View of roads and buildings at Downtown Seattle, one of the best cities in Washington

17 Best Cities in Washington State in 2023 (A Local’s Picks)

I’m a Seattle local who travels all throughout the state and in this guide, I share the best cities in Washington. Several are small to mid-sized, and each caters to a variety of visitors and potential residents. 

Many destinations made my list of the best places to visit in Washington state! But a couple of lesser-known spots may surprise you. Read on to learn more about Washington’s trendy, nature-loving, and vibrant cities.

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!

17 Best Cities in Washington State

Seattle

Washington’s biggest city with endless options for playing, dining, and nightlife

The author smiling for a photo at Kerry Park with the overlooking view on her background
Me at Kerry Park, one of the best viewpoints in the city

🏠 Population: 733,919 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Seattle on Booking

As the largest city in the state and one of the most popular cities in Washington, Seattle is full of worthwhile things to do. Visits to Pike Place Market, the Museum of Pop Culture, and the Space Needle are among some of the best, but it doesn’t end there.

You can experience live music shows and a prolific coffee scene. Taste your way through unique restaurants, bars, and breweries. Attend festivals, then wander through the many neighborhoods that give the Emerald City its flavor. 

If you love big city amenities, you’ll love Seattle. It’s a good place to stay while you go on nearby hikes or take off on day trips to some of the other top cities and towns in Washington state.

📚 Related Reading: Want to book a hotel in the big city, but can’t decide where? Check out my guide on where to stay in Seattle for a round-up of some great options!

Bellingham

A Canada-adjacent city with a solid brewery scene and easy access to an epic national park

View of local stores along a street in Bellingham
A cute street in Bellingham’s Fairhaven neighborhood during the fall (photo: CL Shebley / Shutterstock)

🏠 Population: 92,289 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Bellingham on Booking

Washington’s northernmost big city is a lively college town that has an adventurous outdoor atmosphere.

Bellingham is close to the Canadian border, Mount Baker, and the North Cascades National Park, and is a hub for ferries going to Alaska. Outdoor enthusiast? Go hiking, enjoy the scenic Chuckanut Drive, bike along gorgeous trails, or hit up the mountains for snow sports.

If you prefer to stay closer to civilization, take your time wandering through the super cute Fairhaven neighborhood. Also, check out downtown Bellingham’s museums and craft breweries like Wander Brewing and Aslan Brewing Company

Port Angeles

The perfect city for exploring the wonders of the Olympic National Park and spending time on the water

The author sitting at the waterfront in Port Angeles
Me enjoying Port Angeles’s waterfront

🏠 Population: 20,134 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Port Angeles on Booking

Port Angeles is a small city in western Washington. Because it’s right on the water, there are many ways to enjoy it. Attend the annual Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival, stroll along the scenic Ediz Hook, or take the ferry to Victoria, B.C.

Another one of the city’s perks is that it’s a mere 7 miles from the Olympic National Park, the prettiest place in Washington state. Experiencing this park’s rainforests, mountains, and coastal beaches is a popular thing to do when visiting. Go up to Hurricane Ridge for jaw-dropping views or to Lake Crescent to picnic, camp, or swim. 

Tacoma

A cool, industrial city with good museums, shopping, entertainment, and outdoor activities

View of the Point Defiance ferry terminal and the Mount Rainier from afar
Near the Point Defiance ferry terminal in Tacoma with Mount Rainier looming in the background

🏠 Population: 219,205 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Tacoma on Booking

Tacoma, affectionately known as Grit City, has plenty to see and do. Museums, vintage shops, quirky eateries, and a bold art scene characterize the state’s third-largest city.

Point Defiance Park on the northwesternmost part of Tacoma contains a zoo, aquarium, rose garden, museum, and miles of trails. Mount Rainier National Park is only about an hour and a half away. Both make Tacoma a good destination for outdoor lovers.

Unpretentious and eclectic, Tacoma has some great entertainment options on par with Seattle’s. Its location in the south sound also means it’s easy to get to other cities like Olympia, Lakewood, or Federal Way for further exploring.

Spokane

Eastern Washington city with phenomenal parks, friendly locals, and outdoor recreation 

View of the Spokane Fall at the Spokane’s Riverfront Park
The beautiful Spokane Falls at Spokane’s Riverfront Park

🏠 Population: 229,071 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Spokane on Booking

Spokane is Eastern Washington’s most exciting city. It’s the second largest in the state and full of pubs, cafes, and breweries, along with a welcoming atmosphere a bit reminiscent of the midwest. 

Riverfront Park and Manito Park are the city’s main attractions. Expect pretty scenery, festivals, and community gatherings at either. Day trips to nearby cities and charming Washington towns like Spokane Valley, Moses Lake, Grand Coulee, and Coulee City are also worth taking.

Eastern Washington has a different climate than the west, so Spokane has less rain, more snow, and higher temperatures. Still, in true Pacific Northwest fashion, Spokane is a great place for outdoor recreation. Hiking, mountain biking, and snowboarding are just a few of locals’ favorite activities. 

Vancouver

Southern Washington city with historical sites and some of the most beautiful scenery in the state

People enjoying their day at the Vancouver’s Waterfront Park
Vancouver’s Waterfront Park has a lot of activity (photo: Reinhardt and Co / Shutterstock) 

🏠 Population: 192,169 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Vancouver on Booking

Vancouver is one of the largest cities in the state and the gateway to the breathtaking landscapes of the Columbia River Gorge region. It’s sometimes overshadowed by its proximity to Portland, Oregon. But Vancouver is a cool, safe, and historical city brimming with interesting things to do.

History lovers can learn about how the city was a stopping point for Lewis and Clark. Fort Vancouver and the Clark County Historical Museum are good places for diving deeper into the city’s past. 

Check out local events and entertainment at Esther Short Park. Wander over to Waterfront Park for dining and recreation options. If you’re feeling adventurous, visit the Columbia River Gorge and Mount St Helens. Both are excellent places for enchanting wildflower hikes. 

Bellevue

A relaxed suburban city with tons of shopping, parks, and family-friendly amenities

View from the Bellevue's Downtown Park before nighttime
Bellevue’s pretty Downtown Park at dusk

🏠 Population: 149,440 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Bellevue on Booking

Access to Seattle and the outdoors, plus a manicured, suburban feel makes Bellevue a desirable place for families. There are plenty of beach parks along Lake Washington, perfect for picnics, playdates, and long days on the water. 

Bellevue is also known for its huge shopping districts with high-end brands and upscale dining options. These make it a good place to go gift shopping or enjoy some splurge-worthy meals.

Not up for spending? Hang out at Downtown Park or go to the always-free botanical gardens. Though Bellevue is much tamer than its neighboring city to the west, there are still plenty of things to do in Bellevue for residents and visitors. 

Olympia

Home of the state’s Capitol Building with great local shops and an easygoing atmosphere

The kissing statue at the Olympia’s Percival Landing Park
The kissing statue at downtown Olympia’s Percival Landing Park (photo: SNC Art and More / Shutterstock) 

🏠 Population: 55,919 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Olympia on Booking

Olympia is Washington state’s capitol, located at the south end of the Puget Sound. One of the best things to do in Olympia is to visit the Capitol Campus and the Legislative Building, which is open for daily tours. 

The nearby historical district is also worth a visit. This walkable area has excellent dining options, bars, and unique shops. Stop at Percival Landing Park, too! This well-maintained waterfront park has walking paths, sculptures, and pretty views.

Olympia places a big emphasis on buying and supporting local artisans. One place to see this in action is at the farmers market (one of the best in the state!), where you can get to know the kind-hearted locals of this inviting city.

Bainbridge Island

A laid-back and artsy city on a popular island in the Puget Sound

The author smiling for a photo with a frog sculpture in Bainbridge Island
Me posing with one of many frog sculptures on Bainbridge Island

🏠 Population: 24,546 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Bainbridge Island on Booking

If you want a glimpse into island life, Bainbridge is one of the best places to go. It’s only a 30-minute ferry ride from Seattle, and the community that lives there is laid back and arts-focused. 

Most of the sights, shopping boutiques, events, and other things to do in Bainbridge Island are in Winslow. This downtown area is only a 10-minute walk from the ferry terminal. The island is also full of fun parks like the large and foresty Fort Ward State Park, and the recreation-focused Battle Point Park. 

Since Bainbridge is tiny for a city, it feels more like a small town. Places close early on Bainbridge, so expect quiet, relaxing evenings instead of wild nights here.

📚 Related Reading: If you love islands, you’ll want to check out my article on the best towns in Washington. You’re sure to find a town you love, like Vashon or Friday Harbor, on some of Washington’s other exciting islands.

Yakima

City in fertile Yakima Valley with fresh produce, beer, wine, and plenty of outdoor opportunities

Clear blue sky over a vineyard in Yakima Valley
A vineyard in Yakima Valley

🏠 Population: 96,578 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Yakima on Booking

Yakima is a city in central Washington nicknamed the “Palm Springs of Washington.” It gets around 300 days of sunshine a year and is surrounded by some of the most fertile land in the region. 

Come to Yakima to enjoy fresh beer, wine, and produce. You’ll definitely want to plan a visit during the Fresh Hop Ale Fest. About ¾ of hops in the USA are grown in Yakima, meaning there are tons of offerings for the biggest beer-lovers during the fest.  

The Yakima Valley is also ripe with possibilities for outdoor excursions. There are opportunities for rafting, fishing, hiking, and biking. This makes it the perfect place for adventure-seekers.

Redmond

A techy city on the Eastside with a popular concert-venue park and bike-friendly trails

People admiring the artworks during the Pacific Northwest Chalk Fest
Some of the artwork during the Pacific Northwest Chalk Fest (photo: GeorgeColePhoto / Shutterstock)

🏠 Population: 76,354 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Redmond on Booking

Microsoft and Nintendo of America are the two tech giants responsible for putting Redmond on the map. Both give the city its distinctive techy culture.

Outside of the two companies, Marymoor Park is Redmond’s biggest draw. The park is a popular concert venue. It also has walking trails, a rock climbing wall, a dog park, and many areas for recreational activities. Redmond is a bike-friendly city, with many options for cyclists to get around town or into Seattle easily.

The walkable Redmond Town Center has shops of the big box variety, both chain and local dining options, and several little parks. It’s also where the annual PNW Chalk Fest takes place.

Walla Walla

A foodie-friendly city in southeast Washington with fantastic wine and ample options for trail runners

Aerial view of the Walla Walla in Washington

🏠 Population: 33,927 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Walla Walla on Booking

If you love food and wine, you’ll love Walla Walla. Known as Washington’s wine country, good wine is easy to come by here. Its location in the agriculture-rich part of the state means the food scene is also exceptional. Try breakfast at Bacon and Eggs or go to Saffron Mediterranean for dinner if you want to sample some of Walla Walla’s best. 

Wander through the cute downtown, visit tasting rooms, and take some time to relax with a book at Pioneer Park. 

Walla Walla also has a large running community. Test out the trails around Bennington Lake or go a little further to the Blue Mountains to see why the area is considered a runner’s paradise.

Ellensburg

A windy college town known for its top-ranked rodeo and charming, historic downtown

The Davidson Building under the clear blue sky in Ellensburg
(photo: Ian Dewar Photography / Shutterstock)

🏠 Population: 19,596 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Ellensburg on Booking

Ellensburg is one of the most fun cities in central Washington. The college gives it a younger feel, and there are shops, bars, and cafes catering to all ages in the downtown area. 

Check out the historic buildings and the history museum to learn about how the town was almost the state’s Capitol. Or visit during the city’s biggest event, the Ellensburg Rodeo, which is one of the best rodeos in the country.

Ellensburg is also known for its incredibly windy weather. Get up close to wind turbines and learn about how this renewable energy source is harnessed at the Wild Horse Renewable Energy Center.

Everett

Slower-paced, underrated city with one of Washington state’s top attractions

Overlooking view of the Naval Station Everett
(photo: Denise Lett / Shutterstock)

🏠 Population: 110,812 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Everett on Booking

The city of Everett is about 25 miles north of Seattle and is the home of the Boeing Future of Flight, one of the best things to do in Washington State.

Outside of its main attraction, the community has an underrated charm. The blue-collar city has great dining options, like Wylde Vegan Cafe and the quaint and popular Vintage Cafe. You’ll also find a wonderful art scene, with multiple venues, galleries, and event centers in Everett.

People who like fishing, kayaking, and sailing will appreciate Everett’s waterside location. Its proximity to various farms up in Skagit County means farm fresh produce and other goods are easy to come by. 

Anacortes

Waterfront city with a fun downtown, whale-watching, and year-round hiking

Colorful sky over the Anacortes in Washington

🏠 Population: 17,832 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Anacortes on Booking

Anacortes is on the northern tip of Fidalgo Island. While it’s where you’ll go to catch the ferry to the San Juan Islands, the city is much more than just a pass-through point. 

Downtown Anacortes is quaint yet lovely, with lots of restaurants and cafes, along with a growing music scene to keep things lively. Nestled against the Puget Sound, the city is a great place to go kayaking and whale watching in the summer. You can even rent a fishing charter to take you out to catch fresh fish for dinner.

Most of the hiking trails and parks on the island can be enjoyed year-round. Other Whidbey Island cities and towns like Oak Harbor and Coupeville are easy to visit on a day trip.

Tri-Cities

Sunny, southeastern Washington cities with water recreation and great Mexican food

Aerial view of the Columbia River in Washington
The Columbia River is the meeting point of the Tri-Cities

🏠 Population: 225,648 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Tri-Cities on Booking

The Tri-Cities area has more than three cities, but Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland are the main cities under the Tri-Cities umbrella. The Tri-Cities area is in southeast Washington and converges at the meeting point of the Columbia, Snake, and Yakima Rivers.

Within the Tri-Cities, you’ll find great wine, fresh produce, and tons of options for delicious Mexican food and taco trucks. With a sunnier climate and its location on the water, there are also ample ways to get outside. Try paddleboarding, fishing, or take a jaunt over to Palouse Falls, one of the most epic waterfalls in Washington state.

Edmonds

A quaint and sleepy city perfect for birding and relaxing

View from the ferry terminal at Brackett’s Landing
A calm, warm day by the ferry terminal at Brackett’s Landing

🏠 Population: 42,758 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Edmonds on Booking

Edmonds may be a relatively sleepy city with an older population, but that doesn’t mean this quaint town is boring. Located about 15 miles outside of Seattle, Edmonds is perfect for a relaxing getaway. 

It’s got a bustling little downtown area that’s close to the waterfront where a ferry connects Edmonds to the tiny town of Kingston. Grab a crab or lobster roll from MARKET Edmonds or try out Maize & Barley for some Caribbean-inspired sandwiches. 

Walk along the water at Olympic Beach and Brackett’s Landing to admire the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound views. And don’t forget to bring your binoculars to watch some waterfowl in this birding-friendly town that hosts the Puget Sound Bird Fest. 

FAQs About Cities in Washington State

How many major cities does Washington have? 

Washington has six major cities. The largest ones are Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, and Vancouver. Olympia and Bellingham are Washington’s major, mid-sized cities. 

What is the largest city in Washington state?

Seattle is the largest city in Washington state. According to the United States Census Bureau, the Seattle-Tacoma metro area is one of the fastest growing in the United States.

Which cities are in Washington state?

Cities in Washington state include Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Olympia, Vancouver, and Bellingham. Some of Washington’s other large cities are Everett, Bellevue, Kent, Spokane Valley, Renton, and Federal Way.

How many cities does Washington State have? 

Washington state has 631 cities. This includes first class cities, second class cities, unclassified cities, and code cities.

***

Now, you’ve got a whole list of the best cities to visit on your trip to the Evergreen State! Leave a comment to let us know which cities in Washington you’re most excited to see.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate (you can leave feedback after clicking submit)

Help us help you travel better!

Your feedback really helps ...

What did you like about this post? Or how can we improve it to help you travel better?

6 Comments

    1. Right? Kirkland was voted one of the best cities in the country. Moving up from California we short listed Kirkland, Sammamish, woodinville, Redmond, Bellevue and Mercer Island.

  1. Would love to know why Sammamish didn’t make the list. I’m new to the area and looking at houses there because of the schools, crime rate, friendliness, and all that lovely nature. Plus it’s close to lakes, parks, skiing and Bellevue for shopping and dining. It’s rated the in the top four safest cities in America (in its size)
    Is there something I’m missing? I love the houses there and always see so many families.

  2. Yeah, Tacoma over Kirkland or Sammamish is rather questionable, though I did appreciate the nod to my area of Edmonds. It is not as sleepy as one might imagine, though there are many older people.

  3. There are a lot of great cities in Washington. Depends on what you like and want to experience. What is special about Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Sammamish or any other city? Is it all the large buildings, no parking or lots of restaurants? Get out there and explore, but the cities don’t want you driving so take a bus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.