1800s waterfront community turned arts enclave

La Conner

A colorful town on the Swinomish Channel, La Conner woos visitors from far and wide with tangerine sunsets and a hankering for art, architecture and history.

The mouth of the Swinomish Channel has been inhabited for thousands of years. White settlers flocked to the area in the late 1800s for logging and fishing; by the turn of the century La Conner had a population of about 1,000 and was the seat of Skagit County. Over a century later, it’s no longer the county seat and the population is still about 1,000, making it an alluring small town with big history.

In the 1940s and ‘50s, renowned artists settled in town, taking to abandoned cabins on the banks of the Skagit River and calling their art colony “Fishtown.” That artistic spirit lives on – its influence is evident in colorful historic buildings and the town’s museums.

Stroll through downtown and you’ll find yourself drawn to the boardwalk along the Swinomish, which was completed in 2015 and adds waterfront access and ambience to La Conner. The red-orange Rainbow Bridge, a national landmark spanning the shimmering Swinomish Channel, embellishes the skyline on one side of the boardwalk while Mt. Baker dominates the other.

For the full La Conner experience, step off land for a kayak tour or rental. The channel provides ideal paddling for beginners and there’s much to explore beyond. Afterward, enjoy fresh seafood offered at a restaurant overlooking the water. Pair your oysters, clams or salmon with romantic sunset views over Fidalgo Island.

Head to the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum to see luxurious textile work by local and international artists and then stop by the Skagit County Historical Museum for exhibits on the town’s origins and Native American culture. The Museum of Northwest Art tells stories through exhibitions dedicated to local contemporary, modern and abstract art. Looking for more? Art gallery tours are held throughout the summer.

La Conner blooms in the spring and visitors buzz like bees to its daffodil fields. In March, cyclists don their best clothing – think English country style – for the Tweed Ride, a celebration of spring’s arrival. In August, La Conner shows off the best on land and water at the Classic Boat & Car Show and the Brew on the Slough beer festival is slated for October 19, 2019.

In the off chance you find yourself looking for more to do, the La Conner Chamber of Commerce has a list of 101 ideas.

For more information, visit lovelaconner.com.

Suggested Itinerary

Start the weekend early, because the drive into La Conner is filled with bright colors of the daffodils and tulip fields in the spring, the snow geese and trumpeter swans in fall and in the summer the berries and apple farms are bursting with fruit.

When you arrive in La Conner, you’ll see that the Swinomish Channel boarders the main downtown with lots of shops and restaurants. Arrive around 10 a.m. at the Calico Cupboard Café and Bakery; they serve breakfast all day long and are known for their hearty sandwiches.

Grab the bikes and go explore with the La Conner Bike Map. The map provides on- and off-road bike routes with minimal hills, low-traffic areas, and beautiful scenery. After bike riding, grab a well-deserved lunch the La Conner Brewing Co. They are known for their pizza and beer.

A walk about town would be perfect right after a wonderful meal. People drive from miles around to shop at the galleries, as well as antique and retail stores. Earthen Works is a high-end gallery, voted one of the top ten American craft retailers, with a wide selections of art pieces from local artists across the Northwest. Be sure to also visit the Wood Merchant. This gallery has showcased 100 percent American-made pieces from local craftsmen for over 30 years.

Check in time for the La Conner Channel Lodge, a nautical themed hotel situated on the channel, is at 3 p.m. Take a little rest in the room or read a book on the room’s balcony overlooking the channel. The lodge’s lounge is available, so have a drink and sit on the patio while watching the birds fly by.

When you’re ready to explore the town, take the La Conner sculpture tour walk. There are over 23 sculptures and most can be found on the main street (S 1st Street). For an excellent seafood or steak dinner try La Conner Seafood & Prime Rib House. The restaurant has been around for over 30 years and they have restored and remodeled the 1890s Lounge, which dates back over 100 years. Great food and history!

The next morning, head on over to the Slider Café for a hearty breakfast and take a walk on one of the many trails La Conner has to offer. The Town of La Conner Walking Trails Map includes six trails ranging from .5-mile to 2.25 miles.

After packing up and checking out by 11 a.m., grab a cup of coffee from Stomping Grounds Coffee on the way out of town.

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