The Pacific Northwest
Lush forests, a pristine coastline, outrageously good food, crisp microbrews, and music and art galore – Pacific Northwesterners have it good and they don't mind sharing.
You can't escape nature here. Even the big cities are punctuated by looming, snowy peaks: Seattle's iconic Mt Rainier, Portland's ever-in-view Mt Hood and Vancouver BC's long line of North Shore Mountains. And that's before you get to the raging rivers, rolling deserts, dense old-growth forests and glorious public beaches that are never far from any urban landscape.
The region offers endless outdoor opportunities, including camping, hiking, cycling, skiing and mountaineering. Those clouds have a silver lining too, as all that rain translates into a perfect storm of water sports; raft white water, kayak lake and sea, and kiteboard through ripping winds.
Foodie & Locavore Heaven
Seattle, Portland and Vancouver are all rich in exceptional restaurants from budget to fine dining, and have a wide range of ethnic food options. Seattle boasts a long-established history of Northwest cuisine, while Portland's affordability and creativity have made it a magnet for hot chefs. Vancouver offers some of the best Chinese food outside, well, China.
There's an abundance of locally produced food, from berries, hazelnuts and wild mushrooms to seafood, cheese and grass-fed beef. Locavores abound, getting their fix in the many specialty groceries, farmers markets and community gardens.
Beer, Wine & Coffee
In these parts, beverages are big. The nation's gourmet-coffee scene may have started in Seattle, but dozens of artisan micro roasters across the Northwest now produce some of the best espresso in the world. In some coffee shops, pouring a latte is practically an art form.
Microbrewing also became famous in this region, located within a stone's throw of the nation's highest concentration of hop farms. Today, craft brewers pump out fragrant India Pale Ales (IPAs) and ever more inventive specialty beers. Grapevines cover many hills and produce a harvest of intriguing reds and whites.
Art & Culture
There's no shortage of urban entertainment and culture, with a scene encompassing indie garage bands, world-class symphonies, jazz bars and an abundance of public art. Offbeat film houses (often refurbished vintage gems) and art galleries are tucked into even the smallest towns.
Seattle, Portland and Vancouver all support symphonies, operas, dance troupes and theater companies. Galleries and museums display pieces by Native American artists, ceramicists and painters, as well as glassmakers inspired by Tacoma's Dale Chihuly. You'll always have more than enough to appreciate in this highly creative part of the world.