Langley on Whidbey Island is ablaze with color in springtime. Photo by Sue Frause.
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If you're a fan of KING-5's Evening Magazine, you're probably familiar with its annual Best of Northwest Escapes contest.
Each year, they ask viewers to vote for their favorite everything, from bicycle shops to tourist towns.
Here are the Best Tourist Towns in the 2010 Best of Northwest Escapes. Seventeen Washington state towns were nominated, and 13,711 people cast their votes in this category. The top five are really the top six; there was a tie for fifth place.
#1 - Port Townsend. I love PT! Living on Whidbey Island makes this an easy walk-on-the-ferry getaway for me. Although it's a Victorian seaport town, it's also very hip and cool. One of my male friends says it's the perfect chick town ("they dig it") with oodles of shopping, dining and plenty of art, music and festivals. My favorites are The Rose Theatre and such events as Jazz Port Townsend, sponsored by Centrum.
#2 - Friday Harbor. Located on San Juan Island, it can get a bit overrun with visitors in the summer, so travel there mid-week or in the off-season. It's a great family get away, with plenty of history, outdoor activities ranging from whale watching to kayaking and a variety of accommodations and eateries to choose from. Don't miss The Whale Museum.
#3 - Gig Harbor. I haven't spent much time in this Pierce County waterfront town, located in Gig Harbor Bay across the Narrows Bridge from Tacoma. But you'll find no shortage of shopping, outdoor recreation, dining, arts and culture. The first Saturday Gig Harbor Art Walk was nominated by Sunset magazine as one of the five best small town art walks in the Pacific Northwest.
#4 - Orcas. OK, Orcas is actually Orcas Village, so I'm thinking they mean the entire island? The other towns on Orcas Island are Eastsound and Olga. Accessible by Washington State Ferries at Orcas Village, or via Kenmore Air, this is the hilliest of the islands, with Mt. Constitution looming overhead. My husband and I spent a wonderful pre-winter weekend here several years ago, and found it to be both peaceful and relaxing.
#5 - Fairhaven. I recently spent three nights in Fairhaven and it's my new favorite girlfriend getaway (OK, guys are welcome, too!). As one of Bellingham's historic neighborhoods, it's chock full of cool shops, restaurants and plenty of activity/events. A bonus is staying at The Chrysallis Inn & Spa, just a quick walk to the heart of Fairhaven. Nice restaurant and spa, too.
#5 - Langley. I'm beyond biased about this Whidbey Island community, since I've lived here for 35 years. Located on South Whidbey, it's got all the elements for a fun weekend: Breakfast at Useless Bay Coffee ; poking around four of the town's book stores; lunch at Village Pizzeria; cool shopping at The Star Store, Chef's Pantry, Eddy's and Wayward Son; dinner at Prima Bistro (alfresco in summer); chocolate at The Chocolate Farm and Island Angel Chocolates; a movie at The Clyde Theatre; and Nymbol's Secret Garden. Lots of art and live theater, too. Then there's all that nature outside (whales included).