July 2022 – Our first foray into the Lake Chelan area was our delightful ferry ride from the lake’s southern end to the hidden jewel of Stehekin at the northern tip. Where Stehekin is picturesque and intimate in the remote northern end, the town of Chelan on the lake’s southern shore spills over with a happy summertime beach vibe as locals and vacationing visitors play on the water and relax in the sun.
Lake Chelan is a huge lake, and when the sun is at the right angle it is a rich blue. Pretty homes line the shores.
This is the heart of Washington’s fruit country. Apple and cherry orchards and beautiful vineyards dot the hillsides in every direction.
The historic district of Chelan was all dressed up with a summertime flare when we arrived. Flower baskets hung from the lamp posts, and popular restaurants offered outside dining.
Gorgeous hydrangeas were in full bloom, and we spotted the large bushes covered with enormous blue and lavender blossoms all around town.
Down at the town beach we watched young girls doing cartwheels in the sand. But it was the Chelan Riverwalk Park that drew us back and back again.
Similar to the Idaho Falls River Walk, both sides of the Lake Chelan have been tamed with lovely landscaping in between two bridges, so you can walk a full loop on paved paths next to the water.
We came across lots of animals along Chelan’s Riverwalk. This is a great place to walk a dog or meet someone else’s a dog if you are dogless. A golden retriever was showered with love and pets from a group of kids he’d just met.
There are Wild Animals on Chelan’s Riverwalk too. When I turned a corner I noticed a duck watching me closely. A few other ducks were lazing away the morning next to her. The water is so clear in this lake that I could easily see the rocks below the surface behind her.
Suddenly, an adorable duckling swam past. No wonder mom was keeping an eye on me!
There’s another kind of animal that lurks on Lake Chelan — the Party Animal! These scantily clad animals were out in droves, cruising around on speedboats, jetskis, kayaks and paddle boards.
Chelan is a music lover’s town, and Mark soon found an electric guitar that was just begging to be played.
As I was thumbing through the internet one day, wondering what kinds of organized activities might be going on in Chelan, I saw the words, “Bach Fest.”
Really? There was Bach music festival in a small rural lakeside town in Washington?!! As a total classical music junkie, this was right up my alley!
I dove in deeper and discovered that Bach Fest is a ten day long music festival that has been a beloved tradition in Chelan for 41 years, and we’d arrived in town right in the middle of it!
Throughout this ten day festival, musicians perform classical music (from baroque to modern) in all kinds of venues, all for free! Churches and courtyards host various chamber music groups during the mornings and noontime hour and vineyards showcase chamber music performances every evening.
The first event we saw was a noontime concert in a church that featured a chamber group and four vocalists performing a wonderful Bach Cantata.
Another morning we took part in an unusual “Riverwalk Sip and Stroll” where music lovers wandered along the river paths and town streets, sipping their morning coffee and encountering lovely music being played in various spots along the way.
As we walked along the river banks, we heard a violin soloist playing with great passion in the Riverwalk Pavillion…
When we wandered up into the streets of town, we heard the melodic strains of a harp! We turned a corner and there was a harpist playing in a church courtyard.
How often do you walk around town with your morning coffee and come across a person playing the harp?
The following evening we bumped into the harpist, Ellen Foster, at a picnic table. Chelan is that kind of place — friendly and easy going. She was having dinner with her husband, Melvin, who I immediately recognized as the tenor who had sung in the noontime church concert the day before. Fortunately, he had recognized me first — the crazy lady with the camera — and called me over to their table to chat.
This was their fourth year of participating in Bach Fest. Their home is in Georgia but she has family near Chelan, so it makes an ideal summer trip filled with musical fun and some income on the side!
Over the years, I’ve come to realize how important it is to pursue your passions in life. Even if your passion isn’t something that typically produces a big money-making career, many delightful and fulfilling experiences will fill your life if you love what you are doing.
Strolling back to the Riverwalk, we heard a brass group playing in the distance.
This whole “Sip and Stroll” experience reminded us of the spontaneous music scene we’d witnessed at the city square in Guanajuato, Mexico, where groups of musicians had taken turns entertaining the folks who were eating and relaxing around the square.
In the center of the square, an orchestra had played pops music in a bandstand. At the dozen or two cafes that surrounded the bandstand, as many Mariachi bands had played traditional Mexican folk tunes.
Without any apparent organization, one band would begin playing a song or two as soon as another band finished, and it went on like that for several mesmerizing hours with lively songs and tunes suddenly popping up all around us and none of the bands ever stepping on each other’s toes!
As much as we were loving the stroll, the music, and the memories in Chelan’s Riverwalk Park, our furry friend, Buddy, had other interests. He had eyes and ears only for the squirrels in the trees. The squirrels were making their own music, which really got Buddy’s attention, and he was transfixed.
He wasn’t the only one grooving to the tunes of the chattering squirrels. A beautiful miniature Australian Shepherd was just as enchanted by their performance.
On another day when we returned to the park, Buddy took us straight to that same tree so he could listen to the squirrels a little more!
The festival’s highlight, a big gala outdoor concert at the Riverwalk Pavilion, is held on the last day. The stage backs up to the water’s edge and a grassy hillside serves as the perfect theater seating for camp chairs and blankets and picnics. We found a nice spot in the shade.
As the sun dropped low in the sky, people began to arrive and stake out their claims to a piece of the lawn too. We discovered that the shade from the towering trees slowly creeps down this hillside and everyone wants to be in the shade. So the seating fills up from the back to the front!
Here’s a tip for you if you ever go to a concert at the Riverwalk Pavillion: be sure to arrive fairly late so you can snag a shady front row seat!
Before long, the hills were alive with the sound of music!
Buddy put his head in my hand and fell asleep.
The concert was full of beautiful music and the conductor gave us a brief explanation of each piece before it was played. We loved learning the context of what we were hearing.
In no time it was dark, and the orchestra began playing a rousing rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic followed by Stars and Stripes, and we all cheered them on with a standing ovation. What a great concert!
As we made our way back to our truck, the streets of Chelan came alive with concert-goers carrying picnic baskets and camp chairs back to their cars as and chatting excitedly about the concert. Some went looking for some post-concert refreshments too.
We came away agreeing that Chelan is a really fun town, especially in the summertime. We’d never heard of it before we got here, and we’re so glad it wound up on our itinerary!
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More info about Chelan, Washington:
- Chelan Washington and Chelan Riverwalk Park – Google Maps
- Lake Chelan Region – Tourist info
- Bach Fest – Don’t miss it!
- Lakesshore RV Park – Beautiful city RV park in Chelan
- More RV parks in the area
Other musical happenings that we’ve come across in our travels:
- Alice Cooper Sells Us a New Truck!
- Blue Ridge Parkway Highlights (Virginia) – Mills, Music & Farms!
- Floyd Country Store Bluegrass Music Jam – So Much Fun!
- Grand Teton National Park – An American Treasure!
- Guanajuato – Full of Song and Spirit!
- San Diego Treats – Balboa and Sunset Cliffs
- Sun Valley Idaho – An RV Traveler’s Delight in Ketchum, ID!
- Sun Valley Idaho – Music, History & Celebrities
- Sun Valley, Idaho – A Joyful Return to a Favorite RV Spot!
- The Artsy Side of Sun Valley, ID
More from our Washington travels:
- An Exuberant 4th of July in Othello, Washington!
- Entiat, Washington – An RV Friendly Town That’s On the Move!
- North Cascades, WA – From the coast to the peaks
- Northern Washinton – Magical Mountains & Trees in Sleeves
- Pomeroy, Washington – An Impromptu Sunday Stroll!
- Southern Washington – Falling Logs
- Stehekin Ferry: Cruise to a Hidden Gem in the North Cascades!
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We had a short stay in Washington this week, too. Unfortunately, we were there only briefly as we traveled back from our Alaska journey. I really enjoyed your story and the photos that bring your words to life. When circumstances allow, I still hope we can get some sort of camper and visit some of the beautiful places you have introduced us to. Right now family needs trump everything else, but as soon as our house is finished, I hope we can look towards starting back doing some short camping trips that might spark our own future adventures. Until then, thanks for reserving a seat for the Jones family as we cruise the “Roads Less Traveled” with y’all. Tell Buddy that we appreciated him keeping those sneaky little squirrels up the trees where they belong!
Well, Jeff, you’ve been to a place we’ve never ventured! Alaska is alluring but is so darn far away! We hope it was everything you dreamed it would be. Buddy envies your pups spending time in such a rugged land. Best wishes that your house is completed soon and with all the details the way you want them. I’m sure you’ll be out camping again after that in no time. We’ve found that wanderlust is a funny thing. It goes away sometimes when family and home needs call, but then it comes back with a vengeance once things are settled and new distant horizons beckon. Thank you for being with us.
This looks like a wonderful place – they appreciate their river and their musicians – I love that music on the Riverwalk idea! We have a canal in our town – maybe we could do something like that???? Except I just want to attend – not organize it!! Great pictures and story – thanks for sharing! 🙂
We have rivers in our town too, Deborah, and I’ve had the same thoughts. It could be so beautiful, but someone has to spearhead the effort and a lot of the river bank land is privately owned. So, visiting places where beautiful transformations like this have taken place is really inspiring and thought provoking. There are organizations that towns can join to share ideas. When we were in Maysville Kentucky we got to know the mayor, and he told us their town is part of a American Main Street Town organization where leadership from various towns that are built around a Main Street can share ideas for how to preserve their history, rehabilitate old buildings and raise funds for making their towns attractive and inviting. Perhaps there is such a thing for river park or city park creation too, who knows!
Hi guys 🥰
So happy you’re here! 😍 🐕 ❤️
You found another hidden gem. I was expecting to see Mark on stage playing guitar. Next time?
It really is a hidden gem — to those of us who aren’t from Washington — but it is a super popular a summertime destination for those in the know. We spoke to three different families who have been going to the Chelan area for family reunion camping vacations for decades!!
As for Mark on stage, Bob, he sure loves playing the Beatles on his guitar, but this festival was all about Classical music, not Classic Rock!!!
How I would have loved this! I adore Bach. Never hear it anymore. What a beautiful venue. You always just happen upon these happenings! Lucky you!
You would have absolutely loved this. It was charming, innovative and really fun. Mark took some nice videos of the Pavilion concert and once I get reliable internet access again I will try to upload them. We often get really lucky with bumping into unusual events in our travels — that’s what we love most about this lifestyle!
Love your “off the beaten path” discoveries. And such dear photos…..Mark, Buddy and the squirrels – as well as a gem of you and Buddy. From a long time and appreciative fan, Anne Atheling
That’s the whole fun of this lifestyle–seeking out special places that aren’t highlighted in the big travel brochures. We got really lucky to land in the Entiat and Chelan area…it’s a beautiful and enchanting part of the country!