Washington State

Super useful & totally free travel guides, written by locals who love Washington State

Scenic view of the sunset in Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park
Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

Why We Love Washington: Easily one of the most beautiful states in the country, Washington is a mecca of natural beauty. It’s home to three national parks and an array of stunning landscapes in the form of forests, beaches, mountains, and even desert-like environments. Vibrant cities like Seattle and Tacoma, and smaller towns like Leavenworth add to the Evergreen State’s appeal. Come sip the best coffee, take a tour through wine country or drink meticulously brewed beer and cider. Hike a mountain, explore the rocky shores, kayak with orcas, buy locally made treasures at a farmer’s market, and embrace the rain. Washington is sure to charm you as it does with locals and visitors every year.

Best of Washington

🏙️ Destinations

Aerial view of the Port Angeles
Port Angeles on an autumn afternoon

You can see National Parks, islands, cities, and more when you visit Washington. You won’t run out of amazing places to go. 

  • Seattle – Washington’s largest city is full of the best cafes, restaurants, shopping, city parks, and activities in the state. 
  • Mount Rainier National Park – Hike, snowshoe, camp or take a tour of the beautiful park home to Washington’s favorite mountain.
  • Olympia – The state capitol is a great place to sample brews and spirits or wander through gorgeous natural areas.
  • Tacoma – Seattle’s little sister has many museums and art and is a great location for accessing both the mountains and water.
  • Olympic National Park – The Olympic National Park spans nearly one million acres of rainforests, mountains, and coastal beaches.
  • Bellevue – A city to the east of Seattle with lots of shopping, upscale dining, and beach parks.
  • Spokane – The biggest city in Eastern Washington is home to the famous Riverfront Park and close to lots of hiking.
  • San Juan Islands – One of the most beautiful places in the state, the San Juan Islands are accessible by ferry or seaplane.
  • Port Angeles – This port city has tons of murals, festivals, a ferry to Victoria, B.C, and is great for outdoor exploration.
  • North Cascades National Park – This national park is a rugged gem, home to some of the most unparalleled beauty in the state. 

👉 Explore all places to visit in Washington. 

Things to Do

There are tons of great things to do in Washington from outdoor adventures and food and drink tours to museum hopping and so much more.

  • Go Whale Watching at the San Juan Islands – Catch sight of majestic orcas pods on a kayak tour, or from land at Lime Kiln State Park.
  • Visit Pike Place Market in Seattle – The most popular year-round farmer’s market in Seattle is great for food tours, shopping local, and people-watching.
  • Explore the Washington Coast – Surfing, horseback riding, backpacking, and more are all possible along Washington’s nearly 200 miles of coastline.
  • Check out the Tacoma Museum District – 6 major museums are the top things to do in Tacoma, offering something for all types of travelers, from history buffs to art lovers to car enthusiasts.
  • Hike at Mount Rainier National Park – Mount Rainier offers amazing hikes year-round and getting up close to this beautiful mountain is a must.
  • Try Boat-In Camping at the North Cascades National Park – Grab your kayak and all your camping gear and explore the wilderness along the water.

👉 Explore all the best things to do in Washington. 

View of people in the public market center of Washington State

🗺️ Where to Stay

The author in Kerry Park with the overlooking view of Seattle
Chelsea taking in the views of Seattle from Kerry Park

No matter where you stay in Washington, you’re sure to have access to exciting and interesting parts of the state.

  • Seattle – You won’t run out of things to do in Seattle. The city’s dynamic and diverse culture make it one of the top places to stay in Seattle.
  • Spokane – Stay in Spokane to check out all that eastern Washington has to offer.
  • Port Angeles– Easily explore the Olympic Peninsula when you stay in this culturally rich city with a small-town feel. 
  • Bellingham– Its proximity to The North Cascades and the San Juan Islands make a stay in this college town a good option.
  • Vancouver – Staying in this historic city will put you close to the Columbia River Gorge and across the river from Portland, Oregon.

🛎️ Best Hotels

From luxury stays with top-notch amenities to highly sought after lodges with beautiful surroundings, Washington has hotel options to suit every type of traveler

  • Four Seasons Hotel Seattle – Considered the top luxury hotel in Washington, guests will lack nothing if they stay in this contemporary hotel in the heart of Seattle.
  • PostHotel in Leavenworth – This adults-only hotel is perfect for people who desire ample spa and wellness accommodations for a relaxing stay.
  • Sun Mountain Lodge – Guests will marvel at this hotel’s surroundings which make it the perfect place for adventuring or unwinding.
  • Treehouse Point – Stay in one of the unique, well-designed treehouses in this beautiful forest for a fairytale-like experience.
  • Kalaloch Lodges – These rustic, coastal lodges grant you incredible views and easy access to an unforgettable part of the state. 
The Leavenworth’s PostHotel illuminated with lights at night
Leavenworth’s PostHotel lit up at night

🚗 Best Road Trips

Scenic view from the Samish Bay in Washington State
The Samish Bay along Chuckanut Drive

A road trip is one of the best ways to explore the state. Your options range from drives through forests and mountains, and along coasts, cliffs, and more.

  • Olympic Loop – Begin in Olympia and drive up to Port Angeles and along the coast to see the best of the Olympic National Park.
  • North Cascades Loop – Pass through the most scenic part of Washington. Stop in small towns, hike, and take in the beautiful cascades. 
  • Palouse Falls Scenic Byway – Take a road less traveled on this trip through part of Washington’s dryer environment full of hills, buttes, and some of the best waterfalls in Washington.
  • Chuckanut Drive – Drive along a winding sandstone cliff with gorgeous views of the San Juan Islands on this popular trip.
  • Mountains to Sound Greenway – Start in Seattle and end in Ellensburg while making worthwhile stops at places like the Snoqualmie Falls.

🏝️ Best Islands

Scenic view from the San Juan Islands during sunset
A beautiful sunset from the San Juan Islands

Washington is home to the largest ferry system in the continental USA that connects us to some gorgeous islands. Visitors should definitely seek them out!

  • San Juan Island – The most populous of the San Juan Islands. Come here for whale watching, kayaking, or to visit an alpaca farm!
  • Orcas Island – Explore Moran State Park and Mount Constitution and take time to recharge on this incredible island.
  • Vashon Island – This rural island a ferry ride from West Seattle is full of friendly locals and plenty of beach access.
  • Whidbey Island – Whidbey Island is home to Deception Pass State Park, Ebey’s Landing, and tiny artsy towns.
  • Bainbridge Island – Bainbridge is one of the most popular islands to visit on a day trip from Seattle.

🏝️ See the full list of best islands in Washington state.

⛰️ Best Mountains

The Mount Rainier and its reflection on the water
The famous Mount Rainier

Washington is known for its mountains (some of which are active volcanoes!). Anyone excited to explore the state’s great outdoors should check them out.

  • Mount Rainier – Washington’s iconic mountain is over 14,000 feet and is visible from Seattle on clear days. 
  • Mount Baker – Mount Baker is considered one of the easier mountains to tackle for novice mountaineers.
  • Mount St Helens – This volcano is famous for its 1980 eruption that caused its crater-shaped top and draws thousands of visitors every year.
  • Olympic Mountains – Notable peaks in the Olympic Mountain range are the Two Brothers, Mount Olympus, and Hurricane Ridge.
  • Mount Adams – At over 12,000 feet, Mount Adams is second in height only to Mt Rainier. 

🏙️ Best Small Towns

View from the Gig Harbor  during sunset
Gig Harbor’s gorgeous waterfront

There are many great small towns worth a visit within Washington, but these are the ones to start with. Visitors should include at least one on their itinerary.

  • Leavenworth – This popular Bavarian-inspired town hosts a majority of visitors during Oktoberfest and Christmas. 
  • Winthrop – Cross country skiers will want to visit this tiny western town with the most groomed trails in North America.
  • Port Townsend – A small town with big energy, you’ll find lots to do here, from shopping to boating.
  • Langley – This artsy spot on Whidbey Island is great for anyone who wants a relaxing getaway in a charming town.
  • Gig Harbor – With waterfront eateries, breweries, and easy-going energy, this is the perfect town to catch up with friends.

🏙️ Read the full list of the best towns in Washington.

Washington Travel Advice

🗓️ Best Time to Visit

You can have a good visit at any time, but it’s nice to know what to expect when you come to Washington. Here’s what every season has to offer:

  • 💐🍂 Late Spring and Early Fall – Fewer crowds, great weather, and pretty blooms or fall foliage make these the best seasons to visit.
  • 🌞 Summer – Expect crowds, but the days will be long, clear, and bright and summer is prime time for hiking and other outdoor activities.
  • 🌼🌦️ Early Spring, Late Fall – Expect rain and unpredictable weather, but if you come prepared you’ll still find many fun things to do. 
  • ❄️ Winter – This is the cloudiest, rainiest and darkest season to visit, but it’s also the least crowded and the best time for winter sports. 

🚌 Getting In & Around

You’ve got tons of transportation options to choose from when visiting The Evergreen State. Pick and choose what’s best for you depending on what you want to do.

  • ✈️ Airports – The majority of visitors will fly into SEATAC. If you’re visiting eastern Washington, you’re more likely to fly into GEG. 
  • 🚗 Driving – You don’t need a car in large cities like Seattle, but rent one to visit smaller towns or get to hiking trails.
  • 🚇 Public Transit – Public transit is great in most cities, but gets sparser in less populated areas.
  • 📲 Ride Share – Uber and Lyft rideshare services are readily available in larger cities.
  • 🚴‍♀️ Biking – Washington is considered the most bike-friendly state in America. Bring your bike, or easily rent one!
  • 🛴 Scooters – There is some access to Link and Lime scooters in cities like Seattle and Tacoma.
  • 🚶‍♀️ Walking – Most major cities are walkable, and downtown areas of smaller towns can be explored on foot.
  • ⛴️ Ferries – The ferry system in Washington is expansive. Some places are accessible only by ferry!

👉 Tips & Things to Know

  • 🌧️ – The Rain Isn’t All that Bad – Despite being known for rainy weather, downpours are rare. The rain is typically light and comes and goes throughout the day. 
  • ☂️ – Most Locals Don’t Use Umbrellas – Instead, we wear raincoats because they’ll keep you dry, take up less space than an umbrella, and keep your hands free. 
  • 🌿 – Weed is Legal – Washington was one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Be sure to know the laws before you partake and bring cash to buy.
  • ☕ – Coffee is Everywhere – You can find a delicious brew pretty much anywhere, whether it’s at an independent cafe, or a small coffee stand along the highway.
  • ☀️ – Not All of Washington is Rainy 24/7– Because of the rain shadow created by the cascades, eastern Washington is a lot drier than the west.

🧳 What to Pack

  • 🧥- A Raincoat – No matter when you visit, there’s a chance you’ll get wet. A good raincoat will help keep you dry so you don’t get too chilled.
  • 👟 – Waterproof Boots or Shoes – Wet socks are no fun! Bring comfortable shoes that can hold up to puddles and that have good traction to prevent slipping.
  • 👕- Clothes for layering – The weather changes fast. Bring layers so you’re not sweating when the sun comes out, and freezing when it starts to hail the next second.
  • 🥾 – Hiking Boots – Washington has an abundance of outdoor activities. A good pair of hiking boots will help you get out in the wild without a problem.
  • 😎 – Sunscreen and Sunglasses – Clouds don’t block UV rays so you can still get burned! And when the sun peeks through your eyes will thank you for the shade.

🤓 Facts & Info

  • Population – 7.7 million 
  • Capital – Olympia, WA
  • Largest Metro Areas – 
  • Time Zone – Pacific Standard Time (UTC -8 / UTC -7 during daylight savings)
  • Airports – Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Spokane International Airport (GEG), Bellingham International Airport (BLI), Walla Walla Regional Airport (ALW), Pasco (PSC)
  • Colleges & Universities – University of Washington, Gonzaga University, Western Washington University, Washington State University, Seattle University
  • Nickname – Evergreen State, Chinook State
  • Demonym – Washingtonians 
  • USPS Abbreviation – WA
  • Governor – Jay Inslee (Democrat)
  • CountryUnited States of America

💵 Costs & Budgeting

  • MERIC Cost of Living State Rank – 39th most affordable
  • 3 Star Hotel Room – $90-$250+/night
  • 1 Bedroom Apartment Rental – $120-$230+/night
  • Rental Car – $50+/day
  • Public Transit Ticket – ~$3-7
  • Take Out Meal for Two – $30-$50
  • Sit Down Dinner for Two – $40-$80
  • Draft Beer – $6-$12

FAQs About Visiting Washington

Is Washington safe for tourists?

Washington is generally very safe for tourists. The crime rate in Washington state is low compared to other states in the country. According to the Washington State Department of Health, 74.6% of the population ages 12 and over are fully vaccinated, but visitors should research current health guidelines and regulations before traveling.

What is the best month to visit Washington state?

June and September are the best months to visit Washington state. There will typically be mild to warm weather during these times, and fewer crowds than during the height of summer. 

What is the most popular food in Washington state?

The most popular food in Washington state is salmon. The region is known for its fresh seafood like Dungeness crab and oysters, along with apples, Rainier cherries, and Walla Walla sweet onions.

What is the number one attraction in Washington state?

The number one attraction in Washington state is the Olympic National Park. It receives thousands of visitors every year. Mount Rainier National Park and the San Juan Islands are also popular attractions.

Is there a lot of nature in Washington?

Nature is abundant in Washington state. Forests, mountains, beaches, islands, waterfalls, and more make up the great outdoors in the state.

📰 Washington Travel Guides

Washington is a top-rated destination in the United States. You’ll find all you need to know about planning a trip to the Evergreen state with these helpful guide

Meet Our Washington Travel Expert

Chelsea Booker

Chelsea Booker is a Seattle-based freelance travel writer and storyteller who loves discovering places that stimulate her imagination. Her adventures around Washington and the Pacific Northwest have inspired her to show others just how much there is to explore in their own backyards. She writes about more of what she loves – creativity, personal development, and joyful living – on her lifestyle blog, Chelsea Figures It Out.

👉 Read Chelsea’s Articles

🗺️ Washington State Map