Vancouver AquariumVancouver AquariumThe Pacific Northwest. The name evokes images of old growth forests, wild seashores, funky restaurants in Seattle, the old-world charm of Victoria and the new-world frisson of Vancouver, and of course, cruising past Alaska glaciers.
But there is so much more to see. Places like Spokane and Whidbey Island in Washington are a little off the regular tourist path, but well worth the journey for spectacular outdoor adventure, fine food and wine and attractions that are special to each place.

Specially Spokane
Spokane, in northeastern Washington bills itself as “Near nature. Near perfect.” A description that is absolutely true. The region offers all the summer and winter outdoor thrills that the Cascade and Rocky
Sonora Smart DoddSpokane Regional CVB mountains and 76 lakes can offer. There is also golf, art galleries, museums, Broadway shows and fine dining to enjoy.

Spokane also has another side, one uniquely its own. For example, did you know the city is home to 42 exotic and endangered cats including lions, leopards, pumas and lynx – even a liger – at the Cat Tales Zoological Park?

Kitschy museums are also the name of the game here. One local collector ended up with so many items he opened Carr’s One-of-a-Kind Museum to display his one-of-a-kind vehicles. The Crosbyana Room at Gonzaga University, boasts 200 pieces of the world’s largest public collection of Bing Crosby memorabilia, including an Oscar.

Dining can be an adventure in itself here. In summer, clients can jump in a canoe on the Spokane River, in the heart of downtown Spokane, and paddle upstream to Bangkok Thai, one of the best Thai food restaurants in the region. In winter they can strap on snowshoes for the Snowshoeing and Dinner trek to the top of Mt. Spokane.  

Caption for tubs of beans:
Whidbey & Camano Island have embraced their agrarian nature and welcome visitors to tour local farms and markets and enjoy local foods.

Photo Credit: Alspektor

Off The Eaten Path
On Washington’s coast, Whidbey and Camano Islands, two hours’ drive south of Vancouver and 40 kilometres north of Seattle, declare they are “The Shortest Distance to Far Away”. Relaxed, historic and beautiful, the islands have embraced their agrarian nature and welcome visitors to tour local farms and enjoy local foods in a wide range of eateries. Some favourites: Chef Scott Fraser’s quarterly Prix-fixe wine pairing menus; fresh seafood caught and cooked up by the Waldron family at Seabolt’s Smokehouse; Ca’ Buni Cafe in the Mukilteo Coffee Roastery.

The 5th Annual Whidbey Island Farm Tour goes September 11 and 12 and features a free, self-guided tour of 20 working farms that produce animals, vegetables, fruits, flowers, shellfish and plenty of food product. Saturday night sees a locavore dinner featuring organic produce, followed by a live auction.
And there are also markets like Bayview Farmers Market, Coupeville Farmers Market, Greenbank Farm Sunday market, Oak Harbor Public Market and South Whidbey Tilth Farmers’ Market to browse.

Whidbey Island boasts seven artisan wineries: Blooms Winery, Fishtalk Vineyard, Greenbank Cellars, Holmes Harbour Cellars, Whidbey Island Vineyards and Winery, Swede Hill Cellars and Spoiled Dog Winery.

There is also Dusty Cellars Winery, a family-owned and operated winery on Camano Island. All are locally owned and operated and invite visitors to sample wines at the Greenbank Farm.

The Quirky 10
And then there is Vancouver. Slowly coming back down to earth after the highs of hosting the hugely successful Winter Games, the city is waiting to welcome the world all over again. All of the major attractions and activities were covered during the Olympic broadcasts, so we’re going for the not so obvious, and, compliments of Tourism Vancouver, list the 10 Quirky Things to Do in Vancouver:

1. Feed the sea otters on a behind-the-scenes tour at the Vancouver Aquarium.
2. Pitch ‘n’ putt into the twilight hours in Stanley Park.
3. Check out the darker side of the city's history at the Vancouver Police Museum.
4. Don spurs and a ten-gallon hat for the Cloverdale Rodeo
5. Dip into a series of dances, picnics and cultural events held during June’s Portuguese Heritage Month.
6. Trawl through Vancouver’s colourful history with a summertime Architectural Heritage Tour offered by the Architectural Institute of British Columbia.
7. Witness one of the wackiest shows on stage at the annual Vancouver Fringe Festival.
8. Take a one-day cooking class at Granville Island's Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts.
9. Take a train underground and see a real mining tunnel or pan for gold (and keep it!) at the BC Museum of Mining.
10. Speed around the race-track in a go-kart at the Richmond Go-Kart Track.

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