The 114-year-old Captain Whidbey Inn enters its newest era as a cozy destination; the hotel’s wood-beam construction has kept it as hardy as an old deckhand for a century. The lodge itself had settled into the damp Whidbey Island soil outside Coupeville like a happy toad, its ceilings so low that the interior feels more like a ship at sea. A trio of young hoteliers purchased the inn in 2018, using Seattle designs from Filson (fishnet light fixtures!) and Glasswing to enliven the aged cabins. The dining room makes for a worthy day trip, even if an overnight isn't in the books.
Columbia River Gorge
When winter winds scour all but the hardiest windsurfers off the Columbia River, the gorge grows sleepy—except in the soaking rooms of Carson Hot Springs. Old claw-foot tubs fill with mineral waters, and after the rejuvenating bath an attendant swaddles each soaker in linens. Continue up and across the river to access the more traditional spa at the Italian-style Columbia Gorge Hotel.
Rangers lead free snowshoe tours through the meadows of Paradise twice a day on weekends, and it’s the best way to avoid getting lost in the sometimes treacherous snowfields around the visitor center. Snowshoes are provided, but sunscreen, warm clothes, and the required tire chains to navigate the sometimes-hairy Paradise road are not. (Guided trips have been put on pause during the pandemic, but rangers can still recommend short routes near the Paradise area. Rent snowshoes at Whittaker Mountaineering just outside the park.)
In summer, you swim in Payette Lake, a glassy expanse in the center of Idaho’s panhandle. In winter, you skate on the frozen lake and swim at the Shore Lodge’s spa, the Cove, where heated immersion pools are strung between the cedar-lined indoors and the snowy outdoors. Bonus: The Cove, unlike the lake, isn’t rumored to house a Loch Ness–style monster.
Mushroom enthusiasts gather in Eugene in late January for chef-led dinners and muddy truffle hunts to find the hidden treasures of Lane County. The outings are sometimes led by the winners of the nearby Joriad, or Truffle Dog Championship—the French may use pigs to sniff out treasures in the muddy forest, but the Northwest prefers its truffle-hunting Labradors, thank you very much.
The most hotel-y hotel on the Seattle isle suburb has modern interiors with clean lines, but the best parts are outside: a covered patio where the chairs are draped with fuzzy white furs, and outdoor (but private) showers in certain rooms. Bonus: It’s only a block from the island’s tiny business district.
It’s going to snow this winter, we swear on a stack of ski boots. More than 200 kilometers of Nordic trails loop the Methow Valley, where sun regularly coats the corduroy of groomed trails. Five ski-in huts are tucked about five miles from one another, all with wooden bunk beds and kitchens. Dogs are generally allowed, but it’s not cool to let Fido tear up the carefully carved ski grooves on the trail.
Kurt Cobain Landing
True Nirvana fans sit under the drippy pilings of Young Street Bridge to gaze upon the muddy banks of the Wishkah on Cobain’s February 20 birthday. Name sound familiar? The newest Washington State Ferries vehicle will be named after the Wishkah River.
Outside the weather is frightful, or at least uninspiring. Inside Bellevue’s Hyatt Regency in late February, it’s basically summer in a Kentucky barn or springtime in a Tennessee holler—thanks to the driving thrum of banjos and toe tapping. The hotel’s four stages host a variety of bluegrass, folk, Americana, Celtic, and acoustic acts, but the real scene is the Hyatt’s giant lobby. Jamming isn’t only allowed during Wintergrass, it’s encouraged, with impromptu groups springing up among musicians. Circles of fiddlers and mandolin players form in front of elevators, on the bland corporate furniture in the hotel’s conference center, and on the pairs of double beds in hotel rooms in the middle of the night. For all the grizzled veterans, there are also plenty of prepubescent kids showing off slide guitar or upright bass prowess. Hotel rooms at the Hyatt usually sell out months in advance.
It’s the getaway for when the kids, dogs, or office won’t let you actually get away, an 84-year-old junior high school in downtown Bothell reimagined as a hotel. Wood-burning firepits the size of cauldrons dot the property, and the sheer number of bars—above the saltwater swimming pool, outside the movie theater, in a courtyard shed—is basically school days’ wish fulfillment.
Can’t imagine leaving the country for a mere art exhibit? Consider that Vancouver Art Gallery runs several temporary exhibitions at once, like early 2022's two Yoko Ono shows, one of which the famed artist invites work from local Indigenous makers. The institution may have limited tenure in the central 1930s building, as a new and larger space has been in the works for the last decade. For an overnight, embrace twentieth-century modernism at the neon-lit motel-turned-hotel the Burrard.
What once was an unremarkable midcentury motor lodge is now a tiny boutique hotel in downtown Boise, walkable to a growing dining scene. But there’s little reason to wander far beyond the mod furnishings and outdoor fire table. The on-site bar serves cocktails with big-city quality (at Boise prices) and in-room TVs play flicks from the 39 Rooms Film Festival, a permanent showcase of independently made short films.
Depoe Bay, Oregon
Hey look, a whale! No, that’s a piece of driftwood. There? Nope, a boat. This is why you need the experts to point out some of the 18,000 gray whales that slowly putter north every spring. During late March's Whale Watching Week, volunteer spotters line the small town’s seawall and the sea-facing windows of the Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center—but nothing beats riding a Zodiac closer to the migrating giants.
Oh, hey, it's a pandemic. Event dates and operations may vary; we recommend confirming opening hours and visitor requirements in advance.