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Home Road Trip 8 PNW road trips for music and arts lovers in summer 2023

8 PNW road trips for music and arts lovers in summer 2023

by Staff

Where to go when the road beckons this summer? If you’re an arts and music lover, you’ll want to set a course for these destinations.

Historic moviehouses road trip

This is basically my dream local vacation, though I haven’t actually done it yet: a Summer Historic Moviehouses Road Trip. Drive around the Northwest, find old cinemas full of character and history, watch a movie, maybe spend the night, rinse and repeat. Here are some of the places I’d hit:

McMenamins’ Olympic Club Theater in Centralia, where you can watch a movie (on a squishy couch!) while enjoying food and drink. The historic Olympic Club Hotel dates back to 1908. (112 N. Tower Ave., Centralia;

The Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon, a restored former vaudeville house dating back to 1926, still shows both current and classic movies (catch Audrey Hepburn in “How To Steal a Million” on July 5). (712 S. First St., Mount Vernon;

The Rose Theatre in Port Townsend, opened in 1907, is still going strong today under new ownership. It’s got two lovely theaters downstairs, and the Starlight Room — full of upholstered armchairs, couches and chandeliers — upstairs. (235 Taylor St., Port Townsend;

The Roxy Theatre in Bremerton, opened in 1941 and recently restored, now shows arthouse fare. Note the original Asahel Curtis photo mural of Bremerton beneath the candy counter. (270 Fourth St., Bremerton;

The Blue Mouse Theatre in Tacoma, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, is said to be the longest continually operating moviehouse in the state. Glass artist Dale Chihuly designed the neon blue mice that scamper over its marquee, added for a 1993 renovation. (2611 N. Proctor St., Tacoma;

— Moira Macdonald, arts critic

Oregon Shakespeare Festival

It’s been a few years since the last time I made my way to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, but I remember it fondly: the charming town, the vivid green of Lithia Park, the feeling of sitting in an outdoor theater as the sun sets on a warm summer’s night. If you ever loved the OSF, now might be a good time to get reacquainted: The company, founded in 1935, has had a tumultuous few years, including pandemic losses, staff turmoil (Artistic Director Nataki Garrett stepped down in May) and financial crisis. In April, OSF announced an emergency fundraising campaign with an immediate goal of $2.5 million. It has since reached that goal and set a new one of an additional $7.3 million. The 2024 season has not yet been announced, though interim executive director Tyler Hokama said in a radio interview that plans are going forward.

With all this going on — why not support a longtime Northwest theater company by buying a ticket or two and heading on down? Even outside of the theaters, a trip to Ashland is always a pleasure. It’s a roughly eight-hour drive (or a short flight), and the city offers numerous charming hotels (I love the Ashland Springs Hotel, with its expansive views of the valley) and restaurants. Currently in repertory through October are “Romeo & Juliet” and the musical “Rent” at the Angus Bowmer Theatre, and “Twelfth Night” and “The Three Musketeers” in the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre.

15 S. Pioneer St., Ashland, Ore.; tickets $55-$75; 800-219-8161,

Moira Macdonald

FairWell Festival

If the mountain biking and craft beer scene isn’t enough of a draw, Central Oregon’s newest music festival might be the best reason to visit the Bend area this summer. The inaugural three-day fest sets up shop on the Deschutes County Fairgrounds (about 25 minutes north of Bend) with a solid roots-rocking lineup playing three stages and boasting the area’s High Desert backdrop. 

While a number of FairWell’s mighty acts — including Gary Clark Jr., Sheryl Crow, Mt. Joy and bluegrass big shots Trampled by Turtles — also have Seattle dates on the calendar, it’s the closest headliners Willie Nelson & Family, former Washington Navy man Zach Bryan and Turnpike Troubadours will get this summer. (Fresh off celebrating his 90th birthday, who knows how many more gigs ol’ Willie will play within a day’s drive.) Also on the docket: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, star troubadour Charley Crockett, the Seattle-formed Band of Horses, rising country singer Morgan Wade, the Infamous Stringdusters, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway and Brandi Carlile’s buds Lucius and Yola. 

July 21-23; Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, 3800 S.W. Airport Way, Redmond, Ore.; tickets start at $100 single day, $275 three-day passes;

— Michael Rietmulder, music writer


Seattle Theatre Group’s hassle-free boutique fest returns to Port Townsend for year three with Seattle indie-folk heroes Fleet Foxes (led by onetime PT resident Robin Pecknold); space-funked bass wizard Thundercat; and Lil Yachty, the whimsical rapper whose psych rock pivot “Let’s Start Here” became one of the year’s most talked-about releases. 

The spacious grounds abutting the Salish Sea could easily handle more than the several thousand fans who turn out, making it easy to move around or drop a picnic blanket without having to jockey for optimal position. The only challenge (at least for noncampers) is securing a bed in town where a free shuttle service runs fans to and from the festival grounds, as Port Townsend hotels fill up quickly. On-site camping is still available for $150, or free when buying four tickets together. If you can, consider buying at the Paramount Theatre box office — especially if grabbing multiple tickets — to save a bundle on fees. 

Aug. 25-27; Fort Worden Historical State Park, 200 Battery Way, Port Townsend; tickets start at $129.50 single day, $349.50 three-day pass;

— Michael Rietmulder

Centrum at Fort Worden

When you hear “art destination on the Olympic Peninsula,” you’re likely not thinking of a 432-acre historic state park once home to the U.S. Army’s Coast Artillery Corps that features Victorian-era dwellings, abandoned artillery batteries, a lighthouse, miles of sandy saltwater shoreline and majestic views of Puget Sound. But you should: The nonprofit Centrum has turned Fort Worden Historical State Park into a creative hub. Today, it is home to arts organizations like poetry publisher Copper Canyon Press and the Port Townsend School of Woodworking, as well as year-round programming, workshops, performances and classes that run the gamut from, as Centrum puts it, “fiber arts to fiddling, carving to choral singing, painting to poetry.” 

To celebrate Centrum’s 50th anniversary, renowned jazz pianist and Centrum alumna Diana Krall will perform during a benefit concert (July 10). Also on the docket this summer: the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes (July 3-9), the Port Townsend Writers Conference (July 16-22), with free daily literary readings, Jazz Port Townsend (July 24-30) and the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival (July 31-August 6). (And also check out the THING festival my colleague Michael recommends!). (223 Battery Way, Port Townsend; ticket prices vary; 

On your way out or in, stop by the Wilderbee Farm & The Mead Werks for a taste of handcrafted mead, u-pick lavender, flowers and pumpkins, as well as ceramic workshops, monthly readings by established regional poets in the garden and an exhibit of local fiber arts. (23 Cook Ave. Ext., Port Townsend; Art show through Aug. 27. Tasting room: Saturday-Sunday, noon-5 p.m.) 

— Margo Vansynghel, arts economy reporter 

Field Arts & Events Hall

Located on the Port Angeles waterfront and overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the brand-new Field Arts & Events Hall promises to dramatically change the Olympic Peninsula’s cultural landscape. The vision behind the $50 million complex, which was designed by Seattle-based LMN Architects and encompasses a 500-seat auditorium, art gallery, and conference and event center, is “to bring people together as a community to experience world-class performing arts in a world-class facility,” according to Executive Director Steven Raider-Ginsburg.

Following a free festival-style showcase featuring local artists and performers on July 22-23, a ribbon-cutting ceremony (10:30 a.m. July 29) will kick off the official grand-opening weekend, with free outdoor events including the Bandaloop Vertical Dancers on the side of the building (noon, 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.). At 4 p.m., Tacoma-born storied jazz vocalist Diane Schuur will inaugurate the Field Hall stage with her new 70th birthday tour show. Charleston, S.C.-based quintet Ranky Tanky follows at 8:30 p.m. Taking the stage July 30 (11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.) is Japanese taiko drumming and folk dance group Unit Sozou. (All indoor Field Hall events require a ticket purchase). 

In August, the spotlight turns to Music on the Strait, the local summer chamber festival founded in 2018 by violinist James Garlick and violist Richard O’Neill to bring international-caliber performers to the Olympic Peninsula. Music on the Strait, which will be akin to a resident company at Field Hall, launches its festival on Aug. 19 with the Takács Quartet and pianist Garrick Ohlsson in music by Amy Beach and Brahms and Lembit Beecher (tickets $27-$60). Along with some performances at its previous venue at Peninsula College, the festival will continue in the new concert hall on Aug. 26 and 27 with two programs featuring eminent pianist Jeremy Denk (tickets $25-$50).

Visitors can also admire the inaugural exhibit, “Creations of the Klallam People,” opening July 27, at the Field Hall art gallery.

201 W. Front St., Port Angeles; 

— Thomas May, contributor to The Seattle Times

Sculpture spotting and more in Bellingham

Psst: I’m letting you in on one of Washington’s best-kept (open) art secrets: The campus of Western Washington University in Bellingham is home to one of the country’s most impressive outdoor sculpture gardens. No better time than summer to make a trek to this museum-quality collection featuring works by famed artists like Isamu Noguchi (an immersive “Skyviewing Sculpture”), Bruce Nauman (a concrete staircase to nowhere), Donald Judd (austere Corten steel cubes) and Sarah Sze (a geodelike split boulder). WWU’s outdoor art collection can be viewed seven days a week. The tour is self-guided, with a downloadable map and brochure. (516 High St., Bellingham;

Bonus: Consider timing a visit to coincide with the Bellingham Festival of Music (July 1-18; WWU Performing Arts Center, 516 High St., Bellingham, and Bellingham Cruise Terminal, 355 Harris Ave., Bellingham) or the Subdued String Band Jamboree (Aug. 10-12; Deming Log Show Fairgrounds, 3295 Cedarville Road, Bellingham)

While in the area, stop by the Whatcom Museum, which occupies three buildings in downtown Bellingham’s Arts District and offers history and culture exhibits and contemporary art shows. On view this summer: stark still-life photographs by the California-based photographer Mina Afshari. (250 Flora St. and 121 Prospect St., Bellingham; $10;

A short walk away is Geheim Gallery, which opened in 2020 and has become one of Bellingham’s art hot spots, showcasing work by up-and-coming regional artists (1228 Bay St., Bellingham; If you don’t mind crowds, visit during Bellingham’s First Fridays Art Walk (every first Friday of the month), when art lovers flock downtown and hop from gallery to gallery. In the summer, buskers enliven the street and a “Gallery Alley,” featuring art painted on doors (this year in the alley between Wild Buffalo and Mindport Exhibits at 208 and 210 W. Holly St.), puts the “doors” in “outdoors.”

— Margo Vansynghel 

Bainbridge Island Museum of Art 

I love ferries: To me, they prove there’s some truth to the tired cliché that “it’s about the journey, not the destination.” You can get the best of both worlds by adding a visit to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art to your adventures. 

This summer, the museum — housed in a modern 20,000-square-foot building that appears shortly after emerging from the ferry dock — is showcasing its first-ever juried exhibition, BIMA Spotlight, featuring art by about 150 Puget Sound-area artists. 

From July 9-30, on the plaza near the museum, BIMA hosts an outdoor Summer Art Market every Sunday (11 a.m.-5 p.m.). 

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, BIMA is throwing a Block Party (Aug. 5, noon-9:30 p.m.; free), a summer arts festival with live music by local artists Shaina Shepherd, Tomo Nakayama, Stas Thee Boss, Tres Leches, Reposado and more. Also part of the fun are free entry to the nearby Kids Discovery Museum, a beer and wine garden, a pop-up market and various food vendors. 

550 Winslow Way E., Bainbridge Island; free;

— Margo Vansynghel 

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