The Best Way to Have A COVID-19 Safe Thanksgiving Dinner
By Marguerite Cleveland
Thanksgiving is usually celebrated with a big dinner and family members coming in from all over to gather for the holiday. Having a group of 20 to 30 in a house for dinner is not the safest thing to do currently, especially for the more vulnerable population. A safer option might be to travel to a full-service lodge or resort during off-season. Families can have separate rooms and eat meals in small groups spread out across a restaurant. Blaine, Washington, and the Semiahmoo Resort are a great, safe destination. November is a slow time of year for this busy summer town, and less crowds means more room for social distancing.
Blaine is one of the western most U.S. towns and is nestled near the border with Canada. This quaint town sits on Drayton Bay and has a vibrant, historic downtown. Water activities die down in the winter, but there is still plenty to do in the area.
When planning for your trip consider the weather. November is the rainiest month of the year in Blaine, with an average of more than 6 inches of rain, and the average high temperature is 49 degrees. Outdoor activities can still be comfortable if you pack the proper gear.
Where to Stay
The Semiahmoo Resort is located at the end of the scenic Semiahmoo Spit. It is surrounded by water—Drayton Harbor to the right and Semiahmoo Bay to the left. The spit was once home to the Semiahmoo indigenous people. History abounds at the resort, as it uses some of the buildings from the Alaska Packers Association, which at the time was the largest salmon cannery in the world. Time slows down to a peaceful crawl in the late fall and winter. Many rooms have water views, and the pet-friendly rooms on the first floor have a patio with easy access to a grassy lawn. Throughout the resort are areas both indoors and outdoors with seating spread out for social distancing. Enjoy the roaring fire in the lobby or head outside to enjoy your coffee.
Weather dependent each night, the resort lights two or three bonfires, depending on how many guests are staying so social distancing can be practiced. You can also book your own bonfire with a separate firepit just for your family. The Discovery Movie Theater offers a family rental package with popcorn and sodas. With 50 seats it is large enough to accommodate a big family group and keep 6 feet apart. Bikes are available to check out at the front desk. The paved paths on Semiahmoo Spit are nice and flat, perfect for a family ride.
Where to Eat
Due to COVID-19, the Semiahmoo Resort will not have their famed Thanksgiving Day buffet, but they will be offering dinner in their restaurant, Packers Kitchen, featuring Thanksgiving favorites. Meals in the restaurant are available for dine-in or takeout. In addition to Packers, the resort has the Seaview Café and General Store for grab-and-go breakfast, lunch and coffee.
The Railway Café in Blaine is in an old caboose, and owner Vicka Haywood has some serious baking skills. Her scones and muffins are so chocked full of ingredients you must look to see the base. Her burekas are a puffed pastry stuffed with spinach, feta cheese, spices and herbs and make a great breakfast. Add one of her unique coffee drinks like a cardamon- or lavender-infused latte. Haywood is beloved by locals for her food and hospitality. There are a few seats but they mostly serve takeout. Many people just park in the lot and enjoy their breakfast while overlooking the marina.
In Blaine, the Jack Niemann’s Black Forest Steakhouse has long been a fixture in town and is known for its steaks and its German food. There is a huge variety of schnitzels including an old-fashioned favorite Cordon Bleu and Oskar, which is a breaded fried schnitzel topped with crabmeat, asparagus and smothered in bearnaise sauce. A more recent addition to the food scene is the family owned Vault Wine Bar and Bistro. Lots of care goes into their menu to create food that pairs beautifully with the wines they serve by the glass or bottle.
Things to Do
A must see when visiting this area is the Peace Arch Historical State Park, which is located right on the border with Canada. The iconic Peace Arch just went through a restoration and cleaning for her 100th birthday. It was dedicated in 1921 to commemorate the centennial of the signing of the treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. It is a state park on the U.S. side of the border and a provincial park on the Canadian side. You can freely stroll through both sides of the park without a passport, but you must remain in the park. With the COVID-19 outbreak, the park has become a meeting place for families who have relatives on both sides of the border.
The Semiahmoo County Park is located a short walk from the Semiahmoo Resort and is considered the best place to go for a walk on the beach in Whatcom County. A 1.6-mile beach walk at low tide will take you on both sides of the spit. Boardwalks offer beach overlooks and access to the beach. The Coast Millennium Trail has a .8-mile loop on the spit and has great views of Mount Baker and Drayton Harbor. Keep an eye out for seals.
Buildings from the Alaska Packers Association Cannery were moved to the area and restored. A former bunkhouse is available for rent as an event venue and is perfect for a family gathering. The museum is closed for the season, but interpretive signs are placed around the site.
Blaine has a nice walkable downtown area with shops and restaurants. For more outside time head to the Blaine Marine Park for 2 miles of trails. A public pier offers a scenic view of the Semiahmoo Resort across the harbor. Children will love the playground with its year-round rubber safety surface depicting sharks swimming around the play structure. It is a work of art featuring a sailing ship, climbing boulders and a lighthouse. Six image panels depict the maritime history of Blaine. The park also has covered structures where you can bird watch without getting wet.
If you feel like venturing further afield, the cute towns of Lynden and Ferndale are worth a visit. Lynden feels like a trip to the Netherlands with its Dutch heritage and windmills. Ferndale has an historic downtown, and the Hovander Homestead Park with its historic farm, wetlands, a 50-foot viewing tower and boardwalks through the marsh are well worth a stop.
For more information about Whatcom County, stop at the visitors’ center in Bellingham on your way to the Semiahmoo Resort. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is constantly evolving, so before taking a trip, review current rules, call your lodging a week prior to your trip to verify your reservation and get an update on local pandemic rules. Do not travel if you or anyone in your family has virus symptoms.
Official travel and visitor info for Bellingham, Washington, and Whatcom County - Bellingham.org
Where to Stay
The Semiahmoo Resort - Semiahmoo.com
Where to Eat
The Railway Café - Facebook.com/therailwaycafe
The Vault Wine Bar and Bistro - TheVaultWine.com
Jack Niemann’s Black Forest Steakhouse - Facebook.com/blackforeststeakhouseblaine
What to Do
Peace Arch Historical State Park - PeaceArchPark.org
Blaine - CI.Blaine.WA.us/72/Visitors
Blaine Marine Park - CI.Blaine.WA.us/Facilities/Facility/Details/Marine-Park-23
Point Whitehorn Marine Park - WhatcomCounty.us/2108/Point-Whitehorn-Marine-Reserve
Semiahmoo County Park - WhatcomCounty.us/2064/Semiahmoo-Park