View of the author in Olympic National Park

27 Best Places to Visit in Washington State (By a Local)

If you’re making plans to visit Washington state for the first time, you’re in for a real treat. The Pacific Northwest is fascinating. Iconic mountains, dazzling rocky beaches, jaw-dropping waterfalls, enchanting islands, lush forests, beautiful lakes and rivers, charming small towns, vibrant cities – Washington has it all. 

With a dizzying amount of great options, all that’s left is to decide where to go in Washington.

I’m a local who’s traveled throughout Washington extensively, so I’ve created this round-up of the best places to visit in Washington to help you out. Let’s dive into the areas most worth your time and your attention on your trip to the Evergreen State:

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support my work by purchasing through the affiliate links on this page, which may earn a commission for this site. Thank you!

27 Best Places to Visit in Washington State

Olympic National Park

View of the author in Olympic National Park
Backpacking along the Olympic Peninsula is one of my favorite perks of living here

Google Maps | Olympic National Park Website | 👉 Browse Hotels near Olympic National Park on Booking

On the western side of Washington lies a local favorite: the Olympic National Park. This giant 1,442 square mile National Park is a stunning combination of rainforests, snow-capped mountains, and gorgeous coastal beaches on the Olympic Peninsula. 

Outdoor enthusiasts will love Olympic National Park for its hiking trails, and the many camping and backpacking opportunities across every landscape. You will be awestruck by the beaches offering spectacular sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. The Sol Duc hot springs are at the northern end of the Park and are especially a must-visit for anyone who makes the trek out here and wants a relaxing soak as a reward. Better yet, you can book a stay at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort to enjoy the hot springs as long as you like.

🚗 How to Get There: Depending on where you’re coming from it can be quite a drive to get here. You should definitely consider renting a car from Discover Cars if heading out this way is on your must do list! 

Seattle

View of the author with her friend and the city view of Seattle
You’ll get amazing 360-degree views of Seattle if you ride to the top of the Space Needle!

Google Maps | Seattle Website | 👉 Browse Seattle Hotels on Booking

Many people consider Seattle tops of any list of the best places to visit in Washington state. It’s certainly the state’s largest, most well-known city, and there are countless things to do in Seattle. 

You can go to Pike Place Market, visit the Seattle Center and ride to the top of the Space Needle. You can explore the dynamic Capitol Hill neighborhood, wander the historic district of Pioneer Square, and admire sunsets at Golden Gardens. 

If you want to hear live music, dine at world-class restaurants, grab a cup of the best coffee you’ve ever had, see museums and art exhibits, discover beautiful city parks, or take a ferry across the Puget Sound, you’ll have endless options in Seattle!

📚 Related Reading:  If Seattle is the main destination for your trip, check out the best day trips from Seattle to get an idea more excursions and places to add to your Washington itinerary.

San Juan Islands

View of the Friday Harbor in San Juan Island
Whale watching in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is a must-do experience

Google Maps | San Juan Islands Website | 👉 Browse San Juan Islands Hotels on Booking

The San Juan archipelago is on the northern end of Puget Sound. The largest and most visited islands are San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez. 

One of the best places to go whale watching in the state of Washington is Lime Kiln State Park on Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. San Juan is the most populous island and has ample beach access. 

Orcas Island, meanwhile, is a rugged, forested beauty. It’s perfect for people craving the quiet and remote feeling the island provides. Cyclers will love Lopez Island. Its generous open fields and rolling hills make biking on Lopez a delight. 

👉 Don’t Want to Miss the Orcas? This 4-hour whale-watching cruise from Friday Harbor guarantees a sighting!

Mount Rainier National Park

View of nature and the Mount Rainier on the background

Summer is a great time to hike Mount Rainier if you want to see wildflowers!

Google Maps | Mount Rainier National Park Website | 👉 Browse Hotels near Mount Rainier National Park on Booking

Mount Rainier National Park is one of the most iconic places in Washington state. Here, adventurers will find ancient forests, alpine lakes, meadows, and waterfalls. There are year-round hiking opportunities. Walk the trails from spring to fall and go snowshoeing during winter. Visitors can also go on scenic driving tours or book a gondola ride from Crystal Mountain to see Rainier from above! 

The surrounding towns have lodging options for those who want to extend their stay near Washington’s favorite mountain. Of all the things to do in Washington state, coming here should be at the top of most lists.

👉 Love hiking, picnics and wine? This all-inclusive Mount Rainier tour will let you experience all three in one day.

Leavenworth

View of a chariot in a bavarian style village
(olegmayorov / 123RF)

Google Maps | Leavenworth Website | 👉 Browse Leavenworth Hotels on Booking

Leavenworth is a small, Bavarian-inspired town near the Cascade Mountains.  It offers year-round fun no matter what season you visit. Spring and summer are perfect for beer tours and wine tastings, hiking, bird-watching, golfing, and swimming at the nearby Colchuk Lake. 

Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest is an autumn highlight, but biking, rock climbing, and ziplining above the gorgeous fall foliage are other top activities. The famous Christmas Lighting in the wintertime transforms the town into a picturesque wonderland straight out of a storybook. Options for skiing, snowmobiling abound during the rest of the season.

Spokane

View of the riverfront park and spokane river
Riverfront Park in Spokane

Google Maps | Spokane Website | 👉 Browse Spokane Hotels on Booking

Spokane is eastern Washington’s largest city. If Spokane is on your itinerary for your visit, then you definitely need to see Riverfront Park, the city’s gem. This historic park, designed for the World Fair Expo in 1974, boasts one of the biggest urban waterfalls in the state, Spokane Falls. Other park attractions include the Clocktower, the Numerica SkyRide (a gondola that takes you over the falls), and the famed garbage goat (yes, really, it’s a thing). 

Spokane has nearby hiking and mountain biking opportunities and there are plenty of seriously good restaurants and breweries to keep food and drink lovers happy. Music aficionados should add a visit to the Bing Crosby House Museum to their to-do list.

Note: Due to the ongoing health crisis, Bing Crosby House Museum is temporarily closed as of August, 2021. Be sure to check the latest status before your visit.


North Cascades National Park

View of the North Cascades mountain range in the wilderness

Google Maps | North Cascades National Park Website | 👉 Browse Hotels near North Cascades National Park on Booking

If you like the wild, rugged and beautiful, then the North Cascades National Park is one of Washington state’s best national parks to visit. Located east of Bellingham, this national park has hundreds of hiking trails to explore, wildlife to spot, and beautiful vistas to behold. 

Be sure to check out the enchanting turquoise waters of Lake Diablo. Consider bringing a picnic to spend a pleasant day here. You can also try boat-in camping or backpacking to explore the park at your own pace.

Tacoma

View of Tacoma town and the Mt. Rainier on the backgound
Tacoma boasts stunning views of Mt. Rainier

Google Maps | Tacoma Website | 👉 Browse Tacoma Hotels on Booking

Tacoma, located an hour south of Seattle, is the third-largest city in Washington, and you’ll find a ton of fun things to do in Tacoma. 

You’ll have fantastic views of Mount Rainier in Tacoma, and the city is a great hub for cultural exploration. Visitors can tour intriguing museums like the Museum of Glass, the LeMay Car Museum, and the Tacoma Art Museum

The Point Defiance Zoo is also worth a trip for family-friendly fun or venture a little further to Maris Farms. Tacoma has waterfront dining options for restaurants that focus on Pacific Northwest flavors and cuisine.

Port Angeles

View of port angeles and the olympic mountain from a distance
Port Angeles from the marina with the Olympics in the background

Google Maps | Port Angeles Website | 👉 Browse Port Angeles Hotels on Booking

Port Angeles is north of the Olympic National Park and south of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. While it’s a gateway to several amazing places to visit, Port Angeles has plenty to offer visitors itself. Bike along the Olympic Discovery Trail, stroll down the Ediz Hook searching for seals and otters and swim or paddle in the beautiful Lake Crescent. 

Art aficionados should walk the Port Angeles mural trail and take in the city’s vibrant art scene.  Be sure to also visit a museum or two to learn more about the area’s Native American history.

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument

View of mount st. helens with snow on the crater
A view of the mountain at Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument

Google Maps | Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument Website | 👉 Browse Hotels Near Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument on Booking

If you want to explore an active volcano, go to Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument. There are several visitor centers in the area for people who want a deep dive into the mountain’s fascinating geological history. They help tell the story of the eruption in the ’80s that gave Mount St Helens its distinctive crater-shaped top. 

Those particularly interested in viewing the volcanic wonder can take a seaplane tour to see it from above! There are endless outdoor activities for Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument visitors. Go camping, hike the trails or explore Ape Caves, which were formed from lava flow 2,000 years ago!

Note: Due to the ongoing public health crisis, the Mount Saint Helens Visitor Center, Johnston Ridge Observatory and Forest Learning Center are temporarily closed as of August, 2021.

👉 Pro Tip: If you want to see Ape Caves, be sure to book your ticket in advance. There is currently a timed entry system to get in.

Bellingham

View of downtown waterfront in way point park
Downtown Bellingham’s Waypoint Park (cascadecreatives / 123RF)

Google Maps | Bellingham Website | 👉 Browse Bellingham Hotels on Booking

Bellingham is Washington’s biggest city near the Canadian border. It’s a great place to visit for outdoor activities. Bellingham is near the North Cascades National Park, providing easy access to the San Juan Islands. 

Chuckanut Drive and Mount Baker Scenic Byway are two of the most notable scenic drives to take around Bellingham.  You’ll want to soak in all the sights around Bellingham, but the downtown area is also a perfect place to recharge with some fantastic seafood and a drink from any of the delightful cideries, breweries, or wineries.

Bellevue

View of belleuve downtown park and the clear blue sky

Google Maps | Bellevue Website | 👉 Browse Bellevue Hotels on Booking

Bellevue is a city east of Seattle, and it’s a good gateway to exploring the other Eastside cities of Mercer Island, Kirkland, and Redmond. Nestled between Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, Bellevue is a family-friendly place with plenty of green spaces, parks, and spots to enjoy the outdoors. 

Bellevue Downtown Park is a local favorite for picnics. The Bellevue Botanical Garden is a beautiful refuge for nature lovers. Shoppers will also find plenty of stores, retail spaces, and luxury brands in the city’s many shopping districts.

Snoqualmie

View of a falls in a wilderness
A view of the falls during a gorgeous Autumn hike

Google Maps | Snoqualmie Falls Website | 👉 Browse Hotels Near Snoqualmie Falls on Booking

If you’re into chasing waterfalls, then the magnificent Snoqualmie Falls is definitely one of the best places to visit in Washington. You may recognize this waterfall. It gained its fame from being featured in the TV show Twin Peaks, along with the Salish Lodge and Spa and Twede’s Cafe in North Bend. 

If you’re a fan of the TV show, this Washington spot should be on your itinerary for sure. But even if you’ve never seen it, this is one of Washington’s most beautiful attractions. Many count it among the best things to do in Washington state. There are also popular hiking trails in the area, and you won’t regret giving yourself a little tour around the tiny town of North Bend.

Port Townsend

View of the author enjoying her ice cream in port townsend
Me eating an ice cream at the waterfront in downtown Port Townsend 

Google Maps | Port Townsend Website | 👉 Browse Port Townsend Hotels on Booking

Port Townsend is a charming town with historic Victorian architecture and a wealth of maritime culture. Getting out on the water is pretty much a must here. There are endless sailing, kayaking, and rowing options, along with educational opportunities at the Northwest Maritime Center and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (you can even book a wildlife cruise!). 

Visitors interested in beaches, biking, a good hike, and history will want to visit Fort Worden. It’s one of the most interesting state parks in the area, and you can book a stay in the restored buildings on the former military encampment. Just don’t neglect the downtown area! It’s on the waterfront and features antique shopping and great restaurants.

Olympia

View of the author and her husband with the mount rainier from afar
Me and my husband on the Nisqually boardwalk with Mount Rainier in the background

Google Maps | Olympia Website | 👉 Browse Olympia Hotels on Booking

Olympia plays the role of Washington’s Capital, and sits on the south end of the Puget Sound. The Capitol Building is one of many worthy attractions in Olympia. Visitors can take a self-guided tour through the beautiful structure. 

If you’re searching for delicious brews and meticulously crafted spirits, Olympia’s offerings won’t disappoint. I recommend that fellow nature lovers check out the gorgeous and unusual Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

Cape Flattery

View of cape flattery with its sea stacks on it

Google Maps | Cape Flattery/Makah Website | 👉 Browse Hotels Near Cape Flattery on Booking

Cape Flattery sits at the northwestern tip of the contiguous United States. It overlooks the Pacific Ocean and Tatoosh Island and is on the Makah Indian Reservation. 

Cape Flattery is a great destination to visit in Washington state if you want to see awe-inspiring views and possible whale, seal, and sea lion sightings. The trail is a relatively easy one and sunsets here are fantastic. If you want to stay longer, you can camp, go on beach hikes, fish, and visit the Makah Museum. 

Note: Cape Flattery is on the Makah Indian Reservation which is currently closed to non-residents with plans to open to the public again on 10/1/21. 

Palouse Falls State Park

View of the palouse falls and the colorful sky above it

Google Maps | Palouse Falls State Park Website | 👉 Browse Hotels near Palouse Falls State Park on Booking

Palouse Falls State Park is hands down one of the most fascinating attractions in Washington.  It’s 2 hours from Spokane and north of Snake River. Palouse Falls is a 13,000-year-old natural wonder that is a result of glacial flooding from the last Ice Age. It was declared Washington’s state waterfall in 2014, and is a magnificent sight to behold. 

While camping in the area is limited, Palouse Falls State Park offers numerous trails and viewpoints for visitors to explore. Photographers and artists will definitely want to come here, particularly at sunset when the lighting makes the falls even more jaw-dropping.

👉 Pro Tip: While the falls are amazing to behold, make sure you keep safe! Don’t wander too close to the cliff’s edge, and watch out for rattlesnakes which frequent the area.

Walla Walla

View of a wine glass with a wine on it in walla walla
Wine lovers will be overly pleased with the offerings in Walla Walla  

Google Maps | Walla Walla Website | 👉 Browse Walla Walla Hotels on Booking

If you’re searching for some of Washington’s finest wine, look no further than Walla Walla. Nestled in a valley with miles of vineyards and farmland, Walla Walla is famous for its delectable Walla Walla sweet onions and grapes. There are over 120 wineries in the area, which means you won’t run out of options for wine tasting! 

The historic downtown is also charming and packs a real punch of personality despite its small size. There are restaurants, bookstores, and boutiques galore. Fort Walla Walla Museum is worth a visit to learn about the history of the city. Golfers should visit the Wine Valley golf course, which is consistently named one of the best golf courses in Washington.   

Lake Chelan

View of the chelan lake and the beautiful sunrise

Google Maps | Lake Chelan Website | 👉 Browse Hotels near Lake Chelan on Booking

Lake Chelan is a dreamy place to visit in Washington. This 50-mile glacier-formed lake is nearly 400 feet deep. Lake Chelan is an ideal getaway destination, particularly during the summer. Activities at the lake include boating, waterskiing, sailing, and relaxing on the shore with a good book. 

You will find over 30 wineries in the valley for those who want lots of wine-tasting options. One real treat for adventurous Lake Chelan tourists is taking a trip to Stehekin, a tiny community disconnected from the world. You can’t get there by car, so the only way to access it is by hiking, boating, via horseback, or on a ferry.

Bainbridge Island

View of the bainbridge island and a blue sea
A view of Bainbridge Island on the Puget Sound.

Google Maps | Bainbridge Island Website | 👉 Browse Bainbridge Island Hotels on Booking

If you’re coming from Seattle, Bainbridge Island is one of the easiest places to visit in Washington. The ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island is a short and scenic ride across Puget Sound. 

The charming town of Winslow, accessible right off the ferry, offers plenty to keep visitors busy: cafes, museums, cute shops, and wine-tasting rooms. If you go further afield, you’ll find numerous parks, beaches (a local favorite is Lytle Beach), and the gorgeous gardens at Bloedel Reserve

Point Roberts

View of a dog in the coastal area of point roberts

Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Point Roberts Hotels on Booking

Point Roberts is on the tip of the Tsawassen Peninsula and is one place in Washington that can only be accessed by crossing the Canadian Border and briefly setting foot in British Columbia

Point Roberts is a sleepy place perfect for a retreat away from everyday life. Sit on the beach, whale-watch, or take a bike ride while here. Visitors should also check out Auntie Pam’s Country Store and wander along Lily Point Marine Reserve.

👉 Pro Tip: Remember to pack your passport when going here – you’ll have to cross the border to Canada four times to go there and back!

Vancouver

View of the esther short park and the clock tower on it
(hstiver / 123RF)

Google Maps | Vancouver Website | 👉 Browse Vancouver Hotels on Booking

Don’t confuse it with Vancouver, BC 300 miles to the north! Vancouver, Washington is on the Columbia River across from Portland, Oregon. But Vancouver, Washington is definitely a city you shouldn’t overlook. Its location places it near many scenic outdoor activities. 

The Columbia River Gorge, Moulton Falls, Beacon Rock, and Dog Mountain are all great excursions to consider around Vancouver. This is also a city with tons of interesting history. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is the gateway to this education. Not far from downtown, the Waterfront is a gathering place where people can dine, drink, play, and relax along the Columbia River.

Dry Falls

View of a dried ice waterfalls

Google Maps | Dry Falls Website | 👉 Browse Hotels Near Dry Falls on Booking

Dry Falls sites in the center of Washington and is one of the little-known geographical wonders of the state. This place tells the story of the Ice Age – at one time, the falls that flowed here were bigger than Niagara’s. 

Dry Falls has since run dry, leaving a sort of mini grand canyon behind that is definitely worthy of exploration. The Sun Lake-Dry Falls State Park has a visitor center where those interested can learn more about the geological history of the area. There are also many campsites, a variety of trails to hike, and several lakes for fishing and swimming.

Whidbey Island

View of blue waters of Deception Pass State Park and its bridge from afar
The Deception Pass State Park Bridge from a distance.

Google Maps | Whidbey Island Website | 👉 Browse Whidbey Island Hotels on Booking

Whidbey Island is south of the San Juan Islands in the northern end of Puget Sound. This is one of the best places to visit if you want a bit of everything! 

Many outdoor adventures await at this part of the Pacific Northwest. Kayak in the stunning blue waters of Deception Pass State Park, stroll along numerous uncrowded beaches, and check out old bunkers and batteries at Fort Casey. 

If you want to go into town, visit Langley or Coupeville. Both have small-town charm and are easy to explore in a day. They’re filled with boutiques, cute cafes, wonderful seafood restaurants, and some of the nicest, most laidback locals.

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Scenic view of a foggy forest
Foggy hikes create the best photos.

Google Maps | Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Website | 👉 Browse Hotels Near Mount Baker-Snoqualmie on Booking

The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is a scenic forest in the Cascade mountains. It’s one of the most visited forests in the Pacific Northwest and has tons of opportunities for outdoor fun. The alpine ecosystems are gorgeous to behold. 

The lakes are stunning and there are dazzling rivers among the old-growth forests. This is the perfect place for anyone who wants to go cross country or downhill skiing at Crystal Mountain and the Snoqualmie Pass. Try river rafting at Skykomish river. If you love searching for wildlife, your chances of an elk, bald eagle, or mountain goat sighting are high.

Winthrop

View of a wild west theme street in Winthrop

Google Maps | Winthrop Website | 👉 Browse Winthrop Hotels on Booking

Looking for a place where you can be transported to the Wild West? Look no further than Winthrop, Washington. This small town, located in the Methow Valley and about an hour from the North Cascades National Park, is an unexpected escape from big city life. 

The town hosts exciting events like Rodeos and the Wild West Historic Celebration and provides a mecca of entertainment for outdoor enthusiasts. Winthrop boasts 120 miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails. Snowshoeing, trail running, rock climbing, and river rafting are also ideal pastimes here. 

📚 Read Next: If you’re the outdoors type and are looking for more destinations in the US, check out the Travel Lemming locals guides to the best places to visit in Colorado or in Canada!

Long Beach Peninsula 

View of cliffs in long beach peninsula

Google Maps | Long Beach Peninsula Website | 👉 Browse Hotels on the Long Beach Peninsula on Booking

Want to slow down, unwind, and escape? Want to eat some of the best seafood you’ve ever had while you do that? A visit to the Long Beach Peninsula may be in order. On the southwestern edge of the state, this Peninsula is perfect for the vacationer who wants to stroll along the beach with ice cream, wander through fascinating state parks, go fishing, crabbing, or clamming, and watch the sky explode with color during the Washington State International Kite Festival

The towns of Ilwaco, Ocean Park, and Seaview are all worth exploring too. Visitors should also head to some of the scenic places with depressing names like Dismal Nitch along the Columbia River and Cape Disappointment. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

👉 Love a nice stroll on the beach? Book a horseback riding tour through Long Beach Horse Rides for a twist on your typical beach walk!

FAQ about Travel In Washington State

View of hikers in Washington State

What is the prettiest place in Washington state?

Generally speaking, the prettiest places in Washington are the National Parks: Olympic, North Cascades, and Mount Rainier. The San Juan Islands on Puget Sound rank high for those who love the water, and Snoqualmie Falls is one of the most well-known and beautiful waterfalls in the state.

What is the most visited place in Washington?

Olympic National Park is the most highly visited place in Washington. Thousands of tourists visit its varied landscapes every year. It’s nearly one million acres and encompasses forests, mountains, and beaches.

Where can I go on a road trip in Washington state?

There are many options for road trips in Washington. The most popular ones are The Cascade Loop, the Olympic Peninsula Loop, and a road trip from Seattle to Spokane. You can also take a road trip on the Lewis and Clark trail along the Columbia River.

What is the best city to visit in Washington state?

Seattle is the best city to visit in Washington. It is the largest city in the state, has many diverse and dynamic neighborhoods. It is centrally located, which makes it easy to get to the mountains or the water.

What is Washington state famous for?

Washington is famous for its abundant harvests of apples, cherries, and seafood. It is the birthplace of Starbucks Coffee and is home to many stunning natural wonders and dramatic landscapes.

Ready to pack your bags and get on over to experience the beautiful state of Washington yet?

Let me know which places are on your itinerary, and if you think there’s anything else to add! Scroll down and leave a comment letting me know your favorite Washington destination.

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