For so many travelers, 2021 is the year of the road trip. And few regions are more exciting to explore by road than the Pacific Northwest. Still, we’re talking an area that’s bigger than some countries (France could easily fit within its boundaries), so you’ll need a home base that makes sense — one that’s convenient, beautiful, and offers plenty to do. That’s where Seattle Southside comes in.

Ideally positioned in the Evergreen State, Seattle Southside is minutes from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, a short drive or light-rail from downtown Seattle, 2.5 hours from Portland, and — perhaps most importantly — it’s full of green spaces, wildlife hangouts, sandy beaches, fantastic restaurants, and reasonably priced hotels. For all those reasons and more below, you’ve got yourself the makings of an incredible Pacific Northwest getaway.

You’ll spend less. You’ll do more.

Des Moines Beach Park. Photo: George Cole Photo/Shutterstock

Parking overnight in downtown Seattle can feel like paying for a car-sized hotel room. Skip doling out the $50 bills and take the light rail to your digs in Seattle Southside.

With a less-expensive yet equally stylish and relaxing hotel booked and free parking, that fatter wallet will get you more of what you actually want in a vacation. Of course, there are plenty of totally free attractions in the area that will keep the savings coming, like the MaST Center aquarium (over 250 different Puget Sound marine species!) and the lush Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden. Bring your camera, because you’ll also find some of Seattle’s prettiest beaches and sunset spots here, too. All at no charge.

You’ll taste the diversity of the Pacific Northwest.

On your next Pacific Northwest road trip, base yourself in Seattle Southside

Spice Bridge International Food Hall. Photo: Denise Miller for Global to Local/Spice Bridge

This region is known for its rugged mountains, vast forests, and tranquil expanses of water, so it’s fitting that the restaurants in Seattle Southside are as varied as the landscape. Spots like Anthony’s HomePort in Des Moines serve up the PNW’s freshest seafood with glorious views of Puget Sound, while Copperleaf Restaurant prepares incredible farm-to-table meals surrounded by green velvet boxwood trees and koi ponds. No concrete jungle here.

Perhaps the area’s best-kept secret, though, is the Spice Bridge International Food Hall, where entrepreneurial women of color and immigrants share their incredible culinary talents and culture with dishes that highlight their home cuisines from around the globe. It’s the closest you’ll get to seeing the world without a passport.

You’ll feel close to nature.

View of Mt. Rainier from Puget Sound. Photo: Oksana.Perkins/Shutterstock

Redondo Beach — somehow located just minutes from I-5 — is one of the best urban-meets-nature spots in the Pacific Northwest, bar none. Definitely scope out the sand and the fishing pier while you’re here, but know the real star is the mile-long boardwalk. It’s the perfect place for strolling, people-watching, or spotting seals and whales. You’ll see plenty of bald eagles, too, but frankly the national bird is such a common sight here locals don’t even bother to point them out.

The area is also full of trails; many, like the Interurban Trail, are paved for strollers and bikes. And don’t overlook the parks — the crown jewel is Des Moines Beach Park with its unobstructed views of Puget Sound, miles of awesome hiking trails, campsites, and picnic areas. Best of all, it’s rarely overcrowded or difficult to find parking, even in the height of summer.

You’ll find outsized, unexpected art and culture.

On your next Pacific Northwest road trip, base yourself in Seattle Southside

Museum of Flight. Photo: Seattle Southside

Seattle Southside is the kind of place that could turn an abandoned industrial gravel pit into a world-class art installation. And they did — it’s hard not to marvel at the Robert Morris Earthwork, a 3.7-acre, Peruvian-inspired art piece sculpted from terraced earth, similar to the Muyu-uray amphitheaters some 5,000 miles to the southeast. Bonus: The earthwork is one of the stops on the Seattle Southside Scenes Trail, a scavenger-hunt-esque quest that offers a prize to those who visit them all!

For a different kind of out-of-this-world, spend an afternoon at the massive Museum of Flight, one of the largest air and space collections in the US. And once you’re back in festival mode, bookmark one of Seattle Southside’s annual events, like the Poverty Bay Wine Festival in March and Poverty Bay Blues and Brews in August, where revelers descend upon the sparkling shores of Puget Sound for fun, local music, wine, and beer.

You’ll entertain the whole family.

On your next Pacific Northwest road trip, base yourself in Seattle Southside

Seattle Chocolate. Photo: Seattle Southside

Sometimes all you need for a day of family fun is a museum — other times, you need lasers. And simulated roller coasters. And bumper boats. And a 60mph “Screamin’ Swing.” The Family Fun Center and Bullwinkle’s Restaurant can turn any quiet day into a smorgasbord of thrills.

Just make sure you have enough energy to skydive after — inside, that is, at iFLY Seattle. It’s safe for anyone from ages 3 to 103, and all you have to do is lean into the wind. The vertical wind tunnel keeps you floating in mid-air, simulating skydiving without the 18,000-foot drop.

Tip: After catching some adrenaline, drive down the street to Seattle Chocolate for a different kind of (sugar) rush. The tour is great; the samples are even better.

You’ll want an extra suitcase.

On your next Pacific Northwest road trip, base yourself in Seattle Southside

Westfield Southcenter. Photo courtesy of Westfield

Seattle Southside takes the saying “shop till you drop” to a whole new level. It’s home to Washington’s largest shopping mall, Westfield Southcenter, and there are hundreds more boutiques, shops, cafes, and restaurants in the surrounding area. You can pick up souvenirs for everyone on your list at the Disney Store, The LEGO Store, or designer darlings like Coach and Michael Kors.

Or, how about this — say nothing and keep all the Seattle Southside secrets for yourself.