Seattle is an incredible city on its own, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only place worth exploring. Whether you enjoy outdoor activities, engineering, museums, or astonishing views, Seattle is just the beginning. For those living or staying in the area, here are some great day trips accessible from the Emerald City.
Though Bainbridge Island is accessible by road from Seattle, the optional ferry ride is really part of what makes the experience so great. Upon arrival, visitors can take advantage of artisan wineries, historical sites, or the energetic village of Winslow. Alternatively, venture to the area’s natural wonderlands. Bloedel Reserve is 150 acres of forest garden inspired by Japanese garden designs, and Fort Ward State Park is a 137-acre marine park, featuring the likes of 4,300 feet (1,310.64 meters) of saltwater shoreline and an underwater park for scuba divers.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mt. Rainier is one of the most iconic markers of Seattle, along with the Space Needle and Microsoft. It has more glaciers than any other peak in the contiguous U.S. (#AlaskaWins) and one of the snowiest places on Earth in its Paradise section. Established in 1899, the 236,381 acres of this national park offer hiking, climbing, visitor centers, and picnic areas, not to mention a myriad of winter sports options. In fact, the state’s largest ski resort at Crystal Mountain is right next door.
More like a half-day trip, Snoqualmie Falls can provide all the satisfaction of exploring the outdoors without taking up an entire day. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the area offers a picnic spot, observations decks, and a short hiking trail. The Northwest Railway Museum is also nearby to chronicle the Victorian-era train life in Snoqualmie Valley, an area regularly featured in the Twin Peaks TV show. Visit it for yourself, and you’ll understand why this waterfall attracts over 1.5 million people every year.
Boeing Factory Tour
Check out the world’s largest building by volume for a chance to watch a 747, 777, or 787 Dreamliner on the assembly line. The world’s largest aerospace company, Boeing, offers this 90-minute tour as well as access to the Aerospace Gallery and the Strato Deck, all with one ticket that costs up to $25.
Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
After Mt. St. Helens’ deadly eruption in 1980, the surrounding 110,000-acre area was set aside for research, recreation, and education—as well as to allow the environment to heal. There are numerous hiking trails and viewpoints, with the Johnston Ridge Observatory Visitor Center as a good starting point. The volcano itself is climbable, but a permit is required. In some areas affected by the eruption, the devastation is still visible, but for the most part, a different, newly rich system of ecosystems has adapted and risen from the ashes.
Another one of Washington’s larger cities, Tacoma is a great day trip, specifically for its museums. Arguably the coolest one is the Museum of Glass, connected to the Washington State History Museum by the Chihuly Bridge of Glass. A certainly unique option is the LeMay Family Collection Foundation, which owns thousands of vehicles, largely of the vintage persuasion, and displays approximately 400 of them at any one time. Otherwise, more great opportunities await at the Tacoma Art Museum, the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, and the Children’s Museum of Tacoma.
Victoria, British Columbia
That’s right! From Seattle, international cities are a great day-trip opportunity. Similar to Bainbridge Island, half the fun is getting there! Take a ferry or a seaplane to the capital of British Columbia. Check out the Victorian architecture at Craigdarroch Castle and the parliament building; explore the Royal British Columbia Museum and the 55-acre Butchart Gardens, and enjoy high tea at The Fairmont Empress Hotel. If you still have time on your hands, mosey around the hotel grounds for Miniature World.
North Cascades National Park
The North Cascades National Park offers a ton of options, from venturing deep into the mountains to enjoying the view from the foothills. A few scenic driving routes include the North Cascade Loop and the Maple Pass Loop, while some excellent hikes include the Cascade Pass Trail and the Copper Ridge Trail. The park hosts stunning geological features such as the Liberty Bell massif, Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, and Lake Chelan, as well as the Wild West-themed town of Winthrop and the unique, unincorporated community of Stehekin. For the best views available, find Desolation Peak.
The San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are a lovely getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. Offering culture and nature alike, Orcas and San Juan are arguably the two islands with the most to keep visitors entertained. Friday Harbor on San Juan Island offers boutiques, art galleries, and delicious eateries, as well as the San Juan Island National Historic Park and The Whale Museum. Orcas Island boasts the 5,200-acre Moran State Park, which includes Mount Constitution. Biking, kayaking, and whale-watching are all popular on each of the islands.
The Olympic Peninsula is one of the most stunning corners of the country. Comprised of the 628,115-acre Olympic National Forest, the Olympic Mountain Range visible from Seattle, Olympic Hot Springs, the rare jewel that is the Hoh Rainforest, the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, and miles of beaches along the Pacific Ocean, a day trip to the area will only leave visitors wanting more. Still, the Olympic National Park is so untouched by humans that it is worth it. Check out Hurricane Ridge for unmatched views.