In the top northwest corner of mainland America, just below Canada, the Pacific North West is made up of the two states of Washington and Oregon and covers around 300,000 square kilometers. This is the only place in the world where you are never far from a volcano, a winery, a good coffee, or a 4 by 4 – not to mention tropical rain, desert sun, and the deep blue Pacific Ocean.
Its diverse and scenic landscapes provide a veritable playground for outdoor enthusiasts, while its cities are cultured and cutting edge with high standards of living. Must do adventurous activities when visiting this region are sand boarding, kite surfing, climbing Mount St. Helens, visiting a Native American Indian reservation, and joining the cowboys for the Pendleton Round-Up.
Travelling independently in Washington and Oregon isn’t easy. While public transport in the cities of Portland and Seattle is free and cycling is encouraged, independent travelers can have a hard time navigating their way outside the cities. Public transport is very poor and is getting worse rather than better. Hiring a car is recommended unless visitors have the time and determination to go it alone. Seattle is the best place to hire a car and you’ll be able to organize this at the airport with any one of a number of hire companies. As with elsewhere in America, you can catch the Greyhound Bus around these two states or catch the train that runs along the scenic Pacific.
Food and Drink
The Pacific North West offers a delicious range of seafood and seasonal produce: pears, cherries, hazelnuts, wild game, fresh vegetables, and some of the best berries to be found anywhere. Seattle, Washington was home to the first ever Starbucks café – which began life as a stall at the farmers’ market in Pike Place – and the region offers a fantastic range of brandy, microbrewed beer and fine wines produced by local vineyards across the states of Washington and Oregon.
Language and People
American English is the most widely spoken language, by both the Indians and the cowboys these days. With just 15 million people spread over both states, the population density of the region is very low, so it’s perfect for those wanting to avoid the crowds. People are in the main of American descent, with some Native American tribes and large ethnic and immigrant communities in the larger cities of Seattle and Portland.
Climate and When to Go
The region’s climate is very similar to that of North West Europe and Britain – generally cloudy and wet. The Pacific North West is famous, or rather infamous, for its changeable and often wet weather so come prepared as you can experience four seasons in one day. Given the hugely diverse landscape that makes the Pacific North West such an exciting place to visit, travelers can find themselves in hot, dry deserts, giant sand dunes, wild seas, snowcapped volcanoes, and lush, rain-sodden forests all in the space of a few days. While the Pacific coast is warm all year round, it gets cooler further inland. Summer and autumn are the most popular times of year to visit.
Visit in the late spring and summer for festivals such as Quiltfest in Seattle, the annual quilt making festival held in mid-August; Portland’s Rose Festival, a celebration of the city known as ‘The City of Roses’ held in June; Northwest Folklife Festival, the largest folk festival in the country held in late May; and the Seattle Film Festival in May and June.
All foreign visitors will need either a United States consulate visa or a machine readable passport, but in most places this can be done via a travel agent. Your passport must be valid for six months after your point of entry into the country.
The currency is $ US and living costs are much cheaper than the bigger state cities. Accommodation costs are seasonal and range from $20 – $50 for a cheap motel.
If you’re planning to go hill climbing, trekking or try outdoor sports bring appropriate outdoor kit for the snowy mountainous terrains. Light weight cottons are recommended for the arid desert dunes of Oregon. Outdoor clothes are easily bought in the area at cheaper prices than Europe.
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