Seattle is famous for its historic Pike Place Market and iconic Space Needle. But there's more to the Pacific Northwest than the city. Flanked by the waters of Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains, Seattle is a gateway to various year-round attractions.
Whether you're just passing through the Emerald City, moving to the region, or a longtime resident eager to explore, adventure beckons outside the city. These six-day trips around Seattle will show you a side of the area you won't see from the busy metropolis.
1. Port Townsend
Located about two hours away by car and ferry, Port Townsend is on the northeastern corner of the Olympic Peninsula. Its downtown waterfront, dating back to the late 19th century, features ornate Victorian buildings with an eclectic array of shops and restaurants. The town is also a convenient jumping-off point for visiting Olympic National Park.
Port Townsend hosts events throughout the year, including music and film festivals. Nearby Fort Worden Historical State Park is a former coastal defense site that showcases a unique aspect of the area's military history. It's now a multi-use park with boating, fishing, and hiking trails. There's also a conference center, Marine Science Center, and the Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum.
2. Snoqualmie Falls
Nestled in the Cascade foothills less than a half hour east of the city center, Snoqualmie Falls is a 270-foot waterfall. It's one of Washington State's most popular scenic attractions and featured in the opening credits of the television series Twin Peaks. The site is central to the culture and beliefs of the indigenous Snoqualmie People, whose tradition holds that it is humankind's place of origin. It is also a traditional burial site the tribe has worked to protect from overdevelopment.
The two-acre park is open year-round. There are upper and lower observation decks and an easy trail that starts less than 100 yards from the parking lot at the top of the falls and heads less than a mile downriver. Interpretive signs detail the area's natural and cultural history. The trail ends next to a hydroelectric powerhouse dating back to 1910, where you can view the falls from below. If you're a more ambitious hiker, several other trails are nearby.
Next to the falls, the Salish Lodge features a pair of restaurants, a gift shop, and a spa. A mile to the east, the City of Snoqualmie offers unique shops and restaurants and the Northwest Railway Museum, set inside a historic train depot.
3. Fort Nisqually
An hour south of Seattle in Tacoma, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum reproduces the original Hudson's Bay Company trading post built in 1833. Fort Nisqually was the first permanent European settlement in the region, where the British company initially traded with local indigenous tribes for valuable furs. It then became an agricultural center where settlers grew crops and livestock. It also served as a transportation and communication hub.
The site offers a self-guided tour and features interpreters in period costumes. It provides an immersive look at work and social life in the region during the mid-19th century when the U.S. and Great Britain claimed the area.
4. Whidbey Island
Of all the major islands in Puget Sound, Whidbey Island is the easiest to visit from Seattle. A half-hour drive north of the city and a short ferry ride takes you to the island's quiet, relaxed south end. Small, charming towns such as Langley and Freeland feature art galleries, wineries, coffeehouses, and shops. The island's south end is also your best bet for spotting orcas and humpback whales.
In the central part of the island, Ebey's Landing National Historic Reserve preserves the region's 19th-century exploration and settlement. It includes a scenic trail between farm fields and a dramatic coastal bluff. Nearby, Coupeville is the state's second-oldest community. Several buildings along Front Street are on the National Historic Register, and many appear in the film Practical Magic.
The island's north end includes the Pacific Northwest Naval Air Museum, which documents the history of the U.S. Navy's presence on the island since 1942. The only bridge onto the island is on the north end. A dramatic 180 feet high and more than 1,000 feet long, Deception Pass Bridge was a feat of engineering at the time of its construction in 1935.
It's also the centerpiece of Deception Pass State Park, one of the state’s most popular. It includes more than 3,800 acres and 77,000 feet of shoreline. There are trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There are also scenic boat tours and kayaks available for rent.
On the eastern slope of the Cascades, Leavenworth is a two-and-a-half-hour drive or just over three hours by train from Seattle. Embracing a Bavarian theme, the town's unique charm features Alpine-style buildings and plenty of German-inspired food and beer. Other cuisines, craft distilleries, and tasting rooms with local wines and ciders are also available.
Leavenworth is a year-round destination with a full calendar of festivals and events, including winter lights and a family-friendly autumn leaf festival. No matter the season, there is always a wide array of outdoor adventures appropriate for all skill levels and appetites. The town also features unique shops such as a specialty mustard store, a year-round Christmas shop with three floors of ornaments and décor, and several art galleries. There's also a reindeer farm and a nutcracker museum with more than 5,000 items on exhibit.
6. Mount Rainer National Park
If you're in Seattle on a nice day, you might hear someone say, “The mountain is out.” The potentially confusing phrase refers to Mount Rainer, the highest peak in the state, which you can see from much of the western half of Washington on a clear day.
The area around the 14,000-foot mountain, a couple hours' drive from Seattle, is one of the oldest national parks in the world. Traditionally known to the region's indigenous people as ‘Tahoma,' the mountain is an active volcano. It has more than 25 glaciers that feed five major rivers.
You can visit the park year-round, though snow cover can last until mid-July in higher elevations. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular winter activities. Mid-to-late summer is the best time for wildflowers which you can see on scenic drives and hikes throughout the park.
At 6,400 feet, Sunrise is the highest point accessible by road and offers a sweeping view of other nearby peaks. It has a day lodge and visitor's center, and trailheads for several miles of trails are nearby.
Paradise, in the park's southwest corner, is on a road that is open year-round and is the park's most visited area. It's home to the historic Paradise Inn, built in the classic National Park Service Rustic architecture style. The nearby Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center features informative exhibits, films, ranger-led events, and a gift shop/bookstore.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks Travel.