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Travel Guide > North America > USA > Washington

Washington Travel Guide

  
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Washington State in America's Pacific Northwest is the "Evergreen State" and it's easy to see why! West of the Cascades, tall firs grow in abundance. The scenery is stunning, both on the mainland and islands of Puget Sound and beyond.

The people are warm and friendly, offering bucketloads of Northwest hospitality to the countless tourists who flock annually to the region.

The State leaves such an indelible imprint that one visit is simply never enough!

Enjoying a largely maritime climate though it varies from west to east, it's home to many diverse and well known landmarks. The Grand Coulee Dam, the Space NeedleMt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mt. Adams.  

The State is also the birthplace of Starbucks Coffee Shops in the city where Tom Hanks was sleepless!

Interstate 5 connects towns, cities and tourist spots - and the region has plenty of each!

In whatever direction you aim, Washington State never fails to serve up a memorable destination or two!

 

Seattle

A great place to start is Seattle. Home to the Sea Hawks, Sounders, Huskies, the Monorail, Space Needle and the Edgewater hotel in Elliot Bay where The Beatles stayed on their first US tour in 1964! Go to the vibrant Pike Place Market on the waterfront and make for the Pike Place Fish Company

Buy a large king salmon and watch these showmen throw it between them. And they never miss so have the camera ready! Stop and listen to the guy playing a saw! Linger at one of the many fresh fruit and flower stalls. 

Street musicians, kerbside cafes, characters that defy description. The district has them in abundance!

And when you've seen all that the market and waterfront has to offer, why not quench your thirst in a quaint Irish pub tucked away in the many side streets. Wander through the University District, visit the famous Space Needle. A breathtaking panorama of the downtown area awaits! 

The shuttling ferries of Elliot Bay, Puget Sound, the Coliseum (where Elton John played back in the 70s) Mt. Rainier, the Cascades, and the vast urban sprawl of this beautiful city open up far below. 

 

Tacoma

South of Seattle is Tacoma, the hometown of World renowned artist Dale Chihuly. Its Glass Museum in the docklands area, is the centre of the Pacific Northwest Studio Glass Movement. A unique landmark with tilted steel cone! Outside, "Fluent Steps" by Martin Blank is displayed. A superb precursor to the main exhibits. 

Works are shown by skilled craftsmen who have pushed the boundaries of their fragile medium to its limits. Visit the museum "hot shop" and marvel at the skill (and patience) as the work nears completion. Flash photography is allowed and a video screen gives you close-ups and 'live' commentary.

Linking to the vibrant downtown district with its many coffee shops, the Chihuly Bridge of Glass is not to be missed! This 500ft. long pedestrian overpass, featuring the work of Dale Chihuly, is a striking visual testimony to his hometown. 

 

Enumclaw 

Close by is the lively community of Enumclaw. An ideal base for outdoor activity. Lakes and rivers offer keen fishermen a lucrative opportunity to land that elusive catch in peace and tranquility.

Hiking trails meander into the wilderness, while backpackers find quiet solitude in numerous campsites. With a proud logging heritage, The Logging Memorial Park (in front of the Enumclaw library) is not to be missed.

Year round events include The Scottish Highland Games held each July, The Mutual of Enumclaw Stage Race in May and the annual Christmas Parade in December. Under an hour's drive from Seattle, Enumclaw is a year round community offering both action and escape.

 

Olympia

State capital Olympia is the undisputed centre for all things cultural and the county seat of Thurston County. The city has evolved into a hub for artists and musicians.

With the creation of the Evergreen State College, Olympia was named one of the best college towns in the nation for its vibrant downtown district. It has a wide array of public parks. The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge on its boundaries and the Capital State Forest to name a few!

With the impressive, domed Washington State Capitol Building illuminated at night and local coffee houses hosting jazz performances, Olympia has a wide and varied cultural mix.

 

 

Mt. Adams

Around 50km east of Mount St. Helens, Mt. Adams is the second highest volcano in Washington State and still potentially active. Second only to Mt. Shasta in terms of volcanic activity. Often called the 'neglected mountain', over 350 passes were once issued by Mt. Adams' ranger station in 1 weekend!

Over 12000ft. in height, its western flank is traversed by the Pacific Crest Trail. Often mistaken for Mt. Rainier it has a similar shape to its summit. Its western flank is in the Mt. Adams Wilderness within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The eastern side is part of the Yakima Nation.

The wilderness area caters for backpacking, hiking, climbing and equestrian events. Above certain altitudes you will need a Volcano Pass from the United States Forest Service.

The Yakima Nation region is partly open for tourists while some areas are reserved for tribe members. That said, with rugged and stunning scenery,  the region is hard to beat! 

 

 

Winthrop 

A quaint little town well worth seeing is Winthrop. Known for the "old west" design of all its buildings, with wild west shoot-outs in the summer months, it's a very popular vacation spot.

With over 120 miles of trails meandering towards the nearby town of Mazama, Winthrop caters for the great outdoors with hiking, rock climbing, river rafting, mountain biking, fishing, hunting and golfing.

The town is host to the Winthrop Rhythm and Blues and Methow Valley Chamber Music Festivals and has the oldest legal saloon in Washington State. To its west, the North Cascades National Forest borders with pristine firs and stunning views.

 

Olympic Peninsula

Sheltering the region is the Olympic Peninsula. Bordered to the west by the Pacific and north by Juan de Fuca Strait, it is home to large areas of temperate rain forests. 

At its centre, sits the Olympic Mountain Range, the second largest in Washington State, with the highest peak - Mt. Olympus. The region contains many major salmon bearing rivers and natural lakes including Kitsap Lake, Lake Crescent and Lake Sutherland.

State and National Parks attract tourists in droves. Amongst them is the Olympic National Park and the Olympic National Forest.

One of the Olympic Peninsula's popular destinations is Long Beach. Appropriately named as the nearby beach is 28 miles long - the longest beach in the US and the world's largest driveable beach!

The Long Beach Bluegrass Festival is held every Spring and the SandSations Sand Sculpture Contest takes place in July. In late summer kite enthusiasts go there for the annual Washington State International Kite Festival.

Visitors to the town can also explore the beauty of its natural history and scenic views with a stroll along its .8km boardwalk. 

Located in Pacific County, it is bordered by the Pacific to the west, the Columbia River to its south and Willapa Bay to the east. Because of the clean air, stunning views and location, tourists and holiday makers from Seattle (165 miles distant) flock there all year round!

 

Anacortes

Anacortes is the homeport for the San Juan Islands. Positioned on Fidalgo Island, its convenient location halfway between Seattle and Vancouver BC makes it the ideal destination point for the San Juans and International ferry runs for Washington State and Vancouver Island. 
Coast in and hang out in the vibrant Old Town. All within walking distance  are cafes and elegant restaurants, ranging from quirky to sophisticated. Shopping districts, art galleries, antique shops and unique accommodation.
Whether planning a day trip or a vacation, Anacortes serves up something for everyone. Whale watching tours, kayaking excursions, sailing, boating, bird watching, fishing, crabbing, hiking or biking to name a few. The Skagit Tulip and Anacortes Arts festivals are enjoyed by all ages.

 

Bellingham

Whether it's for a weekend stop-over or extended stay, Bellingham offers tourists a break from the ordinary. With superb natural scenery, skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Baker, hiking, arts and theatre, quaint villages and water adventures like whale watching, Bellingham, Whatcom County, is one very unique part of Washington State.

 

Mt. Vernon

Mt. Vernon is the county seat of Skagit County. Downtown Mount Vernon is known for its annual Tulip Festival Street Fair which is part of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.  

The historic Lincoln Theatre on First Street in the downtown district was originally built in 1926 as a vaudeville and silent movie house. It is one of only 98 theatres in the United States that still possesses its original Wurlitzer theatre organ which is often played before shows.

 

Glacier Peak

One of Washington State's most active volcanoes, Glacier Peak is located in Snohomish County just 70 miles northeast of Seattle.

An area popular with skiiers and hikers, there are no direct access roads although it can be reached via the White Chuck River valley to the west and Suiattle River valley to the east. Access is also possible from the western tip of Lake Chelan.

Elk, black bears, cougar and lynx are sometimes seen and the high mountain lakes give good fish yields when free of ice.

The most isolated of the five major peaks of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, Glacier Peak should still be high up on your "places to see" list! 

 

Eastern Washington State

East of the Cascades, the State contrasts with large areas of semi arid land and desert. Offering wineries, lakes and dams in place of mountains and forest. Twice the size with a third of the population of its western neighbour.

Eastern Washington life revolves around water. You will find most of the action amongst the region's rivers and lakes. The Columbia River - scene of the latter stages of the epic Lewis and Clark Expedition - offers tourists a spectacular view of its river gorge from a 40,000 seat amphitheatre.

 

The Grand Coulee Dam

Opening in 1942, and twice the height of Niagara Falls, the Grand Coulee Dam provides hydroelectric power and irrigation for the region. Its reservoir the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake, was named after the US President who presided over the project.

Built in the late 1970s, its Visitor Centre is a hub for tourists. With historical photographs, geological samples, theatre and models of the dam, the centre features a spectacular laser light show on summer evenings.

 Projected onto the dam wall, it includes environmental commentary, full size images of battle ships and the Statue of Liberty. Visitors can also ride a glass elevator 400ft. down to view the generators. 

The climate in the eastern half of Washington State, with long daylight hours, makes it ideal for wine production! Vineyards grow 99% of the State's wine grapes.

 

Walla Walla

Well worth a visit is Walla Walla. Its name - "land of many waters" - seems appropriate as it has many wineries! The largest city and county seat of Walla Walla county, it has rapidly become a popular destination for wine connisseurs. Its southeast location makes it ideal for grape cultivation.

Popular events include the Balloon Stampede in May and in December the holiday barrel tasting takes place where the newly produced wine is tasted for the first time. Don't miss the farmers market, an ideal opportunity to select picnic ingredients to accompany the wine tasting! 

The Walla Walla Symphony and Children's Museum are perfect if the weather turns wet!  

 

Spokane

The city of Spokane stands out like an oasis in the region! A thriving community filled with historical architectural splendours, some of its buildings dating from the late nineteenth century.

At its heart lies the Riverfront Park through which flows the Spokane River. A gondola will take you over the Spokane Falls, an exhilirating ride and well worth the $4.75! For the best views of its architecture, head for Jefferson Street. Nearby the Davenport Hotel and Clark Mansion are well worth seeing.

With a slower pace of life, and its many welcoming hotels for longer trips, Spokane offers historic charm, warm hospitality and stunning sunsets.

 

Ephrata

West of Spokane, lies Ephrata. Its name derived from the natural springs close to the town, it is the county seat of Grant County. Set in rolling hills and desert, average temperatures range from 33 degrees F. in January to 90 degrees F. in July.

If you visit in June be sure to see the Sage-n-Sun Festival in the second weekend. Ephrata’s largest community event, it features a grand parade, live entertainment from the courthouse stage, food booths, carnival, arts and crafts, and plenty more! 

In July, the Basin Summer Sounds Music Festival gives you a chance to dust off the dancing shoes and celebrate with a wide variety of music! With beer and wine garden, food vendors, kids activities and basketball tournament, it’s a superb family event with free parking!

 

Hanford Reach National Monument

A relatively new National Monument established in 2000, it has been untouched by agriculture or development since 1943!

Named after the Hanford Reach, the last free flowing non-tidal section of the Columbia River, it is only one of two National Monuments administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The shrub-steppe landscape is dry and harsh with just 5-10" of rain per year. It provides one of the Pacific Northwest's best salmon spawning grounds and is a sanctuary for rare and endangered animal species. Large herds of elk roam its territory as well as bobcats, badgers and cougars.

The monument opens two hours before and two hours after sunset. Given that some areas are restricted for tourists its striking landscape is well worth seeing!

 

Pullman

The city of Pullman, the largest in Whitman County, caters for the great outdoors and rock climbing in particular.

Located on its outskirts, the Pullman Rocks, 30ft. high solid basalt outcrops are ideal for beginners and more experienced alike. With a southerly exposure and forested areas for shade, it is a great area for early and late season climbing.

An annual attraction is the city’s National Lentil Festival held the weekend before classes resume at Washington State University. Including live musical entertainment, kids’ carnival, free lentil chilli and arts and crafts vendors.

Don’t miss the Lentil Cook-off, the Grand Parade, beer garden or the Tase-T lentil 5km fun run/walk. All in a major event for the whole family!

 

North Cascades National Park

A great way to see the most remote, northernmost regions of Eastern Washington State, the North Cascades Highway takes you on a scenic tour from north Puget Sound to the Columbia River valley's high desert.

As you cross the Cascades, you move from the wet, lush, maritime climate to the drier open woodlands of the eastern slopes. One of the best areas for North Cascades hiking. The Pacific Crest Trail will lead you in to the North Cascades National Park, a stunningly beautiful region with wild flowers in the late summer.

The National Park Visitor Centre at Newhalem will give detail about hiking and camping areas and the permits you may need, as well as the best places for supplies.

 

Lake Chelan Resort

Lake Chelan is set in the North Cascades National Forest. A beautiful deep blue glacial lake, one and a half miles at its widest, and over 1500ft. deep.

This is a remote and scenic area for a relaxing "away from it all" vacation! Indeed, some areas are so remote, they have no direct road access. The region offers hiking, fishing and camping. The Caravel Waterfront resort is one of the State's most popular.

With 92 guest rooms, it offers single and family rooms as well as penthouse and whirlpool suites. The Lakeshore Legend on the southern shore has private dock for boating and swimming and with Chelan a 2 mile drive away, civilisation is never too far off! 

 

Ilwaco

Journey to the southern end of the Longbeach Peninsula and on scenic Baker Bay, you'll discover Ilwaco. This historic community was founded in 1848 and was once a thriving trading post for the Chinook Indians. Today, that thriving trade has taken on a whole new meaning with restaurants, seafood markets and fine dining. Nestling just within the Columbia River bar, Ilwaco is a sheltered fishing community with some of the finest sturgeon and salmon fishing in the country. It's a community which is changing rapidly. One of its newest attractions is the quaint Harbor Village. Its waterfront location and brand new marina is ideal for both pleasure cruisers and commercial fishing. Its abundant shops and art galleries, perfect for its countless visitors.






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