By Dana Thompson
As you ponder the winter skies, do you find your thoughts repeatedly turning toward a lawn chair and a good book on the beach of some Pacific island? As enticing as Hawaii is, there are plenty of less drastic escapes within a half-day’s drive that just may be all your psyche needs to make it till spring. Following are just a few suggestions:
Mission Ridge Ski Resort Wenatchee, WA
If it’s sun you’re after, eastern Washington is your best bet. With an average of over 300 days a year of sun, you’ll likely get a little color as you explore over 2,000 acres and 36 runs of dry, powdery slopes for skiers of all levels. In addition to sun, the wide-open spaces, lack of crowds and views of Mt. Rainier and the Columbia River are enough to give anyone a sense of freedom.
It is skiing, so it isn’t cheap, but the rates are reasonable considering the good conditions, with an adult day pass at $53. Located about 12 miles southeast of Wenatchee, Mission Ridge is accessible via I-90 in about four hours (depending on road conditions), and Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Lake Chelan and the Skykomish Valley all offer good accommodation options. If you drive up via Highway 2, be sure to fuel up with a cinnamon roll and espresso at Anjou Bakery between Cashmere and Wenatchee, or grab an after-ski bite and microbrew at Saddle Rock Pub & Brewery in Wenatchee.
Port Townsend, WA
If skiing just isn’t your thing, another close jaunt that arguably has more winter sun than the rest of Puget Sound is Port Townsend, recently voted one of the “Top 10 Coolest Small Towns in America.” Whether sun or no, a day or two mulling around the shops and beaches of Port Townsend can give most folks a mental lift. Good for those with or without kids, beautiful Fort Worden State Park offers miles of beach just to the north of town—perfect for collecting seashells and cool rocks, or simply wave pondering. The abandoned bunkers at the north end of Fort Worden are always a hit with the kiddos—just remember to bring sturdy shoes and a flashlight!
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, check out one of the many fun eateries along Water Street. One local favorite is the UnderTown Coffee & Wine Bar, good for the coffee and sandwiches, as well as the cozy warmth of the worn brick walls. Many evenings, the UnderTown hosts live music, as well as DJ dance parties, so check their website to get a schedule. Other good local favorites are the Silver Water Café on Taylor Street and the Sweet Laurette Café Bistro on Lawrence Street in uptown.
To capture the history of Port Townsend, treat yourself to a night or two in the beautifully restored Palace Hotel, built in 1889 and a classic example of Victorian architecture, or in the Old Consulate Inn in uptown, where the owners often dress in period costumes.
Granville Island Vancouver, B.C.
While this requires a bit more planning, taking a weekend escape to Granville Island in Vancouver, B.C., is a sure way to get a nearby winter mental tune-up that will make you feel like you’ve traveled the world. Granville Island—which actually isn’t a true island but a series of connected sandbars—is a bustling former industrial zone turned urban oasis, teeming with cafés, restaurants, shops and live entertainment. Granville Island is also home to the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, so artwork, crafts and music are an integral part of the place.
A perfect day might be mulling around the market in the morning, and then catching a foot passenger ferry over to any number of Vancouver destinations, such as the Maritime Museum, Yaletown or Science World. After an afternoon spent exploring, head back via ferry to Granville Island for a tour of Granville Island Brewery, Canada’s first microbrewery, followed by dinner at one of the island’s many excellent restaurants and a night of live theater at The Arts Club. Or you could rent a kayak for a self-propelled adventure around the island.
Vancouver proper has many accommodation options, but if you want to stay on Granville Island itself, your only choice is the newly renovated Granville Island Hotel, a great place to grab a book, laze in a lounge chair and enjoy the waterfront view.
Great Wolf Lodge Grand Mound, WA
If you want to throw in the towel and have an all-out mini-resort getaway for your family without taking a week off work, a trip to Great Wolf Lodge near Centralia, Wash., is an experience you’ll not likely forget. At over 56,000 square feet with an indoor 84-degree water park, a day spa, kids spa, arcade, several eateries and themed guest rooms, Great Wolf Lodge definitely creates the sense that you are somewhere else.
The whole place caters to families, so if you are looking for a quiet getaway it’s probably not the ideal choice, but if it’s family adventure and full-on escape you’re after, Great Wolf Lodge is it. One of the highlights, in addition to the water park rides, is MagicQuest, a live-action adventure for kids and adults alike where you visit an enchanted kingdom, battle dragons and much more. Your kids will love it, and while you might need another vacation just to recover from this one, it will definitely shake away those winter weather blues.