Within an hour or two of Seattle (and sometimes in our own backyard) are destinations for relaxing and adventuring. Check out my collection of itineraries for my favorite day trips from Seattle filled with adventure, outdoors, art, food, and relaxation.
Urban Seattle can be a magical place to live. While dense city living has its drawbacks, it means that places to rest and play can be found in just a few minute’s walk or a short bus ride from almost any part of the city. Once in a while, though all of us Seattleites – especially those of us who are transplants- start to itch for adventure beyond the urban jungle of Seattle. Day trips are a great way to scratch an adventure itch without the expense or hassle of a distant vacation complete with hours of planning, travel, and the expense of a hotel or Airbnb.
In my time in Seattle, I learned to navigate and survive in the city by utilizing Washington State ferries and short 1-2 hour drives to reach destinations totally unlike urban Seattle. When a day trip just requires a 30-minute ferry trip to find yourself in a completely different environment, or a quick drive over the past to explore a climate totally unlike Seattle’s, it underscores the importance of day trips as a way to provide self-care and rest.
In addition to longer vacations where deep rest can be achieved, planning regular weekend day trips from Seattle is a great way to fight the burnout of working in tech, retail, or healthcare in Seattle. Although sometimes Seattle day trips can take a little bit of work – planning, driving, and exploring your destination – these experiences can help our brains shift into a different mode. Even though it’s an effort to take a day trip from Seattle, that effort uses a different part of our energy, brain, interests, and body. In spending our weekends on day trips to get out of Seattle, we can help support a healthy urban lifestyle even during the weekdays.
While many travelers come to Seattle for day trips, especially those from the San Juan Islands or Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, for local Seattle residents, a good day trip often includes an excursion to an island in the Puget Sound, a lodge or hiking trail in the mountains, or even the desert landscapes of Eastern Washington. The combination of highways and waterways that provide options for day trip transportation in and out of Seattle makes it easy to break up a boring routine with a short day of travel.
Who Enjoys Seattle Days Trips:
Solo travel – Seattle day trips are perfect for solo travel when you just need a day away, and they are also fun for families with kids and as an out-of-the-box idea for a romantic date in Seattle.
Couples Date-Days – When you’re ready for a full-day adventure with the new person you’ve been dating, a day trip from Seattle can be a great way to spend a larger chunk of time with someone and get to know them in a different environment. Navigating a day trip together, negotiating and compromising about travel choices, and experiencing something new together can be a way to learn more about each other and bond as a couple.
One Day Family Vacations – For families with kids and teens, taking a day trip can often be a way to reset and bond as a family. When we are at home and stuck in our routines, often we began to feel disconnected and isolated as we segregate two different spaces of our homes.
Taking a day trip together – with everyone in the car collaborating to enjoy a day doing something different- can challenge these routines in a way that can be uncomfortable but also help us reconnect with each other. (You may want to check out my tips for minimizing stress on a family vacation) Through taking a day trip out of Seattle, for example to the Hood Canal or even hopping across the Puget Sound to purchase a Christmas tree on Bainbridge Island, can be a way to spend quality time together while creating special memories.
The best time of year for Seattle day trips:
Whether you’re planning a day trip into Seattle from the outlying areas or you are planning a day trip to escape Seattle to the rural areas nearby, thanks to Seattle’s moderate climate there is almost no time of year that’s bad for a Seattle day trip.
Regions around the Puget Sound experience very little snowfall, making winter travel much easier. If you’re headed to Western Washington or up to the mountains, however, you may want to check the weather or check with the Washington Department of Transportation regarding the road conditions in the passes (click here for WA mountain pass conditions updates). Avoid taking a Seattle day trip that will take you into potential winter weather, as often a gentle winter drizzle in Metro Seattle cam mean very dangerous driving conditions at higher elevations.
You can choose your Seattle day trip based on the weather at the time of year that you are planning your trip. For example, in the summer a trip to Jetty Island is an outstanding way to escape the heat and enjoy one of the few spots where swimming in the Puget Sound is safe and warm (thanks to a long, shallow, and sandy channel that allows the beach’s water to warm up), while a winter trip might be better spent visiting Bainbridge Island for the cozy island ambiance there, and destinations like Whidbey Island’s Deception Pass are appropriate year-round. Pacific Northwest Beaches are tourist-friendly year-round, unlike some other region’s summer-focused beach culture.
Lynli Roman’s unique approach to travel is informed by decades of experience on the road with a traveling family and, later, years spent as a solo international traveler. When she’s not writing about Seattle from her Pike Place Market apartment, Lynli writes on-location while conducting hands-on research in each destination she covers. Lynli’s writing has been featured by MSN, ABC Money, Buzzfeed, and Huffington Post. She is passionate about sharing information that makes travel more accessible for all bodies.