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From its many soaring mountains, island gems and wild Pacific coast, Washington offers many fantastic weekend getaway options, including these.
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Lake Crescent is one of America’s most beautiful lakes, a gem located inside Olympic National Park. Washington’s second deepest lake boasts emerald-hued waters that can even rival the striking beauty of more well-known lakes like Tahoe, yet it sees few crowds. It’s surrounded lush greenery and multiple waterfalls, but it’s not just about the scenery. Visitors can participate in a variety of activities, like kayaking, canoeing, and boating, with rentals available at several properties along the water’s edge. When the weather is warm, you can jump in and enjoy a cool dip, and catch-and-release fishing for two species of trout is possible too. There are a number of options for overnight stays, from tent camping sites and rustic cabins to lakeside chalets and lodge rooms.
Set atop a bluff on Whidbey Island, this seaside village overlooks the glistening waters of Saratoga Passage and the Cascade Mountains. Often named as one of the Northwest’s “best escapes,” it offers a charming atmosphere, with its streets lined with historic buildings that are home to antique shops, book stores, cafes and eateries, many of which focus on dishes created with locally-grown ingredients. A variety of activities are available as well, including whale watching trips and the chance to meet winemakers that produce local wines. There are miles of wooded trails for exploring on foot or two-wheels, or you can get out onto the water in a kayak, paddling while watching for blue herons, bald eagles and perhaps even migrating whales. The Inn at Langley offers guestrooms, suites and cottages boasting 180-degree waterfront views and jetted tubs that face a cozy fireplace and the Puget Sound.
Port Townsend is located on the Olympic Peninsula, where you’ll have a wealth of outdoor activities and a myriad of other attractions at your fingertips. Hike through
a temperate rainforest, paddle around Admiralty Bay, enjoy beachfront picnics, wine tasting, exploring lighthouses and more. The charming town itself is lined with magnificent Victorian-era buildings that house interesting local shops, galleries and cafes, while buskers can be heard strumming their guitars, plucking a violin, or sometimes even playing a piano on the sidewalk. It’s also a fabulous place for foodies – you’ll have your choice of outstanding restaurants, many serving dishes based on fresh, local ingredients, including fresh-caught salmon and many other seafood delights.
Located on the southwest coast, Long Beach and its 28 miles of sand is one of the most visited Pacific Northwest oceanfront towns. It’s the self-proclaimed “World’s Longest Beach,” and one of the best places for enjoying all sorts of activities on the sand, including kite flying. Long Beach hosts the internationally-renowned annual Washington State International Kite Festival in August, drawing visitors from across the globe. It also hosts a World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame. Year-round enjoy carnival rides, games, bumper cars, a carousel, and even renting a bicycle built for two, or a three-wheeler to cruise the beach.
North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the country, which means you can enjoy this jaw-droppingly scenic, rugged wilderness area practically all to yourself. The park is home to the most glaciers outside of Alaska, with more than 300, as well as one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Watch for bald eagles and osprey perched among the lush forests and rocky slopes as well as elusive creatures like the fisher, wolverine, gray wolf, black and grizzly bears, moose and cougars.
The San Juan archipelago is easily accessible from Seattle, but when you get here, it feels like a totally different world. San Juan Island, the second largest and most populous, offers an especially peaceful escape, while the pretty historic seaport town of Friday Harbor is home to a number of museums, art galleries, eclectic shops and countless fantastic eateries that serve dishes based on local ingredients, including fresh seafood, produce and herbs. Visit Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west side of the island in the summer, and watch for the killer whales and other marine life that frequently pass by.
The Columbia River Gorge divides the states of Washington and Oregon, and while the Oregon side tends to be the most visited, there is plenty to do on the Washington side of the border as well. There are over a half-dozen excellent breweries, including Everybody’s Brewing in White Salmon, Walking Man in Stevenson and Amnesia in Washougal, and in Stevenson, you can watch or join the kiteboarders on the water. Head to Beacon Rock to hike the trails and check out the 848-foot-tall basalt monolith. Afterward, stay at Carson Hot Springs Golf and Spa Resort where you can enjoying soaking in the warm, soothing waters.
La Conner is arguably best known for hosting the annual Skagit Valley Tulip festival, held throughout the month of April, when miles of miles of vibrant, variously colored tulips dot the landscape as far as the eye can see, but it offers a wide range of things to do all year round. This historic town set along the edge of the Swinomish Channel is filled with art galleries, interesting shops, museums and fantastic restaurants. Just a few minutes away is Deception Pass State Park with its saltwater shoreline with towering rugged cliffs dropping straight down to emerald-hued waters.
Leavenworth, set on the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountains, allows visitors to experience Bavaria right in Washington State. The authentic Bavarian village is lined with German shops, eateries, and venues that host live German music, and it offers a host of events in every season. Its most popular festivals are in autumn and winter, with September featuring the Washington State Autumn Leaf Festival, October hosting Oktoberfest, and the Christmas Lighting Fest, which takes place throughout much of December. It includes old fashioned caroling, Christmas characters and practically an endless amount of dazzling lights, turning Leavenworth into what looks like the ultimate “snow globe town.”