Seattle and San Juan Islands Gay Vacation Guide – Romantic Weekend in Seattle
A trip to the crisp-aired, pine-shaded Pacific Northwest, whether you base your explorations in dynamic Seattle or a picturesque nearby community, offers magnificent outdoor recreation, world-class museums and performing arts, acclaimed wineries and third-wave coffee roasters, and superb farm-to-table cuisine. One of the first states to legalize same-sex marriage (and, soon after, recreational marijuana), Washington—especially Seattle and its vicinity—are famously liberal and gay-friendly. If you’re thinking of getting hitched here, note that although it can be rainy from late fall through early spring, summers are stunning, cool, and sunny. For the ultimate romantic getaway, give yourself 10 days to see the area, spending a few in Seattle and the rest exploring nearby natural wonders, such as the Cascade Mountains, Olympic Peninsula, and Puget Sound islands. Among the latter, Bainbridge Island is a short ferry ride from Seattle, and the idyllic San Juan Islands, near the U.S./Canada maritime border, feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle.
Seattle abounds with first-rate attractions, including the touristy but still spectacular Space Needle at Seattle Center, which is also home to the excellent Museum of Pop Culture and Pacific Science Center. Bypass the crowds by instead visiting the much taller 73rd-floor Sky View Observatory at Columbia Center, which is also a dazzling venue for LGBTQ weddings of up to 100 guests.
Be sure to make your way through some of the city’s most inviting neighborhoods, such as the hub of gay life, Capitol Hill, which also teems with outstanding restaurants. Try Bateau for house-butchered steaks and adjoining Bar Mesuline for oysters and champagne; Sitka and Spruce and lesbian-owned Terra Plata for exquisite regional Northwestern fare; and Poppy, for its thali-inspired platters of seasonal small plates created by openly gay culinary star Jerry Traunfeld. North of downtown, Ballard and Fremont are top spots for exploring indie shops, purveyors of craft beer and spirits, and notable restaurants.
From Seattle it’s an easy daytrip to Woodinville, home to nearly 150 tasting rooms and wineries, many producing world-class Washington vino (Januik/Novelty Hill and DeLille Cellar Carriage House are among the many standouts). It’s also a short 35-minute ride across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island, where a relaxed pace pervades and the little town Winslow is filled with engaging shops and eateries. Be sure to explore the peaceful paths and gardens of nearby Bloedel Reserve.
If you have time and seek seclusion and nature, take a ferry (or a float plane) to the San Juan Islands, a tranquil and stunning archipelago comprising hundreds of islands, of which three have visitor facilities: San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez. San Juan lies just across Haro Strait from Victoria, BC, and is the most populous, with diversions ranging from touring Pelindaba Lavender Farm (also a charming wedding venue) to hiking around Lime Kiln State Park, where it’s often possible to spy migrating orca whales. Less crowded but larger and with fantastic, mountainous hiking at Moran State Park and Turtleback Mountain Preserve, Orcas Island is also a foodie paradise. Stop by Hogstone Pizza for thin-crust artisan pies, the hipster-approved Barnacle for cocktails and seafood tapas (including excellent sushi some nights), and gay-owned Brown Bear Baking for morning pastries.
The swanky W Seattle offers supremely posh and stylish digs and is a top LGBTQ wedding venue, especially for social butterflies. After your reception, your guests can keep partying in the trendy lobby. Kimpton has four outstanding Seattle properties, including the design-driven Palladian Hotel, its cool rooms outfitted with claw-foot tubs and pop-art pillows depicting the faces of sexy celebs like Brad Pitt and David Bowie. Plan a fantastic seafood-centric repast at Shaker + Spear restaurant.
A 40-minute drive east of Seattle, Twin Peaks fans will recognize Salish Lodge & Spa and its dramatic perch atop a soaring waterfall. This upscale hideaway with a soothing spa begs for a fun weekend romp or a memorable wedding. Have breakfast in the historic dining room overlooking the falls.
On San Juan Island, the magical waterfront setting of Roche Harbor Resort has made this late-19th-century hotel and marina one of the most storied wedding venues in the Pacific Northwest—it even has its own adorable little white nondenominational chapel. For the ultimate honeymoon splurge, book one of the historic McMillin Suites, each with its own terrace overlooking the water. On Orcas Island, Rosario Resort is another grand locale for a waterfront wedding, honeymoon, or even just a meal in the exceptional Mansion Restaurant.
Featured image courtesy Salish Lodge & Spa