Excited about day trips from Seattle? Seattle, aka the Emerald City, is a stunning city surrounded by the Pacific waters of the Puget Sound, the majestic mountains of the Cascades and miles of evergreen forest. However, sightseeing in Seattle, the State of Washington’s largest city, can take up much of your trip to the Puget Sound area.
In addition to the world-famous Space Needle, there’s the Museum of Flight, Pacific Science Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass and Pike Place Market, all Seattle icons. If sports are more your thing, catch a Mariners, Seahawks or Sounders game, depending on the season. You can also see what’s under the city through Seattle’s Beneath the Streets Underground History Tour.
However, if you want to get out from the underground and off the swarming city streets, there are numerous day trips from Seattle where you can soak up the sun and enjoy the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest that envelops Seattle. You can even take a day trip from Seattle to another country, as Canada is not far away.
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Mt. Rainier is a mere 65 miles from Seattle but seems a world away. Mt. Rainier, an active stratovolcano in the Cascades, is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States. At over 14,000 feet, this lofty Alpine peak can be seen from the streets of Seattle, but once you’re in this wilderness wonderland the city feels a thousand miles away.
Mt. Rainier is an outdoor-lover’s dream come true. In addition to miles of hiking trails, Mt. Rainier, part of a National Park, consists of numerous rivers and streams for fishing, ample areas for climbing and cascading Myrtle Falls, with the mountain itself as a backdrop. You can also stroll through a temperate rainforest at Carbon River, located in the northwest corner of Mt. Rainier National Park.
If you prefer that machines do all the work, hop aboard the vintage Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad, which cruises 18 miles through the foothills. Visitors can also take a gondola ride over 6,800 feet to Summit House, a restaurant that not only serves casual cuisine but breathtaking views. There are also four campgrounds and two lodges in the park if you want to turn your day trip from Seattle into an overnight adventure.
Victoria, BC, Canada
A day trip from Seattle to Victoria not only allows you to cruise the Puget Sound but visit another country. The ferry from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes, and the captain does all the work. All you have to do is relax and take in the abundant beauty of the Puget Sound -- you might even see a whale or two. But don’t forget your passport, because one is required to go to and from Canada from the United States.
Once in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia that lies on the south end of Vancouver Island, stop by the expansive and lush Butchart Gardens, which comprises 55 acres of gardens, 900 bedding plant varieties and 26 greenhouses. Other must-see sites in Victoria include the Royal British Columbia Museum, which features exhibits of tribal artefacts from First Nations people and has an IMAX theatre; Victoria’s Chinatown, which is Canada’s oldest, characterized by narrow, winding streets and loads of shops and restaurants; and if travelling with children, Miniature World, which consists of dozens of “tiny worlds,” or miniature displays and dioramas, and in 2018 was named one of the Top 3 Places to See in Victoria.
Victoria voted one of the Top 10 Cities in North America by Travel + Leisure readers in 2015, is also home to many historic buildings. One of the most visited is the British Columbia Parliament Buildings, home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. The stunning buildings overlook Victoria’s magnificent Inner Harbour, considered one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. Here you will find a plethora of shops and restaurants, as well as the regal Empress Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in historic Victoria and recognized as one of Top 21 Iconic Hotels in the World by National Geographic Traveler magazine. Lovers of architecture also won’t want to miss Craigdarroch Castle, a National Historic Site that has 39 rooms featuring turn-of-the-20th-century furnishings and 30 stained-glass windows.
If you don’t want to leave the country but want to step foot on one of the many islands that dot the Puget Sound, head for Bainbridge Island, which can be reached by ferry from Seattle in about 35 minutes. Bainbridge Island is the ideal relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle of nearby Seattle.
Start your day trip to Bainbridge Island at Bloedel Reserve, a nature preserve that offers infinite zen and solace. The internationally recognized reserve is renowned for its curated gardens and interconnected landscapes. Follow up your visit to Bloedel Reserve with a stop at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, which showcases the contemporary art and craft of the Puget Sound region, and/or the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, located in a circa 1908 schoolhouse, the highlight of which is a Japanese-American internment exhibit that is accompanied by Ansel Adams photographs of Manzanar, a World War II-era relocation camp in California where more than 110,000 Japanese-American citizens and resident Japanese aliens were incarcerated.
Bainbridge Island is also home to the Kids Discovery Museum. Children of all ages will enjoy its interactive and hands-on exhibits pertaining to science and the arts that are designed for sensory exploration, such as the Pirate Tree House, a half-ship and half-hideaway. Visitors get to dress up, climb a ladder and steer the vessel. Other exhibits include Our Town, which features the main street, an imaginary ride in a real electric car, a grocery store, construction zone and more; and Science and Literary Hall, the exhibits of which are designed to challenge skill and judgment through scientific experimentation and support emerging literacy skills.
Bellingham is a beautiful coastal city near the border with Canada and a gateway to Mt. Baker, another Cascades volcano, and one you can snow ski or snowboard on. The city, ensconced in Bellingham Bay, is surrounded by nature. Bellingham is also another place where you can catch a ferry to Victoria, BC, or even Alaska.
While in Bellingham, nature lover’s won’t want to miss Whatcom Falls Park, which, as its name suggests, features serene waterfalls. In fact, the 240-acre park has four sets of waterfalls, as well as miles of trails and a fishing pond. An even more dramatic waterfall awaits visitors at Nooksack Falls, one of the most visited waterfalls in the North Cascades.
If you prefer to do your sightseeing in town, don’t miss Bellingham’s unique SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention, which embraces the wonder and mystery of electricity and whose exhibits and artefacts on display have been referred to as a “local version of the Smithsonian.” A trip to Bellingham would also be incomplete without meandering through its Fairhaven Historic District, which is well-known for its 19th-century architecture and history. Many of the Fairhaven Historic District’s red brick buildings house art galleries, boutiques, fine and casual restaurants and pubs, and one of them is home to one of the best independent bookstores in America, Village Books.
Once you’ve had your fill of Bellingham, head for Mt. Baker and embrace the great outdoors. If there’s still enough snow on the slopes then grab your skis or snowboard; if it’s still summer-like conditions, take advantage of miles of hiking trails in the area.
Port Townsend, which lies on the Olympic Peninsula, is considered one of the prettiest towns in coastal Washington and is famous for its ornate 19th-century Victorian architecture. It can also be reached by ferry from Seattle. Historic Port Townsend is called the “City of Dreams,” as it was once a famous seaport and was meant to evolve into one of the largest harbours on the west coast of the United States, but the Depression put an end to that dream.
Today, Port Townsend, also known as Washington’s Victorian Seaport, retains its 19th-century charm and is a quaint and laidback day trip from Seattle. The Port Townsend Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated National Historic Landmark. One of your first stops in this historic town should be the Jefferson Museum of Art & History, located in the Port Townsend City Hall building, which was built in 1892. The museum showcases Native American objects and other exhibits that promote the heritage of Jefferson County’s and recount early settler life.
Other must-see sites in Port Townsend include Water Street, the town’s walkable main drag that is overflowing with shops, art galleries and restaurants; and Fort Worden Historical State Park, a 434-acre park with more than two miles of shoreline, Point Wilson Lighthouse, defunct coastal defence batteries and restored Victorian-era officers’ homes. Fort Worden State Park is also home to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, which is devoted to conserving the area’s marine and shoreline environment.
The Seattle area is home to a number of amusement parks, of which any would make for a great day trip. Three of the most popular amusement parks include the Wild Waves Theme and Water Park, Tukwila Family Fun Center and Wings Over Washington.
Wild Waves Theme and Water Park: Wild Waves Theme and Water Park, located near Seattle in Federal Way, WA, has thrill rides, such as the Timberhawk Ride of Prey, the largest wooden roller coaster in Washington, and the Klondike Gold Rusher, characterized by sharp turns and sudden drops; and family rides, including the Coastal Clipper, a seafaring ride that simulates the gentle roll of the ocean, and the Paratrooper, a leisurely trip up in the trees and around the sky. The park also has rides just for the kids, such as the Enchanted Railway and Frog Hopper. And as its name implies, Wild Waves Theme and Water Park also have water rides, including the Mountain Dew Slide Complex, which has twists, turns and dips, and Hook’s Lagoon, a three-story treehouse of fun with water slides.
Tukwila Family Fun Center: Tukwila Family Fun Center is located in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila. It has go-karts, bumper boats, miniature golf, a bowling alley, full arcade and an indoor climbing structure. Here you will also find Bullwinkle’s Restaurant, which serves pizza, burgers, sandwiches and much more.
Wings Over Washington: Wings Over Washington is a state-of-the-art “flying theatre” that transports riders on an aerial adventure above Washington. A “spirit eagle” will sweep you upward into flight across the state of Washington, diving down the seaside cliffs through the morning mists of the Olympic National Forest and Mt. Rainier to the San Juan Islands and on to the majestic beauty of the Cascades and further. Wings Over Washington uses 5K cameras, innovative art laser projection, drones for image capture, MUSHROOM VR™ and a ground-breaking surround sound system to make the ride unforgettable and realistic.