While there's no shortage of fantastic things to do in Seattle, one of its greatest assets is all the diverse attractions you can reach within a day trip, whether by car, boat or floatplane.
Take advantage of Washington’s location in the upper left corner of the U.S. by hopping the border and hitting another country on your trip to Seattle. British Columbia’s Victoria, on Vancouver Island, is an enchanting spot that’s surprisingly easy to get to—just board the Clipper Vacations catamaran right from downtown, and in about three hours, you’ll be in Canadian territory. Choose your own adventure once you get there—you can partake in the famous afternoon tea at the stately Fairmont Empress, a tradition that dates back 110 years, or wander through the blooms of Butchart Gardens. For history buffs, the Royal BC Museum currently has a special exhibit that tells the story of everyday ancient Egyptians through 300 original artifacts. Before you board the Clipper to return, stop by Chinatown’s Silk Road Tea to pick up a little memento to remember your visit by.
A Vine Time
With more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms, plus 14 microbreweries, cideries and distilleries, you’ll never go thirsty in Woodinville. Just 30 minutes northeast of Seattle, this small town is home to the highest concentration of 90+ rated wines in the world, which means you really can’t go wrong wherever your trip to sip begins. The French-style Château Ste. Michelle, the state’s oldest winery, is a popular first stop, with an informative free tour. In the summer, the grounds double as a concert venue. For sustenance in between sipping, devour the Grand Marnier Prawns at the Barking Frog inside Willows Lodge, sit down to a just-right salad-and-sandwich combo at Purple, or grab a quick burger and tater tots from Teddy’s Bigger Burgers and get back to tasting.
Make A Pass
For a road trip with a little bit of everything, set your sights on Whidbey Island. To get there, drive about an hour north to Mukilteo to catch the ferry to Clinton, where you can pick up a breakfast sandwich at Pickles Deli before starting your island adventure. There are plenty of parks and cute towns to peruse on your way to Deception Pass State Park, known for a bridge that provides endless photo ops. (Fun fact: It cost more to repaint the spans in the 1980s than it did to construct them in the 1930s.) Beyond the famed bridge, the park is also home to swimming in Cranberry Lake, hiking through the forest, and beachcombing along the shores of the Puget Sound. After driving off the island, head northeast until you reach the tiny community of Bow-Edison, known for its incredible food. For the best baked goods, Breadfarm is a must-stop (bring cash)!
If you like your vacation with a side of education, then Tacoma—35 miles south by car or public bus—is for you. Celebrate the beauty of glassblowing at the Museum of Glass, where you can see live demonstrations in the Hot Shop, or check out art from the American West at the Tacoma Art Museum. Alternately, you can immerse yourself in the story of America’s love affair with the automobile at the striking LeMay – America’s Car Museum or find out all about the 42nd state at the Washington State History Museum. After you’ve wandered, rest your feet at one of two art-house theaters in town: The Grand Cinema, in a beautiful brick building, or The Blue Mouse Theatre, a local institution that started with silent films in the 1920s.
Sea and Sky
Combine the sky above and the waves below into one day trip you won’t soon forget. San Juan Safaris offers a whalewatching tour out of Seattle that starts with a Kenmore Air seaplane ride. Taking off from Lake Union or Lake Washington, you’ll hover above the Emerald City skyline before flying over the Puget Sound en route to San Juan Island. Part two of the adventure will take you out on the water in a 55-foot-long vessel in search of Orca whales. Back on land, adorable Friday Harbor is easily walkable—try lunch at the seasonally focused Cask & Schooner, then top it off with a scoop of locally made ice cream at Yo! Friday Harbor before boarding the seaplane back to Seattle for one last round of jaw-dropping views.