North America

A Weekend at Tulalip Resort Casino

A Weekend at Tulalip Resort Casino

If you've lived in Seattle long enough, odds are you've at least heard of Tulalip Resort Casino. For us, it's been the radio ads publicizing Tulalip's summer concert series that gave us awareness of the resort. We've even driven by many times during our semi-annual trips to Seattle Premium Outlets and Skagit Valley. But it wasn't until a weekend in July that we actually set foot inside of Tulalip Resort Casino.

Palm Springs Road Trip

Palm Springs Road Trip

While in Southern California this July, we decided to embark on a long weekend road trip from San Diego to Palm Springs. Our dream route had all the makings of an epic, incredibly diverse road trip, with stops at the beach, mountains, and desert. In reality, our limited time and the 100+ degree heat cut our grand plans in half. But we still managed to do and see quite a bit. In this blog post, we'll share our SoCal Road Trip highlights, along with the stops we missed and will have to revisit another time.

Itinerary: Weekend Road Trip to Hood Canal & Olympic National Park

Itinerary: Weekend Road Trip to Hood Canal & Olympic National Park

Seeking a new experience, we decided to spend a weekend exploring the Olympic Peninsula instead. Although the Olympics are also relatively close to Seattle, accessing them takes long enough that most won't visit the area on a quick day trip. Instead, it's best to spend at least a long weekend here to make the most of your time. Enter, Peace Vans!

Less Touristy Things to Do on Oahu, Hawaii

Less Touristy Things to Do on Oahu, Hawaii

Hawaii is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. As such, some travelers think Hawaii is too touristy and over-crowded. While both of these observations are in many ways true, there are less touristy things to do in Hawaii. I grew up on Oahu and have experienced this island as both a child growing up and an adult returning home as a tourist. In truth, Oahu has changed and developed so much over the past several years that I barely know where to visit anymore.

Hawaii's Hardest Hike? Koko Crater Trail

If you're looking for a hard hike on Oahu, look no further than Koko Crater Trail. This steep climb consists of 1,000+ steps along an abandoned railroad track that runs to the top of Koko Crater. It's a challenging hike that will challenge not only your leg strength but your will as well. Read on for tips on how to find and conquer this beast of a hike.

The Stats

  • Round trip distance: 1.8 miles
  • Number of steps: 1,048
  • Elevation gain: 820 feet
  • Type of hike: out and back
  • Difficulty level: difficult
  • Generally very crowded with athletes, hikers, and tourists
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

About the Trail

Originally created during World War II at the same time as bunkers such as the Lanikai Pillbox, this railway was used to haul cargo and supplies to the mountaintop. Today, the abandoned railway is used as a hiking trail. It's considered a difficult hike, but you'll see all types of people attempting to get to the top. Some are athletes using the trail as their regular training route, while others range from experienced hikers to overly optimistic tourists. Not all will reach the top, but that's actually ok given the fact that you can get decent views from even part way up the trail.

The ascent is rather difficult and steep at times. It's made more challenging by the fact that most of the steps are much longer and taller than the usual steps that we are used to. But the reward is a stunning panorama with views of Hanauma Bay and Hawaii Kai. If you have any fear of heights, don't attempt this one, or come with an experienced friend who is willing to give you a helping hand. There are no ropes or handrails to help you up and down these stairs.

Where is Koko Crater Trail?

The trail is pretty easy to find and is visible in the distance. From Waikiki, drive south on H1 (Kalaianaoli Highway) and keep going until it turns into Highway 72. When you hit Hawaii Kai Shopping center, take a left on Lunalilo Home Road, then a right on Anapalau Street. Taka e left onto Koko Head District Park where you'll find parking lots and a trailhead.

More Oahu Hiking Guides

Like this post? Pin it for later, or share with friends!

Looking for more travel planning inspiration? Follow our Best of Hawaii Board on Pinterest for more ideas for your next adventure!

koko crater trail
koko crater trail

Photo Gallery

Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai Pillboxes - Easy Oahu Hike

One of the most picturesque and rather easy hikes on Oahu is the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, also known as Kaiwa Ridge Trail. It's located on the windward side of Oahu, Hawaii and it offers stunning views of the beautiful Lanikai Beach, Kailua Beach, and the Mokulua Islands. If you're looking to do this hike, read on for directions to the trailhead and tips to make the most of your hike. Also, check out the hyperlapse video that shows you exactly what you're in for.

Can't see the video above? Click here.

What are the pillboxes?

This hike gets its name from the two military observation stations (pillboxes) from World War II that are located on this hiking trail path. Each pillbox offers a resting point for hikers as well as stunning panoramic views. Depending on your pace, you can reach the first pillbox in about 20 minutes or less. It's not unusual for most hikers to make it to the first and/or second pillbox and turn back from there. But if you're on the more adventurous side, you can go further down the path into the valley for more scenic views and generally smaller crowds. The whole hike itself usually takes about 1 hour to 90 minutes round trip.

Also worth noting is the best time of day to do this hike. Sunrise is best viewed from this side of the island, but sunset happens on the Waikiki side. Sunset can also be a trickier time of day since the mountains block the setting sun, causing the windward side of the island to get darker faster. Thus, sunrise is a good time of day for optimal photography lighting conditions, especially if you want to beat the mid-day heat. But sunset can also be great to enjoy after colors and a significantly less crowded hiking trail.

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

Getting to the Lanikai Pillbox Hike

The Lanikai Pillbox trailhead is located just off of Ka'elepupu Drive, directly across from the Mid-Pacific Country Club. It's a little nondescript that may or may not have the sign up (it wasn't there during our recent trip). But due to this hike's popularity, it can usually be marked by the handfuls of people heading to the trail. This hike is free and there technically are not set operating hours although it is best done in daylight.

Due to the location of this hike in a residential neighborhood, it's recommended that you drive or take a bus. It's about a 40-minute direct drive from Waikiki. Just be forewarned that there isn't a whole lot of parking in the area. Your best bet is to find parking near Lanikai Park and simply walk the few blocks over to the trailhead. Make sure to read traffic signs and park in designated parking zones as traffic police tend to patrol the area regularly.

Lanikai Pillbox Hike - Safety Tips

Although this hike is considered intermediate, plenty of beginners can handle the terrain if they come prepared. The hardest part is the 10-yard long steep hill you encounter at the very beginning. If you start off on the far right side of the trail, there's a rope that can help with your ascent or descent. But if you're an inexperienced hiker, we highly recommend bringing a walking stick such as these compact folding hiking poles that we bring with us on every hike.

Hiking sticks or poles will help you with your balance while going up and down steep terrain. Several other hikers on this trail saw our hiking poles and immediately commented on how they wished they had some too. Along the lines of gear, proper hiking shoes are recommended to protect your toes and give you a good grip. This hike has many rocks and dirt paths that can get slick and muddy. Be very careful if you do this hike right after a heavy rainfall.

Day Trip - What to Do in Lanikai After the Hike

If you're making your way out to Lanikai for the hike, spend the rest of your day in the area. On your way into Lanikai, you'll pass by the popular, ever-crowded Kailua Beach. Spend some time here if you're lucky to score a parking spot. Or if you park near Lanikai Park as suggested above, walk a few blocks towards the water and enjoy Lanikai Beach. Top your day off with a post-hike fresh juice or açai bowl at Lanikai Juice.

More Oahu Hiking Guides

- Best Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/best-oahu-hikes -

Underrated Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/underrated-oahu-hikes

- Lanikai Pillbox Hike: http://bit.ly/lanikai-pillboxes

- Koko Crater Trail Hike: http://bit.ly/koko-crater-trail

Lanikai Pillbox Hike Photos

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

Like this post? Share it with friends or pin it for later!

Looking for more travel planning inspiration? Follow our Best of Hawaii Board on Pinterest for more ideas for your next adventure!

Hawaii Hiking Trail
Hawaii Hiking Trail

Best Hikes on Oahu, Hawaii

There is no shortage of stunning hiking trails on Oahu. From popular trails with more people than you can count to more serene destinations where it's just you and nature, there's something for everyone. This is a list of some of my favorite hiking trails on Oahu. I have personally completed these hikes and have found them all to be very enjoyable and photo-worthy.

Recommended Hiking Gear

As a rather risk-averse hiker who is wary of heights, the first two hikes were somewhat easy for me. The latter was truly difficult and I had a hard time making it to the top and back. If you too are not much of a hiker, know that there's absolutely no shame in turning back if at any point you feel uncomfortable. No hike is worth risking your health and safety. On that note, do make sure you are duly prepared with proper hiking equipment. This alone can make your hiking experience much safer and more enjoyable.

Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail - Very Easy

This is a pretty popular trail that can at times seem crowded if you judge on parking availability alone. But to be fair, the parking lot to this trail is on the small side, and it's actually ok to park your car on the side of the road just outside of the gates. Even if the parking lot seems full, don't be deterred. Makapu'u Point is quite large with many little side trails so it doesn't feel very crowded. The main trail is nicely paved, allowing for baby strollers and those in wheelchairs to access the top. But it is a somewhat steep climb. The view at the end is such a reward and worth the hike. Makapu'u tidepools can also be accessed from this trail, although that path isn't paved and requires a bit more agility.

Kaena Point Trail - Easy

The easiest hiking trail I've done on Oahu has to be Kaena Point Trail. It's roughly 5-miles long (roundtrip). The terrain is flat and there's little to no descent. It winds along the westernmost coast of Oahu leading to a nature reserve where you can see seabirds (mainly albatross) and large Hawaiian monk seals in the wild. Since there are two different trails, this hike is rarely crowded and is one of those "off the beaten path" trails.

Read more about the Kaena Point Trail.

Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai Pillboxes - Moderate

A moderate Oahu hiking trail is the now popular Lanikai Pillbox hike. Located on the windward side, this hike is actually quite short, but it involves a quick, steep ascent. It's not terribly difficult, but those with a fear of heights and poor balance may have issues. The reward comes rather quick in the form of a stunning panoramic view of Lanikai and Kailua Beaches. This hike can be somewhat crowded, but traffic is restricted by the difficulty in finding parking in this area.

Read more about the Lanikai Pillboxes Trail.

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

Koko Crater Trail - Difficult

By far the hardest hike I've yet to do on Oahu is Koko Crater Trail. From what I've read, there are many other hikes that are much more difficult but I warn you again that I'm not much of a hiker. So for me, Koko Crater Trail exceeds my comfort zone by a lot.

This trail is short (under 2 miles), but it's very steep. It also involves climbing old railway tracks that now serve as makeshift stairs. Except these stairs are much longer and taller than the ones that modern humans are used to, so they're not terribly easy for those of us with shorter legs. But like Lanikai Pillboxes, the reward is in the panoramic view at the top. So in that sense, Koko Crater is worth doing at least once.

Read more about the Koko Crater Trail.

Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Over To You

What are your favorite hiking trails on Oahu? Let me know in the comments below!

Like this post? Pin it for later or share with your friends!

Looking for more travel planning inspiration? Follow our Best of Hawaii Board on Pinterest for more ideas for your next adventure!

Best oahu hikes
Best oahu hikes

Underrated Hikes of Oahu - Go Off the Beaten Path

If you're traveling to Oahu with the goal of hiking in mind, you might end up disappointed. Many of the island's popular hiking trails are so crowded with tourists that they can be hard to enjoy. If you're seeking solitude and opportunities to really bond with Hawaii's unique nature, we recommend traveling off the beaten path. Explore some these underrated, lesser-known hiking trails that are more likely to be populated with locals, if anyone at all.

Popular Oahu Hikes

First, let's address some of those popular hiking trails that you might want to avoid if you want to dodge crowds:

Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Lesser Known Oahu Hiking Trails

Kaena Point Trail

Located along the westernmost point of Oahu, this trail will take you to the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve. This reserve is home to native plants and seabirds, namely albatross that come here to mate and hatch chicks. Hawaiian monk seals can also be seen here. It's a long-ish hike of about 5 miles roundtrip, but the terrain is very flat and relatively easy to walk on. Those seeking a hardcore hiking experience won't find this one a challenge in terms of terrain. There is no shade or protection from the sun, so sunscreen, hats, and plenty of water should be packed. The path winds along the coast offering beautiful ocean views, but high surf and winds can be treacherous, so mind any weather warnings. Pets are not allowed on this trail to ensure the safety of the seabirds at the nature reserve.

It's also important to note that Kaena Point Trail has two different starting points: the Waianae route and the Mokuleia route. The Waianae route can be accessed from Honolulu by taking the H1 freeway west until it turns into Farrington Highway (Route 93). Keep following the road until it terminates; park here and start your hike. From Mokuleia, drive on H-2 to Kaukonahua Road (Route 903) to Farrington Highway (Route 930). Following the road past Waialua and Camp Erdman; the trailhead begins where the paved road ends.

Makiki Valley Loop Trail

This hiking trail is probably lesser known because it doesn't offer any stunning views or particularly Instagram-worthy material. What it does offer is a chance to get your cardio on and also experience Hawaii nature in the raw. The Makiki Valley Loop starts at the Hawaii Nature Center, which also offers nature excursions and activities. But this loop can be done as a self-guided hike. The loop is comprised of three trails: Makiki Valley Trail, Kanealole Trail, and Maunalaha Trail. All in all, it's a 2.5-mile round trip that is fairly easy to navigate if you pay attention to trail markers. Pets are welcome on this trail.

Start at the Hawaii Nature Center and step onto the clearly marked Makiki Valley Loop Trail. From here, you have a choice. Hiking counterclockwise on the Maunalaha Trail gives you the challenge up front. This steep ascent is littered with lots of tree roots and rocks. It sounds challenging, but even inexperienced hikers can handle the terrain with some extra care and attention. Once you reach the top, there are benches that let you take a breather. From here, head down Kanealole Trail, which is significantly easier with nice sounds of chirping birds and a gently flowing stream.

Aiea Loop Trail

If you're looking for a simple, easy Oahu hike, Aiea Loop Trail is worth exploring. This 4.8-mile hike takes you along the west side of Halawa Valley, offering views of Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, and the picturesque Ko'olau Mountains. It's also mostly shaded so you can stay relatively cool. Since the path is a loop, directions are easy once you get started, and you get unique views from every stop. This hike starts at the Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area, a 384-acre park with lots of parking and restrooms for a pit stop.

Kalauao Trail

Want to toughen up the Aiea Loop Trail? Look for an S-shaped curve at the trail junction and head down the Kalauao Trail. It's a 4-mile, mostly downhill trail that leads to many swimming holes and a waterfall. Just prepare for the strenuous uphill hike back.

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

West Oahu Pillbox Hike (Pu'u O Hulu Kai)

You've probably heard of the popular Lanikai Pillbox hike on Oahu's windward side. If you want a similar, less crowded hike, head to the west side of Oahu and seek out the Pink Pillbox Hike (Pu'u O Hulu Kai). This short 2-mile hike takes you up a ridge between the Nanakuli and Maili suburbs. The trail starts at Kaukama Road after the 9th light pole on the ride side of the road. There are a couple of different route options that lead to the top.

The shortest route is also the most challenging as it is a steep ascent. Only attempt this if you're an experienced hiker up for a challenge. The other route is an easier but longer zigzag path. When you get to the top, be sure to mind the rocky edges.

Wondering what the Lanikai Pillbox hike is like? Check out this first-person hyperlapse video below that takes you through the trail!

Hiking Safety Tips

All of these hikes mentioned above are free without cost or the need for a permit or license. Many also do not have an official opening or closing times, but it's always best to finish your hike before sunset. In many cases, drastic weather such as heavy rains or high surf can affect the hiking trail terrain. Be sure to check local websites for any official closures or warning signs.

More Oahu Hiking Guides

- Best Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/best-oahu-hikes

- Underrated Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/underrated-oahu-hikes

- Lanikai Pillbox Hike: http://bit.ly/lanikai-pillboxes

- Koko Crater Trail Hike: http://bit.ly/koko-crater-trail

Lesser-Known Oahu Hiking Trails Map

Like this post? Share it with friends or pin it for later!

Looking for more travel planning inspiration? Follow our Best of Hawaii Board on Pinterest for more ideas for your next adventure!

underrated hawaii hiking
underrated hawaii hiking

Holidays in Seattle - Gingerbread Village and Teddy Bear Suite

Christmas-in-Seattle.jpg

When winter hits the Pacific Northwest, we tend to scatter out to the mountains of Leavenworth to get that real Christmas feel. However, winter in Seattle is also an enchanting time thanks to two annual traditions that take place downtown: Sheraton Seattle's Gingerbread Village, and the Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmont Olympic. Both hotels have been carrying on these traditions for over two decades. Even if you've seen them once before, a return visit is due as the designs vary by the year. But first, let's go into detail about each of these holiday spectacles.

Gingerbread Village

Every year, the Sheraton Seattle invites some of the top architects, master builders, and culinary teams to create the most inventive gingerbread houses they can imagine. The theme changes each year. One year it was Star Wars, and yet another was Harry Potter. This year, the 25th anniversary, the theme encourages a celebration of Seattle. The results have been jaw-dropping. Some gingerbread houses pay homage to historic Seattle, while others imagine a sci-fi version that probably isn't far from reality.

Gingerbread Village typically takes place in the Sheraton's main lobby. This year it temporarily relocated across the street at City Centre. Entry is free, but donations are encouraged as proceeds benefit JDRF Northwest.

Location: City Centre (new location) 1420 Fifth Ave. Ste 450 Seattle, WA 98101

Dates: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - Monday, January 1, 2018

Viewing Hours:

Monday through Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Teddy Bear Suite

A few blocks away, another grand Seattle hotel encourages you to swing by for holiday cheer. Every winter, the Fairmont Olympic takes one of its corner suites and fills it with teddy bears. The exact configuration changes every few years; the current iteration is a warm, cozy suite that's perfect for any teddy bear lover. Donations are encouraged as they benefit Seattle Children's Hospital.

After visiting the Teddy Bear Suite, head down to The Georgian restaurant and enjoy Holiday Tea. Or go down to the main lobby and enjoy the Fairmont's grand Christmas tree displays. Meanwhile, the ground floor has a new addition: a huge life-sized gingerbread house that you can actually walk through!

November 23 – December 26 Daily from 10am to 6pm Open on Christmas Day & Thanksgiving Day

Fall Color Road Trip in Washington State

Washington state is home to some of the best natural displays of fall color in the world. Around mid to late October, the trees begin to turn vivid shades of yellow, orange, and red. It's a photographer's paradise! While there are many places to see fall color around downtown Seattle, you can also take a day trip and see even more impressive displays of fall foliage. A few weekends ago, we took a road trip to Olympia to see their autumn trees. This past weekend, we decided to go east toward Wenatchee to see the fall colors of the mountains. Our route started in Seattle and followed Highway 2 out to Index, past Steven's Pass, and on to Leavenworth. Along the way, there were plenty of places to stop and admire the beauty, particularly at the Tumwater Dam. We then continued on to Peshastin, taking small country roads through the many apple and pear orchards and grape vineyards. On a whim, we stopped by Wedge Mountain Winery to taste some wine. We ended up taking home a bottle of their delicious 2014 Estate Lemberger wine (highly recommend!) and were delighted when owners were kind enough to let us explore their apple orchard and even take a bag of freshly picked fruits home with us. From Peshastin, we went a bit further to Dryden before heading back to Seattle via Highway 2.

We snapped many photos along the way and even created a video of our trip. Check out the photos and video below, and see our whole driving route.

If the video isn't loading, click here.

Click here to see the map in detail.

Fall Colors in Washington

Washington Fall Colors Road Trip from Seattle

Courthouse Wedding in Seattle

With its moderate climate and unique positioning between mountains and sea, it's no surprise that Seattle is a wedding hotspot. There are venues all around trendy Seattle and Bellevue, or even in the nearby wine country of Woodinville. For those considering a quick, simple wedding, there's also the Courthouse. Doesn't sound too romantic, does it? However, a courthouse wedding isn't as bad as it sounds. That's what we discovered after our August wedding at the King County courthouse. The point wasn't fanfare, it was getting the legal ceremony done so we could conduct our destination wedding in Italy with peace of mind.

How to do a Courthouse Wedding in Seattle

For those considering a courthouse wedding in Seattle, here's how to do it. First, you must visit the Marriage Licensing department to pay for and pick up your marriage certificate. After that is finalized, you then must perform your legal wedding ceremony within the specified timeframe. You can have an officiant conduct your ceremony, or you can schedule a wedding with a judge.

There's a long list of King County judges who perform weddings. Not much information is given about them, not even a photo. The list also provides a flat fee that the judge charges for the wedding. Most importantly, note that a majority of judges will only conduct weddings on certain dates at certain times. There are some judges who offer to travel to a chosen venue per your arranged date and time. But not all judges offer this flexibility, so be sure to check on that.

I literally closed my eyes and pointed to a random name on the list. Within minutes, I sent a quick email inquiry to the judge and quickly heard back from his bailiff who gave us instructions. A couple weeks later, Martin and I met our two witnesses (you can also buy witnesses through judges!) at the courthouse and were married.

Wedding Photo Spots in Seattle

As you'll see in the photos below, the King County Courthouse has quite nice architecture. It's a great backdrop for photos. Also, note that dressing up for your wedding is completely optional! At the time, there were four other weddings going on in nearby courtrooms. We were by far the nicest dressed out the other couples there. After the wedding, we walked a few blocks away to a celebratory dinner at Heartwood Provisions. The night was topped off by watching the sunset on the pier by the Seattle Great Wheel. All of these locations were very picturesque for wedding photos.

Below are photos from our courthouse wedding in Seattle. All photos were taken by our good friend Alan Alabastro. The flower leis were fresh and real, thanks to Hawaii General Store in Fremont. I was so happy to find a fragrant lei of my mother's favorite flower, the white tuberose, and a maile lei for Martin. This was our floral contribution and nod to our love of Hawaii.

After our wedding in Seattle, we then jetted off to Italy for our formal, celebratory wedding.

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Seattle courthouse wedding photos

Like this post? Share it with friends or pin it for later!

Looking for more travel planning inspiration? Follow our Best of the Pacific Northwest Board on Pinterest for more ideas for your next adventure!

Seattle Courthouse Wedding Photos

Seattle Courthouse Wedding Photos

Weekend Trip to Olympia - Things to See and Do

things-to-do-in-olympia.jpg

As the state capital of Washington, Olympia is often overlooked as a travel destination. It's true that Olympia is hardly a shiny, busy city like Seattle and Bellevue. But that's actually part of the charm. Located at the southern end of Puget Sound, Olympia is just a 1-hour drive south of Seattle. It's the perfect place for a day or weekend trip, and one of our favorite destinations in Washington. If you're an outdoors enthusiast, Olympia is also a great base for exploring nearby Mount Rainier and the Olympic National Forest. Check out our itinerary below for ideas, or check out our Olympia travel photos.

Click here to see the map above in full detail.

Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide

Itinerary: Weekend Trip to Olympia

Day 1

We started our trip rather leisurely, leaving Seattle midday and arriving in Olympia in the early afternoon. Find our accommodations, The Governor Hotel was easy, as it was very centrally located. There are a handful of cozy hotels in downtown Olympia, but ours seemed among the most contemporary. If you're lucky, you might also get a room with a stunning view of Heritage Landing Park.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Olympia Parks

Speaking of parks, there are quite a few all within walking distance of The Governor Hotel. Directly across the street is Sylvester Park. Formerly the Town Square of Olympia, the park is named after the found of Olympia, Edmund Sylvester. Today, the park is a great gathering place to hang out with friends or sip a coffee with a book in hand.

Not far away are two other parks worth visiting, particularly during Golden Hour or right before sunset: Percival Landing Park and Heritage Park. Percival Landing is one of Olympia's three waterfront parks, and it includes a 0.9-mile boardwalk. From there, walk toward the Capitol Lake to Heritage Park and walk the path around the lake. There are great views of the State Capitol Dome, and even a pathway leading directly to it.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Shopping in Olympia

From Sylvester Park, pick any street and take a stroll. You'll find many eateries and shops peddling everything from vintage wear and antiques to modern children's toys. What you won't find are many big chain stores. Some of our favorite shops include Captain Little, Compass Rose, Archibald Sisters.

Food, Drinks, and Coffee

Similar to the shops in Olympia, there aren't many big chains in town when it comes to food and drinks (besides Starbucks, of course). During our first day, we stopped by Olympia Coffee Roasting for a pour over and then grabbed a late lunch at artisan-style food hall 222 Market. The 15,000 square-foot building opened in September 2016 and features an array of food and beverage producers including Broth Bar By Salt Fire & Time, Sofie's Scoops gelateria, and Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar (the city's first!). It was too cold for ice cream, but we tried our very first bone broth (Sea and Strength were our favorites). We then headed next door to slurp some oysters. Particular standouts were the Chelsea "Gem" and "Bonita" Pacific oysters, which we had never tried before.

Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide

Later on that evening, we headed to Iron Rabbit Restaurant for dinner. While it's not within walking distance of downtown, the food was worth the drive! The menu is New American with some nice twists to classic dishes. We started out with the Dungeness Crab Romanesco Dip and were particularly impressed with the difference that 100% crab meat makes (much tastier!). For our mains, we had Curry Battered Fish and Chips and the Zola Burger, the latter featuring Painted Hills grass-fed beef, hot coppa, cambozola cheese, and Chipotle spread. Somehow, we had room for dessert, which was worth it because the peach and raspberry bread pudding was one of the best we've had.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Day 2

After spending the night at The Governor Hotel, we woke up on Sunday morning and headed downstairs for the hotel's complimentary breakfast. It had all everything you would expect from a Continental breakfast including make-your-own waffles. Next, we packed up the car and headed out on the first stop of the Thurston Bountiful Byway.

What is the Thurston Bountiful Byway?

If you've never heard of it, fear not! This scenic route through Thurston County is relatively new, having only been officially designated in March 2014. The byway has over 20 suggested stops, all of which promote some form of agricultural tourism or agritourism. Perhaps the best part of the Bountiful Byway is the three ways you can see it: walking, biking, or driving.

Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide

First Stop: Olympia Farmer's Market

Our first stop on the Thurston Bountiful Byway was the Olympia Farmer's Market. As the second largest farmers market in Washington State, this market boasts a wide range of vendors. You can buy organic produce and fruits, meats, fresh flowers, and all kinds of arts and crafts. Compared to Pike Place Market, Olympia's Market is actually quite sizable. But it's much calmer and has a more open, friendly vibe as it's not stuffed with tourists.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Second stop: Tumwater Falls

Although not officially part of the Bountiful Byway, Tumwater Falls was an essential stop for us. This 0.5-mile scenic loop trail leads you on a gentle hike along the Deschutes River. Not only are you treated to three cascading waterfalls, but if you're lucky, you might also spot some salmon. From September to late October, Tumwater Falls Park is full of salmon gathering at the base of an 82-foot waterfall. They're returning to their holding ponds at the Deschutes River Hatchery, which is located in the park. It's quite a sight to see.

Can't see the video above? Click here.

Third stop: Rutledge Corn Maze

After marveling at the salmon, it was time for a traditional fall adventure through some corn mazes. Rutledge Corn Maze came about in the year 2000 when the Rutledge family turned its cornfields into an entertainment-based corn maze. It was one of the first corn mazes of its time and the first in the world to be planted in a maze pattern. Each year, the maze pattern changes and has taken the form of everything from the Statue of Liberty to a design based on the Twilight series. This year's design features the Thurston Bountiful Byway logo. Of course, the design can't be seen unless you're overhead the maze in a helicopter. But it's good fun to get lost in the corn maze and reward yourself with picking out your Halloween pumpkin in the patch afterward.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Fourth Stop: Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve

Next, we headed toward the edge of the Capitol State Forest to check out a curious natural phenomenon known as Mima Mounds. As the name suggests, this is a relatively flat natural terrain sporting series of strange lumps that span 445-acres. There are educational posters that summarize many theories as to what created Mima Mounds. But at the end of the day, no one can prove any theories. While you're here, head to the observation deck to get a good view of the mounds and walk the half-mile paved trail.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Fifth Stop: Medicine Creek Winery

At this point, we'd done quite a bit of agritourism visiting a farm, market, and natural parks. What was missing from our list was a winery, so we hightailed it to the wine region of the Bountiful Byway. We targeted what appeared to be the most photographically interesting winery of them all: Medicine Creek Winery. And it did not disappoint!

The winery is made up of a wine processing area, barrel room, tasting room, and even a dance floor. That's because the entire facility is located in a barn that's been designed to appear like a 1800's vintage New Orleans brothel. The star design feature of the winery is the Medicine Creek stagecoach, a 12-year long labor of love created by winemaker Jim Myers. But how was the wine, you might ask? Their signature 2006 Cabernet Franc and 2006 Stage Coach Reds were fantastic, but it was their brand new Riesling that really blew us away.

weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Sixth Stop: Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

Our very last stop on the Thurston Bountiful Byway was also our favorite: Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. This walkable scenic area is designed to protect fish and wildlife and is almost always teeming with animals. We arrived at 4:00 pm, two and a half hours before sunset. This was the perfect time of day to see many birds in their natural habitat and take advantage of the ideal lighting conditions.

There are several walking paths in the refuge including a wooden boardwalk that takes you a full mile into the delta. The elevated boardwalk lets you walk above the water and really get up close to the shorebirds. During our particular hike, we saw many Great Blue Herons and gulls, and even an owl and a small family of beavers. If you do as we didn't and bring binoculars and a birding book, you might glimpse even more bird species.

Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide

In Conclusion

As long-time Seattle residents, we discovered many areas in and around Olympia that we'd never heard of. From Olympia's hip oyster and broth bars to a world-famous corn maze and mysterious mounds, we had no trouble filling an entire weekend with activities. Best of all, we found out that areas like the Thurston Bountiful Byway have whole biking trails begging to be explored, not to mention dozens of wineries and farms that we didn't have time to visit. So we certainly will be back in Olympia, hopefully sometime soon!

Olympia Travel Video

Check out a recap video of our weekend road trip to Olympia.

Can't see the video above? Click here.

Like this post? Share it with friends or pin it for later!

Looking for more travel planning inspiration? Follow our Best of the Pacific Northwest Board on Pinterest for more ideas for your next adventure!

Olympia Travel Guide Pinterest
Olympia Travel Guide Pinterest

Travel Photos to Inspire You to Visit Olympia

Looking for a great weekend trip from Seattle? Just an hour south of the Emerald City is Washington's state capital, Olympia. It's actually one of our favorite getaways in Washington state. While it has its fair share of government buildings, there's plenty more to see and do. Downtown has a good number of parks, vintage shops, and dining options, all within walking distance. Venture outside of downtown, and you'll find even more natural gems. If you're planning a trip to Seattle and wondering what else to visit in the area, consider a road trip to Olympia. Be sure to pack your camera and hiking boots, as it's a nature lover's paradise. Check out our travel guide for ideas on what to do, and scroll through the photo gallery below to get inspired to visit!

Olympia Photo Gallery

See our full photo gallery here (external link).

Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia travel photography
Olympia travel photography
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
Olympia travel photography
Olympia travel photography
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
Olympia Washington travel guide
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
Olympia travel photography
Olympia travel photography
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia
weekend trips from seattle olympia

Like this post? Share it with friends or pin it for later!

Looking for more travel planning inspiration? Follow our Best of the Pacific Northwest Board on Pinterest for more ideas for your next adventure!

Olympia travel photos pinterest
Olympia travel photos pinterest

Day Trip to Orcas Island

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

Planning a trip to Seattle and wondering what else there is to do besides visiting the Space Needle and Pike Place? If you have a few days to spare, make plans to head up north to the San Juan Islands! This little enclave of Pacific Northwest Islands is a popular vacation spot among local Seattleites. But it's a lesser known region to those who haven't traveled Washington State. Below, we'll tell you how to get to the San Juans, as well as some suggested activities!

How to Get to the San Juan Islands

By Car and Ferry

Located a little over 100 miles north of Seattle, the San Juan Islands aren’t particularly far away. But they do require crossing a body of water. For many, this means driving two hours north from Seattle to Anacortes and catching a Washington State DOT ferry the rest of the way. The good news is that ferries can take passengers traveling on foot, bicycle, or motor vehicle. But the bad news is that ferries tend to sell out in high tourist season. When all is said and done, you can spend 3 or 4 hours getting the San Juans, one way. This means you’d best stay a night or two to make the most of it.

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

By Seaplane or Landplane

From Seattle, most seaplanes are run by Kenmore Air. The company runs both scheduled and chartered flights daily, and they operate both seaplanes and land planes. This last bit is important: if you want to ride a seaplane in particular, you must fly in and out of specific areas. Some cities are only accessed by landplane, and vice-versa. Seaplanes can seat up to 10 adults, plus luggage (stored in the lower floats).

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

Finding accommodations on the various San Juan Islands is relatively easy. Popular islands such as Orcas, San Juan, and Lopez Island have at least one main hotel or lodge catering to visitors. Advanced reservations are always recommended.

Kenmore Air Seaplane Orcas Island
Kenmore Air Seaplane Orcas Island

Getting Around Orcas Island

Once you arrive on Orcas Island, you will probably need transportation of some sort. If you are flying into a resort where you intend to stay overnight, such as Rosario Resort or Deer Harbor, you can probably get by without a car. But if you have plans to explore the island, you will want to reserve a taxi or a rental car in advance. Our advice is to rent a car from Orcas Island Shuttle. Simply give them a call and they'll set you up with some wheels. Orcas Island is big enough that you can't quite walk from one part to another, yet it's small enough that you'll want to see as much of the island as possible.

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

Where to Stay on Orcas Island

There are three main resorts on Orcas Island that welcome visitors. All resorts are spread out on their own corners of the island, and they can fill up fast in the summer. Reservations are recommended. Alternatively, there are also Airbnb rentals, but you will definitely want to have a car and GPS to navigate. There are also some camping sites located throughout Orcas Island. It's best to reserve your camp site in advance and make sure you bring proper camping gear.

What to Do on Orcas Island

Here at Gemini Connect, we're keen on creating the best travel experiences possible. On Orcas, there are many experiences to keep you fresh and occupied. There are several key reasons why people flock to Orcas in particular.

Pratt_Orcas-Island_41.jpg

1.To see Orca whales

What's a place called Orcas Island without Orca whale watching opportunities? Opt for a charter boat that will take you to sea for a few hours to find Orcas in the wild. Or simply park on the beach and look out towards the sea. It's not unusual to spot these giant killer whales from the shore.

2. To explore Eastsound

The biggest town on Orcas Island and second most populated in all of the San Juans is Eastsound. It's located smack dab in the middle of Orcas, and it even has a small airport for land planes (not seaplanes). Within Eastsound are several hotels, grocery stores, restaurants (including Hogstone and Aelder), and even a summer farmer's market.

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

3. To climb Mount Constitution

Orcas Island is home to the tallest peak in all of the San Juans: Mount Constitution. Sitting at an elevation of over 2,300 feet, this summit offers stunning views of all of the San Juans. On a clear day, you can even see the Canadian cities of Vancouver and Victoria in the distance! You can Mount Constitution summit either via a traditional hike or with a wheeled vehicle (bicycle or car).

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

4. To Hike

Besides Mount Constitution, there are a few other nature parks on Orcas Island that offer hiking trails. Moran State Park, which contains Mount Constitution, has shorter hikes near its base including a waterfall trail to Cascade Falls. Further west on the island is Turtleback Mountain Preserve, offering less populated hiking trails and equally stunning views.

Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide
Orcas Island San Juans Travel Guide

Over To You

Have you ever visited Orcas Island or any of the San Juan Islands? How did you get there, and what did you do? Let us know in the comments below!

Like this post? Share it with friends or pin it for later!

Looking for more travel planning inspiration? Follow our Best of the Pacific Northwest Board on Pinterest for more ideas for your next adventure!

orcas.jpg