The state of Washington has a reputation for being cloudy, rainy, and dreary a good percentage of the year. Especially during the winter months, visitors may assume that their vacation to Washington will need to be spent indoors. This is not accurate, however. While the winter months do bring their share of rain, snow, and cold temperatures, there are plenty of fun activities, most of them outdoors that may be enjoyed during the wintertime.
The key to enjoying a winter vacation in Washington State is proper preparation. Planning out the trip, where to go and what to see and do, as well as properly preparing for the changeable weather, will ensure that a vacationer can spend more time focusing on having fun and exploring this beautiful state.
Outdoor winter fun in Washington
Washington State is known as the “Evergreen State” and with good reason. The state is home to acres of temperate rainforest featuring some of the most extensive evergreen forests in the country, as well as some of the biggest and oldest trees in the world, redwoods and sequoias. The state is not only green, however. Mountain ranges include the Blue, Cascade, Olympic and Selkirk Mountains and offer climbing, hiking and skiing opportunities. The state also offers a Winter Recreation Program; activities from cross-country and downhill skiing to snowmobiling and dog-sledding are available in national forests and tracts of forestland across the state.
With so much precipitation, the mountains of Washington are bound to be thick with snow. Skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed at a wide variety of locations, from the extensive Summit at Snoqualmie, outside Seattle, to Crystal Mountain Resort. Located within Mount Rainier National Park, Crystal Mountain Resort offers acres of high-quality skiing, all within view of the 14,000-foot high volcano, Mount Rainier.
In addition to being evergreen and touched with snow, Washington is also home to a region of sagebrush steppe in the east. Here in this desert zone, vineyards and orchards blend into wildlife reserve areas. Heavy snow may be unusual here but a light dusting is not, making the area ideal for traipsing about in boots rather than snowshoes. Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is located here, as is Wahluke Slope, where 20 percent of the state’s wine grapes are cultivated. These areas are not high in tourism, offering a welcome retreat for vacationers looking to explore off the beaten path.
Winter in the Emerald City
Even though six out of every seven days will be cloudy or partly cloudy, Seattle remains a bright and energetic city throughout the winter. There are plenty of activities, both indoors and outdoors, to keep locals and visitors alike entertained and engaged.
While Seattle is famous as the birthplace of the alternative/grunge rock popularized by bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the city has a far longer musical connection with jazz. For many years, Seattle was the place to be for up-and-coming jazz musicians, such as Ray Charles, and jazz continues to be a great way to spend a chilly night indoors. Many jazz clubs are dotted around the city, especially in the center. Jazz Alley, located in downtown Seattle, is a friendly club that hosts some of the best jazz groups and musicians on the West Coast and offers guests stage-side dining along with a great show.
Whether it is to get away from the chill or for a pick-me-up before venturing out to enjoy some late-night clubbing, Seattle is a great place to get a cup of coffee. The home of Starbucks, the city is highly caffeinated, with numerous local and regional coffee companies offering drinks, desserts and pastries. Victrola Coffee Roasters has several locations around the city; their Capitol Hill branch not only offers a warm, homey spot to sip some java, but also features local artists and their work on a regular basis.
Preparing to visit Washington
Preparing to vacation in Washington should begin with finding the best flight and accommodation at the lowest price available. Consulting with a travel agency is an option, though many online flight booking sites offer discounts on tickets with airlines such as US Airways, as well as the opportunity to bundle and make further savings, freeing up more of the travel budget for attractions, activities and fun at the destination.
Because of Washington’s wintry weather, the packing list for a vacation of any length will include clothes that will keep the wearer warm and dry. A waterproof jacket, a warm fleece and a good pair of solid walking shoes are a good place to start. Layering is wise when traveling to a climate like that of Washington, since moving between warm indoors and chill outdoors will be frequent.
Beginning with proper preparation and planning, a vacation to Washington during the winter offers a wealth of enjoyable possibilities no matter what the traveler’s interests.