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Washington state sightseeing map
25 Best Places to Visit in Washington State
From famous sights in Seattle to undiscovered islands, bays and parks, Washington State is home to many beautiful places to visit. Plan a weekend trip to Spokane, Vancouver, Leavenworth, Ellensburg, Walla Walla and other unique towns surrounded by vineyards and stunning scenery. Here are the best places to visit in Washington State.
Bustling and scenic Seattle has such an enormous variety of attractions that weekend visitors will have to do some serious prioritizing to make the most of every minute. Start your visit at the Sky View Observatory or the Space Needle, both of which offer incredible views of the city and the surrounding islands and mountains.
There are museums to satisfy all interests. The Center for Wooden Boats is probably one of the most unique museums because it offers you the chance to set off in an ancient maritime craft and learn how to row, sail and do repairs. Other museums include the Living Computer Museum, the EMP Museum dedicated to modern culture, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and the Museum of History and Industry. Possibly the most interesting of all is the Museum of Flight which is home to 160 historic aircraft including a genuine Concord and a Space Shuttle Trainer. Also make a point to visit the Seattle Art Museum and the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibition which is absolutely fascinating. Foodies are spoiled by the number of choices available with an array of amazing food tours to satisfy just about every palate. Things to Do in Seattle
Spokane offers a diverse selection of activities for weekend visitors, including many outdoor attractions as well as a small but select number of cultural activities. Riverfront Park lies at the heart of Spokane, covering over 100 acres and encompassing the sensational Spokane Falls. You can enjoy visiting all the park attractions on foot or get a great aerial view from the Spokane Falls Skyride. Nature lovers can make their way to the John A. Finch Arboretum to enjoy a spectacular display of trees and shrubs or visit Manito Park which houses a conservatory filled with tropical plants, in the midst of beautiful landscaped gardens. Hikers can tackle the 40-mile paved Centennial Trail along the scenic Spokane River in Riverside State Park.
Thrill-seekers can enjoy an exciting zip line adventure with Mica Moon Zip Tours, or try their hand at white-water rafting along an impressive 8-mile stretch of the Spokane River with ROW Adventure Center. The Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park becomes a hive of activity during winter. The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC) is an impressive museum which includes five underground galleries and an outdoor amphitheater. Finally, round off your weekend by attending a performance of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra at the historic Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox. Things to Do in Spokane
Bellevue is situated just across Lake Washington from Seattle and is an ideal weekend getaway destination offering a selection of family activities. There is an emphasis on green spaces and outdoor activities in Bellevue, with many great beaches, parks and gardens for you to enjoy. Energetic nature lovers can explore some of the many trails in the Mercer Slough Nature Park, which encompasses wetlands, forests and wildlife habitats, and offers free tours on Saturdays. There are several beach parks where you can soak up the sun and picnic or swim, including Meydenbauer Beach Park, Chism Beach Park and Newcastle Beach Park. Other good outdoor spots include the tranquil Bellevue Botanical Garden and Downtown Park.
Family favorites include the Kids Quest Children’s Museum, which offers interactive activities for all ages, and the Kelsey Creek Park & Farm where city children can have country-style fun and learn about farm animals. Shoppers can enjoy strolling around Bellevue Square, the city’s oldest mall which houses over 180 stores, many popular restaurants and a children’s play area, or window-shopping at The Shops at The Bravern, an exclusive shopping complex featuring many big-name designer brands. The Bellevue Art Museum provides an ever-changing variety of exhibitions and offers hands-on workshops and programs for artists. Things to Do in Bellevue
» Port Townsend
Port Townsend manages to effortlessly combine Victorian charm with a modern and trendy vibe, producing an ideal fusion of old and new. Most visitors come to Port Townsend to enjoy fresh sea air, beaches and boating, and some of the popular activities include exciting whale watching tours with the Puget Sound Express, and various other maritime wildlife excursions. At the Northwest Maritime Center you can learn how to sail or build a wooden boat, and at the Fort Worden State Park you can explore tidal pools, hiking trails and visit the Marine Science Center and the Port Wilson Lighthouse.
Port Townsend’s National Historic District dates back to the 1800’s and now encompasses the restored downtown Victorian sea port, which is home to vibrant shopping and dining, and the Port Townsend Historic Uptown, which once housed the gentry.
You can visit some interesting museums including Kelly’s Art Deco Lighting Museum, the Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum, the Port Townsend Aero Museum and the Jefferson Museum of Art and History. Port Townsend has two historic theaters, The Uptown and the Rose Theatre, where you can watch movies, and there are a variety of clubs and pubs offering live music entertainment to round off your day. Try to be in town for the Gallery Walk on the first Saturday of each month.
» Walla Walla
The picturesque Walla Walla Valley is best known as a premier wine growing region, home to over 150 wineries, but the town of Walla Walla is equally enticing. Before you set off on a wine tour, spend a little time exploring Main Street in Downtown Walla Walla, where you can go on a self-guided tour of the many fascinating public art installations, and then enjoy the Outdoor Sculpture Walk of Whitman College. The performing arts are well represented in Walla Walla and you can attend a show at several theaters or listen to the Walla Walla Symphony Orchestra. In January and June the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival sees many acclaimed musicians popping up at venues all over town.
There are several museums where you can learn about the history of the town including the Fort Walla Walla Museum, the Whitman Mission and the Kirkman House Museum. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking, cycling, bird watching, fishing and hunting at several venues and skate-boarders and BMX fans can have hours of fun showing off at Fort Walla Walla Park and Mill Creek Sportsplex. Children can have a fun learning experience at the Children’s Museum of Walla Walla, while connoisseurs can enjoy a wine tasting at a few of the 34 tasting rooms in town or go on a winery tour.
Kirkland’s scenic position on the shores of Lake Washington ensures a great selection of activities for the whole family. Marina Park is situated close to downtown Kirkland and offers a beautiful environment for cycling, walking, jogging or fishing. There are several other delightful green spaces you can enjoy including Juanita Beach Park and Juanita Bay Park, where visitors and locals love to unwind, play some ball games or go walking, jogging or bird-watching. The Doris Cooper Houghton Beach Park has good facilities for children and is open all year round. For something really different you can head to the 132 nd Square Park, take off your shoes and enjoy the soothing benefits of the reflexology trail.
On rainy days families can head to the Techcity Bowl & Fun Center for bowling, billiards and arcade games. You can enjoy wonderful scenery and catch a rare glimpse of some lakeside homes of the rich and famous on a short cruise on Lake Washington with Argosy Cruises. When another brilliant sunset brings the day to an end, you can have a leisurely meal at one of Kirkland’s many restaurants, or enjoy a beer or wine tasting at the Chainline Brewing Company or The Grape Choice. Things to Do in Kirkland
» Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Regardless of whether you are looking for a quite weekend getaway or are seeking history, culture and shopping, Friday Harbor on San Juan Island fits the bill. Whale watching, island hopping, kayaking tours and charter fishing are all very popular activities and there are several tour operators vying for your business, including San Juan Excursions Whale Watching and Wildlife Cruises, Outer Island Expeditions Boating and North Shore Charters Fishing and Sea Quest Kayak Tours, to name but a few.
If you prefer to keep your feet dry, you can explore the island on two wheels by renting a moped or bicycle from Suzie’s Mopeds and Bicycles, or if you have a head for heights you can enjoy wonderful tree-top vistas on a San Juan Island Zip Tour excursion.
Art and shopping enthusiasts can have a great time exploring several arty attractions including the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, Waterworks Gallery and Island Studios Art Gallery and the Arctic Raven Gallery. There is more shopping available at Kings Market, Funk and Junk Antiques and Dan Levin Originals. A good way to round off a busy day is to visit one of several Day Spas for a relaxing massage, before you catch a show presented by Island Stage Left theater troupe.
Leavenworth is like a little piece of Bavaria that has been relocated to the center of Washington State, complete with scenic mountains, forests and distinctive Bavarian food. The unique character and atmosphere of the town is the result of Projekt Bayern (Project Bavaria) which was put in place to turn Leavenworth into a tourist attraction when a failing timber industry threatened the town’s future in the 1960’s. You can learn all about the history of the town when you visit Der Markt Platz (Market Square) where you can watch a 30min film that describes the transformation.
Leavenworth is a year-round destination with an emphasis on outdoor activities. In summer you can go white-water rafting or set off on one of several outdoor adventures. Leavenworth Ziplines will lure adventurers while children can enjoy a ride on a horse-drawn carriage or wagon.
You can visit the unusual Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum or the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts and in October the Oktoberfest is a great opportunity to savor German beer, food and entertainment. In the summer, the Leavenworth Summer Theater presents open-air shows against the backdrop of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains.
» Yakima Valley
Yakima Valley in the heart of Washington State is blessed with great sunny weather, superb scenery and some of the best agricultural land in the state, and produces huge amounts of apples, hops and superb wines. A weekend visit to the valley will reward you with will almost unlimited attractions to suit everyone.
The Yakima River is the lifeblood of the valley and in summer you can enjoy canoeing, kayaking, trout fishing and even white-water rafting (in September, when water is released from the up-stream Roza Dam) amidst spectacular natural beauty in Yakima River Canyon, or you can go rock climbing and trekking in the surrounding mountains. In winter the area becomes a hot-spot for snow sports including skiing and snow-boarding.
Wine connoisseurs can enjoy tasting the produce of dozens of wineries in the Yakima Valley, most of which offer tastings and cellar tours. You can also go on the Spirits and Hops Trail, or take the children to pick fruit and berries during harvest time. You can visit the Yakima Valley Museum and the Hillside Desert Botanical Gardens, or add a cultural element to your visit by attending a performance of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra or a show at the Capitol Theatre, 4 th Street Theatre or The Seasons Performance Hall in downtown Yakima. Things to Do in Yakima
» Kitsap Peninsula
The Kitsap Peninsula in the Puget Sound region of Washington State is surrounded by 236 miles of coastline, dotted with over twenty coastal towns and villages, making it an ideal area to visit for a beach holiday. Not only will you have a wide selection of beach activities such as sailing, scuba diving, kayaking, and fishing to enjoy, but the entire area is also steeped in history and there are many interesting historic places to visit should you tire of the beach.
At Suquamish you can learn about the history of the Suquamish Tribe and visit the grave of Chief Seattle at the St. Peter’s Mission Museum, and at Port Gamble you can step back in time for a glimpse of life during the heyday of the saw mills at the Port Gamble Historic Museum. You can take a tour of the Norwegian town of Poulsbo, offered by the Poulsbo Historical Society or take a free tour of the Marine Science Center.
The Kitsap Peninsula encompasses no less than nine state parks, and 14 city parks where you can hike, cycle and bird watch. There are 11 golf courses and a number of wonderful gardens to visit including the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island and Heronswood Gardens in Kingston. All of the quaint sea-side towns and cities offer interesting galleries, shopping and dining.
Situated in the heart of Washington State, Ellensburg is an ideal weekend getaway destination with an amazing variety of activities to suit all interests. The town is famous for the Ellensburg Rodeo held each year on the Labor Day weekend, but great weather has made Ellensburg a popular center for outdoor activities such as water-skiing on the Columbia River, rafting, golf, fishing and a variety of snow sports in winter. The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is great for cyclists, and hikers can explore a selection of trails in the Umtanum Creek Recreation Area, Lake Easton State Park and several other scenic locations, all of which also offer good bird watching.
History buffs can enjoy a walking tour of Historic Downtown Ellensburg, which is lined with many historic buildings that date back to 1889, when most of the original town was burned to the ground on the 4 th of July. Today these historic buildings house an assortment of museums, galleries, restaurants and interesting shops, including the Clymer Museum of Art, Gallery One, the Kittitas County Historical Museum and the Main Street Market Mall.
On Saturdays you can visit the KC Farmer’s Market for fresh local produce, and if you are in town on the first Friday of each month you can join the Ellensburg First Friday Art Walk, when several shops and galleries display their works. Things to Do in Ellensburg
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» Gig Harbor
Gig Harbor is a small town on the shore of Gig Harbor Bay on Puget Sound in Washington. Called “the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula,” Gig Harbor is close to several large state and city parks and has developed into a popular tourist destination. On the way to one of the parks, spend some time in the charming city with its vibrant historic waterfront lined up with fancy boutiques, gourmet restaurants, cafes, and bars. Stroll along the docks, sit at the outdoor table at one of the many coffee shops, and enjoy the view of the boats in the harbor or the snow-covered slopes of Mount Rainier. Rent a kayak and see the city from the water, hop on a Riviera Cruise, or rent a romantic Gig Harbor Gondola. History buffs can learn more about the city’s past at the Harbor History Museum or the Gig Harbor Peninsula Historic Society. Check out what grows in the area at the colorful farmers market at Skansie Brothers Park and Netshed, right on the harbor.
Surrounded by the waterways of Puget Sound, Bellingham has developed a strong reputation as a Mecca for paddlers, but also offers a diversity of cultural and artistic pursuits. Whatcom Falls Park, where you can swim, fish or picnic close to the Whatcome Creek Gorge and several beautiful waterfalls, is a good place to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. At Larrabee Park you can combine nature and history by hiking along the rocky coastline, and Mount Baker offers skiing and snowboarding in winter or cycling and camping in summer.
When you are ready to move indoors you can visit the Whatcome Museum of History & Art to see the impressive Lightcatcher building, where an enormous wall of curved glass floods the interior with natural light, or the Bellingham Railway Museum, which features model trains and tells the story of local railroading. Families can take the children to the Mindport Arts and Sciences Museum for some hands-on learning fun.
Nature lovers should not miss a visit to the Sehome Hill Arboretum to commune with nature, while art lovers can head to the Western Washington University Campus to see the Outdoor Sculpture Collection at the Western Gallery. At the waterfront, you can book a whale watching expedition or board a ferry to visit the San Juan Islands. Things to Do in Bellingham
» Port Angeles
Situated in the heart of Washington State’s beautiful Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles has something special to offer each and every tourist. Energetic visitors can enjoy a variety of active holiday pursuits such as ocean and lake kayaking, mountain biking and paddle boarding – lessons and equipment on site. You can go cycling along the Discovery Trail or enjoy unlimited hiking, bird watching and fishing in near-by Olympic National Park or at Hurricane Ridge. Or, you can simply relax on a beautiful beach, explore the rock pools and enjoy the wonderful seascapes.
Art lovers are in for a treat at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center & Webster’s Woods, where an excellent selection of art by Northwest artists is exhibited, along with over 100 sculptures in the surrounding 5-acre Webster’s Woods. You can do a walking tour of the Downtown area to see the Art on the Town Outdoor Sculpture Gallery, and the Clallam County Historical Society’s Museum at the Carnegie is well worth a visit to learn about the history of the area.
In addition, you can go on a Heritage Tour of the Downtown Historic District, choose a whale watching excursion, visit the Fiero Marine Life Center on the waterfront or go antique hunting and shopping in Downtown.
Tacoma is beautifully situated along the banks of Puget Sound, offering a remarkably scenic backdrop to a modern city with an emphasis on the arts. There are a number of great museums you can visit in Tacoma, starting with the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, which will transport you back in time to life in a British outpost in the 1850’s. Foss Waterway Seaport is a maritime museum popular with families, and motor enthusiasts can visit Lemay – America’s Car Museum and the Lemay Family Collection at Marymount to see one of the largest collections of vintage cars in America.
Tacoma is famous for glass art, and at the Museum of Glass you can learn all about the art of glass blowing and see the amazing Chihuly Bridge of Glass created by local glass artist Dale Chihuly.
To experience the great outdoors you can make your way to Point Defiance Park where there are miles of walking and cycling trails, the lovely Point Defiance Rose Garden, the Point Defiance Pagoda and the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, which is a family favorite. Other attractions for families include the Explore It Scavenger Hunt and the Children’s Museum of Tacoma where kids can have hours of fun with hands-on learning experiences. Finally, you can explore an eclectic selection of boutique shops, restaurants and music venues along Sixth Avenue. Things to Do in Tacoma
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Beautiful Vancouver is one of the oldest cities in Washington State, dating back to the early 1800’s, and it has a treat in store for all nature lovers and anyone interested in pioneer history. Vancouver has no shortage of green spaces and the Waterfront Renaissance Trail, which runs for 5 miles along the banks of the Columbia River linking Wintler Park with downtown Ester Short Park, is a great place for strolling, jogging, skating and cycling. Other popular outdoor attractions you can visit include Vancouver Lake Park where you can canoe, kayak or windsurf, and enjoy picnics and a children’s play area, and Salmon Creek Regional Park, which has a sandy beach, a roped swimming area and a children’s playground.
You can visit the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, which encompasses the reconstructed Fort Vancouver, the US Army’s Vancouver Barracks and the Pearson Air Museum to learn about the origins of the city. Historic Officer’s Row comprises 22 fully restored beautiful historic buildings that once housed the US Army officers, featuring beautiful architecture dating back to the 1800’s. Things to Do in Vancouver
Other interesting attractions you can visit include the Clark County Historical Museum, the Water Resources Education Center, the Cathlepotle Plank House and the weekend Farmer’s Market in Ester Short Park where over 250 local producers will temp your taste buds.
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» Bainbridge Island
Bainbridge Island is situated just 35 minute west of Seattle (via the Washington State Ferry from Pier 52), making it the ideal destination for a weekend or day trip out of the city. There are several places where you can walk or hike, starting with the Waterfront Trail near the ferry terminal, which offers a 1.5 mile loop along the beach or a 2 mile loop through parks and historic sites. Other lovely parks and gardens you can explore are the Bloedel Reserve, which features a beautiful Japanese Garden, the Fay Bainbridge Park for camping and boating, the Fort Ward State Park and Battle Point Park, all of which you can easily access by jumping on the Frog Hopper Jump On – Jump Off bus.
If you would like to learn some water sports, make your way to Back of Beyond, near the ferry terminal, which offers canoe, kayak and paddle-board rentals and lessons. Bainbridge Island is great for cycling – you can rent a bike from Bike Barn Rentals.
If the weather is less than perfect you can spend your time enjoying the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum and the Kids Discovery Museum. You can also enjoy wine tastings and visit wineries, or simply stroll through Downtown Winslow which is packed with cute shops and many restaurants and coffee bars. Things to Do on Bainbridge Island
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» North Cascades National Park
Escape to North Cascades National Park for an outdoor adventure beyond your expectations. There is so much to do in this scenic and pristine wilderness that you will not know where to start, so it is a good idea to stop by a visitor center on arrival to get all the information you need for an enjoyable visit.
The most popular way to enjoy the beauty of North Cascades National Park is to hike some of the 400 miles of amazing trails that vary from short scenic walks suitable for families to steep and challenging climbs. Along the way you can enjoy excellent bird and wildlife watching, camping, picnicking, fishing or even cycling. You can also go on a guided walk with a ranger or attend an interpretive talk, which is great for younger visitors, or attend a class at the North Cascades Institute at the new Environmental Learning Center.
To give your legs a rest from hiking, you could jump aboard the Lady of the Lake Ferry for a cruise to the historic town of Stehekin, which lies in the center of the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. In winter the entire North Cascades National Park is transformed into a snow-covered paradise where you can try your hand at downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
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» Point Roberts
Point Roberts is unique in that it is the only little chunk of the USA that is only accessible through Canada, and you will need the necessary identification documents to cross the border. Point Roberts offers visitors the ideal destination for a laid-back beach holiday with plenty of outdoor attractions to keep you busy from dawn to dusk. There are several (free) beaches where you can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, tide pooling and a variety of water sports, including Maple Beach, Monument Park, Lighthouse Marine Park and Point Lily Marine Reserve. Lighthouse Park is one of the best spots on Point Roberts for land-based whale watching and you can also visit the Orca Center, to learn all about the large pods of Orcas that frequent the waters.
You can go hiking along numerous trails in Monument Park and Lily Point Park, or explore on two wheels instead with bicycle rentals from Pedal Pushers. Point Roberts is an important nesting area for American Bald Eagles, and there are several easily observable nests dotted around Lily Point, which is a prime place to spend a few hours doing some bird watching. You can enjoy a round of golf at the Point Roberts Golf and Country Club, or visit the Blue Heron Gallery to see artworks by resident local artists.
Sequim is one of the Olympic Peninsula’s most beautiful small towns, known for its unique dry and sunny climate, which is similar to the climate of Los Angeles, despite its proximity to nearby temperate rainforest areas. The gorgeous Clallam County town is surrounded by beautiful Douglas fir, western red cedar, and Garry oak forest areas and is known worldwide for its commercial production of lavender, which is only rivaled internationally by several areas in France. The town’s proximity to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge makes it an outdoor lover’s paradise, while its vibrant downtown arts and culinary scene make it a perfect cultural getaway in the Pacific Northwest. Annual special events include the Sequim Lavender Weekend, held each year during July.
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Poulsbo is a charming small town in Kitsap County, known as the Pacific Northwest’s “Little Norway” for its Scandinavian heritage, which dates back to its founding by Fordefjord resident Jorgen Eliason. The town is home to a population of 10,000 residents and is located on 4.5 square miles along beautiful Liberty Bay, with the snow-capped Olympic Mountains in view in the distance behind the city’s skyline. The thriving community has become a tourist destination in the 20th and 21st centuries for attractions such as the Sea Discovery Center, which offers an aquarium full of marine life from the nearby Puget Sound. The city retains much of its historic Norwegian character, with traditional Poulso Bread sold at the renowned Sluy’s Bakery. Several award-winning breweries are offered in town, along with the Poulsbo Historical Society Museum, which highlights the region’s social and cultural history.
» Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park offers you the rare opportunity to explore and camp in nearly one million acres of lush and pristine wilderness. This enormous UNESCO World Heritage Site covers several distinct ecosystems and offers almost unlimited activities for adventurous visitors. Hiking is the most popular and natural way to explore and there are trails suitable for all fitness levels, including strenuous Back-Packing trails from one campsite to the next. Some of the must-see attractions include Sol Duc Falls and the Sol Duc Salmon Cascades. You can rent a mountain bike or kayak, canoe or paddle board to explore the tranquil lakes.
For the less energetic or physically fit there are three Lake Cruises on Lake Quinault each day and a coach tour of the Quinault Rain Forest, which will give you an opportunity to see plenty of wildlife including black bears. The bird watching is excellent and fishing is very popular on all the lakes. At Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort you can relax in three hot mineral pools and one freshwater pool or treat yourself to a relaxing pool-side massage.
Winter transforms Olympic National Park into a snowy wonderland and skiing and snowboarding is available at Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area.
» Orcas Island
Orcas Island offers visitors a charming blend of cute villages, beautiful rural landscape, picture-perfect seascapes, beaches, water sports and a generous helping of the arts. A great place to start your exploration is at Moran State Park, which offers great hiking, cycling and horse-back riding though pristine scenery, including several lakes and the island’s highest mountain. Foodies can go on an Orcas Island Food & Farms Tour to taste the best of Orcas Island produce, including visits to a variety of farms, restaurants, wineries, breweries and the Buck Bay Shellfish Farm.
To burn off some calories you can try kayaking with Discovery Sea Kayaks and Evergreen Escapes, which are two of several outfits offering guided kayaking tours. A whale watching excursion is a must-do activity on Orcas Island, and will get you up close to some magnificent whales, as well as seals, porpoises and many other marine animals and birds. Children can enjoy learning about the ecosystem at Orcas W.I.L.D. (Orcas Wildlife Institute for Learning and Discovery) or just have fun at The Funhouse Commons or Canoe Island French Camp. Back on dry land you can explore the vibrant Orcas Island arts scene by visiting some of the many galleries and venues for the performing arts, such as Island Stage Left and Orcas Center.
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» Skagit Valley
Washington’s lovely Skagit Valley is situated in a wonderfully scenic area between Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains. The four very charming rural towns in the valley include La Conner, Mount Vernon, Bow and Burlington, all of which offer both indoor and outdoor holiday attractions.
During the summer you can enjoy a variety of water sports on the Skagit River, ranging from family rafting trips to eagle watching and white-water rafting excursions with Pacific North West Float Trips or Alpine Adventures. Nature lovers can combine hiking with exceptional bird watching in the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, or go on a whale watching cruise with Mystic Sea Charters.
When you need a break from the beach you can visit a few of the interesting valley museums, starting with the La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum, the Skagit County Historical Museum and the Museum of Northwest Art.
There are some delightfully original shops and galleries you can visit in the Skagit Valley towns and the valley hosts several annual festivals including the Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival in January, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in April and the Skagit Valley Highland Games in July.
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» Vashon Island
Vashon Island occupies an enviable position nestled in the midst of Puget Sound, about half-way between Seattle and Tacoma. The 20 minute ferry crossing offers outstanding views of the Seattle skyline, but Vashon Island has more than just good views to offer visitors. The beautiful setting of the island has attracted many resident artists – you can see their work at Blue Heron Art Center, Heron’s Nest Gallery and Valise Gallery, to name but a few.
One of the best ways to get around is by cycling along the quiet country roads or around the circumference of the island, where you can stop off to picnic, swim, sun bathe and beach comb along an almost endless 65mile stretch of sea shore. Inland there are many parks and forests where you can enjoy hiking and bird-watching, particularly around Fisher Pond, which is the largest wetland on the island. You can visit Point Robinson Beach and Lighthouse, or make your way to Dockton Park on Maury Island to enjoy the marina and some hiking trails. If you love fishing you can try your luck off the long wooden pier at Tramp Harbor.
Vashon Island hosts a fun Strawberry Festival each year in July where you can taste everything remotely related to strawberries and join in the parade.
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25 Best Places to Visit in Washington State
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park is an outstanding area of scenic beauty which offers visitors a diverse selection of outdoor attractions suitable for the entire family.Camping is popular and there are several campgrounds to choose from where you can enjoy the pleasures of sleeping under the stars. Hiking through the wilderness is by far the most popular activity in the park and you can choose from no less than 40 different hiking trails that vary in length from the 2.5 mile Pinnacle Peak Trail to the challenging 45 mile Northern Loop Trail. In addition, there are some really easy walks for families with young children, including Paradise Vista and Trail of the Shadows. Cycling is allowed on the park roads, but not along the hiking trails. You can try your hand at fishing on the lakes and rivers or go canoeing or kayaking on the placid lakes. For something really different you can do a Citizen Ranger Quest, aimed at teaching adults and families about aspects of the environment in a fun way. Serious mountaineers can enjoy the challenge of climbing Mount Rainier, which isa glacier-covered active volcano and requires a reasonable degree of expertise.
Lake Wenatchee State Park
When you feel the need to escape the city and get back to nature in a magnificently scenic wilderness, Lake Wenatchee State Park welcomes you with year round outdoor activities for the whole family. Lake Wenatchee is situated on the shores of a glacier-fed lake, and offers two separate and distinct areas for recreation.
South Park is located on the lake shore and you can spend many happy hours exploring the beach or boating, swimming, wind-surfing and fresh-water fishing. There are several miles of hiking trails and you can camp under the stars and wake up each morning to the sounds of the gently lapping water and dozens of birds. There are sheltered fire-pits where you can build camp fires and enjoy toasting marshmallows after your evening barbecue.
North Park is a short distance from the lake, less developed and quite thickly forested. Here there are serviced RV sites for larger vehicles and you can go on guided horse rides through the forest to see a variety of birds and animals, including bears. In winter, the entire park is transformed into a snowy wonderland and you can look forward to enjoying cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding, in between building the ultimate snowman and having some snow-ball fun.
Birch Bay is situated on a beautiful and peaceful crescent-shaped bay close to the Canadian border, offering the perfect escape from fast-paced city life. Here you can spend hours strolling along the quiet beach, sun-bathing, swimming or beach-combing at low tide. The atmosphere is conducive to relaxation, and you can choose from many enjoyable vacation activities such as cycling, hiking, picnicking and bird watching. If you enjoy water sports you can kayak or windsurf in the bay.
You can go hiking though forested areas to reach the beach at Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve, or explore the forests and wetlands in the undeveloped 60 acre Birch Bay Beach Wildlife Conservancy adjacent to Birch Bay State Park; both areas are great for bird watching. If you are visiting with children you can plan a fun family camping experience at Birch Bay State Park where everyone will enjoy scavenging for seafood or hiking the Terrell Marsh Interpretive Trail.
For more enjoyable family activities you can visit the Birch Bay Waterslides where there are rides for all ages or Miniature World Family Fun Center which offers Go Karts (& Kidz Karts), mini-golf and miniature train rides. Birch Bay also hosts a variety of festivals throughout July, including the annual Art-2-Jazz Street Fair, the Birch Bay Sandcastle Competition and the Birch Bay Music Festival.