Fall Into the Season With Cozy Indoor Activities and Stunning Outdoor Adventures

The Pacific Northwest dazzles in any season, but the region's colors truly "wow" in the vibrant autumn months. Since options for how to spend any Seattle day can seem endless, we're happy to help you narrow down the abundance of choices. Some prefer to spend these often-cooler months cozying up inside Seattle's hygge-filled spaces (from coffee shops and eateries to museum galleries and music-filled lounges like downtown's KEXP). On the other hand, others see this season as the perfect excuse to get outside on trails and waterways that show off the natural beauty of our region.

As autumn arrives, Washington's national parks erupt in beautiful colors, and outdoor adventures prepare to transition from summertime hikes to snow-centric activities (like skiing to snowshoeing). Downtown treasures like Discovery Park give urban dwellers the chance to experience the changing of the seasons within city limits. Brand-new observatory experiences (at the Space Needle and Columbia Tower) raise visitors to new heights this fall, while theaters like 5th Avenue excitedly welcome lauded productions that promise to inspire and entertain.

However you choose to celebrate the season, we guarantee that this splendid place–and its wonderful people–will leave you feeling grateful for the rich bounty of the season. 



Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Some of Washington's most magnificent scenery can be found within this national forest's expansive boundaries. The rugged--and at times harsh--landscape encompasses the Cascade Mountains as well as an active volcano in the form of Mt. Baker. Beginning in mid-September, the forest's flora slowly change from bright greens to reds and oranges, providing an attractive contrast to the area's coverage of conifers. Huckleberry, mountain ash and heather offer a patchwork of warm colors, often reflected in the forest's many lakes. Since the forest is so extensive, a driving tour is an ideal way to see as much fall foliage as possible in a relatively short time. Try the Mt. Baker Highway or the North Cascades Highway for some unforgettable views.

Space Needle

While we still don't have jet packs and flying cars, the most iconic symbol of that 1960's space-age promise—the Space Needle—stands as Seattle's most-recognized tourist attraction. Built for the 1962 World's Fair, the forward-looking theme of which was "Century 21," the 602-foot Needle looks like a huge flying saucer on a towering tripod. Having recently undergone a $100 million "spacelift," the structure now features the world's first and only revolving glass floor. "The Loupe" allows for never-before-seen downward views of the Needle's unique architecture and landscape below. Visitors also enjoy completely unobstructed, floor-to-ceiling views of the Seattle skyline and dramatically expanded views of Mount Rainier, Elliott Bay and the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges from both the inside and outside of the upper observation deck. On the way up, entertaining elevator operators rattle off fun facts and invite visitors to test their Needle knowledge.

Pike Place Market
Photo courtesy of Magic in the Market/Richmond Public Relations

Sights, smells and sounds make Pike Place a head-spinning whirlwind for first-time visitors. Fishmongers near the main entrance entice buyers with loud hawking and dexterous salmon throwing antics, the briny smell of fresh seafood filling the air. Countering that are the rows of vibrantly colorful flower stalls, which emit their pleasing perfumed aromas to passersby. Farm-fresh produce is mounded high along the aisles, and local artisans display their art and wares unique to the Northwest. Restaurants, a brewery, and specialty shops for everything from antiques to movie ephemera fill the multi-level maze. To help visitors find their way, the Market Foundation offers fun and informational tours Wednesdays through Saturdays, starting at the Market Heritage Center at 1531 Western Avenue. Once you have your bearings, pick out a favorite spot and enjoy some of the best people-watching around in this eclectic and progressive environment.


Situated on Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, this expansive urban park--the largest in Seattle--offers two miles of beach trails and nine miles of winding footpaths. Ostensibly a bluff-top reserve, Discovery Park protects a remarkable urban wilderness and provers a great place for nature-watching. The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, which features art and cultural exhibits, is also located at the park, as is a marine reserve. An 1881 lighthouse, the oldest in the area, can also be found here. Offering breathtaking views of both the Cascade and the Olympic mountain ranges, the park's remote site includes two miles of protected tidal beaches as well as open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves, active sand dunes, thickets and streams.

The 5th Avenue Theatre is known as one of the nation's leading musical theater companies, especially for its production and development of new works. Since 2002, the Seattle-based company has produced 17 new musicals. (To date, nine--including hit Disney's Aladdin-- have moved on to Broadway premieres, earning a combined 15 Tony Awards, including two for Best Musical--Hairspray and Memphis. The 5th Avenue Theatre also makes waves for its lauded productions of musicals from the contemporary canon and the Golden Age of Broadway. While the shows are sensational, the venue itself justifies a visit, too, thanks to a unique, Chinese-inspired design. (The exquisite theater opened in 1926 as a venue for vaudeville and film.) Lauded production "Come From Away" plays here from October 9 through November 4.

Clipper Vacations
Photo courtesy of Clipper

Plan nearby getaways from Seattle with Clipper Vacations packages that highlight alluring spots from charming Victoria (Vancouver Island) and Whistler to the stunning Canadian Rockies. Also use the company's resources to perfectly plan and book your time in Seattle, Portland, the San Juan islands and beyond. To get to the enticing destination of Victoria, take a ride on one of many high-speed Clipper catamarans that leave from downtown Seattle's Pier 69. Take advantage of the Victoria Clipper's passenger-only ferry service that schedules year-round daily departures to Victoria, BC, and seasonal daily departures to the San Juan Islands, too. Autumn highlights in the British Columbia capital include ghost walks, high tea sessions, brewery walkabouts and tours that help visitors learn more about First Nations history and culture.

Pioneer Square

When Seattle's 1889 fire leveled part of the city, officials decided to raise the city to a higher level, both metaphorically and literally. The portion left behind (and beneath) is now subject matter for a tour of Seattle's past (especially its unsavory, spicier parts). The network of abandoned rooms and paths prove interesting, but the stories and tales of seamstresses, thieves and prominent residents truly bring the area to life. This tour provides a fascinating glimpse into the city's heritage and legendary lore. The tour begins inside Doc Maynard's Public House, a restored 1890s saloon, and continues through historic Pioneer Square to three different sections of Underground--covering about three blocks total. The tour ends in Rogues Gallery, a quirky gift shop.

Salish Lodge and Spa
Photo courtesy of Salish Lodge & Spa

A scenic 30-minute drive from Seattle brings you to the charmingly rustic-chic Salish Lodge & Spa, which offers Old-World ambience and modern elegance. Get out and enjoy nature near the lodge, whether hiking around the rushing cascades or trying activities like fly fishing and snoeshowing, depending on the season. Back at the cozy venue, dine on award-winning Northwest cuisine while enjoying romantic views of Snoqualmie Falls. The team here prides itself on attending to a honeybee apiary that produces 2,400 pounds of honey per year, as well as a thriving herb garden and 800-square-foot organic vegetable garden, that provides The Dining Room and The Attic with unique culinary opportunities. For the ultimate getaway experience, book a dreamy spa service to round out your visit.

Bainbridge Island Ferry

From Seattle's downtown waterfront, it takes only 35 minutes to arrive at Bainbridge Island. Along the way, you can enjoy all the wonderful sights that make Seattle such a unique city (the ferry ride itself is worth the journey!). The snowcapped Olympic Mountains, Seattle's skyline and the eastern view of Mount Rainier are all points of interest along the way. (It's also fun to watch all the car and bike commuters onboard.) Peak season is early May through mid-October. Once on Bainbridge Island, it's easy to walk to a quaint "downtown" strip that features some shops, eateries and coffee spots. The island also features wineries, an organic distillery and other popular destinations like The Bloedel Reserve.

This slumbering volcano is the second-tallest mountain in the continental United States after California's Mt. Whitney. Because of its northern locale and more extreme weather, though, Washington State's prime peak is used by many mountaineering groups to train for ascents of the world's most challenging climbs. In warmer months, flocks of climbers are cued up to challenge the summit's less strenuous routes, and throughout the year a variety of activities are available to extreme athletes and vacationing families alike. Hundreds of miles of hiking trails wind through dense past placid lakes and frothing waterfalls. There are plenty of short, spectacular day trips, as well, whether hiking in summer of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter. Lodging is available on the mountain at the historic inn at Paradise, where the visitor center offers meals and interpretive natural history.


Meet Corinne Whiting

Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's...  More About Corinne