The enormous size of North America offers endless options for exciting boomer road trip adventures, but for those looking for stunning coastal routes mixed with cultural road stops, there’s no place like the Pacific Northwest! Guest contributor, Richard Atkins, recently explored this incredible area and is here with tips for an exciting Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary.
When choosing a vacation destination, one might shy away from Pacific Northwest vacations for logical reasons. Seattle has given way to the grey-and-rainy stigma where people afflicted with seasonal affect disorder (SAD) place themselves in front of full spectrum lighting to quell their depression. And let’s face it, no one wants to hide under an umbrella or get stuck indoors during coveted holiday time.
But whether it’s global warming or a fluke, I can honestly say that Seattle and Washington State is mild and sunny, most of the time! Even after speaking with locals, sunshine is the prevailing weather pattern that abounds, so start planning now!
What to see in Seattle on a Pacific Northwest trip
Seattle is a wonderful combination of old and new, antique to high tech, historical to the innovative all rolled into one. In other words, it’s a darn fun place to be.
For foodies, there’s a plethora of culinary delights. For sports fans, you’ve got the Mariners and Seahawks and for art and culture and good ‘ol fashioned industry, the place is booming for boomer travelers, so let’s get started!
Most Seattle hotels run $300 and up a night during peak season, so I recommend staying a few miles outside the city limits where prices are more reasonable and the commute into town takes about 15 minutes. That will also save you plenty on daily parking at the pricier hotels.
We stayed at the Best Western Alderwood in Lynnwood, which is 17 miles outside of the city and features a full breakfast for around $130 in July. It is also a mile from the high end Alderwood Mall for shopping and dining.
Admire the amazing glass art at Chihuly Garden and Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass is a must-see museum, showcasing Seattle’s own, preeminent glass artist, Dale Chihuly. When you have an entire museum dedicated to your work, you know you’ve arrived! And for good reason. The museum encompasses Chihuly’s long and hallowed love affair with glass and showcases how his art has evolved.
The museum highlights his many different styles and inspirations (both indoor and outdoor installations), a wonderfully colorful café with killer clam chowder as well as a gift shop where you can actually buy an art piece by Mr. Chihuly.
Don’t stand in line. Click here to buy your Chihuly Garden and Glass admission ticket in advance.
Get with it at the Museum of Pop Culture
The Museum of Pop Culture, founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is another bucket list attraction, but it’s massive, so plan on spending most of the day there. If you’re into musical superstars, they feature Jimi Hendrix’s guitar, outlandish outfits and jewelry to a whole section devoted to Washington State native, Curt Cobain and Nirvana.
For movie memorabilia, you can enjoy Judy Garland’s famous dress and the wicked witch’s hat from the Wizard of Oz as well as space aliens, a whole collection of Star Wars guns, creepy displays from horror movies and the World Premiere exhibition of Marvel’s Universe of Super Heroes.
Inspired to explore plan a road trip soon? Check out our favorite USA road trips.
More Seattle Tours
Bill Speidel’s underground tour is an often, comic trek into the underbelly of Seattle’s sometimes dubious history and its subterranean remnants. From sewage history to brothels, bootlegging to bank robbers, the tour is always interesting told by some very talented orators. Throughout the tour, you’ll also get a glance at historic Pioneer square and its environs, but be sure and get a souvenir at their massive, two room gift shop.
Save 50% admission at the top five Seattle attractions with a Seattle City Pass. Find it here.
Be amazed at Seattle’s Museum of Flight
Second only to the Smithsonian, the Museum of Flight is worth the short trip, just south of Seattle. It’s an eye opening air and space museum covering everything from the Wright brothers to the history and heroics of World War I/II fighter planes to the Apollo exhibit and subsequent trip to the moon.
The museum also includes a 3D movie theater, interactive exhibits, flight simulators, a café and children’s playground overlooking Mt. Rainier! Save time by purchasing your Museum of Flight ticket in advance.
Take a day trip to Woodinville’s Wine Country
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, take a short drive to Woodinville, home of over 100 wineries and tasting rooms. Having a small-town-Americana feel, Woodinville is quaint and quiet with a host of great wineries from Chateau Ste. Michelle to JM Cellars.
At the end of the day, treat yourself to Chef Breanna Beike’s Heritage restaurant, which is bright and airy with indoor/outdoor seating featuring great guitar and vocals. Starting with sweet corn and Dungeness crab fritters, to their delicious wedge salad, we graduated to a pan roasted, Idaho trout (the unique side of quinoa was as tasty as the main course!) and finished with Chef Bre’s “Jar of Pie” (key lime curd, buttered graham crackers and toasted marshmallow).
With a vast wine selection, Heritage is open for lunch, happy hour, dinner and weekend brunch. Heritage is a keeper!
Cruising the Pacific Northwest to Butchart Gardens
Book the Victoria Clipper, a high-speed, luxury catamaran from downtown Seattle to Victoria, B.C. The trip is relaxing and scenic and takes you to the heart of downtown, Victoria.
From there, a bus takes you on an informative tour of the city, then whisks you off to Butchart Gardens where botanical wonders abound at one of the most well-known gardens in Western Canada. In addition to extreme photo-ops, there are multiple places to grab a bite or enjoy a soothing ice cream in the afternoon sun.
While in Victoria, I recommend the Royal BC Museum which is currently featuring their ancient Egyptian exhibit. At the end of the day, the Clipper Victoria takes you back to Seattle in style and comfort.
Clipper vacations also have overnight packages and other excursions in and around Victoria for your ultimate pleasure. Passports required and no DUI violations for admittance.
Explore Olympic National Park on a Pacific Northwest road trip
In the heart of the Olympic National Forest and on the edge of Olympic National Park, Lake Quinault Lodge was miraculously built in 56 days, yet stands as proud today as it did in 1926. A prime example of rustic wilderness lodging, suited to its woodland environment, Lake Quinault Lodge reeks of history, reminiscent of “The Shining” but in a good way.
Our room was lakeside and very plush with all the comforts of home. If you get hungry, the Roosevelt dining room at the Lodge features excellent food with views of the lake and afterwards, you can sit by the fire in the lobby and listen to ragtime music on their resident piano.
Nearby, you can partake in the Lake Quinault Museum or inquire about active adventures at the Ranger station. When hunger strikes, grab a sandwich at the Mercantile or make a reservation at the Salmon House Restaurant down the road.
You can book a rainforest tour that departs right from the lodge which is both fascinating and educational. Overlooking Lake Quinault (named and owned by the Quinault Indian tribe), the area is a hiker’s paradise, but don’t get lost as cell service is spotty. In addition, biking, boating, fishing and taking a dip in the lake are the order of the day.
Looking to spend more time in this part of the US? Here’s 3-day Olympic Peninsula road trip itinerary to check out.
The Pacific Northwest is a wonderful place to visit. With so much do to, make sure to rent a car to explore this rich area.
All photography by Richard Atkins