From iconic landmarks like the Space Needle to the historical events of Mount St. Helens to being home of the most glaciers in the continental US, there are plenty of reasons why you should plan your next vacation to the beautiful Washington State.
These are the top 20 attractions in Washington State to add to your bucket list.
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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 a truly impressive feat of nature. It encompasses almost a million acres and several ecosystems. One of the most popular attractions, Mt. Olympus, is home to some of the best hiking and backpacking trails in the state.
Visitors can also venture through Hoh Rainforest and its massive 500 year-old trees. Looking for the beach? Try the Kalaloch Beach along the Pacific coastline. Olympic National Park also has famous waterfalls, including the 90-foot Marymere Falls.
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.
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.
Address: 400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109
Accomodation: Where to stay in Seattle
Also Read: Seattle, Washington Top 10 Attractions
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
Visit the Snoqualmie 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.
Address: 6501 Railroad Ave, Snoqualmie, WA 98065
Also Read: Top 10 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 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.
Address: Lake Chelan Marina, Chelan, WA 98816
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument became one of the top tourist attractions in Washington 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 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 this island’s 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.
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.
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.
The family-friendly 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.
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.
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 the Bellingham Bay. The bay, which was 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 the 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.
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 historical glacial activity and melting ice sheets.
There are lots of islands with 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 sound is a popular tourist attraction 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
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is a vast protected forest region of the Cascade Range, extending more than 140-miles down from the border of Canada. The national forest was established in 1907, encompassing an area of more than 1.7-million acres. It’s the most-visited national forest in the US due to its proximity to several major metropolitan areas in Washington.
The landscape is dominated by forest-covered areas of mountains, valleys, lowlands, and hills. Moreover, there are many notable peaks from the Cascade Range included within the park such as Mount Baker volcano, a namesake peak of the park, and Glacier Peak volcano. The forest is also known for having the most glaciers outside of Alaska. A significant portion of the forest is designated as a wilderness area.
The diverse landscape and elevation zones of the park make it the perfect habitat for lots of wildlife and flora.
Because of its size, the park divides into four distinct ranger zones.
There are many recreational activities available throughout the forest. It has an abundance of hiking trails winding throughout the forest to reach various viewpoints, waterfalls, and more. It also contains several campgrounds for people who wish to stay overnight.
Address: Mt Baker, WA 98244
The Spokane Riverfront Park is one of the must-see attractions for visitors to Spokane. Located in Downtown Spokane, the riverfront park is one of the best public urban parks in the US. The park runs alongside the Spokane River and includes the Spokane Falls, a major natural landmark.
The park was built in 1974 to host events of the World Fair. Many of the original structures remain in the park, such as the notable wireframe pavilion, which was the main tent house of the fair, and the iconic clock tower, often used as a symbol of the city.
The riverfront park is a destination for all ages, providing lots of fun and entertainment all year round for everyone. Some of the permanent fixtures in the park include the Riverfront Park Carousel, the Numerica Skate Ribbon, and a Skyride over Spokane Falls. There is also a kids’ amusement park and gift shop for souvenirs.
Outdoor recreation is also popular at the park, which includes sections of the Spokane River Centennial Trail, a paved trail for walking and cycling.
The ample green space in the park hosts lots of public events throughout the year. Some of the most notable events include Hoopfest, the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world, sculpture walk to showcase local art, and holiday celebrations - 4th of July and Labor Day.
Address: 507 N Howard St, Spokane, WA 99201
The most notable hiking destination in Washington is at Deception Pass State Park. Deception Pass is part of the Puget Sound – a notable strait between Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island. The strait links the Skagit Bay with the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Deception Pass derives its name for seemingly “deceiving” George Vancouver, who explored the region, of Whidbey Island being a peninsula. The now historic pass is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes many attractions and historical sites for visitors to see.
Deception Pass State Park established in 1923, today attracting more than two million visitors every year – it’s one of the most-visited state parks in the United States.
Hiking is one of the top activities in the park with more than 30-miles of hiking trails. The most notable path is the Pacific Northwest Trail, which crosses over the monumental Deception Pass Bridges for fantastic views of the pass.
There are several campgrounds within the park and cabin accommodations for overnight stays. The park includes visitor facilities such as an interpretive center providing visitors with lots of historical information about the park.
Other activities include boat tours through the pass, a great place for rare whale sightings.
Address: 5175 N State Hwy 20, Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, WA 98277
Several ferries operate throughout Washington for transporting passengers, but the largest of the companies is the government-owned and operated Washington State Ferries, a passenger, and automobile ferry service.
Washington State Ferries is the largest ferry operator in the US (fourth largest in the world) and has the largest fleet of ferries in the country with 23 ships in service. The ferry system includes ten routes to 20 terminals throughout the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands. It carrier more than 24-million passengers annually.
The ferries serve as a commuter system for people traveling to and from the Washington Mainland to the nearby islands such as Bainbridge Island and Whidbey Island. Some of the top routes on the ferry system include Seattle-Bainbridge Island, Edmunds-Kingston, and Mukilteo-Clinton, each with millions of riders every year on these routes alone.
The ferry system began operation in 1951, recognized by the fleet of green and white ferries. The ferries have become an accessible mode of transportation for tourists looking for local ways of transportation and more efficient ways to get around the state.
The ferries are common for taking day trips outside of Seattle to the nearby islands. While riding on the ships, passengers have great views of the Seattle skyline and other sightseeing opportunities.
Address: 801 Alaskan Way, Pier 52, Seattle, WA 98104
Accomodation: Where to stay in Seattle
An essential destination on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is Port Angeles. Port Angeles is the largest city with Clallam County, yet only having just over 20,000 residents. The city, however, is a famous port city and linked to other popular tourist areas in Washington, such as Seattle, via the state ferry system.
Port Angeles is a popular day-trip destination for tourists in the region to experience some of the best outdoor recreational activities in the state. It’s also home to several famous athletes, musicians, and writers, most notably John Elway, a former NFL star.
The picturesque port includes views of the Olympic Mountains in the backdrop overlooking the city.
Many people come to Port Angeles to stay during their visit to the Olympic National Park for seeing the iconic Mount Olympus and outdoor recreation – hiking, biking, camping. The city is also nearby to Marymere Falls. Several boat tours leave from the port, with easy access to the Pacific Ocean.
In addition to outdoor activities, the town includes local attractions. The most popular site is the Olympic National Park Visitor Center, providing information and guided tour availability for exploring the park.
Address: Port Angeles, WA