Roaming through this little town’s museum of local history, I overheard something rare. A boy tugged at his mother’s sleeve and complained: “Don’t go so fast. I’m missing stuff.”
Most kids never complain about moving too quickly through a museum. But then most travelers in northwest Washington don’t visit Lynden and its Pioneer History Museum.
Lynden, home to about 7,000 people, has a peaceful, small-town charm and Dutch heritage that make it worth a short visit. Travelers heading from Seattle to British Columbia could veer off the main road for an hour or two. Or combine a trip to Lynden with a scenic drive to nearby Mount Baker.
Drive past Lynden’s forgettable outskirts of gas stations and chain stores to the downtown business district of Front Street. The still-thriving five blocks of one- and two-story buildings are anchored by the museum to the east and a 72-foot-tall replica of a windmill to the west.
The museum salutes the area’s farming and pioneer history; the windmill, with its blades lazily turning - outlined in white lights at night - is a picturesque salute to the Dutch who settled this rich agricultural area at the turn of the century.
The Dutch heritage of tidy homes, dairy farms and church-going is still very much in evidence in Lynden. Townspeople’s devoutness means many businesses and the museum are closed on Sundays.
The 10-year-old windmill is the most obvious salute to the Dutch settlers, and it’s more than a pretty facade. It houses the Dutch Village Inn, a hotel with six small, but comfortable, rooms, including several with the windmill’s wooden blades revolving just outside the windows.
Staying in a windmill makes Lynden a unique overnight destination. The hotel is popular with families (several rooms can sleep four people), and couples celebrating anniversaries. It won’t bust bank accounts. Rooms start at $69 a night. The priciest is $110 a night, with an in-room hot tub.
Almost everything of interest for visitors to Lynden is on Front Street.
Next to the windmill is the Dutch Village Mall, a complex of small shops in buildings with Dutch-style gabled roofs.
The shops are heavy on lace cloth, china and other Dutch-style knickknacks. There’s even a 6-foot-long wooden clog that people can clamber into and pose for photos and a 40-foot-long minicanal in the middle of the mall, with little footbridges crossing it.
If you’ve been to the Netherlands, Lynden’s Dutch style is a pale shadow of the real thing. But many visitors seem to heartily enjoy the town.
Whether you’re staying overnight in Lynden or pausing for an hour, make the Pioneer History Museum the main stop. It’s a 10-minute stroll east from the windmill on Front Street.
The homey museum is a labor of love sustained by local volunteers. It’s filled with collections donated by townspeople. It’s crammed with pioneer farm equipment, horse-drawn buggies, antique dolls, a replica of the parlor and kitchen of an 1880s home, railroad and military memorabilia, and a display on the dairy industry, the economic mainstay of the area.
The favorite of most kids (and adults) is the museum’s almost life-size replica of Lynden’s pioneer-era main street, with displays of old-fashioned shops and businesses.
Children race from doorway to doorway of the two-story wooden buildings, peering in at a drugstore, schoolroom with cast-iron desks and a Victorian-style hotel and hat shop.
Car buffs will revel in the museum’s dozens of antique vehicles, from 1920s John Deere tractors to a 1930 Model A Ford and a 1950 Nash. There’s even a forerunner of the snowmobile, a 1928 Model A fitted with metal treads and skis.
After exploring the town, stop at a cafe along Front Street. This being the Northwest, they sell espresso and lattes - an Italian-style treat in this Dutch-flavored town.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: If you go Information: Lynden Chamber of Commerce, toll-free at (888) 354-5995; Dutch Village Inn, (360) 354-4440; Lynden Pioneer Museum, (360) 354-3675, open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m to 5 p.m. in summer, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the rest of the year; admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors, and children 14 and under, free. Activities: For a small town, Lynden has a lot going on. Here are several: Dairy tours: For something completely different, the Edaleen Dairy on Lynden’s outskirts offers tours year-round that show milk production and processing. Started as a small family business 22 years ago, with one man milking 80 cows, it now milks about 1,800 cows and has 45 employees. Milk is processed and packaged at the dairy, and ice cream is made there five days a week (and sold at the dairy’s shop). The 45-minute tours are free but must be scheduled in advance and there’s a 10-person minimum. Phone (360) 354-5342. Harvest Festival, Oct. 16-18: Local farmers and merchants celebrate the harvest with hayrides; a hay maze for visitors to wander through; a scarecrow contest, and more. Lynden in Lights, Nov. 22-Jan. 31: Like Leavenworth, Lynden lights its streets and mounts Christmas displays. A lighted Christmas parade is on Dec. 6.