What do to at the U.S. Open

by Roger Ward / Photo ©  Crystal Mountain

Chambers Bay, located in a suburb of Tacoma, Washington, and home of the USGA’s 2015 U.S. Open (June 18-21), is surrounded by some of the Northwest’s greatest attractions. If you’re attending the championship golf event, consider adding a few days onto your U.S. Open stay to experience the area’s best travel destinations. Here are five adventures to make your U.S. Open visit an epic one.

Scenic Drive to Mount Rainier

View old growth forests, rushing rivers, jagged peaks, glaciers and other high-mountain scenery on the drive to the mountain meadow called Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park, elevating you from sea level to more than 5,000 feet in just two hours. On a clear day, the massive 14,410-foot volcano dominates the view from any point in the region. In the park, the Jackson Visitors Center has information about hiking trails and guided ranger activities.

Along the drive, in the town of Elbe, the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad offers two-hour excursions with steam locomotives stopping to visit a museum containing the most comprehensive collection of rare steam logging locomotives and equipment in the world.
Tip: Stop at Copper Creek Inn near the Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier National Park for their famous blackberry pie.

Selfies with Wildlife

At Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, accessible self-guided tours on level and paved paths through the forest allow close-up views of animals not easily seen in the wild, such as bears, wolves and eagles. The popular tram tours explore open country with herds of bison, elk, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats where they freely roam.

Zip Wild, an extensive system of five levels of challenge courses, with each challenge separated by a zip line, tests physical agility, skills and sometimes courage, with differing minimum age levels for each course.

Extend your wildlife day with an intriguing side trip to Wolfhaven International, a special place for a magnificent predator. Primarily a wolf sanctuary, it conducts world-renowned breeding and reintroduction programs. Tours, led by knowledgeable staff, visit groups of rescued animals that cannot be released into the wild.

A Capital Day

At the State Capitol in Olympia, about 30 minutes from Tacoma, you’ll be awestruck by the white marble rotunda with the largest Tiffany chandelier in the world. Hour-long guided tours pack a wealth of information about the state’s history and the building’s architecture. Self-guided tour booklets are available highlighting the monuments and other features on the expansive park-like grounds.

If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll find an outlet for full-force creative energy at the Hands On Children’s Museum, with activities focused on ages birth through 10. Be prepared for loud, happy sounds of children learning through play.

The Olympia Farmers Market is one of the best in the Northwest, an ideal place to shop for handmade crafts and local flavors, relax to live bands and explore the waterfront of Budd Bay at the southernmost tip of Puget Sound.

Rainy-day Museums

If the rain falls (or not), check out one or more of the museums in the downtown Tacoma Museum District.

LeMay – America’s Car Museum is the hub for vintage cars. Constantly rotating exhibits offer a history lesson through the stories of these vehicles. If you’re an ardent car buff, you’ll want to spend much more time. Route 66, a newly revamped exhibit featuring that nostalgic road west, returns during early summer 2015.

The Washington State History Museum provides in-depth exhibits of historical artifacts, images, recreations and hands-on tools to discover stories of the sights, sounds, people and places of the state.

The Tacoma Art Museum features the fine arts of the Northwest plus the art of the American West. The newly acquired Haub Family Collection of Western Art, one of the finest and most comprehensive private collections, is showcased in a stunning new wing. The new Chihuly gallery offers a context for viewing its collection of Dale Chihuly glass art plus the hundreds of his works along the Bridge of Glass.

The Museum of Glass displays contemporary glass art from permanent and visiting collections, but the hot shop is the highlight of a visit. It provides an arena for top glass artists from around the world to perform their alchemy for visitors who sit close to the glass making, with live play-by-play narrations and huge screens streaming detailed views.

Exploring Point Defiance

Point Defiance Park, a barely tamed forested peninsula, is ideal for a day-long adventure in one of the largest urban parks in America. You’ll enjoy 15 miles of forest trails, old-growth trees reaching as high as 200 feet, and the paved Five-Mile Drive with a pedestrian and bike lane. In the more cultivated acres, botanical gardens explode in color and fragrance, beach play beckons at Owen Beach, and a historical trading post at Fort Nisqually Living History Museum showcases story-telling volunteers dressed as blacksmiths and lumberjacks in period costumes. Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is large enough to showcase a huge variety of animals, but compact enough to explore in one day.

Small Town Charm

The area’s small towns offer charms all their own while they host events surrounding the U.S. Open.

Gig Harbor Rent kayaks, power boats or paddle boats to view the most charming cove on Puget Sound or take the 2-hour Destiny Harbor Tour around the Narrows Bridges, Salmon Beach and Point Defiance. For more information: gigharborguide.com.

Puyallup June 19-21: Downtown Puyallup hosts Meeker days, a celebration of the town’s heritage with food, arts and crafts and entertainment vendors, a wine garden, three music stages and downtown public art. For more information: puyallupmainstreet.com/events/meeker-days.

Sumner June 13-14: Sumner will host “Open in Sumner,” including an outdoor golf movie, a nine-hole putting course through downtown and the festive finale of a downtown parade. Golfing meets rhubarb pie in historic and nostalgic main-street in the rhubarb capital of America. For more information: rhubarbpiecapital.com.

Craft Breweries and Distilleries

There’s plenty brewing in Tacoma and the surrounding towns. Here’s where to sample the best.

When You Go