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Why Spending Summer in the Pacific Northwest Is the Next Best Thing to Traveling Abroad

Student Work Insider Guides
by Nicolle Merrill Aug 28, 2014
We have festivals for everyone.

The Oregon Country Fair will both confirm and challenge your idea of hippie festivals. Imagine a community vaudeville act set amongst hundreds of treehouses in the forest and served with gourmet food. When you catch the March Fourth Marching Band, with their acrobatic stilt dancers, you’ll understand the quirky revelry of the Pacific Northwest.

Pickathon, set just outside of Portland, is the eclectic, independent music festival in the woods that will make you wonder why you ever attended music festivals bigger than 3,500 people. And then there’s the Seattle Street Food Festival, with over 100 carts to sample. Summer here will leave your dance-happy self well-fed and damn impressed.

We’re all about local and seasonal.

So many travel stories revolve around meals sourced from a weathered-faced farmer in a magical land (usually Italy), with meals kissed by the Tuscan sun. It’s basically like that here, minus the Tuscan sun.

Expect restaurants to always have a flavorful seasonal option, with meat and vegetables locally sourced. The absurd Portlandia episode where they grill their server about the origin of the meal’s meat is not far from reality.

It’s paradise for cyclists.

By mid-summer I have thighs of steel from my bike habit. Seattle and Portland have made urban biking a priority by installing hundreds of miles of bike lanes, bikeways, and plenty of bike parking. In Portland, it isn’t uncommon to see a double-decker bike jousting or witness people moving apartments on custom-rigged bike trailers.

Nothing demonstrates the love of bikes more than the month of June when Pedalpalooza events overtake the city. The events range from the unexpected, like bike Zumba and unicycle polo, to the adventurous, like midnight mystery rides that promise a surprise route and booze, to the very naked, like the legendary World’s Largest Naked Bike Ride.

We have awesome farmers’ markets (giving away the best samples).

Sampling is a verb and hobby I take seriously, and it doesn’t come any better than at the numerous daily farmers’ markets in the Pacific Northwest. Offers of fresh cheese, homemade Greek yogurt, butter-toffee pieces, Rainier cherries and other stone fruit, and mini-donuts fried to order make nostalgic memories of European markets a distant thought.

Paired with a free sample of locally roasted coffee, a trip to the market on the weekend is like a mini-breakfast before your actual breakfast.

There’s plenty of water to cool off in.

Yesterday afternoon I lounged on a nude beach with naked, bronzed men that would rival Italian beach-goers. Rivers, lakes, creeks, and stories of the “best swimming hole ever!” are the backdrop to my urban summer living.

Last week I pursued a rumor of natural water slides, a set of river rocks covered in moss with a gentle current to push you down the river. After an hour’s drive and a short hike alongside old-growth forests, I found them.

When a friend invites me over for drinks on her houseboat, I know I’ll be jumping off the boat before our second beer is finished. My summer swimming options don’t include chlorine.

There are endless outdoor dining options.

My favorite Thailand travel moments were meals eaten on small plastic stools on the roadside. Portland eschews stools in favor of picnic benches, but the same al fresco dining experience defines the summer months.

The range of international fare keeps my Stateside self satiated too. A new Russian food cart just opened featuring $1 desert blinis, but it’ll have to compete with all the others selling crepes, Belgian fries, empanadas, and fresh Thai spring rolls.

We have stunning and insanely diverse natural beauty.

The Pacific Northwest is home to active volcanoes, a temperate rainforest, islands, high desert, and natural hot springs. Among it all are so many outdoor adventure opportunities — kayaking, camping, hiking, summer skiing, mountain biking, surfing, rock climbing — that planning a summer event with all my friends in attendance is impossible. Someone will always be missing because nature’s abundance is impossible to resist here. I can drive three hours east and stargaze in the high desert, or go 1.5 hours west to hike sand dunes and spruce forests by day and camp on the beach by night.

And when I’m really feeling the urge to dust off my passport, Canada is just a few hours north.

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