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Escape to these 5 cool summer towns for fun and sun in the Pacific Northwest

Choochokam, Langley's Festival of the Arts on Whidbey Island.
Choochokam, Langley's Festival of the Arts on Whidbey Island.
Choochokam, Langley's Festival of the Arts. Photo by Sue Frause.

Unlike cities in other parts of the country, Seattle doesn't get so miserably hot that people feel the need to flee. But there's something refreshing about heading out to a small town in the summer. I grew up in Arlington, located in the Stillaguamish Valley in Snohomish County. And for nearly 40 years, I've lived in the seaside town of Langley, on the south end of Whidbey Island. So yes, I've included those two communities in my roundup. They're not only cool places to live, they make for fun weekend getaways. Ride your bike. Go for a hike. Stroll around town. Take to the waters. Inhale the views. Enjoy summer's food, festivals and fun!

Arlington-Oso-Darrington in the Stillaguamish Valley
Arlington-Oso-Darrington in the Stillaguamish Valley Photo courtesy Brand Query

Arlington-Oso-Darrington in the Stillaguamish Valley

These three communities in the Stillaguamish Valley are at the top of my list following the devastating and deadly Highway 530 mudslide earlier this year. I'll be paying a visit sometime soon.

A summer advertising campaign, Visit Stilly Valley, features the area's outdoor recreation opportunities that include hiking, biking, river rafting, camping and climbing. Among the summer events are:

  • Arlington Fly-In | July 10-12
  • Darrington Bluegrass Festival | July 18-20
  • Summer Meltdown | August 7-10
  • Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe Celebration of Generations PowWow | August 22-24

Destination Darrington Washington

Chelan on Lake Chelan
Chelan on Lake Chelan Photo by Sue Frause

Chelan on Lake Chelan

Chelan is a town of around 4,000, located in the heart of the Cascades on the shores of Lake Chelan. And even when it's grey and drizzly on the west side of the mountains, Lake Chelan Valley boasts 300 days of sunshine per year.

Chelan has become a popular wine destination, and now has more than 20 wineries. And if you really want to do what the locals do, click here for a fun list. Summer events and festivals in Chelan include:

  • Evening Farmers Market | Thursdays | 4-7 PM
  • Lake Chelan Bach Fest | July 11-20
  • Lake Chelan Fine Arts Festival | August 15-17

Leavenworth in the Cascades
Leavenworth in the Cascades Photo by Sue Frause

Leavenworth in the Cascades

Outdoor activities in Leavenworth are year-round, and in summer they include both recreation and culture. The Leavenworth Outdoor Center is the place to go for river tubing and rafting, kayaking, standup paddle boarding and biking.

And what could be better than theater under the stars? Leavenworth Summer Theater celebrates its 20th year of bringing The Sound of Music to the Ski Hill Stage. Other productions include Fiddler on the Roof at The Hatchery Stage and The Drowsy Chaperone at Festhalle. Summer highlights also include:

  • Leavenworth Community Farmers Market | Thursdays | 4-8 PM
  • Village Art in the Park | Friday-Sunday | 9-6

Langley on Whidbey Island
Langley on Whidbey Island Photo by Sue Frause

Langley on Whidbey Island

Living in Langley is a good thing! But even if you don't live here, you can pretend you're a local and hang out in my favorite Whidbey Island town for a day or two.

Once in Langley, go for a stroll along Seawall Park (shown here), take to the waters of Saratoga Passage with Whidbey Island Kayaking, or hang out at the town's coffee shops, wine bars and restaurants. Many of them go al fresco in the summer. The newly opened Langley Whale Center celebrates the gray whales, orcas and other marine mammals that inhabit the Salish Sea. here are some summer happening in the Village by the Sea:

  • Langley's Second Street Market | Fridays | 4-7 PM
  • Choochokam, Langley Festival of the Arts | July 12-13
  • Island Shakespeare Festival | July 26-September 7
  • Whidbey Island Area Fair (aka Island County Fair) | July 31-August 5

Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula
Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula Photo by Sue Frause

Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula

You gotta love a town that has a website with this tag line: One of the coolest small towns in America. Well, it's true -- Port Townsend is cool.

And PT comes alive in the summer. This year, 30 businesses are staying open late ('til 7PM) on Friday and Saturday evenings through Labor Day.

Don't miss the Northwest Maritime Center and if you want to get on the water via kayak or SUP, go with PT Outdoors.

  • Port Townsend Farmers Market | Uptown PT | Wednesdays from 2-6 PM and Saturdays from 9-2
  • Jazz Port Townsend | July 20-27
  • Jefferson County Fair | August 8-10

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