Arlington could be a place where time is standing still. The Stillaguamish River and its forks run through this 110-year-old town where farms tracing back to homesteading days dot the landscape and fertile green fields roll into vast skies that look somehow bigger.
Stroll through historic downtown Arlington and order a chocolate malt at The Local Scoop. The Arlington Hardware Store has creaky wooden floors and all you ever need. Country gentlemen in plaid shirts “come to town” for eggs and pancakes at The Bluebird. Kids hold hands with their grandmas out walking on sunny days.
Then you look up. Rising high above the town is a playground in the sky. People come from far and wide to enjoy the fun to be had at the Arlington Municipal Airport. The airport welcomes hobbyists and aviation buffs to its impressive airfield. Many collectors house their precious planes in hangars here.
Arlington is just up I-5, about an hour north of Bellevue. Here’s how to plan your trip.
Arlington Municipal Airport (18204 59th Dr. NE) is well-known for the Arlington Fly-In, the nation’s third-largest sport aviation show, held in July. But all year round visitors to the airport can live out their flying fantasies with lots of exciting and affordable options.
Always wanted to take a flying lesson? Head to Arlington Flight Service for an introductory flight. If you prefer to have a professional do the work, charter a scenic flight with Gold Aero. Friendly owner Brad Goldman has lots of ideas for couples and families with kids. “We’ll take good care of you. We’ll keep you safe and you’ll have a lot of fun,” he said. Or soar like a bird in a silent glider with a demo flight from the Evergreen Soaring Club.
Thrill-seekers will rave for months about their powered parachute ride. Seattle Powerchutes offers introductory rides on these open-air, skydiving- meets-dune buggy vehicles. Caught the flying bug? You can even assemble your own airplane with Glasair Aviation.
Most flying options are open to kids. All require booking ahead and can be dependent on weather conditions.
Hungry after your morning flight? Any visit to Arlington has to include a stop at The Bluebird Cafe (308 N. Olympic). Order breakfast and classic diner coffee in a booth at this town landmark. Or join the many local fans at cozy Ellie’s (3525 168th St. NE) for homestyle breakfast and lunch favorites. The health-conscious should try Mirkwood; Shire Cafe (117 E Division), a vegetarian spot with quirky décor and great service. Lunch at The Local Scoop (434 N. Olympic) is a favorite for its soda-shop feel. Enjoy a hot sandwich or a rock & roll burger, or just go straight for an ice cream.
Book ahead for dinner at Bistro San Martin (231 N. Olympic). Proprietor Steven Van Matre and Chef Martin Estrada-Perez and their wonderful staff will make you want to linger a while. You’ll rave later about its world-inspired regional cuisine and wine selection. Or make the drive to Rhodes River Ranch (22016 Entsminger Road). This rustic restaurant overlooking an elegant indoor horse arena breaks all the notions you may have about where the horses play.
Arlington has a belly-laughing pioneer spirit that shines in the many activities around town.
Visitors delight in bouncing around at Absolute Air Park (18802 67th Ave. NE), a huge indoor trampoline park that also offers rebounding, boot camp and dodge ball. Bowl a few at Rocket Alley Bar & Grill (420 N. Olympic). This small, family-friendly classic bowling alley is an institution in Arlington. The food has a lot of fans, too.
Bring your bikes to Arlington to enjoy its many parks. The Centennial Trail runs 30 miles from Snohomish to Skagit County. Cyclists rest and regroup at the Arlington Visitor’s Center in Legion Park (114 N. Olympic). For help with bike troubles head to Arlington Velo Sport (401 N. Olympic) but note that it’s closed on Saturdays.
Come to The Outback Kangaroo Farm (10030 SR 530 NE) to hug a kangaroo and kiss a llama. Kids will enjoy getting close and feeding the exotic animals; experienced tour guides will tell you who bites. Be sure to arrive at tour time or you’ll be left at the gate with Tom Turkey.
In Arlington, shopping is about vintage and local. You’ll support a thriving small-business community with a cooperative spirit.
First, head into Arlington Hardware & Lumber (215 N. Olympic). From real DIY gals to wannabe Mr. Fix-its, they all get giddy at this venerable 110-year-old hardware store. With its meandering layout and packed shelves, it’s a perfect place to wander.
Find something beautiful at the Fogdog Gallery (233 N. Olympic). Owner Claire Cundiff has an inviting space with work by talented local artists. At Sadie Lane Vintage Treasures (301 N. Olympic), shop dog Lacey will run to greet you. Watch owner Ronda Howard repurpose vintage pieces in her open-to-the-public studio.
Ladies in the mood for pampering will love Arlington Pharmacy Fine Gifts (540 N. West Ave.) for its spa products and high-end finds. Favorite Pastime (313 N. Olympic) owner Paige Lucas is seeing her home décor store thriving. “Arlington is now a destination for girls’ day out,” she said. The nearby Quiltmaker’s Shoppe (315 N. Olympic) is a must-see for veteran quilters and converts to this trendy hobby.
Grandparents and homeschoolers will find something to take home at The SchoolBox (314 N. Olympic), with its huge selection of educational books, games and toys.
Want to see where your food comes from? The farms and agricultural businesses that form the Red Rooster Route provide a glimpse into Arlington’s proud farming heritage. This self-guided tour will take you from the field to the farm stand as you explore sustainable farming in real life. Kids will love activities like berry picking, U-cut flowers, and trolley rides. Enjoy a picnic and explore organic greenhouses. At every stop there’s abundant fresh produce and locally-made food and gifts. Each farm on the Red Rooster Route holds its own special festival during the harvest season.
Book an overnight stay in the Yurt Village at River Meadows Park (20416 Jordan Road). Visitors can stay in one of six yurts that sleep from 4 to 8. The park has a network of trails and is a popular place to enjoy a picnic, barbecue and fun on the Stillaguamish River. 360.435.3441