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Sapphire skies and long sunny days, the buzz of Jet Skis, the scent of sunblock, the sizzle of burgers at a roadside drive-in: This is what Chelan has meant to generations of Seattle families who have made visiting it an annual summer rite. Now home to a burgeoning wine industry, the little lakeside village is attracting big-city attention and weekend wine sippers. Even so, Chelan’s casual, friendly air remains, and flip-flops are definitely still welcome.
Travel Time From Seattle: About three hours by car
Grapevines, everywhere you look! In the past decade, acreage once devoted to apple trees has been replanted in vineyards. The wine industry is still young, which means oenophiles can sample smoky Pinot Noirs from small-batch garage bottlers like the affable Jim Berg at Chelangr’La. Or they can taste big-boned beauties at more established wineries like Hard Row to Hoe (formerly Balsamroot), where owner Judy Phelps’ cheese plate is a delicious excuse to stop and sip a fleshy Merlot in the winery’s small picnic area. Other must-visit wineries: Nefarious CELLARS and Tsillan cellars (for white wines) and Benson Vineyards (for Sangiovese). Most shops and resorts in town can provide winery maps, or you can download one at lakechelanwinevalley.com.
What To Do:
Families slather on the SPF and head to Slidewaters water park, following up with a trip to the always packed Local Myth Pizza and a superaffordable game of bowling at Chelan Lanes. Couples find candlelight at Andante, or opt for handholding and ham-and-Gruyère crêpes at Bear Foods Creperie. Pick up some small-batch coffee or a local microbrew at the organic Bear Market next door, or stop into the Culinary Apple kitchenwares store for a chunk of Dave Weldy’s homemade fudge. Shop for local art and vintage décor at the Black Dog Frame Shop. Tip: It's worth the 20-minute drive to Manson for pork tacos from the TACO TRUCK in the Red Apple Market parking lot. At $1.25 each, they’re a delicious steal.
Where To Stay:
In Chelan, the 108-year-old Campbell’s Resort ($240–$375 per night) offers comfortable lakeside lodging within walking distance of cafés, shops, restaurants, a state park and the bowling alley. Wapato Point condo rentals in Manson ($210–$360 per night) provide full kitchens and more room to spread out. Both resorts boast outdoor pools, boat moorage, seasonal restaurants and sandy beaches.
Almost Roughing It
Stehekin Valley Ranch
It may be the ultimate getaway: no phones, no TV, no email. Some cabins don’t have electricity. You can’t even drive here. That’s what makes Stehekin Valley Ranch a perfect place to unwind. Nine miles from the ferry landing at the north end of Lake Chelan, the ranch works for a romantic twosome or for hyperactive families, as long as you’re looking for soft adventure. During the day, ride horses to Coon Lake, bike into North Cascades National Park, raft the Stehekin River, fly-fish on wilderness streams, or kayak on Lake Chelan. At night, snuggle in rustic cabins with the usual amenities, or really connect with the great outdoors in optional tent cabins that feature kerosene lamps and shared washrooms. This resort covers all your meals. But BYOB: The ranch doesn’t have a liquor license. The owners run the local shuttle bus, so you get free transportation upon arriving in the valley. It’s a plunge into the wilderness without the rough edges.
Prices: Tent cabins $95, cabins with baths start at $115 per person per day (800.536.0745 stehekinvalleyranch.com). Book early, summer dates fill quickly.