In the spirit of safety and consideration for our fellow community members, many of us have passed the last year sequestered in our homes, relegated to the various nooks and crannies that now double as makeshift office spaces.

At this point, one would be forgiven for surrendering to the notion that ours is a society forever changed. We get it. Boy, do we get it. In fact, this is precisely why we’ve compiled a list of our 10 favorite “Zoom towns,” conveniently located throughout the Pacific Northwest and organized by state.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a Zoom town is exactly what you think it is: a community that is blessedly not your own, albeit one from which you can still satisfy the obligations of your profession. Need to finish a pesky project but can’t stand the thought of typing another sentence in your dining room? Hit up a Zoom town. Want to take the kids on a “vacation” without sacrificing your connection to your colleagues? We know just the places…

Street view with cars, trees, restaurants, bars and stores lining along the road.

Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

As a graduate of Western Washington University, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still carry a torch for Bellingham. Located near the Canadian border, bordered by its namesake bay and Mt. Baker, it is everything one could want in a college town.

Old indie theater? Check. Museum of electrical invention? Done. Dive bars, pizza joints and an interurban trail on which to atone? Yes to all of this.

When it comes to Washington’s most charming town, you simply cannot go wrong with Bellingham.

Sprawling green hills with a few trees and a blue sky

Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

When you first enter Pullman, it’s important to refrain from rendering too quick an assessment.

Yes, it’s quite small. And cold. And fairly removed from any other semblance of civilization save for Moscow, Idaho, its charming sister city to the east.

But what Pullman lacks in metropolitan grandeur, it more than makes up for in the rolling fields of the Palouse. Seeing as how it’s a college town, you won’t want for cheap bars, tasty restaurants, cafes to keep you energetic and focused and a wide variety of WSU-related activities.

Pink clouds falling over the landscape of mountains and a lake area
Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

Benton City appeals to those who value their solitude. You won’t encounter much of a nightlife in this sleepy little town — the second word in its name is, to put it charitably, misleading — but you will discover gorgeous geography, kind-hearted neighbors and a wide array of top-tier wineries include Anelare, Terra Blanca and Cooper Wine Company.

It takes a certain kind of individual to recognize Benton City’s allure, but who knows? Maybe that certain individual is you.

Alki Beach (Seattle), WA

Shoreline with water touching the sand with a city view in the backdrop

Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

OK, so maybe this one doesn’t quite qualify as a Zoom town. Still, if you’re at all familiar with Seattle, you already know that Alki Beach feels like its own safe haven from the hustle and bustle that otherwise defines the Emerald City these days.

Plus: the ocean and Alki Beach Park!

And don’t even get us started on the killer Mexican food, plentiful bar options and family-friendly cafes.

Hillside meadows rolling into mountains and river with a blue skyline

Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

With its astonishing tableau of jagged cliffs and tumbling hillsides, the Columbia River Gorge is a popular destination for just about every type of thrill-seeker. Whether you’re zooming out to White Salmon, WA or Hood River, OR, you’ll find plenty of outdoor distractions to keep you occupied during your “lunch break.”

And if you’re the sort of employee who likes to engage in the occasional post-work happy hour, we recommend taking advantage of Double Mountain Brewing’s menu.

Water flowing over rocks in a deserted terrain with a partly cloudly sky

Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

If you haven’t already noticed, no community embodies the Zoom town mentality more acutely than Bend. Soon after out-of-towners arrived in droves last summer, the local real estate market exploded, which might make Redmond the more appealing option — at least for now.

Either way, you’ll find yourself immersed in the vast desert vistas of Central Oregon, alongside more than 270 WiFi hotspots in the greater Bend area.

Trees coated in snow and fog on a hillside

Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

Every January, to celebrate her birthday, my wife and I rent a cabin in Mt. Hood for ourselves and the kids. We usually spend our afternoons sledding down the various sno-parks that line the pass.

To pat ourselves on the back for getting our steps in, we then load up on an unseemly amount of pizza courtesy of the Zig Zag Inn. On our way out of town — if we have the time for a detour — we might grab a hot chocolate at Timberline Lodge, the infamous site of Jack Torrance’s violent struggle with psychosis. (It’s family-friendly, I promise.)

Why, pray tell, am I detailing my family’s winter vacation habits? Because it just occurred to me that Mt. Hood would make a wonderful Zoom town! Nearly every cabin we’ve rented has included a fast internet connection and the tranquility necessary to complete any and all work tasks.

Blue skies with a field of white clouds that dip into the landscape of the coast zoom towns

Photo courtesy of Travis Roberts

When most folks think of the Oregon Coast — particularly those who hail from one of the other 49 states — they picture the imposing Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, looming up from beneath the soggy sand like a gigantic, moss-strewn orca.

When you ask these same folks what they think of Seaside, many will admit that they didn’t have time to check it out. That’s a shame because, at a minimum, Seaside is an equally charming beachfront destination — especially for those with kids. Boasting an indoor mall with a carousel and bumper cars, a Pig ‘N Pancake that occupies half a city block and the 1.5-mile promenade that runs parallel to the Pacific, a Zoomer could do much worse than Seaside.

Also, if you’re searching for a place to stay, look no further than The Starry Night Inn, Seaside’s very own Victorian house/hotel/artist’s retreat. The WiFi is reliable, the artwork quirky and locally-sourced and the snack selection is second to none.

Illuminated lights of the downtown Bosie, ID cityscape as dusk falls zoom towns

Boise is a rising star in the battle of progressive, aesthetically-pleasing PNW cities. Despite its cold winters, one can hike the Boise River Greenbelt year-round, and with a median age of 36, there’ll be plenty of nightlife to explore just as soon as this pandemic is over.

If you decide to make the trip, be sure to check out the A. Lincoln Exhibit — it’s a personal favorite.

Sunset over a dark lake area with the last touch of sun seen in the clouds zoom towns

One needn’t be Bruce Willis to enjoy the geographical wonder that is Sandpoint. Stay for all four seasons and avail yourself of its first-rate skiing, serene fishing along the Kooenai River and a wide variety of festivals and street fairs.

Even better: though not quite as affordable as it was back in the ’80s and ’90s, Sandpoint is still a bargain compared to some of the other towns on this list.

As they say, wherever you Zoom…

Regardless of whether you choose to escape to one of the Zoom towns on this list or another getaway entirely, remember that we’re all doing our best to navigate the coronavirus pandemic and how it has changed work life as we know it.



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