10 Best Places to Visit in Washington State

Olympic Peninsula

Washington State is a haven for adventurers, nature enthusiasts, and city explorers alike. From the bustling urban energy of Seattle to the serene, untouched beauty of the Olympic Peninsula, the state offers a diverse range of experiences. In this guide, we’ll explore the best places to visit in Washington state, ensuring you have a comprehensive list of must-see destinations.

Best Places to Visit in Washington State

1. Seattle


Seattle, often referred to as the Emerald City, is a vibrant metropolis surrounded by water, mountains, and evergreen forests. It’s a hub of technology, culture, and nature, making it one of the best places to visit in Washington state.

  1. Space Needle: An iconic symbol of Seattle, the Space Needle offers breathtaking views of the city skyline, Mount Rainier, and Puget Sound. Don’t miss the rotating glass floor at the top!
  2. Pike Place Market: One of the oldest continuously operating farmers’ markets in the U.S., Pike Place Market is a must-visit for its fresh seafood, local produce, and unique crafts.
  3. Chihuly Garden and Glass: Located next to the Space Needle, this exhibition showcases the stunning glass artworks of Dale Chihuly. The outdoor garden is particularly mesmerizing.
  4. Seattle Art Museum (SAM): Dive into the world of art with SAM’s extensive collection, ranging from contemporary pieces to ancient artifacts.
  5. Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP): Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, MoPOP is dedicated to contemporary popular culture, featuring exhibits on music, sci-fi, and more.

2. Olympic Peninsula

Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula is home to some of the most diverse and spectacular landscapes in Washington state, making it a top destination for nature lovers.

  1. Olympic National Park: Covering nearly a million acres, this park features rainforests, alpine peaks, and over 70 miles of rugged coastline. Highlights include Hurricane Ridge, Hoh Rain Forest, and Rialto Beach.
  2. Port Angeles: This charming town serves as a gateway to the Olympic National Park. It’s also known for its waterfront views and access to the stunning Lake Crescent.
  3. Cape Flattery: As the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States, Cape Flattery offers dramatic ocean vistas and the chance to see marine wildlife like seals and puffins.
  4. Sol Duc Hot Springs: Relax in the natural hot springs located within Olympic National Park. It’s a perfect spot to unwind after a day of hiking.

3. San Juan Islands

San Juan Islands

For a more relaxed and scenic getaway, the San Juan Islands are among the best places to visit in Washington state. Accessible by ferry from Anacortes, these islands offer picturesque landscapes and abundant wildlife.

  1. Friday Harbor: The main town on San Juan Island, Friday Harbor is known for its quaint shops, art galleries, and the fascinating Whale Museum.
  2. Orcas Island: The largest of the San Juan Islands, Orcas Island features Moran State Park, where you can hike up Mount Constitution for panoramic views.
  3. Lopez Island: Known as the “friendly isle,” Lopez Island is perfect for cycling, with its gentle terrain and welcoming atmosphere.
  4. San Juan Island National Historical Park: Explore American and British camps that commemorate the Pig War, a peaceful border dispute between the U.S. and Britain.

4. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier, an active stratovolcano, dominates the skyline of western Washington and is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts.

  1. Paradise: Aptly named, Paradise is known for its stunning wildflower meadows in the summer and snow-covered landscapes in the winter. The Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center provides information and exhibits.
  2. Sunrise: The highest point accessible by car, Sunrise offers incredible views of Mount Rainier and the surrounding valleys. It’s also a starting point for numerous hiking trails.
  3. Grove of the Patriarchs: A short, family-friendly hike that takes you through an ancient forest of towering trees, some over 1,000 years old.
  4. Myrtle Falls: An easy hike from the Paradise area, Myrtle Falls offers a picture-perfect view of the waterfall with Mount Rainier in the background.

5. North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park, often called the “American Alps,” is a rugged and remote wilderness area that’s ideal for experienced hikers and climbers.

  1. Diablo Lake: Known for its striking turquoise waters, Diablo Lake is a popular spot for kayaking, boating, and enjoying the scenic overlooks.
  2. Cascade Pass: A challenging but rewarding hike that offers panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers. Keep an eye out for wildlife like marmots and mountain goats.
  3. Stehekin: Accessible only by boat, plane, or foot, Stehekin is a remote village that offers a peaceful escape with opportunities for hiking, fishing, and exploring the historic Buckner Orchard.
  4. Mount Baker: Located in the northern part of the North Cascades, Mount Baker is a popular destination for skiing, snowboarding, and mountaineering.

6. Leavenworth


Leavenworth is a charming Bavarian-style village nestled in the Cascade Mountains. It’s known for its festive atmosphere, outdoor recreation, and unique cultural events.

  1. Downtown Leavenworth: Stroll through the picturesque streets, lined with Bavarian-style buildings, shops, and restaurants. Don’t miss the Nutcracker Museum and the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm.
  2. Oktoberfest: Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest is one of the largest in the U.S., featuring traditional German music, food, and beer.
  3. Icicle Gorge: A beautiful hike along the Icicle River, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and wildflowers.
  4. Leavenworth Ski Hill: In winter, enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and tubing at this family-friendly ski hill.

7. Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge is a stunning natural area that forms the border between Washington and Oregon. It’s known for its dramatic cliffs, waterfalls, and recreational opportunities.

  1. Multnomah Falls: Just across the border in Oregon, Multnomah Falls is one of the most visited natural attractions in the Pacific Northwest. The waterfall drops 620 feet, creating a breathtaking sight.
  2. Beacon Rock State Park: Located on the Washington side of the gorge, this park offers hiking trails, camping, and the chance to climb Beacon Rock for panoramic views.
  3. Columbia Gorge Discovery Center: Learn about the natural and cultural history of the Columbia River Gorge at this informative museum in The Dalles, Oregon.
  4. Hood River: Known for its windsurfing and kiteboarding, Hood River is a charming town that also offers wineries, breweries, and farm-to-table dining.

8. Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens, famous for its catastrophic eruption in 1980, is a fascinating destination for those interested in geology and natural history.

  1. Johnston Ridge Observatory: Located near the volcano’s blast zone, this observatory offers exhibits, films, and ranger talks about the 1980 eruption and its aftermath.
  2. Ape Caves: Explore one of the longest lava tubes in North America. The caves were formed by lava flows from Mount St. Helens over 2,000 years ago.
  3. Windy Ridge: A viewpoint on the eastern side of the volcano that offers incredible views of the crater, Spirit Lake, and the surrounding landscape.
  4. Lava Canyon: Hike through a dramatic landscape of waterfalls, lava formations, and a suspension bridge.

9. Palouse

The Palouse region, located in southeastern Washington, is known for its picturesque rolling hills, fertile farmland, and unique geological formations.

  1. Steptoe Butte State Park: Climb to the top of Steptoe Butte for panoramic views of the Palouse region. The drive to the summit is a winding road that offers stunning vistas along the way.
  2. Palouse Falls State Park: Home to the 200-foot Palouse Falls, this state park offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and stunning views of the falls and the surrounding canyon.
  3. Wheat Fields: The rolling wheat fields of the Palouse are a photographer’s dream, especially during the golden hour. Take a drive along the country roads to fully appreciate the landscape.
  4. Washington State University: Located in Pullman, WSU’s campus is worth a visit for its beautiful grounds and the renowned Bear Center, which researches grizzly bears.

FAQ: Best Places to Visit in Washington State

Prettiest Place in Washington State

The title of the prettiest place in Washington state is highly subjective, but many would argue that Olympic National Park takes the crown. The park is incredibly diverse, featuring everything from rugged coastlines and lush rainforests to alpine peaks and wildflower meadows. Highlights include:

  • Hurricane Ridge: Offers stunning panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains.
  • Hoh Rain Forest: One of the world’s most impressive temperate rainforests, with moss-draped trees and abundant wildlife.
  • Rialto Beach: Known for its dramatic sea stacks and the Hole-in-the-Wall rock formation.

Number One Tourist Attraction in Washington State

The number one tourist attraction in Washington state is the Space Needle in Seattle. This iconic landmark was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and remains a symbol of the city. Visitors flock to the Space Needle for its:

  • Observation Deck: Offering 360-degree views of Seattle, including downtown, Mount Rainier, and the Puget Sound.
  • Revolving Glass Floor: A thrilling feature that allows you to see directly below.
  • Dining Experience: The SkyCity restaurant (currently under renovation) provides a unique dining experience with panoramic views.

Most Famous Thing in Washington

Washington state is famous for several things, but arguably the most iconic is Mount Rainier. This majestic stratovolcano, standing at 14,411 feet, is not only a prominent feature of the state’s skyline but also a symbol of the natural beauty and geological significance of the region. Key points about Mount Rainier include:

  • Mount Rainier National Park: Attracts millions of visitors annually for hiking, climbing, and breathtaking scenery.
  • Wildflower Meadows: Particularly in the Paradise area, known for vibrant displays of wildflowers in the summer.
  • Glaciers: Mount Rainier has 25 named glaciers, the most on a single peak in the contiguous United States.

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Conclusion: Best Places to Visit in Washington State

From the urban allure of Seattle to the rugged beauty of the North Cascades, the best places to visit in Washington state offer something for everyone. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or simply a relaxing getaway, Washington State has it all. Plan your trip today and discover the diverse and breathtaking destinations that make this state a true gem in the Pacific Northwest.

Remember, the best places to visit in Washington state are just waiting to be explored. Happy travels!

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