Tag Archives: Pacific Northwest

Christmas Destinations!

6 Dec

It’s Christmas in the Pacific Northwest!  And what better place to celebrate Christmas than the land of Christmas tree farms and…well, more Christmas tree farms.  Where the air is crisp, the horizon is clear and the lights are strung the day after Thanksgiving.  We may not have the classic white winter, but what we lack in snow we make up in festive activities.  This year, thanks to my Mother-in-law and my Mom, I heard about a little place called Alpenrose Dairy (and when I say little I mean enormous).  For any of you milk drinkers out there you may have heard of them, but what you haven’t heard is that every Christmas they turn their old west town into a Christmas Village.  So off we went on another adventure.

About a twenty five minute drive from Vancouver, Alpenrose Dairy sits just outside of Portland.  We were welcomed by a friendly old man wearing a Santa hat and the kind of sincere smile you only find on the farm.  The village was a vision straight off a holiday postcard.  Each building designed from the old west days with a wooden sidewalk and old signs reading General Store and Ice Cream Parlor was decorated with holiday lights and snowy windows.  Our first stop was the old theatre, where an army band was playing Christmas tunes on their instruments atop the stage.  The theatre alone was worth the drive.  Delicately decorated with soft yellow lights from the top of the old balconies to the pillars of the stage, one could practically smell the Christmas ghosts no doubt lingering in the seats.  After that it was off to explore, peering in windows and taking pictures by the many decorations. 

One of the boy’s favorite stops was a wonderful little train shop where the trains ran on their own through a tiny little village made by grown men wearing what else, conductor hats.  They had a Santa on site for those itching to get a jump start on their lists, but we bypassed that as we have a favorite Santa we visit each year.  The hot chocolate and coffee were just what we needed on the cold stroll through the village, where it seemed every detail was put into place.  The last stop on our journey was Storybook Lane.  An old barn transformed into a winter wonderland, where the smell of Christmas hung in the air and instantly brought you back to those mornings as a kid.  Each display offered a different story with live farm animals to pet and adore.  From the Three Billy Goats Gruff, with actual pigmy goats to the Three Little Pigs with a live pig snorting around his house.  I won’t spoil the rest, for it truly is a creative masterpiece.

While I’m sure by now you have one foot out the door headed to this enchanting Christmas getaway, wait, I haven’t even told you the best part.  The entire day (aside from the drinks) was FREE.  And don’t be scared off by the farm atmosphere, the whole town was paved so no need to break out your overalls and work boots.  So if you’re in the mood for a fun, family adventure with a hint of Christmas, check it out.  I’m sure it will become a staple in your holiday season.

Other Holiday things to do:

Zoo Lights:  A bit expensive if you aren’t a member, but if you’ve never been, worth the money.

Christmas Ships:  Check the web site for the schedule.  You can enjoy them from the restaurants on the water or do what we do, brew up a thermos of hot chocolate and find a good parking spot with a view of the river.  Bring a blanket and just wait.

Winter Wonderland:  $16.00 a car.  Enjoy the lights at a slow driving pace.  Worth the price if you’ve never been.

Let me know of your holiday favorites.  I’m always on the lookout for fun family ideas.

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Oh, the Places we Go…

28 Oct

Destination:  Sauvie Island Farms

Family Friendly: Yes

Cost: Free + what you pick

If you go: check website for directions, crop availability and hours

When I was a kid growing up in Bakersfield, we used to pile into the old minivan and head out to one of the many farms encircling where we lived.  If you don’t know Bakersfield, there were a few things it was never lacking: one hundred degree days, ants, and farms.  Our favorite farm was called Al Bussell Ranch and IT…WAS…HUGE!  Known for its “U-pick” produce, families would spend their weekends climbing aboard the many tractors driving out to the orchards growing a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Peaches, nectarines, strawberries, apples, apricots, corn, squash; you name it, they had it.  My personal favorite as a child were the bunnies.  They were everywhere!  Hopping through the fields, around the checkout lines, and some even in cages where you could reach down and pet them.  And these weren’t your standard, wild, never-gonna-catch-them bunnies.  These bunnies were well fed, used to people and to be honest, fat.  The farm also had one of those glass casings where when so inclined, one could watch the secret workings of bees busy doing what they do best…making honey. 

It was a cherished tradition of my youth, but I didn’t realize just how much I loved it until I had kids of my own.  I wanted them to experience the “U-pick” adventure; to see where their food comes from, to taste fresh blueberries straight from the bush.  And thankfully, living in Washington, there are a plethora of “U-Pick” choices.  But my new personal favorite is Sauvie Island Farms; located where else, on Sauvie Island (and no, this isn’t the crazy one with the haunted corn maze).  It is a large farm growing anything that will grow in the Pacific Northwest.  With more than 30 acres of Pumpkins alone, Sauvie Island Farms is spacious, family friendly, and everything one would want in a farm.

My family and I stumbled on it this year in search of a new Pumpkin patch.  Like so many families in the area, we used to go to Bi-Zi Farms.  But it seems Bi-Zi Farms lately has become, well…busy.  So off we went in search of a new patch to call our own.  We knew what we were looking for; space, freedom for the kids to run around, and most importantly, CHEAP.  The answer… Sauvie Island Farms.  With a small parking lot and plenty of extra wagons, we were greeted by a nice older woman who simply said “Welcome.”  There was no loud holiday music, no face-painting in the corner tent, or tickets to be purchased and then exchanged; simply the smell of hay in the autumn breeze and acres and acres of Mother Nature’s finest.

The boys had a blast running through the humble corn maze and climbing the hay pyramid.  We walked to the Animal Area where the boys got to feed chickens and bunnies (and yes, they were fat) and climb atop a large stationary tractor.  Then a real tractor offered an authentic hay ride around the farms.  With only five other families there, we had the hay ride all to ourselves.  No seats or benches, just a tractor pulling a trailer layered with, you guessed it…hay.  Then it was off to pick our pumpkins.  We spent quite a bit of time deciding on the perfect one.  Not because the pickings were slim, but because there were so many perfect pumpkins, it was hard to choose just one.  I finally settled on a pear shaped one.  So with our four pumpkins in toe we loaded up the wagon and headed for the end of the patch, where we stumbled across two pumpkins that had grown together creating the perfect Halloween butt.  So naturally, we had to buy the butt.  All in all it was a great day. 

 

Everything we experienced was FREE, except for the pumpkins which totaled $20.00, including the butt.

 

 

 

 

 So for you procrastinators out there, there is still time to get a true Fall experience before Halloween.  If you already have your pumpkins this year, no worries, they also have a Christmas Tree Farm.  For the rest of the year depending on the season, they have Peach trees, corn, bell peppers, blue berries, raspberries, black berries, zucchini, and many other seasonal crops.  For directions, hours, seasonal pickings, visit Sauvie Island Farms website.

Putting our BUTT to good use!