For 1st time visitors to the Pacific Northwest, I recommend the following trip. I will update this page weekly as I talk about the individual cities.

I suggest you do this full trip when you plan on taking a two week vacation, though it can be done in less time depending on how much you like to sight see by car versus getting out and hitting all the major tourist attractions. This trip requires a rental car.

Day One: Fly into Portland

If you have some flexibility on when you plan on visiting, you can often find flights for both Portland and Seattle that are comparable in price. You may need to leave for Portland a week earlier or later than a comparably priced flight for Seattle, but if you haunt the online travel sites several months in advance, you should find a decent price. I recommend, as it searches for flights on multiple flight search engines. It is also a good idea to sign up for the individual flight search engines as well. Expedia, Travelocity and others have features that let you save what flights you are looking for and will email you when the prices change or go below the price you want to pay.

For lodging, make sure to start with TripAdvisor. You can sort between Price, Property Type (Hotels, Bed and Breakfasts and Vacation Rentals), Location (How far from center of the city you are willing to stay), and Hotel Class (Hotel Star Rating), as well as getting a good sample of reviews for the lodgings on your “short list”.

Day Two and Three: Tour Portland

Things to Do in Portland:

Powell’s Bookstore
OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) – Rated as one of the top attractions in Portland, it is my second favorite museum in the world.
Oregon Zoo
McMenamins – My favorite chain of brewery pubs. Several locations throughout Oregon and Washington.
Portland Breweries – Including some suggested Brewery Crawls
Brewvana Portland Brewery Tour Bus
Food Carts – Food Carts are becoming a tourist attraction in Portland. These mobile eateries are scattered throughout Portland and offer every cuisine imaginable.
Pearl District
TripAdvisor’s Traveler Recommended Attractions for Portland – I love using TripAdvisor as a starting point for my next trip.
And for the Textile Artists:
Mill Ends – Fabulous Discount Fabric and Yarn store.
FabricDepot – I swooned the first time I visited this store. I found the perfect brocade for a historical costuming project at a very affordable price. I am still floored by their prices compared to other places I have looked.

Day Four: Travel to Seattle
Take Interstate-5 North from Portland until you reach Seattle.

There are several things to see and do on the way to Seattle. Everything between Portland and Olympia you will be passing again on your way back from Canada, so you can choose which part of the trip you want to stop. Everything between Olympia and Seattle will only be on your path during your trip to Seattle. For the sake of ease, I will list all the things between Portland and Olympia on the return trip, though the choice of when to visit is always up to you.

Things to Do Between Olympia and Seattle:
Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge
Tacoma Museum of Glass
Port Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Day Five and Six: Tour Seattle

Things to do in Seattle:
Things to do in Seattle:
Group 1:(North of Downtown Seattle)
Breakfast (served anytime) at Beth’s Cafe (seen on The Travel Channel and Food Network)
Woodland Park Zoo
Fremont (Fremont Troll, George and Dragon Pub, etc) (Fremont Walking Tour) (I went to find a link to Dad Watson’s and discovered that the Fremont location has closed *wail!*)
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard (AKA Ballard Locks)

Group 2:(NorthWest End of Downtown Seattle)
Space Needle
Pacific Science Center
Ride the Ducks
The Center for Wooden Boats (I have included this for pirate and old boat enthusiasts but may be boring to those without a strong interest in boats. Occasional Sea Shanties sung and/or Pirate/Old Salt Themed events)

Group2a:(Downtown Seattle)
(If your really ambitious you could combine with Group 2 in the same day, or pick and choose your favorites)
Pike Place Market
Seattle Art Museum
Seattle Aquarium

Underground Tour in Pioneer Square (Southend of Downtown Seattle)

Museum of Flight (South of Downtown Seattle)

Washington State Wineries
Washington State Breweries

Weaving Works

Nearby Trips :
(These trips will take you most of a day or more, but I have included them in case you plan on staying longer in Seattle. They are beautiful trips and well worth the extra time spent.)
Mt Rainier
Leavenworth, WA (Cute Bavarian Themed Tourist Town)
Grand Coulee Dam

Day Seven: Travel to Vancouver, Canada

You need a passport to enter Canada. Some states now offer a Passport Card which is cheaper than a Passport Book and will allow you to enter and return from Canada and Mexico. A Passport Card will not allow you to go Overseas, so if you plan on making any International flights in the near future, I suggest you go ahead and pay the full fee and get a Passport Book. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get a Passport.

If any of your party was ever convicted of a DUI/DWI, they will not be allowed into Canada. DUIs are considered a Felony in Canada and they will not allow anyone convicted of a Felony to enter Canada. If any member of your party, over the age of 16, does not have a driver’s license, be prepared to explain right away what the reason is (ie, you’ve never learned to drive), should they ask for a driver’s license, or you may be detained for over an hour before being allowed to clear up the situation. In other words, when asked about a driver’s license, immediately say “I have never learned to drive”. If you only answer that you don’t have one, you may not be given a chance to say more before being sent to an inspection room to wait. They are very nice once they have time to hear your explanation, but why waste even one hour of your trip?

Things to Do Between Seattle and Vancouver:

Make sure you allow yourself more time than the “driving time” on your online map of choice. The traffic beginning just South of Bellingham and on towards the border can be congested and slow at all times of the day. In the past I have had to add an hour to the estimated time given by Google, Yahoo and Mapquest.

Deception Pass Bridge to Whidbey Island: The Deception Pass Bridge is on HWY 20, West of Interstate 5, connecting Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island. There is a State Park on both sides of the Pass that features camping and interpretive trails. I usually just drive to one of the parking lots on either side of the bridge, then walk across and take in the scenery. Sometimes I will return my car and continue on into Whidbey Island and sometimes I will head directly back to Interstate 5. The Pass is so pretty I consider it a destination in and of itself.

Alpaca Farms:
Countrytime Alpacas
Genesis Alpacas
Graydown Alpaca Ranch

Day Eight and Nine: Vancouver, Canada

Things to do in Vancouver, B.C.:
Gastown Downtown Vancouver
Vancouver Chinatown
Saree Distract/Punjabi Market/Little India District
Vancouver Lookout – 360 degree view of the city. If you like the Space Needle, give the Lookout a try.
Vancouver Aquarium
Greater Vancouver Zoo
Brockton Point Lighthouse
Bloedel Conservatory
Vancouver Brew Pubs
Vancouver Area Wineries

Day Ten and Eleven: Travel to Vancouver Island and Victoria

To get from Vancouver to Victoria, you have to take a ferry. I love these ferries as they remind me of floating airports. You know all the kiosks, stores and restaurants in the airport terminals? Well, that is what your going to find on the various decks of these huge car carrying ferries.

Travel to Vancouver Island and Victoria:
To get from Vancouver to Victoria, you have to take a ferry. I love these ferries as they remind me of floating airports. You know all the kiosks, stores and restaurants in the airport terminals? Well, that is what your going to find on the various decks of these huge car carrying ferries.

Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay Ferry – This will get you from Vancouver Mainland to Vancouver Island/Victoria.
Ferry Amenities – This is what I’m talking about when I say its like a floating airport terminal.

Once you leave the ferry, the first thing I would do is go to Butchart Gardens before continuing on to Victoria and getting settled in your hotel. Anytime of year, its beautiful. And if you can’t see everything in one day, its only $3.50 for re-admission the next day.

Things to Do in Victoria:
Victoria is probably my favorite city to visit in the whole world. I have traveled there again and again, and I am chomping at the bit to go back.

Royal British Columbia Museum – My Favorite Museum!! (I think I could live here *laugh*)
The Empress – You might not be able to afford to stay here, but the building is gorgeous and it is the jewel of the city. A lot of tourists like to have Afternoon Tea at the Empress.
Miniature World – If you like miniatures, this museum is the place for you.
Make sure you start at the corner of Humboldt and Government and head North to catch all the neat shops.
Including Merchie’s, especially if you like tea.
The Bay Centre Shopping Mall – Maybe its because they saved the facade of several old historic building but I love this mall. I just like walking through it when heading towards Old Town.
Old Town
Victoria Chinatown
Vancouver Island Brewery – Three Words: Hermann’s Dark Lager. I would buy stock in this company if I could. Or just buy all the Hermann’s.
Craigdarroch Castle – Beautiful old mansion.

Pacific Undersea Garden – I have yet to make this but it sounds fascinating.
The Wax Museum is fun too, but its closed until they finish the new location. Not sure how long that could take.

Delta Victoria Hotel – I stayed here once for my Mother’s birthday (back when my sister worked for the Victoria Clipper and got discounts on all things Victoria). Its pricey but VERY nice. We ate at both restaurants, one very formal with a limited, every changing, menu and the other a bit more low key with a decent menu selection. Everything was good, including the wine. The view of The Empress Hotel lit up at night is the main reason for staying at the Delta. If you don’t care about having a harbor view, the basic rooms during the Off-Season are fairly affordable.

Day Twelve: Travel back to Portland via Port Angeles
Victoria, B.C. to Portland via Olympic Peninsula:
Time to take another ferry. This one is a lot different than the British Columbia Ferry system. It is privately owned by an American company. Since the route is shorter and less traveled, they didn’t feel the need for all the fancy restaurants. It is still a beautiful trip, though. I usually like to sit on the benches on the deck that surrounds the main passenger cabin. It can be a bit wet at times, but you get to watch the seagulls from less than an arms-length away.

Things to Do Between Port Angeles and Portland:
Black Ball Ferry from Inner Harbour, Victoria, B.C. to Port Angeles
Hurricane Ridge

Route One:
Take Hwy 101 East and then South along Puget Sound and the Hood Canal
Three Crabs Restaurant in Sequim, WA
Port Townsend (Take Hwy 20 there and then retrace your route back to Hwy 101)
Hood Canal
Spar Cafe, Olympia, WA
Take I-5 South
Mount St. Helen (about an 1 1/2 hr away from I-5 so plan accordingly)
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge – Great Driving Tour through a nature refuge.

Route Two:
Take Hwy 101 West and then South along the Pacific Ocean
Forks, WA (If your a Twilight fan)
Westport, WA (At Aberdeen take SR 105 to Westport and then continue on SR 105 South to hook back up with HWY 101)
Astoria, WA (wear part of the Goonies was filmed and the movie is set)
McMenamin’s Sand Trap in Gearhart, OR
Take Hwy 26 back to Portland

Day Thirteen: Fly Home or Enjoy one more day in Portland

Depending on whether you are the type of person that wants a day to catch up on sleep before going back to work or the type of person that doesn’t mind going straight from the airport to work, you can either spend another day in Portland (or an extra day in Victoria) or catch the next morning flight home.

If you only have one week of vacation, you can cut out the extra days in all the major cities and still do this loop. Just try to get a flight out Friday Night if you can.

If you want to get the cheapest flights you can, and you have a boss that is willing to be flexible, you can leave on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and come back the next Tuesday through Thursday, though you may have to cut out Portland and fly into Seattle instead. When coming back from Victoria, you would head North on Interstate 5 to get back to Seattle, rather than heading South towards Portland.