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Mini City Guide: Anacortes, Washington

October 23, 2015
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When my husband and I moved to Anacortes, Washington from Southern California, we had no idea we would very shortly be expanding to a family of three. We have gotten the chance to explore our hometown and surrounding areas with little ones in tow for most of our time living here and we have seriously loved it. It definitely is a little more difficult and time consuming to ‘up and go’ with two kids than it was when it was just us, but it is a small price to pay for the adventures we have gotten to go on as a family. My favorite resource for finding fun things to do with the kids is the SKAGIT KID INSIDER website. I’m not sure if a site like this is common in other areas, but if you live in or are visiting Skagit County, you have to take advantage of it. It is a one-stop site to view all the family friendly events, festivals and places to visit- all organized by the calendar day. I love it!

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The ANACORTES LIBRARY has one of the best kid areas I have seen. Like most libraries, they do many different reading programs but the care and attention the librarians put into the area is fantastic. Even if you won’t be checking out a book, the many window seats, activity room and reading area are a great place to cozy up during rainy season.

While the ship yard in downtown Anacortes (located at Commercial and 3rd) isn’t actually an attraction, it boasts massive dry docked ships and enough activity to keep any little one interested long enough for you to sip on your coffee quietly! I have found that it is easiest to drive by and point out the ships to the kids and then find a good parking spot out of the way. We have gotten out and sat on the sidewalk to watch the workers but often times, I just roll down the windows and let them watch for a few minutes.

dsc08149-copyThe ANACORTES MURAL PROJECT was started just over 30 years ago, and it is a great way to learn some local history. The artist, Bill Mitchell, paints murals based upon historical photographs that reflect life in Anacortes during the last century. There are countless depictions of locals, events and even a Sasquatch or two tucked between buildings throughout town.

Just a few minutes outside of Anacortes, SHUH FARMS, is our favorite spot to frequent for locally grown everything, farm animals to pet and feed, and acres of fields that children are encouraged to explore- especially during this time of year. The owners are nearly always working in the market inside the barn, and are eager to make you aware of the best field to pick from, when the baby pigs will arrive and which pie they recommend from the drive through pie and coffee kiosk that is also on the premises.

If there is anything Anacortes is known for, it is their festivals, especially the Tulip Festival held every Aril. If you visit, it is likely there is one festival or another going on so it is always worth it to Google and see which one is happening. Through the year, we hold the Festival of Family Farms, the Tulip Festival, Ship Wreck Days, the Oyster Run, the Arts Festival and more. These are one of my favorite things about living in a small town!

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The island has many great parks and play grounds. Our favorites are STORVICK PARK (known for the coolest playground equipment I have ever seen) and WASHINGTON PARK (known for its playground overlooking the Puget Sound and three-ish mile loop that you can walk or drive). You really can’t go wrong with the parks here, but those are the two we frequent most often.

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Usually, I wouldn’t think about mentioning a TOY STORE, but our local one is the cutest shop. The owners are extremely knowledgeable and helpful and the store is stuffed to the gills with wooden, educational, and extra cute toys. It’s worth a look, especially if you are on the hunt for something that the big box store doesn’t have.

Although not in Anacortes (it is actually located on the neighboring island), the DRIVE IN THEATER is one of our favorite family activities. There aren’t many of them around anymore, so we know we are lucky to have one close. And we know we are even luckier to have one that is cheap, clean and well run at that!

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There are only a few fast food places on the island, which means that Anacortes is a foodie’s dream! Some of the yummiest are GERE A DELI, VILLAGE PIZZA and BOB’S CHOWDER BAR. For coffee, you really can’t go wrong, but PENGUIN’S, CRUISIN’ COFFEE and MOKA JOE’S (don’t skip this one – their coffee milkshake is ah-mazing!) are some of our favorite stops.

On your way to Anacortes from I-5, you must stop at SNOW GOOSE PRODUCE during the warm months. The market itself is full of local treasures and yummy produce, but the locally churned ice cream is really the draw. It is rich and creamy and there is a flavor for everyone. Be advised, they only take cash and consider sharing – the single scoops are about the size of a large grapefruit!

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If you stop nowhere else to eat on the island, you absolutely must stop at THE STORE for muffins. Even if you would never consider getting a muffin as a snack any other time, you must get one here! I’m serious. The loaves of bread are also to die for. My personal favorites are the Raspberry Crème muffin and the Rosemary Sea Salt bread. The entire store is filled with a great wine selection, gourmet snacks and a variety of local ice cream, soda and cheese. Think of a liquor store that is on a completely different level.
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DECEPTION PASS absolutely cannot be missed. If you don’t have time to get out and walk the trails around the base of the bridge, you must as least drive over it – at dusk, if possible. The water is gorgeous and the bridge is beautifully built. There are many walking trails to explore and the beaches at the bottom are fun spots to fish and picnic- or to just dip your toes in the water for a few minutes.01-the-pier-at-bowman-bay

The GUEMES TRAIL and the TOMMY THOMPSON TRAIL are two walking paths that follow the coast through two of the harbors here on the island. They are well paved and easily accessed, even with strollers or laboring pregnant women (after two weeks of pre-labor, my husband and I vigorously walked the Tommy Thompson to kick start labor and finally got to meet our son that night!), and the views are breathtaking.

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