Your guide to the best travel destinations within driving distance! The 2017 winners in our Best Northwest Escapes viewers poll.
The strangest street name in Washington
How would you like to live on the corner of Kitchen-Dick Road?
This may sound like a joke, but we promise it’s completely real. The winner of the 2017 Best Northwest Escapes viewers poll for Best Strange Street Name is Kitchen-Dick Road.
And there's a great reason for the name: two Sequim pioneer families, the Kitchens and the Dicks lived at either end of the road. They combined their names to name the road. This from Peggy Hardin Hunt, who's husband is the great grandson of William Dick, one of the pioneers.
And it gets even better… The street actually intersects with Woodcock Road.
This street and its sign, just off Highway Route 101 west of Sequim, are Instagram famous, but the origin of the name is unknown.
So next time you need a meetup location, considering telling your friend “I’ll meet you at the corner of Kitchen-Dick and Woodcock,” because it doesn’t get any better than that.
Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant
At Elbe’s family-owned and operated Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Co., you can eat classic homestyle cooking with a side order of history.
It all began thirty years ago with a man named Bob Thurston Sr.
“He actually started with a popcorn machine out front and sold popcorn until he got all these cars collected and got them open,” said owner Elisa Butler, who is Thurston's daughter.
There are now 24 cars in all. It is one of the largest caboose collections in the world.
“It was very important to all of us to continue what he started,” Butler said.
Best Rest Stop
It's not every day you can walk THROUGH a tree stump. But that's exactly what you can do if you stop along northbound I-5 at the Smokey Point Rest Stop.
There's also a larger than normal dog restroom (i.e. grassy area) to go along with the well-kept human facilities.
And if it's REALLY your lucky day, you'll encounter volunteers passing out coffee and cookies.
Best General Store
Founded in 1885 and thought to be the oldest continuing retail business in the state, Jack’s Country Store maintains traditions of rural America.
So what does Jack’s Country Store have that you won’t easily find elsewhere? Well, if you’ve been searching far and wide for a specific item, it is probably one of over 200,000 different items stocked in the store.
This is just one of the reasons that were voted Best General Store for Best Northwest Escapes.
Customer Nancy Main says, “It will be very empty and lacking if Ocean Park didn’t have Jack’s Country Store.”
Just challenge one of their clerks with this: I bet you don’t have what I’m looking for...
Best Train Ride
We had barely left Elbe on the nearly full Washington Wine Express, and already we were feeling wobbly.
“It rocks back and forth a little bit,” says Josh McMillan, here with friends for a bit of scenery and a great deal of sipping.
“They come around with the wine. You have these beautiful glasses. They give you sips to try,” says McMillan.
It doesn't seem long before the train rolls into Mineral, the home of the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad where more wine is waiting.
There's also a catered lunch and a lot of happy people.
Pairing steam train rides with wine and beer tastings is apparently a big hit.
“We did this once last year, and it was such a success we decided this year to try several weekends of it, scattered out through the Spring Summer and Fall.” says Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad assistant general manager Steven Butler.
Mount St Helens Cellars is pouring a popular blend called Sasquatch In A Bottle. It’s burly, bearded McMillan’s favorite and not just because of its taste.
“They’ve got my senior picture on the bottle,” he jokes. “I've shaved a bit since then, but you can see the resemblance a little bit still.”
Best Roadside Burger
It's been a favorite food stop for almost 50 years. Zeke's Drive-In along Highway 2 is as famous as the mountains that surround them.
Jen Cashman took over the iconic burger joint a few years ago. But she and her family have been a part of the place from the start.
"My parents bought in in 87. So I was flipping burgers when I was 12. Zeke the original owner opened it in 68 and he was my mom's great uncle."
The menu hasn't changed much since Uncle Zeke opened it.
"We've kept it all authentic. Used the same recipes that they started in 68."
Those recipes include items like their famous, Honeymoon Special.
"It's a big half-pound burger. Comes with a large fry and it comes cut in half. Lots of people share it,” Said Cashman. "We have probably about 25 flavors of shakes."
Besides the food, the best thing Zeke's Drive-In serves up may be a big side order of memories.
"They come and they remember being here as a kid and it's the same as it was in the late 60's back in the 70's."
Best Wildlife Sanctuary
Wolf Haven International, located just outside of Tenino, is a nonprofit that provides sanctuary for captive-born, displaced wolves.
"It's a place of peace," said Director of Communications Kim Young. "It's a place where the wolves are given the opportunity to be who they are."
Since it opened in 1982, it has rescued more than 200 captive-born wolves. At any given time, there are around 50-60 animals in residence. The wolves are brought to Wolf Haven from all over the country, and each one has a story. Like London, who was raised to be in movies. When he didn't take well to training, he was left without a home.
"He ended up here, but he was very timid, very shy. He didn't have didn't have a lot of confidence, and his tail would be tucked between his legs," added Young.
But now he's thriving at his new home, thanks to help from staff, and a special friend.
"Because they're so social, we give them a companion," said Young. "When you see him with his companion, Lexi, he's so proud. His tale's up in the air; he's a different wolf. They nuzzle each other, and they play together. It just makes you happy. It makes you happy for them."
Wolf Haven is also involved in two Species Survival Plan programs for endangered Mexican gray wolves and red wolves. Both breeds have been successfully bred at Wolf Haven, and some have been released back into the wild.
Visitors to the sanctuary can expect a unique experience since Wolf Haven's philosophy is very hands off. The wolves are given space, and visitors are asked to not entice the wolves to come to the edge of their enclosures or make loud sounds.
"We walk a fine line between being the best home we can be for an animal that typically is very weary of humans, and still allow it to be a learning experience for those who take the time to come out here."
Visitors will not only be exposed to different breeds of wolves, but other wildlife like coyotes, butterflies, and birds. There's also a self-guided nature trail through the sanctuary's Mima Mound Prairie, which is full of native wildflowers.
Through all the experiences the sanctuary has to offer, Wolf Haven hopes its visitors can walk away feeling like they've been fully immersed in nature.
The sanctuary is open for tours Friday through Monday. Scheduling a tour time is necessary before you visit, as Wolf Haven likes to maintain small groups, so the tours do not disturb the wolves.
Best Roadside Coffee Stand
You can't miss the fun red truck and the vintage camper alongside Highway 2.
And the owner has a personality to match:
"This is Little Red's, and we're up at the Lake Wenatchee cut off as we head to Leavenworth," said Aubrey Dickinson, owner of Little Red's Espresso and Bakery.
"So we make really good coffee, and we also make really amazing cookies among other things," she said.
Why the name?
"When I first moved to California when I was younger, I didn't have any friends, because I was new, so I made cookies, and I started delivering them in baskets."
Like Little Red Riding Hood.
Lucky for us Aubrey is back home in Washington -- and what she bakes at her coffee stand's kitchen every morning makes her plenty of friends.
"The chocolate chip cookies I can't keep them in, I swear I turn pounds of butter when we do cookies it's pretty crazy."
"Every cup has like a handwritten message, so some are really sweet some are sassy," she said. "I hand-write every cup that goes out the window. Every cup."
So don't speed by next time you're traveling that stretch of Highway 2 at Coles Corner.
Get some fuel -- and some coffee cup philosophy -- at Little Red's.
Best Clam Digging Beach, Best Lighthouse, and Best State Park
Washington’s coast is home to some of the Best Northwest escapes, including the Best Clam Digging Beach, Best Lighthouse, and Best State Park.
The longest beach in Washington at 26 miles of sand, is appropriately named Long Beach, and during clamming season, you can be sure to find hundreds of people razor clam digging.
The open season for clamming lasts approximately from January to May every year and is already closed for 2017, but now it’s time for kite season!
Kite Rider Rae Bohn says Long Beach is undoubtedly one of the best in the world for his passion.
“I’ve been all over the United States flying, and as far as consistent, even winds,” said Bohn, “we have the best. There’s no obstructions. Almost every single day, you can fly here."
Bohn has been flying kites for almost 20 years now and wants more people to get into the kite flying.
Long Beach offers a great environment for anyone looking to learn and is also home to the only kite museum in North America: The World Kite Museum.
“This is a great kiting community,” said museum employee Patty Rolf. “Great winds on the beach, that’s why the kite museum is here.”
The museum is home to kites from World War II, Japan, and more.
About six miles down the coast, you’ll find the Best State Park and Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment.
The Cape Disappointment lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast and October 15, 1856.
To get to the lighthouse, you’ll have to walk about ¼ of a mile, but Jason Billings of the Coast Guard says it’s worth it.
“The location, the beauty of the area, and the fact that you’re up 220 feet off the water just makes a great vantage point in general to come out here on a nice, sunny day,” said Billings.
The Coast Guard is always available during the day to answer any questions.
Best Historic Hotel, Best Romantic Getaway, Best Luxury Hotel
It's one of the most enduring television shows to be filmed in Western Washington. Now, talk of a possible new, mini-season of "Twin Peaks" is ratcheting up interest in the landmarks featured in the dark and quirky mystery series.
Salish Lodge and Spa, which served as The Great Northern Hotel on the show, is offering a special "Great Northern" experience, which includes some great tours and mementos for "Twin Peaks" fans.
Best Funky Place to Stay
There's always one reaction when people visit Issaquah's TreeHouse Point.
"It's amazing! When can we move in?" asked a couple on a recent tour.
In fact, that's exactly how Damon Bishop, the general manager ended up here.
"I stayed here as a guest and fell in love with the place and wanted to be more a part of it, so that's how I ended up here," Bishop said.
This is a pilgrimage place for folks who want more leafy greens. Mike and Debbie Wilkensen came here from Pennsylvania for one reason:
"Because she wants a treehouse!” Mike laughed.
It's so popular that people pay just to take a tour.
“I wanted to stay here, but I probably looked a bit too late," said Marianne Fowler, who was visiting with her husband, Julian, from Australia. "It was all booked out, so it's good that they do the tours."
Its fame is due in part to Treehouse Masters -- a show on Animal Planet hosted by Pete Nelson, the guy who built this wooded wonderland.
Temple of the Blue Moon is the first one Pete built here in 2006. It's wrapped around an ancient spruce, and it's a fan favorite.
"It's got a beautiful view, it's along the river, so it's really pretty,” Mike said. "And we watched them build it on the show. So it's nice to go into the ones we watched them build on TV and say yeah we watched them build this,” added his wife, Debbie.
One treehouse is a flashback to childhood.
“Oh, Upper Pond.We refer to it as our party house,” Bishop said. “Because it's the only one that can sleep four, and it has a very playful feel with the ladder, and the top part of the bunk beds. And it has the highly coveted pulley to hook your suitcases and things onto, so that makes it fun.”
Burl is the latest addition - built in 2013. The platforms higher up the tree, built for a taping of the TV show, remain in place.
"There's no guest access, so don't ask,” Bishop laughed.
After a walk in these woods, it's hard to pick what’s more stunning -- the treehouses, or the trees?
“That's a trick question, isn't it? Of course, the trees are beautiful, but the treehouses are just perfect in their setting amidst the trees,” said Bishop.
Everyone who visits becomes a believer in the TreeHouse Point motto: Be in a Tree.
Because who doesn't want a treehouse to call their own?
Best Farmers Market
East of the mountains and historic downtown Wenatchee, piano music greets you at a warehouse full of merchants.
"It's a sense of discovery and a little getaway for everybody," said winemaker Victor Palentia from Jones Of Washington.
Welcome to Pybus Market, a newly restored landmark named after a legendary steelworker.
"E.T. Pybus was a blacksmith in Wenatchee in 1911, and he grew from a humble blacksmith shop into a steel manufacturing company," said Mike Walker.
Walker and his wife, JoAnn, were instrumental in turning the abandoned building into a public market.
"Mike likes to refurbish things, and we were going back and forth from the gym, and he saw this old building, and he was terrified that someone was going to tear it down," JoAnn Walker said.
Instead, the Walkers helped build it up with a multimillion-dollar investment.
"We did this on a roll of the dice. We didn't know if it would be accepted or used," Mike Walker said.
He readily admits that Seattle's Pike Place Market inspired a few of the final touches.
"Certainly, did you see the big red sign out there," he said, referencing the neon public market sign at the entrance to the market.
Pybus Market is a place to sit, sip and enjoy a meal with friends or get everything you need to cook an exotic dinner at home.
"We have pheasant, duck frog legs, a little bit of everything," said Mike McKee from Mike's Meat And Seafood.
And there's plenty of shopping too, including the Northwest's only tractor store with everything John Deere.
From a steel skeleton, Pybus Market took hold, and it's popularity has never been stronger.
Best RV Dealer
Think of it as a luxury resort on wheels.
"No matter where you park, you're in your own home," said Poulsbo RV Chief Operating Officer Will Rogers.
Poulsbo RV, 2017 Best Northwest Escapes winner for Best RV Dealer, has been hooking up Western Washington with wheels for the past three decades.
Rogers said part of his company's appeal is its wide range of vehicles. "We sell RVs from 5,000 dollars to 500,000 dollars," Rogers said.
For instance, the 325,000 dollar Tiffin Phaeton ain't your granddaddy's RV.
"40 feet, heated tile floors," Rogers said.
The model comes complete with a full-size fridge, a queen-size bed, electric fireplace, and three TVs. Maybe it's because of party buses like these that most RVs are now owned by people under 55.
"Young families going camping," Rogers said, "Hunters using it to go up in the woods."
Another bonus is that most RVs are easy to drive.
"You don't need a special permit or driver's license to drive an RV," Rogers explained. "For the most part, anyone can drive one."
When Alfred Kristoferson bought this farm back in 1912, he had no idea what would be going on here 100 years later.
Alfred's dairy farm has become the zipline playground called Canopy Tours Northwest. Half of the 230-acre property produces certified organic lavender and hay, but the other half is a forest that produces certified organic hootin’ and hollerin’!
When you arrive, the century-old barn looks like a big smiling face. Barney the cat greets you, off you go for a 3-minute ride into the woods!
You become part of the woods as you cruise through the trees leaving your fears in the dust!
Experienced guides make sure you stay safe as you glide effortlessly above it all.
Five generations of Kristoferson’s have run this place. Siblings Kris and Mona grew up here and think zipping will carry them into the future.
“At first, it sounded a little bit like a crazy idea. But then we looked into it, and it turned out to really fit well with our mission here of low impact development, sharing this wonderful resource with others.”
On a clear day, no better way to take in the mountain views. There are six zips including a 660 footer, the state's 2nd longest.
Best Ice Cream Shop
From the sugar cones made fresh every morning to flavors like Earl Grey, Molly Moon's handmade ice cream has tempted customers since the first location opened nine years ago.
"What was going through my mind that afternoon was, ‘Oh my god it's working,’ because we had a line around two corners of the block in Wallingford,” said owner Molly Moon Neitzel.
There are now eight locations in the Seattle area.
The brand’s appeal goes well beyond taste.
Each year, Molly Moon's donates 1% of sales or 10% of profits - whichever is greater - to Seattle-area charities.
They offer free health care to employees and their children, and pay 12 weeks of family leave for women and men anytime they bring a new child into their home.
Molly Moon’s also supports local girl scouts in need.
"We buy all of our thin mint cookies for our Scout Mint ice cream from those girls, and this year we're sending nine girls to camp for free this summer who've never been before,” Neitzel said. "I vote with my dollar every day. I would rather shop or get an ice cream cone from a business that I know is doing the right thing in our community."
Best Nature Trail
Hardcore hikers don't give it much thought. But off Highway 2 near Skykomish, there's a little piece of paradise many never take the time to go explore.
"A lot of people use it for the restroom stop, but go beyond the restroom and go on and do the walk here too." Said Craig Romano, an Outdoor Travel Writer.
"We are at Deception Falls,” Said Romano. "It's a short hike, it's only a little over a half mile but because it is a short hike with so many great attributes, it's a perfect to introduce people who might be, never done a hike before which is a great way to introduce them to the outdoors."
"What you're going to see is Western Hemlock and Western Red Cedar and some Doug Fir. Best times to be out here are warm spring days, rainy fall days and you're going to see some incredible flow coming through the creeks and the river."
"It's a very easy. Very, very easy walk. A little bit of elevation but very easy."
It may be short and easy, but Deception Falls nature trail shows you don't have to walk far to get away.
"Who should do this hike? Who should not! Everybody, young people, old people. It’s perfect for everyone."
Best Beachside Seafood Market
Along the world famous Chuckanut Drive, they call it a farm.
"So just like any other farm on land, we just grow product that grows underwater, which is pretty unique,” said Taylor Shellfish Farm’s Nicole Hopper.
Yes, she does sell sea shells by the seashore at Taylor Shellfish Farms on Samish Bay.
Commercial shellfishing has been happening here since the early 1900's and more than a hundred years later, they're still sorting and washing and bagging by hand.
There's an on-site store that sells shellfish, but also charcoal.
Picnics are encouraged by the lighthouse made of oyster shells.
"On a cloudy, rainy day we have people out here on picnic tables and on a beautiful sunny day, we do too,” said Hopper. “So it really says something that people like to come here and enjoy it."
Best Dog-Friendly Eatery
Located right in the heart of Molbak's nursery, the cafe makes every pooch feel welcome.
“We’re super friendly with dogs," says manager Ryan Lowell. "We provide puppicinos, water, treats if requested, and you can also dine in certain areas of the cafe with your dog.”
Molbak’s is also dog friendly so you can go shopping with your best friend.
Best Tiny Town
There was a time when Leavenworth's dining options could be summed up in two words: Beer, and brats.
Spring forward to today, and you have some new fine dining options. Two different places with one thing in common, they both bring the outdoors -- in.
Husband and wife team Colin Patterson and Amber Tande make culinary magic at Mana -- before that, they ran Sutra in Wallingford -- a now-shuttered vegetarian restaurant often listed among Seattle's best.
But they left the city -- for a place where they felt they could be their best.
"We just wanted to have proximity to nature and community, so we picked Leavenworth," explained Colin.
Now they forage as a family -- and what they find occasionally makes it onto the menu.
Mana does one seating a night, there are eight courses -- and the bounty of this place is on every plate. Colin explained he likes to keep it wild, yet refined, and constantly asks himself this question:
"How can we bring the wildness and still have a really really lovely, elegant meal?"
Amber specializes in drinks crafted from flowers and herbs:
"So we have an eight-course nonalcoholic pairing there's also a lot lighter on the belly," she said.
When we visited, an asparagus mushroom cake, stinging nettle souffle with smoked mushrooms, and salmon sizzled on its plate with hot oil were among Mana's offerings.
Chris Petry, the owner of Oh Yeah Farms says, "It's the best display of what we do as farmers on a plate."
Just a few blocks away, Watershed is another restaurant bringing the outdoors in. This deck is a major draw --even for chef/co-owner Dan Fiske.
“Honestly the view out there, we walk out every day you look up there the at the Enchantments," said Fiske.
On the constantly changing menu tonight: Locally raised pork chops with Yakima apple slaw, chicken breast with bread pudding, and wild salmon on a bed of forbidden rice. The servings are humongous.
“We have a lot of outdoor people working up an appetite. We're here to let them unwind and fill up," said Fiske.
Watershed's decor also brings the outside inside: locally made skis and snowboards hang on the walls, and tables are topped with pinecones and river rocks in the bar.