Simpler Times

Oh, those were the days. Remember when you could get a real milkshake? A malted? Maybe not. Maybe that was your dad. Your grandpa? Anyway, there are places where you can step back to a simpler time, where you can get an honest-to-goodness malted (they call them malts now), where the shopkeepers always say “Hi” when you walk through the door, and where holiday traditions matter, and don't necessarily involve mobile devices.

Those places are right here in Pierce County and we’re going to point you in all the right directions. Here’s how to spend three days living just a bit simpler and get some holiday shopping done in the meantime. First off, book your stay at McMenamins Elks Temple in Tacoma (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) and then turn off your phone. 

McMenamins Elks Temple in Tacoma, Washington

Day One

We’re starting our experiment in time travel with breakfast at The Antique Sandwich Co. In 1916, it was a grocery store with a dance hall upstairs. Today, it’s serving up delicious food and a mean blueberry-peach breakfast pie. 

Antique Sandwich Co.  Antique Sandwich Co.
Ignore the misplaced modifier. The "antique" refers to the company, not the sandwiches.

Next, we’re heading to Point Defiance and the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, where it’s the 1850s and workers in period clothing demonstrate how to make cider and shoes, and tin pots. What? You’ve always wanted to learn metalsmithing? Today’s your lucky day. And if you happen to be there on Dec. 3, you’ll get to take part in the Christmas Regale with carols, parlor games, and a meet-up with Father Christmas himself. 

Fort Nisqually Christmas Regale
Say hello to Father Christmas, before he got the Coca Cola makeover.

Antique Row in downtown Tacoma is next on the agenda, where you’ll wander among toys you used to love, records you (Or your dad? Your grandpa?) used to drop a needle on, and furniture just like grandma used to have. Luluz & co is stocked with a wild collection of memories, Savoy Special Vintage has those classic concert shirts you’ve been looking for and Sanford & Son is - well - just three floors of cool stuff. 

Antique Row Tacoma, Washington
You never know what you'll find on Antique Row. By the by, you're not Sarah Connor, are you?

Finish off the day with a stroll along the water at Point Ruston and find yourself dinner at Wildfin American Grill. Steaks, seafood, and more, but make sure to save room for dessert at Ice Cream Social. The Almond Poppyseed is unbelievably good. 

Retire to your hotel downtown.

Day Two

We love a greasy spoon, and the Poodle Dog in Fife is one of the best around. They’ve been serving up heaping helpings of your favorite comfort foods since 1933 and the place hasn’t changed all that much since then. We think some of the original waitresses might still be there. 

Sumner and the gorgeous farms that dot the Puyallup Valley are our next destination - specifically Knutson Farms and their array of holiday festivities. Visit in December for classic Christmas movie screenings, daily tree lightings, and Santa’s Ho Ho Hay Ride. Holiday experience don't get much more analog than this.

While in Sumner, take the time to roam the streets of downtown where holiday music plays in the background and the art of storefront decoration has not been lost. Cute little shops and eateries are around every corner. Junker’s Nest is an eclectic blend of antiques and handcrafted finds, while A Picket Fence offers a weird and wonderful collection of gifts, and A Good Book is one of our favorite stores in the area. Oh, and that malted (that's a "malt" to you, whippersnapper) we talked about? It’s at the Main Street Dairy Freeze down the street. 

Mother, Father and Daughter Windows shopping in Sumner, Washington
Sumner is simply simplicity. Absolutely analog. 

Then, it’s off to Puyallup and the fairgrounds, where A Victorian Country Christmas is happening Dec. 1-4 at the Washington State Fairgrounds. More than 500 exhibits decorated to look like 1800s Victorian shops, unique handcrafted gifts, two stages of entertainment, and even a Singing Nativity! Sold separately: Visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.

A Victorian Country Christmas in Puyallup at the Washington State Fairgrounds
A Victorian Country Christmas is Dickensian, but in a good way.

For dinner, head down the road to Crockett’s Public House. Using the freshest locally sourced ingredients to prepare an incredible menu of delicious dishes, Crockett’s has been featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. 

Chicken sandwich at Crockett's Public House
We debated whether this Crockett's buttermilk fried-chicken sandwich with rooster sauce needed to be blurred out.

Only have time for Puyallup and Sumner? Stay the night at Hampton Inn & Suites - Tacoma/Puyallup

Day Three

After grabbing some breakfast old-school-style at Marcia’s Silver Spoon Cafe (order the Meat Lovers Special and bring cash - they don’t take cards), we’re looking for something soothing to fill the day, which takes us to the inspiring garden paradise that is Lakewold Gardens. Check their calendar for terrific holiday programming. 

Lakewold Gardens in Lakewood, WA

Then we’re off to the seaside city of Gig Harbor, where you’ll explore shops and art galleries, tour the marina and historic Eddon Boatyard, sip whiskey at Heritage Distilling, sift through vintage vinyl at Gig Harbor Audio, and just generally bask in the beauty of one of the prettiest places on earth. 

Gig Harbor and Mount Rainier
Gig Harbor is certainly easy on the eyes.

The holidays mean that the city is bustling with shoppers and if you time your visit right, you can experience the season with a small-town Americana flavor: roaming carolers, lighted boat parades, and community street fairs. 

Wind down with a water-view window seat at Brix 25. You’ll never see a sunset so magnificent or taste a piece of salmon so perfect.  

Brix 25 in Gig Harbor
Let the cuisine and the view compete for your affection.

Too busy for all three day? Spend one in Gig Harbor and stay at the Best Western Wesley Inn!

Best Western Wesley Inn in Gig Harbor