Festive Fidalgo

A pre-Christmas getaway

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Christmas season is upon us, so if you need a break from your shopping list, consider a quick jaunt to Anacortes. The city’s spectacular ocean views will rescue you from your winter blues, and its delightful mom-and-pop stores on Commercial Avenue promise a welcome break from big-box retailers.

I felt the tension slip away on Memorial Highway as soon as Fidalgo Bay came into view, flanked by Mt. Baker in a scene straight out of a postcard. After an afternoon rock-hopping for the best overlook in local parks and a few hours of eating and browsing my way through the historic city’s main strip, the week’s worries were gone and that cheery holiday feeling was in full swing.

Here’s what not to miss when you go: If you’re thinking of making a serious declaration of love this winter, Cap Sante Park should be your destination. V Avenue delivers you by vehicle to the perfect overlook of the Cap Sante Waterway, an elevation from which traffic is nonexistent and Padilla Bay stretches seductively before you. The park’s rocky outcropping is a peaceful place for inspiration and reflection.

Take a horse ride. Weekends until Christmas, there are free horse-drawn trolley rides up and down Commercial Avenue, courtesy of two good-natured draft horses. Perfect for families with young kids, the rides are accompanied by singing, cookies and good cheer. They’re a great way to experience Anacortes’ small-town, friendly atmosphere.

The Guemes Channel Trail is a spectacular place for a brisk walk or run along the ocean, with spellbinding views of the ferries and islands. The half-mile paved walkway is level, easily accessible and offers plenty of opportunities to birdwatch. Washington Park is another venue for great trails with overlooks that will get your heart racing. Here you’re surrounded by the islands—Burrows, Allan, Decatur, Guemes, and Cypress. Pack a picnic and you have the perfect recipe for a winter afternoon of sheer beauty.

About that picnic lunch: Gere-A-Deli, a 36-year-old family-owned business on Commercial Avenue, will more than satisfy. Owned by Laurie Gere, the mayor of Anacortes, this fun deli is a local hotspot decorated with vintage beverage signs and offering quick turnarounds on healthy wraps, sandwiches busting at their seams and Gere’s one-of-a-kind Panda Bears—chocolate cake dipped in chocolate. (The carrot cake and fruit cobblers are legendary, too.)

Browse Commercial Avenue. The downtown core of Anacortes announces itself with a tall archway referencing its 1891 beginnings. Like Fairhaven, Anacortes was deluged by prospectors who believed it would be the site for a railroad terminus, and their handsome brick buildings were completed just as they discovered Seattle had been selected instead. Today those old brick walls house a unique assortment of retailers—from delis to stores specializing in vintage clothes, olive oil, gifts, woven garments, home décor, and artists’ galleries. A far cry from the local mall, the historical hub is filled with historical look-backs, including 150 murals of local personalities and trash cans with exteriors of vintage salmon can labels.

For more info, go to http://www.anacortes.org

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