New in Town is a blog series dedicated to exploring Seattle anew. Every week I’ll highlight a place, person or thing I’ve uncovered on my mission to experience all Seattle has to offer. Read last week’s installment here.
Most people around me insist turning 30 is a Big Deal, a belief I embraced without much resistance during the days leading up to my landmark birthday last week. Even if I’ve yet to write a book, I’m pretty sure those “thirty, flirty and thriving” memes will help ease my midlife growing pains for at least the next few months.
Living in a new city so far from my last home base in New Haven, Connecticut, I’m still in the process of making enough friends to pull off a proper house party. That’s why I decided to plan a quick birthday getaway with my partner and save the in-house champagne sabering for next year. It took weeks of hemming and hawing before we settled on the right travel plan—should we stay in a city, or a cabin in the woods? Are dogs allowed? Do we need to rent a car with four-wheel drive, in case it snows? We finally found a goldilocks spot that covered the most essential winter getaway boxes: A place less than three hours away with dog-friendly lodging, a fireplace, a bathtub big enough to swim in and adequate nearby cake.
Bellingham fit the bill with a short travel time (about 2 hours north by car), a dog-friendly waterfront hotel (with a spa!) and a quirky downtown area flush with charm, microbreweries and eateries that flaunt their use of locally sourced flour. We lucked out with some sun on our first afternoon in town, and our room at the Chrysalis Inn & Spa delivered sweeping views of Bellingham Bay as the sun set over the San Juan Islands. I knew we'd made the right call when I realized the window bench was big enough for me to sprawl out and read with a pup curled up beside me, which I highly recommend between baths and visits to the eucalyptus steam room.
For birthday dinner, Temple Bar served up a great version of one of my favorite meals: a wooden board covered from edge to edge with local cheeses, cured meats and house-pickled accoutrements. In the morning, we hit Mount Bakery Cafe downtown to try out its beloved benedicts, which really were the best, as the menu promised. Somehow I saved room (or, let's be honest, made room) for a slice of sweet and savory chocolate salt and pepper cake from Saltadena—a bold flavor combination that begged to be eaten slowly, and one of my best decisions as a newly minted 30-something.
When the rain held out, we took to the over-water boardwalk just outside the hotel with our puppy, Roux, who struggled to embrace all that water I love so much. For all her patience, we rewarded Roux with a trip to Paws for a Beer, a divey bar that also serves as an indoor/outdoor off-leash dog park. After a heavy dose of small talk with the dog-loving regulars, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to Gruff Brewing, which won us over with the 20/20 carrot IPA and a dog-friendly tap room that let us bring in our own food. Roux made friends with a happy Labrador at the next table while we worked our way through waffle fries and a playlist of rap instrumentals. On our way home, after one last steam session made possible by a generous 12 p.m. checkout time, we stopped by Mount Bakery and scored the last croissant of the day—a good omen for the start of a new decade and a successful end to a much-needed minibreak.