From vast national parks and laid-back islands to big cities and small towns, there’s no shortage of places to visit in Washington State. Set in the Pacific Northwest, it’s called the Evergreen State because its forests remain a rich green all year round. Washington is a nature lover’s paradise that’s teeming with gorgeous mountains and lakes. And with more museums, old buildings, and art galleries than you can shake a stick at, it’s likewise a haven for culture and history buffs.
The state is an economic powerhouse too. It is, after all, home to some of today’s biggest companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing. Home-grown billionaires, meanwhile, include Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. Another large part of the state’s economy is its robust agriculture. In fact, Washington is the USA’s leading producer of goodies like red raspberries, apples, and Concord grapes. Hence, it’s no surprise that orchards and vineyards are intrinsic to the state’s landscape.
So whether you’re thinking of a romantic island getaway, a thrilling mountain hike, or a big-city adventure with the kids, you’ll find plenty of places to visit in Washington State.
Bellevue is a smallish city with a population of roughly 150,000. Yet, it’s home to quite a large number of attractions. For example, the Bellevue Botanical Garden is a lush paradise of wetlands and woodlands. Downtown Park, too, has its share of natural beauty with a waterfall, gardens, and a sizable lawn. On the other hand, Bellevue is a shopper’s delight. It’s home to some of the country’s premium retail hotspots including the Shops at the Bravern and the Bellevue Collection.
If you’re visiting with kids, you’ll find a host of things to keep the little ones entertained. At the Kelsey Creek Park Farm, guests can interact with farm animals like ponies and goats. Summers are fun at Enatai Beach Park on Lake Washington’s shores. Besides a swimming dock, it also features a playground and a picnic area. Meanwhile, the Funtastic Playtorium offers kids the chance to run, jump, and play to their heart’s content.
There’s a slew of beautiful places to visit in Washington State, and Skagit Valley is one of them. Tucked in the state’s northwestern corner, it’s a mecca for nature and culture lovers. If you visit in the springtime, don’t miss the annual Tulip Festival. In fact, this event is so popular that you might want to take the Tulip Festival and Skagit Valley Tour to skip the lines. The Skagit Farm to Pint Festival and the La Conner Daffodil Festival are likewise popular events.
Skagit Valley is an important agricultural hub. Thus, it’s no surprise that good eats are plentiful here. For instance, you can gorge on fresh fruit at the Mount Vernon Farmers Market. It’s held every Saturday from May through October in downtown Mount Vernon. Art lovers, meanwhile, shouldn’t miss the Museum of Northwest Art. It’s located in downtown La Conner and showcases the diversity of the region’s artists.
San Juan Island
This island is the most populous and second-largest of its kind in the San Juan Islands group in the northwestern part of the state. When you visit, you’ll likely enter through Friday Harbor, the gateway to the island. However, it’s more than just a place to pass through. As San Juan Island’s hub, Friday Harbor offers plenty of attractions. You can buy fresh seafood on the docks and learn about the sea’s gentle giants at the Whale Museum.
Similarly, Roche Harbor on the island’s northwest side attracts a fair number of visitors. History-wise, it boasts attractions such as the Hotel de Haro. Opened in 1886, it’s Washington State’s oldest continually operating hotel. The San Juan Islands Sculpture Park with its unique outdoor installations is also worth visiting. Kayaking and whale-watching tours are other popular pastimes here.
Lavender fields as far as the eye can see are the hallmark of Sequim (pronounced “skwim”), a city in Clallam County. In fact, it’s called the “Lavender Capital of North America.” Homages to the plant are all around. In the cozy downtown area, for instance, you’ll find lavender shops. As well, the benches and light posts boast the plant’s vivid hue.
Outdoor recreation is excellent in Sequim. During summer, you can pick lavender as well as fruits such as strawberries and blueberries at the local organic farms. Another popular summer event is the Sequim Lavender Weekend. This includes a street fair at Carrie Blake Park, the LavenderStock musical extravanza, and farm tours.
The Wild West lives on in Winthrop, a tiny town in Okanogan County. Its population is likewise tiny; fewer than 500 people call it home according to 2017 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Even so, it’s a great place to visit if you fancy stepping back to a more rugged yet enchanting time.
All the buildings in town feature the American Old West design. Winthrop is also home to Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon, the oldest legal saloon in Washington State. Art galleries are plentiful here, and there’s a theater that stages live performances. Music is also a big deal here, with events such as the Winthrop Rhythm and Blues Festival.
Another example of Washington State’s wondrous small cities is Port Townsend. It’s located on the Quimper Peninsula in Jefferson County and offers plenty of adventures. In Port Townsend Bay, for instance, you might chance upon sea lions, orcas, and seals. Kayaking in Admiralty Inlet is also a popular activity here. Meanwhile, the beach from Point Hudson to Fort Worden State Park is a great place for a romantic stroll.
Port Townsend is also noted for its 300+ Victorian-style houses. These include the James Stockand House, the Max Gerson Home, and the Old Consulate Inn, which all date from the 1880s. The stately Palace Hotel is also worth a mention. It occupies a 3-story brick building constructed in 1889. At one point, the building housed a brothel referred to as “The Palace of the Sweets.”
As the capital of Washington State, one of Olympia’s defining landmarks is, of course, the Washington State Capitol. Built in the 1920s, this imposing Neoclassical building houses the state government’s offices. Nearby, the Washington Governor’s Mansion draws the eye with its Georgian Revival architecture. The mansion, completed in 1909, features some furnishings dating back to the early 1800s.
Downtown Olympia sits north of the Capitol and holds a bevy of things to see and do. Besides fantastic dining and shopping, it’s also home to green spaces such as Bigelow Springs Park and the Garfield Nature Trail. The Hands-On Children’s Museum features interactive exhibits while the year-round Farmers’ Market offers the best of local food. Meanwhile, the semi-annual Olympia Arts Walk celebrates the city’s rich artistic heritage.
Established in 1885, Leavenworth exudes charm with its Bavarian village-style layout. The Bavarian theme, introduced in 1965 to encourage tourism, was a resounding success. Leavenworth has a tiny population, just 1,995 people as of 2017. However, it draws tourists, not just because of its lovely appearance, but also due to its proximity to wineries and ski resorts in the Cascade Mountains.
At the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, you can see thousands of nutcrackers, some of them dating from prehistoric times. Longing for a golf getaway? The 1927 Leavenworth Golf Club provides scenic courses surrounded by mountains and rivers. And if you visit in the fall, you can take part in the annual Oktoberfest fete. Join the Keg Tapping Ceremony and dance to music by local and German musicians. And of course, drink your fill of great beer.
Deception Pass State Park
Filled with breathtaking natural beauty, Deception Pass State Park is one of the best places to visit in Washington State. In fact, it’s among the state’s most-visited state parks. Spanning 1,560 hectares (3,854 acres), it’s teeming with trails, cliffs, and stunning lakes. Moreover, it’s home to what seems like endless saltwater and freshwater shores.
The park, located on Whidbey Island, is a haven for outdoor adventurers. Go canopy climbing among old-growth trees, hike along the stunning Lighthouse Point trail, or take a dip in Cranberry Lake. Meanwhile, you can learn about the park’s ecosystems and plants at the Sand Dunes Interpretive Trail.
The tiny town of Steilacoom in Pierce County is a fantastic place to visit if you’re a history enthusiast. For one thing, it’s Washington State’s oldest incorporated town. Official incorporation took place in 1854. It’s also home to the state’s oldest Catholic church as well as the first Protestant church north of the Columbia River.
Old buildings serve as major attractions throughout town. The Steilacoom Tribal Cultural Center & Museum, for instance, dates from 1903. Some of the timbers used in its construction came from an 1854 church. Opportunities for outdoor pursuits are also plentiful in Steilacoom. Pioneer Park hosts the annual Summer Concert Series while Sunnyside Beach Park is a popular site for novice divers.
Set on the shore of Puget Sound, Gig Harbor is a city in Pierce County that exemplifies small-town charm. Its population is downright tiny (9,507 as of 2017). Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile place to visit in Washington State. Besides being one of the gateways to the Olympic Peninsula, it’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of big cities.
At the Harbor History Museum, visitors can learn about Gig Harbor’s rich maritime history. Heritage markers peppering the community also tell tales of the city’s storied past. Today, Gig Harbor boasts a vibrant arts and culture scene. If you visit in summer, catch the Summer Sounds at Skansie Concert Series. Meanwhile, fall sees the arrival of the annual Gig Harbor Film Festival.
Ellensburg is a fine example of Washington State’s charming small cities. Roughly 21,000 people call this city in Kittitas County home, and it draws visitors from all over because of all the attractions it offers. History buffs, in particular, will enjoy the downtown area where many 19th-century buildings still stand. The Davidson Building, for example, dates from 1890. Throughout its history, it has housed shops and restaurants as well as hotel rooms and offices.
Art lovers will find many places to while the hours away. The Clymer Museum of Art, for instance, features the works of local artist John F. Clymer. Meanwhile, shoppers can meander downtown’s streets and browse through quaint stores. Night owls, on the other hand, can take their pick from dance clubs and live music venues.
Set in the lushly beautiful Yakima Valley, the city of Yakima is a popular place to visit in Washington State. It’s home to a slew of attractions, from museums and parks to golf courses and farmers’ markets. Also, you can expect plenty of good eats since the valley produces various fruit crops.
Yakima hosts several popular festivals. For instance, the Central Washington State Fair takes place in the fall. It features carnival rides, concerts, and a petting zoo among others. Meanwhile, the Yakima Folklife Festival is a joyous summer affair. During this time, you can watch outdoor music and dance performances. You can also shop from a wide variety of food and craft vendors.
Beacon Rock State Park
The 258-meter (848 feet) Beacon Rock towers over the Columbia River’s north shore at this beautiful state park in Skamania County. The area is rich in history, due partly to the Lewis & Clark Expedition’s arrival in 1805 to measure the river’s tides. Also, Beacon Rock itself is the core of an ancient volcano.
The park is a popular-year round destination with plenty of activities on offer. For instance, you can hike the switchback trail to Beacon Rock’s peak or ride a horse to reach vistas from Hamilton Mountain. Rock climbers will also find plenty of challenging spots to test their skills. Boating is a popular pastime on the river, and there are camping grounds where you can spend the night under the stars.
Small-town life is as charming as it gets in Poulsbo. Set along Liberty Bay, it’s the tiniest of four cities in Kitsap County. Poulsbo earned the nicknames “Little Norway” and “Viking City” because of its settlement by Norwegian immigrants in the 1880s. Today, the city proudly displays and promotes its Scandinavian roots. It’s truly one of the unique places to visit in Washington State.
For example, each time May rolls around, Poulsbo residents don their Viking costumes for Viking Fest. Also, the city’s museums feature exhibits about the daily lives of Poulsbo’s earliest families. The city is also home to quite a few charming parks where visitors of all ages can have tons of fun. At Frank Raab Park, for instance, adults and kids can play volleyball, go skating, and have a picnic.
Moran State Park
Spanning over 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) on Orcas Island, Moran State Park shows nature at her rawest. Hills, forests, lakes, bogs, and wetlands make up its diverse landscape. As you can expect, there are boundless outdoor pursuits in this beautiful Washington state park.
For example, you can hike along picturesque trails up Mount Constitution, the highest point in the entire San Juan Islands. Once you get to the top, you’ll see a replica of a Russian stone watchtower dating from the 1930s. The ever-popular Cascade Lake is another must-see. Here, you can swim with the kids and enjoy lakeside picnics.
Legend has it that Walla Walla is a “town so nice they named it twice.” In reality, it’s a Native American term that translates to “Place of Many Waters.” This is because early in its history, the town sat at the junction of the Columbia and Snake rivers. Today, many tourists come to Walla Walla in southeastern Washington to enjoy its attractions. Downtown, for instance, is home to many historic spots. Here, you’ll find the 1928 Marcus Whitman Hotel and the 1880 Kirkman House Museum.
Are you an avid golfer? Then a few hours at the Veterans Memorial Golf Course will be a great experience. For family-friendly outdoor fun, you can head to the courts and playgrounds of Wildwood Park. Also, shopping is plentiful in Walla Walla if you’re thinking of retail therapy. The Antique Mall of Walla Walla, for instance, is a terrific place to buy high-quality souvenirs.
Bainbridge Island is a quick ferry trip from Seattle, and it’s one of the best places to visit in Washington State. It’s home to a small city, but it’s big on attractions. If you love art, you’ll appreciate work by local artists at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. The island also boasts a thriving winery scene, which you can learn about in this luxury wine and history tour.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, you’ll find plenty to do all around. At Fay Bainbridge Park, you can go kayaking and explore the beaches along the extensive shoreline. Meanwhile, the 61-hectare (150 acres) Bloedel Reserve offers you the chance to immerse yourself in nature. Home to lush woodlands and verdant gardens, it enjoys a reputation as one of North America’s best botanical gardens.
Perched on the Columbia River’s north bank, Vancouver offers a diversity of attractions. It’s located 265 km (165 mi) from Seattle and 494 km (307 mi) from its namesake in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The beauty of nature, awe-inspiring history, and a vibrant culture are all present in this lovely city.
History buffs will enjoy visiting Fort Vancouver, which served as a fur-trading post in the 19th century. Today, visitors can view cultural demonstrations where actors in period clothing and objects to show traditional skills like blacksmithing. Nearby, Officers Row showcases restored 19th-century Victorian homes that were once used by U.S. Army officers. These include the Italianate-style General O.O. Howard House and the Queen Anne-style George C. Marshall House.
Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
Also called Mount St. Helens National Park, the monument opened in 1982, two years after the volcano’s huge eruption. The park covers 445 sq km (110,000 acres) around Mount St. Helens in Skamania County. It offers opportunities for education, research, and recreation. For instance, you’ll find exhibits about the volcano and the area’s history and culture at the Visitor Center at Silver Lake. Meanwhile, the Johnston Ridge Observatory has a hiking trail within sight of the lava dome.
If you’re a hiking buff, make time for the Ape Cave lava tube south of Mount St. Helens. Aside from seeing the longest continuous lava tube in the continental US, you’ll also have nice views of the volcano’s lahar region. Bear Meadows, an alpine grassland northeast of the volcano, is another good viewing point. But for a closer look at the crater, head to Windy Ridge. It’s the nearest vantage point to Mount Saint Helens that the public can access.
Mount Rainier National Park
Covering an area of 956 sq km (369 sq mi), Mount Rainier National Park is a splendid expanse of natural beauty. It lies 1.5 hours south of Seattle and is one of the best places to visit in Washington State. Due to its proximity to Seattle, expeditions like Seattle–Mount Rainier Park tours are a big hit. And no matter what time of the year you choose to go, you’ll find no shortage of sights and activities.
If you’re at least 18 years old, for instance, you can get a permit and pay the necessary fees to climb Mt. Rainier itself. Mountaineers come from near and far to reach the peak of this active volcano throughout the year. Meanwhile, climbing Chinook Pass will lead you to Tipsoo Lake, an area renowned for its gorgeous wildflowers. And if you love waterfalls, you shouldn’t miss Christine Falls. It’s one of the prettiest tiered plunge waterfalls in the park.
Part of the San Juan Islands region, Stuart Island is an ideal place for a peaceful escape. You’ll find no glitzy malls here, no fancy restaurants or crowded amusement parks. Instead, it’s home to Stuart Island State Park. This nature lover’s haven spans 10,070 meters (33,030 feet) of saltwater shoreline. Fishing, scuba diving, and exploring almost 6 km (3.7 mi) of hiking trails are on the agenda here.
On the island’s western coast, the Turn Point Light Station guides ships traversing the waters of Boundary Pass. The lighthouse and the nearby cliffs called Lover’s Leap are popular destinations for hikers. Meanwhile, the tiny Teacherage Museum features exhibits about the island’s one-room schoolhouse.
Located between Seattle and the Canadian city of Vancouver, Bellingham is Whatcom County’s most populous city. Tourists are drawn to Bellingham for its wealth of attractions. Besides offering easy access to the North Cascades, the city itself shines with places to visit. The Whatcom Museum, for instance, is a popular landmark that’s worth a visit. It’s housed in the old city hall building that catches the eye with its central clock tower and Victorian cupolas.
Can’t get enough of the spotlight? Then a visit to Mount Baker Theatre is in order. This historic building, which still has some of its original 1927 elements, is home to the Bellingham Symphony Orchestra. If you’d like to see outdoor art, head to the Big Rock Sculpture Garden. Here, you can marvel at dozens of sculptures by local and international artists.
Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest
Emerald lakes, glacial mountains, and lofty, leafy trees. These and more make Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest seem like a fairy tale setting. It stretches over 225 km (140 mi) along the Cascade Mountains’ western slopes. Starting from the US–Canada border, the forest extends to Mount Rainier National Park’s northern edge.
Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest offers something for everyone, from novice hikers to seasoned outdoor adventurers. You’ll find spectacular views at the end of trails leading to spots such as Gold Run Pass, Dickerman Mountain, and Deer Creek. Fishing, rafting, and camping are popular activities here in pleasant weather. Winter likewise holds plenty in store. At Stevens Pass, for instance, there’s a winter sports area where you can go night skiing.
Because of all the attractions it offers, Spokane is one of the most popular places to visit in Washington State. Fans of history can learn about Native American heritage at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. Nearby, the early 20th-century Campbell House is a fine example of Tudor-style architecture. Meanwhile, culture vultures can explore the Jundt Art Museum and the colorful Duncan Garden at Manito Park.
Nature lovers, too, will find plenty to see and do in Spokane. At Mount Spokane State Park, you can go hiking, horseback riding, and skiing. Want to see some beautiful wildlife? At the Cat Tales Zoological Park, you can look at big cats and other animals like coyotes and bears. Finally, aquatic fun can be had during a rafting trip on the Spokane River.
North Cascades National Park
The diversity of the landscape, plant life, and wildlife at North Cascades National Park never fail to impress. Situated in northern Washington State, it spans over 200 hectares (500,000 acres). Glacier-capped mountains, breathtaking lakes, and dense forests are all around. The wildlife is just as impressive. Here, grizzly bears and gray wolves roam while hundreds of bird species fly above. And, as you would expect, the park is teeming with opportunities for outdoor adventures.
Mountaineering is popular here, with many an intrepid soul climbing Mount Shukshan and Sinister Peak. Cycling is likewise a favorite thing to do here. Bicycling routes such as Stehekin Valley Road offer a scenic way to go about on two wheels. When it comes to adventures on the water, you can choose from many. Paddling at Ross Lake, fishing in Lake Chelan, and kayaking in Diablo Lake’s turquoise waters are just a few options.
Much like the glass art for which it’s known, Tacoma is alluring and multi-faceted. The city sits on Puget Sound’s banks and boasts a diversity of attractions. One of its many draws, for example, is the landmark Museum of Glass. Inside, you’ll find works by Dale Chihuly, a household name in the world of glass art. Nearby, other cultural institutions showcase history and culture. These include the Washington State History Museum and the Foss Waterway Seaport.
Tacoma also hosts wonderful annual festivals. For example, colorful flower displays take center stage at Mayfest while the Freedom Fair celebrates the 4th of July. During the fall, the Tacoma Film Festival shows independent movies from all over the world. Finally, the First Night Tacoma festival features dancing, fire shows, and food trucks.
More than 1.5 million visitors make their way to Snoqualmie Falls, making it one of the state’s most popular natural attractions. The waterfalls, which are 82 meters (268 feet) high, are on the Snoqualmie River. It’s located about 47 km (28 miles) east of Seattle. Nearby, the 4-star Salish Lodge & Spa offers rooms overlooking the falls. Fans of the TV show Twin Peaks might recognize the hotel because the program used its exterior for the fictional Great Northern Hotel.
You can view the waterfall from the side, in an area that has benches and picnic tables. Nearby, the Centennial Green meadow is a popular place for summer weddings. There’s also a gift shop where you can buy souvenirs. A scenic trail near the top of the falls leads to a lower observation deck. The trail passes through a rainforest filled with leafy maple trees and evergreen sword fern.
The amazing city of Seattle offers plenty of things to see and do for visitors of all ages. In the morning, you can head to Pike Place Market for the freshest fruits and vegetables. Later, you can take the kids to the Museum of Pop Culture and the waterfront Seattle Great Wheel. History buffs will enjoy the Museum of Flight and the imposing St. James Cathedral. Of course, no trip to Seattle would be complete without a visit to the iconic Space Needle.
The hip and historic Ballard neighborhood is a great place for eclectic cuisine. Scandinavian influences are all around the area, and you can learn more at the National Nordic Museum. Meanwhile, the trendy West Seattle neighborhood is where you’ll find offbeat stores.
Olympic National Park
The sprawling Olympic National Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Washington State. Covering 3,734 sq km (1,442 sq mi) on the Olympic Peninsula, it spans various ecosystems. A rugged coastline, mountains topped by glaciers, and old-growth forests are all here. The park is also home to diverse wildlife such as bull elk, black bears, and whales.
There are many things to do in this vast park. You can explore the tide pools at Ruby Beach or hike the scenic Royal Basin Trail. Paddling in Lake Ozette is also popular, as is skiing on Hurricane Ridge in winter. But, if you’d like to explore Hurricane Ridge with a guide, we recommend this private tour.