Winter and spring in the Pacific Northwest are notoriously dark and damp, but autumn is actually the ideal time to visit. The rain hasn't yet started and the weather is bright, brisk and often quite sunny. Best of all, the region erupts in bright fall colors and the restaurants and fruit stands are filled with wonderful fall produce. Here are five great weekend getaways to help you make the most of this special time of year.
Seattle is a great city any time of year, but September and October are a uniquely special time to visit. The summer crowds have gone home, but glimpses of golden sunny weather remain. It's not consistent: you are just as likely to get caught in a rain storm as to spend a sun-dappled afternoon sipping wine outside, but the golden foliage, crisp weather and pumpkin lattes are sure to fulfill all your fall-weather dreams.
Seattle is also a great place to experience Washington State's incredible bounty of fall produce. Head down to Pike Place Market to see it for yourself or try one of the many restaurants that spotlight seasonal ingredients.
The Columbia River Gorge starts just a short drive outside of Portland, Oregon, making it easily accessible for a day or overnight trip. The Historic Columbia River Highway winds through the bottom of the gorge, passing by dozens of waterfalls including dramatic Multnomah Falls. The scenery is accentuated by the incredible gold and red fall foliage of the Cascade Mountains. Give yourself time to stop along the way; attractions include many wineries, the oldest bookstore in Oregon and the quaint town of Hood River.
If the prospect of a dark and stormy winter has you down, consider a trip out to Sun Valley Idaho, a ski resort town where, true to its name, it's nearly always sunny. Good weather is important because you will want to spend all of your time outside: hiking, biking and generally enjoying the terrific scenery, enhanced by the golden foliage. Autumn is considered off-season so prices are reasonable, but many locals consider September and October the loveliest time of year.
The small Bavarian themed town of Leavenworth is a perennial fall favorite because of the many festivals that happen here during the autumn months. The Autumn Leaf Festival in September celebrates the areas gorgeous fall foliage, whereas the Leavenworth Oktoberfest in October is the largest in the Pacific Northwest.
Leavenworth is also a great jumping off point for Washington's apple country. Washington State supplies 60% of the country's apples, along with peaches, pears and more. The countryside around Leavenworth is filled with u-pick orchards and cideries.
The San Juan Islands start off the coast of Northern Washington and stretch up into British Colombia. Largely rural, most of the islands are only accessible by boat or ferry. This makes them a popular spot to get away from it all and reconnect with nature. The larger islands can be crowded during the summer but in autumn they are just as beautiful and significantly less crowded.
October marks the annual Savor the San Juans A Month-long Medley of Food, Farms & Art an event encompassing wine tastings, harvest festivals, gourmet dinners and more. Fall is also prime season to spot orcas and other marine mammals off the coast.
Where would you start your autumnal explorations of the Pacific Northwest?
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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