In Washington, winter is all about embracing the grey rather than escaping it.
While it might be tempting to stay rugged up and cosy indoors, I think my time is best spent outside: hiking, skiing and exploring. After all, the sun sets by 4pm so that still allows for plenty of time indoors with a glass of wine by the fire.
I could give you a list of beach getaways or tropical retreats to exotic shores to ‘escape winter’, but I’m not going to. Because winter is such a great time to be in Washington, and I love to adventure through my current backyard, even under a blanket of snow, even if it is a little wet and chilly. Hopefully, this post might convince you too!
Here are my favourite winter getaways in Washington, all perfect for a weekend retreat.
winter getaways in Washington
Christmas Lights in Leavenworth
Experience a taste of the European Alps this winter! From December through February, Leavenworth sparkles with millions of twinkle lights for the Christmas Lights Festival. Embrace the Bavarian kitsch and enjoy a German style dinner at Andreas Keller, try local beers at Icicle Brewing and Doghaus Brewery, shop the boutiques, peruse the Nutcracker Museum or sample wines at many of the cellar doors that line the streets.
Weekends can be hectic in December, so we chose to visit midweek this year (the best decision!). January and February is a great time to visit: there’s loads of events throughout winter, including Bavarian Ice Fest (Jan 14-15). For the more active, there is a little ski hill and tubing area just out of town – or try dog sledding!
Seattle City Break
Seattle is a city for all seasons, and winter is no exception.
Explore Pike Place Market without the crazy crowds. Brewery-crawl through the city and sample the best winter ales. Duck into Bathtub Gin for a hot toddy. Indulge in French comfort food at Café Presse in Capitol Hill or take a delicious tour of Theo Chocolate in Fremont (samples included!).
February is Seattle Museum Month, with many museums offering free or half price tickets to visitors staying in downtown hotels. My favourites include the Frye Art Museum, MoPop, Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Olympic Sculpture Park.
Ski Mt Baker, Washington’s most epic ski resort
Ski the best terrain in Washington at Mt Baker, which holds a world record for annual snowfall!
The ski area is located in the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and on clear days visitors are gifted with some of the most spectacular scenery in the USA – both on the mountain and from the chairlift.
There are 8 chairlifts leading to miles of runs for all levels, though the mountain does see a lot more advanced skiers keen to take on its legendary backcountry. Mt Baker is hosting the Banked Slalom competition this February too.
As a smaller ski resort there are no ‘ski on’ accommodations, but there are a few cabins and accommodations near Glacier and Maple Falls. For those happy to drive just one hour from the slopes, Bellingham is an awesome little coastal city packed with breweries, great restaurants and live music.
I also recommend everyone stops at Wake n Bakery in Glacier for a post-ski coffee and cookie (I can’t go past the orange cardamom cookie – the stuff of dreams!)
Coupeville, a quaint island town
Washington’s second oldest town also happens to be one of the prettiest and quietest getaways in the state. Located on Whidbey Island, this hamlet is famous for its Penn Cove mussels, and home to the renowned Mussel Fest which takes place each March.
Stroll the historic waterfront, the iconic wharf and little shops along Front Street. Grab a beer at Toby’s Tavern and a glass of wine at Vail, or pick up some cheese and a bottle of wine to go at Bayleaf (they occasionally do wine tasting evenings too).
Active visitors should venture to nearby Ebey’s Landing – there’s an easy hike along the bluff that returns via the beach and offers incredible views of the Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula. It can be rather gusty here so definitely pack your windbreaker! On the way back into town stop at Penn Cove Taproom for craft beer.
All the restaurants in town are fantastic – try the diverse mussels menu at Front St Grill, seafood at Christopher’s, or make a reservation at Oystercatcher for a meal you won’t soon forget. Staying for breakfast? Knead and Feed has the best pancakes and French toast on the island.
Snowshoe in Olympic National Park
Snowshoeing in Olympic National Park was a highlight of my 2016. It’s such an easy skill to learn, and gives access to epic views across the mountain range, particularly at Hurricane Ridge.
After a day in the snow, spend the evening in Port Angeles to experience a seaside town with a lot of spunk. Barhop Brewing and Wine on the Waterfront make for perfect afternoon drinks before heading to dinner at bustling gastro pub Next Door. There’s also an excellent coffee scene (try Bada NW or The Blackbird Coffeehouse).
If time permits, nearby Lake Crescent, Salt Creek Beach and Dungeness Spit are excellent scenic spots to explore and stretch the legs.
Further reading: Snowshoeing in Olympic National Park
Winter sports and relaxation at Sun Mountain Lodge
Nestled in the Methow Valley, Sun Mountain Lodge really is the ultimate winter getaway.
Recently voted in the top ten cross country ski resorts in the USA, guests can spend the day cross country skiing with access to over 65km of groomed trails. There’s also snowshoeing or even sleigh rides! Rejuvenate at the resort in upscale accommodations, complete with several fine dining options and a wine cellar – along with spa treatments if you’re feeling extra fancy.
Sun Mountain Lodge has been on the top of my dream getaways since I moved to the USA, so hopefully I can make it there this winter!
Photo credit: Sun Mountain Lodge
A Washington Coast escape
There’s something super romantic about strolling along an empty beach in the winter. Even better: watching storms roll in from the comfort of a cosy room.
Kalaloch Lodge is set high on a bluff above the wild Pacific Northwest coastline, by Olympic National Park. Its cabins and lodge rooms are ideal for those not ready to commit to a winter camping trip. Guests can wander the driftwood beaches, hike, fish, or enjoy bird watching and whale watching. Those eager can venture further into Olympic National Park to the Quinalt or Hoh Rainforests – both among the wettest places on earth where moss hangs off trees like a scene from Fern Gully.
For a more luxe option, The Inn at Discovery Coast is an oceanfront boutique hotel overlooking Long Beach on Washington’s south coast. The rooms have gas fireplaces, jacuzzis and double showers, so if the weather outside is frightful you probably won’t mind at all! It’s an adults-only hotel, ensuring peace and quiet whether in your room or relaxing at the property’s facilities. Those in search of fresh air will find miles of beaches, two lighthouses and the Discovery Trail – eight miles of pathway perfect for walking or biking.
What are your favourite winter getaways in Washington? Do you have any travel plans for the cold months ahead?
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