A vacation from the holidays shouldn’t break the budget. There are several wonderful places to escape in the Puget Sound area to relax, explore and play. The Cascade Mountains offer winter snow and adventure. Mount Rainier National Park is both close to Seattle and open in the winter. The north sound area is home to wintering migratory birds, art galleries and scenic adventures. To the southeast, Gig Harbor on the Key Peninsula is the gateway to Olympic National Park. So pack up the car, drive and enjoy escaping the holiday stresses.

Birch Bay is a great place to relax with beautiful views of the water (Credit, Karen Ulvestad)

Driftwood Inn Motel 7399 Birch Bay Drive Blaine, WA 98230 (360) 371-2620 www.driftwoodinnmotel.com The Driftwood Inn Motel is about two hours north of Seattle near the Canadian border. This area is rich in beautiful scenery, friendly people and wintering migratory birds. The motel sits across the street from Birch Bay, and the views are beautiful. In the winter, there are fewer visitors, and the area is a great place to find solitude. It is also close to other birding hot spots like Semiahmoo Bay. The nearest city is either Blaine at the border or Bellingham which is home to Western Washington University. Rooms start at $60 per night.

December in the Skagit Valley (Credit, Karen Ulvestad)

Grace Haven Milepost 103.3 Highway 20 Rockport, WA 98283 (360) 873-4106 www.gracehavenllc.com Grace Haven sits in the Skagit Valley, about two hours northeast of Seattle. Winter is a wonderful time to visit, especially in December and January. The winter salmon runs in the Skagit River draws hundreds of Bald Eagles into the area for winter food. The largest number in the valley occur between Concrete and Newhalem, easily traversed by Highway 20. The Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center is located in Rockport, a great place for Bald Eagle information, and free. The mountains are usually snow covered and the scenery is beautiful. In January, the town of Concrete sponsors the Concrete Eagle Festival. Each weekend is packed with lectures, float trips and other activities. Rooms start at $85 per night.

Gateway Inn At Mount Rainier 38820 Washington 706 Ashford, WA 98304 (360) 569-2506 www.gatewayinnonline.com The Gateway Inn at Mount Rainier is located 50 feet outside the National Park boundary at the Nisqually Entrance, about two hours southeast of Seattle. It is a small inn with modern hotel rooms and several rustic cabins. Mount Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington state standing at 14,410 feet. It receives over 630 inches of snow fall per year on average. The area is a winter wonderland, though the mountain may not be seen often during the winter. Winter activities include skiing, snow-shoeing, Paradise snow-play and camping. The road to Paradise from Ashford stays open year-round. Rooms start at $99 per night. Related:  Best Day Trips For Under $100 In The Seattle Area

Deception Pass at the north end of Whidbey Island (Credit, Karen Ulvestad)

Campbell Lake Lodging 6676 State Route 20 Anacortes, WA 98221 (360) 293-5314 www.lakecampbelllodging.com Campbell Lake Lodging is about 1.5 hours northwest of Seattle and located on Fidelgo Island. The motel sits across Highway 20 from Campbell Lake and has views of the lake. Mount Erie is a short distance to the northwest, Deception Pass State Park is south and the San Juan Islands Ferry is northwest. The area is filled with nature’s beauty, wintering migratory birds and quaint little towns. Deception Pass is a great location to hike trails or enjoy the beach. Washington Park is just outside of Anacortes and it is a great place to watch the sunset over the San Juan Islands. Rooms start at $64 per night.

Westwynd Motel 6703 144th St. N.W. Gig Harbor, WA 98332 (253) 857-4047 www.westwyndmotel.com The Westwynd Motel is located in Gig Harbor, about 1.5 hours southwest of Seattle via Bremerton ferry or I-5 and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Gig Harbor sits on the shores of south Puget Sound on Key Peninsula. The area is considered the gateway to Olympic National Park. The park is home to hundreds of hiking trails through pristine forests. The town of Gig Harbor holds several holiday celebrations in December and other festivals throughout the year. The community supports the arts and several galleries are found in town. The local area holds other attractions to visit, such as the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Tacoma Little Theater and the USS Turner Joy Museum Ship. Rooms start at $62 per night. Related: Best Holiday Escapes Near Seattle

Karen Ulvestad is a mother and professional writer/photographer, who lives in the greater Seattle area. She graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in English Composition. Her background is in fitness, travel, photography and writing. She continually researches locations to visit, and/or entertainment opportunities for family outings and/or photo shoots. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.