Located in the North Cascades, the town of Winthrop has a western theme to it, making it seem like you’ve stepped back in time. You’ll love feeling like you’re in the wild west, from the look of the buildings to a saloon with a swinging door. Spending a weekend in Winthrop is the perfect Seattle weekend getaway.
There are plenty of things to do in Winthrop no matter what time of year you go. It’s a cross-country skier’s paradise during the winter with miles and miles of trails to explore, and the summer is the perfect time to go hiking or floating on the lake. I’ve been during both seasons and enjoy both equally.
This guide will show you how to get to Winthrop, plan your Winthrop weekend itinerary, and know what to do in Winthrop, Washington for your vacation.
Tips for Planning a Winthrop, Washington Trip
How to Get to Winthrop
If you’re driving from Seattle to Winthrop in the summer, you can take either I-90 E or I-5 N to get to Winthrop. Without traffic, I-5 tends to be faster, so you’ll head north until you get to exit 232 by Sedro-Wooley.
From there, it’s a straight shot for about 2 and 1/2 hours on SR-20 E until you get to Winthrop. If you’re leaving on a Friday afternoon, allow extra time to get there to accommodate for traffic.
When I do road trips, I like to break them up with stops to make them more manageable. I found that having dinner at Birdsview Brewing Company was a great idea, as it’s about halfway to Winthrop from Seattle.
They have an outdoor beer garden to stretch your legs, and kids are allowed in the restaurant part. I had a pint of their Ditsy Blonde and a veggie burger for dinner, which powered me through for the rest of the drive.
If you leave early enough in the day, make sure you bring your camera for the many places to pull off along SR-20. I’d never been to the North Cascades before and was obsessed with views like this around every corner. There are so many beautiful lakes and trails to explore here that I recommend leaving time for a North Cascades National Park day trip sometime during your vacation. You’ll also want to check out some of the best hikes in North Cascades National Park.
However, if you’re visiting Winthrop in winter, you’ll want to note that Highway 20 is closed from about November until May. That means you’ll need to go around and take highway 2 or I-90 and go north by way of Lake Chelan. This will take longer, but you’ll be able to stop in bigger towns along the way if you want to break up your drive.
Where to Stay in Winthrop
There are a variety of hotels and vacation rentals to stay at during your weekend in Winthrop. Here are a few I recommend:
- Hotel Rio Vista – I stayed here when I visited Winthrop in the summer. It was affordable and right on the river, which was the main seller for me. It’s only a few minute’s walk from the central part of town, which ended up being really convenient. (rates start at $99 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com).
- AbbyCreek Inn – I stayed here with my baby on our first family vacation, but it’d be great for kids of any age. They have DVDs to rent and a pool to enjoy in the summer. (rates start at $66 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Zero Energy View Home – This beautiful new home has four bedrooms, is solar-powered, and is a close walk from downtown Winthrop. (rates start at $250 per night)
- Fawn Creek Cabin – This affordable cabin can sleep up to six people, has multiple large decks, and a wood-burning stove to enjoy on the colder days. (rates start at $158 per night)
- This comfortable studio unit is located in the main lodge. Comes with WiFi, an ensuite bathroom and a private balcony. Great for 2-3 guests. (rates start at $203 per night)
- This modern condo with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms is ideal for families or larger groups. Conveniently situated at the riverside, this home comes with a fully equipped kitchen and private deck. (rates start at $196 per night)
Fun Things to Do in Winthrop
Here are some ideas for when you’re looking for what to do in Winthrop.
Enjoy Breakfast Outside
In the morning, head to Duck Brand for breakfast. It’s a Mexican restaurant but serves a delicious brunch as well. I went with the blueberry pancakes and a mimosa. I loved being able to sit outside to enjoy the weather while I ate.
They also serve lunch and breakfast, so there’s no bad time to visit when looking for things to do in Winthrop. You could also just stop by in the afternoon for chips and salsa and a margarita.
Go Shopping at the Local Stores
The main street may be small, but there are plenty of stores to stop at in downtown Winthrop. They have several outdoor clothing and gear stores, boutique shops, and a bookstore.
I ended up buying jewelry from a local artist at French Quail and was tempted to buy paintings from local artists as well. There is a general store in case you need basic food, alcohol, or any supplies you may have forgotten that you need for your Winthrop activities.
Do Cider Tastings at Methow Valley Ciderhouse
For lunch, head over to Methow Valley Ciderhouse. It’s about a 10-minute walk from town, but worth it. They have a variety of locally-made ciders to try while you sit on their deck and enjoy the sun. I recommend getting a sampler so you can try them all.
They have a full menu, but their sausages seemed to be the most popular. They have dozens of different condiments to top it with, including sauerkraut in a crockpot.
Float in Lake Pearrygin
While a river runs through the town, I felt like getting in the water since it was in the 90s when I was there. Lake Pearrygin State Park is only a 15-minute drive away and one of the most active things to do near Winthrop, so bring your swimsuit and floaties if you visit Winthrop in summer.
People were also on their boats and jet skis, and many people at the park were BBQing on the grills that were provided. It’s a wide-open area where you can spread out and enjoy the day when looking for things to do in Winthrop, WA.
Cool Off With Ice Cream
After being in the sun, you’ll likely want to cool down. Head back into town to Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe. This is the place to get homemade fudge, taffy, and every kind of candy you can think of. Believe me – when I asked multiple locals about the best things to do in Winthrop, they all recommended stopping here.
What you’ll smell when you walk by are the freshly-made waffle cones to go with the dozens of different ice cream available. I dare you to walk by without grabbing a scoop during your Winthrop vacation.
Play a Round of Mini Golf
After you eat your ice cream, stop at the espresso stand to rent clubs and balls for mini-golf. They had a western theme to the holes, including shooting the ball through horseshoes.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the last few holes were pretty challenging. This is one of the best Winthrop activities no matter what age you are when you want to enjoy summer in Winthrop.
Watch Live Music at Old Schoolhouse Brewery
By now I’m sure you’ve worked up an appetite, so head over to Old Schoolhouse Brewery to reward yourself for an active day. The building looks small from the front, but extends pretty far back and even has an outdoor patio right on the river.
There was live music when I was there, which was an enjoyable way to eat dinner. Order the Rude Awakening IPA with fish and chips, and you’ll be set. They’re a very family-friendly place in Winthrop.
Visit Washington’s Oldest Legal Saloon
There’s some debate about this, but the rumor is Three Fingered Jack’s is the oldest legal saloon in Washington State. If you’re looking for one more drink after dinner, this is the place to go. They have swinging saloon doors when you walk into the bar, pool, and billiards.
While half of it is a 21 and over bar, the other half is a family-friendly restaurant. They have a good selection of pizza and burgers to choose from during your Winthrop weekend.
Walk Along the River
Before you settle in for the night, take a walk along the Methow River. You’ll get beautiful views of the mountain range and the sun as it goes down over the river.
There’s a pedestrian bridge you can cross, which will take you to an ice skating rink that’s used in the winter in Winthrop. This walk is one of the more relaxing things to do in Winthrop, Washington
People Watch at a Cafe
When you wake up the next morning, head over to the Rocking Horse Bakery. They have a wide selection of quiche, muffins, scones, and other tasty foods. You can grab a cup of coffee and sit outside to watch the town start to wake up.
I recommend sharing the cinnamon pull-apart and one of their breakfast sandwiches. They open at 7 am, so the sooner you get there, the warmer the pastries will still be (my favorite!).
Visit the Shafer Museum
Before you leave, check out the Shafer Museum, which is free to walk around. This outdoor exhibit shows buildings from the late 1800s when the town was just getting started. It was fascinating to see the machinery used back then and even a bike from that time.
I always appreciate a city more when I know the history behind it, so I recommend doing this as one of your first Winthrop activities.
How to Spend a Weekend in Winthrop
Here’s a sample Winthrop itinerary for your time there.
Day 1 – Check In and Try the Local Food
If you’re spending a weekend in Methow Valley, I recommend leaving sometime in the late morning so you have plenty of time to make it there. The drive to Methow Valley takes about 4 to 5 hours depending on traffic and which way you take.
If you take Highway 2, stop in Leavenworth to get lunch. There are a variety of restaurants to choose from, but I personally love Blewett Brewing. You can try a sampler of their beers and get a thin crust pizza for lunch. If you have time, you can walk around the shops and explore the Bavarian-themed village afterward.
Once you’re settled in, head over to the Methow Valley Ciderhouse. They’re both kid and dog-friendly so you can bring the whole family. During the summer in Winthrop, sit outside on the deck and enjoy the weather.
They have a variety of local ciders to choose from, ranging from dry to sweet. There are also vegetarian and gluten-free options on their dinner menu. If you get a hot dog, they have a large condiment bar to choose from.
Day 2 – Explore the Outdoors
When you wake up, head into town to get coffee and a bagel at Kind Grinds. This is a cute local shop and a fun place to people-watch as everyone starts their day.
In the summer, explore the shops as they start to open or play a round of mini-golf. There are also many Washing summer hikes in the area, or you can head to the east part of North Cascades National Park to find one.
During winter in Winthrop, go to Cascades Outdoor Store to rent equipment to explore the outdoors. I wanted to buy everything in this store but luckily restrained myself. Methow Valley cross-country skiing is very popular during the winter months, which is what I was there for. You can also check out my article on winter hiking clothes and gear to help you plan in advance.
You can rent your skis, boots, and even buy clothing there if you forgot it. You’ll need a trail pass to go cross-country skiing, which you can purchase from the front and costs $24. The staff is extremely helpful, so make sure to ask them any questions you have before heading out.
When cross-country skiing with a child who is too young to do it on your own, you can head down the street to Methow Cycle to rent a pulk. This is similar to the extension on bikes you’ve seen people use on trails with kids.
In the evening, head over to Old Schoolhouse Brewery. Sometimes it’s a challenge to find kid-friendly breweries, but you’ll see plenty of families here.
They have a huge deck in the summer that they play music on by the river. Having a beer and burger was a great way to end a day of outdoor activity. If you want more, check out the cinema in town for older kids that want to see a movie.
Day 3 – Visit Nearby Towns
On Sunday, you can easily explore Methow Valley more by going on new trails. Another option if you want to try a different activity is ice skating at the rink in Winthrop.
When you’re done, check out of your hotel and head to Twisp for brunch. I stopped at Cinnamon Twisp, which is a delicious bakery full of fresh baked goods.
If you’re looking for a unique place to visit, Winthrop won’t disappoint you. Getting there is half the fun, so I’d recommend spending at least a weekend in Winthrop. You’ll feel like you stepped into the wild, wild west!