The town of Port Townsend, built on 19th-century speculation of railroad riches and revived by artists in the 20th century, hosts the country’s premier Wooden Boat Festival and provides miles of coastline beach, mountain views from every angle and cultural events just about every weekend, including the quirkiest of all: the annual Kinetic Skulpture Race.
Held the first weekend in October, the Kinetic Skulpture Race is akin to a soap-box derby run by merry pranksters in which human-powered, human-designed, artistically enhanced “vehicles” travel across water, through mud and sand, and up and down hills without sinking, self-destructing or falling apart. Each year, one team wins the coveted “mediocrity award” for finishing dead middle of the pack. At 33, Port Townsend’s is the third-oldest kinetic competition in the United States.
Weird science isn’t where the festivities end. Thanks to the nonprofit arts center Centrum, folks stream into town for the Chamber Music Festival, Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Acoustic Blues Festival, Film Festival and regular writers’ conferences.