From the dramatically stormy shores of quirky Tofino to the mountain peaks of sunny Bend, here are six enchanting places to relax and rejuvenate.
Hot Piece of Glass
In recent years, the port city of Tacoma has refashioned itself into one of the nation’s premier destinations for art glass. With a population of 200,000, Washington’s third-largest city fringes the southern tip of Puget Sound between Seattle and Olympia. Named the most sexually healthy city in the United States by Self magazine, Tacoma has blossomed in the last decade, thanks in part to the opening of the Museum of Glass in 2002. Visitors will find a revitalized waterfront museum district with abundant shops and restaurants, plus loads of art options from galleries to public murals and sculptures, as well as two gay bars, Club Silverstone and The Mix.
Stay: On the edge of the Museum District, the sleek Hotel Murano (253-238-8000, hotelmuranotacoma.com; from $149) fully embraces Tacoma’s arty vibe. The hotel offers a “Hot Piece of Glass” package (from $299) that includes two tickets to the Museum of Glass and lessons at Tacoma Glassblowing Studio. Named after Venice, Italy’s famed island of glassblowers, the Murano exhibits stunning works by 45 internationally renowned artists in the lobby, bar, and hallways. Each of the 25 floors showcases a different glass artist, complete with a representative piece of glass, photographs, and an artist’s statement. Rooms continue the expressive theme, with minimalist décor punctuated by pops of color and hand-blown lamps; iPod docks, flat-screen TVs, and pristine linens make for an indulgent, elevated experience.
Explore: It’s a short walk over the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, itself a public gallery space, to the Museum of Glass (253-284-4750, museumofglass.org), remarkable for its modern glass collection and the 90-foot-tall stainless-steel cone that houses the world’s largest hot shop. Take a seat and watch glassblowers in action. If you’re inspired, create your own hot piece of glass: the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio (253-383-3499, tacomaglassblowing.com) offers half-hour glassblowing lessons with experienced instructors. Choose from various shapes, colors, and techniques—then learn how to turn a rod in a 1,600-degree glory hole (seriously) and manipulate and blow molten glass into a one-of-a-kind vase or plate that you can pick up the next day.
The Tacoma Art Museum (253-272-4258, tacomaartmuseum.org) contains a large permanent exhibit of Tacoma native Dale Chihuly’s pieces, as well as a 3,200-piece collection focused on Northwest artists. The first thing you notice about the Washington State History Museum (888-238-4373, wshs.org) is its beaux-arts exterior, inspired by nearby Union Station. Under the soaring arches, you’ll find both permanent and temporary exhibitions; Let’s Ride! Motorcycling the Northwest opens in January, while Click! Classic Photographs from Washington runs through May 5.
Eat: Downtown Tacoma presents a pupu platter of eclectic food offerings. Bite (253-238-8000, hotelmuranotacoma.com), in the Hotel Murano, offers lovely waterfront views, as well as locally sourced fare and extensive vegetarian options; watch for the chef’s oft-changing local special. You might try pan-Asian Indochine (253-272-8200,
indochinedowntown.com) for dishes like “three-flavor” wild salmon steak, but you’ll come back for the mysterious low lighting and artful cocktails, like the coconut-citrus-y Blue Mermaid. Gustatory adventurers flock and gallop to Marrow (253-267-5299, marrowtacoma.com) for chicken-fried veal sweetbreads and bacon-crowned Marrow burgers. A short drive from downtown, Marcia’s Silver Spoon Café (253-472-0157) offers massive breakfasts that’ll cure any hangover; brace yourself for a wait on weekends. —Jennifer Worick
Travel: Tacoma is 30 miles from Seattle (and only 20 miles from SeaTac airport) via I-5.
A First Nations Odyssey
Vancouver’s modern glass-and-steel towers dazzle visitors, but another type of tower, native to the region, is just as fascinating: the totem. Long before Brits claimed the land, First Nations people lived throughout the province. You can see indigenous influences all around the city, from intricately carved totems in Stanley Park to dazzling Haida artwork at Vancouver International Airport, including Bill Reid’s masterful Jade Canoe sculpture (international departures level) and a modernized totem by Don Yeomans (Canada Line entrance area).
Stay: One of the Northwest’s most stylish boutique hotels, the 98-room Listel (800-663-5491, thelistelhotel.com; from C$149) showcases a brilliant collection of regional art, much of it displayed on two “museum” floors designed through a partnership with the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology. Hemlock and cedar furniture and distinct First Nations renderings of eagles, bears, and salmon fill the rooms, and eye-popping masks greet guests at the elevators on these floors. The West End location is handy to Robson Street’s exclusive shopping and a short walk from Davie Street’s GLBT bars and restaurants.
Explore: It’s worth the 12-kilometer bus ride or drive to reach the Museum of Anthropology (604-822-5087, moa.ubc.ca). The soaring Great Hall contains totems and other massive decorative objects from myriad Native communities, and interpretive panels provide insightful context. Other highlights include masks from around the world, Bill Reid’s renowned sculpture depicting a raven’s discovery of a baby in a clamshell, and the Multiversity Galleries, a clever display system that provides access to more than 10,000 pieces from the museum’s extensive collection. Downtown’s Bill Reid Gallery (604-682-3455, billreidgallery.ca) offers a sampling of this late artist’s iconic body of First Nations artwork.
In the carving shed beside the public market on Granville Island (604-666-5784, granvilleisland.com) you can often watch artists working on totems, canoes, and other pieces. The island is also home to Eagle Spirit Gallery (604-801-5205, eaglespiritgallery.com), the city’s largest marketplace of First Nations art. If you’re blessed with sunny skies, check out the totem poles in Stanley Park, which occupy a spot with remarkable views of the Vancouver skyline—here’s your chance to compare traditional and modern “towers.”
Eat: Reservations are recommended at Native-inspired Salmon n’ Bannock (604-568-8971, salmonandbannock.net), just south of downtown in the Fairview neighborhood, where you can sample bannock, a type of flatbread served in a variety of ways, including as a “bun” for bison burgers and wild-boar hot dogs. The delicious braised deer shank stands out among the unusual entrées. For a friendly departure from Vancouver’s ubiquitous coffee chains, visit Native- (and gay-) owned, Darryl’s Coffee and Native Art (604-689-5354) in Davie Village.
Travel: Vancouver International Airport, which has efficient light-rail service into downtown, has direct flights from most major North American cities (plus frequent service from Portland and Seattle). The drive from Seattle, via I-5 and Hwy. 99, can take as little as three hours, but avoid Fridays and Sundays when possible, as heavy border traffic can add an hour or more. —Randall Shirley
Escape to the High Desert Sun
On the eastern edge of the Cascades in central Oregon’s high desert, Bend enjoys a predominantly dry climate with an annual average of almost 300 days of sunshine, making it a refreshing alternative to the Northwest’s rainier regions—even if only to replenish your vitamin D reserves. Although best known for its wealth of outdoor activities—wholesome mountain and river adventures, from skiing to rafting—it’s also a terrific food and beer town, claiming “one brewery for every 9,111” residents; there’s even a great craft spirits producer, Bendistillery.
Stay: The boutique-y Oxford Hotel (877-440-8436, oxfordhotelbend.com; from $189), smack in the middle of downtown, is awash in stylish comforts—in fact, the 59 large and luxurious suites, with their flat-screen TVs, microwaves, fridges, and pillow menus, are so indulgent you might just forgo all of the outdoorsy stuff and head straight for the Jacuzzi. Ask for a room on one of the top floors for sweeping views of the craggy peaks of the Three Sisters, 20 miles west. The hotel touts itself as eco-chic: valet parking is free if you drive a hybrid, guests have free bikes at their disposal, and the freshly ground, locally roasted coffee is organic. Of course.
Explore: To partake of Bend’s sudsy Ale Trail, hop on the Bend Brew Bus (541-389-8359, bendbrewbus.com), which offers free hotel pickups and departs daily at 1:30. Alternatively, download the Ale Trail app to your phone and explore at your own pace. Don’t miss excellent and fun Boneyard Beer (541-323-2325, boneyardbeer.com)—the deliciously hoppy RPM IPA packs a punch.
For an engaging intro to the region’s natural and cultural history, pay a visit to the indoor-outdoor High Desert Museum (541-382-4754, highdesertmuseum.org), an accessible mix of art, anthropology, and wildlife just eight miles south of downtown. Continue south several miles to reach the otherworldly terrain of Newberry National Volcanic Monument (541-383-5700, fs.usda.gov/goto/centraloregon/nnvm), a 50,000-acre swath of lava rocks, cinder cones, pristine lakes, and eerie geological features that’s at the center of an ancient—but still geothermally active—volcano. The Lava Lands Visitor Center doesn’t reopen until May, but the monument is popular all winter for cross-country skiing, hiking, and mountain biking.
Eat: The much loved Spanish and Latin American kitchen Barrio (541-389-2025, barriobend.com) is a collaboration between two successful food-cart owners and serves classic chilaquiles and pork carnitas tacos for lunch, as well as awesome tapas (most notably baked Oaxaca cheese and chorizo with chips, and cauliflower tagine). Head to the Oxford’s in-house 10 Below (541-382-1010, oxfordhotelbend.com) for a more upscale repast; try the great charcuterie board, or local free-range chicken with herb gnocchi, broccoli rapini, and an olive oil–basted egg. Drop by hipster-frequented Astro Lounge (541-388-0116, astroloungebend.com), which has live music many weekends, for sophisticated cocktails and tasty bar food.
For meticulously brewed espressos and traditional Belgian waffles, venture across the street from the Oxford to Lone Pine Coffee Roasters (541-306-1010, lonepinecoffeeroasters.com), next door to the Tin Pan Theater, an intimate and very charming indie cinema. Just outside downtown in Bend’s historic Old Ironworks Arts District, Sparrow Bakery (541-330-6321) serves peerless breakfast sandwiches, chocolate croissants, and strong java.
Travel: Bend is a beautiful three- to four-hour drive from Portland via US 26 over Mount Hood to US 97, or via I-5 to Hwy. 22 past Detroit Lake to US 20. Alaska Airlines flies direct to Redmond Airport, 18 miles north of Bend, from Portland and Seattle. —Jurriaan Teulings
10 Miles to Tranquility
Although it shares the easygoing pace and densely wooded topography of far more secluded isles, 28-square-mile Bainbridge Island is just a 35-minute ferry ride across Puget Sound from downtown Seattle. The liberal-minded island of 24,000 (four out of five residents voted for pro–gay marriage Referendum 74 in 2012) has nearly doubled in population since 1990, spurring a rapid infusion of urbane boutiques, galleries, wineries, and restaurants.
Stay: A collection of eight informally elegant suites and townhouses, some with soaring pitched ceilings and deep soaking tubs, the Eagle Harbor Inn (206-842-1446, theeagleharborinn.com; from $149) lies a half block from both the waterfront and the retail and dining of Winslow, the island’s commercial hub. The suites are geared toward couples, while the posh, bilevel townhouses are perfect for groups of four to six friends—each one has a gas fireplace, a gourmet kitchen, and a private elevator leading from the garage.
Explore: Much of temperate and lush Bainbridge Island remains green throughout the winter months, its curvy, irregular coastline popular for leisurely bike rides and misty hikes. With a tranquil Japanese garden, a camellia trail, a migratory bird refuge, and expansive views of Puget Sound, 150-acre Bloedel Reserve (206-842-7631, bloedelreserve.org) is the perfect milieu for an outdoor ramble. You can also ensconce yourself within the warm confines of Bloedel’s horticultural library, inside the Château–style visitor center.
A collaboration of three noted wineries—Amelia Wynn, Fletcher Bay, and Victor Alexander—downtown’s Island Vintners tasting room (206-451-4344, islandvintners.com) pours vino and serves fine cheese as well as charcuterie from Seattle’s famous Salumi Artisan Cured Meats. All seven of the island’s wineries are open during several special wine weekends (bainbridgewineries.com). On Saturday mornings through late April, Bainbridge Cinemas (206-855-8169, bainbridgepavilion.com) presents The Met: Live in HD, a series of live transmissions of New York City Metropolitan Opera productions.
Eat: Winslow Way is lined for several blocks with diverting restaurants, including chef-owned Cafe Nola (206-842-3822, cafenola.com), whose innovative world-beat offerings include blue-corn pancakes with smoked duck, and slow-braised short-rib mole—it’s popular on weekend mornings for brunch, too. For panoramic views of the ferries plying Eagle Harbor, snag a table at casual Doc’s Marina Grill (206-842-8339, docsgrill.com), a reliable bet for Northwest cioppino and ahi tuna tacos with sriracha crème fraîche. Stop by Blackbird Bakery (206-780-1322, blackbirdbakery.com) for a mug of Herkimer Roasting Company’s potent coffee, or to nibble on savory ratatouille tarts and feathery glazed lemon-blueberry scones.
Travel: Washington State Ferries make the trip from Seattle’s Pier 52 (801 Alaskan Way) about once an hour. The fare is $10.55 to $16.40 for automobiles (and one driver) and $7.70 for passengers. You can also drive here from Tacoma in about 75 minutes via Hwys. 16 and 3 north to the Kitsap Peninsula and Hwy. 305 over Agate Pass Bridge. —Andrew Collins
Winter Storm Watch
An isolated logging outpost until droves of surfers rolled into town in the late ’60s, laid-back Tofino sits at the brim of an ecological paradise, Clayoquot Sound, along Vancouver Island’s remote west coast. Still one of North America’s top surf spots, this idiosyncratic town of about 1,900 year-rounders offers an irresistible combination of rugged frontier spirit, lefty politics, and discerning culinary appreciation. Once primarily a summer destination, the town now draws plenty of its million annual visitors in winter and spring, when frequent and spectacularly turbulent storms are the star attraction.
Stay: A quirky building fashioned out of recycled bricks, hardwood flooring, and stained glass, the wonderfully weathered Inn at Tough City (877-725-2021, toughcity.com; from C$99) perches over the hem of Tofino Harbour. Some of the eight cozy, individually decorated rooms are warmed by fireplaces and Jacuzzis, and all have decks or balconies. The ground-floor restaurant serves some of the best sushi in town.
Explore: With its mossy rain-forest trails, rugged adjacent peaks, and legendary surf—much of it encompassed within Pacific Rim National Park (250-726-3500, pc.gc.ca)—Tofino is a favorite destination of active outdoorsy types. But you can actually behold the mesmerizing natural scenery with minimal exertion, whether by settling into a comfy armchair for a front-row, jaw-dropping view of a wild storm, or on a wildlife-watching cruise. (Whales, eagles, and shoreline bears and seals are favorite sights.) One of the area’s best wildlife tour operators, Ocean Outfitters (250-725-2866, oceanoutfitters.bc.ca), also makes daily cruises (with a float-plane return option) 30 kilometers north to stunning Hot Springs Cove, in Maquinna Marine Park. On arrival, participants embark on a half-hour walk along a tree-canopied boardwalk through old-growth rain forest to a series of steaming pools that tumble from the springs to the ocean, dropping degrees as they go.
To fully comprehend the power of the 10 to 15 storms that slam Tofino each winter month, brave the elements and watch the action from 12-kilometer Long Beach, a gorgeous sandy crescent about 10 minutes’ drive south of the village center. (To be safe, avoid high tide, with its treacherous rogue waves.) Once the sun sets, if the weather is clear, gaze up at the night sky, which from September through April is frequently streaked by the bright swooshes of the northern lights.
Eat: After an invigorating walk along adjacent Chesterman Beach, sit down to a memorable feast at The Pointe (250-725-3106, wickinn.com), part of the world-renowned Wickaninnish Inn, which serves exquisite farm-fresh regional cuisine inside a glass-walled dining room with 240-degree ocean views. Historic Schooner Restaurant (250-725-3444, schoonerrestaurant.ca) specializes in creatively prepared seafood, such as the “blue and black” tuna with Cajun spices and wasabi. If you’d prefer to storm-watch from your room, call RedCan Gourmet (250-725-8228, redcangourmet.com), a haute take-out service, and await delivery of cumin-scented seafood chowder, goat feta–and–roasted garlic pizza, and similarly enticing concoctions. Perhaps watching the foamy surf has piqued your thirst for beer? Grab a Dawn Control Coffee Porter or Tuff Session Ale from Tofino Brewery (250-725-2899, tofinobrewingco.com), served on-site.
Travel: From Vancouver, the drive to Tofino takes about six to seven hours, including a BC Ferries ride of a little under two hours from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, followed by a windy four-hour drive on Hwys. 19 and 4. From Victoria, it’s a five-hour drive. Orca Airways (888-359-6722, flyorcaair.com) makes daily 55-minute flights from Vancouver International Airport to Tofino Airport, 15 kilometers south of town. —Aefa Mulholland
Urban sensibility meets coastal charm
If Portland were reborn as a small coastal town, it would bear a striking resemblance to Astoria, the oldest US settlement west of the Rockies. Despite a population of just 9,500, this formerly rough-around-the-edges enclave perched at the gaping mouth of the Columbia River delivers the urban sass and artsy edge you might expect of a town many times larger. No wonder up-and-coming Astoria has become a favorite Oregon coast retreat among gay Portlanders.
Stay: Built on the pilings of a 1900s fish-packaging company and jutting 600 feet into the Columbia River, the Cannery Pier Hotel (503-325-4996, cannerypierhotel.com; from $189) is the go-to address for a cozy room with a view (and a fireplace). All 38 rooms and eight suites have private balconies overlooking the river and its colorful traffic of pleasure boats, fishing trawlers, and hulking freighters, and their open design allows guests to take in the scenery while soaking in a hot bath. A window-lined spa offers hot stone massage and ginger-orange body wraps. Use of retro bicycles, chauffeured shuttle service in vintage autos, and evening wine-and-lox are complimentary.
Explore: The Columbia River Maritime Museum (503-325-2323, crmm.org) deftly showcases how Astoria’s fortunes have intertwined with the majestic river coursing past its shores. Set in the old Clatsop County Jail, the Oregon Film Museum (503-325-2203, oregonfilmmuseum.org) primarily pays homage to locally shot coming-of-age adventure The Goonies; relive your Josh Brolin crush while filming yourself in a scene from the movie on one of three green-screen sets. The Cellar on 10th (503-325-6600, thecellaron10th.com) holds wine tastings on Saturday afternoons; order a local pinot while you browse gourmet nibbles. Second Saturday Art Walks (astoriadowntown.com) celebrate the quirky craft and retail community compacted into the 36 blocks of Astoria’s restored 1920s downtown; don’t miss the architectural salvage spot Vintage Hardware (503-325-1313, astoriavintagehardware.com).
Eat: Downtown’s abundant dining options are strongly inspired by local produce and seafood. The hip Astoria Coffeehouse & Bistro (503-325-1787, astoriacoffeehouse.com) is acclaimed for handcrafted beverages of the caffeinated and alcoholic varieties, hearty sandwiches and salads, and the twice-a-year Q Night LGBT dance party. (The next one is in March.) Head to Clemente’s (503-325-1067, clementesrestaurant.com) for Willapa Bay oysters on the half shell and sashimi-grade albacore in a soy-ginger marinade. It’s by another cool lodging option, the affordable Commodore Hotel, with a quirky vibe like the Ace Hotel’s in Portland.
Visit vegetarian Blue Scorcher Bakery Café (503-338-7473, bluescorcher.com), a co-op built around artisanal breads and organic ingredients, for breakfast or lunch with river views. Newcomer Marie Antoinette’s Cupcake Parlor (503-468-0188, marieantoinettescupcakes.com) upstages its historic former-bank-lobby setting with an eye-popping mix of opulent artwork and carnivalesque kitsch. Stumptown coffee accompanies delectable, creative cupcakes.
Travel: Astoria is 100 miles from Portland, an easy two-hour drive via I–5 north and US 30 west, or the more scenic combo of US 26 west to US 101 north. —LoAnn Halden