The state of Washington is home to a wide range of sites touching varying interests, from nature to art to history and more. We’re travel nuts, and love the Northwest.
So you can bet that we’ll show you 16 of the very best places to visit in Washington State. Read on to see our top recommendations for places to visit, why we love each, and things to do in each.
16 Best Places to Visit in Washington State
Washington State is a fantastic state to visit for hikers, backpackers, and campers due to the vast public land and nature parks. The state is also home to fascinating museums, art galleries, shopping centers, eateries, and historical sites.
Essentially, you can find pretty much everything in the state, from striking mountains to delicious food to beautiful wildlife to opportunities for cultural immersion.
Whether you’re planning a trip to Washington or considering moving there long-term, read on to discover 16 of the best sites.
1. Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations in Washington State. The park is home to Mount Rainier, an active volcano that last erupted about one thousand years ago.
Beyond hiking around to view the striking scenery of Mount Rainier and surrounding peaks, visitors love seeing beautiful wildfires and sweeping glaciers in this national park.
Of course, you can be bold and attempt to summit Mount Rainier itself, although only 50% of the 10,000 attempts per year are successful.
2. Space Needle
The Space Needle is a distinct, iconic landmark in Seattle – one of the most famous destinations in the entire state. The Space Needle – built for the 1962 World’s Fair – is 605 feet tall.
You can take an elevator to the top of the Space Needle for stunning views of Seattle, Elliott Bay, Mount Rainier, the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, and several islands in Puget Sound.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try bungee jumping off the Space Needle! Well, it’s not actual bungee jumping, but there’s a new virtual reality bungee jumping experience included with the price of your Space Needle ticket.
Read Next: The Best Things to Do in Seattle in 2023
3. Museum of Pop Culture
The Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP, is a museum dedicated to contemporary popular culture. The museum – founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000 – is the perfect place to visit for those interested in what has culturally shaped society over time.
The museum has many different exhibits, including ones on science fiction, video games, music, horror films, and more. You can also find interesting artifacts like Jimi Hendrix’s stage costumes and a lock of John Lennon’s hair.
4. Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is a massic national park located in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The park has several types of ecosystems, including temperate rainforests, alpine meadows, and the beaches of the Pacific Ocean.
One of the most memorable things to do in the park is to hike to one of the many waterfalls, including Marymere Falls and Sol Duc Falls.
You can also go camping, backpacking, and fishing in the park, and there are plenty of opportunities to see wildlife like black bears, deer, elk, and eagles.
Read Next: The Best National Parks in the United States
5. Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens is an active volcano located in the state of Washington. The volcano is most famous for its catastrophic eruption in 1980, which killed 57 people and caused widespread damage.
But don’t let that scare you.
Today, the volcano is a popular tourist destination, and you can hike to the crater or go camping in the surrounding area. There are also several interpretive centers where you can learn about the history of the volcano and the 1980 eruption.
6. Seattle Art Museum
The Seattle Art Museum is one of the largest and most popular art museums in the city of Seattle. The museum has thousands of works of art, ranging from ancient to modern.
Visitors especially love the exhibits on the Pacific Northwest Indigenous history and community. The museum also has several temporary exhibits, and you can find a cafe and a gift shop on-site.
7. Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is another incredibly popular tourist destination in Seattle. The market is home to many different vendors selling everything from fresh produce to crafts.
You can also find several top-rated restaurants and cafes in the market, as well as a fish market. Pike Place Market is also a nice place to find souvenirs to take home with you.
8. Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh Rainforest is a temperate rainforest located in Olympic National Park. The forest is home to numerous plant and animal species, including elk, deer, bears, eagles, and salmon.
The Hoh Rainforest is a popular destination for hikers, and there are plenty of trails you can take to explore the forest. You can also go camping in the Hoh Rainforest, and there are plenty of different campsites to choose from.
9. San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are a beautiful group of islands located in Puget Sound in Washington State. The islands are home to several parks, nature reserves, towns, and villages.
You can easily explore the San Juan Islands by boat, ferry, airplane, and kayak.
While visiting the islands, you can go camping, hiking, fishing, and even whale watching. These islands are often ranked as the most stunning area in the entire state of Washington.
10. North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is a national park located in the Cascade Range in Washington State. Throughout the Cascades, you’ll find mountains, glaciers, rivers, and more.
Hiking is undoubtedly the most popular activity in the park, as there are plenty of trails to choose from depending on your hiking skill level and scenic interests.
Visitors also appreciate going camping, backpacking, and climbing in the park. And like Washington’s other national and state parks, the Cascades provide plenty of opportunities to see wildlife like bears, deer, and eagles.
11. Snoqualmie Falls
Snoqualmie Falls is a striking, 268-foot waterfall in Washington State that both tourists and locals love to visit. This memorable waterfall is located on the Snoqualmie River, and you can view them from both the top and the bottom.
There is also a lovely lodge located at the top of the falls, providing a great place to relax after a day of exploring.
Spokane is the second-largest city in Washington State and is located in the eastern part of the state. The city hosts several intriguing museums and opportunities, including the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and the Spokane Art School.
Spokane is also a great place to go shopping, as there are many malls and shopping centers in the city. And if you’re looking for a quieter place to relax, Spokane has several inviting parks, including Riverfront Park and Manito Park.
13. LeMay – America’s Car Museum
If you’re an auto lover, you’ll enjoy LeMay – America’s Car Museum. Located in Tacoma, Washington, this museum has a range of intriguing, historic, and classic American cars and motorcycles.
Car enthusiasts get a kick out of seeing all the different makes and models on display, learning about their histories, and seeing how they’ve evolved over time.
14. White Pass Ski Area
White Pass Ski Area is a ski resort located in Naches, Washington State. In addition to a range of ski trails, this resort has helpful amenities, including a ski school, a daycare, and a rental shop.
There is also a lodge located at the ski area’s base, which is a great place to chill out, stretch, and unwind after a day on the slopes. Visitors appreciate the friendly attitude from both the staff and other guests.
15. Bellevue Botanical Garden
The Bellevue Botanical Garden is a 53-acre garden located in Bellevue, Washington. The garden holds a multitude of different plant and flower species, as well as distinct gardens, including the Fuchsia Garden, Waterwise Garden, and the Urban Meadow.
It’s an excellent idea to visit Bellevue during the holiday season because the Christmas lights make the gardens even more spectacular to view!
16. Chihuly Garden and Glass
“Chihuly Garden and Glass” is named after Dale Chihuly, who created this unique glass studio project. It’s an indoor and outdoor exhibition with three main parts: The Glasshouse, The Garden, and The Interior Exhibitions.
These three components alone are intriguing enough for a visit, and the space is further complemented by a cafe, lobby spaces, and a theater and lecture space. Overall, Chihuly is an excellent place to visit for those who appreciate art, glass, gardens, or all three!
Things to Consider
While Washington State is a relatively easy place to visit, given its well-resourced parks and attractions, there are a few things you might want to consider when planning your trip.
Firstly, what type of overall environment are you looking for? There are mountains, rivers, lakes, cities, and coastlines in Washington, all offering different activity and exploration opportunities.
Of course, there are areas where you can get a combination of these environmental features. This is why visiting national parks like Mount Rainier or Olympic National Park are so popular.
If you’re having trouble figuring out your environment, perhaps start by asking yourself what types of activities you enjoy. If you want to go hiking and camping, you’ll want to be in or near one of the national parks where there are mountains.
If you want to go fishing, kayaking, swimming, or boating, consider staying near a lake or by the coastline. And if you want to go shopping, dining, and bar hopping, staying in a city like Seattle or Spokane may be your best bet.
What time of year do you want to visit? Some places are only accessible or have different activities available at certain times of the year, so figuring out which season or holiday you’re planning on visiting will be necessary for planning your moves throughout Washington.
Washington is also a relatively rainy state, so if you want to be outdoors but avoid hiking or camping in the rain, try to choose the driest time, which would be July.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to commonly asked questions people ask when visiting Washington:
What is the number one tourist attraction in Washington state?
Many different places could be considered the number one tourist attraction. However, a few contenders might be Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and the Space Needle in Seattle.
What is the prettiest place in Washington state?
Washington is a beautiful state with mountains, wildflowers, islands, waterfalls, and pristine coastlines, so choosing the absolute prettiest place is challenging. Visitors and locals alike appreciate the beauty of places like Mount Rainier National Park, San Juan Islands, and Snoqualmie Falls.
Where can you enjoy a beautiful view of Washington?
There are many places from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of Washington. A few examples include Mount Rainier National Park (especially the Paradise Trail) and on top of the Space Needle in Seattle.
How can I have fun in Washington State?
There are many different ways to have fun in Washington State. If you love the outdoors, some ideas include hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, whale watching, kayaking, boating, and exploring national parks. If you’re more of a city person, you can visit Seattle and go shopping, bar hopping, museum hopping, etc.
What should I not miss in Washington State?
If you’re going for nature, don’t miss a visit to Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park. However, if you’re going for culture, art, food, and city life, don’t miss the Space Needle, the Seattle Art Museum, or Pike Place Market.
So, What’s the Best Place to Visit in Washington?
The best place to visit in Washington will depend on what you’re interested in and what time of year you’re visiting. Some of our top picks include Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, the Space Needle, and Seattle Art Museum.
When planning your trip, keep in mind what type of environment you want, what activities you enjoy, and how the weather will likely feel. Also, don’t forget to check out our FAQ section for more information on visiting Washington State.