Traveling is one of my absolute favorite things to do, but the older I get, the more I enjoy staying home as well. Fortunately, there’s a way to combine the two for a best-of-both-worlds experience: the staycation. It involves all the fun of experiencing new things and stepping outside your regular routine, minus the hassles that can sometimes come with long-distance travel (think: jetlag and complicated logistics).
A Sound Place to Sleep
There’s something incredibly indulgent about spending the night a few miles—or even just a few blocks—from your home. In Bellevue, there are lots of great options, including, of course, Hotel Bellevue. Deep soaker tubs, comfy bathrobes, and plush beds make it an easy place to cocoon and get away from it all. You could spend the whole weekend here and not get bored, padding between your room and Polaris for buttermilk pancakes drizzled with Grand Marnier cinnamon butter, the spa for an organic apricot sugar scrub, and the tennis courts for a little volleying. But if you’re up for more adventure, I found that there’s plenty waiting in Bellevue.
Whip Something Up
While you can never go wrong with a nice meal at a restaurant, I wanted to try something a little different—yet equally tasty—for my trip. That took me to Main Street’s Whisk, a lovely kitchenware shop that opened last year with a robust schedule of cooking classes in a beautiful kitchen in the back. After being greeted with a glass of wine, a plate of cheese and crackers, and an apron with my nametag on it, our group of 17 got to work on the make-ahead seasonal three-course meal. Among orange KitchenAid mixers, cutting boards, and an assortment of premeasured ingredients, Chef Aaron Tekulve demonstrated each step of the process, then turned us loose to whip up meringue, season fish, and chop potatoes. Along the way, the former sous chef at Lark passed along tricks of the trade designed to make it easier to put on a dinner party for a big group.
As we all sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labor—a Yukon potato and roasted shallot soup sprinkled with chevre and fingerling chips, pan-roasted halibut with Brussels sprouts and crème fraiche, and blood orange pavlovas dressed in a citrus marmalade and bourbon vanilla cream—everyone commented between bites how nice it was to have such a hands-on class, with enough instruction that we could replicate the meal for friends. (At least I like to tell myself that, although I’d probably have to call Chef Aaron in the middle of it, thanks to my lack of handiness in the kitchen.) I was especially impressed by the seasonality of the menu. “With the diversity of fish, foraged mushrooms, and farms, across the board, there is nowhere else in the country that can compete with Seattle,” Aaron told us.
One restful night of sleep later, I was up in time to watch the sun rise, finish the last few pages of a book I’d brought along (the charming How to Catch a Frog, an engrossing memoir from Heather Ross, a fabric designer who grew up in Vermont in the 1970s), and get ready to head to the Bellevue Botanical Garden, a free garden open from dawn to dusk that will celebrate its 25th anniversary this June. Although it can be fun to see exotic plants, what I liked about this garden is that it highlights things that thrive here in the Pacific Northwest, which makes it a great place for home gardeners to get inspiration. Volunteer docent Cathy showed me some of the highlights of the various areas—like the Yao Garden, which is a Japanese garden with a Northwest spin, and the Ravine Experience, where a 150-foot suspension bridge in the forest crosses over a ravine—and I also wandered alone, taking out my camera to try to capture a little of the beauty.
The Way Things Were
To round out my mini-trip, I walked back into town and pulled out the Early Bellevue Walking Tour map from the Eastside Heritage Center. As I strolled past the sky-high condos and glass towers, I learned more about the way things used to be, when pharmacist Meta Burrows’ soda fountain was the central gathering spot for the community and children would hunt under the wooden sidewalk for coins that fell through the slats.
In Old Bellevue, I ducked into the prettily curated home goods shop Hedge & Vine for a fragrant candle, grabbed a salad at the lively 520 Bar & Grill, and unwound with a slow-paced yin yoga class at Shakti Vinyasa Yoga East. By this point, night had fallen, and it was time to transition back from tourist to local, but not before I’d seen Bellevue from an entirely different perspective.
Craft Your Own Trip
Want to plan your own staycation? Visit Bellevue Washington (visitbellevuewashington.com) has all the resources you need to create an itinerary worthy of any visit—for tourists and locals alike.