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Northwest history

Rich heritage makes for educational getaways


If you're looking for a fascinating getaway or vacation experience, consider brushing up on some Pacific Northwest history. After all, this region still has vivid reminders of a time not so long ago when Interstate 90 was just s few wagon ruts through the mountains and Seattle a frontier village.

Whether it's a town full of Victorian architecture such as Port Townsend or an elaborate museum, the Old Northwest comes alive when you set out to get a taste of what life in the 19th century - and before - was really like. It's an ideal getaway for senior citizens, but also for parents who want to give their school-agers some important perspective on the region in which they live.

Here are a few places to find some Pacific Northwest history:

Port Townsend, Washington is popular with visitors from all over the Northwest, largely because of its beautifully restored Victorian mansions, ornate commercial buildings and waterfront location, giving the town both an historical and nautical flavor.

Port Townsend was established in 1851 and was considered one of the most posh cities on the West Coast. In about 1870, Port Townsend was equal to Seattle in population and, in fact, was Puget Sound's major seaport. Building boomed in the 1880's but the town stopped growing when the promised railroad bypassed the town.

Travelers love to stay in the refurbished mansions, which today are bed-and breakfast inns. Together with Fort Worden, the inns and historical buildings downtown were designated as part of a National Historic District in 1976. You can take your own walking tour with help from maps provided by the Port Townsend Visitor Information Center or tour by guide (approximately 90 minutes) and enjoy the beautiful Victorian architecture.

You'll also find great shopping in Port Townsend, with Water Street and Uptown providing a host of antique shops, galleries and stores.

For more information contact the Port Townsend Visitor Information Center at 888-365-6978. You can also download a copy of the travel planner from their website at

Northwest Indian tribes offer a number of exhibits and presentations throughout the region. At the Quw'utsun' Cultural and Conference Centre in Duncan, British Columbia (known as "The City of Totems&qout; for the over 70 totems lining the street) guests will experience traditions from long ago that are still practiced today, see native artwork and taste native cuisine at the Riverwalk Café. For more information e-mail Dora Swustus at or visit their website at

More than 500 artifacts are on display at the Makah Cultural Museum in Neah Bay, Washington. Located on the Olympic Peninsula, the museum is near the Lake Ozette archaeological dig where the artifacts were discovered. About 500 years ago, a mudflow wiped out an ancient Makah tribal village, but these items from the town were preserved by the ooze which never dried in the wet climate. Baskets, wood objects and clothing have survived the centuries and are on display. In addition, there is a full-size replica of a house from the village. For more information call 360-645-2711 or visit their website at

A different perspective of early life is offered at Pioneer Farm Museum and Ohop Indian Village in Eatonville, Washington, where you will be shown authentic and replica pioneer homes and taken to a cabin where you can dress in pioneer costumes, grind grains and wash clothes using pioneer methods. In a nearby barn you'll learn to milk goats, while the blacksmith and woodworking shops will give you a chance to test your skills using tools of the 19th century. For more information call 360-832-6300 or visit their website at

The Yakima Indian Nation Cultural Center has a museum where you will find dioramas depicting the traditions of the Yakima people. Located in Toppenish, Washington near Yakima, the center also features authentic Indian meals. (The fry bread is terrific.) For more information, call 509-865-2800.

In Eastern Washington you'll find the Whitman Mission National Historic Site, seven miles west of Walla Walla. This site will be familiar to any ninth grader studying Washington state history for it was here that missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman were massacred in 1847. Today, the site features a visitor center with a museum and film introducing the Whitmans and the Cayuse Indians. Outside, self-guiding trails lead to the spot where the Oregon Trail ran through, the original location of the mission buildings, the grave where the victims lie and a memorial monument. For more information call 509-522-6357 or visit their website at

Near Bend, Oregon, the High Desert Museum features paved nature trails that lead you through an authentic settler's cabin, a forestry center, Indian tipi and other exhibits. The exhibits will take you back in time as you walk through detailed historic scenes, and learn about frontier firearms and how they were used in everyday life; taste pioneer cuisine, and experience a 100-year-old working lumber mill. For more information call 541-382-4754 or visit their website at

Photos, from top: Port Townsend (photo by Victor Judd), Pioneer Farm, Whitman Mission.

OTHER DESTINATIONS: If you're looking for other Northwest travel ideas, be sure to check out other Northwest Travel Advisor articles onSalish Lodge, Skitchine Lodge, Lake Chelan and the Rocky Mountaineer.

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