In just one day – one perfect, romantic, unforgettable day – you can see the best of what the South Puget Sound has to offer, from sea to summit, by way of two very different gondolas.
Start in the beautiful waterfront city of Gig Harbor, Washington, just a few miles northwest of Tacoma. There, the only Venetian gondola in the Pacific Northwest – The Gig Harbor Gondola – takes you around the harbor, where you’ll enjoy unparalleled views of the waterfront and Mount Rainier, which gets you in the right frame of mind for the latter part of your day. The Gig Harbor Gondolier, John Synco, knows all about the hidden gems and is full of insider advice about the city, and can be your tour guide, or you can just sit back and listen as he serenades you in Italian. Regardless of how you choose to enjoy your gondola ride, it concludes at the dock to Netshed No. 9, one of the hottest breakfast spots in the entire region. With a menu that skews toward the unpredictable, we recommend the maple-glazed bacon cinnamon rolls or “The Passion of the Hash.”
Once you’ve filled up at “The Shed,” a gorgeous two-hour drive through Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner and Enumclaw will take you to Crystal Mountain, home of the Mount Rainer Gondola – a ski-style gondola. Swooping up 2,500 vertical feet in less than ten minutes, the gondola drops you off just steps away from the Summit House restaurant, the highest-elevation restaurant in Washington State at 6,872 feet. With picture-postcard views of Mount Rainier, Summit House is an ideal place to grab an early dinner and a pint of craft beer before enjoying hikes around Crystal Mountain.
With scenery like that, you’re not going to want to leave, and the good news is that you don’t have to. Extend your stay with an overnight at one of Crystal Mountain Hotels properties, of which there’s one for every style of travel. For those traveling with a family, proximity is key, and just a few steps from the Mount Rainier Gondola is the Alpine Inn, a Bavarian-style lodge with the Alpine Restaurant and the Snorting Elk Cellar nearby. The Village Inn a more modern, pet-friendly place to stay with all the comforts of home. Couples should look at the Quicksilver Lodge, with their enormous, inviting lobby with fireplace and lounge chairs, and the regular and loft-style rooms.
As one of the only places in the country where you can go from sea level to the highest-elevation restaurant in the state on the same day, the South Puget Sound has scenery of every kind, and experiences built around enjoying it. You can find Gondola to Gondola and other itineraries at the Travel Tacoma webpage.
Gig Harbor Gondola operates year-round. Mount Rainier Gondola opens for the summer season on June 23, 2017, and runs through Sept. 17.