10 Ways to Know You're in the Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest region of the United States – encompassing Washington, Idaho, Western Montana, Oregon, and Northern California – is a region of breathtaking beauty and diverse cultural experiences. For locals the arts, great outdoors, and community spirit underpin what it means to be a Northwesterner. But for visitors looking to learn more about the region, here are 10 surefire ways you know you're in the Pacific Northwest:
1. Playing in the pool means playing in the tide pool
Spoilt for choice when it comes to outdoor adventures, the mountains and coastlines are well worth exploring. This is why, when locals talk about playing in their pool, they're not referring to their back garden. Instead, they pack their rubber boots and check for a low tide before heading to one of the beaches in the San Juan Islands and on the Olympic Peninsula. Here the small-town charm, rockpools, beachcombing and refreshing ocean make for a truly relaxing day. Visitors have truly embraced what it means to be Northwestern when the ocean, rivers, lakes, creeks, and stories of the “prettiest rocks and shells ever found” make up some of their best travel stories.
2. The Mountain is Out!
Saying the “Mountain is Out” is a well-known phrase around these parts; it means the clouds have parted, the sun is out, and the glory of Mount Rainier is in full view. Upon arrival at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), visitors will be able to see the peak from an 85-foot-high aerial walkway that opened in 2021.
3. Going wild is just so darn easy
The bustling city of Seattle gives way to magnificent wild places in Washington state, including mossy old-growth forests, rocky coastlines, majestic mountains, wildflower-laden meadows, roaring rivers, jewels of islands, and more. No wonder it’s called the Evergreen State! With three national parks boasting wonderful wilderness, an archipelago of 172 islands surrounded by the Salish Sea, and long stretches of Pacific Coast beaches, Washington is the place to truly embrace the great outdoors in all its natural splendour.
4. Sporting socks and sandals unironically
Fashion in the Pacific Northwest follows its own rules. While some cultures might see the socks and sandals combination as the ultimate crime against fashion, locals disagree. Visitors looking to fit in should avoid double-takes when a pair of socks and sandals strides by. Or, if this sounds like the ideal fashion statement, rock up in a pair and head to the Pacific Northwest.
5. A Burnin’ Love: When date night includes a bonfire
The pinnacle of relaxed romance is a night spent huddled by a bonfire watching the tide. Nothing spells Northwestern love like ‘smores, fireside chats, and summer nights. For those cooler seasons, a romantic retreat might feature more greenery, but one thing is constant: the fire is still burning.
6. Spotting a “Twihard” or two
With the 2020 release of Midnight Sun, the fifth and most recent book in the “Twilight” series, the small town of Forks on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, hit the spotlight again. When the books were first released, the little-known logging community gained global notoriety. This increased hugely when the hugely successful film franchise hit cinemas. “Twihards” as the fans are affectionately known, have since flocked to Forks in droves. To celebrate the beloved series, the Forks Chamber of Commerce created the “Forever Twilight in Forks Festival”, held annually around 13th September – lead character Bella Swan's birthday. The date has also been dubbed 'Stephenie Meyer Day' to honour the author and the economic boon she has brought to the town.
7. Self-confessed ‘coffee snobs’ say no to Starbucks
Although Starbucks was born in Seattle and rose to prominence at Pike Place Market, many locals no longer see – or rather taste – the appeal. A true Pacific Northwesterner must be seen with a latte from local vendors such as Stumptown, Peet’s, and Boyd’s. But with so many local baristas all offering equally delicious brews, the options are endless. After all, are you even in the Pacific Northwest if you don’t start your day with a fair-trade cup of coffee?
8. Too many great festivals
If the biggest struggle of the summer is fitting in all the amazing festivals, chances are you are in the Pacific Northwest. From Taste Washington to the Fremont Solstice Parade to Bumbershoot, the summertime is full of dancing and dining celebrations. Or, if it's the winter wonderland experience you crave, head to Leavenworth, Washington, for a magical Christmas experience in a Bavarian-style village. Or visit Pike Place Market where the festival vibe is always alive with the many street performers.
9. Buying local is a way of life
From craft wine, beer, spirits and coffee, to freshly caught seafood and just-picked fruit off the vine or tree, Washington has a bounty of food and drinks that showcase the flavours of the state.
With the surrounding waters of the Pacific Ocean, rivers, lakes, and bays, Washington menus brim with fresh oysters, Dungeness crab, salmon, halibut, mussels and geoduck, a saltwater clam native to the Pacific Northwest. Pair this freshness of seafood with the farm-to-fork movement and visitors can enjoy many restaurants run by chefs who love sourcing local ingredients. No surprise really, considering Washington’s crops include acres of apples, pears, cherries, berries, rhubarb and lentils, as well as abundant hops and over 1,000 vineyards!
10. You can visit the ‘Centre of the Universe’
The bohemian Seattle neighbourhood of Fremont is the self-proclaimed Centre of the Universe. Considered so since 1991 when local “scientists” discussed that there was no official centre of the universe and so determined it to be at the intersection of N Fremont Avenue and 35th Street N. A guidepost has been put up on this spot directing people to other places around the globe.
The Fremont Troll and Freemont Rocket sculptures are famous landmarks here, and the latter joins other space-themed public art, including the Space Building and Saturn Installation.
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