25 Best Things to Do in Washington State

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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The State of Washington is a nature lovers dream. The natural scenery in the state is some of the most breath taking and awe-inspiring in the entire United States. The terrain is diverse and includes the Hoh Rain Forest, volcanoes (both dormant and recently destructive) forests, and islands.

The cities in Washington are as impressive as the nature and include Seattle, the state’s largest city, and Olympia, the state’s capital. There are a great number of national parks in Washington some well known and others less so but all are equally impressive and worth a trip. Our list of the top 25 things to do in Washington, as always, contains a mix of the best things to do in the cities and natural spots in the state:

1. Olympic National Park

Hoh Rainforest Trail, Olympic National Park, WashingtonSource: evenfh / shutterstock
Hoh Rainforest Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

The Olympic National Park in Port Angeles is a great place to enjoy the nature on offer in the state of Washington. Within the park there are mineral springs and cool clear water for natural swimming as well as accommodation in comfortable lodges.

The park is the perfect place to escape from the busy city and enjoy the serenity of the great outdoors.

2. Mount Rainer National Park

Mount Rainer National ParkSource: James Marvin Phelps / shutterstock
Mount Rainer National Park

Another National Park and another must visit spot for nature lovers; Mount Rainer has attracted tourists from far and wide since opening its first visitor center in 1880.

As well as the beautiful scenery, outdoor enthusiasts also have plenty of activities to keep them entertained here including fishing, climbing, hiking and cross country skiing in the winter.

3. The Space Needle

Space Needle, SeattleSource: TinaImages / shutterstock
Space Needle, Seattle

This iconic landmark is a must visit attraction when visiting the state of Washington.

The views from the 520-foot high observation deck are unbeatable and include natural landscapes such as Mount Rainer as well as the breath-taking cityscape.

Whilst taking in the panoramic views, it is easy to see why Washington is one of the most visited states in the United States.

Included in: Seattle CityPASS

4. Seattle Center

Seattle CenterSource: happycreator / shutterstock
Seattle Center

The Seattle Center has a lot to offer visitors with a mix of parks and attractions. It was originally built for the Century 21 Exposition in 1962 but it still plays host to many notable performances and events in the city throughout the year. There are a great number of things to see in this area including the SciFi Museum, The Pacific Science Center and the Intiman Theatre to name only a few.

5. Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market, SeattleSource: cdrin / shutterstock
Pike Place Market, Seattle

The Pike Place Market in Seattle is a great place for gourmets to experience the freshest produce and best ingredients from the state of Washington.

The market also provides the opportunity to sample Seattle delicacies that cannot be found elsewhere. There are also a number of quality restaurants to be found at Pike Place, which offer delicious Washington cuisine.

Recommended tour: Pike Place Market Chef-Guided Food Tour

6. Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square, SeattleSource: ESB Professional / shutterstock
Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square is a Historic District in Seattle, which is widely regarded as the city’s first neighborhood.

Pioneer Square is recognized as the home of “true’ Seattle, lined with exquisite boutiques and many popular restaurants the picturesque streets give way to a perfect pre-dinner stroll. There are lots of things here to keep you busy on a day out or a relaxing evening with your loved ones.

Suggested tour: Seattle City Highlights Tour

7. Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie FallsSource: Patrick Tr / shutterstock
Snoqualmie Falls

Whether you’re a camera buff or simply looking for some tranquility; the astonishing scenery around the Snoqualmie Falls will satisfy yours needs. Why not gather the family together and pack a picnic for a splendid day out in the two-acre park surrounding the beautiful falls.

Combo tour: Snoqualmie Falls & Woodinville Wine Tasting

8. Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan, WashingtonSource: Frank L Junior / shutterstock
Lake Chelan

Regarded by locals as George Washington’s playground, Lake Chelan has a lot to offer from swimming in the blue waters to wine tasting. You are sure to find something for all the family here including activities such as kayaking, jet skiing and many other water sports available. When the action-packed day ends be sure to visit one of the many fantastic restaurants on offer where you will become immersed in the bustling nightlife of the area.

9. Seattle Art Museum

Seattle Art MuseumSource: photo.ua / shutterstock
Seattle Art Museum

For a cultural stop why not spend an afternoon getting to know the works on display at Seattle Art Museum. The Museum is great for art enthusiasts looking for something a little different. Admire a wide range of works including Abstract Pulse by Robert Davidson and explore the stunning display of Kingdoms of Sun and Moon and the Light in the Darkness.

10. North Cascades Scenic Highway

North Cascades Scenic HighwaySource: Astrid Hinderks / shutterstock
North Cascades Scenic Highway

You can’t visit Washington without spending some time taking in one of the most superb landscapes in the United States. All the usual outdoor activities are on offer such as cycling, camping and hiking but simply driving along the North Cascades Scenic Highway is a fantastic way to soak up the sights. A sunset visit with a picnic would be an excellent way to spend an evening.

11. Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park ZooSource: steve estvanik / shutterstock
Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo is another popular family attraction in Washington. It is situated in Seattle and is home to around 1,100 animals covering an impressive 300 species.

There are plenty of themed enclosures and educational exhibits to explore whilst there and children and adults alike will learn plenty during their visit. The Zoo is always a highlight of a trip to Washington.

Included in: Seattle CityPASS

12. Mount Baker Highway

Mount Baker HighwaySource: Bill Perry / shutterstock
Mount Baker Highway

The Mount Baker Highway covers around 60 miles of beautiful natural scenery and recreational opportunities. The highway begins in Bellingham and at the US Forest Ranger Station, you will find a wealth of information regarding the route and will be able to obtain a map. There are a number of spots along the way that provide great opportunities for hiking, cycling or simply taking in the views including Nooksack Falls and Artist Point. Artist Point is one of the most notable stops on the list and is best to visit in August and September.

13. Coulee Corridor

Coulee CorridorSource: Tristan Brynildsen / shutterstock
Coulee Corridor

This Scenic Byway spans from Omak to Othello and is another great way to take in Washington’s stunning landscape. There are also plenty of man-made highlights including the impressive Grand Coulee Dam, which is a must visit landmark. For wildlife lovers, the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is worth a visit as are the several state parks along the way including Sun Lakes and Steamboat Rock.

14. Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic MonumentSource: Cameron Cross / shutterstock
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Driving through Mount St Helens National Monument provides a unique and breath-taking perspective of the damage caused at the time of the 1980 eruption and also a glimpse into the amazing healing abilities of nature. The visitor’s centres at the Monument are top quality and do an excellent job of explaining the natural phenomena that occurred during, before and after the eruption via various exhibits and videos.

Available tour: St. Helens National Monument Small Group Tour

15. Washington State Ferries

Washington State FerriesSource: Clifford Wayne Estes / shutterstock
Washington State Ferries

The Washington State Ferries are not just a crucial mode of transport for connecting the many island communities of the Puget Sound but they are also a tranquil way to take in the unique beauty of the area. There are major docks in the downtown Seattle area as well as Mukilteo, Clinton and Bainbridge Island.

16. Riverfront Park

Riverfront Park, SpokaneSource: Ric Schafer / shutterstock
Riverfront Park, Spokane

Riverfront Park in Spokane is a great example of the way that various world fairs and expos have shaped Washington throughout the past. The Expo 74 was responsible for the transformation of industrial train yards to green vistas in Spokane and a visit to the area now allows guests to witness some of the notable buildings from the exposition including the Looff Carousel and the Skyride. In winter there is also and ice rink in the area.

17. Boeing Future of Flight

Boeing Future of FlightSource: Michael Gordon / shutterstock
Boeing Future of Flight

You don’t have to be an expert on planes for this building to be worthy of your Washington itinerary. The Boeing factory in Everett is the largest building in the world and is open to the public for daily “Future of Flight” tours. The tours are informative and definitely worth a visit even for those who aren’t aviation buffs. If, however, you are potty about planes, the Museum of Flight in Seattle is also worth a visit.

18. San Juan

San Juan Island National Historic ParkSource: Tomas Nevesely / shutterstock
San Juan Island National Historic Park

San Juan Island National Historic Park is probably the pick of the Puget Sound bunch when it comes to tourism. The islands were disputed in the so-called “Pig War” dispute between the troops of the United States and Britain. The island is also a great location for whale spotting due to the orcas that frequent the Puget Sound area and daily whale watching tours are available although you may get lucky and see the impressive mammal from shore.

19. Tacoma Museums

LeMay Car MuseumSource: Jonathan Park / shutterstock
LeMay Car Museum

Tacoma is one of the largest cities in Washington and can be found between Seattle and Olympia. During the past, the city has had an industrial atmosphere but it is now also a great spot for tourists due to the number of great museums here. The Museum of Glass is full of stunning examples of glass-work as well as the memorable Bridge of Glass. The LeMay Car Museum and Washington State History museum are also well worth a look.

20. Downtown Seattle

Downtown SeattleSource: f11photo / shutterstock
Downtown Seattle

Downtown Seattle is, surprisingly, a great place to escape from the business of the city. The waterfront, with its parks and piers, provides a great place to relax. There are also a number of interesting buildings to be seen in the area and watching a performance at Benaroya Hall is also highly recommended. Tours on the waterfront are available and head, along sea level, from the Sculpture Park to the southern ferry terminal.

21. Port Angeles

Port AngelesSource: Dee Browning / shutterstock
Port Angeles

The town of Port Angeles can be found by the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the Olympic Peninsula’s northern shores. As well as the Olympic National Park (mentioned earlier on this list), the area is a known widely for being a great place for outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, cycling, golf, kayaking and bird watching. The Visitors Centre has a wealth of information on the best hiking routes and where to see different wildlife.

22. Port Angeles Fine Arts Centre

Port Angeles Fine Arts CentreSource: Port Angeles Fine Arts Center / Facebook
Port Angeles Fine Arts Centre

Yet another reason to visit Port Angeles while in the state of Washington, is the Port Angeles Fine Arts Centre.  The semi-circle gallery features an ever changing mix of Northwest art exhibits. The grounds of the center are vast and worth exploring as they house around 100 different sculptures along various paths.

23. Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest

Mount Baker, Snoqualmie National ForestSource: Patrick Tr / shutterstock
Mount Baker, Snoqualmie National Forest

Running parallel with the slopes of the Cascade Mountains, the Snoqualmie National Forest is another stunning place to indulge in outdoor pursuits and observes wildlife. There are a great number of hiking routes in the area as well as cosy cabins to stay in and skiing in the winter months. The nearby town of Glacier is home to the base camp for Mount Baker and offers restaurants and other amenities for travelers.

24. Leavenworth

Leavenworth, WashingtonSource: Denise Lett / shutterstock
Leavenworth, Washington

This self-titled Bavarian Village is a great place to sample German culture and heritage in the United States. The locals will often don their lederhosen and dirndls and play a tune on their alphorn and the buildings of the town look the part too. They are built in German architectural style and decorated accordingly with impressive German style Gothic signs. The town plays hosts to a number of entertaining festivals and events during the year and is an immersive Bavarian experience in the United States.

25. Bellingham

Bellingham, WashingtonSource: David J. Mitchell / shutterstock

Aside from being an embarkation point for Mount Baker, the city of Bellingham has a lot to offer visitors. The Fairhaven Historic District provides an informative introduction to the area with its art galleries and eateries. The Outdoor Sculpture Collection in the Western Washington University is also well worth a stop and has an excellent collection across the campus. For lovers of the great outdoors there is Whatcom Falls Park with its many walking trails and four falls.

25 Best Things to Do in Washington State:

  • Olympic National Park
  • Mount Rainer National Park
  • The Space Needle
  • Seattle Center
  • Pike Place Market
  • Pioneer Square
  • Snoqualmie Falls
  • Lake Chelan
  • Seattle Art Museum
  • North Cascades Scenic Highway
  • Woodland Park Zoo
  • Mount Baker Highway
  • Coulee Corridor
  • Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Washington State Ferries
  • Riverfront Park
  • Boeing Future of Flight
  • San Juan
  • Tacoma Museums
  • Downtown Seattle
  • Port Angeles
  • Port Angeles Fine Arts Centre
  • Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Leavenworth
  • Bellingham