The Evergreen State, rounding out the northwest corner of the contiguous U.S., offers incredible opportunities in business, art, and the outdoors. For those who are just visiting, Washington State can be overwhelming to tackle. A good place to start is with the state’s top attractions, offering views—natural and man-made—guaranteed to impress.
One of three national parks in the state of Washington, the Olympic National Park is home to one of the few temperate rainforests, the Hoh Rainforest, in the nation, as well as the Olympic Mountains and the Olympic Hot Springs. The park sits up on the Olympic Peninsula in the northwest corner of the northwest state. One of the most popular areas to explore is Hurricane Ridge.
The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour is an incredible opportunity to visit the world’s largest building by volume, watch 747, 777, and 787 Dreamliner airplanes being assembled, and gain admission to both the Aerospace Gallery and Strato Deck. Tickets sell out quickly at no more than $25 per person, so buy yours ahead of time!
This archipelago, made up of four main islands and several small islands not accessible by ferry, provides beautiful scenery and fun towns to explore. They are known for Moran State Park on Orcas Island, Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, and excellent whale-watching opportunities throughout the area.
Mt. Rainier is the highest peak in the Pacific Northwest. The mountain, which rises to 14,410 feet (4,392.17 meters), provides excellent hiking and biking opportunities. The park is also open during the winter for skiing and snowboarding. People can even enjoy Mt. Rainier without visiting the park, as it towers gracefully above the rest of the state.
The Coulee Corridor National Scenic Byway lies in the desert region of Washington State. The Grand Coulee Dam is the “largest hydropower generating facility” in the nation and provides 75% of the Pacific Northwest’s power. The area has captivatingly stark scenery, with opportunities to explore areas such as the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.
Following the Mount St. Helens 1980 eruption, the Mount St. Helens National Monument was created in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest as a place of exploration and learning. The now-partially imploded volcano has trails open for hiking as well as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. The Science and Learning Center shows how the surrounding ecosystem reacted over time.
The city of Port Angeles, with a population of approximately 20,000, lies right outside the Olympic National Park. With views of the Olympic Mountains to the south, the Canadian city of Victoria sits on the other side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The impressively scenic city is also the starting location for the Olympic Discovery Trail.
The state’s capitol building in Olympia is a sight to behold. The building, which cost seven million dollars to build before opening in 1928, has the tallest masonry dome in North America. Tours are available, including that of the five-ton Tiffany chandelier and the permanent sculptures.
This gorgeous forest runs 140 miles (225 kilometers) along the west side of the Cascade Mountain range from the Canadian border to the north end of Mt. Rainier National Park. With glacier-covered peaks, meadows, and old-growth forests, it is one of the most visited forests in the nation.
One of two cities in the state to host the World’s Fair, Spokane is the second largest city in Washington. Not too far from the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, the Riverfront Park is 100 acres set on the Spokane River and features a sculpture walk and a cable car providing views over Spokane Falls.
The North Cascades National Park is a vast collection of forests and valleys along the Cascade Mountains. Ross Lake and Thunder Creek Trail are two of the more popular destinations. The park offers opportunities for hiking, camping, and climbing. The unincorporated community of Stehekin, nestled in the park, is a lovely city getaway with no cell phone reception and limited groceries.
Lake Chelan National Recreation Area was created in 1968 along with the North Cascades National Park in which it resides. The 50-mile-long (80 km) lake is the third deepest natural lake in the nation and a popular annual destination for locals. Aside from the numerous opportunities for outdoor activities, there is also a nearby water park called Slidewaters.
This Bavarian-style town in Washington State was redesigned as a tourist destination in the 1960s after the decline of the logging and sawmill industries, which threatened the town’s existence. Now a scenic getaway, Leavenworth is known for its Nutcracker Museum and their Christmas Lighting Festival.
It’s not so much the ferries themselves that are so spectacular, but rather the views possible only from a ferry in the middle of the Puget Sound. Surrounded by water, vistas include the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges, islands, the Seattle skyline, and—if you’re lucky—some orca whales!
With more than 1.5 million visitors every year, Snoqualmie Falls is a 268-foot (81.6-meter) waterfall—that’s 100 feet (30.4 meters) taller than Niagara Falls! With hiking trails and observation points, the waterfall has attracted daredevils who have done a tightrope walk across it or parachuted into its canyon—some successfully and others to their death.
Approximately a half hour from the Canadian border, the northern city of Bellingham is enveloped by evergreen trees and Mt. Baker. Two points of interest, in particular, are the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention and the Whatcom Museum. Known as a more “hippie” section of the state, it is also the location of Western Washington University.
One of the locations to travel to on the previously mentioned ferries is Vashon Island. The 13-mile-long (21 km) island has 45 miles (72.4 km) of shoreline. It is a wonderful opportunity to experience the more relaxed, island life while still maintaining proximity to the major city of Seattle.
Dividing Oregon and Washington, the Columbia River Gorge is a canyon in which the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountains. The 80 miles (128.7 km) of canyon drops down to 4,000 feet (1,219.2 m) deep.
The largest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is one of the most popular attractions in the Evergreen State. Hosting the 1962 World’s Fair, it has since grown into a flourishing hub for technology and arts alike. Don’t miss the Seattle Center (with the Space Needle), the Chihuly Garden and Glass, and Pike Place Market.