It’s a foggy morning in Edmonds, a walkable beach town on the Puget Sound less than 25 kilometres north of Seattle. I’m balancing on a driftwood log, sipping from the vanilla latte in my hand. At the water’s edge, my husband is skipping rocks. The ferry is docked next to us, gently swaying on the waves. A bald eagle soars overhead, searching for his next meal. Kayakers, scuba divers, and paddle boarders are enjoying the Puget Sound in front of us, sharing the water with friendly harbour seals.
If it were a clear and sunny day, we’d have a gorgeous, panoramic view of the Olympic Mountains. But in typical Seattle fashion, the weather is grey and drizzly. It’s no big deal, though. The “rain” here is hardly rain at all. It’s usually light and gentle and often clears up by the afternoon, so I just pull up the hood of my jacket — no umbrella needed.
After a leisurely walk along the beach, we make our way up to Edmonds’ cute little downtown. We browse the bookstores and boutiques for a while before grabbing lunch at Salt & Iron, a charming oyster & steakhouse that serves a delicious menu made from fresh, local ingredients. My husband loves their burger (served with herbed fries and a delicious aioli dipping sauce), and I’m craving the made-from-scratch seafood chowder. It seems just right for a chill day in the Northwest.
Here in Washington State, it’s easy to find beautiful nature, amazing food, and something fun to do, whether you’re craving outdoor adventure or indoors relaxation. The landscape is incredibly diverse and magnificent, which means there’s quite a variety of places to visit within the state. We’re blessed with idyllic islands, evergreen forests, rugged mountains, pebbly beaches, wine country, twisting rivers, and much more to satisfy a number of weekend getaways in Washington.
Weekend Getaways in Washington
There’s more to Washington than the west coast. I grew up in Spokane and recently moved back, so call me biased, but I think Spokane is the most underestimated city in Washington. There are outdoor activities for every season, amazing restaurants, and lots of fun events for both kids and adults. If you have never been to Spokane or haven’t visited in awhile, I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by all it has to offer.
The gem of downtown Spokane is Riverfront Park, a 100-acre urban park with views of upper Spokane Falls — especially spectacular in spring when all the snow is melting. It’s a beautiful park to walk around in, and it’s fun for kids too, with a giant Red Wagon that’s also a playground, a carousel, gondola rides to get a better view of the falls, a metal goat that eats garbage, and a new outdoor ice skating ribbon. After you walk around the park a bit, grab a cup of coffee at Indaba (try the lemon vanilla latte), then check out Atticus next door for unique gifts, books, and souvenirs.
On the east end of downtown, Main Street is home to some of my favourite shops and eateries. Try Boots for good vegan options and delicious pumpkin waffles (with whipped cinnamon butter). Saranac Commons is a hip and artsy open-concept building with a florist, a coffee shop, a bakery, and a biscuit sandwich place (among others). Chosen Vintage is a great vintage shop with good prices and multiple stories filled with home decor and clothing.
The south side of Spokane has Manito Park, which is a must-see. There’s a Japanese garden, a rose garden, a meticulously-manicured sunken garden, and a conservatory to name a few highlights. It reminds me a lot of the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, except it’s all free. Grab coffee and pastries at The Rockwood Bakery afterward then drive through the wealthy Rockwood neighbourhood and gawk at all the gorgeous mansions.
On the north side, there’s Riverside State Park, the largest state park in Washington. It runs along the Spokane River and has tons of trails for mountain biking, running, and hiking. Bowl & Pitcher is probably the most popular spot, with a swinging bridge, basalt rock outcroppings, and an idyllic view of the river.
Can’t-Miss Fun: In the summer or fall, head to Green Bluff and pick fresh fruit straight from the local farms. Cherries, berries, and peaches in the summer, pumpkins and crisp Washington apples in the fall. There’s a loop with several farms to visit, and the views along the drive are also gorgeous. In the fall, don’t miss hot pumpkin donuts at Harvest House.
If you need an extra reason to visit, time your getaway with one of Spokane’s notable annual events. There’s Bloomsday, a 12-kilometre road race with over 50,000 runners and walkers participating every year. You’ll also want to make time for Farm Chicks, a huge antiques show that takes over the Spokane Fairgrounds with vintage and handmade goods. And there’s Hoopfest, the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world.
Where To Stay In Spokane
trivago hotel tip: The Historic Davenport — A Spokane Landmark
San Juan Islands
If you’re craving more of a relaxing escape with a slower pace of life and an abundance of natural beauty, I can’t think of a better place than the San Juan Islands. Located between the Washington coast and Vancouver Island, this collection of approximately 172 islands is my favourite weekend getaway. You have to take a ferry to get there, which is part of the experience itself (make sure to keep an eye out for orca whales!). As you travel through tree-covered islands and sparkling blue water, with the sun on your face and the wind whipping through your hair, you’ll feel your stresses melt away.
Can’t-Miss Fun: The San Juan Islands is one of the best places in the world to see orca whales. You have a good chance of seeing them from the ferry or the coastline (Lime Kiln Point on San Juan Island is a common viewing spot), but if you want to make sure you don’t miss them, take a whale watching tour. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see orcas and other sea life up close and personal.
I recommend staying in Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island. If you walked onto the ferry, you can rent mopeds downtown so you have the freedom to drive around the island. There are beautiful driftwood beaches, a picturesque lighthouse, a lavender farm, and several great restaurants (my favourite is Cask & Schooner). It’s also worth checking out Roche Harbor on the opposite end of the island where there’s the historic Hotel de Haro (Teddy Roosevelt once stayed there!).
Morning visitors should make sure to stop in the Lime Kiln Cafe on the waterfront for hot, fresh donuts, then take a stroll around the harbour and peep at all the yachts. The next day, take the inter-island ferry for a day trip to Orcas Island. It holds the highest point of all the San Juan Islands, Mount Constitution. You can hike it if you wish, but if your time is limited, just drive to the top — you’ll get the same spectacular view of the surrounding islands and Mount Baker.
Where to Stay on the San Juan Islands
trivago hotel tip: Bird Rock — In the Heart of Friday Harbor
The Olympic Peninsula is a must-see for any West Coast Canadian popping across the border. Surrounded by water, riddled with waterfalls, filled with giant trees, and home to the majestic Olympic Mountains, it’s an area that feels ruggedly wild and awe-inspiring. You’ll need more than one weekend to take it all in, so don’t overpack your itinerary — just pick a few things you thoroughly enjoy and plan on coming back again.
On the coast, I highly recommend visiting Kalaloch and Ruby Beach. You’ll find sea stacks, tidepools, driftwood lined beaches, and spectacular sunsets. Eat at the Creekside Restaurant in the Kalaloch Lodge for fresh local food and a lovely ocean view. If you’re a Twilight fan, you might want to travel north to Forks and La Push Beach. There isn’t much in Forks besides the Twilight connection, but La Push is gorgeous in its own right and a popular spot for surfing. You can also continue on to Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point of the continental U.S.
Can’t-Miss Fun: While you’re in Kalaloch, be sure to visit the “Tree of Life,” a really cool tree that’s still alive despite the ground beneath it having washed away, exposing its roots and forming a cave underneath.
For a less rustic beach experience, check out Seabrook, a new beach town that’s super cute and picturesque. All of the houses look like they’re straight out of Pinterest. There are several good restaurants, bakeries, shops, and all the amenities you could want (bike rentals, an indoor pool, a spa, and more).
Further inland, there are the relaxing Sol Duc Hot Springs, many spectacular waterfalls, and the lush Hoh Rainforest, where you can hike through giant trees dripping with moss and feel time slow down in the peaceful, hushed atmosphere. It gets 12-14 feet of rain every year, so plan on bringing a jacket! On your way back, stop at Hurricane Ridge if the weather is clear. You can drive to the top for impressive views of the Olympic Mountains. Bring a picnic lunch and do a little hiking while you’re there.
Where To Stay In Olympic Peninsula
trivago hotel tip: Kalaloch Lodge — The Only Coastal Lodging in Olympic National Park
Bellingham is a charming college town on the coast, waiting for you right after you past U.S. Customs. Historic Fairhaven is full of old brick buildings that now hold restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and cute boutiques. If you’re there at lunchtime, try Fairhaven Pizza and Sirena’s Gelato. On the waterfront, grab a coffee at The Woods in Boulevard Park where there’s also a public beach and a playground for kids. Then take a relaxing walk along the boardwalk, where you’ll get a fantastic view of Bellingham Bay.
If you’re there on a clear day, you will not regret driving to nearby Artist Point, which boasts spectacular 360-degree views of Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker. Don’t forget your camera! Artist Point is also the starting point for several hikes, so you can make a full day of it if you wish.
Being a college town, Bellingham has a number of cheap-but-good eateries. For a delicious breakfast in a quirky environment, try Homeskillet. It’s not fancy (and the clowns in the bathroom are more than a little creepy), but the food is great and the portions are huge. For classic burgers and shakes in a ’50s style drive-in, hit local favourite Boomer’s. And for amazing sandwiches and alfajores (South American cookies), go to Old World Deli
Can’t-Miss Fun: If you’re there in the fall, take Chuckanut Drive down the coast starting from Fairhaven. It’s a gorgeous and scenic drive any time of year, but especially in the fall with all the colourful leaves.
But do you really just come south for the shopping?
Where To Stay In Bellingham
trivago hotel tip: Fairhaven Village Inn — Take in the Views from the Terrace
Leavenworth is a gorgeous alpine village right in the middle of the state, nestled in the heart of the Cascade Mountains. Town leaders remade Leavenworth into a Bavarian-style village in the 1960s to attract tourists — and it worked. No matter the season, visitors flock to this charming town to eat, shop, explore the beautiful surroundings and participate in local events.
Winter is my favourite time to visit, a time when Leavenworth truly sparkles –literally, with falling snow and over half a million Christmas lights. There’s skiing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides, and the annual Christmas Lighting Festival, which turns the town into a winter wonderland. Make sure to check out the Nutcracker Museum and visit the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm, too.
There’s still plenty to do the rest of the year, as well, including river tubing, paddleboarding, mountain biking, horseback riding, wine tasting, and lots of great hiking. Near Leavenworth is Colchuck Lake, a 13-kilometre roundtrip hike that rewards you with a gorgeous alpine lake set between two of Washington’s tallest peaks. In the fall, the groves of larches turn golden yellow, which is spectacular against the aquamarine water. Colchuck Lake is also the gateway to the fabled Enchantments (in order to stay overnight there, you have to enter a lottery and win one of the few, coveted permits).
When it comes to dining, most of the restaurants are, fittingly, Bavarian-themed. Munchen Haus serves up German brats and brews in a fun, outdoor atmosphere. Bavarian Bakery is your stop for warm pretzels, strudels, and danishes. But if you’re craving something more refined, Watershed Cafe is a great farm to table place with locally-sourced fine dining.
Can’t-Miss Fun: In the summer, watch the Sound of Music performed outside, under the stars, in Leavenworth’s Ski Hill Amphitheater. There’s no better way to see it — magical and fun for all ages.
Where To Stay In Leavenworth
trivago hotel tip: The Bavarian Lodge — Germany In Washington
It’s only an hour and a half drive from Seattle to Whidbey Island, and you can travel by bridge or by ferry. (I would take the bridge on the way there and the ferry on the way back, to get the full experience.)
By bridge, you’ll cross over Deception Pass, which is stunningly magnificent and dizzyingly high. Park for free on either side of the bridge and walk across so you can really take in the view before you continue on your drive. If you have extra time, Bowman Bay is right there and also fun to explore (keep an eye out for seals, bald eagles, and more).
On Whidbey Island, I recommend staying in charming, coastal Coupeville. Historic buildings, beautiful views, and a picturesque wharf that holds a cafe and marine mammal exhibit. What’s not to love? Stroll around town and you’ll find a number of boutiques, art studios, galleries, and restaurants (try Front Street Grill for seafood and burgers, Knead & Feed for sandwiches and baked goods, and Kapaw’s Iskreme for inexpensive and delicious ice cream).
Just south of Coupeville is Fort Casey Historical State Park where there’s a lighthouse, old gun batteries, and panoramic views of the Puget Sound and surrounding mountains. It’s interesting to walk around and learn about the history of the fort. There’s also a huge grassy area for picnics, frisbee tossing, and kite flying. Definitely worth a visit. Further south is Double Bluff State Park, which features gorgeous views and a sandy beach shadowed by tall bluffs. It’s also close to Langley, a walkable beach town with local shops and restaurants to explore. When you’re ready to head back, the ferry leaves from nearby Clinton.
Can’t-Miss Fun: If you’re visiting in late spring, go to Bayview Farm & Garden (near Langley). The Laburnum arbour there is spectacular when it’s in golden bloom.
Where To Stay On Whidbey Island
trivago hotel tip: Anchorage Inn
Cle Elum is located at the foot of the Cascade Mountains where natural beauty abounds. With mountains, forests, and scenic lakes surrounding it, Cle Elum is a popular starting point for hiking, backpacking, and all kinds of outdoor adventures. There’s something for everyone, no matter what your style is.
For those seeking family-friendly relaxation, drive to Lake Easton State Park where there are beaches for swimming, grills for barbecuing, and playgrounds for kids to play on. If you’re up for something more rigorous, take a backpacking trip to Tuck & Robin Lakes where you’ll find pristine alpine lakes and mountain goats roaming about. It’s 25-kilometre roundtrip with 2,900 feet of elevation gain. It’s not easy, but the destination is well worth it.
Fancy something a bit more, well, fancy? Head to Suncadia Resort. With more than 6,000 acres of forested landscape, a golf course, a spa, fine dining, miles of trails, and activities for all ages, it’s upscale and wild at the same time. Keep an eye out for elk. They’re a common sight around here.
Can’t-Miss Fun: The neighbouring town of Roslyn is cute and worth a visit, especially if you’ve seen the TV show Northern Exposure, which was set there. Roslyn Cafe is a great spot for burgers and comfort food. Basecamp is a lovely coffee shop/bookstore/restaurant, serving up healthy, seasonal options. Right next door to Basecamp is the Roslyn Yard where there’s cornhole, giant Jenga, a fire pit, and live music when the weather is nice.
trivago hotel tip: Suncadia Resort — Surrounded By Nature
A vibrant city surrounded by mountains, water, and evergreen forests, there’s a reason Seattle is nicknamed the Emerald City. There’s so much to see and do from the outdoors to exploring the city’s (many) coffee shops, restaurants, museums, and indie boutiques. Let’s start downtown, shall we?
Downtown Seattle is situated right on the Puget Sound, and it’s a great place to start your visit. There’s the iconic Space Needle piercing the sky (take a glass elevator to the observation deck for a 360-degree-view of the surrounding area), bustling Pike Place Market (where you can get cheap bouquets of fresh flowers, dodge flying fish, and take a photo at the famous gum wall), and a giant Ferris wheel right on the waterfront. There’s also the Olympic Sculpture Park (free), the Seattle Aquarium (kid-friendly), and several great museums. (I especially recommend Chihuly Garden and Glass –it’s beautiful and unique.)
Can’t-Miss Fun: Walk onto the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island (it’s about a half hour ride), and see one of the best views of the city as the boat pulls away from shore. Grab some ice cream at Mora and walk around the shops in downtown Bainbridge Island before you take the return ferry.
Seattle is so much more than downtown, though. To truly experience Seattle like a local, head into the nneighbourhoods each with their own distinct charm and personality. Trendy Ballard was once known for Scandinavians and fishing. Now it’s a walkable neighborhood full of boutiques and eateries (try The Walrus & The Carpenter for dinner and Hot Cakes for dessert).
If you’re there in late summer or early fall, be sure to check out the Locks, where you can see hordes of migrating salmon through the underground viewing windows. Hip Capitol Hill boasts Seattle’s best nightlife and lots of amazing food options (try Sitka & Spruce for dinner, Oddfellows Cafe for brunch, Molly Moon’s for ice cream, and General Porpoise for artisanal donuts).
Upscale Queen Anne is home to the quintessential view of Seattle from Kerry Park, as well as my favorite cupcakes (Cupcake Royale) and amazing Cajun food (Toulouse Petit). Quirky Fremont is known for the giant troll under the bridge (clutching a real VW Beetle), and the Sunday Market — a fun spot to hunt for antiques and more. You can also take a tour of the Theo chocolate factory and indulge in free samples.
If you’re visiting in the spring, it’s definitely worth going to the U-District to see the cherry blossoms in bloom at UW. And if you have a car, drive across the bridge to West Seattle, where you can get a great view of the Seattle skyline from Alki Beach. I’d recommend grabbing lunch at Marination (Hawaiian-Korean fusion tacos and more) plus French pastries from Bakery Nouveau for dessert (try the twice baked almond croissant).
Need a full list of things to do in Seattle?
Where To Stay In Seattle
Kimpton Palladian Hotel — Between Pike Place Market and the Space Needle
*Feature image courtesy of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism. This article originally appeared on trivago magazine US.