Here's an hour-by-hour itinerary for an enjoyable day in homey downtown Edmonds, a charming ferry-dock town north of Seattle.
When I was growing up there circa 1960, Edmonds was a quintessential American small town. Within about three blocks we had a bakery, a variety store, a soda fountain, a hardware store and the Princess movie theater, where a Saturday double bill cost 10 cents. One of the great pleasures of returning as an adult is how many of the historic buildings remain and how protective residents are of its now charming and largely intact downtown.
True, the place is a little more upscale than when I was a child. The Buster Brown shoe store where we disposed of our year-old Keds and left with stiff new saddle shoes has been replaced by the decidedly chic Mu Shoe boutique on Main Street, and dozens of other specialty shops selling everything from custom-designed jewelry to cookware to books to cheese.
It’s not uncommon to see groups of women out to breakfast, exchanging gift bags and catching up on the news. Or grown daughters treating their mother to lunch and then a leisurely poke through the downtown shops, most of them within a block or two of the central city fountain at Fifth Avenue and Main.
And where diversity in Edmonds once meant a choice at the bakery among bear claws, apple strudel or maple bars, the town is now truly a jumping-off point for the world. Native son Rick Steves founded his Europe-focused travel empire here and offers free seminars most Thursdays and Saturdays at his Europe Through the Back Door Travel Center, 130 Fourth Ave. N., or in the remodeled Princess, now Edmonds Theatre. A block away, another globe-trotting business, The Savvy Traveler, offers introductions to destinations such as Bali and Bhutan.
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Just a 20-minute drive from Seattle, Edmonds may be better known for its summer attractions: vibrant hanging flower baskets, corner gardens and a lively Saturday market. But in the gray months, the downtown offers brightly lit shops, engaging merchants, more than a score of places to eat, and the chance to jet off, for an imagined hour or two, to a South Pacific beach or a warm Parisian cafe.
Here’s a timeline for how you could spend a day:
We ate breakfast at Chanterelle, 316 Main St., a light-filled restaurant with wood wainscoting, high windows and freshly baked pastries. For a lighter breakfast, try Red Twig, 117 Fifth Ave. S., which also has a variety of fresh pastries, or Walnut Street Coffee Shop, 410 Walnut St., south of downtown, where the local Sisters Baking Company supplies the treats.
For more standard American, kid-friendly breakfast fare, try Claire’s Pantry, 310 Main St., or the Pancake Haus at 530 Fifth Ave. S.
At the theater, we sat in on a free Rick Steves seminar on Paris, featuring slides of the grand city in a wintry light, as well as tips on where to stay and what to see. Nov. 21 is Steves’ twice-yearly all-day travel festival, which typically attracts thousands of visitors to downtown Edmonds (at the theater and the nearby Edmonds Center for the Arts). The restaurants fill up at lunch time and parking is more challenging. (For more information on the festival, and a calendar of other seminars, see www.ricksteves.com/news/classes/class_menu.htm.)
Almost all the shopping is concentrated in a three-block radius of Fifth and Main. Some of the nearby specialty stores include Treasures and Teas, 102 Fifth Ave. S., with more than 150 loose-tea varieties as well as beach-house décor; The Wooden Spoon kitchen shop, 104 Fifth Ave. S.; and The Savvy Traveler, 112 Fifth Ave. S., where you’ll find luggage, clothes and travel guides not carried at Rick Steves’ shop.
Across Fifth Avenue is the inviting Edmonds Bookshop, 111 Fifth Ave. S. Owner Mary Kay Sneeringer says she fills the store with titles “you really want to read.” The shop also carries handmade journals, greeting cards and calendars.
Hungry yet? We weren’t after our big breakfast, but there are so many good restaurants downtown that it would have been a dereliction of reporterly duty not to have tried at least one place for lunch. We chose Olives Cafe and Wine Bar, 107 Fifth Ave. N., with a delicious selection of soups, salads and sandwiches. Other good choices include The Loft, 515 Main St., with its Mediterranean-influenced plates, and Thai Cottage, 417 Main St.
Just across the street from Olives is the Edmonds Historical Museum, 118 Fifth Ave. N. Housed in a former Carnegie Library, the handsome two-story brick and stucco building will celebrate its centennial next year. The museum has permanent displays of turn-of-the-19th century Edmonds including a Victorian parlor, a kitchen before and after the arrival of electricity, and a room from the once-grand and now demolished Olympic View Hotel.
For a dime, a replica model shingle mill lights up and tells the story of Edmonds’ working waterfront around 1910. The docents, mostly retired residents who have lived much of the town’s history, preside over the permanent and rotating exhibits with warmth and graciousness. The museum also has a walking-tour map of downtown historic buildings and homes.
Time for a snack? Grab some gourmet cheese, salami and crackers from The Resident Cheesemonger, 405 Main St., and head five blocks west to the ferry dock or find a picnic table along Sunset Avenue, weather permitting.
We happen to love ferry rides across Puget Sound. If you’ve lucked into a sunny day, depart from the Edmonds ferry dock at the foot of Main Street. There are winter sailings at 3:05 and 4:15 p.m. The ferry to Kingston and back takes about 90 minutes and costs $6.90 apiece.
If the weather is cold or socked in and you want to do a little more shopping, or sample some wine, head south again on Fifth Avenue. Arista Wine Cellars, 320 Fifth Ave. S., hosts a free wine tasting on Saturdays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Next door is the brightly colored C’est la Vie shop featuring unique clothing, gifts and accessories. Just beyond these is Bluefish, 420 Fifth Ave. S., where local jeweler Barbara McNaughton will redesign old pieces of jewelry or make a custom piece for a special occasion.
If you still don’t want to go home, tiny Daphne’s, 415-½ Main St., next to the Edmonds Theatre, serves wine and snacks until midnight daily. Sort through your purchases, rest your feet and congratulate yourself that you chose to shop in downtown Edmonds and not one of those crowded malls.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or email@example.com