeezed IPA

Immersion Brewing 

Immersion Brewing makes the list because they 1. have good beer, 2. have good food, and 3. (this one sets them apart) they offer Brew-It-Yourself classes! You can book a two hour session with their team and brew your own beer, wait three weeks and come back to bottle it up and take it home to impress all your friends and family! 

Our favorite: Little Fawn Saison

Humm Kombucha

Humm Kombucha

We are PNW ladies, which means we obviously love Kombucha (we wrote about a local Seattle kombucha maker here), and we don't really ever miss an opportunity to drink this fizzy drink of the gut gods. We even each brew our own at home - kombucha addictions are hard on the wallet if you don't make your own. No shocker here, Humm's on tap was like 10 million times better than anything we've ever made. In their Bend tasting room they have their staple flavors that are available in a lot of grocery stores up and down the west coast. The way to go is to get a taster and fill it with the "Mix It Up" - these are their original flavors mixed into unique flavors. 

Our favorites: Sunburst and Berry Blast

What to Do

Explore Downtown

Downtown Bend is really stinking cute. It's full of coffee shops, restaurants, breweries, and shopping for everyone! We could walk the streets and along the river for an entire afternoon easily. Some really fun spots to highlight would be Looney Bean Cafe and The Commons. These are both great spots to hang out and sip some coffee or grab a light bite by the river with a view. They both have events too, so check out their calendars for when you're in town. 

They also have great shopping, including killer Birkenstock and Patagonia stores. Lark is a great outdoorsy store with functional and natural decor and clothing. Jubeelee is a fun women's clothing store to grab trendy clothing and jewelry, and if you want to take home some cool Bend swag we recommend The Bend Store

Note: We purposefully left off The Old Mill District from our list. It's full of chain restaurants and stores and although it is in a beautiful part of town, it isn't our favorite place to explore.

Hike 

The area surrounding Bend is beautiful, so if you have some time, get outside and explore. Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint (you can drive or hike to the viewpoint) and Shelvin Park are close to town and are both great options for easy hiking and beautiful views. About 20 miles outside of Bend, there is also a great waterfall hike, Tumalo Falls. Smith Rock State Park is also nearby and offers some of Oregon's most stunning scenery and beautiful hiking trails! 

Deschutes River Bend

If you want an easy stroll then we recommend opting for the Deschutes River Trail, this 12 mile trail runs right through the town of Bend and offers a paved or gravel trail, depending on where you are, along the river.

Ski 

Mt. Bachelor sits about 30 miles outside Bend and offers some of the best skiing in Oregon! Don't ski? Well no worries, there are a ton of other activities on the mountain to enjoy including tubing, free snowshoeing tours, and..wait for it... sled dog rides. WHAT?! We haven't done this yet, but you better believe it's on the bucket list. (Remember that movie Balto? Such a heroic tale.)

Catch a concert/live performance

Les Swab Amphitheater sits on the river and gets a lot of the big name performers in Bend. Check out their lineup to see if you can snag tickets for a show. 

The Volcanic Theatre Pub is another great venue in Bend for live music. They also have a theatre if you're more interested in plays! 

Many bars around town have live music throughout the week, including Northside Bar and Grill and McMenamin's Father Luke's Room. 

That wraps up the top spots in Bend to check out when you visit. If you have any must-see, must-drink, or must-eat locations let us know so we can visit them on our next trip to Bend!