By Margo Greenman
When the thought of sunkissed beaches and poolside mai tais make you feel weak in the knees, that’s when you know the winter slump has officially hit. Whether you’ve run out of vacation days or don’t feel like dipping into your savings to spend the season as a snowbird, a local “staycation” could be just the ticket you need to satisfy your inner travel bug and overcome the long stretch to summer. And the best part is, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy a weekend “away.” With several vacation-worthy destinations all a short one hour drive or less away, you could be arriving at your winter “getaway” in less time than it takes to commute to work. The other perk to local winter “travel?” Many hotels and resorts around the South Sound offer reduced rates during the winter months, leaving you with more cash to spend on food, activities and fun. Use this guide to plan your next (or first) staycation.
Travel time from Tacoma: Approximately 59 minutes
Take a short ferry ride across the waters of the Puget Sound and you’ll find the charming arts community of Vashon Island. Encircled by sweeping views of the salty Sound, the closest thing you’ll find to a city on Vashon is that of Seattle’s marvelous skyline in the distance. Art lovers will enjoy the quaint downtown area where galleries, theaters and shops boasting handmade oddities are the norm. Cozy up at the Vashon Tea Shop, conveniently connected to the Vashon Bookshop, and you could lose track of the time.
There are lots of charming places to spend the night on Vashon Island, but for a truly relaxing stay, book a room at the former home of author Betty MacDonald at The Betty MacDonald Farm and Bed and Breakfast. This breathtaking farmhouse, nestled just off the beaten path on six acres of rustic land, was where MacDonald wrote her bestselling book, The Egg and I, among others. Accommodations like old fashioned soaking tubs and wood stoves all add to the atmosphere, making your stay a true “getaway.”
When your stomach starts to rumble you can either prepare a home cooked meal in your room, or head into town and enjoy a farm-to-table dinner at La Boucherie. Located at the Sea Breeze Farm, every dinner served at La Boucherie is fresh and in season. You can make a reservation here, or opt for more casual (but equally appetizing) fare at Vashon Island’s popular Hardware Store Restaurant.
A weekend away on Vashon Island is one that includes ferry rides, local arts, farm fresh fare, the great outdoors, and rustic and relaxing accommodations – and you could be there in as short as one hour. Not bad.
Travel time from Tacoma: Approximately zero minutes
Want to keep things really local? Experience your city in a new way. Between work, family and chores, sometimes it’s easy to take our city for granted. Spend your Tacoma staycation exploring all the places you’ve always wondered about, without ever leaving the city limits.
First off, you’ll want to book a room at the swank Hotel Murano. This boutique hotel offers modern accommodations, top notch service, rave-worthy food at the hotel’s restaurant, Bite, and luxurious treatments at Savi, the hotel’s first-rate day spa. With so much all located within the hotel’s walls (including the Lobby Bar known for its craftily concocted libations) it would be easy to spend an entire weekend without ever stepping outside. But, to truly experience the city, a jaunt downtown is a must. Make it a date night at restaurants like Pacific Grill, Indochine, El Gaucho, or the Melting Pot, or keep it low key with friends at nearby Tacoma Cabana, the Forum, and more. For entertainment, catch a show at the Tacoma Comedy Club, do karaoke at The Mix, play billiards at Meconi’s, go dancing at Encore, and much more all downtown. During the day, you can take in some culture at the Tacoma Art Museum or Washington State History Museum, drive across town to the LeMay Museum, or spend the day strolling Tacoma’s popular Antique Row. With so much to do, you might need to make this a two-parter.
Travel time from Tacoma: Approximately 18 minutes
Just across the Narrows Bridges is the quaint town of Gig Harbor. Offering something for everyone, preserved in this town’s downtown area is its old time spirit, complete with charming shops and a strong maritime vibe. However, a short drive will take you to Uptown, where upscale boutique shopping and fine dining awaits. Stay downtown on the water, or book a room at the centrally located INN at Gig Harbor, then use this Gig Harbor day tripping article to plan your itinerary.
Travel time from Tacoma: Approximately 1 hour 23 minutes
Okay. I lied. While almost all of these destinations can be reached within an hour-long drive or less, sometimes, to experience something really special, you have to take a little more time to get there. Mount Rainier is one such destination. Because the landscape of Mount Rainier changes from season to season, if you’ve visited Mount Rainier in the summer, get ready for a whole new experience come wintertime. Instead of sunny hikes and wildflower filled hills, winter guests of Mount Rainier will enjoy snowy slopes paired with mugs of hot cocoa. Book a room at the National Park Inn at Longmire (which offers discounted rates midweek and a promotional Stay and Play package, too), and you can enjoy outdoor recreation like snowshoeing and cross country skiing by day, and fireside relaxation inside the lodge by night.
Travel time from Tacoma: Approximately 54 minutes
Few things are as delightful as the Scandinavian-esque city of Poulsbo, Wash. Visitors of this beguiling city quickly fall for its charm – and its food. There is no want for mouth watering cuisine here, as the town is brimming with countless options for European fare like fish and chips at JJ’s Fish House, hearty Bavarian schnitzels at Tizley’s EuroPub, and even world renowned breads, pastries and other baked goods at Sluys Poulsbo Bakery. While you could spend the whole day eating, don’t forget to also indulge in the many activities that Poulsbo has to offer. Antiquing is a popular hobby for visitors – and residents – of the city, but you can also take to the water and go kayaking, stroll across the boardwalk, or even rent a boat. After a long and filling day, crash out at the enchanting AltraVista Bed and Breakfast, located just 15 minutes outside of downtown. During your stay, you may feel as though you’ve been transported to a Disney-like castle, as this B&B features everything from stone turrets and chandeliers to grandiose fireplaces and more. Pair that with modern amenities and you’ve got the makings for a relaxing, fairytale-like stay.
Travel time from Tacoma: Approximately 33 minutes
Just south of Tacoma, a world of wildlife, arts, dining and state history can be found in Washington State’s capital city, Olympia. Take a tour of this city’s grandiose architecture, go shopping in downtown, take the kids exploring through nature trails and parks, and more, all of which can all be found in this handy Olympia Staycation Guide, shared by our friends over at ThurstonTalk.