Plenty of family fun to be shared in Issaquah

  • By Andrea Brown Herald Writer
  • Thursday, December 12, 2013 6:10pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

She wants cute boots. He wants cold beer. The kids want candy. Lots of it.

No problem. Issaquah’s got you covered.

The Seattle suburb offers a family-friendly and eclectic mix of activities.

There’s a reindeer festival, a chocolate factory with a conveyor belt straight out of “I Love Lucy” and a retro drive-in serving malts and burger baskets.

Issaquah is about 40 busy freeway miles from Everett. Hang on. It’s smooth cruising once you’re there.

Start off at Gilman Village, a shopping village that opened in 1972, when Issaquah was a destination for families taking a drive “out to the country.” Continue down Gilman Boulevard with a stop at Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-in for a burger basket, maybe a car show. Then on to Boehm’s Candies, achocolate lover’s nirvana.

Among the in-town attractions are the salmon hatchery, Issaquah Brewhouse and Village Theatre.

Gilman Village has about 40 shops with items and experiences you can’t find at malls or big-box stores. Attend a workshop at the Writers’ Cottage of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. Spend some quality time at Aubrey’s Clock Gallery, a longtime clock, watch and music box emporium that’s overseen by a master clock craftsman and his rescue cat, Tuxedo.

A new store, Splendid Avenue, was launched by an exuberant woman who calls herself “a happy Swede in the U.S.”

“It started with a design blog,” shop owner Monika Claassen said. “I was drawn to products with a Scandinavian flair. I call this Scandi-Euro, even though there isn’t such a word. I like timeless pieces that last for a long time.”

Merchandise includes British birthday shirts with big numbers for little girls and sleek Danish rubber boots for big girls. Guys will dig the reindeer antler bottle openers from Denmark.

At Boehm’s Candies, you can watch artisans in action dipping truffles and rolling out the rocky road.

The 57-year-old factory makes about 240,000 pounds of chocolate a year, but this is no ordinary candy shop.

There’s a chapel with bell tower, a courtyard and a museum.

“You can get married, relax over a good book and see some things that are valuable and some that are just weird,” said owner Bernard Garbusjuk, who worked for founder Julius Boehm as a candymaker.

The museum is a shrine to Boehm, an Austrian who ran with his country’s 400-meter relay team in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. Boehm used his mountaineering skills to escape Hitler in 1940 to Switzerland, then came to Washington.

In 1942, Boehm and a friend opened a chocolate store in Seattle. In 1956, Boehm set up shop in Issaquah, where a county swimming pool is named after him.

“He was competitive in about 14 different sports. He climbed Mount Rainier when he was 81,” Garbusjuk said. “He built the chapel as a memorial for mountain climbers. We have about 40 or 50 weddings a year and other events.”

In the courtyard is a statue of Swiss folk hero William Tell, fabled for splitting an apple on the head of his son with a crossbow.

“It doesn’t make any sense to have a 3.5-acre property with a $10,000 factory,” Garbusjuk said. “It makes us not just being a retailer, but an infrastructure for people to visit.”

Follow the church bells to the chocolate.

Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com.

If you go

Boehm’s Candies: 255 NE Gilman Blvd., www.boehmscandies.com.

Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-In: 98 NE Gilman Blvd., www.triplexrootbeer.com.

Issaquah Brewhouse: 35 W. Sunset Way, www.rogue.com.

Gilman Village: 317 NW Gilman Blvd., www.gilmanvillage.com.

Shops include Splendid Avenue, www.splendidavenue.com; Aubrey’s Clock Gallery, www.aubreysclockgallery.com; and Pacific Northwest Writers Association, www.pnwa.org.

Holiday attraction

The Issaquah Reindeer Festival, with Santa and real reindeer, goes from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily at Cougar Mountain Zoo, 19525 SE 54th St., through Dec. 23. For more information, go to www.cougarmountainzoo.org.

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