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On Oregon's Coast: Lewis & Clark and the Holidays

Sometimes, the best holiday celebrations aren't the most famous or obvious ones. This is especially true on Oregon's coast, where one big secret is that this time of year doesn't just mean the area's notoriously stormy and wild weather, but that it has many days that are unusually dry and warm compared to the rest of the state. But the most delightful secrets lie in the realm of holiday celebrations, which make for some memorable discoveries along this famously pristine stretch of shoreline. On the northern Oregon coast, the holidays begin not with the usual celebrations, but with a major wine event and loads of signature Lewis & Clark commemorations. On November 7, it will have been exactly two hundred years since William Clark wrote "Ocian in view! O! the Joy!" as he spotted what he thought was the Pacific Ocean (it was actually a big bay just before the ocean). For the next five months, staring in 1805, the Corps of Discovery spent their time in this part of the Northwest.

The Lewis & Clark Bicentennial marks this, and things kick off at Fort Stevens (between Seaside and Astoria) on November 11, with the "Opening Ceremony - Lewis & Clark Veteran's Day Commemoration." Oregonian and former Miss America, Katie Harmon (2002), will sing the national anthem, and the event will feature banners from local tribes and other remembrances of the Corps of Discovery. November 14 brings the Dedication Of The Fort To Sea Trail at Fort Ctatsop (near Fort Stevens), marking the trail from the crew's winter quarters to their time on the beaches of Seaside. Fort Clatsop - the replica of the Corps' winter camp - will feature various "Wintering Over Events" between the Fort and Cannon Beach. This replica tragically burned in early October, but the visitor center there is still the center of many of the winter events, including a living history program about their Christmas at the camp on December 25.

On January 7, the celebration comes to Cannon Beach (some 25 miles south), marking the day that Clark, Sacegawea and others traveled to the ocean to see a beached whale. The adorable resort town of Seaside - which boasts broad, immaculate beaches, the "million dollar walk" of Broadway Ave., and a cove famous for surfing - will be one of the few cities to host a major traveling exhibit on Lewis & Clark. From November 19 to November 22, you'll find the "Corps of Discovery II, 200 yrs. To The Future," with a mobile 250-seat auditorium showing multimedia programs on Lewis & Clark's troupe of travelers. Free. 503-861-4403. www.destinationthepacific.com.

Also on November 19, Seaside will abound with the bounty of the vineyard with the holiday-themed Seaside Downtown Wine Walk. The now-annual event features hundreds of folks wandering throughout the downtown area and taste-testing Northwest wines. $5 for the wristband. 503-717-1914 or www.seasidedowntown.com. By late November, Seaside really gets lit up with the "Yuletide at Seaside," where the entire town is decked out in all sorts of light configurations. Highlights include the Holiday Gift Fair on November 25 - 27 at the Seaside Civic & Convention Center, the famous Holiday Caroling & Lighted Float Parade on November 26, the Holiday Lights Tour aboard a bus on December 10 and 11, and the Seaside Children's Christmas Party at the Seaside Convention Center on December 11. Call 800-394-3303 for more information on all these, or go to www.seasideor.

com. If you want to stay in a castle on Oregon's coast and enjoy some special holiday events, you need only look about 15 miles south of Seaside to St. Bernard's Bed & Breakfast. This stunning beauty is built to look somewhere between a medieval structure and a Swiss ski lodge, filled with antique furniture and a spicy sense of romance and adventure - in an exceptionally upscale way. Every morning means gourmet breakfasts made by the able hand of owner Barbara Dau. Thanksgiving means Dau's talents will create a special traditional dinner with her artistic flair. It's open to in-house guests only, and cost is $65, including fine wines as well. The highlight here, aside from the food and wondrous surroundings, is the engaging, convivial atmosphere created by gathering to dine with others you haven't met before. This, and St. Bernard's special New Year's Eve traditions, are becoming an increasingly popular addiction for Oregon and Washington residents.

On New Year's Eve, Dau puts together a six-course gourmet bash, which features dishes from around the world and matching wines for each. It's a culinary and wine-tasting trip across the globe. It all ends with champagne by a beach bonfire that is breathtaking every year. www.st-bernards.com. 800-436-2848. In Newport - the town with two lighthouses - the ancient Bayfront gets gussied up in an incredible array of lights. Nearby, the historic Nye Beach district (known as the "Honeymoon Capitol of the World" for various reasons) has an antique charm that's somewhere between old Europe and turn-of-the-century America with its tiny cobblestone streets.


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