The Pacific Northwest boasts everything from crashing surf along its spectacular coastline to the gorgeous, scenic peaks of Mt Rainier and Mt Hood, creating a varied outdoor playground for hikers, climbers, campers and skiers. And its rich agricultural lands offer a diverse array of year-round seasonal produce that has inspired chefs, winemakers and beer brewers throughout the region.
The major urban centers of Seattle, Portland and Vancouver are also shaped by the natural world, with parks and outdoor sculpture gardens. But indoor culture rivals any outdoor fun, especially during the gray days of winter; think coffee bars, brewpubs, art museums, theater, music and great restaurants.
Bars & Pubs
Find a mixture of cocktail bars, dance clubs and live music on Capitol Hill. From funky to upscale, these watering holes serve up local craft brews and fruity cocktails to the perennially thirsty. And the city that was home to grunge won't disappoint lovers of live-music.
Few cities are so intertwined with the ocean's bounty. If Seattle's waterfront isn't proof enough, head to Pike Place Market for its slippery 'flying' fish show. Then pick a nearby restaurant to taste the seasonal oysters and catch of the day.
Begin to understand the city's fascination with art at Olympic Sculpture Park, then visit the Seattle Art Museum, the Asian Art Museum and the absolutely stunning Chihuly Garden & Glass exhibit.
Northwestern Washington & the San Juan Islands
Thar She Blows
Whales frequently populate waters near the coastline and around the islands of this verdant region. From Lime Kiln Point State Park, scan the horizon for signs of that telltale blow – or pop into the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor to learn more about orcas.
Island-hop on Two Wheels
Bicycles rule the landscape of the San Juans. Island-hop with your two-wheeler to enjoy rolling paved roads that reveal stunning vistas overlooking the sea. Don't forget to detour at coffee shops and juice bars for fuel.
Sparkling San Juans
Heavy rains make this a lush place, with fir-covered islands and green mountain foothills. But the sparkling sea provides the most impressive backdrop, especially on the jewel-like San Juan Islands.
Olympic Peninsula & Washington Coast
Hike the Olympic National Park
Declared a national park in 1938, the 1406-sq-mile Olympic National Park holds some of the country's most pristine forests. Hikers, cyclists, fisherfolk and campers flock here to see wildlife and enjoy trails, rivers and lakes.
Go Fly a Kite
Washington's coastline stretches from Ocean Shores to the edge of the Columbia River, offering hundreds of miles of smooth kite-flying areas, sandy dunes and crashing surf. Don't miss local oyster farms, which can supply a feast on the half shell.
After a full day of outdoor exploring, settle into a bed at Lake Crescent Lodge or Lake Quinault Lodge – both are historic national-park lodges full of character. And don't forget Kalaloch Lodge, spectacularly located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific.
Hike a Volcano
Five potentially lethal volcanoes punctuate the Washington Cascades – and showed their potential in May 1980, when Mt St Helens erupted with devastating consequences. Visit the trails or crevasse-covered glaciers traversing their flanks.
Roads here wind between wilderness areas and two national parks, creating the ideal conditions for a road trip. Enjoy the views of glacier-draped peaks and the rolling ridges of the Cascades, making scenic memories that will last a lifetime.
Summit Mt Rainier
All levels of mountaineers bag peaks in these parts, although Mt Rainier rules as the most challenging summit. Even so, beginners can hire experienced guides and make the ascent during the wee hours of the morning.
Central & Eastern Washington
Taste Wine in Walla Walla
The parched desert hills of southeastern Washington are producing some stellar grapes, the prima donnas of the state's burgeoning wine industry. Head to Walla Walla for a high concentration of tasting rooms, wineries and wine-friendly restaurants.
Dust off your lederhosen and belt out a German drinking song in Leavenworth, Washington's very own Bavarian village. The quirky theme town sits within easy reach of the picturesque North Cascade peaks, a good place to take a picnic of brats and gingerbread.
Don't cross this remote area off your list for outdoor recreating. National forests, tiny ski areas and pockets of alpine splendor offer quiet, off-the-beaten-path spots for great outdoor fun.
What happens when young, expressive chefs collide with some of the nation's best locally grown produce and meats? Portland's food scene. Even the food carts here have become outlets for culinary expression, as the city's top restaurants take Northwest cuisine to new heights.
With the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the US, this town celebrates all things bikey through costume theme rides, races, the Zoobomb, handcrafted-bike shows and a slew of bike-delivery businesses.
Brewpubs & Bars
Countless breweries and brewpubs offer craft beers, while just as many wine bars pour their own wares – and even more coffee shops serve the country's best java! And did we mention the distillery movement?
The Willamette Valley & Wine Country
The valley's mild summers and long, wet winters foster the delicate, thin-skinned Pinot Noir grape, the variety that's become famous in these parts. Try various vintages at winery tasting rooms, B&Bs and wine bars, which are popping up even in small towns.
One of Oregon's best soaks, Bagby Hot Springs, is a few hours' drive east of Salem. Climb into hollowed-log tubs here or head down the road to the Breitenbush Hot Springs Resort, a rustic, laid-back experience with yoga, massage and vegetarian food.
As wine country grows, so do its lodging options, and tiny, well-run B&Bs provide the perfect base for navigating the vines. Look for historic inns, working farms and vineyard homes with tasting areas and cozy rooms for guests.
Columbia River Gorge
The Mighty Columbia
The massive Columbia River is fed by hundreds of waterfalls, many of which flow year-round. Hike to and around some roaring giants that soak the surrounding mossy forests with a perpetual sprinkling.
Hike Among Wildflowers
The gorge is a prime destination for hikers and backpackers, especially those who like to gain vertical. The well-maintained trails usually come with a gentle crisscross of switchbacks, making any gorge trail doable at the right speed. Look for spring wildflowers and fall foliage.
The Fruit Loop
Just outside Hood River, a 35-mile driving loop takes you through dozens of orchards and farms selling everything from lavender and pumpkins to pears and cherries – depending on the season. There are even a few wineries on the way, and many orchards offer u-pick opportunities.
Central Oregon & The Oregon Cascades
Starting with the glaciers of Mt Hood and stretching down through the Three Sisters Wilderness, some of Oregon's steepest slopes translate to prime skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking. Resorts outside Bend generally offer fluffier powder than their Mt Hood counterparts.
Lakes & Rivers
While Crater Lake – south towards Ashland – is the best-known lake in the Cascades, you can't ignore other serene waters. Visit Waldo and Cascade Lakes and waterways such as the Deschutes and Metolius Rivers – prime spots for white-water rafting, kayaking and fishing.
Bend's Craft Brews
Bend's brewing scene has exploded. Today, 17 breweries (and counting) pump out exceptional beers; stop by the tasting rooms (and maybe 'hop' on a tour!) to sample the sudsy creations.
Thanks to some serious forward thinking, every inch of Oregon's 363 coastal miles is public land. Since the early 1900s, the state has created more than 80 parks and recreation areas along this exceptionally beautiful shoreline.
Cyclists everywhere dream of riding this stretch of Hwy 101, a windy road that rises and falls between bluffs and cliff-side overlooks. It can get busy with cars and RVs, so nerves of steel are a must. But those who've made the journey know it's worth sharing the road.
The coast can be a dramatic place, defined by brilliant sunbursts followed by pounding hailstorms, rainbows or lightning. Delight in the drama, especially during the winter months when empty beaches create the chance to commune with the boastful weather gods.
Ashland & Southern Oregon
A warmer, sunnier climate has helped create some of Oregon's fledgling wine regions. Grapes in the Umpqua and Applegate Valleys, and around Jacksonville, Grants Pass and Medford, are transformed into big reds and oakey whites.
Any festival that runs for nine months of the year shouldn't be ignored, but Ashland's Oregon Shakespeare Festival will grab your attention more for quality than quantity. Top-notch productions, including plays, readings and concerts, honor the Bard and his vast body of work.
Maybe it's the nearby Shakespeare Festival that inspires such charm, but this region boasts exceptional lodgings, including the landmark Crater Lake Lodge, Wolf Creek Inn (near Grants Pass) and Ashland's Country Willows B&B.
If you think wilderness is defined by how many people you don't see on any given day, this region is pure bliss. Hard to reach and bare of national parks or huge attractions, this is the place to slip into forests, mountains and especially deserts – and find peace.
Hikers can find amazingly scenic trails here. Backpackers should spend multiple days in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, while day hikers will find plenty of scenic options in the Wallowa Mountains. Or walk the mellow trails in the colorful John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
Discovered in the 1860s, the John Day Fossil Beds were laid down between six and 50 million years ago – a span that's captured everything from dung-beetle balls to the bones of pint-sized horses and saber-toothed, feline-like animals.
Vancouver, Whistler & Vancouver Island
In 2010 snow-sports fans gathered at Whistler-Blackcomb to witness awe-inspiring feats. Sports lovers can take advantage of excellent snowfalls and a long resort season (November to June) by skiing and boarding famous Olympic race runs and half pipes.
The geography here is defined by water – abundant rivers, miles of island inlets and dramatic coastline. Stroll the seawall at Stanley Park or kayak the Sunshine Coast. Then there's Vancouver Island's Pacific shoreline, wild and rugged, with a wonderfully primordial feel.
Rub shoulders with Asian-language students, immigrants and fanatical foodies who flock to Vancouver's Asian restaurants. Dim sum, sushi bars and creative Asian fusion: prepare your taste buds for a spicy adventure.