Have your visitors shopped the Market and ridden up the Needle? Are they done with the city and have an extra day? Try one of these five favorite day trips out of Seattle, which might be a welcome diversion even for longtime residents with a sunny day to spare:
This historic town edging Swinomish Channel is a good base for exploring the rich and scenic farmland of the Skagit Valley, an hour north of Seattle.
La Conner is a compact town with galleries and interesting shops, ranging from The Wood Merchant’s locally made wooden furniture to a shop selling 140 varieties of olives. Home today to luminaries such as author Tom Robbins, the town in the past was an enclave of famed “Northwest School” artists from Mark Tobey to Guy Anderson, whose legacy is celebrated in La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art (www.museumofnwart.org).
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Also here is the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum, in the beautiful old Gaches Mansion (www.laconnerquilts.com), the Skagit County Historical Museum and views of the Rainbow Bridge, Mount Baker and the North Cascades.
A recent addition: the first phase of a new waterfront boardwalk edging downtown shops, offering an up-close view of the salty channel edged by fishing boats, log rafts and classic sailboats, as well as a summertime procession of yachts on their way to and from the nearby San Juan Islands.
Getting there: From Interstate 5 about 60 minutes north of Seattle, take Exit 221, go west through the town of Conway and follow signs toward La Conner.
Information: La Conner Chamber of Commerce, 888-642-9284 or www.lovelaconner.com
Thanks to frequent cloud cover, some visitors only ever get to see Rainier on Washington’s license plates. Got a sunny day? Make a run for the mountain.
The aptly named Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park is accessible year-round. Here, get a look at one of the snowiest places on Earth (93.5 feet in one record-setting winter), and you’ll often find snow until July. Once it’s melted out, wander among eye-popping alpine meadows of lupine, paintbrush, avalanche lilies and other wildflowers. Above it all, the 14,410-foot peak looms like a Super, Super, Super-Sized scoop of French vanilla.
For lunch, or if you want to make it an overnight, the historic Paradise Inn is open from late May to October (www.mtrainierguestservices.com). Or try the popular Copper Creek Inn, for food or lodging, down the mountain near Ashford in Pierce County (coppercreekinn.com).
Getting there: Seattle to Paradise via Highway 706: 99 miles (about 2½ hours). Park entrance: $15 per vehicle.
Information: Mount Rainier National Park, 360-569-6575,
Whether you’re looking for a shorter outing, or just love a rip-roaring waterfall, Snoqualmie Falls, about 40 minutes east of Seattle, can fill an afternoon, well, to the brim.
Here the gushing, snowmelt-fed Snoqualmie River makes a 270-foot lover’s-leap sort of plunge off a cliff to dash itself on rocks below, a sight that draws more than 1.5 million visitors a year. At the top, a small park and free observation deck are open dawn to dusk daily, with a gift shop and picnic area. If you need something a whole lot fancier, the tony Salish Lodge and Spa (with restaurant) is right next door (www.salishlodge.com
Note: Trails to the base of the falls are closed until fall 2013 during work to upgrade Puget Sound Energy’s hydropower facilities.
Getting there: From Seattle, take Interstate 90 east to Exit 25, then follow Highway 18 and Snoqualmie Parkway north to Railroad Avenue. Turn left; the falls is on the left in about a half-mile.
Over the past 17 years, Tacoma’s Museum Row, along Pacific Avenue, has developed into a place to spend a pleasantly informative, dawdling day. You can park the car and wander on foot between the Washington State History Museum (www.washingtonhistory.org/wshm), the cutting-edge Museum of Glass (museumofglass.org), Tacoma Art Museum (www.tacomaartmuseum.org) and the Children’s Museum of Tacoma (www.playtacoma.org
All that got even more revved up last year with the opening nearby of LeMay — America’s Car Museum, one of the nation’s more distinguished collections of fantastic fins, gorgeous grills and generally amazing automobilia (www.lemaymuseum.org).
Getting there: Park at Sound Transit’s Tacoma Dome Station (Exit 133 from I-5), within walking distance of the car museum, and catch the free Tacoma Link light rail, which follows Pacific Avenue into the city to put you within a short walk of all four other museums.
Like fresh shellfish? Make a pilgrimage to what Washingtonians might call Mussel Beach — the pleasingly situated little Whidbey Island burg of Coupeville, the second-oldest town in the state.
The town overlooks Penn Cove, home to America’s oldest and largest mussel farm, which ships the black-shelled bivalves near and far (and this is about as near as you can get). For your own dose of salty freshness, head for rustic Toby’s Tavern (www.tobysuds.com) or the modern Front Street Grill, which offers 11 recipes for mussels, with coconut-green curry being the star (frontstreetgrillcoupeville.com).
Take the self-guided walking tour of historic structures, ranging from the circa-1852 home of founding father Thomas Coupe to the 1889 Methodist Parsonage. Print out a detailed guide from the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve website: www.nps.gov/ebla/upload/WalkingTourPanels.pdf
Getting there: Washington State Ferries connects to Whidbey Island from Mukilteo, 26 miles north of Seattle. Coupeville is 28 miles from the ferry landing via Highway 525.
Information: 360-678-5434 or www.centralwhidbeychamber.com
Brian J. Cantwell: 206-748-5724 or email@example.com