The Seattle area has more than its share of exciting activities and attractions that we fully recommend, from visits to the Museum of Flight to the iconic Pike Place Market. But this time around we’d like to share some of our favorite attractions and experiences much closer to home. Here are 10 under-the-radar, hyper-local experiences—some seasonal, others available year-round—to explore during your next stay at Blue Heron Lakehouse.
HOP A RIDE ON A SCENIC RAILROAD
You can time travel (April-October) aboard the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad. Antique coaches chug along a 5½-mile track between Snoqualmie (21 mi. from the lakehouse) and North Bend. Highlights include views from the top of Snoqualmie Falls and the spectacular sight of the river rushing through the valley below. The Snoqualmie Depot is a strikingly elaborate 1890 structure that is home to the Northwest Railway Museum. You can learn about the railroad’s history from exhibits in the former gentlemen’s waiting room and freight room, tour a range of antique cars including a chapel car from the 1890s, and shop for train-related souvenirs. For an even more special treat, check for when Steam Locomotive 924 is on the schedule. This restored engine, which looks it’s straight out of an old movie, just entered service in late 2020.
SEARCH FOR OLD-GROWTH TREES
Weowna Park (3 mi. from the lakehouse) is 90 acres of woodsy trails built around a steep ravine with a creek creating pools and a couple of miniature waterfalls. You’ll find remnants of the region’s old-growth forest here. The park bears a local secret. While its name sounds like it might be Native American in origin, it’s actually an inside joke. When a group of locals bought the land to stave off development, they proudly proclaimed, tongue-in-cheek, “We Own a Park!”
VISIT A TWIN PEAKS ICON
Fans of the Twin Peaks TV series are fanatical about visiting Twede’s Café in North Bend (23 mi.). The series’ creator, David Lynch, “found” the low-slung diner on a scouting trip in 1990, which launched the eatery into the big time. The famous dramatic TV series was filmed at the café and other landmarks in the Snoqualmie Valley. The café’s cherry pie and “Damn fine cup o’ coffee” were a celebrated part of the show, both of which you can still enjoy at the café.
PLAY MINECRAFT—AT MICROSOFT
Few know that the world-famous Microsoft campus, in Redmond (4 mi.), has a store and Visitor Center. At the center you can learn about the latest Microsoft research initiatives, see the very first personal computer and take a self-guided tour of interactive displays, including the latest Xbox games and MineCraft.
PICK FRESH BLUEBERRIES
Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm (4 mi.) is a hidden oasis in the city and a charming throwback to when Bellevue was known for its agriculture, which included vast tracts of strawberry fields, as well as blueberry farms. A visit to Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm is fun for families, with U-Pick available mid-June through October. Trails lead from the farm to a loop around Larsen Lake, and a farm store offers already picked blueberries, other fruit and fresh flowers.
TIME TRAVEL TO THE ’50S
The Triple XXX Root Beer Drive-in, in Issaquah (9 mi.), is a throwback to the ‘50s, with its drive-in slots and interior filled with vinyl booths, Formica countertops with red swivel stools, even a jukebox. This is the kind of place where you spend as much time looking at the walls and ceiling as at your plate—every square inch is plastered with memorabilia. In addition to the diner-style burgers, fries and onion rings, they also make giant milkshakes and floats, with root beer floats crafted from the owner’s original 1930s recipe.
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN GREENERY
Molbak’s is a destination garden and home center in Woodinville (11 mi.) that has enchanted multiple generations of families. A visit here—especially during cold or rainy days—is filled with warmth and vibrancy. Founded in 1956 by a Danish family, the operation is vast, with more than 1.5 acres of greenhouses, an outdoor nursery, a café and a home and gift center. It’s especially fun to visit during the holiday season when the greenhouses are a sea of red poinsettias and an entire greenhouse is devoted to colorful ornaments. I always budget time for lunch during a visit; the café offers sandwiches, salads, quiches and a nice selection of onsite-baked goodies.
GO TO A DRIVE-IN MOVIE
When is the last time you went to a drive-in movie? Never? Drive-ins are true relics these days, few in number. But every summer Marymoor Park (5 mi.) stages outdoor movies (Drive-in Movies @ Marymoor) that you can watch from the comfort of your car. Food trucks and entertainment add to the fun. 2021 will be the 17th year for this well-loved family event.
WATCH SALMON SPAWNING
Every October, the nearby town of Issaquah (9 mi.) hosts the Salmon Days Festival with local bands, a crafts fair/street market and, of course, fair food. The event celebrates the return of salmon to local lakes and streams. But you don’t have to happen to be here during the festival. Salmon spawn in Issaquah Creek every fall (late August through late November). It’s exciting to see them jostling for space as they dig their nests and spawn. One of the best spots to watch the spectacle is from the bridge at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. Friends of the Issaquah Hatchery offer weekend tours where you can learn about the life cycle of this Northwest icon and see salmon through viewing windows.
PLAY A ROUND OF MINIATURE GOLF
Miniature golf is always a fun group event. Forum Social House, in downtown Bellevue (9 mi.), amps it up with an extensive and sophisticated indoor course that’s thoroughly modern and highly entertaining. Forum’s course is 18 holes long, with amusing settings ranging from a flying saucer to a “fish pond” projected on the floor. Besides the mini-golf element, Forum also has Topgolf Swing Suites where you can try your hand at virtual golf in various world-famous settings. With a café and bar, this space rocks on weekend nights.
NOTE: Be sure to check websites to learn the latest about open times at these attractions; some may be closed during coronavirus.