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32 Best Things to Do in Washington State & Places to Visit

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The state of Washington is fantastic in so many ways, and it’s a wonderful place to vacation, no matter what interests you. These are our favorite things to do in Washington.

There are so many things to do in the Evergreen State! Seattle is a bustling city full of action, museums, and world-class hotels and restaurants. The state’s other major cities – Spokane, Tacoma, Bellingham, and Olympia, also all have unique personalities and characters. From artsy to elegant, you’ll find it here.

When you leave the cities, though, you’ll also soon see that Washington is a state that’s full of beauty. This state is one of our country’s greenest — national and state parks are everywhere, and there’s abundant wildlife wherever you seek it out.

Washington State Sign
jdoms / Adobe Stock

On top of all that, the people who live in Washington are friendly and welcoming, and it’s a state that’s rich with history, culture, and community, too.

Many people believe that it rains all the time in Washington, and that’s enough to keep some visitors away. Once you visit, however, you’ll find that this rumor is mostly overblown – and is sometimes promoted by residents to help them keep this wonderful spot to themselves. Washington’s weather is lovely most of the year, and you’ll have a great time visiting in every season.

Read on to learn about some of the countless incredible things to do in Washington state – and start planning your visit today.

TL;DR

  • Most Significant Landmark – The Space Needle
  • Best Park – Olympic National Park
  • Activity for kids – Pacific Science Center
  • Activity for adults – Hiking, statewide
  • Nightlife – Downtown Seattle
  • Place to stay – Cave B Winery
  • Place to eat – Pike Place Market
  • Wine – Walla Walla Wine Country
  • Scenic Drive – Columbia River Gorge

Things To Do In Washington State & Places to Visit

1. Pike Place Market

The Front of Pike Place Market - Public Market
Scottiebumich / Adobe Stock

Address: 1st Ave and Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101, United States

One of the most iconic attractions in all of Seattle and truly, in the state of Washington, is Pike Place Market. This public market first opened in 1907 and it’s one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the nation.

It’s the first place anyone visiting Seattle should go to get a feel for the city, and it offers great views of Puget Sound. Not only is it Seattle’s most popular tourist attraction, but it’s the thirty-third most popular tourist attraction in the United States, and it is visited by over 10 million visitors per year.

Pike Place Market began as a fish market, and it still serves that purpose today. However, it’s grown exponentially over the past century, and today, visitors can also enjoy browsing antique dealers, collectible shops, souvenir stores, and more. Further, there are dozens of excellent restaurants in this part of town, and any visit to Seattle is incomplete without a stop at Pike Place. Don’t miss it!

To get a true “taste of Seattle” upon your arrival in town, this Pike Place Market: Walking Food Tour is a great place to start!

See Related: Places to Stay in West Seattle

2. Seattle Downtown

Downtown Seattle from the water
Michael J Magee / Shutterstock

Address: Seattle, Washington, USA

Downtown Seattle is more compact than the downtown areas of other major cities, but it’s still home to over 65,000 of Seattle’s residents. There are also lots of businesses and stores in this area, most of which won’t be of much interest to visitors, but there are numerous tourist attractions and fabulous restaurants worth checking out in this part of town as well.

Pike Place Market, mentioned above, is its own neighborhood within downtown Seattle, but other attractions in this part of town include the Seattle Aquarium, the Central Waterfront Great Wheel Ferris wheel, the Seattle Art Museum, and the 1928 Paramount Theater.

Between the Seattle Center to the north and all the attractions in Downtown Seattle, there are more than enough things to do in this part of town to keep travelers busy for a long weekend – or even for an entire week.

If you plan to visit Seattle, choosing a hotel in one of these two areas is wise; everything is within walking distance from your accommodations, and you’ll get a good taste of everything the city has to offer without having to venture very far.

If you’re looking for a great walking tour of Downtown Seattle that will point out all the best things and give you a great overview, you might consider this Premier 3-Hour Seattle City Tour to get you started.

Looking for a great place to stay in Downtown Seattle? The Edgewater Hotel is on the waterfront and offers great views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains across it!

See Related: Seattle CityPASS Review: Should You Buy It?

3. Seattle Center & Space Needle

Aerial drone photo of the Seattle Space Needle and downtown
Felix Mizioznikov / Adobe Stock

Address: 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109, United States

Address: 400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109, United States

Seattle Center is an arts, educational, tourism, and entertainment center in the heart of Seattle’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood. Originally built as the site of the 1962 World’s Fair, Seattle Center covers 74 acres. Today, it’s full of museums, including the Museum of Pop Culture, Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Pacific Science Center, and the Seattle Children’s Museum, plus numerous performing arts centers, exhibition halls, and music and sports venues.

Further, another of Washington’s most iconic tourist attractions can be found in Seattle Center: The Space Needle. It, too, was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, but since then, it has become a symbol of the city.

At 605 feet in height, it was once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. Visitors can ascend to the top by elevator in 41 seconds to enjoy incredible views of the surrounding city. Tour guides await visitors on the observation deck at 520 feet to point out city landmarks to interested parties.

You’ll also find a restaurant up there; SkyCity features the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest, and it’s sure to be a meal that you’ll always remember, but keep in mind that it’s rather expensive, and you’ll need reservations to dine there. If you want a private tour of the Seattle Center, this Seattle: Space Needle & Seattle Center Experience is great – your guide will tell you more than you even want to know, and will answer all your questions without interruptions.

Further, if you like historic hotels within walking distance of all the sights in Seattle Center, check out the MarQueen Hotel. It’s quite lovely and has large rooms, most with kitchens.

4. Museum of Pop Culture

Front of Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle
Sergii Figurnyi / Shutterstock

Address: 325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109, United States

The Museum of Pop Culture is a non-profit museum in Seattle that is dedicated to the celebration of popular culture. Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000, it’s grown and grown ever since, and it includes dozens of different exhibits in an oddly-shaped, 140,000-square-foot building.

It was designed by architect Frank Gehry, and its sheet-metal construction is reminiscent of his other works, like the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

Exhibits in this museum cover all aspects of popular culture, including fantasy, cinema, video games, science fiction literature, music, and more. Dozens of hands-on, interactive exhibits are fun for all ages, including the Sound Lab and On Stage, which includes access to musical instruments and allows participants to perform in front of a virtual audience.

Some exhibits are dedicated to Washington musicians Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana, so if you’re a fan of either or both, you’ll likely want to spend a lot of time immersing yourself in those. This museum is a lot of fun for all ages, and you’ll be able to easily fill a morning, afternoon, or longer exploring everything that it has to offer.

See Related: Visiting The Robot Hut Museum, Washington State

5. Pacific Science Center

Building of Pacific Science Center in Seattle
ARTYOORAN / Shutterstock

Address: 200 2nd Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109, United States

After you’ve spent a few hours at the Museum of Pop Culture, take a five-minute walk over to the Pacific Science Center to view even more interesting and educational exhibits.

Also located in Seattle Center, the original buildings of the Pacific Science Center were constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair and have expanded since to cover 7.1 acres of land.

Today, it includes eight buildings that contain two IMAX theaters, one of the world’s largest Laser Dome theaters, a planetarium, a butterfly house, and hundreds of hands-on science exhibits. General admission to the Pacific Science Center includes access to most of these areas, although shows in the theaters and planetariums cost an additional fee.

Still, it’s easy to spend an entire day exploring this vast museum, and you’ll learn a great deal about our natural world while you do.

From the saltwater tide pool to the model of Puget Sound to the large dinosaur exhibit and the pollinator garden outside, the Pacific Science Center is fun for the whole family.

6. Seattle Underground Tour

Seattle Underground Tour in HDR
Alex / Adobe Stock

One of the most intriguing, interesting, and unique attractions in Seattle is the Seattle Underground. It’s just what it sounds like – the Seattle Underground is a network of underground passageways and basements in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood.

When the city was first built, these passageways were at street level, but because the city was mostly built on filled-in tidelands, the streets often flooded. After the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, the city in this neighborhood was elevated to what had previously been the second story of its buildings.

For many some time, the first (now underground) floor of these buildings continued to be used, but today, they are mostly abandoned. Some are still used as storage space.

Visitors that are interested in exploring the underground can do so on Beneath the Streets guided tours. Much of the underground is unsafe and inaccessible, but Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour continues to lead curiosity seekers below ground to see the old Seattle that once was. It’s a fun adventure and one that you won’t find anywhere else.

See Related: Best Things to do in West Seattle, Washington

West of Seattle

7. Puget Sound

A ferry crossing the Puget Sound at sunrise with Mount Rainier
Tom Nevesely / Adobe Stock

Washington’s culture and general vibe are as much about water as it is about land and the reason for that is Puget Sound. This gigantic body of water covers over 1,000 square miles and has an average depth of 450 feet.

Dozens of Seattle cities and towns are perched on its edge including Seattle, Bellingham, Tacoma, Olympia, Everett, and Bremerton, to name a few. Twelve of Washington’s counties touch Puget Sound, and over 68% of the state’s population lives in these counties. It’s the second largest estuary in the United States, second only to the Chesapeake Bay area in Maryland and Virginia.

Visiting any of the above-listed cities without seeing Puget Sound would be impossible, so you can’t miss it if you’re visiting northwestern Washington state. However, it’s worth mentioning here because it’s an important part of everything in Washington.

Puget Sound was home to Native Americans for thousands of years before European settlers came. Later, it played a major part in United States history as the stepping-off point for Alaskan explorers and settlers. Today, it’s the site of immense tourism, environmentalism and conservation efforts, and commercial fishing.

You can experience Puget Sound in countless ways, but one of the best ways to immerse yourself is by riding the Washington State Ferries. This state-run ferry system connects the islands in Puget Sound with the mainland and the Olympic Peninsula with Seattle.

It is the largest ferry operator in the nation and serves over 24 million passengers annually. You can ride as a passenger or with your vehicle; they’re a wonderful way to affordably explore this part of the state.

If you’d rather take a cruise on the Sound, this Evening Colors Sunset Sail Tour is a great opportunity.

8. Olympic National Park

Trail in Olympic National Park's Hoh Rainforest
khomlyak / Adobe Stock

Address: 3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362, United States

Without a doubt, Olympic National Park is one of the best attractions in Washington, and it’s one of the most impressive parks in our nation’s national park system. Over 2 million people visit it each year.

There are many reasons that this park is great. First, it’s gigantic – it covers 922,650 acres and takes up most of the land on the Olympic Peninsula.

You could visit it dozens of times without actually seeing every bit of it. Second, it has four distinct regions: the rugged Pacific coastline, the mountains, the lowland forest, and the temperate rainforest. Each is different and unique in its way, and all four are worth exploring.

Although parts of this park can get rather crowded, there are large sections of it in which you will feel like you are the only person for miles. The Hoh Rainforest is one of the most popular areas and is considered the wettest place in the continental United States — it gets over twelve feet of rain each year.

This means it’s also extremely green and mossy, and visitors will be amazed at the thickness and height of the trees all around them. The coast within the park extends for over sixty miles – you’ll find a beautiful mix of sand, rocks, and boulders as you walk along it.

In the park’s highest areas, you’ll find that some of the mountains are topped with ancient glaciers, too. If you want to see Sol Duc and hike Hurrican Ridge, a guided private tour will ensure the best views.

Visitors to the park can camp in a number of different campgrounds or can stay in numerous park lodges or cabins. Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort opened in 1912 and offers access to the park’s hot springs. Alternatively, there are hotels in various towns around the park’s edge, like Port Angeles, Forks, and others.

This park is incredible; you’ll need at least a few days to give it the time it deserves. Plan accordingly. Your time in Olympic National Park will stay with you forever.

See Related: Most Beautiful Places in the World | Scenic Spots

9. Fort Worden Historical State Park

Fort Worden State Park Port Townsend in Washington
Light Benders Visuals / Shutterstock

Address: 200 Battery Way E, Port Townsend, WA 98368, United States

On your way to Olympic National Park from Seattle, you’ll likely pass through Port Townsend, located on the northeastern corner of the Olympic Peninsula. This historic town is quite scenic and full of beautiful Victorian buildings; the Port Townsend Historic District is worth perusing.

Today, Port Townsend has a population of about 10,000, but it was once an active seaport in the late 19th Century. There are numerous historic hotels in this area if you’re looking for someplace cool to stay – The Palace Hotel was built in 1889 and is just one well-rated example.

Fort Worden State Historical Park takes up 433 acres of the town and was constructed between 1898 and 1920 to protect Puget Sound from invasion by sea. This one will not be missed if you or your companions are interested in military forts.

It was an active military fort from 1902 to 1953 with many unique features. It has never fired a single shot, and today, it’s a park and historical site open to visitors daily.

See Related: Washington’s Triangle of Fire

North of Seattle

10. Bellingham

Aerial view of Bellingham, Washington near Boulevard Park
James Nesterwitz / Adobe Stock

Address: Bellingham, Washington, USA

The northernmost large city in Washington State is Bellingham, and it’s a great city to visit if you want to enjoy life on Puget Sound without all the hustle and bustle of Seattle.

People who love historic districts will enjoy exploring the Fairhaven Historic District neighborhood first settled in 1853. It’s a popular tourist destination with a great seasonal farmers’ market and dozens of excellent restaurants and inviting shops.

Whatcom Falls Park is perhaps the most popular attraction in Bellingham, though; it’s a 241-acre park with four sets of waterfalls and several miles of trails. You’ll also find tennis courts, athletic fields, picnic tables, playgrounds, and a fishing pond for kids ages 14 and under. Whirlpool Falls is a popular summer swimming hole that features cliff diving from the 30-foot cliffs adjacent to it.

Bellingham has a number of other excellent parks and waterfalls to visit, and it’s a lovely city to explore for people who love enjoying the outdoors without getting too far from civilization. There are some great historic hotels in Bellingham to consider – for one, the restored Hotel Leo is an excellent choice!

11. The San Juan Islands

Orca Whale Jumping in San Juan Islands Washington
Monika Wieland Shields / Shutterstock

Address: San Juan Islands, Washington, USA

The San Juan Islands are an incredible vacation destination all their own. There are 172 named islands in San Juan County and 450 islands total; the Washington State Ferries system services four large islands.

Each of these four islands – Orcas, Shaw, San Juan, and Lopez – has its own unique vibe and culture, and they’re all worth visiting if you have time. Altogether, the San Juan Islands have a population of around 20,000 year-round residents.

San Juan Island itself is a bit like Nantucket Island and is full of shops and restaurants, and is the site of San Juan Islands National Historic Park, which was the site of the Pig War disagreement between the United States and Britain in 1859.

Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands, is forested and hilly and is a wonderful spot for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking and whale watching. Shaw and Lopez Islands are mostly residential but offer numerous bed & breakfasts, parks, bike paths, hiking trails, shops, and historical structures, and Lopez Island even has a vineyard.

The San Juan Islands are island living at its best. These green and beautiful islands offer visitors a great peek into imagining what life would be like if you lived somewhere only accessible by boat.

There are dozens of great tours to try in the San Juan Islands. If you like to kayak and camp, you might like this 2-Day Fully-Catered Kayak Camping Trip. On the other hand, if you’re a bit less adventurous but would like to see some whales, this Whale Watching Cruise from Friday Harbor may be exactly what you seek.

See Related: Cheapest Islands To Visit For Vacation

12. Deception Pass State Park

Aerial Panorama of Deception Pass Bridge in Washington State
openrangestock / Adobe Stock

Address: 41229 State Rte 20, Oak Harbor, WA 98277, United States

Deception Pass State Park is Washington’s most visited state park and it’s easy to see why. It covers 3,854 acres and offers camping, boating, and hiking trails along 77,000 feet of saltwater shoreline and 33,900 feet of freshwater shoreline on three lakes. This park is actually located on two islands in Puget Sound – Fidalgo Island to the north and Whidbey Island to the south; two bridges connect the islands.

Campers will love this park! There are over 300 campsites from which to choose, many with hookups. Boaters will find hundreds of feet of docks and countless places to moor their boats.

Other activities in the park include bird and wildlife watching, beach exploration, mountain biking, fishing, and more. This park is the crown jewel of Washington state parks; it can get crowded in the summer months, but it’s so beautiful that you’re sure to love it anyway.

13. North Cascades National Park

Aerial view of Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park
Anna Abramskaya / Shutterstock

Address: 810 State Rte 20, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284, United States

Olympic National Park isn’t the only vast national park in Washington state. North Cascades National Park is one of the National Park Service’s least visited national parks, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go check it out for yourself.

This park shares a border with Canada and is as far to the northwest as it’s possible in Washington. It covers 500,000 acres but only visited by about 30,000 visitors annually.

This park is full of mountains, and there’s a great drive through it on Route 20 if you’re not much of a hiker. In this park, you’ll find snow year-round, which isn’t surprising considering that there are 312 glaciers within the park’s boundaries. Because of the few visitors to this park, you’ll find it quiet, and it’s a paradise for people who truly want to get away from it all.

Hikers will be happy to hear that the park also has over 400 hiking trails to explore. Other activities include wildlife watching, camping, mountaineering, and boating on Gorge, Diablo, Ross Lakes, and Lake Chelan.

South of Seattle

14. Tacoma

Mount Rainier over Tacoma Waterfront at Dusk
David Gn / Adobe Stock

Address: Tacoma, Washington, USA

Tacoma and Seattle were once completely separate cities, and technically they still are, even though they have somewhat merged into one as both have grown over the past century. Tacoma has its population of around 220,000 residents, though, and although many people who live in Tacoma work in Seattle, it’s a nice coastal city in its own right, and it’s the third-largest city in the state.

The center of the action in Tacoma is Point Defiance Park. This 760-acre park includes the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, the spectacular Rose Garden, the impressive Rhododendron Garden, beaches, hiking trails, a boardwalk, a boathouse, and a Washington State Ferries dock, as well as a stand of protected, old-growth forest. Over three million people visit Point Defiance each year.

Once you’re done with the park, there are lots of other things to do in Tacoma as well, including LeMay – America’s Car Museum, which has a collection of over 350 cars donated by collector Harold LeMay, the Washington State History Museum, the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, and the Tacoma Art Museum. You can get a great overview of the city on this Guided Walking Tour with a Tram Ride if you want to dig in deep.

There are lots of great vacation rentals in Tacoma. Why not stay in one of them, and immerse yourself in the community? This North End Craftsman Bungalow is just one prime example of the adorable little cottages you’ll find in Tacoma.

15. Museum of Glass

Architecture of Museum of Glass Tacoma
ARTAZUM / Shutterstock

Address: 1801 Dock St, Tacoma, WA 98402, USA

Perhaps the most important and interesting attraction in Tacoma is the Museum of Glass. This 75,000-square-foot museum was founded in 2002 and has since become the top museum dedicated to glass and glass arts in the world. Visitors can marvel at the vast collection of glass art here in the museum’s permanent collections, and return visitors will be impressed by the fact that the museum’s temporary exhibitions are always changing.

This museum also features a 7,00-square-foot amphitheater in which visitors can watch artists create glass art in live glassblowing demonstrations. The Museum of Glass’ Visiting Artist Residency Program brings internationally acclaimed and emerging artists from all over the world to Tacoma to demonstrate their craft and create incredible works that you’ll have to see to believe.

16. Olympia

Olympia Washington from Above
Always Wanderlust / Shutterstock

Address: Olympia, Washington, USA

Many people believe that the capital of Washington State is Seattle, but those people are incorrect. The actual capital of the Evergreen State is Olympia, a small city with a population of around 55,000 people.

It’s at the very bottom of Puget Sound on an inlet called the Budd Inlet, and it’s divided in half by a body of water called Capitol Lake. It’s a great little town for a state capital, and like all of the other, larger cities on this list, it’s worth checking out.

Olympia is a quiet little city that is often overlooked, but if you take the time to visit it, you’ll be glad that you did. Attractions in Olympia include the large and interesting Monarch Sculpture Park, which is full of interesting sculptures by local artists and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge which is simply teeming with wildlife.

For families, the Hands On Children’s Museum is a place your little ones will love, and for nature lovers, numerous beautiful, waterfront parks with miles of hiking trails, like Squaxin Park, Woodard Bay, and Millersylvania and Tolmie State Parks will immerse you in natural beauty.

You’ll love your time in Olympia. It’s not nearly as busy or happening as Seattle or Tacoma, but that’s why so many people love it so much.

Visiting Olympia with a group? Staying in a vacation rental is probably your best bet – and you’ll feel more like a local when you do. This Five Bedroom Craftsman with Hot Tub and BBQ is just one example of the fantastic vacation rental homes you’ll find in Olympia.

17. Washington State Capitol Building

Trail with flowers leading to the Washington State Capitol Building
Zack Frank / Adobe Stock

Address: 416 Sid Snyder Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98504, USA

While you’re in Olympia, you should at least drive by if not enter and tour the Washington State Capitol Building. It looks a lot like the United States Capitol Building, as it was designed in American Neoclassical style, but it was built much, much later than that building erected in 1793; it was constructed between 1922 and 1928.

Its 287-foot-tall dome is the tallest self-supporting masonry dome in the United States and is second only worldwide to the dome at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Since Washington is our nation’s forty-second state, many nods to that are present in the design as well – forty-two steps lead to the building’s North entrance for one example.

Free, guided, public tours of the building are available to all daily. Be sure to rub the nose on the bronze bust of George Washington in the Legislative Building for good luck when you pass by – everyone does, and that’s why you’ll see that it shines.

See Related: 24 Most Famous Historical Landmarks in the USA

18. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park with wildflowers
Roman Khomlyak / Shutterstock

Address: Washington, USA

Washington state’s third national park is its most accessible and, therefore, is also its most visited – Mount Rainier National Park sees over 1.5 million visitors per year. It helps that its namesake mountain is visible from all over the state, including from Seattle on clear days, and calls to anyone curious. Reaching the park from Seattle, however, is a two-hour drive, which makes the height and immensity of the mountain even more impressive.

Mount Rainier is an active stratovolcano considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. It last erupted in the year 1450 and scientists believe it will erupt again soon – so good luck to everyone living nearby.

For now, it stands at 14,417 feet tall, with a prominence of 13,246 feet, which is why it stands out so much. It’s the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States.

However, there’s more to do in Mount Rainier National Park than look at or climb the mountain. This national park was established in 1899 and covers over 289,000 acres. As you might guess, there are hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the park and hundreds of campsites.

The park has eight National Park Visitor Centers to explore, each with its educational focus. Plus, there are dozens of ponds and lakes to circumnavigate and lots of wildlife to see.

One of the often overlooked areas of the park that you absolutely should not miss is the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail on the southeastern side of the mountain. If you love big trees – and who doesn’t? – you will be blown away by the massive, thousand-year-old old-growth trees you’ll see there. Don’t miss them.

With so much to see in the National Park, planning your visit can be overwhelming. If you’re staying in Seattle, book a private tour of Mount Rainier National Park and see the ins and outs of the park with expert guidance.

See Related: National Parks in the USA to Visit

19. Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Wolf at the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Washington
Paul Goudarzi-Fry / Shutterstock

Address: 11610 Trek Dr E, Eatonville, WA 98328, USA

If you haven’t managed to see much wildlife up-close-and-personal during the rest of your visit to the wilds of Washington, then you should make time to stop at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville. This 723-acre wildlife park is home to many of the native animals of Washington state including black and grizzly bears, grey wolves, bald eagles, a cougar, wolverines, bobcats, and more.

The park is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums so you know the animals kept here are treated right, and you can view most of them on the park’s tram tour. You can also see more animals on the self-driving route within the park; bison, mountain goats, elk, deer, swans, caribou and more don’t seem to be bothered by gawking tourists.

You’ll also find hands-on exhibits for children, a cafeteria, and a gift shop. This park is a great way to learn about Washington’s wildlife without trying too hard to seek it out.

See Related: Best Resorts & Hotels With Animals On-Site

East of Seattle

20. Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Mount Shuksan in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Belen Strehl / Shutterstock

Address: Marblemount, WA 98267, United States

Between the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains and the northern boundary of Mount Rainier National Park is a large national forest that encompasses nearly two million acres.

If you’re someone who wants to avoid the crowds of Mount Rainier National Park but still wants to experience the best of Washington’s mountainous and forested wilderness, then you’ll love exploring this national forest. Within the forest, you’ll find mountains that reach and exceed 6,000 feet in height, glaciers, snow fields, mountain streams, ponds, and lakes, as well as untouched, old-growth forests.

The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is easily accessible from all directions and countless hiking trails and campsites are within it. No matter what parts of this forest you choose to explore, you’ll feel like you’re a million miles from Washington’s coastal cities and densest population areas, even though you’re just a short drive away.

Want to splurge on a fun excursion? Take a Snoqualmie tour and wine tasting adventure.

21. Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls in Washington
SeanPavonePhoto / AdobeStock

Address: Snoqualmie Falls, Snoqualmie, WA 98024, USA

One of Washington’s most famous and popular waterfalls is Snoqualmie Falls. This 268-foot-tall waterfall is only about thirty minutes from Seattle and it’s easy to view and enjoy without little hiking – it’s less than 100 yards from the parking lot.

Snoqualmie Falls is part of the Snoqualmie River and has been an important cultural and spiritual icon to the native Snoqualmie people for thousands of years. More recently, it was made even more famous worldwide due to its appearance in the popular but very strange television series Twin Peaks.

More than 1.5 million people visit this waterfall each year. If you like hiking, a river trail descends 374 feet to the bottom of the falls – just remember, you’ll also have to climb back up. If you’re visiting Seattle and want to see the falls but don’t have a rental car, this Half-Day Guided Tour of Seattle City and Snoqualmie Falls will solve that problem for you with ease.

22. Hike the Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail Marker and Trail in Washington
kellyvandellen / Adobe Stock

Address: Pacific Crest Nat’l Scenic Trl, Washington, USA

Surely you’ve heard of the Appalachian Trail, but have you heard of the Pacific Crest Trail? This 2,653-mile-long trail starts on the U.S.-Mexico border in southern California and continues north through California, Oregon, and Washington to the Canadian border.

In Washington, it passes through the west-central portion of the state and through both Mount Rainier and North Cascades National Parks, as well as through the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest on the way.

Although parts of this trail are very remote, there are places where it’s easily accessible from main roads. You may never hike this trail end to end in your lifetime, but hike a little bit of it, and you can impress people by telling them you spent some time on the Pacific Crest Trail without lying.

See Related: Most Beautiful & Best Running Trails in America

Southwestern Washington State

23. Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument

Mount St. Helens from Silver Lake
Nadia Yong / Shutterstock

Address: 3029 Spirit Lake Hwy, Castle Rock, WA 98611, United States

The eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 is still one of the craziest and most notable natural disasters in contemporary American history. Although scientists saw it coming, no one could have imagined the immense devastation that it caused, although the eruption of Mount St. Helens itself only took 57 lives.

Now, nearly fifty years later, wildlife, plants, and other life is returning to the mountain and to the 230-square-mile blast zone around it. Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is an incredible place to visit for anyone interested in learning more about volcanoes.

Washington State Parks operate the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake and has excellent exhibits about this historic eruption and about volcanoes in general. However, it’s important to note that this visitor center is still about an hour from the mountain itself; if you want to get closer to check it out in person, plan for the added drive to Johnston Ridge Observatory.

A guided tour of Mount St. Helens will teach you the history and geology of this incredibly impactful volcano.

24. Johnston Ridge Observatory

Johnston Ridge Observatory Trail
Roman Khomlyak / Shutterstock

Address: 24000 Spirit Lake Hwy, Toutle, WA 98649, United States

If you want to get closer to where the action happened during the eruption of Mount St. Helens, then you’ll have to drive to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. This seasonal observatory offers more interpretive displays, a gift shop, ranger talks, and an observation deck.

Even though this eruption happened decades ago, it’s still easy to see the volcanic rock and imagine what this area looked like before it was leveled by lava. It’s in the heart of the blast zone and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

25. Columbia River Gorge

Sunset in the Columbia River Gorge
Nadia Yong / Shutterstock

Address: Oregon, USA

The border between Oregon and Washington is the Columbia River and the drive along the Columbia River Gorge is one of the most scenic and beautiful in the United States. To follow the route on the Washington side, you’ll start on Route 14 in Vancouver, Washington (very different than Vancouver, BC!) just north of Portland.

From there, you can travel along this scenic byway to its junction with Interstate 82 near Idaho. Route 14 runs right along the river almost the entire way, and there are lots of viewpoints and adorable small towns to check out en route.

26. Long Beach

Trail in Long Beach Washington
Cavan / Adobe Stock

Address: Long Beach, Washington 98631, USA

Few people know that Washington State has a beach town – but the locals love that it’s their little secret. Even with that in mind, you’ll find the town of Long Beach in Washington’s southwest corner quaint and welcoming.

This tiny little beach resort town has a population of just 1,500 or so, and it only covers an area of about two square miles. Still, it’s worth a visit because it’s not like anywhere else in the Evergreen State.

This place is quiet and remote and is an excellent choice for a summer beach vacation. There are historic buildings, a mile-long boardwalk, a lovely beach, go-karts, candy stores, kite shops, and ice cream stands. Learn about cranberry farming at the Cranberry Museum and Demonstration Farm, browse local farm offerings at the farmers market, or sip some gin, whiskey, vodka, or cranberry liqueur at Adrift Distillers Tasting Room.

This little beach town is like the land that time forgot. Bring the whole family for an unforgettable west coast, summer getaway in a cute little cottage like this one.

Central Washington State

27. Leavenworth

Streets of Leavenworth in December
Joe / Adobe Stock

Address: Leavenworth, Washington 98826, USA

There’s nowhere else in the United States that’s quite like Leavenworth, Washington, although a few places in Europe are a little bit like it! This small town in the Cascade Mountains was first a logging town, but its economy suffered when the Great Northern Railway decided to route around it.

In the 1960s, the town turned toward tourism to attract people and decided that the best way to do so was to take on a Bavarian theme. It worked! Today, it’s one of the most popular winter destinations in Washington people come from all over the nation and the world to pretend they’re in the Alps in Leavenworth.

Every building in town has been designed to look like businesses and residences you’d find in Bavarian Germany. Restaurants are German-focused. There’s beer at every turn. Want to enjoy a taste of everything? Take a food tour in Leavenworth, and you’ll feel like a German foodie by the end.

Bavarian folk music plays over loudspeakers. European shops and bakeries will make you empty your wallet over the cuteness of it all. And, don’t miss the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, which has over 5,000 nutcrackers in its collection.

This town is small, with a population of just 2,200 and an area of under two square miles. However, it’s a very happening place every September/October for its Oktoberfest celebration, when over 55,000 visitors descend on Leavenworth to participate in the revelry. If you want to attend, be sure to plan, as hotels sell out for this event well in advance.

There are lots of adorable vacation rentals in Leavenworth to consider, and most are on theme. For example “My Alpine Place” is a condo that’s just one example within walking distance of all the action.

See Related: Most Beautiful Villages in Germany

28. The Gorge Amphitheater

The Gorge Amphitheater Washington
Kyle_Graff / Shutterstock

Address: 754 Silica Rd NW, Quincy, WA 98848, USA

Most people will tell you that the most incredible place to see live music outdoors in the United States is Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. Depending on what you like, they may be right.

But many live music enthusiasts will instead argue for The Gorge Amphitheater in central Washington as the best. This place is in the middle of nowhere, and it’s a huge hassle to get to – but it’s worth it.

The Gorge Amphitheater opened in 1986 and has increased in size numerous times since then; today, it holds 27,500 concertgoers. Many don’t realize that much of central Washington is semi-arid and nearly desert; The Gorge is right in the middle of that part.

The stage at this venue is toward the bottom of a steep hill, and the Columbia River moseys lazily behind it. This creates an amazing opportunity for breathtaking sunsets while bands perform – no matter what band you go there to see, this event aspect is something you’ll never forget.

Due to the remoteness of the venue, on-site camping is offered, but some people choose to drive post-show to towns nearly an hour away to stay in hotels, so that’s an option if you’re not a camper. If you’re fast and lucky, you may be able to reserve a room at Cave B Winery, right next to the amphitheater – but as you might guess, those rooms book up awfully fast.

No matter what artist or event is happening there while you’re in Washington, even if it’s something you don’t even like, GO. You’ll be glad that you did. There’s no venue or place like The Gorge, and it’s worth the effort to get there.

29. Washington State Wine Country

Washington Vineyard in Spring
egschiller / Adobe Stock

Address: 10 N 8th St, Yakima, WA 98901, USA

Did you know that Washington is the state that produces the most wine in the United States after California? It is! Washington has over 55,000 acres of vineyards and harvests over 229,000 short tons of grapes yearly.

There are nearly 1000 wineries in the state. Although some winemaking happens in the wetter, western portion of the state, most of it happens in central and eastern Washington. It turns out that the shrub-steppe ecosystem is perfect for grapes. Who knew?

This part of Washington State is very rural, but the owners and operators of these wineries would love to host you and show you what they’ve got. Throughout Washington’s south-central and southeastern areas, you can find all types of wine to try.

The Yakima Valley is known for reds and whites. Much of the area along the Columbia River Gorge makes excellent red blends and Cabernet Sauvignon, and so do the Rattlesnake Hills and the area around Walla Walla. The Ancient Lakes area is known for Reisling and Chardonnay.

If you like wine, you’ll love south-central Washington State. You’ll find wines for every palate, and spending your entire vacation trying them all is possible.

Really want to up the experience? Why not take a Hot Air Balloon and Wine Tasting tour in Walla Walla?

See Related: Where to Stay in Temecula Wine Country: Best Areas & Places

Eastern Washington State

30. Spokane

Panorama of Spokane, Washington
Brandon Mauth / Adobe Stock

Address: Spokane, Washington, USA

Spokane is the only big city west of the major population centers on the coast, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to visit it. This city is less like the Pacific Northwest and more like Idaho, but it has a unique charm many love.

It has a population of 228,000, so it’s no small potatoes – no pun intended, even though it’s just eighteen miles from the Idaho border. The first residents of this area were the Spokane tribe, but it later became a major trading post when European settlers arrived.

There are plenty of things to fill your time in Spokane, including visits to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, tours of historic homes and buildings, parks, the John A. Finch Arboretum, breweries, wineries, a baseball stadium, and performances by the world-famous Spokane Symphony.

Spokane is friendly and welcoming and is a unique place to stop during your visit to Washington. Although to some, Spokane is Washington’s forgotten city, it’s a pleasant place to spend a weekend or longer. If you’re looking for a great place to stay in town, the oldest hotel in town – the Montvale Hotel – was recently renovated and is an excellent choice.

31. Riverfront Park

Summer day along the Spokane River in Riverfront Park
Kirk Fisher / Adobe Stock

Address: 507 N Howard St, Spokane, WA 99201, USA

Riverfront Park in Spokane is a 100-acre park on both sides of the Spokane River. Long ago, it was a Native American gathering place with many fishing camps; later, it was the site of the claim that grew into the city around it. It’s also the site of Upper Spokane Falls, the largest urban waterfall in the United States.

Also in the park, you’ll find the Spokane Pavilion, which hosts concerts and other events, the 1909 Looff Carrousel for the kids, the Numerica Skate Ribbon for rollerskating and rollerblading, and the Numerica Sky Ride, which offers great views of the city. Additionally, there are several playgrounds, a skate park, a splash pad, and pedal karts – it’s a great place to spend a sunny afternoon.

32. Palouse Falls State Park

Palouse Falls in Palouse Falls State Park
kan_khampanya / Shutterstock

Address: Palouse Falls Rd, LaCrosse, WA 99143, USA

If you haven’t seen enough waterfalls in Washington state yet, head south from Spokane to what feels like the middle of nowhere – LaCrosse. There, you’ll find the 94-acre Palouse Falls State Park Heritage Site, which features a 200-foot-tall waterfall carved over 13,000 years ago.

This waterfall was designated the Official Washington State Waterfall in 2014 thanks to a letter-writing campaign by schoolchildren, and it’s truly spectacular to view. Signage in the park also offers information about the region’s unique geology and historical significance for the local Palouse Indians.

See Related: Tourist-Friendly Native Indian Reservations to Visit

FAQ

When is the best time of the year to visit Washington?

Although this is one of our nation’s northernmost states, you won’t find tremendously cold weather in most popular tourist areas thanks to the temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest. Because of this, any time of year is great to visit Washington! As you might imagine, most of the tourist attractions in the Evergreen State are busiest during the summer months, so if you want to avoid the crowds, you might consider spring or fall instead.

Of course, in the mountainous areas of the state, you will encounter some snow, so keep that in mind if you wish to visit places like Mount Rainier National Park or North Cascades National Park – much of both places may be impassable in the wintertime. On the flip side, if you’re looking to visit central Washington, remember that the heat may be nearly unbearable during the peak of the summer – it’s nearly a desert in that part of the state, after all.

Where should I fly in to visit Washington?

The busiest airport in the state is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It’s also one of the busiest in the nation. Still, it’s a great airport to fly into to access the western portion of the state, and it’s easy to navigate – you can take trains into Seattle with ease from there if you’re visiting the city and don’t wish to rent a car.

Of course, other major cities in Washington state also have their airports; you can fly into Bellingham for Seattle instead if you wish or into Spokane or a number of other smaller airports if you want to explore the eastern part of the state.

Will I need a rental car when I visit Washington?

Although the public transportation in most cities in Washington is quite good, you’ll likely want to rent a car if you plan on visiting anywhere other than Seattle. Seattle is a city that’s easy to get around on foot or using public transportation, but if you rent a car, you’ll find that parking isn’t much of a hassle in most areas.

Anywhere else, though, you’ll want to have a car – especially if you want to visit any of the natural areas we’ve described above – and you should. The beauty of the forests, mountains, and islands of Washington are things that you should not miss on your visit to the Evergreen State!

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