Snohomish County Offers Mountain Views, Vibrant Communities and an Abundance of Sports Facilities

By Sherri Middleton

Covering an area roughly the size of the State of Delaware, Snohomish County, Washington, offers diverse scenery, unique experiences, and a seemingly non-stop list of sports events taking place night and day. There are almost 20 cities in this county, so seeing it all in two days was not a possibility. We did our best.

Referred to locally as Seattle NorthCountry, the Snohomish County area is just a short drive north of Seattle between the Cascade Mountains and the Salish Sea.

It’s a place where the indigenous native American tribes pass along respect for the land, the salmon and traditions of conservation are ever-present.

But it’s also a modern, growing part of Washington that thrives on good food, unique attractions, and an abundance of local, national, and international sports because of the proximity to Vancouver, the Pacific region, and the Western states.

I arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SeaTac) around noon for my first day visiting the county, and my host, Tammy Dunn, executive director of the Snohomish County Sports Commission greeted me for the start of our adventure.

Our first stop after a quick lunch was to visit the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum at Paine Field in Everett.

I had a pang of guilt for flying into SeaTac but quickly remembered that even though Paine Field is an international airport, my flight options were limited. Alaska Airlines and United both serve this airport, and if I weren’t traveling across the country, I probably would have considered this option. It is convenient and would save time for passengers heading Northwest who would like to avoid Seattle’s traffic.

Cassylee Mead, marketing coordinator for the museum, whisked us off to see the collection built by Paul Allen in 1998. The museum and collection moved from Arlington, Washington, to its current location at Paine Field and includes aircraft, vehicles, military artifacts, and interactive stations from world conflicts from the 20th Century.

More than 20 aircraft and 25 vehicles have been acquired, restored, and displayed to provide an educational experience in the 75,000-square-foot hangar.

After the tour, I checked in to the Best Western Plus Navigator Inn & Suites in Everett before heading to dinner at Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing next to the ferry dock in historic Mukilteo. We walked a short distance to watch the ferry arrive and depart and snapped a few pictures of the lighthouse at Lighthouse Park before heading inside the warm and cozy establishment to enjoy fresh seafood at ‘One of the 100 Most Scenic Restaurants in America’, according to OpenTableDiners.

The next day, we headed out to the Puget Sound Express in Edmonds to mark off what was a bucket list item I had honestly never thought would be a possibility. We were searching – along with many other passengers – for a view of a whale in the waters around the area. Our trip was on the Chilkat Express, a high-speed, propeller-less foilcat that reached speeds of around 40 knots. With passenger seating for 60, we relaxed in luxury in high-back seats in a warm viewing cabin complete with a snack bar, restrooms, and a nature-guide who explained the ecosystem, wildlife, and points along the way.

We saw harbor seals as we headed out to open water. Storms and choppy water made riding on our speeding vessel an experience of its own. We threw our hands in the air as if riding a roller coaster as we cruised through the water toward Canada. We slowed only when necessary to watch seals sunning on the beach and a Bald Eagle pecking away at a meal before arriving in the waters off Vancouver Island and Victoria, where we finally spotted a Humpback feeding in the deep sea. The day before our trip and the day after, travelers reported seeing Killer Whales and pods of Minke. The Puget Sound Express promises that you’ll see whales on the tour, or the next trip is free. I was not disappointed to see a humpback on my outing.

If you take this trip, be sure to try the Blueberry Buckle. It’s a family recipe from the owners that begins baking while you board. The sweet aroma permeates the air as you take off. I finally purchased one to share with Tammy.

After a quick change and a little work back at the hotel, we acted like kids at Arena Sports Mill Creek, where Tammy tried the ropes course, and I watched from below. We also challenged ourselves to video games, enjoyed salad and pizza, and watched the Seattle Seahawks versus the New York Jets on the big screens before attempting a final fun, but infuriating battle over Jurassic Park that served as our sweaty, muscle-tiring workout for the day.

Friday morning, I met with Bill Rode, area director-group sales with the 360° Hotel Group that manages multiple properties in Snohomish County and Seattle, including the Best Western Plus, a Hampton Inn and Suites, Springhill Suites and Hotel NEXUS.

The Best Western Plus Navigator Inn & Suites offers a variety of accommodations from queen studios to bubble tub suites, and rooms include a full kitchen for teams to prepare meals in the room or a free hot breakfast is available every day for those who don’t want to buy groceries or cook.

The property also includes an indoor pool and fitness center in addition to free self-service laundry. Rode said the hotel group hopes to accommodate teams and families in the area and mentioned the convenience of being near the Boeing headquarters, sports facilities, and a short drive from Seattle as a bonus to stay in Everett.

After our meeting, we headed to Totem Family Diner, a landmark in Everett since 1953. A totem pole marks the location, and the extensive menu keeps all but the locals fumbling to find the perfect thing to order. No matter what you order, the plate is full, the staff is friendly, and you’ll need a nap.

We skipped the nap and headed to the Schack Art Center, a short drive away. The center is an admission-free visual art complex that features work from local and internationally known artists and emerging artists. We stopped to watch two professional glassblowers in the hot shop before walking the hallways to view a gallery of children’s art, studios, and learning more about the artists who live in the complex above the gallery.

From Schack, we made our way to FUNKO, the crazy, fun place where all the favorite characters from movies, comics, and television come to life with oversized heads, short bodies, and bright colors. The store is a wildly popular place with young and old alike as grown men took out of town guests in suits inside, and moms and dads with children rushed to the doors with wild eyes. I was admittedly awe-struck with this FUNKO place. We made our own FUNKO characters in the workshop. Mine is wearing the crown and eating a huge turkey leg.

We drove to Snohomish, and I made my way through the historic village doing what the locals do — eating, drinking and browsing through antique shops, distilleries, craft beer establishments and bakeries until it was time to leave.

Snohomish Bakery at First & Union, Snohomish Pie Company, Arts of Snohomish Gallery, Artisans Mercantile, Spada Farmhouse Brewery, Emerald City Harley-Davidson, Skip Rock Distillers, and Uppercase Bookshop to name a few. There are so many shops that you might need to take a break and walk outside for a moment to enjoy the view of the mountains and foliage or sit a minute and people watch.

From historic downtown Snohomish, we headed to Thomas Family Farm to see the corn maze, pumpkin patch, monster truck rides, kids’ activities, and enjoy some football, food, and libations where the Thomas family greeted us.

With a full-service indoor/outdoor 4,500 square foot beer and wine garden, a food court general stores, and plenty of activities for children and adults, this farm offered Zombie Paintball, apple cannons, cow trains, mini golf, escape rooms, a gem mining area, and other adventures.

After our day on the town, we headed to the Tulalip Resort and Casino in Tulalip for dinner at Tula Bene before a Herman’s Hermits concert.

On my final day in town, we headed to Summit Everett to watch bouldering action during the Cascade Cup.

We then visited the Hibulb Cultural Center in Tulalip to learn more about the Native American culture in the area. The mission of the center is to preserve, protect and collect the history, culture, and spiritual beliefs of the Tulalip Tribes, the successors to the Snohomish, Snoqualmie and Skykomish tribes and other bands who were part of the Treaty of Point Elliott.

With 23,000 square feet of space on a 50-acre natural preserve, the cultural center includes a longhouse, classrooms, research library, gift shop, the main exhibit, and a temporary exhibit. The center was the first Tribal facility certified by the State of Washington.

The Coastal Salish people lived in an area between Canada, and the U.S., and Tulalip is a sheltered bay on the eastern shore of Washington’s Puget Sound.

Our next stop was to Meadowdale Playfields in Lynnwood to watch girl’s fastpitch softball by West Coast Premier Tournaments. The complex includes three lighted competition softball fields, two soccer fields with lighting, and a concession building. The playfields host youth, adult, and senior tournaments on the 5.5-acre campus that is located near the elementary and middle school and a short distance from the high school.

We stopped at Diamond Knot Brewpub @MLT for local craft brew and a plate of Knothead nachos as the sun faded into night. Diamond Knot handcrafts and microbeers and distributes them to the greater Puget Sound area from the Mukilteo location. The family-friendly Brewpub is a short drive to the new transit center on Interstate-5 and within walking distance of athletic fields and the sports pavilion.

The large establishment is also available for private parties or functions and the main area showcases a full-scale production brewery that produces 1,500 barrels of Diamond Knot’s beer each year.

Refreshed, we traveled to Mountlake Terrace to see the Northwest Pacific Singles Regional figure skating competition. The facility offers a full-service hockey and figure pro-shop, café, off-ice training, and ballet rooms and is used as an ice sports training facility.

Editor’s Note: The thoughts and comments included in this blog are my own. Tammy Dunn, with the Snohomish County Sports Commission, hosted me during my stay. Travel, accommodations, meals, and other activities were included as part of this familiarization trip.