Washington State is a special kind of beautiful. Known as the “Evergreen State” for its lush evergreen forests, visitors instantly fall in love with the incredible natural beauty that encompasses Washington. There are many beautiful landscapes and places to experience while you’re visiting the state. Whether you enjoy the peaceful water views, deep still forests, or majestic mountains, Washington is perfect for you.
While Seattle has become a very popular destination thanks to iconic television shows like ‘Frazier’ and movies like ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ that use this quirky hipster town as their backdrop, there are many other fantastic places to explore and experience while in Washington. Some of the hidden gems like the Ginkgo Petrified Forest and Dungeness Spit are worth a detour.
Washington State attracts millions of tourists each year and it’s understandable why! The state has something for those seeking adventure, those who prefer to sit and sip their way through the state, those who want to be close to the water and witness beautiful animals, or those who prefer to hang in the city hubs and explore local artisans and coffee shops.
Best Places to visit in Washington
As you’re planning a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, you should definitely consider spending time in Washington. Whether you’re looking for coastal towns, sea stacks, local breweries, hiking to idyllic waterfalls, island hopping in Puget Sound, breathtaking national parks, quaint coffee shops, or that urban city vibe, Washington has a little bit of it all. Here is our guide to the best places to visit during your trip to the Evergreen State.
You can’t talk about Washington State and not mention the iconic city of Seattle. Whether you’ve fallen in love with the waterfront cottages from Sleepless in Seattle or the dreamy doctors from Gray’s Anatomy; Seattle has become a sensation and people flock to it from all over the world.
Being such a large metropolitan city there is an endless list of things to experience that will keep you busy for weeks. While in the city, you must experience Seattle from the top of the Space Needle and duck under the flying fish of Pike’s Place Market. Then go grab a cup of coffee from Starbucks and tour the original Roastery. As you warm up to the city, visit the Waterfront Park and Pier 57. It has tons of restaurants, shops, and bars & is privy to beautiful coastal views.
Though Seattle is notoriously rainy, you’ll find plenty of great things to do outside on nice sunny days such as biking through downtown, al fresco dining, seeing historic buildings in Pioneer Square, and even boat rides from the Pier. However, it’s always great to have a few rainy day activities in your back pocket. Our favorite is being mesmerized in the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit which is conveniently located next to the Seattle Space Needle. If you decide to visit both, purchase the combo ticket for discount admissions.
The Boeing Experience
If you’re a wanderlust adventurer, then the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour in Everett should be on the top of your list. During the tour, visitors have the unique opportunity to see famous planes – the 747, 767, 777, and the 787 Dreamliner – where they were born.
It’s not every day that you get to see a plane being put together… well kind of! At the Center, visitors are able to tour the assembly process. The tour lasts approximately 90 minutes and takes you through the history of aviation, Boeing, and the future of the aviation design industry. Tickets for the experience sell out quickly, so it’s best to book in advance through their website.
Located about 25 minutes outside of Seattle, the Boeing Tour is a great indoor activity to do on a cold rainy day in the Pacific Northwest, which occurs quite frequently in winter. Though the tour does involve quite a bit of walking, stairs, and a few elevators, the tours can make special accommodations for those who are in wheelchairs or physically challenged. No matter which way you experience the tour, you’ll leave feeling inspired to travel and fly the skies again.
Olympic National Park
Washington is full of beautiful state and national parks, but Olympic National Park is quite impressive. It covers most of the Olympic Peninsula and has a little bit of everything from ocean beaches to glacier mountaintops. With plenty of hiking trails that encapsulate many different terrains, you’ll be able to experience some of nature’s most beautiful and diverse scenes during your visit to Olympic National Park.
Once you’re in the Park you’ll find there are plenty of things to keep you entertained within its borders such as paddling, boating, and fishing. Collect driftwood and go beachcombing at Ruby Beach or drive the Lake Quinault Loop Drive. See the Roosevelt elks in the park or hike the Hall of Mosses Trail in Hof Rainforest. Go hiking at Hurricane Ridge and spend a tranquil day on Lake Crescent. Hike to Sol Duc Falls.
Though summer provides the perfect opportunity to do these activities, Olympic National Park is also open during the winter months for exploring the wintery white wonderland through skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. Check the National Park website for seasonal closures and weather conditions before you head out to stay safe.
North Cascades National Park
If you’ve ever wanted to see a glacier with your own eyes then head to North Cascades National Park. More than half of the glaciers found in the US are located right here in this park in Washington. The Cascades are known as America’s Alps and are popular for their stunning alpine scenery. The national park complex also has gorgeous lakes like Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, and Lake Chelan. Road trip to the North Cascades scenic drive and see the panoramic view from Washington Pass Overlook.
You will encounter gorgeous hiking paths in the park including the rewarding Cascades Pass Trail. You may even spot some of the famous Cascades wildlife like a grizzly bear or a wolf – but hopefully from afar and not up close and personal! Within the park, you can also hike or drive to the volcano, Mount Baker. which provides one of the most beautiful spots in all of Washington to take incredible pictures of the mountains that surround. During winter, the Mount Baker Ski Area is a popular ski resort where you can take lessons and rent ski equipment.
San Juan Islands
Have you ever dreamed of seeing whales in the wild? Then you’ll definitely want to visit the San Juan Islands on your trip out to Washington. Just north of the Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands are a group of beautiful islands accessible only by ferry. Each island has its own flair and some are larger than others but all are full of amazing local restaurants, cafes, boutique shops, and museums. They all also have some of the most beautiful and serene views in Puget Sound.
The Islands are particularly enticing if you want to escape from the pulse of the city and the beat of everyday life and reconnect with nature. You can wake up and watch the sunrise, kayak in the water, eat fresh local caught seafood, and hike through the San Juan Island National Historical Park.
One of the magical things about the islands is the abundant aquatic life, primarily the whales! There are several companies that offer whale watching tours and excursions where you can catch a glimpse of Orcas playing in the water. Sit back and be mesmerized by these giant creatures and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the pure and simple beauty that surrounds you.
Mount Rainier National Park
Probably one of the most iconic national parks and natural beauties in Washington, Mount Rainier needs no introduction. You can easily see the beautiful snow-topped peak from Seattle on a clear day. Less than an hour’s drive from Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park is the highest mountain in Washington and draws tourists from all over the world. The incredible, raw natural beauty of the park is enchanting. You will feel absolutely one with nature in some of the most untouched and picturesque spots in Washington.
In summer, the park’s Paradise Visitor Center and surrounding meadows are full of blooming wildflowers and fruiting wild berry bushes. You can hike trails to see glacier views and go foraging in the valleys. Sunrise is another popular area of the park and has plenty of wildlife. The park is popular throughout the year, but during the winter many of the access points and paths are blocked off due to safety reasons so make sure you check the National Park website for details on openings.
Tacoma, Washington sits on the Puget Sound about 30 miles outside of Seattle but can often be overlooked by the hip and happening Emerald City. However, Tacoma is super trendy, hipster, and funky and deserves a visit while you’re in Washington. This is particularly an art lovers dream with many local artisans and craft shops that you can visit.
While you’re in Tacoma, why not stop into the Hot Shop, a glass blowing studio that allows you to get behind the scenes and watch the masters’ work. If you’ve ever heard of the famous glassblower Chihuly, then you’ll definitely want to make a stop here to see his artwork at the Bridge of Glass. Overall, Tacoma is an eclectic city that provides a fun, playful, and energetic background for exploring food, sips, and art.
When you arrive in the town of Leavenworth, you may think you’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up in Germany or Austria but fear not, you’re still in Washington State! The town of Leavenworth is a full-blown Bavarian village right in Washington complete with people wearing lederhosen and carrying beer steins. The town has become an adored spot by locals and tourists alike.
While the town is adorable and has many festivals all year long, in winter Leavenworth sparkles a little extra. Holiday lights and decorations, Christmas trees and carollers, singers, snow-topped roofs, and unique celebrations like Christmas markets bring all sorts of festive cheer to the town. You can shop at local artisan shops, sip on mulled wine, eat lots of baked goods, and take in the ambiance throughout the town.
Leavenworth is also popular for outdoor recreation. Summer activities bring hikers, bicyclists, and road trippers while winter brings families seeking snow and sledding fun. Or if you’re more on the adventurous side you can snowshoe through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness trail or visit the iconic Icicle Gorge trail.
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Located in the Southwestern region of Washington, the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is humbling and majestic. In contrast to the mountains of West Washington, the mountain peak and surrounding ranges are more sloping and subtle but are still one of the most beautiful spots in the state. The monument marks the site of where the volcano erupted in 1980.
To explore the monument and go hiking within the blast zone, take Highway 504 up the mountain. The Johnston Ridge Observatory is located on the rim and has stunning views of the yawning crater; the visitor center is located inside the observatory. You can explore the exhibits inside the Visitor Center to learn more about the history of the mountain and the 1980 eruption that shocked the country. Mt St Helens Forest Learning Center is also a great place to learn more about the natural resources and geology of the area.
Port Angeles is located in the Olympic Peninsula and in the shadows of the Olympic Mountains. Though the city is one of the smallest seaside towns in the Pacific Northwest, Port Angeles is packed with charming local businesses, its endless outdoor activities and whale watching. You will be able to experience the best of a city with lots of unique restaurants, local breweries and charming coffee shops. The city also has museums and kids attractions like the Olympic Game Farm, a drive through safari.
Then, when you’re ready for some adventure, you can take to nature and explore Port Angeles by bicycle, walking, hiking, sledding, or kayaking. Many of the Olympic National Park units – Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, and Sol Duc Valley – are located near Port Angeles. Visitors can also take a ferry to British Columbia from the seaport city. Port Angeles has a mountain vibe that is relaxing and refreshing, especially from the hustle and bustle of the big metropolitan city life.
The Puget Sound is on the western border of Washington, separating the Olympic Peninsula and Seattle. The Sound makes up the watery region that is filled with small islands, little inlets, and beaches that have that quintessential North Pacific vibe. The weather here is rather chilly and misty most of the year, so bring along a jacket in spite of whenever you visit.
The Puget Sound is a great oasis for those looking for outdoor adventures like kayaking, whale watching, and island hopping between the unique and vibrant islands. There are plenty of hiking trails throughout the islands that make up the Puget Sound and you can enjoy quiet moments along in solitude or enjoy lively communities on the islands such as Bainbridge Island, Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor, and Coupeville.
Snoqualmie Falls are a very popular Washington attraction. If you’ve ever seen the famous television show “Twin Peaks” then you’d definitely recognize this iconic waterfall. Located between the towns of Snoqualmie and Fall City, this rushing waterfall is majestic and beautiful. It looks beautiful and photogenic as it cascades over the rocky edges of the mountainside. The falls can be easily seen from near the parking lot.
The mist from the waterfall will make you feel cool and refreshed on those warm summer days but you should definitely carry a jacket for cooler months. You can enjoy some short hiking trails around the area and visit the visitor center and gift shop for some souvenirs. Make sure you also check out the Salish Lodge & Spa which sits overlooking the falls. They have a restaurant with panoramic windows to enjoy views of the waterfall as well as a luxurious spa to ease any of those hiking pains.
Washington State Capitol, Olympia
The charming and quaint city of Olympia is the capital of Washington State. The main highlight of the whole town is the beautiful white domed Washington State Capitol building. The dome is the largest free standing masonry dome in the continent. The building is surrounded by beautiful flower-lined streets and walkways and is one of the popular Instagram spots in the city. This iconic building stands an impressive 287 feet above the rest of the town, making it difficult to miss from almost anywhere.
You can learn more about the town and the capitol building by participating in one of the free guided public tours that are offered almost daily. On the tour you can see the beautiful, massive Tiffany chandelier located inside the building. The town itself isn’t quite as bustling as you’d think it would be considering it’s the capital of the state but it still has many things to do. A great place to picnic and spend some time outdoors is the Tumwater Falls park, located on the banks of the Deschutes. Olympia also has a great farmers market, museums, many murals and provides a charming weekend experience in the state.
Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park
In contrast to the steep mountains on the western side of the state, the eastern side and the Ginkgo Petrified Forest provide a totally different experience. This is the high desert region and marked by barren rock formations. Located in the Wanapum Recreation Area besides Lake Wanapum, Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park is nothing less than a natural wonder. The state park protects an ancient and prehistoric forest that is petrified into stone due to natural forces.
On the park trails you can see over 30 petrified tree logs in their natural setting including the ginkgo tree which thrived in the area thousands of years ago. This is a perfect pit stop if you’re driving from Seattle to Spokane and want to find something interesting to do on the way. You can enjoy the on-site museum which talks about the history of the area and science, and then go explore and take a hike for yourself.
Lavender fields of Sequim
You don’t have to fly all the way to France to get a sweet sniff of fresh lavender. You can go to the Sequim lavender fields right in Washington and enjoy their beautiful aroma and bloom. Sequim is located on the Olympic Peninsula, just a short distance away from Port Angeles. Sequim is also home to the Dungeness Spit and Dungeness crabs found in the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. But it is Sequim’s lavender fields that are the most popular Instagram attraction of the area.
While you can find the lavender fields on your own, there are plenty of great tour companies that offer tours of the lavender fields and valleys and may even help you get a little satchel to bring home. Definitely one of the highlights of the year is the Sequim Lavender Festival which is a major draw for locals and tourists alike. Come during the summer, usually around July, to enjoy food, music, arts and crafts, and of course the beautiful soft violet colored flowers.
Bainbridge Island is a small city and island that is connected to Seattle by a ferry. Just getting there is an adventure, but once you’re on the island you’ll find a variety of things to tickle your fancy such as eclectic boutiques, scenic waterways and overlooks, a ton of outdoor and water activities and of course, local fun restaurants that serve classics with a twist. Since the island is located in the Puget Sound, you’ll experience some of the beautiful backdrops and sceneries, especially as the sun begins to set on your day.
The Gorge Amphitheatre
Sitting on the grass and listening to a concert is a pretty great way to end a summer night. However, in Washington, they take it up a notch by planning concerts in one of the most incredible outdoor amphitheaters. With the stunning backdrop of rolling hills and a shimmering distant lake, the Gorge Amphitheatre is the perfect setting for live concerts. Nestled in the valley, the amphitheater has amazing ambiance and acoustics. The Amphitheatre hosts a variety of concerts from reggae to country and alternative to suit everyone’s taste. You can check out their calendar for upcoming concerts to plan a trip.
The 20,000 + seat venue is located in the rural town of Gorge above the Columbia River about 10 miles from the next biggest town of Quincy. Since the venue is in a more rural area of Washington you may be wondering where you can stay to catch a concert. Fans who flock to the Amphitheatre can choose to camp on-site or stay at a hotel in Quincy. Regardless of where you stay, the Gorge Amphitheatre will make for a memorable summer evening under the stars.
Located at the base of Washington’s North Cascades Mountain is the stunning Lake Chelan. Surrounded by beautiful mountains and rolling hills the area provides lots of possibilities for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and watersports. However if sports isn’t your thing and you prefer to sip, then you’re in luck! The surrounding region is very well known for its vineyards and wineries, a major draw for visitors to this region. To spend a great day at Lake Chelan, start by hiking one of the popular trails, go wine tasting at the various vineyards at noon, and end your day with a lake cruise on the beautiful waters.
Deception Pass State Park
With miles of tranquil shoreline, quiet trails, and copious amounts of natural beauty, it’s no wonder that Deception Island State Park is one of the most beautiful places in Washington. The park connects the natural beauty of two islands; Fidalgo and Whidbey Island. Connected by the iconic Deception Pass Bridge, the state park is perfect for a full day of exploring, walking, kayaking, and just sitting on the beach. With over 77,000 feet of saltwater shoreline, you’ll be able to enjoy all the beauty of the water the park has to offer.
While many people stick to the Western side of Washington, the Eastern side has some great spots to visit too! Spokane, the second-largest city behind Seattle, is very different in geography and climate than the western side. The weather is usually sunnier, warmer with more rolling country hills and farmland dotting the scenery. Spokane is the cultural hub of Eastern Washington and provides a gateway to lots of outdoor and artistic activities. You can spend the day touring museums, taking a swing at some of the popular golf courses, or sipping on some local craft beers at many of the local breweries.
The Evergreen State is a world that blends modern living and natural beauty in one. It is surrounded by looming mountains and serene bodies of water and yet the cities are bustling and eccentric in their people and flair. It’s a beautiful state full of beautiful people and scenery and we hope this inspires you as you plan your next vacation to look at visiting Washington State.
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