Washington State is a gem on the West Coast of the United States. Tourism is the fourth-largest industry, with more than 40 million people visiting Seattle alone every year.
From iconic landmarks like the Space Needle to the historical events of Mount St. Helens to being home to the most glaciers in the continental US, there are plenty of reasons why you should plan your next vacation to the beautiful Washington State.
This article will explore the top attractions in Washington State that should not be missed. From hidden gems to well-known landmarks, you'll find something special in Washington, no matter what your interests may be.
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The Pacific Northwest is associated with thick forests, majestic waterfalls, and towering mountain ranges. You can experience this and more on a trip to Olympic National Park.
The park is an awe-inspiring feat of nature. It encompasses almost a million acres and several ecosystems.
At its heart lies Mount Olympus – a majestic peak that rises over 7,900 feet above sea level. The mountain’s glaciers and alpine meadows are home to countless species of plants and animals, making it a hotbed for wildlife enthusiasts.
During winter months, when snow blankets the area, visitors can ski or snowshoe on one of several trails. In the summer, you can still enjoy panoramic views without any snow gear required!
Visitors can also venture through Hoh Rainforest and its massive 500-year-old trees. Looking for the beach? Try Kalaloch Beach along the Pacific coastline. Olympic National Park also has famous waterfalls, including the 90-foot Marymere Falls.
Accommodation: Where to stay near Olympic National Park
Address: 3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362
Mount Rainier National Park is one of the oldest national parks established in 1899. The centerpiece of the park is the enormous volcano, Mount Rainier, which has the highest peak elevation in Washington. The park also extends to include surrounding areas of meadows, valleys, forests, and a few of the largest glaciers in the continental US.
The entire park is recognized as a National Historic Landmark with 42 unique sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park predominantly features alpine meadow and tundra landscape with an abundance of wildlife.
Some of the most common animals to see in the park’s region are black bears, mountain goats, bobcats, cougars, elk, and lots of species of birds. The varying elevations and landscapes of the park make it suitable for diverse ecosystems and habitats.
Over one million people visit Mount Rainier National Park every year. Some of the top visitor sites are Paradise Valley, which has incredible views of the valley and mountain backdrop, Sunrise, a popular trail area, Carter Falls, and Longmire, known for its campsites and wilderness area.
Some of the top activities in the park include hiking along the miles of trails winding throughout the park, mountaineering to ascend the summit of Mount Rainier, and backcountry skiing during the winter season.
Visiting this national park is one of the best things to do in Washington State, packed with fun, excitement, and plenty of activities.
Accommodation: Where to stay near Mount Rainier National Park
Address: 55210 238th Ave. East, Ashford, WA 98304
The Space Needle is one of the most iconic buildings of the Seattle Skyline, located in the heart of Seattle and adjacent to the Seattle Center. Both sites were part of the 1962 World Fair and continue to be major destinations for tourists visiting Seattle.
The Space Needle is among the tallest buildings in the city, with a height of over 600-feet. The top of the building features a rotating observation deck called The Loupe. Visitors have panoramic views of Seattle – Downtown and reaching out towards Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and the Cascade Mountains.
The unique experience includes an open-air deck and leaning glass walls to give an exhilarating view over the city. Several tours include trips to the top of the Space Needle. The ground floor includes a gift shop.
The Seattle Center played host to the World Fair with the Space Needle in the backdrop. It remains a significant event and public gathering space year-round. The centerpiece of the area is the International Fountain.
It includes several cultural venues worth checking out, such as the Chihuly Gardens, Museum of Pop Culture, Pacific Science Center, and the Seattle Monorail.
Overall, this is one of the most well-outfitted Washington state attractions for visitors who want a lot of options!
Accommodation: Where to stay in Seattle
Address: 400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109
It’s easy to spot the glowing neon sign of the Pike Place Market, the most visited tourist attraction in Seattle. The public farmers market opened in 1907 and remains one of the longest-running markets in the country.
Pike Place Market is in Seattle’s business district, recognized on the list of National Register of Historic Places. The market consists of multiple buildings and levels, housing vendors from farmers to merchants to local craftspeople. There are countless items sold at the market, including antiques, collectibles, fresh produce, fresh fish from the bay, desserts, craft items, and much more.
More than 10 million people visit the market every year, making it the top visitor site in the city. Tourists come to shop alongside locals in the various stalls or to enjoy the exciting atmosphere created by the lively market. One of the highlights in the market is the fish throwing – listen out for loud calls as fresh fish gets tossed from the ice to be prepared for your order.
The historic marketplace features a Market Heritage Center, a museum exhibiting lots of information about the history and heritage of the market.
Address: 86 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101
Also Read: Top 10 Best Farmers' Markets in the USA
An air and space museum located by King County International Airport, the Washington Museum of Flight has been in operation since 1965 and today is a popular attraction that is ideal for both adults and children with an interest in air and space.
You can look forward to an educational and exciting experience when you visit this museum, as there are many programs, events, and exhibits to enjoy here. Around 400,000 people come here annually and many students come here too to enjoy the various educational programs and camps.
The aircraft displays at the museum along with the other exhibits will ensure that you enjoy a fun and exciting experience at the Museum of Flight.
Address: 9404 E Marginal Way S, Seattle, WA 98108
Also Read: Top 10 Best Science Museums in the US
Snoqualmie Falls is one of the most unique tourist attractions in Washington.
Visit the falls to witness the scenic beauty of one of the most iconic waterfalls in Washington. The falls form from the powerful Snoqualmie with a height of approximately 270-ft. There are a few visitor facilities and things to do around the falls to complete the experience.
The best time to visit Snoqualmie Falls is during the rainy season from November to March when the falls are in full force because of the effects of rainfall. The river and waterfall are used locally to power a hydroelectric plant, being one of the first completely underground plants.
More than 1.5-million people visit the falls annually to see its beauty. Visitors arrive at the top of the falls, with the natural landmark just a short distance from the parking lot. Some of the visitor facilities at the attraction include an observation deck, gift shop, and picnic areas.
In addition to viewing the falls, a hiking trail leads visitors through the nearby forest and to the bottom of the falls. Along the trail are various viewpoints of the falls for photos from different perspectives.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Snoqualmie
Address: 6501 Railroad Ave, Snoqualmie, WA 98065
Also Read: Most Beautiful Waterfalls in the USA
Lake Chelan is a distinct narrow lake, centrally located in Washington. The lake was once the largest in the state, extending more than 50-miles long. It’s currently the third-deepest lake in the US, reaching depths of nearly 1,500-ft. The lake is a popular attraction in the state of Washington for enjoying the scenic beauty and outdoor recreational activities.
Lake Chelan is on the outskirts of the North Cascades National Parks. Views of the mountainous region from the lake showcase incredible scenery. The landscape immediately surrounding the lake predominantly consists of forested areas, protected by various designations to preserve the ecosystem and landscape.
Fishing is a favorite activity for visitors at Lake Chelan - the lake includes several endemic species of trout, sucker, and whitefish. Other fish species were also added to the lake for sport fishing purposes.
Aside from fishing, visitors come to the lake to swim and sunbathe during the summer months. The lake has clear waters with high visibility to see fishing swimming nearby. Some of the points of interest include the Lake Chelan Dam and the Domke Falls, a small waterfall dropping into the lake.
There are several lake townships and nearby wineries that are common for visitors who come to the lake region.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Chelan
Address: Lake Chelan Marina, Chelan, WA 98816
Also Read: 25 Most Beautiful Lakes in the US
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument became one of the top tourist attractions in Washington state only decades after its catastrophic eruption. Today, approximately 750,000 people visit the site of the still-active volcano.
Mount St. Helens last erupted in 1980, marking a record-breaking volcanic eruption in the US. Two years later, in 1982, the volcano and the surrounding areas were designated as a protected status for research about the effects of the eruption.
The environment is a major research area while also providing an attraction for tourists to learn more about the eruption, information about the volcano, and incredible viewpoints of the now beautiful scenery.
One of the most popular visitor activities at the monument is mountain climbing to the volcano’s summit. Several other hiking trails wind around the mountain and to various natural landmarks. Parts of the monument area are accessible via vehicle traffic.
For those who want to enjoy the volcano from a distance, the monument includes an observation deck for the best views of Mount St. Helens, a visitor center, and multiple campgrounds.
Other points of interest near the volcano include Coldwater Lake, Lava Canyon Trail, and Ape Cave.
Address: 42218 NE Yale Bridge Rd, Amboy, WA 98601
North Cascades National Park is one of the best places to visit when you’re in Washington.
This national park is the largest park in the North Cascades Range, known for its beautiful scenery. The park includes two sections, a north, and south region, divided by the Skagit River. It has a diverse landscape of mountainous peaks, forest, an extensive glacial system – most of the park is designated as wilderness and undeveloped.
The varied landscape is popular for research of the biodiversity of flora and fauna in the park – wolverines are rare. Still, it's also a major habitat for grizzly bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and many others.
A majority of the park is left untouched for the preservation of the landscape. There are hundreds of lakes, ponds, and other water systems. The highest peak is Goode Mountain. Visitor permits are required to explore certain areas of the park.
There is a visitor center in the park where tourists receive more information about the various hiking routes and points of interest. It provides guided tours from experienced park rangers.
Some of the top activities in the park include mountaineering, hiking, horseback riding, cycling, and backcountry camping. One of the most popular destinations for visitors is hiking through the scenic Cascade Pass.
Address: North Cascades National Park, WA
Also Read: What to Pack When Going to a National Park
Forget Seattle. Washington’s best-kept secret is the San Juan Islands. It’s a series of 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County. The four best islands are also the most popular - San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Shaw Island, and Shaw Island.
Each of these islands is home to a distinct landscape and a small-town feel. There’s no shortage of activities on any island. You can visit a winery, hit an art gallery, go kayaking, or even take a moped tour. Wildlife fans can also get in on the fun by taking a whale watching tour near the aptly named Orcas Island.
One of the most adventurous things to do in Washington state is to come to the San Juan Islands.
Accommodation: Where to stay in San Juan Islands
Address: San Juan Islands, WA
Leavenworth is a themed small village styled after traditional Bavarian villages. What once was a thriving timber-industry community, it transformed into a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors to experience its unique setting.
The town was built in 1885, with many of the buildings in Tudor Revival architecture style. The population is only around a couple of thousand people but hosts lots of tourists year-round. There are many inns and local diners with an intimate, small-town atmosphere.
Some of the biggest attractions to Leavenworth are the monthly festivals and events happening in every season. It hosts an annual Oktoberfest celebration, one of the largest outside of Germany. It’s also famous for its traditional Bavarian Christmas celebration, recognized for being an ideal Christmas town.
There are plenty of things to see and do in Leavenworth, aside from the events. Among the local attractions include the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, exhibiting over 5,000 nutcrackers from various eras.
Visitors staying in the town can visit the nearby Alpine Lakes Wilderness for outdoor recreational activities, including hiking and skiing.
The intimate village has a local charm – you won’t find another community like it in Washington or other parts of the US thanks to preservations of its Bavarian village roots.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Leavenworth
Address: Leavenworth, WA
The Museum of Glass is a unique art museum dedicated solely to glass as an art medium. The museum, located in Tacoma, WA, exhibits works of art made from glass. The purpose of the museum, when it was established in 2002, was to educate the public on glass art, showcase the creativity of the art medium, and to inspire upcoming generations of glass artists.
The museum is proactive in exhibiting past and present works of glass art – it includes permanent and temporary exhibitions from some of the most well-known glass artists to newcomers as part of their residency program.
This family-friendly Washington attraction also includes live exhibitions in its amphitheater to showcase the making of glass art by specially invited artists. There is also a hot glass studio where resident artists live and work.
The museum’s architecture is especially impressive, including two notable exterior features. The glass bridge extends from the museum to downtown Tacoma, lined with various glass art pieces from different artists.
The iconic “Hot Shop” cone structure is a glass blowing building which houses the amphitheater.
The Museum of Glass includes special events for members but is open to the public to visit.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Tacoma
Address: 1801 Dock St, Tacoma, WA 98402
Discover a part of the process of how official US policies get made by visiting the Washington State Capitol Building. Locate in Olympia, the capital of Washington, the Capitol building is home to offices of the head of state government officials and the legislature (the building is also called the legislative building).
Washington State Capitol Building is part of a large capital complex, consisting of other noteworthy political institutions such as the Governor’s Mansion and the Temple of Justice, which houses the Supreme Court.
The first noticeable characteristic of the building is its impressive architecture. It was completed in 1928 and features an iconic dome reaching a height of nearly 300-ft, making it one of the world’s highest self-supporting masonry domes.
The building has many symbolic features of Washington becoming the 42nd state, such as 42 stairs and a rare 42-star flag.
Guided tours are available to learn all about the building’s history, the architecture, and to see the very rooms where policies are made. Tours are conducted by expert volunteers who take tour groups around most of the building.
The capitol building includes a gift shop for buying souvenirs, and visitors can walk around the beautiful gardens surrounding the building.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Olympia
Address: 416 Sid Snyder Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98501
Bellingham is a city in the Northwest of the state located between Seattle and Vancouver (Canada). While the population is just under 100,000 people, the city attracts many more thanks for being a popular tourist destination.
Bellingham is most known for quick access to many outdoor recreational sites, along with having several local attractions as well.
Bellingham derives its name from Bellingham Bay. The bay, once surrounded by multiple cities and towns, is now a destination for enjoying boat cruises and fishing.
Some of the favorite local tourist activities include exploring some of the city’s history with historical walks and tours to notable buildings or visiting museums.
Many visitors come to Bellingham to visit some of the surrounding outdoor recreational attractions – Whatcom Falls Park is nearby, known for four main waterfalls and lots of hiking trails and leisure walks.
Visitors can take a ferry to the San Juan Islands, famous for its rich biodiversity and whale watching. Another major attraction is the North Cascades, a mountain range extending between the US and Canada with many high peaks for mountain climbing and hiking.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Bellingham
Address: Bellingham, WA
Puget Sound is a prominent water inlet extending from the Pacific Ocean and the Salish Sea. The sound is characterized by a system of interconnected waterways, basins, fjords, and channels. It’s located nearby Seattle and a popular attraction for people visiting the ‘Emerald City.’
Puget Sound is an extensive sound system of more than 100-miles long. It includes the country’s third-largest estuary, which is an enclosed coast. The sound formed from the historical glacial activity and melting ice sheets.
There are lots of islands of various sizes throughout the sound, many of which are inhabited. The sound provides a waterway ferry transport system for people living on the islands to the Washington mainland. Millions of people use the ferry service every year.
The Puget Sound is a popular tourist attraction in Washington for boat tours, providing views of wildlife or a new perspective of Seattle.
Wildlife sightings are frequent for Puget Sound tours. The most famous marine animal to spot is the orca. Other wildlife and marine animals include harbor seals, sharks, rockfish, pacific herring, and manta rays.
There are also boat tours along the Puget Sound to sightseeing Seattle and learning more about the city.
Address: Puget Sound Lowlands, WA