From the west coast to the east coast, Washington is a photographer’s dream. Not only do they have lovely cities such as Seattle to capture on film, but also many towns and villages with distinct characteristics – from picturesque coastal finds to charming mountain towns and rural villages. We take a look at some of the best towns waiting to be explored throughout Washington.
Located in the heart of Central Washington, Ellensburg is a great town with a lot to offer anyone, whether they are art lovers or outdoor enthusiasts. One of several communities within Washington listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations, Ellensburg features a vibrant, historic downtown area with charming buildings housing boutiques, galleries, museums, eateries, and more. The stunning verdant surroundings will appeal to those seeking outdoor activities like fishing and hiking. Many special events also take place throughout the year, including the ever-popular Jazz in the Valley, which attracts visitors from around the world.
Another town on the Dozen Distinctive Destinations list, Friday Harbor is a charming, historic seaport located on the east side of San Juan Island in Western Washington. Built on a hill, the area, which is a great destination for exploring by foot, is brimming with picturesque scenes at every turn from gorgeous waterfront views to the century-old buildings that line the streets. Many of these historic establishments now house delicious restaurants and unique shops plus galleries — the area has a thriving arts scene. Plenty of outdoor adventures abound as well, including scenic strolls, kayaking, and whale watching, to name but a few.
A great place for a weekend getaway, La Conner is a beautiful historic waterfront village located between Seattle and Vancouver, British Colombia, on the Swinomish Channel. Guests of this charming town can visit various businesses, including specialty shops, tucked inside restored historic buildings before strolling outside to take in the beauty of the village’s surroundings. An artist’s paradise, visitors will also find an abundance of art in the area’s museums and galleries. With so many things to do and explore — visit during the springtime Skagit Valley Tulip Festival where area fields burst into color — it is easy to see why La Conner is a popular, scenic destination.
A popular year-round tourist destination, Leavenworth is an attractive, small town nestled in the gorgeous Cascade Mountains. Once a logging town, Leavenworth took a hit when the industry went bust, and in order to revitalize the area, a decision was made to reinvent the town as a Bavarian-inspired village. Today, guests will find Bavarian-style storefronts and an ambiance that is brimming with old-world charm. No matter which season tourists visit, they will find many things to capture their interest whether sampling delicious, authentic German cuisine, participating in festivals, such as the Maifest — a Bavarian celebration of spring — or engaging in outdoor adventures, including mountain biking, skiing, and hiking.
One of three historic Victorian seaports in the USA, Port Townsend is a vibrant community situated on the Olympic Peninsula. A picturesque town with a flourishing art scene and a host of outdoor adventures, every visitor will find something of interest in this gem. Stroll around the historic uptown district to take in the beauty of colorful Victorian mansions or meander through the historic downtown area to marvel at other century-old buildings. In addition to the wonderful eateries, galleries, and shops found in Port Townsend, the town also hosts many events throughout the year, including the Victorian Festival and award-winning theatrical productions at Key City Public Theatre.
Often referred to as ‘Little Norway on the Fjord,’ Poulsbo is a lovely town found on Liberty Bay in Western Washington. Deemed an authentic Norwegian community, the town exudes charm and friendliness that will appeal to many people. The historic downtown is perfect for roaming and discovering mouthwatering bakeries, art and craft galleries, murals and specialty shops. The surrounding area offers lush parks where visitors can enjoy a relaxing picnic and a scenic waterfront that can be explored via kayak, canoe, or paddleboat. Proud of their heritage, Poulsbo hosts several events throughout the year, such as the Viking Fest, celebrating their ancestry.
Widely known as the ‘Birthplace of the Washington Wine Industry,’ the scenic Prosser is situated in the foothills of the lower Yakima Valley along the Yakima River in South Central Washington. Visitors can meander along cobble sidewalks illuminated by old-fashioned light poles in the historic downtown area where they can eat tasty edibles, shop for gifts, and more, take a walking tour of the town’s historic homes, or visit the region’s lush vineyards to sample a variety of wines. Those seeking an adventure of a different sort may partake in one of many outdoor activities found in and around Prosser, including canoeing and kayaking.
A mining and logging town once known as Eureka Gulch, Republic is a delightful, small place with a distinct early 1900s look located in Northeast Washington. In town, guests can seek out murals or visit historic sites, including the Kaufman Cabin — built in 1896 and the oldest structure in Republic. They may also visit the Republic Cemetery, which is believed to offer one of the most breathtaking, panoramic views found in Washington. Indeed, the cemetery overlooks the valley below, Sanpoil River and the Kettle Range. Stunning National Forest lands, lakes, and rivers surround the town as well offering up even more scenic beauty that one will never forget.
Located in Southeastern Washington, Walla Walla is a larger town brimming with beauty, including alluring tree-lined streets. There is not only a charming downtown area abound with historical buildings dating back to the 1850s with shops, cafés and more, where guests can take a leisurely stroll but also more than 100 wineries in and around the area along with many tasting rooms. Featured as one of the Dozen Distinctive Destinations, Walla Walla also offers those visiting their town a variety of walking tours, including the Downtown Historic Trail Guide, the Historic Homes Walk, and the Public Art Walk to name a few. Other places of interest include the Fort Walla Walla Museum and the great outdoors, which provides many adventures.
Situated in the heart of Methow Valley on the North Cascades Scenic Byway, Winthrop is the town to visit if travelers want to feel as though they have stepped back into the Old West. As with Leavenworth, Winthrop, complete with Western storefronts and wood boardwalks, was designed to attract tourists. Featuring shops, galleries, and eateries showcasing the area’s bounty, Winthrop is also a great place to experience the scenic outdoors with many summer and winter activities, including over 120 miles of cross-country skiing trails — the largest in the nation. Numerous events happen throughout the year as well, including the stunning Balloon Roundup and the lively Rhythm & Blues Festival.
By Marcelina Morfin