Don’t tell anyone outside the Pacific Northwest, but we’ve got a pretty sweet deal going on here in Seattle. Though we may seem light-years from cities like New York and LA when it comes to culture and style, we’ve got our own flavor and approach to life that works just fine for us.
Nestled between two mountain ranges and with a sound, two lakes, and several river deltas, Seattle is a big city with a whole lotta beautiful places to explore nearby. Here are some of the best cities and areas you can choose for some weekend adventures from Seattle.
The San Juan Islands
Many people are totally shocked to discover the San Juan Islands because they’re so different than what they imagine the Pacific Northwest to be. This small archipelago has four main islands all reachable by ferry from Anacortes, and each island has its own charm. Looking for whale watching or hiking opportunities? Head to San Juan Island. Want to go camping (or even ‘glamping?’) Orcas Island is where it’s at. The choice is yours when it comes to the adventures you can have in the San Juans.
Most people pass through Anacortes on their way to the San Juan Islands, but this small town is worth a stop. Whether you want to do some light-to-moderate hiking in one of the many state parks or opt for kayaking or sailing on the surrounding waterways, Anacortes is a great base for exploring the area on a weekend trip.
Gig Harbor is tucked deep down in the crooks of Puget Sound, but don’t let that deter you; it’s a short hour-long drive from Seattle across the Tacoma Narrows bridge, and there’s plenty to enjoy. You can go for kayaking on the harbor, put in a stair workout at the 100-stair Finholm Viewclimb, or just relax and enjoy a quality meal at one of the local restaurants… or all three!
Bellingham is a college town, but don’t write it off for that reason. There are actually some really cool events that happen throughout the year, like the annual Ski to Sea multi-sport race (including river canoeing and cyclocross legs!), and hiking or skiing opportunities at nearby Mount Baker.
Three hours south of Seattle, Portland is seriously challenging our status as coolest city in the Pacific Northwest. Long known for their food scene, Portland also has great hikes near the city, a large park right along the Willamette River in downtown, and you can even go chasin’ waterfalls if you hop in the car and head east to the Columbia River valley.
Just over three hours from Seattle, a small set of communities lay claim to one of the world’s longest beaches (they got real imaginative with the name). The 28-mile long beach on Long Beach Peninsula is perfect for a weekend getaway. You can kick back with a craft beer from a local brewery, or enjoy a barefoot run through the chilly Pacific sand. Plan ahead, though: In summer, the hotels book up quickly over the weekends!
The Olympic Peninsula
To be fair, the Olympic Peninsula could easily take several weeks to explore in-depth, but it’s close enough you can do a weekend trip to one of the towns or circumnavigate the peninsula on a chill road trip. If you’re craving small town charm, try Port Townsend or Port Angeles. If you want to make the loop to see the sights, don’t skip Ruby Beach or a hike along Hurricane Ridge.
Our neighbors to the north, Vancouverites and Seattle folk get along pretty well – except when it’s MLS season (go Sounders!). A three-hour drive or four-hour Amtrak ride will deposit you right into the heart of western Canada’s biggest city. Whether you’re searching for delicious and fresh sushi or want to explore the outdoors at Stanley Park or Capilano Bridge, Vancouver is a good weekend option that doesn’t sacrifice any city amenities.
Year round, we are super lucky to have the Cascades hanging out right next door to Seattle. Whether you love skiing, hiking, or camping, the Cascade Mountains have something for everyone. You can spend a weekend Instagramming the heck out of those stunning alpine lakes, or catch some serious powder at one of the many ski resorts. There are even a few towns worth visiting, like charming Bavarian-inspired Leavenworth, or Snoqualmie where you can grab a slice of pie from the diner that inspired the one in Twin Peaks.
Tacoma gets zero love from most Seattleites, who only know it for the ridiculous traffic, Tacoma Dome, and weird ‘Aroma of Tacoma’ (hint: it’s primarily because of a pulp and paper mill). Despite this, Tacoma has been “up-and-coming” for a while now, and there’s a lot more to explore than you might think. Local tour groups, trendy restaurants, and a few cool museums (like Museum of Glass) can easily fill up a relaxing weekend out of Seattle.
Technically, Bellevue is considered part of Seattle, but other than people who work at companies like Microsoft… who actually goes there, like, for fun? Well, you should. Bellevue has developed considerably in the last few years, as more people have sought cheaper housing prices on the East Side, and there are some nice parks to enjoy when the weather is fine. If you’re a foodie looking for a cheat day (or a few healthy options), Old Bellevue has turned into a hip little corner of the city.