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Forks Week: A Tour of Forks with Twilight Tours

When you think of Forks, WA, assuming you know what a very small and relatively uneventful town it is, the first activity that comes to mind is probably not a paid tour.  What can there possibly be to tour? you might ask.  I decided to give it a go and see what all the fuss was about.  Having seen the Twilight Tours In Forks company on the Twilight In Forks documentary, and after hearing first-hand from some friends what a great experience it was, I signed up my sweetie and me for an afternoon tour and dragged him reluctantly along (with him emphatically announcing to everyone we passed that he was “Team Switzerland”).  Surprisingly, Twilight Tours (originally owned by the Dazzled By Twilight store), is not the only tour company in the tiny town, although it is the original.  Team Forks, affiliated with Lapelles Flowers & Gifts, runs a very similar tour, with a slightly higher admission fee.  You can browse online for other opinions on the two companies, but since I didn’t take the Team Forks tour, I can only tell you about Twilight Tours, so read on to hear about my adventure in Forks and La Push!

***** Note: This post is not an advertisement for Twilight Tours, Team Forks, Dazzled By Twilight, Lapelles, or the Quilute Nation, and reflects only the personal views and opinions of the reviewer.  No monetary gain is made (nor intended to be made) from this posting. ***** 

An introduction worthy of fanfare!

A little backstory (get comfy, this is going to be a long post!)…
My friends Monique and Lexi took a trip to Forks in early May and signed up for the “Breaking Dawn” tour.  Don’t be confused by the different tour names – they all see the same thing, just at different times of the day.  Being from Texas, it was (supposedly) no big deal for Monique and Lexi to be up so early (mmhmm), but it turns out they were the only ones crazy enough to book the tour for the 8am time slot.  When Twilight Tours contacted them to see if they’d like to reschedule to a more populated tour time, explaining that more participants usually makes for a more lively experience, they decided to stick with their ridiculously early break of dawn (har har) departure time.  They wanted to do a little something special for their tour guide, knowing he was probably not too jazzed about doing a 2 person 8am tour, so they found out his name and made “Team Travis” shirts the night before.  If you’ve seen the Twilight in Forks documentary, Travis is the guide featured in all the tour segments, and he’s impressively good-natured and witty for a guy who drives the exact same route 20 times a week.  Apparently they all had a blast on their “VIP” tour, so when I found out that my husband and I were also the only two people scheduled on Travis’s tour that day, I thought it’d be fun to keep the tradition going.  Instead of shirts, we made “Team Travis” buttons, and presented him with a “Team Austin Twilighters” hat (our meetup group in Austin, TX), which he proudly wore the entire tour…
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*Queue energizing fanfare music here*
The tour starts out with a drive around the tiny metropolis of Forks, stopping at notable spots in the town itself, focusing on movie-related locations such as Forks High School, the hospital, and the police station, followed by a visit to the Chamber of Commerce, where tourists can sign the guest book, push their location pin into one of the maps adorning the twilight-themed walls, or pose with one of Bella’s trucks or cutouts of your favorite characters (including Alice!).  The bus then ventures out into the residential areas of town to pause for pictures with the various houses that have been designated as official.  Before you get too excited about visiting actual filming locations, I’m told that not a single frame of the movies was shot in Forks, and the houses were chosen based on their similarity to descriptions written by Stephanie Meyer in the books.  If you are a movie fan, very little of this tour is going to feel familiar to you.  Go ahead and feel a little disappointed, then shake it off and let yourself experience something new!  Here are a few of the Forks sites you’ll get to visit…

From there, it’s on to La Push!  As you’re zipping around in the tour bus, Travis fills the time by quizzing fans with some surprisingly tough Twilight trivia (beef up on The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide before you go!) and playing movie-appropriate theme music as you approach the various locations.  He’s also a student of the Quiluite language and traditions, and teaches you various words and phrases in the native language (pay particular attention to the word for “chipmunk”).  As you enter Quilute territory, of course the first stop is at the Treaty Line, complete with a “Vampire Threat” meter.  The tour then continues on toward the Black house before stopping at one of the breath-taking rugged beaches.

Arnold, our driver for the outing, is a member of the Quilute tribe.  He good-naturedly corrected Travis’s pronunciations (few and far between as those mistakes were), and shared his own insight into the Quilute customs and way of life.  The Quilutes are a private people, so Arnold was careful not to over-share, but his family anecdotes and tidbits of information about various La Push landmarks and activities were insightful and enjoyable, and really added an extra dimension to the experience.  One of the things passed on by Arnold during our tour that interested me the most is that the Quilutes open up some of their traditional activities up to travellers.  On Wednesdays at around 5:30, the Community Center in La Push opens for a comminity-wide pot luck meal, followed by drum circle (complete with tales!) and dancing.  Drum circle starts between 6:00 and 7:00 and there’s no fee to eat or dance, but it would be good form to bring your own dish to contribute to the pot luck if you intend to partake of the food.  There are additional activities you may be able to attend during other parts of the year, so ask your tour guide and driver for the most up-to-date info!

The tour typically lasts between 2.5 and 3 hours, arriving back at the Twilight Tours store for a final shopping stop.  Inside the tour depot, you can find a decent selection of shirts, hats, pins, magnets, stickers, and other collectible souvenirs.  I recommend taking the tour as early as possible in the day, then spending the afternoon strolling the streets of Forks and doing some serious souvenir-ing… but hey, I’m a shopper and I love acquiring new shineys! .

Twilight Tours gives back

This summer, Twilight Tours In Forks will be doing four separate surprise donation tours.  This won’t impact tour attendees, and you probably won’t see much of a change in the program aside from an announcement that you are on one of these special tours, but the benefit to the town will be notable.  Travis says all the proceeds from these tours, including admission fees, will go toward previously selected charities or causes around the Forks and La Push areas.  Those local businesses and groups wishing to be considered as recipients for the donation tours will submit their entries to Twilight Tours, then a name will be drawn randomly.  Twilight Tours will spontaneously choose the highest-attendance tours in order to raise as much money as possible.  Imagine stepping on the bus for your fangirl time, only to learn you’re secretly funding a local charity!  Very exciting, and an admirable gesture by Twilight Tours.

Twilight Tours In Forks circulates a monthly newsletter called “What Happens in Forks…”, giving readers insight into current happenings in and around town, as well as special coverage of Stephanie Meyer day.  They also distribute Quilute Word on Wednesdays (QWoW), a weekly email containing a single English word followed by its closest Quilute translation.  25% of all subscription fees collected from the newsletter and QWoW will be donated to the Quilute Nation in an effort to help them retain their traditions and heritage.  I’ve been subscribed to QWoW since I discovered it, inspired by the beautiful words Jacob spoke to Bella at the end of the movie New Moon, and Twilight Tours has graciously agreed to allow me to publish one of their words each month for free.  Keep an eye out for the first one, scheduled tentatively for next week!  Don’t wait for me though – head over to the Twilight Tours website and sign yourself up for the newsletter, QWoW, or a combination of the two, and get your own slice of Forks delivered directly to your inbox!

For my guide on where to eat, shop, and explore in Forks (as well as pick up some awesome souvenirs!), check out yesterday’s post!

© All photos displayed in this post are property of DavinciKittie.  Copies of these photos may be used for personal purposes without permission, but not on any monetized website/blog  or in any media outlets intended for profit.  Persons and businesses may use these photos in a non-profit manner ONLY as long as a link back to this site is provided in a reasonably visible location and (for businesses only) permission from DavinciKittie is obtained in advance.

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Forks Week: What to see, where to shop & eat!

Ok, let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute.  If you’re a Twilight fan, even if you don’t consider yourself a “Twihard”, you’ve probably considered visiting the tiny town of Forks, WA.  Maybe it was a wistful “Oh, what a lovely area. I’d like to see those beaches!” or maybe it was more “OMG I MUST go see where Bella and Jacob and the Cullens live, THEN I want to buy tons of awesome fangirl stuff!”  Somewhere in between?  *wink*  Well, this IS Forks week, and I just got back from a two week Pacific Northwest vacation, so of course I took a few days to visit the famed town!  If you missed Pocket Edward’s photo-journal, look at yesterday’s post and check out his awesome trip photos!  The rest of the week will also be lots of fun, with a look inside Twilight Tours, a review of the Misty Valley Inn Bed and Breakfast, and Edward’s own take on Port Angeles’ Bella Italia restaurant.  Today is all about the money!  Where can I spend it on attractions, souvenirs, and food?!

***** Note: For you non-Twilight fan readers out there, my normal blog activities (book reviews and news) will resume next week! ***** 
   

What to see!

Every Twilight fan on a pilgrimage to Forks, should visit the Chamber of Commerce.  Not only can you see (and take pictures with!) Bella’s trucks (the model from the books and the model from the movies), you can also pose with life-size cardboard cutouts of our favorite characters and see for yourself and just how much rain Forks actually gets each year via the outdoor rain gauge.  Don’t forget to put a pin in the map representing your home city, then marvel and just how much tourism Twilight has brought to Forks in the last few years.
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Also not to miss, however anticlimactic it may turn out to be, is the Forks “Home of the Spartans” high school sign.  I’m told that not a single frame of the movies has been filmed in Forks, so don’t be surprised when you look at the high school and don’t recognize it at all.  In fact, they’re in the process of rebuilding the old high school and only re-displayed the original sign after legions of angry Twilight fans complained about its absence during their visits.  Thanks to our fellow sisters-in-arms (erm, sisters-in-sparkle?), you can now view the original Forks High School sign in all its wooden glory.  Beware jaded glances from actual high school students if you are brave enough to try taking a photo with it.  *grin*

Of course, any Twilight fan worth their glitter wouldn’t miss seeing all the famous houses!  You can see them on your own (Lapelles Florist will give you a free handy map with everything nicely drawn out and easy to find) or you can take one of the Twilight tours.  More info on the tours tomorrow!  Check out a quick sneak peek at the houses the townspeople felt best fit Stephanie Meyer’s book descriptions…

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Where to shop!

Shopping in Forks really is a must.  Nearly all the stores in town carry some sort of Twilight paraphernalia, and some of them offer one-of-a-kind handmade items (by locals) and unique commercial merchandise.

Tops on my list for commercial items is Dazzled By Twilight.  This is the mega-store for all things vampire and paranormal (including True Blood & The Vampire Diaries), and it even includes an “adult” section in a secluded black lit room.  The decor is unsurpassed, better than some of the popular trendy shops I’ve seen in larger cities with its “grass” turf floor, tree and foliage decor, and the Twilight flavor just shimmering off its shelves.  From “Bite me!” boy briefs to Cullen baseball jerseys, Dazzled has a selection large enough to satisfy even the most demanding of fans.

For personalized souvinirs and scrapbooking gems, you can’t beat Lapelles Flowers and Gifts.  This unassuming little flower shop will surprise you with its large selection of vampire-inspired (and Twilight-specific) papers, stickers, and kits (all of which takes up roughly half the merchandise space!), and it still has a great selection of charming gifts, including a few items that can be personalized while you wait.  Don’t forget t-shirts and caps!  Lapelles has those too, as well as some super-cute knit “Cullen” beanies and, my personal favorite souvinir from the entire trip, a personalized glittery apple.

If you’re more interested in the native culture in Forks and the Twilight Saga, definitely visit Native To Twilight.  Offering a wide selection of Quilluite-inspired home decorations such as carvings, jewelry, and wall & window hangings, Native To Twilight also carries handmade cards made by local artists.  Get yourself one of these, then take it to the Post Office and ask for a “cancel stamp” (it’s free – you don’t have to actually mail it, just ask to have your item stamped).  Voila, your very own one-of-a-kind keepsake with indisputable Forks provenance!

Where to eat!

With all this exploring, you’re going to need some serious fuel.  Here are a few of my favorites…

No Twilight trip would be complete without a trip to Bella Italia in Port Angeles!  Obviously, this restaurant is not IN Forks, but it is well worth the 45 minute or so drive to nearby Port A.  You’ll probably notice that this too is not the same as the movie location for Bella Italia.  Go ahead and feel a little down about it, but then shake it off and sit down to one of the best meals of your life… bar none.  I’ve eaten all over the world, had some of the finest cuisine in some of the fanciest restaurants, and the food at Bella Italia ranks up there with all but the most elite.  Of course, I’m partial to Italian food, but one thing I am NOT usually a fan of is mushrooms.  Unfortunately, Stephanie Meyer wrote in Mushroom Ravioli as Bella’s food the night of her and Edward’s first date.  This means (you guessed it) either my husband or I had to order this dish to try it.  Much to my surprise and overwhelming relief, it was divine!  I won’t go into any more detail because Edward will be covering the food reviews on Friday here on Gravetells, but suffice it to say this:

Save up some money ($14-$20 per plate ish), make your reservation (they fill up fast, so don’t wait til the day of!), make the drive, and sit down to one of the best restaurant Italian meals you’ll find outside of Italy itself!

For fast food with quality ingredients and a clean atmosphere, visit Pacific Pizza! I’m what I like to call a “pizza connoisseur”.  That’s fancy-schmancy for “I eat a lot of pizza and can’t seem to get enough”.  I’ve tasted a lot of bad pizza and I’m a little ashamed to admit that I expected Pacific Pizza to be disappointing.  Well, I certainly don’t mind being wrong about a fabulous new pizza place!  This joint was, to borrow from Rachel Ray, YUM-O!  The menu is surprisingly sophisticated, with a selection of sandwiches and paninis in addition to their standard and gourmet pizzas, and the dining area was quaintly decorated and cleanly kept.  The service was also warm and friendly, which sadly was not the overwhelmingly typical experience for me in Forks.  Minimally friendly, yes.  Southern-hospitality-style welcoming, no.

For yummy, fresh sandwiches and sweet coffee confections, head over to Forks Outfitters! Yep, I said Forks Outfitters.  Outwardly, this building looks like a Safeway meets Academy meets Home Depo, with a coffee shop attached.  Honestly speaking, it’s not really a welcoming facade, and I probably wouldn’t have stopped in here to check for food if I hadn’t been a) really hungry and b) jonzing for a London Fog.  *grin*  Luckily for me (and now all of you!), we took a chance and had the deli make us fresh sandwiches.  As simple as that sounds (“fresh” sandwiches), I should point out that the deli has a decent selection of pre-made sammies and other cooked foods such as pasta, eggrolls, and meats.  When we asked for a freshly made sandwich, we were repeatedly pointed toward the pre-mades and warned about the size limitation (they apparently won’ t make a half-sized-sandwich fresh, only whole ones) and the extra cost of additional meats and cheeses ($1 each).  After about a 5 minute discussion and explanation, we finally had our sandwiches started.  It took a while to make them (I’m thinking most people probably just cave and buy the pre-made ones, which probably taste great too!), but when we finally got them back to the B&B, the wait was COMPLETELY worth it!

Long story short?  Go to Forks Outfitters and insist on a freshly made deli sandwich, then hit up the cute little coffee shop and get yourself a London Fog or a Mocha.  Best sandwich and coffee I had all trip!

Finally, if you’re willing to spend a little extra and want the best breakfast in town, book a night at Misty Valley Inn bed & breakfast.  The Misty Valley Inn is a wonderfully charming bed & breakfast just a couple miles outside the town center of Forks.  By that, I mean it’ll take you a whole 5 minutes to drive from the B&B to downtown.  😉  The owners are lovely people and have a serious flair for extravagant breakfasts.  You’ll get your morning tray of tea/coffee/chocolate, which is heavenly on its own, and then you’ll be treated to a literally gourmet breakfast overlooking one of the most scenic views in the entire area.  More about the Misty Valley Inn B&B on Thursday, but for now let me just share a few images of their mouthwatering breakfast selections and view…

Contact info for featured businesses

If you live too far away to visit Forks but still want to order some merchandise, or if you’re planning a trip and want to start making your reservations, check out the links below.  Hope you enjoyed the info!  I’d be glad to answer any questions in the comments section below.  Also look for my reviews (as davincikittie) on TripAdvisor.com

© All photos displayed in this post are property of DavinciKittie.  Copies of these photos may be used for personal purposes without permission, but not on any monetized website/blog  or in any media outlets intended for profit.  Persons and businesses may use these photos in a non-profit manner ONLY as long as a link back to this site is provided in a reasonably visible location and (for businesses only) permission from DavinciKittie is obtained in advance.

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