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Seattle is a bustling cultural center with a diverse indie music scene (not just Nirvana), thriving restaurant culture (not just the fish market), and arguably the best coffee in the country (not just the first Starbucks). But much of the city’s allure comes from the stunning natural beauty surrounding it. And the best way to enjoy it is to get out of town for a few days. Whether it’s a boat ride on Mitchell Bay or a drive out to hike the Sunrise Rim Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, these weekend getaways from Seattle will remind you why you put up with all the rain.
Portland is a must-visit city and only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Seattle. Choose from two American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts partners for luxurious, five-star accommodations here: The Nines, A Luxury Collection Hotel and The Duniway. The Nines is housed in the historic Meier & Frank Building, built in 1909, and fuses the stunning old design with eclectic, modern hotel rooms and suites. The Duniway offers sweeping views of the river and skyline and proudly displays impressive work by local artists. You’ll spend your mornings at The Duniway Coffee Bar and wind down in the evenings with a nightcap at Jackrabbit Restaurant & Bar, where you’re likely to encounter local, Pacific Northwest spirits. Portland is known for coffee, beer, food, and the great outdoors—so, before you head to the breweries, spend your morning at the Portland International Rose Test Garden, the largest and oldest continuously operated rose test garden in the country. There’s also opportunity for hiking in the middle of the city—we recommend Flicker Trail through a serene, wooded park downtown. And in true Portland fashion, you can ditch your car for the weekend and bike the city with rentals from Everybody’s Bike Rentals & Tours. For a DIY beer tour of Portland, head to Ecliptic Brewing or StormBreaker Brewing for their IPAs, Cascade Barrel Brewing Company for their sours, and Hair of the Dog, an all-around Portland favorite. For dinner, choose from two essential Portland eateries: Olympia Provisions Southeast, home to their own meat-curing facilities, and Restaurant St. Jack, where innovation meets classic, savory flavors.
Related: How to Spend 24 Hours in Seattle.
San Juan Islands, Washington
Travel to the San Juan Islands and you’ll be floored that this level of beauty exists so close to home. We recommend staying on Orcas Island or San Juan itself. On Orcas, stay at Rosario Resort & Spa, where they’ll set you up for a spa day, or arrange water activities like kayaking and whale watching for the whole family. If possible, reserve the Cliffhouse Suite to experience some of the property’s best views of the water. On Orcas Island, you can hike Mount Constitution or visit Moran State Park, which boasts 30 miles of hiking trails and five freshwater lakes. Have lunch at local favorite Roses Bakery Cafe, sample the wares at Orcas Island Winery, and return to Rosario Resort for dinner at The Mansion Restaurant. For those looking to stay on San Juan, Snug Harbor Resort offers rustic-chic, standalone cabins and suites right on the waterfront overlooking Mitchell Bay. Grab breakfast on property at their very own Mitchell Bay Coffee Shop before venturing out to visit Lime Kiln Lighthouse, renting mopeds at Susie’s Mopeds, ambling through the lavender fields at Pelindaba Lavender Farm, or hiking to the summit of Mount Young. For dinner on San Juan, you can’t beat the fresh, seasonal eats and artisanal cocktails at Backdoor Kitchen.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Mount Rainier is magnificent to behold. It’s the most topographically prominent peak in the contiguous U.S., which essentially means it’s a whole lot taller than its surroundings. Seattle residents are used to getting a view of it from the city, but to really appreciate its majesty, you need to hop in the car and see it up close. In warm weather, hike the Sunrise Rim Trail, a 5.7-mile loop that offers breathtaking vistas. In the winter, hit the slopes at Crystal Mountain, which offers over 2,600 acres of gorgeous trails for skiers of all skill levels. Stay in a chalet suite or a private cabin at Alta Crystal Resort. After a day out in the fresh Washington air, head to Copper Creek Restaurant for a hearty and delicious country meal—make sure you save room for their famous blackberry pie.
Vancouver, British Columbia
One of the great beauties of Seattle is that you can drive to Canada in less than three hours. Road trip to Vancouver, widely known as one of the most charming and scenic cities in British Columbia. In the summer, check out Vancouver’s urban beaches, like Kitsilano (or “Kits”) Beach, where locals and tourists play beach volleyball and enjoy the sunshine. Be sure to visit Stanley Park; the 1,000-acre park hosts some eight million visitors per year and offers beaches, paved and dirt hiking trails, gardens, a water park, and at least 500,000 trees. As for the city’s theater scene, take in a show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, or explore the smaller, more industrial venues, like the Arts Club Theatre or the Waterfront Theatre. Have lunch at Granville Island Public Market, and for dinner, try Angus An’s Maenam. Luxury accommodations are plentiful in Vancouver, with many urban resorts boasting views of the water and fine dining options on-site. Stay at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts partner, where many of the expansive suites boast patios with outdoor fireplaces or whirlpool tubs. Or reserve at luxury waterfront hotel Pan Pacific Vancouver Pacific Club, also an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts partner.
When you visit Leavenworth, a German-style village about two hours east of Seattle, it truly feels as if you’ve been transported to the Bavarian Alps. Start your day with a piece of strudel from Bavarian Bakery and stroll down Main Street, admiring the meticulously-recreated European architecture. Then check out the Nutcracker Museum, which contains over 7,000 specimens from at least 50 countries—in their words, it’s “probably the world’s largest collection of nut-opening devices.” Right next door, the Leavenworth Sausage Garten is a great place to enjoy some currywurst and a cold pint on their outdoor patio. In the summer, you can book a river tubing adventure with Blue Sky Outfitters. But if it’s too chilly for swimming, just relax by the fire in your cozy suite at the Bavarian Lodge or enjoy a soothing spa day at Posthotel Leavenworth.