When it comes to nature and exploration, the Pacific Northwest is filled with some of the best places. To stay in Seattle would be doing your entire group a disservice—there is so much to see nearby. From hiking to riding the famous ferry, some of the most beautiful landscapes encompass the city.
However, don’t count Seattle out. You’ll want to spend some time exploring the downtown area so consider using it as your base. Some of the best places to stay in Seattle are located here, and you’ll be close to everything you need.
Our adventure was the perfect blend of city and nature coming together, and this guide reveals how you can tailor your group vacation the same way.
Hiking in a Winter Wonderland
Even in the early winter, escaping the big city and setting out for a nearby mountain was the best decision we could have made. There’s no denying it was cold—it wasn’t exactly hiking weather. But we did our research, packed our layers and set off for Cougar Mountain Regional Wildlife Park.
Only about 15 miles from downtown Seattle, we reached out the outskirts of the Renton, Washington, park in a half-hour. The higher we traveled in elevation, the more snow littered the ground outside. As two California girls traveling with two Washington residents, half of us were in awe while the other half chuckled at our excitement.
By the time we reached the parking area, we couldn’t believe our eyes. While the freezing temperatures made us expect a few snow flurries, we didn’t know that we’d be hiking in an incredible winter wonderland.
Setting off along the trails, we explored for hours, wandering up and down hills and through the trees, as snow blanketed the world around us. On top of logs, tree limbs, leaves and more, we saw stunning white crystals up close. In the distance, fog rolled along the paths. The whole experience was one-of-a-kind, given the lack of snow we are used to.
After traversing the trails, we headed to an open field, where we encountered various snowmen, a small structure in which to relax and a view of the valley below before heading back to Seattle for lunch.
Crossing the Puget Sound
An idyllic activity is sitting along Seattle’s waterfront, taking in images of the color-changing Ferris wheel and the floating ferryboats. After all, some of the best places to stay in Seattle are within walking distance of Elliott Bay. But what can be even more relaxing is escaping the city in favor of a ride on the famous ferry.
As Grey’s Anatomy fans, we couldn’t be more excited to drive aboard and set off across the Puget Sound. While we couldn’t figure out how the stars kept their hair so perfect while the wind is whipping up on the top deck, we did enjoy stunning views of the city getting smaller as we moved further out in the water. We snapped a few photos before the cold was too much then headed inside.
From the interior of the slow-moving ferry, we took in views of the surrounding lands, including Bainbridge Island. Despite it being an overcast afternoon, the colors of the leaves were changing and the homes we saw were impressive. Offering a more suburban view of Seattle, we learned about the history of the ferry while taking in the sights.
Once arriving in Bremerton, a city to the west of Seattle, we hopped back in our friends’ car, drove off the giant boat and made our way back to the city along a scenic route—just in time for dinner.
Train Whistles Blowing
Another great thing about Seattle’s location is its position between two other prominent West Coast cities. Perfectly situated between Portland and Vancouver, Canada, it’s easy to hit all three on one long trip, like we did.
With so many stops along the way, the possibilities are endless. Do some research to find out which spots your crew would like to visit in between the cities. Or simply take in views of snow-covered railroad tracks, small towns, towering evergreens and expansive views of grey waters. While we tried to read and relax on the train, our eyes were glued to the scenery outside, giving us a better picture of the area overall.
With plenty of snacks and full meals to enjoy on board, as well as glasses of wine or bottled beer, there is enough to sustain you no matter how long your Amtrak ride lasts. One thing to note is that arriving in Canada at night means very little will be open so make sure to exchange money ahead of time. And don’t rely on the use of Uber because, as we found out the hard way, they don’t have it in Vancouver yet.
Best Places to Stay in Seattle
If you plan to travel outside the city often during your trip, your best option is to lodge downtown. Some of the best places to stay in Seattle are located here. But, more than that, so are the Amtrak station and the waterfront where the ferry terminal is.
Being in such a central locale will give you the chance to explore the aquarium, the Space Needle, the glass gardens crafted by Chihuly and the vibrant dining scene in Seattle. There is plenty of shopping nearby, and fresh seafood and product to enjoy at Pike Place Market.
As you determine the best places to stay in Seattle, consider the needs of your group. The nearby Hotel Andra offers an on-site bar and a living room with a fireplace for late-night hangouts. The Edgewater, Seattle’s only waterfront hotel, has an impressive on-site restaurant for delicious meals with spectacular sunset views. There is also the Hyatt at Olive 8, a spot that is both eco- and dog-friendly. Any of these hotels ensure everyone in the group will enjoy their stay.