Willows Lodge – A Can’t-Miss Northwest Destination by Car or Bike
By Hilary Meyerson
Photo at right: Art abounds at the Willows Lodge.
There are so many great weekend getaways a short drive from Seattle, it’s hard to choose. However, the Willows Lodge in Woodinville has just bumped to the top of our list. It boasts a unique location just off the Lake Sammammish Trail that makes it a perfect getaway by bike. While it’s a quick drive from anywhere in the Puget Sound region, it’s even better when you pedal up to the valet stand on your bicycle.
The Willows Lodge was built in 2000 in the sweet spot of Woodinville wine country. From the very first, it was meant to be a destination lodge. Built with the latest green construction practices, such as reclaimed timber and other recycled materials, it still embodies the Northwest green ethos.
“Our goal is rustic elegance,” says General Manager Matt Hagerman. “We want people to feel they are visiting their friend’s vacation home.” Mission accomplished – every employee from the valet to the front desk staff to the spa employees welcomed us warmly. We felt like honored guests.
The Fireside Cellars lounge was hopping with live music when we arrived, as it is every Friday night. Guests and locals alike were enjoying Northwest wines and brews. During “Happier Hour” you can try tapas from the Barking Frog restaurant and great wines for a great price. We relaxed a bit here by the roaring fire after our ride, and then headed over to the Barking Frog for an elegant meal.
The restaurant follows the same theme as the lodge – the best of the Northwest. From local wines to fresh local ingredients in a warm atmosphere, it was all excellent. Chef Bobby Moore stepped out of the kitchen to make rounds of the tables and greeted us like an old friend. After a dessert of delicious steamed date cake, we rolled ourselves back to our room where we sank into a deep, satisfied sleep.
Touring in Woodinville
The next day, we headed out by bike. (Even if you drove to the Willows, you can still get a taste of the cycling life. They have a stable of loaner bikes in different sizes.) There are a wide variety of destinations to visit, or you can just enjoy the trail and local parks.
At last count, Woodinville had 99 wineries and tasting rooms. The most well-known, of course, is Washington State’s oldest winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, which was built in 1912 and opened its doors for tastings in 1976. It brings in more than 300,000 visitors a year, hosts a popular summer concert series, and is right across the street from the Willows. If wine isn’t your thing, there are a plethora of breweries and distilleries within pedaling distance, and the Red Hook Brewery is right next door.
Back at the Lodge, we took a stroll around the grounds. The plantings are all kept gorgeous by the Willows’ “Department of Natural Beauty,” without any pesticides or chemicals. It’s no wonder it’s the site of many picture-perfect weddings. The garden that is shared and maintained by the Herbfarm, the storied restaurant, is a great backdrop. In addition, the Willow’s collection of Northwest art is impressive, and a delightful surprise around every corner, inside and outside the lodge.
The Spa at the Willows Lodge is tailor-made for the cyclist. We had a hard time choosing between a sports recovery massage or a body wrap to work the kinks out of those sore legs. A hidden courtyard boasts a gorgeous therapy pool. It’s worth a long soak. For more privacy, each room has a soaking tub for two, with a collection of bath salts. We took advantage of the lavender-vanilla salts.
It was with great reluctance that we packed back up and pedaled for home. However, we’re already planning for a return trip, when spring flowers will be in bloom.
Hilary Meyerson is the editor of Outdoors NW magazine, and would love to do more weekend getaways on her bike.
Willows Lodge: www.willowslodge.com
Woodinville Wine Country: www.woodinvillewinecountry.com
The Herbfarm Restaurant: www.theherbfarm.com
Redhook Brewery and Forecasters Pub: redhook.com