Hidden Washington: Snohomish is Hiding in Plain Sight
A friendly, quaint, and engaging small town
By Natalie Compagno and Greg Freitas October 26, 2023
As Scottish novelist and essayist Robert Louis Stevenson said, “I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this featherbed of civilization and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.” What the great Stevenson might have said more concisely: Sometimes, Seattleites just need a good day trip.
Our neighbor to the north, Snohomish County, beckons, offering small-town charm amid the seasonal pumpkin patches and u-pick fruit farms. Nestled along its namesake river, the lovely village of Snohomish awaits, appealing to foodies, shoppers, beer lovers, hikers, cyclists, or anyone seeking a quick, easy retreat. Less than one hour from downtown Seattle, it’s the perfect low cost, no hassle getaway.
Upon exiting the concrete corridor known as I-5, rolling fields and verdant pastures begin to calm the mind and soul. Autumn is certainly the coziest time to visit. Swan’s Trail Farms impresses with its easy access, delectable apple cider, and famous apple cider doughnuts. Stocker Farms is notable not only for Halloween scariness, but also the Washington State sunflower fields, which explode with golden flora every summer.
History & Hikes, Balloons & Bikes
The Snohomish River forms just to the east, at the confluence of the Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers. As it flows west to Puget Sound it forms the second largest drainage basin in the state, making it a Mecca for birders and outdoors enthusiasts.
Just a stone’s throw from the freeway, the Lowell Riverfront Trail offers a pleasant 1.75-mile stroll, with birds aflutter and the peaks of Mount Baker and Mount Rainier visible in the distance. In town, the Snohomish Riverfront Trail is a short but idyllic leg-stretcher in the middle of the historic downtown.
The history of Snohomish parallels that of the Northwest: indigenous lands, westward development, logging and railroads, quaint Victorian buildings. Snohomish Walks brings it to life with seasonal, monthly walks led by self-described “Snohomie” Taylor Russell. The pride and passion she manifests for her hometown is palpable. Book ahead for the 2024 season.
Little known fact: Snohomish has a robust hot air ballooning community. For more dramatic views of the local mountains and the Salish Sea, check in with Snohomish Balloon Ride or Balloon Depot. Book a sunset ride and view the Cascades from a whole new perspective — from 1,000 feet above the ground.
The Centennial Trail is the jewel of Snohomish’s outdoor activities, with 30 miles of paved multi-use path extending from the river all the way north to the Skagit County line. The well-maintained, flat path cruises through green farmlands and forest, and if you bring the kids or the dogs you will not be the only one. Start or finish at Trail’s End Taproom, less than a mile on the trail from First Street, for woodfired pizza and — as the name suggests — 28 taps featuring craft beers from all over the country.
Suds & Spirits
For a small town, Snohomish has a booming brewing and distilling scene. Just west of the trail, Audacity Brewing promotes sustainable small batch brewing in a sleek industrial setting. Three Bull Brewing Company has food trucks and live music, in addition to classic pinball machines. Spada Farmhouse Brewery offers an eclectic mixture of ales, kolsches and more in a large, inviting taproom. For spirits sippers, Skip Rock Distillers is a multiple SIP Northwest medal winner, including a platinum medal for its rye whiskey.
Much of the fun of visiting small towns is popping into local dives and haunts to mingle with locals. Snohomish makes for a surprisingly dense pub crawl, with live music frequently on weekends. Fred’s Rivertown Alehouse is a great place to catch up on gossip, and ply longtime locals with questions. Aptly named Pie Dive Bar serves up pies both sweet and savory, in addition to craft cocktails, in a Twin Peaks-esque historic building. And the 113-year-old Oxford Saloon offers a window into the town’s past, with its colorful history as a lightly haunted former bordello, along with live music.
Bites & Snacks
Let’s not leave the best for last: Andy’s Fish House is a destination alone for seafood lovers. Andy’s is a casual fish shack in the best possible way, offering everything from cedar plank salmon to oyster stew to the Dungeness crab melt. All are simply and masterfully prepared, letting the freshness of the ingredients shine. Though not on the menu, the fried oyster tacos are out of this world. The whole joint is so fun and the quality of the seafood so high, you can practically hear diners muse: “Why don’t we have more of these in Seattle?”
For a romantic date night or a lively happy hour, make a beeline for The Repp. Set inside a charming brick building on the corner of First and Avenue A, the restaurant is known for its elegant decor, elevated Pacific Northwest cuisine, and live music.
For a quick snack, Snohomish Bakery is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, and makes divine apple turnovers as well as breakfasts and a full lunch menu. Gluten-free eaters will savor the selection at Grain Artisan Bakery, and organic and vegan acolytes should make time for Grilla Bites on the main drag.
Snohomish is known as the “Antique Capital of the Northwest,” but treasure-seekers will find a wide variety of offerings to browse and purchase. For gift and garden, browse through Annie’s on First. For a style that can only be described as whimsical ranch, stop into Worthy Home-Lifestyle-Fashion.
Malicious Women Candle Co. has gifts for the sassy women in our lives. The tongue-in-cheek candles — from Forest Witch to Bat Shit Crazy — will amuse and scent the room. Treat yourself to a candle subscription to keep life well-lit throughout the year.
Dore Studio sells artisanal lighting and furniture, and hosts art classes and exhibits, so be sure to follow on your preferred medium. The Petal & The Stem is a high-end floral boutique specializing in events, but with a flora-and-gardener-gift-filled shop guaranteed to brighten your day.