Bellevue skyline photo credit colin walker  city of bellevue vqqy8e

The beautiful Bellevue skyline

Image: Colin Walker

Destination: Bellevue, Washington

Duration: 5 hours

Average fare: From $297 via United out of Intercontinental

What to doFlying into Seatac, the skyline is not of skyscrapers, but towering pine trees and ice-capped mountains as the airport is about 20 minutes outside of the city. While Seattle is a big draw for the Pacific Northwest, Bellevue is a mere 15 minutes from the largest city in Washington. With a population of 134,400, Bellevue is like a mini-extension of Seattle. The town’s local food scene, arts arena and outdoor life give any major city a run for its money, plus you have the added value of the city’s walkability. While they have an abundance of what locals call “liquid sunshine,” the rain in Bellevue is more like a mist or drizzle, unlike our tropical downpours here in Houston. This one-square mile downtown city has plenty to offer travelers.

If you need to get your shopping fix, The Shops at Bravern is like a mini Galleria. The outdoor village-like shopping center has all of the staples like Neiman Marcus, Jimmy Choo and Salvatore Ferragamo. Looking for something more true to the region? Head down to the affectionately-named area, Old Bellevue. On Main Street, restaurants and salons are scattered among locally-owned boutiques. Glassybaby is one of the more notable shops and comes with a heartstrings-tugging back story. Owner Lee Rhodes was diagnosed with cancer for the third time in 1995. While entertaining friends, she dropped a tea light into a roughly hewn glass cup and the rest is history. With each purchase, 10 percent goes to charity.

Bellevue skyline park photo credit merrill images pxg2va

There's a reason Bellevue is known as the "City in a Park."

Bellevue has an active public art program, which is noticeable even while walking throughout the city. While 20 percent of this art comes from the city itself, the largest portion comes from downtown developers, businesses and property owners. Pick up an Art Map to ensure you see all the art the city has to offer. Bellevue Arts Museum, conveniently located across from the Westin Bellevue, is a leading destination in the Pacific Northwest to experience art, craft and design.

If you visit before May 1, 2016, you can explore Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture. This exhibit, organized by the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, showcases the life and work of the famous American architect and his impact on the industry. Bellevue Arts Museum is the first U.S. venue to host this prestigious showcase. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the exhibit is his incorporation and thoughtfulness of natural elements.

Looking for outdoor activities? With 72 city parks, Bellevue is known as the "City in a Park." Enjoy a daily run at Bellevue Downtown Park with a view of Bellevue’s skyline and Mount Rainier. Mercer Slough Nature Park expands over 320 acres along the 405. The park offers free nature walks every Saturday at 2 p.m., guided canoe tours and even a blueberry farm. Go for a swim or fish at one of the parks bordering Lake Washington: Clyde Beach Park, Chism Beach Park, Enatai Brach Park or Newcastle Beach Park.

Sea salt caramels   photo credit amber groce tz0jbz

Sea-salt caramels at Purple Cafe

Image: Amber Groce

What to eatHoustonians know that when you’re close to the water, fresh seafood is the way to go. Start your day with Eques, located in the lobby of the Bellevue Hyatt Regency. The Northwest-inspired cedar plank salmon benedict gives you the satisfying breakfast favorite with the local touch of the Pacific salmon.

Looking for something light? Homegrown Sustainable Sandwich Shop. Not only are the sandwiches made out of sustainable ingredients, but its goal is for the sandwich-making process itself to be sustainable. They have zero—yes, zero—trash cans, as they use 100 percent compostable or reusable products. Go for the sandwich and salad combo at lunch to try a variety of flavors.

For dinner, a must-visit is local favorite Purple Café & Wine Bar. Escape in the candle-lit cellar atmosphere for a truly outstanding dining experience. No need to ask your server about wine pairings—they already have them on the menu for each item. Every meal at Purple Café should be topped off with its signature dessert: sea-salt caramels (paired with the El Maestro Sierra Medium "Amoroso," of course).

Where to stay: Westin Bellevue, from $169 per night; Residence Inn Seattle Bellevue Downtown, from $119 per night.

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