Last Updated on: 2nd May 2023, 05:08 am
Looking to tick off a few items on your Washington state bucket list? In my experience, the Evergreen State is a bit of an underrated destination.
While everyone knows a few big Washington State must-dos, like downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier, there are truly unlimited things to see and do here.
From Washington’s national parks to exploring its fantastic cities to sipping its world-famous wine, here are the best things to do in Washington state!
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Washington State Vacation at a Glance
Do you still need to finalize transportation, tours, or accommodations? Here are my recs to ensure a smooth Washington State vacation.
Popular Washington Tours + Tickets
Highly Rated Washington State Hotels
Seattle: Seattle Gaslight Inn
Olympic Peninsula: Resort at Port Ludlow (I stayed here!)
Find more Washington hotels, vacation rentals, and hostels on Booking.com
Odds and Ends
For independent travel, rent a car via Discover Cars
Grab a guidebook to Washington State (I use this!)
Protect Your Trip with a travel insurance quote
Map of What to Do in Washington State
Here’s a map to help guide your bucket list adventures!
The Best Things to Do in Washington State
Are you ready to have your own adventures in Washington State? Here we go!
Visit Pike Place Market
Contributed by Lisa of Waves and Cobblestones
One of the best things to do in the state of Washington is to visit Pike Place Market. Pike Place Market is one of the most famous attractions in Seattle, and it’s also one of the oldest public markets in the United States.
You’ll be amazed at the variety of goods you’ll find at Pike Place Market. The market is home to hundreds of vendors, selling an incredible array of products. Pick up a one-of-a-kind souvenir from a talented local artisan, whether you’re looking for jewelry, crafts, clothing, or original artwork.
There are also plenty of food options to tempt your palate at Pike Place Market! Many of the vendors offer samples to entice you to purchase, so you can nibble your way through the market sampling fresh fruit, local honey, candy, and more.
Or have lunch at one of the food stalls or restaurants – you’ll find everything from chowder to dumplings to crumpets.
And, of course, no trip to the market is complete without stopping by the Pike Place Fish Market. This is where the fishmongers famously throw (and catch) fresh fish to fill customer orders.
Whether you’re looking for a tasty meal or a unique gift, Pike Place Market has something for everyone!
Hike Mount Rainier
Contributed by James Ian from Parks Collecting
Hiking in Mount Rainier National Park is a highlight of any trip to Washington.
The national park, one of three in the state, is centered around Mount Rainier. The mountain is the highest in the North Cascade Mountains and, with over thirty glaciers, is the most glaciated peak in the United States.
The national park is also famous for numerous fields of wildflowers that burst into bloom in the summer.
There are several areas with multiple hiking trails. Perhaps the most famous trail in the park is the Skyline Trail in the Paradise area.
This is a somewhat strenuous hike, so a reasonable level of fitness is required. However, any efforts are well rewarded with amazing views of Mount Rainier along most of the trail and, from Panorama Point, the Cascade Mountain range.
In summer and early fall, the trail also passes through fields of beautiful wildflowers. This hike is best done on a clear day when you can enjoy the views of Mount Rainier, although it’s beautiful at any time.
Another area where there are multiple hiking trails is the Sunrise area. The trails interconnect, so can be combined into shorter or longer hikes.
A recommended hike is the one to First and Second Borough mountains where there are up close views of Mount Rainier. And who doesn’t love mountain views?
There are also easier hikes to viewpoints. For example, Emmons Vista Overlook is a very short walk from the parking lot but has wonderful views of Mount Rainier.
The parking lots fill very early, especially in the summer, so it’s best to get there as early as possible so that you can secure a parking spot and enjoy the trails before they get too crowded.
Get Spooked in Port Gamble
I’ve been to a lot of haunted places in my travels. From spending Halloween in Transylvania to looking for Satanic activity in Kansas cemeteries, to going on ghost tours in Gatlinburg, I don’t shy away from spooky adventures on my travels.
But I’ll admit that, in my experience, Port Gamble is a cut above the rest, and visiting Port Gamble intimidated me.
This town is known nationwide amongst ghost hunters and investigators. Multiple buildings in Port Gamble have frequent ghost sightings, and I even experienced a spooky incident while on a ghost tour myself!
If you love the paranormal, come to their annual paranormal conference or schedule a ghost tour.
Tool Around the San Juan Islands
Contributed by Dan of Honeymoon Always
Going to the San Juan Islands is something you can’t miss when visiting Washington.
The Islands are located just 90 miles from Seattle and require a fun ferry ride to take you. You can either visit for a day or stay overnight to enjoy everything the islands have to offer.
The most popular destination in the area is Friday Harbor. The small town on San Juan Island has art galleries, restaurants, and cafes and is the starting point of many activities.
The most popular locals worth seeking out are the whales. The time of year you visit will dictate the type of whales you see. There is a pod of resident orcas that are always somewhere in the harbor as well as migrating humpbacks, minkes, and gray whales.
If you are looking for some adventure, try whale watching on a zodiac boat. This puts you closer to the water and the extra speed helps you cover more water, giving you a better chance of seeing more marine life.
You can also enjoy your time on the island by going on a bike ride or a hike. While waiting for your ferry ride back, grab some ice cream at the Friday Harbor Ice Cream Co. to leave the island on a sweet note.
Expand Your Palate with a Wine Tasting
Some of the most beautiful places to visit in Washington State are the state’s many wineries. Whether you come to Red Mountain, Yakima Vallery, or another American Viticulture Area, there’s something special waiting for you!
Even if you won’t be able to visit a winery in person, you can still indulge in a wine tasting. Companies like Tour Bainbridge and Inquisitours can help you turn trips to non-wine regions in the state into a wine haven.
The US is one of the best wine countries in the world, and Washington State is one of the most famous US states for wine production. Don’t pass up the opportunity!
See the Ephemeral Big Four Ice Caves
Contributed by Keryn Means of Twist Travel Magazine
Head out to the North Cascade Mountains via the Mountain Loop Highway in Washington State to experience a once-a-year phenomenon – the Big Four Ice Caves in Granite Falls, WA.
While you can hike this trail year-round, the actual ice caves don’t appear until the summer months when there has been enough snow melt to carve out the caves in the snow, making this one of the best things to do in summer in Washington state.
It’s only about an hour’s hike (just under 2.5 miles in and back), with much of it as an elevated boardwalk.
Kids of all ages can hike this trail, as the elevation gain is only 311 feet with fairly stable footing until you get to the caves.
Once you arrive at the caves, you must remember NOT to enter the caves. Collapses have happened in the past, and there are signs everywhere warning you about the dangers of entering ice caves, even if you just want that perfect photo.
You will need a Northwest Forest Pass to get into this section of that park, which can easily be obtained in the parking lot. (This is also covered by the Interagency Parks Pass).
Dogs are allowed on the trail as long as they are on a leash. May through October are the best months to hike the trails, but you can cross-country ski and snowshoe in the area in winter.
Hike Heliotrope on Mount Baker
Contributed by Hannah from That Adventurer
The Heliotrope Ridge trail is one of the best hikes in Washington State. Located in the Mount Baker Wilderness area, the trail takes you through old-growth forests, over rocky moraines, and out into the alpine where you can get a close-up of the magnificent Coleman glacier.
The hike itself is long, but not too difficult and you get a great bang for your buck with stunning views at the end.
As of November 2021, the forestry road towards the trailhead has been closed so you’ll now be adding an extra 9 miles to the hike bringing it to a total of 17 miles.
The best way to do the Heliotrope Ridge trail is to pack a bike and cycle the 4.5 miles up the forestry road to the trailhead and enjoy the descent on the way down after your hike.
The hike has something for everyone with the impressive old-growth forests, the alpine meadows, the river crossing, and, of course, the glacier.
It’s a popular route for climbers who are then heading up to climb to the summit of Mount Baker and you can often see groups out on the glacier practicing glacier travel.
Though there are many great hikes in Washington State, this has to be one of the most impressive!
See Mount St. Helens from Above
Located about two and a half hours south of Seattle and an hour and a half north of Portland, Oregon, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is a popular place for rock climbing, hiking, and wildlife viewing. But it’s even cooler seeing it from above!
A tour of Mount Saint Helens by Seaplane is the perfect way to learn the history of the volcanic eruptions at Mount Saint Helens while also getting to take in the beauty of this destructive stratovolcano from above.
Go Sightseeing at Artist Point
Contributed by David & Intan from The World Travel Guy
One of the most beautiful viewpoints in Washington State would have to be Artist Point, and you can reach it by driving!
No hiking is required, and from the top parking lot you get to see some amazing views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan.
The viewpoint is accessed by driving the Mount Baker Scenic Byway for about 58 miles from Bellingham, Washington, and it’s open every year during the summer months, although the best months to visit are August or September since they open the last section of the road around that time.
The drive up the road is scenic enough, with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, but if you go early in the morning on a clear day, the reflections at Picture Lake are legendary.
It’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lakes in Washington State, or anywhere in the United States for that matter!
Even though you can reach Artist Point without any hiking, there are plenty of trailheads to choose from at the parking lot if you want to go hiking and exploring, including some easy walking paths with nice views.
You can also use this spot to access the Mt. Baker Wilderness as well!
Explore Lake Sammamish
Contributed by Nina and Garrett of Washington is for Adventure
Seattle is a city lover’s paradise, and the vibe here is infectious. You have everything from cafes for coffee addicts to festivals and world-famous markets—there are tons of things to do in Seattle!
But sometimes, you need a break to reconnect with nature.
And at Lake Sammamish, you can do just that without heading too far out from the city center. In just a half hour, you can relax on the lakeside shores, hike trails, and paddle the calm water.
In the north of the lake, you can enjoy Marymoor Park. There’s a dog park with a swimming area for your furball, a boat launch, and beautiful trails. Marymoor Trail brings you out of the brush and to the north point of the lake, with great views all the way down.
Head to the south for the beaches and better access to the water. You’ll find two beaches at Lake Sammamish State Park to enjoy a sunny day (if you’re lucky enough!).
Sunset Beach is great for…sunsets! And for enjoying classic beach day activities like sand castle building and swimming.
Just to the left, you’ll find the small Tibbetts Beach, where you can rent a paddleboard or kayak for the day and head out on the water, where you’ll feel a million miles away from Seattle!
Seeing the Views of the City from the Seattle Space Needle
Contributed by Kim from Stuffed Suitcase
The iconic symbol of the Seattle skyline is the Seattle Space Needle. So, it’s no surprise that visiting it is one of the best things to do in Washington State.
Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair and stretching 605 feet into the sky, the Space Needle is an easy way to get a bird’s eye view of the Pacific Northwest landscape that surrounds Seattle.
Located in the Seattle Center area of the city, you’ll need to purchase tickets to go up into the Space Needle.
If you’re visiting multiple attractions, consider buying a Seattle CityPASS to save some money on admission prices.
With your ticket, you’ll wind your way past displays noting the history of the Needle, before coming up to the one-sided glass elevators. You’ll ride for 43 seconds to reach the viewing floors, 520 feet above Seattle.
There are two floors for viewing, the top level has an outdoor balcony with glass walls and benches where you can test your fear of heights.
And the lower floor has a glass floor so you can see directly underneath the needle as you slowly spin 360 degrees in the air. As a local, my best tip is to try and visit when it’s a clear day, or as locals will say, when “the mountain’s out”.
There’s nothing like seeing the Puget Sound, Olympic, and Cascade Mountains, and of course Mount Rainier from the middle of a major US city.
Hiking Sol Duc Falls
Contributed by Garrett Galvan from MotoMoves
Hiking Sol Duc Falls is one of the best things to do in Washington and one that shouldn’t be missed!
The waterfall is fed by the Sol Duc River and drops approximately 80 feet over a series of cascades. It’s quite a spectacle as the waterfall has three chutes from which the water gushes into a narrow pool below.
You have two choices for hiking to this awesome waterfall.
You can hike to the falls along a well-maintained trail, which is approximately 1.6 miles round trip and easily accessible from the parking lot.
The trail passes through a lush, old-growth forest and offers views of the Sol Duc River along the way.
However, if you want a bit more of a workout and stumble upon a few extra secret waterfalls, we recommend you take the Sol Duc Falls via Lover’s Lane route.
This is a nearly 6-mile round-trip trail, but it’s well worth the extra miles through the gorgeous forest, plus you’ll have the rest of the hike to yourself!
Floating Icicle Creek in Fort Leavenworth
Contributed by Tabitha Bailar of Travel Compositions
One of the best things to do in Washington State is tubing 4-miles down Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River in Leavenworth.
Meet Leavenworth Outdoor Center downtown at Waterfront Park where they will outfit you with frisbees as your paddles and life vests (if you want, not required).
Tubes are clippable so you can tether to as many friends together as you wish. Tubes are also available for your picnic cooler or water-loving dog!
You will be transported in an open-air van to where you start your float journey on Icicle Creek. As the name implies, it is a bit chilly, but on a hot summer day, it’s a welcome refreshment.
The float trip is therapeutically relaxing as you drift downstream below towering Cascade mountains and birdwatching past ever-changing scenery.
The float will last about 2 hours unless you stop at riverbank beaches for a break or picnic.
After 2 miles, Icicle Creek empties into Wenatchee River. For the next 2 miles, the float is a little more adventurous as the waterway becomes wider, deeper, and faster. This is where you might regret not having worn a life vest.
Detour around Blackbird Island to float under bridges and past the gorgeous Posthotel.
Your float ends back at Waterfront Park where Leavenworth Outdoor Center employees will “catch” you and bring you to shore.
If floating in tubes isn’t as much your style, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are also available for rent.
Sightseeing on Whidbey Island
Contributed by Megan of Bobo & Chichi
One of the best things to do in Washington State is explore the beauty of the islands in Puget Sound like Whidbey Island where you can find the most visited state park in Washington, Deception Pass State Park.
Deception Pass is a straight that separates Fidalgo Island from Whidbey Island, connecting the Straight of Juan de Fuca to Skagit Bay in Puget Sound with incredible views of jagged cliffs, the deep turquoise water below, US Navy jets flying above your head, and if you’re lucky you’ll spot a pod of whales!
One view not to be missed, unless you’re afraid of heights, is from crossing the Deception Pass Bridge by foot. There’s a narrow pathway for pedestrians from the towering 180-foot bridge alongside traffic zipping by.
Spend time enjoying the thousands of miles of shoreline hikes along Puget Sound or their freshwater lakes surrounded by old-growth forests.
Bowman Beach is one of the best spots for not only coastal hiking but beachcombing, picnicking, and taking in more gorgeous views.
From the months of April through September, visitors can join a Deception Pass Jet Boat tour for a relaxing, scenic journey enjoying all the beauty of this PNW destination from the water.
When you need a bite to eat, head to the Shrimp Shack at Fidalgo Island side of Deception Pass. This roadside shack sells fried, fresh seafood from crab, mussels, and shrimp among other fried goodies like French fries and hush puppies.
Go on a Walking Tour of Fremont
Contributed by Jenny from Traveling In Focus
One of the top things to do in Washington is a walking tour to view the artwork around Fremont, a small funky neighborhood in Seattle.
Walking is the best way to see the art as it allows you to spot little gems here and there you might otherwise miss if you were driving.
The most popular attraction is the Fremont Troll, located underneath the Aurora Bridge. This larger-than-life sculpture depicts a troll smashing a Volkswagen and is sure to impress. It is the perfect place for a photo op.
But there is so much more to see than just the troll. Everywhere you turn in the neighborhood, there is something unique to look at.
From the Fremont Rocket to Rapunzel letting her down to dinosaur-shaped bushes, you are sure to find delightful artwork that makes you smile.
If you want to make a full day of it, the area also has plenty of cute shops and yummy restaurants to keep you busy.
When you are done with your art tour around the neighborhood, head down to the waterfront to find the Fremont Bridge. This drawbridge opens at least 30 times daily (more than anywhere else in the USA), so you should see it in action if you wait for a few minutes.
Plus, the waterfront is the perfect place to sit and rest your feet after all that walking.
Add an art tour around Fremont to your list of things to do in Washington, as this quirky area has an incredible vibe and energy you won’t find elsewhere.
Visit Hoh Rain Forest
Contributed by Amanda from A Dangerous Business Travel Blog
Olympic National Park is itself a must-visit in Washington state, but within that wild national park, there’s a unique section that deserves its very own call-out: the Hoh Rainforest.
Located in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula about 1 hour from the town of Forks, the Hoh Rainforest is one of the wettest places in the United States, getting on average about 140 inches of rain per year.
All of this rain leads to moody, misty scenes of towering trees draped in sheets of moss and lichen.
Visiting the Hoh Rainforest is a must for anyone who wants to feel like they’re in a real-life FernGully or perhaps Fangorn Forest. It’s a unique spot that you won’t find anywhere else in the country.
The top thing to do in the forest is to hike a few designated trails, with the most popular being the Hall of Mosses. This trail is less than a mile long but offers up endless opportunities to be wowed by ancient trees covered in dripping moss.
You can visit the Hoh Rainforest any time of year, though personally visiting the Hoh Rainforest in winter is my favorite, as you’ll find fewer crowds and more moody mossy scenes.
Hiking Garden Gnome Trail
Contributed by Lynli of Wander Big
Washington state has no shortage of hiking trails but nestled into a nature reserve in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains you’ll find a truly unique experience: the gnome trail.
The gnome trail is part hiking trail and part immersive community art project.
On this trail, you’ll find garden gnomes of all shapes and sizes, hidden in nooks, crannies, and often in plain sight.
The gnome trail is popular for families with kids, but adult travelers will have just as much fun spotting these playful forest dwellers and laughing at the gnome-filled scenes created by other hikers.
The gnome trail features a mostly flat, low-difficulty walking surface, which makes it accessible for even novice hikers and young children. Note: it is not accessible for strollers or wheelchairs.
To get the most out of your visit to Washington’s gnome trail, consider bringing your own contribution.
A constant influx of new gnomes from hikers, travelers, and sightseers keeps this trail’s gnome population thriving despite occasional nocturnal visits from vandals.
The gnome trail itself is just .5 miles, though the trail is connected to other trails in this Maple Valley, WA wooded area.
Go Cross-Country Skiing in Winthrop
Contributed by Adria of The Emerald Palate
Another one of the best things to do in Washington state is cross-country skiing in Winthrop.
This small pioneer town in eastern Washington’s Methow Valley is home to some of the best cross-country skiing in Washington come December through March.
The Methow Valley is the largest groomed cross-country skiing trail system in North America, so this is a bucket list destination for XC ski lovers and those curious about this winter sport.
Trail passes are $28 per adult per day, with discounts for multiple consecutive days. You can buy tickets online or at local vendors. Many of the local vendors also rent equipment, so no worries if you need to get geared up before hitting the trails!
When you’re ready to begin, you’ll find 120 miles of trails for all skill levels. There are 6 main sections: Jack’s River Run, Mazama, Rendezvous, Big Valley, Sun Mountain, and Winthrop.
Jack’s River Run and Mazama are great options for beginners, with a lot of green and blue trails that weave between forests and meadows. The Winthrop trail system is also great for beginners and has a convenient location near the historic downtown area.
Whichever area you choose, get ready for a wintery wonderland. And keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles – there are a ton in the area!
Seeing the Tree of Life in La Push
Contributed by Lindsey Puls of Have Clothes, Will Travel
The Tree of Life is one of those things, where you just have to see it to believe it.
This large Sitka spruce is growing in such a way that it appears to be hanging on by a limb. The soil beneath this massive tree is gone, and its exposed, thick roots cling to the sides of the earth. It’s a truly remarkable thing to see.
No one seems to know how this tree continues to live and thrive, given its precarious living situation. Hence, why it’s commonly referred to as “The Tree of Life.”
It can be found in the beautiful Olympic National Park on Kalaloch Beach. It’s easy to get to and requires minimal hiking.
If you’re on a Washing State road trip, you can easily make a stop here, as it’s located just off 101 Highway (slightly south of Forks).
You can park in the neighboring campground parking lot and walk out to the beach from there.
You’ll head down a set of stairs and you will spot this massive, dangling tree straight ahead. It’s also recommended to stop and see the nearby Ruby Beach when in the area.
Visit the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA
Contributed by Keryn Means of Twist Travel Magazine
Woodland Park Zoo, located in the Greenwood/Phinney Ridge part of Seattle, WA just north of downtown, is the perfect escape from the city that visitors of all ages can enjoy.
There is an admission fee, but if you have the Seattle CityPASS, you are covered at the zoo with your pass.
The zoo is divided into sections, like tropical Rain Forest, Australasia Willawong station, and African Savannah, plus a special area that highlights many of the animals that call the Pacific Northwest home.
Exhibits are large with lots of space for the animals to roam around or escape the crowds if they need a little alone time.
Kids can head to Zoomazium on rainy days to get dry, while also working off some energy, as this massive play area is perfect for little ones (sectioned off into age groups) and bigger kids who need to get the wiggles out.
For more fun in the zoo, check out the schedule for animal feedings and lectures throughout the day that dig deeper into the zoo’s inhabitants and conservation efforts.
If you still need more to do, head down to Redmill Burgers for the best bacon cheeseburger in the city. Bring it to Green Lake, a large urban lake and park, just south of the zoo, to enjoy your meal at one of the many benches and picnic tables throughout the park.
Driving Steptoe Butte
Contributed by Theresa Goodrich of the Local Tourist
Driving to the top of Steptoe Butte State Park is a must-do in the Palouse region of eastern Washington.
The summit offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape, making it a favorite activity for photographers. The drive to the top is up a steep and narrow road. But once you’re up there, the views are worth it.
Steptoe Butte is an island made of quartzite that’s more than 400 million years old. It rises over 3,600 feet above the surrounding terrain, and its summit offers 360-degree views of lush farmland.
The butte was named after Colonel Edward Steptoe, who led an army detachment to the area in 1858. At one point, an enterprising man named James S. “Cashup” Davis built a hotel on the summit, but the remoteness of its location made it a short-lived endeavor.
Today, the butte is protected as a state park. The main attraction is the view, and it’s particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset.
Interpretive signs explain the geology and some of the history of the butte. Its isolation also makes it a popular spot for hang gliding and paragliding. There are also sheltered and unsheltered picnic tables.
As a Washington State Park, a Discover Pass is required.
Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
Contributed by Patricia of Ze Wandering Frogs
One cannot visit the San Juan Islands and not go kayaking! The islands, located off of Seattle, are known for their stunning shores and for the population of whales and orcas that live around.
And going kayaking is the best way to explore both the stunning scenery and the chance to see whales and orcas. Kayaking the San Juan Islands is one of the top things to do in Washington State!
Out of the 170 islands that compose the San Juan archipelago, kayaking is mainly done out of San Juan Island and Orcas Island, two of the main destinations accessible by ferries.
The waters around San Juan Island are calmer than Orcas Island, which requires more skills and kayaking experience.
Once on the water, be on the lookout for whales and orcas! You might be able to see them close or have to spot tiny dark spots out on the horizon!
As you paddle your way, watch for birds hanging by the trees, deer munching on grass, jellyfish floating along the kelp, and starfish hanging on underwater rocks.
You can either rent kayaks from Friday Harbor on San Juan Island or join a guided tour that will take you to explore the shorelines.
If you rent a kayak, abide by all safety precautions, and check the weather forecast and tides. Conditions can change quickly in the Pacific Northwest, and tides might make a return trip tricky.
Visiting the Funko HQ
Contributed by Marcie from Marcie in Mommyland
One of the coolest things to do in Washington State is to visit the Funko Headquarters in Everett, about 30 minutes north of Seattle.
It’s located right off of I-5 and makes a great stop on a road trip up to Vancouver, BC.
While it’s technically a flagship store, it’s more of an immersive experience (sort of like the Harry Potter store in NYC).
It’s perfect for anyone who loves pop culture or collectibles, but it’s also super kid-friendly.
The first thing you’ll notice is the giant Funko POP figures on the outside of the building. You can’t miss them!
Once you enter, you’ll see several different themed areas with tons of amazing photo ops. This is perfect for people who love Disney princesses, DC Comics, Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and so much more.
Of course, there is a ton of merchandise from Funko POP figurines to plushies to apparel and more.
There’s also a section where you can create your own custom Funko POP. Talk about a cool Seattle souvenir!
There’s even a section that features items you can only get at the Funko HQ. If you’re visiting Western Washington and want something truly unique to do in Washington, visit the Funko headquarters!
Enjoy Riverfront Park in Spokane
Contributed by Emilie of Love Life Abroad
Riverfront Park is the heart of the city of Spokane. Located next to downtown Spokane and surrounded by the Spokane River, the urban park was the 1974 World’s Fair site.
There is a much to do at the Riverfront Park that you could easily spend an entire day.
This 100-acre park has many trails and walking paths crossing beautiful gardens and sculptures. Families traveling with kids will also love the Ice Age-themed playground and the historic Looff carousel. The Looff carousel was built in 1909 and is still operated daily nowadays.
A ride aboard the Numerica SkyRide is also a must-do. The Skyride is located near the Looff carousel. From the cabin, you’ll have a spectacular view of the Spokane River, the Spokane Falls, and downtown Spokane.
You can also hike a short 1.0-mile loop to admire Spokane Falls. You’ll find other hiking trails around the park.
The Riverfront Park in Spokane is also home to a few museums, including the Mobius Discovery Center, an interactive and hands-on museum.
You’ll also find a historical marker from the Great Fire of 1889 and the United States Pavilion from the International Exposition on the Environment held in Spokane in 1974.
Soaking in Scenic Hot Springs
Contributed by Taryn of Chasing Trail
Just under two hours east of Seattle, taking a soak in the aptly-named Scenic Hot Springs is one of the best things to do in Washington.
Getting to the springs, or even finding them, isn’t exactly straightforward, however. In this case, the journey is a huge part of the destination!
Your first hurdle is securing a hard-to-get reservation, as Scenic Hot Springs is located on private property. This is a good thing, though, as it’s one of the last true “hidden gem” hot springs in the Pacific Northwest.
Just 10 people are permitted each day (that’s more exclusive than the Half Dome lottery!), so it’s never crowded. The flip side? Reservations book out FAR in advance.
Once you get a reservation, finding the trailhead is the next task. That’s right — there’s a hike involved to reach the springs!
The hike is 2.2 miles and gains 1,100 feet in elevation, so it’s fairly aggressive but well worth it for the spectacular views and secluded springs!
The springs themselves are three pools set on a cliff edge, nestled in a Cascades valley.
Your reservation grants access to the hot springs during daylight hours (it closes at sunset) on the specified date, so get there early and give yourself enough time to hike back out before it’s dark.
Hike to Cape Alava
Contributed by Anwar of Beyond My Door
Located within the boundaries of Olympic National Park, Cape Alava gives folks the ability to hike out and explore both a rugged wild coastline as well as the westernmost point in the continental United States.
It should be noted, part of the land here is on the Ozette Indian Reservation, so hiking around here may be closed due to restrictions for entering the reservation.
Information is available both on the NPS site as well as locally with the ranger near before hiking to the beach.
Hiking to the beach is 3 miles each way from the parking lot/ranger station. Visitors will pass through old-growth forests, along boardwalks and sand to get to the beach.
Many visitors make it a triangle, by hiking out to Cape Alava or Sand Point, and the beach trail between the two and then back to the ranger station.
If you do this, it will be a full 9 miles to complete. Visitors can even camp out on the beach at both Cape Alava and Sand Point, however, space is limited and permits are required for camping.
Camping can be reserved at recreation.gov and often can be booked solid weeks or months ahead of time. So if you know your schedule you should plan ahead.
To reach Ozette, drive on WA-112W to turn left on Hoko Ozette Road. You’ll travel through some rural areas and the road will split (after approx. 15 miles) and follow the road to 27E.
Continue until you enter the area for Ozette and the ranger station. There is parking available in the area. This is a fee-based area, so you’ll need to display your receipt for Olympic entry or your national park pass.
Visit Snoqualmie Falls
Contributed by Sierra of Island + Pine
The state of Washington is filled with beautiful things to do, and Snoqualmie Falls is one of the best!
Located just over a half hour from Seattle, Snoqualmie is one of the best waterfalls in the area due to its size, landscape, and easy accessibility.
Admission to the falls is free and so is parking if you park across the street and use the pedestrian bridge. If you prefer to park right next to the waterfall viewing area, then there will be a fee.
There will be a map of Snoqualmie Falls posted with all four viewing points marked for easy navigation. It is a few minutes walk on a paved path and each vantage point is unique and beautiful!
The final vantage point is at the bottom of the falls at river level and it should not be missed! Visitors can either drive down to the lower parking lot or walk down the gravel path for a half mile.
A beautiful wooden boardwalk leads visitors to the bottom of the falls and a gorgeous, closer view.
At the top of Snoqualmie Falls sits the charming Salish Lodge which makes the scene even more picturesque.
Different seasons will frame Snoqualmie Falls with lush, green trees, vibrant fall colors, or an icy wonderland. No matter the time of year, visitors will enjoy this easily accessed waterfall in Washington!
Hike to Enchanted Valley
Contributed by Jess Schmit & Justin Muench of Uprooted Traveler
If you’re looking for a bucket list hike in Washington, be sure to add the Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park to your list.
On this epic backpacking trip, you’ll hike 29 miles through the Quinault Rainforest, which is part of an area known as the “Valley of the Giants” for its towering trees and primeval ferns.
As you hike through one of the only temperate rainforests in the United States, you’ll have an excellent chance of spotting elk and bear along the trail.
At the end of the trail, you’ll finally reach the Enchanted Valley. This jaw-dropping valley offers a wall of mountains, seemingly jutting vertically out of the ground and covered with countless streams of waterfalls, to your left and to your right, a dense pine tree forest.
In the middle of the valley sits a picturesque historic chalet from the 1920s, that used to serve as lodging for hikers in Olympic National Park.
While you can no longer go inside the chalet, you’re free to pitch a tent in the open valley surrounding it and have one of the most stunning backyards you could ask for for a night or two!
The best time to hike the Enchanted Valley is from May through October when you’re more likely to have pleasant weather and clear skies.
Be sure to carve out a few days to explore the area- not only is the trail long, but it’s gorgeous—so it’s much better to experience it over a few days instead of trying to hike almost 30 miles in one go!
Drive or Hike to El Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park
Contributed by Catherine Xu of Nomadicated
Embark on an adventure through the untamed wilderness of North Cascades National Park, one of America’s most overlooked national parks.
Surrounding El Diablo’s glistening reservoir, breathtaking views from over 300 glaciers and majestic mountain peaks have earned this park its nickname of “the American Alps.”
Nestled in the Cascade mountains of northern Washington, Diablo Lake is a gorgeous reservoir created by the Diablo hydroelectric dam.
This body of water boasts an unimaginable turquoise hue from nearby glacier run-off from the snowcapped mountaintops.
Catch glimpses of the spectacular lake all along the 30-mile journey down North Cascades Highway Scenic Drive. Stop to take in the majestic views of Lake Diablo Vista Point or hike onto Gorge Lake Overlook’s hydroelectric dam.
However, to fully experience El Diablo Lake, you’ll have to hit the trails or bring a kayak onto its shimmering waters.
For the adventurous, prepare your camping pack for the three limited overnight areas on Diablo Lake, accessible solely by boat.
This is perfect for those looking for adventurous things to do in Washington in the summer because all North Cascades facilities are available, and you can expect optimal weather conditions.
Avalanche risk during the winter months blocks access to some areas of the park from November until May.
Visit the Town of Stehekin and the Epic Stehekin Hike
Contributed by Val of Voyages with Val
Visiting the small town of Stehekin is one of the best and most unique things you can do in Washington!
Stehekin is a small town by the North Cascades, special because it can only be visited by plane, boat, or hiking. There are no roads that lead to this mountain town.
This is a fun early summer trip in Washington that you won’t forget! In late May and early June, the trails are full of wildflowers, and mountains tower all around you. There is no cell service, making it the perfect place to disconnect.
If you plan on hiking to Stehekin, it is a 17-mile trail along the Lakeshore Trail or 23 miles from Cascade Pass.
This is a fun and beautiful trail for experienced backpackers. You can also take one of several ferries that go to Stehekin across Lake Chelan or charter a seaplane
In the town, there are several trails as well as a waterfall- Rainbow Falls! You also must visit the Stehekin Pastry Company for their famous cinnamon rolls!
Stehekin has a lodge with a restaurant, as well as several campgrounds you can camp at. Of course, when the weather is nice, you can also kayak or swim in the lake.
Experience the Future of Flight at Boeing
Contributed by Anu Agarwal of Destination Checkoff
If you travel by plane, especially internationally, then you must have spent time in one of the humongous Boeing aircraft.
One of the best things to do in Washington is to visit the Boeing Future of Flight attraction at the Boeing factory. Aviation fans will love this experience.
Boeing Future of Flight is located around 25 miles north of Seattle at Paine Field in Mukilteo.
Here you can experience the Boeing Gallery and Sky Deck. The Boeing Gallery features Boeing’s exciting products, services, and innovations. The Gallery also includes a hands-on experiment zone for kids that includes activities with robots and mini drones!
From the Sky Deck, you can see the Boeing Everett Factory, the active Paine Field Airport, and panoramic views of the North Cascade Mountain Range.
The Boeing Everett factory is an airplane assembly factory and the largest building by volume in the world. Check out the Boeing store for some great souvenirs of Boeing aircraft.
The Future of Flight Experience is a ticketed exhibit usually open from Thursdays to Sundays.
You can upgrade your ticket to a Boeing Backstage pass which is a one-hour interactive theatre experience with a special behind-the-scenes look inside the Boeing factory.
Visit an Oyster Farm on Long Island Peninsula
If you are a fan of eating oysters and want to get them straight from the source then head out to Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula.
This lonely and isolated peninsula located in the southwestern region of the state is an off-the-beaten-path destination. And of course, sitting where it does on the Pacific Ocean, the seafood here is fresh and delicious.
One of the most mouth-watering delicacies on offer here, oysters hail from the many oyster farms that dot the inner coastal area that separates the peninsular region from the mainland of Washington.
While you’ll find many seafood restaurants throughout the area, it’s more interesting to take a road trip to visit the oyster farms yourself.
One of the wonderful oyster farms to experience is right off the docks at Goose Point Oysters.
You can shuck the oysters yourself and eat them fresh or barbeque off the grills set up on the picnic tables with a host of delicious locally made sauces that complement the briny goodness of the oysters.
You order fresh oysters or can even buy them already shucked into bottled containers for easy use at home along with a slew of oyster-related gift products in the store.
It’s worth a drive to experience locally sourced oysters fresh from the docks and visiting the Long Beach Peninsula is a truly delicious seafood experience.
More Washington State Resources
Here are all the resources I have written about travel in Washington state.
Washington State Guides
Olympic Peninsula Guides
Kitsap Peninsula Guides
Tri-Cities and Southeastern Washington Guides
Before You Visit Washington – Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Whenever I go on a trip, I always make sure to get travel insurance!
The company Safety Wing is the travel insurance company I always look to first, and I happily recommend them!
I always make sure to get travel insurance whenever I’m going to be over one hundred miles from home, in large cities where tourists can be the target of pickpockets, and anytime I’ll be doing outdoor adventure or beach activities.
It makes my life easier knowing if something should happen, I’ll be able to take care of it!