10 quintessential ways to enjoy summer in the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest thrills in any season, yet summer brings riches we anxiously await all year long. Whether you’re looking to feed off the invigorating energy of music and art lovers at festive gatherings – or you crave losing your phone signal among the splendor of Mother Nature – we’ve gathered ways to embrace the season.

1. Savor local seafood

a crab on a pile of fries: Seattle diners enjoy fresh seafood at downtown waterfront spots, like The Crab Pot

Arguably the best way to spend a Pacific Northwest afternoon? On a sun-kissed, waterside patio, diving into a flavorful feast of the region’s fresh bounty. In downtown Seattle, Pier 57 proves a family-friendly spot to dine with a view (think Mount Rainier, the Olympics and Elliott Bay). Afterward, you can take a spin on the Seattle Great Wheel, a perfect place to drink in pastel sunsets illuminating the distant peaks.

Local delicacies range from oysters to the most sought-after salmon species on the menu at Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar. Next door, The Crab Pot offers fun-filled communal feasts that require you to bib up and get cracking on a delicious three-pound mix of regionally-sourced crab, red-jacketed potatoes, fresh corn, andouille sausage and head-on shrimp. (Be sure to try the venue’s watermelon mojito, too!)

Oyster lovers get farther off the grid at Hood Canal’s Hama Hama Oyster Saloon, where a casual alfresco space mixes “wood smoke, fresh oysters, cold beer and and a salty breeze.” Farther north, drive up scenic Chuckanut Drive to camp out at the Taylor’s Samish Oyster Bar and Shellfish Market, a hub for oysters, Manila clams, Mediterranean mussels, Dungeness crab and scallops primed for the grill.

2. Sip regional wine

a person riding a horse at night: Wine lovers dine under the stars at an Amavi Cellars event in Walla Walla

Walla Walla is the place to experience the wonder of Washington wine, of which more than 70 varieties now get produced at 940-plus wineries throughout the state. Nearly four and a half hours southeast of Seattle, this sun-soaked town features a charming, “throwback” Main Street and some standout culinary options (from delectable tacos served out of the Agapas food truck to farm-fresh dishes enjoyed inside the historic building of Whitehouse-Crawford).

At Walla Walla Steak Co., included in the 2019 Wine Enthusiast list of 100 Best Wine Restaurants, you’ll find surprisingly enticing seafood options like the Dungeness crab cakes (“all crab, no cake”) with apple slaw and signature scallops served with soy-miso vinaigrette and wasabi aioli.

In this friendly town, multiple identities coexist; you’ll see cowboys and farmers, foodies and esteemed chefs, scholars and sommeliers. Beat the heat with morning hikes and bike rides, before afternoon tastings at spots like Pepper Bridge Winery, Doubleback (with its massive lawn) and Valdemar Estates, where you’ll be tempted to enjoy tapas and pours on the sleek, shaded patio all afternoon long.

Enjoy live music and views of the Blue Mountains on the Tranche patio (on Fridays through October), or flow during hatha yoga classes offered in the gallery space of Foundry Vineyards (Saturdays and Tuesdays) .

Eritage Resort, a buzzworthy wine country destination, is a beautiful property consisting of 10 luxury suites, 10 lakeside bungalows (with private decks) and a restaurant spearheaded by James Beard Award-winning chef Jason Wilson. Find complete tranquility at this sunny vineyard retreat, where the only sounds you wake to are the chirps of birds and lulls of tractors. Their Summer Guest Chef Series showcases some of Washington’s best chefs, farmers and winemakers during six-course dinners that truly celebrate the good life.

Those who can’t make it all the way east to Walla Walla will be happy to learn that many prominent Washington wineries also have tasting rooms in Woodinville, just a short drive from downtown Seattle. In Oregon, savor the delightful flavors and views of Willamette Valley, while finding a luxurious home base at The Allison Inn & Spa or inside a retro-chic vintage trailer.

3. Enjoy alfresco music

a group of people on a stage in front of a crowd: Beautiful music echoes throughout the woods of Happy Valley every August during the spectacular Pickathon music festival

Festivals and seasonal series enliven urban parks and rural sites all summer long, whether on zoo lawns (in Portland and Seattle), wineries’ green spaces (Woodinville’s Chateau Ste. Michelle) or at massive venues overlooking scenes carved out by Mother Nature (Gorge Amphitheatre).

And then there’s our favorite magic-tinged gathering, Pickathon, which returns to Happy Valley, Oregon’s Pendarvis Farm, just outside of Portland. As the country’s only outdoor music festival to admirably eliminate the use of plastic cups, dishware and utensils, this family-friendly event takes every effort to make each visitor’s experience comfortable and enchanting.

Stages appear inside dreamy barns draped with twinkly lights and in wooded alcoves, where haystacks and hammocks lure listeners of all ages. The organizers consistently curate incredible lineups, bringing to loyal fans 12-plus genres that range from Congolese funk to psychedelic soul.

4. Go whale watching

a close up of smoke: Clipper Vacations takes passengers to San Juan Island and Victoria on once-in-a-lifetime whale-watching adventures

Clipper Vacations offers the only San Juan whale watching trip to depart from downtown Seattle, granting passengers the unforgettable experience of seeing the Pacific Northwest’s most graceful residents glide across wide-open waters. Get rejuvenated by time at sea, whether you choose to board the San Juan Clipper for a quick island day trip or to pause for an overnight stay in Friday Harbor.

Through mid-October, San Juan adventures push off from downtown’s Pier 69. An onboard naturalist leads passengers on an exhilarating search for orca, humpback and minke whales. Once having landed in low-key Friday Harbor, visitors enjoy boutique shopping, tasty local fare and outdoor adventures galore.

As an alternate option, day trip and overnight excursions to Victoria, B.C. invite passengers to spend time with resident orca whales while moving through the waters of the Salish Sea (through the end of October). Explore the waters of the Gulf Islands and the Strait of Juan De Fuca while aboard a sleek, 40-passenger vessel, and then soak up the British-influenced charm of Victoria once you’ve set foot on Canadian soil.

5. Get off the grid in British Columbia

a group of people walking on a beach: Walking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island is said to be one of the best hiking experiences in Canada

Speaking of British Columbia, this Canadian province offers access to some of the globe’s most inspiring outdoor adventures, ranging From hiking the Berg Lake Trail and biking Kelowna’s Kettle Valley Rail Trail to sailing through Desolation Sound.

BCA Tours guide outdoor enthusiasts on a variety of adventures, like one of their most popular that traverses the famed West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. Since this seven-day hiking journey begins and ends in Victoria, consider making the gorgeous Inn at Laurel Point your luxurious HQ before and after the momentous expedition.

“Guests will have the sensation of standing on the prow of a ship, and be greeted by sweeping views of the harbour, and beyond, from the moment they arrive,” says architect John Graham.

Along the 47-mile West Coast Trail, hikers – led by two fully-certified ACMG guides – soak in the sheer magic of Vancouver Island’s west coast as they walk along rugged beaches, beneath a canopy of ancient cedars, along old First Nations trade routes and past remnants of shipwrecks.

6. Explore the art of Olympia, Wash.

a store filled with lots of graffiti: Olympia boasts an inspiring public art collection of 100-plus pieces, as well as a rotating exhibition of loaned sculptures at Percival Landing

Art lovers and shutterbugs take self-guided tours of more than 70 vibrant murals that beautify the state capital and beyond. Olympia boasts a vibrant public art collection of 100-plus pieces, in addition to a rotating exhibition of loaned sculptures at Percival Landing. Access the city’s online walking map, and look out out for happening events here like the semi-annual Olympia Arts Walk.

After fueling up on local delicacies at Olympia Coffee and Olympia Oyster House, visit treasures like the uplifting “Respect & Love Olympia” mural and the Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural Project, a collaborative tribute to Olympia native Rachel Corrie who was killed in Gaza in 2003.

For more art-centric explorations, visit the budding “creative district” of nearby Tenino, which boasts a fascinating sandstone history. The friendly, small town is anchored by the Tenino Stone Carvers. It’s home to seasonal gems like a Saturday farmers market (through September) and the dreamy Tenino Quarry Pool, a sandstone quarry in the late 1800s (open Thursdays through Sundays in July and August).

7. Slide into vacation (or staycation) mode

a pond with grass next to a body of water: Lodge life reigns supreme in dreamy Washington settings

While some opt to pitch a tent, others settle in at lovely lodges that prove just as welcoming on bright summer evenings as dark winter nights. Find quiet, comfort and dockside bliss at Hood Canal’s Alderbrook Resort & Spa, or head to Suncadia Resort, a delightful mountain oasis located 80 (scenic) miles east of Seattle.

Suncadia offers activities like a Guided Beer and Bike Tour (with a pit stop at Roslyn Brewery) and a Gourmet Lunch Float enjoyed on the crystal clear Cle Elum River. This 10-mile scenic rafting trip includes a streamside grilled sockeye salmon lunch, complete with appetizers, dessert and beverages.

In mountainous Leavenworth, a hub for outdoor adventurers found two and a half hours east of Seattle, visitors enjoy Mother Nature’s playground as well as the quirky charm of the Bavaria-esque town. Stay at Sleeping Lady’s dreamy mountain resort, where highlights range from the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts and the property’s self-guided art walk to a delicious, on-site restaurant and wine bar. Also take advantage of the spa and heated pool, plus activities like yoga classes.

To a find a tranquil retreat not far from the big city (in this case, Seattle), Kirkland’s Woodmark Hotel fits the bill, thanks to its prime location on the edge of Lake Washington. By day, make use of kayak, paddleboard, WaveRunner and boat rentals; at sunset, grab a patio table from which to enjoy a cocktail and oysters on the half shell.

A 25-minute walk (or quick complimentary shuttle ride) away, you’ll find downtown Kirkland, where highlights include Bottle and Bull. This neighborhood eatery offers standout cocktails and dishes like Dungeness crab salad, braised lamb shank and halibut (with lemon mashed potatoes, neon carrots and smooth chestnut cream).

8. Get to know the locals of Vancouver Island

a brown bear walking across a dirt field: Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours welcomes tour goers onto traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation

We’re never ones to pass up a chance to experience Canadian culture (and wildlife!), and Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours combines the best of both worlds. The Campbell River, B.C.-based company invites visitors to explore and learn on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation on tours like “People, Water, Land” (offered through mid-August).

In addition to Bute Inlet boat rides that look out for humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, bald eagles and other seabirds, tour goers take an interpretive walk led by an Indigenous guide.

From mid-August through mid-October, “The Great Bears of Bute” also features an Indigenous guide, sensational wilderness and some of North America’s most sought-after wildlife, including grizzly bears, salmon, eagles and whales.

On the island’s west coast, Tofino offers a laid-back surf town vibe marked by beautiful views, a bounty of outdoor activities and culinary standouts (like Wolf in the Fog) making waves near and far. It also offers easy access to wildlife adventures, like whale- and bear-watching tours led by Tofino Resort + Marina, the region’s only waterfront resort and marina.

Bonus: After fishing expeditions, the talented chefs at 1909 Kitchen happily turn your prize catches into tasty dishes to be enjoyed inside their welcoming restaurant.

9. Make a splash in Southern Oregon

a large body of water: Southern Oregon offers unspeakable beauty at spots like Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States

Natural gems abound in Oregon, and Crater Lake National Park no doubt tops that list. Here, happy travelers ogle the deepest lake in the country (at 1,943 feet), and one considered by scientists to be the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world. Savor the intense blue hue of this nature-made wonder (fed entirely by rain and snow) while driving the 33-mile Rim Drive loop or biking and hiking nearby.

Aquatic activities rule in this state, from jet boating and kayaking to white water rafting the wild Rogue and hot springs hopping at countless watering holes. About 70 miles from the North Entrance of Crater Lake National Park, the North Umpqua Valley proves to be a wonderland of rivers, trails, evergreens and waterfalls. Ahh.

10. Hit the road in an uber-cool ride

a van parked on the side of a road: Peace Vans allows folks to "rent a one-of-a-kind ride with the throwback vibe of a pop-top and the benefits of a brand-new Mercedes vehicle"

What’s summertime without snack- and music-fueled road trips following no true agenda? Getting out on memory-making jaunts has never felt easier, thanks to the folks at Seattle-based Peace Vans Rentals, a fleet of unique custom camping vehicles, and Peace Vans Outfitters, a one-stop-shop for curated, camping gear rentals.

The company’s growing collection of classic Volkswagen vehicles (refurbished with modern-day amenities) ranges from vintage buses for daytime adventures to Vanagons and Eurovans for trips further afield. Additions like custom Mercedes Sprinters are in the lineup, too.

Other must-have summertime gear includes goodies from Rumpl, like their uber-cozy Original Puffy Down blanket (built from the same materials as premium sleeping bags and down jackets) and the Stuffable Fleece Pillow. In Seattle, MiiR Flagship is a great spot to load up on camp-ready tumblers and transportable coffee mugs, while GRAYL produces lightweight purifier bottles that make it a breeze to drink safe, clean water anywhere in the Pacific Northwest – and beyond.

Roll on, sweet summer. We can’t wait to see what goodness you bring our way.

10Best is a part of the USA TODAY Network, providing an authentically local point of view on destinations around the world, in addition to travel and lifestyle advice.

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