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:
Table of Contents
- 27 Best Places to Visit in Washington State
- Olympic National Park
- San Juan Islands
- Mount Rainier National Park
- North Cascades National Park
- Port Angeles
- Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
- Port Townsend
- Cape Flattery
- Palouse Falls State Park
- Walla Walla
- Lake Chelan
- Bainbridge Island
- Point Roberts
- Dry Falls
- Whidbey Island
- Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
- Long Beach Peninsula
- FAQ about Travel In Washington State
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27 Best Places to Visit in Washington State
Olympic National Park
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!
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 cool things to do in Seattle (check out that link for 51 of my favorites).
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
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
Summer is a great time to hike Mount Rainier if you want to see wildflowers!
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 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 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
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, 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 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
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 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 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.
For ideas on what to do, check out our full post on the best things to do in Bellevue.
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 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 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 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
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.
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 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.
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.
See my guide to the best things to do on Bainbridge Island to get planning.
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 wander along Lily Point Marine Reserve.
👉 Pro Tip: Remember to pack your passport and make sure you’re eligible to cross both borders when going here – you’ll have to cross the border to Canada four times to go there and back!
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 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.
👉 Read Next: The Best Hikes Near Seattle
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
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.
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.
Long Beach Peninsula
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
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.
👉 Read Next: The 33 Best Things to Do in Washington (By a Local!)
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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