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Washington State - Where to Go?

Our daughter is getting married in Bonney Lake, WA in early November, the day after my birthday and 4 days before her dad’s. We would like to go somewhere for a few days after the wedding to celebrate our birthdays. I made a reservation at a B&B in Vancouver, BC, but I’m looking for a back up plan not knowing what the border and Covid situation will be in November. I’m considering Leavenworth. Are there any other places in western Washington that I should consider spending a few days? We’ve spent plenty of time in Seattle, so we aren’t interested in going there. Thanks for any advice.

Posted by
5654 posts

San Juan Islands (Orcas, Friday) are close to Vancovuer and on the water.

Posted by
12205 posts

Leavenworth is very much “off=season” in early November. Too late for autumn leaves and too early for snow and Christmas lights. And it could snow there.

We like Port Townsend at any time. It is a nice Victorian town with water views, nearby mountains with good hiking, good restaurants, interesting shops, possibly whale-watching (I will check on that), and it is easier to get to than the San Juan Islands. We like to stay in the cottages at Fort Worden State Park. Here are some examples:

https://fortworden.org/book-your-stay/1-bedroom/

There are also some excellent Bed and Breakfasts in town, although we have never stayed i one.

Posted by
1939 posts

The San Juans are wonderful but my only caution is that by November most of western Washington state will be socked in - overcast skies, drizzling rain, and cool temps. Not exactly outdoor weather.
You'll have a better chance of seeing the sun if you head over to the eastern side of the Cascade range. It'll be off season in places like Leavenworth, Chelan, and the other side of Mt. Rainier, but the scenery is beautiful everywhere.

Posted by
552 posts

Are you into wine? If so, consider Walla Walla. Excellent wineries and restaurants and a cute little college town. It's about 3.5-4 hours from Leavenworth. If you have 3-4 days you could probably do both. Of course this is taking you further east......

Posted by
1424 posts

You don't say what you are interested in doing, but if you want a lovely place to stay and just relax and treat yourselves to a spa day, you might consider Salish Lodge and Spa, at the top of Snoqualmie Falls. https://www.salishlodge.com/

Posted by
1956 posts

I'll second Lola with Port Townsend. My favorite small American town (so far:).

It's a good fit for Bonney Lake too. Come down to Interstate 5 from Bonney Lake, head over to the Olympic Peninsula via the Narrows Bridge. Then you're 90 minutes from Port Townsend. The drive is lovely, the roads are not crowded and Port Townsend has plenty to do in any weather.

Even if it's rainy, we just forge ahead here and you stand a reasonable chance of some nice fall weather. Port Townsend has two great book stores, awesome restaurants, and some fun shopping. There are WWII bunkers to wander at the ocean in Fort Worden State Park. There's miles of beaches to wander. The city itself sits right on the water. Beautiful Washington State ferries come and go, seals frolic, sea lions swim and eagles fly overhead. There's dozens of awesome Victorian mansions that you can wander past because the city was supposed to be the railroad terminus and so prominent people built some showpieces. Some are bookable for lodging now.

Try Port Townsend - you'll love it. I've been going for 30 years.

Posted by
3768 posts

Besides what’s been mentioned,

Suncadia near Cle Elum has gorgeous mountain lodge-style homes to rent, and it’s a pretty area for hiking and to relax.

We like Bainbridge Island. It’s close to Seattle but feels far away.

Fairhaven & Bellingham are fun to explore. We usually stayed at the Chrysalis Inn there and had massages at their spa.

Weather would be a factor, but there’s also quaint Seabrook (if someone is reading this considering something for Summer).

Posted by
8232 posts

Thanks everyone. I should have mentioned that after these few days we will be going to Port Orchard to visit friends. When we stayed with them last year we did a day trip to Port Townsend. Cute town and a good possibility for us. We went to Fort Worden. We went back to their place and watched An Officer and a Gentleman. :-)

I also like Lane’s suggestion of Salish Lodge and Spa at Snoqualmie Falls. I haven’t been to the falls in over 25 years.

Great suggestions, please keep them coming.

Posted by
3406 posts

I lived in Port Townsend for several years. I can tell you that it is not up to full tourist speed in November. It is not the month of the year that I would choose to visit there.

The lack of information about interests makes this hard. Are you hikers, outdoorspeople, city "foodies"?

Also, I would like to point out that even the happiest wedding is tiring and stressful for the parents of the bride. I would make sure your location isn't too far of a drive and has plenty of opportunity to take things slower if you want.

Posted by
4697 posts

I'd also suggest Port Townsend if you liked it before. You can drive from there to scenic places on the Olympic Peninsula if the weather cooperates, or take the ferry across to beautiful Whidbey Island. November is when the rainy weather begins in earnest so your best bet is probably a town or city rather than the countryside. But there can certainly be nice days too.

For better weather I'd suggest Walla Walla, especially if you're into wine. The town itself is pretty, as is the countryside especially to the north and east. Dayton is a nice day trip destination. But it's considerably farther from Bonney Lake and Port Orchard.

You might like Leavenworth, which is getting play on another current thread about "Europe-like" US destinations, but I've found it kitschy and over-the-top pseudo-Bavarian. The surrounding mountains are great though. If you consider it, see what you can find out about wildfire damage in the area. (Fires will be out but the damage lasts for years.)

If you find yourself in Olympia on a Friday morning, take a tour with me of our beautiful state capitol. And congratulations on your daughter's wedding!

Posted by
80 posts

I also like the Port Townsend and Walla Walla options. Another place that you might consider is the Olympic peninsula. It is a temperate rain forest, so you would need to be okay with likelihood of rain. The Hoh Rainforest is magical with moss hanging from the trees and the good possibility of seeing deer and elk. We like to stay at the historic Lake Quinault Lodge at https://www.olympicnationalparks.com/lodging/lake-quinault-lodge/
BTW, my friend is leaving for Canada today (by car), and they had to be vaccinated and have a travel covid test at $150 each within 72 hours of crossing the border. Things likely will change before Nov, but that is today's requirement.
Welcome to Washington.

Posted by
108 posts

Also note that if you go to Canada, in addition to the testing required to get in (even if vaccinated) you will also need another negative test to get back in the USA. It's all very cumbersome.

Posted by
12205 posts

I will just add that Port Townsend is in the Olympic mountain rain shadow, and enjoys a drier climate than most of Western Washington, with around 19 inches of rain a year. Not as low as "sunny Sequim" but lower than other places on the Olympic Peninsula and north, through the San Juans and Victoria. Quinault ranger station ( nearer the coast and rain forest) averages around 137 inches.

http://www.olympicrainshadow.com/olympicrainshadowmap.html

The low rainfall at Port Townsend is the reason my parents moved there from Southern California in 1978, after retirement, and never looked back. They were able to enjoy golf there through much of the winter.

While November marks the beginning of winter rainy season, it usually doesn't start in earnest until mid-month or later, in my experience. But of course any given year could be different.

Posted by
8232 posts

Thanks for all the positive information about Port Townsend. It looks like a good prospect, not being too far from Bonney Lake and close to our friends in Port Orchard, so an easy drive once we head their way. That said, I’m not entirely giving up on Vancouver. A lot can change between now and then. I do know I don’t particularly want to jump through a bunch of Covid hoops with testing, etc. We are are vaccinated and don’t mind wearing masks.

Donna K., years ago we stayed at the Lake Quinault Lodge and loved it. I would like to go back, but maybe at a different time of year.

Posted by
552 posts

If you decide on Pt. Townsend and find yourself with a free day take the ferry to Whidbey Island. The most visited Washington State park is at the northern end, Deception Pass. It’s pretty awesome. The cute town of Coupeville is on the way north. Get pastries from
The Little Red Hen.

Posted by
3406 posts

I just don’t get all the Port Townsend suggestions for November. Many usual tourist services simply won’t be available at that time. It is a fun town for tourists in season, but not so much out of season. I lived there for 5 years, I know what it is like that time of year.

Posted by
8232 posts

Unfortunately November is when we will be there and it doesn’t make sense to go east after Bonney Lake, just to go west to Port Orchard, before heading south to visit friends in Portland, before driving home. Maybe I should reconsider Seattle, with plenty of indoor activities.

Posted by
2778 posts

The thing is, Carol, that no place in Washington will be at its best in November. So the other places suggested—-Leavenworth, San Juan Islands, etc. won’t be ideal either. In fact, Leavenworth could be deadly dull, with the autumn leaves all gone and shops and restaurants empty. And more likely to rain (or snow) there than in Port Townsend.

We live on Bainbridge Island so Port Townsend is only an hour away, and we love going up there for a last-minute couples’ getaway because of the nice places to stay (we like the Palace Hotel, the Swan, and Alexander’s Castle at Fort Worden) and good restaurants. If it isn’t raining we drive over to Sequim and Dungeness to walk the spit. Or we ride the ferry over to Fort Casey and walk around there. If it is raining, we browse the galleries and antique shops. These are all things that appeal to visitors, even if you didn’t do them when you lived there.

The rain shadow effect Lola mentioned makes being outdoors there quite possible—-less rain in Port Townsend and Sequim than other places nearby.

Posted by
619 posts

Rick Steves is making 3 short films on Washington state tourism. The first is on Bellingham.

Bellingham: https://www.seattletimes.com/sponsored/rick-steves-samples-farm-to-bottle-fare-in-whatcom-county/

Rick Steves' New Series Is Far From Europe — but It Might Make You Appreciate Your Own Hometown:
https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/celebrity-travel/rick-steves-seattle-times-washington-tour

4 Things to Consider As You Start Traveling Again, According to Rick Steves:
https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/rick-steves-future-of-travel

Posted by
2808 posts

As a native of WA St. Nov. is notorious for rain. That said, Nov. 2020 was unusually dry. I would agree that Port Townsend is a nice choice for a getaway. We were there in July and stayed at the Palace Hotel in one of their remodeled loft view rooms on the 3rd floor. It had a great kitchen as well. We like the location for walking to restaurants & shops. We had a wonderful dinner at Alchemy Bistro & Bar. We can also recommend Pane d’ Amore Artisan Bakery. Wonderful!

Posted by
140 posts

One thing that might be fun is driving down to Astoria, OR. Watching the storms roll in on the OR coast is great in the winter, and Astoria is the filming location of The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop (among others, including Free Willy). It's a cute town, and you can go down to Haystack Rock / Cannon Beach or over to Fort Stevens as well.

Posted by
8232 posts

I love the Oregon coast. Unfortunately it would cause too much backtracking since we will be going to Port Orchard after this portion of the trip.

Posted by
3892 posts

I've been to Leavenworth. The area is nice. We did find it kitschy. I liked the Mt. Baker area so much more.

Port Townsend is a great suggestion. It gives you access to Whidbey Island if the weather is appropriate for that. Also, depending on weather, you could venture into Olympic National Park. We were just there in July for the second time. It's a wonderful park.

You may want to check on the ferries. When we were there in July there were issues with the service.

Posted by
686 posts

An idea: head West and make a loop around the Olympic Peninsula; clock-wise you could end up at Port Orchard. Lake Quinault, Hoh Rain Forest, La Push, and Hurricane Ridge out of Port Angeles are all interesting. That would take you through Port Townsend also and back to Port Orchard.
IMHO, Leavenworth is just another cheesy tourist trap.
Having said all that, the weather in NW WA in November might be kinda iffy.
Good luck.

Posted by
8232 posts

In mid-June this year we camped for 5 nights near Port Angeles. The day we went to Hurricane Ridge we got snowed on and it was so windy we could barely stand. Now I know why they call it Hurricane Ridge.

I appreciate all the suggestions. I understand the time of year isn’t ideal, but that’s what we are working with. I think that Port Townsend will offer the most and give us opportunities to further explore the area. To those that offered hotel suggestions I will be checking those out. Thanks again everyone.

Posted by
3892 posts

Andrea, you might have been lucky on your camping trip. Two weeks later, it was over 100 degrees at the campgrounds near Port Angeles, or at least that's what a park employee told me when we were there mid July, and when we went up to Hurricane Ridge is was pretty hot. If you missed parts of Olympic due to weather for your camping trip, I'd check when you are there in November.

Posted by
8232 posts

I just wanted to update this and report that I cancelled the reservation in Vancouver and booked an apartment at the Palace Hotel in Port Townsend. Now I need to find a nice place for a birthday dinner.

Thanks again for your input.

Posted by
770 posts

Okay, I like Port Townsend; I'll be taking relatives out there this Friday. But in November? No. Port Angeles would be better, especially if you want to walk around and like antique shopping. But why drive 3 hours out there? The sun is only up from around 8am to 4:30pm and it will be raining. The same holds for places like Astoria or Westport, and for the past few years Leavenworth and Cle Elum have had snow in early November. You really don't want to take a chance on being stuck on the wrong side of the pass if it shuts down.

If you want a quiet, out of the way place to stay try the Inn at Saltar's Point in Steilacoom. Even locals don't know it's there, but it's fantastic.

Spend some time in Tacoma, and if you must walk around a smaller seaport go over to Gig Harbor. Eat at Tides, or Brix 25. Reserve a place at the Cliff House at Browns Point for the birthday. Or Anthony's at Point Defiance.

Take a hike up the Rhododendron Garden Path, or visit the zoo/aquarium at Point Defiance (they may have the holiday lights up), visit the Museum of Glass, the Tacoma Art Museum is good too. 11th Street is antique row.

You'll be in Bonney Lake, so take a short ride up hwy 165 and see the old mining towns of Wilkinson and Carbonado. Hike up to the ghost town of Melmont.

Take a look at the car museum's; the Lemay family collection is in Parkland, The Lemay itself is in Tacoma. All from the same guy's obsessive collecting over 60 years.

If wine is your thing stop in Woodinville on your way to the Snoqualmie Falls and visit Chateau St Michelle.

All of this is within less than an hours drive, and there's always Seattle itself. You don't have waste hours going someplace that's going to be wet and dark and foggy.

Posted by
8232 posts

KGC, thanks for your suggestions. We will be staying in Bonney Lake with family for a week and will likely be too busy with wedding activities to do anything else during that time. If we find ourselves with some time to kill we will look for those more local things to do. After we leave there we would rather settle in somewhere for a few nights than to be racing around after a busy wedding week. I get it. November isn’t the best time of year. Yet that’s when we will be there and we plan to make the most of it. We spent 5 nights in Port Angeles in June and we would rather stay in Port Townsend. Our hotel is walking distance to most things to do and a ferry to Whidbey Island would be interesting if the weather permits. Weather can be an issue anywhere in the PNW that time of year and the only way we could be sure to have better weather would be to head home. That’s not happening though because we have friends to visit with in Port Orchard and Portland.

Posted by
1956 posts

@Andrea - It’s surely no spot for a romantic meal, but Waterfront Pizza has really great slices. When I was younger, I would sometimes drive back home with an entire half-baked pizza in my car.

Posted by
2808 posts

Andrea, I hope you enjoy the Palace Hotel apartment as much as we did recently. As I suggested up thread Alchemy Bistro is our favorite for a special occasion. Just a couple blocks away. ;)

Posted by
12205 posts

I chose Alchemy Bistro as part of my 70th birthday celebration with family (14 of us were scattered among the Fort Worden officers’ houses). They did a great job, and I will “second” Janis’ recommendation.

Posted by
8232 posts

Valerie, thanks for the pizza recommendation. We will be there three nights and pizza would be a good choice for one of them.

Janis, I’ve noted your recommendation for the Alchemy Bistro. Thanks. It sounds like a great place for a birthday dinner. Do you recommend reservations? His birthday is on Veterans Day and I know that where we live restaurants are crowded that day because many offer free meals for veterans. Maybe that isn’t a thing up there?

Posted by
2808 posts

Andrea, yes, make reservations at Alchemy. When we were there in July they were turning away patrons without reservations. I have heard of places in WA State that offer discounts to Veterans on the holiday. What a great way to honor our Veterans.

Posted by
4697 posts

Alchemy would be a good choice, also Silverwater Cafe and Fountain Cafe. All are located within a block or so of each other. I'd advise reservations for any of them. They're closed on various days of the week, but one of them should be open any given evening. At least now -- maybe not in November. I'd also suggest Better Living Through Coffee on the waterfront for breakfast or midmorning. All are close to the Palace.

Jefferson County is now requiring proof of vaccination to eat in a restaurant. I'm sure the CDC card will work.

Posted by
8232 posts

Dick, thanks for the restaurant suggestions. Personally I’m happy to hear that patrons have to provide proof of vaccination to dine in restaurants. We have limited ourselves to outdoor dining, but November in Washington that is obviously not feasible.

Posted by
2808 posts

In addition to Better Living Through Coffee we enjoyed Velocity Coffee. It is next to the Wooden Boat Chandlery. Velocity was recommended by the host at the Palace Hotel. https://sprudge.com/velocity-port-townsend-110056.html. Another great coffee shop is Seal Dog Coffee in uptown Port Townsend. It’s across the street from Aldrich’s Market & Pane d’ Amore Artisan Bakery.

Posted by
7477 posts

. We have limited ourselves to outdoor dining, but November in Washington that is obviously not feasible.

Do not under estimate a restaurant being creative with duct tape and blue tarps !! :-)

Posted by
1956 posts

In the height of the shutdown, we ate many many dinners outside last December and January in Tacoma. There were tons of restaurants with heat lamps outside and tables set up. We wore our winter coats, our hats, our scarves and we went out to dinner. It was actually pretty fun and the restaurants were happy to see us. I will say that the food gets cold really quickly.

One other thing I really like about Port Townsend is that the city has invested in all sorts of outdoor seating, sprinkled around the main part of town. We never have to walk far to find a table, open for public use.