High Adventure: The 10 Best Day Trips From Seattle and Tacoma

Home to multiple art museums, glorious views of the Cascade Mountains and a trendy downtown area, Tacoma is a picturesque city in the Pacific Northwest that’s full of fun things to see and do. But if you find yourself longing for a break from Tacoma, consider taking a day trip to one of Tacoma’s surrounding cities or attractions.

No matter what your preference, whether it’s hiking, shopping, skiing, eating, wine-drinking, nature-watching or sightseeing, you’re sure to find it within a 200-mile radius of Tacoma. Here are the 10 most worth a road trip:

  1. Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park (Vancouver, B.C., Canada): If you dare, cross the 450-feet long Capilano Suspension Bridge, which stretches 230 feet above the Capilano River. For more adventure, scale Treetops Adventure, a series of suspended footbridges with stunning views from up to 100 feet above the forest floor. If you’re not into heights, check out the rain forest nature trails, a collection of totem poles and a performance by the Pioneer Players.
  2. Butchart Gardens (Brentwood Bay, B.C., Canada): Formerly a limestone quarry, the Butchart Gardens is the brainchild of Jennie Butchart, who transformed the area into a 20th century Victorian sunken garden. Now the public area of the Butchart Gardens covers more than 55 acres, with heated show greenhouses, breathtaking seasonal flower displays, such as an outdoor rose “hallway,” ancient trees, the Blue Poppy restaurant, the Rose Carousel and a seed and gift store.
  3. Wine-Tasting Tours (Spokane, Wash.): Just because you’re north of California does not mean there are not any options for wine tasting. Home to 17 wineries and cellars, Spokane produces Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and proprietary blends of both reds and whites. At the Spokane Winery Association site, you’ll find a wineries map so you can plot your own tour.
  4. Experience Music Project (Seattle, Wash.): Walk past the Space Needle, and instead visit the Experience Music Project that’s located across the street. This museum is dedicated to both popular music and science fiction and features permanent exhibitions such as the Guitar Gallery, which traces the development of the guitar; and rotating exhibitions on robots, Jim Henson, album covers and artists such as Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix.
  5. Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest (Everett, Wash.): Located on the west side of the Cascades between the Canadian border and Mt. Rainier National Park, Mt. Baker is one of the most visited forests in the country. Year-round activities such as forest hiking, fishing, river rafting, bird watching, snowshoeing and skiing, as well as educational exhibits, are always in a gorgeous setting of glacier-covered peaks, mountain meadows and old-growth forest.
  6. Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood (Portland, Ore.): Turn your road trip into a day trip by driving along the Historic Columbia River Highway. This 80-mile stretch between Portland and the town of Biggs features awe-inspiring basalt bluffs and more than 77 gorgeous waterfalls cascading from the glaciers and snowfields of Mount Hood, including Multnomah Falls, America’s second-highest waterfall.
  7. Oregon Coast (Astoria and Tillamook, Ore.): On the northernmost tip of Oregon, Astoria is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies. Here, shop at boutiques and seafood markets, visit the historic Hotel Elliott and Liberty Theater, take the kids to the Astoria Children’s Museum and enjoy the parades, performances and food at the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival. In Tillamook, enjoy the cheese the town is famous for, and tour the Three Capes Scenic Drive.
  8. Cape Flattery (Neah Bay, Wash.): Accessible by a half-mile cedar-plank boardwalk constructed by Makah tribal members, Cape Flattery is America’s northwestern most point. See the lighthouse of Tatoosh Island and the caves carved by the crashing and churning of the waves. Watch gray whales in April, and sea lions, harbor seals, harbor porpoises and sea otters year-round. Discover the natural history and tribal culture of the area at Makah Cultural and Research Center.
  9. Local Breweries (Missoula, Mont.): Though more of a weekend trip than a day trip, whether you crave a frosty pale ale on hot summer days or a spicy porter or stout in winter, Missoula breweries offer up everything from traditional English Ales to German Lagers to a local favorite, hemp-infused brews. Get your German fix at Bayern Brewery, extinguish your ale cravings at Big Sky Brewery and indulge your lust for craft brews at Kettle House Brewery. Don’t forget to bring along a designated driver.
  10. Salt Spring Island (near Victoria, B.C., Canada): Known as one of North America’s top art destinations, Salt Spring Island is home to thousands of artists and curators. Find inspiration in one of the island’s 10 galleries showcasing paintings, sculptures, prints, weavings, pottery, stained glass and jewelry, and enjoy free art exhibitions, concerts and theater performances at ArtSpring, a venue featuring local creative professionals.