You’ve been to most of Seattle’s must-eat food spots. You’ve seen the sunset from Gasworks. And you’ve explored every neighborhood and green space in Seattle proper. Now what?
If you’ve explored the Seattle sights and are wondering where to have your next adventure, it’s time to get out of the city. Here are four weekend getaways within a 3-hour drive from Seattle.
With the surrounding mountains, Old World architecture, and the flapping German flags, you might think you’ve been transported to a Bavarian village as you drive through Leavenworth, Washington. And that’s the point. In 1962, the small town was transformed into a Bavarian-style village in hopes of revitalizing its economy.
At first glance, the town can be mistaken for a typical tourist trap. But dig beneath the stylized facades, and you’ll find great shopping and food, even better beer, and friendly locals – all surrounded by the beauty of the Cascades.
What to Do
Attend a festival. Leavenworth loves its festivals. While there’s usually some form of market, live music, or street fair every week, this village is known for the Autumn Leaf Festival, Oktoberfest, Christkindlmarkt, and Christmas Lighting Festival.
Hunt for souvenirs. Those wanting to bring a little Bavaria home with them will find Leavenworth doesn’t disappoint. Wandering the maze of streets is the best way to discover the unique clothing boutiques, specialty food stores and, of course, the souvenir shops. View a list of Leavenworth’s local stores here.
Sip some wine. You won’t need to leave Leavenworth to sample wines from the nearby Columbia Cascade wine region. Dozens of tasting rooms are now operating in Leavenworth – many of them in the heart of this quaint village.
When to Go
Leavenworth is a four-season town. In the summer, warm weather, numerous outdoor activities like camping and hiking, and outdoor events draw travelers all season long. The sunny days on the eastern side of the mountains offer a respite from Seattle clouds.
In fall, festivals like Oktoberfest and the Autumn Leaf Festival are big draws. Christmas is magical in Leavenworth as the streets are filled with lights, carolers, and festivities. Leavenworth is also a popular lodging spot for skiers and snowboarders headed to Mission Ridge and Stevens Pass ski resorts.
With lush rainforests, wind-swept beaches, and towering mountains, the Olympic Peninsula feels like a land straight out of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Though it’s been recently popularized by the Twilight series, the 3,600 miles of the Olympic Peninsula remains rugged and wild.
What to Do
Explore Port Townsend. To reach the peninsula, take the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bremerton. When you arrive in Bremerton, follow signs for Port Townsend. Most of this Victorian-era city is easily accessible on foot, and strolling through the historic districts is one of the most popular activities. Visit the Port Townsend Visitor Information Center to pick up a guide that lists the city’s historic buildings. With unique boutiques, funky art, and several museums, there’s enough to keep you entertained for an afternoon.
Hike Hurricane Ridge. Easily accessed by road from Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge has miles of hiking trails, as well as skiing and snowboarding in the winter months. At an impressive 5,200 feet, Hurricane Ridge offers spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding Olympics range. Visit the National Park Service website for more information.
Visit the Hoh Rain Forest. Every year, Olympics’ west side valleys are drenched with over 12 feet of rain. This soggy environment is one of North America’s best remaining examples of temperate rainforests and is home to Roosevelt elk, bobcats, river otters, and many species of birds. The most popular hiking trail is the Hoh River Trail, which winds through 17.3 miles of mossy forest to Glacier Meadows.
When to Go
While the park is accessible year-round, visitors will see the driest weather in the summer months. In June and July, wildflowers carpet the sub-alpine meadows. The wildflowers begin to wilt as summer moves on, but August and September bring warm weather and sunny skies. Visitors hoping to avoid the crowds may have the best luck in September before the rain moves in. On winter weekends, the road to Hurricane Ridge is usually open for skiers and snowboarders.
Located just 30 minutes northeast of downtown Seattle, Woodinville is a rural community that has become synonymous with Washington wines. In this city of just over 11,000 people, you’ll find over 140 wineries, wine bars, and tasting rooms, from the largest Northwest winery Chateau Ste. Michelle to tiny boutique wineries.
What to Do
Tour and taste. Chateau Ste. Michelle, the largest and oldest winery in the state, offers free tours, several tasting options, and a summer concert series. The Columbia Winery, located across the street, is another popular Washington winery that offers tastings for $12 per person. Private tastings and pairings can also be arranged. After you’ve tasted at these two, you still have over 100 tasting rooms to choose from! Plan your route with this interactive map from GoTasteWine.com.
Get cultured. The Woodinville Heritage Society converted the Dutch colonial home of the DeYoung family into a museum and community space. The museum features furnishings from the 1930s and 40s, photographs, and historic items, such as county maps, a teacup collection, antique toys and more.
Try a craft brew. While Woodinville is known for its wineries, the city is now home to several breweries too.
When to Go
Woodinville is a four-seasons spot. A majority of the wineries and tasting rooms are open year-round. Crowds will be smaller during the winter, but time spent on the grounds may be limited by the weather. Strolling the streets of Woodinville is best enjoyed during late spring, summer, and fall.
San Juan Islands
Though there are over 400 islands and rocks in the San Juan archipelago, only four of them are accessible by ferry from Anacortes, about an hour and a half north of Seattle. Tourists and northwest locals alike visit these four islands – Lopez, Orcas, Shaw, and San Juan – in the warmer months to enjoy the scenic views and to see our resident orcas.
What to Do
Get adventurous. Activities like zip-lining, horseback riding, hiking, kayaking, and paddleboarding are all readily available in the San Juan Islands. Golfers can also enjoy several courses here. For something a little tamer, visit one of the many art galleries showcasing sculptures, pottery, jewelry, glass, and fine art.
Indulge in farm-fresh food. Farm-to-table food is a staple of the San Juan Islands culture. You can enjoy fresh produce, eggs, and seafood at a number of local restaurants and bed & breakfasts. You can even make your own northwest cuisine by stopping by one of the many roadside farm stands. First visit the local farmers who can teach you all about identifying mushrooms and cooking with locally-sourced ingredients.
See the wildlife. Orca whales seem to be the regional favorite, but you can also spot gray whales, humpback whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions, otters, and eagles in the area. Tours are available by both sea and air.
When to Go
Whales are known to be in the area between late May and mid-October, but the peak visiting season is between July and September due to warmer weather. If you’re visiting during the summer months, be sure to make ferry reservations prior to traveling to avoid the long wait.