Spotlight :: Bellevue {Washington}

[trip style = weekending + urban + active & adventure + wine tasting]

Sunday morning did not start off like any other day. With my life jacket firmly fastened and my paddle gently sweeping through the glassy water, I spotted turtles instead of people and herons in place of buildings. On this peaceful morning, my main mode of transportation was a bright yellow kayak. The only reminder of the modern world was the entrance and exit to the Mercer Slough, where I paddled underneath what seemed like a bridge. Later on when I drove over this "bridge", I learned it was actually a series of concrete spaghetti-like structures that happened to be part of the I-90. In one glance I was away from it all, gliding through lilypads, and in the next glance, in the centre of it all, standing in the shadow of tall glass highrises.

This juxtaposition became my ebb and flow when I was invited to explore Bellevue this past weekend. One second I was admiring toy-like metal and mechanical animals dancing in a dim, strobe-lit room at the Bellevue Arts Museum, and the next moment I was in traditional and modern tasting rooms, twirling, sipping and sloshing the season's best in Woodinville Wine Country---only 15 minutes away.

If you spend 48 hours in the former whaling town, you'll discover activities you'd sooner associate with a waterfront metropolis than a quiet suburb. Previously I would just go to shop, eat and sleep. Now my Visa is happy to report that I've taken off the blinders that gave me shopping tunnel vision, to stop and look at what else is out there, counterbalancing the shopping with exercise, culture and upscale dining.

Bellevue's small-town-within-a-metropolis feel is what keeps me coming back. It's a worthy alternative to nearby Seattle, and one I've probably been to a half dozen times over the past year alone. In one weekend, I can shop and walk, eat out and kayak, drink coffee and taste wine, buy at Nordstrom and browse Jimmy Choo. Like the Mercer Slough flowing into Lake Washington, Bellevue is a setting where multiple trip styles converge. It's a place occupied by some of the biggest names in US business---Microsoft, Expedia and T-Mobile to name a few---but it has a lot more to offer than just Windows 7, travel search engines and former Bachelor couple Jason and Molly.

Shop The Bellevue Collection - A fusion of sophisticated shopping, dining, nightlife and upscale hotels. The Bravern - A luxury shopping experience resembling more of a Spanish villa than covered outdoor mall, anchored by Neiman Marcus, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, Tory Burch, Salvatore Ferragamo and Hermès. Don't miss the melt-in-your-mouth gelato at Vovito Caffe & Gelato. Nordstrom Rack - The Seattle-based department store's discount outlet.

Dine Purple Cafe And Wine Bar - A funky restaurant specializing in wine pairings and local seasonal ingredients. Try the Phyllo-baked brie. Bis On Main - Known for its consistent American French cuisine and the owner's art collection. If you were going to spot Bill Gates in Bellevue, it might be here. Monsoon East - Saigon-inspired Vietnamese cuisine in a modern setting. Barking Frog - With an impressive wine list and northwest cuisine to match, only 15 minutes from Bellevue. Must-try: deconstructed movie-theatre popcorn ice cream dessert. Cupcakes Royale - Rich and cakey cupcakes born in Seattle, bred in Bellevue. Try the Salty Caramel! Munchbar - shows MMA by day and cranks turntables by night. This resto-lounge and its cultured sister Piano Bash {dueling piano bar}, are your answer to nightlife in Bellevue. Try the crispy mac n' cheese bites or mini grilled cheeses with a tomato sour cream dipping sauce.

Stay Hyatt Regency Bellevue - $$ - Friendly staff, recently renovated with a serene winter bamboo garden. {See my trip advisor review here} Westin Bellevue - $$ -  Nice rooms, large pool and great weekend packages. {See my trip advisor review here} Sheraton Bellevue - $ - Efficient lower cost option. {See my trip advisor review here}

Do Kayak or Swim - at Enatai Beach Park only a 5-minute drive from downtown Bellevue. Walk - along one of the trails in the 320-acre wetland nature park known as the Mercer Slough. Jog - on the half-mile park loop at the tree-lined Downtown Park---a 2-minute walk from the Hyatt or Westin. Stroll - along Main Street and browse the smaller, boutique shops like Glassybaby, where each famed glass tumbler is handmade by a team of four, and multiple local restaurants feature their votives. PS - I hear locals collect every colour! Sip - drive 15 minutes to access 70+ wineries and tasting rooms in Woodinville Wine Country. Visit - the Bellevue Arts Museum, where the building is an impressive as the three storeys of art it holds dear. Don't miss the museum store---a great place to find unique gifts for people of all ages.

Getting There Bellevue is three hours from Vancouver and 20 minutes from Seattle.

[photo{s} by @tripstyler]