Surprisingly, over a dozen people, from readers to coworkers, have asked me about the Pacific Northwest since I moved away. Specifically, along the lines of “I really want to visit/move there, can you give me some tips”. I used to keep a page for members on all my recommendations, but it is long gone. So I thought I would memorialize all my thoughts on the Pacific Northwest, with a bias towards the Seattle region, before I forget it all.
This is most certainly going to annoy people from the PNW, but it’s the kind of perspective you only get by moving away. Or so I like to tell myself.
Ok so Pandemic + me being gone + the scene changing a lot = I have nothing of value to add here. I do apologize, as I know people love food. So instead I am going to generalize a few things:
- Japanese food is better here than most places in the US. I said it. Deal.
- Chinese food is far better than anything you will find in a non-West/East Coast state. I can’t speak to Florida, but I can’t imagine Chinese food is good there. Anyways, yeah, if you are coming from not a coastal state, you might check it out — it’s cheaper too, unless you go high end. And yes, there are high end Chinese places, it’s a life worth dining for sure.
- Mexican food, by comparison to Texas/San Diego, is not good. Move along.
- Seafood is a thing there, people love it, there you go. A focus on Salmon and crab for sure.
Of course there is exception to all these rules, but if push comes to shove and you need to get some Uber Eats, boom. There’s your guidance, your rule of thumb if you will.
Areas to See
Shi Shi Beach, one of the best beaches in WA.
Ok, here’s my master list of areas, and what I think about them:
- Olympics: Hurricane Ridge is one of the coolest places you can go. Basically, on the WA peninsula and you can drive to the top of one of the best parks in the country (Olympic National Park, drive up to Hurricane Ridge). The issue: it is a long drive from Seattle and honestly (outside of nature) there’s nothing to see there. There is a neat car ferry from Port Angeles, which will take you to Victoria BC (Canada) and that’s a great town for about 1.5 days to visit. Hurricane Ridge, if you love nature, worth it, but it will eat a full day. A Full Day. So that’s the caveat, but it is one of my favorite places on earth. If you do go out there, you might look at going even further and also checking out Shi Shi Beach where you can camp on the beach and it’s gorgeous. This is the best of the nature/rustic areas to go, but don’t think you’ll find 5 star accommodations in Port Angeles.
- Cascades: much closer to Seattle (about 60-90 minutes drive) is the Cascade Range and there are some epic spots there. But if you are not there to hike in nature, the best ones are mostly out of reach, or so overcrowded to not be worth it. One thing that is worth it: Snoqualmie Falls — what an area. There’s also some places you can go during the winter (Dec – Feb) and slide down snow on tubes, which is fun. There’s snowshoe hiking too, with guides, never did it but people love it.
- Leavenworth: look, you’re better off going to Hurricane Ridge than this, but there’s a little town called Leavenworth. It’s north east of Seattle and a long trek from Seattle. But, if you are in the Seattle area during Christmas, and you love Christmas — go ahead and add that to your list. It would be hard to do in just a day (long drive, did I mention that?), but a short weekend is more than enough. There’s a fancy train (in years past, COVID, I don’t know) that takes you there during Christmas and I have heard it is something, never took it because it was pricey. But, Leavenworth at Christmas is crazy busy, so you need to plan accommodations well in advance.
- Seattle Proper: yeah ok, I don’t love Seattle proper. The downtown area is just basically Amazon and nonsense now. Pike Place market should be seen if you have never been, but unless you like farmers markets when you are on vacation, don’t allot too much time to this. That fish throwing thing you see on TV, it is real, but only happens when someone actually buys a fish. So don’t be a goon standing there forever asking them to do it, buy a fish if you want to see it. The ‘original Starbucks’ is there (but it’s not the original, whatever) and is not worth getting a drink from. Look, take a pic, insta, move on. Google the ‘Starbucks Reserve’ get your coffee there and be prepared to wait, it’s far better. And that will put you near Capitol Hill, which is (as my friends know) a place I loathe to park in, but houses the best food and generally the best night life in the city. There’s a ton of great places. There’s also Hotel Sorrento (yes Seattle, I know that’s not technically Capitol Hill but deal) and it is old as hell, has a terribly small and slow elevator, and yet is a place I love to stay. Filson also has the flagship store in south Downtown, and it is worth seeing if you are a fan of the brand and have cash to spend. To sweeten the Filson pot, Westland Distillery is right that and it is properly good single malt whiskey.
- West Seattle: There’s a beach over there, or so they say. Not worth it. And I lived in West Seattle for like 2 years. It’s an area for families, not people on vacation.
- Bellevue: never worth it. Yes, there is stuff there. But it sucks.
- Tacoma: gross, no. And I am from Tacoma. If you are super into glass sculpture, then you will need to go and visit The Museum of Glass, it is pretty awesome. You can skip anything else in Tacoma though. Wait let me think about that, well there’s the LeMay car museum, I wouldn’t go for that, but you could go to that. And, umm, yeah that’s about it.
- Seabrook: this is a beach town that Seattle people might talk about how much they love. But lol, goodness no. Overpriced, and sits on a massive cliff over the beach, so actually getting to the beach is a massive trek. Washington does not have good beach places, except Shi Shi which is like end of the world drive to get to.
- Walla Walla: Amazing wine, if you like red wine (if you don’t like red wine, then do you like wine?). Anyways, outside of Napa, a fantastic wine producing region, and I think probably better than Napa (for wine, not for wineries). But comically it is like FOREVER away from Seattle. You’ll need to fly out there, but if you do: Abeja, nuff said.
- Portland: I know people love Portland, my wife is from Portland — I have spent a ton of time there. Portland sucks. It’s not big, there’s not really anything to do there, which isn’t done better in Seattle. And that’s just that. They do have an annoying amount of bridges. And no sales tax, so if you want to shop like crazy you could do that, Washingtonians abuse the shit out of that one. Portland does have a lot of strip clubs, it’s a thing, look it up. They also own the market on hole in the wall bars which serve shitty beer in cans. One time I went to a bar there and asks for just a Coca Cola, they said “We only serve Royal Crown” which the rest of the world calls RC Cola. Did I mentioned I cannot stand Portland?
- Canon Beach: this is in Oregon, and the best beach town in the PNW. Stellar area. This and Crater Lake are the best parts of Oregon, low bar, but you know — it’s something. Ok ok, Crater Lake is awesome and like really cool, but my god it is in the middle of no where.
I can’t wait for the emails.
On the way up Hurricane Ridge.
Times of Year to Visit the PNW
Look there’s a couple things we need to clear up about the Pacific Northwest weather:
- It does rain, but not as much as you think. It’s just that when it does rain it kind of is generally wet all day. A crazy amount of rainfall is like half an inch in a day, and it will take all day of raining to get there. So if you are going during raining season, know that everything will be wet the entire time and that will be that.
- The region is temperate weather. Which basically means it never gets super cold, and rarely gets super warm. Plan on 50s, cold being high 30s, and warm being high 70s. People in Seattle lose their ever loving minds the first time the weather hits 60°F.
- Snow. Snow is not a thing. It does snow, but that’s like maybe 4 days a year on average. Keep in mind that Seattle is at sea level.
Ok with those misconceptions out of the way, here’s the breakdown by month for my travel advisories to the area:
- January: I don’t know why you would ever want to visit during this time.
- February: This is the month it might snow, if it will snow, and is otherwise unremarkable.
- March: The weather in this month is predictable. It will be light rain with about a high of the upper 40s.
- April: Same as March, with the chance of being 5° warmer.
- May: Warmer! Still rainy.
- June: Even warmer! Still more days of rain than not.
- July: Before the 4th of July, see June. After the Fourth of July it typically is going to be warm enough and generally not rainy.
- August: In the US, we now start the period where WA has some of the lowest rainfall counts in the country. You can essentially count on this month as warm and dry. Do note, that the reason people freak out about hot weather in Seattle is because most homes do not have AC. This is the month when that becomes a regret.
- September: the best month to visit, as long as you do so in the first half of the month. Before it gets dicey.
- October: welcome to cold and rainy.
- November: colder and more rain.
- December: same as November, but with the hope that it might snow on Christmas.
My advice: go to the PNW between August 1 – September 14th. That will be the best weather, and avoid it at all other times of the year.
Random other Miscellany
Some items which don’t fit elsewhere:
- The PNW has a fantastic Laissez-Faire attitude towards fashion: wear whatever, because you will match someone else at some point. But wear a suit if you want to stand out, no one wears those. But you could still wear one and people won’t care.
- No one uses an umbrella, we use GoreTex.
- It is either going to rain all day, or not rain all day. There is no in between.
- There was once a stretch where we saw no sunshine for over 60 days in a row. Good lord that sucked.
- Mt. Rainier is ever present no matter where you go, you’ll see it. You’ll be mesmerized by it, because it is awesome.
- You cannot climb Mt. Rainier. Yes, people do climb it, but you are not likely to be one of them. Tons of people get stranded thinking it would be easy.
- Microsoft is not from Seattle.
- It gets cold at night, thanks Puget Sound.
- In the summer the days are insanely long, in the winter they are insanely dark.
Moving To Seattle
The only advice I can give you about moving to Seattle is that, having moved away, it would take a tremendous thing before I moved back. I just have no interest, and when we moved away I always assumed it would be temporary. The reason: sun.
There’s just no sun in the PNW and once you live somewhere which the sun shining is a normal year round thing, you don’t want to leave it. If you like dark and gloomy then the PNW is going to be something you will love. If jacket weather is your jam, go for it. But if you like sun, stay far away.
That’s all I got, don’t email me.