I was reminded of the Emerald City’s enchanting charms on a recent flight back to Seattle. The panorama is breathtaking as you descend: A fleet of ferries dutifully chug to and fro like friendly cousins of Thomas the Tank Engine. Forest-green islands dot the sound, framed by the craggy peaks of the Olympic mountains, freshwater lakes, and a sophisticated skyline. I’ve been told by much of my out-of-town company that the picture exceeds expectations, but once at sea level, you can complete it with a ferry ride to Vashon Island. From the Fauntleroy terminal, it’s a short 10 minutes to the laid-back island, just long enough to take in the briny breeze on the deck (a sensation you won’t get on a plane). Bring a bike and get your exercise: a grueling mile-long trek uphill into town. But such extremes are what make the region so spectacular, and the trek is worth it once you level off and abundant farmers markets, live music, excellent restaurants, wine tasting, and fantastic Puget Sound views await you and your date around every corner. Once you’re ready to catch the return ferry, you’ve earned the long, steep bike ride downhill—and it’s absolutely exhilarating.