Originally published November 16, 2017 | Updated November 5, 2018

Feeling the winter itch and in need of a little adventure? Whether you’re looking for some family bonding, hosting visitors from out of town or seeking a tranquil retreat, there is an abundance of wintertime fun to be had in your own backyard.

Thousands of twinkling holiday lights take center stage at The Butchart Gardens. Unique boutiques chock-full of one-of-a-kind gifts come to life with holiday cheer in the seaside town of Langley. Delicious eats and sips fill the soul in the cozy Bavarian-style town of Leavenworth. The best part? These great holiday destinations are only a quick boat or motor coach ride away from Seattle. Satisfy your winter wanderlust and journey to these three must-visit locales for an amazing holiday vacation from Seattle!

See the Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Brighten Up the Night

First comes T-Day and turkey. Then Black Friday. All of the sudden it’s December. Yea for winter! Visions of snow-filled landscapes, mountain goodness and countless holiday lights dancing in your head? Enter Leavenworth. The quaint Bavarian-style town looks like it could have been plucked from Germany and set among the Cascade Mountains. Only a scenic three-hour deluxe motor coach ride away, this mountain village brims with plenty of holiday magic and cheer.

For road trip junkies, the trip east over the Cascades offers a sense of escape few other forms of travel can offer. Awe-inspiring views emerge around every corner as you wind your way through frozen mountain passes. Wander the town and you’ll find carolers, an ample supply of shops to fuel your last-minute gift buying and, of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus themselves.

When the last rays of sunlight fade from the horizon, follow the harmonic sounds of alphorns to the Town Square for the highlight of the day – The Lighting Ceremony! In one magical moment, the entire town comes to life with a synchronized display of more than half a million sparkling lights and live music.

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Feast on phenomenal house-made, giant pretzels at the newly opened Rhein Haus! Not only does the German-inspired beer hall have excellent local beers and eats, but the rustic space also boasts Front Street’s largest biergarten. To get a taste of local flavor, duck inside the Watershed Café, where you can expect a new experience and dishes every time you visit. With a farm-to-table menu that changes daily, it is the epitome of Pacific Northwest culinary goodness.

Experience an Enchanting Winter Scene with Christmas by Sea in Langley

While there’s something to be said for hitting the open road, there’s nothing more exhilarating than the open sea. If you have the itch to explore somewhere new, hop aboard the San Juan Clipper and embark on a day “water” trip from downtown Seattle to the picturesque town of Langley for a magical “Christmas by the Sea” experience on Whidbey Island.

The festivities begin right away as twinkling lights and holiday tunes greet you as you climb aboard the sleek catamaran. Don’t worry, we won’t blame you if you find yourself humming along to Andy Williams’ “Silver Bells” or doing your best Mariah Carey impersonation to “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Cozy up with a cup of warm apple cider and soak in wintery views of the Olympics, beautiful Bainbridge Island and the town of Kingston as you cruise toward Whidbey Island’s southern tip.

Amble off the boat and the town’s curated winter scene is sure to warm your soul. Head to First Street to grab a bite to eat or explore Langley’s festively-decorated boutiques for last-minute gifts that are sure to please everyone on your list.

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Grab lunch at the cozy pub, Spyhop, where the delicious hamburgers (which are named after spots around town) are the perfect cure for rumbling stomachs. Thirsty? Warm up on Double Bluff Brewing’s heated patio with a flight of sudsy pints. Be sure to sample the Coho Kolsch, which is brewed onsite with fresh local hops.

Discover Glittering Displays at The Butchart Gardens Holiday Lights

Holiday lights are something we all look forward to, but when it comes to Christmas spirit there’s one venue that takes the cake. A quick ride away from Seattle on the Victoria Clipper through the Salish Sea, Victoria’s Butchart Gardens all but radiate pure joy with the help of more than 300,000 lights!

The transformation happens at dusk, when thousands and thousands of blubs click on, bringing life to the 55-acre grounds. Don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re wandering through the twinkling stars (albeit more vibrant ones) of the Milky Way. Silvery icicles melt off jewel-toned trees and glittering streams flow through fields.

Oh, and did we mention that The Gardens are decked-out in a 12 Days of Christmas theme? Those two illuminated birds roosting in a golden cage? Two turtle doves. The circles in the Sunken Garden Pond? Five golden rings. All 12 are sure to inspire and delight. Simply put, if the colorful wonderland of lights doesn’t cause your jaw to drop, we don’t know what will.

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Tuck inside The Garden’s Dining Room Restaurant, cozy up next to the restaurant’s roaring fire and feast on phenomenal festive eats (Butcharts’ incredible culinary team works months in advance to craft and test all items on the menu). When it comes time for dessert, skip scouring the menu and opt for the eggnog verrine. A combination of salted caramel mousseline, eggnog mousseline and rum gelee, it’s like Christmas in a cup.

From exploring cozy island towns to playing in the snow to incredible light displays, there are plenty of amazing adventures to be had in the Pacific Northwest this holiday season. Grab your friends and family for a memorable holiday escape and discover the beauty of winter.

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Photo Credits: Feature Photo: The Butchart Gardens 1st photo block: Leavenworth boutiques. Credit: Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce. 2nd photo block: Ott & Murphy Winery Tasting Room. Credit: Langley Chamber of Commerce. 3rd photo block: The Sunken Garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens.