After Labor Day, the summer tourist season winds down, leaving Gig Harbor for the locals to enjoy at their leisure. The fall foliage in Western Washington can be truly spectacular, and Gig Harbor is no exception. That makes for some stunning scenery, whether you’re out and about on the sprawling network of local hiking trails or taking a day trip, perhaps to Whidbey Island or one of the many wineries in the Puget Sound area.
Gig Harbor is, by and large, a community of outdoor enthusiasts. Though the temperatures drop off from the summer highs just like anywhere else, that doesn’t mean the residents of Gig Harbor automatically head inside. There are still plenty of festivals and other outdoor activities for seniors and people of all ages.
And there are all kinds of indoor activities for seniors, as well. After all, Gig Harbor recently was named — yet again — the best place in Washington to retire (and the #4 place in the entire U.S., for the record).
Nestled within this vibrant peninsula community, Heron’s Key is an obvious choice for those who want to maintain their active lifestyle after retiring. In fact, even though we just welcomed the first residents to our Life Plan Community four years ago, we’ve already become one of the most sought-after retirement communities in Washington state.
So, what all is there to do this time of year if you’re a resident of Heron’s Key? Read on and find out!
Early Fall Events
While the days are still relatively long and the weather still fairly warm, it’s a great time to explore the shops, cafes and restaurants along the waterfront in downtown Gig Harbor. A number of events encourage locals and visitors to do just that!
- Open Studio Tour. Since 1993, artists in Gig Harbor and surrounding areas have been opening up their working studios to the public as part of this annual self-guided tour. It’s an awesome opportunity to see the artists demonstrate their creative processes and to purchase fine art directly from those who create it.
- Harbor Hounds Charity Dog Walk. Although the pandemic has put this event on hold the last couple of years, it’s typically one of the most popular events in Gig Harbor. Sponsors set up booths between Skansie Park and Donkey Creek Park and offer their wares and services to dog owners who register to participate in the walk. Pet parents can also have their pups participate in contests such as Best Kisser and Best Tail Wagger. It’s a way to give back to the community and a lot of fun for everyone, two-legged and four.
- Autumn Sip & Stroll. Sponsored by the Rotary Club, the Autumn Sip & Stroll is an opportunity to amble along the shops that line the waterfront and meet the various shopkeepers. What sets the event apart from a typical walk among the shops is that you can enjoy a glass of wine — or beer or spirits — and some small bites along the way.
- Gig Harbor Film Festival. This world-class film festival typically takes place in late September, offering a variety of independent films (both feature-length and shorts), documentaries, animated films and foreign films. It’s been suspended again this year because of the pandemic, but under normal circumstances, it includes Q&A sessions, parties and other events in addition to the screenings.
- Scarecrow Contest and Festival. For the contest, businesses, organizations and families showcase their scarecrows all over Gig Harbor, and residents vote on their favorites. The winners are announced at the festival, which features music and entertainment, lots of family-friendly activities, booths where Local Makers sell handcrafted items, and a “pumpkin launcher.”
Later Fall Events
As crisp weather sets in and the days grow even shorter, there are still a number of outdoor events and celebrations in Gig Harbor. Those who attend can either bundle up or, for the races, pick up their pace to stay warm.
- Wet Noses Foster Paws Howl-oween 5k Run/Walk. This year is the inaugural event, where participants can bring their dogs to run or walk the Cushman Trail with them. Wet Noses, a local dog rescue organization, will use the proceeds to help pay for medical needs and transportation costs. The event will include a costume contest for the dogs and any owners who also want to dress up.
- The Donkey Creek Chum Festival. Sponsored by WildWatch and the Harbor History Museum, this annual event is usually held on the 3rd Saturday of November. It celebrates the return of salmon to the local waters while promoting sustainability and habitat preservation. Attendees can participate in kayak, canoe or paddle board races, partake of a chum burger, and take part in a variety of family-oriented activities. Like several other area events, the festival has been postponed again this year because of the pandemic.
- Veterans Day Celebration. Those who register for this annual free event, held at Uptown Gig Harbor and sponsored by the local chapter of the Kiwanis Club, can enjoy the festivities from the comfort of their car. Local radio station KGHP will be broadcasting on site, and the event will be livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube. There’ll be a flag ceremony color guard and music, and lunch will be provided.
- Gig Harbor 5k Turkey Trot. This year will mark the 19th year in a row that hundreds of people from Gig Harbor and far beyond have gathered on Thanksgiving morning to participate in the 5k Turkey Trot. Along with the registration fee, participants bring food donations to benefit local food banks. Some of the event proceeds are also used for local high school scholarships.
Anytime Senior Activities
Gig Harbor offers an ample array of other things to do throughout the fall. If you prefer to cozy up inside when it’s chilly outside, you’ll find an assortment of live music around town at venues such as the Harbor Taproom and Kimball Coffeehouse.
If you enjoy a good brew, you could sample the fall beers available at Seven Seas Brewing Company. If whiskey is more to your liking, you could check out the locally crafted options at Heritage Distilling.
You could catch a showing of the latest hit movie at the Galaxy Theater Uptown, which features luxury seating and a full bar. For live performances, there’s the Paradise Theatre in downtown Gig Harbor.
Feel like something more active? How about bowling? Ocean5 offers both 10-pin and duckpin bowling, as well as an award-winning, full-service restaurant on the premises. It’s definitely not your everyday, run-of-the-mill bowling alley.
One of the most unique activities for seniors or people of any age would be a ride on an authentic Venetian gondola. Granted, Gig Harbor Gondola does most of its business in spring and summer, but rides are available all year long.
‘Senior’ Living at Heron’s Key
The activities we’ve mentioned in this post aren’t exclusively for seniors, of course. And that’s a point we want to make. The vast majority of those who’ve chosen to make Heron’s Key their home maintain an active lifestyle.
While we offer a full calendar of events, activities and programs within our community, residents here have many additional choices for engaging with the greater Gig Harbor community as well.
You can play bingo or mahjong. You can volunteer. You can train for and participate in a 5k race. The choice is yours — as it should be.
The variety of choices reflects the broad range of interests among today’s “seniors,” who represent a much different population from the seniors of several decades ago.
You can get a good sense of our community through our gallery. If you’d like to take a look in person, contact us and we’ll gladly schedule a tour.
While we’re at it, we invite you to follow us on Facebook. We regularly share helpful resources there for older adults, along with photos of fun times here at home.