Could This Be the Most Underrated Winter Destination in America?
The Pacific Northwest really heats up in the winter.
When it gets cold, everyone you know probably heads somewhere warm. Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, you name it—if it’s warm and has a beach, people are flocking there. But may I propose the Pacific Northwest (or “PNW” for those in the know) to you instead? There’s a variety of climates, from rainy Seattle to relatively comfortable Portland, to snowy Boise, meaning a little something for everyone. And the region is packed full of stunning nature, marvelous food, and memorable experiences. If you haven’t been to the PNW in the wintertime, let me tempt you with the very best to add to your itinerary wishlist.
James Bentley Photography/Shutterstock
A Boudoir Photoshoot with Suma Jane Dark
WHERE: Portland, Oregon
If you’ve never considered a sexy photoshoot, have no fear, because Suma Jane Dark is the perfect boudoir photographer for your first shoot. A queer, plus-size, non-binary person, Suma has experience both in front and behind the camera. They built their business with the dedicated goal of providing a luxurious and empowering experience to people of all body types. You’ll have a cozy mid-century home full of comfortable sets from which to choose (and of course, you can choose a few), including a claw foot tub in front of a wood-burning stove and even a neon set.
Suma Jane Dark
Drive Up the Sea-to-Sky Highway
WHERE: Vancouver, British Columbia
If you love a good road trip, but don’t have days to travel, consider the roughly two-hour trip up the Sea to Sky Highway, from Vancouver to Whistler, for a view that’s considered one of the best in Canada. It’s perfect for a reflective solo drive or a romantic couples adventure, or, you can make it a weekend by adding a bed and breakfast and a spa reservation.
EB Adventure Photography/Shutterstock
Sun Valley Film Festival
WHERE: Sun Valley, Idaho
Since 2010, at the end of March, and into early April, Sun Valley, Idaho holds its annual film festival. “It is one of the few industry events held amid snow flurries and one of the smaller events so it is easy access to interact with celebrities,” says award-winning journalist and travel writer Ruksana Hussain. “I got to meet Yahya Abdul-Mateen [The Matrix Resurrections and Aquaman] the year I visited and the quality of films selected is top-notch.”
Courtesy of Sun Valley Film Festival
Axe Throwing at Blade & Timber
WHERE: Seattle, Washington
For an active experience perfect for couples or groups of friends, axe throwing is both easily captivating, relatively affordable, and fairly simple to learn. Bring your snacks, closed-toed shoes, a charged phone (you definitely want to photograph this!), and a can-do attitude, because before it becomes fun, it can be a tad frustrating. Blade & Timber is the only axe-throwing establishment that is allowed to serve beer, cider, and spiked seltzer, but you are limited to two drinks. The coach will guide you through how to use and throw your axe safely, and after watching you practice, will leave you to enjoy your experience.
Snowshoeing at Mount Rainier National Park
WHERE: Ashford, Washington
“Snowshoeing at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State is spectacular in the wintertime,” says travel blogger Jessica Schmit of Uprooted Traveler. “The entire park turns into a winter wonderland, with impossibly grand pine trees covered with snow and glacier-capped mountains in every direction.” If you’re not a regular snowshoer, you can rent yourself a pair from the National Park Inn General Store, inside the park. Snowshoeing doesn’t require much equipment, but given the cold, you’d be wise to pack some waterproof gloves and hiking boots, as well as gaiters or waterproof pants.
Razor Clam Digging
WHERE: Gearhart, Oregon
If you want to get outdoors and dig for your next meal, razor clam digging is the perfect winter activity to do on the Oregon coast. It’s a rather simple activity that anyone can do, as long as they have a place to prepare the razor clams quickly. “Clam diggers walk the beaches at low tide looking for raisin-sized holes in the sand, this is what’s called a ‘show’,” says Paul Tice, GM at a local vacation rental co-op, Gearhart by the Sea. “Using either a shovel or a clam tube, they dig up the clams, harvest what they need, and leave enough clams for both others to follow and the razor clam generations to come.”
Stay in Free Spirit Spheres
WHERE: Qualicum Beach, British Columbia
For someone seeking a relaxing thrill or a few days to reconnect with a lover, you’re in for a real treat at Free Spirit Spheres, a unique cocoon of sorts, suspended ten feet or more above the forest floor. “The forest solitude is near-total and utterly perfect,” says Jessica Langer, who took her partner there for his 50th birthday. “They’re tiny spherical treehouses in the middle of the forest, and each one takes years for the owner to plan and build by hand. In winter, it’s the ultimate hygge, as close as one can imagine to being a hibernating bear or a squirrel tucked away in a tree munching on hidden nuts.”
Wine Tasting Weekend
WHERE: Hood River, Oregon
When magnificent wineries and awe-inspiring nature collide, you get the perfect location for a weekend getaway. Home to the Columbia River Gorge, a 4,000-foot deep, 88-mile long canyon, Hood River has no shortage of excellent wineries. “Head to Italian-inspired Marchesi Vineyards, Stave & Stone for views of both Mount Hood and Mount Adams and a lavender field, or Hood Crest Winery which has robust reds, wood-fired pizzas, and live music on the weekends,” recommends Tamara Elliott, a travel writer and founder of Globe Guide.
Explore the Portland Winter Light Festival
WHERE: Portland, Oregon
“The Portland Winter Light Festival is a true beacon in the drudgery that is Portland’s rainy winter,” says author Kathrine Factor. “It brings a riot of colorful installations, artist collaborations, immersive soundscapes (those are my fav), bridge projections, food carts, informative plaques, and interactivity to visitors.” The festival allows you to explore the city, with pop-up installations at local businesses, different windows, and other locations, in addition to larger installations. It’s also completely free!
Food Tour of Pike Place Market
WHERE: Seattle, Washington
I’ve been to Pike Place Market many times over the years, and somehow, it never gets old. A chef-guided food tour is a perfect way to learn about the market, the vendors, and of course, the food. You also get to skip the lines at famous foodie restaurants like Pike Place Chowder and learn about hidden gems like Indi Chocolate, a woman-owned bean-to-bar chocolate shop that makes the chocolate on-site. After the tour, stroll the market, and shop with a special 10% off coupon the chef will provide you.
Angie Hu [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] / Flikr
Glamping at The Vintages
WHERE: Dayton, Oregon
If camping isn’t your cup of tea, or it’s colder than you’d like to stay outside, glamping is the perfect winter getaway. The Vintages feature restored, vintage airstream trailers, one of which come with an outdoor soaking tub, and a king-size bed! “It was quiet and serene, and this getaway was all about kicking back, sipping wine, and connecting with each other, no big distractions,” says travel and lifestyle expert Jetta Bates. “The detail they put into decorating the trailers was impeccable.”
Andrea Lonas Photography
Cruise the Portland Spirit
WHERE: Portland, Oregon
Don’t just look dine on the river bank, or stare longingly into its water, get on the Portland Spirit, a year-round, two-hour-long cruise, and experience the water and cityscape from the best vantage point. “Find a cozy spot with a drink or a meal and take in the sights,” says Hussain. Depending on the cruise you select, it may feature live piano music and/or a guided tour by the captain covering the history and architecture of the area.