Weekend Getaways

Western Gateway: Explore Outside These 5 City Centers

A trip to the great cities of the Western U.S. doesn’t need to focus solely on the town at large. When visiting Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, Portland or Billings, don’t forget to head outside the city limits to explore the great outdoors, shopping, dining and other attractions:

Seattle

After exploring Seattle, venture outside the Emerald City to check out Redmond, which is known for its outdoor pursuits. Marymoor Park offers everything from rock climbing along the Sammamish River Trail and biking in the Velodrome to an taking the dog to an off-leash area and taking in a summer concert series.

With the Pacific Northwest wines gaining in popularity, Washington state is now home to over 750 wineries. Most are located in the state’s Southeastern region, which is about four hours outside Seattle. But you can also sip your way through more than 100 wineries just 30 minutes outside of Seattle in the small town of Woodinville.

At Lake Sammammish State Park, you will find two lakefront beaches, complete with water equipment for rent, and many trails to explore. With 510 acres, there’s not much you can’t do at this park.

Denver

Step outside the Mile-High City and into the cozy town of Lone Tree, home to one of Denver’s largest amphitheaters, Fiddler’s Green, and the Park Meadows Mall. The latter, featuring mountain lodge-style architecture and artwork by Colorado artists, boasts more than 185 stores and restaurants.

west weekend getaways
Head to Fiddler’s Green for a show. (Photo: Getty Images)

Situated halfway between Denver and Boulder, the town of Broomfield offers some of the best views of—and access to—the Rocky Mountains. This place has everything from shopping and dining at Flatiron Crossing to entertainment and sporting events at the 7,000-seat 1stBank Center arena, to the Butterfly Pavilion in nearby Westminster, with some 1,200 free-flying tropical butterflies.

Billings

When in Billings, consider making the two-hour drive to Bozeman, which serves as a gateway to Yellowstone National Park and also offers its own attractions.

Bozeman is the site of Montana State University, the state’s largest university, and the historic Ellen Theatre, which presents a range of musical and other performances.

You can also enjoy plenty of Montana’s famously big sky at Palisade Falls, an easy-to-access one-mile trail, and Bridger Bowl Ski Area, a popular area known for its affordable skiing, great terrain and fresh powder.

Phoenix

When in Phoenix, make time to explore Chandler and Tucson, too.

In Chandler, you will find the Fashion Center, a mall with over 180 shops and restaurants, a Harkins Theatre with 20 movie screens and an outdoor lawn with splash pad. The Koli Equestrian Center offers novice and advanced horseback riders (ages six and up) the chance to hit the trails and take in the beautiful Arizona scenery. Meanwhile, golfers will want to hit the links at Chandler’s seven courses.

west weekend getaways
Experience the thrill of history in Old Tucson. (Photo: Courtesy of Old Tucson)

For a taste of desert history and the Old West, head south to Tucson, Arizona’s second biggest city. One of Tucson’s top attractions is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, whose 98 acres include consist a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum and aquarium.

You can also visit the University of Arizona and attend a football or basketball game and cheer on the Wildcats, or explore Old Tucson, through saloon musicals, mock gunfights and living history presentations.

Portland

For a different perspective on Portland, head to the Hillsboro-Beaverton area, which offers a range of attractions for a great day trip. .

In the summer months, Hillsboro Tuesday Night is a weekly outdoor market place and street fair with live music and entertainment, food, beer, wine and handmade crafts.

Each October, the 100-acre-plus Roloff Farms, featured in the TLC reality series, Little People, Big World, offers plenty of family-oriented activities at its seasonal Pumpkin Patch.

Any time of the year, you can explore Tualatin Hills Nature Park, a 200-acre park with forests and streams that are the habitats for a range of wildlife.

In Gresham, you can visit the Hood Community College Planetarium and see one of their fascinating shows for just $5. Learn about the current night sky with MHCC’s advanced planetarium during the 45-minute live show. Or see how much spookiness you can handle during a stop at the House of Shadows, one of the state’s most popular haunted house attractions.