By Ethan Chung, Lauren Foster, Lisa Patterson and Jill Sanford
Don’t let this summer slip by without savoring its sunshiny sweetness. Pack up the kids, the car, even the dog, and explore everything this great, diverse and beautiful area has to offer. It’s time to get back in touch with your adventurous, relaxed, flip-flop-wearing self.
She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain
The Cascade Loop is a 400-mile scenic route that gives you a taste of the best of Washington at each place you stop. Local produce stands, delicious culinary concoctions, themed towns, stunning lakes and wonderful locals provide color and character to this drive. The loop takes you in a grand circle spanning from the Snohomish River Valley to the Cascade Foothills, past Lake Chelan and through the majestic rustic Methow Valley over the North Cascades Highway and back to the Puget Sound by way of Skagit Valley. Here are some of the most memorable places along this route.
Sip Local Brews
The Diamond Knot Brewery in Mukilteo is a combination of good food, great beer and a casual atmosphere. Give the new Industrial Brown Ale a try.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
As you cross the Cascades and head down the sunnier side toward Leavenworth, look for The Alps candy store for the largest selection of fudge and old fashioned candy along the route.
The Old West is Calling
Don’t miss the 42nd Annual Labor Day Weekend Rodeo near Winthrop. After the rodeo, be sure to stop in at the oldest legal saloon in Washington, Three Fingered Jack’s.
Lake Wenatchee State Park covers 489 acres where you can fish, water ski, white-water kayak, windsurf, swim, motor boat, rock climb and camp.
Strap on your Lederhosen
Leavenworth is Washington’s very own Bavarian village. Check out The Cheesemonger’s Shop across from the gazebo in the heart of Leavenworth on Front Street.
Experience Nature Along the Way
Stretch your legs at Barclay Lake, a short hike near Stevens Pass Highway. Suitable for beginners and small children, this easy trail winds its way along a crystal clear creek and through a regenerating forest.
Luxury Camping for Big Kids
The Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort is a haven of low-key class and perfect for just about any travel party, large or small. Stay in comfortable, yet refined cabin-style lodgings, soak in the heated saline rock pool, or treat your body to the onsite spa and sauna. Enjoy a locally sourced meal at the Kingfisher Restaurant and Wine Bar.
Apple Capital of the World
The City of Wenatchee is known as the Apple Capital of the World. Visit and dine at the iconic eatery, The Windmill Restaurant. Now a steakhouse, Windmill has an interesting history that includes an upstairs room that was used for secret meetings of bootleggers in the 1930s.
Soak Up the Sun at Lake Chelan
Leave the rain behind as you head east to the drier and sunnier side of the Cascades. Lake Chelan, a major recreation Mecca, promises 300 days of sunshine a year.
North Cascades National Park is a great place to experience the wild in Washington. The park offers numerous resources for recreation, education and conservation. Learn more here.
See the Sparkling Water of the Northern Lakes
For shockingly beautiful waters, visit Diablo Lake in Ross Lake Recreation Area. It is a dazzling turquoise. Nearby is the larger Ross Lake, which spans almost 25 miles, all the way to Canada.
You can head out of town to Southwest Washington for a quick and relaxing day trip or stay longer. By the time you drive past Olympia, it seems like Washington is a lot more laid back no matter which direction you choose to go next. Explore the small and sometimes quirky towns of nearby Grays Harbor County, visit the coastal beaches, explore several state parks, shop little boutiques or the bigger outlets. There is something for every kind of traveler — here are some highlights.
See Something Wacky
In 1993, Weekly World News put a half-man, half-alligator creature on its cover, sparking the world’s interest in what has become a cultural icon known as “Jake the Alligator Man.” The supposedly mummified body of Jake, who has a human head and torso and an alligator tail and legs, sits in a glass case in Marsh’s Free Museum in Long Beach.
A Fun History Lesson
After crossing the Rockies and encountering ferocious grizzly bears on their journey to the uncharted West, Lewis and Clark believed their float down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean would be mild in comparison. But the rushing waters and chilling storms of the area proved to the early explorers that the Northwest, although hypnotically beautiful, was a force to be reckoned with. The Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment State Park looks out onto the Columbia River where the Corps of Discovery traveled down into the depths of the Northwest.
Go Fly a Kite
Self-proclaimed to be the world’s longest beach, the Long Beach Peninsula is a gorgeous 28-mile stretch of sand that lines the Pacific (it’s also home to the world’s largest frying pan.) Long Beach hosts an annual kite festival the third week of August.
Vancouver is a bike-friendly city. Consider riding from Vancouver on the I-5 Bridge over to Jantzen Beach and Delta Park. Get your free bike maps here.
Ride a Real Waterfall
The White Salmon River’s 14-foot Husum Falls is the largest commercially raftable waterfall in the nation.
Visit a Volcano
The eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 was the deadliest volcanic event in U.S. history. President Jimmy Carter visited the destroyed area shortly after and left dismayed. “Someone said this area looked like a moonscape. But the moon looks more like a golf course compared to what’s up there,” he told reporters. Today, the volcano is the opposite of a moonscape thanks to new growth in the area, but snapshots of the past devastation still exist. Visit Johnston Ridge for a spectacular view.
Take a Berry Delicious Detour
Burgerville, a fast food chain found only in Southwest Washington and Oregon, uses locally-sourced fresh produce and real ice cream for seasonal milkshakes. The chain typically offers fresh strawberry or blackberry shakes in summer.
Nature’s Red Jewels
For a relaxing activity, consider a self-guided driving or walking tour through a cranberry bog in Long Beach or Grayland. The long stretches of floating berries look like giant red carpets. In October, check out the bogs being harvested. Find out more at The Cranberry Museum.
Chips & Salsa, Please
Try Centralia’s La Tarasca for an authentic Mexican food experience that’s worth the drive. Locals and Yelpers alike rave about the carne asada. Starlet Salma Hayek reportedly ate at La Tarasca with her crew when she was filming a movie in the area.
A Washingtonian’s Mac & Cheese
For homey comfort with a Northwest kick visit The Lost Roo in Long Beach for Smoked Salmon Mac & Cheese ($14). Ride a Real WaterFallThe White Salmon River’s 14-foot Husum Falls is the largest commercially raftable waterfall in the nation.
Head East for Sun and Wine
The right side of our great state is probably best known as wine country, but there’s more to do here than honor the great grape. With idyllic scenery from rolling green hills of crops, Red Mountains and some of the best sunsets you’ll see in Washington, there’s plenty to do, too. Washington Wine Country includes Prosser, Walla Walla, Yakima Valley and the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco and Richland). Here are some points of interest for your Eastern Washington road trip (wine stops included).
Yakima Valley AVA turns 30
In 2013, Washington’s first AVA (American Viticultural Area) will be all grown up. The Yakima Valley AVA turns 30. No longer wild and unsure of itself, it’s grown into a bold, more mature AVA, offering some of the best wines and grapes in the state. Help celebrate its birth by stopping in for a wine tour.
We all know the area is famous for wine, but did you know that nearly 80 percent of the entire country’s crop of hops can be found in the Yakima Valley? If you’re a fan of craft beer, head to downtown Yakima for the Ninth Annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival on Oct. 6. Get a sitter — this event is 21 and over.
See a National Champ
In its third year, the Skewered Apple BBQ Championship on Sept. 8 and 9 is a key event for competitive grill masters. If you’re not a competitor, you can still enjoy cooking demonstrations, live music, beer and a wine garden.
Up, Up and Away
What better way to see the road ahead than from above? Stop in Prosser to take a Wine Country Balloon Tour. If you’re a little iffy on heights, keep yourself anchored to the ground and head to Prosser on Sept. 28-30 for the famous Prosser Balloon Rally, where you can watch.
Head to Country Mercantile in Pasco, where you can buy gourmet homemade chocolate, local sauces, and fresh produce.
Union Gap is one of the few tiny towns in Washington to have a restaurant with 5 stars on Yelp. Los Hernandez serves only one thing — tamales, and people rave about them. 3706 Main St., Union Gap
Stroll Main Street
In Walla Walla you’ll be sure to find your fair share of wine and onions, but don’t miss Main Street. The thoroughfare has been named “Best Main Street in the West” by Sunset magazine for good reason.
Discover the Hanford Reach National Monument, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s first national monument. The splendor of this part of the Columbia River is mostly inaccessible by road, making a jet boat tour with Columbia River Journeys one of the best ways to see the Reach.
Tackle the Columbia by Foot or Bike
The Sacajawea Heritage Trail covers 23 miles of Columbia River shoreline in the Tri-Cities. Bike, walk or run the trail and make stops to enjoy several cultural, historical and interpretive displays. There are also really cool playgrounds along the way.
Grab a Slice
Hungry for pizza? Grab lunch at Atomic Ale Brewpub and Eatery. This little gem in downtown Richland serves some serious pies. You can’t go wrong with an original — Atomic is well known as the Tri-Cities’ first brew pub. Be sure to order one of Atomic’s craft beers that are brewed on site. Chug it with The Wanderer — a hand-tossed pie with oil, garlic, thyme, mozzarella, Canadian bacon, sausage, black olive and jalapenos.
Yakima — Small Town, Big Sport
Check out the Yakima SunDome for sporting events like high school tournaments and professional wrestling. One of Yakima’s biggest sports draw is the annual 3-on-3 hoops tournament.
You’d think you’d have to travel the world to see a rain forest draped with moss, towering old-growth forests, snowcapped mountains and rugged beaches brimming with Discovery Channel-worthy sea life and awe-inspiring sea stacks. You can see all that and more on the Olympic Peninsula. Here are some highlights if you take a drive around the Olympic Peninsula Loop on scenic Highway 101.
Twilight Fans Head to Forks
The small town of Forks (pop. 3,200) is crawling with tourists year-round thanks to the Twilight book and movie series by Stephenie Meyer. She set her fictional vampire/werewolf teen love story in Forks. Fans can take Twilight tours, visit the high school, Forks Hospital and more. Stephenie Meyer Day is three days of events, held the second week of September — coinciding with fictional Bella’s birthday, of course.
Bring Your Bike
The paved part of the Olympic Discovery Trail runs from sunny Sequim to Port Angeles. It’s flat and family-friendly. The kids will have fun riding over the old railroad trestles.
Step Back in Time
One of the oldest towns on the Peninsula is Port Townsend. English settlers thought it would be the biggest port on the West Coast, so they built grand, Victorian-style mansions. Port Townsend is artsy, quirky and beautiful. Get a Sequim strawberry cone at Elevated Ice Cream on Water Street and walk around.
A Birdseye View
Grab a bite to eat in Port Angeles (fresh seafood!) and head 17 miles to nearby Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. In the summer the wildflowers are in bloom and the view is stunning.
Search for Sasquatch
Some people swear they’ve seen Bigfoot on the Olympic Peninsula. Keep your eyes open and your camera ready just in case you encounter a Sasquatch so you can be the one who proves they really do exist!
Lavender Fields Forever
Sequim is located in a rain shadow, so it’s known for sunny days. Make sure to grab a lavender latte and visit some of the lavender farms and shops like The Cedarbrook Lavender and Herbfarm, located in a 100-year-old farmhouse.
Soak and Sun
Melt the stress away at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, about 32 miles west of Port Angeles.
Explore a Rain forest
You must drive around Lake Quinault or hike the Hoh Rain Forest’s Hall of Mosses trail (0.8 miles) to really embrace the natural diversity this state has to offer. There is nothing quite like the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest to spark imagination and fill a camera’s memory card.
Be a Beach Bum
There are so many rugged, awesomely beautiful beaches dotting Highway 101. Make sure to take the time to pull over at one of the numbered beaches, or the more popular Ruby Beach or Rialto Beach. You might spot starfish and other sea creatures in shallow tide pools.
Take the kids to Fort Worden State Park just outside Port Townsend. Originally built to protect the Puget Sound, this park at the tip of Point Wilson has plenty to offer. Visit the Coast Artillery Museum, the Commanding Officers Quarters, barracks and the Port Townsend Marine Center. Explore the park’s 400-plus acres, with its campgrounds and interpretive trails, and take a picture in front of the Point Wilson Lighthouse. You can camp and make this a long weekend trip. Did you know this is where the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman” was filmed?
Five of the 10-largest Douglas Firs live in the Quinault Rain Forest. Only coastal redwoods are known to grow larger than many of the trees you will see on this trip and they are truly impressive in age and size.