Making the season merry and bright seems nearly effortless in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to the natural beauty awaiting in the great outdoors, as well as cozy lodges built specifically for this time of year.
We've gathered ways to celebrate in style with family and friends, as well as more mellow ideas on how to soak up solitude and quiet among the snow-covered pines.
Follow our guide toward whale-watching wonderment, adventurous tours and festive, locally-sourced feasts (think truffles!). There's a reason we look forward to this season each and every year, and we wish you all the best for the long winter days ahead.
Relish that Washington lodge life
Hood Canal's Alderbrook Resort & Spa provides a cozy Washington retreat in any season, and especially during winter months — Photo courtesy of Alderbrook Resort & Spa
We can think of few better ways to pass the days than by slowing down next to roaring fires, while breathing in the aroma of mulled drinks and fresh winter pines. Cozy up in our favorite lodges that offer seasonal menus and festive happenings.
Travel into the mountains to savor tranquil retreats like Leavenworth's Sleeping Lady resort, or choose to stay within city limits at Cedarbrook Lodge. At this beautiful Seattle Southside property, surprisingly tucked only a stone's throw from Sea-Tac Airport, get transported to what feels like a secluded getaway.
All Cedarbrook stays include Northwest-inspired breakfasts (think fresh salmon) and airport shuttles, while Copperleaf Restaurant serves incredibly delicious fare that's been locally sourced (with many ingredients grown in the garden out back).
Hood Canal's Alderbrook Resort & Spa brings whimsy to its oh-so-cozy main lobby during Santa selfie sessions, while Cocoa Cruises welcome families aboard the Lady Alderbrook. Throughout winter, enjoy seasonal menus (of locally foraged items and scrumptious seafood) and festive holiday feasts at the resort's on-site restaurant.
Pick a homey cabin with a fireplace and artwork by local talents to share with your nearest and dearest while here.
Brighten Seattle days with music
In this theme suite, The Edgewater partnered with Pearl Jam and its fans to create this room's industrial, grunge-inspired design with fun touches like authentic band art posters — Photo courtesy of The Edgewater
Feast your ears in a city known for making sound waves near and far. Begin your day with a steaming cuppa and some killer tunes at Seattle Center's KEXP Gathering Space, home of the region's favorite radio station and a community hub for coffee, socializing and really good music. (Watch the DJs hard at work through their visible booth, or if you're lucky, catch a free concert in the laid-back lounge.)
Ideal Seattle home bases for music lovers include the Edgewater Hotel, a luxury outpost on Pier 67 that boasts river-rock fireplaces and unrivaled views of the Olympic Mountains and the sparkling waters of Elliott Bay. Die-hard fans book stays in the Pearl Jam or Beatles suites. These art- and memorabilia-filled theme rooms each have their own record player and a library of the band's best albums.
In Belltown, right around the corner from Jazz Alley and beloved rock institution The Crocodile, you'll find The Sound Hotel, marked by music-inspired decor like vinyl installations, blueprints of guitars and sensational "trumpet" light fixtures. And downtown, Kimpton Alexis Hotel's two biggest suites (each more than 1,200 square feet) feature record players accompanied by 10 vinyls curated in partnership with Sub Pop Records.
If you love music, these hotels were made for you
If you love music, these hotels were made for you
Experience Canadian hospitality in Victoria
The B.C. Parliament Buildings in Victoria truly shine at this time of year — Photo courtesy of Destination Greater Victoria
We're charmed by Vancouver Island every time we travel there (via plane, ferry or Clipper catamaran from downtown Seattle). In the winter months, the welcome to the capital of British Columbia seems especially warm.
While here, visit Craigdarroch Castle (which gives glimpses into authentic Victorian Christmas traditions throughout December) or ice skate among the dazzling light displays of The Butchart Gardens.
Or perhaps get spoiled at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel's Boathouse Spa, which boasts three heated outdoor mineral pools situated dreamily on the edge of the Salish Sea.
To enjoy all of Victoria's offerings, settle into your welcoming home base at the Inn at Laurel Point. It's located at the entrance to the Inner Harbour and within walking distance of the ferry terminals, Royal BC Museum and downtown's lineup of enticing shops, eateries and pubs.
The venue features 200 rooms and suites (with a style that's modern yet warm), plus private balconies with exquisite water views.
This independent luxury venue is proud to be British Columbia’s first carbon neutral hotel, and the staff makes all decisions with the aim of benefiting the local community to which they belong.
In between your city wanderings, enjoy hotel highlights like a private garden and reflecting pool, as well as flavorful small plates served at Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio.
Go play in the snow
Suncadia Resort offers countless opportunities to get out in beautiful nature and frolic in the snow — Photo courtesy of Suncadia Resort
Bundle up for cold-weather activities that span beyond traditional ski outings. In Cle Elum, Washington, Suncadia Resort gets guests out on tubes, sleighs and snowshoes (sometimes cleverly combined with brewery visits).
Located 80 miles east of Seattle, the resort also offers backcountry snowmobile tours and guided fly fishing drift trips, which can be especially rewarding in winter months thanks to low river flows and crystal clear water.
After making the most of the natural wonders surrounding the property, warm up in the rustic saunas and four outdoor mineral baths of Glade Spring Spa.
Be wowed by whale-watching wonders
Look out for gray whales and other incredible wildlife along Oregon's coast in winter months — Photo courtesy of R K Willis
Winter can be a magical time to visit the Oregon Coast, when nearly 20,000 gray whales pass by between mid-December and mid-January, as they travel south to the warm waters of Baja, Mexico.
Although whales are visible from Oregon's shores throughout the year, some months see much more activity. Oregon State Parks coordinates Whale Watch Weeks in late December and late March, when the number reaches its peak during annual migrations.
Stop into the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, a perfect spot to watch the majestic creatures blow, dive, spyhop and breach. From the Center, knowledgeable staff members have spotted various species including humpback whales, orcas, dolphins, porpoise and even blue whales.
Relish relaxation in Vancouver
Unwind atop the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver, where the alluring Aqua Lounge offers stellar city views and a relaxing hydrotherapy tub — Photo courtesy of Spa by JW/JW Marriott Parq Vancouver
Amid all the excitement of Vancouver's happening scenes (with winter temptations ranging from the Vancouver Christmas Market to the Festival of Lights), your own personal oasis awaits in the center of it all.
Treat yourself to a spacious, luxe-meets-hip suite at the DOUGLAS, where service is top-notch and the decor effortlessly melds sophistication with comfort.
Alternatively, settle in at the adjoining JW Marriott Parq Vancouver, where the alluring, 17th-floor Aqua Lounge offers stellar city views and a rejuvenating hydrotherapy tub.
Wellness is the name of the game at the Spa by JW Vancouver; services range from a 110-minute "Clear Your Mind" massage to the state-of-the-art express chair, which means 12- or 25-minute, multi-sensory treatments that incorporate beautiful visuals and sounds (let's say, simulating a rainforest escape).
Ski some of Canada's best slopes
Get pampered at Fairmont Chateau Whistler, the region's landmark ski-in ski-out hotel — Photo courtesy of Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Sure, there are plenty of alluring skiing options in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and beyond, but why not make the most of the exchange rate by heading to powder north of the border? British Columbia has 13 different ski resorts (and Whistler is just the start). Stay on the cutting edge at The Josie, a new ski-in, ski-out boutique hotel at RED Mountain Resort in B.C.'s Rossland.
After a long day on the slopes of Whistler, enjoy ultimate pampered luxury at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, where an elevated experience includes stunning mountain views and decadent services enjoyed at Vida Spa. While in town, be sure to check out the first-ever winter debut of Vallea Lumina, an innovative night walk that merges 4D digital art with nature and storytelling.
These are the best ski resorts and amenities in North America
These are the best ski resorts and amenities in North America
Hunt for truffles in Oregon
The Oregon Truffle Festival celebrates the season throughout two winter weekends — Photo courtesy of Andrea Johnson
Now in its 15th year, the Oregon Truffle Festival celebrates the state’s native truffle haul during two upcoming weekends (January 23 through 26 and February 14 through 16). Enthusiastic growers and aficionados convene for outdoors excursions with trained truffle dogs, decadent dinners and winery luncheons, plus hands-on cooking classes and demos.
Yet the fun expands beyond such festivals. Laura Morgan of The Big Foody PDX hosts Portland-area events that include dog-led foraging experiences followed by multi-course truffle dinners. She sometimes collaborates with Seattle-based, dog-truffle forager expert Sunny Diaz, who also hosts her own truffle-hunt-and-dinner series up north, featuring restaurants like Tarsan i Jane.
And throughout the tantalizing truffle season, many Pacific Northwest eateries showcase the delicacy in their seasonal dishes, including chefs at Portland's Olympia Provisions who make their very own Oregon truffle salami.
Hop on the adventure tour circuit
Wanderlust Tours takes adventurous guests on snowshoeing treks through old-growth forests or into ancient caves around Bend, Oregon — Photo courtesy of Brad Bailey
No car? No problem. Join companies like Evergreen Escapes on excursions that push off from downtown locales in both Seattle and Portland.
For example, go snowshoeing with expert guides and new friends among the rejuvenating beauty of Mount Rainier National Park. In Central Oregon, Bend-based adventurers hop on Wanderlust Tours' winter wonderland outings, including a bonfire-snowshoe package that lets participants revel in the magic of a winter night sky.
Eat, drink and be merry
Woodinville Wine Country shows off the bounty of the region at welcoming tasting rooms — Photo courtesy of Woodinville Wine Country
Keep your eye on the Washington State Wine calendar for countless festive reasons to say "cheers" throughout the state (and season). In Oregon, Willamette Valley wineries also keep the merriment flowing with tasting room fetes and feasts.
Evergreen Escapes takes Seattle-based wine lovers on half-day excursions that combine visits to Snoqualmie Falls with the tasting rooms of Woodinville Wine Country. And in addition to its anticipated St. Nick’s Holiday Wine Weekend festivities (December), Woodinville wineries stay in the spirit with seasonal parties and crafty workshops.
And Teatro ZinZanni continues to stage its dinner-theater-meets-circus extravaganzas – a perfect way to celebrate any night of the year.