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USA Radio
November 9, 2015

10 Places We Missed During Our Pacific Northwest Road Trip

It’s only about 280 kilometers from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington. You’d think that you’d exhaust things to do on a weeklong road trip between the two — but you’d be wrong. You’ll see for yourself when you meander a bit and see some of the extraordinary scenery and attractions sprinkled around the Pacific Northwest.

We know this, because we did this road trip and missed so many experiences due to time constraints. Here are 10 places we missed that we hope to get to next time we’re road tripping through this dynamic part of the United States.

Portland Japanese Garden - Portland, Oregon

If we could have stopped to reflect on all that we had experienced, we wish we could’ve done it at the Portland Japanese Garden. With five distinct garden styles—flat, strolling pond, tea, natural, and sand and stone—on a little more than 2.2 hectares, the impeccably manicured Japanese gardens offer many different settings for relaxation and contemplation, not to mention simple enjoyment of the scenery. We’ll aim for a visit in the spring, when the azaleas, camellias and wisteria are in bloom. 

Portland Saturday Market – Portland, Oregon

Our experiences in Portland reinforced the city’s reputation as a creative place. We regret we weren’t able to see that creativity in action at the Portland Saturday Market, the largest continually operating open-air crafts market in the United States. Everything is handcrafted, whether it’s a necklace, a painting or a children’s board game. Also, you get to interact with the person who made it, as the artisans sell their own work.

Covered Bridges – Eugene, Oregon

They’re short, quirky and photogenic — and they’re located all around the Eugene area, offering a little bit of shelter and a lot of character to road trippers in the area. There are 20 covered bridges in Lane County, Oregon, some dating back as far as 1920, with 14 of them still in use. All the bridges make excellent backdrops for Instagram shots and picnic lunches. Next time we’ll pick up some picnic food in Eugene and seek out these local landmarks.  

Hug Point – Oregon Coast

This cape on the far northern coast of Oregon is called Hug Point because the stagecoaches that rode along this beach in the 19th and early 20th centuries — before the coastal highway was built — had to hug this point to get around it. So many stagecoaches rolled through that you can still see wheel ruts carved into the rock. We’d like to see that and the rest of this piece of the gorgeous and rugged Pacific Northwest coastline. 

Mount Hood – Oregon

In a way, we didn’t really miss Mount Hood. At 3,426 meters, it’s the tallest point in Oregon. So we could see it from Portland, which is a little more than 100 kilometers away. But we wish we’d seen it up close and enjoyed some of the outdoor activities you can do on the mountain and in the Columbia River Gorge, including hiking, fishing, checking out waterfalls and enjoying a craft beer with a view at the historic Timberline Lodge.

Experience Music Project – Seattle, Washington

The EMP Museum’s roots are in rock ’n’ roll. That’s apparent from the wild Frank Gehry-designed building, which was inspired by the famed architect’s dismantling of electric guitars, to the exhibits on music legends like Seattle’s own Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. The museum also encompasses broader pop culture, including animation and science fiction, making it a place we’d love to spend a day exploring and interacting with some of the most influential cultural expressions in the United States. Music is so much a part of Seattle’s culture that the city inspired our Spotify playlist for the Pacific Northwest. 

Olympic Sculpture Park – Seattle, Washington

Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra and Alexander Calder are among the artists whose work resides in Olympic Sculpture Park, a stunning green space for sculpture in downtown Seattle. Opened in 2007, it’s a relatively new addition to the cityscape, but it has made its mark in a short amount of time. The more than 3.6-hectare park overlooks Puget Sound, so it is an ideal place to contemplate the relationship between art and nature or to just wander in beauty. We plan to do both when we get back to Seattle.

Mount Rainier National Park – Washington

As with Mount Hood in Portland, we didn’t completely miss Mount Rainier. We saw it from the top of the Space Needle in downtown Seattle, the mountain’s glaciers glistening in the summer sun about 145 kilometers away. We wished we could have made the drive out there to explore the 4,392-meter peak and surrounding Mount Rainier National Park. Next time, we want to see how many of the park’s 182 species of birds we can spot.

Olympic National Park – Washington

It’s hard to decide which National Park we regret missing more, Mount Rainier or Olympic National Park. From rugged coastline to massive glaciers to temperate rainforests, this Olympic National Park offers such different kinds of beauty and landscapes in one place. The Pacific Northwest scenery was a highlight of our trip, and we wish we could have taken it all in. 

Fairhaven Historic District – Bellingham, Washington

We wish we’d have driven this close to the Canadian border. Bellingham and its Fairhaven Historic District are located about 45 kilometers from British Columbia and approximately 140 kilometers from downtown Seattle. Bellingham, which at one point aspired to be a metropolis like Chicago, boomed in the early 1890s. While it never reached Chicago’s proportions, the city still retains it throwback charm. Its six-square-block Fairhaven Historic District includes preserved red brick buildings, many of which now house bars and restaurants where you can have great local cuisine and contemplate what might have been.

Want to experience the Seattle music scene firsthand? Start your planning with this guide to the largest city in the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon marks the end of another epic road trip. Here’s how to follow the Oregon Trail

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