Millions of Americans flock to Northwest Washington each Spring as the weather warms and the wildflowers bloom. From Port Angeles and San Juan Island to Sequim and Oak Harbor, the Olympic Peninsula is known for its beaches, hiking trails, state parks, national parks and rain forests. Mount Rainier National Park, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Whatcom Falls Park and Deception Pass State Park draw nature lovers from all around the world. Of course, the wildflowers and waterfalls of Northwest Washington are not the area's only attractions and Seattle is not the only city worth visiting! There is so much to see and do beyond the traditional tourist traps of the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the Pacific Science Center, the Seattle Center and the Seattle Art Museum. Visitors seeking culture and cuisine need not flock to Downtown Seattle. Given its many art galleries and museums, Northwest Washington is an art-lover's paradise! Abundant natural resources along the Washington coastline and a global culinary capital in Seattle make the Peninsula popular with cosmopolitan tourists as well. With incredible farm-to-table eats and award-winning local wines, the Pacific Northwest is a destination for foodies and oenophiles alike. Music, nature and arts festivals offer adventures for kids and adults of all demographics. Let us take you off the beaten path with our unexpected yet satisfying travel recommendations. Follow below for eight fun things to do outside Seattle this Spring.
8 Things to See and Do in Northwest Washington This Spring
#1 Welcome Spring at the La Conner Daffodil Festival or the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
First on our list of things to see and do in Northwest Washington this spring are two festivals: the La Conner Daffodil Festival and the Skagit Tulip Festival. Every March, hundreds of Flower Carpet, Standard Value and Dutch Master daffodils bloom in La Conner, Washington at the foot of Mt. Baker. La Conner is an hour and a half drive from Downtown Seattle.
While in La Conner for the Daffodil Festival, be sure to visit the La Conner Artists’ Gallery. Shop local art and celebrate the gallery’s ten year anniversary! Later in the year, check out Sequim’s Lavender Festival in mid-July to complete your wildflower tour!
#2 Celebrate Local Designers at the Sorticulture Garden Arts Festival
Trade professionals and design enthusiasts can attend The Sorticulture Garden Arts Festival in Everett, WA (just north of Seattle). According to VisitEverett.com, the festival is Everett’s “three-day celebration of outdoor living.” Over the years, this festival has “become a go-to for those seeking handcrafted art for the garden, unique plants from local nurseries, gardening tools and outdoor furniture.” Visitors will find a wide variety of local food trucks, handmade artwork and native plants as they walk through the festival. While in Everett, be sure to check out the Future of Flight Aviation Center.
If you plan to remodel your Washington State home soon, consider the team at local design-build firm VanderBeken Remodel. Based in Snohomish County, our award-winning team has more than thirty years of remodeling experience. We are also proud members of the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) and of the Master Builders Association of King & Snohomish County. Contact our team for more information.
#3 Take a Tour of the Olympic Peninsula Wineries
Oenophiles and cider connoisseurs visiting Northwest Washington this Spring must stop for a tour of the Olympic Peninsula Wineries. According to the organization, “Olympic Peninsula Wineries is a collaboration of seven award winning wineries and cideries.” These seven wineries and cideries can be found across the Puget Sound on the Olympic Peninsula in Sequim, Port Angeles, Nordland and Port Townsend.
Enjoy a wine tasting and tour at Harbinger Winery, Olympic Cellars or Camaraderie Cellars if you are staying in Port Angeles. Try wines from Wind Rose Cellars if in Sequim or Eaglemount Winery & Cidery, Port Townsend Vineyards and FairWinds if in Port Townsend. While some of these vintners grow their own grapes, most harvest from vineyards east of the Cascade Mountains.
Wine of the Columbia Valley in Washington State
Soil near the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest is particularly fertile for growing wine grapes according to Sean P. Sullivan in an article for Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Sullivan writes that the Columbia River Valley – which lies to the east of the Cascade Mountains – is “where 99% of Washington's wine grapes are grown…[due to its] hot, dry summers and cold winters.” More than eighty different varieties of wine grape are grown near the Columbia River Gorge.
However, “Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot and Syrah” account for more than three quarters of all production. Winemakers from Oregon to British Columbia all source grapes from the Valley. Sullivan notes that wines from this region are “are known for their ripe, pure, plush flavors,” so be sure to check out these local wineries if you enjoy bold, fruity wines. If you choose to travel to the Columbia Valley instead of tasting wines in Sequim, Port Angeles or Port Townsend, consider taking a scenic drive. Columbia Hills Historical State Park offers stunning views of the river and mountains.
#4 Warm Up at Sol Duc Hot Springs
The Sol Duc Hot Springs – located in the Olympic National Park just outside Port Angeles – are another popular destination. They are especially popular amongst outdoorsmen hoping for a relaxing end to their hiking, backpacking or camping trip in the national parks of Washington State. In her article “Where to Travel on the Olympic Peninsula: Sol Duc Hot Springs” for Seattle Magazine, Rebecca Armstrong explains why so many visitors flock to Sol Duc. Armstrong writes that the “forested getaway in Olympic National Park…is nestled in a valley carved by the mighty Sol Duc River.”
The hot springs are surrounded by a lush forest of “old-growth native Douglas fir, Sitka spruce and red cedar evergreens.” Founded in 1912, the off-grid Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort offers rental cabins and other accommodations to visitors hoping to bathe in the “therapeutic mineral waters.” Spring is the perfect time of year to head to the hot springs as the weather is still chilly enough to enjoy a long soak in warm water. This Pacific Northwest resort is seasonal, opening at the end of March each year. Make reservations here.
#5 Camp in the Hoh Rainforest
According to NOWPAP, the Pacific Northwest "is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world…ranging from subtropical to subarctic zones.” Alongside Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska, Washington State is home to some of the most stunning rainforests in the nation. In her article “The Most Beautiful Rainforests in the United States” for CultureTrip, Elizabeth Nicholas encourages travelers to visit the Olympic Peninsula’s Hoh Rainforest.
The Hoh Rainforest is just about two hours from Port Angeles to the west of Olympic National Park. Nicholas writes that the Hoh Rainforest is “one of the largest temperate rainforests in the United States.” The Hoh Rainforest was once heavily logged by lumbermen through the 19th and twentieth centuries due to its abundance of Maple, Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce trees. However, the forest is now protected as a conservation and recreation area.
Visitors can hike and camp in the forest, but cannot bring dogs on the trails. The National Park Service recommends camping in the forest during the Spring, Summer and early Fall because the visitor’s center is closed between January and March. While exploring the park, visitors can check out the Hall of Mosses Trail, Spruce Nature Trail and Hoh River Trail. Keep an eye out for wildlife like black bears, river otters and Roosevelt elk – all of which are regularly seen in the park.
#6 Picnic at the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park
If you and your family or friends enjoy art, be sure to take a ferry along the Puget Sound to visit San Juan Islands' beloved sculpture park. Located in Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands Sculpture Park & Nature Reserve is just a hop, skip and a jump from San Juan Island Distillery and several resorts.
Originally named the Westcott Bay Institute for Art & Nature, this San Juan Islands sculpture park is home to dozens of pieces by both local and international artists. According the park’s website, the twenty acre park boasts 150 sculptures, “5 marked trails and a gorgeous natural pond.” Allowing visitors to picnic on the grass, this park is a perfect place to take kids. Dogs are also permitted on the premises. If you cannot make the ferry to San Juan Island, consider checking out the Sculpture Garden at Western Washington University.
#7 Visit Snoqualmie Falls
Just east of Downtown Seattle, Snoqualmie Falls is an 82 meter waterfall in King County that pours over cliffs of volcanic rock. The destination is one of Washington State’s most popular tourist attractions, with more than a million traveling to Snoqualmie Falls each year – typically during Spring and Fall. There are many other things to do while staying in Snoqualmie, which Brad Lane details in an article for PlanetWare. Lane recommends spending the night at Salish Lodge and Spa, hiking trails to Rattlesnake Ledge and visiting the Northwest Railway Museum.
Keep in mind that Snoqualmie Falls is a sacred site of worship and ritual for the Snoqualmie Indian tribe. In a recent broadcast of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, Diana Opong and McKenna Sweet Dorman explain the importance of Snoqualmie Falls to the tribe. Opong tells host Scott Simon that “you can hear the Snoqualmie Falls before you see them[ and] as you get closer, mist feels like a light rain.”
According to Opong, the Snoqualmie Indian tribe says that this “mist carries prayers to their ancestors.” Dorman agrees, noting that Snoqualmie Falls is “their center” and their “most sacred site.” As such, the tribe asks that tourists avoid taking disruptive helicopter rides over the falls and instead enjoy them from one of several observation decks.
#8 Eat at Award-Winning Farm to Table Restaurants like The Herbfarm, Finistère and Fireside
As mentioned above, the Pacific Northwest is a destination for gastronomes. With locally caught seafood, fresh produce and incredible chefs, Northwest Washington boasts dozens of award-winning restaurants. We recommend making reservations at farm-to-table restaurants like The Herbfarm, Finistere and Fireside this Spring.
Located in Port Townsend, Finistère is one of our absolute favorite restaurants in Northwest Washington. Food writer Allison Williams recently reviewed Finistère in an article for Condé Nast Traveler. Williams writes that though Finistère is “renowned as the best dining on the Olympic Peninsula, it's casual and bright.” Diners will enjoy “a truly global wine list” and a jaw-dropping “$50 tasting menu that highlights the best of the day.” Finistère’s chef creates dishes that are finely detailed and subtly flavored, many of which “either pull from the rich seafood bounty of the area or highlight local farmgrown staples.”
Or Travel the Olympic Culinary Loop
Finish off your Spring Break in Washington State by following the Olympic Culinary Loop. According to their website, the Olympic Culinary Loop is a two or three day tour that takes travelers across the Olympic Peninsula. The Loop focuses on “artisan cider makers, award-winning dairy, delightful distilled spirits and outstanding local shellfish and seafood.” To that end, be sure to try seasonal seafood like Halibut and spot prawns – both of which are locally caught each Spring.
Wrong Season? Check Out These Seasonal Destinations Instead
If You Plan to Visit Northwest Washington in the Summer…
- Hike Mt. St. Helens This Summer
- Visit the Johnston Ridge Observatory at Gifford Pinchot National Forest from May to October
- Enjoy Epic Music Festivals from Late Summer through Early Fall
- Stop and Smell the Flowers at Sequim’s Annual Lavender Festival
If You Plan to Visit Northwest Washington in the Fall...
- Watch the Fall Leaves Change Color at North Cascades National Park
- Take a Whale Watching Tour in Anacortes This September
- Go Apple Picking at Skipley Farm in Snohomish
If You Plan to Visit Northwest Washington in the Winter…
- Eat Delicious Dungeness Crab While It’s In Season This Winter
- Ski at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park
- Take a Weekend Getaway to Leavenworth During the Winter Holidays