DriveShop provided me with use of the 2016 Kia Optima for our road trip last year to Portland and Seattle. All opinions are mine.
It seems a bit odd to write about a winter vacation in the heat of a late summer, but now is the perfect time to start looking at those winter vacation spots.
You can plan something to look forward to during the dreary rains of winter, you can think about cooler times as you bake in the dried-out last gasps of summer, and it never hurts to look away from the forest-fire-smoke-brown skies you’re dealing with (again).
So let me lay down my argument for visiting our upper left corner of the lower 48 during the wintertime, despite (or maybe BECAUSE OF) the weather.
- Seattle and Portland are far more magical when it’s dreary and grey. You don’t see movies set in either Washington or Oregon during the summertime, because everything is brown and it’s hot. Summer here is not romantic or lovely, it is sweaty and “don’t touch me”. It’s not pretty.The grey skies can be daunting at times, but the rain makes everything green. Our levels of winter precipitation make our states lush and beautiful, and it looks just like those scenes from Twilight.
Yes, there are parts of our state that look like that at times. Yes, it really is that lovely. No, you shouldn’t move here. (ha)Rolling down Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham WA, or over the bridge the 5 on the way into Portland is pretty amazing in the misty rain. (especially if you’re rolling in a car like the 2016 Kia Optima, an IIHS top safety pick.)
- The crowds are practically non-existent. You can walk through the Pacific Science Center in Seattle without standing in horrendously long queues.You can walk through the empty Pike Place Market on an rainy night and that’s basically the most romantic thing ever, even if you’re with your Best Platonic Guy Movie Friend Dude and your kids.The lines at Blue Star Donuts in Portland and the crowds in Powell’s are practically nonexistent, and the Oregon Zoo (or the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle!) is quiet when it’s drizzling outside.My personal favorite: you don’t have to search for parking spots for nearly as long as you do in the summer. That alone is a selling point for me, as I DESPISE searching for parking. I also hate paying for parking. (The 2016 Kia Optima feels enormous inside, but is SO EASY to parallel park with its compact size!)I jump at chances to vacation in the off-season because you get to know a place a whole lot better when you’re not fighting hordes of humans to get to actually see the city.
- It’s less expensive because it’s the “off season”. Hotels are less expensive, which means you have extra money to spend on fun things like more donuts (I very much enjoyed the donuts of Blue Star, can you tell?).Also, you can actually get food without the epic queue at the popular restaurants from those fancy magazines, like Salt & Straw ice cream (which has been featured in every food magazine out there, and on Food Network at least 3 times) or Tails & Trotters (which has been on Diners, Dive-ins and Drives and in multiple food magazines).If you’re road tripping like we did when we visited Portland and Seattle last winter, you can afford to pack your car trunk with all sorts of fun souvenirs. (We fit 2 new fairly large stuffed animals, luggage for 3 people for a week, the spare carseat, 4 bags of books from Powells, a dozen donuts and cupcakes, three large shopping bags of various and sundry items we purchased, plus three big winter coats in the 15.9 cubic feet of trunk of that 2016 Kia Optima.)
- The flavors of a Pacific Northwest winter on a dinner menu are worth the trip. We have taken a trip every year on my birthday in February for the past few years.Every year, we stop at Etta’s and order the Dungeness crab. (And like 3 desserts, but we will talk about that another time.) Crab season is year round, but there’s something resplendent about in-season Meyer lemon with that sweet crab meat.Blue Star (I swear, they didn’t pay me to say this, I just am obsessed with their donuts) served up an orange-olive-oil-dusted donut in February that we actually had to go back and get more because it “disappeared”. (Into someone’s mouth.)Grassa, a little pasta place around the corner from the Blue Star on SW Washington in Portland, served up our first experience with gnocchi (done correctly) with pork belly and peas that we took to go, and ate sitting in the big comfy bed in our hotel room in the downtown Residence Inn Marriott (conveniently located within walking distance of Powells, Blue Star, and the train that takes you everywhere).
There’s something about the flavors in the depth of winter that is surprising and comforting. Parades of soups and stews that will warm your chilled soul, desserts that you could have set on fire tableside (like the Baked Alaska we enjoyed at Salty’s on Alki) and tons of hot toddy options (like a spruce-infused version that I can’t quite describe from Dahlia Lounge) that will defrost your toes.
(And if you’re rocking that 2016 Kia Optima, you’ll be able to drive however far is required to chase those flavors, with 26MPG city and 39 MPG highway.)
I could probably go on and on and wax poetic forever about how much I love my corner of the United States, but you really need to just come on up and experience it for yourself.
So pack up your North Face, your handknits and your fleeces, bring a hat or two (and maybe some fingerless gloves) and head our way this winter. (If you’re driving a 2016 Kia Optima, you might be able to skip the gloves. That heated steering wheel option is ACES in the dead of winter.)
Have you visited the Pacific Northwest in the wintertime?
For a list of places we enjoyed visiting on our various trips to Portland and Seattle, and a list of places we want to try, check out our Cupcake Travels map!