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The Best Time to Visit Washington State in 2023

The Best Time to Visit Washington State in 2023

Thinking about a trip to Washington State? The hub of the Pacific Northwest has a lot to do throughout the year, but knowing the best times to visit can help you plan your trip.

Washington stands out among the continental states thanks to its dual-climate geography and generally-moderate weather, both of which can help make any trip to the area more interesting.

We’ll teach you the best time to visit the state regardless of your goals for the trip, including when things are cheap. We’ll also tell you when to avoid the state, and give you a few tips for a better trip.

Why You Should Visit Washington State

View from the Cascade Mountains on a foggy day with green trees far below, as seen during the best time to visit Washington State

Patricia Thomas/Shutterstock

Washington is a four-season state, meaning it has things to do throughout the year. A lot of this is because of the way the Cascade Mountains split the state. The western half of the state is colder and wetter, while the eastern half is dry and warmer thanks to the mountains limiting cloud progression.

Washington is also great for both indoor and outdoor activities. The peninsula on the western half of the state features places like the Hoh Rain Forest, while heavily-urbanized Seattle serves as a technology hub and a place to enjoy fine food and the arts.

If you’re in the mood for something warmer, Walla Walla on the eastern side of the state was selected as the top wine region in the country by a USA Today awards program. The title’s no joke, as the area’s unique soil and climate make it exceptionally well-suited to winemaking.

Alternatively, you can go camping almost anywhere in the state. This state has easy access to beaches, forests, mountains, and more, so you can experience many environments in a single trip.

Overall Best Time to Visit Washington State

A whale breaching in the bay near Walla Walla during the overall best time to visit Washington State

Monika Wieland Shields/Shutterstock

The best time to visit Washington is between July and September. Summer and early Autumn are usually warm enough that you don’t need to wear extra layers unless you’re going up into the mountains.

The state’s famously wet weather is also less prevalent during this period, which ensures more opportunities to go outside and enjoy all the state has to offer. Things can get much warmer on the eastern side of the state during this period, making it ideal for warm summer travel.

Walla Walla is a particularly good destination here. However, Washington is a four-season state and there’s always something going on.

For example, Leavenworth is practically a fairy-tale village between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s the perfect place to give children an unforgettable Christmas experience, and it’s well worth the drive to get there.

Cheapest Time to Visit Washington State

Downtown Seattle pictured in September, the cheapest time to visit Seattle

Todd17/Shutterstock

The cheapest time to visit Washington state is in late September. In this month, the temperature ranges between the mid-50s to about 71, which is just a little on the cool side for most people.

There’s about a one-in-four chance of rain on any specific day, but it tends to be light, with an average of two inches of rain total across the whole month.

If you’re trying to get the cheapest deals possible, get a departure and return flight on Tuesday, which is the quietest day of the week. Sea-Tac airport is the primary hub for the western half of the state (and conveniently linked by light rail to Seattle), but there are some smaller airports dotted around the area.

Prices drop even lower in the second half of September, so aim for later in the month if you want to get the best deals. It’s interesting that the cheapest time to visit coincides with the best time.

Some people prefer warmer weather for their trips, but with kids back in school, a lot of activities are less crowded and easier to get into.

Least Busy Time to Visit Washington State

Empty wooden chair on the black sand beach of Lake Crescent in Washington State pictured during the least busy time to visit

IG Digital Arts/Shutterstock

Washington is the least busy from late October to April. This period is when things start to get colder outside, which pushes most people on the western side of the state towards indoor activities.

The eastern half is warmer and more comfortable, but never as busy as the western half, so it’s always a good time to visit that area. Late autumn and winter are the ideal time to visit Washington for cultural entertainment.

You can hear live music at the famed Benaroya Hall, check out the entertainment and shopping at Pike Place Market, or go skiing at Snoqualmie Pass during the operating season. Seattle is the focus for indoor entertainment in the winter, but it can still be a little expensive.

If you’re looking for cheaper entertainment, head to some of the farming or camping areas instead. Most places only have real traffic on the weekends when it’s not the busy season, so visiting on a weekday practically guarantees an easy time.

Airfare suggestions are essentially the same. Try to arrive and leave on Tuesdays for the best days, and otherwise, there isn’t much to worry about.

Worst Time to Visit Washington State

Snow falling on the highway near Steven's Pass during the winter, the worst time to visit Washington State

Ian Dewar Photography/Shutterstock

July to September is often the worst time to visit Washington. Wait, hold on, I know what it sounds like, and I’m not crazy. Let me explain. As a four-season state, Washington is a great place to visit throughout the year.

That means the real thing that disturbs trips tends to be local and environmental factors. In Washington’s case, the reason July to September is occasionally a poor time to visit is because it’s wildfire season. Fires are sporadic throughout the year.

It’s not uncommon to have some haze on the horizon, but this isn’t bad enough to bother most people. However, there is a chance that you’ll experience a more severe fire season, like the 2022 Bolt Creek Fire, which gave some parts of Washington the worst air quality on the planet.

Most summer trips in Washington are fine, but the fire risk means you should have a backup plan for indoor entertainment if going outside is too unhealthy.

Things to Consider

Here are some things to consider about any trip to Washington state:

  • The major route of travel on the western side of the state is I-5. Things can get busy in and out of Seattle during rush hour, so try to avoid traveling during those times.
  • Traffic can be especially bad about half an hour north of Seattle, near Everett, thanks to the Boeing manufacturing plant there. Cars leaving both the plant and Seattle make driving tough in both directions.
  • Summer is mostly dry, but it can rain at any time of year. Pack accordingly.
  • Most of the I-5 corridor in Washington is populated, essentially turning it into a single mega-city. It’s not hard to access outdoor entertainment, though.
  • For the east half of the state, the southern part has more to do than the northern areas.
  • Mount Rainier can be a good landmark in the western half of the state. Standing 14,410 feet and separated from other mountains, it’s easy to find on the horizon.
  • The peninsula is much quieter than the I-9 corridor and features long scenic drives.
  • The Puget Sound area has a lot of water access without ocean currents.

Frequently Asked Questions

Gorgeous road winding through a forest with tall trees for a piece on the best time to visit Washington State

LHBLLC/Shutterstock

Here are some common questions people have about visiting Washington state:

When is the rainy season in Washington State?

The rainy season is from October to March. December is particularly wet on the western side of the state, so most people focus on indoor and cultural activities instead of going outside. The eastern side of the state never gets too much rain, though.

What month is the best time to visit Seattle?

The best month to visit Seattle depends on what you want to do. Cultural and indoor activities are more common in winter, but some visitors prefer walking around the city in warmer summer weather. The options are different throughout the year, but every month is good.

What is the number 1 tourist attraction in Washington State?

The biggest tourist attraction in Washington is Olympic National Park, over on the peninsula. It covers about a million acres, including several distinct temperate rainforests. Between that and the beaches, the peninsula is an excellent destination for anyone who enjoys outdoor trips.

What is the coldest month in Washington State?

The coldest month is usually January. Temperatures here rarely get above the mid-50s and frequently dip below freezing, so it’s important to dress for the weather and bring thicker clothes.

When are cherry blossoms visible in Seattle?

Cherry blossoms are most visible around mid-March when many cherry trees planted on the state’s western half are blooming. The blossoms only last a few days, so you must time a trip carefully if you want to see them.

Is Washington State worth visiting?

Washington is a great state to visit regardless of your interests. From fine wines and finer dining to camping, river rafting, and skiing, the state supports practically every hobby. It’s also far more accessible than some other states, with most of the top entertainment available along a single highway.

How can I spend a week in Washington State?

There are countless ways to enjoy a whole week in Washington. However, if you want to see a little bit of everything, spend two days in Seattle and another two days near Mount Rainier. After that, spend the rest of the week in Olympic National Park. This itinerary will show you the best of the state’s urban and wilderness environments.

Where do people in Washington vacation?

People who live in Washington state often visit the national parks for vacations, especially Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier. The passes across the Cascade mountains are also ideal for skiing in winter. Seattle is more of a day-trip option for the western half of the state. On the eastern half, Walla Walla is easily the best destination.

Is Washington or Oregon better to visit?

Washington is more developed along its western half than Oregon, which makes it better for cultural entertainment. Oregon has more natural sights and things to see in close proximity, though.

Where is the best weather in Washington State?

The best overall weather in Washington state is near Spokane, the nexus of the eastern half of the state. Easily accessible along both north-south and east-west routes, Spokane is sunny and temperate throughout most of the year. It has many outdoor attractions but isn’t too busy, making it a great place to stay for a whole week.

Is Washington cheap or expensive?

Washington is relatively expensive to live in, with housing costs noticeably higher than the national average. However, visitors can benefit from a full range of amenities and pricing, including cheap lodging options near Seattle. If you leave Seattle and buy your food, the price for a trip can go substantially down.

What is Washington State known for?

Washington state is known for its incredible wilderness areas, its thriving agricultural sectors, and for being one of the biggest tech hubs in the world. It’s no exaggeration to say this state has a little of everything.

What food is Washington most famous for?

Washington is especially famous for coastal seafood dishes, which are widely available in the western half of the state. Salmon is a particular favorite in the area, but chicken and beef dishes are also accessible. Drink-wise, the state is home to both wine and coffee.

Seattle is a major port city with a relatively high percentage of immigrants from Asia, so the state also has many Asian restaurants offering international flavors and flair.

Can you swim in the ocean in Washington State?

Technically, yes, but you probably shouldn’t. The ocean waters tend to be cold even in summer, and the water can get dangerous. However, the state has many lakes and rivers to enjoy, along with the spacious Puget Sound, so there are many good areas to go swimming.

Is downtown Seattle safe to walk?

Seattle is generally safe for visitors to walk around in, especially during the day. Some downtown areas aren’t quite as safe late at night, but even cheaper hotels are generally fine.

Do you need a car when visiting Seattle?

Cars can certainly help, depending on where you want to go. However, many of the tourist-relevant areas are now accessible by the Link Light Rail system, a rapid public transit option. Buses connect the rest of the city, and the core of the downtown area is highly walkable.

What are some unique things to do in Washington state?

One of the most popular activities in Washington that’s hard to do elsewhere is going looking for orcas. Guided tours can bring visitors to places where these marine creatures often hang out, but as with all wildlife tours, operators can’t guarantee you’ll see them. Still, the iconic black-and-white orcas remain popular throughout the state.

Is food expensive in Washington?

Food can be expensive at upscale restaurants, especially in Seattle. Other tourist-heavy areas, like Walla Walla, can be a little pricey. However, the state also has various budget-friendly options, including bulk foods at grocery stores.

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Washington State?

The best time to visit Washington state depends on what you want to do. As a general rule, Spring and Summer are better for outdoor activities, while Autumn and Winter are better for cultural options and snow-based sports.

It’s a four-season state, though, so every time of year is ultimately a good time to visit. And trust us when we say that you’ll love every single season. Happy travels!