Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors
Easy Day Trips from Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington is a major tourist destination in the Pacific Northwest, with plenty of attractions to keep visitors occupied without ever leaving the city. However, if you're visiting Seattle for more than a few days, or if you're a local and want to explore more of the surrounding area, there are many interesting places in the region that make easy day trips. Here are four ideas for day trips from Seattle in Washington state.
Mount Rainier National Park
If you're lucky enough to be in Seattle on a clear day, you'll probably see glacier-clad Mount Rainier looming majestically in the distance. A reminder of Seattle's front-row seat on the Ring of Fire - the circle of volcanoes that spans several continents around the Pacific Ocean - Mt. Rainier is an active volcano that could erupt at any time. For now, however, you can explore the sleeping giant up close. Southeast of Seattle, Highway 706 winds through foothills covered in thick evergreen forests, ending at the dazzling white foot of the glacier.
The trip is worth it for the scenic drive alone, but if you want to stretch your legs and see more of Mt. Rainier National Park, there are plenty of hiking trails. Bring a warm jacket, as the temperature will drop the farther up the mountain you go. The park is open year-round, although many of its roads are closed in the winter. And if you don't want to hike the mountain, you can check out Paradise, which is famous for its incredible views and wildflower meadows.
Victoria, British Columbia
Three hours from Seattle, via a high-speed ferry ride on Puget Sound, Victoria makes a quick but surprisingly exotic getaway. In this British-flavored city, you can take high tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, tour historic castles and landmarks, explore the elaborate Butchart Gardens, or spend an afternoon hunting for the perfect treasure at one of the city's many boutiques.
The Victoria Clipper ferry runs year-round between Seattle and Victoria. Although you can't bring your vehicle on the ferry, Victoria's downtown area is easy to explore on foot. Other options for getting around the city include taxis, public buses, and sightseeing buses which visit popular attractions. Additionally, you can book whale watching tours through one of the many vendors that offers this service.
If you don't associate Seattle with wine, you'll be surprised to learn about Woodinville, a small town of approximately 10,000 people, just half an hour from downtown Seattle by car. The base for more than 100 wineries, as well as microbreweries and an assortment of restaurants, Woodinville is a year-round destination. It does, however, share Seattle's damp, chilly winters, so you'll find more outdoor activities in Woodinville during the summer.
Woodinville's Saturday farmers market runs from May through the end of September, with fresh produce, ready-to-eat food, and locally made crafts. The Celebrate Woodinville festival also occurs each summer, with outdoor concerts, activities for children, and artists and craftspeople exhibiting their wares. Many of Woodinville's wineries, breweries and restaurants host live music in the evenings, making the area a popular place for nightlife.
Snoqualmie Falls achieved worldwide fame in the 1990s, when it was featured in the television show Twin Peaks, but this 268-foot high waterfall has long been one of the Seattle area's top attractions. Snoqualmie Falls was also a sacred site for local Native American tribes. A small park near the falls allows visitors to enjoy close-up views of the dramatically cascading water. The viewing area is open during daylight hours, and the park is a popular place for picnics.
If you want to indulge yourself, you can have a meal at the upscale Salish Lodge, which overlooks the falls. Twin Peaks fans can visit many sites in the Snoqualmie area where the series was filmed. Just half an hour east of Seattle, via Interstate 90, Snoqualmie is an easy destination for a day trip.
Wrapping-Up: Easy Day Trips from Seattle, Washington
Of course, we didn't even mention North Cascades National Park (where you'll want to be sure to checkout Diablo Lake) with its beautiful Cascade Mountains or Olympic National Park with its Olympic Mountains on the Olympic Peninsula (too obvious, perhaps?), which you should definitely go see, preferably for more than a day, if you have the time.
Here's a list of other places we recommend if you find yourself flush on time:
- Bainbridge Island with its Bloedel Reserve and idyllic downtown, Winslow
- San Juan Islands, home to (you guessed it) San Juan Island, which contains Lime Kiln Point State Park, a great Orca-whale lookout
- Vashon Island, the largest island in Puget Sound
- Mount St. Helens, an active volcano (and we do mean active) about 100 miles south of the city, with its National Volcanic Monument,
- Whidbey Island, whose Fort Casey Historical State Park is home to a lighthouse and gun battery
- the small town of Mukilteo
- Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
- Leavenworth's Bavarian Village
- Tacoma Art Museum
- Seattle History Museum (MOHAI)
- Sky View Observatory with its unparalleled views from the observation deck
- Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour or the Museum of Flight
- LeMay - America's Car Museum
With all of these destinations roughly an hour drive (some less, some more) from Seattle, it's no wonder everyone is flocking to the Emerald City; it may have not only the best day trips in the Pacific Northwest, best perhaps some of the best in the entire United States.
Looking for more on day trips from Seattle and other outdoor adventures? Try these:
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
— John Muir