Getaways, adventures, and road trips for every weekend of the year.
1. Scissor from Hut to Hut
The farmlands of Methow Valley become a Nordic skier’s mecca once the white stuff hits. Rendezvous Huts (509-996-2148; rendezvoushuts.com) is a system of mountain cabins spread along 21 miles of groomed track—and set about five miles apart—that provide a warm respite and kitchens stocked with cooking tools and fuel. Even better: A snow machine ferries your cargo from cabin to cabin as you glide beneath the peaks of the Northern Cascades. Replenish lost calories (and then some) with a three-egg, ham-filled omelet at the Duck Brand Cantina (509-996-2192; methownet.com/duck) in downtown Winthrop.
Getting there 5 hours east on I-90, north on U.S. 97
2. Benevolent Marauding in Poulsbo
Fine. Poulsbo, you call yourself “Little Norway,” but we reserve the right to act like Vikings when we raid your town. First conquest: Mor Mor Bistro and Bar (360-697-3449; mormorbistro.com), where we’ll demand ale-battered fish-and-chips—to be washed down, of course, with ale. And for dessert: ale. Then off to the Nordic Maid (360-779-9863; nordicmaid.com), where we’ll spend just enough time to realize it’s a Scandinavian souvenir shop and not a place to find actual Nordic maidens. Then—by the power of Thor!—we’ll invade Green Cat Bed and Breakfast (360-779-7569; greencatbb.com), where we’ll pillage and… Okay, we’ll just sleep.
Getting there 35-minute ferry to Bainbridge, 20 minutes north on WA 305
3. Heliski Till You Drop (You Will Drop)
Any Alaskan activity worth its salt should involve signing a “You will not be sued if I die” waiver, and heliskiing with EpicQuest (888-983-3742; epicquest.com) is no exception. The chopper drops skiers off 40 miles south of Anchorage near the top of the Chugach mountains, a glacier-dripping expanse with a panoramic view of the whale-filled Turnagain Arm. Slice through the heart-pounding 4,000-foot descent up to eight times before the day is done. Then sleep it off at the newly renovated, chateau-style Hotel Alyeska (907-754-2111; alyeskaresort.com). For dinner, ride the aerial tram up to the resort’s Seven Glaciers restaurant, perched atop a 2,300-foot peak.
Getting there 3½ hours to Anchorage on Continental Airlines (continental.com), 45-minute drive to Girdwood
4. Get Wowed in Whistler
So you didn’t make it to Whistler a year ago when, thanks to the 2010 Winter Games, it was the center of the universe. Make up for the squandered opportunity with a trek up BC way for skiing and boarding on the same runs where Olympians made history at Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort (604-296-5316; whistlerblackcomb.com). Dine hard on wild caribou at Bearfoot Bistro (604-932-3433; bearfootbistro.com) and tuck in at the timber-and-stone, lodgey Four Seasons Whistler (604-935-3400; fourseasons.com/whistler).
Getting there 4 hours, 20 minutes north on I-5, plus border wait time
6. Start the Month with a Splash
So many giant waves—30 feet high!—crash against the Oregon Coast this time of year (perfect storm-watching season), that the scene at Cannon Beach in Ecola State Park (oregonstateparks.org) is like a natural disaster movie without the bad acting. After the show, protein up on steaks at Spouting Horn (541-765-2261) and bed down at The Stephanie Inn (800-633-3466; stephanie-inn.com), where the Jacuzzi suites come with beach views, perfect for catching an encore storm performance.
Getting there 4 hours south on I-5, west on U.S. 30, south on U.S. 101
7. Hug it Out on Whidbey
Snag your sweetie the weekend before Valentine’s Day and nest at the Inn at Langley (360-221-3033; innatlangley.com), pad along historic downtown Coupeville (nps.gov/ebla/upload/walkingtourpanels.pdf), and spoil yourselves silly with the island’s famous Penn Cove mussels at The Edgecliff Restaurant and Lounge (866-825-3640; theedgecliffwi.com).
Getting there 1½ hours north on I-5 to Mukilteo, 20 minute ferry to Whidbey
8. Slip-Slide in Rossland, BC—But Keep a Lid on It
We’re always a little reluctant to spread the gospel of Red Mountain Resort (877-969-7669; redresort.com) in Rossland, where the lift lines are just the way we like them—short—and the two mountains, Red and Granite, are perpetually doused in powder. Join fellow alpine disciples for beers and burgers at the Flying Steamshovel (250-362-7323; theflyingsteamshovel.com). And nurse your powder-filled dreams at The Prestige Mountain Resort Hotel (877-737-8443; prestigehotelsandresorts.com).
Getting there 7 hours east on I-90, north on U.S. 395, plus border wait time
9. Astoria's Ode to Salmon
Listen to rhymes about salmon at the 14th Annual Fisher Poets Gathering, February 25–27 (clatsopcc.edu/fisherpoets); eat salmon at the Bridgewater Bistro (503-325-6777; bridgewaterbistro.com); and dream about salmon—as they swim in the Columbia River below!—at Benjamin Young Inn Bed and Breakfast (503-325-6172; benjaminyounginn.com).
Getting there 3½ hours south on I-5, west on U.S. 30
10. Rockport Pattern Baldness
The largest aerie of bald eagles in the lower 48 patrol the skies above Rockport State Park (parks.wa.gov), a 670-acre old-growth forest just east of Concrete. Might as well bundle up and kick back with a pair of binoculars on your porch at Skagit River Resort (360-873-2250; northcascades.com). Afterward, take flight for the Buffalo Run Restaurant (360-873-2461; buffaloruninn.com), which dishes exotics like buffalo, elk, ostrich—just about everything but (thankfully) bald eagle.
Getting there 2½ hours north on I-5, east on WA 530
11. Shoot Landscapes (and Maybe a Few Birds)
David M. Cobb, professional photographer and long-distance hiker, knows a thing or two about framing a rocky bluff, and after his three-day Best of the Northwest Workshop, March 4–7 (503-224-1856; nwphotoworkshops.com), in Olympic National Park, outside Forks, so will his students. Talk shop over a juicy burger from Sully’s Drive-In (360-374-5075), a satisfyingly simple greasy spoon in Forks. And rest your head close to the action at Misty Valley Inn (877-374-9389; mistyvalleyinn.com), which has all the antique trappings and hospitality of any good bed-and-breakfast with the added bonus of spotting elk out your window.
Getting there 3¼ hours west on U.S. 101
13. Get Royally Flushed at Tulalip
Because a weekend in Vegas just isn’t enough but a couple of nights in Marysville is plenty, every winter we roll north to roll the dice at the Tulalip Resort Casino (866-716-7162; tulalipcasino.com). We spend our winnings in the resort’s restaurants. Sometimes we gnaw on multiple helpings of Korean-style lamb chops from The Tulalip Bay Dining Room (360-716-1500), and sometimes it’s multiple helpings of the salmon at The Blackfish (360-716-1100). But usually we just have multiple helpings of both.
Getting there ¾ hour north on I-5
14. Rock It with International Athletes
Strong-fingered folk will have a hard time finding an agility test as perfect as Smith Rock State Park (541-548-7501; smithrock.com) in Terrebonne, home to 1,800 climbing routes in Oregon’s Central Cascades. The tuff and basalt faces of the monoliths sprout up from 651 acres of temperate (even in the winter) desert plateau. After you’re off the rock, head to Terrebonne Depot (541-548-5030; terrebonnedepot.com), in a 100-year-old former train station, for buffalo nachos. Back in the park, $5 gets you a first-come, first-served camping site, but fire and camping stove use is limited, so pack your granola bars.
Getting there 5½ hours south on I-5, east on U.S. 26
15. Family Fun in Spokane
Know what Seattle really needs? A good amusement park, and not a moribund one like the Fun Forest at the Seattle Center. Know who’s got one? Our semiurban counterpart to the east, Spokane. Hit Riverfront Park (spokaneriverfrontpark.com) for a whirl on the carousel and an aerial tram ride over Spokane River Falls. After that you’re crashing at safari-themed Davenport Hotel and Tower (800-899-1482; thedavenporthotel.com) and breakfasting at Walters’ Fruit Ranch (509-238-4709; appleranch.com) where apples and peaches are out of season, but you can still order the best pancakes around.
Getting there 5 hours east on I-90
16. Have a Whale of a Time
Get to know Puget Sound’s other cetacean population: gray whales, which at up to 52 feet long and 36 tons, dwarf orcas. Each spring, the grays pit stop in the Saratoga Passage on their migratory path north. Depart from La Conner on a five-hour trip with Mystic Sea Charters (800-308-9387; mysticseacharters.com) and you’ll come within eyeshot of these majestic creatures. Savor the day’s adventure over dinner at Seeds Bistro and Bar (360-466-3280; seedsbistro.com) and turn in for the night at the La Conner Channel Lodge (360-466-1500; laconnerlodging.com).
Getting there 1½ hours north on I-5, west on WA 534
17. On a Long, Long Beach, in a Town (Not Too) Far Away
Sure, we like clamming, which put Long Beach on the locavore map. Yet there’s plenty else to see, do, and eat in this seaside Washington town. Okay, we mostly mean eat. The crab grilled foie gras and quail stuffed with wild boar cranberry sausage at the Depot Restaurant (360-642-7880; depotrestaurantdining.com) is hard to pass up. But so is the carnivalesque downtown, with its creaky elevated boardwalk, saltwater taffy made on site, and salty breeze that takes hold of your senses and doesn’t let go till you reach dreamland at the Inn at Discovery Coast (360-642-5265; innatdiscoverycoast.com ).
Getting there 3¼ hours south on U.S. 101
18. All Creatures Great and Weird
The parrots, snakes, hamsters, and small assorted farm animals to descend on Creature Fest, April 7–10 (creaturefestival.com), will turn Chehalis, Washington, into, well, a zoo. Enjoy a bird show and pet trick demos and (why not?) buy Junior a bunny. If that doesn’t make him giggle with joy, a stay at the Great Wolf Lodge (866-798-9653; greatwolf.com/grandmound), 12 miles up Interstate 5, will. The indoor water park draws comparisons, not too unjustifiably, to Pleasure Island in Pinocchio; kids get to run around with a MagiQuest wand, for example, which brings inanimate animal statues to life. Sorry, the wand doesn’t work on dead-tired parents.
Getting there 1½ hours south on I-5
19. Sing Along at Sasquatch
The Columbia River channels as much indie rock as it does water during the Sasquatch! Music Festival on Memorial weekend (sasquatchfestival.com), a four-day, overnight music fete that brings together the biggest names and wildest beards. For $120, you can buy a weekend camping pass for your car and two tents at Wildhorse Campground (wildhorsecampground.com); you’ll also get shuttle service to the concert venue and access to showers to clean off the dance and dust. When you emerge from the fest, make your first priority the melt-in-your-mouth beef tenderloin from Valley Cafe (509-925-3050; valleycafeellensburg.com) in Ellensburg.
Getting there 2½ hours east on I-90
20. Willamette Valley's Iconoclastic Side
Eugene, Oregon, is a hotbed of health-conscious eateries, eco-friendly shops, and endless outdoor adventure. Stop by Broadway Plaza and salute the bronze statue of Ken Kesey, Merry Prankster and counterculture icon. Shop for organic goods and artisan wares at the Eugene Saturday Market (eugenesaturdaymarket.org), the nation’s oldest open-air crafts fair, and stretch your legs at Hendricks Park, where a riot of rhododendrons bloom in springtime. Dine at farm-to-fork restaurant The Sustainable Table (thesustainabletable.com) before calling it a night at The Augusta House (541-342-8615; augustahouse.net).
Getting there 5 hours south on I-5
21. Tongue Aflame, Eyes Impressed in Qualicum Beach, BC
Spend the day strolling through downtown Qualicum Beach—on Vancouver Island’s eastern shore—taste-testing mouthwatering chili and spying chainsaw-carved ice sculptures during the Fire and Ice Street Festival, May 7 (fireandicestreetfestival.com). Chili flavors range from raw vegan to wild game smothered in spices. Avoid Qualicum Beach’s multitude of overly quaint B&Bs and stay at the Zen and eco-friendly Harmony Inn (250-757-9051; harmonyinn.com). Once your chili coma subsides, sit down to a light dinner at Lefty’s (250-752-7530; leftys.tv).
Getting there 5 hours via ferry from Port Townsend to Victoria, BC, then north on BC 1
23. Smell the Roses in Portland
Get an eyeful—and a noseful—of petal-clad marchers in the Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade, June 11 (rosefestival.org), a flower-powered rally down Burnside and beyond. Dine on the American kobe beef pastrami at James Beard Award–winning Paley’s Place (503-243-2403; paleysplace.net) and sample a few of the 90-plus tequilas—served in sherry glasses—at Trébol (503-517-9347; trebolpdx.com) before tucking in at night at Hotel Lucia (503-225-1717; hotellucia.com).
Getting there 3 hours south on I-5
24. Wine and Dance
Woodinville makes for a perfect summer kickoff. When you check in at Willows Lodge (425-424 3900; willowslodge.com), get a good look at the swimming pool-size outdoor hot tub, because that’s where you’re ending your night. But first traipse over to Barking Frog, a few feet from your room, for sous-vide-cooked beef tenderloin, then across Highway 202 to Chateau Ste. Michelle (425-488-1133; ste-michelle.com) for the winery’s summer concert series. You’ll have to check their website once they announce the 2011 lineup, but last year the likes of Ringo Starr and the B-52s kept pilgrims to Woodinville toe tapping all summer long. Now about that hot tub. . .
Getting there ½ hour north on I-405
25. 100 Rapids in 100 Miles
Idaho’s Salmon River is at its most aggressive during May and June, when the currents can toss a boat of rafters down the 100-mile section of Middle Fork in four days (normally, it takes six). Join Middle Fork Wilderness Outfitters (208-720-2823; idahorapids.com) and shove off from Boundary Creek. You’ll float past a 2.1-million-acre preserve, and sleep under the stars and craggy teeth of the Sawtooth Mountains. During downtime, relax in one of the six hot springs along the route. When you make it back to the town of Salmon, find a stool at Bertram’s Brewery and Restaurant (208-756-3391; bertramsbrewery.com) for beer brats and kraut.
Getting there 1½ hours on Horizon Air (alaskaair.com) to Boise, 3-hour drive to Stanley, Idaho
26. Orcas Island Summer Solstice Parade
During the annual Summer Solstice Parade, June 18 (360-376-2273; orcasislandchamber.com), Eastsound Village’s eclectic—dare we say eccentric—nature is on full display. Musicians, performance artists, and citizens clad in outrageous costumes march to Orcas Island Farmers Market (orcasislandfarmersmarket.org), which serves up sumptuous dishes ranging from authentic El Salvadoran specialties to fresh seafood. Drift to sleep at the bucolic Inn at Ship Bay (innatshipbay.com).
Getting there 2½ hours north on I-5 to Anacortes, 1-hour ferry to Orcas
27. Greenbank Farms Loganberry Festival
If you’ve never experienced the loganberry taste sensation, then make plans to attend Whidbey Island’s Loganberry Festival at Greenbank Farms, July 23 & 24 (greenbankfarm.com). During the two-day celebration, you can sample loganberry wine, truffles, jams, syrups, and candy, or pluck berries straight from the fields. When you’ve had your fill of loganberries, drop into Prima Bistro (primabistro.com) for trout grenobloise and sleep off your food hangover at the Guest House Log Cottages (360-678-3115; guesthouselogcottages.com).
Getting there 1½ hours north on I-5 to Mukilteo, ferry to Whidbey
28. Take a Cowboy Holiday
Anywhere else, and a clanging dinner bell might seem desperate, a little put-on. But at the Covered Wagon Ranch (800-995-4237; coveredwagonranch.com) —a dude ranch in southwest Montana and spitting distance from Yellowstone Park—it works. The cowboy way carries over to the 1920s-era log cabins, heaping egg-and-meat plates at breakfast, and stars that open up in the black sky each night. Before you leave the Big Sky state, drive an extra 20 miles north of Bozeman to sink your teeth into the prime rib at Sir Scott’s Oasis Steakhouse (406-284-6929)—it will guarantee your return if nothing else does.
Getting there 1¾ hours to Bozeman on Horizon Airlines (alaskaair.com), 1¼-hour drive to the ranch
29. A Doggone Good Weekend
Is Fido really your best friend? We’re not convinced—and neither is he—until you’ve treated him to a doggy weekend in Redmond, site of Marymoor Park, the biggest freaking dog playground in the land. He gets to roam 40 acres off-leash and fraternize with other dogs. And what exactly do you get out of the deal? Let poochy cool his heels in your suite at pet-friendly Residence Inn Marriott (425-497-9226; marriott.com) while you take a dip in the pool or paw a few blocks over to the Matador (425-883-2855; matadorseattle.com) to fetch goat cheese–stuffed jalapeños and a margarita or a Corona or four. You’ve earned it.
Getting there 20 minutes east on WA 520
30. Tip Back Pinot in the Willamette Valley
Join Oregon’s oenophiles—and sample more than 250 wines—at the International Pinot Noir Celebration, July 29–31 (ipnc.org) in McMinnville. Soak up all that vino with steak tartare and escargot at Bistro Maison (503-474-1888; bistromaison.com), then roll seven miles down the road to Abbey Road Farm Bed and Breakfast (503-852-6278; abbeyroadfarm.com), which you’ll be sharing with chickens, goats, and jackasses—real ones, not just some guys who drank too much pinot and wandered onto the property.
Getting there 4 hours south on I-5, west on OR 99
31. Bike in the BC High Line
Ed Kruger, owner of Monashee Adventure Tours (888-762-9253; monasheeadventuretours.com), near Kelowna, British Columbia, has biked the Kettle Valley Railway for over 19 years. Pedal an average of 15 to 30 miles a day and “Trailhead Ed” rewards you with wine stops and award-winning restaurants such as Bouchons Bistro (250-763-6595; bouchonsbistro.com), which serves French indulgences like housemade duck pate and pork tenderloin medallions. On the last day, after a train ride through Prairie Valley, you’ll spend your last afternoon in the Sumac Ridge Estate Winery (250-494-0451; sumacridge.com), the oldest operating estate winery in BC, for a few sips or maybe bottle of one of their best sparkling wines.
Getting there 6 hours north on I-5, east on BC 97
32. Fly Like a Kite
Cascade Kiteboarding (541-647-6373; cascadekiteboarding.com) provides instruction along the Columbia River Gorge via a radio-controlled helmet. Instead of watching your instructor yell, scream, and wave his hands at you as you deafly wave back, he can calmly let you know that, in five seconds, you’re going to collide with one of the gorge’s waterfalls. Unzip the wet suit for rest at the Best Western Hood River Inn (800-828-7873; hoodriverinn.com). Then head down to the Cebu Lounge (hoodriverinn.com/cebu.htm) for your choice of 15 appetizers for $4 or less during happy hour.
Getting there 3¾ hours south on I-5, then east on I-84
33. This Brew's for You
The suds do flow in Joseph, in the mountains of eastern Oregon, during the Bronze, Blues and Brews Fest, August 13 (bronzebluesbrews.com). Sample the 50-plus microbrews on tap—perfect for washing down burgers and dancing to national and local blues bands. Sleep it all off and fuel up on omelets in the morning at Bronze Antler Bed and Breakfast (541-432-0230; bronzeantler.com).
Getting there 7 hours east on I-90, east on I-82, east on OR 204, east on OR 82
34. No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of this Travel Suggestion
The last time we advised readers to motor over to Omak in north central Washington for The Omak Stampede, August 11–14 (509-826-1002; omakstampede.org), our inbox filled with animal-rights missives admonishing us for promoting the rodeo’s signature event, the Suicide Race, wherein riders gallop their steeds as fast as they can down a 225-foot cliff and into the Okanogan River. So whatever you do partner, don’t go to the Omak Stampede for a superfun weekend, or sleep at the Omak Inn (509-826-3822; omakinnwa.com). And don’t, for God’s sakes, belly up to the Breadline Café (509-826-5836; breadlinecafe.com) for a beer and a taste of the juiciest 10-ounce steak ever.
Getting there 4 hours east on I-90, north on WA 97
35. Float a Boat and Go Remote
Yeah, we’ve all heard stories about your trip to the San Juan Islands. But we remain unimpressed until you’ve sailed to the San Juan Islands. Commission your own vessel via ABC Yacht Charters (800-426-2313; abcyachtcharters.com) in Anacortes and set a course for remote—like Robinson Crusoe remote—Sucia and Patos islands (parks.wa.gov) or migrate with orcas up Haro Strait, then follow the wind to Friday Harbor to nosh on black cod fillet at Coho Restaurant (360-378-6363; cohorestaurant.com).
Getting there 1½ hours north on I-5 to Anacortes, then however long it takes you and your crew to get your yacht to the islands
36. Great Prosser Balloon Rally
Watching two dozen rainbow-colored hot-air balloons soar over the Yakima River at sunrise during the Great Prosser Balloon Rally, September 23–25 (prosserballoonrally.org), is one of the few reasons to get up before dawn. For more than 20 years, balloon pilots have descended on this tiny wine-country town for a three-day festival featuring an arts and crafts fair, a farmers market, and a street painting competition. Join the fun and book a room at Desert Wind Winery (509-786-7277; desertwindwinery.com). Grab a post-balloon-rally lunch at the Taco Truck across from Prosser Airport.
Getting there 3 hours east on I-90, south on I-82
38. Hot Tub Time Machine
Hot Springs Cove, tucked under a canopy of old-growth forest near Tofino, BC, is a magnificent display of cauldrons, all tipping and spilling over into each other like a rock-hewn champagne glass tower, each level dropping in temperature to allow customized soaking. Claim a spot at the Hot Springs Cove Campground (250-670-1106). When you’re hungry, head to local favorite Sobo (250-725-2341; sobo.ca), a perfect mix of laid-back sophistication and just great, homegrown food. Try the smoked wild fish chowder or killer fish tacos.
Getting there 7¼ hours via ferry from Port Townsend to Victoria, north on BC 1
39. Doggiestock in Snoqualmie
Don’t let the name fool you. Doggiestock, September 17 (valleyanimalpartners.com), isn’t for pet lovers only. Even casual friends of Fido will enjoy watching Doggie Olympics events such as peanut-butter licking, tail wagging, and costume contests. The festival, which benefits Valley Animal Partners, also offers dog search-and-rescue demonstrations, obedience trainings, and live bands. Afterward, check-in at Salish Lodge (800-272-5474; salishlodge.com), which welcomes dogs of all sizes and features a canine in-room dining menu.
Getting there 40 minutes east on I-90
40. Book It to Port Townsend for the Boats
The only thing better looking than the view in Port Townsend—Whidbey and Vancouver islands rise in the distance—are the 300 exquisitely preserved vessels at the Wooden Boat Festival, September 9–11 (woodenboat.org). Sleep like a Victorian shipping magnate at Manresa Castle (360-385-5750; manresacastle.com) but eat like a sailor at Sirens Pub (360-379-1100; sirenspub.com), where the burger is a thing of legend.
Getting there 35-minute ferry to Bainbridge, 1¼ hours north on WA 305 and WA 19
41. Leaves of Pass
The best way to enjoy the fall colors is slowly, deliberately, and with the best view possible. The seven-mile Maple Pass Loop is sure to satisfy all of the requirements. The beloved Okanogan National Forest Trail (fs.fed.us/r6/oka) takes all of its year-round natural wonders—waterfall, wildflower meadows—and multiplies them with autumn’s stunning array of vermilions, oranges, and eye-popping yellows. Head back down to Lone Fir Campground for a night next to Early Winters Creek.
Getting there 2½ hours north on I-5 and WA 20
42. Leavenworth Faux Real
The Bavarian-themed burg is always on lists of Washington State destinations because it’s so damn fun—especially during Oktoberfest, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, October 1–16 (leavenworthoktoberfest.com). The town was made for this event, as were München Haus (509-548-1158; munchenhaus.com), where the beer is great but the brats are king, and the Bavarian Ritz (800-854-6465; bavarianritz.com), where you’re the king.
Getting there 2¼ hours east on U.S. 2
43. Ellensburg: Eastern Washington’s Cultural Outpost
43. Ellensburg: Eastern Washington's Cultural Outpost
Catch mainstream and independent movies at the Ellensburg Film Festival October 7–9 (ellensburgfilmfestival.com). Or engage regional artists while they create artwork in public at Paint Ellensburg, September 17, hosted by Gallery One Visual Arts Center (gallery-one.org). Hotels and restaurants book up fast during festival weekends; we recommend reserving a room at the Winery at Red Hawk on the River (509-899-1413) in nearby Thorp and a table at Sazon (509-925-2506; sazonellensburg.com).
Getting there 2 hours east on I-90
44. Shroom Seek in the Olympics
Stalk porcini and chanterelles—the very mushrooms topping plates at the best restos in Seattle—in Olympic National Forest, where Lake Quinault Lodge (866-297-7367; olympicnationalparks.com/accommodations) makes a perfect base of operations. The lodge hosts the Mushroom Festival, October 14–16 (olympicpeninsula.org/event/mushroom-fest). And because finding ’shrooms is no guarantee, stock up on forage-fueling eats at “The Merc,” aka Quinault Mercantile (360-288-2620).
Getting there 3 hours south on I-5, west on WA 8, north on U.S. 101
45. Break the Rules in Victoria
Sure, the kaleidoscopic petal show explodes in spring at Butchart Gardens (250-652-4422; butchartgardens.com). For our money, though, we’ll take Victoria in fall, when the pastels give way to mood-altering earth tones. And we don’t drive there either. We brave the Strait of Juan de Fuca aboard the Victoria Clipper (206-448-5000; clippervacations.com). But we don’t buck the system too hard—meaning we still stay at the Fairmont Empress (250-384-8111; fairmont.com/empress), where, heck, we even take our hat off during tea time.
Getting there 2¾ hours via passenger ferry
46. Smack-Talk Beavers Over Beer Before the Ball Game
The UW’s rivalry with Oregon State is nowhere near as rabid as it is with the University of Oregon or
( shudder ) Washington State. But you wouldn’t exactly call Husky-Beaver relations cozy. All the more reason to purple up the sea of orange in Corvallis come Game Day, November 19 (gohuskies.com/tickets). Before hitting the stadium lot for tailgating, swing by Old World Deli (541-752-8549) and pick up their “Famous Corvallis Sack Lunch,” which includes an enormous takes-two-people-to-eat-it sandwich with your choice of meat, a brownie, chips, an apple, and a soda. Postgame, celebrate—or nurse your sorrows—over pints and pie at American Dream Pizza (541-757-1713; adpizza.com) and slumber at The Harrison House Bed and Breakfast (541-752-6248; corvallis-lodging.com), where—fair warning—there’s probably a Beaver fan or two.
Getting there 4½ hours south on I-5
47. Bag Your Own Thanksgiving Dinner
Cut out the middleman with a two-day, guided wild-turkey hunt at Miller Ranch (509-370-5535; millerranch.com) in Cheney, 30 minutes outside of Spokane, where you’ll stalk your prey through the swamps, scablands, and pine forests of this 1,000-acre reserve, and learn the nuances between a wingbone and a tube call. Rent a cabin on the property, but expect to make your own meal (depending on how the day goes, it could be a fresh one). While you don’t need a license on the preserve, don’t forget your hunter orange stocking cap—it could save your head.
Getting there 4 hours, 20 minutes east on I-90
48. Kick-Start Christmas
Dayton, in southeastern Washington, comes to life during Christmas Kick-Off, November 25 & 26 (historicdayton.com), with carolers, mule-drawn hayrides, and shops pouring hot cider. The Weinhard Hotel (509-382-4032; weinhard.com) offers a front-row seat to the festivities. Across the street, Weinhard Café (509-382-1681; weinhard-cafe.com) serves up hearty American dishes made with seasonal, local ingredients.
Getting there 5 hours east on I-90, I-82, and U.S. 12
49. Start Winter in the Valley of the Sun
Sun Valley (208-622-4111; sunvalley.com) outside Ketchum, Idaho, fits Seattleites like a glove—skiing, snowshoeing, and we-know-they’re-there-but-we’re-keeping-our-cool stargazing. (Both Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis call Sun Valley their second home.) Check in at Aston Hotel and Resort (800-635-4444; astonsunvalley.com) and strap on your skis or board atop either Dollar Mountain (great for beginners) or Baldy Mountain (it’s a doozy). At night throw back a few and devour a rib eye at Pioneer Saloon (208-726-3139; pioneersaloon.com).
Getting there 1 hour, 40 minutes to Sun Valley on Horizon Airlines (alaskaair.com)
50. Holiday Shopping in the Emerald City
The Hyatt at Olive 8 (206-695-1234; olive8.hyatt.com), on Eigth Ave, is just steps away from Pacific Place (206-405-2655; pacificplaceseattle.com) —home to Tiffany’s and, just opened in November 2010, Michael Kors. It’s also within loot-carrying distance of a number of unique, locally owned boutiques, including plush-toy palace Schmancy (206-728-8008; schmancytoys.com). Rest your weary holiday-shopping dogs while you stuff your face with tapas like albacore tuna at Bisato (206-443-3301; bisato.com).
51. Not Home for the Holidays
Dreaming of a white Christmas? Don’t count on it in typically snow-free Seattle. Instead, put on the chains and motor up Evergreen Highway to Skamania Lodge (509-427-7700; skamania.com) for the holiday weekend. As of press time, there are still suites yet to be booked for Christmas 2011, but hurry—availability won’t last. Come brunch time, head to the lodge’s Cascade Room for the annual Christmas buffet, where you can scarf Rockport shrimp and Dungeness crab like Santa with a plate of cookies.
Getting there 3½ hours south on I-5
52. Ring in 2012 in Vancouber, BC
Kiss 2011 goodbye in style with a room at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver (604-684-3131; fairmont.com) before it sells out. The good news is that after that the script for the ultimate 31st is already written. Visit Vij’s (604-736-6664; vijs.ca), two miles from downtown and just off Granville Street. Fill up on samosas and grilled salmon in coconut and green onion curry, then cab it back downtown for Massive Gala 2012, featuring live music, lots of bubbly, and several thousand Canadians counting down the seconds left in the greatest year of weekends you’ve ever had.
Getting there 2 hours, 40 minutes north on I-5, plus wait time at the border