Leaving the house during the gray, drizzly days of winter can be difficult. Kids attach to their devices while parents and grandparents seek to hibernate by the fire. Despite these urges, winter in the Pacific Northwest is the perfect time to get together and enjoy rainy-day activities that are overlooked in the sunlight of spring.
Tea & a stroll
The Chelatchie Prairie Rail Trail offers an easy 1-mile stroll on pavement readily navigated by wheelchairs and strollers. It’s a hidden gem, one of those lovely outdoor spaces in the county that doesn’t get a lot of attention, Magan Reed of Clark County Public Works said.
This path less traveled can be accessed by entering Battle Ground Lake State Park and turning into the first parking lot on the left. Three free parking spots for trailgoers are available.
As the Chelatchie Prairie Rail Trail snakes southwest along the railroad tracks, cows graze, birds sing from a patch of wetlands, and a rooster occasionally crows. The ferns and conifers thicken as the car traffic quiets. Bring bikes or scooters and race along or go slow. Leashed pets are welcome.
After a rejuvenating walk in the fresh air, warm up with a dainty cup of hot tea at Sweet Peas Tea Room in Battle Ground. Mother-and-daughter team Sharon Harbeck and Chantelle Davis have worked together for the past 12 years re-creating tea time from their native country of England in the Pacific Northwest.
Tea service at Sweet Peas isn’t just the ordinary tea and a slice of cake, but more like high tea served at a fancy hotel — or as Harbeck says, “posh.”
“Tea isn’t just the meal. It’s an experience,” she said.
Harbeck wants guests to feel welcomed, enjoy every bite of the fresh food from their small kitchen, and experience a bit of Britain. Tea service includes a pot of tea from such brands as Harney & Sons, Republic of Teas, and Simpson & Vail that meet the owners’ high standards. Sandwiches (classic cucumber, ham, egg salad, and corned beef with Champagne mustard), soup, small cakes, and traditional British scones accompany the tea. Customers can order a full service, a paired down service, tea for two, or tea for a child (for kids 7 years old or younger) depending on their appetite.
“I don’t want people to leave hungry,” Harbeck said. “They give you more as samples at Costco than they do at some teas.”
Prices range from $28 to $21 per person. Children’s tea is $18.
Sweet Peas is best for children who are able to sit at the table during the meal. Reservations are important so the kitchen makes the right amount of food for the day’s tea service. Holiday teas are reserved months in advance. Saturday tea should be booked a couple weeks in advance. Weekday tea usually can be arranged a few days or a week ahead of time.
Glaze & savor
Earth, Glaze & Fire Ceramics recently moved into a new, roomier space on F Street. All ceramics and glazes at this family-owned studio are made in the United States. The family owns 6,000 molds, some dating back to the 1950s, from which they make all the pieces in the studio.
Wander around and find a piece to glaze. Mugs, bowls, hearts, Day of the Dead masks, every kind of imaginable animal, and many other unglazed ceramic treasures rest on the shelves that run along the long walls of the studio. Jugs holding a rainbow of glazes sit on shelves. Pick some colors, brushes, and create a personal masterpiece. Ceramic pieces range in price from $5 to $80. The price marked on the bottom of the piece is the total price for your time in the studio and an endless selection of glazes. Guests are charged for broken pieces so keep an eye on your kids. After glazing, pay and drop off glazed ceramics at the cashier’s window to the side of the studio. Completed pieces will be fired and ready for pick up the next week.
Afterwards, wander over to Ice Cream Renaissance for some handcrafted small batch ice cream. Share a large Banana Bossa Nova (three scoops of honey vanilla ice cream with hot fudge, chocolate chips, whipped creams, nuts and a cherry) or a savor a scoop of salted caramel.
If you prefer frozen yogurt, Yogurt Time, also nearby, has a variety of flavors ranging from the traditional vanilla and chocolate to red velvet cake and passion-orange-guava nondairy sorbet. Toppings include candies, cereal, fruit, sprinkles and sauces. Grab a cup, fill it with yogurt and toppings, weigh, pay, and dig in.
Dinner & a show
Magenta Theater in downtown Vancouver has many family-friendly options. The theater’s improv series is a popular all-ages event. Jaynie Roberts, the theater’s director, compares it to the television show “Whose Line Is it Anyway?” Magenta’s next improv show is March 7 ($12 at the door). The shows run for an hour followed by an intermission and then a 45-minute second act. Improv players act out games based on suggestions from the audience and audience participation.
“It’s completely family-friendly,” Roberts said, “because that makes it funnier.”
Roberts enjoys watching improv players trying to keep things G-rated when audience members suggest something rude or potentially inappropriate. Audience members who swerve too far into adult material are forced to wear a dunce cap. Let the theater know in advance if someone in your party is celebrating a birthday or anniversary so they can incorporate it in the show.
Magenta Theater recently started a new series of live plays called Magentots with adult actors performing for children ($10 at the door). A bit of silliness and wiggliness in the audience is expected. These interactive shows based on favorite tales encourage audience participation. Productions are meant for kids ages 4 to 10, but all ages are welcome. Shows run under an hour to maintain the audience’s attention. “Jack and The Beanstalk” is on March 21 and “Cinderella and the Substitute Fairy Godmother” runs on May 2.
On St. Patrick’s Day, the Kiggins Theatre in downtown Vancouver is showing John Ford’s “The Quiet Man,” featuring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. After accidentally killing a man in the ring, a former boxer, played by Wayne, goes to Ireland to buy his family’s land and live a peaceful life. The plan goes awry when Wayne falls for O’Hara and gets into a land dispute with her brother. This 1952 film is recommended for kids 9 and older due to some violence and a lot of drinking. Viewing a classic film (tickets are $10) in an historic one-screen theater is a rare treat and may inspire some budding classic film fanatics.
It won’t be hard to find a pre-show meal near Magenta or Kiggins. A new restaurant recently opened in the historic Hidden House. The menu features snacks, charcuterie, or veggies and dip for grazing, as well as sandwiches, daily soups and stews, and salads (for example, Hidden House Entree Salad with arugula, spinach, cured egg, seasonal vinaigrette and garlic tahini sauce). Hidden House also has wine by the glass and beer on tap.
Amaro’s Table is elegant but not stuffy with a variety of options, including salads, sandwiches, burgers, classic fried chicken, fish and chips, and wild grilled salmon. Kids may be drawn to the house cheeseburger or a large soft, hot pretzel dipped in cheese fondue.
Vinnie’s Pizza offers a casual family-friendly environment and classic Italian food, including made-to-order pizzas, and pasta cooked in a meaty Sunday sauce or creamy Alfredo.