One of the questions I get asked the most is, “When is the best time to visit Washington?” And, I found that most people are usually surprised by the answer – September and October.
After living in Washington State for over a decade, September and October have become my favorite months of the year for their spectacular weather, fewer crowds, festivals, fall colors, and scenic fall drives. Here are my six reasons to visit Washington State in the fall.
Six Reasons to Visit Washington State in the Fall
1. Less Crowds
“I Want to Wait in a Ferry Line,” Said No One EVER
I’ve done my share of summertime traveling, and that usually includes waiting in the dreaded ferry line, especially on busy holiday weekends where you can wait through two ferry runs (no this isn’t a joke). Thankfully, some ferries you can make reservations on like the Port Townsend – Coupeville and the Anacortes – San Juan Islands. In the fall, the lines are not as long, and even on weekends, you most likely will not have to wait.
Travel Tip: There are a few reasons you might have to wait and those include game days and holidays like Thanksgiving, a ferry breakdown, or you arrive too late to get in the ferry line (it is always better to be early).
Travel Tip: If you are traveling during the summer months, I strongly recommend not procrastinating about making a reservation.
School is In
One of the reasons it is so nice to travel around Washington in September and October is that school starts in September, and for other areas of the country kids have already been in school since August. What does this mean for travelers? Fewer people on vacation equal fewer crowds almost everywhere you go. Sure, on weekends, you will probably still have to wait in the line at some of the Seattle attractions like the Space Needle or Seattle Great Wheel, but it won’t be near as long. And, if you plan to travel to other areas like Mt. Rainier, the San Juan Islands, or Woodinville for wine tastings you won’t be one in a throng of people trying to have the same experience.
Walking on Sunshine in Western Washington and Eastern Washington
Our recent Western Washington summers have been usually sunny and warm, but people often refer to June as Juneuary, and I’ve experienced many a cold June days. While July and August usually have good weather, the crowds make it not so fun to travel, and if you plan to camp, you’ll need to plan in advance. But, by September and usually the first two weeks of October, there are sunny, cooler days with no crowds, which make it ideal for exploring.
If you are planning a holiday to the Eastern side, there is plenty of good weather to go around, but in June, July, and August, it can get pretty hot in some areas, and I’m talking triple digit hot. In September and October, and depending on where you are, you can expect the daytime temperatures to be in the 70s, which is very pleasant.
3. More Economical
Timing is Money
September ushers in the start of the decrease in off-season lodging rates, which is always a good thing on the pocketbook. Sometimes you’ll find as much as a 40 dollar difference, maybe even more in some locations. Plus, if your push your dates out for traveling from October through April, the rates are usually even better. Since Western Washington has such a mild winter, traveling during the offseason, makes a lot of sense. If you do decide to travel during the winter months, I suggest bringing an insulated weatherproof jacket and rain shoes.
4. Washington State Fall Libation Festivals
Blessed by Dionysus
Washington is the second largest producer of wines in the U.S., and throughout the year there are wine tasting opportunities and events. Spring is a big time for wine festivals, but so is fall for this is when harvest and crush begins. All over the state, there will be events in October like the Lake Chelan Crush, harvest parties in Woodinville, and Catch the Crush in Yakima. In November there is Fall Release Weekend in Walla Walla and in the Tri-Cities the Tri-Cities Wine Festival.
Interested in seeing more wine events. Here is a list of wine events in Washington State.
Hops, Hops, and More Hops
Washington is known for its hops production, and the Yakima Valley grows around 78% of hops in the U.S. Knowing that it shouldn’t be surprising that fall is the time we raise a pint or two and indulge in German food at Oktoberfests. There are plenty all over the state, and some notable ones are Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest, Bier on the Pier in Anacortes, Brew on the Slough in La Conner, Puyallup’s Octoberfest Northwest, and Yakima’s Fresh Hop Ale Festival.
Interested in seeing more beer events? Here is a list of beer events in Washington State.
Need a gift for a libation lover? Check out these ideas from Washington State.
For the Love of Cider
If you are partial to ciders, you won’t be disappointed with Washington’s cider scene. There are plenty of ways to sample ciders like the 10-day celebration during Washington Cider Week, Whidbey Island Cider Festival in Coupeville, the Cider Swig in Gig Harbor, and Cider Summit Seattle.
Since living in Washington State, I have become a mushroom lover. A great place to experience all things mushroom including opportunities to forage, cooking classes, special mushroom menus, and identification, is during the Wild Mushroom Celebration in Long Beach. Many lodgings will have room specials, and restaurants such as [pickled fish] at Adrift Hotel and Spa will have mushroom dishes. You can also learn more about mushrooms in my post Mushroom Lovers Make Plans for Fall in Long Beach, WA.
And, lastly, fall colors. Washington state has some highways and roads that meander through the mountains where you’ll see golds, oranges and reds tucked in between evergreen and jagged rocky mountains. Some of my favorite highways are SR 20, US 2, US 97, and US 12.
That wraps up my six reasons.
Are you ready for a Pacific Northwest adventure this fall?