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