It’s the new year, and I just finished putting together our travel calendar of Seattle day trips for this year. I don’t normally plan all our travels so far in advance, but this year I thought I would do something different.
Towards the end of last year, I fell into a rut. It’s hard to explain, but after the high of spending five weeks intensive travel, I came back to Seattle and quickly fell into a mode of uninspired lethargy. I realized that we spend our year building up to a big trip. And when that trip is over, there’s nothing else to look forward to.
This post was updated on April 9, 2020.
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Planning for Seattle day trips throughout the year
This year will be different. My husband and I both decided to make it our goal to travel somewhere at least once a month.
These trips don’t necessarily have to be big trips. But if we want to maintain our energy and inspiration throughout the year, I think it’s important to incorporate travel into our lives as often as we can.
Because family travel is so much more expensive than solo travel, it’s important for us to maintain a budget for travel if we don’t want to end up in debt by the end of the year. And if we’re going to be budgeting for travel, it’s helpful to know the places where we’re going to be traveling.
For families like us who live in Seattle, planning for Seattle day trips can be so helpful. They also make travel affordable and simple. While some of these places on this list require longer than a day to visit, they are all within an afternoon’s drive from Seattle.
So if you live in the Pacific Northwest, and are looking for ideas for Seattle day trips for this year, here’s the list for you:
January: Winter sports at Whistler, BC
Being just a three to four hour drive from Seattle, Canada is a great place to visit any time of year. We normally go in the summer time when it’s warm, but in the winter months, a trip to the mountain resort town of Whistler, BC is well worth the effort.
If you’re into snow sports, Whistler has many excellent outdoor options for you. And even if you’re not into the snow, there are other fun things you can do at Whistler. We like exploring the Olympic Village or going hiking on the trails.
February: Explore the unique city of Portland, OR
In the opposite direction is Portland, OR, which is about a three hour drive south of Seattle. We like exploring kid-friendly Portland on our way down to California.
With its wide selection of restaurants, it’s a great place to visit for amateur foodies like my husband and me. Our favorite restaurants so far have been Slappy Cakes and Hopworks Urban Brewery.
March: Take some Seattle day trips to Snoqualmie Falls
If you live in the Western part of Washington State, a trip to Snoqualmie Falls is required for Seattle day trips. The falls are great to visit any time of year. But the best time of year is in the spring, when the snows begin to melt. This usually falls between the months of March through May.
Other times of year worth visiting is in the fall, especially if it has been a particularly rainy one. A visit to Snoqualmie Falls is a good introduction to the outdoors as there are plenty of paved paths around the area, to give you a nice taste of nature.
April: Take an island getaway to Whidbey Island
The Puget Sound is surrounded by islands. And an easy island getaway from the bustling streets of Seattle is Whidbey Island. The island is accessible by ferry from the Mukilteo ferry dock. Otherwise, you can drive further north and get onto the island via Deception Pass.
There are plenty of good camping options on Whidbey Island. Some of the state parks include Deception Pass, Fort Ebey, and Fort Casey.
May: Experience small town hospitality in Spokane
Having grown up in Spokane, I go to this city several times a year to visit my parents. Most visits are spent hanging out at my parents’ house. But this year we’re actively seeking out family friendly Spokane activities to do while we’re there.
Spokane is the second largest city in the state of Washington, with plenty of family oriented activities as well as new locally owned businesses. Our favorite time to visit is during the first weekend in May, when the town comes together for Bloomsday, one of the largest 12k run in the United States. It’s a great way to welcome the spring and celebrate fitness at the same time.
June: Get some hiking done at Mount Rainier
One of the unique things about living in Western Washington is our close proximity to an active volcano. Seattleites have a loving fascination with Mount Rainier. Although its most recent eruption was in the 1800’s, geologists are quick to warn about the possibility of an eruption, which can cause terrible devastation and destruction in the surrounding areas.
But despite the risks, Mount Rainier is one of the most beautiful places to visit on my Seattle day trips list. Glaciers cover the top of the mountain, and an abundance of hiking trails allow people to explore the mountainside. Moon Guides’ 75 Great Hikes Seattle offers a few hikes around Mount Rainier.
Our favorite area to visit is Paradise, which sits on the southern side of the mountain, and affords visitors picturesque views of the peak, along with some beautiful waterfalls.
July: Plan some Seattle day trips to Tacoma
The city of Tacoma often falls in the shadow of its neighboring Seattle, but there are actually plenty of fun things to do in the city. It’s a great city to do some Seattle day trips! Tacoma is known for its glass museum, which features a permanent collection of 20th and 21st century glass, as well as works from visiting artists.
This past summer, we spent time in Point Defiance Park, which has features a zoo and aquarium, as well as a few miles of coastline. There’s also a living history museum called Fort Nisqually, which we happened to stumble upon on our visit last summer. It was fun to see the fort recreated to how it was in the 1800’s.
August: Visit the coast at Cape Disappointment
Another great place for Seattle day trips in the summertime is Cape Disappointment, in the Southwestern part of Washington State. Part of the Lewis and Clark trail, Cape Disappointment provides 27 miles of coastline, as well as two light houses. We enjoyed learning about the history of the area at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, and visiting nearby Astoria in Oregon.
September: Take a ferry ride to Bremerton
In the month of September, the island town of Bremerton holds its annual Blackberry Festival. We stumbled upon this last year, and were pleasantly surprised by how many things there were to do there.
The late summer is the best time to enjoy blackberries in the Pacific Northwest. And doing some Seattle day trips to the Blackberry Festival is a great opportunity to taste the delectable berries in things like pies, ice cream, and other sweet treats.
October: Get into the fall mood with Seattle day trips in Carnation
A popular fall option for Seattle day trips is pumpkin picking. In the Carnation and Duvall area of the Snoqualmie Valley, there are a number of small locally owned farms that offer pumpkin picking, as well as other fall-themed activities like hay rides and corn mazes.
Our favorite farm to go to in the fall is Oxbow Farms, which offers pumpkin picking, as well as a kids’ farm and family-friendly hay rides. Our kids love being able to run around on the farm. And we enjoy learning about the organically grown agriculture that occurs in the area.
November: Take a ferry ride to Vashon Island
Another easy choice for Seattle day trips is Vashon Island, which is accessible by ferry from the downtown Seattle terminal. Vashon Island doesn’t have a lot of landmarks or prominent destinations. However, it’s a nice island to drive around and enjoy the scenery.
December: Get into the holiday spirit in Leavenworth
Washington state has some pretty quirky attractions. One such place that should be on anyone’s Seattle day trips list is Leavenworth, a Bavarian themed town in Central Washington. We like to visit in the summer time, as there are a number of great hikes in the area.
But Christmas time is also a great time to do visit Leavenworth. The town is decorated with holiday decor. Snow sport enthusiasts will enjoy skiing or snowboarding in nearby Stevens Pass.
Making time for Seattle day trips with your family
For traveling families like us, keeping the wanderlust at bay can be rather difficult when you try to limit your travel to just one big trip a year. We’re hoping that changing it up this year will help feed our travel bug and keep us inspired throughout the year.
In the end, the thing that travel does best is to help bring us closer together as a family. We’re looking forward to all the family quality time together, exploring our beloved Pacific Northwest.
Where will your travel plans take you this year?
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I love the Northwest and you have given me so many new ideas for travel. I especially love lighthouses so have added Cape Disappointment to my list!
That’s great! Glad I could provide some ideas for you!
Some good old trips to do away from Seattle. This part of the USA is next on my list so I cant wait to hit up that area. So want to see the beautiful landscape, mountains and rugged coastline when I eventually get there.
That’s exactly why I love the Pacific Northwest of the the USA! The outdoors is so lovely here!
I love all these ideas and have visited most of these beautiful places. A good friend of mine just moved to Whidbey Island, which looks gorgeous, and I’m hoping to plan a trip there soon. So many great, easy trips from Seattle!
Hope you make it out to Whidbey Island soon! We haven’t gone in a while, but hopefully we’ll get to make an excursion this year.
Oh I love the way you wrote this guide, so there is something to do literally every month of the year! So many tempting options ! Love the idea of visiting the Blackberry Festival
Thanks, Claudia. It’s the Type-A planner in me. But really, I just love to find any excuse to travel.
Greetings from Portland, Oregon! I must admit I’ve never been to Pine State Biscuits on account of long waits. Let the tourists stand in those 😉 Hopworks is one of the better breweries in town, glad you enjoyed it, they’re good people.
Yes, we enjoy visiting Portland. Great food, and great people!
I think it is a great idea to link destinations with months. This is really useful for planning travel to ensure that you are at the right place at the right time to experience the specialities of the destinations in the right season.
It looks like Seattle in an amazing place to live. You can visit a different place around the West Coast or Canada every month. These are some wonderful places to visit.
I can see there are some amazing options for short trips near Seattle all year round. I would love to visit Mount Renier and see the active volcano!
Yes, Mount Rainier is really beautiful to visit. We didn’t get to go into the volcano, but just hiked around it.
Nice way to list things to do in Seattle. I guess some of the places would be as wonderful when visited in any month. I have always identified Seattle with Mt. Rainer and glad to see that it is a summer destination.
Hi Nisha, thanks for your words! Mt. Rainier is certainly a great place to visit in the summer. It’s so beautiful there!