It’s right there in the job description as Seattle Met‘s travel editor: You gotta get up and go. And I went far afield this year, for work and for play, traveling from a remote island in the Indian Ocean to the back woods of the Olympic Peninsula. I hit up the streets of New York City and the deserts of New Mexico, saw baseball in Durham and hockey in Palm Springs—terrific trips all. But many of my most memorable outings were right here in the Pacific Northwest.
Choosing the best travel from a single year is a tough assignment, but here in no particular order are the most memorable destinations of 2023—mostly regional, but with a few choice long hauls.
It makes sense that the arrowleaf balsamroot is in the sunflower family, because when the Methow Valley explodes with blooms in late spring, it’s basically a dose of vitamin D in flower form. Last May I road tripped out to Winthrop for a solo camping trip and found myself in a yellow heaven. It was a few months later that I returned to try the town’s Arrowleaf Bistro, named for the plant, and realized that its golden touch lasts all year.
Dining solo is part of the gig as a travel writer, and it truly doesn’t bother me. Sitting down at Tacoma’s Over the Moon Cafe, a dimly lit restaurant that skews decidedly romantic, I wasn’t sure if I’d stick out dining without a partner. But the eatery’s tradition of storing handwritten notes from patrons right there on the table—mine were in a hollowed out book—entertained me for every minute.
I read jokes and poems from diners who’d come before me, confessions of love and one promise to return after a military deployment. They came on receipts, business cards, and scrap paper. For that one meal, I forgot the internet or texting even existed. Glorious.
The nonstop flights to Hawaii from Seattle–Tacoma International Airport are great, but did you know that Motor City is a direct destination too? A random weekend in early fall gave me instant appreciation for the city’s stunning artwork, inside and out. I might return just for another go at the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum.
The skiing around the eastern British Columbia town of Revelstoke is simple: big mountains, good snow. But downtown a combination Indian, German, and Thai restaurant gave me pause. Paramjit’s Kitchen dished pairings I’d never considered, like spätzle with butter chicken sauce or pad thai with schnitzel—but somehow it hit perfectly as warmup fare. Be bold, Canada.
Central Oregon has long garnered attention for its breweries, but lately Bend has found showcases for coffee, whiskey, gin, and more. And its bar scene has found new life reaching beyond the woodsy chic that has blossomed across town. Tucked into a downtown alleyway, San Simón dishes fun cocktails under papier mache decor and moody lights. I love drinking hoppy IPAs and wearing a puffy around the firepit as much as anyone, but this delightful bar will be a must-visit on future Bend trips.
It was a glorious, perfect long weekend in the North Cascades—a hike up to scenic Image Lake, some off-trail travel to an empty, snowy basin, and a visit to a historic fire lookout. Not a week later, this swath of the Glacier Peak Wilderness was coated in wildfire smoke, with flames licking the trees nearby. The trails we visited were reportedly untouched, but nearby acres of Northwest beauty burned. Wildfires have become an inevitable part of hiking through the Cascades, reminding us all that what’s here today may look totally, heartbreakingly different tomorrow.
The roast duck at iDen and Quanjude Beijing Duck House won the restaurant a Michelin star when the famed restaurant guide published its first Vancouver edition last year. Best of all, a specialty chef performs his meticulous carving tableside. It’s both dinner and show, all in one (and you can take the carcass home for soup). The next night I tried chef Bardia Ilbeiggi’s mother’s Persian meatballs at Michelin Bib Gourmand pick Delara—then got to meet the lady behind the recipe myself. Even if you don’t care about Michelin stars, the personal touches in Vancouver’s dining scene are standouts.
The good news? It’s a direct flight from Seattle to Singapore. The bad news, however, is that it’s nearly 17 hours by plane. But once I stepped off the long haul and into the tiny country, I found myself unable to sleep. We walked 12 miles in the first day alone, craning our necks to take in the beautiful shutters that line the second floors of so many buildings. Of course, the ground floors and the famous hawker stall street eats weren’t bad either.
Brandi Carlile knows how to put on a show. When she invited her country group the Highwomen to the Gorge Amphitheatre, they pulled opening act Tanya Tucker onstage right at sunset for a rousing group version of “Delta Dawn.” I attended Carlile’s third show of the weekend, while the previous night’s Joni Mitchell performance got the international attention. From my lawn seats at the Gorge, however, night three was perfect.