Late Checkout

Checking In at Some of the Best Hotels in Washington

We linger at a mountain spa, a city lobby, and other favorite overnight spots.

By Allison Williams December 21, 2022

Mazama’s Freestone Inn delivers that mountain high.

When we traveled around the state to create our list of the best hotels in Washington, it was often hard to tear ourselves away. Find out what it's like to linger in the fanciest, coziest, and coolest properties across the state.

8am: Morning Breaks in Mazama at the Freestone Inn

From the base of the Methow, morning can be slow to arrive. With North Cascade peaks rising on either side, the valley traps fog that hugs the ponderosa pine trees in fall, replaced by snow come November. At Mazama’s Freestone Inn, lodge rooms overlook a small man-made lake—it doesn’t feel man-made, encircled by evergreens and shaped as irregularly as a real one—and catch the first signs of the sun.

The Freestone Inn hot tub is a lot more tempting than the frozen lake.

The sheer size of the Freestone, and really the whole Wilson Ranch that includes private homes, is hidden by the forest. The trees also serve to muffle the sounds of a helicopter taking off a few hundred yards from the hotel at the helibarn. The North Cascade Heli Skiing operation isn’t in too much of a hurry on winter mornings, the guides taking time to run safety talks with clients and decide which of the towering peaks to the north and west they’ll head to. With the outdoors this close, you don’t have to get up early to enjoy them.

When Jack Wilson settled on this patch of Okanogan County in the 1940s, he spread cabins through the woods and took guests into the wilderness, showing them the most dramatic landscapes in Washington. This area of the Methow Valley is called Early Winters, and the snows indeed come on strong. In 1996, the next owners of the property added a sizable Western-style wooden lodge, an imposing structure of logs straight out of a Legends of the Fall landscape. A pizzeria and pub, open seasonally, is more of an activity center for the hotel, with a firepit and swimming pool on either side.

In the lodge, a stone fireplace reaches two, maybe three stories into the open lobby, meeting the exposed beams of the ceiling. Guests cradle coffee mugs, waiting for morning to fully spring before heading into the bright, chilly winter. While the heli operation takes brave skiers well into next-door North Cascades National Park to ski downhill, hundreds more flock to the Methow for the largest network of groomed cross-country trails in the country. To stay warm in these early and blessedly long winters, you have to keep moving.

1pm: Checked Out in Leavenworth at the Posthotel

Check-out time gets complicated at the Posthotel, but in the best way. On a final day at Leavenworth’s deluxe spa hotel, customers need to leave their rooms at 11am, just like any other hotel. But their stay isn’t quite over yet.

Though located in downtown Leavenworth, the Posthotel faces the Wenatchee River.

At midday, guests wander the patio overlooking the Wenatchee River in white bathrobes, or sit to order from the included lunch. Departing visitors have until 2pm to stay on property, and it would be a shame to waste a few more hours of blissful retreat.

The Posthotel recalls a European spa, the kind of place that would have been called a sanitarium a hundred years ago and blurred the lines between vacation spot and medical establishment. Rooms are a gleaming white, crowned by marble soaking tubs, but guests are likely to spend just as many hours in the ground floor wellness area.  

An expansive saltwater soaking pool starts inside and flows out a scalloped wall of arches. Further inside the spa the menu of saunas and steam rooms is longer than the list of lunch options—a low-heat chamber ringed in pine, a medium enclosure made of alder, and an experts-only hot room of cedar. And those are just the dry saunas.

The Posthotel pools form a shrine to soaking.

So serene it’s practically an Enya song, Posthotel doesn’t make a big show out of what it doesn’t have—even though the lack defines the experience: no kids, and no booze. Guests must be over 18, but the absence of alcohol on the menu keeps the vibe mellow. From its central Leavenworth location, a German ale or cocktail is easy to find, but on property guests sip fresh juices while reclined on loungers, reading physical books and magazines or murmuring in conversation.

The window between check-out and actually departing the Posthotel, the bonus soak and schvitz, eases the transition of leaving the dreamy confines of the retreat. The final lunch too fuels a gentle reintroduction to the bustling Bavarian city outside the hotel walls with a fresh salad of blackened peach or aromatic curry soup. They must know how hard it is to tear oneself away. 

6pm: A Toast in Walla Walla at the Inn at Abeja

Every room at the Inn at Abeja, each tucked into a converted farm building outside Walla Walla, boasts a patio or balcony, ideally suited for cracking open the wine waiting in the room. The tiny carafes of Abeja Winery’s chardonnay or the Beekeeper’s Blend red, about the size of a generous glass, are portioned for a pre-dinner drink in the Eastern Washington sun.

It’s always wine hour at Inn at Abeja.

About five miles outside Walla Walla, Abeja manages to surround itself with only empty, rolling fields, the Blue Mountains visible in the far distance. The homestead here was settled in the late-nineteenth century, erecting a home in 1903 that still stands at one end of the property. Today the building, along with bunkhouse, chicken coop, and hayloft, have been converted into hotel rooms, reflecting a French farmhouse aesthetic inside and out. Abeja vineyards unfold on one side, burbling Mill Creek on the other, with the winery operating out of barn-style buildings across the lawn. 

Under the hayloft, the small tasting room transforms into the Kitchen at Abeja for dinner, no more than a dozen tables filled with hotel guests and a few customers come down the road from Walla Walla. With just two tasting menus, five- and seven-course, the eatery reflects the inn’s smaller-is-better ethos.

Dishes highlight the agricultural bounty of the region but don’t twist the ingredients into anything too puzzling; it’s a dinner where delicate garlic flowers have been tweezered onto the plate, but the entree underneath is a recognizable tender steak or rich sous vide snapper. Wine pairings are all Abeja, which can mean trying several similar chardonnays in a row—as much a wine tasting as a meal.

Even as Walla Walla grows up and out, this farm inn retains a patrician air, like an orderly country garden—it’s named for the Spanish word for “bee,” after all. More than a place to just buy wine, Abeja is a place to sit down, take in the pastoral view, and drink it. 

9pm: Urban Beauty in Tacoma at Hotel Murano

Despite the legal boundary between bar and lobby at Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma, the energy from one bleeds to the other. The casual observer can hardly tell where one ends and the other begins. It means that the hotel’s reception full of remarkable art earns more than a perfunctory look while lugging suitcases toward the elevator. It becomes a place to linger.

Some Hotel Murano glass is more functional than decorative.

The Italian Murano islands outside of Venice are steeped in the history of glass art, a fame Tacoma chases today. The Museum of Glass and its live glassblowing inhabit a kiln-shaped structure a few blocks away, a bridge of Dale Chihuly glass works stretching over a pedestrian overpass. While the Murano boasts some Chihuly—how could it not—its collection varies wildly from those familiar-colored tentacles. Three Viking longboats made of glass hang from the ceiling, and a floor-length dress (also glass, of course) stands like a bust in front of a lobby pillar. Not all the art is formed from silica; a Chuck Close portrait stares intently from a wall near the lobby fireplace. 

The Bar960, named for the scorching temperature of ovens used on melted glass, faces the collection from a slight elevation, observing the lobby even while it’s a part of it. Given Murano’s whole tower of boutique-style rooms, large groups filter through, heading to the conference center nearby, while the bartender slings local wines and simple cocktails. In a post-pandemic world, city centers have struggled, especially in the Northwest. But the Murano bar can go from silent to bustling in a matter of minutes, a natural stop on one’s way to or from the hotel room.

Tacoma’s industrial-chic downtown has maintained a collection of bars, restaurants, and even more museums. A city once derided for its aroma—okay, sure, you can still catch a whiff from time to time—now defines itself through delicate art. At the Murano, Tacoma makes its bid to be counted as a signature Northwest metropolis. 

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