Many of the cruise ships heading for Alaska each summer depart from Seattle. Passengers who have a bit of extra time to spend in the Seattle area before or after their cruise find numerous things to see. Seattle, of course, has its major icons like Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. It also has lesser-known delights like the Underground Tour or the Freemont troll.
Some folks venture out a bit farther to visit Mt. Rainer, the area’s largest mountain, or her more famous sister Mt. St. Helens, who blew her top in a 1980 volcanic eruption. What about the many Twilight fans though? There’s something extra special for them to see. You don’t even have to be a Twilight fan to enjoy a Twilight tour in Forks. Randy, our tour guide and bus driver, had lots of tidbits of information to share about the local area and the book that saved a town.
We booked an evening tour with Team Forks that included a hot dog roast on the beach. The tour met at a flower shop right across the street from Forks High School. The school itself has been rebuilt, but it still has the original sign. The flower shop has mostly been taken over by Twilight merchandise. Forks may be a small town, but there’s no shortage of places to buy all things Twilight.
We had a group of five, and were joined by two other people on our tour. Our friendly bus driver/tour guide Randy gave us all plenty of time for photos at the school sign before boarding the bus, and even brought out his cardboard cutouts of Bella and Edward to join in the posing. Sometimes they have actual live look-alikes for the movie characters, but none joined our tour.
The bus stopped first at Forks City Hall, home of the police station where Bella’s dad Charlie (Chief Swan) works. We had plenty of opportunities for photos inside and out. When a real live Forks cop pulled into the parking lot he posed for photos with tourists as well. Just about everyone in Forks welcomes Twilight fans.
Randy said that before Twilight, Forks was a dying town. Mainly only fishing or hunting brought visitors in the pre-Twilight era. With the town’s main source of employment – logging – on the fritz many people had been laid off and the town itself had so little money it considered unincorporating because the town could not pay its bills.
Just a few hundred yards down the road from City Hall we found the Cullens’ house. Apparently the team Forks tour does not have a monopoly on cardboard cut-outs of the movie characters as Edward peered out of an upstairs window. People who really want to immerse themselves into the Twilight experience can stay at the Cullen’s house, as it is a Bed and Breakfast.
In between stops Randy added more tidbits of information about either Forks or Twilight. He said the whole concept of the books started with Stephanie Myers having recurring dreams about a misty clouded shadowy place.
Next the bus stopped at the Forks Hospital where the head of the vampire family works. Randy mentioned a need to relocate Dr. Cullen’s parking space sign due to its original location causing tourists to interfere with the arrival of ambulances. With the looming possibility of an emergency occurring right when tourists have stopped to take photos, the ambulance gets precedence.
Twilight author Stephanie Myers literally discovered the place of her dreams in an online search for the setting of her books. Not having actually been to Forks at the time, she based the character’s homes on actual places in “for sale” listings. Bella and Jacob’s houses on the tour are those very houses from the original descriptions. The house described in the book as the Cullen’s house was a ways out of town and later burned down. Needing a suitable replacement for the tours, they found one right in town that fit the description.
Following a short drive through the backstreets of Forks, we stopped at Bella’s house. This house remains a private residence, but they have placed a sign in the yard proclaiming it as the home of the Swans. While we were there a couple of Mormons out on their proselytizing duties walked by. They seemed amused by the Twilight bus, but did not object to having their picture taken even though they are not part of the story. Perhaps even vampires or vampires to be need a bit of religion in their lives.
Stephanie did her research well, finding later when she actually did come to visit Forks that the descriptions in her books fit the actual places they intended to describe as well as if she had actually seen them.
Parked in front of the visitor’s center sit two old trucks. The oldest and reddest one looks like Bella’s truck as described in the book. The more oranger-looking and somewhat newer one is of the type used in the movie. Apparently they could not find one from the book that actually ran when filming the movies. The first movie was too low-budget to have a replica made. We had lots of time for posing with both trucks and the cardboard cut-outs. Jacob came out to join Bella at this stop.
Before the filming of the first Twilight movie, crews came to Forks to do the prep work for filming there. Then the state of Washington stepped in demanding a hefty tax. Unable to afford it at that time, the film crews moved to Vancouver B.C. and Oregon instead. After the first movie became so successful, the state wanted a piece of the action, but by then the movie makers had soured on Washington and did not care to make a deal.
As we headed out of town, Randy gave options of which Twilight movie to play. I thought the how-it-was-made one sounded interesting, but got out-voted by everyone else who preferred watching the first movie. We stopped at the Treaty Line, which was a sign at the entrance to a campground. The campground also offered restrooms, a store, and a small cafe.
Forks has embraced everything Twilight. The success of the books and movies brought enough tourists to the area to revive Forks from a dying town to a thriving town, thus becoming the book that saved a town.
Jacob Black’s house offers Twilight fans another opportunity to immerse themselves in the story. It operates as a vacation rental home, sleeping up to 10 people. The tour still stops there, with photo ops on a motorcycle as well as in front of the house.
We stopped at a different beach than where the tour normally goes, as Jacob’s people, the Quileute tribe, had some sort of ceremony going on where the tour usually stops. We went to a sort of mystical beach with huge logs to climb over and a nearby flat-topped island with trees only in a ring around the edge while the center remains a sacred burial ground to the tribe. The surf crashed into shore with great force and a heavy undertow. A kind of mist surrounded the rocky stacks in the water.
Randy cooked the hot dogs while the rest of us explored and enjoyed the beach. We had our choice of beef or turkey hot dogs roasted over a fire and plenty of logs to sit on. A couple seagulls came begging and enjoyed the leftovers, one running off with an entire hot dog which it swallowed whole. It looked like enough to choke a seagull, but then again they probably eat whole fish that way too. It gulped it right down without any trouble.
On the way back we stopped at the “Welcome to Forks” sign for night photos when it is lit up.
Forks has two different Twilight Tour operators. The original Twilight Tours in Forks, and Twilight Tours by Team Forks. We had nothing to go on but the websites, and went with Team Forks because it looked like more fun and had the tour including the hot dog roast on the beach. Our guide said both tours go to the same places, and will actually work together by sending guests that want to book when they are already full to each other. In his opinion, his tour is more fun and the other more informative. The cardboard cut-outs of the movie characters for picture posing are only on the Team Forks tour.
Some people prefer to tour the area on their own rather than taking an organized tour. The Forks Visitor Information Center provides maps of all of the Twilight destinations to assist with do-it-yourself Twilight Tours.
Forks sits just about 140 miles from Seattle, so many visitors get there by rental car. A day tour that includes transportation provides another option. Those who choose to drive themselves also have the option of spending the night in the Cullen’s house B&B or renting Jacob’s house. Forks has several motels as well.
GPS or mapquest will tell you it takes just over 3 hours drive time to get from Seattle to Forks, but that does not include the state ferry where you have to add waiting time and loading and unloading time as well as the time it takes for the actual crossing.
Another option is to bypass the ferry and drive around crossing on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge instead. It is a toll bridge, though the toll is less than the ferry fare. When the ferry lines and waiting times are long you can drive around before you would have even gotten on the ferry, but when it is not peak time the ferry makes a nicer and faster trip.