The Best of Both Worlds is in Washington State

The Best of Both Worlds is in Washington State

In April, I traveled home to see my family in Washington State. It’s a trip I’ve made many times, and I still don’t get bored. I may have grown up there, but the Seattle area feels more like a vacation destination every time I visit. I love hanging out with my family, going shopping with my mom, and just enjoying the downtime and fresh, cool air.

Stunning Mountain Views from the Mount Si Trail
Mountains as far as the eye can see. Taken on the Mount Si trail. 2013.

And of course, I love squeezing in as many adventures as possible whenever I visit. Even in the rain, the Pacific Northwest region is gorgeous, with no shortage of beautiful hikes, mountainous backdrops, and stunning water views. Combined with exciting city life, it’s the best of both worlds, and an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.

Over the next month or so, I’ll be sharing stories and events from my most recent Washington adventure, but I wanted to start my sharing my basic itinerary. This is my second trip home since Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere was born, and in the weeks leading up to departure, my mom and I planned out a whole bunch of excursions to take full advantage of that PNW life.

Deception Pass Bridge from North Beach
Deception Pass, one of many pretty spots visited on last year’s Washington visit. 2015.
Argosy Lakes Cruise Mt. Rainier
Pretty Mount Rainier rising up behind Seattle. 2014.

One of my mom’s friends, upon hearing our plans, found it amusing that I do the whole tourist thing when I visit. I say, why not be a tourist in your hometown? If I’d bothered to explore more when I lived in Washington, maybe I wouldn’t have left to begin with! So to start the Washington posts off, I wanted to share my travel itinerary and show what you have to look forward to for the next few weeks. Here’s the (very) short version, for those of you who (understandably) don’t want to read the whole thing right this minute.

Tuesday: Arrival in Seattle
Wednesday: Wallace Falls Hike with Dad and Jared
Thursday: Tulip Festival with Mom, dinner at Dahlia Lounge with Jared
Friday-Saturday: Victoria, British Columbia with my friend Nadya
Sunday: Chill, blog, hang out with family at home
Monday: Leavenworth with Mom
Tuesday: Shopping, Hanging out with Jennifer and her fiance Gavyn at their place
Wednesday-Thursday: Shopping, Dining, Hanging with the family
Friday: MORE shopping, dinner with Dad, departure for Orlando

For those who want to know more, however, I hope you’re comfortable. Since my upcoming posts are primarily centered around specific events and activities, I’ll share a few details about what happened between excursions. Grab some wine, this is going to be a long one.

I arrived on a Tuesday evening, after my first ever flight with Frontier Airlines. Despite my low, low expectations of the budget carrier, I found the seats to be more comfortable than what I’ve experienced with Southwest, Delta, Alaska, and JetBlue. I snacked on dried mango, read the first half of a book, squeezed in some photo editing, and watched a movie on my way up.

Rainy Arrival at SeaTac Airport

The trip was off to a good start, and it was even better when I made it home just in time for dinner with the family. And of course, drinks with my brother Jared, who you may remember from his 2015 visit to Orlando. I even saw my brother Eric, who I literally had not seen since a family trip to France in 2014!

Dad, Jared and I woke early the next day and hiked Wallace Falls, about an hour away from home. I was a little worried, especially after getting altitude sickness last year in Utah, that my body would turn against me, but we made it to the middle falls without incident. Dad and Jared continued up the last part of the trail while I stuck around, caught my breath, and snapped some more photos of the gorgeous scenery. Hiking in flat, boggy Florida just doesn’t compare to those lush mountain trails.

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Later that night, we enjoyed a family dinner at Red Robin, a farewell to Eric before he went back to start his final year of college.

Farewell Dinner for Eric at Red Robin

You’ll notice a theme here, by the way. Despite all the roaming around outdoors on this trip, we dined out a lot as well. Call it practice for all the lush foods Dan and I would later eat in Europe (sneak a peek over on Instagram).

The following day, Mom and I drove out to visit the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Longtime readers of this blog may recall we visited the tulip fields last April as well, only to find the majority of the blooms had either died or been chopped down for the season. It looked for a while, as we drove along with no flowers in sight, that we might have missed the rolling fields this time around as well, but we lucked out and visited not one but two major tulip sites.

Yellow Tulips On a Muddy Spring Day in WashingtonSensual Touch, One of Many Varieties Found at the Skagit Valley Tulip FestivalWizard of Oz fields of red and pink blooms

It drizzled off and on as we admired the flowers, but it didn’t dampen my mood one bit. On the contrary, the grey skies and delicate raindrops only served to make the flowers shine more brightly. The tulip season ended just a couple of weeks later, but I’ll be posting plenty more pictures in an upcoming post, so stay tuned!

I went out later that night with Jared, who invited me to have dinner at Dahlia Lounge, the Tom Douglas restaurant where both he and our sister Jennifer work. If you’ve ever dined in Seattle, you probably know about Tom Douglas and his well-curated collection of restaurants across the Puget Sound. If not, go look them up right now. I’ll wait.

Seafood Sampler at Dahlia Lounge.jpg

As if the food wasn’t tasty enough, I got to enjoy the company of this handsome guy, who I sometimes can’t believe is even related to me. Handsome, brainy, and he bought my drinks! Laaadies. But in all seriousness, it’s fun to hang out with my siblings now that we are (almost) all adults, and see them as more than just annoying younger sibs. I had a great time hanging out with Jared, though I suspect he was disappointed when I called it an early night. I had good reason, though…

After some serious last-minute packing, I met my friend Nadya and we boarded a 5:40 AM bus into Seattle. Nadya and I have been friends since middle school, and she is my number one confidante when it comes to “crazy” travel dreams and just insane life stories in general. We’ve talked so many times in the past about meeting up in a random city and just going on adventures, and now we were finally doing it! We arrived in Seattle, grabbed breakfast, and hopped the ferry up to Victoria, B.C. I’d never been to Victoria (or so I thought, until my mom pulled out photos of me there when I was much younger), so it was the perfect girlfriends’ adventure and a great way to break in my new passport!

Boats in the Downtown Harbor of Victoria, B.C.Spring Colors at the Fairmont Empress

We arrived with no real plan, just a hotel reservation and a couple of well-known places we wanted to see. We did a ton of walking on our first day, visiting a famous hotel, a castle, a cathedral, a park (well, we got lost here, but anyway), the world’s tallest totem pole, and finally, a beach that Nadya said reminded her of Ireland. I’ve never been to Ireland myself, but from pictures alone, I definitely see the resemblance.

Finlayson Point in Victoria, British Columbia.jpg

Our feet were aching by the time we got back to the hotel, convenience store coffee in hand, and we rested up a bit before heading out to dinner at an Irish restaurant downtown. We stopped at Victoria’s Parliament building, all lit up for the night, then crossed the street to our very well-located hotel and went to sleep.

Coming into Victoria, the one place we knew we wanted to visit was the Butchart Gardens. We faltered a bit when we learned the price of admission (close to $30) and the time and distance involved in getting to the gardens in the first place. We had no car, no money to take a cab, and not a whole lot of time remaining before our return ferry left port. By breakfast the next morning, generously included in our room rate, we still had not decided if it was worth going out of our way to see a few flowers. Remember, this is after visiting the Tulip Festival and basking in the spring flowers blooming all over downtown Victoria, so paying to see even more of them seemed a bit silly.

Still, we decided to look up a bus schedule and, upon seeing there was a bus line running directly to the gardens from the Parliament building, we went for it. And you know what? The bus ride wasn’t bad at all. We felt very accomplished, and even a bit silly for letting something like a long bus ride deter us from our plans.

Getting to Butchart Gardens by Public Bus.jpg

And the gardens?

Totally worth it. I took well over 300 pictures from at the Butchart Gardens alone, many of which will be featured in an upcoming post. For now, here are a few snaps to demonstrate how lovely and absolutely massive the gardens really are.

The Beautiful Sunken Garden in Spring, Located at the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C.The Most Beautiful Flowers at The Butchart Gardens in British ColumbiaDancing Water Show at Butchart GardensOld Friends at Victoria's Butchart Gardens in Spring

We had a couple of hours remaining by the time we arrived back in downtown Victoria, so we walked along the waterfront to Fisherman’s Wharf. On the ferry crossing from Seattle, I had seen a magazine photo of vibrant, quirky little floating homes, and wanted to see them for myself. How very Instagram-able. Though I took plenty of photos here, none of them actually made it to Instagram. We found ourselves in an adorable, albeit touristy, little floating district, complete with a real estate office, several restaurants, and the colorful homes of the people living on the water. Turns out Fisherman’s Wharf is way more than a handful of floating homes.

Houseboats at Fisherman's Wharf, Victoria B.C..jpg

They even have a park! We had initially planned to take a few photos, maybe grab some lunch, and head back to the “Ireland” beach until we absolutely had to catch our ferry back. But the floating homes, the fresh seafood, the live music, and even the harbor seals splashing around for food had us enchanted, and we stayed put, soaking up the last wonderful moments in Victoria before heading back to Seattle.

Pretty Harbor Views From Victoria's Fisherman's Wharf.jpg

Buck a Shuck Oysters in Victoria's Fisherman's Wharf.jpg

I can tell you now, we absolutely adored our time in British Columbia, and I suspect my B.C. based posts will be just as long-winded as this one!

Sunset from the Victoria Clipper.jpg

Sunday was blissfully low-key. I stayed home and got some blog-related work done while my family went to church, then hung out with my siblings for the rest of the afternoon. Jennifer came over and spent the night, and we pulled out the old photo drawer searching for the most awkward family photos. It felt good to rest my feet for a while and just relax, but it didn’t last long!

The next morning, Mom and I drove out to Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed town a 2-3 hour drive from home. We passed the trail head to Wallace Falls, and continued on through the mountains, the scenery becoming increasingly beautiful as we moved along. There were spots to pull over and enjoy the view every mile or two along the road, though we only stopped once along the way. Snow-lined roads gave way to a river, lazing along at some points and crashing into rocks at others. The trees, river view, and the incredible mountains towering over both sides of the road were easily the most beautiful thing I had seen in a trip already full of beautiful moments.

Gorgeous Mountain Views on the Drive to Leavenworth, WA.jpg

Taking in the Mountain Views Near Leavenworth, WA.jpg

Again, I’ll write a bit more about Leavenworth in a future post. For now, I’ll just say this is a town I’d been curious about for years. The downtown area was converted to look like a Bavarian village in the early 1960s, in an attempt to save a struggling town bypassed and forgotten with the introduction of new railroad routes. The gimmick worked, and tourists and locals alike still visit the town today. If the traditional buildings, adorable shops and abundance of German food aren’t enough to convince you to visit, the mountain views certainly might! For me, the most convincing part of the Bavarian feel was the huge snow-capped mountain in the background of half my photos.

Wilkommen to Leavenworth, WAThe Main Road in Washington State's Downtown LeavenworthMunchen Haus, Bavarian Grill Sausages in Leavenworth, WA

My final days in Washington were a low-key blend of shopping, dining, and just hanging out with family. I spent some time with Jennifer and her fiance in Seattle, before spending the night at their place, eating lots of delicious food, and getting very homesick for my own cat when theirs didn’t love all over me.

Chris and Rachel Eating Cold Stone Ice Cream at Redmond Town CenterDelicious Margaritas Made by Gavyn at Cantina LenaJen and Gavyn at Tacoma Narrows Brewery, WARum and Tequila Round Up at Cantina Lena

I went to my sister Rachel’s swim practice, cuddled my dog as much as possible, and picked up a ton of new clothes for my (then-upcoming) trip to Europe. Huge shout out to my mom for taking me to a dozen stores and not judging me when my “summer wear and comfy walking shoes” turned out to mean flats, new jeans, and even more cardigans to add to an already-full collection. We topped it all off on my final day with a quick trip to Value Village (more cardigans!) and an early dinner date with my Dad before he dropped me off at SeaTac.

As always, I had a fantastic time visiting family and exploring all (okay, a fraction of all) that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. You know it’s good when you start planning your next trip to place before you’ve even left it! Stay tuned for plenty of upcoming posts in the next few weeks, and remember to follow me on Instagram for a peek at what I’m up to right now!



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