Paradise area at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State

Things to do in  Washington

America’s emerald-green jewel

Snow-capped volcanoes meet towering forests in Washington State—a rain-lush landscape straddling summits and sea. Natural beauty abounds in this famously outdoorsy Pacific Northwest charmer, and hiking boots are going-out wear even in the urban tech hub of Seattle and the nearby capital of Olympia. From there, ferries link up Puget Sound islands, while steep roads climb through the high passes of the Cascade Mountains. Eastward is a golden-brown landscape dotted with apple orchards, wineries, and horse corrals that can feel more Wild West than Pacific Coast.

Top 15 attractions in Washington

Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square, where Seattle’s founders first settled in 1852, is a bustling district in the southwest corner of downtown Seattle. The shop- and nightlife-laden neighborhood takes its name from the small, triangular cobblestone plaza known as Pioneer Square Park, and features a bust of Chief Seattle, an ornate pergola, and a totem pole.More

Space Needle

Seattle’s landmark Space Needle, one of the most distinctive icons in the Pacific Northwest, rises 605 feet (184 meters) above the city. It was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and was the tallest structure in the Western United States at the time of its construction. The tower features a rotating lounge and an observation deck at 520 feet (158 meters) with 360-degree panoramic views over the Seattle skyline and its surrounding mountains.More

Pike Place Market

Every day from dawn to dusk, Seattle's famous Pike Place Market buzzes with locals and tourists alike. People come to the public market to browse 150 stalls of fresh seafood, fresh produce, flowers, artisanal products, and local art. Nicknamed the "Soul of Seattle," it's one of the oldest continuously operated public markets in the USA, and among the top culinary attractions in the Pacific Northwest.More

Kerry Park (Franklin Place)

For views of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, and Mount Rainier, the hilltop Kerry Park (Franklin Place) is hard to beat. Popular with photographers, Kerry Park looks out across the city skyline, the leafy streets of the Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, and Puget Sound, where you can spot ferries leaving the Seattle waterfront for the San Juan Islands.More

Seattle Waterfront

When a city has an enviable location on a large body of water, like Puget Sound, the waterfront becomes a top attraction. This is definitely true in Seattle, where the nearly 20-block stretch along the water is home to restaurants, hotels, markets, shops, and more than a dozen piers.More

Mt. Rainier National Park

One of the oldest national parks in the United States, Mt. Rainier National Park was established in 1899 to preserve the wilderness surrounding Mount Rainier. Encompassing 369 square miles (956 square kilometers) of old-growth forests, wildflower meadows, glacial scenery, and wildlife, it’s a must-visit for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.More

Seattle Great Wheel

The Seattle Great Wheel is a can’t-miss icon that speaks to the fun-loving nature of the city’s residents. One of the biggest Ferris wheels in the US, the Seattle Great Wheel features enclosed gondolas that afford spectacular coastal views. It stands above 175 feet (53 meters) and weighs in at more than a quarter of a million pounds.More

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

Learn about the annual phenomenon of salmon spawning at Seattle’s Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, known locally as the Ballard Locks, where three types of Pacific salmon pass through the fish ladder during the summer months on the way upriver to their spawning grounds.More

Snoqualmie Falls

Fans of the television series Twin Peaks will recognize Washington state's iconic Snoqualmie Falls, an epic cataract that drops 270 feet (82 meters) in one single, massive rush. Travelers can hike down to the base of the falls, take in the views from the side of the falls, or walk a winding boardwalk along Snoqualmie River for a look from the bottom.More

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park covers a huge swath of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. It encompasses rugged coastline, towering mountain ranges, temperate rainforests, and wildflower-filled lowland meadows. Home to some of the biggest stretches of old-growth forest remaining in the US, this misty Pacific Northwest park is the ultimate outdoor escape.More

Lake Washington

More than just the second-largest lake in all of Washington State, Lake Washington defines Seattle as a city intimately tied to the water. Residents and visitors alike come to Lake Washington to connect with the natural beauty of the landscape, which includes views of Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Mountains.More

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Glass artist Dale Chihuly, famous for his whimsical sculptures, was born in Tacoma, Washington, but has left his mark on Seattle. Fans can revel in his colorful creations at the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum at Seattle Center. The facility includes a 100-foot (30-meter) glass sculpture, theater, and Chihuly retrospective, plus an outdoor garden.More

Fremont District

Seattle’s funky, irreverent, and always colorful Fremont neighborhood is a vibrant place to explore. The area bills itself as the “Center of the Universe,” and it’s a hotbed of interesting landmarks. Visitors stroll along the scenic Ship Canal and grab coffee, artisan chocolate, craft beer, or a full dinner at one of Seattle’s best restaurants.More

Lake Union

Just north of downtown Seattle, the glacially carved freshwater Lake Union is ringed with houseboats—including the one made famous by the movieSleepless in Seattle—and home to numerous recreational opportunities. The lake is a true urban gem, contributing to Seattle’s high standard of living.More

Seattle Center

Spread across 74 acres (30 hectares) in the heart of the city, Seattle Center was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and today houses many of the city’s top attractions. This is where you’ll find the Space Needle, International Fountain, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pacific Science Center, Museum of Pop Culture, and Seattle Children’s Museum.More

Top activities in Washington

Viator Exclusive Tour - Mt. Rainier Day Trip from Seattle
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Chef Guided Food Tour of Pike Place Market- 2 Hours
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Seattle Harbor Cruise

Seattle Harbor Cruise

Seattle Grand 4-Hour City Tour
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Seattle Grand 4-Hour City Tour

Half-Day Guided Tour of Seattle City and Snoqualmie Falls
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Snoqualmie Falls and Seattle Winery Tour
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3 Hour Seattle City Tour
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3 Hour Seattle City Tour

Day Trip: from Seattle to Victoria same day round trip
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Mt. Rainier Day Tour from Seattle

Mt. Rainier Day Tour from Seattle

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All about Washington

When to visit

Forget what you’ve heard: Summer in Washington State is beautifully sunny and warm. While year-round showers do help keep the Olympic Peninsula rain forest lush, trips to western Washington in June, July, and August usually mean fine weather. In eastern Washington, those months are downright hot, which means spring and fall are more pleasant for travel. And don’t forget the winter—ski resorts in Mount Baker, Snoqualmie, and Stevens Pass draw crowds from December through early April.

Getting around

Since many Washington State tourist attractions are far-flung, a car is the most popular way to explore the region. The most scenic mode of transport, however, is surely the state’s vast network of car ferries linking islands scattered throughout Puget Sound. And while train service is limited throughout Washington State, there is an Amtrak linking Seattle to Spokane, Portland, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Traveler tips

Ferries can often turn into budget-friendly whale-watching tours, but spotting the marine mammals requires luck and strategy. During summer months, southern resident orca pods can sometimes be seen from San Juan Island ferries or the Anacortes terminal. From October through February, those orca whales follow salmon runs to the central San Juans and are best seen from the Coupeville, Edmonds, Bainbridge, Bremerton, and Vashon ferries. Between March and May, gray whales feed near Whidbey Island, visible from the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry.

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People Also Ask

What is the number 1 tourist attraction in Washington state?

Towering 605 feet (184 meters) above downtown Seattle, the Space Needle is an icon of the city—and it’s the number one tourist attraction in Washington State. Topped by a rotating restaurant and an observation deck with impressive wraparound views, the Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair.

What is the coolest place in Washington state?

Mount St. Helens is an active volcano south of Seattle, and its 1980 eruption blanketed the state with ash. When travelers visit Mount St. Helens National Monument today, they can see the crater left by that eruption from the Johnston Ridge Observatory or by hiking the dramatic Boundary Ridge Trail.

What activities is Washington known for?

Washington State is renowned for outdoor exploring: Trails in its Olympic Mountains and Cascade Mountains lead to summits, glaciers, waterfalls, and lush rain forest. The Puget Sound offers year-round opportunities for boating, fishing, and other aquatic adventures, while winter draws skiers and snowboarders to snowy resorts perched on Cascade Mountain passes.

What is the prettiest place in Washington state?

A towering, flat-topped volcano wrapped in gentle meadows, Mount Rainier is Washington’s tallest peak and tops lists of the state’s most beautiful places. In July and August, thousands of wildflowers put on a natural display there as Mount Rainier meadows bloom with avalanche lilies, fireweed, purple shooting stars, and paintbrush.

What famous celebrities live in Washington State?

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is a famous Seattle-area local and lives in a massive mansion overlooking Lake Washington. While Gates is a fairly private celeb, visitors can learn about his philanthropic work by booking a free, hour-long tour of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center in downtown Seattle.

What is the best month to visit Washington State?

Ample sunshine and limited rain mean July and August are the best months to visit Washington State. Alpine meadows turn bright with wildflowers, and Olympic Peninsula rain forests look extra vibrant in the summer sunshine. Summer conditions are also perfect for outdoor adventures from hiking and cycling to fishing, boating, and birdwatching.

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