The Best Vacation Destinations in Washington State

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Mount Rainier

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If you’re looking to book a vacation in one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth, you won’t run out of things to do in Washington. From the fantastic coastline to awe-inspiring mountain ranges, Washington State is a wonderfully diverse destination for planning a vacation.

Whether you’re after beach days and boat rides or an itinerary of day hikes near Seattle, in-the-know outdoorsy travelers already have Washington on their radar. But suppose climbing peaks isn’t your thing? In that case, there are many charming towns and cultural activities to enjoy on a WA vacation, too.

A year-round vacation destination, Washington offers skiing in winter, fall foliage, spring wildflowers, or coastal escapes in summer. But, of course, the state can be rainy in any season, so be sure to pack your rain jacket and don’t let the drizzle put you off! The bonus of the showery weather is the delicious, fresh produce to snack on during your trip – think peaches, grapes, apples, and wild berries. Yum! Or, for a more hearty meal, Washington has you covered with local seafood and vineyards.

Without much ado, here are our suggestions for the best vacation destinations in Washington State:

1. Seattle

Pike Place Market

The diverse landscapes surrounding Seattle make this city one of the best places to go in Washington for a vacation! Travelers can combine outdoor activities and city attractions all in one visit. With how exciting the city is, you might even be tempted to move to Seattle.

Home to much more than Starbucks, Seattle has some fantastic museums and galleries. Start with the Museum of Pop Culture, stop by the Seattle Art Museum, and explore the Chihuly Garden and Glass for a surreal yet innovative take on sculpture.

To truly understand the beauty of Seattle, head to one of the city’s best lookout points. The iconic Space Needle provides unbeatable 360-degree views over the city, with the Sky View Observatory being a great alternative.

Book lovers will adore the Elliot Bay Book Company, and foodies will be satisfied after a stroll around Pike Place Market. Finally, unwind at the Kubota Garden, go for a walk in Discovery Park, or spend a day on Bainbridge Island.

To prepare yourself for the trip, check out our guide to free things to do in Seattle or go on a virtual tour of Emerald City so you have a good idea of what to expect once you get there. And if you have an extra day and you want to branch out of the city, there are some wonderful day trips from Seattle that you should consider.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

2. Bellingham

Bellingham

Further along the Puget Sound – an inlet of the Pacific Ocean and second-largest estuary in the United States – is the sublime city of Bellingham.

Begin your Bellingham vacation with a trip to the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention before checking out the local stalls at Bellingham Farmers Market. Then, for some picture-perfect picnic spots, take a stroll through Whatcom Falls Park, Boulevard Park, Larrabee Park, or Lake Padden Park.

Founded in 1883, the Fairhaven Historic District is worth exploring for its unique architecture and the wide variety of local businesses and independent cafes. Whatcom Museum is another historical attraction dating back to 1892. Finally, the Mount Baker Theatre is a century-old spot with a lavish interior to keep theatre lovers entertained.

For more ideas, check out our guide to the best things to do in Bellingham.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

3. Spokane

Spokane

After Seattle, Spokane is the second-largest city in Washington, making it a popular destination for both week-long vacations and weekend getaways in Washington.

Don’t miss a visit to John A Arboretum, home to 65-acres of woodland, including a botanical collection of over 2,000 plants and trees. If you prefer tropical plants, head to Manito Park to enjoy the Japanese garden and conservatory. For culture, don’t miss the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. Next, visit the historic Campbell House and the impressive Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine before heading to Main Street for some of Spokane’s best eateries and boutiques.

The 100-acre Riverfront Park is another must-visit. There, visitors can enjoy a tranquil gondola ride before checking out the excellent Spokane Falls. Hikers can also take on a section of the winding Centennial Trail, go for a horse ride, or cycle the entire 40-mile stretch. Finally, the Spokane Sculpture Walk is a great family-friendly option for spending quality time on vacation.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

4. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

Not many places come close to Olympic National Park for an outdoor vacation in Washington State. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has several distinct ecosystems, making it perfect for a backpacker-friendly trip or hiking lovers. Even with steep competition, is is easily the most beautiful of Washington’s national parks.

The endless activities here include a trip to Sol Duc Hot Springs and Sol Duc Falls. Go trekking in Hoh Rainforest or Cape Flattery, or kayaking on Lake Crescent. Alternatively, Hurricane Ridge is an excellent option for panoramic lookouts over the fantastic Olympic Mountain range. After all, Olympic National Park is among the top 20 most instagrammable national parks in the U.S. for a reason.

Other activities include lake cruises on Lake Quinault, skiing in winter, or a side trip to Forks if you have any Twilight fans in your travel crew. Shi Shi Beach, Ruby Beach, or La Push’s coastline all make excellent day trip options for beach-lovers.

Get yourself ready for the trip with a virtual tour of Olympic National Park.

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5. North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

Characterized by an abundance of wildlife, North Cascades National Park is home to grizzly bears, grey wolves, coyotes, otters, and lynx. In addition, there are many hiking trails with incredible mountain views. Over half of the glaciers found in the continental United States are in this national park. For nature lovers, this is undoubtedly one of the best places to vacation in Washington.

Beautiful natural lookouts include Diablo Lake Vista Point, the Gorge Lake Overlook, and Ross Lake Overlook. But, for the best views, you’ll want to go hiking. For that, the options vary from the strenuous Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Hike, featuring 12-miles of steep paths but with the scenery to make up for it, to short, easy routes such as Cutthroat Lake or the well-trodden, moderate hike around the Rainbow Loop.

The historic town of Stehekin makes for the perfect place to escape. So far from the busy modern world, this laid-back town is nestled along the banks of beautiful Lake Chelan and is only accessible by boat or on foot.

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6. Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands

Friday Harbor

Made up of 172 islands, the scenic San Juan Islands make for the perfect ocean escape. Friday Harbor is a great base, perfect for city-dwellers looking for a relaxing getaway from Seattle’s hustle and bustle.

Seals, sea lions, and orca whales are among the array of marine life to witness here in their natural habitats. Say hi to them by taking a boat trip or a kayak tour, or simply look out for whales from the lighthouse at Lime Kiln Point State Park.

Wanderers can also hire a bike or moped to explore the island itself. For a spot of culture, visit the San Juan Islands Museum of Art or the Arctic Raven Gallery. Spend your evenings enjoying fresh seafood before heading to a free show at Island Stage Left.

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7. Leavenworth

Leavenworth

Leavenworth is the perfect Washington vacation destination for lovers of European culture. It’s best known for providing a slice of Bavaria without ever having to leave the country. Bavaria, in Germany, is famous for its hearty food, alpine forest, and incredible mountain views. So it’s no surprise that October is a great time to visit for Oktoberfest. But Leavenworth also comes to life during Christmas, with its Winter festivities, markets, and traditional decorations.

If the German-inspired treats are a bit clichéd for you, there’s plenty more to do. From skiing in winter (Leavenworth is among the top 10 destinations for a snowy vacation in North America), hiking among the wildflowers in spring, or cooling off on a rafting trip in summer, the alpine backdrop to Leavenworth is irresistible. Colchuck Lake, the Scenic Hot Springs, Lake Wenatchee, and Blackbird Island are among the stunningly scenic areas to explore in the region.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

8. Walla Walla

For a romantic getaway in Washington, you can’t go wrong with Walla Walla. Best known for its vineyards, Walla Walla Valley boasts over 100 wineries.

Walla Walla city itself has a historic downtown dating back to the 1800s. Think charming wine bars, quaint streets lined with flowers and fauna, and trolley cars. The cafés have tables spilling onto the sunny streets, offering a fantastic way to enjoy the incredible food scene here.

The tasting rooms and wineries are a perfect way to retreat into a more natural setting. Check out Kontos Cellars, Mark Ryan Winery, Revelry Vintners, and Seven Hills Winery, to name a few.

Finally, walk off your full stomach at the Blue Mountain Lavender Farm, Bennington Lake, or Palouse Falls, or enjoy nature from above with a romantic hot water balloon ride.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

9. Olympia

Olympia

Despite its small-town ambiance, Olympia is the capital of Washington State. As a result, Olympia is the perfect vacation destination for laidback city strolls, family-friendly museums, and beautiful wildlife walks.

When it comes to museums, start with the Olympic Flight Museum – complete with a rotating display of vintage helicopters and planes – and the Hands-On Children’s Museum, which is as interactive as the name suggests!

Try Percival Landing Park, Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve, or the Olympic National Forest for walking. If you’re looking for adventure, head to Tolmie State Park for a more strenuous hike.

For more unique places to see in Washington, don’t miss the State Capitol Building. Its domed roof is 287-foot tall, and its classical architecture is quite photogenic. Explore Heritage Park while you’re there, or complete your step back into history with a visit to Bigelow House Museum, which dates back 150 years.

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Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

10. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier is an impressive 4,392 meters tall, making it the tallest peak in the state and undoubtedly one of Washington’s best places to visit. Terrifyingly, it is still an active volcano, yet it is currently topped with 26 glaciers which remain a crucial source for many rivers below.

Hiking is usually the activity of choice here. For shorter hikes, try Alta Vista Trail or Nisqually Vista Trail. If you prefer a moderately paced hike, try Skyline Trail to Panorama Point or Eagle Peak. If time permits, take on Summerland Trail to Panhandle Gap. This 12-mile hike boasts fantastic views over the forest, mountains, and beyond.

Waterfall lovers should check out Narada Falls or Myrtle Falls, which is impressive with Mount Rainier looming in the background.

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11. Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Mount Baker

Yet another mountain getaway, proving Washington State is assuredly one of the best vacation places for nature-hungry travelers. Just along from Mount Rainier National Park, and before the Canadian Border, is Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Trails include Heliotrope Ridge Trail, the Skyline Divide, and Chain Lakes Loop. For lookouts, you’ll love Heybrook Lookout and Artists Point.

As the name suggests, the forest itself is epic. Nooksack Falls, Mazama Falls, and Clearwater Falls are among the many waterfalls that punctuate the endless woodland with majestic beauty.

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12. Port Townsend

Port Townsend

Dating back to the 1800s as a port town, Port Townsend sits at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula. From adorable Victorian-style buildings to the ocean and mountains on either side of the center, this is a beautiful coastal getaway that has a bit of everything.

Enjoy the ocean through a whale-watching excursion or a kayaking tour before seeking out the best views from above. There are many scenic trails in the area, including the Point Wilson Trail.

Fort Worden Historical State Park is a great way to step back in time, especially for anyone fascinated with military history. The Rothschild House Museum and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center are other great ways to get some education on your vacation.

There is a fabulous culinary scene here, so you can’t go wrong when it comes to restaurants. Finish off your stay by trying some local cider at one of the cideries, like the renowned Finnriver. Prefer wine? Eaglemount produces both, or try out Port Townsend Vineyards on Portuguese Hill.

Book Your Trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

More Washington Destinations

While this list certainly rounds up some of the best vacation spots in Washington, the diversity of the landscapes and culture throughout the state provides endless travel opportunities. Deception Pass State Park and Mount St Helens are among the other fantastic mountain getaways in the region.

Hikers especially will be spoiled for choice, with sections of the famous Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail winding through Washington. For a more attainable task, adventurers can also take on the 100-mile Olympic Trail, which spans Port Townsend and La Push.

Roadtrippers wanting to immerse themselves in arts and culture should also check out the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, the Gorge Amphitheatre, and the Kitsap Forest Theater.

Whatever sort of trip you’re after, it’s clear that the best vacation destinations in Washington have something for everyone. You can find the cheapest bus and train deals to these cities and more on Wanderu – it might just keep more George Washingtons 💸 in your wallet before your Washington trip!

Travel Safely

At Wanderu, we want to make sure you are equipped with all the information you need to plan a safe trip. Please visit our COVID-19 Travel Guide for the latest tips & advisories.

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