17 Best Day Trips from Seattle in Winter to Take Now (2024)

Day Trips from Seattle in Winter

Looking for the Best Day Trips from Seattle in Winter? I’ve got you covered!

I get it, nobody likes when the temps drop for too many days and the sky seems to always be gloomy and gray. But rest assured, winter in Seattle is chock full of snow-laden fun, warm indoor activities, and plenty of day trips that maybe, just MAYBE, will change your mind about the cold.

I’ve always loved Seattle and was lucky enough to spend some quality time faux-living there (it was hotel living but I had a LOT of downtime to pretend to be a local).

My name is Sammie Pearsall and I am a travel and lifestyle blogger at www.theramblingrenegade.com. I am a professional acrobat and clown who travels the world to perform internationally with one of the largest professional circus companies in the world.

My boyfriend was parked there on his tour with Cirque Du Soleil, so I got to be a groupie for a while. I wasn’t working at the time, so I could spend my days planning out the best winter day trips from Seattle to keep myself busy. And I will show you my favorites!

Winter Day Trips from Seattle

Kerry Park Seattle viewpoint

Seattle Winter Day Trips

These are my top picks for the best day trips from Seattle in winter, all under 3 hours from the city.

1. Mount Rainier

Mountain from Seattle in Winter

Potentially a day trip that is more worthwhile in the winter than in the summer (shhhhh). Mount Rainier’s grandeur is always eye-catching even when the fog and bad weather has settled in Seattle.

Try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and all things winter. Just make sure you bring your tire chains!

🚗 ~1 hour 51 minutes from Seattle

2. Tacoma

weekend getaways from Seattle in winter

Such an easy day trip from Seattle, it’s less than an hour away! If you’re looking for something to get you out of the Emerald City, try Tacoma.

They have great local brews, a lovely walkable downtown area, and nature close by. This quirky town is a sure win that’s close to Seattle. 

🚗 ~37 minutes from Seattle

3. Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls

Most impressive waterfalls involve needing to take a plane somewhere remote or do some serious trekking to get that jaw-dropping scenery.

However, Snoqualmie Falls is a huge cascading waterfall reaching 269 feet, which is twice as high as Niagra Falls!! Who knew?? (I didn’t…). 

🚗 ~Only 35 minutes from Seattle

4. Leavenworth

Leavenworth WA for a romantic trip

A snow bunny’s paradise. Leavenworth is full of trails and paths for Nordic skiing and the scenery is breathtaking.

Get carried around in a horse-drawn carriage or cozy up with a hot cider at one of the local restaurants. There are holiday lights and even a Nutcracker Museum.

It’s the definition of a winter wonderland, and it’ll make you believe you’re in a fairytale. 

🚗 ~2 hours 15 min from Seattle

5. San Juan Islands

Escape the rainy wintery days of Seattle and step foot in some slightly better weather not too far away.

The San Juan Islands have a beautiful backdrop along the Salish Sea, lighthouses light up the dimly lit winter sky, and there are lots of biking and hiking trails if you need to extend some energy. The Islands are wonderfully quiet in the wintertime. 

⛴️ ~The Anacortes ferry dock is an hour and a half away from Seattle.

6. Vancouver

I adore Vancouver and I had to add it to this list. This city has everything, from amazingly diverse cuisine to gorgeous parks, you can easily spend a weekend exploring.

The amount of markets alone can keep you busy for days. It’s a city along the water that is bustling at every time of year and shines with the changing of the seasons. 

🚗 ~2 hours and 42 minutes from Seattle

7. Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

winter day trips from Seattle

You think you need to bundle up in the winter? Check out the free-roaming wildlife at Northwest Trek and you’ll have a whole new understanding of winter coat.

You’ll have the chance to see bison, bears, big horn sheep, and more in their finest winter layers. Also check out the Winter Wildland, a mid-winter festival that usually starts in December.

🚗 ~1 hour 20 minutes from Seattle

8. Goldmyer Hot Springs

Open year-round, the Goldmyer Hot Springs gives you relaxation deep within nature. You’ll have to be self-sufficient here as the amenities are limited. 

Experience the various temperatures of each pool as you rejuvenate from the holidays. You’ll want to pay attention to road conditions because often the road into the hot spring will close due to winter storms.

🚗 ~45 miles from Seattle, timing can vary drastically depending on weather.

9. Olympic National Park

If you’re looking for quiet time to recharge and relax surrounded by snowcapped mountains away from the crowds, Olympic National Park in the wintertime is your spot.

This park is gorgeous year round but often people don’t consider this a premier destination for the winter. Sure, parts of the park are closed but the parts accessible are so quiet it will feel like you have the mountains to yourself. 

🚗 ~2 hours 30 min from Seattle

10. Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve

If mystery is your thing, you might find a worthwhile day trip to the Mima Mounds.

Researchers have been studying them for years but have yet to come to one conclusion as to what causes these mounds. From aliens to Natural phenomena, nobody knows for certain.

There’s a nice ADA accessible .5 mile trail to get to the mounds, and an extra 2-mile pebbled path for extra exploring if you feel inclined.

🚗 ~1 hour and 38 minutes from Seattle

11. Woodinville Wine Country

Woodinville Wine Country from Seattle

The place to eat, drink, and be merry! Woodinville Wine Country is home to legendary winemakers and newbies trying to get their start in the business.

There are over 100 tasting rooms for not only wine but also beer and spirits.

🚗 ~26 minutes from Seattle

12. Bainbridge Island

Most consider Bainbridge a destination for the summer but there are tons of things to enjoy in the wintertime, with far fewer crowds to battle.

If you enjoy a chilly hike, there are trails and parks to explore. If you want to grab a drink, you can check out one of their wineries to relax in! Or catch a play at the Bainbridge Island Performing Arts.

⛴️ ~35 minutes by ferry from Seattle

13. Portland

Pittock Manison Portland

If what you’re craving is a different city vibe I would highly suggest taking a little road trip to Portland.

Besides going for the food and great beer, Portland has a HUGE collection of independent bookstores to meander through. Its city is also close enough to the mountains to keep your car at the hotel and use public transit to get to a trailhead.

Check out my post on a great hike from the city, Pittock Mansion Hike.

🚗 ~2 hours and 50 minutes

Weekend Trips from Seattle in Winter

Not exactly a day trip but can easily be an overnight trip! These winter road trips from Seattle are far enough to feel like a getaway but close enough to enjoy. 

14. Mount St. Helens

Only 96 miles south of Seattle, Mt. St. Helens might spark some adventure within you.

This is the most active volcano in the contiguous United States. Potentially that might derail some from wanting to visit but I find it fascinating! Besides learning all of this volcano’s history make sure you make some time for the great outdoors.

🚗 ~3 hours 21 minutes from Seattle

15. Cascade Mountains

The beauty starts from the Scenic byway Highway 20, where you can already start admiring the high peaks and broad lakes.

In the winter the Cascade Mountains transform into a stunning display of icy rivers and frozen-in-time waterfalls. There are also over 300 glaciers to see!

🚗 ~3 hours 55 minutes from Seattle

16. Umpqua National Forest

This is your call for snowshoeing. There are 530 miles of winding, beautiful trails to soak up the winter beauty.

There are areas for snowmobiling, sledding, and any other snow activity you can dream up. Access to Umpqua National Forest can potentially close in more hazardous weather conditions so early winter may be better.

🚗 ~5 hours 35 minutes

17. Carson Hot Springs Washington

Basically, winter heaven, Carson Hot Springs is a must for winter getaways from Seattle.

With their pools maintained at a balmy 98-104 degrees, some say soaking in mineral-laden springs may help soothe and heal your skin. Either way, it’s the perfect spot for some much-needed rest and relaxation.

🚗 ~3 hours and 30 minutes from Seattle

How to get around Seattle

Seattle Washington USA

While walking is a fantastic way to get around Seattle, there is also great public transportation, bike paths, ferries, and driving of course.

Seattle has a unique topography which means you might need to go from land to water and back to land to get to certain spots. Regardless, no matter your preference, getting around is pretty easy in this city. 

Public Transit

By BUS

Seattle’s bus system is very easy to manage. You might need to hop on to a couple of different buses depending on where you want to go. 

King County Metro buses are the main buses you would use to get back and forth across the city. Most routes operate until around 1 AM but there is now a Night Owl Service that goes between midnight and 5 AM.

FARE- The base fare is $2.75 and the buses won’t give change if it’s not exact. I’d suggest getting a loaded ORCA card from a light rail station or from the airport, or using the Transit GO App to get your ticket on your phone. 

Sound Transit buses are another option for bus travel if you need to get further outside of Seattle’s city limits. While King Country Metro operates within the city, Sound Transit goes as far north as Everett, as far south as Tacoma and DuPont, and as far east as Sammamish and Issaquah. 

By RAIL

Seattle Monorail is seen mostly as a touristy thing to do. There’s only one stop so it’s hard to get lost using it. The Monorail goes from Westlake Center Station to Seattle Center Station.

Streetcars can be useful if you are staying near one of the lines. There are only two lines, one is in South Lake Union and the other one is in First Hill.

By WATER

Seattle skyline view from Bainbridge island ferry

Ferries

Due to Seattle’s amazing location on Puget Sound, it lends to a unique tourism opportunity. Whether you are simply trying to get to Kitsap Peninsula across from Seattle, or you’d rather just enjoy the beautiful landscape, the ferries are easy to use. Expect to pay just under $10 for your ticket. 

Water Taxis

Water Taxis don’t offer the ability to drive on (like they do for the ferries) but they do offer a convenient option if you are downtown Seattle. Connecting Pier 50 to West Seattle or Vashon Island, you can get around for $2-$7.

Other transportation Ideas

There are plenty of bike/scooter shares around that I love to use.

Also, can’t stress enough how nice of a city it is to walk in—plenty of tiny nooks and crannies in the city to explore by foot. Taking the Amtrak train is also an easy way to get a bit further outside of the city. 

Seattle Travel tips

  • I may have not realized before but let me remind you, Seattle is hilly. It’s a very easy city to bike around but expect to use that leg power. 
  • The Sound Link Light Rail is an easy way to beat Seattle traffic to get from the airport to downtown.
  • The weather can be unpredictable! Even if you go out and it’s nice out, pack an umbrella.

Where to stay in Seattle in Winter

Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington

Belltown

One of the best locations right between Pike Place Market and Central Downtown near to the Space Needle. Belltown has cute charming restaurants (fewer chains) and craft breweries. If you like nightlife, this location is for you (a little warning, it can get a bit loud). 

Luxury Option

The Sound Hotel- A beautiful modern hotel that has huge rooms! Close to plenty of great bars and restaurants. 

Boutique Option

Hotel Andrä- This adorable boutique hotel is inspired by Seattle’s Nordic heritage at a price that doesn’t make your heart stop. 

Downtown

(Near Pike Place Market)- It can be a bit of a concrete jungle if you’re not paying attention to the exact location. But staying closer to the Pike Place Market will give you the best of the downtown area. It’s a great option if you’re considering using the ferries for some day trips.

Luxury Option

The Inn at the Market- There’s little to complain about with great views of Puget Sound and being able to walk right out to Pikes Place Market.

Boutique Option

The State Hotel- This historic hotel was built in 1902 and is just around the corner from Pikes Place. Local artists are featured throughout the hotel by helping decorate the grounds!

Capitol Hill

A great location for thrift store shopping, adorable boutiques, great restaurants, and coffee shops galore, it has everything. It’s your “hipster” neighborhood with lots of music venues and bars to explore. Everything is within close proximity to downtown Seattle. 

Bed & Breakfast

Gaslight Inn- Built in the early 1900s, this bed-and-breakfast features 8 rooms rich in dark hues and wooden touches. Some rooms have a cute balcony while others have cozy fireplaces. 

Mid-Range Option 

Silver Cloud Hotel- Maybe not the most exciting option but this hotel has a good location within Capitol Hill and offers guests an on-site restaurant. 

When to go

The best time to visit Seattle will depend upon what you’re looking to do.

Between October and November, if you manage to dodge the holidays, you can really good hotel deals.

Late winter (March), you’ll be able to dodge holiday crowds as well as find some great hotel deals. Just remember to bring your jacket for that cozy winter in Seattle trip.

Seattle is a great city to base yourself for a wide array of things to do. With these day and weekend trips, it will be easy to make the most of winter in Seattle. For more city guides and road trip ideas, check out my blog!

Sara Rodríguez

A passionate traveler with a mission: Help you plan your next trip easily and enjoy it to the fullest.

In this travel blog you will find everything you need to get inspired and organize your next adventure. Read more about my story here.

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