The Bellevue Botanical Gardens are one of my favorite places to visit outside of Seattle. Start your day by exploring the gardens and its many secret paths and skybridge. Mornings are quiet and peaceful, sort of like what Seattle used to be like in 2011.. After the gardens, head further east on I-90 to the historic downtown Issaquah for a coffee or lunch. Like a time capsule, drive past the 1940's shell gas station and explore the shops and restaurants nestled in a two-block radius. If you love chocolate, stop at Boehm's, a European-style chocolatier since 1942. During the summer, head to Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah to swim, walk or relax in nature. The park is one-mile from downtown and requires a Discover Pass, which you purchase at the entry gate. .
I love Tacoma. It's like the Cleveland of the Puget Sound. Many people "dog" Tacoma, but thanks to gentrification, Tacoma is movin' on up. Tacoma is known for its Glass Art Museum, but to experience the best of what Tacoma has to offer, head to Ruston Way and the Point Defiance Park. On the weekends, enjoy one of the many Ruston Way brunch buffets held at the Lobster Shop & Shenanigans. From here, either walk around Ruston Way for picturesque views of Mount Rainier, or head to Point Defiance Park. Escape the city life at the rose and dahlia garden and at Owen's beach. If you have a family, head to the park's zoo (must-see Christmas lighting show). End your day with a slice of (vegan) cake at Corina's Bakery on South Fawcett Street.
If you are in Seattle during tulip season, head north on I-5 to Mount Vernon. Various daffodil and tulip fields attract thousands of visitors everyday. Traffic in and out of the tulip fields is a nightmare, specifically on Saturday. Mount Vernon isn't a world-class destination, but it showcases the best of small town America. During the summer and fall, be sure to stop at one of the you-pick berry farms along I-5.
Snoqualmie is one of the most beloved Seattle getaway spots. The area contains plenty of day hikes, with Snow Lake, being one of my favorite trails. Or hike alongside the waterfall on a 0.7 mile interpretive trail, descending some 300 feet in one-half of a mile. Check with the locals about trail closures. If you want to stay indoors, wine and dine with some wanna-be jet-setters while admiring the falls inside the Salish Lodge. I recommend taste testing Snoqualmie brand's Riesling wine.
Leavenworth is one of those places that can either be a weekend getaway or a day trip. If you're looking to explore the natural scenery, stay the weekend. If you want some beer and (yes vegan too) brats, book either a Greyhound, Amtrak or tour-bus ticket to Leavenworth. The buses and trains leave from downtown Seattle and in about two hours, you'll experience one of the best Bavarian-style villages outside of Munich. This is a must-visit during the Christmas lighting season.
Is West Seattle really a day trip? From a local's perspective, yes it is! Anyone who lives in West Seattle basically "lives off the grid," and it's common to see your West Seattle friends maybe once per quarter. Thanks to the shitty traffic, getting to and from West Seattle is a nightmare. But...thanks to the local water taxi, West Seattle is now a fun adventure for everyone! Depart from Pier 50 in downtown Seattle and enjoy this 15-minute boat ride that overlooks a stunning waterfront view. From here, take a break at Salty's or make way right to Alki Beach. There is a connector "short" bus that goes from Seacrest dock to Alki, or bring your walking shoes and trek a couple miles down the road. At Alki, there are plenty of cafes and boutiques. Rent a family-wagon bike or relax on the beach - the choice is yours!
This is another popular day trip, and the 35-minute ferry ride alone is worth the experience. Many cyclers visit to ride around the island where others head downtown to eat, drink and shop. Sometimes orcas are seen from the shoreline, but don't get your hopes up if you don't spot one. Whales swimming in the sound is actually dangerous because the water is not as salty as the ocean. Sadly, many grey whales pass on to their next life if caught in the Sound for too long.