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Washington Travel Guide

Seattle, Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands are the most popular draws for visitors, but Washington's physical splendor runs the gamut from the dense rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula to the glacier-carved ...

Seattle, Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands are the most popular draws for visitors, but Washington's physical splendor runs the gamut from the dense rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula to the glacier-carved peaks of Mount Rainier. The state's nearly 400 vineyards are clustered mostly in the Columbia and Yakima valleys of the southcentral region. Located on generally the same latitude as Burgundy and Bordeaux (and in the “rain shadow” east of the Cascade mountains), the area has long, dry summer days that contribute to acclaimed vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay. For more moody, temperate varietals of Pinot Noir, look south to Oregon. 

The majestic longitudinal range of the Cascades roughly bisects the state, directing the vast majority of its precipitation into the temperate rain forests of the west. To the surprise of many, much of eastern Washington is an arid region of stark plains and outright deserts. Prevailing winds from the northwest lend Washington a relatively dry climate during the spring and summer, while the latter half of the year is notoriously wet — between October and May, Seattle is cloudy or partly cloudy six days of the week.

Recommended Luxury Hotels in Washington

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.

Best Restaurants in Washington

Despite its on-the-bay location, Elliott’s doesn’t have particularly good views. What it does have is supremely fresh seafood and a faultless list of the freshest area oysters (the restaurant goes through more than 7,000 per week), as well as preparations such as pan-fried oysters with tartar and bourbon sauces, and oysters Rockefeller. With a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc, they make a perfect meal. 

1201 Alaskan Way Pier 56 Seattle $55

The name is a nod by chef/owner Ethan Stowell to revered food writer M.F.K. Fisher’s culinary classic. Here, the talented Stowell offers his take on Italian cuisine via the produce of the Pacific Northwest. Look to the appealing menu for starters such as polenta fritters with ricotta, sage and chestnut honey; or charred aprium (plumcot) bruschetta with whipped goat cheese, pickled red onions and basil. Main courses, with many superb pastas, might include spaghetti with anchovies, garlic, mint, parsley and bread crumbs; or grilled hanger steak with pea purée, smoked cippolini onion and mint gremolata. 

2208 Queen Anne Avenue North Seattle $50

This striking restaurant has impressive wood beams and rugged stone accent walls, while big peaked windows provide dramatic views of Lake Union. In business since 1950, it has been reinvigorated by chefs such as Brady Williams, who joined the kitchen in 2015 from the highly regarded Roberta’s in Brooklyn. Thus, you will see among the starters the iconic Peter Canlis prawns prepared with dry vermouth, garlic, red chilies and lime; and Dungeness crab with bok choy and fermented ajo blanco (a popular Spanish soup made from crushed almonds, garlic bread, water and olive oil). Main courses could be Copper River king salmon with spring vegetables and herbs; or grilled filet mignon served with morel mushrooms, spinach and cipollini onions. Reservations are a must. Closed Sunday.

2576 Aurora Avenue North Seattle Three-course menu, $90; four courses, $110; chef's tasting menu, $145

A 15-minute drive from downtown brings you to this serene restaurant next to Juanita Creek, with its high windows and big stone fireplace. Here, chef-owner Holly Smith creates ever-changing Northern Italian food. Starters and pastas might include foie gras, Bing cherries, candied ginger, thyme and cacao nibs; and the simple but delicious goat cheese gnocchi with fava beans and morels. Main courses could be rabbit with pancetta, porcini and herbs; or Anderson Valley lamb rack "scottadita" (quickly seared) with a radish-sunflower shoot tartina and Nebbiolo jus. The wine list has a fine selection of Italian regional reds, as well as those from Washington state. Closed Sunday and Monday.

9702 Northeast 120th Place Kirkland $85
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