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The Short Version: Just a short drive from Seattle is small-town charm nestled in a valley along the picturesque, peaceful, and definitely romantic Lake Chelan. Throughout the year, couples will find plenty of activities to enjoy on the water and among the mountains. Sip local wines, go shopping downtown, admire spring wildflowers, or take in some live music together in this whimsical getaway.
Imagine a beautiful, calm lake, a backdrop of mountains, fresh, crisp air, and some of the best vineyards in the nation. Talk about a magical combination. These are just some of the reasons Lake Chelan, Washington, is one of the most romantic destinations in the US.
This picturesque 50.5-mile-long lake is filled with crystal clear waters originating from about 100 glaciers on the nearby Cascade Mountains, and couples can reach the surrounding small towns of Chelan, Stehekin, and Manson with an easy drive from Seattle.
The rich history of the area dates back to the Tsillane Native Americans, a name later spelled Chelan, which means “deep water.” By the late 1800s, miners in search of precious metals discovered the region and about $66.5 million worth of gold, silver, and zinc. By the 1950s, the mines closed, and the real value of the area — its romantic vistas — began to shine.
Today, much of the land around Lake Chelan is preserved as the North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, and the Pasayten Wilderness. This, coupled with impressive wineries, quaint downtowns, and plenty of fun events, make for a perfect escape to focus on love.
Lake Chelan may have only been declared an official American Viticulture Area in 2009, but its youth doesn’t limit the quality of the wines and the breathtaking views that come from a day of tastings. More than 30 different vineyards, many clustered in three main areas to make for an easy day’s plan, can be found along the shores of Lake Chelan.
A great way to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine of the wineries is to rent bicycles and ride along the mountain roads. Lake Chelan has miles of off-road trails for fat-tire bicycling for more active couples, but sometimes it’s nice to take it easy. Chelan Electric Bikes offers rentals and tours to explore the region, and the company even has tandem bikes built for two.
If you visit in October, be sure to celebrate the harvest. The Lake Chelan Crush Festival takes place over two weekends when visitors and locals alike are welcome to roll up their pants and start stomping. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the process of wine production, meet the cellar masters, and grab seats together at the harvest parties to enjoy a glass of the finished product.
The towns of Manson and Chelan along Lake Chelan are known for boutique shopping and quaint vibes that will make you want to take a romantic stroll together. Chelan is one of the few cities to be designated a “Washington State Main Street,” so it’s guaranteed to be walkable and friendly. Couples can pop into any one of the unique, mom-and-pop stores to pick out a memento for their kitchen or a souvenir for a loved one.
In the spring and summer, savvy lovers can hunt down great deals while browsing through yard sales that happen throughout the Lake Chelan region. The local radio station, KOZI, has a talk program that dishes out information on where to find all the best sales, along with some local happenings.
Of course, all this shopping can make you hungry, so tuck into a table for two at one of the many downtown coffee shops, cheese stores, or sidewalk cafés. The Apple Cup Café in Chelan is famous for its Blue Star coffee, Blue Bunny ice cream, Hopes cookies, and freshly made mini cinnamon sugar donuts.
Another sweet spot is Frenchie’s Flutes & Fleurs, where you can sip champagne and share a cheese board (followed by Price’s gourmet chocolates, of course) at the sidewalk café overlooking the lake.
Throughout the year, numerous events take place along Lake Chelan. Starting in March, don your green for the Luck of the Irish at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Weekend Festival. There’s a 5K run, followed by an evening of live music. There’s even ale and whiskey tasting as well as traditional Irish fare.
If you both lean less toward the party and more toward spiritual quests, there’s an Unwind & Explore Retreat in April. It’s three days of programming by mind-body-spirit facilitators that is sure to relax.
In mid-May, it’s all about the wine and music at the Wine and Jazz Festival, which takes place over four days and at nine different venues. More than 15 bands will perform, so get your dancing shoes on for a weekend of fun. Conveniently for wine lovers, this festival takes place during the same time as the Spring Barrel Tasting. Best of all? It’s all for charity: Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the local Boys & Girls Club.
Another popular event is the annual Cruizin Chelan Classic Car Show in June. Stroll together along the main street and admire the privately owned and renovated classic cars on display. It’s the 12th anniversary of the event, which includes a barbecue competition that can get pretty spicy. Rather cool down? In the winter, a Polar Bear Splash is the culmination of the Lake Chelan Winterfest.
From quaint bed and breakfasts to secluded mountain cabins, you’ve got a ton of accomodation options in Lake Chelan Valley.
Some may enjoy staying right at the vineyard. The Siren Song Vineyard Estate and Winery has a variety of rooms as well as wine tastings, food pairings, live music, and cooking classes on site.
For those who want to look into vacation rentals for luxurious homes or private cabins, check out family-owned companies like Campbell’s Resort. If you’d like an especially romantic package, book a few nights at the Mountain View Lodge and Resort and include the Bubbly Love special. You’ll get a bottle of champagne and two glasses delivered to the room, along with a bath bomb and a single fragrant rose in a vase.
Lake Chelan Valley boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, so every month is a wonderful time to explore the region. In the winter, you can make memories at Lake Chelan WinterFest or enjoy 25 miles of Nordic cross-country skiing, 170 miles of snowmobile tracks, or tubing or downhill skiing at the Echo Valley Ski & Tubing Area.
In the spring, the temperate averages around 60 degrees — ideal for romantic hikes through the wilderness on well-marked trails lined with wildflowers. Golfing is also a popular activity, and farms start to harvest and sell at markets as summer arrives.
On the lake, there’s endless fun on the water, including sailing and fishing. By autumn, couples can cuddle in the crisp nights, sipping apple juice they made together at October’s Heritage Festival.
No matter when you celebrate your love together in Lake Chelan, you’ll make memories.