Discover the emerald of The Emerald City.
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Shoreline of Seattle from the water
Credit: Courtesy of Visit Seattle

Although it's the largest metropolis of the Pacific Northwest and one of the largest urban areas in the U.S., Seattle is no concrete jungle. Sure, there are a number of steel-and-glass monoliths — but even in the city, the fresh sea air, pine-filled mountain backdrop, and verdant public areas take focus. Seattle is on the Puget Sound, an inland arm of the northern Pacific Ocean. Across the sound is Olympic National Park, and just southwest of the city is Mount Rainier National Park. Outside these designated outdoor recreational areas lies an abundant amount of parks and green spaces — aptly earning the sobriquet, "The Emerald City."

But most don't immediately think of outdoor recreation when picturing Seattle. Tech unicorns, Starbucks, or Nirvana usually flash to mind first. I'm here to tell you it's time to revisit the idea that an urban trip cannot also be an outdoors trip, and Seattle is the perfect place to put this concept into practice. Enjoy all a large city has to offer (world-class dining, incredible shopping, and lively nightlife), then, just minutes away, find yourself hiking next to the largest red cedar tree in the world. 

Read on to find some of the best outdoor offerings in the greater Puget Sound region, plus where to eat and stay.

Where to Go

Olympic National Park

Located on Washington's Olympic Peninsula just west of Seattle, Olympic National Park encompasses 922,651 acres of preserved wilderness with three distinct ecosystems: coastal, rainforest, and subalpine. First home to Native American tribes, then inhabited by European settlers in the late 1500s, much of the land has remained unchanged since then. One of the most popular sights in the national park is the Hoh Rain Forest. The moss-draped area is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S. — the green canopy sees over 12 feet of rain per year, helping to make it one of the quietest places in the world. There are many waterfalls and hikes to enjoy within the park, but what grabs a lot of visitors' attention are the glacier-fed lakes. 

Lake Crescent-Dock and Lake Crescent at Sunrise
Credit: Courtesy of Aramark

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier — an icon to the Seattle-area landscape — ascends to 14,410 feet above sea level. The mount is the most glaciated peak in the U.S., creating five major rivers. In the spring and summer, subalpine wildflowers ring the icy volcano. The park's ancient forests on Mount Rainier's lower slopes offer an abundant amount of trails for hiking, biking, and climbing. Wildlife abounds in the park's ecosystems.

Discovery Park

Within the city limits is Discovery Park — the largest city park in Seattle. Overlooking Puget Sound, the 534-acre park offers spectacular views of both the Cascade and the Olympic Mountain ranges. Search for sea glass on its protected tidal beaches or kayak around the sound to see open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, and sand dunes. At the Discovery Park Environmental Learning Center, there are many resources to help educate people about the natural world.

Scenic woods in Lake Quinault
Credit: John Vass/Courtesy of Aramark

Where to Stay 

Lotte Hotel Seattle

In the city is the recently opened Lotte Seattle. Philippe Starck designed the artistic-yet-modern hotel, where the past and present of natural Seattle coexist. Its signature restaurant, Charlotte, has spectacular views of the Pacific Northwest from the 18th floor and serves up an inventive menu that is sure to become an all-time favorite dining experience. The hotel also houses the nation's oldest Beaux-style architectural building founded in 1908. 

Exterior facade of Fairmont Olympic Hotel
Credit: VRX Studios/Courtesy of Fairmont Olympic Hotel

Fairmont Olympic

If you are looking for somewhere with old-school elegance, book a stay at the Fairmont Olympic. The hotel has been Seattle's most celebrated social address since opening in 1924. On the site of the original University of Washington campus, it spans an entire city block and was revitalized and reopened in 1982. Recently, there's been another major restoration to bring the property into the 21st century. Carefully preserving many original details, the all-new lobby and bar have already become the buzziest place to see and be seen. And Fairmont Olympic's new culinary showpiece will debut in the months to come.

Exterior of the Lake Quinault Lodge During Sunset
Credit: Courtesy of Aramark

Lake Quinault Lodge

On the shores of Lake Quinault and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Lake Quinault Lodge is one of the best, and most comfortable, accommodation options for Olympic National Park. The lodge has 91 rooms — some of which have a fireplace — and is open year-round. There are many hiking trails right off the property, lake activities during the warm months, and it's all a short drive from everything Olympic National Park has to offer. 

Lake Crescent Lodge

Another lodge option is Lake Crescent Lodge. The simple rooms offer a fitting base camp for the northern area of Olympic National park. The large lake flanking the lodge offers a wealth of activities, not to mention one of the most dramatic sunsets I've ever seen. The on-site restaurant of this 100-year-old hotel has a robust menu of elevated fare and a wine list full of local expressions.

Where to Eat

Interior of Flint Creek
Credit: Courtesy of Flint Creek

Autumn

Don't miss a meal at celebrated pasta specialist Brian Clevenger's recently opened restaurant. Autumn's simple approach to pasta, seafood, and vegetables is anything but simple in execution. Chef's thoughtful preparation of local ingredients surprises palates with unique takes on familiar flavors. 

FlintCreek Cattle Co. 

It is a sin to go to the Pacific Northwest and skip shellfish. At Flintcreek Cattle Co., a steakhouse, it's a sin not to order the Totten Kamilche mussels with jalapeño, charred lime butter, and coriander. But there are no misses on the menu — the New Zealand venison loin with a peppercorn crust is a comforting dish that perfectly balances the bite of the peppercorn and the duck confit, a melt-in-your-mouth preparation in a spice-filled beurre fondue. 

Deep Dive

End the night at Deep Dive, a chic bar within multi-glass globes. After pulling back the curtains, you enter into a cabinet of curiosities with a bar menu that is something to write home about. The seat to have is at the bar — where you can watch the masters stir and shake inventive cocktails. Snack on their take on a Seattle-style hot dog topped with salmon caviar, cream cheese, jalapeño, and pickled shallot.