Tucked in the northwest corner of the continental U.S. you’ll find Washington State, a state that has a full title, first and last name, so as not to be confused with nation’s capital. But when you arrive in Washington State, you’ll find that you’ve entered another world, and its nothing like Washington D.C. Washington is known for some of the most stunning landscapes in the country, with some of almost every ecosystem and landform known in North America.
Along the pacific coast of Washington you’ll find rugged cliffs and long beaches, but head into the interior and you’ll be confronted by the Cascade Mountains, towering snowy peaks adorned with dark green forests. The majority of the state’s population is found in the central part of Washington near trendy and artsy Seattle and its neighboring cities.
Olympic National Park
Washington’s most stunning National Park is located in the northern part of the state encompassing coastline, alpine regions, temperate rain forest, and forested areas. The park is known for spectacular vistas created thanks to the variety of terrain created by ancient glaciers. Olympic National Park is a popular destination for camping, hiking, and backpacking offering lengthy trails for a variety of skill levels.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass is an exhibit in Seattle showcasing the studio glass of Dale Chihuly. The project includes three primary components the Garden, the Glasshouse, the Galleries and a multi-use theater. The galleries and three Drawing Walls offer a comprehensive collection of Dale Chihuly’s significant series of work. The centerpiece of Chihuly Garden and Glass is the Glasshouse is a 40-foot tall, glass and steel structure covering 4,500 square feet of light-filled space. The installation in the Glasshouse is an expansive 100-foot long sculpture in a color palette of reds, oranges, yellows and amber.
The Seattle Aquarium is located on Pier 59 on the Elliott Bay waterfront in Seattle, Washington. Explore with playful sea otters, seals, octopuses, luminous moon jellies and more. The amazing Window on Washington Waters, a 120,000-gallon exhibit filled with Pacific Northwest fish. Feel live sea stars, crabs and more in the Life on the Edge tide pool exhibit. Immerse yourself in the Underwater Dome’s 360° view. Take a virtual trip to the tropics Pacific Coral Reef exhibit. The Birds and Shore is an open-air exhibit highlighting the habitats along the rough and rocky shorelines of Puget Sound.
Mount Rainier National Park
Like much of the northwest, Washington has many towering mountains scattered across the landscape and 14,000 foot tall Mount Rainier happens to be the tallest of the entire Cascade Range. The park has varied ecosystems and terrain including valleys, waterfalls, subalpine meadows, old growth forest, and at least 25 glaciers. The park has several visitor centers, campgrounds, and extensive hiking routes. The most popular destination for visitors is Paradise, an area at 5,400 feet on the slope of Mount Rainier that is known for its record annual snowfall.
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
The most recognizable element of the skyline of Seattle, half of Washington, and the northern half of Oregon, is this volcano that blew its top back in 1980 creating a regional disaster and lending the mountain its new flat-topped shape. Mount Saint Helens is located in the Cascade Mountain Range and stands at 8,365 feet in elevation. It is estimated to be more than 40,000 years old and is still considered an active volcano. At the visitor center, informative exhibits teach about the causes and events that led to the amazing yet tragic events of Mount Saint Helen’s eruption.
Top Things to Do in Washington
Other than Mount Saint Helens, the other lofty object to grace Seattle’s skyline is the Space Needle a 518 foot tower built for the 1962 World’s Fair. The Space Needle, which in actuality doesn’t resemble a needle, is visited by thousands of people every day. After riding the elevator up to the top visitors can enjoy amazing views of Seattle from the observation desk or dine in SkyCity, a rotating restaurant.
Seattle Underground Tour and Pioneer Square
This neighborhood that was once the heart of the city in Seattle is today an excellent location for viewing some of the city’s late 19th century architecture. A small triangular plaza named Pioneer Square is the focal point of the Pioneer Square-Skid Road Historic District, which includes many buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the most common reasons visitors venture into Pioneer Square is to participate in the famous Seattle Underground Tour which takes participants below the city streets to the original streets of Seattle built in the late 19th century before drainage problems called for new construction at a higher level.
Pike Place Market
This public farmers market is one of the only in the country to be named a National Historic Place and it has long held the title as Seattle’s most visited tourist attraction. The market is located near the Elliot Bay waterfront. On its many levels vendors selling fresh food, antiques, comic books, collectibles, crafts, and other products can be found earning a living every day of the week. The most famous vendors in the market are fishmongers who are known for their reputation of jovially tossing fish and yelling customer orders to one another in what seems more of a comedy club act than a grocery store manner as delighted tourists watch.
Columbia River Gorge
On the southern border of Washington the enormous Columbia River draws a line between Oregon and Washington creating the spectacular Columbia River Gorge. The gorge is known for steep, rugged, tree-lined walls often littered with jagged cliffs and glistening waterfalls that can be viewed on dozens of hiking trails. On the Washington side of the gorge, one of the easiest and most popular ways to take in the views stretching down the river in each direction is to climb the mile-long trail to Beacon Rock a large rock shaped formation at the edge of the river.
Washington State Ferries & Puget Sound
Washington State Ferries runs ten routes serving 20 terminals located around Puget Sound and in the San Juan Islands. The agency maintains the largest fleet of ferries in the United States. The largest vessels in this fleet carry up to 2500 passengers and over 200 vehicles.
Puget Sound is the large body of water in the inlet that encompasses much of upper Washington including regions stretching from the San Juan Islands to Seattle. The sound is made up of various waterways from the north to the south end, all of which are home to a variety of marine life including Orca whales, bottlenose dolphins, harbor seals, minke, humpback whales, grey whales, and several types of sea lion.
Things to Do in Washington
Like its southern neighbor and many other states, Washington is split into two sharply opposed yet beautifully blended regions. Seattle and other large cities in the central part of the state are popular destinations for visiting museums, shopping, and enjoying the unique counterculture. Outside of this region visitors can enjoy vast expanses of forested land, mountains, rugged coastline, and endlessly stunning waters.