So Much to See and Do in Bellevue! Part 1

By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager

In early November 2015, Director of Professional Development and Market Research Daila Boufford and I traveled to Bellevue, Washington, to check out the AAFCS 107th Annual Conference hotel–the Hyatt Regency Bellevue on Seattle’s Eastside, learn more about the city and its surroundings, and visit the sites of our educational excursions. We had a wonderful time, and we’re so excited to share what we’ve learned with you!


The view from the Hyatt!

This year we once again were able to spend two days in the city, which allowed us to spend more time at the excursion sites and go into more detail with our hotel contacts! Daila flew into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday night, which is just about a half hour from the hotel depending on traffic. We rented a car as we had so many places to visit, but you’ll be able to save money using our deal with Shuttle Express! If you’re planning on spending some time exploring the area on your own—and we recommend that you take a few extra days to do so—we also have a great deal with Hertz Rent-a-Car. As I have friends who live in the area, I came in early for a visit, and explored Tacoma–only an hour away–and its nearby park, Point Defiance! Well worth the trip, if you have time. Of course, taxis are also readily available at the airport. Sunday night, we both arrived at the hotel and headed right to bed, since we knew the next few days would be long!

Benedict 1We got up Monday morning bright and early—ready to meet with our hotel and AV representatives. We ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Eques—it just serves breakfast and brunch, but boy does it do that well! It opens early—6:30am on weekdays—so you’ll have time to start the day with a great breakfast before your conference day begins! Daila and I sampled their signature Eggs Benedict. There are multiple versions to choose from and they were all fantastic! We recommend that you make a reservation—the restaurant gets pretty busy when there’s a conference happening! After breakfast, we headed out to explore the space—and we’re so excited with what we saw! It’s a gorgeous hotel that highlights the natural beauty of the Seattle area.

One of our favorite spaces was the Foyer of the Grand Ballroom, where we’ll be holding “Elevate Your Health,” our welcome reception on Wednesday afternoon (4-6pm). The spacious foyer offers scenic views of downtown Bellevue.

IMG_4806.JPGAfter touring the meeting space with our Hyatt rep, we headed over to Uwajimaya, our first excursion location visit, to eat lunch! Uwajimaya is an Asian grocery that has its roots in Seattle. Its first location opened in 1928. The Bellevue location is a bit newer—only 30 years old—but has deep roots in the community and we’re excited to be holding an excursion there! The café options at Uwajimaya are extensive! There is quite a bit of sushi and sashimi available, but you can also try some great hot entrees. Once we ate, we sat down with Store Manager Hiroshi Hibi and discussed the store’s origins, how they work with their community, and how he and his department managers will be sharing information about culture, business, nutrition, food waste, and more during the excursion tour. If you enjoy Asian cuisine or if you are curious to know more about the culture and sustainable practices in many Asian countries, this tour is for you!

033.JPGAfter we finished up with Hiroshi, we did a bit of shopping—I came home with a gyoza press and tea infuser for myself, and some great Christmas gifts! We then headed over to the Bellevue Botanical Garden. Two of the volunteer docents gave us a lovely tour, where we learned about how the Garden was founded and how the unique climate in the Seattle area supports a vast array of vegetation. While it’s hard to see the full beauty of a botanical garden in the winter, the alpine garden was flourishing, and may of the fuchsia plants were still in bloom. We were especially lucky—not only did we see a few beautiful hummingbirds, which we don’t see out on the East Coast, we caught a glimpse of a bald eagle up above the trees! It was breathtaking.

After a quick gift shop stop—museums and botanical gardens have the cutest gifts!—we headed back to the hotel to drop our things and explore the area before meeting with the Annual Conference Local Advisory Committee for dinner.

Chihuly chandelier.jpgThe hotel is connected by several skybridges to different shopping and eating locations. We headed out to the Bellevue Collection to check out some local shops and see what the city has to offer! The Bellevue Collection is made up of three different spaces—Bellevue Place, the location of our hotel and several different fantastic restaurants; Lincoln Square; and Bellevue Square, our final destination! The first bridge from the hotel takes you to Lincoln Square, where you can find several different restaurants, along with a bowling alley, billiards lounge, and movie theater. We came back there for dinner—but more about that later. After a quick stop in Lucky Strike Lane to see whether it might be a good location for a group night out, we headed over the next bridge to Bellevue Square, the mall—of course, stopping on the way to admire a gorgeous chandelier fixture by glass artist Dale Chihuly!

IMG_4847.JPGBellevue Square holds many “normal” mall stores—there’s a Macy’s and Crate and Barrel attached to the main mall space, there are plenty of clothing stores like American Eagle, Chico’s, Talbots, and Ann Taylor, there is the ubiquitous Apple Store, and of course a Williams-Sonoma—but this mall also holds a Tesla store! There are also a few PNW-specific stores, like the Seattle Team Shop. We were pretty excited to head into jcoco, a pop-up chocolate shop by the Seattle Chocolate Company! They sell unique, all-natural chocolate bars with chocolate sourcIMG_4850.JPGed from all over the world—inspired by fashion, in many cases! Not only is jcoco a unique chocolate company—they are also very much about giving back to the community. With each chocolate bar purchased, they donate a healthy meal to someone who would otherwise go hungry, through food banks all over the US where their products are sold. The pop-up may not be there any longer by the time you visit—but jcoco products are available at Sea-Tac airport and the Made in Washington store in Bellevue, along with other locations all over Washington—and possibly in your state as well! I came home with a chocolate sampler—if you get the chance, I HIGHLY recommend the peanut strawberry baobab bar, as well as the agave quinoa sesame seed bar.

Once we finished exploring, we headed back to the hotel to meet a group of our local members for dinner. This year’s committee has been working tirelessly to bring you a fantastic experience—you may remember all the samples and info they had to offer at their booth last year in Jacksonville! Hopefully you’ve seen many of the tidbits about the state in the newsletters—and stay tuned for many more! We’ll also have quite a bit of information on the website regarding things to do in the area before and after your visit.

Dinner picWe met up with Co-Chairs LynDee Lombardo and Vivian Baglien, along with Karen Bergh, WAFCS president; Donna Graham, WAFCS affiliate officer and leader of the Community of Business & Entrepreneurship; and one of Vivien’s students, Kathryn Stephenson. We walked right across the street to Maggiano’s Little Italy, where we had an absolutely delicious dinner—learning more about each of our members and quite a bit about Washington state. Maggiano’s was one of many easily walkable restaurants—several of which are located within the hotel itself!

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep as we knew we’d be heading out bright and early!

Stay tuned for part two of our blog, which will talk about our second day in Washington, when we headed into Seattle—just a 20-minute drive—to visit the rest of our excursion locations!

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