Only two hours drive south of the Greater Vancouver Area is the booming city of Bellevue, just on the edge of the Greater Seattle Area. This coastal region is experiencing growth despite the economy. Perhaps its proximity to neighboring Canadian cities whilst the US dollar and CDN dollar are on or near parity has helped as Canadians seek to consume south of the border. I am guilty of consuming down south myself, with substantial savings on everything from fuel to footwear. And, perhaps the other reason for its steady growth has to do with its ever growing Microsoft community with its headquarters surrounding the area. The Microsoft Store, only a few doors down from the Mac shop at Bellevue Square, dominates the real estate as its expansive size took up at least three, if not four, shop lengths. Welcome to Microsoft country.
Foodwise, you might be surprised at the variety. Top Gun Seafood Restaurant in the Factoria area, a 5 minute drive from Downtown Bellevue, has some of the best Dim Sum for this region, which is to say it wasn’t bad at all. As for noodles, I have to give praise for Boom just outside of Bellevue Square. Boom’s menu includes noodle dishes from Korea, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam, for carnivores and vegetarians.
The hallmark of a great food item is in the quality of something basic and I found that in Old Town Bellevue at the Belle Pastry shop on Main Street. The French pastry chefs at Belle surprised me with an unforgettable culinary experience with their croissants. I would have to recommend the ham and cheese croissant. However, their almond croissants are just as good, depending on your taste for savory or sweet. It reminded me of the better croissants I would have in the patisseries in France and in the Swiss Romande, superbe!
The attractions are just as delightful as the cuisine. The Bellevue Arts Museum features many notable Northwest artists from British Columbia to Oregon. Fascinated by glass, ceramics (mixtures of the two mediums with metals and paint) and photographic pieces, some of my favorites had to be Chris Antemann and Kendrick Moholt for their work on “The Slip” for the BAM Biennial 2010: Clay Throwdown! and Ginny Ruffer: Aesthetic Engineering: The Imagination Cycle (exhibits change often, check the BAM website for more information).
Winter celebrations continue when I literally found myself in a winter wonderland with bright lights, snow machines dropping white stuff from above, and a crowd of holiday goers moving to the beat of drummer boys and girls who performed live on Snowflake Lane and Celebration Lane every evening at 7pm behind a backdrop of Christmas lights, check the schedule posted at Bellevue Square for dates. Also, don’t miss out on the light show at the Bellevue Botanical Garden, only 2 minutes from Downtown Bellevue by car. I hear the garden is a delight all year round as it is during the holidays, if not better.
For those of you who enjoy high end designer fashion or a different variety of style options, the Bravern could be your answer. A fairly new addition to the downtown Bellevue area, the center features designers such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, and Salvatore Ferragamo. The Bravern is anchored by the luxurious Neiman Marcus department store and individual shops such as Anthropologie, Brooks Brothers and Karen Millen.
If you get a thrill out of bargain hunting for labels and quality items this would be a great time and area to base yourself for an overnight (or more) stay. The Premium Outlet Mall (labels include Burberry, BCBG, Calvin Klein, Coach, Hugo Boss, J. Crew and the list goes on) is less than half an hour away and the Factoria Mall (Nordstrom outlet, DWS Shoe Company and TJ Maxx) is only 5 minutes away by car.
Consolidating trips and purchases with a couple of nights stay makes it easier to limit the excess shopping and to focus on the quality of the stay, making for a mini getaway. There are great accommodations in the area from the Hyatt to the Holiday Inn, or suites with kitchenettes at the Hotel Sierra. Increased savings can be had at the end of “high season” such as the end of summer and after Christmas. With the additional holiday discounts this time of year, tacked on to the already substantial 20% to 50% discounts there is a potential to save up to 70% on purchases. And as many holiday goers are leaving, you are just arriving at the right time to avoid the huge lineups and crowds.