Lake Chelan is one of the most popular places to visit in Washington when the weather gets warm, and the area even gets more tourism than any other county in the state. This area is a great place to go on a Seattle weekend trip to wine taste, go hiking, and soak up the sun at the lake. There are plenty of things to do in Lake Chelan, no matter your interests.
One of the more unique aspects of the lake is it’s long – 55 miles long to be exact. Truly exploring the entire lake will take you a while and can’t be done in just a day or two. That’s why I recommend spending at least three to four days at the minimum here on your Lake Chelan trip.
I come here about every one to two years on a Seattle road trip, and I’m planning yet another trip this summer. I always find things to do in Chelan that are new for me each time, and now I have kids to bring along and enjoy the area as well!
There are many activities in Lake Chelan to choose from, so this guide will show you some of the best along with basic information to know when planning a trip.
This post was first written in 2019 and last updated in February 2023.
Tips for Visiting Lake Chelan
Here are a few tips to help you plan where to stay and what to do in Chelan.
- Thanks to the gorgeous, sunny weather, many people say the best time to visit Lake Chelan is in the summer. However, that also means it’s the most popular season to visit, so you’ll need to book your hotel reservation months in advance.
- I also suggest booking any tours or boat rentals at least one month in advance if you’re set on that.
- If there’s somewhere specific you want to eat at during the summer, call a week in advance to make a reservation.
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Weather in Lake Chelan
Knowing what the weather in Chelan is like throughout the year will greatly affect when you go and what you do. I’ve been to the area in every season, and they all have their pros and cons.
Here’s a quick summary of the Lake Chelan weather:
- Summer in Chelan is by far the most popular, with temperatures ranging from 65°-85° F, making it ideal for all the water sports available.
- Fall in Chelan is perfect for wine tasting, as the crowds are fewer and it’s prime harvest season. Temperatures range from 50°-65° F depending on the month.
- Winter in Chelan shouldn’t be ruled out, as you’ll get to enjoy the snow as well as the seasonal activities the town puts on. Temperatures are around 25°-35°F.
- Spring in Chelan is a bit rainier, but temperatures start to rise to up to 65°F at the end of the season.
Where to Stay in Lake Chelan
There are a variety of Lake Chelan hotels to choose from, whether you want to stay on a budget or indulge in more luxurious accommodation. Prices will be more expensive during the summer, which is peak season, and taper off during the rest of the year.
- Deep Water Inn – If you’re looking for a cheaper place to stay, check out this hotel. It’s located downtown, so you’ll have access to plenty of restaurants and stores, and it is also pet-friendly. (rates start at $103; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Mountain View Lodge – This hotel is both pet and kid-friendly, which is ideal for many people during a summer vacation. You’ll enjoy an outdoor pool, hot tub, BBQ grill, and fire pit. (rates start at $109 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Campbell’s Resort – This is a popular Lake Chelan hotel that I personally love staying at. It’s right on the lake, and they have their own pool and beach, so you have multiple ways to get in the water. They have their own restaurant on-site and are across from Safeway and Starbucks. (rates start at $154 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
You also have plenty of options to stay at if you prefer a vacation rental.
- Downtown home – This pet-friendly two-bedroom home is by Riverwalk Park and conveniently located to explore the Chelan Valley. (rates start at $85 per night)
- The Villa at Siren Song Vineyard Estate and Winery – For one of the most unique experiences, you can rent your own villa that sits on a winery and sleeps six. (rates start at $300 per night)
- Lakefront home w/hot tub – This five-bedroom home is right on the lake and has a private dock, buoy, and waterfront patio. (rates start at $250 per night)
19 Best Things to Do in Lake Chelan
There are plenty of Lake Chelan activities to do, whether you love wine tasting or getting out on the lake.
1. Go Wine Tasting
There are over 35 wineries in the area, so it’s no surprise that wine tasting in Lake Chelan is one of the most popular activities. Many people consider this region on par with California’s Sonoma Valley wineries.
There are so many different ones I’ve been to over the years, but Tsillan Cellars & Sorrento’s Ristorante is one of the best wineries in Lake Chelan due to its beautiful Tuscany-inspired building. I try to come here for lunch or dinner on every trip because it’s in such a relaxing setting.
Another great Lake Chelan winery to stop at is Benson Vineyards Estate Winery. It has a stunning view of the lake from on top of a hill and is always one of my favorite things to do in Chelan, Washington.
After you’re done wine tasting in Chelan, you can sit outside to enjoy lunch and a bottle of wine to have a relaxing afternoon. One of the most popular things to do in Lake Chelan is wine tasting, so add at least a few of the wineries here to your list.
2. Take a Tour of the Lake
The Lady of the Lake boat was originally built in 1900 to transport passengers from the south side of the lake to the north. There are now multiple tours you can do to reach parts that are harder to reach, such as trails that are hike-in only. You can also reach remote campsites as a way to get away from it all, which is one of the more unique things to do in Chelan.
3. Head to a Waterpark
Slidewaters has been rated one of the top 15 waterparks in the United States year after year and is perfect when you’re looking for fun things to do in Chelan. There’s nothing like spending a day at this waterpark when it’s hot outside, and it is one of the top Lake Chelan activities for families.
The waterpark consists of plenty of waterslides, a lazy river, and an area for small children to play in. Slidewaters opens at 10 am every day and closes at 7 pm, so there’s plenty of time to visit the park. They’ll be open for the 2023 season starting on Memorial Day weekend and close after Labor Day weekend.
4. Learn About Chelan’s History
Located downtown, the Lake Chelan Museum explains the area’s history and how it came to be. While the lake was formed thousands of years ago, people didn’t settle here until the 1800s.
I always love learning about the history of an area when I travel, and this is ideal when looking for what to do at Lake Chelan during colder days. Visiting the Lake Chelan Historical Society is also ideal when looking for what to do in Chelan on a rainy day, as it is an excellent option until the sun comes out again.
5. See a Movie
While the weather is often warm and sunny in Chelan, there are still days when it’s rainy or cloudy. One of the best things to do in Chelan on days like that is to see a movie at the Ruby Theatre. Built in 1914, this is one of the oldest movie theaters in the state.
What I love about this theater is the prices are more affordable than most current ones, so you can still see a flick even if you’re on a budget. It’s also very kid-friendly if you’re looking for something to do with the family at night on your Pacific Northwest vacation.
6. Skydive into a Winery
This is one of the best Chelan activities for adventurous types. You’ll get picked up from a Lake Chelan winery and taken to Skydive Chelan, where you’ll get ready to go up on your plane.
Skydive Chelan is the only tandem winery skydive you can do in the country. After you’re back on land, you’ll get to enjoy a bottle of wine that is well deserved. This may be one of the most exciting things to do in the PNW if that’s what you’re into! You can read reviews of those who have gone if you’re curious about the experience.
7. Go Golfing
Golfing is popular for group trips when looking for what to do in Lake Chelan. One group can go wine tasting while the other group can go golfing. Lake Chelan Golf Course is only a few minutes from the central part of town and is a beautiful course.
You can golf a majority of the year, and prices range from around $30 to $50 per person depending on if it’s off-season or peak season (which is typically Memorial Day until the beginning of October). This is one of the more active things to do near Lake Chelan.
I recommend booking your tee time in advance at the Lake Chelan Municipal Golf Course during popular times of the year. You’ll also want to go early in the day during summer, as it can get hot mid-day. My husband tends to do this with his guy friends while us wives wine taste in Chelan.
8. Explore By Bike
Another way to be active on your trip is to bike around the area when you want Chelan things to do. They even have electric bikes to make it easier on you while covering more ground.
Several tours are available, including a Lake Chelan winery tour and a twilight tour to bike around the area as the day is winding down. Renting Chelan electric bikes is a great way to explore the area and get in some exercise during your vacation.
9. Spend the Night Camping
Camping is one of the more popular things to do in Lake Chelan during the summer. I love spending a good three or four days camping and then coming into town to enjoy some of the activities or grab groceries. This is a great dog-friendly vacation in Washington as well, just make sure to check the rules for your specific site.
A popular campsite in Lake Chelan is Twenty-Five Mile Creek State Park, about 30 minutes from town and halfway up the west side of the lake. I’ve actually been coming here almost every year for the past 10 years with my friend because we love how secluded the location is.
There’s a small store available to buy camping supplies like wood or ice and essentials like s’mores. You can also brush up on some camping for beginner tips before you head out.
Another good place to go camping in Lake Chelan is Lake Chelan State Park, which is closer to town and has more access to the lake when you want things to do at Lake Chelan. There are boat ramps at both campsites, so you can easily put your boat in at either site.
As with all campsites in Washington, this books up pretty fast, so I recommend booking your site months in advance.
10. Buy Local Produce
One of my favorite things to do in Lake Chelan and the surrounding areas is to stop at fruit stands. You’ll find the freshest fruit at great prices, and it tastes way better than what’s at the grocery store. I always stock up on cherries if they’re in season.
If you’re headed back to Seattle, make sure to stop here before going south to visit Leavenworth.
You can get everything from carrots to pears to apples. They usually sell other products too, which as homemade jam or candy. You’ll see these fruit stands on the side of the road as you’re driving into Chelan, but there are also two set stands near town.
Sunshine Farm Market (open daily) and Chelan Evening Farmers Market are both places you can stop at if you need your fix of fresh fruit while you’re in town. The latter is only open on Thursday evenings from 2 pm to 6 pm and goes from May to October in 2023.
11. Take a Helicopter Tour
While the drive around the lake is beautiful, you’ll have a completely different view of it when you take a helicopter tour. While this is one of the more expensive things to do in Lake Chelan, you won’t regret it when you see the landscape. You can read reviews here if you’re curious but hesitant about going on a helicopter for the first time.
You can do just a short helicopter tour or make a day of it and go to a few wineries while you’re at it. While this is more of a splurge to rent Lake Chelan helicopters, it’s perfect if you need a date idea.
12. Walk Along Chelan Riverwalk Park
If you feel like being too adventurous but still want to get out and move, check out Chelan Riverwalk Park. It’s a one-mile loop that goes along the water for an easy walk.
The water is calm here, so you’ll likely see many people kayaking or on a SUP. During the summer, you can catch live music at the Riverwalk Pavillion.
13. Try Your Hand at Fishing
If you enjoy fishing, you’ll love to hear that you can fish all year round on the lake and the rivers surrounding it. Just make sure to check with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to see what the limits are as well as license requirements.
Trout and salmon are common catches in the area, and you can often catch one around 10 pounds. You can either go out on your own or sign up with a fishing guide.
14. Visit Stehekin
Stehekin is all the way to the top of the lake, where only 80 people live. You can only get here by hiking, a float plane, or by boat. You can take your own boat or the Lady of the Lake tour to get here, but you should know it will be an all-day event.
This is one of the most unique things to do in Lake Chelan, as there’s only a small convenience store here. It’s fun to walk around and go hiking, but come prepared. The nearest grocery store is 50 miles south, and even the mail comes by boat.
15. Take a Hike
There are plenty of summer hikes as well as easy hikes in Lake Chelan to choose from. Stehekin is a very popular place to go hiking, as there are dozens of different trails to go on. It’s also the entrance to the North Cascade National Park, one of the most scenic national parks in Washington.
You don’t have to go all the way to the North Cascades to hike, however. There are plenty of hikes in Chelan that are much closer, such as Little Bear Trail. This is 2.3 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 250 feet, so it’s a hike that people of all levels can do.
It’s located in Lake Chelan State Park, so if you’re already camping there, it’s an easy Lake Chelan activity to do on your trip.
16. Hire a Boat for the Day
If you’re with a group of friends or your family, one of the top things to do in Lake Chelan that I recommend is hiring a boat for the day. You can either rent it and drive it around yourself or have someone who will take care of that for you. While boating is popular during summer in Seattle, it’s less crowded on the water in Chelan, so I recommend doing it here instead.
Renting a boat is a fun way to see different parts of the lake, and you can bring food, beer, and other items with you for the day. Intertubing is popular during the summer, which is easy when you have your own boat. I did this the last time I was in town and it was such a fun way to see the area.
If you really love the boat life, you can rent a boat to spend the night on as well!
17. Explore the Local Restaurants
There are plenty of restaurants in Lake Chelan to choose from, but here are some of my favorite ones.
- Lake Chelan Artisan Bakery – There always seems to be a line at this small bakery, and once you try the food, you’ll understand why. They have a variety of bagels, croissants, scones, and more that are baked fresh daily. They also have an espresso bar to get a mocha, latte, or whatever else you’re craving.
- Lakeview Drive-In – This establishment has been around since 1957 and is a place you’ll want to stop for lunch. They have affordable burgers, hot dogs, milkshakes, and more. You’ll have a great view of the lake while you sit outside enjoying your meal. It’s so famous that it’s almost an activity in itself, as it’s one of the more common things to do in Lake Chelan.
- Tin Lilly – If you’ve done a bit too much wine tasting and want something different, come here for a variety of other drinks. There’s everything from signature cocktails to local beer, and they have a cute patio in the back to sit at for a happy hour.
- Local Myth Pizza – Coming here for pizza is the perfect way to end a long day of activities in Lake Chelan. They have a variety of pizza, calzones, and salads in addition to local beer on tap. There’s a small area to sit outside if you want to enjoy the weather.
18. Visit a Brewery
I know that not everyone loves wine, so beer lovers, rejoice – there are multiple places to drink beer in the area.
Stormy Mountain Brewing is right in downtown Chelan so it’s easy to walk to for an afternoon drink or after dinner. I went here with a group of friends and we all were able to get a different beer, as they had a decent-sized selection. They also had the Mariners game on, which made for a fun, casual afternoon.
Lake Chelan Brewery is another option when you’re craving a pint, and I recommend getting the Manson Beach Blonde. They have happy hour every day from 4-6 pm, and you’ll find food like burgers and seafood on the menu if you’re hungry.
19. Play at Don Morse Memorial Park
Don Morse Memorial Park is the perfect beach to go to when you want sandy shores and easy access to the water. I recommend renting or buying an umbrella to stake your spot on the beach and spending half a day here enjoying the weather. It’s a fun thing to do in Chelan for kids, as they can build sandcastles, or adults can take a snooze in the shade.
You’ll love all the things to do in Lake Chelan no matter what season you visit, and you’ll have plenty of Lake Chelan activities to choose from.
9 thoughts on “19 Fun Things to Do in Lake Chelan This Year (2023)”
Thanks for the great info/article.
We are going to Chelan this summer and I wanted to know the name of the specific winery you have at the top of your article.
Chris and Chelsea
You’re very welcome! The photo is from Benson Vineyards Estate Winery – one of the most beautiful ones in Chelan in my opinion.
I would like to plan a 5 day vacation to Lake Chelan. There will be one elderly person (80) 3 people in their late thirties and 2 children under 16. (1 at 16 and 1 at 7). The only time we all can get together is mid September. We would like to rent a furnished two bedroom condo with 2 queen size beds and 2 bathrooms. Would like an area near a pool and restaurants. Also would like to rent a pontoon boat for fishing for about 3 days.. Are mopeds available for rent. I have an elderly park pass, Is it accepted even Lake Chelan is a State Park? Does any lodging allow military rates? Would it be cheaper to rent a RV? We live in Coeur d’Alene Idaho. Have been to Lake Chelan many years ago and loved it. What do you think the approximate Cousy include lodging for 5 days,
food , boat rental for 3 days, moped rental for 1 day? Is mid September a good time to visit Lake Chelan? Any additional information you can provide will be appreciated.
Hi Simon, I think a travel agent may be able to specifically answer your questions best about booking a place to stay, but I can confirm September is a beautiful time to visit. It will be less crowded but you’ll still have great weather. Enjoy!
I am responding to the posts on this site, bc my wife and I just returned from a week in late April 2022 on Lake Chelan. What a wonderful time we had! We stayed at Wapato Point Resorts in Manson, so you can add another lodging site to your list. Chelan and Manson lie in opposite sides of the Lake with wineries located in each town. We hiked the Echo Valley Ridge trails in the morning, which were 2-3 miles long and of varied skill levels with stunning views of the Cascade Mountains. Since most wineries around the lake open at 12pm, we would begin wine tasting at 12pm. The wineries lie in pods of 3-4 wineries that are close or within walking distance to each other. We found a local driver to drive us to a pod of wineries each day, who would drop us off at each pod and pick us up when we were finished with our tastings. So, we were safe getting to and from the wineries. Be advised that Uber and Lyft cars are very difficult to find in Chelan and Manson. Some of my favorite wineries not mentioned were Lake Chelan Winery, Succession, Hard Row to Hoe (with a funny story behind its name), Radiance, and Fielding Hills Winery. We ate dinner one night at Sorrento’s restaurant on the grounds of Tsillan Cellars with lovely views of the mountains. We also rode the Lady of the Lake ferry to Stehekin and really enjoyed its history and beautiful mountain views. We rode the tour bus up to Rainbow Falls to see the waterfall. So, if you’re looking for a mix of fun things to do – who doesn’t like drinking wine – and relaxation on a giant Lake with picturesque mountains in the background, make sure to check out Lake Chelan!
Hi John, thank you for leaving such a detailed review! I’m glad to hear you had a great time in Chelan.
One more thing, everybody!😁 The name of the driver who drove us between and home from the wineries around Lake Chelan is Dwayne who owns Kokopelli Shuttle. He has also a Facebook page to find him and his company. Awesome guy, and a wealth of local information since he lives in Manson.
Thank you for the pointers and things to do while in Chelan. I’ve thing I’m not clear about though, do you need a boating license to rent and drive the boat ourselves? Are there specific boating company’s you can recommend? This room be our first time visiting, so any additional info is greatly welcomed.
Hi Lynn, no you don’t need a boating license when renting it from a company (at least I didn’t the last time I did it). I believe you just sign a big liability waiver when you get there. There are several companies, but Lake Chelan Parasails/Boat Rentals has the best reviews from what I’ve heard from other people.