in partnership
Treehouse Place.jpg
(Image courtesy of Treehouse Point).

8 of the Best Places in Issaquah You've Never Heard Of

For some people, the city of Issaquah is just a place you pass by while heading Snoqualmie Pass or IKEA.

Sure, you’ve seen the giant Triple XXX Root Beer Drive In (how could you miss it?) and Boehm’s Chocolate Factory sign as you go past. But knowing of these businesses and actually experiencing them are two very different things and if you haven’t ever ventured into town, you’ve missed some really awesome places. From root beer to wild animals, we’ve got eight of the best places worth visiting right here.

#1. Triple XXX Root Beer Drive-In

98 NE Gilman Blvd
Issaquah, WA 98027

In the 1920's there were about 100 Triple XXX Thirst Stations across the United States. Back then, grading products with an “X” was similar to star ratings. One X was good, two X’s was better and three was the best you could get. Later, Triple XXX Root Beer Restaurants began popping up all across the United States. Unfortunately, only two locations are still in operation -- one in Lafayette, Indiana and the one in Issaquah.

Today, Jose Enciso and his family operate the drive in. Even on a busy Saturday afternoon, Jose is not too busy to chat with every customer who walks in and inquire where they came from. Those with claustrophobia may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of '50s and '60s memorabilia that line the walls of the place.

After all these years, Triple XXX drive in still serves up the original Root Beer recipe (which really is the best) in super-large frosty mugs alongside a huge menu (we counted over 60 items). Signs posted warn that nothing served here is good for you. True. They are GREAT for you.

Everything here from the orange root beer barrel sign (the largest lighted Plexiglas sign in the West) is huge. Even the lowly Cheeseburger is bigger than most fast food chains’ large burgers. And the ice cream shakes? A mountain of goodness. One person walked past us with his behemoth shake and said, “I’m glad I ordered the small”

Triple XXX Root Beer Drive In open seven days a week from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

#2. Owl’s Folly

80 Front St., N. Suite 2
Issaquah, WA 98027

Owl’s Folly is a hidden creative playground which we are told got its name from an idea of what a wise old owl would create if she were an artist. Created by Julie “Spoops” Myrfors, this creative center is a feast for the eyes. Immediately stepping in the shop you’ll notice the “brick” work on the wall (they are actually made from wood blocks), the mural painted on the ceiling ala Michelangelo and the hot air balloon floating around the workshop class area. The studio is a whimsical community art hub that offers a variety of workshops created for anyone regardless of art experience. Fun Fact: Spoops' husband, Jesper Myrfors, is the former original founding director of Wizard of the Coast.

Sample classes include industrial art sign-making, macramé bracelets, canvas blow-out creations, wine glass painting, abstract canvas pictures, cityscape glass lanterns, painting classes and more.

Owl’s Folly also offers a Do-It-Yourself art projects where no appointment is needed. Just step on it, pick a project and get started! From painting rocks to creating amazing glass lanterns, these projects are suitable from the very young to the most mature adult. Non-artists will also appreciate the boutique which is filled with selected fair trade items and products from local artisans including a variety of paper goods, gifts, personal accessories, jewelry, and home accents.

Owls Folly is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sundays from Noon to 5 p.m.

#3. Cougar Mountain Zoo

19525 SE 54th St.
Issaquah, WA 98027

Since Woodland Park Zoo and Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium get all the attention, many people are unaware of this hidden gem in Issaquah. Created in 1972, the Cougar Mountain Zoo began its mission of conservation through education with 53 specimens of exotic and domestic birds, mammals and reptiles.

Today, it is home to a variety of wolves, macaws, tigers, reindeer, lemurs, camels and of course, cougars. The place also boasts of special encounters that you won’t find anywhere else including the Tiger Tunnel Encounter (where you are separated from the beast by a special glass wall) and the Tiger Feeding Experience. Other “encounters” include mini lectures about mule deer, reindeer, lemurs and cougars. Although an additional charge, these events include an all-day admission.

The Cougar Mountain Zoo is also home to the largest bronze sculpture collection of animals in world offering wonderful photo opportunities and a Wildlife Museum whose purpose is to promote the cause of the earths’ vanishing wildlife.

Cougar Mountain Zoo is open Wednesday – Sunday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. from January through November. General admission is $14.50 for adults (age 13 and up), $13.50 for seniors (62+), $11.50 for Kids (2-12) and free for those under the age of 2. Parking is free.

#4. Boehms Candies and Chocolates

255 NE Gilman Blvd.
Issaquah, WA 98027

A little bit of Leavenworth can found in Issaquah at Boehms Chocolates. After moving the company’s first Candy Kitchen from North Seattle to Issaquah in 1956, Julius Boehm built more than just a place to make great chocolates. Unlike modern chocolate shops, everything about Boehms is steeped in tradition. In addition to the factory, he built the Edelweiss Chalet (where he lived) as well as Luis Trenker Kirch’l Alpine Chapel (a replica of a 12th Century chapel near St. Moritz, Switzerland) built in memory of fallen mountain climbers.

Today, Boehms offers over 100 different confections, many still hand-dipped, including caramels, English toffee, marzipan and Cordial Cherries. The workers here still wear traditional Swedish uniforms adding the authenticity of the place. Free, self-guided window tours of the factory are available during office hours (the best time to go is during the week between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. when production is happening) but if you want to see everything, you’ll want to take a guided tour which will lead you through the factory tasting samples along the way and peeks into the Alpine Chalet and Chapel.

Recently, Boehms began offering popular chocolate-making classes on Thursdays and on weekends in the afternoon.

Boehms Candies and Chocolates is open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

#5. Lucky Home

317 NW Gilman Blvd. #16
Issaquah, WA 98027

In 2011, Denise Jensen had an idea to open an eclectic home and gift shop offering what she describes as “crazy good prices” for on-trend items. Housed in a big red barn in Gilman Village, Lucky You featured an eclectic mix of decorations for the home, clothing, accessories, jewelry, baby items and more. Over the years, Jensen decided that she wanted to offer a broader selection of items and not long after, she opened her sister store, Lucky Home. The 3300 square foot store does exactly what she set out to do with an expansion of furniture, home decor, wall art, bedding, pillows, lighting, rugs and tabletop items.

This shop is pretty amazing. Where some stores have a tendency to make male shoppers uncomfortable, this one isn’t too “girly” or frilly but it is unique. Unlike many other stores that only offer display models of furniture, Jensen’s stuff is ready to take home right then and there and to ensure they the continue to look nice day in and day out, many items have “no parking” signs posted!

In addition, Lucky Home also offers an array of design services. It should be no surprise that no project is too big, but it is worth noting that Jensen and her crew stress that no project is too small either. All in-store design help is complimentary, so you have nothing to lose. If you are needing more help than just inspiration, you might want to spring for the in-home design help where a designer will come to your home and help you plan a whole new look. Either way, you’re in good hands.

Lucky Home is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

#6. Treehouse Point

6922 Preston Fall City Rd
Issaquah, WA 98027

Why stay in a hotel when you can spend the night in the trees? And if you could choose from a choice of a half dozen of treehouses to stay in, why wouldn’t you? Guess what? You can. Founded by Pete and Judy Nelson, Treehouse Point is sort of a neighborhood of treehouses featuring six rentable spaces for adults only (sorry kids).

The treehouses, which have been featured on Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters TV show, are all heated and come with (most) everything you’ll need for an overnight stay including fresh bedding, towels, shampoo as well as nice extras like complimentary Wi-Fi, books, board games, snacks and dishware. The one thing you won’t find in your temporary home in the trees is a bathroom. However, two cedar-lined bathhouses are available down below. While there isn’t a restaurant on the site, Treehouse Point’s cooks prepare a delicious, wholesome breakfast for guests each morning.

To keep Treehouse Point a restful and peace place to stay, children under the age of 13 are not allowed to stay in the treehouses. Adding to the peaceful nature of the place, special yoga, massage, tai chi and hypnotherapy services are available on site. For those not interested in a stay but would still like to see the treehouses up close and personal, tours are available. One-hour tours are available on selected dates year round and young children are welcome to attend. Tours are $25 per person.

#7. Issaquah History Museums

78 First Ave. NE
Issaquah, WA 98027

Built in 1889, Issaquah’s original train depot now serves as the depot for the Issaquah Valley Trolley as well as the Issaquah Depot Museum with interactive exhibits that take guests back in time to the industrial revolution and feature exhibits about travel, communication and the early economic development of the city.

Tickets for the museum are really a two-for-one as they also include admittance to the Gilman Town Hall Museum as well. It features the permanent exhibit called “In This Valley: The Story of Our Town,” which uses photographs, artifacts, and interactive elements to explore different aspects of Issaquah’s past. This museum also features the original concrete jail that was used from 1914 to 1930 as well as a hands-on kitchen exhibit with many cooking implements.

Separately, the #519 vintage electric trolley offers round-trip rides from the depot to Gilman Boulevard leaving the depot every half hour from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and is operated by Motormen and Conductors in authentic uniforms.

During “Trolley Season” (Mid May through September) tickets include a trolley ride and admission to both museums See website for all dates and admission ticket prices.

#8. Francis J. Gaudette Theatre

303 Front St. N.
Issaquah, WA 98027

Village Theatre has been producing big musical productions at the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre since 1979. Since that time, Village Theatre has grown to over 20,000 subscribers and creating imaginative works that rival Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre. Through its Village Originals program, it is nationally recognized for its contribution to the development of new musicals, having launched over 160 new works to date.

Each season, Village Theater presents a variety of five shows featuring classic productions, new works, musicals, dramas family productions and some that are not so much. In addition, they take pride nurturing younger audiences with their youth education programs Pied Piper and KIDSTAGE, serving over 57,000 young people, families, and schools annually.

It is worth noting that the First Stage Theatre, which was originally constructed in 1913, was rebuilt by Village Theatre in 2010 to house various KIDSTAGE and Village Originals programs. They also created the Craig and Joan Watjen Technical Studios (where many of the stage props and sets are constructed) is located just one a half blocks away.