Most people need five days and a plane ticket to get a taste of the Pacific Northwest. Citizens of Seattle can make it happen over the weekend.
SEATTLE – If you're surviving in Seattle, you've got it pretty good: art galleries, progressive restaurants, coffee that's come a long way since Starbucks, accessible nature. But the time will come for an escape, whether it's from the rain or the mundane. Make it a three-day weekend — the Pacific Northwest is ready for you.
If you're in the mood for: Good eats on a road trip down Oregon's north coast.
Route to take: I-5 out of Seattle; US 101 S across Astoria–Megler Bridge, the longest continuous truss bridge in North America.
On your agenda: Check into your modern boutique basecamp for the weekend, Commodore Hotel. Learn about high society in the oldest U.S. settlement west of the Rockies at the Flavel House Museum, then loosen up on the pier at Buoy Beer Company, a local favorite for craft brews and views of the sea lions that frolic in the Columbia River underneath. Or skip town for a day trip on the open coast — Seaside is good for beginner surfers (rent equipment at Seaside Surf Shop) and Cannon Beach is everyone's favorite family-friendly shoreline to Instagram. Dinner is either across the street from the hotel at Albatross, a farm-to-table joint with music and cocktails, or in the lobby at Street 14 Cafe, an all-day operation with a rotating dinner menu from chef Andrew Catalano of Gramercy Tavern and Maialino in NYC.
Avoid the Sunday blues: Caffeinate at Columbian Cafe, shop for vinyl at Commercial Astoria, and return home happy after a visit to Frite & Scoop, hawkers of both house-made, small-batch ice cream and twice-fried Belgian frites.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, WASHINGTON
If you're in the mood for: Hiking through pristine natural wonders.
Route to take: Early morning ferry to Bainbridge Island; US 101 N to Rialto Beach.
On your agenda: Walk Rialto Beach, a rugged stretch of sand sandwiched between coastal forest and breezy open ocean on the peninsula's western extreme, until you get to Hole-in-the-Wall, an archway carved into a rock formation jutting out into the shallows, then pitch a tent on the beach or find lodging in nearby Forks, home of vampires from the movie Twilight. Come daylight, explore an American ecological rarity: Hoh Rain Forest, a canopy of green, pristine, peace and quiet. Start at the Hall of Mosses, a lush loop loaded with life beginning at the Visitor's Center, then venture along Hoh River Trail for seventeen miles of hiking with Mount Olympus as a backdrop.
Avoid the Sunday blues: Spend your last night at Palace Hotel in the Victorian town of Port Townsend. There are plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants, and museums to keep you hooked before hitting the road.
VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA
If you're in the mood for: A car-free Canadian escape that isn't Vancouver.
Route to take: Two and a half hours on the Victoria Clipper from downtown Seattle.
On your agenda: Vancouver Island's crown jewel has plenty to offer — colonial architecture, beautiful gardens, nearby beaches, a burgeoning creative scene (thanks to high rent back on the mainland), and a helluva lot of sun, more than almost any city west of the Canadian Rockies. Take advantage of it all by following a self-guided insider tour from Magnolia, your 64-room boutique hotel in Inner Harbor. And while you do, stop into Fol Epi for baked goods (and seasonal dinner dishes at Agrius at their Yates Street location); Little Jumbo for cocktails in the old speakeasy fashion; and Perro Negro for tapas, if you don't mind dining in the attic of another restaurant.
Avoid the Sunday blues: Pick up a souvenir from an indie boutique — find them in restored warehouses in the LoJo district — or from one of the city's craft breweries (Driftwood is a classic) before your driverless journey home.