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Finding Fall Colors And Good Autumn Views In The Northwest

Dave Nakayama
The Japanese Garden at Seattle's Washington Park Arboretum is one of many places to catch a long look at fall colors.

Editor's note: This segment originally aired Oct. 13, 2016. 

When the weather breaks from summer heat to the gray, cool fall, I always think of a particular scene in the NBC television series "The West Wing," in which President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) is recording his weekly radio address.

“The weekends will be devoted by many of you to leaf peeping, and football …” he says, his voice trailing off as the engineer stops recording.

“Sorry,” Bartlet says. “Leaf peeping? Is that something we do now?”

Well, yes, Mr. Fictional President, it is – at least when the weather cooperates.

Our travel expert, Matthew Brumley, consulted Jillian Matthews at Ravenna Gardens and plantsman Dan Hinckley, who Brumley says is known as the “Indiana Jones of plant collecting.” Here’s the list:

Bellevue Botanical Garden.12001 Main St., Bellevue. Open dawn to dusk, with a visitor center open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Washington Park Arboretum.2300 Arboretum Dr. E., Seattle. Open dawn to dusk. Free, with the exception of the Japanese Garden.

Bloedel Reserve.7571 N.E. Dolphin Dr., Bainbridge Island. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults with discounts for seniors, military, students and children.

Heronswood.7530 N.E. 288th St., Kingston. Open to the public each Friday from March through October, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, with discounts for children. Free for Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe members.

Discovery Park.3801 Discovery Park Blvd., Seattle. Open daily 4 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Admission free.

Point Defiance Park.5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma. Open daily, a half-hour before sunrise until a half-hour after sunset. Admission free, except for special attractions contained within, such as the Point Defiance Zoo.

Chuckanut Drive.Between I-5’s Exit 231 and Bellingham. A beautiful stretch of highway taking you along a dramatic seaside cliff.

Mount Rainier National Park.Southeast of Seattle and Tacoma, with multiple entrances. Admission varies from a $50 annual pass to a $10 per-person fee. Expect long waits to enter during busy seasons (summer, weekends, holidays).

Leavenworth, Wash., via train: You can relax and take in the fall colors as you head through the mountains. Amtrak from Seattle, although various companies offer special tours. An overnight might be required, depending on train schedules.

Vineyards of Walla Walla and eastern Washington: Some of the most beautiful colors happen in the state’s wine country. You’ll need a little more time, obviously, for this trip.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.