You’ll never get bored in Port Townsend. Whether it’s a film festival, parade or a full weekend of events, Port Townsend’s creativity never sleeps. Port Townsend is home to creative, intelligent types that think up events and festivals. Port Townsend WA events are one reason people keep returning.
Yes, there is history and natural beauty. For me, that’s enough to warrant a visit. But I’ve also experienced festivals in Port Townsend that were both vibrant and enchanting.
Port Townsend WA Events: Wooden Boat Festival
I was introduced to the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival by my brother, an avid sailor and appreciator of fine craftsmanship, especially in boats. The Wooden Boat Festival had drawn him to Port Townsend for years before I was in the area one early September and was able to go to the festival.
The Wooden Boat Festival, America’s largest wooden boat festival, is an amazing gathering of over 300 boats on the water and on the land. Some are for sale but most are there to strut their stuff in front of the admiring public. There are rowboats, sailboats, motor yachts and even fishing trawlers. Some are newly hand-made and others have a long and fascinating history.
In downtown Port Townsend you’ll find 120 presentations, dozens of exhibitors, live music all day every day, interactive exhibits for kids, and plenty of local food, beer, and wine options to satisfy everyone. It’s a big festival, the most well-known of the Port Townsend WA events, and can get crowded.
I had the joy of sailing aboard the Steamer Virginia V, a National Historic Landmark and part of Seattle’s Maritime history, that year so saw the festival from the water. My brother was volunteering as a vessel engineer. The steamer was part of the “Mosquito Fleet” in Puget Sound and provided transportation and delivery of goods in the area. She was built with old growth fir and launched in 1922.
From my vantage point on the top deck of the Virginia V I was able to see tall ships in full sail, interesting little boats, the likes of which I’d never encountered, and enjoyed seeing beautiful Uptown and Downtown Port Townsend from the water. When you go to Wooden Boat Festival, there will be opportunities to go out sailing and I’d highly recommend doing it. It’s a crazy mixture of small and large boats and everyone is in a festive mood, waving as they pass you and enjoying the event.
This is all put on by Port Townsend’s Northwest Maritime Center, a non-profit organization also offering an eclectic and well-stocked Maritime Library, a high quality Wooden Boat Chandlery and active Boat Shop. All are open to the public year round in the historic Point Hudson district of downtown Port Townsend.
Port Townsend WA Events: Rhody Festival
This fun festival is a little different from the Wooden Boat Festival. It’s a more of an event for local families. While it’s colorful and fun for visitors, “Rhody,” as they call it, doesn’t draw the international crowd that some of the other festivals do.
The Rhododendrons, both wild and domestic, were blooming all around the Pacific Northwest the spring I enjoyed Rhody events. The Rhody Festival in Port Townsend is always held the 3rd weekend of May and I saw plenty of the beautiful flowers as I drove north for my stay at the elegant Ravenscroft Inn B&B.
The Port Townsend Rhododendron Festival is the type of festival with festival royalty, parades and a pancake breakfast. Staying in Uptown or Downtown will give you a chance to walk to the parades. Parking can get a bit tight as people from the surrounding agricultural areas make a point of coming to town for Rhody.
I have to say my favorite event was the Pet Parade. I took a walk from my Uptown B&B and saw that residents put out their lawn chairs the day before, eagerly anticipating the afternoon event.
There are prizes and a chance to show off your pet, often in costume. Rhody Fest royalty awards the title of “best decorated,” which includes an invitation to be in Saturday’s Grand Parade. As the parade neared the corner where I was standing, I was surprised. I thought there would be dogs and maybe a cat or two but this parade was much more.
There were ponies, horses carrying what looked like princesses, dogs dressed up riding in themed wagons, a parrot and even a snake. What a fun parade! It truly was a local parade… the kids were having a great time. The parade broke up soon after that and I was able to photograph some of the children and their animals.
So if pet parades don’t wow you as this one did me, you can look forward to carnival rides downtown, the Grand Parade the next day, or the Rhody Run out at Fort Worden. There are bed races, a hair and beard contest and all kinds of down-home fun during Rhody.
Port Townsend WA Events: So Much to Look Forward To
In looking at the events calendar, there were a couple of events that really intrigued me. How about dressing up and joining in on the June Steampunk Festival? The organizers promise “vintage aesthetics comingled with edgy century art, music, and tech – all strapped together with brass.” Don’t know what Steampunk is? Here’s a handy dandy Steampunk Primer.
I also heard that the Northwest Maritime Center, that sponsors the Wooden Boat Festival, recently announced the “Race to Alaska” boat race. R2AK is the first of its kind and North America’s longest human and wind powered race, and currently the largest cash prize for a race of its kind. No motors and no support are keywords for this endurance race. You can watch the boats take off on the race from Port Townsend to Ketchikan and then follow along via the Facebook feed.
When You Go To Port Townsend
Port Townsend is a historic Victorian seaport at the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. It’s bordered by Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, also known as the Salish Sea. Port Townsend is accessible via Washington State Ferry and by road and bridge from the Kitsap Peninsula.