Hovering somewhere between a stay-cation and weekend getaway is the day trip. Think of it as a travel taster of sorts, at once satisfying the desire to get out of town and whetting the palate for more exploration. Enter the Pacific Northwest, a day tripper's treasure trove overflowing with emerald- and aquamarine-hued surroundings. You don't have to travel far from Seattle for a quick escape in the form of sipping, strolling, and savoring, and there's no better time than summer (read: temperatures dancing around a breezy 77 degrees) to sample the Emerald City's environs.
Woodinville Wine Country
Just a 30 minute drive outside of the Space Needle's shadow, sip into a slower pace of life in Woodinville wine country. Park the car and peddle along paved trails and side roads to the 90 wineries and tasting rooms that put Seattle's nearby vines on the map. Pouring some of Washington State's top-rated wines,
you'll find a full-bodied blend of mega operations and boutique tasting rooms only selling their small-batch wines on-location.
Insider Tip: One of the larger operations, Columbia Winery, is the state's first premium winery, responsible for introducing syrah, cab franc, and pinot gris to the area. Don't leave without pairing one of these varietals with a bite of Columbia's famed wood-fired flatbread pizza (available Wednesday-Sunday); we suggest the pear and brie.
Leave the car in the city and bid adieu to Seattle's skyline as you pull away from Pier 52 aboard the Washington State Ferry. Thirty-five minutes later (with a touch of sea salt frothing your hair) let Bainbridge's 28 square miles of seashore, rolling hills, and "island-time" pace woo you into a state of rest. Not a hurry-up-and-go day trip, visit on a Saturday and swill an island-roasted brew at Pegasus Coffee House before browsing the stalls at the Saturday Farmer's Market (late spring/summer). Stroll the artsy community's throngs of arts and crafts shops and galleries before sitting down to locavore meal of fresh oysters, marbled king salmon, and (our favorite) Prosecco sorbet at Hitchcock Restaurant.
If the Pacific Ocean, expansive lakes, and tall evergreens don't remind you that nature's at Seattle doorstep, Snoqualmie Falls will drive the point home. Roaring 268 feet over a ridge of granite, the falls' power is captivating and practical, servicing near 16,000 local homes through hydroelectric energy. Best viewed from vantage points above and below, start your sojourn in Snoqualmie perched on the waterfall's crest in the Fodor's Choice Salish Lodge & Spa's dining room. Famous for their four-course country breakfast, a stack of Devonshire cream-topped buttermilk pancakes drizzled in maple syrup taste so much better with a bird's eye view of the cascading water below. A 45-minute road trip outside of the city, you can spend the afternoon steeped in mist exploring the three-mile river trail (re-opening in 2013).
Insider Tip: Depending on where you stand and the intensity of the seasonal snowmelt, prepare for mist. Think of it like a natural, Pacific Northwest-inspired facial.