If you’re short on time but long on wanderlust, day trips are a wonderful option to explore the wonders of Washington state. These five destinations are all within four hours of the Emerald City – and each offers unique cultural, ecological, and gastronomical experiences. From Mount Rainier to La Conner and from the Olympic Peninsula to Leavenworth, these are the best day trips from Seattle. Whether you’re searching for quaint or quirky, weird or wonderful, traditional or modern, there’s a day trip to delight and intrigue every traveler.
Mount Rainier National Park
39000 State Route 706 E.
Ashford, WA 98304
(360) 569-2211

In 1888, naturalist and author John Muir climbed Mount Rainier and was so inspired that he said, “Of all the fire mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.” More than a century later, Rainier continues to inspire almost 2 million visitors annually with its hikes, vistas, wildlife, and rich cultural history. Rainier, which stretches 14,410 feet into the sky, is a not-to-miss destination year-round, with snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter and family-friendly hikes during warmer months. After you’re done exploring, enjoy a meal at the historic Paradise Inn, which is open from the end of May until October.

Ocean City State Park 
148 SR 115
Hoquiam, WA 98550
(360) 289-3099

Ocean City State Park, located in Hoquiam, is rich in history, native culture, and agricultural commerce. Indigenous peoples thrived in this resource-rich area for millennia, hunting, fishing, and gathering wood along the shoreline. Centuries later, Ocean City State Park remains a favorite destination for birdwatching, clamming, fishing, and beach combing. Located 130 miles southwest of Seattle, this 170-acre park offers year-round camping among shore pine thickets, grassy dunes, and long expanses of ocean beach. To truly appreciate the area’s majestic vistas, travel 14 miles south to Ocean Shores, where you can ride horses, surf, body board, and enjoy fresh seafood at one of Point Brown Peninsula’s many restaurants.


Cross the Cascade Mountains and enter a Bavarian village nestled in the foothills of central Washington. Leavenworth features sleigh rides and dogsledding in winter, Oktoberfest in autumn, hiking, horseback riding with cowboys, and white water rafting in summer, and unforgettable culinary experiences year-round. Enjoy charbroiled Bavarian sausages, apple cider sauerkraut, specialty mustards, and craft beer on tap at Munchen Haus; savor a pita filled with falafel, black forest ham, or wild salmon at the Good Mood Café; sample hand-crafted artisan cheeses at Cascade Cheese; and savor meals made with organic, local produce at the Sleeping Lady. Don’t forget to visit the retail shops and Nutcracker Museum, which houses more than 6,000 nutcrackers.

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La Conner 
(888) 642-9284

Winner of the “best tiny town” in Washington State four times since 2010 (including 2015), La Conner is situated on the Salish Sea, 70 miles north of Seattle. La Conner is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has three museums, including the Skagit County Historical Museum, The Museum of Northwest Art (MoNA), and the La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum. Visitors can take a walking tour of La Conner’s historic sites or enjoy the views of the Swinomish Channel as they walk along the new Waterside Boardwalk. For art aficionados and shopping enthusiasts, La Conner has numerous art galleries and retail establishments featuring woodworking and art, jewelry, gifts, clothing, and antiques.

Olympic Peninsula

From the Mima Mounds to the home of Twilight and from bigfoot sightings to sightings of the “lady in the lake,” the Olympic Peninsula is filled with mystery, intrigue, and adventure. This enigmatic area is surrounded by lush rain forest and verdant foothills and freckled with lavender farms and sparkling lakes, including Lake Crescent. Visit the Makah Cultural Center in Neah Bay, relax in the heated pools at Sol Doc Hot Springs, and explore the Dungeness Spit, one of the longest natural sand pits in the world and home to more than 250 bird species. After hiking in the Hoh Rain Forest, grab a bite to eat at the Hard Rain Cafe, located at the entrance of the park.

Related: Top Fishing Destinations In The US

Tracy Campion is a freelance writer covering all things Seattle. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.