We get it. It’s cold. Most of the time the Pacific Northwest sky is blanketed in dark gray clouds. The kids are “bored.” The dog is practically singeing his fur by the fireplace, and everyone needs a time out — outside, that is.
Don’t worry — even if the weather outside is frightful, we have ideas that are delightful. It’s time to break the cabin fever.
Be a Beach Bum
Winter is a great time to visit the Washington coast. (’Cause let’s be honest, even in August you might be wearing a jacket!) Since it is the off-season, rental prices are a bargain!
Long Beach, Westport, and Ocean Shores
All popular tourist destinations in summer, but winter is a great time to score a waterfront room, hunker down, and storm-watch. Beachcombing is best right after a wave-crashing storm!
Hopefully clam digging along the Washington coast gets the green light all winter long. There is nothing like digging fresh razor clams — and eating them. Learn how to do it, get your license, and more at wdfw.wa.gov. Tip: Don’t want to get down and dirty digging? Buy fresh clams when in season — or just order a hot bowl of clam chowder.
Ruby Beach is the easy one to get to. It’s pretty and about a quarter-mile walk to get there. If you decide to venture along the beach and hike to Beach 6 or 3 miles up to the mouth of the Hoh River; that will take some more planning and prep — including watching the tide chart if crossing Cedar Creek to the river. Rialto Beach is also pretty and easy to get to. Just park your car and walk along the beach and explore. Shi Shi Beach at Clallam Bay is an 8-mile round-trip trek that offers spectacular views as the reward. Start on the boardwalk and cross some small bridges and be ready for a messier, muddier trek the rest of the way. Wta.org is a great resource to help you find a hike that is right for you. Always use caution and pay attention to tide tables when hiking near the Pacific.
Disconnect on the Olympic Peninsula
If you really want to get away from it all, keep driving and hit Highway 101 near Shelton or Aberdeen, and don’t stop. The rugged Olympic Peninsula is beautiful year-round, and it rarely snows near the beaches, but there could be plenty of the white stuff on the hills and mountains — especially Hurricane Ridge, which averages 400 inches of snow each year. Take a long day trip or spend a few days exploring and enjoying discounted travel rates and fewer peeps.
Brave the Storm Package
At Kalaloch Lodge in Olympic National Park, say goodbye to technology — there’s no cell or internet service. Instead, enjoy a cabin or lodge room high on a bluff overlooking the pounding Pacific below and sip on hot chocolate spiked with peppermint schnapps. (Yeah, that and ponchos and hand warmers come with the package.)
Off The Beaten Path
Looking for something new to try during these chilly months? What about one of these wacky and wild ways to have wintertime fun?
Mount Hood Cosmic Tubing
Friday and Saturday nights at Mount Hood Skibowl are out-of-this-world fun. From 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., bundle up in your snow gear and zip down the mountain on tubes while rocking out to some tunes and enjoying the more than 600,000 LED lights and laser show! Tube rentals are included in the cost and include hot-dog-style tubes large enough so the whole family can slide down together. Prices to zoom down the snow lanes are $29 for adults and $23 for kids. Bonus points if you stay in Jack Nicholson’s least favorite writing retreat, the Timberline Lodge! The historical landmark has all the rugged comforts one could want while on a ski retreat, including delicious food, cozy rooms, and beautiful views. (Just make sure your kids don’t take a shining to tricycles during your stay …) skibowl.com
Polar Bear Plunges
During the winter around Washington, most people just enjoy the water views, but if you’re looking for a shocking way to impress your friends, join the brave souls in a polar bear plunge on New Year’s Day!
- Point Defiance boat launch at noon
- Long Lake Park in Lacey at 1 p.m.
- Matthews Beach Park in Seattle at noon
- Marina Park in Kirkland at 1 p.m.
Tree House Island Zip Line Adventures
For the thrill seekers and treetop peepers, try the Tree House Island Zip Line Adventures in Silver Lake. In the shadow of Mount Saint Helens, the extensive zip line course is open year-round and is perfect for family outings or co-worker bonding. The zip course is on an island, so guests get to take a boat ride before they soar through the air! Plus, the island has plenty of trails to explore, games, and picnics in the park, and a toasty campfire! Zip- line rates differ according to group size, but generally are about $90 per person. thizla.com
Find Sun in Sequim
Soak in the sun this winter. Yup, even cloudy and gray Washington has its own pocket full of sunshine. Sequim is protected from the elements by the rain shadow of the Olympics, so when you’re in desperate need of Vitamin D, head over to enjoy fresh seafood and wild bird sightings while basking in the sun’s rays.
Ever dream of totally sweeping away the competition? Try curling! Seattle’s Granite Curling Club has open houses for newbie and advanced curlers to brush up on their skills. Open classes are on Dec. 19 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Jan. 23 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It’s recommended to wear layered athletic gear, and classes are $25 per person. curlingseattle.org
If you’re a fan of the finer things in life, a trip to one of these swanky resorts will be right up your alley!
Suncadia is your one-stop-shop for winter fun. A short jaunt away in Cle Elum, the wintery wonderland has a variety of lodging accommodations to cozy up in after a fun-filled day cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling. Or maybe you’ll be tuckered out by the fireplace after a day spent ice skating, fly fishing, and singing Jingle Bells at the top of your lungs while on a horse-drawn sleigh ride as you go dashing through the snow. If you think snow is pretty to look at, but you’re not about that chilly-toes life, check out the Glade Spring Spa at Suncadia. The spa has excellent views of the Cascades you can enjoy while getting a massage, facial, or soaking in a mineral bath. Plus, Suncadia has restaurants and coffee shops to fuel up in and pet-friendly rooms available. Like we said, Suncadia has it all!
Sleeping Lady Resort offers a wonderful escape into the magical world of Leavenworth. The Bavarian village is a treat to explore at any point of the year, but during the holiday season the town glows with happy lights that glisten off the freshly fallen snow, making winter the best time to visit Sleeping Lady. The resort offers comforts like the Apsen Leaf Day Spa, Kingfisher restaurant and wine bar, and showings at the Snowy Owl Theater.
Washington has no shortage of resorts for a holiday getaway. Check out these other gems!
- Sun Mountain Lodge, Winthrop
- Salish Lodge and Spa, Snoqualmie
- Skamania Lodge, Enumclaw
- Crystal Mountain Lodge, Eatonville
- Stevens Pass Resort, Skykomish
Learn to snowshoe with Metro Parks Tacoma! People ages 7+ can learn to snowshoe during the outdoor adventure group trips at Mount Rainier during winter. Kids 2 and up can also go sledding with groups. Learn more at metroparkstacoma.org.
Toast to Winter Ales
Craft beer is to Washington like Excalibur is to King Arthur. That’s right: our brews are legendary. Check out some of our favorite winter ales!
- Winterhook by Redhook Rich caramel body with a big malt backbone and strong dry-hopped brew
- Rusalka Imperial Stout by Narrows Brewing Full-bodied with notes of caramel, chocolate, and coffee
- Winterface Holiday Ale by Odd Otter Brewing Company A herbal, savory, orangey-juniper pint of unique zesty-ness
- Fish Tale Organic Winterfish by Fish Brewing Hearty, snappy, and hoppy brew with pale and honey malts
- Sleigh’r by Ninkasi Brewing A dark double alt ale that rocks a malty and delicious taste
Lower Gray Wolf River trail
Distance: 1 mile to 8.2 miles round-trip
Location: Olympic National Park, near Sequim
Accessible year-round, the Lower Gray Wolf River trail is a serene journey among the moss, lichen, and sword ferns of the primordial forest. The trail is located in the Olympic rain shadow, making it a pleasant destination even when other low-elevation trails are gray and wet. Pay close attention to snapping twigs and keep your eyes peeled and for elk among the greenery.
Distance: 1 to 7 miles
Location: Mount Rainier — Paradise
Snow: Moderate to heavy
Transport yourself into a winter wonderland by heading over to Mount Rainier’s Paradise trail. Fresh snow frosts the ridges and treetops and blankets the forest floor as you regain a sense of peace and spiritual renewal taking in the fresh mountain air. Snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals are available as well as guided ski touring trips at Rainier’s Longmire Ranger Station.
Skagit River Guided Raft Tour
Distance: minimal walking with rafting down the river
Location: Skagit River near Rockport
January is the perfect time to dip your oars in the cool waters of the Skagit River as it snakes its way through rugged, snow-covered mountain peaks shrouded by mist. The beginning of the year marks the return of hundreds of majestic bald eagles to the banks of the Skagit. Guided raft tours include trained naturalists to educate passengers on eagles and the local ecosystem and enjoy warm beverages, and snacks!
Mazama ridge snowshoeing
Distance: 6 miles, round-trip
Location: Mount Rainier Area — Paradise
Located in Mount Rainier National Park, Mazama Ridge is a breathtaking snowshoeing adventure where ice crystals in the snow sparkle like diamonds, and where evergreen trees are adorned by icicles that rival the decorations on any Christmas tree. Mazama Ridge is for skilled and experienced snowshoers and backcountry skiers who want to experience solitude and views.
Pinnacle Peak / Mount Pete / Mount Peak
Distance: 2.4 miles round-trip
Location: Outskirts of Enumclaw
Pinnacle Peak is a geological treasure. As the days get shorter and time is at a premium with the upcoming holidays, the popular hike refreshes the mind and reinvigorates the spirit. On the outskirts of Enumclaw, the hike is great for hiking, trail running, bird watching, and mountain biking.
Distance: 10 miles roundtrip Location: Sequim Snow: None
When winter in the South Sound is dreary, escape to the rain shadow of the Olympic mountain range and hike the Dungeness spit in Sequim. The magical spit is a wonderful destination for the whole family, and is located on a wildlife refuge. Observant guests may be treated to the sight of mink, otters, red foxes, bobcats, and Northern flying squirrels.
Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
Distance: 5 miles round-trip
Location: Nisqually Delta
If you’re looking to walk off a few holiday cookie pounds, or just need a change of scenery, the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is for you. Tucked between Tacoma and Olympia, the trail is home to more than 200 birds and numerous mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and eagles you can see along the five miles of walking trails. Be sure to lace up your walking shoes early in the morning; it’s the time of day when the wildlife is most active!
Lake Easton Sno-park
Distance: Up to 5 miles
Location: Lake Easton
The best-kept secret in the snow is Lake Easton Sno-Park. Cozied up on the east side of Snoqualmie Pass, you can walk, snowshoe, or cross-country ski here. Best of all, once you’re done putting the footwork in, you can head over to the gentle slopes at Wind Tunnel Way for sledding!