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Finding valuables while enjoying NW travel
One thing that goes hand in hand with Northwest  1travel is exploring the antique stores you find tucked away in some of the most unlikely locations. A lot of Northwest travelers plan their getaways around finding great hidden gems in the antique stores you find both in the cities and in the small towns of the Northwest.

If you've ever spent time in a really good antique store, it's possible to get lost in time as you explore the nooks and crannies of the store, finding the most unlikely items. And, as we get older, it's interesting to find items you may remember from your childhood. Do you remember when the lunch boxes you took to school were just as prestigious as today's Nike tennis shoes?

You don't actually have to buy anything to enjoy antiquing here in the Pacific Northwest. It's fun just to explore the many unique items you come across when you go to a good antique store. Here are a few of the basics:

The first question is always why would someone buy an antique? The answer is that antiques are a great way to show off your personal style -- to decorate your home in a unique way. Antiques have character and a sense of history. Also, antique furniture will hold its value and can even increase its value over time. It was built to last so generally you'll find better materials and higher-quality construction.

In order to be an antique, an item must be at least 100 years old. If an item is younger it's considered "vintage" and it generally has to be at least 20 years old. You can also sometimes find out about the history of the piece just by asking the seller.

Everybody wants to spot a really great piece and the experts say to follow your heart. If the piece moves you, it's a great piece, especially if it's in good condition.

Great antique stores are often located in small out-of-the-way towns -- the ones with historic main streets and a real story to tell. So it's just natural you'll want to spend time exploring the antique shops as you visit these charming communities.

One of the best places to find a wide variety of antiques is Snohomish, which has long been called the Antique Capital of the Northwest. It's just a short drive east of Everett on Highway 2, so an easy stop if you're headed over the mountains using the Stevens Pass Highway.

The historic main street is picturesque and the town's rural setting is charming indeed. Antique lovers will discover a treasure trove in Snohomish with more than 20 shops devoted solely to antiques. Those shops include offerings from 175 antique dealers.

Visitors also will enjoy exploring the Snohomish Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of these historic houses bear plaques with the year the house was built and the name of the people who originally occupied it. Each year the city gives tours of the houses -- one of which is a year-round museum.

There are many other great places to find antiques. One of those is Bellingham, in Northwest Washington where you'll find lots of historic items at Penny Lane Antique Mall. Fairhaven Antique Mall, located in the city's historic district, also has many historic items and collectibles.

Cashmere, in North Central Washington has a couple of big antique malls. With 70,000 square feet, Apple Annie's Antique Gallery offers collectibles from every era. Nearby, Cashmere Antique Mall has more than 15,000 square feet to display its vast inventory of antiques.

Centralia, just 30 minutes south of Olympia, boasts an entire Antique Row along Tower Avenue. Close to Tower Avenue is Centralia Antique Mall, which houses 135 dealers.
PHOTOS: Snohomish is Antique Capital of Northwest
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