I’m an East Coast woman through and through – yet despite my loyalties, I’m not one to shy away from the Pacific side of the USA.
In fact, there are a few reasons I jumped at the opportunity to leave my new Brooklyn apartment for a quick trip to Washington State. First, I was craving a taste of fall weather, and the 90-degree days in New York (in September!) were taking a toll. Second, I’m a nature freak who lives in an urban jungle. Nothing cures my appetite more than a trail run – well, at least a trail walk. Third, I had never visited the Pacific Northwest.
It was about time I corrected that.
My quick trip struck the ideal balance of adventure and relaxation. Following my footsteps, though, it would be easy to favor one over the other.
Where did you stay? What was the vibe?
I stayed at The Lodge at St Edward Park, just a half-hour drive outside Seattle. This elegant hotel, formerly a seminary, is cozy and modern. Yet touches like using blueprint-patterned wallpaper and repurposing the original dining hall as the main restaurant saluted the building’s history. The lodge is surrounded by state-park trails that lead to nearby Lake Washington, which is lined with towering fir trees that immediately put you at peace.
It’s the kind of place you might never want to leave for the entirety of your trip. There’s a gallery for local artists, a library with vintage board games, pickleball courts, a spa, two bars and a farm-to-table restaurant on site (more on that later). Between the grand historic building, sprawling lawns and surrounding forest, I almost felt like I was on the set of Knives Out.
Favorite activity from the trip?
A floatplane excursion above Seattle. I took full advantage of the lodge’s Kenmore Air hookup and hopped aboard an aircraft for amazing views of the city, flying over the iconic Space Needle, Ballard Locks and Lake Washington, and taking in mountain views in every direction. This is no ordinary plane ride: not only do you take off and land gracefully on the water, but there’s also only room for 10 passengers, which means everyone is guaranteed a window seat. The small plane can fly much lower than other aircraft, which meant I could make out every detail below; it almost felt like I was looking over a scale city model. My one regret is experiencing it all from behind a lens for about half of the 30-minute ride! Do yourself a favor and snap just a few photos before gluing your eyeballs to the window for the rest of the tour.
This is definitely more of a splurge activity (tours are $99 per person), yet it’s a classic – even essential – Pacific Northwest experience, and I’d highly recommend booking a tour if there’s room in your budget. You can also book flights to a handful of nearby destinations, like the San Juan Islands and British Columbia, and they would absolutely beat a long car or ferry ride. I’ve already decided that a floatplane island-hopping adventure needs to be in my future.
Best thing you ate?
If there’s one thing I did well on this trip, it’s eat. With two bars and a restaurant on the Lodge property, I wanted for nothing. Head chef Luke Kolpin worked in the kitchen at noma – yes, that noma – in Copenhagen for over eight years before joining the lodge’s main restaurant, Cedar + Elm.
The menu is seasonal and sustainable, thanks to the lodge’s very own garden and apiary. Picking one favorite dish from the trip is out of the question…though I was left dreaming of ricotta gnudi with mushrooms, grilled gem lettuce stuffed with shrimp and dill sauce, roasted-seaweed ice cream, and fresh flatbread drowned in “dirty dip” – a magical sauce made from browned butter and pan drippings.
What is the one thing that you did not expect?
You always hear about the persistent rain in Seattle, but I was pleasantly surprised to experience only sunshine throughout my trip – the only rain that fell was a small whisper as I was en route to the airport. Multiple locals told me this is the best time of year to visit because the leaves are beginning to change, and winter’s heavy rain hasn’t yet set in.
I wholeheartedly agree. Getting outside is always a priority wherever I go, so I made the most of this weather and took to the state park’s trails in the mornings to bask in the cool air and the sunshine. For a mix of forest and water views, take the Seminary or Grotto trail all the way down to Lake Washington, where there’s a beach trail that runs along the water.
What was the most under-the-radar activity you enjoyed?
I’ve never really thought of the Pacific Northwest as wine country, nor do I consider myself much of a wine expert. Still, a tasting here is a must. The region is the second-largest wine producer in the US, behind California, a fact I learned at Rocky Pond Winery’s nearby tasting room in Woodinville. We had a sit-down tasting, sampling six different wines paired with charcuterie for almost an hour. If you go, a seasonal flight of five wines costs $20 – a very productive and reasonable way to spend a weekend afternoon, if you ask me.
If you want more of a boutique vibe, I was told that Woodinville’s Warehouse District is the place to be. Unlike at the tasting room I went to, many of these smaller wineries make their wine on site. You can tasting-room-hop your way through the district without ever having to get in your car.
What was the handiest thing you packed?
I love nothing more than a fabulous outfit, but sticking to casual and comfortable was the way to go in this part of the world. I spent the whole trip in athleisure and jeans – and didn’t feel out of place one bit. And speaking of that sneaky sunshine: pack sunscreen! This is a place where you’ll want to savor the sun, especially if you take to the skies and the trails as I did.
Bonus: if you’re running out of space in your suitcase, leave your shower toiletries at home. I left the Lodge smelling like a fresh bouquet of eucalyptus thanks to its range of bath and hair products.
Ann Douglas traveled to Washingon State on the invitation of the Lodge at St Edward Park. Lonely Planet does not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.