As the days draw shorter and colder, you might be dreaming of white sandy beaches, palm trees and blistering heat. Before you jet off to an exotic locale, consider the abundance of wintertime fun to be had in your own backyard. Offering some of the most diverse landscapes in the United States, the Pacific Northwest is the perfect area for a holiday escape.
Play outside under clear blue skies while freshly fallen snow crunches underfoot, drive through cosmopolitan cities to take in glittering lights or cozy up in a luxury resort and watch the fireplace roar. The best part? Most of these destinations are just a hop, skip or short drive away. Pack your weekend bag and make the most of the winter season with these five must do Pacific Northwest holiday adventures.
1. Enjoy World-Class Skiing and Snowboarding in Whistler
With crisp mountain air, slopes covered in glistening snow and icicle-laden trees, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything more magical than a Whistler getaway for the winter holidays. The two majestic peaks receive an average of 410 inches of snowfall each winter, creating a paradise for wintertime activities.
Shred some fresh powder. Trek through serene old-growth forests on snowshoes to catch a glimpse of local wildlife. Mush a powerful dog team through Callaghan Valley or feel the wind in your face as you tube down Whistler Blackcomb’s icy slopes. After a day outdoors, experience the resort’s famous après ski activities and unwind at one of the many spas, sample award-winning cuisine or dance until the wee hours at one of Whistler’s legendary nightclubs.
2. Explore Leavenworth’s Winter Wonderland
True winter wonderlands are a rarity these days, but they are not as scarce as you may think. Travel a few hours northeast of Seattle, to the snowy mountain town of Leavenworth to discover plenty of holiday cheer. During the first three weekends of December, enjoy a step back in time as the quaint Bavarian town hosts their old-fashioned Christmas Lighting Festival. The smell of roasting chestnuts and brats fills the air, Gluhwein tents selling hot spiced wine and cider line the streets and carolers are found on nearly every corner.
The highlight of the festival centers on the evening lighting ceremony. As the last rays of the sunlight fade from the horizon, follow the harmonic sounds of Alphorns to the town Square and watch the parade of stars and bells before welcoming Santa amidst thousands of twinkling lights. The winter fun does not have to end there. Be sure to soak in the festive ambience with a carriage ride through town or relish the chance to enjoy the snow by sledding or snowshoeing in Riverfront Park.
3. Experience Vancouver’s Towering Heights
From pristine trees to majestic snowcapped peaks, the Pacific Northwest winter landscapes are the stuff postcard designers drool over. Dive into the natural beauty of the region with a getaway to Vancouver, where you can experience these stunning landscapes from a new perspective. Venture more than a hundred feet off the ground at the awe-inspiring and popular Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and get a squirrel’s eye view of the region’s ancient evergreen trees, including the world’s tallest Christmas tree. During the holiday season the grounds are made even more spectacular when strands of lights cause the park’s bridges, trees and walkways to glitter like diamonds.
For more breathtaking vistas, visit the neighboring Grouse Mountain to see the snowy peaks set against the city and ocean. On the mountain, frolic in the snow during the Peak of Christmas celebrations. Take in the crisp mountain air as you glide across an 8,000 square foot skating pond or grab a steaming cup of cocoa and cozy up with that special someone on an unforgettable mountaintop sleigh ride.
4. Tour the Lights of Portland
As if delicious street food and trendy boutiques are not enticing enough, the abundance of sparkling lights lining the city’s streets are reason alone to visit the vibrant metropolis of Portland. To ensure that you catch the biggest and brightest displays, hop on the Portland Christmas Tour, which will take you past historic mansions and neighborhoods decked out in their holiday finest. You will also drive through the breathtaking Winter Wonderland at Portland Race Track, which has been dubbed the “Largest Holiday Light Show West of the Mississippi” and features more than 250 creative and colorful dazzling displays.
5. Embrace the Rain with Storm Watching in Tofino
Perched on Vancouver Island’s rugged west coast, about a four and a half hour drive from Victoria, Tofino is a prime location to revel in the stormy northwest weather. For a full-on storm immersion, don your warmest clothes, best raincoat and rubber boots and venture out onto Tonquin Beach and Trail. Stand where the beach meets the forest, breathe in the salt sea air and look on as the lashing rain and howling gales stir the ocean into a lather and toss driftwood around like matchsticks. When you feel like drying off, ensconce yourself in the popular Wolf in the Fog or Pointe Restaurant at Wickaninnish Inn, cozy up with a piping hot drink and relax to the sound of pattering rain and crashing waves.
From exploring snow-covered peaks and valleys to reveling in the rain, there are plenty of amazing adventures to be had in the Pacific Northwest this season with no visits to crowed airports or lengthy flights required. Grab your friends and family for a memorable holiday escape and discover the beauty of winter in the Pacific Northwest.