Coming into the quaint, waterside town of LaConner one of the first things you might see is the “Welcome To LaConner” sign. Below this greeting, the sign reads, “Visit Our Sister City, White Rock, B.C. City By The Sea!” What exactly is a sister city? Find out what there is to see and do at these sister cities in different countries.

Welcome to La Conner sign greets all who visit the Washington town.
Welcome to La Conner sign greets all who visit the Washington town. Photo credit: MaryRose Denton

The very name of this partnership conjures up a certain bond, and for good reason. In most cases, a sister city relationship undergoes a legal binding by both city councils creating official reciprocity. There are many reasons to establish a “sister city” relationship, including forging cultural understanding, friendship and exchange, as well as practical advantages such as increased tourism between the two entities.

According to Mayor Ramon Hayes of LaConner, both towns are tourist destinations and work together. “We co-advertise each other as a sister city,” he says. “The people and town of White Rock are wonderful. I look forward to more opportunities together as the world expands. Get on up and visit their great community, they are doing the same for us.”

And with White Rock, B.C. just a little more than an hour’s drive north from LaConner, it is literally in our backyard, making it an easy travel destination.

LaConner, Washington A Tiny Town With Big Charm

La Conner is a small artisan town hugging the shoreline of the Salish Sea along the Swinomish Channel. A favorite pastime of locals and visitors alike is to walk the length of town along the waterfront boardwalk. From this walkway there is a fabulous perspective of the iconic Rainbow Bridge, reaching across the channel to connect the town with the Swinomish tribe and reservation on the other side.

A view of the iconic Rainbow Bridge from La Conner, Washington
A view of the iconic Rainbow Bridge from La Conner, Wash. Photo credit: Richard Schmitz

LaConner serves as a destination for many traveling to the Skagit Valley for a day trip with family or sightseeing with friends. It may even land on your itinerary as a pleasant stop before heading north and over the border to White Rock, B.C.

What To Do and See in LaConner

Entering from the North end of town, one of the first places to stop is Seaport Books, a cozy little bookshop with a very big heart. They specialize in finding just the right read for you, whether it is the latest crime novel or a DIY on home gardening.

Stroll down the block to find kitchen stores catering to the foodie in your life. Inside The Ginger Grater and Olive Shoppe find several varieties of olives, olive oils, vinegar, jams, jellies and more. Browse the aisles to find specialty kitchen gadgets to help you create your own goodies at home.

boardwalk along the Swinomish Channel in LaConner, Washington
Stroll down the boardwalk along the Swinomish Channel in LaConner, Wash. Photo credit: Richard Schmitz

Wander further along the street and weave yourself in and out of the many art galleries and boutiques. Pop into The Wood Merchant, and check out what the creatives are up to at a woodworking gallery of hand-crafted American-made furniture and gifts. A one-of-a-kind find for sure.

Top off the afternoon shopping spree with a stop at Nasty Jack’s, it is the large antique store on the corner with the Zoltaire fortune teller waiting out front to tell you your future.

Before leaving La Conner, consider checking out one of the three marvelous museums in town. The Museum of Northwest Art, The Skagit County Historical Museum, and Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Art Museum. It is all here from modern art collections to history buffs to quilting hobbyists. All in the small town of La Conner.

White Rock, British Columbia, The City by The Sea

Just over the border from Washington State lies White Rock, B.C. A charming seaside town with fabulous restaurants, artisan shops and the longest pier in Canada. As the sister city to LaConner, it holds much of the same charm as its sibling. White Rock, B.C. thrives on tourism and is a destination stop for both day trips or long weekends.

Things to do in White Rock, B.C.

longest bridge in Canada in White Rock, British Columbia
Walk down the longest pier in Canada in White Rock, British Columbia for a beautiful view of the sea. Photo credit: MaryRose Denton

The White Rock. Yes, there is a namesake for the city and it is an actual white boulder weighing in around 500 tons. It is believed it was deposited by a receding glacier upon the shores of this area. Today it is kept white with regular coats of paint becoming the icon and landmark for this coastal town.

The White Rock Pier is famous for its length, being the longest pier in Canada, and its view of the sea. Established in 1914 as a dock for steamships, today it is a wonderful spot for lovers to walk hand in hand, fishermen to try their luck at the daily catch, or for anyone wanting to take a stroll to the end with an ice cream cone.

White Rock Beach spans almost five miles east and west. Walks at sunset are a popular pastime on this sandy spit as are building sandcastles and looking for crabs.

sunset at White Rock Beach in White Rock, British Columbia
The Sunset from White Rock Beach in White Rock, British Columbia, is a great place to play and dream. Photo credit: MaryRose Denton

Follow along the promenade to many of the fine eateries in town. The fish and chips at Charlie Don’t Surf are a popular choice among Canadians or for a more elegant meal meander up the street to Five, where their motto is “Sit, Sip, Stay.”

Duck into the White Rock Museum and soak up some of the local culture and history. It is located in an historic train station with a heritage similar to what we find in the Skagit Valley.

Sister cities such as LaConner and White Rock, B.C. demonstrate both cultural and commercial ties, proving that sometimes our commonalities are stronger than our differences.

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