Lynden in winter? But what do you do without tulips and berries?
It might seem counterintuitive, but paying a visit to the historic, Dutch heritage town of Lynden in the dead of winter can still give you a taste of Holland, even without the springtime fields and flowers. You just have to be prepared to get your Dutch on.
After all, there are 16 million Dutch folk who live in the actual Netherlands year-round, not just at tulip time. And what do they do in the middle of winter? Eat yummy food, cycle (yes, even in winter), milk cows, drink excellent beer and skate. And you can do most of those in wintertime Lynden, too, with a bit of creativity.
WINDMILLS AND GABLES
But the first thing you’ll do in Lynden is admire the architecture. Settled in 1895 by a handful of Midwesterners with Dutch heritage, and joined five years later by many more, Lynden has a historic downtown full of quaint brick buildings with stepped and swooping gables. In the couple of blocks along Front Street you’ll see barn door attic windows, built-in benches beneath neighborhood noticeboards marked “Dorpse Nieuws” (Village News) and even faade furniture hooks of the type used in old, skinny Dutch buildings to hoist furniture to the top floor without having to wrestle it up the stairs.
And then there are the windmills. Not working ones, but Lynden has at least three decorative ones – including one for the public restrooms. The biggest, built in 1987, houses the Dutch Village Inn, where you can actually sleep inside a windmill in quasi-octagonal, sloping-walled rooms decorated with tulip friezes and Old Master reproductions. A couple of rooms have large hot tubs – very welcome after a cold winter day’s sightseeing – and several more have lace framed beds built Dutch style into the wall.
It’s all part of the Dutch Village Mall, a stretch of buildings that comes complete with indoor canal and faux-Dutch trimmings. Like much of historic Lynden, there are many retail vacancies, but the brand-new local owner is working to fill things up.
Elsewhere in the town you can delve into Lynden’s history: Visit the new arts center, which is creatively bringing arts classes and concerts to the former City Hall/fire station, and wander down to its tangerine-and-lime-painted basement, where the cramped jail cells stand intact. Farther down Front Street is the Pioneer Museum, 28,000 square feet and two floors worth of vintage carriages, farm equipment and a street front reconstructed to look like 1900. The museum also does tours of the two cemeteries that rather grimly flank the town entrance.
Dutch history is on the wall of the Front Street liquor store in a 142-foot mural depicting old-time stores. Pop into the post office (one of few American versions to be called a Post Kantoor) to see the charming mural inside, too.
And chances are if you chat with the locals, you’ll hear a Dutch accent. Thanks to post-WWII migration, around 50 percent of Lynden folks have Dutch ties.
POFFERTJES AND OLIEBOLLEN
Winter in the Netherlands is just like in the Northwest – one of the reasons the early Dutch settlers felt so much at home – and a great way to combat the cold and damp is to eat. Lynden, unlike its pretend-European counterpart Leavenworth, isn’t stacked with restaurants, but two stand out for excellent Dutch-style food.
At the Dutch Bakery, the choice is tough. Inside the cozy café is a glass case with dozens of traditional baked treats: almond gebakjes (almond tarts, rich and marzipan-y), fresh speculaas (gingery spice cookies), poffertjes (pan-cooked doughnuts), kant koekjes (crispy Florentines), and what has to be the most bluntly-named dessert ever: oliebollen. Literally “oil balls,” these round Dutch doughnuts with apple and raisin are best eaten next to a canal in a freezing wind that’ll blow the powdered sugar all over your black winter coat. But if you don’t happen to be in Holland, eating them in Lynden tastes just as delicious (or ‘lekker,’ in Dutch). There are also pies heavy with fruit (bumbleberry, anyone?) and airy loaves of fresh bread, and erwten-soep (pea soup) thick with chunks of carrot and ham that goes perfectly with the cheese-and-pumpernickel Kaiser roll for lunch.
Give it a few hours before you head to Dutch Mothers Restaurant, a few doors down. They do all three meals on weekends, but it’s the pannekoeken (pancakes) you’ll want. As big as a dinner plate, as thick as two tortillas and rich with egg, these come Dutch-style, dotted with almonds and dark Dutch chocolate chips, or bacon-and-sausage, or topped with sweet strawberries and oodles of cream. One will feed two or three people. You’ve been warned. The lunch and dinner menu also includes Dutch-style beef croquettes, European sausages, pierogi and burgers.
Other restaurants in the historic downtown include Chinese, Thai, Greek/Italian, seafood and (soon) pizza.
If you’re looking for some healthful food, you can appreciate the area’s fruit-farming skills even in winter at Bellewood Acres, just before you enter town on Guide Meridian Road. Best in summer and fall, when you can tour the extensive berry fields and orchards, Bellewood still is selling scrumptious apples, including a Dutch variety introduced early last century. They make their own jams, vinegars and sauces, and have a distillery onsite for warming up with local apple vodka and brandy.
And finally, stock up on Dutch imports such as licorice drops, Droste chocolates, almond cookies and real wooden clogs at the Giftwinkel inside the Dutch Village windmill. Dutch Mothers also sells a few items; while in Kitchen Konnection you can buy poffertje pans and other essentials.
BICYCLES, SKATES AND TREEHOUSES
Yes, the Dutch ride bikes all the time, even in winter. Of course, that’s a lot easier when you have a country-size network of trails and lanes. But Lynden’s a fine place to ride in between rain showers. The Jim Kaemingk Sr. Trail runs from City Park — where the Million Smiles Playground offers kids an enormous play fort and giant treehouse with curvy slide inside — beside a pretty stream all the way to the golf course and Bender Park. Just five minutes walk from City Park, you’ll see a historic stone cottage complete with Dutch thatching brought from Holland and immaculately kept.
Riding farther afield you can get your Dutch on, as you coast along flat roads beside waterlogged fields, drainage ditches, the brisk Nooksack River and pastoral farmland. Guide Meridian Road has a wide shoulder, but lots of traffic — for an eight-mile route that circumnavigates the town see route 3281132 on mapmyride.com.
The other big thing that the Dutch do in winter if it’s cold enough is iceskate. While you’re unlikely to hit that big a freeze in Lynden, you can do it the warm way inside of the wooden-floored Skateway roller rink just behind the museum.
And if you’d rather buy skates than use them, you’ll find antique skates, bikes and more in the several antique shops along Front Street. Other finds include the very hipster Word, selling Vans and Toms shoes; cards and games at Heroes; yarn and fabric stores; cowgirl attire at Cattlelac and stylish home-and-garden stuff at Grandiflora on Grover Street.
Despite many farms converting to berries, there are still a lot of cows around Lynden, just as there are all over Holland. Winter isn’t a good time to see them – they’re often kept inside, where they won’t muddy up the field – but they’re producing milk year-round at dairies such as Edaleen, Twin Brook Creamery and Darigold, the plant right behind City Park. While most don’t do tours, you can drive by, and Edaleen sells milk, ice cream and other dairy goodies out of two local stores (see resource box).
A cheese shop downtown would make a nice link between tourists and locals, but there isn’t one yet. Nor is there a Dutch-style pub, though several restaurants have bars.
WHEN TO GO
If Lynden’s wintery charms don’t appeal, you can wait for warmer weather when you can hit events such as Farmers Day (June 1), the Raspberry Festival (July 18-19), Northwest Washington Fair and Rodeo (August 11-14) and the Christmas Parade with Sinter Klaas (Dec. 7). During spring and summer, the town is filled with flowers.
If you’re there over a weekend, remember that most of historic Lynden closes at 5 p.m. and on Sundays, due to the strong Christian Reform tradition that has four churches in as many blocks. The upside? You’ll have plenty of time to visit nearby Mount Baker for snow fun. And that’s something you won’t find in Holland.
Directions: Lynden is 10 miles from I-5. Take exit 256 and follow Guide Meridian Road, turning right at Front Street between the cemeteries.
Accommodation: The Dutch Village Inn has windmill and regular rooms. 655 Front St., 360-354-4440, dutchvillage innandgiftwinkel.com.
Eating: Dutch Bakery, 421 Front St., lynden bakery.com; Dutch Mothers Restaurant, 405 Front St., dutchmothers.net; BelleWood Acres, 6140 Guide Meridian Road, bellewood farms.com; Edaleen Dairy stores, Monday-Saturday at 9593 Guide Meridian Road and 1011 E. Grover St., edaleendairy.com.
Shopping: Most stores mentioned are on Front Street between Seventh and Third streets, Lynden.
History: Pioneer Museum, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, $7 adults, $4 seniors and students, 217 Front St., 360-354-3675, lyndenpioneermuseum.com
Activities: Lynden Skateway, 421 Judson St., see website for prices and times, 360-354-3851, lyndenskateway.com. City Park, Depot Road (turn left on Third Street from Front Street).